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Raising little Westies, and life as parent of a special needs son
My start to December is only a preview of what is to come. The rest of this week remains busy for me, both at work, and with Magpie due to be presented with an academic award tomorrow before celebrating his birthday on Friday. I will then have one more week of work before rapping up for the year, and heading home in time for my wife’s birthday on Christmas Eve.
We all know what happens on the 25th, of course!
Given our start to 2013, it may well be that we are hitting the road between Christmas and New Year – but that so far is still a long way away, so I’m not aiming to forecast that far ahead. And somewhere in all of this, I need to line up work for 2013 – either more of what I am already doing, or “opportunities with an alternative employer” as some might say.
But before that, I have a really busy day tomorrow – work in the morning, part of a training course in the mid afternoon, then back to work from 5pm “until it’s finished” hopefully again before midnight (but quite possibly, not). So for tonight, it’s a short post about how busy I think I’m going to be from now until we start 2013.
Here in New South Wales we are heading into our short (2 week) Spring school holidays.
This means not a lot to me as I will be continuing to work through this break. But for my wife this is a pretty big issue. It seems though she has arranged for our kids to go spend some time with her parents.
Now that is a great thing, because Bec really does deserve a bit of a break, the kids really enjoy spending time with their grandparents, and the grandparents – for as long as they can keep up the pace! – enjoy having the kids around.
However, it seems that the dominant feature of my next four days will be “sitting in the car driving” – from Canberra to Sydney, from Sydney to the North Coast, back down to Sydney, then back to Canberra.
And I’m guessing much the same the week after.
I hope your upcoming weekend is more relaxing than mine is shaping up to be!
Oh My God.
So, it’s the weekend. Should be happy, right?
Happy to not be at work. But, life has it’s way of all the little details piling up when we could most do with some sort of break – this weekend being yet another example. It hasn’t taken much, just that it’s the kids first week back at school. I’m thinking that’s what has pushed Bec over the brink to coming down with some sort of lurgy and being crook as a dog.
Add to that our nine dogs, and three kids, and football…. and weight watchers… and a hubby (me) who is drive-in drive-out from work… well it’s probably incredible that she functions as well as she does.
Somewhere between last night, and right now, motivation has evaporated somewhat. I know there are things I’d love to discuss, butthey have left the premises for right now. So I’ll leave you with this final input from my youngest Westie.
97th anniversary of 1915 landing
I’m in Canberra. It’s a crisp start, with a clear starry sky. It’s fantastic, that means it’s dry, and I’ve had enough wet dawn services the last few years.
My aunty is kind enough to drop me to a bus. The first two buses are full well before I can get on board, great that so many Canberrans and visitors are motivated to say thanks and show respect for the sacrifices made by so many.
I start listening to the pop trash on the radio as some very cold people around me say not much – small jokes, a brief exchange about two-up games later in the day – and another bus arrives. This one’s empty and I’m straight on down the back of an Action bendy bus. I watch a guy younger than me dressed in a suit walk past with a rack of medals on his breast to make any crusty digger give pause. Along with everyone else joining in to say thanks, an older couple sit down as I move seats to make way for a young boy and his grandfather. Within a few moments these two guys recognise each other and they are chatting about their past ANZAC days in France, Belgium, and tours of battlefields in Europe. Other than these two guys the bus is quiet in the predawn chill. We drive past increasing numbers of cars parked by the roadside, and the trickle of people becomes a stream before the bus stops. More to follow…
I arrive with the stream of others off the buses, the parade ground is maybe 50 deep, the stands are full, so I go back the way I have come to stand on the hill. From the flagpoles i strand in the crowd looking down at the massed people, filling the parade square, in front of the podium which is lit not brightly, but… Enough to tell the darkness it is not welcome. The flags stand proud as the crowd continues to build, and shiver, waiting (how much harder would it have been to wait in the damp pre-dawn packed in with mates, wondering which you would see ever again? We can’t complain for our momentary discomfort.)
More to follow….
5.19. My clock must be wrong, as the voice of the catafalque party commander silences the crowd – he brings his guard to attention, moments later the snare can be heard accompanying as the slow march into position. As the rattle of the snare synchronises the outwards turn, the cockatoos take to the sky… Complaining about the pre-dawn rouse from their roost.
The honour guard bow their heads as the flags remind us yes it is windy. A hush settles… Then a voice on the PA tells us all there’s 5 minutes to go, and the solemn mood is half tossed aside – an explanation, unrequested, at a moment when mystery would have extended the moment.
More to follow….
The service proceeds, in the customary sequence; only the dignitaries change but the theme of what they have to say is now as laid down in tradition as the emu plume in the slouch hat of the tank trooper, harking back to the earlier days of the nation. We stand in silence, joining in for those brief few moments we can – showing how every year we become even more distant from a single god, a single faith and a single church as the numbers joining in for Abide With Me or the other hymns gets smaller each year. The snare rings loudly, and the catafalque party abandon their watch over the memorial, marching with paces ringing out as the three ranks mount then ascend the stairs before turning left across the façade of the memorial.
I think, after my early rise, bus ride, and shivering in the darkness, I have found two moments to hold onto: the call of the cockatoos, and the ringing out of those boots as the guard climbed those stairs, with the eyes of all assembled watching on.
We were all united, there to say, thank you.
Lest we forget.
Well it doesn’t take too much to work out i haven’t been writing much lately.
I’d like there to be at least an excuse, or even better a reason – but no, I’ll have to come clean and admit i just haven’t made writing a priority like i had planned to.
Since my last blog, i have now been to New Delhi in an effort to gain some certifications. I’ll leave myself a bit of scope to write more later – flying with Air Malasia, the confronting nature of poverty in New Delhi, and studying with Koenig Solutions.
While the Autism Marathon continues, I’m very happy to point to success – we all attended football presentation and there was nothing which happened to make that a bad idea. Regardless of my early concerns, my son is tackling reading with grate enthusiasm, and is currently loving Suess classics such as “The Diggingest Dog” and “Go, Dog, Go”. Family life presents us with the same type of challenges i recall from my own childhood, and does not seem vastly different to what I have watched my brothers going through with their own children.
So, red-faced and feeling sheepish, all I can suggest is I’ve written again today. And I’ll be aiming to do more, soon!
There’s just something about a fire. Fire brings people together, and gets to the core of being a bloke.
Over the weekend we had a pretty full day lined up – footy, too far away to get to, then another game of footy, lunch and a post-lunch get-together with some kids footy friends. The kind of day any autistic kid could be excused for not handling at all.In all, a massive first weekend for the school holidays (which have arrived just in the snotty nick of time).
That’s right, we were taking our little autsie off to a whole new place. A private house. Where there are… let’s just say more than a comfortable number of people sharing what us Westies would say was a house on the smaller side of the scale. Incredibly, the multi-generational thing just works for J & her family. I don’t know how they manage it, and truth be told I’m not too keen on experimenting to see if it would work for us! Something tells me that the house would become dramatically smaller if we were to throw an autistic 5 year old into the mix.
As luck would have it, the youngest boy there just adores Bob the Builder’s biggest ever fan. He hasn’t stopped to notice the whole autism thing, or to have to meet the gap between ignorance & intolerance – he still accepts that “people are different“. The Magpie, and Princess P, are likeable enough to fit into any gathering and showed that to be the case again.
But all parties need a theme. And this barbeque kept coming back to “the fire”.
They had, for whatever reason, done the kind of household cleanup normally reserved for an episode of Hoarders. But there was a fair bit of stuff left behind. Apparently this was reason enough for a bonfire in the back yard… no, it wasn’t that big, let’s stop at a “fire” (we did a reasonable job of restraining it to fit inside a wheelbarrow they no longer wanted).
If you think the kids were fascinated, you’re right, but UG! it was nothing on the blokes (myself included of course!). What could we chuck on there? How much better is a marshmallow once it’s been toasted – and why? Why is that wood burning so much better than this, and who on earth put those pieces on there in such a thoughtless way… they should go like THIS!
Still, something at that party must have clicked. Because our few extra kids managed to stay under the radar all night, even when they were shooting arrows at the host, or zooming around on ride-on cars which – lets face it – were never intended for a five year old. Autistic or otherwise!
Here’s hoping, there are more fireside moments in the offing.
Most my regulars already know about the fantastic web group that Nicole English kicked off over at the Autism United Ning community. Over the long weekend we celebrated not just Queen Elizabeth’s birthday, but also a certain Bogan Princess (complete with sash presentation). Happy Big For OH!
For the second time, a whole bunch of people who usually only meet each other on-line met at Club B, bringing along a whole bunch of citizens of the spectrum. This time, the weather kept everyone indoors… which did bring about a few concerns but they were pretty minor really! Far fewer trains than last time, but they still made an appearance. It was also nice to see another bloke, not just Westie & Brian. Maybe next time at Club B there’ll be another one… or two… no pressure!
It was a fantastic evening, and a fantastic opportunity to catch up with everyone shortly after the first confirmed “in the wild” sighting of Valerie Foley’s “The Autism Experience“ in an actual book-shop. Budding author that she is, quite a few signed copies were presented, and there was a lot of discussion of how well travelled, dog-eared, and tabbed for future continuing reference each persons copy had already become.
Oh and to the management of Club B, it seems you’re definitely in the sweet spot for the Sydney chapter of Autism United (we need t-shirts, or bag patches or something). On behalf of all the Westies, I hope you open the club to us again and again…
It’s been amazingly quiet around Westie Central: we’re down to only one child, and it’s the one who wouldn’t say anything if the house was on fire. We know this to be true because he’s set the toaster on fire without saying a word.
Amazingly it’s given his mother and I something we don’t really understand how little we normally have available: time. Time to breathe. Time to just be. Time to do more than the bare minimum essential to get through today, and hopefully get ready for tomorrow – usually we cannot even think about next week, until next week becomes tomorrow.
Amazingly, we’ve actually used that time!
Time to be with our son, uninterrupted.
Time to be with each other, uninterrupted (hey, there are benefits to non verbal, inward focussed children… just kidding. Maybe?)
Time to think, to plan… and then to prepare.
We have one day of it left, spent tonight being very social with one unplanned family visitor (well: one mum, and her three kids!) and one planned dinner visitor (again, really “1 mum plus two kids”) – about the first dinner-only visit I can recall. Two hours past normal bedtime for both our son and his two visitors (twin girls he knows from pre-school), amazingly, there were still three quite relatively calm children providing plenty of time for parents to be people not just parents.
One day. We have to get the most from it!
We all get so wrapped up in our own challenges. For those who aren’t aware, both Rebecca’s family and mine both live over five hour drive away from our own home here in Western Sydney.
This includes her brother, as well as my own three brothers, her parents and mine. Her family is in northen NSW, my own is in the Riverina. Which makes taking a break from things a bit difficult, and it also means that any travelling involves making the choice of which family we get to see for that trip.
This year we decided that with BTB Fan starting school in only five more weeks (sorry to scare any of you with that idea) we would stay in our own home for Christmas and avoid travelling altogether.
Today I rang, or had a phone call, from many of my family members. My eldest niece has for the first time made the choice to spend Christmas with her boyfriends family while my brother has gone to see his in-laws, with his wife and younger daughter.
My second eldest brother has had a shakey year: now that his youngest is looking toward university his wife has “very strongly” questioned their marriage, and right now it’s unclear if this was their last Christmas together.
And the third of my brothers has this year struggled with both financial fallout from a previous marriage, while dealing with the same journey we are all making here – identifying exactly what label is going to describe his youngest son, and how to give that son the best start in life. It is something that is still very up in the air.
Then I rang an aunty that I haven’t seen since before Princess P was born. The mother to a cousin whose name Rebecca and I chose for our first son.
Her husband is in palliative care with multi-systemic cancer.
We all face our own challenges, and they often leave us blind to the challenges of others. People who themselves, are dealing with challenges, and are blind to the challenges of everyone around them – including us.
Reproduced from the now-closed autism united ning website
appologies in advance for broken links