Spectrummy Mummy

Asperger's, Allergies, and Adventures Abroad

Posts Tagged ‘England

Girl Cousins

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Only Pudding likes Hello Kitty.

We hear that a lot in our house.  It is an established fact.  A Pudding fact at that- nothing more irrefutable.  Going to England meant the kids were going to meet their British cousins for the first time.  Pudding has one girl cousin, and Pudding wasn’t going to tolerate any competition.  I thought a mutual love of Hello Kitty might bring the girls together.  I excitedly told Pudding that her cousin was going to have a Hello Kitty birthday cake the day after they met.  I thought she’d love it.  But I’d forgotten that only Pudding likes Hello Kitty.

So before meeting her, Puddings cousin was on notice.  Not only was she going to have the cake, but a birthday too, of all the rude things! Didn’t she know that Pudding likes birthdays?  And then there was Nanny.  Was this little usurper going to steal Nanny’s affections too?

This time around, Pudding had immediately bonded with her grandparents.  This is the tough part of foreign service life.  And the tough thing about autism.  For a child struggling with social interaction, limited time with loved ones doesn’t help.  We can’t predict how things will be.  When we visit family, I feel like I’ve just set off a soggy firework- it might fizzle out to nothing, or it might be explosive, and you don’t really want to be the one to risk trying to fix things when it could go off in your face.

This time with my mum it was like this from the first day…

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Which was awesome!  But I noted how Pudding jealously eyed her neurotypical three year-old.  Because Nanny is her Nanny too.  And every time previously, Pudding has only had to share her Nanny with Cubby, which is fine because she has to share everything (but Hello Kitty) with him.  But this was new.  And new can be hard.  And new people?  Even harder.

Jealousy may be ugly, but someone this beautiful should never be play the ugly step-sister role.

This little cousin already came with her own thoughts and feelings.  Pudding hadn’t allowed her to like Hello Kitty, or to have a birthday, or share Nanny.  This was hard.  Not just for Pudding, but for me too.  Well aware that the time we could spend with family was constantly trickling away, I wanted everything to be perfect for everybody concerned.  I knew it wasn’t going to be.

Then again, I could see that Pudding’s response was valid and true to who she is.  In fact, a perfectly normal feeling.  So I let her have it.  I stopped trying to force interactions.  I allowed her to be jealous.  If allowed is the right word- she certainly doesn’t need my permission to feel things.  But I acknowledged it.  Kids get jealous.  Even spectrummy mummies get jealous, we all do.

And just like any of we creatures on this planet fortunate enough to sense the range of emotions that make up the human condition, it abated.  Or dissipated.  Spent.  Probably a whole lot sooner than if I’d tried to facilitate the relationship.  And in its place…interest.  Fascination in another little girl.  Then, before we knew it- affection.  Love.

Her enemy turned into a friend.  When Pudding’s cousin balked at the idea of riding in a horse-drawn pink princess carriage, Pudding didn’t want to ride without her.  When she wore princess slippers,

Pudding squished her way-too-big feet into a matching pair.  And whenever they were together, the two held hands, and ran around giggling at each other.  Best of friends for their remaining time together.  Inevitably, of course, the two were wrenched apart, and we had to feel the pain and loss of separation.

Still, we have memories to last a lifetime full of love, friendship, and family.  But they don’t have to last a lifetime, just til next time.  It is something over families take for granted, but we know just how precious it is.

  When we return she’ll know there are people there who love her through good and bad, just as she is.  And if we’re all very lucky, they might even be willing to share their Hello Kitty cake once again.

Written by Spectrummy Mummy

October 11, 2012 at 6:38 pm

Wordless Wednesday 12 Sep 12

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Pudding finds her peace looking out at Lake Windermere. We are forever endebted to those who have given their lives in pursuit of peace. RIP.

Written by Spectrummy Mummy

September 12, 2012 at 9:34 pm

R is for R & R

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Pudding reconnecting with my mum.

One of the benefits to living in (cue ominous music…) The Most Dangerous City in The World, is that the State Department grants us two R&R trips during our – assignment there.  Now, you know that we love Johannesburg, and what we have seen of the rest of South Africa.  But it is equally true that we need that break.  Back when we initially started planning that trip, we really needed it.

Then seasons change, and life alters, and you kind of get on with things.  Pudding has just started Kindergarten, and is doing very well.  I’ve only been working for a few weeks, and it isn’t the best time for me to be out of the office.  I adore Jozi in springtime.  The weaver birds are back, the weather is perfect, and it just feels lighter and happier there.

It reminds me of the early weeks when we first arrived, and just couldn’t believe our luck.  And then when, inevitably, the trip started to look like more hassle than a break, I wondered what kind of R&R it would actually turn out to be.

And then we actually arrived in England for the first time in almost four years, and it was all worthwhile.  It was Cubby’s first time here (outside of the womb) and he revelled in seeing double-decker buses and black cabs in London.  Both kids delighted in spending time by the sea- not the ocean.  And the kids got to meet their cousins, and spend time getting spoilt by their grandparents, and living, and playing, and being themselves.

We are having the time of our lives.  Or a time in our lives.  A time of many R-words.  We’re recharging, and reconnecting.  I’d even go so far as to say we’re resting and relaxing.  I knew we needed it, but I didn’t know how much.  I’ve taken lots of photographs here, and in almost every one, the kids are smiling.

Who knows, the kids might even start feeling so comfortable with their grandparents that we’ll even be able to have another elusive R-word: a few hours of respite.  Because just as we love Johannesburg, but need the occasional break…the same can be said of parenting high-needs children.

And if we can successfully Recharge and Reconnect, we’ll be Ready to go back to Routine.  And nothing to do but plan the next Rest and Relaxation, and make sure we don’t wait for four years next time!

This post is part of my A-Z series.  You can read the rest by clicking >here<.

Written by Spectrummy Mummy

September 5, 2012 at 8:42 am

Jubilee

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Last week I was talking to another “foreign born spouse” as people like to call us, about how things are different for us.  When we move to a new country, our husbands go to work the next day, and essentially return to America.  They have all the structure, routine, and familiarity immediately in place.  Not so for us, who are immediately trying to find ourselves (again) in a foreign land.  We are the ones getting lost as we drive around trying to find new schools, and so on.

Now, likely all those married into the foreign service are nodding their heads at this point.  But things are different if you’re not US-born.  We get lost in a different way.  When homesickness creeps in, you know that it won’t be long until there is a Thanksgiving, or Independence Day celebration.  You know that when it is time for home leave, you’ll actually go home.

It is over three and a half years since I was in England.  My son has never been to the mother country.  I have nephews and a niece I’ve never even met in person.

The same day we had this conversation, we went into one of those fancy shops that make you forget which continent you’re one because everything is imported.  Lo and behold, there was an entire table of decorations and accessories for the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee that had been imported from Blighty.

My husband often laughs at the way I’ve become so much more English since becoming American too.  He was particularly perplexed when I suggested demanded that we host a Jubilee celebration in honour of Her Majesty!

I’m the same person who, when living in England, was so disinterested in all things to do with the monarchy that I don’t even remember The Golden Jubilee taking place.

But then, am I the same person?  It isn’t just about being an expat now.  Since being married, my identity has changed so much.  First I was a wife, then a mother, then American, then a special needs mother.

Soon I’ll be a working mother too, and I’ll proudly serve my American community here, but at times I wonder if I’m losing every part of who I used to be, as I become identified only in relation to somebody else.  I’m Spectrummy Daddy’s wife when I go to the Consulate.  I’m Pudding’s or Cubby’s mum at their schools.  I’d say there are many people here who don’t even know my name, let alone who I am.

Later that evening, I tried to explain things to Spectrummy Daddy.  I turned to Cubby (my kids are also dual nationals) and asked him if her was American or English.

‘Merican.  I’m not English, I’m a ‘merican.

Spectrummy Daddy tried to rememdy things by asking him if he liked soccer, I mean,  football.

I like soccer!

Sigh.  With no further delay, I set to sending out invites, making the decorations, and creating a menu as British as could be for our very own Jubilee celebration.  Pudding only became involved when she saw what amounts of cream and sugar my people use.  But every royal kitchen needs an official taster, right?

The party was a great success, and it sated my inner Brit until we get to go to England in September.  We toasted Her Royal Highness, we read out loud the Duke of Edinburgh’s gaffes, we drank Pimm’s and ate coronation chicken, cucumber sandwiches, scones and trifle.

But all this was for me.

The kids ate, then disappeared.  Cubby was upstairs playing with his  American/Chinese-Australian friends, while Pudding played outdoors holding hands with our American/Australian neighbour.  Our community is nothing if not like a 1980s Benetton commercial.

Proving once again that my kids have figured out lessons I keep having to live through.  It isn’t about where you hail from, or what your passport says, or where you call home.  It is about being true to yourself and enjoying every moment life has to offer you, no matter where you happen to be.

I’m going to start right now- by enjoying a cup of tea and a biscuit.  I’m sure Her Majesty would approve.

Written by Spectrummy Mummy

June 4, 2012 at 10:44 am

Safe Heaven

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In our home we have a safe haven. A secure area we can retreat to in the event of danger. Before we arrived, somebody had tried to sort through our large collection of keys to label them, and so we found the keys for our “safe heaven.”

It made me smile, because in so many ways, where we live is like paradise. The weather is glorious, the people friendly, the country amazingly beautiful, but with all the conveniences we’re used to. I can’t believe how fortunate we are to call this place home for the next three years. It surely is heaven.

Apart from one thing: the crime. It is hard to match up this glorious land of sunshine and smiles with the frightening statistics. Car-jackings, personal invasions (armed robbery of private residences), smash and grabs, muggings are all alarmingly commonplace here. It is the rape capital of the world. Living in the Northern suburbs, our affluence is a stark contrast to the poverty of the townships. There are parts of this city I will never visit. Even here I will always be on alert.

I’ve never lived anywhere like this before, and I can’t believe how much I took for granted that feeling of peace of mind.

When friends asked how I liked South Africa when we first arrived, I responded that it was like England, but with better weather and worse crime.

Then England rioted.

Seemingly out of nowhere, first London, then other parts of England came under siege. I struggled to believe it, this is England. This is my safe haven, where I would always return with the children if things got too crazy elsewhere. Suddenly it seems safer here than over there.  Severe cuts to the police force left them instantly overwhelmed.

Of course, this looting and violence didn’t suddenly spring up. It seems that the motivations for the riots are different in different parts of the country. Just as there are multiple causes: a cocktail of political, racial, cultural, and economic reasons, so will the ultimate solution be difficult and complex. I don’t have any answers here.

Yet the reasons people are putting forward to explain this senseless shift to chaos are intriguing. A generation of children and young adults who are alienated from the rest of society, who are so disengaged that they feel no empathy for the pain and destruction they are causing to others. Young adults who feel their futures are so hopeless that they opt for instant gratification regardless of the consequences. Entire sections of community at odds with one another, and a pervasive mistrust of authority.

Alienated, disengaged, lacking empathy, hopeless- these are the words I’ve read recently to describe the people of my homeland. The neurotypicals of my homeland at that. It is interesting to me that the same words which are often used (incorrectly) to describe adults and children with autism are being applied to entire sections of community. I would love to understand what is happening in England, but the causes are mysterious and complicated.

I’m ashamed at the violence directed against innocents.  A teenager even tried to mug my friend as she walked with her baby in her neighbourhood in broad daylight.  I’m proud of the way others rallied together to clean up the mess.

The Prime Minister described society as “sick”, but he failed to offer a cure. We are invited to see the rioters as different to us.  And while I can’t imagine tearing up my homeland, neither can I imagine feeling alienated, hopeless and disengaged.

As the police regained control and the courts are dealing with the fall-out, we are learning that those involved in the riots appear to come from all sections of society: a number of students, a teaching assistant and an 11 year-old girl are among those facing charges. For a while, the rules were gone, chaos reigned, and the thrill of the mob was too appealing for many. England was in meltdown. If these people have taken part in destroying their communities, we have to ask ourselves why, even if the answers are mysterious and complicated. Even if a solution is hard to find.

It pains me to think of my home country being torn apart, to see places I’ve lived and visited being destroyed. Just as it pains me to think of the crime in this beautiful country where I now live. Just a few miles from the townships, I can close my gates, lock my doors, and enjoy a relatively safe heaven. But I can’t help but feel sad that I have experienced a different England and South Africa to many.

And that my haven will only feel safe under lock and key, away from the alienated, disengaged, and hopeless.  Peace of mind is increasingly a slice of heaven that few of us can experience, no matter where we live.

Written by Spectrummy Mummy

August 12, 2011 at 1:29 am

Santa Daddy

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The Christmas right after Pudding turned two, we drove from Luxembourg to the north of England to celebrate Christmas with my family.  As my parents own a hotel and it was full for the holidays, we also got to meet the many friends and guests who were staying.  Pudding actually thrived with all the attention, which is hard to imagine these days when she is more easily overwhelmed in company.  It was busy, so we were called on to lend a hand with all the festivities.  Spectrummy Daddy was given the task of wearing the Father Christmas (Santa) costume, and distributing presents to the guests.  I kept Pudding out of the way, as she had a tendency to think all gifts were hers to unwrap at the time.  She still does at times.

We waited in the room until we heard a knock at the door.  In walked my husband still in his Santa outfit.

Pudding’s face lit up.  “Santa!”, she exclaimed.

“Ho, ho, ho.  Merry Christmas, Pudding!”, Santa replied, in a suitably booming voice.  To me ears, he sounded just right.  To Pudding’s super-sensitive hearing powers, not so much.

Pudding responded with just one word: “Daddy.”

Frantic looks were exchanged between myself and Santa.  We couldn’t have just destroyed Christmas for our 2 year-old, could we?

Me: “No, no, Pudding.  Look, this is Santa!

Pudding: “Santa.  Daddy.  Santa Daddy, Santa Daddy, Santa Daddy!”

There was no changing her mind.  Santa Daddy it was.  Even now, two years later, when she sees that picture she tells me it is Santa Daddy.  At least we got an adorable photo out of the whole ordeal.

Almost as cute as this one taken the next day:

Written by Spectrummy Mummy

December 20, 2010 at 6:48 am

All I want for Christmas is….Me!

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AutismLearningFelt
The theme of this week’s Special Needs Blog Hop for this week: What I Want for Christmas.

I’ve already found what I want for Christmas and added it to my Amazon Wish List.

It is Me.

Yesterday I was on Facebook, and I went to close it down, but instead I clicked the area above it, where my “Add to Wish List” button from Amazon is located.  Immediately it linked up my profile to my Amazon Wish List.  Imagine my delight when I found I could purchase myself, for the very reasonable price of $5.99!

I left myself on the wish list, because I can think of nothing else I need more.

Another me to do the housework while I play with the kids.

One to play with Cubby and one for Pudding.  No guilt over divided attention.

I could stay at home with the napping Cubby while driving Pudding to her therapy appointments.

There would be a me to stay home with the kids while another went on a date with the hubby, or had a girl’s night out.

Let’s not forget the homesick me who could fly back to England for Christmas while the other one got to stay here.

I think I might win a prize for the most narcissistic wish, but I’m not deleting me from my list!

Written by Spectrummy Mummy

December 16, 2010 at 4:47 pm