Can I do this without ranting?…

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It’s been a while since I’ve posted. I’ve been on a bit of a downward spiral and everything I have tried to post has turned into an insane rant that made me sound crazy. The truth is… I have gone crazy. But I’m pulling myself out of it bit by bit and I’m ready to post about it now.

To begin with… the ex and I were on a break. At least that’s what I thought. We were separated for almost two years, but spoke daily and saw each other almost as often. I was not looking for anyone else – the thought never even crossed my mind. We discussed getting back together, but we would fight again and nothing was ever set in stone. For me, anyway.

For him, it was a different story. He was looking elsewhere. And when he found someone else, they began dating. They posted lovey dovey pictures on their Facebook pages. They slept together. And then he told me he had found someone else and we were over for good. I did not handle it well. In fact, picture every crazed stalker sociopathic ex you’ve ever seen in the movies, whack them all together, and that was pretty much me. I’d like to think I would have handled it better if I had known we were definitely over before he started seeing another woman. But, in truth, I don’t know. I possibly would have flipped out just as badly as I did.

Two days ago was when it started to turn around. He picked up the rest of his things two days ago. He dropped off some things of mine that he had, including my old laptop. I was feeling a little bit good about it being over, when I looked at the laptop. He had deleted everything off it, as I had asked him to, except for one picture of him and her together. He had his arms around her and they were both smiling at the camera. The picture perfect couple. It felt like someone had slapped me in the face… I felt numb. It was the first time I had seen them together. I had seen pictures of her (yes, I stalked her Facebook), pictures of her kids, obviously pictures of him, even ones taken since we had split. But never of them together.

I haven’t seen or spoken to him since that night. I haven’t felt the urge to. I had sent emails, texts, angry voicemail messages that were never returned before that night… any way that I could contact him, I had done it all. But nothing since then. Today was the first day that I felt good more often than I felt bad. I haven’t cried today… yet. But I don’t think I will. I feel… not happy, it’ll be a while before I can say I feel happy… I don’t feel unhappy. Does that make sense?

I thought I might cry while posting this. But I’m smiling right now. Something I plan to do more and more often from now on. I’m still not looking for anyone else. It’s too soon for me. But I am looking after myself. I stopped eating, stopped showering, even stopped leaving the house for a while there. I lost a lot of weight and like the way I’m looking now. I’m eating again, but went out today and bought a lot of fresh, healthy food so I can keep my new figure. I showered today and even managed to whack on some cleanser and moisturiser too. I need to work on brushing my hair though. Although, messy buns are still fashionable, right?

I’m feeling more positive, more confident, more alive every day. I hope this continues. I hope that if I have a bad day again soon, and I probably will, that I can pick myself back up again quickly. Mostly, I just hope that the good days outweigh the bad from now on. I’d be happy with that.

Every Second Weekend

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Single parenting is kind of hard, but it does come with a pretty cool bonus – every second weekend the kids all go to their dad’s house. I would love to say I use this time to relax, catch up with friends, maybe even head out for a drink or two. In reality, it’s catch up time (no friends included).

After two weeks on my own with the kids, I have toys scattered in every room of the house, floors that I believe are meant to be white, dirty fingerprints along every wall, door and light switch, a pile of laundry to be washed that almost equals the lost property box at the school (anyone who has ever seen a school’s lost property box knows how bad this is!) and an equally high pile of laundry that has somehow managed to get washed but is yet to find its way home to a wardrobe or drawer.

There are dirty dishes in the sink, a total of 9 (yes, 9!) rubbish bins that need emptying, a garden… can I even call it a garden anymore?… full of weeds, more sand in the carpets than there is in the sandpit outside.

The pantry is littered with empty boxes and opened packets of snacks that will never be finished. There is usually at least one item in the fridge which is now completely unrecognisable. Windows are covered with smears and cobwebs (though I prefer to call this insulation – I know if I clean them properly, that big, bright sun will come beaming in even hotter).

I know it doesn’t all have to be done. I know it’s not the end of the world if there is still laundry and sandy floors at the end of the weekend. But I love the idea of starting fresh on a Monday. I sleep easier on a Sunday night, knowing that the house is clean and tidy and this is a new week – a week that could promise anything.

I used to wave goodbye to the kids before coming back inside to look at the house and feel completely overwhelmed. Where do I start? What really needs to be done? What can be left if I don’t have enough time? How long has it been since I vacuumed under the sofa? Do we really need two toilets? Can we turn that one into a linen closet?

My first real plan of action came about a year or so ago, when I realised I was making myself depressed every fortnight having to deal with these questions over and over again. I was going to get organised if it killed me. I semi-followed Flylady’s guides, among others, personalising them to my needs, before I realised I was spending more time planning housework than I actually spent doing housework. My house was generally cleaner on a day-by-day basis, but it was taking up far too much time. Plus, considering how easily I get distracted, it was never a good idea for me to have to sit down and check what I should be cleaning instead of just cleaning.

“Today, we’re focusing on the living area… good… I’ll just quickly check my email while I’m here… Oh My God Officeworks Are Having A Mega Sale!!! Where are my shoes? Already on my feet? Let’s go!” (Bet you didn’t envision that happening when you said we should always put our shoes on in the morning, hey, Flylady?!?)

So, obviously, this wasn’t working for me and I quickly went back to crying in the corner after the kids had left, wondering how much vodka it would take to actually not see the mess anymore. Or even if I could see it, at the very least, I wanted to not care about it.

My next plan was a lot simpler. Pick a room – any room – and just focus on that. Forget the rest of the house. This, although simple, was more of a disaster than my previous attempts at a clean, tidy, organised house. I don’t think anything kills your motivation more easily than realising you’ve spent half a day cleaning the playroom (the first room destroyed once the kids are home again) and the rest of the house still looks like a hurricane has swept through it.

A couple of months ago, however, I formed an idea which is so far still working for me. I would come back into the house, walk through each room, and start writing a list of what needed doing. I would focus on the most important things first and once I got down to number 10, I would stop. It didn’t matter if I could think of a hundred things to write down, I never added more than ten to the list. For really big jobs, like the weeds in the garden, I would add a 20 or 30 minute time limit.

And then I just did it. Sometimes in order, sometimes random items from the list that I felt like doing at the time. It didn’t matter. The main thing was that I had stopped feeling so overwhelmed by everything. Suddenly there wasn’t more than I could handle – there were only ten things that needed doing and I had an entire weekend to do them.

Once My Top Ten, as I started calling my little list, had been completed, I could see – both in the house and on paper – exactly what I had achieved. The house wasn’t perfectly clean and tidy, but I had gotten most of it under control and I could actually sit back and relax and be proud of what I had done. Usually, I finish My Top Ten and realise that there isn’t too much left to do anyway, so I’ll keep going. The house gets cleaned, without the stress, and without the feeling of not being able to cope with it all.

And I get to start my Mondays afresh, with the hope of good things coming my way.

The day that everything turned around (for the better).

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I’ve been complaining about government departments and services for over three years now. Well, probably longer, but the last three years have been the worse. All I wanted, after realising the Aspie (and myself) needed help, was to get us that help. Lost referrals, extremely long waiting lists, an abundance of red tape meaning that even once he was diagnosed, we still couldn’t get help because he needed a second diagnosis… the list goes on.

Everything changed yesterday.

After years of waiting and searching for answers, I had an appointment to register the Aspie with AutismSA. I was anxious on my way there, because this was my last hope. Even after finally getting a proper diagnosis, I had only been told that there was help available but still didn’t know where or who to turn to in order to access this help. I was told I needed to go back and see the first paediatrician who had diagnosed the Aspie, and he would sort this all out for us, but the paediatrician didn’t have a practice anymore. I was completely lost.

I spent an hour with one of the workers at AutismSA. He went through all the services I might ever need to access (dozens more than I ever knew existed!) and was extremely detailed in how I needed to access each service – some required a referral from a GP, some a paediatrician (any paediatrician, which is a lot easier than being told I needed to see a certain paediatrician who didn’t practice any more!) and some required that I simply contact the service directly. It was all there for me in black and white – if you need this, this is what you need to do to get it. I finally knew exactly what services I was eligible for and how to access them. This, in itself, was an incredible relief.

But wait, there’s more!

He then went on to ask me what issues we were currently having. I talked about the issues with school and homework and how much of a struggle it was at the moment. He told me that I have the right to arrange a Negotiated Education Plan (NEP) with the school, and most schools wouldn’t actually bring this up with you. It was up to the parent to organise it all. The NEP gives me a say in which resources the Aspie can access in school and the areas that I feel he needs more help in. At the moment the Aspie is getting extra help with spelling, although spelling has never been an issue for him – he has always been in the top spelling group. He is getting no extra help with subjects that he is actually struggling with. An NEP can ensure that he is getting the help that he actually needs. I was given the contact details of an advocacy group who can help with putting an NEP together and they can even attend any meetings with the school to discuss it, so I don’t have to go it alone.

He then moved on to discussing homework. If you’ve read any of my previous posts, you’ll know what a huge issue this has been for us. Just getting him to sit down and do anything is the first of the struggles. Getting him to do it properly is more than I can handle most days.

“Use his special interest to get him to do homework, and be specific,” I am told. “Reward him for doing it, but reward him more for doing it well.”

I have already been trying something similar, but it was more of a “do your homework or no computer” type thing. The advice given to me about being more specific was what made it actually all work. Instead of “do your homework and you can use the computer”, last night it became “spend 15 minutes on your homework and then you can have 15 minutes on the computer. If you do a good job with your homework, you can have a bonus 10 minutes.”

The Aspie became so focused on doing his homework well, that he sat down last night and spent 45 minutes straight on it. No complaining or fighting when it was time to get started. No whining because he had been sitting there “forever” and it wasn’t done yet (this usually happens around ten minutes into homework time). The homework was not only completed last night, but it was the highest quality homework I have seen from the Aspie in years.

I don’t know how long this will last. There have been various techniques that I have tried over the years that have worked for a short time, but nothing that has ever been a permanent solution. For now, though, it is working. And I couldn’t be more relieved.

Edit: I wrote this earlier today but for some reason it didn’t post. The homework that the Aspie did last night I considered his best for a long time. Unfortunately he lost marks for having it handed in late. I am so disappointed with this. It was obvious to me that he had spent a lot of time on it, and I am sure his teacher would have noticed this too. Why couldn’t she let the lateness slide just once and grade him on the job he did? Acknowledge the effort that he had put into it? He worked his ass off and he still ends up feeling like it’s not good enough! Something else to consider when I start work on the NEP!

“He Recognised the Number Three”

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The title of this post refers to a sentence I have either spoken, typed or texted no less than ten times today. I’m a little excited, and will try and explain why.

I scrutinize everything the Rugrat does. After we started going through the (extremely long and painful) diagnosis process with the Aspie, I started seeing so many comparisons between my two boys. There were far too many similarities and I am constantly wondering if we are heading down the same track with the Rugrat. The Rugrat is developing slighter slower than average – still within the normal range – but it always makes me remember the Aspie at the same age. When the Aspie was three, he, too, was just a little behind. The speech delays, the clinginess, the food aversions, the intense dislike of strangers. Most of these are probably normal three-year-old behaviours, but because the Diva never showed any of them, I tend to connect them to Aspergers rather than typical toddler behaviour.

So when the Rugrat does something – anything – that his older brother could never do at that age, I get excited. The Rugrat has excellent fine motor skills, he loves drawing with pencils, using tools (either toy or real – I still can’t work out where he keeps finding all those screwdrivers) and he can easily pick up the smallest of items. These are things that the Aspie didn’t grasp until he started school at the age of 5.

Today, the Rugrat and I were reading a book and he pointed to the number three and said “three”. I was over the moon. He may not be able to count to 20 or know his entire alphabet, as some of his friends can, but the little things that he does, which let me know he is right on track developmentally, mean so much more to me.

Very Inspiring Blogger Award Post That I Eventually Got Around to Writing!

ImageI really don’t know if the lovely (not to mention brutally honest, super funny and downright awesome) Cookie86 at I have an opinion I’d like to share and the not-quite-crazy-but-getting-there Desiree (did I mention she was also extremely funny and an incredibly awesome mum too?) at Of Moms and Monsters actually realise how pretty damn awesome they made me feel when they nominated me for the Very Inspirational Blogger Award. Even though it’s taken me over a week to get to this post, I’m still grinning about it. The point of this award is to acknowledge someone whose blog you enjoy reading and for that person to, in turn, pay it forward and list their favourites too. I’m a little excited about doing this – I’d love to give someone else the same feeling and stupid-happy-grin that Cookie and Desiree gave me!

Before we start, here are the rules:

  1. Display the logo on your blog
  2. Link back to the person who nominated you
  3. State 7 things about yourself
  4. Nominate 15 other bloggers for the award
  5. Notify your nominees by linking to their blogs so they get notified by ping-back.

Okay, being wordpress-blog-challenged, it has already taken me a stupid amount of time to get this far but I’m pretty sure I’ve got the first two covered now (and I know how to do the link things now! Finally!) So we’re up to 7 things about me. Wow, this is hard. I write far more about my kids than I do myself because I never know what to say about me. But… Here we go…

  1. I started this first one 17 minutes ago. And got as far as 1. – I kid you not. So, for number one, I guess I should tell you… I am easily distracted and extremely forgetful. Though I think that’s something of an understatement. I forget what I’m saying mid-sentence, at least twice a day. I walk into a room thirteen times before I realise what I’m going in there for. I have set the smoke alarm off on more than one occasion (okay, 20. Maybe more.) because I’m cooking dinner and wander off to do something else while it simmers. I hairdry uniforms that have been left outside in the rain overnight. If they actually get washed at all. I could probably spend another two days adding to this list, but I’m bored of it now…
  2. I am a list freak. This does relate to number one, obviously, but it goes much deeper than that. I have lists for everything – not just the general shopping and to-do lists – but everything.  I have lists of movies, books and games I own, stuff to pack when the kids go to their dad’s house, my housework routines, meals to cook for the next month, Christmas present ideas, things to do with the kids during school holidays, stuff I want to sell on eBay (I could just, you know, put the damn things on eBay)… you get the picture. Currently my iPad holds 17 apps solely used for creating lists (I recommend Paperless, by the way – create multiple lists!)
  3. I am obsessed with stationery. I have more stationery items than I could ever possibly use in my lifetime (though, strangely, do not have a list of these items). Pens, rulers, notebooks, an insane amount of highlighters given the fact that I never have the need to highlight anything… just yesterday I gave the Diva a hole-punch after discovering I have four of them. But I would still go out shopping for stationery tomorrow if given the chance.
  4. I am extremely disorganised. Given my penchant for lists and stationery, you’re probably surprised. But I am honestly more likely to create a list of things to take to a dentist appointment than I am to write the appointment down in one of my many calendars. Luckily, the dentist will text me the morning of my appointment. I wish everyone else did too.
  5. I love being scared. Not as in psycho killer at my bedroom window kind of scared… but psycho killer on the tv making me think that there probably will be a psycho killer at my bedroom window in the near future kind of scared. I love all things horror – I don’t care if a movie has no plot, bad acting and a script that my three-year-old could have written – if it makes me check under the bed before turning out the lights, it’s a damn good movie.
  6. I am a night owl and I hate mornings with a passion. My usual bedtime is around 2am. Midnight is considered an early night and 4am is a late one. My record for how long I can hit a snooze button for stands at 1 hour and 14 minutes.  This will never be broken as I no longer own (or plan to buy) a dumbass alarm clock that lets you hit snooze for over an hour. If I’ve spent an entire hour hitting snooze, it’s time for you to shut the hell up.
  7. I complain about my kids a lot. It’s easy to put into words how much they frustrate me, and I have no trouble communicating the various (and numerous) escapades they get up to, which will invariably send me into a strait jacket one day. What I struggle to say sometimes is how much I love them… there are no words strong enough to describe the way I feel about these incredible, amazing, beautiful, brilliant, inspiring little people that I share my life and all of my heart with.

Wow. I hope you enjoyed reading all of that – it took an excruciating amount of time and thought to write! On to the next part – those bloggers who inspire me. I must admit I am new to all of this and don’t have nearly enough time to read all of the blogs that I love, and every day I discover some new writer that makes me long for an ounce of their talent with words. Here is what I am reading (and loving!) at the moment (in alphabetical order, of course) – please check them out if you have a moment.

Anne Marie East
Bad Parenting 101
Beginner’s Guide to a Nervous Breakdown
Carrie Blueberry
Daily Ramblings of a Confused Mind
Fat Mum Slim
Inside the Mind of an Aspie
Normal is the New Boring
Parenting and Stuff
Raising 5 Kids with Disabilities and Remaining Sane
These Are the Days

You may have noticed that I have only listed 11, instead of the required 15. I could find another 4 random blogs to throw in this list, but it’s more important to me to put those down that have made me think, or feel, or act… those that truly have inspired me. And to make it up to 13, both Cookie and Desiree who nominated me, also belong on this list. Keep up the great work.

Homework… part 2 of 91, 486 ???

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It’s 9.10pm and the Aspie is thrusting a piece of paper in my face, whining that “It’s not good enough” and “I’m going to fail”. I ask him what it is.

“My super speakers! (Basically an “older kids” version of show and tell) It’s due in tomorrow!”

I ask him why he hadn’t started it earlier and I am informed that he is “stressed out because he has too much homework”.

I point out that he has not done any homework at all for the last five days and if he had been doing a little bit each night, then he wouldn’t suddenly have too much homework the night before it is due.

He replies with, “but I’ve got something else due in tomorrow too and they gave me no time to get it done!”

“When did they give you the homework?”

“Friday,” he mumbles.

He’s had all weekend as well as Friday, Monday and Tuesday afternoon. That, according to the Aspie, is “no time”.

“But I did do my spelling homework!” he tells me.

I ask him when he did that, and he says that it was done at school during class time. Technically, I think, not really homework then.

“Plus I have that stupid homework grid to worry about!” The Aspie is now in tears and is working up to a meltdown. I tell him not to worry about the homework grid – he knows I sign off on it even if he doesn’t do it. The teacher doesn’t check if it’s been done, only that I’ve signed. I ask him to show me the other homework that is due in tomorrow, wondering if we have time to work on that as well as fix up his super speakers before bedtime.

“I haven’t got it here. I forgot it.”

I suggest he ask his teacher for more time and he then informs me that his teacher sent a note home saying she wants to speak to me.

“About what?” I ask.

“Homework,” he says. “I told her you don’t like it.”

By this stage, I am internally working up to a meltdown myself, struggling to stay calm and collected on the outside. I ask him how the conversation came up about me not liking the homework that has been set. He tells me he was telling his friends he doesn’t like the homework and they were agreeing with him when the teacher walked past. So he told her that I didn’t like the homework either.

I think that was the point where I officially gave up.

I arranged a meeting on Thursday. I am dreading it.

The Week That Was… Not Very Good!

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Monday. As my alarm starts going off, before I can even consider hitting snooze, the Rugrat wakes up next to me, leans over and pukes everywhere. Then starts crying. I am covered in vomit, sitting in a vomit covered bed, and now have to console a vomit covered toddler. Yep, great start to the week.

The next six hours are much of the same. Vomit, cry, console, run around cleaning before the next load of puke. By 2pm, we are at the point where if he doesn’t drink some water and keep it down, it’s off to the Emergency Room. By 3pm, he has managed to drink 100ml of water and not vomit. Woohoo.

Monday night I am wide awake most of the night, listening to a snoring Rugrat beside me, still concerned that he will start vomiting again. His temperature has been sitting at over 38 degrees for 20 hours now. Efforts to get panadol into him to bring down his temperature result in a screaming, running toddler who gets even hotter and then spits up the 2ml of panadol I have been able to get into his mouth.

At 3am, convinced that the Rugrat is in a rather deep sleep, I sneakily get half a dose of panadol into him before he wakes up squealing. The panadol stays down. Within 15 minutes his temperature drops from 39.7 to 37.1.

Tuesday. I have had less than four hours sleep and expect to wake up to three sick kids, but instead have none. The Rugrat is as awake and boisterous as ever, no hint of the illness that had knocked him out the previous day. The Aspie and the Diva go to school, feeling fine.

I’m completely zombified for the next couple of hours until I realise the caffeine isn’t cutting it and I need sleep. I put a movie on for the Rugrat and lie down, ignoring the poking and the “mum, no sleeping!” I crash out in an instant, and just as quickly am awoken by the phone – the Aspie is sick, can I please pick him up? For a second, I consider saying no.

A call to the Ex, who not only goes and picks up the Aspie and drops him home, but offers to take the Rugrat for a few hours. I have never packed a bag for him quicker than I did then. The Aspie and I spend the rest of the day sleeping.

Wednesday. I am suspiciously checking out the Aspie and the Diva for any signs of illness before I let them leave for school. They are still at that magical age where school is great and they actually want to go every day (I’m predicting this won’t last much longer though). They get the all clear and head off. The Rugrat is having a “no” day today – “no” to getting dressed, eating breakfast, anything I ask him to do really… I am feeling quite desperate to get out of the house, but it’s not happening. Which is probably a good thing, as by lunchtime I am starting to feel a bit queasy. Yep, my turn now! The rest of the day is spent lying on the sofa, praying that it passes as quickly as it did with the boys.

Thursday. Day care day. Surprisingly we have no issues getting out of the house today, and the Rugrat is dropped off at daycare early enough for the children to still be playing outside before morning tea. I breathe a huge sigh of relief. When they’re outside, the Rugrat kisses me, waves goodbye and runs off to play. When they’re inside, he screams blue murder and needs to be pried off of me.

I’m starting to feel that the week is turning around. Finally, things are looking up. This lasts for almost an hour, when I get a call from the Ex saying he has bad news. His PayPal account has been hacked. There was another bankcard attached to the account as well as his, and he thinks it might be mine. I check my bank, and almost cry when I see my credit card balance. Not only has every last cent been taken, but they’ve even managed to overdraw it another $150. (Note: 4 days later, still waiting to see if either the bank or PayPal can refund the money – we have both looking into it).

Friday. Friday is good. Well, it starts out that way at least. I’ve had a horrid week, today I am heading out, despite the Rugrat’s protests, and spoiling myself something stupid. Of course, with an overdrawn credit card, spoiling myself something stupid is sadly limited to a couple of new stationery items.

I have to confess something here. There are two things that always make me happy. Buying new stationery and the colour pink (I have a crazy obsession with both). Pink stationery is, therefore, pure Heaven. So when I see a ream of pastel pink paper, I am ecstatic. Add some fancy letter stickers and I’m practically bouncing out the store, picturing new personally designed inserts for my (pink) Filofax.

We reach the train station just as the kids bus is due to arrive and I tell the Rugrat that we will wait for them and go to McDonald’s for ice cream while we wait for the train. Life is good again. We wait. And wait. And wait. The bus pulls in 15 minutes late and only five minutes before the train is due. Instead of eating ice cream, I am dragging a kicking, screaming toddler in the opposite direction of McDonald’s so we can catch our train.

Friday night. The Rugrat is asleep and I’m opening up my pretty pink paper ready for a weekend of being all creative and stuff. I’m close to bursting with excitement. The damn plastic finally rips open and I watch as all 500 sheets of paper drop into the fish tank (these poor fish tend to get shoved around to different parts of the house whenever something new is brought in to take their place – their current home is on a small table at the end of the kitchen bench). I pull the dripping paper from the tank, quickly check to see if the fish have lived through yet another ordeal and slap it down on the bench, watching as the ends of the paper begin to curl up.

So, in (not so) short… that was basically my week. I think I now owe the swear jar a couple of hundred dollars.