Autism, family life, Mental Health, Parenting

Documenting lockdown

One of Neil’s chosen GCSE subjects which he is studying is Photography and one of the projects which was set by his teacher last year to work on was documentary style lockdown photography, she was asking for them to just literally take different photographs of things which represent the children’s lockdown experience/journey.

Now for the past few months he has been capturing different images on his phone at home but really wanted to get out and get some, however being in lockdown has meant he has been a little restricted.. well until this week that is.

This week has seen the easing of some more lockdown restrictions here in the UK and on the 29th of March the Stay at Home order finally came to an end so thats meant Neil could finally get out of the house and take some of the photos which he had envisaged…Empty shopping Centres, closed shops, Covid-19 and social distance signage, closed theatres, empty streets and he really wanted to get into London to do some.

We had already managed to capture some photos at two of our local shopping centres this week when we popped to a couple of “essential” shops which are allowed to remain open, however today we decided to get the boys out of the house and drive into London for a few hours, have a walk around so Neil could capture some more photographs. For too long we have been stuck inside so it was so nice to get out of the house and Neil was able to capture some more images which represent lockdown for his photography project too.

He has been working on them this evening since we got home and I love how he has decided to edit all of his photographs into black and white, he says it makes them more moody, that the pandemic has been a time of great darkness, a time of gloom and depression, that he has had his own mental health struggles and dark thoughts during the lockdowns and so he wanted to reflect this into his photographs and so he made them black and white.

Below are just a few of his images but I think he has done pretty well.

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family life, Parenting

When the tooth fairy isn’t a mind reader.

So this morning I was woken up by the heartbreaking cries of Grayson coming into our bedroom, he was in a complete state. I immediately scooped him up into a bear hug trying to calm him down so that he could catch his breath enough to talk to me and tell me what was wrong. Thoughts were racing through my mind of what it could be.. Did he hurt himself? Was he unwell? Had his Nintendo Switch or Tablet broke? Had something happened to his favorite toy or teddy? I was at a complete loss but this was some serious upset. Then he finally blurt it all out..

Grayson – “The tooth fairy isn’t real!”

Me – “What do you mean the tooth fairy isn’t real? Of course the tooth fairy is real, don’t be silly. What on earth would make you think that? The tooth fairy has been here before and taken your teeth so of course the tooth fairy is real”

Grayson between sobs – “The tooth fairy didn’t come”

Me – “Sweetheart the tooth fairy only comes when one of your teeth fall out and you leave it out at bedtime for them to come and collect whilst your fast asleep in bed”

Grayson in a rather angry tone – “I DID! the tooth fairy didn’t come! So the tooth fairy can’t be real!”

Me – “What do you mean you did? Did you loose a tooth? When? Why didn’t you come and tell me about it sweetheart”

Grayson – “It fell out last night when everyone was asleep, look (shows me his missing tooth). I put it on my bed side table with baby Yoda so it was safe and so the tooth fairy would come and take it and leave me coins. But the tooth fairy didn’t come, they didn’t take my tooth or leave me coins” as he starts to cry again.

There I am silently cursing the world, the toothfairy, my life. How on earth am I going to fix this one? I, the tooth fairy am not a mind reader, I didn’t bloody know! He didn’t tell me! – How on earth was I going to cast his doubts aside and stop him doubting whether the tooth fairy was real or not?, I mean he is only six, still so young.

Me – “Oh Grayson it’s ok, there’s no need to be upset. There is a cut off time. Children need to leave their tooth out by 10pm to ensure that their names appear on the magic tooth collection list for the tooth fairy to come that night. If a tooth comes out and you leave it out in a safe place later than 10pm then your name automatically goes onto the next nights list. The tooth fairy hasn’t forgotten you! If everyone in the house was asleep when it came out last night then that means you left it out for the tooth fairy after 10pm last night so will need to leave it out tonight, the tooth fairy will then come get it tonight when you are fast asleep and you will get your coins in the morning”

I literally made that up on the spot, talk about blag it! and so there I am closely looking at his face, waiting for his expression. Has he bought it or do I need to dig myself out of an even deeper hole?

Grayson with a smile on his face as he opens his right hand up and hands me the tooth – “ok mum, can you keep this safe until tonight”

Well Thank f**k for that!

family life, Parenting

A late night call

So a little while ago I received a telephone call from my best friend. I was a little concerned given the lateness of the call and honestly thought that something must be really wrong for her to be calling me so late. When I answered she was straight to the point..

“Get Mark to stop what he is doing, tell him to get his shoes and coat on, get the car keys and drive straight down to the George Hurd centre now, his name on the list they are expecting him!, I’ve got to go I will message you when I get home” – OK then, I immediately knew what she was going on about so I run downstairs to relay the message to Mark, just like that he was up and off the sofa with shoes and coat on and out the door and into the car, I’ve never seen him move so fast!

So what was it all about so late at night? ..it was for Mark to go and get his first covid vaccination. There are some days at the vaccination centres where they may end up with vaccines left over, this could be because they were provided with more than they required that day or because of people not turning up to their appointments. Instead of these vaccines going to waste and having to be disposed of at the end of the night (Yes this happens!) they will attempt to use them up. Now if they know earlier in the day that they are going to have excess vaccines they will contact GP surgeries and get them to contact patients on their lists to get them to attend the centre to get vaccinated, however there are some days where this isn’t possibe, for example when they dont realise they have an excess until 9pm at night and GP surgeries are closed! Instead of these vaccines going to waste the staff running the centres will contact family members, colleagues friends etc in an attempt to get the vaccines used up so they are not going to waste.. Now I know that this may mean people who are not yet due the vaccine get it earlier, that they are jumping the queue so to speak but its better than the alternative, its insane knowing that if those vials of vaccines don’t get used that day then they have to be disposed of at the end of the night, what a waste it vaccine and money!

So this evenings call was from my best friend, she herself works for the NHS and one of our friends is one of the co-ordinators for our local vaccine centre, he had called her asking if there was anyone in our circle of friends who was still waiting for their first vaccine as they had an excess which he didn’t want to go to waste, as soon as she mentioned Mark was still waiting for his first vaccine he put his name on the list and told her to call me and tell Mark to get down there straight away..and the rest is really history!

So Mark has now had his first vaccine. I will admitt that I’m relieved, Im happy as it means that Mark, Nin-Nin and myself have all had our first dose now so have some protection. I felt guilty knowing that Mum and I had both had our first dose and Mark hadn’t, it didn’t sit well with me and having no idea when he would be getting it was frustrating..but fate have it he was able to have his this evening- sometimes it really is who you know!!

family life, Parenting

One year on!

Its crazy to think that one year ago today Boris Johnson addressed the nation and made the announcement that the Country needed to go into a national lockdown in an attempt to fight the threat of the Covid-19 pandemic, it was simple the nation was being told to stay at home as he announced England’s first national lockdown.. it was at that very moment in time millions of peoples lives in England changed.

Now earlier that day the nation was pretty much carrying on as normal, there had been advisories given in the week leading upto the Prime Ministers address but they were only that, advisories, the nation was very much airing on the side of caution as there had already been so much conflicting information come from the government, just a few weeks earlier we had been told Covid-19 wasn’t a threat yet there we were being placed into lockdown.

On the 23rd March 2020 adults were still working whilst children were still in their classrooms at school, you could go and visit family and friends, kiss and hug them as you normally would. You could pop to your friend’s house for a coffee and a chat, shop’s and restaurant’s were open for business as usual, household’s could mingle, group’s of people were able to meet up outdoors, children could run around and play together at the park, however just like that it all stopped and as a result every single person in England’s lives have been impacted by the Covid-19 crisis in one way or another these past twelve months.

Now I will be honest, never in a million years did I think that one year on things would still be pretty much the same as they were back then, that we would find ourselves in our third national lockdown of the year and still restricted by the government in what we can and cannot do. Boris Johnson certainly didn’t turn the tide and send Covid-19 packing in a 12 week turnaround like he said we could a year ago, the need of three national lockdowns is proof of that! And so days have turned into weeks, weeks into months and 12 months on it really does not feel like we are any further forward in defeating this invisible killer.

In this past year over 126,000 people in England have tragically lost their lives to Covid-19, People have been cut off from their family and friends. Many businesses that have been forced to close have had to make the decision to close permanently – a tragic fall out of this awful pandemic and as a result hundreds of thousands of people have lost their jobs. Schools being forced to close has seen months of education and learning lost for so many children.

Social distancing, face covering and hand sanitiser have became a new normal for us all, a new way of life, something I would never have ever envisaged. And as I sit here and think about the government’s road map for easing and lifting current restrictions and getting us out of this third national lockdown I do find myself questioning where we will be a year on from now?!

family life, Parenting

Never ending..

Ive mentioned it before but one of my biggest frustrations with the boys primary school is what feels like the constant request of money off of parents for one thing or another, its relentless, one thing after another us parents are expected to pay out.

Today was Red Nose Day and instead of just asking the children to come into school in any non-uniform they asked the children to wear something red or to dress in something that clearly symbolises Red Nose Day as well as each child making a donation of £1 for the pleasure. Now neither of the boys had anything suitable in their wardrobes so I found myself searching online and buying these Red Nose Day themed Disney Pixar tops from TKMaxx. Now usually I would never buy something like this as I honestly begrudge keep needing to “pay out” but my inner Disney Geek couldn’t resist these tops, I mean they are super cute and the boys loved them and they looked super cute on them today. But again its money I wouldn’t have had to spend out if it could have been a normal non- uniform day where they could have worn anything and not something so specific. Also this week both Ethan and Grayson were sent home with a sponsorship form to help the school raise money over the Easter break because they want to buy a book vending machine! Yes you read that correctly! I wouldn’t mind so much if it was raising money for something that the school really needed, however a book vending machine in my opinion is a rather frivolous expenditure and not somethething that is essential for the school. Its like the smarties tube all over again!

The thing is Red Nose Day and the sponsorship form this week are only two of many things us parents are expected to pay for or make a monetary contribution towards throughout the school year and each year these requests just seem to become more. There are donation requests for ALL of the various non uniform days they hold throughout the year for various charities or for the schools own fundraising efforts: World Book Day, Red Nose Day, Sport Relief, Silly Sock Day, Jeans for genes, Macmillian Cancer Support, Save the Children, Children in need are to name just a few. Having to buy costumes for themed learning days which we also have to pay for our children to be able to take part in. Activities such as science week, African Drumming workshops. School trips and Residential trips. Swimming lessons. Tickets for the children to go and see the local Christmas Pantomime. Paying for access to the school text service which the school choses to use to communicate with parents. Buying costumes for the school play. Paying for tickets to see your children in their own school play. But let’s not forget parents are also expected to support numerous school fundraisers, bake sales, Bingo nights, Movie nights, The Summer Bounce and the Summer and Christmas fayre’s.

The thing is it may seem like a pound here and a pound there but these things add up. Then when you factor in everything else were expected to pay for throughout the year it starts really amounting up and when you have two children at the school you double it and it starts getting silly. Dont even get me started on the logo uniform the boys have to wear and is only available from two suppliers at double the price as the same uniform without the logo – the joys of school!

family life, Parenting

Just like any other Day!

*I’ve been debating whether to publish this post, its been sitting in my drafts folder whilst I decided whether to post it or not*

I love my geek with all of my heart, he is my soul mate, my best friend, he is the most caring, loving, devoted husband and father to the boys who works so hard every single day, however if there are two things that frustrate me about him they would be: 1- how much time he spends working and the lack of family time we get because of that. 2- his “leave it to the last minute” attitude when it comes to Birthday’s and Christmas.

Let me give you a little example of what I mean… Today here in the UK it is Mother’s Day, he has had long enough to sort things out, to purchase gifts and cards, however in typical Mark fashion he didn’t think to pick up Mothers Day cards when he has been out doing the weekly supermarket shop these past few weeks, instead he left getting cards until our weekly supermarket shop yesterday, the day before Mother’s Day when there were none left on the shelves!

Now my Mother’s Day started rather early, Ethan and Grayson came bounding in full of excitement with school made cards as Mark asked me – “Do I need to wrap your Mothers Day gifts?” followed by ” Do you have any wrapping paper and tape?”, – I mean seriously, do you really need to ask!? Why haven’t you already sorted this out!?

After getting the boys to give Nin-Nin her cards ( I’m organised!), flowers and chocolates it was my turn. Upon unwrapping and opening the chocolates and the Disney Tradition figure I had specifically TOLD Mark to get me from the boys for Mothers Day he then proceeded to inform me he had ordered me another gift but it won’t be turning up until tomorrow. It transpired that he didn’t actually order my Mothers Day gifts until Thursday and there was a mix up with this other gift not being dispatched next day delivery like he had paid for which means it’s currently somewhere in the UK right about now. The thing is I know thats not Mark’s fault however I guess that is also a risk you take when leaving these things until the last minute and not ordering things until three days before yet have literally had weeks to actually sort it out!

The thing is what REALLY frustrates me is I deal with every other card and present that needs to be brought for family and friends throughout the year, Birthdays, Christmas, even buying Easter Eggs, the lot! he doesn’t have to deal with any of it so I don’t think it’s too much to ask him to be a bit more organised with these things. 

Now I really don’t want to come across ungrateful, this is not my intentions at all and I am thankful for what I did receive today, a card did eventually arrive through the door at 7pm courtesy of Amazon Prime. Although it says “Mama” on it! Im not a Mama, never have I been a Mama, I don’t know why he didn’t think to get them to make me one! 

I’m also just a little saddened that today has pretty much been just like any other day and that it feels like very little attempt was made to make it that little more special.. On Facebook today I saw photos posted by Mum friends of breakfasts in bed after long lay-ins, surprise afternoon tea deliveries, meals that were cooked for them. Being in lockdown we are here stuck at home so we couldn’t go out for a meal to celebrate like we usually would, so who cooked dinner for everyone? that would have been ME! I even spent the majority of the day all alone watching TV stuffing my face with the chocolate I got today feeling sorry for myself as Mark shut himself away in the office working like always, after being given her Mother’s Day cards, flowers and chocolates Nin-Nin buggered off outside to do some gardening and the boys, well they spent the majority of their day upstairs playing Fortnite, no one even seemed to want to spend the bloody day with me.

The thing is I always go out of my way making other peoples Birthday’s, Father’s Day’s special, I put so much thought and effort into these things that some reciprocation wouldn’t have gone a miss today! This past year has been hard, home schooling and juggling family life and a home on my own whilst Mark has worked has been hard but I’ve done it – sorry just feeling a little deflated and un appreciated today! Tomorrow’s another day!

Parenting

The re opening of schools

Its been 94 days since Neil was last at school learning. Its been 88 days since Ethan and Grayson were last in their classrooms learning, but today the three boys were all finally able to return to school and see the friends and teachers that they have been longing to see for so long.

Its been a crazy three months, actually its been a crazy year! Home learning has been an adventure and there are times which it has been hard on us all. There have been good days and there have been bad days. There have been tears and there has been laughter but these three have shown us just how resilient they truly are. We are so proud of all three of the boys and their dedication to home learning.

Am I worried? – Of course I am, Covid-19 is still very much out there and the reopening of schools doesn’t mean its a time for people to start becoming complacent. We are still in the midst of a pandemic and in a national lockdown, we still all need to do our bit to keep everyone safe.

Lateral Flow Testing

Both schools have put strict measures in place in an attempt to keep the staff and children safe. Neil has to take two lateral flow tests at home each week as do Mark, Nin- Nin and myself. The government thought that they would be pro active and that as well as secondary school children being tested it would be good to offer these tests to all adults within the same household or support bubble of all school aged children too, the idea is to identify positive cases before they get into the schools. Now I’m not thrilled about having to test twice a weeks, infact I hate having to do it but needs must, I’d rather it be me than Ethan and Grayson.

Lateral Flow Test

We are now just placing our bets how long it will be before one of the boys has to isolate? I guess time will only tell.

Parenting

Lockdown 3 0, week 9 – Home learning comes to an end

So it’s Friday and just like that my final  week of my home learning journey with the three boys has come to an end. Am I sad? – A little. Am I relieved? – Most definitely. Will I miss it? – No not really, especially the stresses and strains its put onto our family! Will I miss the boys? – Most definitely, it will be strange not having the three of them here at home from Monday, It may sound silly but I will miss the bickering and arguing and being asked for snacks a million times a day.

For 9 of the past 12 weeks I have navigated my way through three entirely different levels of education, juggling three childrens learning and our home. There is no denying that at times it has been bloody stressful and there have been many tears shed by me and the boys, there are days home learning pushed me to my limits and I didn’t feel like I could continue however I knew I had to continue for the sake of the boys education.

So on Monday all three boys will be returning back to school after three months out of the classroom. To say I’m apprehensive would be an understatement, I am worried that Covid is still very much out there, however I also understand that we cant put our lives on hold forever.

family life, Parenting

Mummy gets vaccinated

On Monday afternoon I received an unexpected telephone call from our GP surgery asking whether I would like to be scheduled in to attend for my first Covid vaccination today. I was a little taken aback, I wasn’t expecting to receive the call this soon, I’m only 37, I was expecting it to be several more weeks, even months before I heard about my first vaccine, there are so many more people I would consider to be far more higher priority than myself but apparently our GP surgery thought otherwise!

After some debating I came to the conclusion that I must have received the call because one of three reasons.. I’m registered at our GP surgery as Neil’s carer, Im asthmatic or because simply I’m fat! Infact I was convinced it was the later, I keep hearing and reading things about Covid-19 and obesity and how they are not a good mix! and Mark is asthmatic too and he hadn’t received a call so it couldn’t be that?!

When I arrived today at the vaccination centre I couldn’t help but notice that I was literally the youngest person there, I felt like the odd one out, truth be told I felt a fraud as I still felt others were more worthy than I was. After checking in I had to go see the doctor who checks over your forms and gives the go ahead and he commented about me being another “young one” – I joked with him that I felt so out of place and that it had to be because Im registered as a carer for my son, asthmatic or fat.. he chucked to himself and then responded much to my relief that the reason I would have been called is because I’m registered at our GP surgery as Neil’s carer, that the local GP surgeries have been offering the vaccine to those who care for someone who is considered hight risk or is registered at the GP surgery as a carer which I obviously am for Neil, so that was kind of a relief.

So I’ve now had my first dose of the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine, my arm is a little painful but that’s to be expected when you have just been stabbed by a needle. So far so good, Ive not grown a second head or extra limbs,however we will see how the next 24-48hours go to see if I get any side effects. Nin- Nin had a fever and headache the next day, although to be honest anything has got to be better than Covid surely.  And so I now await my second dose on the 27th May.

Autism, family life, Parenting

Lockdown 3.0, Week 8 – an eventful week

Just like that the half term was over and it was back to the home learning again. I didn’t really post anything during half term as there wasn’t really much for me to share. I’d like to say that we all got upto lots of fun and exciting things but the reality of it is we are in lockdown so stayed home and the boys spent way to much time playing fortnite with their friends online!

Now Monday was a BIG day here in the UK, Boris Johnson announced to the nation the governments proposal for their plans to ease the UK out of it’s current national lockdown, that over the next four months the government will start easing restrictions in four stages and that hopefully by the end of June all restrictions will finally have been lifted and we can hopefully get back to some sense or normality in our lives.. Whether or not this will happen time will only tell, I just hope this announcement means people don’t start becoming complacent as it will only land us back where we are now if they do.

The biggest news to come from the announcement for us though is that the end of homeschooling is in sight, it was confirmed that on the 8th of March schools will be able to reopen to all pupils. Now this doesn’t necessarily mean the boys will all be going back on this date, we are still awaiting confirmation on the days that each of the boys will return, there is a possibility the schools may be staggering return dates by years. Now I wont lie, I’m feeling extremely apprehensive about it all, although I know a lot of measures are being put into place to allow this to happen safely by the schools. Am I worried? Yes, Covid-19 is still a real threat and with the news of new variants of the disease our there it is a concern, however I do know that we all need to get back to some degree of normality in our lives now, that we cant keep on like this.

Now thankfully the half term didn’t impact the boys return to home learning this week like I feared that it would and they have all engaged with the home learning with little complaints, especiqlly Grayson, however a few things this week have interrupted the flow which has meant the boys haven’t been able to get everything done that we usually would have done, however emails to the boys schools and the teachers have all been totally understanding and accommodating. So whats been going on..

Tuesday Neil had an epic meltdown, he was struggling to process what he needed to do in his English lesson and he just couldn’t do it, his frustrations built up, he was crying, shouting at us and then came an epic meltdown along with him trying to harm himself, Mark and I were trying to calm him down, talk to him but he was fighting us and in the end Mark and I had to literally move everything out of his way and then hold his arms to prevent him from doing real harm to himself or us. I hate doing it but sometimes it just had to be done! Thankfully we were able to subdue him and calm him down, I took the laptop away and told him home learning was done for the day, after a meltdown like that he needed to step away from it all…Then just when I thought the day couldn’t get any worse I noticed that the upper section of Nin Nins right arm was bright red. Now Nin Nin had breast cancer 7years ago and had to have all the lymph nodes removed during surgery, as a result her lymphatic system is affected and she has severe lymphedema to the right arm with large amounts of swelling from fluid build up. Now I knew immediately this meant she had an infection going on in there but due to the lymphodema it has to be treated with antibiotics as a matter of urgency or she risks it developing into Sepsis. Our GP wasn’t answering so Mark got onto 111 explaining everything, we then had to wait for a clinician to call back and then he insisted that he wanted to see her at the out of hours surgery up at the hospital, so at 10pm Mark was taking Nin Nin upto the hospital and then onto the pharmacy to get her the antibiotics she needed.

Now on Wednesday Ethan had an appointment at the opticians, I had received his yearly check up reminder so thought I would get him booked in and get it out of the way before starting back at school which I’m now really glad that we did. In just one year Ethan’s eye sight has changed a significant amount, especially in his right eye. His left eye has changed a little and gone from -0.75 to -1.25, however his right eye which was actually his good eye last year has gone from -0.50 to -2.75, a significant change. So Ethan’s new glasses will hopefully be arriving next week and the optician is looking at contacting our GP for a referral to our local opthalmology clinic for them to take a look as it was explained that a loss that big in just a year in someone so young isn’t normal. Just what we need!

Thursday was just like any other home learning day, however on Friday Grayson wasn’t too well, so much so he fell asleep mid way through his first lesson so his day was cut short. He had woken up in the night complaining of pain in his privates, I took a quick look but couldn’t see anything obvious and he was peeing normally so I wasn’t too worried. I gave him some calpol and he settled down but in the morning when he woke his privates had balloned and when he went to pee he was in agony. I called our GP surgery and the receptionist had the GP call us straight back. Unfortunatwly given the nature of the problem it wasnt something I could send the GP a photo of via the GP app so he said he wanted to see him and scheduled a time for me to take him to the surgery. Once there he agreed that it was definitely swollen probably due to an infection but he also raised that Grayson has a significant amount of excess foreskin tissue, so much so there is hardly any opening and he is surprised Grayson can actually pee. Now the thing is I’ve raised this with previous GPs but they have dismissed my concerns telling me ” he will grow into it”, the thing is Ethan had exactly the same and started getting these infections around the same age and he had to be circumcised because of it. The GP has said that given this deformity that Grayson is going to have to be too and so he is referring us through to the paediatric urology team up at the hospital. To say I’m gutted is an understatement but we knew it was always a possibility, no one wants to put their child through that surgery but we know it is necessary or he will have more major issues down the line when he his older. That as the doctor has said its better to get it sorted when he is younger.

So the week has ended on a bit of downer from me this week, however hopefully next week will be better. 1 more week of home learning!