Photo story: Weekend way of life #5

29 June 2015

Dear friend,

We have had a jam packed weekend. Full of fun family activities. Our weekend began on Friday afternoon when we surprised the big lad. We ordered new bikes for the boys a couple of weeks ago and there was a slight mix up. It meant that the little man had got his earlier in the week and poor the big lad had to wait. He was really disappointed but coped amazingly well. The owner of the shop managed to get a replacement bike for my big lad but we didn't tell him and just went along. His smile was priceless.

The big lad couldn't believe it when he saw his bike.

Photo of the week.

28 June 2015

All kids must learn to swim

25 June 2015

Dear friend,

Our journey to get the big lad swimming has been a very long and at times difficult one that started when he was five. We live in Holland, a land that is literally sinking, there is water everywhere. I wanted both the boys to be able to swim as I had a fear of water when I was younger. Now as a mum, I had a huge fear that one of my boys would end up at the bottom of a canal.

Most children at school were starting swim lessons at five. A friend advised that we enrol the big lad in a special group at the local pool that gave more intensive lessons with smaller groups of children. We knew that he would be lost in a large group and were prepared to pay the extra cost. As the course came to the end the instructor had a quiet word with hubby. He wasn’t going to make it! Not only that but he didn’t think he would cope in a ‘normal’ swimming lesson group.

These are the hardest times as a special needs parent. The big lad was completely devastated that he wouldn’t receive his diploma like the other kids. Sometimes you just don’t know where to go next, who to turn to or what to do for the best. Wait another year and then try again, find a different group or stop? I decided to contact the Dr that the big lad had seen for his motor skills assessment and ask his advice.
The next battle began as officially he wasn’t ‘bad enough’ to be seen by them. My argument was clear; Ok, he’s not good enough for the ‘normal’ group but not bad enough for you. He falls into this no mans land! So where do we go because we need help?! After a long and quite heated discussion he offered to arrange some one on one sessions with a physiotherapist in their pool.

I found it extremely difficult to sit and watch every week. The therapists were unbelievably patient and understanding but something inside of me just snapped and I would come home and cry tears of frustration and anger that our son had to struggle so much to achieve such basic things that other children took for granted.
I feel selfish and ridiculous writing this now but at the time these were my feelings, despite seeing many children with significantly worse problems at the therapy centre. My mum constantly points out that he could be a lot worse but it doesn’t help! Oh, your kid broke his leg, well my friends sons fell off. Sorry it doesn’t make me feel better, I just feel bad for your friends son as well! I was drowning in my emotions (excuse the pun) so at this point my darling hubby took over.

I am unbelievably lucky that hubby and I can be an emotional tag team. Sometimes I struggle, sometimes he does. We don’t make each other feel guilty. We just know when to step up to the plate. Every special needs parent needs that at times.

The physiotherapist was able to recommend another swimming group that catered for special needs children and he began attending weekly lessons there. But once a week wasn't enough! Another friend recommended a swimming group on Saturday mornings for special needs children. In all honesty I wasn’t sure about this group. Why? Because big lad's needs aren't 'that bad'. I wasn’t sure how he would fit in or how he would react around children with more severe problems. We hadn’t even mentioned the word Autism to him at this point. Wouldn't he wonder why he was there?

In hindsight, my worries were totally ridiculous. This group is amazing. Run by caring, patient, wonderful people. He started receiving trophies and certificates to celebrate the small steps he had made. The first time we were invited to watch a session, I was amazed with how much progress the big lad had made, and how happy, comfortable and confident he was. He was failing no more!

The big lad is 8 years and 11 months. It has taken almost 4 years to get him to, the point where he is ready to try for his swimming diploma. I am immensely proud of my darling boy for never giving up. I must admit that there were times when I thought we would never make it.

Would you bloody believe it that 4 days before swimming certificate day he came down with a cold. I hope you are well enough for wednesday because you've worked so hard, I told him and his response as every amazed me. Even if I am not 100% I am still going to go and give it my best shot! And he did...

There were plenty of tears but as my big lad explained; mummy had to cry as she was so so proud of me.

HE DID IT! Not just one diploma but two.

I wish I could go back to the beginning of this experience and give myself some advice; to relax and have faith that he will always get there in the end but to let him set his own tempo and to never compare his journey with that of neurotypical friends. 

Photo story: Father's day

22 June 2015

Dear Friend,

I am so lucky to have a hubby who gives so much to his family. He changed his job to be there for us, to give the boys and I more time and support. He always puts his family first. I love the poem below by Helen Bush. I love to walk behind and watch my boys with their Papa; holding hands, laughing, playing, talking, just being together.

This father's day we stayed in bed until late. The boys barged in early and eagerly gave Papa his special gifts then we cuddled in bed. I love the little poems that the teacher's find and the original gifts that they create. Big lad's glass was so special as he finds craft activities very difficult, too many fine motor skills and getting dirty, Yuk!

We took Papa shopping for new clothes for the holidays.

At the local shopping centre there was an old and new day.

There were many old timer cars on display.

The little man even got chance to sit in a Cobra.

The Nuna 7 solar panel car (designed in Holland) was on show.

It finished first in the World Solar challenge in Australia in 2013.

The boys waited patiently while papa tried on his holiday clothes, well mostly!

We went to Oma and Opa's house for dinner. Boys will be boys.

There is a fantastic view from the balcony across Leiden.

Happy days; playing at Oma's house.

We ended the day with a Skype call to Grandad in England. I am so grateful that we have the technology to be able to do this and we Skype 2 or 3 times per week. Being able to see each other is much better than just speaking (and it's free).

Happy Father's day everyone! I hope all you daddies had a great day.

Photo of the week

21 June 2015

Reflecting © an imperfect mum  

Photo story: Weekend way of life #4

15 June 2015

Dear friend,

We have had another really quiet weekend. Unfortunately I picked up a cold last week and have ended up with a chest infection. Still the peaceful weekend has been good for us all. This week was a particularly busy one with school trips and the horse market. The end of the school year is approaching quickly and we are all feeling the pressure a bit. 

Photo of the week.

14 June 2015

Photo story: The Horse market

10 June 2015

Dear friend,

Today was the Rijnsburg Paardenmarkt. We had fantastic weather again, luckily for us. The day begins with the horse sale so we took a walk with Nova to have a look. The little man loved the Shetland ponies and Nova liked eating the horse poo. Yuk! Why do dogs do that?

Later we wandered around the market stalls that are set up along the canal and the boys got to try out some instruments with the Flora band. Little man was brilliant at blowing the trumpet, either he's a natural talent or really good at fart noises. 

Finally we sampled all the fun of the fair. The big lad was a demon on the bumper cars and the little man was great at the hook a duck game (he won two prizes) and enjoyed the bouncy castles and trampoline. 

All the schools are closed and everyone comes out to enjoy the horse market, it is an annual event. There is something for everyone, with the market, fair and live music in the town square. There is a real sense of community here we love it! 

What Katy Said

Photo story: Weekend way of life #3

8 June 2015

Dear friend, 

The summer finally arrived this weekend. I love the summer. I always say that I fell in love with my hubby and then he made me fall in love with Holland. He was clever as he brought me over here for the first time in the summer and sold me on the beach cafe lifestyle, not in rainy, cold October when I may not have been as impressed. 

We are really lucky to live within cycling distance of the beach. Saturday was a busy day spent getting haircuts, swimming and shopping but Sunday was a fantastic, fun filled day for the whole family spent at one of our favourite places, the beach. 

On Saturday morning the big lad had to swim for his Dolphin diploma at his swimming group.

Photo of the week

7 June 2015


What my autistic son taught me about friendship

5 June 2015

Dear Friend,

According to research studies, people with close friendships are happier and healthier and ten friends seems to be the magic number. (Ten, I'd be lucky!) It is also thought that having good friendships can lengthen your life.

Living life as an expat can be very lonely at times. You can go through periods of, sometimes intense, homesickness. After ten years here, I experience it less but there are times when I really miss my amazing, fantastic friends.

I must admit that I took my friends for granted. I didn't realise just how special our relationship was until I moved to another country and tried to form new friendships. I am so lucky to have the type of friends with whom, you can sit in comfortable silence, roar laughing and cry uncontrollably. People who accept you, who get you, totally. I didn't realise how lucky I was. Sounds cheesy but in the UK my friends were my family.

It takes a long time to grow an old friend...

Now I am an expat, not only that, I am an expat married to a Dutchie. This means that I have a foot firmly in each camp but it also means that I don't quite belong to either...

When I moved to Holland I went to some local international groups to meet Expats. The problem is that speaking the same language or sharing a country of birth doesn't guarantee the click of friendship.

Social media has made it easier for me to keep in contact with my friends in the UK and feel part of their lives too. But it can also make us lazy friends, as it gives us the illusion of having actually been in touch. My Facebook habit was becoming an addiction and for me too much time on social media had a hint of loneliness... There is a degree of desperation in being the first to like a picture or comment on a post.

Good friends are like stars. You don't always have to see them to know that they are there...

Ok, let's be honest, as a special needs parent I have found it difficult to sustain my friendships because I hate feeling judged. I hate anyone judging my son's behaviour or indeed my parenting skills. I am fearlessly protective of my family!

Differences in opinion have lead to conflicts with friends that I have found very difficult to forgive or forget. Sometimes trust is broken, a judgement is made or the enjoyment is lost. When people are hurt and emotions come into play it is very difficult. I believe that is why there are so many chat rooms and social networks starting up specifically for special needs parents. We are looking for friendship, for support and importantly support from people who "get it".

Recently I read a comment on a social media site that said; How can I teach my son (autistic) about friendships when I am so obviously failing myself? Special needs families can feel isolated and alone. But I think this parent was looking at the problem from the wrong perspective.

What has my autistic son taught me about friendship?

1) Treat everyone as your friend.

Big lad thinks that everyone is his friend and doesn't exclude anybody.

I am guilty of choosing to make friends with people I think are like me. Similar age, intelligence, interests etc but aren't I limiting myself? My life is richer and I learn more from different people.

2) Talk things through honestly.

When the big lad has problems they need to be discussed straight away or they become huge issues. I have learned not to let small problems fester, as they become big ones. Be honest and open.

It is not very English to air our dirty laundry in public. It can be uncomfortable at first but is worth it in the long run.

3) Don't hold grudges.

When the big lad has a bad day we learn from it, then forget it and move on. We don't bring it up later on. Kids are great at this, they fight one day and are best mates the next.

Once a problem is sorted move on. After all, I don't want to spend everyday avoiding certain mums at school drop-off.

4) Keep your promises.

Big lad always keeps his promises. Rules are rules.

Be there. Don't let people down. Don't make promises you can't keep.

5) Trust people.

Trust is really important for the big lad. Without trust he can not function that is why the beginning of the school year with a new teacher is so challenging.

I am learning like my son to give people the benefit of the doubt as most hurtful actions are due to thoughtlessness not disregard for feelings.

6) Friendship should be unconditional.

With kids we hear, if you invite me to your party I'll be your friend.

What do adults do? It is more subtle but we do have certain expectations of our friends; sympathy, understanding, honesty, trust, enjoyment of each others company.

What is your deal breaker? Is it worth it?

7) Some friendships are special.

True friendship isn't about being inseparable, it's being separated and nothing changes...

8) Be open to new friendship.

I am always encouraging my boys to say hello, to introduce themselves to others, to ask kids if they'd like to join in. Perhaps I need to listen to my own advice?

Anyone fancy a cup of coffee?

Read more autism related posts here...

Periods: My Miranda moment

3 June 2015

Dear friend, 

I have a problem. I can't say the word 'period'. Every time it comes up in conversation I become all Miranda. Pursed lips, whispered under my breathe; Periods. I sometimes even take a look around first to make sure there are no men or children around.

The problem is that lately I have had to do a lot of talking about periods. They have been bad, no strike that, actually they have been bloody excruciating! 

I must admit that when I started having difficulties a few months ago. I preferred to tell people that I had stomachs problems. Well it wasn't too far from the truth.

What was I afraid of? 

Photo story: Weekend way of life #2

1 June 2015

Dear friend,

This has been just the type of weekend that I love. One that encapsulates our normal family life. Spending quality time together, just enjoying the company and the peace that comes with not having to do anything. Pure bliss! 

Every time we get in the car at the moment the little man wants to drive because he wants to be a racing driver when he grows up. I love his cheeky face, grinning from ear to ear. It amazes me how kids can find such happiness in the smallest things.

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