Sunday, 26 August 2012

Living with The Eldest.

I find it hard to write about The Eldest in a way that doesn't make it sound like she is naughty.  She's not naughty, in fact, she is really pretty well behaved and I want to make that clear here.  She doesn't do "naughty" things on purpose.  One on one she is an absolute delight - a sweetheart who loves to draw and play "dogs".  It seems that she is fairly well behaved as well when she goes to her friends' houses - unless that is the other parents just don't tell me when she has been bad which is perfectly plausible!  She has a nice group of friends and even went for a successful sleepover at a friend's house this last week.  She is bright, reading well above her expected age and spelling almost as well as I do, although if she's gifted, she's hiding it well...  Like any 6 year old, she is testing boundaries and it's often hard to pick apart the behaviour that stems from Aspergers from the behaviour that stems from just being 6!

So how do I describe the difficulties of living with her? Well, she doesn't see the world in the same way that an NT (neuro typical) child does.  Whilst many young children suffer from selfishness, with her, she simply cannot see the point of view of another child.  She lacks what is called "Theory Of Mind" which means that she cannot "see" what another person is thinking unless they explicitly tell her.  She doesn't get the undercurrents that run through all the activities we do day to day.  I have to explain the unsaid to her in books and films, she only comprehends the top strand of the story, not the nuances.

So it is very hard for her to learn to share and she very much acts first, then thinks later.  She will snatch a toy from her siblings, behaviour which she really should have grown out of by now.  She often treats the baby like a dolly, carrying her round when she doesn't want to be, sitting her down when she wants to stand up and so on.  She's the same with the orange dog, she will drag him round by his collar and treat him like a toy who should sit where he's put, rather than an entity with his own mind.  He loves her though, which is fortunate...

A day when she is in the house is a day punctuated by screaming and squabbles.  A day when I really can't get anything done at all because I need to be on hand to adjudicate, to help guide her (and the others) to a resolution.  Don't get me wrong, she is perfectly capable of playing nicely with the others, so long as they all do exactly as she says - it's when they demonstrate that they have a mind of their own that the trouble breaks out!

She will often join in crying if another child does.  Sometimes because she has done something to make them cry and she knows she's about to be told off, but sometimes just because she doesn't like the sound of them crying and it upsets her.  She used to be very upset by hand dryers and, although she's much better now, still doesn't like to use them.

She has to learn intellectually what the others learn intuitively.  She has to be told that she cannot smack or hit or snatch and she has to have it explained that it hurts the other person.  She has to be told, "You must not try to carry the baby up the stairs", or you will turn around one day and find her halfway up the stairs carrying said baby.  I suppose you could say that she lacks common sense - certainly she is unable to assess risk yet.  Currently we are working on what to do if another person is upset.  Almost every time someone is hurt of crying, I try to use it as a teaching tool (which is REALLY popular with the others...).  "Right, they are crying, what should YOU do" and we work through it.  Again.  And Again.  And Again.  One day it will sink in and she will do it.  Once she has done it once, hopefully she will do it again, and eventually it will become ingrained, a learned strategy so that she knows what to do when another human is upset.

She takes up more of my time and energy than any of the others do (bless them) and sometimes I worry that I am not only shortchanging them, but that I am short changing her.  If I did not have so many children, I would have more time to devote to her and to help her cope with the world.  On the other hand, the constant interaction with her siblings provides a relatively safe environment for her to learn about other beings and their needs, so perhaps I am being unduly harsh on myself.

There are days when, even though I know that it is not something I have done and Aspergers is something that you are born with, I wonder what I have done to "break" her.  I wonder where I went wrong, what I could have done differently.  Even though I know intellectually that I haven't done anything wrong (and that the things I do have helped her), it is easy as a parent to blame yourself.  On days when I really am at my wits end, I look at The Feral One.  The Feral One is independent and spiky, but also incredibly loving and giving.  She learns by imitation and intuition - an ordinary little girl, who happens to look like a flower fairy.  And as I look at her, I think that I must be doing something right and that helps me feel like I am on the right track with all of them.

We'll get there, The Eldest and Me, it is just a longer and stonier track that we have to travel, but travel it we will and we'll travel it together.

Saturday, 25 August 2012

Summer Fun Week 5!

Wow, where is this summer going?!  5 weeks down, only one full week left of The Eldest at home.  I need to plan some fun activities into next week and make sure that we get to see the friends who we haven't yet managed to see.

It's been another fun week here at Team Rambling HQ.  We got back from Norfolk on Saturday after a 5 and a half hour journey back, just in time for The Eldest to go off to a birthday party with one of her best friends.  On Sunday we headed out for a BBQ with friends and I also got out the Aqua Beads.  These are amazing - they are meant for use in flower arrangements and are not toys.  However, they make wonderful sensory play.  The beads come as teeny tiny dry ones, which you then "inflate" in the water (they need about 6 hours).  Once they are inflated you can get them out of the water - we had a chat about how they felt to touch and what they looked at.  The clear ones were particularly amazing as they pretty much completely disappear when you put them in water.  I had assumed that you would be able to see them like you can see a glass pebble but they really do almost completely disappear.  It is strange to feel them in the water without seeing them and it looks weird when you hold one between your fingers and then put it in the water as you can see from the pressure points on your finger that you are holding them, but you can't actually see the bead.  I can imagine that we will use these loads in the future - almost all of the parents I have shown them to have made a mental note to buy them themselves!

A bowl of Aqua Beads - you can't see the clear ones, but they are in there!

Anyway, Monday was a quiet day when a lovely friend took The Eldest and The Boy off to her house to play and it reminded me of just how quiet the house is with only The Feral One and The Baby in residence!  I got more done in those 3 hours than I had done in the whole of the summer holidays to date...  I managed to make a Lego Travel Box that evening too.  This is for the Busy Bag.

We had friends round on Tuesday (8 children between us, the oldest three of whom had just turned 6)...

... and one of them brought a craft activity in the form of Sharpie Tie Dye which was fun, even if we really should have read the instructions before we started...

Wednesday saw more friends visiting from London and we played with Vinegar and Bicarbonate of Soda...

As well as some impromptu water play when The Eldest decided she wanted to bath her dolly.  The Feral One joined in and The Boy ended up making muddy puddles as he always does.

We were out on Thursday in Thame, and on Friday had an extremely quiet day at home.  Friday also saw The Eldest go for her first sleep over at a friend's house.  She had a lovely time, even if it did seem a little strange in the house without her.  During Friday evening bath time, The Boy and The Feral One were trying to blow bubbles in the water which reminded me that I wanted The Feral One to practise her bubble blowing to help in the pool, so I grabbed a couple of straws and handed them out for bubble blowing practice.

Friday afternoon also saw us making Rainbow Rice which we played with this morning and which was a great hit.

Finally, today we had friends and Granny round for lunch.  We were planning a BBQ, but the weather obviously knew that and provided us with thunderstorms, so we had a grill up instead.  After lunch we got out the playdough and buttons which provided good entertainment for both adults and children, because who doesn't enjoy sorting buttons out and stuffing them in blocks of play dough?! 

This week also saw Operation Sleep Through achieve it's objective!  The Baby now sleeps through the night, occasionally needing her back rubbed to settle her back to sleep if she wakes in the night.  It is great to be finally getting some sleep after so long although I am somewhat perplexed and put out to still be totally exhausted.  Maybe it will just take longer for me to catch up with myself than a few nights unbroken sleep. 

Rainbow Rice!

I made Rainbow Rice this week which turned out to be incredibly simple to do and had a great end result.  I bought some cheap Basmati rice from the supermarket (I'm not sure that Basmati is necessarily the best, but it worked fine).  I then gathered together some food colouring, distilled vinegar (rubbing alcohol or surgical spirit is equally effective).

Into a glass jar, I put 1 and a half tablespoons of vinegar, some food colouring and a cup and a half of rice.  None of these measurements were exact!

I then gave it a really good shake.  Note to self, make sure that lid is properly attached to jar before shaking.  Here is The Boy giving it a good shake!

The I put the rice into a baking tray for drying.  This happens to be a Jamie Oliver enamel one, but you can just as easily just line a metal tray with foil.  I then put it into the oven for about 20 minutes at 150c to dry it out.

After it was dry and cool, I put it into a plastic box....

...with some plastic cups....

....and let the kids at it!

We soon decided that the plastic cups were not enough and I collected some of the play cutlery that we have - much more fun for scooping and scraping.

It kept the children entertained for a significant amount of time!

It was a definite success.  I am going to make more with different colours and I will also put it in a bigger box with more room!  I really enjoyed just playing with it myself, very therapeutic!

Vinegar and Bicarbonate of Soda fun.

Bicarbonate of Soda and Vinegar experiments are everywhere on the internet (so I'm not going to link to a particular post for this idea).  I've seen all sorts of variations, from popping plastic bags to using food colouring to making volcanoes.  I decided to use spray bottles.

I poured a load of bicarbonate of soda into a tray and put distilled white vinegar and food colouring in some empty spray bottles.

I then let the kids do their worst!

They had fun doing it, but the spray bottles didn't really work out well - there was a tendency for the spray to go across the table and towards the face of the person sat opposite.  In the end we took the tops off the bottles and poured.  The next time we do this, I am going to invest in some pipettes as I think it will be better.  The kids enjoyed it though and thought it was pretty cool when I ended up emptying the ENTIRE bottle of vinegar straight into the tray - bubbletastic!

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Sharpie Tie-dye

I had two sets of friends around on Tuesday (8 children, the oldest 3 of whom had *just* turned 6) and one of them brought a craft activity with her that she had found online.  It was Sharpie Tie-dye.

We started with clean white T-shirts that had been pre-washed to remove the finishing.  We put cardboard in them so that the pattern didn't go through to the other side.

Then we gave the children sharpie pens and told them to make patterns as they wished.

There was much concentration and hard work!

Once the children had drawn patterns, we got to work with surgical spirit.  Putting the t-shirts over plastic disposable cups, we rubber banded them in place and then dropped surgical spirit into the middle.

The surgical spirit carried the dye to the edge of the cups and made round circles.

We experimented by using a bowl instead of cups to see what would happen

The older children were able to drop the surgical spirit themselves, but we did it for the younger ones (please note the "artistic" expression on this adult's face).

Of course, once the kids had finished and rampaged into the garden, the adults got into the act too.  I came over all patriotic and made a Union Jack one to go on my Olympics t-shirt.

Once the T-shirts were finished, we hung them on the line to dry out and then set them in the tumble dryer for 15 minutes.  

The resulting T-Shirts were a joy to behold!  

It was only after we had finished doing them, that my friend googled the instructions and we discovered that we had been doing it wrong :-p  We should have put the t-shirts over the cups, THEN drawn the pattern and used the surgical spirit! However, our t-shirts came out nicely enough anyway and the kids (and adults) had good fun making them and that's the most important bit.

With my changing bag, I can save the world!

Or at least, child related bits of it!  My change bag has grown over time, from something very small and simple, into the behemoth that it has to be to cope with 4 very small children.  I have added stuff to it as I have been caught out on days out (a trip to the zoo with no suncream that turned into a super hot day, sudden onset of fever in children, stings and bites on walks, wet pants).

First, I have an Ouch Pouch - a quick google for my particular brand has thrown up no hits, so I don't know whether they have been discontinued.  However, any small bag would do, it's just that mine has a clear front so I can see what is in it.  Mine has insect repellant wipes, antiseptic wipes, travel sachets of calpol and nurofen for babies/children, a dosing syringe and some antihistamine cream for all those bites and stings that my children seem to get.  Plus some character plasters (because it ALWAYS feels better if Thomas, George or Peppa can be put on).

Secondly, this is what is in "my" part of the bag - a mini hairbrush, a note pad, a pen, a memory stick, a tiny penknife, some paracetamol, some sticky labels (for writing names and addresses on and sticking them on the kids on days out), a couple of sanitary pads with a spare pair of knickers, all neatly popped into a small Monkey Foot bag.  Of course, I also need my purse and phone (which doubles as a diary and address book, not to mention toy for the children) which have their own pocket.

Then we have the actual nappies - 3 BumGenius version 4 poppers, with a small monkey foot bag filled with wipes (they used to be reusable wipes, but as I like to have the bag pretty much always ready to go, I'm afraid that I now just use disposable wipes when out and about) and a large monkey foot wet bag for the wet and dirty nappies.

As well as nappies for the Baby, I also carry spare trousers and pants for The Boy and The Feral One.  Although they are both potty trained, I don't quite trust them enough yet to go out without spares...  A couple of muslins are useful for wiping up spills.  A changing mat, some hand sanitizer, a small pot of children's suncream and some CJs BUTTer (nappy cream for reusable nappies).

And a selection of snacks, healthy and otherwise (Frootz, Humzingers and penguins in this case, the snacks change depending on what I have in the cupboard) because you can guarantee that it will take you longer to do whatever it is that you are doing and you will have hungry children screaming at you.

All my stuff together:

And it all fits neatly in my DIY OnBag stylee babywearing bag.

I love my bag!

As well as the OnBag, I also have a Sugar Jacks Rebecca bag (a present from The Husband for having carried and delivered baby number 4) that is most beautiful and lovely and large enough to take all my stuff in, but is unfortunately rather heavy.  Even with it's rings for attaching to the back of a buggy, it is not easy to take it around without the buggy falling over.  So I tend not to use it too much at the moment.  It doubles neatly as a beautiful bag though, so will not go to waste and I will probably use it a bit more when I have slightly less to carry/push.

These are my latest purchases which I use ALL the time - Hamster bags.  They attach to the side of my Maclaren (Techno XT) and are very useful. I prefer them to the Phil and Teds panniers (which I also have and use) because they have an extra strap allowing them to be slung over your shoulder.

As well as the stuff that is in my bag, the Potette, Totseat and trusty Mei Tei napsack baby sling get thrown in the car or under the buggy.

On top of this, in the summer there are sun hats and light waterproofs to go in (because we all know better than to go anywhere in the UK without waterproofs), in the winter extra scarves instead.  It's rather a lot to lug around - often I just pop out without it (on school runs etc), but I am almost always caught out if I do (be it a runny nose, or an unexpected poo).

Don't even start me on my quiet/busy bag - I think that's a post for another day!

Monday, 20 August 2012

Lego Travel Box.

I've seen a couple of DIY Lego Travel Boxes on Pinterest and thought that one would be a good addition to the Busy Bag for The Lego Mad Boy.

Lego is a bit of a firm favourite around here, not only in our house but also both Grannies have a large box for when we are there.  We have inherited a huge box from my family and we are adding to it constantly.  We were a bit short on base plates to make the box though, so I filched this broken one from The Mother In Law when we were up in Norfolk on our holidays.  The box is one that some magnetic letters came in, but as the letters are constantly stuck on our magnetic chalk board, all it was doing was hanging around gathering dust.  Just ripe for a make over.

First I used the container lid to measure how big the base plate needed to be.

Then I cut it by scoring it with a stanley knife and bending it till it broke (I'm all high tech me).

When it came to placing the board on the lid I put the lid into the box and drew around it so I knew where to place it and then stuck it on with superglue.

At EXACTLY the wrong moment, The Eldest knocked my elbow, so the plate went on a little squiffy, but this actually worked to my advantage as it makes it just a little stiffer to open and close so that it won't just fall off when it is in a bag.

Originally I was just going to put a random selection of bricks and mini figures in, but then I decided that I would put in one of his new lego sets.  It's a creator set, so you can make lots of different bits from it.  I also added a couple of extra mini-figures (some of the ones from the Ice Eggs).

And this is it all put together - there are a few more bits in the box for making other boats etc.

I'm really pleased with how it's turned out - perhaps I could continue with it by painting the box, or putting his name on it (in Lego?), but this will do for now.