One Love

Two weeks ago, a suicide bomber targeted the Ariana Grande concert in Manchester. He chose to detonate his bomb as people were leaving the arena. 22 people were killed, many of whom were young. 116 people were injured. Manchester mourned its dead and the rest of the world mourned with them.

My heart ached with sadness that a human being could deliberately set out to do this. That he could stand next to people throughout those hours just waiting for his moment to devastate lives. It’s beyond comprehension..

I know I should avoid the news. It affects me long after it’s no longer ‘news’. It sends my anxiety spiralling and is bad for my health but sometimes I get caught up in things and I got caught up in this.

Whatever life has thrown at me.. music has been there to comfort me in a way that nobody ever can because music speaks where words fail. Having gone to concerts myself, I understand the feeling of euphoria that comes with seeing your idols perform live and I take comfort in the knowledge that those kids got themselves some happy in their last hours on this earth. That means something to me.

As a parent, my heart broke. So many lives cut short and for what? Ariana Grande was also in my thoughts. Most artists live for what they do and making people feel good is a huge part of why they do it. They want people to leave their concerts feeling happy with memories that will last a lifetime. Imagine being Ariana, knowing that children died in the worst way after seeing her perform? That must have been incredibly hard to cope with. Lets not forget that she is only 23 years old herself.

When the attack happened, I’d never heard of Ariana. I love my music but I am out of touch with what’s in the charts. To look at her, you’d think a decent gust of wind would pick her up and carry her off but last night she proved just what she’d made of as just TWO weeks after the attack she came back to Manchester to play a benefit concert for the 50,000 people with anybody who could prove they were at the original concert getting free tickets.

I watched it via live stream on Twitter. I was an emotional wreck watching it this way. I can only imagine how emotionally charged the atmosphere was at Old Trafford. It wasn’t your average concert, you see. It was special. It was about musicians and people coming together and sticking the Vs up to the terrorists. It took guts to be there. Ariana would have been forgiven if she’d have disappeared off the radar for a while. Not this lady. Not only did she come back, she also brought people with her.

The likes of Katy Perry (who I thought was Annie Lennox until I shoved my specs on), Little Mix and Miley Cyrus may not be my cup of tea but they all showed courage last night, especially as London had been attacked the day before. Even though I don’t connect with their particular style of music, I enjoyed watching the faces of those who do. The infinity you feel to someone who speaks to you via music is something I can definitely identify with.

The highlights for me were Robbie Williams, Coldplay and most of all, Liam Gallagher –  Mr Rock and Roll star himself – who flew in from Germany to support his city. The music changed to a distinct ‘rock like feel’ and my first thought was, ‘OMG, Oasis?’ Just as I was about to reach for my Beta-Blockers, Liam strolled on stage wearing his orange cagoule. No Noel, but we got to see Chris Martin perform with him on Live Forever which I thought was kind of cool given that Liam once compared him with a geography teacher but I guess even rock and roll stars grow up, eh?

Tweet of the night had to be this by Dean Lane about LG.

Daughter: Who’s that in the big coat, daddy?

Dad: That’s an absolute fucking legend, sweetie.

There’s been a lot of flack for Noel about him not reuniting with his brother for this concert. Personally, I feel it wasn’t the right time for an Oasis reunion. Why? Because they are one of the biggest and most iconic rock bands, ever. For Liam and Noel to share the same stage again would have overshadowed everything else. It was Ariana’s night, not theirs. It was right that a concert in support of Manchester should have Mancunian artists on the set list. Chris Martin, singing part of James’ ‘Sit Down’ wasn’t lost on me as James are a Manchester band. Take That were formed in Manchester..

Seeing Ariana sing with the Parrs Wood school choir gave me proper panda eyes. She held a girls hand and when she started to lose her composure, Ariana held her closely. Not a dry in the place. It was an act of love from one human to another but the night was all about love. People connected by a love of music and a determination that no arseholes will dictate their lives for them. The point of terrorism is to strike fear into people, divide them, and to stop them from living their lives. The One Love concert was proof that they have failed to accomplish it. Manchester’s response to terrorism was to sing it’s heart out.

What Ariana accomplished is nothing short of amazing. Any concert takes time and planning but when it involves numerous artists it’s a huge undertaking but she pulled it together in a week. Ariana has my utmost respect. Respect for how she’s found the courage to come back after what must have been a tremendously traumatic time for her, but also her ability to stay vertical in her eight inch heels- an amazing feat in itself.

Her song, ‘One Last Time’ is beautiful in it’s own right but after May 22nd the lyrics took on a different meaning as it was one of the last songs (if not THE last song) those kids ever heard before they went ‘home’.

So one last time
I need to be the one who takes you home
One more time
I promise after that, I’ll let you go

A good thing happened in Manchester yesterday. In the space of two weeks we’ve seen humanity at its worst with the bomber and at its very best in the aftermath. Music has united us in the way that only music can and from my little corner of the world, I was part of it.

Blessings to Ariana and everybody who took part in the One Love concert, including the policeman who was filmed skipping with some children. You Sir, are a legend. This is what the world needs to combat the evil. Love will beat evil, every time.

I’ll leave the last word with Liam, the voice of my generation and one of Manchester’s own.

Somewhere Only I Know

I wake up with a racing heart..

‘Fer f**ks saaaaake!’, I whine, a bit pathetically.

This time it’s different though because I don’t fear the sensation. It’s unpleasant but it will pass. I’ve been here a hundred times before.

‘Don’t you DARE look at the clock!’, I warn myself, though I imagine it’s around four. I elbow OH in the ribs because he’s snoring like a bastard, then I make myself comfortable.

I close my eyes..

I breathe in for four seconds.

I hold my breath for four seconds.

I breathe out for four seconds.

I reach into the certifiable mess that is my mind and retrieve a happy memory of a sunny day on a beach in Wales. I remove the people from the memory so there is just me. No stressed-out parents, no screaming kids and no Mr Whippy van with his highly irritating mechanical chimes..

I change the weather from hot to warm, because I can.

Editing done, I start to walk along the beach, seeing myself in first person perspective, just as in life. Though it has to be said that my feet are hideous..

There are sand dunes to the left of me, cliffs behind me and the golden Welsh sands stretch out before me. I walk for a while then turn to face the ocean..

I love the sea. It has the ability to take my life within minutes, yet can soothe my frazzled mind. The only snag is I can’t swim.

I watch as the waves roll in and out, synchronizing them to my breathing. Then I become aware of my bare feet sinking into the cool sand and a catastrophic thought creeps into my mind. I see myself being dragged under by deadly quicksand. This is because Mum, bless her, nearly ended herself on a beach in Bournemouth. Thankfully, all she lost was a flip-flop and her dignity.

The seagulls fly above me but there’s no danger of them crapping on my head. Nor are there any Carling cans and fag-ends jammed into the sand ruining my view because this is my special, no shit allowed, place.

Suddenly I feel something cold on my leg and look down to see a beautiful Lurcher with his nose pressed against my leg. He has golden fur, the kind that’s comfortingly rough. His eyes are caramel brown with more love inside them than you could ever imagine..

He starts to dance around me, nudging my leg and woofing like a mad thing.

He wants to play..

A piece of driftwood appears, as if by magic, and I hurl it into the sea with all the finesse of a shot-putter, not that he cares. Off he bounds into the waves, barking excitedly. He finds the driftwood and brings it back to me. ‘Again?’ his eyes implore me..

So I indulge him, again and again until I have to tell him to sod off because my arthritis is giving me gyp.

He hurdles the waves, like Usain Bolt, only with fur. He is uninhibited and for a moment I envy him because he isn’t scared of anything..

After a while he tires himself out and makes his way towards me. I crouch down to his level and stroke his face. He makes this noise, like he’s singing, only it’s more of a howl. It’s dog-speak for ‘I’m happy’.

Miraculously, his fur has dried out. How did that happen? Because it can, that’s why.

I put my face to his and breathe him in. He smells like sunshine. His aroma comforts me and I can feel my heart rate slowing right down. This moment lasts as long as I need it to, then he gives me one last look with those beautiful eyes before he ambles off towards the dunes..

I gaze down to see two sets of prints in the sand, one of hideous size 4 feet, the other of paws.

My four-legged friend is nowhere to be seen. No doubt he is lying in the shade somewhere chasing rabbits in his dreams..

A gentle breeze stirs up so I walk some more, watching as the clouds pass along the blue sky like big balls of cotton wool. If heaven exists, I want this to be mine.

My heart rate has returned to a steady beat and my breathing to normal. I am calm.

I stare at the ocean one last time then make my way towards the dunes where there are a set of steps. In reality, those steps lead to some public bogs that reek of piss but I edit that bit out because, well, it’s a bit shit.

As I climb the steps, I congratulate myself because Fear didn’t win this time. I showed that little shit who’s boss, i.e. me.

By the time I reach the last step, I am opening my eyes and blinking in the sunlight, or dinge, whichever is applicable. Back to life, back to reality..

The brain is a powerful thing. Thoughts can destroy and heal you in equal measure. My brain frustrates me on a daily basis with it’s catastrophic thoughts yet the memory of a much loved friend, who died over ten years ago, has the power to heal me.

The memory is real and it’s a privilege to have, just as it was a privilege to share part of my life with such a loving creature.

The first time I saw him in my guided relaxation, he simply appeared without me having thought of him. Did my subconscious bring him to me? Or did he find me?

Either way, I am grateful because each time I wake up panicking, I go to my special place and there he is, waiting for me.

Friend and Healer.

Footprints CC Image via Pixabay

 

 

 

 

 

 

Crazy Bonkers

‘Mummy, I PROMISE not to go crazy bonkers today.’

How my heart melted to hear those words..

The Boy was referring to his meltdowns because he was going on a play-date.

The last play-date was back in November and resulted in me having to carry him out of my friend’s house kicking me and screaming. OH picked us half way home and The Boy proceeded to scream and kick the back of OH’s seat. He fought OH as he carried him across the road and into the house. It wiped him (and us) out for the rest of the day. As meltdowns go – it was one of his worst.

Most autism parents will know what a meltdown is and they will experience challenging behaviour on a daily basis.

What is challenging behaviour?

  • Self-injurious behaviour – any activity where a person inflicts harm or injury on themselves.
  • Physical challenging behaviour – hair pulling, kicking, punching, biting (or in his case, ninja kicks)
  • Pica – eating or mouthing non-edible items like dirt, stones and stuff.
  • Smearing  – people smear can be due to medical or sensory reasons.

The important thing to remember about challenging behaviour is that it has a reason.

Such as:

  • Difficulty in processing information or what I call ‘busy head’.
  • Unstructured time – for instance – at school this would be playtime or free-play in the classroom.
  • Over or under sensitivity to sensory stimuli like noise, light and smells.
  • Changes to routine.
  • Feeling unwell
  • Tiredness
  • Being hungry.

If a child struggles to communicate it leads to frustration, anxiety and anger resulting in a meltdown.

What is a meltdown?

A meltdown (or going crazy bonkers) is a reaction to feeling overwhelmed and any number of reasons (or combination of) can cause it.

Some people make the mistake of thinking it’s a tantrum but there is a massive difference between a child who is having a hissy-fit over not being able to get their own way and one who is out of control due to sensory overload.

A meltdown is the last straw.

What can you do to help your child during a meltdown?

  • Never punish your child for having a meltdown.
  • Speak calmly – never raise your voice or shout.
  • Do not reward your child for calming down after a meltdown as this may lead some children to understand that meltdowns get them what they want.
  • Try and talk to your child about the meltdowns once they are relaxed and receptive.
  • Sometimes it’s necessary to restrain your child but this must only be in situations where they could harm themselves or others. The Boy sometimes likes to be held firmly but other times he can’t stand to be touched. If he is in danger, we have no choice but to restrain him. This is incredibly upsetting as a parent.

Preventing meltdowns

  • Learn to understand when your child is becoming overwhelmed.
  • Distraction can sometimes stop a meltdown it it’s tracks.
  • Establish routines and stick to them. Prepare your child for changes to routine as far in advance as is possible.
  • Pick your battles. Try not to sweat the small stuff as you’ll need your energy for the big ones.
  • A hungry child is a meltdown waiting to happen.
  • Reward positive behaviour – when they get it right in social situations, BIG IT UP!
  • Keeping a behaviour diary can help to identify some of the triggers.
  • Teach your child relaxation techniques.

When The Boy goes ‘crazy bonkers’ he becomes aggressive. Being 4ft 2 and strong he is capable of doing some serious damage. This is the part of his autism which I struggle with and unfortunately it’s his most problematic area.

The Boy isn’t a naturally aggressive child. His default setting is to make people happy so for him to lose control means there is stuff going on in his head that he is unable to process.

How it began

The Boy’s behaviour was noticeably different early on and people put it down to the ‘terrible twos’ but I instinctively knew it was more than that – I just didn’t know what.

One day (aged three) he had an epic meltdown. One minute he was smiling – the next he was yanking out my hair and hitting me in the face. My bewilderment only seemed to spur him on. I understand now that the change in my facial expression must have upset him even more. I needed to put some distance between us so I put him in his room (removing anything that could hurt him) and closed the safety gate. Then I sat on the stairs and listened to his tirade in a state of shock. I had never experienced anything like it. He threw his toys down the stairs then I heard the door slam off it’s hinge. Three years old and he could take a bloody door off?

This doesn’t bode well for his teenage years!

*hysterical laugh* *makes mental note to go open-plan*

At that point I did what instinct told me to and held him. He was shaking with rage but I wrapped my arms and legs around him and rocked him back and forth. Initially he fought me but slowly calmed down. He slept for four hours afterwards which was unusual for him as he only usually manged half an hour but he was exhausted. As he slept I sat and stared at the wall. My mind was in tatters and my heart was heavy. Something definitely wasn’t right and I was scared. At that time I was keeping a journal so it was documented and four years later it’s hard to read.

A few weeks later he started nursery and the manager recognised the autism straight away. With our agreement the child psychologist was brought in to assess him. A year later he was officially diagnosed with ASD and Sensory Processing Disorder.

The rest is history.

To see our child lose it in spectacular fashion is hard to say the least. We’re not talking feet stamping tantrums here – we’re talking total and utter loss of control. It rips my heart out to hear him scream that he hates us but I know at that point he needs our love more than ever.

Our lives revolve around preventing meltdowns but it’s not always possible and the ones which happen in public are a whole different kind of stress because people can be judgmental and unhelpful b**tards.

I have meltdowns but mine are mostly silent. I shut down whereas The Boy explodes. For me it’s like having too may tabs open on the PC and everything locks up. The only way to remedy it is to shut down and re-boot. For him, it’s like the entire thing blows up.

Four years on and the meltdowns still happen but not as often because he is developing coping skills where he can take himself off to his quiet place when he starts to feel overwhelmed. Progress is slow but it’s progress and that can only be a good thing.

He may not be able to promise me he won’t go ‘crazy bonkers’ again but I can promise that we will still love him when he does.

“The kids who need the most love will ask for it in the most unloving of ways”. ~ Unknown

Sons, Sand & Sauvignon

Love Is…

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*WARNING* This post contains the word ‘fart’.

Since I’ve been on the decaf I’ve not been a morning person. In fact there’s only a 30 minute period in the entire day when I’m actually firing on all cylinders and then my brain disengages again. I’m also functioning on depleted supplies of oestrogen and this could explain why my inner grumpy went orbital the morning I walked in to find OH’s dirty undies casually draped over the chair.

Two words.

Skid marks.

OH assures me it’s due to having a ‘hairy bottom’ though I think it’s also to do with the numerous ‘rump rippers’ he fires into his ‘drawers’ throughout the day.

Truth be told – I’ve yet to come across a male who hasn’t left varying degrees of skiddery in his underpants. Having been married twice and birthed three sons- I’ve seen more skidmarks than Brands Hatch but apparently I can still be caught off guard and so I found myself faced with a dilemma –  did I wash them, toss them, or set fire to them?

After conducting a brief risk assessment (see what I did there?) I reluctantly chose to violate my washer with the offending skivvies. So I shoved them inside the machine (via the end of my mop) and slammed the door before they could escape. Then I threw in a box of Daz and left them slapping against the door on a hot wash while I staggered off to dry-heave over the kitchen sink.

It got me to thinking about how long into a relationship bad habits creep in and according to an article in The Telegraph – it’s three years and six months after tying the knot. It’s what is known as ‘the comfort zone’. OH and myself married last year but we’ve lived with each other for nine years so I’d say we’re well into the comfort zone!

Early on in relationships people stifle burps and politely leave the room to fart break wind. They take time over their appearance and are considerate to their partners. OH even let me have the TV remote in the early days – imagine that?

Muffling farts with a strategic loo flush?

*sticks hand up*

However, it was OH who took our relationship to another level the night he fired off three consecutive trumps farts into the sofa while watching Top Gun just at the moment that GOOSE DIES!

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This is real life and real life is..

Morning breath that could strip the paint off a barn door.

Watching the light of your life floss his undercarriage WITH HIS UNDERPANTS.

Sniffing what’s left of the crotch of your leggings (with elastic bits pinging out) to see if you can get another day out of them.

Women shuffling around the house in tea-stained dressing gowns or worse – onesies.

Men strolling round the house in saggy man pants or worse – onesies.

Leaving your ‘trimmings’ in the bath – eh ladies?

Toenail clippings on the floor…

The first time OH clipped his toenails off onto the carpet, I had to hold myself back from grievously bodily harming him. One of the talons pinged it’s way into my wine glass, although OH was oblivious to it as he was deep in concentration tackling his big toe at the time.

Folks, if my Dad had given himself a pedicure over my Ma’s Axminster carpet – he’d have needed those clippers surgically removed. Truth.

Clipping your hoofs in front of your OH is most definitely NOT bringing sexy back. Do it over the bath or the bog, eh?

Nose-picking?

Everybody does it but the female of the species generally do it in private whereas the males can spotted knuckles deep anytime, anyplace and anywhere.

I blame TV’s portrayals of so called ‘perfect relationships because it gives people unrealistic expectations of what relationships should be. Humans aren’t perfect, therefore life isn’t perfect and neither are relationships. Richard Gere strutting into a dusty old factory wearing a uniform and slinging Debra Winger over his shoulder?

Only in Hollywood.

Whereas Jim Royle picking his nose, farting and announcing to ‘Baaaaaaarb’ that he’s off for a “Tom-Tit” is entirely believable.

Snoring is another thing we tolerate in the early days because our brains are releasing happy-go-lucky neurotransmitters into the bloodstream. However, once the happy juice wears off you could quite happily beat the living shit out of them with a shovel in order to get some sleep! Am I wrong?

Having said that, I woke myself up snoring not so long ago, so, er, moving on….

After the infatuation dies down is when the real love begins.

Love is commitment.

Love is knowing that your partner is flawed but loving them anyway.

Love isn’t a bunch of roses or a box of chocolates (or a cactus) it’s a feeling in the heart which no amount of money can buy. When someone loves you despite your faults, you have something really special.

That’s what love is.

OH loves me despite the fact I’m a bit very strange.

He’s not fazed when I turn psycho due to lack of hormones. You know, the hormones that make us bearable?

So I tolerate the skidundies, the TV remote hoggery and general man habits because he tolerates me.

I even forgive him for ruining Goose’s emotional exit from Top Gun.

Because that’s what love is.

*OH sportingly approved this post but wishes it to be known that he picks his clippings up afterwards.

This is true except for the ones which shoot under the sofa. *snorts*

Image Credit J D Hancock via CC

A Bit Of Everything

 

The Boy Who Loved

“YOU’VE RUINED MY LIFE, MUMMY!”

I didn’t expect to hear those words for at least another few years but my six year old autistic son said them to me the other day.

Why?

Because his most treasured friend in all the universe had lost her voice!

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The Boy with his special friend.

Her name is Hedwig and once upon a time she was Harry Potter’s faithful companion. Anybody who’s read the HP books or seen the films will know of Hedwig’s fate but in The Boy’s world, she is very much alive.

She arrived via Father Christmas last year and we thought he would explode with joy. It was THE best present in the entire world!

Autistic people have obsessions. The Boy’s started with numbers when he was three and he wowed his teachers at school by knowing his entire 12 times table at the age of four. His photographic memory means that he only has to see something once to remember it – most helpful when it comes to exams!

This obsession lasted two years and then owls took over after hearing The Owl Babies at school. He was especially taken with ‘Bill’ who always wants his mummy, like he does.

Then we watched Harry Potter and the Philosophers Stone and he saw the owls, in particular, Harry’s snowy owl – Hedwig.

And it was love at first sight.

It’s the intensity of an interest which makes it an obsession and owls help The Boy cope with the uncertainties of life. They are his constant companions and his bedroom is full of owl paraphernalia. At school they keep one especially for him to cuddle when he feels anxious and as a reward for effort he is allowed to take his special friend into school with him at the end of the week.

Last week was a good week for The Boy. Despite being poorly and missing a day, he was able to do some work in the classroom which is a huge thing for him to cope with. He chose to take Hedwig to school on Friday and went in full of smiles as he was so happy to be spending the day with his special friend.

However, joy turned into distress at home time when he came in crying his heart out.

“You HAVE to make Hedwig talk Mummy, she’s lost her voice!”

Hedwig’s ‘voice’ is a small button located in her wing that produces owl noises and by the sound of it, it had seen some serious action that day because it was barely audible. I knew that there was no way to change the battery as it’s sewn into the toy. Once it’s worn out, that’s it – although I didn’t realise this when I ordered it.

Struggling to find the right words to say to comfort him, I ended up saying entirely the wrong thing..

“I’ll try Sweetheart but I can’t promise you she’ll get her voice back”

He crumbled in front of me and with eyes full of tears he shouted:

“YOU’VE RUINED MY LIFE, MUMMY!”

And at that moment, I felt like I had.

He took her upstairs and wrapped her gently in his Batman blanket, then he tucked her into his bed as I had done with him the day before. For a child who is naturally heavy handed, he was surprisingly gentle with her.

OH e-mailed Warner Bros to ask if there was any way to rectify it and I contacted them via social media. As of yet, neither has responded.

Then something wonderful happened..

An online friend (a person I’ve never met) offered to give The Boy his Hedwig because he is also the parent of an autistic child and he understood my son’s distress. How wonderful is that? Such a beautiful thing to do. It’s too generous an offer for me to be able to accept because I know what they cost but I will never forget his kindness towards a little boy who he doesn’t even know.

I also got a message from one of The Boy’s sister’s who had obviously seen what was going on via social media and found a snowy owl on the internet which made noises and she’s posted it to him. As she says, it’s not Hedwig but a little boy can never have too many owls!

Then a little miracle happened..

Hedwig – after a night of rest and recuperation – got her voice back – ish.

Dear Reader, you and I both know that it will happen again because we know that these toys are not designed for longevity, especially when there is an obsessive autistic child pushing it’s button a zillion times a day. So we are getting a back up toy which will be swapped over when Hedwig’s voice goes for good. At the moment, it’s important to him so it’s important to us.

As I was writing this post I got to thinking about a doll that I had for my fifth birthday. ‘Drowsy’ had a cord which made her talk when you pulled it. She said things like “I’m sleepy” “Kiss me goodnight” and “I want a drink of water” and she giggled. How I loved that giggle and how I loved her. She was my constant companion throughout my childhood. Eventually, the cord snapped off but there was nothing Mum could do. There was no chance of her being swapped because she was uniquely mine, as in, I’d given her a haircut and Mum had covered her original polka dot play-suit with some old curtains. One day the stitching around her neck gave way and her head all but came off. I begged my mother to do something and fair play, Ma sewed her head back on. The stitches weren’t exactly pretty but by that time, neither was the rest of the doll.

To me she was more than a doll – she was my friend who listened to me when no one else would. A loyal friend like that could never end up in landfill which is why I still have her 41 years later and it’s my wish that she’ll go with me when I die as I would chuffing well haunt the bugger who puts her in the bin after I’m gone!

So I understand how much he loves this stuffed owl and thankfully we will be able to swap it without him understanding what we’ve done, unlike my Drowsy doll.

Will The Boy still have Hedwig when he’s my age?

Probably not but who knows..

Autistic children grow and their obsessions change, although some can be life-long.

All I know is how much she matters to him now. He loves her as he would a human being. As I type this I can hear him making his owl noises. When he is anxious he screeches like an owl. When he is happy, he hoots. He nibbles my hand like real owls do. In fact, I think he believes he is part owl and that is perfectly fine by me. Hoot Hoot!

Harry now carried a large cage that held a beautiful snowy owl, fast asleep with her head under her wing. Harry Potter and the Philosophers Stone ~ J K Rowling

Sons, Sand & Sauvignon
A Bit Of Everything