Shades of grey

My son turned 14 this year and, stupidly, as the first stressful day without school drew to a close, I thought back to the summer of 06, the year my eldest turned 14. It was one of the darkest summers of my life, as my marriage finally fell apart completely. But there were also days of sun and joy and fun in Wales and Wexford, when my kids and I were a tight little team, who enjoyed each other's company and did everything together. I never imagined how far we would stray from those happy days. This year, July stretches ahead with appointments every weekday, each means that I seem to spend hours trying to plan the best strategy to ensure that they successfully happen. Sometimes they don't. Outings will be to the supermarket and the therapist, not the beach and playground. It's looking like a summer of dull grey days, no matter what the weather. There's no point in wishing for the holidays to end because they may not actually 'end' for either of my teenagers, with school officially ending for one and causing a lot of difficulty for the other.. On top of everything else I am eating far too much chocolate (and it shows). I badly need to lose some weight but how do I give up the only real indulgence I have right now? Answers on a postcard please.

Reasons to be cheerful despite my daughter finishing school

So much has happened in the past seven days, but a lot of it makes me very cheerful indeed. So here goes...

  • I began running again post op and I swear that I can run faster without being weighed down by sweaty, steamed up glasses.

It's not special needs that pregnant mums should fear

Perhaps it was the come down after Smiley's wonderful graduation ceremony on Wednesday, but Thursday felt like the pits. My daughter finishes school next week and her graduation should have been a celebration of her school years and excitement about the next stage in her life. Instead she has nowhere to go and faces an unknown and uncertain future, like many other young adults with special needs.

Thursday also marked the start of another autism group workshop with a bunch of great people: therapists, adults and their teenage children. I'm not allowed to tell you what happened, but I can tell you that it used up the entire morning, and was a replacement for the one-hour appointment that I and my son had been expecting. That used to take place in our home. This new arrangement may be efficient for the cash-strapped autism service providers, and I know that I should be grateful that my son is getting some kind of a service, but I just felt ground down by yet another drain on my time.

Why I cancelled respite and what I learned

I don't think it was the fault of the staff, I don't think it was lack of information, I don't think it was the place where she stayed. But last time that Smiley came home from respite she was clearly traumatised. And I don't say that lightly. She was only there for one night. Lots of preparations had been made, yet something went badly wrong.

She came home early on Friday morning. She wasn't her usual animated self, so I assumed that she hadn't slept well, which often happens in respite.  But she just got flatter and flatter. There were no smiles, no interest in anything, and she even bit me, which she almost never does. She also refused to eat or drink, until in desperation I gave her a large glass of chocolate milk late afternoon. Luckily that was impossible to resist. I was desperately upset for her and guilty for sending her to respite, but when it works it's wonderful for her and for us!

More meetings with her service provider followed, and it was decided to try her in respite again for a few hours and not overnight.  She was well-prepared with a a specially written social story and she seemed okay when I collected her in the evening.

We've a Dragon on the loose and a GIVEAWAY too

We're big fans of dragons in this house, but sadly my brood are more interested in really scary adult dragons, so I'm looking for a home for the charmingly named Snotlout and Hookfang, who landed unexpectedly in my porch this morning to publicise the upcoming DreamWorks Dragons series on Netflix. So I thought a giveaway would be a good plan and the details are below. But first I let the dragon out of its cage box and we had some fun...

Look what I've done!

How to feel younger when you're getting old

It's my birthday weekend, and for once I'm feeling it. And not in a good way. I'm now officially in my mid 50s, and I do not like that place at all. On Friday night I celebrated Angel's return from Tenerife and my last day in my early 50s with wine, and I'm regretting it now. It was only a couple of glasses too! It looks like me and teetotalism are going to be best buddies from now on. But perhaps that's just as well.

Sometimes I feel about 100 as I look dispassionately and without recognition at the younger me in old photos. It's not my face that's changed, it's what I do, what I think and how I feel. But I'm not ready to get old yet, and I think the key is in my head.

It seems that I've always thought this way too. Before Pinterest I used to be hoarder of bits of paper and cuttings from magazines, from pretty ideas to tart up my home (those were the days when I cared) to random articles about stuff that interested or inspired me. During a recent decluttering session I sadly chucked a huge pile of them into the recycling bin. But one or two I kept, including a tiny article from ten years ago on a talk given by a Trinity College Dublin Professor about how to keep your brain sharp as you grow older.

I read through it again, and it's a beautifully simple manifesto for ageing well:

Here's how I'm doing...

Reasons to be cheerful 18.6.15

Lots of little reasons to be cheerful after last week's major one, which I'm still celebrating.

A holiday in Tenerife

Not mine. Angel's. Delighted that she got a break. Relieved to get a text to say that she had arrived safely, and thrilled to hear the door open last night as she arrived home. And catching up with all her news this morning. Still, I wish I was there!