Jokes

19 December 2016

Dear friend,

Yesterday he told a joke then he explained it to us in pain staking detail...

We were sitting at the dinner table and he said mum I've got something to tell you. He proceeded to tell us a joke and we all laughed. It was very funny until...

he explained the joke in perfect, pain staking detail.

Do you get it, mum?

It was then I twigged. He had been learning about jokes at school. He had memorised this joke like the simple knock knock jokes he loved when he was younger.




Humour and jokes are so important to children. They help them interact with others and make friends. He has always tried to use humour. He has always wanted to be the funny one. That is fine as long as your friends are laughing with and not at you. Sometimes that line is hard to find...

What if Jokes and idioms are part of a foreign language to you? The abstract language too difficult to decipher. I'll never forget the day I was cross with him and told him to give himself a shake and he did, he shook his body all over.

There are so many unwritten social rules and niceties that we just take for granted but that he must learn.

We must teach him how to tell and understand jokes to help him improve his social skills. We must also remember to tell him that he doesn't need to explain the joke to others because they get it.

Yesterday he told a joke then he explained it to us in pain staking detail...


Spare a thought for autistic families when you are pulling those Christmas crackers...

A glimpse into autism is a series of short letters that explore how autism effects us on a day to day basis. Disclaimer:  this is our experience not all autistic people are the same.

More autism awareness posts...

Parenting from a special perspective: Someone's Mum

12 December 2016

Ever wondered what it is really like to parent from a special perspective? Parent to a Special Needs Child? Where do you turn for help? What challenges do you face? What has surprised you? What have you learned? Every month I will be featuring one of my brilliant fellow SEND bloggers and sharing their reflections on raising a child with special needs.


Welcome Danielle to Diary of an Imperfect Mum. 

I am Danielle and I am an ex-English teacher living on the Gloucestershire/Worcestershire border. I have two children, a boy, aged very nearly four, who is on the autistic spectrum, and a daughter, who is nineteen months.





1. When did you first realise your child has autism?
Summer 2015. Nursery called us in to discuss what they called ‘some concerns’. E was just two years and nine months at the time. It came as quite a shock, even though in hindsight the signs were there.


2. How did you feel when you found out that your son has autism?
My world ended, for a little while. I didn’t take it very well at all. I am not sure why – maybe because it was so unexpected. I have come a long way since then.

Memory

7 December 2016

Dear friend,

Yesterday he asked me what do I do with my underpants? I would have laughed, if the look on his face hadn't been so serious or I hadn't been so tired...

Every day at 7.30 we go upstairs, he gets undressed and has a shower and we get ready for bed. Every day he asks; What do I do with my underpants...

Every day we follow the same routine, the same pattern...

We keep it that way to help him feel safe, in control.




But he doesn't just ask as part of the routine. He doesn't remember. Like he doesn't remember to flush the toilet, bring his homework book back, drink enough or shut the cupboard door...

Yet, we get in the car and I throw on some tunes and he immediately asks for track number 7 because that's his favourite (we haven't listened to this for months) he remembers the place we visited 5 years ago last summer, what we ate on his birthday 3 years ago, the name of every Track in the Slam top 40 and the statistics of each Pokemon in his Pokedex...


It's like his Brain computes the information and filters out the mundane. Yet the mundane tasks are the exact things we need to remember to help us function, to keep us safe and healthy, to let us live an independent life...

Yesterday he asked me what do I do with my underpants? I would have laughed, if the look on his face hadn't been so serious or I hadn't been so tired...


A glimpse into autism is a series of short letters that explore how autism effects us on a day to day basis. Disclaimer:  this is our experience not all autistic people are the same.


More autism awareness posts...


Transforming a dull wall...

6 December 2016

Dear friend,

Our boys are really lucky to have a games room! We sacrificed our small back bedroom for their games room last year. A quick lick of paint, a sofa bed and a television and they were happy! We also used picture shelves for storing their huge collection of computer game figures. We were all happy with the result and it was super for the boys to have somewhere to take their friends when they came to play.

Hubby's lovely colleague gave the boys his old widescreen Television which meant a quick room change as I didn't want them sitting too close to the screen and we were left with ugly holes in the wall. For a while I hung a big picture over it but then one of the boys friends knocked two of the shelves off the wall, leaving more holes. Hubby tried to fix them (but DIY isn't his strong point, sorry hubby) and we were left with a very ugly, messy old wall.



My first idea was to wallpaper but with what? Then I came across a brilliant solution on-line. I discovered a fabulous Mario brothers wall mural.  I wasn't sure if the company would deliver to Holland or what size we would need but I contacted 'Ink your wall' and the owner Darren replied really quickly and was very helpful in answering my many questions.

There were several brilliant designs to chose from on the easy to navigate site ranging from Super Heros to Lego and Minecraft but the boys love Super Mario Bros. They chose a really cool design from their favourite game Mario Kart with an upside down Mario. We were happy to go for this one so placed our order and the boys couldn't wait for it to arrive.

Ink your wall provides instructions with your paper and there are some instructions on-line for preparation and installation. Make sure you measure your wall accurately, I would recommend giving yourself extra room as the pieces need to be overlapped a couple of centimetres each time. We paid a professional wall paperer to place the Mural for us.  The quality of the paper is very good and can cover small cracks in walls. It certainly did the trick on our ugly wall!

The boys have been proudly bringing their friends home to play and no wonder... How cool is this???






Do you have a dull wall that needs transforming? 

I received a discount for the purposes of this review but all thoughts and feelings are my own.

Gizmo saves Christmas

1 December 2016



Dear friend,

If there is one thing that makes it feel like Christmas then it has to be the good old Christmas advert.   Christmas certainly brings out the creative brilliance in our advertisers. I have really fond memories of sitting on the sofa in my Christmas PJs watching TV with my family and waiting for the adverts to come on. Rather than disappearing off, to make that cuppa, we all waited to see what would come on and we all had our favourites.

Last week my colleagues and I sat on our phones at lunch time watching the adverts that had just been released. There were lots of Ahhhhs and Oooorrrrs and then we had a good old discussion about our favourite Christmas adverts. There is something about these clever adverts that captures the spirit of the festive season. Hearing that Coca Cola music and seeing the big red lorry, makes me feel like Christmas has really arrived and the John Lewis adverts certainly take some beating but when I saw the 2016 Vision Direct advert starring Gizmo the Pug, I feel in love!


Food

30 November 2016

Dear friend,

Yesterday he asked me
What is this?
as he was practically sticking a piece of chicken wing up his nose.

It made me snort with laughter as memories of him as a toddler flashed before my eyes.

He looked at me with disdain and turned to his dad repeating what is this, while examining the wing like it was a piece of important evidence in a criminal investigation.




Any new foods presented to him were always investigated with the interest of a true scientist at work. Before the food came anywhere near his mouth it had to first be examined closely, turned around and viewed from each angle, it would then be inhaled with the skill of a perfumer and inspected again before being carefully but purposefully licked.

Most foods were left abandoned and we returned to the trusty sandwich or pee and carrot mush. For a long time his diet was extremely limited!

But not any more! Now we can't fill him, now he will try (just about) anything...

To him eating is about engaging all of his senses, including his memory. He often asks, have I had this before or gives us a running commentary of when, where and with whom he last ate said food.

And chefs like Heston Blumenthal and researchers think he is right. Saying we rely too much on taste and sight and that we should be engaging our other senses more. They are looking at ways to make us use all our senses together, including memory, to improve our eating experiences.

We made jokes about him being a food critic in the making... but perhaps we were right. Maybe I should be pushing him into the kitchen and not out of it. (Too many knives + clumsy boy =scared mummy)


Yesterday he asked me
What is this?
as he was practically sticking a piece of chicken wing up his nose.

It made me snort with laughter as memories of him as a toddler flashed before my eyes.


A glimpse into autism is a series of short letters that explore how autism effects us on a day to day basis. Disclaimer:  this is our experience not all autistic people are the same.


More autism awareness posts...


The Perfect Present: The Perfect Steak

29 November 2016

Dear friends,

It's getting around to Christmas time and I am wracking my brains again to try and think of something amazing to do for the hubby. I know getting to live with me should be prize enough for the man but he does deserve a little something.

As my beautiful and amazing Nana always said the way to a man's heart is through his stomach and she wasn't wrong very often! Hubby loves a good steak and whilst I would absolutely love to take him to Barbecoa London – Jamie Oliver’s barbecue steakhouse, it's not going to happen for us this year!

However, have you seen Barbecoa’s new ‘Guide to cooking the perfect steak’? This beautiful guide features expert advice from Steve Pooley, Chef Director at Jamie Oliver. It recommends the best kind of steak to buy, what to look for, ingredients and cooking methods and serving suggestions. Whilst I am not well known for my cooking skills, the guide promises to help you to cook steak like a pro. I am sure that even I could manage this easy to follow guide and make hubby a slap up steak and an evening to remember.



Here is the brilliant guide from Barbecoa for you. Maybe you can join me by having a romantic steak night too? It can be a nightmare to get childcare over the festive period so what could be more fabulous than to celebrate Christmas with a romantic meal together at home. We can start a Great British Barbecoa off!  If you do give it a bash tag me in your photos on IG @animperfectmum


This is a sponsored post.


In the club

23 November 2016

Dear friend,

Yesterday he asked
Can I join football too? 
The panic rushed through my body, like the feeling you have when you suddenly realise that you've lost something. I don't want my son to lose his confidence I don't want him to feel disappointment, feel less...

He has never shown any interest in football. He has issues with hyper mobility, balance, coordination and spacial awareness and has always needed support during gym. So when he asked the question it knocked me off my feet...

Little man joined the football team and he has seen how it has brought him closer to his friends and made him feel more included in the group. But he would not be in the same club as his friends... how do I tell him that?

Most children have a hobby, do a sport or attend a club. He wants to fit, he wants acceptance. He wants to be with his friends. Why wouldn't he want that too?




I fought hard for my son to be 'in the club' I went against the initial advice and kept him in a 'normal' school. I wanted him to have the same opportunities as everyone. I believed that we had to aim high, that he was "clever" and I have never regretted that decision because he has exceeded all of our expectations.

But I have questioned that decision many times over the last 5 years. Every single time we have hit a bump in the road, I've questioned that decision. Every time he has been made to feel different, or has been excluded or has struggled, I have questioned that decision...


We sit in a no-mans land where our big lad is 'too good for' some things and 'not good enough' for others... He doesn't quite fit in either club, special/normal...

We have faced this with many things, but most notably therapy and swimming lessons. We had to fight really, really, really hard to get the support he needed. If he had been at a special needs school would we have needed to fight so hard?

Now we need to fight again, for the right for him to feel like his friends. For him to have a hobby something he can succeed in and get pleasure from. We need to find something that he can do...

Yesterday he asked
Can I join football too? 
The panic rushed through my body, like the feeling you have when you suddenly realise that you've lost something. I don't want my son to lose his confidence I don't want him to feel disappointment, feel less...


Update: A few weeks ago our big lad started DJ lessons. He loves music and can tell you exactly what is in the Slam top 40 (a dutch dance music channel). His friends think it's cool! He is happy. 

A glimpse into autism is a series of short letters that explore how autism effects us on a day to day basis. Disclaimer:  this is our experience not all autistic people are the same.


More autism awareness posts...

Book Corner: Message in a bottle

21 November 2016

My book corner choice this month is: Message in a bottle


Message in a bottle is a really exciting and brand new book written by Tom Percival with the most beautiful illustrations by Tuire SSiiriainen. This is a book with a twist because you get to personalise the story. What I really loved about this personalised story was the ability to add a totally individual and unique message (including a photo) at the end. 

The story centres around a beautiful, kind bird called Kiki who finds a message in a bottle and sets off on an exciting adventure to try and deliver the message. Along the way she has lots of thrilling encounters, meets many interesting new characters and makes some firm friendships.

Do accents still matter?

16 November 2016

Dear friend,

I never ever thought I would be able to say that I have something in common with the beautiful Cheryl Cole, until now. We have both been the victims of accentism.

Accentism is where people are discriminated against because of how they speak.

Unfortunately for Miss Cole her Geordie accent halted her plans to conquer America. My plans were a bit less ambitious than that, I hoped to teach English to 7-12 year olds in a Dutch primary school but my accent wasn't 'Oxford' enough.

I was born and raised in Middlesbrough in the north east of England and I have quite a strong Northern accent (no I am not a Geordie, as anyone from Middlesbrough will tell you but we won’t go into that now.) Ten years ago I moved to Holland and began working in International schools.

In the international school system there are many different accents, national and regional. Children often ask where I come from and I have had many discussions with my pupils about language differences e.g. Portuguese in Portugal versus Portuguese in Brazil. In our multi-cultural, multilingual environment differences in accent are normal.

Do accents still matter?


Media obviously has a significant role to play in our perceptions of people and accent. In the early days of broadcasting the BBC only used announcers who spoke with Received Pronunciation. However, more recently Received Pronunciation has been perceived negatively in Britain as it is associated with undeserved privilege. In a recent research study led by Dr Lance Workman, at Bath Spa University, the Yorkshire accent was rated as the most intelligent-sounding, beating received pronunciation, for the first time.

The world is changing, in many ways it has become smaller. There is a high level of mobility in the international world and we are exposed to more regional accents. In day to day conversations in international corporations we are more likely to come across people with a Chinese English accent or Italian English accent.

In the UK we have seen the Emerson of Multicultural London English. Young people have grown up in London being exposed to a mixture of second-language English and local London English and this new variety has emerged from that mix.

Our language is constantly evolving, therefore doesn't it make more sense to expose our children to a range of language experiences in preparation for this?

British broadcasting now represents a broader range of accents, look at the One Show and the popularity of Ant and Dec. Steph McGovern, BBC business news presenter is a fellow northerner (also from Middlesbrough). She has received some criticism for her strong accent.

“…there are still some viewers who can’t accept that someone with my accent can have a brain…I’ve had tweets questioning whether I really did go to university because surely I would have lost my accent if I did; a letter suggesting, very politely, that I get correction therapy; and an email saying I should get back to my council estate and leave the serious work to the clever folk…What’s scary is the ignorance about what having a regional accent means, or indeed doesn’t mean. It certainly doesn’t equal ignorance.”


I strongly agree with Miss McGovern; my regional accent has no bearing on my professional ability or level of intelligence. Unfortunately, the Dutch school I visited (who were looking for a native speaker to teach English to their pupils) didn't agree! The feedback that I received could not have been clearer.



Why does this school believe that Oxford English will better equip their pupils for the future when only 3% of British people have an RP accent? Is it simply a question of old fashioned elitism? Are these Dutch parents hoping that the RP accent will buy their offspring power and prestige?

There is currently no legislation to protect someone from accent discrimination. We legislate against discrimination according to age, race, gender and sexuality but there is nothing to protect us against accentism. Research by the law firm Peninsular in 2013 found that 80% of employers admit to making discriminating decisions based on regional accents.

I refuse to compromise my identity and culture by altering my accent to suit an elitist, exclusive organisation. 

In an increasingly mobile, multilingual society will accent even matter? For my children's sake, I hope not!



This is a revised post.

Parenting from a Special Perspective: Upside Mum

14 November 2016

Ever wondered what it is really like to parent from a special perspective? Parent to a Special Needs Child? Where do you turn for help? What challenges do you face? What has surprised you? What have you learned? Every month I will be featuring one of my brilliant fellow SEND bloggers and sharing their reflections on raising a child with special needs.


Welcome Emma to Diary of an imperfect mum. Emma is mum to two boys: J (6), B (4) and her baby girl W (1). Her eldest son J was diagnosed with autism aged 3. She is a primary school teacher who likes to read, drink wine, watch crime drama and is currently more than a bit addicted to Instagram.

1. When did you first realise your child has Autism?

We had been monitoring J's development since he was a new baby due to his difficult birth and what unfolded in the days afterwards. As a result we were attending outpatient appointments with a paediatrician. We noticed he wasn't reaching milestones like sitting up and crawling at the recognised ages. When he was two we were more aware that he wasn't developing language, making eye contact and was displaying some repetitive behaviours. We officially found out when he was 3 years and 2 months old, though we thought it was the case for a while before this.

2. How did you feel when you found out that your child has Autism?

Although we had expected the diagnosis and it hadn't come as a big surprise, it's strange that it still came as a big blow. It was a bit like having part of his life and future ripped from us before it even had the chance to begin. We were also told he had a Global Developmental Delay (which includes Autism but is more than Autism alone.) Although I knew what they were going to say I still cried when I got back into the car, all that night when I got home, on and off for a few days afterwards and again when the letter with the official diagnosis arrived. There's no history of Autism in our family either so we knew very little about what to expect.



10 things not to ask an autism parent...

9 November 2016

Dear friend,

This morning I crossed the road too quickly (narrowly missing a cyclist and a van) just to avoid talking to a parent from school. She rubs me up the wrong way. Every time I walk away from a conversation with her I feel worse. She is nice, she is pleasant. She just always asks the wrong things! Instead of avoiding this woman I should simply tell her:


1) Please don't ask me every time I see you how my son is doing at school.
Especially when you obviously know/think you know. Part way through our conversation you will throw in an anecdote from your son which is usually about one of the big lad's bad days. I get feedback from school thank you!

2) Don't ask for details of the support/therapy that my son is receiving.
I don't ask for details about your child's education, or their problems.
Is (child) struggling with maths? I hear you have a tutor.




3) Don't tell me how lucky I am that my son is clever enough.
Autistic does not mean retarded.

4) Don't tell me that my son is lucky that the school/class/teachers etc accept him.
I thank my lucky stars that we have found a good school and that he is in a relatively small group of nice kids. But they are also bloody lucky to have a funny, warm, caring child like my big lad.
Acceptance is a big word. How many of those kids invite him to play or to their party?

5) Don't ask if my son will go to the next group.
The answer is yes because the school and us, recognise the importance that he stays with his peers. Do you? Refer also to point 3. (In Holland children who are struggling academically will repeat a year.)

6) Don't ask if my son will stay at this school.
I don't know what the future will bring. But with the right support, the right teachers, we hope he will continue at this school! Is this code for he should be in a special school? (See point 3.)
This question highlights that my son is different it excludes us.



7) Don't ask if autism runs in the family.
Perhaps, but we are not sure what causes autism.
You are basically asking me if it is my fault that my son has autism.
Does insensitivity run in your family?

8) Don't ask me if I know your second cousins best friends kid who has autism.

9) Don't ask if I have tried...
Autism is not an illness. It is a developmental disorder. There is no cure.

10) Don't ask if he will grow out of it!
No. Autism is for life.


Don't ask a special needs parent a question that you wouldn't ask a neurotypical child's parent.

Please treat my son and I the same as everyone else. I know it can be difficult but if in doubt just smile and say

Hello.




This is a revised post. 



How to rock Parent's evening

7 November 2016

Dear Friend,

Parents evenings are coming up again so I thought I would share with you my tips for a successful evening. I'll let you in on a little secret. Most teachers feel a bit nervous on parent's evening, even old hands like me who have been teaching for 20 years.

What should you ask the teacher at parent's evening?



For a successful parents evening preparation is key:


Ask your child: 
  • How are things going at school? 
  • What do you want your teacher to know?


Write down your questions: 
  • How is my child progressing?
  • Is he particularly good at anything?
  • Is there anywhere you think he could improve?
  • What's he like in class?
  • Does he join in with group activities?
  • How does he get on with the other children?

You might also ask:
  • What can I do to help with my child's learning when we're at home?
  • Is there anything you'd like to know about what my child is like at home?
  • How Can I Contact You? It’s good to know how to get in touch with your child’s teacher, so find out whether he or she prefers emails, phone calls or written notes.

Be on time!

Try to keep the relationship with the teacher non-confrontational, even if the news about your child is not all positive.

If you want to discuss things further make a follow up appointment.

Parents’ evenings are not the place to bring up issues about school policies. Make an appointment with the school management or governors instead.

There should never be any surprises at parents evening. If there are issues the teacher and parents should have spoken before now!

Congratulate your child! Make sure you have at least one positive thing to congratulate your child on after the parents’ evening, to boost their confidence.



This is a revised post.

Holidays

2 November 2016

Dear friend,

Yesterday he asked me:
Why am I like this?
He came downstairs after bedtime and stood uncertainly in the doorway. I could sense his anxiety.

I swear I felt another chink appear in my already battle scarred heart.

I didn't need to ask what he meant. The week had been filled with many small instances of confusion, anxiety and mislaid moments.




At half term we lose the familiarity that a day at school brings, we lose the structure and enter into unknown territory. We go back to walking a tightrope but negotiating the wobbles that appear on the path becomes harder because of the holiday.

A trip to the UK, on an aeroplane, staying in a different house, different bed, staying up late, going out for dinner, visiting people, shopping etc adds to the chaos. What for us is a holiday filled with fun, to him is a time filled with anxiety.

He cried, his head was too full, we had done too much...

His tears were ones of desperation and exhaustion, physically and mentally.

What do you do when your child finds holidays stressful? Should you stop going away? Many autistic families do.

I can't stop seeing my family. We only return to the UK twice a year but faced with a boy in tears my choice feels selfish...


All we can do is reassure him. We have learned to restrict our trip to 4/5 days to make sure that we have a few days afterwards when he can rest and experience some normality before returning to school.

We try to bring some calm in the chaos of his thoughts...

Yesterday he asked me:
Why am I like this?
He came downstairs after bedtime and stood uncertainly in the doorway. I could sense his anxiety.

I swear I felt another chink appear in my already battle scarred heart.


A glimpse into autism is a series of short letters that explore how autism effects us on a day to day basis. Disclaimer:  this is our experience not all autistic people are the same.

More autism awareness posts...



Why I am happy being an imperfect mum

26 October 2016

Dear friend,

What is the hardest thing about being a parent? Sleepless nights, tamtrumming toddlers, stroppy teenagers, juggling home/work? My answer; always wondering if I have done the right thing (given the right food, chosen the right day care or school, got the right therapy, spent enough time with etc). My perfectionist nature makes being a parent hard at times and the mummy guilt piles up...

People have built careers by tapping into this mummy guilt and I have read articles, with tongue in check references to, the different types of mum; corporate mum, gym mum, helicopter mum, yummy mummy. They are entertaining and usually cleverly written. However, are these stereotypes helpful?



Blogging behind the scenes

24 October 2016

Dear friends,

I love hearing about how other bloggers do it! After all we are all different and have different approaches to our blogs and that is what makes them so amazing and wonderful and diverse. I first came across this Blogging Tag on the Frenchie Mummy Blog and then my lovely buddy Louise from Little Hearts Big Love also took part. I loved their answers and as it is my blogiversary (Diary of an imperfect mum is 2 years old) I thought why not give it a go! SO here goes: Diary of an Imperfect Mum, behind the scenes...



1. Where do you blog?
That depends where I am when inspiration strikes really, I prefer to blog on my macbook sitting at the dining table but blog on my iPad/phone or write in a notebook. I spend most evenings sitting on the sofa with my laptop on my knee. I'd love to have my own space to blog...

2. Where do you find inspiration for your blog posts? 
My family. Life in general. I write about the stuff that happens or that matters to me. 

3. How long does it take you to write a blog post?
This is like a how long is a piece of string question. I tend to "word vom", spit it all out as it arrives in my head and then I review and review and review a bit more. Although there are some posts that I do research on too and they may take longer in general I would say a post takes around half an hour to write. But longer to edit, add pictures etc

4. Do you plan your blog posts? How?

I recently updated my schedule...

Monday: I have a rota that enables me to plan in the posts that I have as part of my series. Every month I post; Book corner, Parenting from a special perspective, Gamer zone/Top Tips and Best of #ablogginggoodtime (the linky I host with mummyinatutu)

Wednesday: I publish a diary or autism post.

Thursday: The #ablogginggoodtime linky is open.

Friday:  Days out posts/Vlogs. The last Friday of each month is Monthly Roundup.

Sunday: Eat, Sleep Blog RT linky. I have recently started as co-host to the lovely Zoe from Petite pudding.


5. What kind of camera do you use? What editing program?
I have a samsung WB380F. I am a point and shoot photographer. I love taking photos, something that has grown since I started blogging and take loads of shots, driving my kids mad. I use Fotor for editing - both the program and the app. I tend to use the same filter for my IG shots and this is easy and quick to use. I also didn't want to spend a fortune!

6. Do you use a notebook to track your ideas?
No, I am a digital freak. I always have my iPad or iPhone to hand and use notes or the blogger app to record my ideas and calendar to organise myself. I also use buffer to schedule my social media. 

7. How do you take your pictures?
Point and shoot. I do have a favourite shot that the boys call 'a mummy photo' I like to shoot the boys from behind, walking along holding hands. I plan one day to make a series from the shots.



8. What’s your favourite type of blog post to write?
The ones that I feel really passionately about, the parenting stuff that pops up to bite me on the ar** and I just have to write about...

I feel most proud of the pieces I have written about our family's journey with Autism. I really want to improve awareness and acceptance of Autism. When people comment on how I've helped them understand better or how they've learned from reading one of my posts it feels amazing! 

9. Who knows about your blog?
I was a little shy at first and only told a few people but now everyone knows. Although I don't think my family are regular readers. One friend/colleague really encouraged me to give it a go and I am very glad he did! 

10. Are you an organised or a messy blogger?
I have recently organised myself as I Started a new job and I needed  to manage my time better. Also I found I needed a break from spending every night behind the laptop. I now have a schedule for commenting, scheduling, writing etc

I am really rubbish at the promotion side of things! But as a rather brilliant blogging buddy pointed out to me recently; we're writers not marketing machines... 

11. Biggest blogging pet peeve?
I really hate it when I get caught up in the numbers game, it makes me feel really bad about blogging and really deflated. Sometimes I have to take a step back, read my own words and remember why I started blogging...

Blogging is like breathing out. For so long I feel like I have been holding my breathe, bottling up thoughts, feelings and ideas. Now through my blogging I am breathing out.

I am not tagging anyone in this challenge but if you want to join, tweet or DM me a link to your post and I will read, comment and share. I want to take this opportunity to say a really big thank you to everyone who has read, shared or commented on Diary of an Imperfect Mum over the last two years. 

Read more about blogging...


I HATE HOMEWORK

19 October 2016

Dear friend,

I am here today to make a confession as a mum and as a teacher. I hate homework. Homework has been the cause of many an argument in my house and my boys are still in primary school. My attitude is very much, '...well I don't think they should have homework anyway...' which drives my poor husband mad as he is quite right, it doesn't actually matter what I think, they have to do it! But it's been bugging me for ages...

Why do my boys have to do homework?


Let's make this perfectly clear from the start,

There is no education research to suggest that homework is beneficial for Primary school students educational success! 

I dont remember as a child having to do homework (apart from learning tables and lists of spellings) we were encouraged to read and my mum took us to the library every week. I don't recall any other homework being given until I reached secondary school. However, in the last period of educational policy there seems to have been a swing towards more and more homework being encouraged.



My son (aged 10) receives 4 pieces of homework a week, these can include, maths (usually a set of sums with multiple choice answers) Grammar, Comprehension, English (learning vocabulary) and geography or history.

Sunday evening and here comes the phrase all parents dread to hear...

Oh  no! I forgot to do my homework. 

Yep, come on, I know you've done it too. You are having such a great weekend you forget all about the homework! Panic ensues, arguments begin, everyone blaming everyone else. Then rush, to get it done! And who exactly is doing the homework, the children or the parents?

I know some parents who have completed their children's homework, most notably a father who entered an online maths competition for his 10 year old son and won.


Homework puts children and parents under pressure.

We now have a rule that the big lad works for 20-30 minutes every evening after dinner. That doesn't seem like a lot of time out of the day and you probably think; What is she complaining about?  But this homework hangs over us like a black cloud all week.

Firstly he kept forgetting to bring his homework folder home. (His autism means he has problems with self organisation.) We got a bag to put it in to try and help. He left the bag at school. We copied the homework from his friend.

He forgot his bag again. Hubby and I got shouty at each other for not remembering to remind him. The big lad cried. Hubby stormed off in a strop and came back with said homework bag (luckily the cleaners were in school)...

Homework causes conflict! 



Secondly, I have issues with the type of homework. I firmly believe that homework should be about reinforcing learning done in school not introducing new concepts but building on prior learning. It should be interesting and open. I can't see the benefit of my child rote learning a bunch of facts that he won't remember in a month when he could be having real experiences.It could of course be argued that engaged teachers will set high interest homework. But I would rather busy teachers concentrated on developing interesting, challenging and high quality lessons.

Sometimes life happens;  there's a birthday party, we go out for the day...
We forgot to learn a stupid list of facts but we did visit an ancient city and look at it's architecture or go to a museum and see the skeleton of a T-Rex or visit our family or spend an afternoon walking on the beach together or just cuddled and talked...
Aren't they also really valuable learning experiences?

Low interest homework causes children to disengage with learning. 

What happens on evenings when my boys have DJ lessons or football? How do we bloody fit it all in? Managing the family timetable is getting increasingly tricky even with technology allowing us to share calendars.

Homework means less time for extra curricular activities which are vital to children's health and well being.

On days when I work we eat dinner together and have maybe an hour as a family before bed. Half of that time is now spent on homework.  Want to go for a beach walk after dinner, want to watch some crap program together on TV or play a board game (we love that) well not until homework is finished. I hate homework... 

Homework reduces family time. 


Here's what the research says:

  • In general, homework has substantial benefits at the high school level, with decreased benefits for middle school students and little benefit for elementary students (Cooper, 1989; Cooper et al., 2006).
  • While assigning homework may have academic benefits, it can also cut into important personal and family time (Cooper et al., 2006).
  • Assigning too much homework can result in poor performance (Fern├índez-Alonso et al., 2015).
  • A student’s ability to complete homework may depend on factors that are outside their control (Cooper et al., 2006; OECD, 2014; Eren & Henderson, 2011).

Taken from edutopua article :  Research trends why homework should be balanced.



I loved this letter from Brandy Young an elementary school teacher in Texas. This letter was placed on FB and went viral. It obviously struck a chord with a lot of parents.



I wish my boys would come home with a letter like this!

Did you know that 1 in 4 young people are suffering from mental health problems. 

Is it anything to do with the amount of pressure that we are putting our young people under to achieve? Or the tiny amount of family time we have together? Or that less children are participating in extra curricular activities? I would bet on the answer being yes...

I want primary school children to be allowed to be kids. I want them to investigate the world with wonder and interest. To play out with friends and come home with dirty knees and grubby faces. To join a group, learn to dance, play an instrument or take part in sport. To spend valuable time with their families and friends. To learn through play, investigation and action. To grow into well rounded individuals.

 Let's make this perfectly clear,

There is no education research to suggest that homework is beneficial for Primary school students educational success! 

Let kids be kids. Ditch the homework!



Do you hate homework? How much homework do your kids get?


I am very pleased that my new school has a no homework policy for the younger children. 

Book Corner: A quiet night in

17 October 2016

My Book Corner choice this month is: A Quiet Night In by Jill Murphy

This is one of my favourite books in the large family series. It is Mr Large's brithday and although Mrs Large has an extra special night planned, things don't quite go as she would like... I love how brilliantly Jill murphy has observed and reflected real family life using humour and affection. I am sure many parents can relate to this tale, come on who hasn't dozed off during the bedtime read? 


Book corner: A quiet night in


Pregnancy or menopause?

12 October 2016

Dear friend,

I always had a positive view of Mother Nature. In my mind she was a sweet old lady sporting a twin set and pearls but now I've decided that she is a bitch in killer heels and a power suit with 80's style shoulder pads. What has caused this turnaround? My sudden decent into the abyss that is menopause...

If you are under 40, you may want to click away now... go on I won't be offended. Perhaps it is better to be blissfully unaware of what lies ahead (I'm very glad that I was!) 

Mother Nature has decided to play one last cruel trick on women. As if pushing human beings out of a hole in your body isn't enough or spending the entire first part of your young life worrying about getting pregnant and the next half worrying that you aren't. Oh no, we haven't endured enough and must now, in a last twist of fate, be subjected to the injustice of confusing menopause symptoms with pregnancy.



Similarities between pregnancy and menopause:


  • No more periods: you can wave goodbye to those periods! No more tampons falling out of your bag during meetings, or panty liners stuck to your mobile phone. 
  • Sleep problems: sleeping with a tummy the size of a beach ball is hard! During menopause you can get to sleep but you will wake in the middle of the night because you're having a hot flush or you suddenly remembered the name of auntie Flo's long dead cat that evaded you this morning. 
  • Memory loss: perhaps this is just me because I haven't seen it listed on the web anywhere but I have the memory of a goldfish at the moment as I did when I was pregnant.
  • Fatigue: menopause is knackering, I'm not lazy or old, I'm menopausal so move off the sofa it's mine! Now I remember the fatigue during my first trimester of pregnancy.
  • Mood changes: We talk a lot about pregnancy hormones, well ladies lets start shouting about these menopause hormones too. I am veering dangerously between crying at anything remotely sad and wanting to kill the next person who looks at me the wrong way.
  • High temperature: My body has a faulty thermostat, end of discussion. 
  • Sore boobs: forget running upstairs without a heavy duty sports bra on! 
  • Elasticated pants: maternity wear and menopause wear both involve elastic for that expanding waistline.
  • Stress incontinence: there is not a baby sitting on my bladder so why do I need to dash to the loo everytime something makes me laugh or I need to sneeze? 
  • Peeing at night: a full nights sleep is a thing of the past! Count on 2/3 night time visits to the WC.
  • Nausea: Not a symptom of menopause but all the above are enough to make anyone sick.


There is however, one major difference in all this, at the end of pregnancy you are left with the best gift of all, your baby. All menopause leaves you with is; vaginal dryness and a hairy chin. Thank you Mother Nature! 


Read more of my Hysterectomy diary...

Parenting from a Special Perspective: A blog about Raising my Autistic Son

10 October 2016

Ever wondered what it is really like to parent from a special perspective? Parent to a Special Needs Child? Where do you turn for help? What challenges do you face? What has surprised you? What have you learned? Every month I will be featuring one of my brilliant fellow SEND bloggers and sharing their reflections on raising a child with special needs.

Welcome Lynne to Diary of an Imperfect Mum. Lynne blogs over at A blog about Raising my Autistic Son. Lynne is married to Nick and they have four children. Their eldest teenage son is on the autistic spectrum. Family life is hectic and funny - friends often comment that they feel they have been in a sitcom following a visit! Lynne is also a Speech and Language Therapist.

1. When did you first realise your child has Autism? 

Edward was diagnosed with a type of autism called Asperger’s Syndrome when he was 8 years old. However I had had moments where I suspected he might be on the autistic spectrum on and off from when he was only two years old. Those moments included things like him being in his own little world staring into space, flapping his hands in front of his eyes and an obsession with lining his toys up. However he also did things which made me think I was just being neurotic, and that I was looking for a condition that wasn’t there. He liked cuddles and kisses (from me and Nick at least), he liked playing imaginary games and he was funny, very funny. These behaviours didn’t match the stereotype I had built for autism and so it took me quite a while to ask for an assessment.


Blog title displayed on geometric designed pattern in primary colours

Play

5 October 2016

Dear friend,

Yesterday he asked; Mum what are they doing...? In an unfamiliar world of utter chaos. He stood and watched...

Little man had a friend to play. The living room looked like a war zone, strewn with figures, some protecting the castle and others lying, face down, exhausted from the long battle...

Big lad had a slight pause in his gaming to come and get a drink and found himself in the centre of the 'play'.

I watched him...trying to work it all out...put the pieces together in an order that made sense...

Then he asked...

What are they doing?




A simple question...

A simple answer... They are playing!

Something that most children and parents take for granted. You have toys and you play...

But for him play has always been different, organised! A row of cars or trains in perfect alignment...

We wasted so much money on toys that sat in a cupboard.

We spent hours setting up marble runs that were barely touched. Making buildings from Lego and building transformers that gathered dust...

I made schedules, timetables, choosing boards...all to encourage play... 

But if social and motor skills are the exact things you find difficult, if you simply can't understand the rules, if the chaos disturbs you... is play fun?

Yesterday he asked; Mum what are they doing...? In an unfamiliar world of utter chaos. He stood and
watched...


A glimpse into autism is my new series. Short letters that explore how autism effects us on a day to day basis. Disclaimer:  this is our experience not all autistic people are the same.

Autism and flying

2 October 2016

Dear Friend,

In April my lovely bestie sent me an article about Newcastle Airport signing up to the autism charter. Brilliant news for autistic passengers in the North East! I wrote a post for autism awareness week: Great news for autistic fliers and ended with the sentence;

All we need now are for other major airports to follow suit.  

This sentence kept echoing in my brain so I sent a mail to KLM.

I am contacting you in the hope that I can raise some awareness of the needs of autistic passengers flying with KLM. I am the mother of a son with autism and an EXPAT living in Holland. We regularly fly to the UK.
I have investigated your KLM cares package in the past and was encouraged to look at it again during an exchange on FB with someone from your team. In my opinion the KLMCARES package caters for people with physical needs and issues and does not offer particular support for those with a hidden disability. Many parents just don't want to cause a fuss and as autism cannot be seen it makes it harder to explain what our needs are.
Autistic people find it extremely difficult to be in unfamiliar situations and in crowded areas. My son has super sensitive senses and struggles with the lighting, sound and amount and proximity of people in the airport. We use headphones, bring computer games and cross our fingers that he will be ok but I am sure there is more that could be done to support people in a similar position as us or who have more severely autistic children that will meltdown. The number of autistic children is increasing rapidly (1 in 68 children). Therefore, autism must affect a large number of your passengers. Sadly many autistic families choose not to travel! ...
On behalf of all parents of children with autism, I urge you to look at your customer care policy and add specific help for autistic families to enable them to feel more confident to travel with their children... 


This was the response:


We can inform you that KLM can offer assistance.

The assistance will be that you and your children will be assisted from the check-in to the gate, during transfer and also upon arrival.

It will be the same kind of assistance that we offer to passengers with mobility problems as unfortunately KLM does indeed not offer a different specific type of assistance for people with Autism.

However, you will not need to stand in a long queue with your children as you can pass through to priority lane as you will then be assisted.

We kindly ask you to contact us again if you have made another KLM booking, so we can make sure assistance will be arranged for you and your children.

Maybe you have already done so, but we advise you to send a similar e-mail to Amsterdam Schiphol Airport as well, to ask if they can offer the same kind of service that Newcastle Airport has.

We hope to have informed you sufficiently and wish you well in succeeding with raising more awareness as this is indeed very important.

This mail sat in my inbox for ages. I felt disappointed that such a large airport were failing to support a large proportion of their passengers and only offering mobility support. I am not a campaigner, I am just a mummy. But I didn't give up and I did write a further mail to Schiphol airport.

Last week I received a response and I had a lovely telephone conversation with someone from their customer services department (who also has an autistic child). He is working with the department that provides support at Schiphol to improve travel for autistic passengers. In October we will fly using a "new code" for assistance with a child with autism.

In May 2008 a new IATA keyword, “DPNA”, (disabled passenger with intellectual or developmental disability needing assistance) was introduced. This keyword is to be used for a passenger with an intellectual or developmental disability. Use of this keyword will guarantee appropriate assistance at the airports of departure, arrival and transit.

The problem is that many travellers and many airport staff do not know about this code. When I rang the bookings department to add the code to our booking for October half term it took a long time as the booking system personnel had never heard of it before. It seems that there needs to be more information and training. 

I am really excited and pleased that KLM have taken this on and that they are listening to our concerns. Fingers crossed this will make our experience and the experience of many many more autistic people much better! I will be very interested to see how our flight goes! 


What is you local airport doing about autism. Let's spread the word and have autism acceptance not just awareness! 


Knives and forks...

21 September 2016

Dear friend,

Yesterday he forgot to use his knife and fork again. He started picking up peas with his fingers...

I barked across the table, use your knife and fork and immediately wanted to stick my foot in my mouth.

Sometimes it just pops out... The cautious communication required to keep our life in balance suddenly collapses...

He picked up his fork in his right hand and knife in the left and tried but realised there was something wrong...

Wrong hands I said calmer, more patiently and he swapped over.

His shoulders were bent over and he had the demeanour of a dog that's slinking away with its tail between it's legs. Too late, the damage was done. How many times have you wished that life had a rewind switch?




Table manners... Does it matter? Not really, it is only us eating dinner but in the long run, yes. He needs to practice as he doesn't have any automatic functioning. You know how they say you never forget to ride a bike, well he would. If he doesn't keep doing things then he will forget...

And let's face it there's something cute about a toddler shovelling peas in with their fingers, face covered in gravy and table scattered with the debris of another meal.

But when you get to ten, the laughter and smiles turn to impatience and misunderstanding. Weird stares from other diners in restaurants or waitresses grumpy because of the state of the table and floor (no dog to hide the evidence in.)

Sometimes it's easier just to have pizza for tea and it is his favourite...


Yesterday he forgot to use his knife and fork again. He started picking up peas with his fingers...



A glimpse into autism is my new series. Short letters that explore how autism effects us on a day to day basis. Disclaimer:  this is our experience not all autistic people are the same.

More autism awareness posts...

Jord Wood Watches: My honest review

20 September 2016

Dear friends,

I've been looking for a new watch for ages. I have a beautiful watch that hubby bought me as a honeymoon present that I like to keep for best but when my ice watch broke I started to wear it daily. It's a beautiful watch but a bit too bling for daily use and also a bit heavy! I wanted something stylish and fashionable, yet a bit different and light enough to wear every day. I really did not want anything with a rubbery or plastic feel. 

When Ben got in touch asking if I would like to review a Jord women's watch. I jumped at the chance. I had seen Jord Wood Watches on IG and loved the unique look. I also love the ethos behind the watch design. 

TELLING MORE THAN TIME  The value of a watch is not in being able to tell how much time has passed, but in being aware of the need to make that time count. Moments are bigger than minutes and your watch should tell more than time.

 I couldn't wait to pick a cool design, perfect for me and my busy lifestyle. 

The website was super easy to navigate and had great pictures with a beautiful selection of unique women's watches.  It was unbelievably difficult to make a choice but in the end I went for the Purpleheart and mother of pearl and waited (very impatiently) for it to arrive. Jord is an American company and the watch took around two weeks to arrive.


My Jord Watch arrived in a beautiful wooden box. I couldn't wait to open it! 

Book corner: Fidgety Fish

19 September 2016

My book corner choice this month is: Fidgety Fish by Ruth Galloway


Fidgety Fish is one of my favourite picture books to read out loud. It is so much fun and your kids will love joining in. If you have an active child they will really identify with Fidgety as he is a fish who can not keep still. He wriggles and squiggles and darts and giggles through the story. Eventually his mum gets fed up and sends him out to play to release some of that energy. (I am sure many mums will identify with this story too!) Mum warns him to be careful but Tiddler swims out into the sea and his inquisitive nature soon lands him in trouble... 

Ruth Galloway has written and illustrated a series of under water tales including Smiley Shark, Tickly Octopus and Clumsy Crab. Perfect for an under water topic at school or home.

Bloggers beating cancer: When you knocked on my door....

18 September 2016

Bloody Cancer,

I'll never forget the first time you knocked on my door. Well you didn't really knock you just kicked the door right in with one mighty boot. The chill of your sudden presence stunned me into a shocked silence. It stunned us all... 

The Drs tried to force you back but you were too strong. I made promises to anyone who would listen and refused to accept that this bear of a man, this gentle giant who had always made me feel like the most special little girl in the whole world, his
C C C Catie 
could be taken away so quickly with so little warning.

I watched and waited, desperately attempting to heal with the spirit of my love, to bring peace, whilst you consumed the body of the grandpa that I adored.



The day I discovered a lump in my breast I felt the threat of your return.  The idea of you filled my thoughts and swamped me. I could sense you grasping, attempting to get a grip. Every moment took on a new significance, every cuddle, every smile, every conversation became tainted by you. The future that I wanted so much to be a part of (watching my boys grow into amazing young men) was suddenly uncertain. It terrified me. It engulfed me.

But this time it wasn't you knocking. I was the lucky one and I vowed to start looking for rainbows...

I'll never forget the night we got your call. You forced your way back into our lives, turning our world upside down, filling me with sadness and guilt at how far away I am from my family, how I am no help or support.

The initial shock turned to panic. I don't want to introduce you to my children? You are the bogeyman, a phantom, the stuff of nightmares, I don't want you in their world.  How do you answer a child who asks; Will he die?

But you don't discriminate, you don't care, young, old, male, female, Dutch or English. And now we live with you in our lives as so many people do...

I wish we could find a way to barricade that door and never let you back in.
I wish we could send you far away where you can not cause any more confusion, pain, sadness, desperation and torment.
I wish we could kick your arse!



How you can help.



Join #BloggersBeatingCancer


#BloggersBeatingCancer – join Emma & Sarah on Friday 30th September at 10.30am, for coffee and a social media thunderclap. Use the hashtag, get your friends involved, and get fundraising if you can.”

As Sarah from Mumzilla said:

We bloggers, as a collective, we could really shout. How many people could we each get to donate say £5 to charity? To Bart’s Charity and to MacMillan, for both cure and care? So we have set a date for bloggers, and the people who read our ramblings, to have a virtual coffee morning. To spend 10, 15, 30 minutes, whatever we can spare, to sit and have a drink, and to talk to our friends, either in person or online. To ask people to donate to these amazing causes, that could change lives, that could save lives.

Please support this campaign if you can!

You can donate here.



Change...

13 September 2016

Dear friend,

Yesterday he cried. It was a cry that I hadn't heard for a while, the cry of someone totally lost in their  frustration...

It happened just before bedtime...

It is only when he gets into bed and his body is still that his brain can process what has happened during the day. For him that can be problematic...

The overwhelming pressure, caused by a build up of emotions, triggers an electrical storm in his brain.

Everything tumbles out at lightening speed all muddled up together...

School, home, new class, new teacher, new homework, new gym, new times, new rules... Have to do it myself and I can't remember what she said... I don't like it! Too much change.



My instinct is to solve the problems for him... To make him feel better.

I want to wrap my arms around him and give that deep hug that always calmed him as a toddler... But he isn't a toddler anymore... I can't kiss it better!

Watching him overwhelmed by his thoughts is heartbreaking and exhausting.

But then he says something that knocks me off my feet...

Change is hard for someone like me mum, someone who has autism...

Is it my turn to cry?

Yesterday he cried. It was a cry that I haven't heard for a while, the cry of someone totally lost in their frustration...


A glimpse into autism is my new series. Short letters that explore how autism effects us on a day to day basis. Disclaimer:  this is our experience not all autistic people are the same.

More autism awareness posts...

Parenting from a Special Perspective: The Honest Confessions of a NICU Mum

12 September 2016

Ever wondered what it is really like to parent from a special perspective? Parent to a Special Needs Child? Where do you turn for help? What challenges do you face? What has surprised you? What have you learned? Every month I will be featuring one of my brilliant fellow SEND bloggers and sharing their reflections on raising a child with special needs.


Welcome Vicki to Diary of an Imperfect Mum. Vicki blogs over at The Honest Confessions of a NICU Mum and is a mother to Elijah. Shortly after birth he was diagnosed with Tetralogy of Fallot, and suffered a Neo Natal Stroke (bleed on the brain). He spent 9 days in NICU and at 6 months had a full TOF repair done via open heart surgery. He is now a happy and healthy little boy.


1. When did you first realise your child has Tetralogy of Fallot (TOF).

12 hours post birth Elijah began have ‘dusky’ episodes, he went purple but would go back to normal after a few seconds. This happened a few times luckily infront of a nurse when I was still in the delivery suite. He was taken for assessment in the NICU, admitted and a heart scan confirmed the diagnosis. This was later complicated my a Neo Natal stroke.


2. How did you feel when you found out that your child has Tetralogy of Fallot (TOF)


Like my world had shattered, like my stomach dropped, like they had got it wrong. How could my baby, have this? Was this my fault? Was he going to survive? Would I lose my baby or even get to take him home? I was in denial up until 6 months, when we went down to Great Ormond Street for pre admission of the surgery.


3. Where did you first turn for help?


I didn’t, I tried to confide in friends and family let them support me but I couldn’t face them. I was dealing with guilt, with resentment so much anger and I was clearly depressed. After Elijah’s surgery I went to the doctors and was put on medication, I was diagnosed with PTSD. I felt I really didn’t start overcoming this until I joined Instagram! Started connecting with other NICU/HEART/CHD families this then led to my blog.



Picture of baby Elijah in the NICU

Photography @My_Dutch_Angle

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