Thursday, 24 April 2014

An Update


While I am coughing and wiping my nose this morning I thought I'd blog a little bit. Lest you forget that we are indeed alive. We all have the biggest cold our of lives right now. We've made three trips to the hospital and several to the doctor. Sebastian has a double ear infection and then had an allergic reaction to the meds. It has all been a bit crazy over here and everything is covered in dirty tissues but hopefully we are on the mend now. Even if ever so slightly. I'll admit it makes me want to take better care of myself so I don't get this sick again. This is not fun!

The temps have come up ever so slightly. We are about 50-55 F. While this isn't the kind of weather you think accompanies spring, it's all we've got. Add 10 more degrees and you've got a Scottish summer. You won't hear complaining from me. I've lived here so long I don't remember spring another way. Which is probably a good thing. I am excited to finally take off my coat someday soon--I hope.

Spring break lasts 2 weeks in Scotland. Although Sebastian is not in school we partook in the fun activities Aberdeen has to offer. We went to the movies at the old Belmont Filmhouse, the park, library and to Union Square Garden's every day for a playdate with the Aberdeen Play Forum. We went to a big Easter Extravaganza at my church too. We've had a blast with our friends! It has been really great to get out and do something every day and enjoy the sunshine. I just happened to pick up a major cold in the process.

Check out some pictures from our spring break::

 


Sebastian decorated his egg by writing EGG on it. So literal and so smart. That's my little guy!





Friday, 4 April 2014

Sebastian Says

 
I wanted to thank you for the kind comments, emails, messages, etc that were sent after this post {and this one too}. I can't adequately express what it means to have support {even from strangers} during this time in our lives. I'm still telling friends/family about all of it and explaining just what Sebastian is going through. It's kind of hard and makes me nervous. While everyone is being nice and supportive some of their questions make my heart hurt. But, this is the month to do it. April is Autism Awareness Month!

Sebastian is starting to find his voice and I just don't want to forget any of it. We've worked and waited so long to hear it that anything he says is extra special. I find myself in tears over the simplest communication. It might not be anything important to anyone else but to us it is the world.

I started keeping a little piece of paper in the kitchen just for writing down the fun things Sebastian is saying. I don't want to forget any of it but I also want Luis to be able to come home from work and see what Sebastian has said.
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One morning while playing with his stuffed animals...
Sebastian: "Hi Pooh Bear."
Mary: "Hi Elephant."
Sebastian: " Hi Monkey."
this went on until we'd gone through all the stuffed animals. Then he started looking around.
Sebastian: "Hi air."


We finally had our daylight savings time last weekend. That night was a little rough. Lots of crying from Sebastian. When I was finally at my whit's end I asked:
Mary: "Sebastian, what's wrong? What do you want?"
Sebastian: "Stay up! Watch TV!"


When Sebastian's best friend walked in the door {he's never said his name before}...
Sebastian: "Hi Struan! Hi Struan's Mom."


Sebastian: "Come please."
Then he preceded to walk Luis to the tv. He then pointed at it.
Sebastian: "Tom and Jerry please."


All was quiet in the flat. That's never a good sign. I walked into the kitchen and I found Sebastian in front of the freezer, with paper everywhere eating an ice cream cone like he'd never eaten before in his life. When he turned around and saw me he said...
Sebastian: "Ice cream!"

And this one just for fun...

We can not convince him that he shouldn't point with his middle finger.

Monday, 31 March 2014

6 tips to save on your grocery bill

 
In the past I have been disgusted at how much we spend per week in groceries but also how much we throw away. I decided to get  control over it when we moved to Aberdeen 7 months ago. I can happily say we have cut the grocery bill by half! Seriously. None of this involve coupons/vouchers or even going to multiple stores. These are just simple things I've been doing that are working for my family.

Let me share some tips with you::

1. Plan ahead. Before I make my grocery list I ask Luis is there is anything specific he'd like to eat this week. Sometimes he'll name off a few meals and other times he won't. Then I prepare my menu for the week. Sebastian is a very picky eater {that goes along with ASD} but I pick out something new I want him to try. Once I've made my menu for the week I look through the cupboard and see what we have and what we still need. This all sounds time consuming but it really isn't. This has been the #1 reason why we save money each week. It is that important. If I don't plan ahead then the bill that week is double. Weird but both Luis and I have noticed it. Plan ahead!

2. Put most of it into the freezer. Seriously. And this is coming from someone who has the freezer the size of a dorm room refrigerator. Leave out the ingredients you plan to use for the next few days but then the rest goes in the freezer. I can not tell you how I have intended to make a certain meal but didn't actually end up making it. If it was in the fridge the meat/vegetables would have gone bad. This way I'm not wasting food or money. Just freeze it.

3. Stick to your budget. Do you even have one? If not, make one. I know exactly what I can spend each month/week. Challenge yourself to cut the amount. We think we can't eat on less but the truth of the matter is that we can. We just aren't putting the money to actual food. It goes for snacks and drinks that we really don't need. Then the actual food goes to waste. Once I make my shop, if there is a little extra, I will either grab some fun snacks or save it so we can go out as a family or get ice cream as a special treat.

4. Sprinkle non-food items into the list throughout the month. Not out of shampoo yet? I'll grab one anyway so that I'm not buying shampoo, hand soap, laundry detergent, cleaning wipes all in the same week. It used to be that I spent twice as much one week just to fit in all these essentials. Now they get absorbed into the weekly budget! I can't tell you how being prepared has saved me so much money. I also do this with a few canned goods/rice/pasta. I'll have it when and if I need it but it gets absorbed into the budget instead of making bulk trips for staple items.

5. Don't buy pre-packaged. You are paying for those items to be washed and cut for you. the truth of the matter is that you are going to wash and cut them the way you want them anyway. So why pay for someone else to do it?

6. Get your groceries delivered. I know this one won't apply to some of you because it isn't available but I get my groceries delivered. I love it. I'm not all sentimental about picking just the right apple or savouring the experience. It is a necessary evil this grocery shopping business. Delivery helps by not having to walk up and down the isles and look at food that I want to throw in my cart even when I don't know what I'll use it for. This has been one of the top reasons we've cut our grocery bill. If you can't get it delivered then prepare well before hand and stick to your guns. Just get in and get out. Stop perusing the isles!

Even after all this, I know we can do even more to cut the bill. I'm excited to give it a try!

Do you have any tips for saving money at the grocery store?

Thursday, 27 March 2014

A Day in the Life {2014}



I like to do "a day in the life" post every once in awhile just to be able to look back on what life was like. I can't say they are ever really fascinating but it is just a memento for myself.

Yesterday started early with Sebastian waking at 4:45 am. We stayed in his room and read books for a little while until the sun started to rise. Then we headed down for some breakfast. Which just happened to be pancakes, yogurt and a smoothie.

After breakfast I turned on a movie for Sebastian while I jumped in the shower and got ready for the day. I wiped down the kitchen and we said goodbye to Daddy.

Sebastian and I played some games until his Speech and Language Therapist  arrived at 9:30 am. Sebastian is still being tested in all areas to determine what his strengths and weaknesses actually are. Autism Spectrum Disorders {ASD} are just that--a spectrum. So every child will be different. Sebastian did amazing during his test and the Speech and Language Therapist said Sebastian is the highest functioning on her list. Which made me over joyed! She also said some things that just made me feel like I was doing the right things to help him.

At 11 am the therapist left and I got Sebastian a snack. Luis took a long lunch and picked us up to run some much needed errands in town. We are dealing with Visas, passports, citizenship papers--the works. The sun was shining and it was just gorgeous out! Sebastian fell asleep in the car and we were zipping in and out of places. We grabbed a quick lunch and I dropped Luis back off at work.

When Sebastian and I got home he immediately went for the back door and was peeking through the window at his slide in the backyard. I grabbed a few toys and we headed outside. It was so nice! I just had a sweater on! Sebastian watered the plants/weeds and I was on bubble duty. We kicked a ball around and he took turns going down the slide with his stuffed animals. I called my Mom to tell her about his speech and language test.

 

I text my friend Lara and asked what she and her kids were doing. She said they were probably going to go to the park and asked if we wanted to meet her. Yes we did! We had a little bit of time before we needed to leave so Sebastian and I went up into his room and put on a Paddington Bear audiobook and played with his stuffed animals.

I called my best friend {of  34 yrs!} and wished her a Happy Birthday while I packed up a bag to take to the park. Sebastian grabbed 4 stuffed animals and off we went. We ended up staying at the park for over 2 hours! Sebastian learned how to roll down the hill from his friend Bethany and Struan. The sun ended up going away and it got really cold but I luckily had bundled us up so we were really warm. By 5 pm we headed out to pick up Luis from work.

We were rushing when we got home. Sebastian hadn't had dinner yet and was pretty hungry so I fed him and then Luis played with him and got him into the bath. I picked up the toys and got his pj's ready. Lot of books at bedtime. We picked up some Spot books at the library on Monday and Sebastian just wants me to read them over and over and over. Sometimes he reads them to me.

He was asleep by 7:40pm and I headed downstairs. Luis and I ate some dinner and watched TV while I made a grocery order online. My head kept bobbing all over the place I was so tired. I must have hit a few items twice because it looks like I have a double order this morning when it was delivered. Ha! I crawled into bed at 9:30pm and I don't remember anything else.

It was a long day but a good day.

ps. Maybe one of these days I will remember to take more pictures for these "a day in the life posts." Today was not that day.

Monday, 24 March 2014

Things to See and Do in Aberdeenshire {part 2}

Balmoral Castle via
 
Two of my older sisters are coming to visit in May. I have so much I want them to see and so many ideas about what we should do. I want to share with you more of what there is to see and do here in Aberdeen City + Shire. If you're heading to Scotland I hope you will add some of these sites to your list!
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Tours::
I am not usually a tour kind of person. I like to head out on my own. But, these tours are a little different and definitely on my list. What a great way to sit back, relax and let someone else do the planning!

+ Wilderness Scotland are rated No. 1 adventure travel company in Europe by National Geographic Magazine. They are a pretty pricey but I'm sure they are the best of the best. So why not splurge and have someone else show you around the highlands?

+ Puffin Cruises offer daily sightseeing and fishing trips. They are one hour north of Aberdeenshire in the gorgeous Banffshire Coast. They have 3 hour wildlife tours for just £25 per person. Want to see dolphins, puffins, seals and birds? Then this is the place! What a perfect way to experience untouched Scotland.

+ Want to experience Scotland by motorcycle? Then you're in luck! ScotlandbyBike.com offers self guided tours and a beautiful way to see Scotland!

+ Braemar Highland Safari's offers 3-4 hr scenic drives through Cairngorms National Park {the heart of the Highlands}. They are a great price at just £30-£35 per tour. I'm all over this one!

Castles::
Aberdeenshire is home to over 300 castles! That's more castles per acre than anywhere else in the UK. Welcome to Castle Country! Listed below are the most well known castles in the this area.

Crathes Castle
Haddo House
Balmoral Castle
Dunottar Castle

Tourist Trails::
If you're looking for some help in planning your itinerary might I suggest one of these trails? They are all mapped out and ready for you to discover Scotland!

+ Victorian Heritage Trail- Queen Victoria and Prince Albert first visited and fell in love with this area in 1848.

+ Castle Trail- Experience 17 of Scotland's Castles right here on this trail!

+ Coastal Trail- Discover part or all of the route's 165 continuous miles of cliff-tops, coves, beaches, charming towns and villages, and marvellous wildlife. 

+ Scotland's National Tourist Routes- Scotland has 12 National Tourist Routes. Fancy a driving holiday? Spoil yourself, rent that dream car, book a chalet for a week and explore amazing roads like these!

ps. Looking for more? Take a look at Part One in this series.

Friday, 21 March 2014

Okay, I'm ready to talk

 
For the past year or so I have elusively {or maybe not to elusive} mentioned that I've been struggling with some things. I have refused until now to talk openly about such things because well...they're private. But now I feel like all these things are the white elephant in the room and I need to get them out.

I mentioned yesterday I might be dealing with fibromyalgia. It is very hard to have your body worn down and unable to do all the things you want it to do. It is hard to always be in pain. I find myself in mood swings that aren't pretty as well as being forgetful and just fuzzy about the details of life. It hasn't been easy. But I push myself every single day. I push so hard that I feel I'm not going to make it.

The next thing we are dealing with is Asperger's. Sebastian is on the autism spectrum.

We've known our sweet boy was different than the other kids for awhile. But we just didn't know what it was. I have a niece on the autism spectrum and they are so different that autism wasn't on my radar. Or I hoped it wasn't. Every time I would bring autism up to a doctor or health visitor I would be quickly dismissed and told everything was normal when I knew it wasn't. Sebastian was developing normally until about 18-24 months. Then he started regressing.

A few weeks ago we finally got the testing/answers we'd been fighting for--for so long. The answer was Asperger's. On the way out of the doctor's office Luis and I high fived. We knew it. We'd been trying to get someone to listen to us for a long time. Now we are getting somewhere.

Sebastian is doing great! He's talking and communicating just a little bit more every week. His obsession is with letters and numbers. This means he has been reading since the age of 2 and is now starting to add and subtract. He can memorize conversations and bring them back up weeks later. He uses them to help him communicate with us. He is already writing and spelling. He's our little genius! He is fun and loves to be outdoors. His favourite toys right now are his stuffed animals. They help him feel safe.

Although we were expecting the diagnosis I am surprised at how raw I feel whenever I talk about it now. It feels like a wound being cut open over and over as I tell friends/family. I don't know if it is the fact that I am expressing what his weaknesses are or just the fact that I'm telling people my child isn't normal. But it hurts every time I do it. Especially today on such a public forum.

Sometimes I don't know if I have the strength for this. Sebastian needs help with everything. Every. Thing. I'm having to teach him things that should come naturally. He gets nervous when I'm not where he can see/touch me. I'm exhausted. I go to bed every night thinking I'm a bad mother because I just don't know if what I'm doing is helping or if I'm making it worse. Most of my day consists or trying to figure out what Sebastian is trying to say/communicate with me and helping him with  his senses so he can function in the world around him.

With all of this there is a little bit of grieving. Not necessarily for Sebastian. He is going to be just fine. He's going to function in the world and he'll be so smart he'll make wonderful things happen. The grieving is for me and for a life I thought I'd have. A big family of normal children and being able to work on some of my own interests. I have to let some dreams die. Because Sebastian needs so much from me and he will for a very very long time. So, I'm grieving a little bit. I know it's selfish. I don't mean to be. I wish I wasn't.

I don't even know what to say anymore. I just needed to get it out which is weird because I'm kind of fiercely protective about all this and I don't want to talk about it with people. But I feel like I have to explain Sebastian wherever we go. Even on this blog.

And now you know.