Monday, 24 September 2012

Getting up early has changed my life.

The children are not
always keen to get up...
Now I know that the title makes me sound like a bit of a saddo, and in reality, that's probably what I am - that and a control freak!  But the reality is that getting up an hour before the children has changed every single day and changed it for the better.  I can appreciate that not everyone has time to get up early (nor many people the inclination!) and probably if you have fewer animals and pets than me, then it wouldn't be so important, but that hour's "peace" in the morning before the rampaging hoards awake sets the tone for the whole day.  It even helps me to lose weight!

I get up at 6am.  It takes me 20 minutes to shower, wash my hair, attack my face with some makeup and get dressed.  The next 20 minutes are focused on chores, I feed the dogs, cats and fish.  I put a load of washing in the machine, I clear and lay the table for breakfast, I put away the stuff that was washed up the night before. The final 20 minutes are spent preparing my breakfast and eating it in peace - having time to do this sets me up for the day food wise and means that I'm less likely to snack and make unhealthy choices.
Sometimes they are
positively difficult in fact.

By the time the children get up at 7, I'm ready to hit the day running.  I have no growling stomach making me grouchy with the children, I have no lurking animals trying to trip me up as I try to get the breakfast on the table whilst the children bicker and fight.  I have no baby screaming and banging on the shower door as I try to get clean and ready for the day.

I might even go so far as to say that my mornings are fairly zen like now.  And the dread of the school run?  Well that has largely passed too due to being more relaxed and organised.  I won't go so far as to say that we skip up the hill, but there is less screaming involved from all of us.  And that is always a good thing.
But we're generally ready to leave on
time with some semblance of a smile on our faces...

Tuesday, 4 September 2012

Back to school blues.

Well that's it, the summer holidays are officially over and tomorrow we start another academic year.  The school uniform is purchased and named, the new shoes are sitting clean in the cupboard, the PE kit and book bags have been found and filled and lunch has been put in the box.  There are big changes afoot this year, The Eldest goes into Year 2, The Boy will start Reception on the 20th September and The Feral One starts 10 hours a week of preschool on the 17th (god help them - the preschool staff that is, rather than The Boy and The Feral One).  The Baby will just be at home with me as usual.

I have mixed feelings about school restarting.  On the one hand, it will be nice to have a bit of a break!  I have no doubt that the house will be tidier, the bottom of the laundry basket will be seen more regularly and the dogs (and I) will be fitter.

But I hate doing the school run with a passion - it is the biggest flash point during the day between me and the children.  You can almost guarantee that I will lose my temper at least once - normally when the baby is wailing because I have had the temerity to put her down whilst trying to wrestle another child into their coat and shoes.  Then we'll be half way up to school and the cry of "I NEED A POO!" will be heard along with screams of, "I DON'T WANT TO WALK UP THE HILL!".  Or, just to make a change, "MUMMY, YOU'VE FORGOTTEN MY LUNCH BOX!" (or worse still, "Mummy, you've forgotten the baby!" - I joke, but in the scrum that is getting out of the house in time for school, it could happen I am sure).  Dragging the children up the hill sobbing that they wanted to drive, then finally we get to school, the whistle goes, The Eldest lines up and then I have to endure the heart wrenching tears from her because she doesn't want to go in as I grin madly in a fixed way telling her that she'll have a wonderful day.  Please please please let her be more enthusiastic about it this year.

Which leads me on to other issues thrown up by school - disagreements with her friends (and foe!), pressure to complete reading and homework, dealing with other issues that come up at school when you have a child with Aspergers.  I know that I have to chase up the SENCO to see if she is going to get any extra help (probably not, but it's got to be worth a try) and I have a load of forms to fill in preparation for The Boy's start.  I love the holidays because we exist in a bubble of our own where none of these cares impinges on our enjoyment of day to day life - there are no politics or policies to deal with, just me and the children and friends and activities of our own choosing.  They may drive me up the wall on occasions, but at least it is my own wall.

Short of homeschooling them though (and it's something I have seriously considered), school is something that has to be dealt with.  The bubble has popped, the summer is over.  Roll on half term.

Here is a short UPDATE on this!


 I have 4 small children (although they are rapidly growing up, gulp), 2 dogs, 2 cats, a tank full of fish and a husband to look after.  I don't have any regular help with the children during the week except statutory education during term time (The Eldest is in full time school, The Boy is just about to start full time school, up until now he's been at preschool for 15 hours a week, The Feral One is about to start preschool for 10 hours a week, before that she was with me full time and The Baby is still at home with me full time).  The Husband is pretty good at helping out, but he leaves for work between 7 and 7.30 in the morning and comes home around 6 at night.  The children get up at 7 and go to bed around 7, you do the maths.  My mother lives not to far away, but works full time.  My sister and Mother in Law both live further away and have their own lives to live.  Whilst I can call on people in an emergency, on a day to day basis, it's me, with help from The Husband in the evenings.  How do I do it?  Well, quite apart from the fact that I don't think I do "do it", here are the things that I DO do.

Prioritise sleep.  We all need differing amounts, but I like 8 hours at night or I feel like death.  It's amazing how my parenting skills and ability to keep my temper improve when I get some sleep.  So I go to bed early if I need to and recently I've worked on getting the baby to sleep through.

Get up before the kids.  This is a relatively recent addition to my survival skills, but already it's made a huge difference.  Now that the baby has started sleeping through, I can go to bed at 10pm, fairly safe in the knowledge that I will get 8 hours sleep before getting up at 6am.  That hour to myself before the kids get up allows me to get organised and have my breakfast in peace.  Then I can hit the ground running when they wake up and I am less likely to metamorphose into Screaming Harpy Lady.

Get organised. I try to make sure that everything is where it should be the night before, so that we are not running round like headless chickens in the morning before the school run trying to find shoes and coats.  Packed lunches are made the night before and stored in the fridge so that they can just be grabbed.  The children know where their shoes and coats are kept so they can get them without my help.  Of course, you can pretty much guarantee that something will go awry, a child will undress them selves just as you are going out the door for example, but being organised lessens the chances of a meltdown by any of the parties involved.

Get out of the house and do some exercise.  I have two dogs who need to be walked everyday and I know that I feel better when I do it rather than leaving it to The Husband.  Unless it is snowing heavily, there's really no reason not to go out.  I wrap up everyone in waterproofs and head out.  Our wet dog walks are legendary and generally really enjoyed by all.

Batch cook. Why cook a meal two or three times when you could just cook double or triple the amount and then stick it in the freezer?  It's also easier to remain Zen at meal times when they refuse to eat what you have cooked if you haven't slaved over it for hours (by the by, I operate an "Eat it or starve" policy when it comes to meals).  I keep freshly cooked meals very simple for the same reason.

Meal plan. I do a weekly meal plan to make sure that I know what we're eating every evening and to make sure that I've got all the ingredients.  There is nothing worse than looking in the fridge at 4.30pm thinking, "What on Earth am I going to feed them?!!".  I don't always stick to the plan, but at least it's there as a point of reference.

Pick your battles.  The Feral One has drawn on herself?  Never mind, it'll wash off.  The Eldest refuses to touch vegetables?  It's ok, I'll puree it into her meals.  The Boy has pulled out all the toys and thrown them across the playroom? Well, he can just help me put them back again. The baby is pulling all the DVDs off the shelf? At least it is keeping her quiet.  I don't sweat the small stuff, it's ok if the kids spill water on the floor, it's ok if a child wets themselves, it's ok if they've drawn on the walls.  I'd rather it didn't happen and I'll try to ensure it doesn't happen again, but it's ok and certainly not worth losing my temper over.  It's NOT ok if they hurt each other or if they are mean to one another or if they are rude to me - those are the battles I pick.

Know your limits.  I am neither Superwoman nor a saint.  I know what I can and can't get done during the day with the kids in tow.  I do NOT do the weekly shopping with them, it's just not worth the hassle and stress.  I do it online in the comfort of my own sitting room after they are in bed.  If I don't get all the washing sorted, so what?  It'll keep (and if I'm lucky, then The Husband will sort it for me).

Count your blessings.  I know that there are many people who would give their right arm to be in my fortunate position and when I really want to scream, I try to remember that (only try, I'm not a saint and some days the scream just has to escape).

Look on the funny side.  We were walking the dogs up on the common yesterday, it was a beautiful day, the girls were on their scooters and The Boy was on his bike.  I just shouted to The Eldest to wait for the rest of us, when she went round the corner, down the hill and badly grazed her knee (quite a lot of blood).  As I legged it towards her, further screaming ensued behind me - without my constant guidance, The Boy had driven his bike off the path and down the hill into a bush full of brambles and had then fallen over.  I had to laugh - it was either that or cry...

Outsource the cleaning.  Ok, I admit that I am a very lucky girl to have this.  The lady who cleans my house is amazing, she comes in once a week and blitzes it.  I call the day she comes "Sparkly Thursday".  It takes the pressure off me, because at the end of the day, I am not superwoman, nor do I claim to be.

If all else fails then:

Eat chocolate.  I'm never going to be thin, but hey, I'm a nicer person when I have eaten chocolate.

At the end of the day, I'm only human.  I have coping strategies, but there are definitely days when I am more Screaming Harpy than Calm and Collected Mummy.  Remember: