planning for holidays

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The summer holidays are nearly here!!!

(I say, half excited half terrified!)

It’s altogether a little bit overwhelming at the moment for the Porter family. The heat has been incredibly intense for us – keeping cool in hot weather brings with it particular sensory challenges. Noisy fans, different from usual clothes, sun cream, extreme brightness, open windows (noise we don’t usually hear in the house, insects coming in)… Of course it also gives us sensory opportunities to enjoy – I have written before about some of our favourite hot weather sensory activities – and we also discovered ‘skidding ice cubes with kittens’ this week too.

We are also near the end of term so there are lots of extras going on, each an exciting new challenge which is tiring for all of us. And there are more in the next week too – services, concerts, parties and BBQ’s.

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Do you like to plan ahead for school holidays, or do you prefer the freedom to be spontaneous? I am so looking forward to the pressure of the school mornings being lifted, but I do not like the thought of no routine at all – if I feel we need a day without any structure at all it has to be planned ahead for! And we call it a pj day – then it has expectations and routines all of its own! The first three weeks we have planned for us: the church holiday club (all of us involved either as leaders, young leaders or part of a group), then straight to New Wine summer conference followed by holiday in our usual campsite. Each of those weeks has their own order and lists, usual things to pack, play and do.

When we get back we have some time based at home, Andrew will be back at work and I will be balancing our need for ‘down time’ – lots of time for special interests; family together time – maybe a familiar outing or two; get together with friends; and getting us prepared for a new term – lots of questions, worries, fact finding and getting used to new uniform (not to mention the dreaded shoe shopping!).

I usually find it helpful to have ‘ready to go’ crafts, and games all to hand before the lack of routine (and anxiety) makes it almost impossible to plan and prepare anything.

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Here are some of my favourite go-to sites:

I love the ideas and printables on RedTedArt – great ideas for activities and crafts with everyday things, bookmarks and models to print and make.

A lovely list of (mostly) no prep outdoor ideas with notimeforflashcards

Always lots of new fun meaningful ideas with flamecreativekids

I will be busy collecting ideas I find on one of my pinterest boards

 

 

 

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transitions and anxiety

Monday was ‘transition day’, the day when our local family of schools all have a taster day for the following year, whether that’s the next class in the same school or in a new school altogether. A day to meet the teacher, meet your new class mates and get familiar with the routine and lay out of a new place. For T it’s a change of schools, up to juniors. For A just a change of tutor and timetable. And also Tuesday was leavers assembly and prom day for B, really making it clear that the familiar routine of school is finished and it’s time to try and get used to the idea of college in September.

Add into that sports day, talent show rehearsal, school musical rehearsals, doctors appointments, unexpected visits to family, the house beginning to fill up with church holiday club scenery and its been quite a time since my last post, with huge amounts of anxiety, plenty of avoidance, tears and clingyness.

T is getting a lot more confident with reading at the moment, and as we walked to school this morning she read ‘transit’ on the back of a van.

“That van says transition day Mummy”

“It does have the beginning of that on it doesn’t it. It says ‘transit’, it’s a transit van”

quizzical look.

“Transit means to move something. The van is designed to help us move things. Transition means moving from one thing to a new thing”

“It’s moving me. Transition day was about moving me to a new school?”

“Exactly”

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Movement is a funny thing, it can be soothingly repetitive (as long as you are the one in control of that movement I think – nothing more irritating that someone else’s pacing or tapping!), it can on the other hand cause motion sickness, or dizziness, or tinnitus on days when nothing is still or quiet for a second. Movement can be exciting, getting us to places and people we’ve been looking forward to being with. It can be scary, getting us to unfamiliar or stressful places and people. Movement is tiring. It is tiring to think that life could be thought of as perpetual transit! But life is full of movement, of transitions.

When I got home from the school drop off (which by the way was really stress free this morning! Always unexpected and a relief) I played with Padfoot & Jaffa for a bit (trying to make sure they get good attention before I get stuck into work) and when they got tired they both climbed onto my knee and flopped to sleep purring loudly. It was beautiful. But I was kneeling on the kitchen floor, so soon my ankles were going to sleep, and my knees aching (must be getting old!), so I tried to gently move. Not even the smallest movement was possible without waking them. Eyes opened, ears pricked up as if to say ‘what? why? where?’ They readjusted, shuffled, tried to get floppy comfy again every time but the movement stopped them feeling safe and relaxed. After a couple of attempts of freeing my ankles and sitting differently they hopped off in disgust and went to find a predictable, un-moving resting place – where they have happily stayed curled up as I am writing.

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They remind me of my girls. No matter how gradually, how small each movement, transitions make them twitchy and uncomfortable. They are unsettled by it. They both find it really difficult to visualize an unfamiliar place or event, they cannot prepare for change easily without support. So anxiety is high, meltdowns increase, and sensory overload is pretty much round every corner because senses are heightened when they are in constant alert.

There are things that can support transitions.

  • Good visual social stories can help with visualizing the unfamiliar and are tangible, and can be referred to over and over (and over) again.
  • A visual timetable for the transition, with definite dates and times.
  • Collecting factual information about the unfamiliar event or place.
  • chocolate (- that’s just for me!!)
  • A visual timetable in advance (and taken along) of each small step of the transition.
  • Doing the steps with someone familiar alongside.
  • Practice walks of new routes, or places.
  • support with emotions, identifying them and ‘sitting with’ them as they come and go.
  • prayer!
  • A steady pace with rests – not always possible of course! Grab resting places wherever you can (time with special interests, chances to zone out)
  • patience!
  • Keeping other things as steady and familiar as possible while change is happening – again not always possible but usually we can find something that can stay constant even if it is something as seemingly insignificant as not changing the bedding until next week if it’s all a bit much this week.

Is 41v10

 

meet our kittens

 

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Jaffa and Padfoot

A momentous day yesterday, we went and chose and brought home two new additions to the family life, Jaffa (with a little ginger face) and Padfoot (with creamy dipped feet).

Part Maine Coon, part Bengal we are hopeful they will bring the best characteristics of those breeds. We need pets able to enjoy our often lively household, animals that will make a strong bond with us and will want to be alongside us in our adventures.

So we are very much enjoying getting to know them, and working out boundaries that give them enough space. And we are enjoying watching them getting to know us and their new home. They have already made claim to a shelf in the kitchen for resting in, and are keeping us busy teaching us how they like to play.

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I’ll let you know how we’re all getting on from time to time, and am bound to post lots of pictures on Instagram (clearlynurturing). Am so thankful to have found them.

 

is it a paddy, is it a tantrum, no it’s super-meltdown: things I need you to know about meltdowns

The thing about sensory processing differences is that they are there all the time, sensory cravings alongside sensory defensiveness in a world full of light, noise, movement and touch means it can be surprisingly easy to get overwhelmed. The thing about autsitic masking (think swan with crazy fast, unseen feet working so hard to camouflage and do the right thing even when it feels like you are an alien in a world where the social expectations and rules are always just out of reach) is that it takes so much energy, so much focus to survive or overcome worry after worry just to make it through the day. So it doesn’t need much of a niggle, misunderstanding, or unexpected moment to be knocked off balance and all the bottled up worries and stress to burst out. Meltdowns happen. They are inconvenient, stressful, messy, noisy, attract unwanted attention, are painful and exhausting – for all of us, public or not.

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With a tantrum or angry outburst there are words, frustration and a battle for control. As a mum I know to reach for clear boundaries, definite options to move forward and get ready in the back of my mind for a suitable consequence if calm is not restored (for B when she was younger the consequence that worked best in these situations was her doll being put out of reach for the rest of the day… these days it’s much more likely to be screen time that gets affected if one of them simply refuses to stop and calm down.)

But a meltdown is entirely different. For us meltdowns are non-verbal, mute – there is sometimes shouting and screaming but there is no verbal communication. And there won’t be until a long time after the meltdown subsides and things are becoming regulated again. Meltdowns are not a choice, not consciously attention seeking – or a tool being used in a battle for control. A meltdown is out of control for the one experiencing it. As a mum I know this is not the time for negotiation, talking it out, or reaching for clear boundaries. My job is to keep things safe, and be there.

In a meltdown what I see when I stop and look into my child’s eyes is not frustration and willful battling but fear and the kind of rage that fear can be. It’s a panic attack. Their whole body is involved, flooded with adrenaline for fight or flight. The heart is pounding, their arms and legs lashing out in defensive attack. Things can be thrown as if in self defense, they can hide tight in an impenetrable ball, they can run as if their life depends on it. It is as if everything – every sound, touch, thought, feeling is coming at them. They are overwhelmed. They cannot find the ground. It is terrifying, exhausting. As a mum I know this is not the time for discipline, or consequences. My job is only to stay close, keeping them safe.

The aftermath of a meltdown takes a long time to go through. Rest has to happen, some withdrawal from demands. There is a need to feel secure and grounded again, either through a tight cuddle (T needs this often) or a familiar safe space and activity (usually a repetitive one). There will be no words for a long time. Often there is little to no recollection of the details of the meltdown at all, just sadness and regret at the thought that they might have hurt us. As a mum all I want to do now is give reassurance and be an undemanding loving, accepting presence.

It is often difficult to pinpoint the triggers of the meltdown. With a tantrum it is often much clearer what the whole thing is about. With a meltdown this isn’t always the case. With hindsight Andrew & I can work out some common contributing factors and we work to minimize these. We also see warning signs sometimes and if we can we can steer T or B towards a quiet space, or a calm activity which may go some way to prevent a meltdown. But this isn’t always achievable or possible. Sometimes we have chatted with our girls about what might have triggered the fear response, but this is rare. Often we find even approaching the subject of triggers can bring back the overwhelming feelings and anxiety visibly increases. Instead we talk together in calm moments about emotions, and physical reactions to emotions learning and exploring vocabulary so that understanding grows in the hope that emotions themselves can be ‘sat with’ more easily, and be less frightening in and of themselves. Hoping also that understanding and vocabulary can help everyday emotional regulation which in itself will build some resilience – and help me to understand my girls better so I can support them better.

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I am in awe of my girls. Having had bouts of panic attacks I know they are overwhelming, scary and exhausting. Facing them and enduring them takes courage. Getting through the day knowing that it could happen takes courage. And my girls don’t just ‘get through’ most days, they are adventurers and explorers who are interested in life, who face new challenges all the time. Meltdowns are not at all easy. They are not tantrums. They need love and support.

 

 

fun memory verse ideas

We are very caught up in revision at the moment, right in the middle of exams for B.

There are a lot of things to remember – not my best skill! (thank you long term sleep deprivation & anxiety) – formulas in science, definitions, quotes in English and RE. B actually has a really really good memory, and if she is engaged in the learning – if focused, definite, clear cut things get stuck so quickly.

Yesterday we were praying before leading our junior age church club, Blast, and listening to T beeping the numbers on the church key safe to help by getting the keys to open the main doors. She’d been allowed to do the code once before a few days previously and of course, yes, she could do it. The number sequence was at her fingertips. To me that kind of memory seems like a superpower! I simply cannot remember number sequences at all, and am pretty hopeless at recalling definite factual information from memory.

For me, remembering and being able to bring to mind verses from the Bible effort has to be intentionally put in. I know I want to. I know it’s not going to come easily. I know I have to put in the work. With all the focus on revision though at the moment, I am questioning whether I am sharing that hope and expectation about Bible verses. Do B, A & T even think about why or if its important to know verses and be able to bring them to mind? Am I sharing with testimony with them, of times when verses have powerfully changed a situation or strengthened me or someone else? They are naturally gifted with the ability to remember, am I encouraging them to remember the Bible?

I remember a season with A when he was facing night after night of nightmares which were vivid and difficult to move on from and find rest again. We taught him a tiny snippet of scripture;

‘…perfect love drives out fear…’ (1John 4:18)

thinking together about who we knew who was perfect love, and how strong a word ‘drives out’ is. Over a stretch of nights we spoke it before sleep, and when the nightmares came showed him how to speak it out and cling onto Jesus who is perfect love. We imagined Jesus like a superhero/ninja standing tall and kicking his fears out of the door, down the stairs and out into the driveway. We imagined him coming back into A’s room and standing guard till his angels took over again. Sometimes we actively did the kicking alongside Jesus, kicking his fears out of the room as we reminded each other that Jesus, perfect love, was with him fighting for him. We learnt it to the point when some nights we simply spoke out ‘perfect love’ as we sat with him, welcoming Jesus in and waiting for sleep to come again. It reminds me how precious scripture is for our children, how much I want them to delight in it and know it.

So some fun ideas to learn memory verses:

  • love this idea from #flamecreativekids of a dice race… who can be first to roll the dice and be able to say the verse in order.
  • of course, I’m immediately reaching for doodling and colouring… my latest colouring verse was designed for a friend leading an after school club wanting a verse to reflect on.

 

  • following #godventure on social media means I now have the yummy idea in my head of icing parts of a memory verse onto different cupcakes so they can be arranged, remembered and eaten! Love the symbolism of that.2016-06-11 10.19.17
  • using lego, bricks or playing jenga with words from the verse on the blocks.
  • Making up actions to go with the words.
  • Enjoying a song that uses the words, T would be wanting to dance too.
  • Making a nature or magazine collage of the verse together and pinning it up in the kitchen.
  • playing charades to find the words
  • a treasure hunt for the words
  • make bunting or a set of decorations that can display the verse. IMG_20180602_232001_387
  • using different voices, or accents (both T & A find this funny)
  • use fabric pens and design a T-shirt or a tote bag with the verse on.
  • challenge each other to see who can use the verse in everyday conversation!

Please do comment with your favourite ideas for fun memory verse learning!