New Year Musings and Milestones Worth Celebrating

Let’s face it on a global scale 2017 wasn’t the greatest was it.

Unless you’re a fan of orange-hued ego-maniacs with a bigger love of irrational and grammatically incorrect social media usage (‘Covfefe’ anyone?) than the importance of international diplomacy and the uncomfortable truth that sexism and sexual harassment against women is still a horrific reality in far too many workplaces.

On a personal level many people I know have faced difficult hurdles this year, including bereavement, anxiety attacks, bureaucratic battles that weren’t so much uphill as vertical, serious health worries (both mental and physical) and struggles to cope with difficult news and change.

We’ve had our fair share to deal with as well in the Neat Freak household, and my OH and I have commented infrequently that 2017 has probably been the toughest year of our lives so far – but it’s also been the most rewarding in many ways.

After the initial shock of the A Word diagnosis, now some 18 months ago, we’ve all grown as a family and learned much about what this lifelong condition is, how it’s somehow curiously the same and ever-changing as well as being ever-present, and how it can bring as many joys as it does difficulties.

A lot of what we thought we knew about the future has altered and we’ve had to learn to accept (sometimes grudgingly) that when autism affects a member of your immediate family it’s easier to take things a day at a time and not look too far ahead, even if occasionally that really hurts.

As a mum I’ve always hoped that my children will be able to pursue their chosen path in life, with many doors and possibilities open to them, but with Blue-eyed boy I’ve had to accept that his autism may mean some things are more difficult for him.

As someone who was bullied at school I fiercely vowed a long time ago that no one would ever pick on my kids, but I’ve had to swallow the fact that Blue-eyed boy will probably be an ‘easy target’ for unkind people who prey on the little quirks and differences that others fortunately celebrate. I’ve had to learn to grow a thicker skin.

And hardest of all, we’ve had to come to terms with the fact that Blue-eyed boy may never be able to attend mainstream school and that, even though this was the right  option for us and Mini-me, the best one for him involves a place at the local special school – at least for the next couple of years.

But what we’ve also learned is how the A Word shakes up your view of the world around you in glorious kaleidoscope technicolour, and how things you once took for granted or viewed as ‘little’ can suddenly be the ones that light up your day.

Things such as your child using new words and stringing several of them together, doing a simple jigsaw puzzle by themselves and beaming with pride when you praise them, dividing numbers into odds and evens leading you to wonder if one day they’ll be a ‘maths genius’ and watching your two kids play brilliantly together because as well as being a fan of Barbie’s Dream House the eldest sibling is also a carer at the age of just six and kind and accepting beyond her years.

2017 was a year of many firsts – a new specialist pre-school, many new friends, new understandings and knowledge and a dawning realisation that we’ll never stop having to battle the local council and fight for our child.

2018 will no doubt bring many new challenges, highs and lows for us and others close to us. But with the support of our family and good friends hopefully we’ll all come out smiling the other end.

And if all else fails Trump may get impeached. Fingers crossed on that one.

 

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Just Call Me Superhero School Run Mum…

It’s official. I frickin’ HATE the school run.

What’s not to love about always, ALWAYS being late. Sprinting down the road with coats, bags and offspring trailing behind you, as other parents are already returning to their cars?!!

It’s the equivalent of being lapped I tell you.

It’s got so bad that I actually now frequently refer to the school run as ‘Mummy’s Walk of Shame’. And I’m pretty sure I’ve been mentally blacklisted by the head. Poor Mini-me…

Now what is so difficult you may ask about getting pint-sized people up, cleaned, dressed, fed and out? And I totally get you. Other parents seem to manage perfectly well. Many of my friends (some with three or more children) seem to manage perfectly well – so why the hell can’t I get my arse in gear and do the same?!

It’s a question I’m continually asking myself believe me. Often I congratulate myself on having a few minutes to spare, but then before I know it the clock is mocking me again, Mini-me is shouting up the stairs about my continual lateness and we screech the car out of the drive for today’s thrilling and slightly sweaty obstacle race.

The other day, as Mini-me quizzically surveyed her stressed mother from the back seat, she announced: “Mummy, if I was a superhero I could make sure we got to school on time every day. I could fly us there, and you could hang off my leg.

“Or, maybe you could be the superhero and that would mean we got there on time.”

Wishful thinking Mini-me, but what the hell…

Here, in the spirit of what I should be aspiring to (and Mini-me’s current obsession with dressing up) I give you the manifesto of Superhero School Run Mum. Curse her!

 

  1. Superhero School Run Mum is not fazed by inclement weather. She leaps puddles in the style of Greg Rutherford, and never forgets to pack spare socks for soggy offspring.

 

  1. Superhero School Run Mum never looks anything but well put together. Her ponytail is always sleek and she has never once sported ‘visible t-shirt sweat stripes under bra’.

 

  1. While for others the clock may sneer: ‘You should have left three minutes ago and you’re still not dressed’, Superhero School Run Mum can actually turn back time, and even enjoys a hot beverage pre 9am.

 

  1. You will never find Superhero School Run Mum lying on the bedroom floor swearing like a sailor while trying to force her legs into skinny jeans straight from the dryer in the style of a slightly ageing overweight sausage dog. No, she breaks in her denim the night before and has never heard of ‘styling out a muffin top.’

 

  1. When Superhero School Run Mum’s other half asks where his shirt, wallet or sanity is, she would never dream of replying: ‘How the f*** should I know. Do I look like your mother?!’

 

  1. Shouting is something you will never hear from Superhero School Run Mum. Her house is like something out of The Waltons, even at 7am. And as for kicking the car door, or muttering repeatedly under her breath: ‘I hate the sodding school run’, why it’s unthinkable.

 

  1. Superhero School Run Mum’s offspring eat a proper breakfast that includes all the major food groups. Gwyneth’s latest cook book takes pride of place in her kitchen, Nutella is banned and no one mentions the iPad before school, let alone uses it for bribery purposes…

 

  1. Superhero School Run Mum’s friends wouldn’t dream of chuckling about her lateness. Indeed she is known for arriving earlier than everyone else at the school playground and can always be relied upon for her soothing company.

 

  1. Not once has Superhero School Run Mum got all the way home and then realised she is still carrying her child’s book bag – and then had to make a return trip in torrential rain.

 

  1. Superhero School Run Mum is always the best source of knowledge for dates, school trips, homework deadlines, charity events, clubs and non-school uniform days. And she has never once ranted over sorting out something for Show and Tell.

 

Personally I think we should shoot the b****, but each to their own…

Drinking, Parenting and rubber ducks

I’ve never been the kind of person to give something up, either in the post-Christmas ‘flabby phase’ or for Lent.

I’m more of the ‘eat what you like and pretend that running after a one and four-year-old equates to proper exercise’ camp. But this year I decided to put the plonk on hold, not as some smug convert to Dry January you understand but really to see how long I could last without it.

(Besides I had a glass or two on my birthday at the start of the month and a small serving at lunch out this past weekend so I wouldn’t fit the proper criteria anyway!)

The result so far is that I’ve managed to pretty much go without my usual nightly glass of wine for more than three weeks. Pretty astounding for me…

One of my early memories back at home from the hospital with Blue-eyed boy is the visit we were paid by our health visitor.

Amongst asking questions about jaundice and feeding she also quizzed us about our drinking habits and how many units of alcohol we consumed on a weekly basis.

We looked at her like she was a bit mad, after all we now had two children under the age of three. Shouldn’t it be obvious then, we thought, that having ‘the odd glass to take the edge off’ was probably going to become a therapeutic – if not medicinal – necessity?

And unlike with Mini-me, I had absolutely no shame second time around in working out exactly how long it takes for a small glass of white wine to work its way out of your system so I could factor this into the feeding schedule. I know, Mother of the Year!

I’ve never really thought much about how becoming a parent has affected my drinking habits. Apart from making the connection that it’s probably gone up as a result.

But when Mini-me started school in September I started to notice that the occasions on which I’d pour myself a glass ‘a little earlier than usual’ were becoming more frequent. Let’s face it sometimes you need a little pick-me up to get through a whingeing bath time episode.

And as one friend said this week, it’s not like we’re out at the pub every other night any more. Vino in the company of rubber ducks can actually constitute a ‘good night’ these days.

Something about juggling even more than I’d been used to in the past though – homework, PTA bits and pieces, reading all the school paperwork, trying to organise regular playdates for Mini-me – with work and, well, just life, meant I’d started to rely on wine perhaps a little more than I should to help me relax of an evening.

Don’t get me wrong. The most I ever drink is a couple of glasses, even on the rare occasions when I am out. And I can’t even remember the last time I had a hangover because, frankly, it’s just not worth it. (God I sound boring!)

I once edited a story at the women’s magazine where I used to work about a mum who hid neat vodka in the iron. If I’d reached this stage I would be worried!

But what’s been nice over the past few weeks is realising that if I can push through the 6pm slump, I’m usually fine with a cuppa come 8.30pm.

(The fact that I seem to have filled the alcohol void with more chocolate and cake-type treats is by the by!)

How long my uncharacteristic drinking behaviour continues for remains to be seen.

We’re moving house in a few weeks so all that lovely packing will probably drive me to drink.

But honestly if I can get through some evenings without reaching for the corkscrew (or more often these days the screw top!) then I’m not going to worry about those days when I text my friends asking whether it’s ‘wine o’clock’ yet.

Because I’m only human – and the fact remains that I have absolutely no desire to become Gwyneth Paltrow.