Saturday, December 26, 2009

The Calm After The Storm

Hey, we survived Christmas...and I don't seem to have any extra grey hairs (thank you L'Oreal) or any less husbands.
It feels a little like a tornado hurtled through the house and then thought "I have a great idea...I'll go back and just stay at Bob's today, and we'll see what happens".  The tornado rotated lazily all day, with the worrying prospect that it could at any moment explode to full velocity...but it didn't happen.   By 10pm, it had all but petered out and 3 tired kids fell in frazzled heaps into their beds.

Christmas eve night was a different story.  Bob woke at 1am with acute onset of the Screaming Heebeejeebies (that's a real diease people...I didn't spend three years at nursing college for nothing)  ...and my usual remedy of administering the prescribed amount of 3am Dora the Explorer was off the table as we were expecting a visit from Santy into the very room that the dvd player sits. Much dramatics, and many woken children, later we resolved the problem with an ingenious game of Musical Beds in which bodies were strewn across our bedrooms like the aftermath of a tsunami.  Bob and Toad no.2 were at one stage in our bed, and sleeping with Toad no.2 is like being battered by a human windmill on acid.  For a child of sparrow-like proportions, she can pack a surprising punch.

Eventually, calm was restored, small people slept...and Santy came and made everyone very happy.
Much industrial strength coffee was consumed, a fabulous dinner was cooked by head chef James and all was well, rumbling tornados aside.

OK, enough already with the I am enjoying the Survivor High (again, a real medical condition) and I'm even looking forward to clearing up the flotsam and jetsam (for the love of God would somebody please stop me???...there's only so far you can stretch a metaphor).
Enjoy the deep sense calm you can only experience after a storm (hey, it's my blog and I can overcook a metaphor if I want to) and give yourself a "day off" medal for surviving with style.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009


As I write, the fire is lit, the lights are dim...and Bob is curled up on the sofa beside me, wrapped in my fluffy purple dressing gown watching Dora's ABC's for the thousandth time.  It's almost 11pm, James is on a rare night out and Toad's no.1 and 2 are asleep upstairs.
Bob is sleepily twirling my hair and every so often he tells me "go asleep" because he wants me to lie on the sofa beside him (I don't think he appreciates the breadth of my posterior).
He should be in bed, of course, but the moment is too lovely to ruin with fighting.  Sleep will come in it's own time.
The tranquil, lovely moments of closeness are precious, when I put aside OT, ST, play, reading, writing etc etc and we just simply are.
I don't believe in God, but I do believe in this.
Peace out.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Big Mountains for Small People

Bob is an old hand at climbing mountains, so attempting to scale heights is What The Kid Does.  When faced with a new challange, he grits his teeth, throws his rucksack on his back and gets his toughest hiking boots strapped on.  It's the life he's been catapulted into for the last 3 years, and he has risen to each task with strength and courage.

I, on the other hand, am a card-carrying wuss.
I prefer to cower in the foothills, drinking tea and giving out about not having enough time to climb least not without a team of sherpas, six months preparation and my mascara.  There's always an excuse to avoid the Difficult, which is entirely unfair on Bob as I expect him to naviagte the Hard Stuff every waking minute of his day.

I have been terrified of taking Bob out by myself without the able body of James, who has the physical strength to restrain him when he makes an Olympian dash for the door, or decides that today is a good day to play chicken with the traffic. 

I had a little shopping to do in Dundalk this morning, so I planned to use our bargaining chip of a promise of a Spin on Rolly in return for his good behaviour. I said a little prayer of thanks to the Gods of Sure Antipersperant (as we had a little wrestle in the queue at Argos) but we did it, and the kind lady at the checkout amused him with the catalogue while I fumbled for my laser card.  It's refreshing to meet understanding people, isn't it? Bob's big sister reinforced the mantra "shop first, then spin in Rolly", and he even managed to sit through a happy meal before he got his reward.  There were no dramas, deaths or nuclear accidents and we all went home satisfied, and slightly less terrified.

I climbed my first mountain, with Bob as my sherpa and Toad no.2 as my co-pilot, all before lunch-time.  I can afford to wallow in a little self-satisfaction.

Meanwhile, at Outreach, Bob made his acting debut as he accepted the role of "townsperson" in the nativity, narrrowly fending off Robert de Niro and Sean Penn (who were bitterly disappointed to be turned down).   His character was central to the plot, and even though the line "Can he fix it?  Yes he can!" is difficult to pinpoint in the bible, Jesus was a carpenter so Bob was artistically ad-libbing when he posed the question to the 3 Wise Kings. 
When you think about it, if the Wise Kings were any way wise at all, they would have answered "actually, yes, He can fix a few things, but the Romans won't like it".'s possible that I'm a doting mother  with inflated ambitions for my son, but I was so proud to see that not only could Bob cope with the chaos that is the Nativity, but he did he was supposed to, and he lasted the whole 30  minutes without bolting for freedom or pitching a fit.

Yet another tick on my little mountaineer's map...I have a lot of climbing to do to catch up with him.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Trouble In Paradise

Now and again I crawl out from beneath the rock I reside under and read the papers.
When I do, it generally reminds me why I usually don't bother.

Tiger Woods, for example ...devestating good looks, dizzying career, beautiful wife, gorgeous kids, the epitome of clean-cut family man. Most of us mere mortals would expect him to get down on bended knee to thank the gods for his good fortune and charmed existence.  Instead, he spit in it's eye.

The Irish Economy, once a roaring lion, now diminished to a mewling kitten thanks to greed and stupidity.

The Catholic Church, once the steely backbone of Irish society, now exposed as the sickening face of evil as they chose not only  to protect child rapists, but to actually facilitate them to rape the most vulnerble children in the country for decades, by moving collared perverts from area to area.

James and I are watching the endless analysis of the "toughest budget the state has ever seen".  The unions are beating their war drums, the politicians look grey-faced and beaten, and everybody is busy blaming everyone else for the state of the nation.

James is a nurse and he loves his job. Watching the news, we could be forgiven for thinking that, as a public service worker, the collapse of the Irish economy is his personal fault  (dammit we must have missed that lecture at nursing college...someone should have copied the notes for us!).
We could sit and bemoan our loss of income, carer's allowance, children's allowance etc etc...but we look at Tiger Woods and see a man who apparantly had it all and appreciated none of it.
We look at our nation who was knee deep in wealth, and forgot what was important in our scramble for 3 holidays a year and 4x4's.
We see a church who became so arrogant and so removed from God and people, that they lost all sense of religion and became what they were pretending to oppose.

At the risk of being cliched, we need to stop childishly grasping for external solutions, to grow up and take responsibility for our own destinies.  Heroes are the stuff of children's fairytales. We need to find tangible heros, closer to home, to give us  a sense of what is important and worth striving for.

A gift to many of us special needs parents has been  the ability to recognise the true triumphs in life.  It means nothing to Mr Briers and I that we don't go out, or buy new cars.  We can live quite happily with a cupboard stocked by Lidl and socks from Pennys.

What we do celebrate are the precious  moments when Bob makes eye contact, uses the toilet properly, or instructs us to "lie down!!" so he can have  cuddle.

Maybe the powers-that-be peddle on our outlook.  I don't know...and frankly I don't care.  They are the ones who are losing out.

I'm off to crawl back beneath my happy rock, to hold my children and my lovely husband, and to let the church, the state and the Tiger Woods' of this world inherit the wind.

I pity the fact that they have no idea what  real love is.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Bob Comes Out Of The Closet

Bob didn't start life as Bob. He began by being a perfectly normal, chubby little baby who was co-operative enough to poo, pee, sit, crawl, babble, smile and coo all on schedule. My brother John and his missus used to joke that he had a developmental checklist secreted away in his person, which he ticked off for each milestone he reached (oh! I seem to be five months old, so this season I will mostly be rolling). He didn't walk til he was 17 months, but, hey, if someone was toting my big butt from rocker to cradle to car seat, I wouldn't walk either. Especially if that somebody fed me, loved me and seemed to instinctively know that I preferred to be left alone to go asleep, unlike my big brother and sister who caused my mother to have permanently elongated orang-utan arms from their constant demands for attention.

It was great to have a good baby.
Toad No.1 nearly destroyed my will to live as he couldn't break wind without a round of applause. It was like having my own personal J-Lo, only without the music and nice clothes. Toad No.2 came into the world an All-Knowing Granny and was practically knitting and dispensing sage advice by the age of 1. She was like a pretty Dr Phil.
Toad No.3 didn't evolve into Bob until he was about 14 months old, but his little builder's hat was hiding underneath all the time. I just couldn't see it.

My "good" baby was very happy to quietly receive cuddles and affection, but rarely looked for attention. I was thrilled! I was a busy mum with a house to run, and my beautiful baby was an angel...what's not to love about that? The delay in walking wasn't a big cause for concern, but when he celebrated his first birthday, James and I were a bit perplexed that he had no speech. Nada. Not as much as "mama". Oh, and he didn't wave bye-bye. And we got his hearing checked because sometimes he didn't seem to hear us. And sometimes he walked on his tip-toes.
But we knew he couldn't be autistic because his cousin Conor is autistic and isn't remotely like Bob...this was a few years before I met a certain EastEnder/Donegal lass (fabulous mixture - it was such a pleasure to meet her) who told me "when you've met one autistic kid, you've met one autistic kid". None of the little monkeys have the decency to be identical to each other...autie kids are such divas!
When Bob was 14 months old I was chatting to him in our front room. My blood froze when I realized that he wouldn't look at me. Now, I know I'm no Elle McPhearson, but most kids can tolerate looking at the wan who feeds and clothes them, no matter how aesthetically challenged she may be.
I lay under him...I approached him from the side...I tried to move his face with my hands. He would not meet my eyes.

And even though it would take another fifteen months before he was formally diagnosed, that was the moment that Toad No.3 shed his skin, shimmied into his overalls and reached for his toolkit.
Bob had come out of the closet.