Category: Family Life

New beginnings 2019

So my poor site has been languishing for a very long time now. I don’t blame you if this isn’t the blog you thought it was. We no longer do ‘formal’ homeschool, although given the adapted timetable that Smol has, we have to continue things like French, maths revision and of course, music. Currently she plays piano and recorder although she is aiming for flute in the next year. So far, she is still at the local RC primary school. Scotland has a tradition of denominational education but only, in practice, provision for Roman Catholic children. While we are Eastern Orthodox, this suits us well – she understands that her teachers are church-goers, believers in the same God, that we have the same Bible and same standards, so she feels there is less pressure on her to try and contain her thoughts around feast days and other religious times of year.

To try and re-engage with the blog, I decided we need a spring clean. She is almost 11 and the days of playing with dolls and lace and pinkness are fading in the backview mirror. I downloaded the *gorgeous* and easy to use ‘Weta’ Theme from Elma Studios

but so far I’m finding the new block editor a bit of faff – so back to the old ‘Document’ editor of wordpress it goes. What will I be doing on the blog then, now it’s not exclusively home-ed based? well…

  • Gardening: documenting the blossom, bird and bounty of our garden, which is a huge blessing as well as a LOT of work.
  • Making: I’m making some adorable dolls of different kinds (and price points) to sell over at Katherine & Kitty as well as little plushy toys, *genuinely squee worthy* doll clothes using repurposed silk, satin, wool, linen and leather scraps.
  • Baking: a bit more of this, although obviously we are still dealing with the sensory challenges of ASD for both of the women in the house.
  • Nature: I love walking the dog and will share our little finds when we are out and about.
  • Knitting and Sewing: Knitting has become a real passion of mine – I’m attending Edinburgh Yarn Festival for the second time next week so there will be a LOT of pictures of colour, shawls, fun and more projects. I still have things I bought last year that have not been knitted yet but we all know, whoever dies with the most yarn wins! Sewing is a challenge: I’m overweight and accepting my new/old body is an ongoing dilemma. Health-wise I’d like to be fitter but I’m 47 and let’s face it, my job and hobbies are sedentary. So understanding what to sew, how to fit myself and as she grows, to adapt things to Smol, while maintaining our ideas of modesty and appropriateness will be here too.

Now, after a thoroughly boring bit of housekeeping and the obligatory updating post, I’d love to hear if there are any topics in sewing, gardening, teaching, learning, whatever that you’d like to hear more about. I realised that I’ve learned quite a lot in the last almost 50 years and I want to keep a record of it here, for Smol and for anyone else who, like me, finds that “doing small things with love” is a revolutionary way to live. I’ve added the Prayer of St Ephraim, our additional daily prayer for Lent, at the top of the post. It really does sum up the way we have to live so perfectly and I wish I could use it all round but keeping it for Lent does make it more special. I’d also recommend “Tending the Garden of Our Hearts” by Elissa Bjeletich and Kristina Wenger for families during Lent – short, daily meditations to help us focus on the themes of Lent and make sure the young – and older ones – are engaged in the readings.

When what you want isn’t what’s right or easy.

I’ve been avoiding the blog for a while. Not because things haven’t been moving along, not because I haven’t actually *whisper it* made things or done things. Because in April this year, Miss K went back to school. To her local, catchment area RC (Roman Catholic) state primary school… and so far, it’s working.

The area around it is euphemistically called an “area of regeneration”, so they receive high levels of funding and have the most amazing staff I’ve ever met. Miss K started at the end of P4 for the summer term and has, so far, made it almost to November. She went back part time, she had in class ongoing support from the first day. She has a tent in class where she can go when it’s too much and she needs time to calm down, although this is now something she avoids as social pressure to be normal and conform increases.

I’d say for the first term up to the summer break, her best friend was a boy with a similar obsession with crazy science (he knows a lot more facts but they both have a big vision and intended to go to Oxford together to study science). Since the summer holiday, she has been BFFs with a small red haired girl, H, who joins in her obsession with soft toys, cuteness and other girlish things. She has had many more bumpy days since September – There have been few weeks where she has survived a whole five days, as we ramped up her attendance to full time and it’s not really worked. What has worked? Seeing the amazing, unflagging, dedicated skill and love the teachers put into their time with her. I’m not sure the PSAs are just the same but her ASL teacher is surely an angel sent down from heaven… who is about to go on maternity leave… 

Anyway. Over the next few weeks I’ll try and update with my projects: sewing, knitting, baking, gardening, the usual. I spent FOUR DAYS while Miss K was away reorganising and decluttering her room so it’s now the nicest place in the whole house – she loves it so much she’s started sleeping on her OWN and voluntarily stops watching TV to go play in it. Wow. More soon.

Edinburgh Fringe 2015: Day 5 – BRUSH!!

Back to regular weather here in Edinburgh today – pouring rain (because of course nothing says ‘rain on me’ like fabric forgotten on the line overnight…)

We were both in handmade dresses and got to the Roxy Assembly – in an old Church on the corner of Roxburgh Street – in plenty of time for some chat with very friendly front of house staff. So far, we’ve not met a grumpy person yet!

Brush – ah, how we missed you! Disclosure: we saw this show twice last year, it was so fantastic, and I was so happy they were coming back, I’ve been tweeting them a countdown.. If you only go to see one show, go see this one. Or their other production, The Overcoat, which we’ll be going to very soon I hope (as school goes back on Monday, our festival going is sadly cut short. What is that about Edinburgh council? It’s almost like you don’t want the plebs at the Book Festival etc.).. On with the review.

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Act: A professional theatre group from Seoul, South Korea, Brush Theatre (Theatre Haddangse) are full of energy, joy and fabulous story tellers, both physically and verbally. The mixed group of men and women throw themselves into telling the story of Daesung, a boy who only wants a real baby brother, and the journey he goes on with his Grandmother’s pig Dalbong.

Summary: We meet a group of cheeky temple fairies, who use brushes and large sheets of paper to draw pictures of Buddha and Jesus, and run away when Daesung comes along with his family. We meet mother and father, who take him to see Grandmother a long way off. Grandmother has a lovely pig called Dalbong, his best friend (and very funny). Grandmother tells him how to get the magic dust from the statue of Buddha in a temple to make sure his baby brother comes, and along the way, he and Dalbong have some very dangerous and funny adventures. I don’t want to spoil the ending, so can’t tell you too much!

Brush3

Props:  The main props are some very large boards with sheets of paper – the set is painted before your eyes, with huge gusto and perfectionism – Miss Kitty whispered “they’re very good drawers” – in lots of settings. I love the way that movement is incorporated into the art and the setting, I’ve never seen that before and it’s just as magical this year. There are a few rolls of paper and card that form mountains, flowers and stone steps! That’s pretty much it, and is one of the reasons why the music and performers are left to be front and centre, with no distractions.

Brush2

Performance: it will blow you away, basically. Oh, you want more description than that? Every single actor in the troupe is gifted at communicating with face, gesture, movement and of course sound. There were more English words this year I think, and a couple of different performers, but most of the communication is non-verbal. You can see that the expressions and movements are big – there is subtlety but if you’re seated a few rows back, it won’t affect how you enjoy the show. There is live music throughout – oh how I wish I could play the accordion (and speak Korean!) – which is played from the front of the stage, so if you are close by, be prepared! There is humour but none of it patronises children or adults, there is no sarcasm and it’s all about the joy of story telling. There is a little song where the audience have to sneeze, and the cast are often in among the audience as they journey through the forest and find the temple. If you’ve ever been to a theatre and been carried away by the infectious energy of a show, you’ll know what I mean. It’s not just one particular thing, the whole ensemble is transporting.

Take Home Message: It could be “be careful what you wish for” but it’s more likely to be “be happy! love your family!” (I LOVE the respect that Daesun shows his Grandmother – it fits in with our tradition in the Orthodox church).

Brush1Miss Kitty Review: [Ed. it was hard to get her to talk in sentences to be honest, she had been so excited before we went and then when we were greeted personally AND given a lovely gift, she just about left the planet.]

“I think it’s the best show in the planet. They are so funny, they make me laugh and are so good at painting. I’m good at painting too but not like that. My favourite bit is when the dad shouts “My Soo-ooon!” and I like the pig and the bit at the end [I’ve edited this so that you don’t know the ending]. I wish I could see Brush every year until I’m a grown up.”

ASD/SEN Notes:  This is mostly a low trigger show. There are no flashing lights, no strobes, no smoke machines. The music provided is all live and mostly gentle (and well done). The lights go up and down but slowly. At one point there are coloured lights behind a screen but these are slow, hand-speed. Music could be an issue – at a scene where Daesun is in danger, the banging of a drum pretty much reduced Miss Kitty to quivering jelly, but she was also very worried by the tiger (imagine one of those new year dragon type things). I think that’s about the only thing to watch out for, which in an hour long show is brilliant. It’s ‘handmade’ theatre in the best sense.

Miss K rating: “I give it a million!”

Mama Scissors rating: 20/20, in spite of the drum.

p.s. we will be going along to the Overcoat and will review that in a week’s time. Miss Kitty was such a big fan that the lovely Brush people gave her a little gift – her words were “This is the best day of my life”!  Misty-eyed mama signing off.


 

Edinburgh Fringe 2015: Day 4 – Pitschi the Kitten with Dreams

A sunny day! in August! in Edinburgh! Halleluljah! I swear, this never happens. Encouraged by the blue sky (I know), we set off for the relatively early performance of Pitschi the Kitten with Dreams by Theatre Fideri Fidera, performed solo by Natasha Granger.

We arrived on time at the Gilded Balloon Teviot, which is in term-time home of the type of student I didn’t associate with, although I now bitterly regret that. This place is beautiful and has a terrific study room!  

Miss Kitty enjoyed the general pink sparkliness of the occasion and was very struck by these glittery numerals.

Meanwhile, her mama was thinking “I hung about in the dank brutalist crap that was Potterow and missed out on THIS?”

 

 

We got terribly lost and ended up going up and down a turret, so the signposting could be improved. However, very helpful and kind staff pointed us in the right direction, and soon we were part of a small tide of girls and their mothers – I think I saw two boys, no more than three years old – queuing patiently. Miss K was having a difficult time with the baby noises but she coped and we were warmly welcomed into the show by Natasha… So – the by now familiar review format.

ACT: The only visible human is Natasha Granger, a very confident, talented and warm young actor (they’re all younger than me obviously). She engaged the audience very quickly, with her open and friendly style – I think it would be impossible to resist that smile and genuine joy she exudes. You really feel like she wants to tell you the story so much and can’t wait to share the fun with you. There are obviously a couple of people who change the images – from a book much-beloved in Switzerland about Pitschi – and cue the music, but the other main characters are some suitably deranged looking kittens – see below – as well as a stuffed dog, and various props (more on that later).


pitschi1

Summary: This is the warm and enjoyable story of a kitten who didn’t want to be a kitten, and in the course of a day tries to be various other animals that you’d encounter on a Heidi-like hillside: a goat, a hen, a duck, a bunny etc. All very beautifully drawn and shown on the screen behind the action. Natasha plays her grandmother with great gusto – who knew that just putting on a scarf and using a walking stick to shake your booty to “Rumpf rumpf rumpf rumpf” would be so entertaining?  Kittens cannot, of course, be any of those animals and poor Pitschi has a very tiring and ultimately dangerous day, before she is rescued by granny, who is alerted by said dog. Lovely. There is a lot of audience participation but it was done without the slightest hint of sarcasm, unlike our show on Day 2…

Props: Mostly the stuffed animals, but also a bench, headscarf, skirt, basket of kittens (squee), bucket full of dangerously squirty rubber glove – be prepared to get wet – and a broom. The screen is supported by two pretty rustic poles, to complete the Swiss Mountain styling.

Take Home Message: Be yourself and make friends with people (or animals) who are different from you. Also – girls can be very funny (this was the only solo performance by a woman we’ve seen this week and she carried it perfectly).

pitschi3

Miss K Review: “I thought it was lovely. She was so funny, especially I liked it when she was being her granny [Ed. she then demonstrated the granny walk several times throughout the day]. The kittens were very sweet although I got a bit scared when she was in the rabbit hutch and there was a bat and owl and wolf, just like the Fairly Tales one. I really liked being a bunny, she was very friendly.”

ASD/SEN notes: Access to the Dining Room at Teviot isn’t the easiest, although I’m sure there’s a better way in – there are regulations these days. In the room, you walk along a fairly narrow passageway towards the stage and are greeted by the actor. The seats are ranged up in rows, the floor and walls are all black, seating accessed by a single stairway – unless you sit further in you will have to get up and down as kids go past. There are no flashing lights, no lighting effects or smoke machines, no strobes or bangs. There is a little music played on the accordion but mostly it is just sung. The images are on a white screen, similar to those used in school or slide shows. At one point the audience are squirted with quite a lot of water and at another, children are asked to come up on stage and hop/dance like bunnies. There is a mild threat, in one scene near the end, but there is no lowering of lights or increase in noise – note that Miss Kitty did pick up on it though, even though it was very innocuous.

Miss Kitty rating: 10/10, definitely good.

Mama Scissors rating: 10/10 – a great introduction to theatre for all kids, enjoyable by old hands like Miss Kitty, performed with gusto and skill. I’m relieved (although surprised) they weren’t selling reproduction kittens or books, both of which would have done very well. (I will accept orders for the kittens, if anyone is interested).

Definitely go see!

pitschi2

Edinburgh Fringe 2015: Day 3 – Trash Test Dummies

Dashing across the Meadows just after 12, we were welcomed very nicely to the Beauty Tent – sans Purple Cow Udders – for the daily show by the Trash Test Dummies.  Having heard good things from other families who do the Fringe, we were both looking forward to a proper ‘show’ after yesterday’s slightly disappointing outing.

There’s a definite Australian thing going on this year, with at least two of our five shows from down under – not that I’m complaining. I get the feeling that children’s entertainment and theatre is taken a lot more seriously in other parts of the world than here.

Act: Three young male circus acrobats/clowns/very clever guys, wearing a variety of denim dungarees with nothing else apart from boots, three large wheelie bins, lots of gags, music, skill and energy.

Summary: There’s no narrative as such – Kitty (currently addicted to Penguins of Madagascar) announced they were like Skipper, Kowalski and Private, so there are definite characters that they play. They lark about, have small sketches accompanied by appropriate music (a ballet class one was among my favourites) (no really), there’s a lot of being deliberately silly and a bit of getting the grown ups to laugh too, with the theme tune to The Great Escape and Batman likely to pass most kids by.

trashtest3

Props: Big wheelie (trash) bins, more bins, lots of balloons, many small plastic balls that get thrown into the audience, juggling batons, hats, a ladder, more balls. I think you could add the dungarees to the list of props as they certainly work hard.

Performance: High energy, whole hearted and done with just enough of a nod to the grown ups. I think it’s a fine line and they only just stay on the right side, but that’s ok. At one point, Skipper (as we called him) pops up without the upper part of his dungarees – Kitty found that a bit embarassing – ditto the pretending to be wearing superhero underpants (you’ll see). They worked HARD for the whole time and managed to make it much more than just a show of extremely good juggling, acrobatics and circus skills. They are definitely comedians, in the best sense of that word. Best of all, they weren’t scared of being silly – and wearing dungarees (excellent choice) – which gave them a real edge and lack of self-consciousness that I think the kids really enjoyed. Hell I enjoyed it – particularly their freestyle dancing. There were LOTS and lots of belly laughs from boys and girls, all ages, some parents particularly enjoyed being down at the front.

 

Take Home Message: Having fun is good. There was a bit of a thing about friendship in spite of laughing (and slapping) people but certainly not in a hugging-and-learning way. Probably the main message was “go find a gymnastics class and you too can be cool if you work really hard”.

Miss Kitty Review: “I thought it was awesome. Best show I’ve ever seen apart from Brush – it was almost as good as that. I liked the guys who were like Skipper, Kowalski and Private [Ed. This is high praise folks]. My favourite bit was when they thought their friend was dead and then they saw him and slapped him a lot, that was very funny. I liked the one with the beard most, he was like daddy. [Ed. only vaguely, as daddy no longer has a beard]. I think everyone should go see it, it was very funny. I got a bit embarassed but it wasn’t bad. It was very loud and I thought my ears might die but I laughed a lot.”

trash test 2

ASD/SEN Notes: As you will have gathered, there’s a lot going on in this show! The venue is accessible but only just – mobility needs can get in through a ground floor entrance and sit in the front row (although this means you will be engaged with at some point – don’t let that put you off). Otherwise, you are up about 8 steps and the seats are very small, ranged around a horseshoe shape over 8 tiers. I was frequently bumped by the person in front stretching backwards, much to our mutual annoyance. There is plenty of space and it feels quite open. Big lighting rig, and lots of lighting effects: not a strobe but very bright white searchlights, plus lots of coloured lights moving around. There is a smoke machine about three quarters of the way through. There is a lot of music and at one point I realised that it was setting off my ears too, so I was amazed that Kitty coped. Perhaps turn it down just a notch. There are no big bangs or flashes. NB: at one point a character has a bin bag put over his head, and at another he has ping-pong balls (and later a harmonica) in his mouth. I have to admit to freaking out a bit & making clear immediately that he was a skilled circus performer. I do have visions of small ADHD boys all over Scotland jumping into stinky bins and getting really badly hurt.

Miss Kitty rating: 20/20, definitely awesome
Mama Scissors rating: 17/20 – points lost for safety issues, excess noise and selling us a tiny plastic bin with a bag of haribo and a Trash Test Dummies sticker, which I had no way of avoiding on the way out.

Another go see, from the SSS review team.

p.s. a very neat trick – get the audience to help tidy up by turning it into a ball-collecting mosh pit at the end. Very smart.

 

Edinburgh Fringe 2015: Day 2

 

 

Day two started off overcast and was decidedly cool, even for Edinburgh in August. We arrived at 11am for the 11:10 performance of Jazzmatazz by Ali McGregor and crew.

We were at the far end of a queue consisting mostly of toddlers, babes in arms, their pregnant and/or tired mothers and few grandparents/dads thrown in for good measure. All in fine fettle and ready to explore the wonderful Spiegeltent (how can that be a tent mama?), we were greeted by a very enthusiastic Fringe staffer who ripped our tickets and welcomed the bright pink chihuahua currently accompanying us on our festival jaunts.

 

The tent is, as you can see, huge. We sat near the very front at the dance floor but there’s another tier of booth tables around the walls which, on balance, I’d choose next time. There were some mellow sounds coming from the three-piece band and a few kids attempted to get on the floor to make the most of the opportunity to lark about and not be told off.

 Said pink chihuahua, about to whack it’s head on the floor, again. It likes being thrown up and down a lot. You can see that she is probably at the top end of the age scale for this show, and very quickly began to feel uncomfortable.

Act: Ali McGregor’s Jazzmatazz, high quality singing and musical jazz aimed directly at children up to the age of 7 and their parents. There were lots of songs – only a few jazz classics, A-Tisket A-Tasket among them but lots of mash ups, including “who let the dogs out” and “single ladies” (or whatever that Beyonce track is called).  In between songs, Ms McGregor asks children things like “what do you do to cool down in the summer?” (of course there is no summer, badoom-tish), “what do you do when you feel happy?”, “what kind of animals do you see in the jungle?”. There’s usually a straight answer from the kids and she then makes a kind of witty remark about it, for the benefit of the parents. Almost entirely in good humour, although I’d say it’s a bit dry and sarcastic for kids who are old enough to know what’s going on. There’s lots and lots of dancing, led by two professionals who are not afraid to get into the kid mosh pit that forms around the front of the stage.

Summary: lots of songs, a bit of repartee, more songs, a little bit of boogying especially designed for parents of pre-verbal kids and all in a pleasant setting.

Props: the band, although you could argue that the children are a prop too. A bubble machine.

Performance: Ms McGregor has got a great voice. It’s clear, warm, rich and she is obviously very talented, as are the musicians and dancers – although they hardly got a look in, to be honest. In her bright red frock and matching sparkly shoes, she steals the show and can go from singing beautifully to chatting with a toddler quick smoothly.

Take home: Kids can enjoy jazz and live music, it doesn’t all have to be Singing Kettle. (You know what I mean if you’re Scottish).

Miss K Review: I thought it was okay. She was a good singer and I liked the band. I didn’t know many songs, and she didn’t sing any Raffi. It  was a bit busy and I got embarassed so we left early. I didn’t want to talk to her afterwards.

[Ed. Now, those who know Miss K will know that she is a chatty, fairly confident kid in spite of – because of? – her ASD. She has been going up to actors, singers etc and taking over Fringe shows for at least four years, sometimes to the dismay of less confident performers. Today was no exception and her hand shot up when she realised she’d get to speak into a microphone and answer questions from the lady. Today was the first time she’s been made to feel embarassed or shy about something she said, although I don’t doubt that was NOT her intention. However, sarcasm and dry wit are kind of lost on kids of a certain age, who are aware that they are the butt of some kind of joke and it’s not really one that they get… So take your kid, let them get up and dance and talk but make sure they’re not old enough to understand.]

ASD/SEN notes: The show is inside the spiegeltent which is nice and airy, high ceilinged and quite large. The access is not the easiest – buggies are left outside but that’s maybe because there were about 50 of them.  Steps up to the centre doors, and more steps, quite wide and shallow, from the side seating booths down to the central dance floor. The stage is thankfully up too far for it to be subject to stage invasions from the maddened crowd. There are lots of lights which are visible but none too bright, mirrors and stained glass windows around the upper walls and the ceiling is hung with red curtains. (see picture below). Sound quality was good – not too loud although it’s intense when the songs are playing. There were no flashing lights, bangs or strobes. A bubble machine in one song brought all the kids to a corner, where it was a bit too much – granny’s in particular liked taking the babies up and Miss K felt overwhelmed.  She spent much more time on my knee in this show than yesterday, even though the subject matter was in no way scary. (see the note above). Children in wheelchairs would need extra assistance to be in the crowd, if they were given access at all.

Miss Kitty rating: 5/10 (although the band and singer both got full marks for performance).

Mama Scissors rating: again, ditto. Quality of performance great, possibly not the right age group for us at 7 & 42.

 

Edinburgh Fringe 2015: day 1

Despite the insanity that Edinburgh school terms start only a week or so after the festival begins – and two days after the Edinburgh Book Festival starts!! – I decided to make the most of this and just go do a show with Miss Kitty every day this week.

Day one was a typically rainy affair, visiting the Pleasance, normally Edinburgh University territory – I’ve been there in the past for a medieval dance group – and right next to their gym complex. It’s going to be refurbished and so I’m not sure if the Fringe can use it next year – it’s a real rabbit warren but I have a fondness for it’s victorian bizarre layout.  Today we were down in the cellar, seeing Andon Theatre Company perform “Fairly Tales“.

fairlytales2Summary: two very talented young actors, in their 20s, perform a story about two boys (in school uniform) discovering a mutual love of traditional type fair(l)y stories and recreating them ‘for real’ in their backgardens, which join by a dodgy fence with a gap. They have an exciting journey through a magical landscape, complete with princesses, trolls, witches, wolves and a flatulent cow. No really. Her name is Mary.

Props: Absolutely minimal. The Cellar is small and intimate, with children invited to sit on the front row if comfortable. I made sure Miss K knew where I was sitting, so she could come and hug if need be (and she did find the wolf and troll bits a little unsettling for a minute). There are two rotating screens, with a plain curtain on the back, sheets of perspex that the actors draw on with magic wipers and that’s pretty much it. There’s a holder for  the sheets but that isn’t part of the performance.

Performance: both guys gave it their absolute all – they were great. I was initially a bit ‘oh god two blokes pretending to be kids and not talking like kids have done since… I don’t know, grange hill circa 1978?’ but I was completely won over. I sincerely hope that someone sees their work who can a) give them more work and b) sticks them on the telly, because I think they’re very good indeed. What gets to you isn’t how slick and well rehearsed it is (and they clearly know it backwards) but their absolute integrity – if they weren’t so sweaty at the end I’d have shaken their hands. They remind me what live theatre is about and I think it is worth about 100 times the shouty, loud, over-done performance of say a certain Dr Seuss show which spends a lot of time flogging hats outside the door. *cough*

Take home message: Don’t just read books, try playing the stories with your friends and let them get mashed up and exciting – play! write! read! [Ed. I love it].

Miss Kitty’s review: “I thought they were very good. I got a bit scared but I’m glad there wasn’t anything bad happening to the boys. I wanted to talk to them more [Ed. She is very very big on audience participation, of which there is absolutely none.  A bit unusual but it works for this show.] I give it a 20 out of 20 and think my friend P (a boy) would like it too.” (there is no higher praise).

ASD/SEN notes: The cellar is dark and quite small but it is not a problem for kids to be near their parents or move around as needed. I wouldn’t think it is great for kids who need to be very mobile or have a lot of stimming, as they will be near the front of the performance and in view of other kids, which might be stressful for them if not near parents. It is not easily accessible for wheelchairs or other mobility issues, as it is down steep steps and the seating is very close together. Lighting is ok – it gets very low before the show but there are zero big bangs, flashes, strobes or other effects. Ditto sound effects, beyond a bit of microphone use at the beginning and during the character sequences (wolf/troll/narrator). Some children will need a bit of explanation that the boys are pretending to be the story characters and that they are not going to hurt each other.

At the end of the show, each child – and parent! – was given a special pencil with the Andon Theatre logo to go and write their own stories, which was a really nice touch.

Miss Kitty rating: 20/20

Mama Scissors rating: ditto.

I recommend catching these young men before they go on to do very good things.

p.s. photo shows us being captured by Albee Vector Sound Collector, who thought we’d been to his show!

 

 

It’s a little bit funny

this feeling insii-ii–ii-ide.

Or not. (especially as I am NOT a fan of Elton John).

Most blogs start with an apology for being absent but sod that, I’m busy and so are you. I post here because I want to and I will not, repeat not, add another ‘should’ onto my shoulders. [NB. never noticed similarity of should and shoulders – could be significant, at least in terms of where we feel the weight of those unwanted demands.] Neither will I try to trammel the wanderings of my mind into a “sewing blog” or a “home ed” blog (especially as Wee Bear is now at school, sniff). Real life, for most women my age, is way more messy and complicated than that.

Since we went to the ballet last year, we’ve had a confirmed “official” diagnosis of ASD for Wee Bear. ASD – the new DSM-IV guidelines have smooshed together everyone from a nonverbal, totally uncommunicative child with learning disability to the Aspie end of the spectrum which is not entirely helpful outside the non-NT (NeuroTypical) circles – or Autism Spectrum Disorder, but also with a complex presentation (i.e. she’s a girl). Let’s say it’s been a bumpy few years. And I am still at the stage of blaming myself. Did I eat the wrong thing? Was it being an older mum? Was it nursing for 2 years? Was it mixed-feeding? Was it the antibiotics that saved her life at 7 days old? Was it my insistence of wearing her in a sling for most of 2 years and rocking her to sleep for those few hours when she stopped demanding interaction? Should I have noticed that she didn’t put things in her mouth? Should I have taken her to the GP when she didn’t crawl, even though she walked at 12 months? Should I have gotten worried at 18 months when she stopped eating more and more things, when she refused to wear short sleeves, at the tantrums at the sound of the hoover or my violin? (that’s understandable I suppose)… So many tiny signs that my darling girl found the world a confusing, overwhelming, scary place.

I suppose the thing is that I do too. So it all made sense to me (and other family members).

Yet because of her great ability to communicate and to verbalise and to mimic and mask, her skill at drawing, singing, copying, it was all fine. Except it wasn’t. That awful cliche of “you just know” and even the classic “no one knows your child like you” is certainly true but it’s made a lot, lot more difficult if your ASD kid is a girl, is very “high functioning” (shudderful phrase) and you yourself are non-NT. I’m not diagnosed, no, but I tick most of the adult female Aspie boxes, although with the caveat that I tend to overdo empathic feeling until it overwhelms me and I run and hide from people until the spoon drawer is full again. That can take quite a time. For some people, it just never gets full again and I will admit that I do sometimes just have to lose contact with people because it’s just too much. If that happens, it’s truly me, not you. Truly. Sometimes I feel like a dog who can see the emotions of people like hazes of colour or smell (which fits with my inability to tolerate perfume of any kind) and to be honest, I can’t stand it. [Ponders the phrase “you are too emotionally smelly for me to tolerate”].

Right now, I’m being distracted by a mouse that runs back and forth across the steps to our garden. It’s super fast but my “notice everything eyes” pick it up and I go off for a second.

Back to diagnosis, ASD, girls and the question of my undiagnosis. Do I want to get tested? Partly, because I’m a geek and I like psychology and the brain and neurological difference is one of the potentially most exciting things that scientists are looking at these days. Potentially. Will I get tested? I doubt it. The waiting list for the only adult ADHD clinic in Scotland is massively long. I don’t even know if they have an adult ASD one. Most of my NHS psychological support has been in the form of CBT or counselling, not assessments. Women do face challenges as they get older that make a diagnosis a useful hook to hang our difficulties on: it’s not “us” that are failures, it’s a real difference in our brain. Not blaming ourselves for being different, for needing time to be alone and quiet, for needing the physical stimulus of walking for miles and miles, for having SPD traits that affect our lives… the boundaries between Aspergers, ASD, social phobia, clinical depression, OCD, they’re all blurring together, in academic research and finally, finally, it’s catching up and being talked about and wonderful women are saying “me too”. I might not be one of them but my daughter is. I want her to avoid the “side effect” disorders that seem to be comorbid with ASD: self-harm, depression, etc. If we can explain to her now about her difference, in a way that doesn’t use the word “disorder” in it’s description thank you, perhaps she will grow up into the full knowledge and awareness of her super powers and her amazing potential.

Meantime, I’m off under my rock to do more drawing and sewing. First up is finishing a smocked dress for Wee Bear that is probably too young for her but too pretty to leave unfinished.

p.s. do you like my fringe? I’m still getting used to it.

Edinburgh Festival: learning & fun outdoors – Day 4

One of the great – and I do mean great – things about living in Edinburgh is the annual August Festival. I love it. We don’t go to grown up shows any more but we do three or four children’s shows and I’m going to say without hesitation they are far better than any grown up performances I’ve seen in the past. Ever.  Wee Bear has been going to shows for about three years now and loves theatre and performance.

As a last ‘hoorah’ to our official homeschooling experience (for now), I’ve decided that I’ll use the festival as a learning time. We missed Friday (kick off) but on Day 2, she went to the Pleasance courtyard and spent a few hours colouring badges, making a t-shirt and handpuppet and befriending a five year old. Most – if not all – of the learning is about making friends and dealing with kids who are hopped up on being out with grown ups and sugar. She usually copes well, although today (Day 4) was hit and miss… we dealt with a girl who really *didn’t* want her to join in the gang but with admirable perseverance, she wouldn’t give in, even when she had to take a break for a minute or two… in the end though, with no ‘new friends’ in sight, we headed round the corner from the BBC Potterrow area to discover two fantastic free acts.

The first were two performers from New Zealand, the Hoop Hooligans – in spite of a modern architectural gale blowing that meant we had to put our jackets on, we really enjoyed these guys. Thank you for making her smile!

Second – and only a few yards away – was a short excerpt from Brush (reviewed here) a Korean show involving a lot of paint, some very amusing clowning performances and a lovely looking piece of art. Wee Bear insists that we go tomorrow, so Fringe performers, take note: do a freebie show outside, you will definitely get more sales (if you are any good, and of course children’s shows are fantastic). If you’d like to buy tickets for Brush, always use the official Fringe website & have fun!20140804-191938-69578784.jpg

Happy Mothers Day

I’m up too late again: it’s not quite midnight but will be by the time this is posted, thanks to the heinous installation of British “Summer” Time. The coinciding of both our annual celebration of motherhood and the moving of ‘time’ so that children under the age of 12 will be simultaneously exhausted and up earlier (5.45 am anyone?) is in poor taste.  I’m grateful that for us at least, there will be no mad dash to get to school for 8am, as neither Wee Bear or I are larks.

retro mum

Since my mini-me won’t be here, my Mother’s Day present this year is a chance to attend Matins and the full Liturgy in our local Church. I will wake up, say my prayers, walk briskly the two miles through a beautiful part of our city and (I hope) get there in time to enjoy the hymns for St John of the Ladder, as it’s now the fourth Sunday in Lent.

sewing machine

I did fail, however, to post my own dear mum’s card in time and have failed to be inspired (or have time) to make her something to hand over. I know she says she doesn’t mind and that she knows how much I appreciate her, but I’m not sure it’s possible for such a modest, unassuming person to realise just how much she means to me and of course Daddy Bear and Wee Bear.  I looked in vain for a poem or verse that would be able to express what I feel and none can.daffodils

Here are a collection of my precious memories of her, shared with you (mostly for her) and given as a gift for those whose mothers are gone in body, because we know they never leave our hearts.

  1. Mum sitting on a bench, knitting a mohair cardigan on a very windy daffodil covered hillside as Dad flew a radio-controlled plane. Boiled eggs may have been involved as snacks, much to my disgust.
  2. Mum and I taking a rare chance to make pretend cakes from sand and leaves by a river – I think we had visited a shop or something far away, it was somewhere with a sort of glade nearby.
  3. The tireless hours she spent lighting fires, cleaning ice from inside the windows, running baths in front of paraffin heaters, cooking endless meals, providing blankets for tents in our garden without sighs or complaints (that I can remember).
  4. Holding me while I cried my heart out, having realised that death was inevitable and one day, one terrible day, I would lose her and the rest of my family.
  5. Birthday parties where she spent a whole day baking astonishing cakes and treats for me and my friends to enjoy: so much more special than hiring a trampoline centre *cough*
  6. Using the treadle sewing machine (which I wish I’d saved somehow) to sew both a bridesmaids dress AND my favourite skirt of all time: pink floral cotton dirndl, that I wore out one summer. It felt so old fashioned, feminine and pretty. I could tell that it was difficult to make but I realised that we could MAKE CLOTHES…
  7. teaching me to knit, almost by osmosis. Lending me needles, wool, patience, teaching me the peace that comes with paying attention to a pattern. And, of course, the jumpers that held me as warm as her hugs: I’m thinking particularly of the icelandic wool one, made in natural tones of wool and as thick as a yak hair blanket. We wore them to see the Edinburgh Tattoo one year, and didn’t feel the freezing wind after the sun went down.
  8. Always having to wait for chips on our “Around Scotland Tour” in a minivan one year: chips formed a staple of our evening meals and whenever mum went in, they had just put on a new batch. This meant that they were fresh and piping hot. I now realise it also provided her with ten minutes out of earshot every day, not to be a dismissed lightly either.
  9. Listening to my endless tortured ramblings about weight, food and boys for at least ten years. Or more. Never complaining or advising, just listening, sometimes trying to guide but never laying down the law. Or not that I can remember…
  10. Being with me almost every day after Wee Bear was born. She made me endless tea, scrambled eggs, brought me cushions, held me gently when I was too sore to hug anyone because of the feeding hell that was a baby with undiagnosed tongue tie and poor supply, brought me food and sympathy for the week we were in hospital with a staph infection of Wee Bear’s belly button, even when she was utterly exhausted and worn out.  When my PND was crippling and I couldn’t be on my own with a 4 month old baby, she and my dad took me in. They looked on as I struggled back through the black swamp, gave me space for my head to recover, didn’t comment on my spiralling upward weight (the outward sign I’m not really coping btw), bathed the baby, changed her, took me out for walks… It goes on, to this day (thanks for doing that mountain of ironing my dear, you know how much I hate it).

icelandic knittingWhat I’ve come to realise, having been so fortunate to have a mother who is still only in her early (muffled digits), is that she’s a remarkable person in her own right and I’ve got time to get to know her as an adult. I have all these memories of her but so do others. She’s a stalwart friend, sister, wife, aunt, daughter; she taught me the power of gentleness and love, the strength of gritting your teeth and going on, with a smile and a hug, the dignity of bearing ill-health without complaining or asking “why me”, the compassion of coping with the depression of others without shaming or despairing.. I don’t think I’ve ever seen her despondent in my life, even if, on rare occasions, I’m allowed to see her feeling vulnerable. She doesn’t have a glittering career, a huge social circle, her own business or whatever you’d think of as worldly ‘fulfilment’ or success… what she does is so much deeper and more significant.

She’s a mother.

mum nightmare