Month: November 2017

That was the day …

Aren’t memories funny things. Precious things. I have so many memories going right back to a really early age … memories of an uncle who died when I was just two, memories of my pushchair folding up as my Mum was crossing a road, memories of finding a wee dead bird at the side of the garage and being so upset about it. Some memories are clear, vivid whilst others are barely there. I remember, as a pre-schooler, going out of church to Sunday School each Sunday morning and waving up to my Dad standing in the pulpit, and I remember so clearly how he would smile and wave back to me. I have happy memories of each of my grandparents … memories of my Grandpa putting his hand on my head and saying “Bless you my child” in a kind of sing song way. And I have memories of my Grandad sitting in his wee shed watching and chatting to his grandchildren as we stripped the plants free of garden peas and ate the lot before our Gran laughingly scolded that she didn’t get one meal out of them. Or my Grandmother in the last years of her life when a stroke had robbed her of her independence, talking with her about what I was doing, holding her hand and just enjoying being in her presence. I pride myself on having a good memory … for most things. I can clearly recall conversations I had with Mr GG or others from years ago but if you ask me to nip to the supermarket for something I’m guaranteed to get there and wander around aimlessly hoping something I see will remind me what I’m there for.

Other memories are bittersweet: the pain of losing each of my grandparents, the memory of the babies we had who went straight to heaven. Today is one of those bittersweet days … it is five years ago today that Son No2 was diagnosed with autism which means that it is just over eight years ago since Son No1 was diagnosed. Our lives have changed so much since we received each of those diagnoses. As a couple Mr GG & I have had to get our heads around the fact that life for our boys isn’t going to be straight forward … we have tried so desperately hard to teach them that although their route may be different to some other people, there is nothing they can’t do (to be honest, silver service may possibly be pushing it for one boy in particular). Our role is no longer just ‘parent’ … we are advocates for our boys, we are their voice in meetings, we are fighting for them to get the help they need, the therapies they need and the acceptance they deserve. As a family we have lost friends who just didn’t understand that life was different for us but, we are so very thankful for the friends we have, both new and old, who ‘get’ it, who love us as we are, accept our quirky family, join in the mayhem at GGHQ and relish the many laughs that fill our home.

Yes, the path I walk as a mum of children with special needs is not what I expected but I wouldn’t change it for one minute … I’d change the world for my children but my boys are just exactly the way they are meant to be.

So, anyway, back to the Love Dare … day 36 today which means, if I try hard I can finish the next four dares before the end of the year. Christmas is fast approaching though and already the boys are begging for the tree to be put up (not before December!), the advent calendar is made (I’m quite proud of it so here is a pic!) and I’m still trying to scrabble ideas together for presents!

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Today is all about love bearing all things. ‘You saw how the Lord your God carried you, just as a man carries his son, in all the way which you have walked (Dt 1:31).

We need to allow our children to make mistakes and bear the consequences but they need, always, to be sure of our love for them. We need to judge how to react whether with compassion or by ‘turning up the heat’ (Love Dare for Parents, Kendrick, p178)

The example used today is that of the Prodigal Son … I love that parable … the father allowed his son to go off and do his own thing, make his mistakes, he didn’t chase after him … but … when his son came home he celebrated and welcomed him back, without chastisement. That’s the type of parent I want to be.

The dare for today is one that baffles me … reassuring our children that our love for them is constant. Isn’t that something we all do as parents? I don’t know. I know that it’s something Mr GG and I talk about with the Junior GGs … they are, I trust, secure in the knowledge that our love for them isn’t dependent on how they behave or how well they are doing. Our love is unconditional … it’s important that my boys know that.

So, another busy day beckons … Mr GG is working from home today which usually means I get to have lunch with him but I’m off out and leaving him to eat alone … I hope he knows I still love him all the same and doesn’t feel too abandoned … especially after accidentally locking him out this morning … oops

Friday … at last!

In my last blog post I mentioned that this week was anti-bullying week.  Son No3 duly went to school in his odd socks …  IMG_0868

This week also ends with Children in Need … a really worthy cause and something that most children love supporting.  All three Junior GGs have gone off to school in casual clothes.  This pleases me not least because it means a couple less white shirts to wash this week! 

The boys all had to pay to dress down and there are different things going on in school throughout the day.  However, Children in Need day comes with an element of fear for one of the Junior GGs who has a phobia of anyone dressed up … last year we unwittingly walked into one of our local supermarkets to be greeted by someone dressed as Pudsy which resulted in him bolting out in terror … this year said boy refuses to go into any shop before Mr GG or I have checked it’s clear of danger!

Ah yes, it’s been a quick week, this post should really have been written a good few days ago but time left me behind.  It’s been a week of meetings with teachers, psychologists and other professionals … weeks like that, I find, are exhausting both mentally and emotionally.  It’s been a week of decisions too and changes are afoot within GGHQ … watch this space for more news in the next few weeks!

So, Day 35 of the Love Dare for Parents is all about love rejoicing in the truth and it uses the words of Proverbs 11:19 to guide our thinking.  I feel challenged as a Christian mum as to what I praise my children for.  Am I as quick to praise my children for walking in God’s ways?  Or am I quicker to praise them when they get good results from school, or do well in a race?  I’ve always tried to encourage my boys, I don’t know if they would say the same especially when I’m asking them for the 8 millionth time to tidy their rooms (maybe a slight exaggeration … or, on second thoughts, maybe not).

I’ve said many times that my desire for each one of the Junior GGs is that he grows up to become a man of God, someone who’s heart is focussed on doing what God wants him to do.  I really hope that I’m encouraging these traits in my sons, encouraging them in their spiritual journey and not hindering them.  I hope that I set an example to them that is good and God-honouring and not nagging and grumpy.

The dare for today is to identify a Godly trait in my sons then find a Bible verse which encourages them.  I’ve not completely done it yet.  I will though.  It’s a dare which I’m enjoying, I like the idea of finding a verse of Scripture for each child which I can use to encourage him. 

And in the meantime, I’ll be making a concerted effort to make sure that I practise encouraging the boys both for their positive personality traits (of which there are many … I’m a biased mum!) as well as their achievements.  [Whilst writing this I received an email with yet another positive referral from school for one of the Junior GGs … proud Mum]

So, onwards towards the weekend … Friday night is a busy night in GGHQ and we have no great plans for the weekend but it is time spent together … family time both with our biological family but also with our church family … something I never fail to look forward to.

Happy weekend one and all!

 

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Old, old photo but I love it … time with my Junior GGs is always special.

 

Good days and bad 

As you will have noticed most of my posts refer to or allude to parenting children with autism. It’s hard to write from another perspective as this is pretty much the only parenting I know. However, I think a lot of my experiences are similar to any other parent … after all parenting is a tough job no matter what.

But lately Mr GG and I have been faced with the challenges of social media. Whilst I like elements of social media like Facebook and, to a lesser extent Twitter, I have yet to find the fascination with media like Snapchat or Instagram and as parents of children with special needs it’s hard to know what to allow or what to avoid. Son No1 in particular is keen to be the same as his peers and painfully aware that he is different at an age where fitting in is so important. He engages with social media and is keen to keep in contact with his online friends.

Sadly, however, his autism and beautifully trusting nature make him a target for bullying and exploitation. It breaks my heart. He doesn’t understand why people are unkind. My amazing boy is friends with everyone and sees the good in all around him, even those that are unkind at times.

Last year we had to deal with an issue of bullying through social media which was swiftly and, we thought, effectively dealt with by school … however, it’s happening again and I’m cross, really cross. I’m not going into details as that’s not helpful, but it’s the same person, someone who has known my son long enough to understand how vulnerable he is and therefore someone who should know better. I’m devastated. I want to protect my son. I want the person involved to see the impact of their actions and realise just how deep the scars of bullying are affecting my child.

So, what do I do? The bullying is, in the main, cyber-bullying … from the safety of distance … although at times the person involved has physically and verbally assaulted my son. Do I remove social media from my son, thus punishing him for being a victim?

I think not.

For those who find social interaction difficult there are immeasurable benefits of social media … it’s a place to make friends, talk with them, and build a social network without the stresses of actually being in the company of people, trying to read social cues and understand body language.

We have a responsibility to train our children in using social media. To teach them how to beware of making themselves vulnerable and what is acceptable behaviour online. Whilst our children are entitled to privacy I also still, maybe controversially, feel strongly that we need to monitor our children’s actions online and deal with any bullying traits that may be exposed. Bullying isn’t always obvious, sometimes the bully is not aware that their behaviour is threatening and overpowering, sometimes they don’t realise how their actions are being perceived by the victim … sometimes a bully doesn’t know that’s what he or she has become and that what started out as something innocent has been built up to overwhelming proportions.

However, as a parent, I’m struggling with how I feel about the bully … I know I need to forgive and I need to help my son forgive but I don’t want to … I really, truly don’t want to. It’s one thing to hurt me … but another entirely when someone hurts of Mr GG or one of my Junior GGs. I’m a work in progress though, I’ll get there however long it takes.

Just today one of our schools tweeted that next week is anti-bullying week and children are encouraged to wear odd socks on Monday to celebrate that everyone is different and unique. That flags up different issues in a house with autism … wearing odd socks is anathema to one child who will definitely be wearing matching socks (and definitely the ones with the right day of the week on them!) … however, I’m sure at least some of us will be taking part. Exactly what it will do to help with bullying issues I’m not sure but … we’ll do it anyway.

So, setting the whole horrible cyber-bullying issue to one side it’s time to look back to the Love Dare. I’m on day 34 now … the end is well and truly in sight which I’m sure many of you will be breathing a sigh of relief about … peace comes … maybe!

Today the subject is marriage. Whilst the Junior GGs are all too young for marriage I’m well aware that time is whizzing past and before I know it they will all be flying the nest, making their way in the world, building homes of their own and, I pray, happy marriages and families.

It’s a thought … gives me chills really … I can’t imagine any of my boys grown up and away from home although the first Junior GG has now left me behind in the height stakes so I guess I ought to be getting used to it. I remember being told when the boys were wee (maybe only Son No1 was around at that time) that we have a responsibility for eighteen years to train our children to live independently of us … it’s true … but a horrible thought! I’ve loved having little children around but I’m also loving the boys they have become and the young men they are growing into. It’s a privilege to be their mum and I hope that when they grow up they think I’ve not done too bad a job!

So, the dare for today is to talk to the boys about marrying the right person … and at the right time. It’s a subject that’s been discussed around our table before as the boys know that Mr GG and I knew each other for many years before we eventually became a couple and got married. The dare also encourages us to pray for our children’s future spouses. It’s a thought! I wonder what the future holds for my sons, I wonder who they will eventually marry, I wonder what adventures lie ahead of them.

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Count your blessings …

You know those weekends that pass far too quickly but are filled with lots of happy memories?  Yes?  Well, this past weekend was one of them!  Happy times with my favourite GGs.  There were, of course, the usual sibling squabbles and not everyone was exactly delighted when we went out for an exploring walk on Saturday afternoon but it was a happy weekend nonetheless.  A weekend balanced with time at home, time outside in the fresh aid and time spent with our church family learning, praising and spending time together.

Last night in church our pastor, at the end of the service, used the priestly blessing (Numbers 6: 24-26): 

The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face shine on you and be gracious to you; the Lord turn his face towards you and give you peace.

As Andrew said those words I thought of my boys and was struck by how that is my prayer for them.  In life I want the best for my sons, I want them to be happy, to be content in the careers they choose, to marry and have children, to live full and happy lives but most of all I want them to know the peace of God, to know and understand what God has done for them, to be his children.

Now, when I was thinking all this I had not read the Love Dare for today!  Honestly!!

After the calm of the weekend today was one of those days where I got up this morning feeling overwhelmed by the length of the to-do list and the lack of time to complete it.  Writing a blog post was one of the things that I thought would get pushed to another day but … well … when I read through Day 33 as I ate my lunch I realised that I had to post today after all.

You see, today’s Dare is entitled Love Blesses and the Scripture reference is, you’ve guessed it, the priestly blessing (also known as the Aaronic Blessing as it was given to Aaron to pass on to the Israelites). 

The Dare begins with explaining what a blessing actually is:

‘To bless someone actually means ‘to speak well of’.  It’s a parent using their God-given authority to verbally affirm their children for who they are, while also encouraging and inspiring them towards future success.’ (Love Dare for Parents, Kendrick, B&H Publishing Group, 2013, p161).

I often speak of my sons as being gifts from God, blessings that he has given me.  But reading the definition from the Love Dare seemed different so I googled the word ‘blessing’ to find out more. 

Good old Google gave me a few different definitions including the one above but also, ‘a beneficial thing for which one is grateful’!  Phew!

So, the dare for today is write a blessing for each of the Junior GGs thinking of now and looking ahead. 

Our meal is going to be late this evening but I’ve written out the blessings and will read them to the boys (if they haven’t eaten the table first because I’ve dilly dallied so long … boys are ALWAYS hungry!) … and here they are:

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Son No1 – You are so special, your birth turned me into a Mum and you bear all my parenting mistakes with a hug and a kiss.  You make people smile and feel welcome … you never pass anyone you know, whether old or young, teacher or pupil, without greeting them and, if you can, you always use someone’s name … that makes people feel loved.  You have a real talent when it comes to music, your ability to play by ear amazes me and it surprises me sometimes that you don’t realise just how good you are.  I truly believe that your future lies within the music industry in some way if that is the path you choose to take.

Son No2 – My precious boy.  You have an infectious laugh and it is one of the sweetest sounds to hear you laughing and chuckling as you watch something or talk with one of your brothers.  Life is so hard for you in so many ways but you are a warrior, you may worry but you overcome far more obstacles that you ever let beat you.  I love how fascinated you are with food.  I love that you will experiment and try new foods and that you like to cook whenever you have the opportunity.  My clever son, you can do whatever you set your mind to, even if your route may be a little bit different to that of some other people.  Be yourself, shine as you are.

Son No3 – My star.  Your caring heart is beautiful to watch.  It fills me with delight to see you working out ideas to make life easier for other people.  Your compassion when gathering together items for the shoebox appeal was heart-melting.  You have a real gift for drama despite your reluctance to show it … you have a talent for mimicking accents and copying how people speak and have an air of comedy about you.  I love to curl up and read stories with you.  The world is out there waiting for you … I honestly believe you are capable of anything you put your mind to!  Keep smiling because seeing your smile can cheer me up on the hardest day.

My sons, I give thanks to God every day for you.  I thank him for giving me the privilege of being your mum, for having the joy (yes, even on those really awful days) of parenting you and teaching you.  I’m thankful for the family we are … you, me, Dad … we are all meant to be together, we are Team GG.  I pray for each one of you every day and my heart’s desire is that each one of you comes to love God and lives your life doing what he wants you to do.  I love you.

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Fireworks …

Ach!  I had today’s blog all written and ready to post … and I’ve ditched the lot.  Sometimes that happens … I write a post and then something else happens and somehow my original writing doesn’t seem to fit so well.

So, we’re into November … it’s old news really but, hasn’t this year flown past!  Even Son No1 keeps telling me that time is flying past … although Sons No2 & No3 tell me that some school days seems to last for ever.  However it’s the weekend … a full two days with my four favourite people, I can’t think of anything better.

This evening we went to a firework display as a family.  This was a big event for us.  Social occasions are difficult for several members of our family and the thought of un-known numbers of people milling around can be quite overwhelming.  There was lots of discussion and lots of ‘What if’ questions asked … the final decision was that we would park the car somewhere that the occupants could still see the fireworks without having to be part of the melee if that was what they chose.

It was a great night.  The fireworks were awesome … way more exciting than my poor attempts at capturing them on camera.  We spent time chatting with friends, making new friends and watching our boys running about playing with their friends … special memories are so easily made.

Already in GGHQ talk is turning to Christmas … I’m often reminded that it’s ‘just next month’ although it really feels as if the Christmas decorations were only packed away a couple of weeks ago. 

I love the lead up to Christmas.  I love building up the anticipation for the Junior GGs with variations on advent calendars (this year it’s a home-made one with something for everyone each day).  I love the fun of the boys opening the Christmas Eve box which invariably contains new pyjamas for us all, hot chocolate, a DVD and maybe some sweets and I love then getting all cosy and watching a movie with the boys before they go to bed for the first time that evening.

Last year we set aside two boxes for Christmas Day … each day in December the boys chose a food treat that they would like for the holidays and we bought one for each box.  A couple of days before Christmas we took one of the boxes to the foodbank … it was a really interesting experience for the Junior GGs as, whilst they donate to the foodbank through school, it was the first time they’d seen just how much is needed … all three boys came away from the foodbank feeling challenged and are keen to do the same again this year.

Anyway, today is Day 32 of the Love Dare for Parents and it’s all about ‘Love Prepares’. 

In day to day life I do try to be prepared.  If there isn’t a degree of preparation in our home then getting the three Junior GGs out to the right school at the right time probably wouldn’t happen.  Living with autism means Mr GG and I have learned that the boys find comfort in knowing what’s happening.  During termtime life is fairly straight forward … each day is relatively structured and the boys generally know what to expect.  In school holidays we try to plan each week so that the boys can easily see what’s going to happen each day.  We’ve also tried to throw a change in now and again as, however hard it is, we have to prepare our boys for life which, as we all know, is unpredictable and throws us a curve ball from time to time.

One area I enjoy planning is our menu.  Each Sunday my foodie boy and I sit down together and plan breakfasts, lunches and dinners for the week ahead.   As with our calendar, now and again we have to swap meals when circumstances dictate but we find having a menu means that the boys know what to expect (and when to moan all day because they’re not going to like their evening meal!).

However, the Love Dare is talking more about preparing our children for life.  My shelves are full of books (back to reading again) about various issues that the boys may face in life … as a mother I want to be as prepared as I can although I’m horribly aware that no parent can be prepared for every eventuality.

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The Dare for today is to make a list of topics that Mr GG & I need to discuss with our children from relationships to puberty, teenage years (eek!) to facing illness and death, from handling day to day choices to preparing for independent living.  I certainly think my shelves are full of equipment to prepare so I guess now the thing is to find the extra hours in the days to read all the books I’ve lined up for myself!

Ah well, time to go … I hear a book (or 10) calling …