The Nursing Chair

I’ve been meaning to get rid of it for a while now. It’s been sitting in the top corner of the boys’ room, largely unused. The foot stool that came with it is water-stained, and marked by kids experimenting with textas. It’s not an expensive or fancy looking chair, it squeaks when it rocks. It’s always squeaked though, I think some screws need loosening, but it never bothered any of the kids, so I never bothered doing anything about it.

We bought it when I was pregnant with our daughter. Dylan was still a babe himself. My husband was posted to sea, and while we knew he would be on leave when my due date rocked around, he and his crew were doing weekly runnings around Sydney. We lived in a tiny duplex, with all the bedrooms upstairs. While I wanted a feeding chair for our soon to be new arrival, we bought the chair months before she made her entrance. As my belly got bigger, it was harder and harder to give Dylan his night-time milk while sitting on the floor. His dislike of being touched, of being cuddled, of being held, was becoming more and more obvious, and nursing him while he drank his milk was when he didn’t try and push me away.

Mahalia came along, the baby who didn’t sleep. None of my babies have been great sleepers, but my girl was definitely the worst. Thoughts of nightly feeding in the nursing chair went out the window. Co-sleeping was the way to go if I wanted any sleep myself, so the nursing chair was relegated to the task of rocking us both when she wouldn’t sleep during the day. While she wouldn’t always fall asleep while we we rocking, the chair would calm both of us, slow the tears that rolled down both our cheeks, and bring a truce to our battle of me trying to get her to sleep, and her fighting to stay awake.

When our breastfeeding journey was over, and we moved house, the nursing chair lived in the lounge room, but didn’t get much use. It sat there looking forlorn and out of place. I had plans to sell it, or donate it to another family. Plans that went nowhere. I wasn’t ready to let it go.

The Chair

 

We found out we were pregnant again. I was excited by the thought of feeding this new and final baby in the nursing chair. And then we found out that baby number three was in fact babies three and four. Sadly, the chair didn’t see much use with Harry and Zach, at least not in the early days. Tandem feeding was the way to go to get any sleep. The nursing chair wasn’t made for two babies and a huge breastfeeding pillow.

When the boys were around 12 months old, their feeds were much shorter, and there was no need to wake the other if one woke during the night. The nursing chair was finally being used for feeding babies. We would rock and feed and sometimes it felt like out bond grew strongest in those dark hours, rocking and nursing until sleep came again. 6 months later, we were weaning off night feeds as sleep was desperately needed by this mamma. Shortly after, the boys weaned completely. And the nursing chair became an object in the room, gathering dust. On the odd occasion one of them would have a night terror, we would head out of the room so as not to wake his brother. The nursing chair had become something to climb on, rather than to nurse in.

The other day, it was nap time, and Harry was distraught from being over-tired after an early waking, and an exciting morning digging in their grandparent’s backyard. While Zach happily went into his cot, but Harry and I sat in the nursing chair and rocked. We rocked and we rocked, until he was calm enough to sleep. Those minutes spent snuggled with my babe, smelling his toddler scent and whispering sweet nothings in his ear, brought memories flooding back. Memories of rocking to soothe crying babes. Of quietly singing. Of breathing in the scents of my children. The chair didn’t see much action when it came to feeding my babes, but it spent many hours nursing us together. In that moment, I also realised that my journey with the chair has come to an end, and as much as it is tied up with memories of bonding with my children, it is time to move it on.

Yesterday I offered the chair to someone in need, so that another family and their children can be nursed by the rocking chair. After eight years, I am ready to say goodbye.

New discoveries (and an old favourite)

The final challenge in the Problogger ‘Find Your Blogging Groove’ challenge has arrived. Today’s post theme is to write a link post. I have really enjoyed this challenge, and it has reminded me why I started blogging in the first place. One of the most enjoyable aspects has been finding some amazing blogs from a variety of niches through the Facebook group, that I wouldn’t have discovered otherwise. Today I’m going to share a few of them with you.

Running

Forged By Georges Tim is an ultra marathon runner. I think his blog initially spoke to me because my husband is also an ultra marathon runner. Tim writes about his journey to running 100 miles, his inspirations, struggles, and the lessons learned. I love Tim’s attitude – we have similar philosophies when it comes to running, if you believe you can, you can.

Magic of Running Katherine is another long distance runner. We both love half-marathon distance fir similar reasons. Katherine reviews running events, writes about running inspiration, and how to choose a running event right for you. Katherine writing is positive and encouraging, and makes you want to get out there and run.

Autism Spectrum Disorder

Encouraging Others in the Special Needs Trenches Jenny is a fellow ASD parent. Her post about the day her son opening up to her broke her heart really touched me. I’ve been there. It can be hard to get your child with ASD to open up to you, even if they are verbal, but sometimes what they tell you makes you want to cry. Jenny writes to help and support other special needs parents, and I’m so glad I found her blog.

Job Seeking

Kingsley Aigbona I found this post of Kingsley’s really useful. I’m job seeking at the moment, so I’m all for information to help me impress during an interview. I actually had an interview this morning, so I put some Kingsley’s tips to use. While I haven’t got an official job offer yet, the interview went well, and the interviewer told me that they don’t think they can afford not to hire me. Fingers crossed, and thanks Kingsley!

Parenting

Where’s My Glow This has been one of my favourite blogs for many years. I think I found Glow’s blog when I first started reading blogs when my second child was a baby. Glow is a fellow Australian blogger, and our youngest children were born within a few days of each other. Glow writes about parenting, living with mental illness, and has a great sense of humour.

I’m a little sad that the Problogger challenge has come to an end. I’ve really enjoyed the challenges, and it has given me some new ideas on coming up with content, and which styles of blog posts work for me. I think I’ve definitely found my blogging groove back, and I can’t wait to share with you all the posts I’ve got written in my head.

Autism Spectrum Disorder Assessments

It’s the second last day of the blogging challenge I’m participating in. I’m really surprised, and proud that I’ve made it this far. Today’s challenge is to write a post that starts a discussion. I would really love it if you commented here, or over on my Facebook page.

After writing my story post on my eldest boy and Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD), I had a couple of discussions with other people about their family’s journey with ASD, and difficulties in getting children assessed, diagnosed, and receiving support to help their child reach their full potential. My eldest was diagnosed in a different part of the country to where we live now, and the assessment processes are very different in these two different areas – or they were, I don’t know if the process has changed where we used to live.

So, if you have a child or family member with ASSD, I would love to hear about the assessment and diagnosis process for ASD where you live. This can be whether you live in Australia – I know different states and territories have different processes; or whether you live in other parts of the world.

For our family, we lived in Darwin in the Northern Territory when my eldest boy was diagnosed. Back in 2010, we only needed one paediatric developmental specialist to make a diagnosis, however, the assessment process was carried out over multiple appointments over the period of three months. When I asked our paediatric speech therapy team for advice on ASD assessment, they gave me the contact details of the the paediatric development team at out local public hospital. We saw our GP for a referral, and luckily for us, we had an appointment a month later. The assessment was carried out by a paediatric psychiatrist who asked questions about the signs I had noticed, and who also evaluated my boy’s behaviour, language, and social skills. Following his diagnosis, we were referred to a paediatrician, and to a paediatric psychologist at the local children and youth mental health team. Both the paediatrician and the psychologist confirmed the diagnosis made by the psychiatrist. So for us, from initial referral to a diagnosis being made was about four months. This allowed us to access ASD therapy services really quickly. I honestly believe that it was this access to early intervention services that has resulted in the huge gains that my boy has made.

I’ve since heard that the assessment in Darwin is a lot harder than it was when we lived there. We live in Western Australia now. From what I’ve been told by other ASD families, the assessment and diagnosis process here requires a child to be evaluated by three specialists over multiple appointments, including a paediatrician, speech pathologist, and a paediatric psychologist or psychiatrist. I’m also led to believe that waiting lists, especially through the public system, are quite long, and leads to delays in diagnosis, and in access early intervention services. On the other hand, while the private system is quicker, it comes at a huge financial cost to families.

So, what the assessment process where you live? Is there a huge out of pocket cost to have a child evaluated? And what are the waiting lists like?

I’d love to read about your experiences.

How to tell if your running shoes need replacing

I’m playing a bit of catch-up at the moment. Day six of the ‘Problogger get your blogging motivation back’ challenge has been released, and I’m only just putting out day five. Day five’s challenge is to write a ‘how to’ post. I actually struggled coming up with an idea for this post. I did come up with an idea of a cost-saving recipe that I make regularly, but I made it the other day, and it is too soon to make it again which means no photos. I’m going to leave it for a future post.

So today’s post idea came to me during my Sunday-Runday long run. How to tell when your running shoes need to be retired. Old, worn out running shoes increase your risk of injury due decreased cushioning and stability. I bought new running shoes during the week, however, I didn’t want to use them for my weekly long run until I’ve got a few short runs on them.

New Shoes

So trusty old runners were pulled out for an 18km run, and I certainly felt their age.

Worn SHoes2

There are a number of factors that affect when a pair of runners need replacing and includes brand/model of runners, distance run, running surface, running style, body weight, and frequency of runs. That said, there are a number of signs that will tell you that your runners might need to be relegated to walking or gardening shoes.

Distance run: There’s a general thought that you should replace your runners when you’ve covered 400-600kms. Some people get 1000+kms, but the distance you will get out of your running shoes will be influenced by the factors mentioned above. Some running apps such as Strava allow you to track the distance you’ve run, and allows you to being aware of the other signs when you reach that distance. I’ve been tracking my kms with Strava, and these old faithfuls have clocked over 700kms.

Worn shoes: If the tread on the soles has worn away, it’s a pretty good indicator that you need new shoes and that you’re not going to be getting the cushioning you need during a run. Additionally, if your toes have a worn a hole in the toe box, get thee some new shoes! You can see in the photo below that the outer heels, mid-sole, and toe of my shoes has worn smooth. At the midsole, the tread has actually worn down to be level with the white cushiony bit.

Worn shoes

Sore feet and knees: If you’re noticing that you are experiencing more knee or foot pain than usual, it’s a sign that your shoes aren’t providing you with the stability and cushioning you need. I during my long run that my feet were hurting, when they don’t usually do so. After I’d finished my run, my knees ached for hours. I’ve had knee issues in the past, but this was a different kind of pain and felt more like I’d had no shock absorption during my run. Definitely a sign that running is over for my old shoes.

Flexibility: Running shoes should be fairly firm. You shouldn’t be able to easily twist them. If you noticed that your running shoes have become quite flexible, it’s time to invest in some new ones.

After Sunday’s run, my old runners have been retired. I’m still quite attached to them – I bought them just before I got serious about running. They’ve seen me through my first half-marathon, and through a large portion of my training for my second half-marathon. So they won’t be going in the bin just yet, they’ll become my walking and gardening shoes.  Just quietly, I suspect I’ll be holding onto them until it’s time to retire my new runners.

 

My boy calls me mum.

I first noticed when he was around six months old, although I didn’t realise it at the time. Jumping at the tiniest sound, as someone had struck cymbals together right next to his head.

At ten months old, we used to giggle about him staring out the window, or up at the ceiling, ‘talking’ to someone who wasn’t there. We joked our new place must have ghosts, although none of us believed in them, and the house certainly wasn’t old enough to be haunted.

At 11 months, he spoke his first word, and more soon followed. But they weren’t complete words, just the beginning sounds, and there was no ‘mum’ or ‘dad’. By 18 months, he was losing his words. He seemed to gain one, and lose two.

I took him to the child health nurse. She told me he seemed like a bright happy little boy, not to worry about his speech, boys often took longer to start speaking. We had a new baby, another one with reflux, and who didn’t sleep. We were soon moving again, back to where he was born, away from family. His dad was away a lot. Lots of people told me not to worry, boys often speak later than girls.

We lived in a world of made up words: Noh Noh, and Moo Moo, and Bo Bo. I could understand him, but no one else could. We saw a speech therapist who told me his speech was delayed by about 12 months, but no advice on how to help him, nor a follow up appointment. A friend suggested the local, publicly funded paediatric developmental team. They took us in, they told me they would try to help my boy.

We went to group sessions, with a speech pathologist, physiotherapist, occupational therapist and a social worker. There was I, baby strapped to my chest, hoping she would sleep, and willing my boy to join in, to say hello, to acknowledge anyone but me.

The lack of parallel play became more apparent as his ‘friends’ raced past him developmentally. While they ran around the room playing together, he would sit clinging to me, or staring off into space, seemingly oblivious to the games going on around him.

Then the echolalia started. It was as frustrating as it was joyful. My boy was talking, but he wasn’t telling me what was going on in his head. I still hadn’t been called mum. There were the three hour tantrums, hands reaching up the wail, wails spewing forth from his body because I’d made him come inside, and hung his hat upon a hook on the wall.

There was the physical pushing me away when I tried to pick him up, but climbing up my body when he was scared.

There was leaving the room for 30 seconds to pee, hearing his sister who I’d left sitting on the rug, leaning against the lounge, crying out in pain. Finding her lying on the floor, obviously having been pushed over. Asking him “Why is Mahalia crying”? and being answered with “Why Yaya crying”? and his crying when I comforted her instead of him.

We saw a dietitian, started an illumination diet for intolerance. By then his diet was already severely limited, and there wasn’t much left that he would, or could eat. But boy still wouldn’t call me mum. The voice that had been whispering in the back of my head for so long became louder and louder.

We saw a paediatric psychiatrist not long before he turned three. I told her I thought my boy, my baby, might possibly have autism. Surely she would tell me I was wrong? Three months later, we saw her for a final time. She gave me her report, she told me why my boy didn’t call me mum. We saw a paediatric psychologist, a paediatrician, and they told us the same thing.

The voice in my head had been right all along.

I remember driving to pick up take away that night. Sobbing as I drove. My precious boy had been diagnosed as being on the autism spectrum.

We continued our group sessions, and we found a wonderful behavioural therapist who made a huge difference to our lives. And my boy started calling me mum. We moved again when he was four, and awe kept going to speech therapy until after he turned six. When moved suburbs and schools a final time that final year of speech therapy. It took a year, but he finally started to make friends.

My boy, my baby, whose future I worried about is nine now. His IQ has been tested as superior. He has a great group of friends. At his request, we haven’t told his friends about his diagnosis. His teachers know, and the parents of his friends. He knows autism isn’t something to be ashamed of, but he wants to be seen as ‘normal’. I want him to know he is perfect the way he is.

Most people don’t pick up on it any more. But if you look carefully, it’s right there. It’s the way the hood of his jumper always up, the hair twirling, the meltdowns when his routine has been changed without warning, the meltdowns over his sister’s singing, or if she sits to close, it’s the struggle to cut his hair, the limited clothing choices, the limited food choices, t’s the perfectionism, the reluctance to accept compliments or have conversations about feelings, the shying away from human contact unless it’s his doing.

I can’t hug my boy, I can’t kiss my boy, even when he is hurt and crying.

But now, my boy calls me mum.

 

Review: Pink Punk

Day three challenge is here, and rushing to get it done due to some software issues. Today’s challenge is to write a review post. Today’s post is in no way sponsored, nor did I receive anything for free. The items in this review post I purchased myself, without the plan to write a review on them. Also worth noting, fashion blogger I am not, so please excuse the bad lighting, washed out face, and obvious eye bags from not enough sleep last night.

Without further ado, here’s my review of Pink Punk Active Tights.

Pink Punk is small (for now) Australian active wear company. They make a range of compression tights, from booty shorts through to full length tights. They also make crops, singlets, maternity tights, swimwear, and a range of children’s activewear. Their fabrics could no way be considered demure or subtle by any stretch of the imagination – you’ll not be a wallflower wearing their range. Purchasing Pink Punk active wear also gives you exclusive access to their Facebook group where Punk fans show off their purchases, the team keep everyone updated on new fabrics, ask opinions on possible fabric ranges, and provide answers to any questions.

I bought two pairs of Pink Punk tights (capri and full-length) a few weeks ago after hearing them raved about online. I had some questions about them before going ahead with my purchase, and my email queries were answered in less than an hour. Once I went ahead with my purchase, the contact from Pink Punk was fantastic, letting me know at what stage my order was at. At the time of purchase, the team were making each piece of clothing to order, and I had my Punks in less than two weeks. The team is moving towards having everything made in advance due to increase in demand, and having to work non-stop to get orders out quickly.

PP1

 

Pink Punk tights are made with compression fabric, and are high-waisted – win-win! These are my first pairs of compression tights, and I’ve noticed a huge difference to the way my legs feel following runs, both short and long. I can feel the compression while I’m wearing them, but I’d be worried if I couldn’t. When I wear non-compression tights, or shorts, it’s not unusual for my legs to feel, tingly, hot and itchy following a run, and my skin to look all blotchy, particularly with any runs over 12kms. With these bad boys, my legs feel and look the same after a run as they did before.

 

I love the high-waisted band. Having an abdominal separation means that I still look pregnant nearly three years on from having the boys, and my stomach tends to jiggle around when I run.

PP3

 

 

Pink Punks holds everything in place, and there’s no tummy jiggle when I run. Unless I’m wearing a loose-fitting shirt, then you can still tell I’ve got a mum-tum, but I definitely feel more confident when I’m running in my Punks compared to other tights.

PP2

 

The fabric and construction of Pink Punk tights is high quality. I know I’ve only had my tights a few weeks, but there has been no colour fade, and my tights are worn and washed multiple times a week. I’ve also read many complaints about other compression wear that have very noticeable sweat patches in unfortunate places in any colours other than black. None of that going on with my Punks. I can run a long way without being worried that people may think I have wet myself.

I’m a bit of a hobby sewer, so I appreciate well made clothes, and these definitely are. The Pink Punk team improved the way they make their tights not long before I bought mine. All hems are overlocked and double stitched flat. Their construction makes them look really good on.

Would I buy them again, and would I recommend them to others? Definitely. In fact I have my eye on a few pairs at the moment, I’m just trying to narrow my choices. If you want to buy your own Punks, you can find them here. You can also check out Pink Punk’s instagram account by following @pinkpunkactive

FAQ: How do you do it?

Day two of the seven day Problogger challenge has arrived, and the theme is answering a frequently asked question. Now, because I’m such a random and inconsistent blogger, I haven’t got a large group of followers, comments, and certainly no frequently asked questions. So I’ve decided for today’s challenge, I’ll answer the question I get asked most often in real life. It’s phrased many different ways, but essentially comes down to: how do you do it?

How do I manage to juggle 4 children, including one kid that is autistic, and a set of twins? How do I manage to study full-time, train for long distance running events, and work around a shift-working partner who also runs long distances, and remain calm and optimistic. How do I manage extracurricular activities, and still get the kids to bed at a reasonable hour?

To preface, I’m not currently studying, but I am job hunting. Up until last month, I was studying full-time, and had been since the beginning of 2012 (except for 10 months in 2013/14 when I took a break due to the twins being born). I’m going to answer the question based on how I managed life while I was studying.

The older two kids are at school, and the twins are in day care full-time, so it’s not like I’m trying to do everything with young children under my feet. I’m hoping to be employed in the very near future, so the boys are staying in day care so that they don’t lose their spots when I do start working. Also, running our family is a family affair, everyone helps out in keeping things ticking over, even the almost three-year olds.

The key to managing my family’s life and commitments essentially boils down to planning, organisation and communication.

At the start of each semester, I would program in my study time – which units I would study on each day, and at what times, assignment writing, and contact hours. I would book my gym/running into this schedule as well, and include travel time and showering. I managed to largely stick to this schedule, although at exam time, study time increased and fitness time took a dive.

I menu plan. Every Sunday, I plan our meals for the upcoming week. I factor in the kids’ sports, or any other activities we may have that week. I write a shopping list, and do my shopping on Monday mornings after my gym session, and after all the kids have been dropped off. If I have an appointment on Monday morning’s, I’ll order my groceries on-line, and choose the ‘click and collect’ option. I start preparing and cooking dinner at the same time each day (unless it’s a slow cooker meal), and the big kids do their homework during this time, before we head off to pick up the littlest boys.

While having twins is hard work – the caring required is much more than with a singleton – the boys are at an age where they generally play really well together, and with their older siblings. I can generally rely on all four kids to play with, and look after each other while I hang washing, or finish off dinner.

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Extracurricular activities are either on weekend mornings, or if they are after school, they don’t finish later than 5.30pm. At the moment, we have football (soccer) training on a weekday from 4.30-5.30pm. I drop Master 9 at training, spend 20 minutes doing homework with Miss 7 in the car, collect the twins from day care, pick up Master 9, and then we either have take away for dinner, a slow cooker meal, leftovers, or something that is super quick and easy to prepare like cheesy pasta and baked beans. The kids skip their baths and showers this night so that they are all in bed by 7.30/8pm.

For both my husband and I, our weekend long runs are scheduled around Saturday morning dancing, and Sunday morning football games. On Saturdays, I take the big kids to dancing, my husband takes the twins to his parents (who then take them to the library for story time), and he goes for a long run. Or he will wait until the boys are back home and having their nap before running. On Sundays, one of us will usually get up early and go for a run, we’ll all then go to Master 9’s football game, and then the other parent will go for a run once we are back home.

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We pretty much stick to the same routine week-in, week-out. Autism means that routine change without decent preparation causes meltdowns and struggling to get to where we need to be. Any change needs as much warning as possible, as much information as possible, and lots of discussion. Autism has been part of our parenting life for so long, that having a routine and being organised is second nature.

Household chores are equally divided up between my husband and I, depending on who is home. We don’t have set jobs, whatever needs to be done just gets done. The non-essential stuff gets done when we have the time and motivation. With 6 of us, our washing machine is pretty much always on during the day. I have to admit, I much prefer washing and hanging out to folding. I’d be lying if I said I did most of the washing folding in our house.

The final thing that is essential to keeping out little (big) family running smoothly, and me not losing my cool on the regular, is coffee. Hot, bulletproof, with double cream and butter, and lots of it. The day doesn’t go anywhere if I haven’t had a large cup of joe.

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