Sand Play {Bonus Peppa Pig Giveaway}

I don’t mean to alarm anyone, but the Easter School Holidays are mere weeks away. In previous years, I’ve not really been affected. Milla was home all day, every day, 365 days of the year. However, this year is different. Milla has started Early Intervention, 3 year old kinder and we have our special needs play/support group. All of which break for the school holidays… See where I’m going with this?!

In preparation for two weeks at home, in Melbourne, where the weather is perfect one day, torrential rain the next, Milla and I have been playing with an activity which is crazy easy to put together, once you have the basics.

Sand Play.

I know right, sooo simple. Because I like to buy new things (!) I bought a fancy tray with a lid, and a toolbox to keep all the odds and ends together, but seriously, a $2 cat litter tray from the supermarket and some empty marg containers would do the exact same job. Add a bag of play sand from the local hardware shop, and you’re good to go. (make sure it is play sand as building sand is treated with different chemicals) Everything else we found around the house.

The thing I love about this activity, is that it’s so versatile. Have some toy animals? It’s a jungle!

Have some blocks, toy cars and doll house (or lego) people? It’s a city!

If the weather is nice, it can be lead into with a treasure hunt outside; feathers, rocks, gravel, shells, gumnuts. A little mini beast world (in my house with very, very fake ‘mini beasts’, but if real bugs are your thing, go for it!) or, as Milla created today, a little fairy village.

It’s an activity that is literally as limitless as your imagination.

Because my head is constantly in ‘early intervention’ mode, I also love that it can be used as a developmental tool. Playing along side Milla, I see her enjoying the sensory experience of touching the sand, both wet and dry. She runs dry sand through her fingers, so it ‘rains’ on the animals. She builds sand castles with the wet sand for the fairies to live in.

We ‘role play’ with the little people; working on language, social skills and imagination.

The other day, Milla decided to have a tea party, and made cakes and pancakes with the wet sand, and poured cups of tea with the dry sand.

You could add cups and jugs, to do pouring and measuring (early maths skills anyone?) or little toy diggers and bulldozers to make a construction site. There are probably a million other ideas that I haven’t even thought of yet! I have a feeling Pinterest will be getting a workout these holidays…

Never fear, if you are still looking for ideas to keep the little  darlings happy for the holidays, Peppa Pig would love to help…

No? You don’t want to send the kids out to jump in muddy puddles?

In that case, you may prefer to enter this giveaway instead

Peppa is a lovable, cheeky little piggy who lives with her younger brother George, Mummy Pig and Daddy Pig. Peppa loves playing games, dressing up, visiting exciting places and making new friends, but her absolutely favourite thing is jumping up and down in muddy puddles. Her adventures always end happily with loud snorts of laughter. Here’s your chance to win the ultimate Peppa Pig collection, valued at $40 – just in time to celebrate Easter and the holiday season! Check out even more new and exciting products now instore at www.Bigw.com.au. For more info, visit peppapig.com.au I facebook.com/officialpeppapig.au

For your chance to win ~

  • Peppa Pig Wooden Dominoes valued at $16.99
  • Peppa Backpack valued at $19.99

Peppa Pig Easter Treat (Easter product may vary)

Please follow the prompts below, and leave a comment “What activities do you and your children enjoy on the school holidays?”

Competition closes 12am EDST on the 25th of March 2014.

Good Luck!

Autism. Where I Stand.

I’m not one who courts controversy. I have strong opinions, and will often get fired up about things, just ask my husband, or online bestie Lisa. I often write a ranty blog post in my head whilst lying in bed at night, even going so far as to put notes in my phone, so I don’t forget.

Then by morning, I’ve calmed down a bit. Confrontation is not in my nature. Truth be told I’ve had enough drama in my life, I don’t need to be inviting it onto my blog by arguing conflicting views on controversial issues.

But sometimes, enough is enough. Today I got pushed to a point where I was literally in tears. All those fears, and that guilt that parents of children with ‘slightly left of the norm’ needs are constantly battling, were brought to the surface. By a person who I don’t even know. A person with no medical background, a person who doesn’t know me, or my child. Maybe they were just the tip of the iceberg? The tip of an already very very fragile iceberg.

They made a claim that anti-depressants taken during pregnancy cause autism, amongst other things. Those that are regular readers here, will know that I have been treated by medication for severe clinical depression for over ten years now. I continued to take this medication whilst I was pregnant, because my Obstetrician told me it was safe, and it would be detrimental to my health, and possibly my baby, to stop. I also did my own research, and everything I read, (all backed by science) agreed that the particular medication I was on was safe in pregnancy.

It shocked me today, to read these claims, that THIS COULD BE MY FAULT. And you know why it took me all of 15 seconds to break down in tears, and start madly googling for evidence? Because not a day has gone by, since Milla was diagnosed, that I have not blamed myself for something relating to Milla’s autism. Was this my fault? Did I do something wrong during pregnancy? Did I not do something that I should of? Am I feeding her the right food? Am I choosing the right therapies? Is this the right kinder to send her to? The right school? Should I have said that, should I have handled this situation differently? Should have, Could have, Would have… I don’t think that this sense of guilt will ever completely leave me. I think I am destined to always question everything, second guess every decision I make.

So all I have to hold on to, to ground me, are the facts.

FACT- After speaking to my doctor today, I can tell you that that taking anti-depressants whilst pregnant does not cause autism.

FACT- There is no medical or scientific evidence that the chemicals in immunisations cause autism.

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FACT- I have been diagnosed with severe clinical depression. I have a family history of mental illness, and post-natal psychosis. Un-medicated, I would be a danger to myself, and in turn, any child I may be carrying. Even if there was a link between anti-depressants and autism, it would have been dangerous and irresponsible for me to have stopped.

FACT- Even if there was evidence that linked immunisations to autism, I would still choose to immunise my child.

FACT- My daughter is an amazing, beautiful, intelligent, hilarious little lady. She just thinks differently to some people. She learns differently to some people. When you tell me that you don’t immunise your child because you believe there is a risk of autism, you are telling me that you would rather risk your child’s health, risk your child’s life, than risk the possibility that your child could end up like mine.

So that’s where I stand. Believe me when I say that I have enough guilt and anxiety to deal with on a day to day basis, without worrying about conspiracy theories, and the entire medical industry lying to me to protect the pharmaceutical companies.

My daughter has autism. I can’t change that. Even knowing what ’caused’ it, wont change the fact that she has it. She’s a pretty amazing kid. She makes me laugh every day, and teaches me far more than I teach her. So before you argue with me about vaccines or anti-depressants, or whatever other possibly life-saving medication you believe may have caused her autism, maybe you should meet her? Get to know her before you tell me you’d risk her life to make sure she was ‘normal’.

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One Moment Of Time.

*Trigger warning: This post may raise issues for readers who have experience with depression and/or suicide.*

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I’m lying in bed writing this on my phone. I don’t know if I’ll publish it. I’ve always hated bloggers who appear to jump on a bandwagon. Turn a tragedy into blog fodder.

The thing is, I can’t stop thinking about Charlotte Dawson.

I can’t stop thinking about the fact that she has died. That there is no second chance, no opportunity for her to change her mind. She can’t hear all the wonderful things that people are saying about her. She hasn’t got a chance to believe them. In one moment of time, that insidious disease took her, in that one moment of time she was too defeated to fight it any longer.

I wasn’t privileged to know her personally, to call her a friend. I can’t fully explain why her death is keeping me awake at night, why I can’t stop crying.

Maybe because I wish I had known her?

I wish I could have said ‘Thank you.’ Thank you for being so honest about something that people can’t seem to talk about. Thank you for giving a voice to depression, thank you for saying sometimes it is just too fucking hard. Thank you for standing up for those who couldn’t fight back against the bullies. Thank you for fighting so damn hard against your own demons so you could offer hope to others fighting against theirs.

I wish I could say, ‘I’m sorry.’ I’m sorry that you didn’t know what you meant to people. I’m sorry that you couldn’t believe how loved you were. I’m sorry that when that black dog caught up with you, when it pinned you down, and stared you in the eye, there was no escape.

I’ve been that close before. I’ve been backed into that corner. I lived. I got that second chance. A few years later, my life is in a completely different place. I’m still running from the black dog, but I am stronger now. I got the time to change my mind. In one moment of time, I was lucky. I didn’t die. And in time, I didn’t want to any more.

I so desperately want to turn back time. I so desperately want to give her the gift of hindsight. That’s the thing. Suicide is forever. There is no turning back. It’s too late to realise you weren’t alone, that people cared.  You can’t argue with depression once you’re dead. It’s too late. It’s too fucking late.

*Edited to add- A petition has been started for the Australian Government to introduce Charlotte’s Law ~ Tougher Cyber Bullying Legislation. You can sign the petition here.   

If you need urgent support, or are worried about someone you can contact the following agencies for help:

Lifeline
13 11 14 – 24/7 telephone crisis support, as well as online one-one-one crisis support (8pm-Midnight AEST)

Kids Helpline
1800 55 1800 – 24/7 telephone counseling for young people 5–25 years, as well as online and email counseling (check website for hours)

Suicide Call Back Service
1300 659 467 – 24/7 professional telephone crisis support for people at risk of suicide, carers and bereaved, as well as online resources and information

A is for Anxiety.

A is for Anxiety. For her and for me.

It is a strange world our little family of three have been living in, these past few months. The anxiety that has always been underlying Milla’s behaviour, has taken over, to the point where she is in a constant state of ‘fight or flight’.

Her fear of traffic has become so extreme, that we no longer leave the house during the week, except for her appointments and classes. I take her in the pram, as she becomes so blinded by panic that she will just wildly run, and I’m terrified she will run out on the road. Even in the pram, she recoils in fear when we have to cross a road; screaming and crying in fright.

We can no longer use public toilets, due to her fear of hand-dryers. We can’t get her to come in to the disabled toilets or parents room, even when we assure her that no one will use the hand-dryer. If we try and carry her in to show her, she will scream and cry.

Walking from the car to the shopping centre is an ordeal, she jumps a foot whenever a car drives past, and the mere sight of a truck will have her dissolving into tears.

Home should be her safe place, but this is where her anxiety manifests fear from the strangest of places.

The ceilings make her anxious. She will keep staring up at them, growing more and more uneasy, until she has to leave the room. If we try and coax her back in, reassure her that everything is fine, and that there is nothing on the ceiling, she will meltdown, crying and shouting over and over again, NO NO NO. At first it was just in the play room, so I came up with ideas for decorating the ceiling, but it soon spread to other rooms in the house; the lounge, the kitchen, the dining room. There is no explanation as to why she is afraid, and she can’t verbalise her reasons to us. Sometimes sticking pictures up on the ceiling helps, until the next time.

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Certain reflective surfaces scare her. The plastic doors on her toy microwave and oven. The stainless steel tap in the bath. Again, she can’t explain why, perhaps because her reflection is distorted? At least these fears are easy to fix, with paper taped over all the surfaces that frighten her.

There are so many other, random things that crop up each day. On Monday, it was milkweed seeds, that float through the air. Other children call them ‘fairys’; Milla runs in fear.

Every day, I walk around with a tight knot of anxiety in my stomach. I dread leaving the house with Milla on my own. I measure every word, every action, in case something I do exposes another fear in my baby girl.People tell me that she will be able to pick up on my anxiety, and that just makes it worse. That is like saying wolves can smell fear, does it make you more or less afraid??

I lay awake at night in bed; worrying, wondering. How can I help her?

That is the saddest thing, the most heartbreaking thing. Milla is three years old. A three year old should not have to carry this anxiety and fear around with her. A three year old should not even know what ‘anxiety’ feels like, let alone live with it, day in and day out.

A beautiful new friend I made recently, said this to me “When our children are having a hard time, it is so much more obvious to us, because unlike the rest of the world, we are FEELING it all. Trying to soak up all their anxiety, stress and upset, so that they can be ‘OK’. “  This rang so true for me.

I so desperately wish I could get inside her head, figure out exactly where her fear is stemming from , and then I could make it go away.

But instead, I take her to see new psychologists, new occupational Anxietytherapists.

Instead I research sensory processing disorders.

Instead I make daily activity charts and routine charts; to try and remove any uncertainness or confusion.

Instead I have blind faith, that this WILL get better. That this HAS to get better.

Because I know this girl. I know she is meant for amazing things. I know that she is stronger than her fears, than her anxiety. We will get over this hurdle, just like we have all the ones before.Because that’s what we do. We just keep going.

Anxiety

Dear Milla…

Dear Milla,

Sometimes it feels that life goes by so fast. We jump one hurdle, only to be faced with the next one. There is no time to celebrate our victories, for worrying about our challenges.

I tend to dwell on the negatives, let them weigh me down. I think throughout my life, I have become so focused on the struggle, that I have stopped noticing the positives. For that, I am so sorry.  I want to take this opportunity to stop, and be grateful for all that you are. Because you are amazing.

You were born fighting. From the moment you entered this world, eight weeks before your due date, there was something about you. Something about you that captured the hearts of everyone around you. So tiny and perfect, so quiet, yet so alert. You were taking it all in, processing everything. Milla

As if preparing yourself already, for how you would carve out your space in the world.

Just before your second birthday, we began to realise that your brain works a little differently to ours, that the perception you have of the world, and your place in it, is unique. And so we began a new journey together.

It’s been such a learning curve for both of us. To be honest, you have adjusted so much quicker than I have. I seem to get stuck on the ‘Why?’ and the ‘What if?’, but you, you just get up every day, and soak up life . Milla

In just over twelve months of speech therapy, you have gone from simply repeating everything that other people say; to having conversations, making jokes, telling us that you love your family. Saying please and thank-you, bless you and pardon me. I am so proud of you. So incredibly proud, and amazed at what an intelligent little girl you are.

You have a thirst for knowledge that cannot be sated. You have transformed the phrase ‘You learn something new every day’ from a cliché to a fact.

Milla

You posses more courage than I could ever dream of.  You carry around an anxiety that no three year old should ever be burdened with, there is so much that frightens you, that you don’t understand. Yet still, you laugh and giggle and play. You let me hold you, and comfort you, and kiss away your tears. You trust me when I tell you that it will all be OK.Milla

You have such a vivid imagination, and a vibrant personality; people who have never met you, fall in love with you. You make me laugh every day, even when life is overwhelming me.

You have changed my world. One day, when you are older, I will tell you more about my life before I met your Daddy. I was very very sad, and very very lost. Your Daddy found me, and then you came along, and you loved me. You make me believe, for the first time in my life, that I am worthy of being loved. You make me want to be a better person, and every day I spend with you, I heal a little more.

Milla

Together we will keep moving forward, we will keep jumping those hurdles. And on days when it’s all too much, and we just can’t keep jumping, we will stop. I will hold your hand, and you will hold mine. We will look back, and remember how far we have already come. And tomorrow will be a new day, and we will start again.Milla

Love always and forever, Mummy xx

Wordless Wednesday ~ Santa!

The thing I love most about Santa photos, is having a record of how much Milla has grown over the previous twelve months.

Milla had her very first Santa photo at two months old, however seeing as she was born two months premature, she was still teeny tiny, (2.6kgs, to be exact) and slept through the whole thing. I love this Santa, as he was obviously the real deal, not one of those poorly disguised ‘helper’ Santas…

The following year, she was not quite as relaxed…

Santa Photo

Last year, I got to sit on Santa’s lap… (not awkward at all!!)

Santa Photo

This year is my favourite Santa photo. We visited a special ‘Sensitive Santa’, especially for autistic children. It was in the morning, before the shops opened, so nice and quiet, with no lining up. We had a 20 minute booking, so Milla could explore the environment, and try and warm up to Santa. Unfortunately Milla was not keen on Santa AT ALL, so he had to make a sneaky appearance in our photo…

Santa Photo

 Merry Christmas!

Thank you for all the support throughout 2013. I hope you all have a wonderful holiday period, however you choose to celebrate and I will ‘see’ you again in 2014.

Jane xx

Suspending Reality.

You would think at 33 years old, and having lived the life I’ve lived, I would have more of a grasp on reality, and grown out of childish fantasies.

You would think.

Confession- I regularly ‘cyber stalk’ my ‘fathers’; both step and birth father. I wonder about them. I wonder what they are doing, where they are living, if they are even still alive.

To cut a long story short, I tracked down my cousins wife (from my birth fathers side) on facebook.  I saw from her profile picture that she had two girls, who only looked a little bit older than Milla. With the courage that only a few glasses of wine can give you, I ‘friend requested’ her. After she accepted, I bit the bullet, and sent her a message. Very polite, ‘I think you may be my cousins wife, I am Jane, A’s daughter, his brothers name is B, who’s son was called C, which has lead me to you’… With the beauty of facebook, I was able to see exactly what time the message had been read.

This is the part where I forget the reality of the situation, and allow my mind to skip merrily off to the land of sunshine and lollipops. I wonder if we will become friends? I look at the children in her picture, can I see any resemblance to Milla? These are relatives, real blood relatives! (of which I only have my mother, brother and sister) Maybe our children will play together? Maybe they will be like cousins, and we’ll have family barbecues together?

Then, of course, I imagine them telling my father. “Guess who found us on facebook!” I imagine them telling him how I’m married now, and have a beautiful daughter, his granddaughter. And I imagine him caring. I imagine him wondering if this could be his second chance at establishing a relationship with me. I imagine him wanting to be a part of our lives.

I await a return message. I wonder what it will say. I play out a thousand different scenarios in my head.

And then I realise she has ‘un-friended’ me on facebook.

There will be no family barbecues. There will be no tearful reunion. My father is not out there somewhere pining for his daughter.

I am such a fucking idiot. If he wanted to find me, he could. If he wanted to be part of my life, he has had 33 years to try. Why do I still get hurt by his indifference? This is not new information, he has never given me any indication that he has a desire to be in my life.

I put on a brave face. I say I don’t need him in my life anyway (which I don’t.) I say it’s his loss (which it is.) I don’t even know him.

So tell me, why does he still make me cry?

I Jumped! ~ Wordless Wednesday

As you may remember, I have been raising money for the organisation Support for Mums, asking people to sponsor me to jump out of a plane, 14,000 feet in the air and hurtle back down to earth.

Well, Saturday the 30th was the big day! Strangely I had been quite calm in the lead up to the jump, I actually think my husband was more nervous than I was.

That is, until I started getting strapped into my harness… HOLY CRAP, WHAT THE HELL AM I DOING???

I think the tears started welling at about the 7,000 feet mark… then, at 14,000 feet, that little door opened, and people started disappearing out of it… I confess, I have NEVER been that terrified in my life. There was no backing out now though, and out I went!

I can’t even explain how I felt… it was the most terrifying, crazy, surreal thing I have ever experienced. I think the video and photos sum up my emotions pretty accurately (and yes, I screamed the entire free fall, at 200kmph)

My Sky Dive video ~ Via YouTube

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Did I enjoy it? Uum, not really! Truthfully, I was just so, so scared! Unfortunately my tandem partner wasn’t the greatest, and didn’t do much  anything to put me at ease, which was a real shame. When my husband hugged me after I landed, he could still feel my body shaking from fear!

Do I regret it? HELL NO. Aside from it being a once in a life time, bucket-list kind of experience, I am so proud to say, that to date, I have raised $1140 for Support for Mums!!

Would I do it again? Err..no thank you.

So I really want to make this count! My fundraisng page is open for another few weeks, so if you would like to donate a few dollars, and boost up my final donation to Support For Mums, that would be fabulous. You can donate HERE.

Linking up for Wordless Wednesday with

Exhausted.

I’m exhausted.

That type of exhaustion that you feel in your bones. You wake up in the morning, and before you even get out of bed, you’re exhausted.

I feel like all I’ve done for the last twelve months, since we got our diagnosis, is worry and wait. Wait and worry. Waiting for services, for therapists, for appointments. Waiting to be able to access Early Childhood Intervention Services. Worrying about the choices I’m making. Is this the right occupational therapist for her? The right speech pathologist? Am I spending her funding money wisely?

As the money slowly diminishes, I have more decisions to make. What does she need more? OT or Psych? Or something I’m missing entirely? Did I do the right thing, throwing everything I could at her in the first twelve months? What if the money runs out, what if we can’t pay for the services she needs in the future, because I am spending too much of her funding now?

Who the hell am I to even be making these decisions? I’m not an expert, I don’t know what I’m doing. I feel like I was hit with a diagnosis, given some money, and told to go away and figure it out.

More decisions. Which kindergarten is best for her? Wait, never mind kindergarten, which school will be best for her? I lay in bed and cried the other night, because I didn’t have the foresight to put her name on a waiting list at birth, for a school I didn’t even know existed at the time. What if that was THE school? The school she would have thrived at?

What if every decision I am making is wrong? Who am I to be making decisions that affect another persons entire life? I spent the better part of thirty years making wrong decisions about my own life, and made a complete and utter wreck of it.

I feel like I am carrying the weight of Milla’s future on my shoulders. And every day, as I face the challenges of parenting a child with autism; the meltdowns, the anxiety, the irrationality, the obsessive compulsiveness, I’m doing it dragging this heaviness around with me.

I feel like I’m fractured into tiny pieces, and I’m trying to hold them all together. As one piece falls, I go to catch it, and more pieces fall from where I moved my hand from.

I’m exhausted.

She’s The Cat’s Pyjamas. {Review and Giveaway}

*This post features products I was gifted to review. Also, an awesome giveaway at the end. Added bonus blooper reel ;) *

Quite a few weeks ago, I was lucky enough to receive some goodies to review from Stuck On You. Some gorgeous personalised pyjamas from their personalised clothing range and a personalised wall canvas. It was a week or two before we were moving house, so I decided to save them as a special surprise to go with Milla’s new bedroom.

I was quite worried about how she would adapt to the new house. Children on the autism spectrum often struggle with changes to their environments and routines. Milla is particularly structured around her bath/bed routine, so I thought some special new pj’s might help ‘sweeten the deal’ in the new house.

Stuck On You personalised pj's.Stuck On You personalised pj's.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Stuck On You personalised pj's.As you can see from that grin, my plan worked! She was so excited about her ‘Milla’ pj’s that it was almost impossible to get her to stay still for a photo! Which did make for a hilarious ‘blooper reel’…

Stuck on you personalised pj'sThe first thing Milla said in the morning when she got out of bed was “I got pretty clothes on”. I think it’s safe to say they got her stamp of approval!

As with all of the Stuck on You products, I was able to choose the colour, design and type of font, and preview it on the website before ordering.

close upI chose the short sleeve personalised  top, the long sleeve personalised top, and the matching personalised pyjama long pants. They also have matching short pj pants too. The pj pants feature the name and design on the back pocket.

Stuck on you personalised pj pantsStuck on You personalised pj pants previewWhat I love most about the pyjamas is how soft the fabric is. I’ve washed these a few times now, and they still feel really soft and smooth. Another awesome feature is that the care/washing instructions are printed inside the clothes, so that there is no annoying tag to worry about. Milla hates tags, and makes me cut them off everything, leaving me with no idea how to wash them.

stuck on you labelWe are so keen on these pj’s, I think I will be buying some more sets for Summer. Milla asks to wear them every night, so we definitely need a few more pairs!

Stuck on you personalised canvasThe personalised wall canvas comes in two sizes; medium 300x300mm and small 200x200mm. I chose the small size, as I wanted it to hang on the outside of Milla’s bedroom door, and this size is perfect. Again, everything is fully customisable, with 25 designs to choose from making it super easy to coordinate with the decor of your child’s room. (The selections of designs offer heaps of choice for both girls and boys )

To check out the whole range that Stuck On You offer, you can visit their website at www.stuckonyou.com.au

You can also follow them on Facebook here and Twitter here.

Now, the exciting part! I have not one, but TWO $50 Stuck on You gift cards to giveaway!$50 voucherAll you have to do is follow the prompts below, and tell me what you would spend your $50 voucher on. Competition closes midnight (EDST) on Sunday the 3rd of November. Good luck!