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!

The pain of losing a child

I had an older brother. I never met him. I never knew him, I never saw a photo of him. All I know is that he was premature, born with spina bifida, and only lived for a few days. My parents only gave me the facts, they never told me how his death affected them or how they dealt with it. And now they are gone too and I will never know.

Unlike them I have not lost a child, though it has nearly happened more than once, and the most terrifying hour of my life was after Smiley turned blue in my arms. But I know that was only a small taste of the devastating and overwhelming emotions that must have affected my parents at the loss of their first born child. Too many friends have suffered this loss also, this pain that never really goes away.

But if the unthinkable does happen, the focus is often mostly on the child's mother, with fathers sometimes being an afterthought. So in memory of all bereaved dads, including my own, I'm supporting a campaign by Irish charity Anam Cara, which helps families who have experienced the death of a child.