How to find the perfect sofa

31 May 2016

Dear friend,

What does a sofa mean to you? To our family it's the place where we snuggle, read, play on the iPad, watch TV, blog, grab a coffee/snack, read a story, have 5 minutes rest, gossip on the phone, Skype with the family... It is in many ways the heart of our home. After 7 years of general wear and tear our beloved corner sofa had seen better days and it was time for a new one... 

I loved our sofa, it was really snug and I always took the corner place where I could put up my feet and sit comfortably with my laptop on my knee and one of the boys or hubby snuggled at my side. The problem was hubby and I could not agree on what type of sofa we wanted. Should we go for another corner sofa? Do we pick comfort or look, style or function?

Living room makeover Living room makeover
Our old corner sofa was comfy but large and dark and had seen better days.

Parenting from a Special Perspective: Rockin Random Mum

30 May 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.

Michelle Kellogg is a blogger and is currently exploring the world of freelance writing. She uses her blog to inspire others who may be dealing with mental illness, have children with special needs, or both. She is a happily single co-parent mom, raising two boys, one with Autism, the other with ADHD. She is a rock music loving, coffee addicted mom, blogging about parenting Music, Fitness, and any other random thoughts that invade her complicated brain. You can visit her blog here:   You can also follow her on Twitter,  Facebook,  Pinterest, Instagram

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

I didn’t realize Adam had Autism until after I was educated about it upon his diagnosis. It’s strange but my reference for Autism at that time consisted of a couple of newspaper articles I read in the 90’s about the worst cases. Adam didn’t display any of those symptoms so I was very confused and lost.

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

Oh boy, a lot of emotions. My very first thought though was, “what did I do wrong?” My second thought was, “God, how can you do this? Hadn’t I suffered enough surviving horrific abuse as a child? Why are you making my child suffer too? He doesn’t deserve this!” Yes, I was very angry with God.

Family Fun #18

26 May 2016

Welcome to Family Fun Linky! We run from Thursday to Saturday and all bloggers are welcome to add any type of parenting post.

Join me in a community of supportive bloggers. 

Link up and share family experiences, successes and failures, laughter and tears.

Why not share your Parenting Posts, Craft ideas, recipes, days out, photo stories, weekly roundups etc with friends?

All posts welcome!

 #FamilyFun 18

Autism and us: How to handle Sports day

25 May 2016

Dear friend,

Sports Day, a day that strikes terror in the hearts of many a child (and adult) alike. I used to love sports day until I smashed my knee then I hated it. I could't join in and watched with jealous anger from the sidelines. I had friends who hated it and always pulled a sicky and others who were annoyingly brilliant. But it was always one of the highlights of our school year and overall I have good memories...

Big lad has not always struggled with gym at school.  In lower school they had lessons with their teacher in a small hall in school and he had no problems other than the coordination ones we knew about. But in upper school he had to start having lessons in a big gym with a specialist gym teacher. Gym became a nightmare. He didn't like the space, the noise, he couldn't handle losing... we had one very angry, anxious, unhappy boy. He started to have support from a Teaching Assistant in gym lessons and we got specialist help from physio therapists too and the situation improved.  But then came the question... How to handle sports day?

Sports day is different from any other day. There is no set routine, you have to wear different clothes, it can be held in a new place, you may be put in a team with people that you don't know, the rules aren't clear, it's chaotic, you don't know where to go next... Add to that the fact that you have motor skills problems and find losing a massive challenge then what do you do???

It is no wonder that a lot of autistic children can find Sports day one of the most stressful days of the year.

Taking the stress out of Sports day

  • Go for just the first part of the day or the end of the day only
  • Organise 1:1 assistance for the whole day 
  • Have someone on standby to help if needed
  • Have a quiet spot or safe area to escape to
  • Use a friend as buddy for the day
  • Practise activities before the big day
  • Make a visual schedule or a social story to explain the day's events 
  • Give them a job to do - scoring, handing out ribbons, tooting the whistle to change games, taking photographs, if/when they are not participating
  • And if all else fails... Let them stay at home

Autism and us: Sports day

Last year sports day went really well. I was on stand by just in case but wasn't needed and the big lad was happy and said he had a great time. With careful planning everyone can enjoy sports day!

Bedroom makeover - finishing touches

24 May 2016

Dear friend,

It's like musical bedrooms in our house. The boys often want to sleep together and my big lad has swapped rooms several times over the last few years. Having autism means that he sometimes struggles to get to sleep or that he is sensitive to noise so sleeping above the TV did not work at all (autism and  overcoming sleep problems). He also suffers from anxiety so being in the attic room didn't work either and he hated the sound of the rain on the roof.

The only solution was to put him in Little man's room, close to us. Little man has always been very accommodating to his brother's needs and relished the idea of moving up to the bigger room with more space for his toys and tent. But hubby and I did feel slightly mean and promised he could pick a new duvet and poster. His choice was Minions of course.


Little man settled happily into his new room but it was a real mismatch of ideas with formula 1 cars, Skylanders and minions all mixed together with a heavy blue colour and terracotta cupboard doors. It was time for a change!

Hubby got to work and spent the whole weekend painting. We went for white (white everything) to make it a light and bright space and ordered some fabulous wall stickers to continue the minion theme. We were really pleased with the finished result...

We love the little minion lights above the bed, it is so cosy on an evening during story time.

I found the wall stickers on amazon and the book shelf is Ikea Expedit (now Kallax) the boxes are really handy for toy storage too. The minion rug and duvet set came from Intertoys.

Fast forward a few months and there is still one thing that we haven't got round to changing yet! The blind...

Every night when I take Little Man to bed, I pull down the blind and I make a note to myself to burn replace it.  It is the same 1980's terracotta colour that previously matched the cupboard doors and is looking really tired. I think it's about time that I found a replacement...

I came across some great roofblinds from the company VELUX. I really loved the Disney and VELUX dream collection. Beautiful designs for kids and each one is unique as it is made specifically to fit your window. Maybe if we had gone for a disney duvet this could have worked but not with our Minions theme.

My preferred choice would be a Velux blackout blind especially as Little Man's room is south facing and gets a lot of sun. The Velux Blackout blind has a special heat blocking aluminium coating on the back to reflect the sun's heat. The Velux company had a great range of colours to choose from (36 in total) and we loved the light blue.

Little man loves his new room and has plenty of space to play when friends come around. We are really pleased with the outcome. Now just to buy that blind...

Autiquotes: Quotes about Autism

My aim is to spread a positive message about autism through my writing and to help my son to grow up in a world of understanding, compassion and acceptance.

Family Fun #17

19 May 2016

Welcome to Family Fun Linky! We run from Thursday to Saturday and all bloggers are welcome to add any type of parenting post.

Join me in a community of supportive bloggers. 

Link up and share family experiences, successes and failures, laughter and tears.

Why not share your Parenting Posts, Craft ideas, recipes, days out, photo stories, weekly roundups etc with friends?

Sex & the City: A window into my 20's

18 May 2016

Dear Friend,

Sex and the City is like a window into my 20's. It was that wild cocktail of sex, fashion and friendship that got me hooked from the first episode. The frankness of the women was something that I really admired. It didn't have the brashness of the girl power message sold to girls in the UK but it was showing a side to women and particularly their friendships that we hadn't seen previously.

The theme tune always makes me smile as it conjures up fantastic memories of fun-filled nights with my best friends in my flat. The nights we spent putting the world to rights, supporting each other through break-ups or celebrating our successes. Didn't we all have conversations about which one of the girls we were most like?

The magic part of the writing was that I could see elements of my personality in all the girls and wanted them each to be my friend. Candace Bushnell was speaking the thoughts and feeling of a generation of single women.

My top 15 quotes from Sex & the city...

"Man may have discovered fire but women discovered how to play with it."

“Maybe mistakes are what make our fate... without them what would shape our lives? Maybe if we had never veered off course we wouldn't fall in love, have babies, or be who we are. After all, things change, so do cities, people come into your life and they go. But it's comforting to know that the ones you love are always in your heart... and if you're very lucky, a plane ride away” 

"They say nothing lasts forever; dreams change, trends come and go, but friendships never go out of style."

"And finally, the most important break up rule: no matter who broke your heart, or how long it takes to heal, you’ll never go through it, without your friends.”

“The most important thing in life is your family. There are days you love them and others you don’t, but in the end they’re the people you always come home to. Sometimes it’s the family you’re born into. And sometimes it’s the one you make for yourself.”

The fact is, sometimes it's hard to walk in a single woman's shoes. That's why we need really special ones now and then to make the walk a little more fun. 

“I admit it’s tempting to wish for the perfect boss, or the perfect parent, or the perfect outfit, but the best anyone of us can do is not quit. Play the hand we’ve been given, and accessorize the outfit we’ve got."

“Maybe our mistakes are what make our fate. Without them, what would shape our lives?” 

“And we were dressed from head to toe in love, the style that never goes out of fashion.” 

“And why is it that we can see our friends perfectly but when it comes to ourselves, no matter how hard we look, do we ever see ourselves clearly?”

The most exciting, challenging and significant relationship of all is the one you have with yourself.

After a while you just want to be with the one who makes you laugh.
"Eventually all the pieces fall into place. . . until then, laugh at the confusion, live for the moment, and know that everything happens for a reason."

"Sometimes we need to stop analyzing the past, stop planning the future, stop figuring out precisely how we feel, stop deciding exactly what we want, and just see what happens." 

"Maybe the past is like an anchor holding us back. Maybe, you have to let go of who you were to become who you will be."

Which is your favourite quote?
Which program is a window to your past?

The benefits of a Staycation

17 May 2016

Dear friend,

I have just returned to work after 2 weeks holiday. My friends and colleagues have been away on exciting vacations or have visited family and friends in different countries. They look tanned and happy and regail me with tales of exciting things they have seen or done. Am I jealous? Hell no. 

After almost eleven years of living life as an EXPAT I have come to the conclusion that I do not want to spend every holiday travelling. I realised very quickly that I was returning to work after my 'holiday' feeling more exhausted. Travelling can be stressful, especially with young kids. I wanted to stay in my home, do nothing if I felt like it and have my things around me...

This holiday that is exactly what we have done and I feel marvellous!!!

The benefits of a Staycation...

Book corner: The Story Machine

16 May 2016

Dear friend,

This months choice for the book corner is a very clever book I found in the school library. It is called The Story Machine and is written by Tom McLaughlin.

I love this book because it celebrates the pure joy of telling stories and for the purist in us it also champions the simple beauty and delight of using a typewriter.

Family Fun #16

12 May 2016

Welcome to Family Fun Linky! We run from Thursday to Saturday and all bloggers are welcome to add any type of parenting post.

Join me in a community of supportive bloggers. 

Link up and share family experiences, successes and failures, laughter and tears.

Why not share your Parenting Posts, Craft ideas, recipes, days out, photo stories, weekly roundups etc with friends?

All posts welcome!

Autiquotes: Quotes about Autism

10 May 2016

My aim is to spread a positive message about autism through my writing and to help my son to grow up in a world of understanding, compassion and acceptance.

Spring cleaning your wardrobe

9 May 2016

Dear friends,

Do you spring clean your wardrobe? I do. When the first ray of sun hits my window ledge I start to feel excited about having a wardrobe change over. I use the change of season as a good opportunity to sort out my clothes. I am an organiser; definitely not a hoarder and I love a good clean out, it makes me feel better!

Did you know that you only wear about 20% of your wardrobe regularly. I know I am guilty of picking out the old favourites like that comfy pair of jeans that go with anything. I regularly pass over trousers or tops that feel a bit tight or a little out of shape and hang onto things that I'm never going to wear again but I like.

#Family Fun #15

5 May 2016

Welcome to Family Fun Linky! We run from Thursday to Saturday and all bloggers are welcome to add any type of parenting post.

Join me in a community of supportive bloggers.

Link up and share family experiences, successes and failures, laughter and tears.

Why not share your Parenting Posts, Craft ideas, recipes, days out, photo stories, weekly roundups etc with friends?

All posts welcome!

Autism and illness

4 May 2016

Dear friend,

Having a sick child is a nightmare for any parent. Your little love, your pride and joy is poorly and with every fibre of your being you want them to be better. I've heard people say (me included) I wish it was me and not them. Add to that the mess, the washing, the noise, the exhaustion all while your heart is feeling raw and no wonder it is one of the most stressful times for parents.

Having a sick child who also happens to have autism adds a different dimension. If you have an autistic child this isn't always so straightforward...

Most of the time I don't really notice my sons autism but sometimes it pops up and bites me on the arse bottom. I didn't notice that my son was ill. I'm the worst mum in the entire world! How can you not notice your child is sick?

But add in autism and it is not so easy!

The big lad had been complaining of pain in his throat for a couple of days. It isn't that I ignored this, I did ask how he was feeling and got the answer, fine. There was my first mistake...
  • Communication - Autistic children have problems with communication. It can be really difficult for autistic children to identify how they are feeling and then tell someone. (These visual pain scales are a great way to help autistic children better communicate how they are feeling.)

Being an autism parent means I have to be a kind of health detective and learn how to read the tiny signs that something is not quite right; not sleeping, not as active as 'normal', not eating the same. But he was sleeping and he was eating the same. He had come into our bedroom during the night and I'd given him calpol and a drink. Mistake number 2...
  • Higher threshold for pain - I have lost count of the times when I have put the big lad in the bath and discovered a really nasty bruise somewhere, one of those deep purple stingers that really hurt. Ask him what happened and he won't remember, he appears to hardly notice it. Sometimes he doesn't notice pain...
  • Hyposensitivity - The big lad has hyposensitivity, this means that the messages that tell him about his body seem to get lost somewhere on their journey to his brain. That is why he finds it hard to sit still. He wobbles to feel where his foot or hand are to give his brain a jolt. When he was younger he used to fall off his chair, a lot! When he's ill sometimes he doesn't know exactly what/where is hurting and doesn't notice until it really hurts. For example he often won't announce his stomach hurts until one minute before he vomits (this is interesting, I'm now good at catching!)
In the morning he didn't feel warm so I didn't take his temperature - he hates that. I gave him some more calpol and asked if he felt OK for school. I made a mental note to take him to the Doctor to get him checked out after work. Mistake number 3...
  • Hypersensitivity - many autistic people also have hypersensitivity. The big lad doesn't like having his hair/nails cut, or having thermometers in his ears and needles are a massive no! When he was younger this could be interesting especially when a Dr wanted to look in his ears/mouth, now he tolerates it...
When I came home from work he had two friends here, they were playing on the computer, laughing and joking. Hubby and I made a remark like; Well there doesn't seem like there's much wrong with him now! Mistake number 4...
  • Hyperactivity - I have read accounts of autistic children just crashing when they are ill but the big lad is the opposite. He keeps going and it is super hard to get him to rest. He will go about his day as normal and then as soon as it is time for lights out the problems come out. It is as though only when his body is quiet can he process the information...
I woke on Thursday morning to the sound of vomit! Panic stations...
  • Emetophobia - a fear of vomiting. The big lad is really scared of being sick and goes into a panic. He hates not being in control of his body and the feeling this gives. Trying to get medication, a drink anything into him at this time is a nightmare! Many autistic children are at particular danger of dehydration during sickness...
I rang the Dr and off we went...
  • Fear of Drs - for quite a while (after a bad experience with an injection) the big lad was terrified of even going past the Dr surgery, it took a long time for him to realise that every time you go to see the Dr you don't need a shot. He still asks sometimes, are we having a prick (injection) when we need to see a Dr... For him it is all about trust and if he doesn't trust you then he is not going to open up and tell you what's happening. 

What do you do when your child either doesn't feel or doesn't register they are ill or doesn't have the words to tell you? 

Autistic people's lack of communication surrounding illness can have more serious consequences as discussed in an article in the guardian in March 2015 entitled: Autism and ill health: how to spot the subtle signs that something is wrong
On average, people with autism and learning disabilities die between 10 and 20 years prematurely... Dr Pauline Heslop, the lead author of a groundbreaking UK study into premature deaths, said: “The unacceptable situation remains that for every one person in the general population who dies from a cause of death amenable to good healthcare, three people with learning disabilities will do so.”

On average people with autism and learning difficulties die between 10 and 20 years prematurelyWhat can we do to address this problem?

Drs have noted that more attention must be given to the thoughts and opinions of advocates when assessing autistic patients. Advocates often notice subtle changes other's don't. Parent's often have this inkling that something isn't right - don't be fobbed off!

Campaigners ... encourage the use of health or hospital “passports”... They give vital personal history, medical information, sensory idiosyncrasies and advice on how the patient might behave if stressed by their surroundings or illness. 

What is obvious is that there needs to be more information about how having autism can have an impact on general health and more training for health professionals. Every time I take the big lad to a new Doctor I need to explain that he finds it difficult to say what is wrong with him and that he feels pain in a different way. Some Drs listen better than others! I think having a health passport would make this much easier for everyone involved.

Thankfully the Dr today did listen to me and did show understanding (except when she stuck the stick in his mouth without warning him first, basic error). It seems the big lad has a very nasty throat infection. How did I/he/we miss that?

OK, on reflection, I know I am not the worst mum in the world but that is the first thought that entered my head when I realised he was really sick. It can be very hard to recognise and read the signs. I am lucky to have lovely friends who jumped to my defence immediately when I had my wobble. Even super mummy gets her cape caught sometimes, was one amazing response!

I can teach him how illness feels by giving him the words to use. Next time he tells me his tummy feels hot I will model him the language, you have pain in your tummy so he starts to verbalise his feelings better and realise that means he may be sick. Any other tips then please let me know!

I have my fingers, toes and eyes crossed for a speedy recovery.

My Healthcare passport is available to download from The Royal College of General Practitioners.

H days: 4 months today

3 May 2016

Dear friend,

Hurray for the holidays. I have endured the usual ribbing from family and friends about us teachers... Working so hard and how I... really deserve a holiday because it has been so long since my last one etc etc But I let the jealousy wash over me and paste on my wry smile and give my standard answer. Yes wasn't I clever to choose teaching as a profession, why didn't you? 

It's never really been part of my DNA to take things easy. I've always had a project on the go, big ideas to follow through. I considered writing a bucket list post. All the wonderful things I wanted to do with my boys this holiday, things I wanted to see, places to go, games to play... But to be honest I can't be bothered. I am wrecked. I seem to have been running at life at a break neck speed for the last few weeks and whilst we have had a fabulous time, I need to stop...

The thing is the world doesn't really want you to stop...

It is exactly sixteen weeks (4 months) since my hysterectomy. To me that doesn't sound like very long, although it feels like a lifetime ago. Whilst I feel a million times better, I feel really tired.

But the world doesn't want me to stop...

I have twinges, usually brought on by too much physical exertion or carrying something heavy.

I have period pain (I still have ovaries) so although I don't experience a period I feel something, it is  strange...

I don't feel myself. The universe has suddenly tilted and my emotions are all over the place, one minute crying and the next so mad I want to hit something. Like my body is screaming at me via my hormones, what the hell did you do to me woman. 

There comes a point where it is no longer acceptable to be ill. Like the patience runs out...

You are back at work so just carry on as normal... 

There's the comments:
Are you still having problems??? I was back at work after 2 weeks... How long were you off???

The world doesn't want me to stop...

There's general life; washing... Ironing... Cooking... Cleaning...
You can't expect hubby to keep on doing everything (although he does his bit with washing & cooking)

The world doesn't want me to stop...

There's fun; I want to swim with the kids, walk at the beach, build dens in the woods and push them on the swing at the park. I want to be fun mum...

I don't want me to stop...

Picture of Catie with her 2 sons on Kings day. sons wearing orange crowns and carrying orange balloons
Enjoying King's day with the boys. 

Who is putting this weight of expectation on me, myself or others? In truth a bit of both...

I went to see my GP worried by some pains I'd been having and she advised me to go back to the consultant. But after some lovely advice from a fellow hysterectomy survivor I was able to see that I had been doing way too much... 

Some on-line research showed me that it can take around 6 months to feel back to normal...

So this holiday I am stopping!

I am letting the boys play on the computer and I am lying in bed until gone 10... I am watching TV and sitting in the garden in the sunshine. I am holidaying at home to the backing track of computer generated music...

And I am not going to feel I?

Liebster award

Dear friend,

I love blogging tag posts. I suppose it is because I am really a very nosy so and so. I love finding out about other people. I've heard it said before but one of the best parts of blogging to me is the buddies that you meet along the way. I have recently started to get to know a whole bunch of lovely new bloggers through Tribal Chat. One of my fellow tribesters the gorgeous and brilliantly funny Jade from The Parenting Jungle tagged me in the Liebster award (you must check out her blog with a unique and witty approach to parenting that will make you feel fantastic) thanks Jade.

Picture of award saying Liebster discover new blogs
So here goes my answers...

1. Inspired by Occupation mother’s fab post- what would you choose as the soundtrack to your parenting journey so far? 
I would have to pick this absolute classic by Stevie Wonder. Hubby and I had this song played after we signed the register and left the room at our wedding. It always makes me feel happy. 

I love music and there are so many songs - perhaps I will have to follow suit with a future post. Thanks for the inspiration!

2. If you were a sandwich what type would you be?
A big bun from the baker filled with something classic like a good cheese but then with an aftertaste of something a bit spicy or different that kept you wondering what it was like a mayo with a hint of cayenne pepper.

3. What is the best toy you have ever bought your child and why?
Had to ask the boys this one and absolutely no contest, has to be the Wii U. They are mad gamers and would spend all day on it if allowed.

4. What toy would you like to throw out of the window?
I would gladly grab the boys Nintendo DS off them at times and throw them straight out of the window because the sound of the truly awful, annoying and immensely irritating music in the games drives me insane!!! I have been known to scream, You are Driving me mad! very loudly and make the boys mute them or wear ear phones.

5. What is your best childhood memory?
Sleepovers at my nana's house. Anything to do with my nana really, baking, playing games, drinking tea, going to the club, trying on her jewellery, putting on make-up so many wonderful things. She was an amazing woman who was always the life and soul of the party. 

6. What is the first blog you read?
Honest Mum. I didn't read any blogs until I started blogging myself but found the amazing Vicky's blog and was wowed, it showed me what blogging can achieve. I started joining in with brilliant blog posts and Vicky was one of my first followers. When she tweeted one of my posts I almost fainted. 

7. Why did you chose your child’s name?
We wanted names that weren't too common but also that weren't too unusual too. As we are a dual culture/nationality family we had to find names that worked in both languages. I loved the name Jake but my Dutch family pronounced it Yake. As a teacher I found it very hard to pick as many names reminded me of former pupils (and not the good ones). Hubby chose both names but both times we couldn't agree on a girl's name so lucky they were boys. (I don't use my boys names on the blog so this was quite difficult to answer.)

8. What really makes you angry?
When anyone hurts someone that I love. I'm like the hulk, you won't like me when I'm angry!

Picture of the incredible Hulk

9. Who would you want to play you in a movie of your life?
The brilliant Sheridan Smith down to earth, pretty but gritty and a brilliant actress.

10. How old were you when you learned Santa wasn’t real? How did you find out?
I have absolutely no idea at all. My memory is terrible in fact I think most of my childhood memories aren't actually mine they are stories my parents or brother have retold. I remember very little. I hope my boys remember their childhood. 

I hope you enjoyed getting to know me a bit better and thanks Jade for the brilliant questions.

I'd like to pass on the love and nominate the following amazing bloggers:

Liz Lowe - 52 pauses
Louise - liquoriceUK Little Hearts Big Love

Here are my questions:
  1. If money was no object, what would you do all day?
  2. Where do you most want to travel, but have never been?
  3. What is your favourite memory?
  4. What has been your biggest challenge?
  5. What does your perfect day look like?
  6. University or life experience, which do you feel best prepares you for life?
  7. What is the one thing that should be taught in school that isn’t already?
  8. If you could go back in time, what year would you travel to?
  9. Describe yourself in 3 words.
  10. Which animal best defines you and why?
For more about blogging see here

Here is how it works: Please give me a mention for nominating you. Answer my questions. Then think of your own 10 questions and nominate 5 fellow bloggers to answer them... Easy peasy, enjoy!

Photography @My_Dutch_Angle

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