"A hug in a mug" Higher Living Herbal Tea: A REVIEW

So what's a coffeeholic doing reviewing Higher Living Herbal Tea you might ask?  Well I didn't get the boxes of tea for me.  You may remember that I have a very health conscious 20 year old.  She's been drinking tea for years, I think the habit began on the weekly visits we used to make to see the Irish grandparents.  At first the tea was laced with sugar, but she gave that up for Lent one year, and then about 10 months ago she began drinking herbal tea, persisting even though she didn't like it much at first.  Now she is a huge fan.  "A hug in a mug", she calls it..

I have drunk herbal teas before: some years ago I went on a diet that involved replacing coffee with peppermint tea.  That lasted about 6 hours!  More recently I have started drinking the odd cup of chamomile tea.  For calming purposes you understand.

Anyway this tea is supposed to be rather special, and it looks pretty on the shelf too!  We got three flavours to try:

Liquorice

I was afraid to try this as I don't like aniseed, but my reviewer tells me that you can't taste that - apparently this is the tea for someone with a sweet tooth.

Green Chai

Having had a bad experience with green tea in the past, I let my daughter review this one too.

"A nice twist on green tea," is how she describes it: sweet and spicy.

Sweet Chilli Tea

So this is the one that I tried.  It was like nothing that I've ever drunk before, the chilli is not hot, it just gives flavouring, and I could taste a bit of sweetness in it too.  Also it goes down rather nicely with dark chocolate, and thanks to that discovery I was able to finish it :)

Our verdict: sophisticated, sweet and delicate, great for lovers of herbal tea who are looking for new flavours.



The info bit

Higher Living is one of the last remaining tea producers in Britain and often described as ‘the Rolls-Royce of tea’.  They specialise in herbal tea and have over 45 years blending experience.  The teas are 100% natural and organic, plus they have over 20 different infusions ranging from the traditional Earl Grey and Green Tea, all the way through to contemporary blends such as Sweet Chilli and Ginger Kick.


The Pity Party

Now that really put you off reading didn't it?

I try to be positive, I really do, but occasionally you get a reminder of why having children with special needs means that your life will always be different to that of other people.  That they will always need minding, always be dependent, always need to be put first, whether they are 16 or 60.  And sometimes that doesn't seem fair.

So please excuse me.  I'm not going to take part in Reasons to be Cheerful this week, even though I know it's good for me.  I'm going to wallow in self pity instead.  For half an hour or so anyway.

You see I'm not a saint.

The Meningitis scare

It started like any other school morning with young children.

A mad scramble to organise clothes and cereal and school bags and teeth cleaning...

But I noticed that my son was looking a bit peaky.  Pale, droopy and not his usually noisy self at all.  He was six then, and still an early riser, and as the minutes passed he got slower and slower until he just flopped on the sofa.

I whipped out the thermometer.  And yes he had a sky high temperature.  Then he told me that his head hurt and complained about the brightness in the room.  When I asked him to look at me he said it made his neck hurt.

There was an explosion of alarm bells going off in my head by now...

You see thanks to vaccinations, there were only two things that I really feared while my children were young.  One was cot death**, and I spent many semi sleepness nights when Angel was little, checking her breathing every few minutes.  Or so it seemed, but over time I relaxed, and Smiley had a breathing monitor for several years, which was a great comfort.

The other medical problem I feared?  Meningitis.  And my son's symptoms were starting to look horribly like the symptoms of this scary disease.

Instant rearrangement of all plans.  Messages left on the office answer phone.  A taxi was called: I was thinking about the morning gridlock and the empty bus lanes.  Bags were packed and we sat down to wait.  And we waited.  Time ticked by.  Just how long could it take to get a taxi to the house?

I rang again.  No taxi.  They had lied.  No taxis were free, and none would be coming.  Even though I had explained about the possibility of meningitis.  And I posted before about what they said!

My reply is unprintable here.

So I did what any Mum of a disabled child would do.  I cancelled Smiley's bus, and bundled both children into the car.   Parking is at a premium by the children's hospital: expensive and difficult to find, apart from the disabled spaces.  So off we went.  As usual the staff were fantastic, and my son was seen promptly, checked and kept under observation.  Of course he started to feel better once we'd arrived at the hospital!   He was lucky.  It turned out to be just another mysterious childhood infection, but I will never forget that sense of blind panic and fear at the thought of meningitis and the helplessness of trying to do the right thing, trying to get him to the hospital and hoping that we would make it in time.

Time.

The one thing that is in short supply if your child has meningitis.



What scares you most as a parent?

Written in support of World Meningitis Day 2013 and the ‘Meningitis: Keep Watching Ireland’ campaign launched by Meningitis Research Foundation Ireland with support from Novartis Vaccines and Diagnostics Limited, which encourages parents to remain vigilant for the signs and symptoms of the disease.  No payment of any kind was received for this post.

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**I can't mention cot death without remembering beautiful Matilda Mae, and the heart-rending posts about her written by her mum Jennie Edspire, after her daughter sadly passed away earlier this year.  RIP little angel.


Reasons to be Cheerful 18.4.13

Did you ever sign up for something in a moment of blind faith and enthusiasm and afterwards wonder what you've done and can you get out of it? Did I really want to cross the city during the rush hour to do exercises outdoors with a bunch of women who were bound to be younger and fitter than me? Especially when I've no free time to spare and I ought to spend the money on the kids anyway? Would there be toilets? What if my hair got wrecked? Seriously, because it's just been blow dried for a very important occasion this week.  Of which more later...

Do you want to know what happened?

Park life

I was only 3 minutes late, and the welcome was warm from the rest of the group.  The session is like sharing a personal trainer - the lovely @runwithtina -  with the whole park as your training ground. There's just five of us and today was about putting us through our paces to see what we could do.   The morning was cold and fresh but the rain stayed away, and I got stuck in and forgot about special needs and my mile-long 'to do' list, and just enjoyed the challenge.  And you know what?   I kept up, even if my lungs were in shock, and I realised that I'm not getting old and doddery yet!  So it's a treat, but I'm now working again, I'm paying my taxes, I deserve this. Actually I need it!  And I 'm very glad that I didn't find an excuse to stay away.

Reasons to be Cheerful at Mummy from the Heart

After that great start to the day I realised that I've got lots of reasons to be cheerful, even though it's been another up and down week, so here's the rest of them:

A date with the bishop

It's my son's confirmation this week - the last big family event for a while.  Not that big though, as he wants it to be fairly low key. We're going back to the same restaurant where we celebrated his first holy communion, and he's asked me not to wear 'fancy clothes'.   Fine, I thought, that saves me the hassle and expense of a shopping trip.  I won't be looking as glamorous as my pal Jazzygal did on her son's big day, even with the new scarf I bought to brighten up my outfit!  As for him, he's got his first set of grown up clothes, and no tears were involved in the buying of them.



Even the shoe shopping went well this time.  It's a little bittersweet though.  My boy is leaving childhood behind.  Teenagerdom and secondary school is only months away.

My friend, the author

After years of talking about it, one of the first friends I ever made in Ireland has finally got her book published.  She and I were part of a foursome who met as neighbours through our babies in the early 90s.  And we're reforming the group for the launch, especially as she's hinted that the book reflects her memories of those days!  I can't wait to read it.

A very special thank you

I asked for old mobile phones to get an iPad to help a small boy called AJ who has autism.  And lots of you responded.




Blogging surprise

No, blogging isn't a competition, and I write about what I want, when I want.   No regular schedule, no plan.  My blog does not sit easily into any category, and while I love reading funny posts, I'm not good at writing them.  I'm more likely to be feeling depressed and down, and blogging it as therapy.  Yet I do check some of the blog rankings, including the Tots 100 UK Parents Blog Index, which lists and ranks some 5000 blogs from the UK and Ireland.  Their latest rankings came out this morning and I could not believe my eyes!
So thank to everyone who reads, comments and shares my stuff, it's all down to you :D


How Billy Bragg got me through the Thatcher years

I've listened to music a lot more than usual over the last couple of weeks.  Every time Mrs Thatcher's name was mentioned on the radio, I changed station.   Even though she has now died, her name still has the power to upset me, to evoke strong feelings and bad memories of the way she overshadowed life in Britain in the 1980s.

I still remember how I felt when the commentators said the 1983 election contest was over as a young David Amess was declared the winner for the Tories in Basildon, and vowing that I would leave the country if Mrs Thatcher won another election.  She did, and I did too.

Yet the 1980s were my decade.  I partied like the world was about to end, I travelled, I had a great job, I worked hard, I fell in love - several times - got engaged, got married, bought a house and discovered the joy of running.  But at the same time, I watched with disgust at what was going on around me, at what it was doing to people, as the health and education services that I had been brought up to rely on and respect were whittled away, bit by bit, and service by service.  At the despair of those left behind by Thatcherism and crushed and denied:  "There's no poverty in this country," said one Tory County Councillor when I was working for the local Council.

Then there was the smugness of those who did well under Thatcherism.  I never worked out quite who they were.  Thatcherism didn't help me to get a job in 1983 when graduate unemployment was at a record high, nor did it help me to sell my house in 1989 after the property crash caused by the Tories which left many of my friends stuck in negative equity for years.  I do remember a big tax cut one year in the late 1980s which left me feeling rich for about three months.  I celebrated by buying the same jumper in three different colours.  Then interest rates started to rise and wiped it all out.

Thatcher's brand of triumphalist Toryism just turned my stomach.  Where was the interest in people?   In families, in communities?  Where was the sincerity, the compassion?

It was all about winning and being right.  At any cost it seemed.  If you didn't win, you didn't matter. She personified this with her triumphal 'victories' over the miners, the Argentinians, the unions.   But worse, the same attitude was adopted by many of her supporters, for whom all that mattered was having  the best house, the fastest car, the biggest pay packet, the most amazing life.   Everyone else wasn't working hard enough, wasn't clever enough.

If life got in the way of success, well it was your fault, just as it is now under the current UK Government with all their talk of 'strivers and shirkers'.  Mrs Thatcher championed self reliance, which is all good when you are young and healthy, not so great when you get older and bad things start to happen.  But there was one person who said it differently:

At twenty one you're on top of the scrapheap
At sixteen you were top of the class
All they taught you at school
Was how to be a good worker
The system has failed you, don't fail yourself

Just because you're better than me
Doesn't mean I'm lazy
Just because you're going forwards
Doesn't mean I'm going backwards

That Billy Bragg song got me through many difficult days.



So personally I'll just be glad when she's buried and then perhaps I can forgot about her.  But sadly her legacy of greed and selfishness lives on.

- Boris Johnson, Mayor of London said it all today:

"But I tell you what, my little left-wing friends, and all you who think it amusing to break out the Champagne at the death of an 87-year-old woman: There is one thing that is alive and well - and that is Thatcherism."

And that's my problem with her.  She's not really gone at all.


Reasons to be cheerful 11.4.13

Reasons to be Cheerful at Mummy from the Heart

The clocks have gone forward, the chocolate eggs are only recalled by tighter waistbands, and the children have crept unwillingly back to school.  The plan to live life in the slow lane continued throughout the Easter holidays, and that kept the kids pretty happy.  Me, I wobbled a couple of times, but almost no-one noticed.  And it wasn't all Terraria and One Direction videos, oh no!  We actually left the house, not once, but several times.

...There were cycle rides with my son on sunny days.

...He made me lunch on Easter Monday.  While I went for a run.  It was tuna, lettuce and mayo on brown bread, since you asked :)



...He and Smiley came with me to the World Autism Awareness Day event at the National Conference Hall in Dublin.  They were both on their best behaviour, and with a little encouragement my son shared the game he was playing with another child, while the adults relaxed with tea, coffee and encouraging words from speakers such as Keith Duffy.



... Yet another outing on Friday was preceded by yet another pyjama day.   But that was okay.  This time we visited a farm and met up with several other families who have kids withe autism and aspergers.  He seemed a little anxious, but then it was only three days until the start of the new school term.    And on Sunday he backed out of the chance to try out go-karts with the Snowflakes Autism Group.  But next time, he says he will join in...



...The transition back to school was a little tricky, but I had to make it work as I was due to attend a three day course.  More autism stuff!  But it was amazing, useful, entertaining and empowering.  Oh and fun too!

This evening we were all sitting around the table after a lovely dinner, and I picked up the phone to return a call I'd missed during the day.  Within a few minutes I realised that the person I was speaking to was very upset and needed my full attention, while at the same time a serious fight had suddenly broken out between my eldest and youngest, and Smiley needed the toilet.  And I thought to myself, I CAN do this.  The course was that good.


What I wish I'd known about Aspergers


Aspie boy is my third child, and not diagnosed until the age of 8.  Getting the diagnosis was a relief, it seemed to explain his differences, and would surely mean that he would get the help and services that he needed.  I bought a few books about aspergers, and it all seemed fairly straight forward.  If you've read this blog, you'll know just how wrong that assumption was.

This is what I've learned since then and I'm sharing it with you as my contribution to autism awareness month.  This is what I WISH I'd known about aspergers from the beginning:

Diagnosis

That getting a diagnosis is not just the end of a long process, but is also the start of a new way of living and relating, for the whole family.  I thought that all I needed was some helpful information on discipline, and strategies to equip him with the social skills that other children just seem to absorb.  It was a long time before I realised that I was starting from the wrong place.  And all the books I bought on aspergers are gathering dust in the attic.  They were of very little use.  Working out how to help my son has been a process of trial and error, endless reading on-line of advice from parents - some on the autistic spectrum - and by watching and listening to my son and trying to trust that we are both aiming for the same thing: his development, happiness and well-being.

Change

A lot of changes have been made in this family to try and help my son.  You too may need to change the following:


...the way you talk to your child.
...his wardrobe.
...his environment.
...his daily and weekly schedule and that of the rest of the family.
...his school.


Meltdowns

The first proper meltdown may be one of the most frightening things you experience as a parent.   I was not prepared.  At all.  And I did almost everything wrong.  I also didn't know that they were very traumatic for him too: all I could see was a furious child, who was determined to hurt me or himself.  And since meltdowns seem to be an inevitable feature of life with autism, perhaps every family should be given a meltdown toolkit when their child is diagnosed, to help both parents and children.  This could include general guidelines on why they happen, when they happen, how to avoid them, what they look like, and how to help your child, before, during and after.

Criticism

You're going to get criticism from all over, so you need to develop a thick skin.  Fast.  In fact I will probably be criticised for writing this post.  Even pre-diagnosis the experts may imply that your child's behaviour is the result of poor parenting and will send you on parenting courses, rather than diagnose your child.   Other parents may not want your 'difficult and disruptive' child playing with theirs, or even being in the same classroom. Shoppers at the supermarket feel free to tell you that your child needs a good slap, or they may stare or whisper behind their hands. On-line you may be condemned by some for not looking for a cure for autism, and by others for not 'fully accepting' your child, his autism and everything that goes with it.  I'm still working on the thick skin.  Wine helps.

Clichés

Clichés are clichés because they are true:

....All behaviour is communication...

...When you met one child with autism, you've met one child with autism...

I liked the sound of them, but I didn't really think about them.  I should have.

When I thought my child was being bold, he was trying to tell me that he was overwhelmed.

When I despaired because the latest behavioural strategy I was being told to implement wasn't working, it wasn't my fault, or my child's fault, it was because it was the wrong strategy for my son.

Mental health

Get this bit right for your child with aspergers, and many other things will start to fall into place.  But again, I've had to rethink all my assumptions - for me good mental health involves lots of fresh air, exercise and time spent with friends, and reading books or playing music.  None of these work for my son and his anxiety.  He seems to need down-time, on the sofa, with his consoles, to recuperate.  At first I thought it was just a ploy, but now I believe it.  I'm also going along with his fears, even though even his psychologist told him he needed to grow out of them.  By making his home a safe comfortable place where few demands are made of him, he is now choosing to take baby steps away from the sofa out into the big wide world, or into the kitchen to help me.  Now that's a result!

I'm starting to see social anxiety now too: my son is very sociable, but gets it 'wrong' at times, and every social occasion tires him out.  He makes friends, but struggles to keep them.

Sensory Stuff

Too much to cover in one paragraph.  Here it began with cutting out the labels in clothes and needing to be squished, and now affects every aspect of his life.


Accommodations

Nothing to do with houses, more about making allowances for your child's differences.  He may be easily 'annoyed' by other children, yet get on fine with those with aspergers and autism - so arrange play dates with them instead.

There is no magic bullet, what helps one child will be a disaster for others. Many organisations and individuals have theories or ideologies that they believe in, but if they don't work for your child, then ditch them. And keep searching.

Your child does not 'suffer' from aspergers, as the media often suggests.  It is not a disease, just a different neurology. They do not suffer because they have aspergers, but because other people do not know how to accommodate their needs, or what their needs are.

If you can find out and accommodate their needs, and give them the space they require, and let them be, then the awesome side of aspergers will emerge, like a butterfly.

That's what I've learned about aspergers so far. But as he's only 11, I'm sure that I've a lot more learning to do....

Blogs that helped me in the early months and years:

Love, Life and Aspie Antics
Hammie Says (as it was known then)
Jazzygal
Planet Autism  
The King and Eye 

Blogs that help me now:

Emma's Hope Book (inspired this post too)
Mostly True Stuff 
Life, his way 


The floortime beauty salon

Before I'd ever heard of floortime as an autism therapy, I had this idea that spending time on the floor would be a good idea for kids who are stuck in wheelchairs.  After all it's not natural, is it? We're designed to move, and Smiley's moulded seat means that the only part of her that she is able to move easily is her head!  Unless she is given chocolate, in which case her right arm puts in the HUGE effort required to get hand to mouth...

A huge effort needed to do this!
But she needs to move every part of her body, I think, to help keep the blood flowing, and keep everything working as far as it does for her.  She can't do a lot on the floor now: she lost a lot of skills after her big growth spurt started 5 years ago, but she can still 'move' and roll onto her tummy and kick her legs, and it's all good.  And some day I hope to get some of those other skills back too...

So I'm always looking for things she can do at floor level, and, since I have to do all her physical care, I thought I'd turn it into a pampering session as well.


All set up for a pampering session!

Her beauty treatment began with her teeny tiny feet - is she the only 16 year old who takes shoes in toddler size 12?  I cut her little nails, which she always seems to find uncomfortable, especially as they grow in different directions!



A little foot and leg massage followed, which she watched with interest in the mirror.  Then I tackled her belly button with E45 and some cotton buds, how it clogs up with so much gunk I will never know!

Keeping her fingers well trimmed means less scratches for me and for her, and she seemed to know this as she happily kicked her legs as I wielded the nail scissors.

Then her neck: or rather the place where her neck should be: she really doesn't have one, just a crease which also traps stuff and is a good guide to what she's just been eating.  Then her ears, and a quick tidy up of her brows - she is a teenager after all!  Finally I moisturise her face, which she loves.  With a little soft music in the background, it's a perfect girly half hour :D


What the NHS meant to me


I thought it was a bad April fool, but no, apparently it's true, The Guardian says so..

"The NHS, as we know it, will effectively be abolished just short of its 65th birthday."

I grew up in Britain, and the NHS helped to give me life and keep me alive.  Sickness punctuated my pre-vaccination childhood.  I got it all: measles when I was little, followed by mumps and encephalitis at 5, chicken pox a little later, regular bouts of tonsillitis leading to their removal when I was 8.  At 9 I had an infected finger lanced at the local cottage hospital, at 10 I broke my arm swinging off a piece of string.  Glandular fever kept me in bed for a month at 15.  Today my school absence record would have the truancy inspector knocking at the door, as it was usually in double figures.  Every winter I lurched from one severe infection to another.  These weren't your normal cough and colds, I became a germ incubator, turning insignificant little viruses into a giant scary infections with gallons of snot, sore throats, earaches, sky high temperatures, I would sit shivering and wrapped up in blankets, almost cuddling the electric fan heater to give me comfort and warmth.  My Mum and the NHS got me through all this, from antibiotics and Triominic syrup (I had to take it for years) to GP visits and hospital stays.

At 18 I had major surgery, and that would be a separate blog post in itself!  At 21 four crowns were put on my teeth, for free, and thirty years later, two of them are still perfect.

After I left College and moved to Essex for work, my chequered sickness patterns continued.  A couple of years later I got my only blue light when I collapsed at home with stomach pain and was rushed to hospital by ambulance but the cause was never found.  By this time I was friendly enough with the local hospital that on other occasions their casualty department would let me go home once I'd registered and then call me in when it was nearly my turn to be seen...

Then I left.

The Irish Health System was very confusing at first.  It has three tiers: private health insurance, which allows you to jump queues for elective surgery and sleep in a private room, the medical card for those on very limited incomes which gives almost free access to the public health system, and a third group, which used to include our family, who did not have private health insurance or medical cards.  It was a pick 'n mix, pay-as-you-go system for us: we went private for medical tests if there were long waiting lists and used the public system, which is excellent in parts, for everything else.  That was until Smiley's birth went wrong.  Then I chucked my principles out of the window and signed up for insurance.

But I didn't want to.  I still believe in the principles of the NHS.  Remember them?

Universal health care, accessible at the time of need, from 'the Cradle to the Grave'.

I took this for granted, I thought it would be there forever.  After all it worked: life expectancy increased by ten years for everyone over the life time of the NHS.  For many years it was held up to the world as a shining example of what could be achieved with a bit of vision and a bit of compassion.   Along with all the other appalling changes taking place in Britain on April 1st 2013, the dismantling the NHS and the Welfare State makes me afraid for the whole world.  That compassion and care for fellow human beings is on the wane.  If it is, we will all be poorer, and sicker.

Without the NHS I might not be here today.

Without the NHS, how many people will not be here in ten years time?

Footnote:

Just a week after I wrote this, the death was announced of the original architect of the destruction of the NHS, Margaret Thatcher.  She won't be around to see her work finished, nor will she have to endure the appalling conditions that may be her legacy ...