Holy Sleep Deprivation Batman! I Need A Bat Cave

For a year (yes…a year), I’ve had a towel over my little boys window. I’ve been trying to work out what kind of window covering would  survive him, and him it.

Autism manifests itself in many ways but my 5 year old is a sensory seeker. He craves sensation. When he gives you a hug, he can’t help but go that one extra step and dig his fingers in for a pinch or a scratch. He loves to rip paper. He loves to make noise – a lot of noise! Especially when he wakes up. He loves all things string and carries a ribbon everywhere as his stim of choice.

His bedroom is kept fairly clear. It’s only a small room, so there’s a bed, a small chest of drawers, a rug, some beautiful photographic prints of him at about 6 months taken by Uncle Al (photographer/artist Alberto Sanchez Peinador) , some gorgeous animal art originals – all placed nice and high so he can’t reach them. He also has a pinboard which deserves a post of it’s own, but let’s just say everything on there is laminated, including the recent self portrait he took at school.

It’s kept clear because he is on a constant search and destroy mission. It’s a nice room but the window coverings have held me in limbo for quite a while. Curtains? No good, he’d pull the whole thing out from the wall. Blinds? Can’t have anything with a string and he’d also probably just yank the hell out of it till it broke. He’d dearly love to take a leap towards the ceiling fan – lucky white boys can’t jump! I give him a year.

Push has now come to shove. The sun is getting up earlier & earlier here in Australia as we move through our stunning spring towards summer. We’ve gone from him waking at 6am to 5am in just a couple of weeks. And it’s only going to get worse! I need a total blackout situation if I am not going to be woken ‘in the 4’s’ for the next 4 or 5 months. I need a bat cave!

I put the question out to a group of special needs mothers – please help! Within a couple of hours I had some really great ideas. Everything from hanging old blinds on the outside of the window to attaching foil to the outside of the glass with just a spray of water. But I decided to go for the velcro solution. The worst that can happen is he rips them down and wakes up early. Here’s how it all came together.

A nightmarish trip to the shops to buy the supplies. Not fun. My boy does not like Spotlight so spent most of the time on the floor screaming. I got a big headache…and the supplies. I did not care if the fabric design was perfect for the room. Just take my money and let us get out of here!

Auntie Elaine’s beast – they don’t make ’em like this anymore!

Out comes an ancient machine (inspiring another post, yet to be written about women’s machines!). My auntie gave this beast to me a couple of months ago. Unbelievably heavy! Fully operational, worked just like a new one! I haven’t used a sewing machine for about 20 years, but it was just like riding a bike, kinda. A few additional items were required from the sewing tin and the tool box.

my sewing tin

measure twice, cut once

Measured twice, cut once, zim, zam zoom…done!

the blue window

the red window

Brilliant! I’m very pleased with myself. My little guy celebrated with a jump on the bed.

Problem solved…fingers crossed. Further reports will be forthcoming.

 

Trevor

N: Trevor’s got a bike! Trevor’s got a big bike. Trevor’s bike is noisy! Where’s Trevor?

Me: He’s probably at work

N: Trevor’s at work, he’s working!

Me: Yep, Trevor’s working.

N: Trevor’s got a digger! Trevor dug a hole! He dug it! He dug a big hole!

Me: Yes! He did!

N: Where’s Aaron? (Trevor’s son)

Me: He’s out and about on his push bike.

N: Aaron’s got a bike! He’s got a push bike! Trevor’s got a motorbike and a truck!

Me: Yes! Trevor’s got a truck. It’s a black truck.

N: Trevor’s truck is black! Where is it?

Me: He drove it to work.

N: Trevor drove his truck to work! He didn’t ride his bike to work. Nooooo! He drove his truck!

Trevor is N’s very favourite topic of conversation. Trevor is our neighbour.

N is 2 (and a half). He could only just say about 12 words at Christmas time. He’s a bit of an anxious child, but developmentally on track. But seriously folks, he could talk about Trevor ALL DAY! We do talk about him at least three or four times a day.

Trevor is a nice guy (luckily). He looks like a lot of middle aged bikers – hair cut short, beard long. He’s got a man cave happening under his house, where he spends most of his time. He rides a Harley.

For a little boy being raised by a single mother, there’s a world of intrigue just over the fence. It’s half fascinating, half terrifying. Trevor will often stop to have a chat and that’s when N’s constant chatter stops dead. He’s got nothing to say to Trevor.

So we have become motorbikespotters. On our walks, we keep a constant look out for any bikes that might go past us. We point, we cheer, we clap with the excitement of another bike passing us. We really hit the jackpot today when a policeman on a motorbike rode right past us as we were waiting to cross the road and…waved at us! Oh boy!

It’s a great way to encourage him in so many ways – language, friendships, shared interests, walking and more! Plus, I think Trevor gets a kick out of being such an important part of N’s world.

 

I KNEW it!

This may not be everybody’s cup of tea, but for anyone who is tired, angry and frustrated at government cuts to services like disability, education, health and to the non-profit organisations that contribute to supporting the people in our communities who are most vulnerable, then this..my friends is like a cup of steaming hot Lady Grey on a hot afternoon (that’s a good thing in case you weren’t sure).

My argument has always been that PEOPLE matter more than NUMBERS. That being said, of course I understand that in its simplest form, we need to live according to our means. However, when it comes to the more complex economics theories and arguments, well let’s just say that’s not my strong suit.

Over at the London School of Economics, it’s just the opposite. So what a surprise to find myself on their blog, reading an article that resonated so strongly with me and backed up my people vs numbers argument.

This is readable, understandable and sensible – please have a look at what Professor Richard Layard & Paul Krugman have written in his Manifesto For Economic Sense. You will not be disappointed.

Last week our slash & burn state government provided a list of ‘savings’ made by the Education Department. Here are some highlights:

  • The Pyjama Foundation loses $100k. This is one of the most wonderful & cost efficient supports to children in care with volunteers helping them weekly with literacy & numeracy. You can read here our experience with the Pyjama Foundation.
  • Triple P Parenting loses $291k – a ‘best practice’/ made in Queensland parenting program that has helped a phenomenal amount of parents & kids. Here is my experience with Triple P.
  • Vision Australia loses $200k – these are therapists who provide incredible support for kids in schools with low or no vision. It was Vision Australia who helped guide me in the very early days of caring for my little boy with delayed visual maturation and cortical vision impairment. They still help him by providing targeted support to his teacher at his special school.

These are just a few from a list of 43 ‘savings’.

Now, why should I be so upset? As a foster carer I care for the children whose parents need to be learning about parenting from Triple P. In caring for a child with disabilities, a child whose needs by law, should be paramount in all decision making, the end result is that he will have less and less support available to him.
Meanwhile of course the child protection system is under unbelievable pressure with workers losing their jobs or not being replaced. Only one in ten matters brought to the attention of the department are investigated because there is not enough staff and resourcing.

We are now up to 14,000 public servants whose jobs have been cut. That is not a typo.

image credit: brisbanetimes.com

I am furious that nobody in our government has the spine to speak out or to do the right thing. Don’t get me started on the NDIS! It’s shameful and a vile political game where the kids and the vulnerable lose.

Spice Boys

For quite a while now my 5yo has been a big fan of curry. I remember making a curry for him when he was about 12m old. It was an experiment and when he first tasted it, his eyes widened, his attention quickened and he wanted MORE!

When I say curry, I am talking about a mild, sweetish Indian style curry. Though I have to say that my boy has graduated to enjoying some spicy & fiery foods. So long as they meet his criteria – soft, wet and all mixed together – he’s willing to give it a go. He once insisted on eating the Thai green curry that I had made for myself – took the bowl and spoon right out of my hands.

It makes a big difference to introduce a good range of foods as early as possible. I enjoy cooking so I’m always keen to give my kids tasty, healthy food. Having a child on the spectrum though can mean certain (or a LOT) of restrictions. Their willingness to try new foods is not entirely down to your parenting or cooking (or non-cooking) preferences.

A speech therapist once told me that you need to present a new food to a child at least 20 times. There are many foods that I have presented more than 20 times and there’s just no way my boy is going near it. These days I’m fairly happy with the range of food L will eat. I’m aways trying new recipes and hoping that he might give something new a try. In the end though, the tried and true favourites are good to have as the backbone of your menu for the week, and curry is one of those for my crew.

When I recently mentioned how much all my boys (5y/asd, 2y & 14m) enjoyed curry, Neil from Pucks & Puzzle Pieces asked for some pointers. So…for Neil and anyone else who is interested, here is my first attempt at a food blog post.

Rose’s Kids Curry

Chop the chicken (I use either thigh or breast) into bite size pieces and dust with flour. Shake off all the excess flour. Warm some peanut oil in the pan and cook the chicken in batches until they are just starting to colour. Once cooked, set the chicken aside in a bowl.

dusted chicken

don’t crowd the pan!

Finely chop a small/medium brown onion. Add a pinch of salt and slowly saute the onion in a fry pan till soft. Don’t rush it, take your time & the onions will be sweet.

do not rush this bit!

Add the curry powder and allow it to cook for at least one minute, stirring it into the onions. You may prefer to grind up your own curry powder, or use another brand. I used 2-3 heaped teaspoons in this version, but you should match this to your/your child’s taste. You can also supplement the curry powder with various spices – coriander seeds, star anise, cardamom – whatever inspires you.

the curry powder I use

Once you can start to smell the aroma of the spices being released, add in the vegetables you have chopped into small, bite size pieces. I use whatever vegetables I happen to have in the fridge, but always include pumpkin. Today I had carrots, corn, sweet potato, peas, zucchini, potato and pumpkin – but any combination will work.

what’s in the fridge?

Stir the vegetables so that they are completed coasted with the curry and onion mixture. Continue to cook and stir for a few minutes, then add some chicken or vegetable stock. I used 1 litre – it should look like this:

hard work now done

Once you’ve given it a good stir, bring it to a slow boil then reduce the heat, add the chicken and simmer for around 30 minutes.

At this point, get your rice on. I use jasmine rice, but you could use basmati or long grain. I use the absorption method which is super easy and makes perfect rice every time.

Keep checking on the curry every 5 – 10 minutes and give it a stir. The stirring is important as it helps to create the sauce. The pumpkin breaks down and becomes a part of the sauce and gives it a sweet flavour that the kids love – but…no added sugar.

ready to serve

You are done!

all served up

Here are the boys bowls, all lined up and ready to go. And…here’s how they went tonight!

L – ate all the curry, not so much rice

N had a couple of extra servings which he didn’t quite get through

J – ate it all except for a few grains of rice

I would love to hear from you if you do try this recipe out.

Also…here’s how my stove looks these days. The knobs are all off because L was obsessing over turning them on ALL. THE. TIME! He doesn’t any more!

Friday Night

Late Friday afternoon I packed my gang of three boys into the car and headed to the shopping centre. I’m so HOPELESS I can never remember which night is late night shopping (don’t do too much of that). Anyway, for some reason I thought it was on Friday, but you guessed it…it’s not.

We did arrive just as a lot of shops were about to close, but a few would be open for at least another hour so I decided to push on and try to pick up the things I needed. I’m so glad I did.

It’s weird but strangely peaceful walking through a mostly empty shopping centre. It was like I entered a timewarp. I stopped hustling along, didn’t really care if we got the items I thought I needed. I could relax a bit more with the boys, letting them wander and explore much more than I would normally. N could ask questions about the things he saw and I wasn’t worried about L blaring at a high volume ‘THIS WAY MATE!!!’ In fact, I was starting to think this time is perfect for shopping with my kids.

When I saw that their favourite Japanese fast food joint was still open (YES!) I did the happy dance. One chicken curry & rice will feed all three of my boys and they just love it! I was able to sit there in the food court with maybe three other people dotted around the many empty tables, relaxing as the boys ate their meal.

We went into the shop where I hoped to pick up a present for L’s birth mum. It’s her birthday this week and I always try to make sure that he has a few nice presents for her. He is having his monthly sleep over with his grandparents this weekend and they will have a little celebration for her while he is there. We got the pressie and headed off.

Practically all the shops were closed up for the day now. We ambled along, listening to the music, taking the long way to get back to the car. We walked through the doors and out into the warm evening. The boys were quite excited to be out and about in the dark of night. We walked past the restaurants and the cinema and it was like a whole new world to them.

As we headed home, the lights and colours of the night whizzing past and the cooler evening air flooded through the car. They were soft and quiet as we pulled up at our little wooden cottage. I managed to get them all bathed, dressed, teeth cleaned and into bed with a minimal fuss. A little later than normal, but hey…it’s Friday night.

image credit: Rex Addison

A Place Most Fowl

We’ve gone bird crazy!

A couple of months ago we got a beautiful little budgie called Margie. She has been a big hit with the boys.  She seems to have adjusted to our noise levels now and is quite happy playing with her toys and interacting with us. I put her out on the back veranda during the day – so she gets a lovely view. Sometimes she gets a few bird visitors as well. I thought this might worry her, but she seems to cope with that as well. Which is a good thing, as we have quite a lot of bird activity in our garden.

Our Margie!

On the weekend we went out to one of those surprising places that I somehow stumble across. It’s located only a few kilometres from where we live and you can safely say we live in an ‘inner suburb’ of Brisbane. Yet when you drive into this property, we were most definitely somewhere ‘rural’.

You drive in off the road, take the driveway around the old wooden house to the back of the property and that’s when you enter…chicken world!

My boys had the best time – their senses prickling as they ran around the chicken coops, taking in all the noise, the activity and the smell. What glorious, smelly fun!

I’ve been talking about getting some chickens for a couple of years now. So my dad had decided he would give me the whole set up for my birthday. He had chooks when he was a kid and had always wanted to do it again at some point – so this is partly his dream too!

Don’t be shocked country folk, this is what us city folk will pay for a bit of what you’ve got!

I left it up to him to choose which breeds to get. I think he enjoyed this part the most. So… this is what we are getting:

  • 2 black Australorps
  • 1 Silver Spangled Hamburg
  • 1 Speckled Sussex
  • 1 Belgium Bantum

Spangled Hamburgs!

What you will be getting, dear friends…is EGGS!

What the chickens will be getting? A life of luxury, a comfortable (delux!) home, good food and a big garden for free ranging in.

What the boys will be getting? Lessons in life and lots of chooky fun.