20 Questions

First week of school for L. Normally with any big change like this he gets pretty anxious and he shows this in all kinds of ways that nobody really enjoys. This week (and I’d hate to jinx it) has been remarkably smooth.

A little bit unsure on day 1. But thanks to the year at AEIOU he is very familiar with the drop off ritual. So we followed that routine, it just happened to be in a different location. He was definitely happy to see me when I came to pick him up, but he’d had a great day. He sat well at the group table, followed directions, took his turn, eaten reasonably well and had started to get to know his 5 other classmates.

Day 5 (today) his teacher told me that they had done an activity around ‘what I did on my holiday’. Really? And what did he have to tell you about that? He had used both symbols and words to tell her that we had gone to the beach (oh yes we did!) that we had been on a drive (a truly hellish 4 hours each way) and that he’d had Christmas.

I would have loved to see what my face looked like at this point. I was floored! Amazed! Impressed! Overwhelmed! I LOVE SCHOOL and more than that I LOVE TEACHERS.

With his 5th birthday, I have started a tradition of asking him the same 20 questions each year. Something I hope that he can be more involved with as we go along. It’s a nice little snapshot of where he is right now. As the years go past it will also show how he’s changed, grown and matured. So here is 2012’s edition.

What Are You Doing?

Here’s a link to another film I am really looking forward to seeing when it is released later this year. It was written by a guy I used to work with almost 15 years ago – Michael Whelan. Michael also wrote a book about being a dad to a boy on the spectrum called The Other Country. When I read Michael’s book I realised that despite being an absolute pleasure to work with, he was going though a very torturous personal time following the autism diagnosis of his first son. Something he kept very private.

He chose to write a book. Something I think must have helped him enormously. And now he has written a film. Writing is such a wonderful vehicle for expression. We get to shape our thoughts, think deeply about what is important to us, our influences, contemplate life’s journey and I don’t know about you, but I feel a little more sane every time I publish a post.

Here’s the trailer.

Who Am I?

I’ve been wondering about how much I have changed since taking on the role of ‘foster carer’ and ‘mum’. Sure the practical realities have changed. I’m no longer in paid employment and my selfish lifestyle of doing whatever I want whenever I wanted to (not quite but you get the picture) is but a distant memory. But am I still the stand alone me and who is that person now?

These days I am one of those people who are seen wrangling shopping and babies, who can’t seem to control that screaming, flapping, ribbon flicking kid who needs a good stern talking to. Yep, that was me today. I was trying to find a new pair of glasses for L whose message to me was loud and clear – don’t make me go into another one of those shops with all the glasses in them – it’s freaking me out!!!

So not only am I a foster mum, a single mum, I am also an autism mum – the trifecta! Definitely not complaining because I love what I do and love all my kids, but occasionally I have to take a deep breath because my life is SO different from what it was for such a long time. I never even went into shopping malls.

My question to myself is this – is being a parent now my defining attribute?

In lots of ways, I’d have to say yes. Putting the kids needs above my own means that there is a filter over everything I do. But I am still the person I was B.C. (before children) and that person is struggling for air time.

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Monday will be L’s first day at school. So things are about to change. It will be a big transition for him, so I’m expecting some reactive behaviour. But once that settles down I’m really looking forward to the space that having a school aged child will bring. Watch that space.

Wind Chimes

This morning I woke to the sound of some modal wind chimes. They were gently swinging to the breeze as it swept up the small green valley to the little ramshackle hippy pad I am staying in this weekend with my lovely friends.

Anyway, I am here for one night only and am practically child free – yes! Just me and the bub. L is having the weekend with his grandparents and N is with his aunty, uncle and cousins. So I grabbed the chance to run away from the domestic duties and hang out in the lush hinterland behind Byron Bay.

It takes me back to when I lived just a couple of valleys over in the late 80’s when I was studying music at the local university. I chose to live out of town away from student life. It was a great time to be here. Bangalow was a tiny village where the shop shut at 6pm. Byron still had it’s seasons and winter was my favorite when it was just a small local community with a great arts scene. Everyone up here was a bit of a mad hippy back then. It took a while to get used to, coming from the Sydney music scene. I softened a little over the years, getting used to all the hugging and overt therapising, but never crossed over thank goodness.

Those days were a fabulous musical indulgence. Spending day and night playing, singing and writing, apart from a bit of cooking at the old Beach Cafe on a Sunday morning. It was a big decision to leave sydney and the various bands I played in to escape to the country to spend 3 years learning as much as I could about music and composing. But I wanted to be a ‘real’ musician, who understood what the hell they were doing and who had the chance of a career in music. Later on of course I had to try to unlearn a lot of what I’d learnt so that I could get back to that joyful innocence that got me playing and singing in the first place.

So there’s a lot of memories for me here, even though it’s changed so much. Staying in this little shack at the end of a dirt road with corrugated iron for walls, a chandelier in the kitchen and art everywhere takes me back. Luckily the vista hasn’t changed too much, even though I have.

Today I’ll go back home, pick up my kids, play in the backyard, feed then bathe them and get them into bed and tell them I love them with some fresh energy thanks to a few hours of rejuvenation and a peaceful, sleepy morning serenaded by birdsong and wind chimes.

The Octogenarians and the Five Year Old

My big boy is now five years old. His birthday comes hot on the heels of New Years, so it’s not an ideal time with most of us in holiday mode, lots of people away and everyone recovering from Christmas madness.

But 5 is a pretty significant number, so…in a moment of mothering madness, I decided to have a birthday party. The invite was via text, about 4 days prior. The search for a birthday cake recipe began and the to do list got longer and longer.

The idea was to have a simple backyard party. Nothing too big, just a few friends and the kids having fun running around playing with water. As usual though, I was a little ambitious in what I thought I could get done in the time available and given that I have three little boys to care for.

Enter the Octogenarians – my dad and his brother/my uncle. I had asked dad if he could help me organise a few things that I couldn’t do alone and he roped in his brother. They moved and stacked timber, they mowed, they helped to re-arrange my diabolical mess under the house to make space for little people to ride the numerous bikes, trikes and various other  miniature modes of transport I seem to have miraculously acquired. They even hung a swing that’s been sitting around for the last 12 months waiting to get hung.

L can be a little difficult to buy presents for, so everyone was asking for guidance. In a moment of clarity (rare these days) I suggested that a great present would be a load of fresh sand for the sand pit. So that turned up as well thanks to Abbi & Andrew.

As the light started to fade on the day, we retired for cups of tea and pizza. Job done.

For them.

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I continued into the night once I had got the kids to sleep, baking the birthday cake, preparing the party bags and getting stuff organised for the big day.

The next morning we were up early as usual (around 5) and as this was the actual birthday, I had a few little presents for L to open, plus I had to get downstairs to put together the ride on four wheeler and get the battery charged – as this was his main present.

There was the blow up pool to get blown up, the tee pee to erect, the squirting circle thingy to be hooked up to the garden hose, etc, etc, etc. Before I knew it, guests started arriving and it was on for young and old. I did not stop. I did not take a single photo.

It all went well, with a lot of help from everyone. L had lots of fun and didn’t do anything too outrageous unless you count him stripping off and running around naked for a bit. (that’s actually pretty normal for him).

Everyone was gone by about 7pm and the place was not completely trashed, but I was. So when I got the last child to bed and asleep, I crawled into my bed, deliriously tired at about 8pm and went to sleep. When the baby woke at about 1pm, I woke up and felt totally refreshed having already gotten more sleep than I would normally get in a night. The joy of knowing I could go back to bed and get even more sleep was so overwhelming, I almost danced back to bed. I swore I would go to bed early more often.

Haven’t made it to bed before 11 since then. Oh well.

So…five whole years. Amazing.

Rainbow Beach

Dear Sarah,

Today I couldn’t help but think of you. We are on holiday and really having the best time.

This morning we hit the beach before 9. 5 kids, 3 adults all lathered in sunscreen with a whole pile of swimming/surfing gear. My big boys are just loving the waves which are quite rough and challenging but absolutely exhilarating. N is fearless and would happily walk off towards Fiji without worrying about another breath. L is more wary, but in a very healthy, normal way (amazing!). He hangs on as as the waves approach, he lifts one leg in the air as if to kick it away or to jump over it, squealing with delight, every sense open and activated.

 

Anyway, it’s just the kind of holiday you would love. We’re staying with friends at their family beach house. Simple, classic and totally relaxing. Good company for me and the kids. Cooking, wine, discussions about everything and nothing, deep blissful sleep, exhausted, happy kids.

 

We had an impromptu birthday party for L who is about to turn 5. Scavenger hunt in the back yard, a dancing competition – there were some pretty funky moves going on believe me, then a chocolate swirl (packet) cake.  Just too much fun all round.

You would love it here Sarah. Miss you.

lots of love from me