Wednesday, 23 September 2015

Happy birthday Smiler

Hey there Mr Pants ... or should I stop calling you silly names now?  Are you getting too big, too grown up, too sensible?

Of course not.  You sat next to me on the sofa this evening and laid your head on my shoulder.  Your fabulous mop of fluffy hair tickled my cheek as I turned to you and smiled, and you grinned back at me.  "Luff oo." You told me, eyes sparkling, and even as I told you that I loved you too you started the ungainly and uncoordinated process of getting up so you could check your brother and sister hadn't forgotten it's your birthday tomorrow ... since you'd reminded them three minutes ago.

Fourteen - a proper teenager, even though your body hasn't realised that yet.  Your little brother towering over you with the slightly darkening hair on his upper lip self consciously proclaiming that the hormones are now well and truly in control in his life.  But you - you still have those rounded cheeks of youth, that soft blemish free skin, and feet that somehow don't stink out the room every time we take off your boots.

Fourteen years ago you were taking your own sweet time, already more than three weeks late.  But hey, when you started moving you barely let me stop for breath, arriving aided by just a single push, emerging into this world to a midwife with wide eyes and no gloves, unable to believe that you had ben crowning as I waddled into the hospital three minutes earlier, completely incapable of sitting down.  The tv in the room was on, and I remember hearing the fake-tanned white-haired plastic-grinned presenter instructing the contestant to "spin the wheel, see what you get!" in a startlingly accurate description of conception as that midwife frowned at your face, calling through the open door to the hallway that she needed help now.


Fourteen years of living and breathing and growing and changing; learning and struggling and watching and waiting; hugging and handholding and smiling and laughing.

You've learned so much over these past twelve months.  You've begun to understand the finality of death, in your own way.  You've made new friends and missed old friends, reminiscing over times you shared.  You've worked hard trying to do the things that are asked of you, even when we can see that you don't understand why.  

You played music to an audience at the Colston Hall, and begun to sing along to bits of words of songs you like on the radio.  That radio was your birthday present from your dad and I for your last birthday, and you've taken such good care of it, because it brings the music you love right into your hands, under your control.

You have had to deal with so many difficult days, so much pain and fear and confusion and contradiction, but you still smile.  You still smile at me every single day.  You love the dog and your friends and your books and your music, and you love us - your family - with a simplicity that slides between the cracks of my worries and straight into my heart.

I love you, my gorgeous young man.

Monday, 21 September 2015

My two homes

Life is strange at the moment - we're in the slightly odd (but I suppose in some* ways enviable) position of having two homes.  No, we're not secret millionaires or anything, we just can't move out of the bungalow we've been renting for the past (almost) twelve years into the house we've just bought until the adaptations have been done that give Smiler a safe bedroom, and access to a sink, toilet and shower.  We now have planning permission for the extension on the back of the house that will be our living room, as Smiler's need for a downstairs bedroom means we can't use the obvious choice, but we're still waiting for the council go-ahead to put his bathroom in.  

(*as long as you ignore paying council tax on two houses, as well as gas, electric, and phone lines for both!)
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Although Smiler, Noah and Petal have been attending schools on the same physical site since the beginning of the school year for the first time ever, they need to be in half an hour before him.  Thirty minutes might not seem like much, but to get from the bungalow across town - in the morning traffic of course - takes fifty minutes at the time you have to leave to get them in on time, but only twenty five to get Smiler in.  This means if Mr drives everyone in, we need to leave the house at 7:40.  If he only has Smiler, he can leave at 8:30.  This, together with the opposite mismatch at the other end of the school day, means we're living separately for most of the week.

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On Sunday evening Mr drives us over to The New House, dropping off Noah, Petal and myself then driving back to the side of town with Smiler to spend the night at The New House.  Monday morning, Petal and Noah walk in to school, while Mr drives Smiler over for the start of his day.  Mr and I get on with whatever needs doing during the day - painting walls, grouting tiles, sanding floors - until Mr heads off to collect Smiler from school, drives back here (The New House), and we all have a cuppa and chat about what everyone has been up to.  Then Mr drives Smiler to The Old House, where they have tea, sort washing (washing machine still over there) and spend the night.  Noah and Petal do all their usual evening stuff - keyboard practice, homework, have tea - with me here at The New House, before we watch an episode of Warehouse 13 and then they brush their teeth and settle in the rooms.  They don't go straight to sleep, which is fine, but at least they're able to relax by themselves, read, listen to music quietly, play cards, til they are ready to snuggle up and snooze.  It's lovely to be able to be so much more relaxed about bedtimes - since they each have their own door and light switch and curtains here I know they aren't disturbing one the way they do when we're back at The Old House.  Because Noah and Petal have Scouts back on the other side of town on Thursdays, we head back over together after school, tea together in The Old House, they go to Scouts.  Then we all leave early on Friday morning, so they get in on time, and Mr and I spend the next thirty minutes trying to keep Smiler occupied in the car, then head back to The New House.  After school we all have tea together in the new house then, once Friday traffic has subsided a little, we all drive back to the other side of town to The Old House, where we spend the weekend.

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I'm exhausted just writing it all out!  Of course it makes me feel shitty because I'm still not cleared to drive, so Mr has to do all of it, and I feel guilty for having anything on during the day as it means he needs to chauffeur me there and back, and hang around if I don't seem 100%.  There's  been too many occasions that he's left me at a meeting somewhere then got a call an hour or two later letting him know I've a fit and being taken to hospital.  At least if he's with me he can take me home and let me sleep it off.  That's another reason I can't be in sole charge of Smiler of course - the potential consequences of him being unsupervised because I've lost consciousness are too scary to contemplate.

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Have you ever had to split your time as a family?  Any tips?  Do you look back on it fondly as a time you didn't have to share the remote control, or were you lonely?