Thursday, 28 March 2013

Stepping into the light

A conversation about secrets led me to a rather surprising realisation this week. I realised that I don't have secrets. An introvert without secrets? Huh? The more I thought, the more I had to face that there is nothing about me that someone, somewhere doesn't know. Even the really crappy stuff. In fact, especially the really crappy stuff. Loads of people know that.

I was a tad disappointed. I mean, where's the mystery? When it comes to being a dark horse I'm an albino donkey. It's rubbish.

And so it was that things started to bubble. I've had excruciatingly horrific nightmares. From typical anxieties to really dark stuff. Torture by fire anyone? Starving, dying, white tigers kept in boxes? Terminal disease in transparent organs? Teeth dissolving and leaving gaping wounds? My child being miles away and terrified while I try, and fail, to run to her as fast as I can?

I'm doing it again aren't I? Oversharing.

Deciding that these visions of terror were being pushed to the surface by something better underneath and that it is A GOOD THING, I took deep breaths and tried not to dwell on the possibility that I may be a psychopath. Thankfully, I believe that was the correct thing to do because lo and behold...a secret emerged. A little secret ambition. Covered in dust, brushing itself down and blinking in the daylight. Thinking it was still 1943. Sort of.

I'm not going to tell you what it is (although I'll confess that my first thought was,"Oh! Blog post!"). I'm going to try keeping a secret for once. For a while.

It was so secret that it had even become secret from me because I forgot. It's nothing huge or dramatic, just the remembering of a dream. And it seems to me that all the things I'm trying to do now and all the things I've tried to do in the past, have all been about me approaching this secret goal by the back door. Sneaking in and hoping no one notices and laughs at me.

As horrible as the last few nights have been, they were simply the casting aside of fear. Throwing a light on the crazy so that this sweet little secret could, with strength that belies its size, see to push itself back to the front of me.

This coincides with my birthday, a month from now. The birthday that feels like a rebirth; that feels like the start of something I've been rehearsing all this time. I have actual stage fright.

It's all rather exciting.

Monday, 25 March 2013

Underground. Still.

It's not that things haven't been happening. Thoughts have been thought, ideas have been had, days have passed with smiles, sighs, laughs and weather-induced frustration. I just can't seem to drag myself out of hibernation yet.

We had a dry day.

I found a re-excavated fox den at the end of a field. Protected by wood and water and distance from the public footpaths. The word 'den' hardly describes it. There must be at least 30 entrances over a wide area. This is Foxopolis. Paw prints and feathers everywhere. Fresh earth at each hole. Surrounded by primroses and the tiny tips of bluebell shoots. I'm so glad the foxes are there. I so hope they are safe.

I read that this is the coldest March the UK has had in 50 years. The last time it was this cold, I went and got myself born as soon as it warmed up a bit at the end of April. I like that. It makes me feel as though perhaps I'm looking at a rebirth next month. I've been sensing as much for a while.

Friday, 15 March 2013

The magic tree

Things have been a bit Evie-centric around here lately but that's an accurate reflection my life. Also, I love her to bits and enjoy telling people how awesome she is. I thought for a while about posting this but then thought it might, for a while, round off the posts in which I've spoken about the (re)discovery that she has sensory processing disorders and how concerned I've been for her and her self-confidence. Because I'm not concerned anymore. Watchful of how she is supported away from home: yes. Concerned about her future: no.

In the mornings Evie wakes up about half an hour before we get up and crawls into bed next to me. Sometimes she sleeps some more, sometimes she talks. This was how it went down this morning:

E: Mum? Is it palm sunday this week?
J: I have absolutely no idea.
E: I've sussed out the Easter thing.
J: The Easter Thing?
E: Y'know how the Easter story says that Jesus gets a new life? Well I was thinking that eggs are new life. They're a symbol. And this is when all the flowers come back to life too. It's all about new life. Mum? Who's Mary Magdalene?
J: Um...well she was a follower of Jesus. But some people believe that she was actually his wife.
E: Oh! There's this painting, on a wall, of the last supper and there's a woman sitting next to Jesus! I think that's her!
J: Wait...they told you about this in school???
E: Nooooooo. We had to copy the painting and I saw the one next to Jesus has a woman's face AND a woman's hand.'s OBVIOUS.
E: Mum?
J: Yes.
E: Do you still hate Justin Beiber?
(insert discussion about boy bands and child stars)
J: So you have to wear red to school today, Red Riding Hood. (Comic Relief Day fundraising)
E: We had to write letters from Red Riding Hood. We had to write a letter like we were Red Riding Hood, Grandma or the wolf.
J: Who were you?
E: I was the magic tree outside Grandma's house.

Two days ago she decided she wanted to ride her bike. This is not something we've looked forward to because...well...not the best balance in the world and the bike doesn't have stabilisers yet (it was her older cousin's). But hey, the grass is soft and the ground is softer, she's not going to do any damage falling off. So I held her waist while she got started. And I let go. And she cycled around the garden. First time. This morning she was bombing up and down the lane outside our house.

This kid doesn't need stabilisers. This kid doesn't need me hanging onto her 'just in case'. I'll just watch and be the proud support team.

Tuesday, 12 March 2013

Work deep

It had to happen, the stumbling.

So much to take in, not just with Evie but with life in general. So many plans to formulate, ideas to think over, hopes to have. I'm usually good at this in a super speedy, not actually following through kind of way but I'm feeling the need for sensible, real, life choices and commitment to them. To be honest, the thought of all the work involved in that makes me want to cry. And/or hide under a duvet with a Jack Russell.

This message keeps coming to me online, in books, on cards, by example: be still, know yourself, be patient, the way will appear. Chill the cuss out and take it slow.

This year started well, I was all about the stillness and the quiet, and it was wonderful. Somewhere along the line it's got messy again. I've lost my quiet time, the reflection, the listening. Also, I've caved in on the dairy front more often than I'd like. Are the two connected? More dairy means, by connection, more caffeine and more sugar, neither of which are any good at all for me. Breaking a promise makes me feel pretty crappy too.

Seeing myself be not good at this bit - the perseverance, the follow through, the work - is different now. In it I recognise Evie's struggles to sit at her desk and write her lessons. Her battle is against physical and neurological differences, making it hard to focus and organise her mind and body, leaving her flopped on her desk saying,"But I'm tiiiiiired...". I've never been clear where my battle is but I think the methods for getting through would work for both of us.
  • Break it down.
  • Keep it simple.
  • Take care of your body - good food, good exercise, good relaxation.
  • Remember your brain is your body too, it is not who you are.
  • Listen to it anyway, just don't believe what it tells you all the time.
  • Take breaks.
  • Don't believe you have to do things the way everybody else does.
  • Know you are good at this stuff when you do it your way.
  • Remember what works for you and repeat it.
  • Small successes have a big impact - celebrate them.
  • Choose a mantra to bring you home to your centre when you're spinning.
  • Use it.
  • Pull on your boots and get out in the fresh air.
  • Work deep.
Works for all of us, no?

Monday, 11 March 2013

Things I learnt this weekend

  • Chopping a To Do list into individual pieces, putting them in a bowl and picking out one at a time to do, as an experiment in teaching your child to be organised but not overwhelmed, works very well for me too.
  • Doing physical tests for proprioceptive awareness with a Sensory Processing Disorder child is not as easy as you'd think because she's not actually able to do the test. Ha!
  • Humour is essential (this knowledge was passed to me in my DNA but I've been reminded).
  • This SPD child lives with two parents who are as disorganised as she is mentally. I knew this but suddenly I know it.
  • She is not change averse, she just needs careful handling through transitions.
  • Big muscle exercising works.
  • When this child does a whole bunch of cross-body exercises and then says,"Hey Mum, I'm proud of myself. That's the first time I've ever said that I'm proud of myself." I will shed two tears. One out of sadness for the years she hasn't said it, and one out of happiness because we've finally found something that prompts her to say it.
  • Our lifestyle needs a huge overhaul which is daunting enough without having to organise myself enough to think about making transitions easy for others. Bring on the chopped-up list.
  • I can't be unaware of the need for and benefits of change now that I'm so aware of them.
  • In seven weeks I will be fifty. On some level I think it is too late. On another level I think why the fuck would it be? What if it's just in time?
  • I am scared stiff because I know that the only way to make an overhaul work is to do it for real. No half measures. To try to do it 'a bit' would mean failure. Crazy ass ideas might just work.
  • None of these thoughts about overhaul will be well-received by the other team members.
  • All my realisations about being the family 'fire tender' and the keeper of its holistic health have brought me here. If I am as proud and convinced of this task as I think I am then I need to up my game. If this needs to happen then it's my job to make it. 

A month or so ago, on the morning drive to work, I found myself sitting at some traffic lights. In a perfectly normal, not-happy-not-sad-just-normal daze. Suddenly I said out loud,"Okay let's do it. I'm in. Bring it on." I had no idea what I was talking about. At the time.

Friday, 8 March 2013


Back when I switched over to this blog I had intentions of making it about Evie and me. About bringing up a child to understand the wildness. Her wildness. But she'd begun to show signs of not wanting me poking a camera in her face and that made me reconsider a full-scale documentation. Also, it felt as if constantly thinking about how to blog the experience of our relationship would detract from the reality. Negatively impact it. Steal from the attention that should be on her and her alone.

Of course Evie and my relationship with her, and our relationship as a three person family with added dog, is the very centre of my life. As the individual who writes here I am a seeker of meaning and truth and have come to recognise and embrace that fact, but I am also a celebrant of  Life (I do love the word celebrant) and my nearest, dearest expression of Life is my family.

The artist and me in 2009.

All parents consider their kids to be exceptional - it's in the job description - and I've always felt Evie to be special. It's easy to brag about your kid knowing you're not bigging yourself up because clearly you didn't make her. My recent re-engagement with the possibility that Evie may have a way of processing sensory information that differs from the majority has only made my convictions about her stronger. However, I'd comforted myself that her differences were mild and didn't interfere with her life in anyway. Can you see where this is going?

Tuesday night I met with her teacher for the catch-up on progress that they do each term. I got to see Evie's workbooks while I waited and for some reason I hadn't seen them for about nine months, maybe even longer. I'll admit I opened them feeling pretty darn smug because I know she's bright and imaginative and I see what she creates at home. I was excited to see what she'd been up to in school. Well, she's been floundering. Drowning. I could not recognise my girl in these books. The chaos, the lack of actual work, the unfinished and unstarted work, the increasingly exasperated comments from her teacher at the bottom of each page. Given that I had discussed Evie's issues with her a couple of months ago I'm left wondering why she hadn't taken me aside and told me Evie wasn't doing well, but my primary reaction was of horror that my wonderful girl has been in this mess. She draws sad faces in her maths book. *knife enters heart and turns*

I shan't write out my conversation with the teacher but it was positive and good and I like her a lot. She is young and inexperienced but also enthusiastic, empathetic and she loves the kids. She wants to help.

Two days of deeper reading about Sensory Processing Disorder helped me peel back layers and layers of information and research until they revealed a portrait of my quirky, funny daughter. She had been there all along. Text book. Living in her quirky, funny family with a long history of brain differences on my family's side and a major struggle with focus on her father's...well, thank you dear Universe, she just fit. She is just like us only more so. I read and read and thought and thought and then cried. A lot. For my darling girl who is already so 'different' in the outside world and now this. I felt useless.

But here's the facts: she's brilliant, she's highly literate, she's creative, geeky and capable. As an adult, the world she'll live in will be perfect for her as long as she hangs on to her confidence. As long as being outside the mainstream and not fitting the mould doesn't make her feel 'broken' or less than the kids who are able to conform to the standards and behaviour required by our educational system. Outside the classroom none of this matters. Outside the classroom (or that adult version of the classroom, the office) she has no special needs she is just special.

Before she started school we were considering homeschooling her. Unschooling her. But the combination of her highly social personality and the financial need for me to keep my job meant that didn't and can't happen. Which is a shame. We can't afford to send her to a school with different teaching methods even if there was one near us. So we stay with where she is and we advocate and support and make this a positive thing for her. Protect her delicate self-esteem. I'd like to think we can create more calmness and routine at home for her but as I say, we're a different kind of trio and maybe it'll be just as positive for her to feel that she belongs with us just as she is and just as we are because that is true. I called her in, this child. She called me.

My first viewing of her face from 2006. The legendary 'referral photo' we adoptive parents longed for, stapled to her file. Mine. My child.

Yesterday, after a cry on Charlie's shoulder, I took the dogs out into the fields to clear my head. Walking alongside the stream, deep in thought, I suddenly felt hands take hold of me and turn me 45 degrees to my left. "North" it said and indeed I was then facing due North. Being a bit bemused, I thought,"Broughton Gifford?(the village in that direction) What's in Broughton Gifford???" Dur. Not North...North! I need to stay on track with my North Star and bring Evie with me. That's our way.

Returning from my meeting on Tuesday, my head pounding, I wanted to lie in a  hot bath and untangle it all but no...the water heater had blown up. No heat for us until last night, 48 hours later. Merely coincidence that this should happen in exact alignment with my wobble on the fire tender front? Who knows? I'm not saying it wasn't.

But I'm not saying it was.