rmc28: Rachel smiling against background of trees, with newly-cut short hair (Default)
We were away just under 22 days and we've been home a bit over 48 hours, and work / holiday club start up again tomorrow, plus I have to go get a bone marrow sample (bleh). We got the unpacking and post-opening done Saturday evening.  Yesterday and today we have been mostly going splat and chilling, with a shopping trip for me and the children this afternoon. (Build-A-Bear, new school shoes for Nicholas, and then a bunch of new sleepwear for both of them because they were smitten as we walked past on the way to the shoes.)

The holiday was much harder on the children than I'd expected, to keep changing location so much.  The journey legs themselves mostly went well, all with their share of Children Are Bored, but also all with a fair share of Children Finding It Exciting.  The bigger problem was that settling into a new place to sleep every few nights was Too Much for them, and Worldcon was too big and intimidating. They were stressed, which stressed the adults too. So we did a lot less tourism and a lot more chilling-out and going-swimming than I'd envisaged, and I did a whole lot more emotional labour than usual (from each according to their abilities, to each according to their needs, etc) and everyone got home a bit tired and fed up with each other and very, very glad to be back in our own territory.

In terms of lessons identified:
  • Charles doesn't want to go to another convention again unless he's sure it's on topics that interest him. Unfortunately most of the children's track at Worldcon didn't work for him, and by the time we realised that, he was in a place where he didn't want to engage with me trying to find things of interest to him, he just wanted to stay away from the con.
  • While the rail-trip approach works for me and Tony, the children really just want to go to a place, stay there, do a gentle mix of touristing and chilling out, and go straight home afterward.
  • Three weeks was probably too long for everyone, though it's hard to separate that from the problems of moving too frequently. Two weeks is probably a good maximum for future family holidays.
  • Multi-room apartments with self-catering capability is definitely preferable to hotel rooms, and Airbnb worked well for us. (There was some difficulty getting into our flat in Stockholm, which is its own story, but the Airbnb customer service were helpful and supportive and once we were in, everything ran smoothly.)
  • When I'm not working, and not studying (much), even with the extra load of looking after my over-stressed little family, I have SO much energy. I only had 2 migraines the whole time away (one during Worldcon, one on our last day) and both were controlled by sumatriptan. In another two weeks I'll have finished studying entirely (for now).
I'm glad we went.  If I were to plan it all over again I'd do it differently, but I didn't know then what I know now.  I particularly want to go back to Copenhagen for longer, and to see more of Stockholm than we managed.

rmc28: Rachel smiling against background of trees, with newly-cut short hair (Default)
I had three piles of paper on my desk, things accumulating mostly for me to Do Something with or file.   These piles were approximately 30cm, 20cm and 10cm deep.  Somewhere in these piles I knew there was a piece of paper I needed to find in order to complete my tax return.  I'd already cost myself £100 by not finding the piece of paper before 31st January, and I was rapidly approaching the point where it was going to cost me £10 a day not to find it.

A while ago I read [livejournal.com profile] siderea 's post about filing, and realised her system was not far from what I was trying to do, and that getting things filed was the most useful thing I could do, and so I starting doing short bursts of filing the stacks, nibbles at the elephant, and managed to get rid of the smallest pile, quite a lot of which was no longer relevant and could be filed in the recycling bin.  But then I kept finding more interesting things to do than nibbling the paperwork elephant, and so progress stalled.

On Saturday afternoon I made myself start tidying up the filing again.  And for whatever reason, I found myself getting into the flow of it, and going back to it after interruptions for food and child-bedtimes, and just Not Stopping.   At about 2am, most of the way down the last and biggest stack of paper, I found the vital piece of paper.  And because it was already very late for me, and my sleep was already messed up, I decided to put it on one side and finish the filing job.  And then I was still awake when that was done so I finished and submitted the tax return.  Then I went to bed, leaving one full filing cabinet, one much-emptier desk, and one giant drift of paper on the floor destined for the recycling.

The oldest bits of paper in the piles were from August 2012, i.e. one month after Nico was born.  So that's how long I've not been keeping up with the paperwork (there were odd runs where I had clearly kept-current for a few months but not caught up the backlog.)  It is such a weight off my mind to not have the teetering piles of doom looking at me any more.   The desk is by no means empty or even tidy, but what's left is things like photo albums and bundles of letters from my grandmothers and Charles's schoolwork from two years ago and so on, not financial paperwork.

It worked, but I can't say I recommend the binge-eating approach.  I was exhausted all of Sunday, got very little done and only got dressed because [livejournal.com profile] nassus was arriving.   Today when another Thing arrived in the post, I made a point of reading it and then filing it straight into the relevant folder in the filing cabinet, not onto the newly-clear space on the desk.  Long may this last.
rmc28: Rachel smiling against background of trees, with newly-cut short hair (Default)
l was pretty sarcastic about the doctor telling me what I already know.  But since speaking to him, I have taken more concrete action towards both sleep and exercise than I've managed in the last two months, and I'm not feeling quite so ground down by exhaustion.  (I'm still not getting enough done, but baby steps.)

Maybe if I'd done that in the last two months I wouldn't have needed to go to the doctor at all.

Maybe I could work on being kind to myself without needing an external authority figure to agree with me that I need something.



rmc28: Rachel smiling against background of trees, with newly-cut short hair (Default)
What I should have been reading over the last few weeks:
  • Library books due back this week that I've already renewed the max number of times
  • Canon for yuletide assignments
  • Leaflets on sensory processing
  • Books on autism (to be fair, this group is more like "the last few months")
What I have been reading over the last few weeks:
  • Fanfic
  • Assorted romances, mostly from reviews at Smart Bitches Trashy Books (still calibrating my taste against that of the reviewers there but only one Did Not Finish, so not bad so far)

I did take myself to the doctor this week with the sense that actually this isn't my usual "busy life, children, etc" tiredness but has been getting gradually worse recently and is now substantially affecting my ability to get much done.  In particular I haven't run regularly in months now and I miss it.  He did refer me for some blood tests for the most obvious causes but opined that "it probably isn't anything simple, you've got too much to juggle, you should try to get more rest and rebuild your level of physical exercise".

I was nice. I didn't say "yes, that's what I've been trying to tell you" or "thank you genius", I just agreed that these were important goals and I'd get right on them and we'd review again in a month or so.

(I did then take this as guidance to go home for the rest of the day and I did get an extra 3 hours of sleep as a result, which did make me feel a lot better.  So that was good, but I can't do that regularly without radical changes to my work and lifestyle, and thus the family.  Which, argh, if I knew what to change to make things better, I would, but I don't want to make serious changes without a bit more to go on.)

I did have a bunch of things I was going to do this weekend.  I'm shelving them in favour of
a) sorting out replacing my fitbit; it mysteriously stopped working a few weeks ago but before then it was giving me some useful sleep data
b) returning my library books
c) doing a gentle run
d) napping

Never let it be said I ignore medical advice.
rmc28: Rachel smiling against background of trees, with newly-cut short hair (Default)
Last weekend when I was migrainey, I spent a bit of time thinking and ordering stuff to improve our hallway and kitchen.  The stuff arrived during the week, and I spent much of yesterday sorting it out and installing it, variously assisted by children and spouse.

In probably tedious detail if you aren't me )
rmc28: (charles-dragon)
I've talked to some people in person about this, but I wanted to make a brief public post, not least because this topic is going to absorb a lot of my attention for the foreseeable future.

Charles was formally diagnosed with high-functioning autism last month.  Tony & I were not entirely surprised, but now that our suspicions have been formally confirmed, we have a lot of catch-up learning to do.

The letter we have says "high functioning autistic spectrum disorder (also known as Asperger's syndrome)" and later on says "in the medical profession, the term Asperger's syndrome is being phased out and the term high functioning autistic spectrum disorder is being used more frequently". Meanwhile the National Autistic Society insists there is a difference between autism and AS.  

The doctor who made the final diagnosis talked with me for some time and recommended a number of resources (listed below). In addition, I can talk with my youngest brother, who was diagnosed very young, and with our parents for their perspective.

I am interested in recommendations / feedback on recommendations, and will prioritise in the following order:
  1. people who have an autism/AS diagnosis
  2. people parenting children who have an autism/AS diagnosis
  3. therapists, psychiatrists, or similarly-qualified people with recent experience working with people who have an autism/AS diagnosis
  4. everyone else
Comments here, or emails to me at rmcf @ cb4.eu if you want to keep it non-public.

I don't want to talk specifically about Charles on this post, and will probably keep that to locked posts and direct conversations.


Resources

From the doctor:
National Autistic Society, in particular the resources on visual supports
The Complete Guide to Asperger's by Anthony Attwod
Managing Anxiety in People with Asperger's
by Anne Chalfant
Mental Health Aspects of Autism by Mohammad Ghaziuddin

From this Captain Awkward post I also identified:
Asperger's From The Inside Out by Michael John Carley

I've got copies of all the above books now.

Based on the NAS website age-appropriate recommendations I've picked out the following to read with Charles, which are on their way.
I Know Someone With Autism by Sue Barraclough
Can I Tell You About Autism? by Jude Welton
A Book About What Autism Can Be Like by Sue Adams

and we also have the NAS's own publication What is Asperger syndrome and how will it affect me? on the way (they are out of stock of I have Autism .... what's that? but I will look out for it being back in stock if the AS one is any good).
rmc28: Rachel smiling against background of trees, with newly-cut short hair (Default)
Friday before last, Tony & I went for a lovely meal (launch of the Eat Cambridge festival which we have otherwise not got to).  As it finished early, we opted for a wee drinkie at the Castle before going home. Among other things, this gave us time to talk through some of the things that are stressing me, in particular all the stalled things-we-should-do around the house.

Some of them are stalled because of money.  Much more of them are stalled because of me: I've been struggling for ages to find the thinking-brain capacity to move them along (and some of the things that I need to do about money are similarly stalled), and the lack of progress stresses me, and being stressed reduces my capacity, hello feedback cycles.

Quite often the stall is me letting the perfect be the enemy of the good, for example "we should move the children into the bigger room in the summer when $lodger has moved out, but in order to do that, we need to redecorate the room, and redo the flooring, and get bunkbeds, and now I just can't face even starting".  Tony pointed out we don't need to do all of that, we just need to move their stuff in and use the twin beds that are already there, probably keeping one of them in the trundle position for now.  It's not as good as bunk beds in a newly-redecorated room, but it's a start.  Having them in the bigger room together is a definite improvement from now, so we should do it, even though it's not perfect.  (And thanks to school closures and the Tour de France, we have a long weekend at the start of July, just at the right time.)

A couple of days after that, I managed to break the catch on N's cot, which holds the cot side up and (I realised) holds the cot together such that it is safe to have a cot-top changer.  And now it isn't.  We were already planning to freecycle the cot and reassemble the changing table when we moved N to the shared room, and moving that earlier by a couple of months isn't a huge problem.  So basically I tried little steps:
  • Monday I tried to fix the cot but failed
  • Tuesday I figured out how to use freecycle again for the first time in years and offered the cot there
  • Wednesday I started disassembling the cot
  • Thursday I dealt with freecycle responses
  • Friday I finished disassembling the cot
  • Saturday I had a migraine and let myself do nothing
  • Sunday I got the cot into the garage to await collection and reassembled the changing table
So that was a week in which I had to use changing-mat-on-bed and part of my bedroom was a pile of disassembled furniture, but each step was an improvement and actually happened, and I didn't make myself ill (well, I had a migraine, but I don't think it was this that triggered it).

The lightbulb moment this morning was remembering that I actively prefer the incremental-improvement approach to changes in my work, and have experience to back up that preference.  It shouldn't surprise me that it also works for projects outside of work.

rmc28: Rachel smiling against background of trees, with newly-cut short hair (Default)

Marriage and titles and names have been on my mind, see my post of last month.  Two of my friends got married on the same day in March: one changed her name to her husband's, one kept her name.   Both equally valid choices, but the one who kept her name got so much "jokey" pushback that I rolled my eyes, thinking "oh no, not again".

For a while now I've found myself thinking "if I was getting married tomorrow, I wouldn't change my name".  My experience is that the people who respect my compromise double surname also respect the women who don't change their names (and the men who do).  The rest of them just address me as Mrs Anthony Finch anyway.  Plus the idea of "remaining one person with one name, in everything I do" has proved overly idealistic, given how much I answer to "Charles's mum" or "Nicholas's mum" rather than my actual name, or call for a taxi/book a table in the name "Finch" because that's easier than the whole double barrel (but feels uncomfortably wrong).

It isn't much of a step from "I wouldn't change my name now" to "I wish I hadn't changed my name" and from there to "what is stopping me changing back?"  In the last month I've basically realised it's the paperwork hassle and concern for Tony's feelings.  On checking with Tony, he's entirely supportive, which just leaves paperwork.

I think if Nicholas had been a daughter rather than a son, this might have happened two years ago.  I quite liked the idea of "the girls" being Colemans and "the boys" being Finches (though it has its own issues with reinforcing the binary gender default).  But there aren't and won't be "the girls" now, so it's taken a bit longer to bubble up out of "nice idea" into "this feels important to me and I want to do it".

Today I'm starting the tedious process of changing everything back.  I fully expect it to take months to get through everything, and to have to gently correct people assuming we're getting divorced, but from today I'm Rachel Coleman again.  Ms rather than Mrs, and I still prefer "Rachel" to any title.  I'm going to keep my personal email address (rmcf@cb4.eu) even though those aren't quite my initials any more, because for nearly nine years they were, and that's part of my history.

I'm still very happily married, and my children still have their father's surname.  But I made a mistake changing my name and now I'm fixing it.

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rmc28: Rachel smiling against background of trees, with newly-cut short hair (Default)
Rachel Coleman

September 2017

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