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Monday, 18 February 2013

Running, running, and more running. Marathon, anyone?!

Back in the heady days of my youth (well, OK, post marriage, I wasn't actually that young if I'm honest), I used to enjoy attending football matches up and down the country. It is fair to say, I most likely would not have suffered so many freezing cold afternoons if it wasn't for my beloved husband who religiously followed his team. I tagged along, not out of fear of becoming a football widow, but because I really did enjoy 'the game' (all those fit young men, running around a pitch, what's not to like?).

Anyhow baby number one came along and so my attendances dwindled. I briefly became a football widow. Then baby number two came along and even Chris couldn't justify all that money on his regular not-so-funny 'entertainment' any more. So we stayed in.

This year, however, he has found a way of getting out again. The crazy fool has decided that, at the grand old age of 41, now would be a good time to run his first marathon. The London Marathon to be precise. So yes, I am now a running widow. As in, I frequently now spend large chunks of time indoors with the girls, wondering if he is coming back, or if he is lying at the side of the road having run out of puff.

Chris will be running the marathon this year for the National Autistic Society (NAS). Obviously since Sasha was diagnosed with ASD aged 2 and a half, this is a cause close to our own hearts. We'd like to raise as much money as possible to help the NAS continue its good work on raising awareness and providing support to families like ours. 

I've mentioned in my recent blog post (Different, not less) how we are not sure what Sasha's future holds with regards to schooling, and this could well be another area which the NAS will come to help us with in time.

I'm actually really rather proud of my husband and all the effort he has been putting into his training. This is a little plea to ask if anybody would like to sponsor him.... maybe then over the next 9 weeks he will talk to me all about his fundraising rather than how his toes are about to fall off. Please click on this link:

http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/ChristopherCurtis

and put me out of my misery asap!! Smiley
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Sunday, 17 February 2013

Tree Fu Tom Magic Sapstone Belt and Holopax Set Review

Tree Fu Tom is one of Sasha's favourite CBeebies programmes. To explain the programme to you, I've lifted some text from the blog of a man (Dan) who helped create it:

"Tom is able to create magic by doing sequences of cool-looking, simple, fun movements called 'Tree Fu'. Using Tree Fu, Tom is able to transform into a magical superhero, travelling to 'Treetopolis' - an enchanted, miniature world nestled in an ancient tree at the bottom of his garden.
In every adventure there are critical moments when Tom's normal action and magic skills are not enough to overcome the challenges that he and his friends face.
At these times the audience is encouraged to get up and copy Tom's Tree Fu moves to help create 'Big World Magic'. In this way, the audience can help Tom to save the day, and be heroes too!
Tree Fu Tom
What the children won't know is that the 'Tree Fu' spell moves they're copying have all been designed by Child Occupational Therapists and Physiotherapists from the movements that experts use to help children with conditions like Dyspraxia to assist and enhance the development of all participating children (whether they have movement challenges or not)"

It's this last paragraph that I particularly like and hadn't actually realised about the show myself before now. Sasha loves doing the actions, as you can see in this little clip:

What Sasha is wearing is a brand new product we were sent to try out - the Magic Sapstone Belt and Holopax set. 

They are just like those that Tom wears in the series. Batteries need to be inserted to the belt, and after a short burst of energy, the middle bit lights up. Then the more you move around, the more the light glows, which of course was a good enough reason for lots of rushing around pretending to be Tom. Sasha absolutely loved it! 

This product, and others in the range, are now available from Toys R Us and The Entertainer.


Disclosure: 
We were sent the above toy for the purpose of this review, but have not received payment. All the views expressed here are our own.
 
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Sunday, 10 February 2013

Different, not less.

This week it hit me. Hit me hard.

Our little girl is different.

Of course I've known that since her diagnosis of autism/ ASD (Autistic Spectrum Disorder) 3 years ago, but I think I've spent all that time trying to put a brave face on and pretending it doesn't mean that much at all. Well meaning people tell me she is doing fantastically well, and it's true, she is.

She is still different. She does not fall into those boundaries of 'the norm'.

Of course that doesn't matter to me; I wouldn't want her any other way. She just wouldn't be Sasha any other way. I intend to pave her way in life as best I can, so that she never sees it as a problem.

That is of course wishful thinking. In reality her understanding may not yet have caught up to that of her peers, but it is still developing all the time. In my heart I know there will come a time when she realises she is different, and life will become very difficult for her. Her path will be undoubtedly more bumpy than that of children and adults who do not have special needs. All I can do is be here for her, love her for who she is, and hold her tightly any opportunity I get. 

I've caught up with myself enough to realise that the here and now is of course very important, but that we should also be considering the future. I learnt my lesson from the nursery who were not prepared to help (read my post about that here ); there should always be a plan B. Just in case.

Everything is going well for her at school. The staff have been fantastic - caring and flexible. Sasha has not refused school yet, which was one of my biggest fears in the early days (see my old post Too Young to be a school refuser?).

'Yet' is the key word. Sasha does sadly often refuse to conform in school. She needs to retain 'subtle control' in order to be able to function. As we have learnt from research on what we believe her diagnosis should be (PDA Pathological Demand Avoidance *) - it's not that she won't, or she can't, but that she 'can't help won't'. She just can't help it. That's a difficult one to get your head around. It basically means that there are generally outside influences why she won't participate - too much noise in the room, too many instructions, fear of failure, lack of understanding. Often several of these factors at once.


So anyhow, back to the future. This week I went to visit a school, which I had in mind as a possible secondary school for Sasha. She will be 6 this year, so I'm sure many of you will think I'm being a little 'previous'. My new motto, however, is 'be prepared'.

I'm not sure that Sasha will cope in a mainstream secondary. Actually if I'm being honest, I'm almost certain she won't. The sheer size and volume of most secondary schools would not suit her, and the independence they expect she may never achieve. I'm not being pessimistic, just realistic.

So I went to see a private school for children with additional needs (predominantly speech). Small class/group sizes and plenty of individual tuition based on the students' needs made for a caring school within which I'm sure there is no bullying. A part of me would love to protect her from the real world like that. The other part of me would love for her to be at the same secondary school her sister will be at. 

I found it hard to look at the other children there who were 'different' in some way and not to say to myself 'but Sasha isn't like them'. She's managing in mainstream at the moment, just. Who's to say what will happen in Year 2 when more testing comes in? Would she thrive in a specialised environment? Do I really think I'd be capable of homeschooling (the answer is no!)?

I don't necessarily want to admit she's different, but maybe I need to? That afternoon as I picked her up from school, I listened more carefully as she tried to converse with me and my adult friends. I heard the stutter and the broken sentence formation more. I noticed adults confused by her actions. I saw some children give her a wide berth, and some others make allowances for her. I saw Sasha lick the railing on the way out of school. At this point I had to laugh!

In visiting the private school I'd hoped for a solution and a concrete plan for the future but in reality all I gave myself was more questions. Luckily I have time now to address and hopefully answer those questions. It won't be an easy road to go down but I know I'll have lots of support as I do.
 

'Different, but not less.'

This is what a good friend had to say on the matter this week. It is of course, so very true. We can all learn a lot from Sasha and all those with differences. I hope her peers and all those in the school years around her will grow up to be understanding and tolerant young people. I certainly intend to do my best to help educate them and others.


*There's a great info sheet about PDA at www.oaasis.co.uk.

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Wednesday, 6 February 2013

#TeamHonk sent me a #goodwork postcard - hurray!

Once Upon A Time, there were three lovely ladies who blogged and vlogged. One day they decided to do some #goodwork.

GoodWork
This year the #goodwork was in the form of a trip to Ghana, alongside mega-celebrities Davina and Wossy (*scream!*), to report back on how #rednoseday money has been put to good use on different projects out there.

Imagine my delight then, when I realised they had taken the time to send me an individual postcard, with a photo taken over there that no-one else has. I feel so special.





************************
Dear Steph

Beautiful mum and baby waiting for a vaccine at a health centre in Ghana. The vaccine programme is similar to the Uk, except for the addition of vaccines like Yellow Fever. Children are also given a rotavirus vaccine funded by comic relief as diarrhoea accounts for 10% of deaths among Ghana's under-fives. Comic Relief has given GAVI a grant of $200,000 to provide rotavirus vaccine in Ghana to help prevent against this potentially fatal condition. 

Love Penny

This is a digital postcard sent from TeamHonk (www.mammasaurus.co.uk;www.aresidence.co.ukwww.mummybarrow.com) during their travels with Comic Relief in Ghana celebrating #goodwork. 

For the past 25 years the money raised through Red Nose Day has been changing the lives of the poorest and most disadvantaged people in the UK and Africa. Let’s Keep Up the Good Work. Find out how at rednoseday.com

For other digital postcards please do join up and check out the linky on www.teamhonk.org

I think it's amazing how these lovely ladies have been able to spread the #goodnews so well through social media. It must have been a life-changing experience for them in a whirlwind few days. Let's all pledge to support Comic Relief and Red Nose Day again this year. The poverty never stops but we can improve it bit by bit with everyone's help.
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Monday, 4 February 2013

Please nominate me for the MADS. Pretty please?!

The Mads is a Mum and Dad Blog Awards ceremony held every year in the UK for parenting blogs.

Up until now I had refrained from asking anyone to vote for my little old blog... but now I've seen the first lot of nominations appear, I have realised I would love to see my blog's name up in lights. Well, just down in type really. It doesn't get much better than that.

So hey ho, if you have a second spare and actually do enjoy reading what I write (sometimes anyhow), please click on this link

 http://www.the-mads.com/ 

and nominate Steph's Two Girls http://www.stephstwogirls.blogspot.co.uk/

Any category would do, but I'm guessing it'd be nice if everyone concentrated their efforts into one. 
Best Family Life Blog is the one I'd be best off hiding in I think. Got about as much chance of winning that category as any other I'd say.... 
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Sunday, 3 February 2013

#TeamHonk go to Ghana for Comic Relief and to do #goodwork

Wow. Three amazing ladies have set off for an epic blogging trip to Ghana. If you haven't heard about it yet, you will. There's celebrities going too, doncha know?!

Annie from Mammasaurus, Tanya from Mummy Barrow and Penny from Alexander Residence are visiting four projects in Ghana. They will be feeding back to us news about how previous Red Nose Day money has been spent. Info will come through various social media sources, and they need as much help as possible to spread the word - Facebook shares, ReTweets, Pinstagram posts etc. So come on, join the party!

Read all about it by clicking on TeamHonk's official page here. Keep your eyes and ears peeled for further updates.

GoodWork
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Saturday, 2 February 2013

(Even more) Random Acts of Kindness

So this week I saw a fab post from Nickie over at Typecast, all about 'paying it forward'. You can read in her post Random Acts Of Kindness about how she originally came across the idea from another lovely lady Clara Unravelled.

'Paying it forward' is not really a phrase I'd heard before, but in a nutshell it covers the idea that if you do something unexpected out of the goodness of your heart for another, somehow the favour will be returned. It will not necessarily be 'paid back' by the same person you helped or treated, it could be just another random act of kindness.

It all sounded so lovely to me, although perhaps a little optimistic.... nonetheless, I signed up in super fast time for joining in the circle of good deeds which would include receiving a 'crafty treat' from Nickie and then I promptly forgot all about it.

Imagine my surprise then, when later that day at the Sainsburys checkout, the man paying for his goods at the checkout next to me turned around and asked a group of 6 waiting customers if anyone was collecting the active kids vouchers for schools. Nobody else spoke up, so I felt it only right and proper to reply 'yes please'. Of course, I had no idea how many he was about to receive and then pass on (think it was actually 6, not bad at all!) but that was irrelevant. It was he fact he was offering something for free, in order to help someone else who he didn't know at all - he was indeed 'paying it forward'. What a lovely man.

The moral of this story should be that you should all try once in a while to do something completely selfless. It will give you a soft warm glow on the inside and you may even get a return favour.

Actually though, I'd like the moral of this story to be the following:

Everyone should pass the word on that YES you should take those lovely Active Kids vouchers being given out at the till, and pass them on to anybody nearby if you cannot use them yourself. The big business supermarket can certainly afford to be giving these away and we should take every single one offered and make sure it is put to good use. I currently have four places (2 schools, Brownies and Sasha's old specialist school, TRACKS) who I know would love to have them in order to be able to acquire great new equipment for children. So if you don't need yours, feel free to send them on (thanks already parents and parents-in-law!).

In the meantime, I'm desperate to make someone else smile, so I'd like to send something to the first 6 people who would then also like to 'pay it forward'. Leave a comment below if you fancy a surprise...  but remember, in the words of the original poster,
"This isn’t about money or extravagance, it could be anything from a  handwritten letter to a knitted blanket or a doodle or favourite book…literally anything. The point is to think of others and spread a little unexpected happiness."
Smiley
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