Specific rules for a specific fireman

Two rules seem to have been broken in our house today, as far as I can tell.

The first is the washing rule. Our washing rule is: prepare your own dirty garments before you put them in the basket. That requires:

  • Closing zips
  • Emptying pockets
  • Turning inside out items outside in

But I found myself pondering the question, this morning, “Why is there a toothbrush in the wash basket?”
I’ll admit, it was a less offensive surprise than the dead frog I once found in exactly the same basket. But I don’t think that was down to the children. I think that was down to the hole in the vent netting.
I believe to this very day that a random frog deserted the troops and found solace in our basement. Only for the poor chap to sadly discover that there was absolutely no sustenance to be found at all. Not even when he dived into the deep, dark realms of our dirty laundry.

But the second rule to be be broken, was somewhat more serious.

My husband disturbed my washing activity to pose another question:

“Are you aware that there’s a chainsaw in the bike shed?”

I shook my head and started babbling about the toothbrush in the wash basket. But my husband had that stubborn look on his face which said, ‘My discovery outranks yours’. And I knew, deep in my heart, that he was right.

Cleverly, he’d already broached the subject with our son. But our young man had answered, in his defence, “But I didn’t bring it into the house.”

I suspect, the technological wording of the ruling is down to me. I suspect what I actually said was, “There will be no chainsaws in this house…” Or something decidedly similar.

A few minutes later my husband returned. “And there’s a large axe in the small shed.”

I’m really sure though, that I hadn’t actually come up with an axe rule…

You might be led to believe that after 20 years of dealing with autism, I might have learned to be more specific. Evidently that’s not the case.

I am my own worst enemy

I’ve had a strange couple of days. Not least because the sun’s come out to play again, which means starting to have contact with real people after a forever lasting winter of illness and cold and grey.

I say real people. I actually mean friends. Rather than doctors and receptionists and coughing people sitting opposite me in the waiting room and people I just nod at in passing.

In the winter, two, even three months can pass and I can suddenly realise that I haven’t physically seen a friend and sat down and chatted with them face to face. And it does me bad. As in, the opposite of ‘it does me good’.

I’m good on my own for a while. But then I start to find I’m going slightly mad living with my own company. I’m not all alone, of course. I have four children and a husband. But my man arrives home late every night and is tired. He wants calm after hours of meetings. He wants mush after highly concentrated work. And I understand that. But at times, I really need to be heard.

So yesterday, I had a Tupperware party. It was a funny excuse for a get together. But it worked.

Of course, before I could even consider opening the door to hundreds of guests (OK six), I needed to clean my house and bake a cake.

I couldn’t decide which cake to bake so I delegated and begged my husband to bake one for me, while I nipped out and bought him a box of Celebrations as a wee thank you.

In the morning I really cleaned my house. So much so, that I felt like I’d put in more effort than a full body workout requires at the gym.

It looks like shit again now, of course.

It was during the cleaning spree that I started to believe that I may well be my own worst enemy.

I set fire to the oven. Proper fire. As in, with 5 inch flames. Olive oil is supposed to be healthy. It’s not quite so healthy though when it spouts out thin black smoke. And let me tell you that a burnt smell is not particularly welcoming to guests either. Never mind, at some point I got distracted by my 20+ year old coffee table, so battered and bruised (Akasha even took a bite out of the wooden leg as a crawling baby, how does that even work? It’s solid wood), that I thought it was time to try and put some colour back in.
I remembered the salesman saying something about shoe polish… Or was it tea bags? Well, I opted for brown shoe polish. It doesn’t look perfect but the improvement is noticeable. Also, the shoe polish smell mingled rather nicely with the eau de fire.

Then, in an attempt to decalcify the sinks I walked into the room with good intentions and a glass bottle filled with vinegar. In truth, I first walked into the door frame, breaking just a small splintery shard of glass right from the bottom of the bottle. Vinegar spluttered out onto the floor then left a little trail all the way to the sink. I deposited the once full bottle next to the plughole where it emptied itself in ten seconds flat.

I am thinking of starting up my own ‘Home Scent’ company…

My guests arrived and oohed appropriately at the cake and aahed sensitively at the cut I’d managed to add to my finger while transporting a folding table downstairs. They didn’t mention the ‘smells’, though they avoided leaving items of clothing on the specially polished table. They bought lots of Tupperware enabling me to rejoice in the knowledge of the upcoming acquisition of more bowls (though my cake-baker is currently rolling his eyes and shaking his head and saying softly, like he’s speaking to a mad woman, “Why?“).

Today I pushed myself a little further. I took various kids for a walk. The plan, originally, was for a walk to a nearby spot to feed the ducks. But plans, it seems, are meant to be hijacked. Two ADHD boys, an overtired girl and three scooters later, we set off.

There wasn’t so much scooter riding. There was a bit of pushing. A little bouncing on the said scooters. Some attempted ramming of scooters in drains. Several close calls with oncoming vehicles. All watched and duly noted by a five-year old, looking for a new set of tricks.

We abandoned the scooters near a lovely stretch of water and walked through the thicket. It wasn’t really the best idea I’ve ever had, to be honest:

  1. The semi-autistic one got hung up on the abandoned scooters and an angler/cyclist/random passer-by stealing them (despite them being pretty much hidden behind a tree).
  2. I had bare legs.
  3. All three children seemed to me to be unnaturally fascinated with trying to fall in the water. As in, they tested every plank/stone/bit of log tempting them off the safe land.

The ducks, were already well-fed and on our every approach, swam off as fast as their webbed feet would take them. Finally after over an hour, we found a young swan. I warned each of the children to stay back. They warned each other, repeatedly to stay back. A swan can break a man’s arm you know! But no one, NO ONE warned me not to step in an ant’s nest. You know those big ants? I just looked down and saw them running around the bottom of my leg, over my foot, and into my shoe. I screamed and almost fainted. I guess it wouldn’t have been so bad, but only minutes before I’d already had a battle with a massive beetle on my leg. My son, who’s always ready to join the party, realised he had ants inside his trouser leg. We both let loose with some kind of extensive jig, which included shoe flinging and partial trouser removal. Passing cyclists thought we were practising for an upcoming ceilidh.

Ant free, we headed home. Me carrying the scooter for the five-year old. Well, that is, until I swung the lump of sharp-edged metal around, in a move that, had I been a Ninja, would have come in handy to destroy my opponents kneecaps.

The damaged child squealed over my apologies and through my promises of chocolate the whole way home.

I am starting to suspect I may even be the children’s worst enemy…

I smell a rat

For an eternity now my children have been asking for a pet.

Originally, I tried fobbing them off with the powder puff cloud of fruit flies that systematically appear all through summer, each time I open the bin.

Then I pointed out the creepy useful spiders in the cellar (they’re the only weapon that we have against those rejected fruit flies).

But heads shook. Tuts were tutted. And the words, “Mum, you’re so funny!” incredibly failed to arrive.

I took a deep breath and put my thinking cap on.

What type of pet would I most like to take care of? After all, despite there being six of us (not including the flies and the spiders, with them there are way more than six) in this house. I would end up being the predominant carer.

I sighed. And thought, I’ve got enough on my plate with those four monkeys…

… On telling this to the children though, they just tutted some more.

I’ll be honest. I do think pets are good for children. They teach them about life and death. Letting go. About taking care of another who doesn’t necessarily behave in just the way you expected them to. About being responsible.

And that being my belief, we have, of course, had pets in the past. A rescued cat, who sadly only survived a couple of years. A hamster, some fish and an amazingly, talented-at-escaping rabbit, when I lived with my first husband.

Since my second marriage, we’ve also had a hamster and some small fish. But all the fish have since died. And the hamster had his funeral, with guests.

Unfortunately for them, some good friends arrived from Scotland on the very afternoon the hamster ‘passed’. Meaning none of the gifts they brought with them, could weaken the wailing and weeping. Only a full on hamster funeral could do that. Which involved the precious pet being laid to rest on a bed of hand-drawn artwork, in a small box, with a specially knitted scarf to keep it warm. A procession to a far-enough away tree. And a little blessing included: tears, song, hugs and declarations of love.

I would have been somewhat more touched if they’d not been avoiding the hamster for some months beforehand. Because one of the children had been so badly bitten, she had come down with a terrible infection and been backwards and forwards to various emergency doctors, requiring urgent treatment.

To be honest, I think we’ve worn the hamster t-shirt.

So hamster out, let’s look again at fish.

The problem with fish is they eat each other. Fact.

This is even more disturbing to a sensitive ADHD possibly autistic child.

Fish also don’t cope well with generous mummies who think they look hungry again (it’s that unblinking, staring eye/opening shutting mouth thing, that does it).

If you feed them again – they die.

And if they’re small enough, they have a tendency to hover around the filter in their dead state, unnoticed, then get stuck behind the said filter. They’re only seen by small people when they start to look like a squashed grey slug and that bothers the small people, somewhat.

So fish out – what about another cat?

My second husband is allergic to cats. Really allergic. Coming into contact with a solitary hair is enough to have me running for anti-histamine. He can’t run himself anymore as he can barely breathe.

So the furball is out.

Next comes my probable favourite. The dog. I’ve never had a dog but I’ve always been drawn to them and I think if I made the connection with a particular one, I am the type that would fall head-over-heels in love.

As we’ve never had a dog before, we had to do our research and we learned that so as to be a responsible dog owner, we’d have to sell a body part to medical science in order to pay for it. Now if that body part were say, an arm, I suspect we would have difficulty keeping control of the dog on the compulsory dog training course we’d have to take. I think the course is a good idea, but the cost?

If I instead sold my leg, I would not be able to walk the dog twice a day in all weathers and if my husband sold his head, he would no longer earn enough to pay the required yearly taxes for dog ownership.

And the money we’d have left in the bank after purchasing the desired animal, would no longer cover the costs of erecting a fence around our garden, to protect our new family member from the speeding cars racing down our street.

On the bright side, I didn’t really fancy the ‘scooping of poop’ part and my husband and four-year-old are slightly afraid of dogs.

So dog out – what’s next?

A tortoise. They are kind of cool. But do you know that they live for, like, a zillion years? And they do not like to be cuddled? I think what we really need here is a cuddly pet. Something to stroke, that will de-stress a hormonal teenager and calm a young man who finds life challenging.

So tortoise out – what about a guinea pig?

Research started. I sought advice from pet shop workers, the Internet and books. I approached the children and saw delighted, convinced faces and they informed their friends, neighbours and relations and a man with a dog, as he crossed the road.

A guinea pig. Affordable. Cute. Stroke-able. Friendly. Can’t get stuck behind a filter. Rarely bites. Sorted…

… Or not. It turns out that I’m rather allergic to hay and hay is absolutely necessary for a guinea pig’s nutrition.

Sorrowful, I talked to a friendly pet shop worker/pet lover and she told me the ideal pet for us is a rat. She assured me another escape artist rabbit, is not really the best pet for us as it’s very likely that my husband, being so highly allergic to cats, will also be allergic to bunnies.

I have two problems with rats. One is I’m more than slightly spooked by their tails. And the second is living at the river, I spend half of my time shutting doors in an effort to keep rats (and flies – but I’ve obviously failed there) out.

Purchasing one would be something of a turnaround!

Just ADHD? Update

I wrote a post, a few short weeks ago Just ADHD? and I have to say, I am truly amazed at the response it received.

Since I wrote that article, things have moved forward in that I finally found myself with the details of a hospital where my son, Aden, should be able to be correctly diagnosed. The only snag being, a long waiting time. Again.

My issue with that is, in recent weeks more and more problems have begun to arise. And although I understand more and more about why my son behaves differently (mostly from the help I received after writing the above article), I am finding myself with new issues to deal with now, on an almost daily basis.

The school is struggling to cope with Aden and that all became very clear on Friday.

I received a call from the secretary to inform me that he had run away.

A fight had broken out between him and another boy, and Aden had thrown stones. A search of his school bag revealed more stones and this led to my little boy locking himself in the toilet. His class teacher, who, it must be said, is very nice, got him out of the cubicle and the headmaster sent him to the sick room with some work, on his own, to deflate the situation.

Experience tells me, that this is a very bad idea. At this point my child needs to be calmed down (see I am learning, I just need to learn a lot faster, because I’m having trouble keeping up).

Aden, alone and frustrated in the sick room, opened and climbed out of the window and left the building.

Then made his 2km way home. In the rain.

I answered the phone, and literally two minutes later found him standing on the door step.

I calmed him down and explained patiently, that we needed to go back to school and why.

We faced down an angry, sarcastic sports teacher and the headmaster, together.

The headmaster raged about how disappointed he is in my son, how after everything he’s done for him, giving him less work than the other children, etc. Aden has let him down.

I watched Aden’s pained face and I hurt with him.

I understood the headmasters anger, but I realised at the same time that his ranting would absolutely not improve the situation with my child. I also didn’t feel that Aden’s ability to keep up with school work and the current situation, actually had anything to do with each other.

And someone else’s disappointment will not stop him leaving a building or climbing out of a window or even throwing a stone.

I don’t know exactly what will stop my son doing these things. I do know, that in his frustrated, angry, upset state that he wanted to come home. And though I agree that he should not have left, although I’m upset that half the school had to search for my ten-year-old and that everyone knows and the whole school has been disrupted, I’m also aware, that I must be doing something right and that led my child directly back to me.

To reiterate, I do not want Aden to leave school and come home and cause such disruption. What I want is for him to have a normal school experience, with friends and to love learning, like I did when I was young. I want him to achieve and have goals and feel success. To laugh, to interact, to be able to concentrate on the task in hand.

But I also want him to know that he can tell me anything, no matter how awful it is. That he can trust me and that he has my unconditional love. That whatever he does, we can try together to work it out and to do the right thing.

Once the headmaster had calmed a little and after detention had been set, I tried to explain that I believe Aden not only to have ADHD, but also to be autistic. I informed him that we are awaiting an appointment at the hospital, and that our paediatrician has now told me that he suspects my son has not only ADHD, but also autism. I quietly told him that all of this information has been thoroughly discussed with his class teacher.

He sent us off to the class teacher and on the way I explained to Aden that it could be that she is also angry.

Outside the classroom a boy shouted, “Evil Aden!”

I actually couldn’t speak.

The teacher saw us and treated us both with respect and concern. She informed me that Aden is being bullied. That the other children will not leave him alone. They annoy him constantly. They stick things on his back. And that she’s at a loss on how to handle it.

I felt physically sick as she spoke to me and I had to really force myself to blink back the tears.  He had not told me this. Nor had the headmaster. I knew that the week before, a boy had pulled his trousers down after swimming class. Aden had come home extremely angry, but he had also revealed that the child had been properly dealt with.

My son is an obvious target. He behaves differently to other children of his age. Stands out for his different taste in shoes. Makes odd noises and faces. Runs to the teachers and helps them with everything. Tells if he thinks someone’s doing something wrong. Has no sense of personal space.

We had problems with bullying before, last year, and what I do know is, that he will only take so much and then he will react, explosively.

Worried I called the hospital again, to try to hurry the appointment through. And incredibly we were given an immediate emergency appointment. I asked how immediate and they told me to “leave the house right now!”

I picked up my husband and we drove straight to the hospital.

We saw a psychiatrist and explained the current problems and some back history. She told us almost immediately on seeing our son that she thought ‘autistic’, but that we would have to go through a proper diagnosis.

We came home and although it had been a long, horrible day, and we’d spent half of the afternoon filling in forms we’d already filled in ten times before, I had the overall feeling that we’d made a big step forward. Because now we have an emergency telephone number that we can use, be it day or night, should our son require urgent assistance and the hospital will now push us along on the waiting list and give us an appointment, I hope, quite soon.


Still worried about the potentially explosive situation at school. Last night Aden and I studied the calendar together, which revealed that he has only just over six weeks left at this school, after holidays in between are deducted. I’ve told him to try to stay calm. When he comes home he can bounce on the trampoline and hit the punch bag to attempt to keep his frustration down.

I’ve also told his teacher that, should things be too difficult at school, she should call me and I’ll come by and pick him up.

The more I understand, the more I can make things change

Today something amazing has happened.

My 12 year-old-daughter, Lori, had an accident on her bike this morning. She had been cycling along, quite normally, then noticed something odd about her bicycle. At some point, the bike ‘gave up’ and off she fell.

She had been cycling next to her sister, and luckily had not taken the roadside of the path. So her fall ended in her landing in a nice soft field, and not in front of a speeding car, on a busy main road.

Although I will be eternally grateful that my daughter did not find herself under the wheels of a car, and that her head although bumped, was safely protected by a helmet, that’s not what I want to talk about here today.

Instead I want to talk about what happened later on.

After a call from my other daughter, I dressed and left to check Lori over and then took her to school, leaving my husband to scrutinise what exactly had happened on the only one-year-old bike.

On my return, I was shocked to learn that someone had actually sabotaged my daughters bike and caused her accident.

There can be no other explanation, my husband revealed. None at all. Someone’s turned a screw, on purpose, and damaged the gears.

Turned a screw…

Now, there’s one particular person in this house who has a thing for screws. Unscrewing screws to be precise. Unscrewing doors. Toilet seats. Desks. Actually, unscrewing anything that contains a screw.

But I try not to heap blame out and so I approached the girls on their return from school and quizzed them to see if there could be any possible way that one of them, perhaps on trying to mend something on the bike, could have possibly turned a screw and set the whole bike off kilter. No, they exclaimed wide-eyed and stunned.

I still kept my cool and thought of other possible explanations, but inevitably at dinner time, all sitting together, I had to ask my son.

Calmly I put the question to him, and he lied, of course.

I’m used to the lie before the truth. And there can be no punishment for the lie. I have learned that. The lie is a knee-jerk, impulsive, protective reaction and the truth must be sought.

The truth must be asked for in a calm voice, and my son must be convinced that my motive for the truth is a means to an end and will result in no punishment, just a calm description of why the act that took place, should not happen again.

Everyone at the table remained calm.

There was no shouting.

No crying.

No hitting of heads on the table.

Just an admittance of guilt. That and an excuse. Then an apology with an outstretched hand and a promise not to mess with bicycle screws again.

And even more amazing. A twelve-year-old girl, who calmly took that outstretched hand, and just answered, quietly, that he should not do it again. Apology accepted. Despite the fall. The shock. The bump to the head. No tears. No screaming. No shouting. No, “I hate you!”

No, “Why can’t I just have a normal brother?”

Just calm.

And I finally thought, just maybe, we’re starting to ‘get’ him.