Odd sandwiches

The one thing that you get used to as an Aspergers parent is routine. Lots of routine. That’s tough for parents like me as I am not really a routine person. I’m a bit more impromptu. Bit more going with the flow, see what happens person. Maybe some would call it winging it. Which is most odd. On most of the old Aspergers tests I would score very highly yet on one I was way down. Routine.

On this Hawklad is completely different to me. He needs his routine, his order, his plans. He needs to have that safety net and he needs to follow them. It’s reflected in so many things. If we are driving somewhere then we need to follow the usual route, even if that means a much longer journey. He likes to wear the same types of clothing – if he grows out of them then we need to replace with almost exact copies. He has a TV and movie schedule which he sets way in advance. We will often watch the same movie over and over again. School lessons have to follow the timetable without variation. We need to buy the same types of pens and pencils. He likes to go out in the garden and talk at the same times. He doesn’t like me to do things like change my hairstyle or try new clothes. It’s funny I’ve been wanting to shave my hair off for years but that’s just not allowed.

Break the routine and he is immediately hit with waves of self doubt and fear. Over the years we have tried to work on this. Slowly trying to introduce change. Occasionally trying to introduce unplanned but definitely fun routine changes. But it’s never really worked. Routine is just a key part of who Hawklad is.

Another area of much needed repetition is food. He has the same seven day food menu. The same foods on the same days, year after year. Trying new foods is just not something he does really. Normally ends in failure.

Dad what on Earth is that.”

It’s a sandwich.

Yes I can see the bread but it’s what is between that which is the worry.”

That will be cheese and onion crisps. It’s going to be one of the great gourmet experiences. A crisp butty. A crisp sandwich.

Really. That is just wrong on so many levels.”

It’s fantastic. Go on try it. It’s a family tradition. Your Little Nan would always be treating herself with one. But her crisp butty would be made with Ready Salted crisps.

Just No Dad.”

Ok. But if it’s not a crisp butty then what about a chip butty. A sandwich made from fried chips (fries) with heaps of tomato ketchup. Another true taste sensation.

Erm NO. You can keep that as well.”

Ok Hawklad what about a fish finger sandwich. Fantastic.

Not happening. That’s a tradition which is not passing down the gene line anymore. It ends with you.”

The boys have lost things

This is the kind of house that just seems to encourage losing things. Lots of things. Which is remarkable when you consider it’s smallish bungalow. Including the garage and the loft, we only have 8 locations for stuff to mysteriously disappear. But it does. All the time.

The house is the home just to boys these days. That includes the pets. So we can definitely say that THE BOYS HAVE LOST THINGS.

Already today we couldn’t find

  • Hawklads FIFA 20 games disk,
  • The new pack of Weetabix,
  • My bank card to pay for something online,
  • My car key,
  • One of my socks – followed instantly by shouting at the dog,
  • A black pen. Can find loads of other colours but not a black pen which Hawklad needs to do a little homework,
  • My new pack of tea,
  • The laptop – how can you lose a laptop….
  • A pair of scissors,
  • My fitness band,
  • The WiFi passkey,
  • The new pack of batteries I bought on Thursday,
  • My mobile,
  • The book I’ve been trying to read for a couple of months now, frustratingly I only have 4 pages to go. It went missing while I was reading in bed. It has been lost for weeks. Ransacked the bedroom today, still no sign. It’s a rubbish crime story but I just want to find out who did it…..

That’s a typical day here. Boys will be boys….

But at least we found time to talk today. We ended up talking about our lockdown and the stuff that we miss. The things we have lost in our own little worlds. For me it was being around people.

Running in the countryside and walking in the mountains.

Going to see my team get beat. Spending time with the friend I meet up with.

We both agreed on missing concerts.

We also both agreed on missing going to Switzerland.

Hawklad talked about not going to zoos and falconries as much. Not being able to have a takeout or pop in for a real ice cream. Not being able to meet up with some of his friends. Missing out on not visiting the seaside.

Not going to wrestling shows.

And not being able to visit historical sites.

There was more but you get the point. Lockdown does have an impact on all our worlds. It means making sacrifices. But we do that all the time. The worry is that too many kids are losing out of key parts of their childhood. It’s about making the best of what we do have. Still trying to make memories. Remembering to keep living.

Working hard on harvesting

Apparently we are enjoying the last few days of summer weather. It’s kinda sunny and kinda warm – if you ignore the cold wind. The forecasters are warning that soon the weather will be most definitely very different. Very cold, wet, grim and grey. As a result the farmers around here are desperately trying to get on with stuff. Even working when it’s dark.

It’s also time to start harvesting our own little garden crop. Today it’s a few apples, onions, carrots, tomatoes and potatoes. Some have done better than others……

Can anyone speak carrot. What’s the carrot for ‘you do know this is Yorkshire and you are about to be given a right weather spanking. You don’t have months of sunny growing weather left, you have no more than 3 days. So get a move on….’

Why is it so simple to grow weeds yet those so called easy grow carrots prove so pesky. It’s as if the carrots pop out of the seeds, feel the Yorkshire soil and go ‘YOU HAVE GOT TO BE JOKING’.

So if the carrots play ball then we are moving into a spell of living off stews, soups and apple crumble. I can happily live with that. I’m always thankful for whatever the garden yields. It does have to contend with the muppet gardener and Captain Chaos.

So yes it’s that time of year. The weather starts to break OR in our case, break even more. It starts to get colder and darker. For many it can be a tough change. Heralding a long period of what feels like ever increasing claustrophobic imprisonment. Me included. That’s where friendships, happy things and dreams are so important. They can help soften the sadness, even lift us into a better place. So for me it’s time to increasingly focus on those things. I can’t do anything about the weather but I can do influence the truly important stuff. Soon the autumn colours will become spectacular. The important stuff can lift the soul. Yes the following months can be bleak BUT they can also yield so much beauty and wonderful moments as well

Now it’s time to give those carrots a good talking to.

Another week.

So that’s the first week of the next instalment of our school at home project. The first was when the whole school was doing online education. This time most of the school is back but our son is still trying to home school via online education.

So how has it gone?

I think the best word to use is Patchy. Actually two words – Very Patchy.

A few teachers are making sure that Hawklad is keeping up. They try to share as many class notes as possible. Provide structured work and will mark it. Then you get some teachers who send a few summary notes, not much but at least it gives us a feel for what our son should be looking at. Then some teachers are just dumping the whole terms class assignments across (without instructions). So for one subject that was a single 70 page document filled with questions. No idea how much and when the work is submitted. No idea the format. Poor Hawklad is convinced that he needs to complete all the booklet right now. So much stress for him. Then you get some subjects where we get absolutely nothing. And I mean nothing. In terms of pastoral care again it is nothing.

So definitely very patchy. Speaking to school I suspect that will be the case going forward. Fingers crossed that those teachers trying to support Hawklad will continue to do so. It’s good to have a few subjects where Hawklad feels like he is on top of things. Keeping up with his classmates.

At present we are working on getting through to the end of October and have another think about things. It’s a milestone to work to but it is highly likely that it won’t represent the end of the project. Hawklad is just starting on a very long road of help and counselling. Any progress is likely to be hard fought and slow. The School at a Home project will be a long one, well past the next 7 weeks.

Much patience is required and never losing sight that his wellbeing always comes first. Schooling comes behind that.

The shape of bread to come

See the sun does shine in Yorkshire – occasionally.

How can baking be so hard. Everything seemed to be going so well and then you end up with very odd shape bread. One day, one day.

Maybe I can blame these baking woes on a lack of sleep. At least it ended up tasting ok. So it’s kind of a result.

I was sat drinking my herbal tea and having my misshapen bread with some hummus. Really, is this what life has become….. sudden urge for proper coffee and a sausage roll. But that is life currently for me. I might wish for something else but circumstances dictate otherwise. Wow that feeling could cover so many things. But at that precise moment my eyes wandered to a book on the table. A book about Ski Jumping. One small dream is remembered.

I have always wanted to go to and see just one Ski Jumping competition. Have never got round to doing that. Circumstances have repeatedly prevented that. Now as a single parent with a son who struggles to get to the front gate of the house, those circumstances seem to be even more insurmountable. Another winter will pass. It’s definitely not happening this season. Maybe not for a number of years.

Yes it’s a little deflating but don’t get me wrong. That dream hasn’t died. It’s still there. Still cherished. The future still offers hope. Just have to deal with the here and now. In all likelihood autumn and winter will see no real change in our circumstances. The next 6 months will be largely restricted to our house and garden. Very few social encounters. Single parenting day in day out. More days of dodgy bread and hummus lunches. But it is what it is. Will just deal with that. But I won’t forget those special dreams. That what keeps me going.

Running to or from it

A view from one of my old running haunts. A wonderful place. Basically had the tracks to myself. Me, some farm land and nature. I enjoyed the peace.

Isn’t that strange. Looking back I really valued my space. Having some solitude. Yet fast forward to September 2020 and I fear the solitude and isolation becoming a prison. Surrounded by cold, grey walls.

Just can’t make my mind up can I.

But it is a genuine fear of mine. Becoming completely isolated. Cut adrift.

At present I am ok. I’m finding a way through the ever present danger of isolation. I still have dreams of a different life. There are people who care. We can find ways to stay in touch. I have a workable life balance at present. Not great but not too bad. The risk is that I know myself. I know how easily I can lose confidence. How my social skills can desert me. How I can start to overthink. Become too inward looking. That’s the danger zone for me. Then I can easily be sucked into a completely isolated lifestyle. A lifestyle which is not sustainable or healthy for me.

The other worry is that in the modern world it is so easy to be cut adrift. So easy for people to stop calling round. To stop noticing you. Just one unknown face in the crowd. It felt like that for a long time after I lost my partner. People stopped calling. I was just that unseen face in the crowd.

So for me it’s finding a balance. Enjoying more solitude but avoiding complete isolation. I guess it’s like climbing in thick hill fog. You might be relatively close to others, but they can’t see you. You might as well be alone. The solo climbing can be enjoyable but it can also be unnerving. You are never quite sure how close you are to the precipice. How close to falling over the edges do when your alone, no one will be there to stop you.

But the hope is that if it’s like the climbing metaphor. I’ve been caught out in those white out adventures many times. Yes they have been challenging, a little scary at times. But I’ve so far avoided falling off the edge. That represents hope.

The third sequel

The third sequel already. The Trilogy done in one day. Eat your heart out Peter Jackson.

So this is the third instalment in the ‘what has changed over the 6 months of pandemic isolation’ saga. This time it’s what has changed for me. I guess this one is called The Return of the Kermit the Frog King. So what has changed then for me.

  • With Hawklads increasingly pronounced Social and Health related anxieties the last six months have seen a ramping up of the parenting pressures. Fewer breaks, more challenges and yes less support. In the UK small amount of support that has survived the Conservative Funding Cutbacks largely stops when kids hit the teenage years.
  • Have become a home educator. A school facilitator. A Classroom Supplies specialist. Much smirking…. After 6 months I’m still winging it.
  • I’m sleeping less. Much less. Just can’t seem to reset the insomnia cycle.
  • Certainly more isolated in terms of actually meeting people outside our little bubble. In 6 months I’ve seen family members twice, one work colleague (and good friend) maybe three times, neighbours a handful of times, the local shop workers maybe a couple of times a month, the dentist once, one visit from the boilerman, a few health workers and doctors. That’s about it. Oh actually forgot one person. The Postman, the only person I see regularly. I count his fairly frequent waves as my most regular physical contact. Luckily I have lovely online friends.
  • With not meeting too many people I’ve started noticing human life more. I notice dog walkers in the fields, cyclists, passing cars, voices from the street, even planes in the sky. A reminder that a bigger world still exists out there.
  • My conversation skills have never come easy to me. I have to work on and practice them. That’s just not happened for months. Even on most phone calls I can feel myself becoming increasingly wooden.
  • My largely unseen dress sense is becoming increasingly avant-garde.
  • I have lost 6lbs but you wouldn’t notice it. Having to resort to consuming far too much Soya (Soy) which isn’t great for my tummy. No I’m not pregnant.
  • I’ve stopped running and walking and road cycling. Must admit it’s not doing my old contact sport injuries any good. Bits are starting to seize up. So I’m trying to find my inner Yoga. Or as I call it Controlled Falling Over.
  • Work has dried up. This was supposed to be a really busy year. Lots of new jobs and major events. In practice that all was cancelled. Remains cancelled. Some plans have been put in place but really I’m not going to get much work until 2021.
  • I’m more able to fill my day without leaving our little household world. No need to visit shops daily, coffee shops, cinema, visit family or friends. I’m not saying it’s a good thing, but it comes easier to me now.
  • I do tend to overthink things now. Can have days when I do sober too much time internalising stuff. With me that’s not necessarily a good thing. It’s such a short stroll to self doubt and negativity.

Yes things have changed for me. They will continue to change as our personal lockdown is not going to end anytime soon. Potentially months more, maybe much longer. With us being an Aspergers Family that was kind of in place before the pandemic. Maybe many of these changes were already happening before the March lockdown. They have just become more pronounced. Maybe these are longer term changes. Maybe it’s much more than a three episode trilogy. Maybe it’s a permanent feature.

Where did that go – The Sequel

The quickest sequel ever. Only a few hours ago I wrote about where did the summer holidays go! Where did the first 6 months of lockdown go. It’s ending for many but not for some. Not for us. That got me thinking, which is dangerous🤪🧐

What has changed for Hawklad and me over those 6 months.

So for Hawklad the following have been the big changes…

  • His fears about health and illness have gone through the roof. Just exploded. He is wracked with anxieties and the need to wash is never more than a few minutes away.
  • His social anxieties have become more prominent. He is more inward looking, and less likely to interact with others. As a result he had become more isolated.
  • He is more aware of the world.
  • He is more aware of Aspergers.
  • He is more aware of the incompatibilities between the outdated world and those who are on the spectrum.
  • His reading has really come on. In his words – ‘more of a part time dyslexic now’. The irony that happened without direct school teaching.
  • His available world has shrunk. The days of school, trips to the beach, a hill walk, an outing to a historic site, a visit to a friends house – they all seem a distant memory. Most days he can’t even get to his own front gate.
  • He has shot up. Now taller than his Dad.
  • He has become thinner. Need to watch that.
  • He became a teenager. Almost instantaneously he suddenly found movies like Dumb and Dumber, Bill and Ted and anything by Will Farrell hysterical.
  • He has a truly shocking hairstyle. Dad is great at doing them and he has so much hair to mess up.
  • He can now talk about his mum without so much sadness. Much more about being proud of her.
  • He sleeps much less now.
  • He is becoming more clingy. Needing more reassurance that I’m in the house somewhere.
  • Many of his personal traits, those that are often identified as being Aspergers, have become more pronounced. More marked.

So many things have changed for our son. Changes in circumstances, physical changes, changes in personality. Some of these changes could be down to the lockdown but it could also be a natural development. It’s a difficult time for him, to be a teenager. But add in Aspergers and it can be such a disorientating period. Trying to find a fit between the complex world and the need to find personal identity. Finding that sadly Aspergers is still not widely seen as being socially acceptable. What to do? Try to confirm or be himself. All this at a time when he may become more inwardly looking and less likely to talk to about his emotions. Potentially troubling times ahead. Maybe that’s the next theme for our journey. We shall see.

Soon I will try to do a similar list for me. What’s changed for this Kermit the Frog.

Where did that go

Where did that go? Where did the summer holidays go. For so many families, where did that lockdown go? That’s 7 weeks of summer and exactly 6 months of lockdown.

We leave the summer holidays like we found them. Grey.

Many leave the lockdown as we found it. Well actually that’s sadly not strictly true here in the UK. The daily rise in pandemic and the rate of spread (R number) is actually higher now than when it forced us all into lockdown. I guess the confusion is the same. Some times it’s safe to meet in groups then at other times it’s considered most unsafe. Sometimes masks are required, sometimes they are not. Get tested but please don’t get tested. It’s safe to meet work colleagues but most unsafe to meet friends and family. There are those in high risk groups but you don’t need to worry about that. You must observe 2m social distancing but it’s ok if you don’t especially in pubs and at Horse Racing events. Don’t worry about the details it will be fine.

But for some families and households, the lockdown is most certainly not over. The Government seems to be demonising those in that position. We are being unpatriotic. Not doing our civic duty. Letting others down. As a result support is being pulled, threats made, blamed for the problems of the country and fines starting to be issued. I can assure the so called Government that it’s not out of choice. We are dealing with the reality of life. And that life is messy, complicated, unpredictable and frustrating. We have to deal with the details.

That part of life has not changed during the summer holidays and lockdown.

Turning

Those leaves 🍁 are turning. Autumn is coming.

Well actually the last few nights it has felt like winter has already arrived. It’s been freezing. Heating and lights full on. Jumpers (sweaters) most definitely are out of storage. I’m not very organised but I do always remember where I put my million jumpers. Normally I have all of them on at the same time.

So school starts on Monday. Our Son will not be returning at that time. If and when he returns is a matter of much uncertainty.

Dad have school decided what is happening on Monday then ?”

Not yet Hawklad.

Has school sent you the new codes so that we can check the online pupil pages for each subject?”

Not yet. Until we get these then we are basically stuffed.

So what will I be doing?”

Not sure as yet. I don’t have the school timetable. Don’t know what the subject teachers will be looking at.

As I’m now in a new set we won’t even know any kids we can ask to see what they have been doing.”

No. So I can’t speak to any parents and see what they have been given.

So basically Dad we will be winging the homeschooling thing.”

Yes definitely winging it.

So a bit like your cooking then. Bit of a disaster…”

Yep, but at least it won’t be dull.

If it’s bad then I’m going back to bed. Just to let you know.”

Don’t worry son, if it’s that bad I will be resorting to building lego sets…

***********

As it stands the plan is

  • Follow the school timetabled lessons for the day,
  • Email the individual teacher for a guide to what we should be doing….. not entirely hopeful about that. Failing that will see if any lesson notes have been loaded onto the pupil online pages ….. these are often blank or feature very brief notes loaded days after the lesson,
  • Look out for any homework tasks being posted. Submit these to the teacher somehow,
  • Try to find relevant videos online for him to watch. The BBC and other countries have some good resources,
  • Send copies of any work he does to the teacher …. somehow.

Yes winging it sums it up perfectly. I’m actually quite relaxed about the schooling side. The key is for our son to be in a good place. Assuming he is not at school for this half term, then it’s just about keeping him from falling too far behind the rest of the class. Certainly not looking for him to get gold stars. If keeping his hand in means he gets the school day done in an hour, then so be it. More time for him. More time for him to try and reconnect with his happy side.

The key thing is.

Yes we are doing school but it’s not the priority.