Tomorrow

Yesterday the clouds put on a free show.

Thank you to everyone who sent such kind wishes. It was so greatly appreciated and made the day a little easier to take. Yes it was only another day. We have have had over 1000 of these days. But something deep inside of me told me this was going to be a particular tough one. It did turn out to be a tough-un. I am still not 100% sure why that should be the case. Maybe on previous birthdays we have had a special trip out as a distraction. Who knows but it feels like I learnt a little more about myself yesterday. Its also clear that I still love my partner and this grief journey has still got a distance to go.

Spending the day with our son without any outside distractions did tell me one thing. It’s so easy to get complacent in life. To think your hitting all your marks and targets. I assumed I was giving our Son the attention he needed. Yesterday disproved that. He needs and wants more quality time with me. He will get that… His human world is a very sparse place at the moment. Since the lockdown started in March he has had so few interactions. One telephone conversion with one of my sisters, a brief chat with his health lead, a couple of nice email exchanges with friends and his online dialogue with teachers. That’s it in over two months. When I’m invited into his world then no ifs or buts, I need to go. Not only is it a responsibility, it is an honour. No guarantees that those invites will keep heading my way.

It’s now the next day and we move on. Changed probably yes. But still moving on.

Gluten and dairy

Sorry having to milk the red flowers. They don’t last long and then that’s it for another year. Sadly shopping comes round much more frequently.

Another weekend shopping experience to be quickly forgotten. Yes we are always thankful to get some stuff. Things like bathroom rolls (toilet paper) and soap are getting easier to find. Finally some popcorn. Ok it’s just salty but we can add honey to it. But then the inner grump comes out in me.

So many items we take for granted are now becoming a luxury. The words out of stock, no alternatives, unavailable are becoming such a frequent part of the wonderful shopping experience. In terms of our Son it applies to a number of his favourites

  • Tomato ketchup (has to be Heinz)
  • Pasta
  • Skinless sausages
  • Baguettes
  • Tortilla wraps
  • Mini fairy cakes
  • Tinned carrots
  • Corn on the cob.

For me it’s the gluten free and IBS friendly alternatives. Yesterday I drew a complete blank. Yes you could get a few glutenless meat sausages and a couple of soya based meal options. Not great when you are trying to be a veggie and soya blows you up like a balloon. No dairy free milk option except Soya. Not one single gluten free bread based option. Looks like I’m trying to bake my own again – the last one ended up painted and used as Jurassic World play island… Yes we got some jacket potatoes but they look like they have just been used as projectiles in the latest Highland Games, then sent to the army range for target practice.

So unless I can find some super expensive options on Amazon then this weeks meal options will be another challenge. I’m ok, I can just walk around looking permanently pregnant thanks to my inflamed IBS. It’s more of a challenge for our Son with his set eating patterns. Moving from them causes so much anxiety for him.

Dad I’ve got an idea. Let’s just have a week eating crisps and chocolate. Wash it down with full sugar coke. Not good for us but at least it will be fun.”

I’m so into this idea. Yes I will end up very round. Having a body that looks like the perfect figure. A 6. But is that not a better option than looking pregnant from dairy and soya intake. Decision made. Where’s that family sized packet of potato crisps.

Another week

It’s one of those days. Wet, windy and damp one minute. Then sunnier, even windier and wetter the next minute. At least the rainwater tubs are filling up. Can’t believe that they were empty. EMPTY – this is Yorkshire….

Another week has come and gone. Another week of schools version of homeschooling. So what did we learn this week.

  • Apparently the school has one of the best online teaching systems in the country. It’s frightening that many schools are struggling to get any systems going. But what do you expect when the government tries to control everything about education. Strangely it never saw the need for online education. Why bother when it’s so much cheaper to cram ever increasing numbers of kids into overcrowded classes.
  • Even with a school iPad and online systems, we have run out of pens, pencils and coloured markers. We only stocked up in February…….
  • The new school trousers (3 pairs) which were bought the week before the lockdown started, now don’t fit. So we managed one use out of those. Money well spent.
  • Clearly using google translate doesn’t necessarily get you the right answer in French lessons.
  • Drama is the most appropriate name for the subject. Here every lesson in Drama ends up as a right DRAMA.
  • Music is largely based around the GarageBand app. Has there ever been a more frustrating learning based app. It looks so easy on YouTube to produce professional sounding music compositions. Not in this house. So far we can just about get a drum to beat. It’s the same sound regardless of if son is trying to do a rock or classical composition. Not quite what the music teacher wants.
  • Clearly the half term weeks holiday should be renamed the half term do school projects and homework week.
  • What’s this new trend of getting parents to join in with PE lessons. This week I got to show my prowess in the hop, skip and jump (Triple Jump). I can now rename that as the hope, skip, fall over and hold my back in agony jump.
  • Some teachers are starting to get our son and others never will. One lesson he is still waiting for a house point. He’s only one of two other kids who has not been awarded one this year by this teacher. Apparently even getting 93% in a test doesn’t constitute being worthy of just one point. Maybe I’m missing something. Another frustration is that every September the teachers all change as kids move up a year. So all the progress of developing a relationship is lost. The ironic thing is one of the few teachers who doesn’t change is the one who doesn’t get him….
  • Food Technology is so much easier when it’s home based. It’s all theory so no need for the parent to stress out about finding food ingredients and suitable containers. Also no need to deal with the inevitable school bag food spillages. It’s 2 months since the last incident and his bag still spells of garlic.
  • When I was a kid magnetic fields seemed so easy to understand. So why now do they seem like some strange Harry Potter magic.
  • Apparently some lessons are best undertaken in short 10 minute spells, punctuated with a few games of Crossy Road.

So yes we can tick off another school at home week. Some parts still don’t work but many elements do work. Here’s the key thing. The current approach is determined by the school. You take all elements of the package. Take the good and the bad. True homeschooling allows you the flexibility to address those elements which are not working. But that’s a debate for another day. Let’s settle for just ticking off this week. Job done now let’s move on.

Finding Popcorn

The very observant amongst you will notice a plant pot which looks remarkably like a drum from a tumble drier. Best and safest use for those which had a habit of catching fire. Ours did get modified to make it less likely to explode (after many months of waiting) then promptly died one day after the new warranty period ran out. So better get some use out of it. So we acquired a large metal plant pot.

Some things are more challenging to find and acquire.

Things like Popcorn. It’s a staple part of our Saturday Night Home Movie Experience. Well it has been until now. At the moment it is like gold dust at the supermarket which is our only real pandemic option. For two weeks it’s been sold out. Maybe it’s become the new currency of the survivalists. Replacing bathroom paper (toilet paper). As a result I suddenly have a real urge to go popcorn hunting. Must be able to find some popcorn somewhere. Must have a rummage.

Another challenge which is far less enticing and attractive is the prospect of trying to get our son to venture past the front gate. So far the tentative attempts have failed. Even just venturing onto the road, just a few paces from the front gate is proving a challenge for him. This won’t be just isolated to this family. So many others will be in a similar position. Trying to deal with these issues largely without any help. Our leader of the opposition party has been pushing the need to address the mental health consequences of the last few months. Sadly our government doesn’t seem to get it. The response seems to be well we have released the lockdown, just go out and act normally. Unfortunately that response is typical of the last 10 years. Mental Health funding has been one of the easy targets for government cutbacks. This has led to untenable waiting lists for some essential children services and worse. Many parts of children and adult support have just disappeared. You can just see the likes of Johnson and Hancock smirking while telling us

If you have the money then you can buy help, if you can’t then tough. It’s your fault for not having massive bank accounts. Let’s think of the real issue. How can we get our hands on the profits from a switch to a US type health care system.

So we will keep trying to take those little steps. Trying to raise awareness of this issue. This is going to be a long and very winding road. Importantly it’s a road which will be driven by our son. He will decide when and where to take those steps. He has to find his own way and be comfortable with it. Today he won’t be going down that road. That’s for another day.

So I will go back to dreaming about popcorn hunting.

Chaos Theory

Guard duty…

Scrap the guard duty, is that a biscuit I can smell….

I think we all have that sixth sense. Mine kicked in during the early hours. Son had just popped his head round the bedroom door.

Are you awake Dad?”

At the time I was reading about chaos theory. Got to explain my cooking disasters somehow.

I’ve got a question in my head and I can’t sleep.”

Sixth sense fully kicked in. My mind better get up to speed quickly.

It’s to do with the Royal Family and the rules surrounding the line of Succession.”

Relief as I feared a bird and the bees type question.

I’m guessing my question won’t be adequately covered in the Succession to the Crown Act”

Must admit in all my many years, I still haven’t got round to reading that real page turner.

I bet the Act doesn’t reflect the progress made in genetics, physics and quantum theory.”

No, I think that is a safe bet. Already my mind is braced for impact. A wander into his world is truly joyous but often feels like my mind isn’t quite able to take it all in. Maybe a bit like a modern and much safer version of a Psychedelic Trip.

Ok the rules on succession are quite straightforward and a lot fairer now. But what happens if we spiced it up a bit. What happens if through the advancement in genetics we managed to bring back a former King or Queen. Or maybe we develop time travel and can bring forward a previous monarch. A King or Queen who didn’t lose the throne in battle. Say Henry V or Queen Victoria. So the question is…. Would they still have a claim to the throne. Maybe it would lead to a civil war between those supporting the current monarch and those supporting Henry V or Victoria. Victoria won’t be best pleased with the current state of her empire. Henry V will be distinctly horrified at the current leadership of the country.”

And with that mind altering nugget he went back to sleep on it. Suddenly chaos theory seems so clear now.

Over my head

One of the advantages of not cutting the hedge. A bit of overhead yellow is always very nice.

Dad this is just going over my head.”

He wasn’t referring to the hedge as well…

“This is refusing to enter my brain. Sometimes dyslexia is a right pain in the butt….”

He was referring to French. In particular today’s lesson. All about grammatical gender. It’s not an easy concept for English speaking numpties like me as we don’t tend to get so focused on gender and nouns. Which is most odd as our language is heavily derived from Anglo-Saxon and French, which are. So you can hear my brain chug away when it sees

A simple word like HAPPY become in French either HEUREUX (masculine) or HEUREUSE (feminine).

Hard for me, a nightmare for a dyslexic. So a lesson of writing these out for an hour is just torture for him. Yes you can try and learn the rules. But when you struggle to pick up word and letter patterns – it’s not much help.

Hey Dad I’m dyslexic in multiple languages. Surely I get a badge for that.”

We should really be switching dyslexic kids to different learning techniques. Maybe focusing just on visual and verbal learning. Using fun, online teaching resources. Finding out what works and what doesn’t work for each industry child. Unfortunately teachers are given so little flexibility by our Government. They have to stick to the national curriculum. Sadly the factory education approach doesn’t work for many. So we try to make the best of it. But it’s not easy seeing your child struggle.

It feels like you are holding onto the side of a giant bolder as it tumbles down a hill. Not in control and just grimly trying not to fall off. But eventually you reach the bottom. You can take a breather before you start tumbling again. I guess the secret is to make the most of the flat bits. Grab that ice cream and think of ways to make the tumbling down hill more fun. Must be possible. Remember being a kid and rolling down the slopes. As long as you avoided the nettles and animal droppings, it was the best laugh ever. So we will put our thinking hats on, how to make learning French fun.

Bonne journee (yes I know I’ve dropped a mark for the missing thingy off the e, but my keyboard doesn’t do French)….

Please note one of my great regrets is that I’m not multilingual. I love talking to people who can effortlessly switch languages. So I will keep going. You never know, one day…

Busy

Running round the small garden for what seems like the millionth time and desperately trying to find an excuse to stop for a few seconds. Thankfully a yellow rose is a suitable excuse for a photo pit stop.

I’m sat writing this during another brief day pit stop. Son is having a wander round the garden, dreaming and working on what we do next this Sunday afternoon. It will be a short pit stop. Maybe 30 minutes at most. It’s an odd busy feeling….

My mind wanders back to pre Aspergers, pre parenting life. Early commutes, days filled with meetings, projects, accounts and people management. The working week punctuated by the occasional long train journey to London. Trying to get the works laptop to link to the train WIFI, so many unread emails to look at. I would return home and think – wow that was busy. Then the world changed three times. Parenting, Aspergers and then bereavement. One overriding thought comes to mind. What was I doing with that career life. Busy maybe, happy not, fulfilled – most definitely NOT. The first two events forced both our careers to alter. Suddenly the careers had to start fitting around our Son. One of us had always to be there for him. Definitely feeling busier. Then with a flick of a switch, two parents became one. The career was untenable and that was it. A new part time job and a full time single parent role.

Now the world has changed again. A social distancing fuelled change.

So I’m sat here watching son dream and I’m waffling on with these words….. Thinking about

  • A backlog of washing and domestic tasks,
  • Getting my head round this weeks school at home project,
  • Laying the groundwork for a switch to full on homeschooling,
  • Preparing the next appeal document to try and source the additional help our son needs,
  • Arranging calls and sending emails to teachers. Trying to make schooling work for son,
  • A garden which looks like an Amazonian Rainforest,
  • Looking at other work from home options as the current ideal role is potentially not outlasting the pandemic fuelled government incompetence,
  • Reading online DIY guides, preparing for the next home servicing and repair task,
  • What to cook for lunch and tea,
  • Scouring the online food supply options. Trying to figure out what we really need. Then trying to somehow book a home delivery for what is available,
  • Picking up the courage to get out the sewing kit and repair those pesky trouser knee holes,
  • Looking at the home finances spreadsheet AGAIN. I must be missing something,
  • Thinking about what things we can line up to fill the half term week off with fun and happiness. All without going through the front gate.

So the meetings, the commutes and professional career have gone. Yes I am at home. Yes my paid work is part time normally but has currently ceased completely. It may not seem like I am busy. But sat here, looking out the window, I have never felt so busy. Busy definitely YES, Fulfilled most definitely YES.

Now I am called back into action. Take care everyone. WE will do this.

What a drama

“Son, just go outside and look at the flowers. At this rate the school iPad is going to smash into the wall”

It was one of THOSE lessons. Why is it so often Drama…..

Dad I just can’t do this. It’s only the first task and it’s going to take forever.”

Tell me what will you learn about acting and the performance arts by doing a glorified word search. Read a 29 page script and find which character had to say these short phrases. Most of the phrases were in the middle of long paragraphs. On what planet is that exercise tailored to help kids with dyslexia.

Only after you had successfully completed that exercise was Son allowed to move on to the half term assessment. And what a beaut that was as well. Three options.

  • Costume design for a character in the play. Describe the theory behind your choice, draw the design and then develop the design with what materials you have at home. The pupil must then model the costume and be photographed.

Just NO Dad. We don’t have any clothes we can use, I can’t draw AND if they think Im having my photo taken wearing it – they have another thing coming.”

  • Learn the role for one character. Describe the theory behind your acting approach and then film yourself acting the role.

And that’s a big fat NO as well. I’m not being filmed for anybody.”

  • Design the stage set. Describe the theory behind your design. Draw a detailed picture of the stage. Then build the stage with resources you have at home.

Well I guess it will have to be this option. At least I don’t have to suffer being filmed. But looking at the example then we don’t have any of that stuff in. Suddenly Drama has become Art. Painting backdrops. Making or drawing miniature curtains. Building miniature props. And I will be starting after everyone else because the word search took me longer than probably all the other kids. Deep Joy.”

And he was right. We don’t even have a cardboard box to build a rubbish one. The teacher clearly doesn’t live in a house with three gerbils… Thankfully Son understands that I don’t care what grade he gets for this assignment. Let’s just get it done and then we forget about it. So after he had cleared his mind looking at the flowers, he did a quick paper stage design. Then for next weeks final assessment lesson he will build a Lego stage. I wonder if the teacher will appreciate Darth Vader and IronMan mini figures playing completely different roles. I do hope so.

Moonbathing

Under the right cloud conditions, a Full Moon can end up looking like the Sun. Especially to my old iPhone camera.

I had yet another weird dream. A weird dream which was so weird that it caught our Sons imagination when I told him about it. The Sun was going through a profound and long lasting quiet phase. It just was just not heating our planet up enough. The world was entering a new ice age. So the scientists decided to reflect giant lasers off the moon to warm things up. The Moon became the new Sun. As a result people would sunbath during the night, moonbathing. Full Moons became huge public holidays and communities held giant night street parties. Beaches and parks only started to fill up at midnight. Our world was forced to shift.

I guess that odd dream had a message that applies today. When things happen sometimes we have to change and adapt. The old way of doing things just stop working and we have to develop our own New Normal….

Dad have we got any graph paper. I need it for science.”

Strangely our massive school stationary cupboard doesn’t seem to have any stocks of graph paper to hand. Music is coming up soon, what on earth will that require.

Music Sheets

Flutes

Drum kits

Violins

Grand Piano

But we have learned to make do. To improvise. The days of just popping into the shops to stock up have gone. It’s one shop every few weeks and you just work with what you have. That’s the new normal. As is…

Dad this weekend since we can’t go anywhere shall we do something in the garden. Shall we turn it into the beach again. Maybe we can camp out on the lawn and imagine we are in the mountains of Scotland. Having our very own moonbathing party.”

That’s a great idea. That would be good for the both of us. The danger currently is that we are just not going anywhere. We don’t even manage to walk through the front gate anymore. Our world has contracted. Days merge into each other. Time passes us by. Even in these strange times, that is such a waste.

Reading between the lines many UK pupils will not be returning to school until September. An attempt will be made to get some younger kids back into Primary School during June. Those older children with key exams next year may get a few weeks of direct teaching time during July. That’s it. So it looks like we won’t have to face the ‘does he return to school’ question for several months. Not going to school has become the new normal. March through August will be completely without classroom teaching. That’s a long time. Such a long time especially when the only part of the world you experience is your garden. But that’s how it is, the world has shifted. So it’s time for us to adapt. Make the best of what we have. Like we had to a few years back. When loss destroyed our wonderful world. We had to adapt to becoming a one parent family.

We did it once, so I’m sure we will do it again. To find ways of stretching our horizons without leaving the garden. Maybe we call that moonbathing.

Options

I’ve lost my Idiots Guide to Parenting book again. Just when I really need it.

Dad so the options are Man & Woman, Man & Man, Woman & Woman, Genetically Created, No defined sexual orientation, weird different species options…. are there any other options. I guess Guardians of the Galaxy opens up the Man & Alien option.”

This is not the first time I’ve faced this question. Since the last time he’s added at least one other option. My stock answer can’t be used now. Why don’t you ask your Mum, she’s good at that sort of thing….

So how do I answer this. Thinking back to my childhood doesn’t really provide much help. At school we had one lesson about the birds and the bees. The teacher said watch this video and went outside for a smoke. The video started with a couple holding hands. We then got a cartoon description of some of the body parts then finished with footage of an actual birth. Unfortunately a lad called Martin was sick at the sight of the birth and the video had to be stopped. After Martin’s mess had been cleaned up the teacher finished with the immortal line.

I’m not going to bother restarting the video now as we can start the Games lesson early. Surely you get the picture now. Remember you can’t start having babies until your 18. Any questions go and see the school nurse…

My parents approach was very much – well that’s schools job. So that was it for my birds and the bees education.

So having quickly reviewed my extensive memory banks I was pretty confident with my answer to today’s question. I think that probably covers it really. I decided to gloss over the Man & Android option you get in some Sci Fi movies. It’s amusing how even after all these years I still get hot under the collar with this type of question. It feels way easier answering questions like what is a magnetic field and what’s the French for hairdressers. Maybe after society finally gets round to completing my birds and the bees education, then I will feel so much more relaxed with this question.