Thursday, April 28, 2011

Hot Cross Bum (Or 'That's not a Holy Day. THIS is a Holy Day!)

Warning: This Post Contains Far Too Much Information

Most people spend Easter getting their children (and/or themselves) high on too many shiny-wrapped bunnies, bilbies, wombats and chickens. Oh, and eggs.

They inhale hot cross buns at high speed, and hold treasure hunts for the children.

Most Easters, I am one of those people.

This Easter, I spent far too much time biding my time at a medical centre and then a hospital ER, discussing the state of my bowel movements with a Seriously Handsome Doctor.

A Seriously Handsome Doctor who asked: 'Are you decent down there?', before asking permission to lift my skirt and gently squeeze and palpate my tummy.

(I wanted to tell him I didn't know if you'd call it decent. I mean, I'd done what Mum always said to do and worn my nicest knickers In Case Of Emergency, but it had been a while since I'd had my Lady Garden professionally tended to, so ...

But the Seriously Handsome Doctor was already frowning, as he pushed and prodded and felt for, I don't know what. But clearly he didn't mean decent in that way, just decent in the 'was I wearing undies?' kind of way. Seriously? Do people not do that when they go to the doctor? He assured me they frequently did not. Or maybe that was an attempt to break the ice.)

After that, a nurse was called in to supervise, and I obediently curled up in the foetal position while the Seriously Hot Doctor then, ahem, conducted a thorough search of my insides via my butt. (Dude! You could have bought me dinner first!)

I don't embarrass easily. I've pushed out two children from my Lady Parts and half the maternity ward staff came to inspect the carnage after my first birth, (Thankfully - kind of - the damage was so extensive it made the second birth much easier. And less scary. And far more private.)

But I digress.

About the time that most people were enjoying their Easter lunch, I was being examined in the most humiliating - but necessary - way.

In the waiting room prior to that, I silently prayed that I'd get a female doctor. But female doctors came and went, and when a Seriously Tall And Handsome Young Man Wearing a Stethoscope came out, I realised, with a sinking feeling, that he was looking for me.

How. Embarrassment.

I know. Doctors do this all the time. And nurses. So part of me wasn't really embarassed. Especially the part that knew, if there was something seriously wrong with me, a rectal examination on Easter Sunday would be the least of my worries.

Bowel cancer runs in my family. I'm in the high-risk group.

And after a couple of very dear friends were invaded by bowel cancer at very young ages, I was so aware of the need for early diagnosis that I treated myself to a colonoscopy for my 40th birthday. (Who needs a party when you can have a camera 'shoved up your butt' as my son gleefully informed his entire class at school).

Nothing nasty was found, but less then three years later, I have the delightful news that I now get to have another one very soon.

Which will be yucky and sick-making (the preparation is by far the worst part of a colonoscopy), but will hopefully come up with a simple explanation for the fact that I've been bleeding from a part where we generally shouldn't bleed.

The good news is that the Seriously Hot Doctor didn't find anything obvious during the exam, and I was allowed to go home.

The bad news, is that in addition to the abnormal bleeding, I've been increasingly dizzy and off-balance recently, and my blood pressure and pulse rate has been alarmingly high.

My treating medicos don't know if the symptoms are connected yet, and suspect not. But it's pretty frustrating to be unable to do basic things like look down or up, without staggering around like a wino, or walking on an angle into walls and random people. (And wandering children. Dear God. Who will think of the children?)

It's like my brain and my eyes aren't quite in sync.

More tests, more possible explanations. (One, frustratingly, from an all-hours medical centre doctor who didn't know my history, was that my symptoms were all due to anxiety. Hello? I know I am an anxious person and I am going through a lot of stress. But I've been far worse than this in the past, and I've never walked into walls or bled from my bum. Thanks to Mindfulness training, I can deal with most situations - good and bad - and on the rare occasions I feel I can't, I know where to go and what to do to get it sorted. And I don't get dizzy or sick).

So how have I managed with the kids? Well, it's times like these, that I realise I'm actually doing a pretty good job of bringing up my beautiful small humans.

They've been awesome; Fussing over me and making cups of sweet tea (their usual comfort drink when they're feeling unwell, so they figure that's what Mumma needs too). They've even propped me up if I'm a bit unsteady, one on each side. And guess what? They've called a truce on bickering (most of the time), and are working together for good, and not evil.

My lovely big brother and his wife and son have been fantastic, as have our lovely friends and neighbours who have rallied around with offers of help and healthy dinners.

Getting back to the Mindfulness, it reminds me how much in life I have to be grateful for.

And it's a lot.

My family, my friends, my health.

I'm hoping that my Easter scare was just a wake-up call, which is kind of what Easter is all about, isn't it? New beginnings, new life, and giving thanks.

Readers, how did you spend Easter? And more importantly, are you decent 'down there?'


Thursday, April 21, 2011

A little bit cheesy...

My kids love the fact that I blog.

The enjoy having a say in what subjects I post about, and choosing - or banning - the photos which end up online. Or not.

There are certain things they feel really strongly about - like Mr 10's Aspergers for example, or visiting a really nice market - and in these cases, they ask me to blog about them, because they want to spread the word.

But I think one of the major reasons they love my blog, is that sometimes I get free stuff out of it.

It may be a movie or book to review; it could be a fab experience, like the day we rode an old steam train at Bundamba, Queensland. Or it might be some yummy food to taste test.

Recently, the kids arrived home from school to find this waiting for them:

It was a bag full of Bega goodies. (The slogan is 'Real Town. Real Cheese.' Sorry about my crap photography)
That's a bit easier to read ...

Samples of yummy Bega stringers, Bega caps, and bendy cheese straw pens

In a case of perfect timing, the strips arrived the day before the school swimming carnival, an all day affair which is usually really hot, and the kids' perpetually starving.

I lost our Esky in my marriage break-up so the insulated Bega backpack came in handy. I packed it full of sandwiches, snacks, drinks, and fruit. Oh and some of the yummy stringers. A few of the kids' friends actually came up and asked for some, so we were really popular!

Why do kids love Bega Stringers? Because you can play with your food and eat it too. 

I am the walrus...

Why do Mums like them? Because they are made of real cheese, and regardless of which flavour you choose - original, cheddar or Swiss - they are made from a blend of mozzarella cheese, which is lower in fat than normal cheese.

What I loved is that they are 100 per cent cheese - nothing nasty added - and just one stringer provides 16% of a tiny person's daily calcium needs.

The kids both declared cheddar and original their favourites, which meant I got to eat a few of the Swiss cheese stringers with crackers, and found them yummy.

Hear no evil ...

See no evil ...

Speak no evil ...

Of course, after the playing, there was the traditional shredding of the cheese sticks, which makes the cheese taste better according to my Tiny Testers.

When the kids were younger, I tried to do lunch boxes the cheap way, cutting up strips of cheese rather than buying the packaged sticks.

But the kids never actually ate the cheese strips, since they had started to harden and sweat by morning tea time, so it was a false economy. (The cheese started to harden and sweat, not the kids. Obviously.)

I think it's worth splashing out on the Bega Stringers, considering only the empty packets come home.

Anyway, courtesy of Bega, I have two caps to give away and enough cheese straw pens for each of your kids. (Unless you are Angelina Jolie or Brad Pitt. Then there won't be enough).

To enter, just check you are following my blog, and leave a comment below about your child/rens' favourite lunch box treat.  

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Easter bags, and other stories

Do your kids still believe in the Easter Bunny?

Mine still love making Easter 'Bastards' and egg and bunny nests, but Mr 10, at least, is well aware that the real bunny has two-legs instead of four, is far less hairy, and has a tendency to fall over if she attempts to hop.

I'm pretty sure he has shared the knowledge with his little sister, but she is happy to go along with my vague subject changes, possibly in the hope of getting some extra shiny things on Easter Sunday.

Of the three of us, she's also the only one who likes Hot Cross Buns (only the chocolate ones mind), though there was a day when I shared some with her, gave into their chocolatey goodness, and discovered why she loves them so. (They are definitely off the menu for me now though, because yeast and I just don't get along very well. Sorry for the overshare).

Despite all this, Miss 8 still recalls a time when she woke up and saw her Dad creeping into her room with the eggs and bunnies.

We got past that one by saying that of course Mummy and Daddy buy the kids eggs too, and whatever the bunny brings is a bonus.

But I think she smells a rat. Or bunny.

Anyway, my kids don't actually eat a lot of chocolate, even at Easter. My 10 is anaphylactic to tree nuts and allergic to all nuts, so we have to be careful what chocolate he eats anyway. There are a few companies who can guarantee their chocolate is nut-free, and candy eggs have never really cut it with my kids.

And if they don't eat all their eggs, I can't help out, because I'm still battling The Boombah.

And thank God, I went off chocolate a long time ago, so I no longer enjoy it. (Unless it is Lindt, Cadbury, and/or in the form of a gelato).

We hate waste, so this year I asked the kids if they wanted an egg/duckie/bunny from me, or a toy instead. And they've both gone for the toy.

Great minds think alike, because my brother and sister-in-law had already decided to do the same.

But sis-in-law went one better. She came up with the idea of Easter Bags - bags of goodies to keep the kids busy during the school holidays.

We all loved it.

Miss 8's bag contained:

Some lovely books and soft toys

 A very lifelike bunny

Some timeless Easter stories

C. with his own stuffed toys (he collects them, so is not yet too old). Plus some Roald Dahl and Pokemon goodness. (I would have taken more photos of Mr 10 but in a camera-shy moment, he refused).

Despite their grown-up thoughts, I have a feeling the kids will still appreciate some aspects of a good old-fashioned Easter.

I plan on making our own hot choc buns plus the traditional Easter bunny biscuits, and a few other treats. Of course, the kids will be involved.

Seafood on Good Friday, a little church, and an Easter egg hunt on the Sunday. Hopefully, we'll have the chance to visit with family and friends too, though most of them are camping so I suspect it will be a picnic or barbecue for lunch rather than the traditional roast.

Readers, how do you plan on celebrating Easter? 

Monday, April 18, 2011

This I know ...

A McDonalds dinner box does not contain dinner

Subway stores are not restaurants

To lose weight, you have to eat less and exercise more. It's not rocket science. (And yeah, I don't necessarily follow my own advice).

Some men are wankers. So are some women. Avoid where possible

It is possible to be too rich and/or too thin

Celebrities and royals are just people. They are not better than anyone else. Often richer, in some cases more talented, more famous, and/or more screwed up. Sorry, but there it is.

You can't always have what you want. But you can give it a bloody good try.

Sometimes life sucks. But it can rock as well. Treasure the good times because they keep you warm during the hard times.

The more you avoid an issue in life, the more likely it is to bite you in the arse when it is not convenient. Deal with it and be done with it.

If God had not wanted us to be happy, She would not have given us gelato. Or chocolate. Or sex. Or whatever rocks your socks.

When the chips are down, some people you thought cared about you will take off with the whole packet. A real friend/family member will buy you a new pack and share them with you.

Kids really do grow up too fast.

Readers, what have you learned in life?  

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Sunday Selections

My lovely friend Kim at regularly holds a Sunday Selections linky blog affair, where we show photos that we just happen to have on our cameras/computers.

Her photos are always wonderful works of art,  but mine tend to be photos of my kids and/or pets.

Not very artistic, but special all the same.

Here is my little man, at his most vulnerable, following surgery recently.

His panda, Teddy, who has been his favourite toy since he was a few months old, bravely accompanied him. 

Teddy goes with C. everywhere.

 We have searched Australia for a Teddy Twin, without luck so far. Because this one is so well loved, and has been mended lovingly, so many times, I don't know how much longer he will last.

Thank the Lord for Teddy, who has gotten us through many a difficult situation. 

The bright orange wrist band is because C. has life-threatening allergies. He insisted on wearing it for a 1/2 weeks before it began falling off.

Miss 8, who cannot go to bed without a 'creature' to keep her company. In this case, the lovely Russy, who came with our house, has decided to join her.

It's actually a lazy Sunday morning rather than bedtime though, and she and Russy are watching a little telly while I have a cup of tea and read the newspaper while we wait for her sleepyhead brother to wake up!

Some photos are too special not to share. Care to join in?

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Still in pursuit

You know, sometimes I forget the subtitle to my blog, MIA is 'one woman's pursuit of happiness'.

Handing my business card to a woman whose cafe I want to post about soon, she asked: 'And have you found it yet? Happiness I mean'."

I thought for a minute, before replying that no, I was still in pursuit. Hot pursuit even.

But I certainly haven't found it. (If you have, can you send some over my way? Thanks.)

And in fact, this hasn't been a happy week for me.

It's been a week of struggles, and disappointments, and mornings where I have fought the urge to pull the doona over my head and stay in bed for the day.

But I didn't.

I got up.

I got up and I did stuff. And a lot of that stuff made me happy, at least for a while.

Practising Mindfulness means that even when crappy things happen, I can deal with them, and quite well most of the time. But even better, Mindfulness means that I can always find things to love and be grateful for. And I can really appreciate those moments, and enjoy them fully.

Here are just a few things that have made me happy this week:

* My kids. Well, d'uh, that's a given. But I got them back on Sunday and it's been awesome. I particularly loved going into their rooms on Monday morning and giving each of them a special cuddle and telling them how lovely it was to see them first thing in the morning. I so miss morning cuddles when they're not with me. (Cuddling a dog is cute, but not quite the same ...)

* Making it to school before the bell rang.

* Helping the kids sell a book and a half of raffle tickets as a fundraiser for their school. Gosh, we have some lovely (and generous) neighbours.

* Having dinner with my brother and his family during the week, where the kids were spoiled rotten and given their 'Easter Bags'. Instead of chocolate and eggs, my sister-in-law took great delight in putting together bags of goodies to get them through the holidays - books about bunnies and pets for Miss 8, and Pokemon stuff for Mr 10. And soft toys for both of them. They were an instant hit!

* Having a spontaneous coffee with a good mate, and meeting one of her lovely friends. Chatting with good friends is like instant therapy, and much cheaper than a psychologist!

* The pets. Even though the poor guinea pigs were being washed and dried and brushed and dressed up within an inch of their lives minutes after the kids lobbed on my doorstep.

* Zsa Zsa the toy poodle waking up the kids with a lick and a snuggle, then entertaining them for ages fetching her toy bone, and chasing her tail.

* Working out at my local Fernwood...I'm still not perfect, but I'm working on it, as their slogan goes. Exercise is an instant mood and energy booster, and even though I'm still battling the Boombah, I can tell I'm much fitter and more flexible than when I joined. And having been a member of many gyms in my life, I can honestly say that my Fernwood gym is the friendliest and most supportive environment I've ever experienced.

* Having a laugh with my friends on twitter and leaning on them for support when I've needed to. You guys rock!

* Eavesdropping on the kids. Like this conversation, as we were driving home from school the other day.

H: 'And anyway, Auntie Bel doesn't play with her soft toys, she puts them on display.'

C (disparagingly): 'H, when people grow up they don't play with their toys.'

H: 'I will!'


Now having shared my happy moments, it's time to make someone else happy. The winner of the Mars Needs Moms pass, courtesy of Disney Entertainment, is @Nicole. Her kids will now get to go to the movies with their grandmother over the holidays. Nicole tweet or email me with your details so I can send your prize.

Readers, what makes you happy?

Friday, April 8, 2011

Beware the skanks ...

It's Friday, and after a long, hard week, which included two parent-teacher interviews and a paediatrician visit, plus a couple of appointments for me (ugh), I thought I'd take a moment to breathe with a 'Stuff My Kids Say' post.

Are your kids busy making Easter 'Bastards' at school? Mine are. You know those fluffy things often accessorised with bunnies, chickens and chocolate that kids pop on their heads this time of year. I don't know about you, but you can't have enough Easter Bastards at Chez MIA.

And when we go out, I often stop to have a cup of 'chino', while the kids have a hot chocolate, or something cold.

"I can't wait until I'm old enough to have a cup of chino," H. grins mischievouly, as she inhales most of my chocolate foam. (Babycinos don't cut it, because there's no hint of coffee in the foam. That's my girl...)

When she was younger, H. used to get very frustrated that she couldn't do adult things like drink coffee. "It's not fair, I want to be a dolt," she'd say. "Mumma when am I going to be a dolt?"

Then there was the day she accompanied me to my regular chiropractor appointment. To her delight, the practice is located close to a lake.

"Mumma is this where you come to be chiropracted?" she asked in delight. "You're so lucky."

Yeah, I am lucky that I need to pay big bucks for my bones to be cracked and joints and muscles stretched on a regular basis. Yes, the view is lovely, but I don't get to appreciate since I'm too busy being tortured and paying for the pleasure.

Though he's older, C. still comes up with some classics himself.

"H. be careful when you go outside," he told his sister one morning. "There are a couple of skanks outside."

Yes, you really have to be careful when it comes to getting up close and personal with skanks in the morning. (He meant skinks! Skinks. Snake-like lizards to those who don't live in Australia.)

Then there was the time when we met illusionist/magician Joe Labero (so Mr 10 could get his signature obviously), after we saw his show Genesis: The Magic Spectacular at Jupiters Hotel and Casino, on the Gold Coast.

"I want to be like you when I grow up," said a starry-eyed C. to Mr Labero. "That's wonderful, and what illusions would you like to learn?" asked the Great One Himself.

"I want to make my sister disappear," grinned C. There were laughs all round.

Later C. tucked at my skirt and whispered: "But I really DO want to make her disappear. Why did everyone laugh at me?"

Finally, from the Only In Australia Files, on the way home from school recently, the kids spied this in the power lines above us:

"Mumma, look, it's a puppy dog!" exclaimed C.

Erm, actually it's a dead fruit bat. (Sorry fruit bat lovers. But it does look a little like a poodle.)
Readers what do your kids do or say to make you laugh?

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Holiday movies

It's almost school holidays for us, (and a few 'lucky' followers are already on their Easter break), and you know what that means: Movies.

I thought it was time for something a little lighter after my last heartfelt post, so the kids and I decided to review a few of the movies which are set to light up the screens these holidays.

First-up, Rio:

I confess, I don't actually like animated kids' movies that much. I don't know why; I think there are just so many that are exactly the same but with different furry and feathered creatures involved. But my kids like them, so I do my motherly duty, hand over a crapload of money for popcorn, and settle in for a few hours kip lovely family quality time.

Rio is probably the prettiest kids' movie I've seen, so that gets it loads of points from the start. Even though Mr 10 pretended he was too old for films for 'babies' as he described it, he chuckled at regular intervals throughout, and only asked to go to the toilet once.

Miss 8 loved it, from start to finish.

Basically, Rio revolves around a love-hate relationship between the world's last two blue macaws who must breed to save their species', while avoiding being trapped by evil poachers. Aided and abetted by some feathered side kicks and a picked on by an evil cockatoo villain, it's all pretty enough, and it's worth the extra to watch the 3D version. The pretty birds really do jump out at you, and of course there are some valuable lessons, like facing your fears peppered throughout.

(But don't get me started on 3D stuff, does EVERYTHING have to be in 3D these days? I feel totally daggy wearing the glasses over my normal ones.)

The actors voicing the characters all do okay and the animated scenery is stunning, but Rio the city is the real star here.

Then there was a non-animated, non-3D movie (yay!). The latest in the Diary Of A Wimpy Kid franchise.

We all loved this one, which featured fart jokes, poo jokes, fake vomit, and daggy white undies aplenty.

Miss 8 thought she'd be bored ('it's a boy movie', she'd sulked as we entered the theatre), but she giggled her way through it quite happily.

Mr 10's verdict: 'Just as good as the first movie, maybe even better. My favourite part was when the kid had to run around in his undies. They were so big they looked like nappies.'

Miss 8: 'I liked it when he had to taste the chocolate that looked like poo, and when the bird pooed on people.'

See, you can't go wrong with bodily fluids really, can you? And I didn't nod off once.

I'm a little bit worried that both kids said the daggy Mum reminded them of ME! Humph. Since when have they seen my super cool dance moves? (Has someone been sharing Aus Blog Con evidence?)

Anyway, to celebrate the holidays, I'm giving away an in-season family pass (admits 4) to Disney's latest flick Mars Needs Moms, which looks tops. You can watch the trailer here.

To win, just check you're following my blog and comment below on your favourite school holiday activity.

The last winner of my movie giveaway was @Traceyb25, who won a movie pack from Sony Australia, after sharing her hospital stay overshare!

Finally, thank you all for your lovely comments, twitter posts, Facebook comments, and emails about my last post about autism and Aspergers Syndrome.

I very nearly didn't post that one, but I am really glad I did. It meant so much to get your acceptance, understanding and support. xo

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Autism is not just for a day, it's for life

As much as I love writing about wanks and manhood food, I couldn't let the recent World Autism Awareness Day pass without acknowledging it on my blog. Or avoid mentioning the fact that April is World Autism Awareness month.

Let's get the facts out of the way first.

On April 1, April Fool's Day, the timing of which was unfortunate, famous landmarks including Sydney's Opera House, the Empire State Building in New York, the Kingdom Tower Saudi Arabia, and Brisbane's Storey Bridge lit up blue to support World Autism Awareness Day

In Australia, there was a National Autism Summit, and a video will be released to be shown at schools and on television.

In any case, about 1 in 160 Aussie kids have an autism spectrum disorder (ASD). It is our nation’s most common developmental disorder, and more children are diagnosed with ASD than childhood AIDS, diabetes and cancer combined. No one knows the cause, and there is no cure.

It's no secret that Mr 10 has Autism.

Yes it sucks.

But, thank God, he does not have leukaemia, juvenile arthritis, or tumours, or anything else life-threatening and/or truly nasty.

He has two relatively healthy parents who love him, though we live separately.

But C. still faces challenges every single day because he is autistic.

The reality of his situation means that today, after a perfectly lovely morning at the movies, C. spent almost the whole way home repeating the word: 'knickers', in a variety of silly voices.

Years ago, I may have snapped at him and/or his sister ridiculed him, but we carried on chatting as if this was completely normal. Because we're so used to C's eccentricities, we often only vaguely notice them. (Which is sometimes judged as being weird when we have company).

At home, I did point out to C. that saying 'knickers' wasn't really a cool thing to do, and wouldn't win him any friends. He couldn't remember even saying the word!

Such is the reality of C's life with Aspergers.

(Repetition of words, noises or movements can comfort a child with ASD. In our case, it was negotiating our way home from the madness of the Myer Centre Car Park in the Brisbane CBD to home.)

How else does Aspergers affect daily life with C? Let's see. (And the following are just a few).

C. hates his school uniform, not because he is a rebel, but because it feels 'weird' on his skin and worsens his eczema. And heaven help us if there are a pair of socks that match but that didn't come in the same packet together. Because C's toes will know the difference, and the socks will be taken off until I can find the exact same match.

He won't eat fresh bread, but he'll eat toasted sandwiches or wraps.

These are all sensory issues ... C. is over-sensitive to the way things feel, on his skin and in his mouth.

While some parents grieve upon diagnosis, I was kind of relieved.

So was Mr 10 for that matter.

'Oh, so that explains why I do things that other people think are bad,' he said on the way home from the paediatrician, following the official diagnosis.

And it was so true. Everything, too much to go into here, fell into place.

I'd known, probably since he was two or three, that there was something different about C.

I never viewed it as something to feel bad about, or an insult to my parenting skills, as some parents do, because I knew I was doing my darnedest!  (Except for when some judgmental parents and teachers made me feel that way. And then I'd be hurt, and justifiably angry at their ignorance).

I just knew C. was different to other kids his own age. Not better, not worse, but different. Less understood, less liked by teachers and carers (except for a few wonderful ones, who celebrated his individuality), but different all the same.

I didn't want to 'fix' him'; I just wanted to help him enjoy his life. Basic stuff, like feeling confident and liked at school; Not being punished for doing things he seriously could not help, like fidgeting, having a distracting tic; r repeating certain sounds and words, particularly when stressed/over-stimulated. Which was often.

I wanted to stop him from being bullied or punished for being different. Which was often.

I wanted to end bad experiences, like not being taking seriously when he was hurt or injured at school, because he'd been prone to putting it on. Which was often.

On the worst occasion, a bone was broken two weeks into grade one and no one bothered to look at it correctly, or treat it, or even phone me to let me know. It took two weeks for staff to complete an investigation into what had happened (because no one knew.) This was despite the fact that the injury occured in class time, when he was under the school's care. Because no one, including his teachers and the sick room staff, really liked or valued C. That hurt.

I have no medical experience, but it took me one glance to seek that at least one bone had been broken, and I probably would have happily stabbed someone if the need to get my son some medical care had not over-ridden the urge to get him that attention immediately. That is how little the school staff cared for my son after knowing him only a couple of weeks. And yeah, it still hurts.

I tried to advocate for C. without success, and finally found a small, caring Catholic school for our child which, although we aren't Catholic, was better suited to C's needs - and ours!

Having a diagnosis, meant A. We weren't crazy, B. We weren't Bad Parents (though I knew that already, having done all the courses and also turning out a so-called 'perfect' sibling, H*), and C. There was a crapload of help we could now access for our son.

*It's true, other teachers/adults have said in front of both kids that H. is good and not at all like her brother, meaning, not naughty/badly behaved/ and/or unlikeable. And H. is wonderful, and good, and sweet, and a constant delight to me. But so is her brother! They are just different, okay?

Of course, early intervention, which is highly accessible in Australia now, was too late for C; but still, there were things we could do to help our son. Some of it has been trial and error, some has involved medical or hormonal intervention; others medication.

C's official diagnosis is Asperger's Syndrome, ADHD and Pervasive Development Disorder. He has some learning difficulties, but is highly intelligent and above his peers in others. He has an incredibly high vocabulary but has trouble spelling or writing the sentences and words he thinks. Which obviously gets frustrating. For him and for teaching staff.

C. suffers from anxiety, and at times has been diagnosed and treated for depression. (Yep, even before he was 10).

He has trouble making friends with children his own age, and he is 80 per cent less likely to marry or enjoy long-term relationships when he is older than the general population. Less likely to be a parent. But more likely to achieve something else amazing as an adult.

Life with C. is never boring. Or quiet.

But would I change him? If I could take the autism away, would I?

No. Because he is a super-cool kid, (as is his sister), and the quirks and the challenges just make him more interesting. He's smart, loving, and entertaining. He is who he is and he is perfect.

And as I tell my son, he may not 'fit in' now, but one day, the very things that make him different, will help him make a success of his life.

Without autism, we wouldn't have had ground-breakers like Albert Einsteen, Sir Isaac Newton, Michaelangelo, Mozart, Bill Gates, Temple Grandin, or LadyHawke. There are unconfirmed reports that high achievers like Jessica Watson, the late Michael Jackson, and Robin Williams all have Aspergers.

So I'm at peace with the diagnosis.

C. may not be asked to birthday parties or enjoy team sports, right now, but I'm sure that he will eventually find his niche and excel at it. And I've told him that, and he gets it now.

I do wish I could take away the barriers though. To others liking and understanding him. To those who think he's naughty and wild, without knowing how far he has come and how hard he tries. To learning well at school, and finding a tribe.

Even though we have a school where staff are immensely understanding, we face battles every week.

Why does C. insist on acting differently to the other kids? Why does he squirm in his seat or find it difficult to stay on task? Why can he not focus on certain topics, yet over-focus on others? Why does he sometimes come up with inappropriate statements at inappropriate times? Speak out at wrong times in class, or fall off his chair? When exactly will he be given a drug to help him focus and move around less in class?

These are all questions we are asked constantly and comments from teaching staff. (Erm, C. has Aspergers Syndrome. It comes with the territory.)

Recently, my heart was broken when we were asked not to allow C. to go on a class excursion to Currumbin Sanctuary on the Gold Coast.

He really, really wanted to go; and as for previous excursions, I was totally prepared to go along and help and keep him safe, look after his possessions, and keep him from being overwhelmed.

Instead, my help was declined.

It was suggested I take C. to Currumbin Sanctuary in my own time, when he would not be a distraction to the rest of the class, and an added stress on the teacher and helpers. At my own cost.

Even though the trip was part of the curriculum, included in our fees, and his class - including C. - was tested on it, the day that followed. (Not surprisingly, Mr 10 failed it).

There are so many shades of wrong with this, I can't even begin to get started here.

I get my son the help he needs - paediatrician, child psychologist, occupational therapy and anything else that is suggested. I fill out paperwork, required to ensure he gets the assistance at school he's allowed by the government.

I massage my son and teach him Mindfulness, to help him deal with stress. I've gone along with any medications that have been suggested to help, after years of trying everything else with limited success.

I try my hardest to help him with 'normal' challenges like homework, even though it cuts into quality family time. So much so, that I'm about to become a conscientious objector, given that I can't see any real benefit, and only negatives, like excess stress to all of us. His sister included, who doesn't always understand why C. needs quite so much of my time, and in her words, 'ruins' many things.

I advocate for him as much as possible, but my heart sinks whenever C. is not invited on playdates or to parties (even though I regularly host his friends at home or take them on outings).

It doesn't help that C. has life-threatening allergies, and most parents, understandably, are scared of having to use an epipen. Even though I volunteer to go along, Just In Case.

What I have loved, is watching C. blossom and accept and work with his condition, despite the challenges and his detractors.

When he was choosing school stuff this year, and opted for a hot pink and purple school bag, and matching lunch boxes and bottles, I gently suggested C, might get picked on for his choices.

"That's okay Mum," he said, piling the trolley high with his purchases. "If anyone doesn't like it, I'll just say they're my favourite colours, and if they don't like them, I don't care, because I do! That's their problem, not mine."

C. is fantastic with 'tech', which means anything to do with computers, phones or anything that needs to be put together.

I'm a single, dinosaur-like Mum, so depend on C. to frequently put together bookshelves and computer systems for me, or tune in the TV. Which he does so quickly and expertly, it astounds me.

He can recite passages from books he's read once or twice, word for word.

He desperately wants to go on Junior Masterchef, and can cook a perfect omelette for breakfast, together with a skinny cappucino, just the way I like it.

I have never asked him to do it, he has just wanted to do it. And do it well.

Though he fights with his sister, he'll also do lovely things for her; like read to her or give her a piggy back when she's tired. Or make her fluffy scrambled eggs on toast with a hot chocolate on the weekend.

He'll give ALL his pocket money to charity, and cry when he hears that friends and relatives are sick and/or injured. Or when people lose everything through natural disasters.

With C, I am lucky.

Some autistic kids find it hard to show affection, or be aware of the feelings of others. But I am blessed that there are times when C. craves my touch and affection.

 "I need a hug," he'll say, drawing my arms around him. Or "I just need some Mummy time". And we'll spend some time just hanging at home with H. and the pets, and enjoying each others' company.

Even more interesting, for a kid who finds it hard to tune into social clues, C. can tell whenever I'm sad, or happy, or in need of a hug myself.

That's almost unheard of for autistic kids, so I feel very grateful.

So for Autism Awareness Week, all I want is for kids - and adults - like C. to be given a fair go. Don't limit them to what you think they should be capable of, and don't shun them because they are different.

Because just like all of us, they all have something to contribute.

And just quietly? Give their parents a break. Don't assume they are bad or lazy parents, because most of the time, they're trying just as hard as they can. Just as we all do.

My final wish is to do it forever, not just one day or one month. Because like a gorgeous puppy or kitten, Autism is for life.

Not just for a day, a week, or a month.