Tuesday, 11 April 2017

Easter Holidays...

Last week, we went back to the Thomas Centre in Lincolnshire.

I won't go into loads of detail about the centre, but you can read all about how fab it is here.

Last October, we took DS for a long weekend to the Thomas Centre to trial it.
He loved it so much that this time we booked a week's stay and it was just as successful! :)

It was a lovely family break with DS zooming around the place all with a happy smile on his face :)

We had quite a few 'WOW's on this holiday - the biggest was sitting beautifully in a country pub/restaurant one evening for tea.
One time, this would never have happened! Sitting there watching him whilst we all ate together and chatted was something that a few short years ago, I could never see happening....but it was happening!....right before my very eyes, too!

Once we had finished eating, he said 'pub nearly finished' which is his way of saying it's time to go, which I thought was fair enough especially after how truly amazing he had been!

Another plus was the weather.
The weather was glorious in Lincolnshire, we were really lucky.
I did try sneaking off a few times to a lovely suntrap I had found for a little sunbathe, but DS clocked me every single time and would take my hand to lead me to the play area or the soft play with him.

I think I need to work on my 'sneaking off' skills.....;)

DS was so excited to be there.
He was up early every morning asking for 'outside'.
I would brush his teeth and help him get dressed and we would be outside playing at 7.30am most days :D  He loved it! :)

One day we went on a little day trip to Skegness.
We played on the beach, found sand dunes, ate fish and chips by the sea and went on the funfair.
We had a ride on the Big Wheel, which DS enjoyed and we went on a Runaway Train  - he loved the speed on that one! :)

We also tried our luck on 'Hook a Duck'
DS hooked three ducks and won a Peppa Pig!
It was such a fantastic day! :)

We are now home and in the second week of the Easter holidays.
We have a few days planned out this week along with catching up with house and garden jobs in the meantime.

I have sorted out all DS's outgrown clothes, shoes and wellies and have listed them all on eBay.
It's been a great week and it really does feel like Spring at last! :)

Love Amanda xx

Monday, 13 March 2017

Peak District & Storm Doris...

Two weeks ago was half term for us and I decided a good while ago that we were going to take off for it.

So I booked a lovely and cosy little cottage tucked away in the hill of the Peak District.

DS loves this cottage for its huge roaring fire though I've got to admit it is a very dreamy fire.

So we loaded the car up with clothes, food, drinks and of course the laptop and iPad and set off for the cottage.

We had a glorious 3 nights stay there. We would potter about during the day and then spend the evening curled up by the fire in our PJs snuggled together - it was so lovely.

Ideally, I really needed another person with me as I felt some of the local days out would be a bit too challenging for me on my own with DS. I really fancied visiting some of the caves but resisted as, thinking about it, that would be what I call a 'two man job' haha
Never the less, we still had a great time and would wander around the village to the local shop and delicious bakeries for homemade yummy treats to take back to the cottage.
We also stumbled across some brilliant children's play areas so spent some time playing on them :)

Making the fire in the evening was something that DS and I became quite skilled at :)

We would build it together. DS would screw up the newspaper and pop it in the grate, along with kindling and coal.
He loves fire which I believe most boys go through a 'fire phase' at some point! (eek!)

Once the fire was expertly built by DS, I would light it.

We made a great team! :) :)

The day we came home was the day Storm Doris was causing havoc!
Driving along the high and very windy Peak District roads was definitely not the smoothest drive I've ever done to say the least but DS sang beautifully all the way home which was lovely and calming for me :)

Understandably, it took us a lot longer to get home but DS coped with the delay brilliantly!

All too often, half term weeks fly by just far too fast.....


Thursday, 19 January 2017

Birthday Happiness...

Last week was my birthday.

It wasn't a special birthday like a 30th or 40th but for some reason the celebrations for it went on for a whole week! :)

Let's be clear, I am in no way shape or form complaining about this at all (none whatsoever!) but for someone who has always felt that their birthday falls at just the wrong time of the year......3 weeks to the day after Christmas Day and exactly two weeks after New Year........then I am very chuffed! :)

I know that I have mentioned before how I purposely worked it so that DS was born at a more respectable time of the year. I was aiming for May/June (he was born in May) as I just think the days are lovely around this time and I pictured beautiful sunny garden birthday parties for him/her (didn't know the gender until the birth) which is exactly how we celebrate his birthday :)

My own birthday celebrations kicked off last Friday when I very excitedly discovered that I had won an Afternoon Tea with prosecco.
The restaurant for this was situated right on the River Dee in Chester.

I took my forever supportive lovely Mum, who by the way needed little persuasion for this and we hopped on the train into Chester.
We sat by the window so had a lovely view of the river watching rowers going up and down and couples walking hand in hand fighting against the cold and wind.

It felt lovely and cosy as Mum and I were curled up in big comfy chairs looking out and chatting away :)

Friday evening saw my amazing tribe of fellow special needs Mums brave the bitter cold January wind to come to a country pub for a delicious meal and drinks.

I even got lovely cards and presents and felt very spoilt!
I have made no secret in the past just how utterly fabulous these ladies are!
I think its absolutely amazing how each of us have our own challenges and obstacles with our children yet we still support, soothe, advice and big each other up when one of us is struggling!
No amount of money could buy that. I feel so lucky to know them and will often refer to them as 'my Mums' or 'the Mums' :)

My boyfriend even played taxi to a few of us which meant that the wine flowed freely! Yay ;)

Saturday evening, my boyfriend and I went to my favourite restaurant.
It's a good half hour drive from my house. He drove which meant that I could have one, two or even three of my favourite cocktails! :)
It was such a lovely evening with such lovely and funny company - he's always making me laugh! <3

The cocktails were a little on the strong side and feeling a little lightheaded, I held on to him as we left.
All signs of a good night :) :)

After a much needed lie in on Sunday, I was brought cups of tea in bed - perfect!

We then went out for lunch with DS, boyfriend and my Mum to a local (and autism friendly) pub restaurant that we often take DS to.

The day ended with DS putting my candles into my little birthday cake and helping me blow them out.
So the candles were shoved right into the cake but who really cares? :) Certainly not me!

To complete the celebrations, I went on the most gorgeous spa break!

I love holistic therapy treatments and always float out of the treatment room.
It was a real treat to be pampered - pure bliss! The endless glasses of wine and prosecco certainly enhanced the relaxation experience!
It was pure heaven!

Definitely a birthday to remember :)


Wednesday, 28 December 2016

Come on in, 2017...

Phew! What a crazy year!
I can see myself in years to come, looking over my shoulder back at 2016 as the year that ran away from me and left me struggling to keep up with it! It's certainly been a crazy one!

This year DS has shot up and I mean really shot up! I always know when he is going through a growth spurt as he cannot stop eating!
I've lost count of the number of growth spurts he has had this year but it's definitely the most we've had in a 12 month period! :)

DS has also extended his vocab this year too :) He is saying and requesting things using new words and sentences beautifully :) I absolutely love it and he is pleased as punch with his little self when he is understood :)

In 2016 we also discovered and checked out an Autism Holiday Centre.
The Thomas Centre was a huge hit with DS and we've also booked to go back in 2017! (Can't wait!)

In terms of last year's resolutions then I don't think I did too bad.

They were to take time out and relax more and to grow at least one vegetable.

The time out one, I think I did okay. Admittedly, I probably could of done better but I have had a few afternoons when DS has been in school and I've curled up in my favourite chair with a magazine and a cup of tea :) So for that reason, I am giving myself an extra glass of wine with a capital 'A' for 'Achieved' ;)

The grow at least one vegetable resolution was a bit more trickier but I somehow managed it :)
I successfully grew green beans and a gorgeous looking yellow pepper :) In fact my yellow pepper must have looked delicious as a slug beat me to it! Caught him red handed having a good feast on it...ggrrrr...
My tomatoes on the other hand didn't make it :( but nevermind, I will try again in the new year.

2016 has also been a great year for getting together my with my special Mums.
We don't need much of a excuse to congregate and when we do, we have such a giggle.
They are such a great bunch of ladies and a great strength <3

I already know of some big changes that will be happening throughout 2017.
I am really excited about that and am already planning my adventures as a result of these changes.
I am not going to spill right now but will explain as and when they happen! *exciting*! :)

My new year resolutions for the new year are both kinda based around maintaining my emotional well being.

Choose Happiness - I am in a really good place right now and feel really happy :) I feel really lucky to be surrounded by who/what I am. I have a fantastic son who makes me smile - like all the time! I have the best Mum in the world and lovely lovely friends! <3
My resolution to stay in this mindset and to sometimes sit down and think just how lucky and fortunate I am. Especially on them crappy days when you stub your toe whilst rushing around and coming out of the hair salon to pouring rain on the ONE day you left your umbrella at home! (true story - the ONE day! Why?!)

Release Endorphins - Following on from the above and being a bit of a hippy, I have always been interested in amazing human body stuff.
I like to hone in on the more natural and Mother Nature stuff that our bodies can do and the fact that we release amazing endorphins is just something I am keen on :)
So to keep them little happy hormones coming, I am going to exercise more regularly than I do.
I love the little 'exercise high' you get after a good sweaty workout so that's what I am aiming for :)
I have no idea how I am going to squeeze it in but I will find a way......somehow :)

So there they are.
I am quite a determined character so hopefully I will achieve them :)

All is left to say is thank you for supporting and reading my ramblings, I really do appreciate it and I wish you and your families and happy and healthy 2017 :)

Speak soon,

Love Amanda xx

Tuesday, 6 December 2016

Celebrating Christmas...

Last week, I was sat with one of my all time favourite Special Mums slurping frothy coffee

(Can I say that? Can I divulge to the world that she is one of my favourites or can I not show favouritism amongst my Mum friends? But I've said it now so I will leave it in)

Anyway, so it was a freezing, icy cold day and we were sat in a nice warm coffee shop with our hands wrapped around our mugs warming our hands.

We were talking about Christmas and of course our children.
My friend suggested that I write a post about how we celebrate Christmas as she knows we do some things differently than most families.
I agreed that it was a great idea so here it is :)

First of all, I have to say how I love Christmas! :)
As a woman in her mid-thirties, I am still very much a child when it comes to Christmas! :)

Now DS likes Christmas but only of it's done the right way for him.
It took me a few years to get the balance just right for him, with a few slightly mis-judged errors along the way but now we have it spot on :) *yay*!

My feeling on Christmas is that it can be such a magical time of the year.
I believe it can still be magical for DS (and me!) with just a few little tweaks here and there.

When DS is happy, calm and relaxed then I am happy, calm and relaxed so it's great investment to get these tweaks in :) *High fives all round*

Okay folks so this is what Christmas looks like in our house.
Here we go...

* Less is More....I think we've all seen the pictures on our Instagram feeds of the giddy parents posting pictures of their cherubs waiting Christmas presents. It resembles a  medium sized mountain in their living room and will take the kid to around the 5th January to open if they start opening very early on Christmas morning!

This would just be far too overwhelming for DS for a start!

DS recieves just a handful of gifts. And no, this isn't because I am a Scrooge!
DS needs to process each present individually, the least amount of presents, the less he needs to process. This means less stress for him and he only needs a short amount of time to do it as opposed to a whopper of a pile which will take him much longer to process and stress him out.
Santa tends to bring DS  a main present and a couple of smaller ones that he knows he will just love and get lots of sensory stimulation from! Oh yes Santa knows what he's doing here ;)

*Take a Picture...This is what I noticed. On Christmas mornings when a sleepy DS would stir and wake, I would whisper to him that Father Christmas has been and left him presents.
DS would seem a bit alarmed. He would slowly get out of bed, creep to he living room doorway, have a quick peek at his presents and then run back to bed.

Only after about 10 minuites would he then again get out of bed, make his way to the living room and start opening his gifts.

I realised that what DS must be doing is processing the 'scene' before he opened his presents.
Christmas Day is certainly a day from the norm so he just needed some time and space to process and work through it all in his mind.

I thought of what I could do to help him with this and decided on taking a picture of his presents in the room exactly how he would find them in the morning. I knew the picture would need to be exact.
I would then print it out and leave it next to him in bed.

So in the morning, DS would wake up to the picture of what the living room looks like allowing him to process the image in his own time before getting out of bed to open them.
This has been in place for a few years now and works well.

I find that having the picture takes away that anxiety of what to expect.
I also do exactly the same thing for his birthdays too :)

*Christmas Tree...For a long time now, I always put up the Christmas tree and decorations whilst DS is present.
This means he sees the tree and decorations going up in stages and again allows him that time to process each stage.

I decorate the tree slowly on purpose for DS which I have found helps.
He even lends a hand too :)
Decorations are kept to a minimum and I always keep the bedrooms decoration/Christmas free so he has a calm room to escape to if needs be.

I knew one family that use to put the Christmas tree up in stages. One day they would just put the tree in the corner and leave it. Then a few days later they would put lights on it followed by baubles a few days later again. They kept to this pattern until it was complete.
It worked for their young man, he was happy and they were happy :)

*Batteries...To save lots of time and lots of frustration (I am referring to the parent/carer just as much as the person with autism here!) I check what batteries toys need.
Before I wrap presents, I always ensure two things are ticked off each item.
They are

1) That the correct batteries are in and checked that the toys works wether it lights up, moves, spins or makes a noise - that bad boy is not wrapped until I've seen it do it's thing with my own eyes! :)

2) I untie the million cable ties and unscrew those mega annoying mini screws that hold stuff into the box.
They always take an age to do and I know DS would get pretty frustrated if he was mega excited to play with a toy but had to wait for what felt like an eternity until I had got the thing free!

*Playing it Cool & Calm...Christmas at one time was a great huge family reunion!
We would all get together on Christmas Day to eat, drink, sing and be merry - it was ace! :)

I lived in a small terraced town house then and how we would all cram in and actually fit in it I don't know but we did and we had a great laugh.
My Mum would cook the dinner for something like 15/16 of us in my then teeny tiny kitchen, it was superb!

DS would seriously struggle with that set-up today. He loves his family members dearly but would struggle to cope with that amount of people at one time.

So we keep it cool and calm for him being careful not to overwhelm.
DS does see and visit family but only a few at a time.
Just recently, I have been challenging him a little bit more socially with careful calculations of course.

I would never throw DS into a situation that I thought he couldn't handle but ones that I think he would be okay with then I've tried them.
Most of the time my little risk assessment has paid off and it's gone well, other times it hasn't so I've kicked started my Back-up plan (I always have a Plan B to everything!)

So as we do Christmas a little bit differently now that doesn't mean it's any less enjoyable or magical at all!
I still love it and what's more important to me is that DS enjoys it too.

I think Christmas is definitely not a 'one size fits all'.

It should be celebrated in anyway you like or see fit for you and your family as I am a huge believer in happy children means happy parents and happy parents means happy children :)

So that note, I am going to end it there and just in case I don't manage to pull up another post before Christmas, I wish you and your family and Merry Christmas! :) :)

Love Amanda xx

Thursday, 24 November 2016

It's beginning to smell alot like Christmas...

Christmas preparations are well underway here.

DS and I have been very busy bees in the kitchen indeed.

I have made our Christmas cake, Christmas pudding a batch of mince pies.

For those who are not familiar with 'Stir-up Sunday' this is a Victorian tradition when British families would get together after church to make their Christmas pudding giving it plenty of time to mature for Christmas Day.

I absolutely love this little tradition so a while back, I myself adopted it :)

So on Stir-up Sunday, DS and I got to work on making our Christmas pudding.

It is said that if you make a wish as you stir the fruit in the bowl then the wish will come true! (Stir East to West to remember the Wise Men that visited Jesus)

We all made our Christmas wish before the pudding went into basin for it's 6 hours of steaming.

This got me thinking about other Christmas traditions that I have adopted.

One that springs to mind is Christmas Eve boxes.

For years now, on Christmas Eve evening, I have presented each family family with a Christmas Eve box. Inside is usually something like new Christmassy py-jamas, Christmas socks, favourite drink (wether thats a miniture bottle of wine or a vintage case of Coca-Cola) some fiddly toys and chocolate coins.

The Christmas Eve boxes in time have become more exciting that the presents on Christmas Day! :)

I love doing this as I usually pop one of DS's Christmas presents in too which means less to overwhelm him on Christmas Day. I like to keep Christmas low key-ish for him so its easier to cope with and I think I've got it just about right now.

The tradition of opening presents on the evening of Christmas Eve comes from countries such as Austria, Denmark, Germany, Iceland and Norway to name just a few which is where I probably adopted this tradition from.
There's just something so magical about Christmas Eve I think :)

The only thing I need to make is some Mulled Wine which I absolutely love!
The house smells very Christmassy right now and with my Christmas play-list playing in the background, I am feeling very excited! :)
We just need some snow to finish it off nicely! :)

Must dash...

Love Amanda xxx

Tuesday, 1 November 2016

The Thomas Centre...

I sit here writing this with a sort of daft smile on my face feeling happy and content.

I know exactly the reason for that and that is because we have just had the most enjoyable, relaxed and much more than that but 100% SUCCESSFUL family holiday!

This is breaking news for us as the above has not happened since DS was a little baby and we went to Devon. He was 13 months old and the weather was glorious! One of my favourite memories was cradling him as he fell asleep snuggled in my arms as Daddy and I sat in the shade looking out at a beautiful view watching a little steam train chug across the landscape. I've never forgotten it or the warm fuzzy happy feeling I felt as I sat there.

We have tried allsorts of different types of holidays since with DS over the years but either there has been a safety issue with anywhere we have gone, it was too loud or too busy, it was too stressful, there wasn't suitable activities for DS.....yeah I can go on and on with loads of reasons why other places have not been quite right.

A good while ago, I discovered somewhere that claimed that they were an autism specific holiday centre! Straightaway, I needed to know more!

The Thomas Centre in Lincolnshire is owned and family run by parents of autism.
Reading their website, I loved their vision and aims for the holiday centre - it sounded perfect for us.

The only aspect that put me off was that it was expensive!

I pondered over this and pondered some more....

I thought of past holidays and how difficult they had been, some more than others. I thought that if a stay at the Thomas Centre was really as good as it sounded then I would happily pay extra for my son to be in a safe and enjoyable environment and also an accepting one. I would also be happy to pay for a holiday where I can relax with him instead of constantly scanning our surroundings for potential dangers and risks to him (I am sure that I am not the only one who does this! ;))

So it was deemed worth a try and we booked a long weekend to trial it and to see how DS got on.

Jan and Richard are truly marvellous hosts! They are very welcoming and very much 'get it' being parents themselves.
The Thomas Centre has been very much well thought out - Jan & Richard have covered absolutely everything! :) The place is immaculately clean and furnished to a very high standard.

We stayed in Victoria House which is a 3 bedroom two storey house. There are bungalows available too with full wheelchair access.

The Welcome Basket was the fullest I have ever received. It was as if Jan & Richard had done some detective work to what our favourite food and  drinks were as there was DS's favourite cereals and orange juice as well as my fave chocolate biscuits and a large bottle of wine :)

The Thomas Centre is very flat so I was able to see DS at all times. Also the grounds are very quiet as the nearest neighbour and road is some distance away.

DS enjoyed visiting Josie's Corner which is a sort of community room with squishy sofas, books, toys, games and tables for colouring, drawing and craft activities.

There is also a sunken trampoline, bikes, trikes and a huge barn which houses skittles, table football, table tennis, snooker and a soft play area. So even if the weather isn't great then there is always something to do.

The indoor pool was somewhere we visited everyday whilst we were there.
DS loves swimming and I loved how we used the pool privately.
Families book their preferred hour slot for the pool which means they have exclusive use of it for that hour :)

The Thomas Centre has good WiFi (a must for DS's iPad) and some great hints and tips from Jan & Richard themselves on ideas for great days out as well as autism friendly pub restaurants and the best take-aways that deliver to your door to name just a few.

A couple of major supermarkets deliver to the Thomas Centre which Jan & Richard suggest maybe doing an online shop scheduled to be delivered on your arrival day to take the strain off your car.

We did have a few days out but we found that DS preferred to stay on the centre's land so we kept trips out to a minimum for this reason.

Then again, who can blame him? There was a woodland area to explore and two fab play areas as well as everything else I have mentioned.

The weekend went so fast and I could see that DS wasn't ready to come home which really has never happened before!

To summarise, all members loved this break at the Thomas Centre. DS really enjoyed it and we kept commenting to each other how happy he was there!
Like a domino effect, because he was thoroughly loving it so were us adults!

I found myself a lot more relaxed and able to enjoy the break myself which as a parent carer is just fantastic!

I loved how families understood each other and our children, it was refreshing saying good morning to our 'neighbours' and them smiling away at DS when playing out in his pyjamas as he escaped out of the house onto the play area :)

So was the experience worth the price? Most definitely!!
So much so that we have already booked to go back!

My only regret is not discovering it sooner!

Here is the website, I highly recommend and just to be clear that I have received no payment or any incentive of any kind to write this, these are all my own words and views :)


Love Amanda xx