Hedgehogs and Home Birth

We’ve had a new arrival this week. No, the baby hasn’t come early – although the preparation has felt almost on par with preparing for a baby! The new arrival was Jessy’s African Pygmy hedgehog, Bellatrix. He’s been waiting patiently for her since before Christmas. She’s come from an approved breeder who has sent us photo updates over the weeks. She hand delivered Bellatrix herself and was very pleased with the home we’d set up for her. She’s a big responsibility for Jessy as they do need quite specific care. I’ve written him out a large list of everything that needs doing for her daily, weekly and monthly to help him remember. So far he’s been doing very well.

First cuddle with Bellatrix

First cuddle with Bellatrix

Jessy was a little upset yesterday as handling the hedgehog has been a bit trickier than he has expected. When they are grumpy or startled they are very prickly indeed, although once she’s being handled she is very friendly and her quills lay down flat and she isn’t prickly at all. Today, Jessy put on some waterproof gloves to help him feel a bit more confident. I joined a facebook forum about African Pygmy hedgehogs several weeks ago and got the impression that they poo rather a lot which has certainly proved to be accurate! It’s all good practice for the baby I guess – although it would be quite nice if I could put a nappy on the hedgehog!!

Bellatrix

Bellatrix

Talking of nappies, I’ve had lots of lovely baby stuff arriving this week. My favourite has been all the new cloth nappies and my bright pink Moby wrap which is a stretchy fabric sling many people I know have found brilliant for newborns. I didn’t have one with Jessy so I’m excited about having one this time around. On Monday I went to La Leche League, a fantastic breastfeeding support group that I went to for years when Jessy was young and where I met many of my closest friends. Afterwards I went to Sling Meet where I learned how to tie the kind of sling I’ve got. Back at home I practiced with a teddy bear and also tried it on Jessy and A.

New nappies!

New nappies!

My new Moby wrap.

My new Moby wrap.

It’s been a difficult week for A. After we’d done our best to create a smooth transition into her going home we had a set back with the schools admissions process which means that she’s still with us and we have no fixed time of when she will actually be able to go home. It should be within the next week or so, but the uncertainty is difficult for everyone. A no longer has a place at Wood School and it feels as if we are all stuck in Limbo land. We’re trundling along doing the best we can.

Jessy and I had some time together on Friday while A was visiting her Mum. It’s been a while since we sat down and explored a little together and I found myself having a small internal battle. I love the days when we seem to find a subject to focus on and we explore it in various ways. I somehow feel that autonomous education is really working in those moments and I feel good about it. They are, however, few and far between. I’d seen something about penguins recently and Jessy likes penguins so I suggested we have a look at the different breeds of penguins which he was quite happy to do. We read the list and he liked the look of the ‘Little Penguin’ so we read about it. I started to get excited that perhaps we could have a penguin themed day! However, Jessy’s mind was already heading in different directions. (It was trying to head in the direction of Minecraft Parody songs on YouTube but I put my foot down about that one as he’s seen enough to last a lifetime!!) We’d read that Little Penguins live in Australia and New Zealand so he wanted to look them up on Google Maps. I could go with that – the penguin link was there and maps fall into the ‘obviously educational’ comfort zone. So we got to Google Maps and found them. Then he felt inspired to look up Barbados as we’ve been there recently.

I started to feel my penguin dream slipping away. I had a small internal battle about whether I should pull him back to the penguins but that didn’t feel very autonomous – so off we went to virtual Barbados. We found our hotel and the caves we visited. I can’t remember how it happened but we ended up virtually strolling through the streets of San Francisco. I found the street where I lived for a few months before Jessy was born and got very excited remembering the donut store outside the local tram stop. So I didn’t get my penguin day, but I did get to remind myself that this is how our educational journey rolls. One things leads to another and you never know quite what you might end up exploring. I’m pretty sure we finished up with Minecraft Parody songs on YouTube too – well some of them are pretty cool. 😉

After our online explorations Jessy wanted to bake cakes. He’s gone from baking not holding his interest very much to pretty much doing it on his own recently. Our scales only show grams and the old fashioned book we got our recipe from was only in ounces so we worked on some conversions. Jessy remembered there was a conversion chart in my diary which meant there was a little more working out involved than just typing it into google! We used a fairy cake recipe but the actual result was something quite different. They looked like muffins, were quite biscuity on top, but had a texture more similar to rock cakes! We decided they were a cross between cakes, cookies and muffins and named them ‘Cuffins’. They were very tasty and I’m still not sure why they came out that way!

Baking

Baking

This morning my independent midwife came round. It’s the second time I’ve met her and she really is lovely. It helps that a few of my friends have had her as the midwife for their babies’ births and all have said she was wonderful. It’s such a different experience to the clinical hospital setting where I was kept waiting for hours and felt like a number on a tick chart, or a potential time bomb of possible complications! Jo is all about setting you at ease, listening to your worries and trusting in you. I love knowing that she wants me to have my home birth as much as I do and that I won’t have a fight on my hands, which is how I always felt at the hospital appointments. She’s friendly with the kids and includes them. She called them when it was time to listen to the baby’s heart beat today and as I lay on my sofa we all smiled as we heard the little ‘whoosh-whoosh-whoosh’ of the baby’s heart. Jessy was playing it cool as usual but his eyes were twinkling. She explained why the baby’s heartbeat is so much faster than ours and then used the doppler on the kids so they could hear their own heartbeats. I felt like she was doing Home Ed for me today! She had a good feel of my bump and told me how the baby was lying which baby confirmed with a kick in just the right place. 🙂 The most exciting part of the visit for me was when I was talking about how I wish you could still get old fashioned birthing chairs, as I love the idea of them. I birthed squatting last time whilst being supported and I’ve always thought being able to sit and let gravity do its work would be wonderful. “Oh, I’ve got one of them in the car!” she announced – and promptly deposited in my living room was a birthing chair! It felt like magic! She also brought a ‘belly bag’ which is a big bean bag with a hole cut out for your pregnant belly so you can lie on your front! I don’t think I would ever manage to get out of it if I lay down on it but it’s been the kids’ favourite new toy all afternoon!

The kids had circus skills this afternoon. A asked if she could spend an extra night at our friends’ house so she went home with them. Jessy and I enjoyed cottage pie – a meal we both love but A doesn’t like so we haven’t had it for months. He ate every last scrap of a rather large portion! That’s about it for this week! Bye for now.

Advertisements

The end of a chapter.

This week is a strange one. On the one hand we’ve been settling back into regular routines after the festive period. The Christmas tree has gone, the presents have been cleared away, the usual restrictions on screen time are back and we’re eating more mindfully again. Wood School started this week so our week is now back to it’s usual rhythm. However, it’s only going to last for this week.

After living with us for 5 months A will be going back to live with her Mum and brothers on Friday. It’s a happy time as her Mum is well enough for her to go home, and I’m very aware how much she needs to be with her Mum and how difficult it must have been to be apart. On the other side though, we have become a family of three and A has become part of our household and our daily lives. Jessy has had a constant playmate and I’ve had another child to love and take care of every day and her absence will be very much felt. We’re lucky that Wood School made a special allowance for her to go back for this week. At the end of last term her home going plans were only just being finalised and she didn’t have a chance to mark the end of her time at Wood School and say goodbye to her friends there. This week will give her that chance and hopefully make the transition a little smoother. I know A has loved Wood School and appreciated the freedom and fresh air and choice. Now she needs to prepare to return to the stricter confines of mainstream school which may be a little bit of a shock at first! Today was her last Circus skills session which I know she would have loved to continue, but sadly it doesn’t seem that will possible. She will be carrying on with Martial Arts and Scouts though and I’m glad she gets to keep a little of her routine and continue doing some of the activities she has enjoyed here.

I can tell that Jessy is preparing for A going home in his own way. He seems to be withdrawing a little and wanting time to play alone. It’s as if he knows that he needs to remember how to do that again and wants to get in a little practice! I’ve worried that he’s become so used to having a constant playmate that he may no longer enjoy playing alone, but it seems that he is able to go back to it which I’m glad about as I’d hate for him to feel lonely and bored. On Sunday we had a ‘Goodbye Get Together’ for A. She invited her Home Ed friends and we had a party buffet with her favourite foods. The kids spent quite a lot of time hanging out on the sofas in the living room seeming very grown up! They also spent plenty of time sliding down bannisters and jumping on the giant bean bag.

The kids hanging out.

The kids hanging out.

The adults all stayed in the kitchen close to the kettle and the food! I think I enjoyed the afternoon as much as the children did and it was nice to formally mark A leaving with something fun.

The adults hanging out.

The adults hanging out.

We all worked really hard to clear the house up in time for the weekend. As well as the Goodbye party I met my indpendent midwife on Saturday so we had a double excuse to clear up the Christmas chaos. I’ve realised how much clearer my head feels when I have a tidy living room. I’ve felt much calmer and have finally started getting things organised for the baby. The baby has been very cheeky this week. I’ve been able to see it move and it’s been doing some enormous kicks. However, every time the children have waited patiently trying to see or feel it, it doesn’t move! They have sung to it and shouted at it and shone lights and kept their hands on my belly all to no avail! Jessy finally saw it once last night but it’s still playing hide and seek with A! As it’s such a rare event, here is a photo of our tidy living room!:

A tidy living room!!

A tidy living room!!

A helped me out this week too by doing a big pile of washing up. It hurts my back to wash up at the moment and I can only manage a little at a time. A volunteered and at first I was a little nervous as I have very high standards when it comes to washing up! I can honestly say that everything was impeccably clean and I was very impressed and grateful.

Perfect washing up by A.

Perfect washing up by A.

When I picked the kids up from Wood School on Monday, Jessy was very keen to show me something he had created. There were a few children all surrounding a large sand pit where they had been making their own creations using natural materials. Jessy had created Pongoose Land and he talked me through the politics of the land explaining how the rich people were able to do what they liked and had the majority of the land, where as the poor people had one house to share and were forced to stay within certain boundaries. There was an airport, but only rich people were allowed to use the plane. I’ve been reading a book about Nelson Mandela and I talked to Jessy a little about apartheid and what it was like for Black South Africans during that time. It sounded to me as if he was processing that information with the game although I’m pretty sure this is a subconscious process rather than a choice.

Pongoose Land.

Pongoose Land.

Jessy explaining Pongoose Land.

Jessy explaining Pongoose Land.

A was given a lovely quill ink pen for Christmas and the same person bought her some parchment paper, wax seals and stamps so that she can write letters to stay in touch with people. She’s really enjoyed using it and has already written several letters including one to Jessy in the next room which she delivered by owl post using Jessy’s toy owl from Harry Potter Studios! We will certainly miss her creativity! This week marks the end of a chapter in all our lives and a moving on to the next one.

Giraffes and Autism – time to say the word!

It’s been over a month since I last got a chance to blog! I remember Jessy being ill one week and then all that Christmas and New Year stuff got in the way. We’ve had an enjoyable festive season. I managed to prepare a Christmas feast and only got stressed out about the roast vegetables which I had forgotten don’t cook properly in the second oven as I haven’t used the second oven since last Christmas! I was still most excited about the home made bread sauce I’ve been making since I was 12 which is the highlight of my Christmas dinner.

My bump has expanded enormously over the last month and the baby’s kicks quite often take me by surprise with how strong they feel. Today it feels a bit like it’s trying to burst through my belly and I’m wondering what on Earth I’ll feel like at the end of this pregnancy! We’ve had a very lazy holiday season. We’ve all eaten far too much chocolate and cheese and the kids have been clocking up enough hours of screen time to make my head spin if I think about it! I’ve been enjoying luxurious lie ins and going to bed far too late. The kids have come away from the screens long enough to do some creative projects. The kids got balloon kits but we’ve struggled to make the balloon animals. Anais decided to use the long stretchy balloons as strings on a cardboard box musical instrument. Jessy got a sock puppet kit for Christmas, but decided to make a monster toy and some clothes for him out of the materials instead. He named him ‘Teddy’.

Teddy

Teddy

I officially marked today as ‘back to normal’ day. It gives us a week to slide back into a more regular routine as Martial Arts, Scouts and Cubs start this week, but Circus Skills and Wood School don’t start until next week. I’m hoping this might be easier for Jessy as he often struggles with the transition from holiday back into our old routine.

Another of Jessy’s anxieties are unexpected plans and trying new activities. This came up a few days ago when we had a last minute invite to go ice skating with friends. Jessy has never been ice skating before and we hadn’t made the plan in advance so he was quite unhappy. At one point it seemed I really wouldn’t be able to persuade him to go but I didn’t want A to miss out so I offered to take him to a friend’s house instead. I don’t really want to go down that route of dealing with his anxiety though so I kept reassuring him that he didn’t have to skate if he didn’t want to and said that I would very much enjoy his company and suggested packing a few activity books. That seemed to help. He must have worked it through in his mind because just before we left when A asked him if he was going to have a go at ice skating he said “oh yeah, of course!” I’m really glad he came because they both had a great time. I was so happy to get outside in the fresh air and be with friends after being cooped up in the house for too long on our own.

Jessy ice skating

Jessy ice skating

Fun on the ice

Fun on the ice

I haven’t written a lot in this blog, about the various issues Jessy deals with for a while. For some reason I’ve been resistant to opening up further about it on here. I’m not sure why because I’m quite open about the process we are going through in other places. I feel like today might be the right day to share a little more. Maybe because it’s the New Year, or maybe just because it’s relevant to what we did today – maybe even because we’ve been so lazy lately I don’t have much else to write about! lol. I first wrote about my emerging thoughts here: https://pinkylucy.wordpress.com/2013/05/21/everything-and-nothing-has-changed/. At the time I felt the need to be vague and talked a lot about giraffes. Needless to say I don’t actually think Jessy might be a giraffe, however, I do think he may be on the autistic spectrum.

In the 8 months or so since I first starting thinking about this idea I’ve had varied responses from people. Some friends found it instantly helped them make sense of Jessy while others completely rejected the idea and didn’t agree at all. He’s certainly not autistic in a glaringly obvious kind of way, however, after reading and researching I was amazed to discover how so many of his quirks and difficulties, and also strengths, are all linked to autism. It was hard at first. I had to come to realise that whether he is or isn’t, he is still the same person, the same wonderful unique person I have always loved. I struggled for months about whether or not to pursue a diagnosis. I eventually decided that ‘knowledge is power’ and that the more I knew, the more choices and options I would have when it came to ways I could help Jessy with some of his struggles. I also feel that it’s sometimes useful to have a short hand when things get a little tricky. Awareness of autism is increasing, and whilst it isn’t something I’d want to use to excuse difficult situations, it can help to explain.

So several months ago I went to my GP with a long typed out list of various Jessy quirks. Many of them I had already discovered were linked to autism and others I didn’t know about but I put them all down. My GP made an instant referral and since then I’ve had a couple of appointments with a very friendly doctor who asked me lots and lots of questions in a couple of interviews. Today was an important day because Jessy went to meet the doctor. Jessy is aware of the process we’re going through and seems comfortable with it. I didn’t get to stay with Jessy while he talked to the doctor which felt a little strange. When my friend went through the process with her son she said a lot of the interaction could be seen through one way glass, but this didn’t happen with Jessy today. They didn’t talk to him for long which makes me wonder if it was very clear one way or the other, but the doctor said it didn’t mean anything so I guess I should listen to him! My personal feeling is that he’s somewhere on the borderline and I don’t think I will be very surprised if the expert opinion falls on either side. What I have learned is that he certainly has a lot of autistic traits and that, so far, the strategies designed to help autistic children do seem to help him with particular issues. Whether or not he gets an official diagnosis the process has helped us both enormously and made our day to day life run a lot more smoothly.

After Jessy’s appointment this morning the children were keen to go into the city centre as they’d spotted an enormous Big Wheel that has been recently erected in Piccadilly Gardens. A is quite afraid of heights but was keen to try the wheel, so in the name of encouraging the conquering of fears we went on. Aside from some initial nervousness she really loved it. Jessy has enjoyed Big Wheels since he was a toddler.

The Big Wheel

The Big Wheel

Excited on the big wheel

Excited on the big wheel

View of Manchester city centre

View of Manchester city centre

Afterwards we headed to Barburrito for lunch which we all love and then went on to the Manchester Museum. A has hit a ‘Museums are boring’ stage, but I did point out that there is so much in the museum that it must be possible to find something of interest! She didn’t seem bored once we were there and we spent a good few hours looking around. Despite going there for years we’ve never been to the animal handling session so we made a special effort to go today and got to stroke a chameleon and a python.

Stroking a chameleon

Stroking a chameleon

Stroking a python

Stroking a python

Jessy started back at Cubs tonight and despite a busy day was happy to go, especially as the new woggle he chose arrived today. Here’s to another year with my wonderful little ‘giraffe’.