Wednesday, 28 July 2010

Good day, bad day

Okay, so I need your votes at the end please. (If I was really clever there would be an appropriate widget or response button, but technophobe that I am, I rely solely on the 'comments' box.)

Is this a good day or a bad day?

Alarm didn't go off.
Husband woke naturally and in comfortable time to catch train.

Daughter bounced into the room, fully dressed, at 7.15.
Son has to be woken at 8.30.

In the three hours of my daughter's dance lesson, my son and I managed a trip to the tile shop to pick up the mosaics and to IKEA (a 40 minute drive each way) for furniture.
The mosaics hadn't come in. 'Friday,' she says. Builder (and tiler) not impressed.
The bedroom furniture was in, and kitchen worksurface so large that son had to hold it in place in the car for the entire journey home (or risk decapitation!) It helps being female and on your own - better still, with a child in tow: there is always some man available to lift the heavy boxes and pack the car properly for you.

The urgent shower tray delivery, that the builder wants yesterday, isn't in. Or, at least, they haven't rung. Further investigation reveals it is in but the man in charge was off yesterday. I collect it before collecting my daughter from dance: I am late for her.

The road is blocked off. Turns out it is for a delivery to my house.

My daughter's friend accidentally breaks something I brought back from Zambia.
Daughter, son and their two friends play very happily together all afternoon: no tears, no grief, no arguments ... and only a modicum of TV/computer/DS time.

Bathstore claim they've delivered all our sanitary ware two weeks ago 'and the computer can't be wrong'.
Bathstore ring back later to say they've located the error...

Man comes to fix washing machine. He runs a rinse cycle and can find nothing wrong.
After he's gone I run a cottons wash and water again leaks onto the tea-towel on the floor.

Lovely lady from electricity company rings and apologises for refunding us money in April then demanding £500 from us in June. She agrees to either of my proposed repayment plans: my choice!

Bake choc chip muffins and chocolate courgette cake.
Forget to cook dinner.

Husband gets home early. Or, at least, in time to see the children before bed.
He has to work on a presentation for tomorrow.

Whilst writing this I run the bath in plenty of time for my daughter (the combi boiler and bath size combine to require a good 5-10 minutes to get a half-decent layer of water) ... only to discover that I forgot to close the plug.

Only one G&T.

So tell me: good day, or bad day?!

Tuesday, 27 July 2010

Summer holiday fun

Am I a peculiar mother, given I dread the summer holidays?

I am blessed by only having a shade over 5 weeks in which to entertain my children, but still the thought of it stretching out in front of me fills me with dread.

Five weeks! What to do? What to do?

I have spent too many of them moving house, of course. Last year we moved in the summer half-term, but the previous two summers had been spent moving house. And this year we move back into our refurbished house (woo hoo!!) So perhaps that is much of the dread. After all, young children and packing boxes and chaos is not a good mix. They get fed up, bored, frustrated and I get nothing done.

This summer I had decided to take a more chilled out approach. The first week I'd get the children into some activity or childcare, whilst the house was completed, then I'd have three weeks in which to gradually move back in. We could alternative house-moving with days out (yes, the technical term is bribery) and be all settled before our late, brief holiday and term starting again.

Then this happened. Now my three weeks has vanished. I am still overseeing a house refurb and entertaining the children. Furthermore, if the build overruns any more our holiday will be threatened and my desire to be settled before term recommences looks less and less likely.

Well, I have dealt with the first problems by finding more activities for the children to attend and, believe it or not, I am sorry and a little resentful. Being 9 and 7, my children are a good age for enjoying many activities and days out, and the need for me to be around for last minute corrections and purchases for the house limits the flexibility I would like for doing such things with them. Despite the grey cloud of five weeks looming, I do love my kids and recognise this is precious time with them, time that I will never recoup.

I have no doubt we'll manage to squeeze something in other than trips to IKEA. But I am - now - looking forward to next summer when I will be in control, not the builders or removal men!

Wednesday, 21 July 2010

Dear Blog,

Sorry not to have called by for a while. It is quite scary how much time the house refurbishment takes up. Combine that with children that will insist on attention, clothes that pile up demanding to be washed, end of term activities and celebrations and a husband working so, so hard and - well, you get my absenteeism.

Please forgive me. I still love you.

I'm sorry I haven't had chance to tell you about the debacle over my daughter's report. Nor about the magnificent rendition of 'Bright Eyes' on the trombone by my son. Nor the BMB meet-up in Manchester last week. Nor the builders' optimism about finishing the job on time.

I haven't told you about the book's progress: how it is loved by my writing group but nearly annihilated by others. I haven't managed to write about orange albinism (inspired by the story of the black couple who gave birth to a white baby) nor wax lyrical about the beauties of St Andrews (aside from the golf). I haven't entered the writing competitions that I planned too, nor read the books that are piling up in my bedroom.

I haven't shared all the exciting things we're going to do during our summer holidays. We're moving house. We hope. (Well, now I have shared all the exciting things we're going to do during our summer holidays...)

Don't despair: I'll be back imminently with tales of family laughter and woe. Just not last week. And maybe not next week, but who knows?

With love,

Monday, 12 July 2010

Tied to the apron strings? I think not!

Last weekend my daughter went on Brownie Camp. This was her first time away with friends, rather than staying with grandparents or for a sleepover. Her mother (that is, me!) was all fretful and concerned.

She bounced into the place they were staying and squeaked and squealed with excitement over her bed, the drawer and shelf she could put things on. (She does have these things at home as well!) She was delighted to be sharing with some older girls and another girl in her year. She rushed around, finding out about the facilities and showing the girls who arrived just moments later what there was available.

I decided to leave after she ran past me at great speed shouting, "Bye mum!" with barely a glance. I know when I'm not needed!

Being mum, I did spend much of the peaceful weekend without her worrying. Was she okay? Did she talk with friends? Would she manage to keep up with the other girls? Would she be laughed at, teased, ridiculed? Did she eat what she was given? Has she cried herself to sleep or (for that matter) has she slept at all?

She almost paid attention to me when I returned to pick her up, although chatting to her roommate was more interesting than helping me pack and collect everything. Eventually I got a chance to talk with her.

"I missed you!" I said, giving her a kiss.

She smiled. "Where were you?" she asked.

"At home," I replied.

"Oh. I did wonder," she said ... and promptly fell asleep in the car.

Tuesday, 6 July 2010

Falling foul of the system

I have blogged before about my daughter's difficulties at school. I don't like to write much, for her own privacy, but it has a great impact on our lives and the focus of our attention. I joke that I have children two years apart chronologically but four years academically. I think the four is growing - at both ends! My son keeps on at leaps and bounds.

My daughter's progress is slower, but she has shown a marked improvement over the year and I am inordinately proud of her. She is a bright and cheerful child who loves life. Unfortunately she has trouble with concentration and comprehension, both of which spill over into many aspects of schoolwork.

Before you ask: here are some of the background details. She is being seen by speech & language and has been assessed by OT. She is getting extra sessions, principally for confidence building, from SEN and they are giving as much extra time to her in class as is reasonable (given, for some reason, they feel a need to teach all the other children as well!) We've checked her eyesight and hearing (both fine) and hopefully she'll be seen by an educational psychologist in the next three months. She remains a mystery.

In many ways I'm delighted that she is unable to be labelled, but labels do often aid in knowing how to help a child. If she was autistic, there are schemes and charities in place to help. If dyslexic, similarly. If just generally not at the level she should be... nothing. It would be nice to have a clear plan as to how to help her progress.

My husband (a paediatrician) also knows there is something wrong without being able to pinpoint it. In amongst all the assessments already done, we thought it would be a good idea if she was seen by a developmental paediatrician. He (or she!) would be able to assess whether she is progressing normally according to her age. Maybe she simply is a year or so behind and if we accept that she will progress as normal, and maybe with a bit of help catch up a bit. Or maybe she is falling further and further behind and her development is not in line with 'the standard'. Either way, this could only be assessed by a specialist.

So I got a referral from the GP.

I dutifully took my daughter to the hospital for the appointment.

I spent nearly half an hour explaining my daughter's history and my concerns.

Then, at the end, he very kindly explained to me that he wasn't a developmental paediatrician but a general paediatrician with a specialisation in diabetes. He had been given the appointment because there was a waiting list to see the community team. There is nothing obviously wrong, he said. Come back again in four months.

Of course, by then it was too late for me to do anything about it. What was I supposed to do? Throw a hissy fit? Not my style. I came home and brooded. My daughter had lost a precious morning's education for an assessment that her father could have done.

There is nothing obviously wrong. My husband can do a general assessment to conclude that! Heck - I can conclude that! What I needed was a specialist. Someone who would look closely at my daughter's handwriting and recognise that it was behind standard. Someone who would think that my daughter's struggle to know how to draw a man was perhaps a little odd when aged 7. Someone who would know that a sibling of a very bright child and daughter of highly academic parents should be comfortable at school. Someone who would play some games with her and find out what her maturity was like.

I have to play the system. It was no-one's fault: the NHS machinations don't have a little flag saying 'this child is complicated' but a deadline for appointments. I either fell foul of the 'be seen within 18 weeks' rule (I was, impressively, seen within eight weeks) or of their subtle scheme for filtering out the children who are being pushed by paranoid parents, the parents who simply think their child is brighter than he or she really is. I wish I was just paranoid. But I have a husband, educated in the field, who is also concerned. I have a headmaster with many years of experience who is baffled by her. She is not straightforward.

Now I am trying, gently, to avoid apportioning blame. As with the house delays, we have to move on from here and now, not from back then. The pressing issue is to get her the right appointment. Hopefully the lovely receptionist at the GPs will be more effective with her second letter, sent directly to the developmental paediatricians (by name).

And just think: I haven't even begun on the battle with the educational authority to get her 1:1 support in class. Oh, my war has barely started, but rest assured: the only winner will be my daughter. Somehow.

Thursday, 1 July 2010

Conversations you don't expect to have...

Last week I called the builder. I was about to order the flooring and other bits for the house and needed to know when he wanted them.

"I've got quite a list," I said. "Shall I start at the top and work down?"

"Okay," he said. "Fire away."

"Well, first on the list is floor tiles. When would you like them delivered?"

There was a pause whilst he checked lists and schedules. "How about 2 August?"

I laughed. Clearly he's joking (as he has before), since the job is due to finish 30 July. My plan is to move in on 2 August.

"Very funny," I said. "Now, when do you really want them?"

"2 August."

Alarm bells start ringing. "But you finish on 30 July."

"No, we finish on 30 August."

Alarm bells deafening the brain's functioning cells. "Erm, no! 30 July."

There was a period of banter where we flung final dates at each other, then he explained everything that needed to be done and how there was six weeks of plastering to be done and four weeks of decorating and still the drains and the plumbing and electrics and...

"I think I'd better just speak to my architect about this," I finally squeezed in, and the conversation ended.

My architect (well, his substitute: he has inconveniently gone off on paternity leave!) was a little bemused. He checked his records. Yes: everything was 30 July. The contract we signed just a few weeks ago: yes, 30 July. I left him to break the news to the building contractors.

It was too early in the day to start on the gin. (No, really, it was. Even in this situation I couldn't resort to that!) So I went and ate a tonne of chocolate instead...

And now? Well, I suspect we'll split the difference! They are hoping to bring in the job two weeks early, and I am thus anticipating moving in two weeks late. (Or maybe three...) There are many more men on site and I think a lot of overtime will be worked but thankfully we are protected by the contract. And I have utter confidence in our builders, who have stated that they won't let us move back in unless the finish is perfect - so they'd better not cut corners!

Oh, the joys of building projects!
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