Cracked Pot

This afternoon we all bumbled off to Hospital, with me silently dreading One Discharge: No Appeal. That… didn’t happen.

Totally didn’t happen.

Our consultant Paed was drowning in work and had subbed out half his clinic to a locum consultant: the delightfully named Dr Pal. And she was very, very nice. Harry was already in full melt-down by the time we got into the exam room, and had already thrown himself about the waiting room in a frenzy, putting two fresh lumps on the back of his head and another bruise DIRECTLY ON TOP OF his existing shiner.

Incidentally, is that purely a UK colloquialism? A black eye! Here, have another photo, with this morning’s bloody lip featured for good measure (fell off the padded piano stool straight onto the exceedingly UNpadded square wooden stool that he insisted go there, in defiance of safety. I moved it twice and he went bananas and hit me both times so eventually I just let him leave it where it was. Whereupon he promptly crash-landed on it the moment my back was turned.) along with the crusted snot, neither of which he would permit me to wipe.

Harry bruised

Where am I? Oh, yes. The toy box in the corner distracted Harry sufficiently (and he fell over on the way across the room! For no reason! She noticed! Hooray!) for me to give a very truncated precis, and I had just told her that Harry’s behaviour had me in tears most days, when the toys lost their appeal and his hysterical shrieks started up again. He threw a toy car across the room like a rocket, and I’m pretty sure the Dr shifted on her chair ready to take cover behind the desk at that point, because it was blatantly obvious that he was planning more missiles just as soon as he could grab something else. He calmed down briefly when shown some lego, but soon decided that it would look much better embedded in Daddy’s eyeball. John eventually just had to sit and hang on to him for grim life in a sterling effort to stop him dashing his own brains out, and the next 10 minutes of our conversation were surely audible along the corridor because we were HAVING TO SHOUT to be heard.

After this, John decided that enough was enough and carted Harry outside in search of somewhere softer; there was a wincingly near-miss with the doorframe when Harry violently threw his upper body backwards the instant John loosed one hand to turn the doorhandle (a scenario that has drawn blood from Harry on more than one previous occasion) followed by the sounds of hoarse screams fading slowly down the corridor.

Dr Pal said …well, a lot, really. I loved her from the moment she asked me – without a trace of irony – ‘If I had a medical background? No? You understand the clinical issues unusually well’. I glared at John like a Medusa, and I hope he knew that if he had even so much as shaped his lips into anything that looked like the first syllable of ‘Internet’ or ‘Google’ then he wouldn’t have lived to see tomorrow’s dawn. I fell in girly love with her a little more when she said ‘I can see you’re going through hell. This is certainly extremely challenging behaviour.’

My lip immediately started to quiver (as it naturally does when you’ve been feeling all along that you are a teeny bit entitled to feel sorry for yourself but no-one is actually Seriously Getting It apart from you and your innernet buddies, so you haven’t really felt fully justified in wallowing in a mudbath of Waaaah! and you’ve been quietly keeping a lid on things, rather) and my inner Stiff Upper British Lipness (whom I picture as a particularly well-moustachioed Sergeant Major) was obliged to roar at me imperiously; something along the lines of GET A FUCKING GRIP ALREADY! followed by DON’T YOU DARE WASTE TIME BLUBBING JUST BECAUSE YOU’VE HAD A SMIDGEON OF SYMPATHY! and JUST BECAUSE THERE’S A CHANCE THAT SOMEONE WHO CAN DO SOMETHING ACTUALLY AND FINALLY UNDERSTANDS! It was a toughie, but Sergeant Major won, and I retained the holey and cleanliness-compromised emotional cloak that I term my dignity.

She listened to the lot: trainwreck pregnancy, premature birth, neurological worries, mobility problems that no-one can see except the people that, like, actually know him, his near-complete absence of speech, his sensory quirks and oddities, and his dreadful, dreadful behaviour and how it does – and does not – manifest itself. She listened with amusement as I dryly described alarming our regular Paed with my proffered diagnosis of mild ataxic cerebral palsy.

And then she told me – and it’s still ringing round my head – ‘Your fears are valid.’  

She is taking this seriously. Someone is finally taking Harry seriously. This is the first time that I’ve genuinely known that someone isn’t blowing smoke up my arse.

The first thing she has done is fax an urgent referral to the community paediatric psychologists. She explained that there are painfully few – read, no – magic wands they can wave, but they can certainly help support and advise us in our management of Harry’s anger and frustration, whatever its cause. Which would be balm, because John and I are certainly not singing off the same Tantrum Management hymn sheet currently.

And then there’s finding out the cause. She courteously deferred to our regular Paed’s final say-so, but she has provisionally referred Harry for an EEG and an MRI scan.

That’s the whole nine yards.

General anaesthesia.

Brain scan.

Shit.

She explained that our regular chap may want Harry’s psychology results before he oks it, and suddenly I felt extremely grateful that Harry’s Paed is a very cautious chap who probably thinks there’s not much wrong with him. I hope he’s right.

Despite the fact that I’ve been jumping up and down and squeaking earnestly about brain damage (to any medical professional who’ll stand still long enough to listen) for the last couple of years, I’d kind of got used to being considered this paranoid and eccentric crackpot mother who has a bee in her bloody bonnet.

I’d scooched out a comfy little place to sit, and the view from here is… sort of alright, you know? Suspecting but not knowing.

The next step towards knowing actually involves shoving needles and drips in my struggling little boy, filling his veins with cold, potentially deadly drugs that course their way into his tiny, brave little heart (only a few months healed of its hole) and head, temporarily shutting down the vibrant, vigorous, energised, enquiring, affectionate, beauteous personality that is my son and rendering him limp, absent, forlorn. Unreachable in his darkness. Alone. Unmothered. 

All anaesthesia carries a risk, and Harry’s middle name has never been Lucky. If he didn’t wake up, I don’t think I would watch another sunrise, either.

John’s gone quiet; he’s not keen on the idea. We have to ask ourselves – and them, at length – what the possible benefits of having a clearer picture of Harry’s clinical diagnosis are. It’s not an absolute: people with very obvious neurological impairment can appear undamaged on MRI. The brain is an unimaginably complex piece of kit and, even if we establish that Harry does have damage, and the nature of it, I’m not too clear yet about how that understanding will help us improve his function. So many questions.

Tonight, I really miss being the crackpot mother. I think it rather suited me.

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Mucus

As usual, I keep mentally drafting a dozen blog posts that never make it anywhere near here, usually because I think of them while I’m driving. Then evening rolls round and by the time I’ve galloped through my blog feeds and mentally bookmarked dozens of sites I want to look at again/in more depth/actually bloody comment on this time – it’s 10pm and it’s too late for me to start writing. I must be the slowest blogger in Christendom: I never seem to get the hang of dashing a quick one off the wrist –  ahem! – every day or so; instead I save it up for you in great indigestible chunks that take me hours to write. I must achieve brevity, for your sanity and mine.

So. Lemme see. What’s happened?

I had cause to remember my red onion allergy at the weekend. I hadn’t actually forgotten that the smell of the things makes me ill, it’s rather that I’ve been avoiding them for several years on precisely that basis, without actually being able to recall quite what they do to me. They’re colourful and attractive and I thought, really, I must surely have imagined something so damn silly as an onion-smell allergy, so I bought 3 to put in with my supper-party roast veg on Saturday night. Caution intervened and I only prepared one; I left it in quarters, mid-afternoon, in a large dish of peeled and chopped root veg that I kept meaning to cover over and never did, as I was pathetically behind culinary schedule as usual. I began to feel fairly headache-y after a hour or so, and thought ‘I really MUST cover that bloody onion up’ – and got distracted by something else, and didn’t.

I was concentrating so hard on cooking that it wasn’t until guests turned up at 7.30 that I realised I was verging on a migraine and my sinuses felt as if they had been injected with liquid lead. My tinnitus (a permanent legacy of Castle Donnington 1991 Monsters of Rock festival! Yo! Duuuuuuuudes!) was roaring and I could still hear my pulse pounding in my ears over the top of that. I struggled through the whole evening and went to bed feeling exceptionally shitty. I could see purple auras around objects in the half-light, my neck glands were swollen and my entire nervous system felt dysfunctional and overwrought. Harry yelled for an hour or so, which helped not one jot. It took me more than 24 hours to recover. Judicious googling has revealed that I am not actually quite alone in my freakish allergy, and, like me, other sufferers can encounter white onions and garlic without disturbance; only red onions are the naughty ones. Do bear this in mind when you invite me to lunch!

So. That was boring. What else?

Harry’s physio discharge letter came, and said what we expected it to say: they can see no physical reason for his falls. He ‘certainly appears to have a degree of hyper-flexibility’ and ‘does tend to fall frequently, particularly from furniture, steps, etc’.

Uh-huh. Bouncing horses, too.

crayola shiner

‘He appears to have a high activity level, but does not always appear to be aware of the risk of falling.’ 

You can say that again, lady. Oh… you do!

‘He needed constant attention to avoid injury’.

Sigh. We’re taking Harry – and his shiner (which the photos aren’t doing full justice to; I’ve been looked at like a true pariah by every mother I’ve seen this week) – to see his Paed tomorrow – except it isn’t actually his Paed, because they’ve shifted all the clinics about, so it’s ‘one of the paediatric team’; at least we have the benefit of a second opinion, I suppose.

Harry had a rotten cold the last half of last week, John has lurched from sore throat to sore throat, and I’ve been bunged up with unspeakable and unshiftable mucus for a fortnight or more. Harry was so sad and sorry for himself last Thursday that he ended up sleeping with me for a couple of nights, barking with a hoarse little squeak and smearing me liberally in the night with his mucus-laden features when he came for kisses and cuddly reassurance.

Of course, largely recovered, he is now waking up at midnight and demanding stridently to be brought into bed with us. If he is given-in to, he lies quietly between us in the dark for a few minutes before becoming utterly bored and deciding to par-tay; this takes the form of him launching headbutts randomly into the dark and giggling. I have a sore nose – again – and John suffered a spectacularly fat lip. When Harry is inevitably carted back to his room by a furious and smarting parent, he proceeds to melt down in heartbreaking fashion, pulling every known trick in the tantrum book. He throws himself about the cot so enthusiastically that his sleeping bag poppers and zips generally give up the ghost, freeing his legs for a launch attempt over the recently-heightened fence of his cot bars towards Planet Parent.

I completely comprehend Harry’s frustration and confusion. In cot! Wah! Escape from cot facilitated! Weee! In cot again! Wah! John is annoyed because I had him in bed with me to begin with and started the Cot Protest rot again, but it’s just not in me to leave a miserable, toastie-hot, achey, sneezing, coughing little boy sat mournfully behind his cot bars, clutching his water bottle like it’s his best friend, and wailing sadly. He’s a tough little shoot, but I can see when he’s feeling absolutely rotten and he ends up sleeping with me every time he’s poorly… and every time we have to go through a week’s worth of weaning him back into his own room afterwards, usually just in time for the next virus.

I accept it’s a problem. Hubby also needs to accept that if he starts one more sentence with ‘If you hadn’t…’ at 4am in the morning, when we’ve both been trampled to a bloody pulp by our son’s bony hooves and neither of us have had a wink of sleep yet, his breeding days are o.v.e.r.

By virtue of Harry’s viral woe, I managed to entirely miss the much-hyped BBC Question Time featuring the BNP MEP Nick Griffin. Some of you may not be aware of the British National Party: they are the UK’s far-right political abhorrence and gained 2 European – not British – parliamentary seats in the last election. As elected politicians, I regretfully concede that the BBC does indeed have a moral obligation to occasionally bung them on TV, but… well. I had vaguely planned a bit of a long rant about it here, but I now find I simply can’t be bothered to download it and watch it: apparently he came off badly, which was no surprise.

I have much I could say, but will confine myself to the bald statement that Harry’s life was saved by 3 doctors: all of them coloured, all of them accented, all of them immigrants. I bless them frequently. The BNP delivered a leaflet through our door earlier in the year, and the only reason I didn’t wipe my bottom with it is that I have more respect for my own arse than that.

Harry’s life needing to be saved at all was brought back to me in disturbing detail last week: my long-awaited pregnancy and medical notes arrived. That’s a whole other post – likely an excruciatingly boring one, too (WordPress have just introduced a new, bright-red ‘Move to Trash’ button, and it appears to be affecting my confidence!), but I always think that and mysteriously you keep coming back – so I will try my hardest to write it tomorrow night. 

And… it seems that my blogroll is being shat on, particularly and horribly hard lately.

Pru is down, Womb is down, L’eggs is down, Twangy is down, Thalia is down, Belgian Waffle is down.

Everyday Stranger is having a dreadfully hard bloody time.

May is spending tonight in hospital with a suspected ectopic pregnancy. In her single remaining ovary + tube.  is miscarrying, and having a shockingly shitty reproductive nightmare.

These ladies need bloggy love, even if it’s the silent in-your-head sort.

Malice of Inanimate Objects

Our marriage is saved: we have ordered a new laptop. No longer am I condemned to spend the long, damp English winter alone, huddled in the office with frozen feet, arse and hands. I am freed – freed! – to the warmth and light of the woodburner-heated living room, where Hubby resides of an evening – usually snoring in front of badly-chosen TV channels. He will now have the pleasure, not only of his wife’s company, but also that of turning the TV down. He is unlikely to cede control of the zappers – I am, after all, a mere woman, and zapper possession is a clearly established male Hairy Farmer trait –

zapper king

zapper smiles

zapper 2   zapper4    zapper   zapper5

but I’m sure we’ll work something out.

I think the final straw came yesterday, when John found me walloping the mouse into the keyboard and weeping tears of insane fury, while the clock ticked inexorably (a shockingly unco-operative bit of wall furniture, that thing) past the numbers at which Ann Must Leave Or Be Shamefully Late, and the desperately-required page of labels was still a mere twinkle in the unblinking red LED eye of our yet-again frozen computer. 

And I’d tried to start it all earlier, really I had, but I’d had a coffee & cards event to run all morning while Harry was at nursery; John picked him up at lunchtime and drove around until Harry was juuuuuust sleepy enough to think that he had actually had his nap, whereas he had only closed his eyes for half a goddamned minute. When I arrived home for lunch, laden with urgent orders and with preparations to make for an identical evening event, Harry naturally would not even consider entertaining the shadow of a possibility of a snooze, but was overtired and clung to me like an abused koala, demanding looped Little Red Tractor DVDs until my eyes wanted to bleed.

I put some sterling work in on my attempt to hang on to my Mother of the Year 2010 title by sneaking off to the PC intermittently (this is my points-clincher: I kept telling him I was going to the kitchen to fetch him some choccy milk, the current yummy favourite) – but Harry was having none of it; an imperious and indignant little chap would appear at my knee within seconds and bodily drag me away.

Now, rightly or wrongly, I felt John to be heavily implicated in my plight, on the basis that he had half-cooked the drive-to-sleep business to begin with, and I repeatedly phoned him with the intention of telling him so. Possessed of as much husbandly ESP as the next man, he had cleverly mislaid his phone and by the time he did finally return home from whatever tea-drinking, foot-propping, gossiping, entirely bloody frivolous activity* keeps a farmer (who has, smugly, completed all his drilling) busy in late October… well, it was late, and so was I.

The PC, sensing my desperation and haste, displayed utter, blatant and outrageous fuckwittage. This was by no means its first offence, and I would have promptly sentenced it with a fucking heavy mallet had one been available; I eventually disappeared out of the house at speed, possessed of wet labels and a boiling  bad temper. The wretched thing continued to play me up late into last night when I realised today’s schedule of speech therapy and safari park – more anon – inescapably dictated a late night online, ordering in stock. I went to bed at 1.45am, brooding darkly.

Overnight, I remembered the inspirational piece of work that is the Torture Box. I worried that unplugging the wires for a judicious dose of punishment might shift the thick layer of dust about and cause even further loss of performance, so…

torture

there. Take that.

And… I swear it’s been running better since.

* there may be two different opinions about this.

Why The Doors Need Bolts Fitting

Hurricane alley: Finger of God

finger of god

Ann’s unguarded stock room: Fist of Toddler

fist of toddler

Some Perfectly Adequate Crying

One of the Piddle Mums is a proper sweetheart. Really and absolutely a sweetheart. Every time I’ve looked a little down, a little stressed, a little distraught at babygroup – she’s been on the phone or texted that night. She is absolutely the type of friend I would like to be to other people – and know I never could measure up. 

Late this afternoon she rang my doorbell, prompting John, who often divests himself of his diesel/chemical/shit covered trousers in the hall, to dive entertainingly for a pair of baggies. 

‘I can’t stop,’ she said (and the frantic sounds of trouser-fighting behind me subsided), ‘but I thought you deserved these.’ She held out Thornton’s chocolates. ‘I felt so sorry for you this afternoon. I followed you out into the street when you left, but Harry had gone a bit quieter and I didn’t want to set him off again.’ I choked back the fast-rising FLOOD OF SELF PITY and sadly told her he had merely been taking stock of the change of surroundings. It took me several minutes – and some reasonably forceful handling – to insert him into his car seat and get the straps done up safely. Longer than it should have done, because he’d ripped my specs off and thrown them in the road – whizzy with cars – behind me, and I couldn’t rescue them because that would have entailed actually losing my tenous grip on the spitting hellcat that was my child. She twisted her mouth in sympathy. ‘If you ever want to talk… I know it must be hard…’

Bless the woman. She’s right. It is hard. He has dozens of smaller meltdowns everyday, and it’s by no means the first time I’ve lately been obliged to bodily remove him during a Harry ‘Special’ for the safety of the children around him, not to mention his own. I tend to have to carry him out past a row of wide open eyes, all watching in silent amazement at the sight of a child who has absolutely and spectacularly lost it.

But… plenty have it much, much harder. He fills our lives. That’s my actual son headbutting the door over there, everyone! He’s fabulously lovely, really; a tiny knight continually charging off to do battle, or at least prod some serious buttock with his lance.

lance 1 

His Portage worker came today, and I took the time to explain to her how awful his behaviour is becoming. I empathised with his communication frustration and she pursed her lips. ‘Well… he does point… and tow you about… ask for things… signs a lot better now… I suppose it could still be frustration, but perhaps… I don’t know… he’s a bit young, still… don’t usually do anything before 3… it might be worth exploring… referral to a behavioural psychologist?’ 

So I’m now back with the worry that Harry’s communication delay is incidental to the rages and he is actually simply a particularly cross toddler, with an extra-concentrated dollop of our worst character attributes to boot. I can… ummm… see ourselves. In him. Clearly. I am generally at least as furious and indignant as Harry is when I don’t get my own way; I am also, under the fluffy babble, a high-handed and imperious bossy-boots. John… cannot count altruism among his good points.  He frequently has minimal regard for anything or anyone that does not directly benefit his own sweet self. Come to think of it, we sound just like a pair of classic toddlers ourselves.

John surprised me a little this evening by accepting the suggestion of a paediatric psychologist without demur – but on the other hand, he has been kicked an awful lot lately. Whether we manage an NHS referral is another thing altogether, as I rather expect Harry’s Paediatrician will be slaveringly keen to discharge us when we see him next. Physiotherapy, apparently, can Do Nothing For Us.

I walked out of his physio assessment last week completely bemused. I couldn’t shake the feeling, paranoid ol’ me, that I was being fobbed off. She let slip knowledge regarding Harry’s background that made me suspicious that she had spoken to Harry’s Paediatrician already, as by the physio department’s own admission, the referral he made to them had contained hardly any information.

He did fall during his assessment, often. Mainly, as the Physio correctly said, through not looking where he was going, or simply not taking any care not to fall. Such face-plants make up probably 60% of his total overall but were maddeningly predominant that day; his inexplicable collapses and sinuous wobbles he didn’t really exhibit properly. She put him on a ball and swayed him about to test his muscle tone, and he actually responded wonderfully well. I mused as I watched them: lately, he never knocks the back of his head coming down slides – he has greatly improved the muscle strength around his tummy and neck without me actually noticing it.

She conceded that he had hypermobility in his joints and ‘floppy’ muscle tone. She told me he had done well to hit his physical developmental milestones on time: she saw children with this degree of hypermobility and floppy tone not walk at all until they were 2. Generally she would prescribe exercises to increase muscle strength – but Harry is already unusually and ferociously strong. I may have rubbed my bruises reflectively as she said this. She commented that he was a quite exceptionally high-energy child, and consequently: his own best therapy. A less active, driven and determined toddler would have been significantly less mobile, which did make sense.

She told me she could see no evidence of any neurological complication – and could see nothing to support our impression of low trunk muscle tone. Which puzzled me no end, because floppy muscle tone IS low muscle tone; I understood them both to be terms for hypotonia. Her explanation of her explanation confused me still further – something about him being congenitally floppy in tone, but it not being anything to do with his brain. Ummm. Ok. She wasn’t clear, and neither was I: doubtless his Paediatrician will give us a precis when we see him.

A part of me thinks I should relax and play the watch&wait game. Irrespective of what’s causing Harry’s wobbles, a paediatric physiotherapist has told me there is nothing we can do to improve his walking. The other part is screaming in frustration and considering a private referral to Second Opinion Land. When Harry goes to nursery, he has to walk holding my hand along at least 200 ft of pavement. Harry doesn’t do straight lines or exciting outdoor situations very well, so he generally falls about 6 or 7 times during that walk. I notice people noticing. And then I think they must be noticing all his bruises, too. On Tuesday, he fell about every 10ft and a waiting Mum asked me if ‘he’d hurt his legs?’ 

I came home and sobbed, because I don’t want my son to be the one that everyone looks at because he can’t walk properly and can’t talk, or be the mother that people feel sorry for and give chocolates to. And then I decided I’d better snap out of it because A) all I wanted was a child to love and care for – I don’t remember making conditions about exactly what sort and B) John wasn’t taking a blind bit of notice, bar a quarter-turn away from his on-line bridge session* and a vague pat on the leg, so it seemed a waste of some perfectly adequate crying. We had a bit of a row about that. (And… umm… about Mandatory Forcible Toothbrushing Being A Bad Thing For Children, too… and about the fact that John thought we actually didn’t need a fireguard because, a-ha, get this… Harry (just two) COULD BE TRAINED not to go near or touch the incandescently hot woodburner. I usually reserve the exclusive right to criticise my spouse, but feel free to tell him what you think about that one, coz the daft old sod still thinks he’s in the right.)

*Incidentally, if you happen to frequent http://uk.pogo.com/games/bridge at all, and you encounter Big Hairy, DHairy, or The Hairy One, or some hirsute equivalent… yeah. It’s him. He’s quite good: even his genial soul of a father remarked dryly one day that ‘his beady eyes can see round corners, I reckon’. On our neighbour’s annual Whist Drive, watching John’s eager scramble to leave any table where he has been landed with me as a partner is… priceless.

Where was I? Oh, yes! Moaning! Which is a bit misleading really, because, bad afternoon today aside, things are Really Not Too Bad. I have cheerfully and shamelessly told a whopping great Untruth to the nice lady from Portage, telling her that I am reducing Harry’s daycare Tuesday and Friday sessions to just Fridays (I am… come next month. Or the month after. The new year, say. In the new year.  At some point.) and taking him to his special needs nursery on a Monday (which I totally, totally am, they having most obligingly agreed Not To Mention To Anyone about his cough Wednesday session). It might not work out, as, together with his visiting Speech Therapy and Portage, it’s a lot of input, and my calendar is a bit scribbled-on, but Harry does seem to thrive on excitement and activity. There’s none of it we can’t decide just not to do for a few days if it suits us to take a break.

I’m sat here munching the chocolates – having already lost Not One Jot of pre-laparoscopy weight – and occasionally coughing like a blocked machine gun, as I have a cold I can’t shift. I had planned to catch up with my commenting or sort my delivery out, but I’m actually going to go and watch Scrubs with John instead, and remember, today, to feel thankful for the fact that I am able to take photos like this

Whizzy car

and revel in the fact that I can take half an hour out to ignore the housework during the day while Harry naps and play with frivolities like this instead

wreath

while the tiny chap upstairs in bye-byes land gears up for another full-throttle day tomorrow.Shark!

Shark!

Yummy Mummy

Some of you have occasionally been kind enough to comment on my better culinary productions, so I thought I’d sift through my photos and see if I could offer any useful advice for the kitchen amateur.

I think I’ve covered all the basics. 

1) Don’t slope off to read blogs and forget that you are actually cooking something.

sausages

2) Don’t slope off to read blogs and forget that you are actually cooking something.

Beef casserole

3) Several weeks later, really don’t slope off to read blogs and forget that you are actually cooking something.

beef caserole incineration

4) Remember, when you have oh-so-carefully rolled and shaped some delectably light and tasty chocolate pastry, that chocolate pastry is a card-carrying bitch and will fall apart the moment you attempt to slide her fragile deliciousness onto your rolling pin. When the texture eventually resembles that of left-out-in-the-frost playdough, you have beaten it into submission. Shape, bake and serve.

chocolate pastry

5) Remember that Yorkshire Puddings often taste nicer on your plate than welded solid to the tin.

yorkshires

6) Sponge cakes obtain their light fluffy texture from incorporated air. If you must randomly lose your temper and kick an inanimate object, a good choice of object would be one that does not contain impact-sensitive air-incorporation chemistry in progress. The oven door is an excellent example of a poor choice.

pan-cakes

7) Do not cook while intoxicated. It is possible to become Confused regarding raising agent quanties.

sunken cake

8) Do not cook while intoxicated. It is possible to become Confused regarding raising agent quanties.

Overflowing cake

Rock, meet Hard Place.

It’s not been a cheery day, so let’s start things off with a nice little photo. John was Harry’s whipping boy Nominated Parent on Sunday, so I kicked back and relaxed by re-arranging my kitchen cupboards. This is almost everything I found that was out of date, often by an impressive 4 or 5 years. (Feel quite free to be Topper and comfort me, BTW.)

cupboard contents

We will now take a brief moment, in which everyone who has ever eaten a meal in my house, bloggers among them, can quietly disappear to throw up absolutely everything they have ever consumed.

Better?

The predominance of seeds is as a result of John’s brief fad of being a baker: we have been married 6 years in March and received a bread maker as a wedding present. Hubby got all keen and baked a number of really quite edible loaves, buying in large stocks of pumpkin, poppy and sesame seeds. Then he lost all interest; the packets have been gathering dust ever since.

Our garden birds did very nicely out of it all on Sunday, particularly as I also found a pack of lard (out of sight and mind at the top of the fridge) with a date of January 2009. Yum.

If Harry survives his childhood without falling victim to Campylobacter, E-coli or Salmonella, then he will one day look back on his formative years – these years – and form an opinion on whether I make a bad or good decision this week, and I’m wriggling uncomfortably on the pointy horns of a daycare dilemma. If you have clever advice – or amusing assvice – for me, I will give it my close attention and gratitude.

Harry currently receives Portage, a weekly home-visiting education service for pre-schoolers with additional support needs. Harry’s home visitor has undoubtedly assisted him: by following her suggestions and games, Harry has certainly come to understand the concept of taking turns, after only a handful of visits. Putting the theory into practice outside a controlled home environment has been uphill work for the lad, but she has helped improve his communication. She’s the closest thing he has to a key worker, and liaises – theoretically – with:

Physiotherapy: his Wobbles assessment is – finally – Thursday morning. I am grimly prepared to get Harry drunk and suddenly stick my foot out in front of him if he refuses to fall over for her.

Speech and Language Therapy: achingly slow progress. ‘Djess’ has, depressingly, sunk slowly back into the formless quicksand of his babble, and Harry, at 26 months and 82cms, is once again officially Wordless. He is progressing with his language; his eye contact is significantly better and his signing is coming along nicely this week – he has learnt to sign ‘hand it over now, woman’ ‘please’ – but he’s still desperately behind, and I sometimes get twisted up inside with panic and anger and OMFG I CAN’T UNDERSTAND A SINGLE DAMN THING YOU’RE BABBLING ABOUT AND I HAVE NO FUCKING IDEA WHAT YOU’RE POINTING AT AND YOU’RE LOOKING AT ME LIKE I’M THE KNOWER OF ALL THINGS OR YOUR BLOODY MOTHER OR SOMETHING  BUT YOU DON’T REALISE I SIMPLY DON’T UNDERSTAND THE FIRST THING YOU’RE SAYING AND I CAN’T HELP YOU I CAN’T HELP YOU BECAUSE IT’S ALL JUST RANDOM SOUNDS AND MY HEART IS BREAKING.

And… yeah. That’s generally the time you’ll find me howling in a corner. Even the most determinedly awful mother would find it hard to purposefully not intelligently respond to any single word her child said to her for an entire year – but that’s exactly what I’ve done, in effect. I worry about the damage to his personality this incomprehension causes; Harry doesn’t know that he isn’t intelligible.

Harry’s behaviour, unsurprisingly, is heading downhill quicker than the shares I bought for him with his child trust fund and they’re pretty damned precipitous. The baby groups we go to are beginning to fall silent when he launches into one of his Specials – particularly when I’ve just stopped him hitting another child, so he starts violently attacking himself instead. Eventually, when I’ve either restored some sort of calm, or simply clamped his raging form hard under my arm and announced our departure, one of them will carefully clear their throat, blinking and ask ‘Bad day? Is he really tired?’

Yes, all of them currently, and No, he’s just woken up.  And I’ve cried every day this week because when he headbutts me and I don’t dodge in time it really bloody hurts and my nose bleeds and I bruise and I’m tired of fighting my poor angry child and looking useless.

Cough. I was supposed to be telling you about daycare. Yes. Daycare!

Harry is no longer Cool with his 2 mornings at Local nursery. I don’t entirely blame him: last time he went, Mummy didn’t come home for 2 days. I took him Friday morning and he kicked off in such spectacular fashion at the gate that I eventually had to take him home again. John cycled past it yesterday and asked Harry if he liked the place: he shook his head. Ahhh. Bugger.

A friend in the local village runs a playgroup called, let’s say, Abacus – albeit the parents leave the children there – for children with special needs. I am only just coming around to the fact that Harry is, in fact, one of those children. The labelled, different ones. Special Needs. Statemented. Exceptional. StrugglingI know we didn’t get off the plane in Italy, but I’ve never been entirely convinced we were really making a stop in Holland, either, until – well, today, I suppose. I suppose I was thinking of us as being more… western Germany?

But we toddled along this morning, as it was a friend and she’d invited us to come take a look. (Harry promptly lost his mind with anxiety as soon as he saw it was a daycare centre, which bodes badly for me and his usual Local drop-off tomorrow.) There were 7 kids and 6 adults: the ratio is usually about one to one, sometimes even more adults than children, depending on the need. (The staff at Local daycare take Harry’s difficulties seriously and are keen to help him, but the ratio is 1:4 kids.) There was a ducky little lad with what appeared to be mild Downs, and another kid who was using a mobility frame, although he could also wobble along unassisted. The remaining children were all language impaired to a greater or lesser degree, but no other issues that I could see. I’m told there are usually between 6 and 10 children attending a session, a couple of whom are very severely functionally impaired, but the majority are simply language delayed.

It wasn’t the most inviting-looking building in the world, dark and old (in a bad way; we’re not talking Tudor here) although with a lovely garden attached, turfed throughout, with no hard edges and a smallish selection of nice toys.

They asked me, in the course of finding out about our history, if I had ever applied for disability living allowance for Harry. I sprayed my coffee in most ecumenial fashion over everyone in the vicinity, near and far. Say WHAT, now? *Splutters* He’s cognitively spot-on, people! Even a little ahead of his age! But… yes. Apparently, the level of agency involvement with Harry is a fair indicator that we could quite likely qualify for the lower level of state disability payment. It’s about £18 a week and would cover the lion’s share of his daycare costs but… there’s that D word again. It does insist on cropping up and I am never, ever suitably prepared for it.

The activities were fabulously well-aimed for kids like Harry in… Holland. They used makaton and visual aids for absolutely everything and kept the kids’ attention beautifully. (Harry blatantly thinks circle time at Local daycare sucks a clown’s balls and it’s generally his cue to slope off outside on his own.) A speech therapist comes nearly every week and they have regular physio, occupational therapy and paediatrician input too. Although Harry was actually climbing determinedly up the fire doors for most of the activity-time in a frantic effort to get outside and play, I know that once he settled in he would derive infinite benefit from their one-on-one approach. It’s run by a superlatively trustworthy friend, it’s breathtakingly cheap, it’s exactly what Harry needs – and of course, there are mighty snags.

Abacus is probably 10 miles away, in a town and on an estate I used to live in and have darkly unhappy memories of. The sessions are only 2.5 hours long, and even though it’s only a piddling £3 an hour, it’d barely be worth, in fuel and time, me coming back home.

Harry’ Local daycare is 2 miles away, attached to the primary school that Harry will – I am currently assuming – attend. John went to school there. They have more toys and are the Italy to Abacus’s Holland.  We really wanted Harry to become accustomed to Local place this year, so that pre-school in a year’s time did not come as a shock – if he actually ends up attending Italian mainstream pre-school. I like Local place, and so does Harry when he’s not in the throes of major separation anxiety.

Simple! I hear you cry, bored and desperate for coffee stimulation by now. Send him to both! 2 sessions at Local, 2 sessions at Abacus. Blow the budget and you’re sorted!

Yeah. If Harry exceeds 2 daycare sessions a week, he loses Portage services. Sending him for one session in both places is half-arsed and not considered a good idea by Local, Abacus OR Portage – who are unhappy and apologetic about the recent reduction in the cutoff level from 5 sessions to 3. We have to choose between the three of them.

If I cut Local out and instead spend 2 or 3 mornings marooned in a random coffee shop near Abacus… I’m not only sad on my own account, because I like Harry going to Local but it also means that I’m taking several steps backwards organisationally and will be more behind and stressed than ever; Housework: Nil, Business: Nil, Time To Self: Nil.

If I don’t send him to Abacus, then… well, I can’t do that. I have to send him to Abacus. As it’s just over the county border, I am considering asking them to keep Harry’s presence there a Big Administrative Secret, but I think in practical terms it’d be like concealing a secret airbase: people do tend to notice the odd jet flying in and out. Plus there’s paperwork and stuff.

If I send him to both Local and Abacus and lose Portage, then we’ve lost a weekly visitor to our home – no fuel! no travel! no stress! fun games! all positives! – who has demonstrably done Harry some good. I value her input a good deal.

Crap. Arse. It’s got to be Local for the choppy-chop, hasn’t it?

Bloody rules. We are not amused.

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