My Sunday Photo

31 July 2016

Silent Sunday One Photo no words 

Boys walking along a tree lined path holding hands. shot from behind

Like this photograph then follow the rest of my photography series here.

Looking back with love...

30 July 2016

Dear son,

My big lad is 10. Whilst I can sit here and type things like, I can't believe it, where has the time gone or it's passed with the blink of an eye. That is not exactly true. You have been through so much and achieved such a lot in your short life and you have taught me so much about who I want to be. My son you continue to amaze me and make me extremely proud!

It is your character that defines you. Yes, you are different, you stand out... but you have really embraced that this year and have grown in confidence, accepting all that having autism means to you. You have focused on the positive and become much more self assured; 'grown-up' and comfortable in your own skin.

I did not think it possible that your relationship with your brother could get stronger but it has! You are an amazing big brother, kind, caring, supportive and also disciplining when you need to. I love to watch you take the lead and see you gaining more confidence from your brothers adoration.

You have had knock backs too this year and it is how you have dealt with these that has impressed me the most. Where I may have walked away, you have shown me that forgiveness and acceptance can be extremely powerful! You my son are the bigger man.

Special moments this year...

July Roundup

29 July 2016

Text - b on w background. Even if you know whats coming, you're never prepared for how it feels

Dear friends,

Welcome to my monthly roundup an opportunity to look back at the ordinary moments that have made our month extra special. It is so easy to take for granted people, places and things and this look back really helps me to appreciate their importance and rejoice in the everyday memories we are making together...

How to settle as an EXPAT

27 July 2016

Dear friends,

It is my anniversary, I have been living in Holland for eleven years. Eleven years that have passed in the blink of an eye but have also been an entire lifetime of experiences...

Looking back I have no idea how I did it but in the space of a single year I had major (life changing surgery), got a new job, sold my home, moved country, got married and fell pregnant. Oh, yes this lady never does anything by halves.

It was a time of intense happiness and excitement and the first year certainly felt like a holiday. We spent our weekends visiting beautiful places and living in that wonderful bubble of a new relationship. But there were also moments of utter despair and loneliness. My new hubby worked in the UK during the week and some family members found it hard to accept my desertion which caused a rift and when my son arrived it almost broke me...

Eleven years later and I can truthfully state that Holland is my home. This is where I want to be and although it does scare me that I might end up that funny english woman, sitting alone in the corner of the old folks home, I can't imagine living anywhere else.

Recently during a conversation with the tribe (#tribalchat) one member shared her feelings of loneliness, living as a new EXPAT.  Another tribe member advised that she talk to me about how I did it. So how did I settle into my new life and what exactly have I learned over the last eleven years?

Tips for living as an EXPAT...

My Sunday Photo

24 July 2016

Silent Sunday One Photo no words 

boy paddling in the sea with his dog following, bright blue sky with clouds and gentle waves

Like this photograph then follow the rest of my photography series here.

Weekly Roundup #28

22 July 2016

Dear friend,

Welcome to my weekly roundup an opportunity to look back at the moments that have made our week extra special. I love the saying: Enjoy the little things in life because one day you'll look back and realise they were the big things... This post enables me to focus on the little things and see that even in the difficult weeks there is always something to be thankful for. I love capturing the ordinary moments and special times with my camera, looking at our life through a lens gives me a clearer perspective.

IG Roundup from this week

A collage of photos including a day out in leiden, sunset and son in the water at the beach
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Sisterhood of the World Bloggers

19 July 2016

Dear friend,

Oh My Goodness, these blogging tags are like buses, you don't get one for ages and then two come along at once. But (1) I am very nosy and love finding out about my fellow bloggers and (2) I can not resist a good chance to talk about myself question. And when this second nomination for the sisterhood of the World Bloggers came along from one of my lovely Candid Cuddle buddy, fellow autism mummy and all round brilliant person Michelle  aka Rockin Random Mom, how on earth could I resist. So here goes people my Sisterhood of the Word Bloggers tag...

And the Awesome Questions Are:

  1. What was the last thing you ate? We had takeout from the Chinese for dinner. We live around the corner from one and it is so tempting to order especially when you walk the dog and you can smell what they are cooking - Yummy! In defence we were busy with some house renovation.
  2. When was the last time you had Me Time and what did you do? - a few weeks ago my best friend came to visit and we had an afternoon/evening to ourselves it was bliss! I grab my me time when the kids are at school and I'm home (I work part-time) it is usually watching Game of Thrones or Grimm in peace!
  3. What is the craziest pick up line that was tried on you? When I met my hubby he squeezed up next to me at the bar and asked, do you like nice things (I was holding a Louis Vuitton purse) he then smiled at me and said I like nice things...
  4. What was your best date ever? I love the beach. In Holland we have beach cafes and I love going to the beach cafe for dinner, sitting outside and watching the sunset with a nice glass of Rose. Happy days...
  5. What was the scariest thing you ever did? Moving to live in a new country. Leaving my family and friends both terrified and excited me, it was such a strange mixture of feelings. I can't quite believe I was brave enough to take that step but I was in love...
  6. What is your favorite thing about motherhood? Cuddles... no contest...
  7. What is your least favorite thing about motherhood? Being taken for granted
  8. What is the worst book you’ve ever read? It would probably be some boring journal of teaching that I had to read as part of my course a dry and boring manual full of long words. If I don't like a piece of fiction then I'll stop reading it...
  9. Celebrity crush? Kit Harington, Jon Snow from Game of Thrones. I was a really late comer to GOT and watched the whole of series 1-5 whilst recovering from my hysterectomy. 
  10. What’s the last song you heard on the radio? My boys listen to a radio channel in Holland called Slam FM they play dance/techno music. DJs are very big in Holland and my kids always have to have Slam on so it was definitely a dance music track but I have no idea which one. My taste in music is very eclectic ranging from Adele to Prince to Bon Jovi and Ella Fitzgerald. 

My not so awesome questions are:
  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?
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!

Read more posts related to blogging.

Book Corner: Barry the fish with fingers

18 July 2016

My book corner choice this month is: Barry the fish with Fingers by Sue Hendra

Have you ever heard of a fish with fingers? Well neither had we until we came across this crazy but fun romp from Sue Hendra. Little Man couldn't resist choosing this one the last time we were in the English book shop and it has become a firm family favourite...

Meet Barry the fish. Barry is no ordinary fish, he is a fish with fingers which proves very popular among the other fish who have never seen a fish with fingers before.

My Sunday Photo

17 July 2016

Silent Sunday One Photo no words 

Like this photograph then follow the rest of my photography series here.

Weekly Roundup #27

16 July 2016

Dear friend,

Welcome to my weekly roundup an opportunity to look back at the moments that have made our week extra special. I love the saying: Enjoy the little things in life because one day you'll look back and realise they were the big things... This post enables me to focus on the little things and see that even in the difficult weeks there is always something to be thankful for. I love capturing the ordinary moments and special times with my camera, looking at our life through a lens gives me a clearer perspective.

IG Roundup from this week

photo montage of our week. Boys playing at the beach

Come and join me on IG?

Hurray for the holidays! A post for teachers everywhere...

12 July 2016

Dear friends,

Hurray! Party time... The holidays have arrived. Oh yes people I am a teacher, I have 6 weeks free. Let the jealous comments begin. After over 20 years of teaching I think I have heard most of them and now when some aged uncle makes a remark like, uh, you're never there... I usually smile and say, I know lucky me! This is not a post to defend teachers and the teaching profession... It is a simply a collection of funny quotes and images as a celebration of the holidays for teachers everywhere.

Teacher shouting yes - text DOn't act happy that school's out you'll hurt our teacher's feelings

Teachers be like. !st day of school - smartly dressed minion October through April - purple crazy minion Last day of school - Minion in a hula skirt

Ask a teacher how many days until summer vacation. I bet they'll know the answer instantly! - teacher reading a story to her class

Just so you know teacher's don't have summer off. They just do a years worth of work in 10 months - picture of teacher

It's vacation for teacher's let the hating begin - teachers in party hats and drinks in hands

Oh summer... the time when teachers become human again - teacher holding a pretty dress

Summer the time of year when parents realise just how grossly underpaid teachers actually are

Have a great summer and please do not throw your books in the air or run through the halls - wait until the students have left the building

in travel agency - We're teachers and want to go somewhere where we can have fun and not learn anything

teacher celebrating - woo hoo, schools out! Teacher on laptop - where did half my summer go? Teacher crying - I don't want to go back to school

To all my teacher and non-teacher friends out there. Have a fabulous summer holiday!

Parenting from a special Perspective: Little Hearts Big Love

11 July 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 Louise to Diary of an Imperfect Mum. Louise is a mum to two little girls. Her eldest daughter was born with hypoplastic left heart syndrome and her youngest is heart-healthy. She blogs about parenthood and life as a heart family over at Little Hearts Big Love and is passionate about raising awareness of congenital heart defects.

1. When did you first realise your child has hypoplastic left heart syndrome (HLHS)?

We first found out about Jessica’s heart condition at the 20 week scan, and it was confirmed by an echocardiogram later that day.

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

Devastated, bewildered and scared.

Parenting from a special Perspective: Little Hearts Big Love

3. Where did you first turn for help?

We were given contact details for the charity Little Hearts Matter ( which is aimed at helping to provide support and advice to children who have single ventricle heart conditions and their families. Their antenatal pack was especially good for helping us find out more about what options we had; what the future might hold and helped us to understand a little more about our daughter’s heart condition.

4. What advice would you give a parent who suspects or has just found out that their child has HLHS?

Get in touch with Little Hearts Matter – they are such a good source of information and support. Make contact with other heart families – there are several forums on social media and it really makes such a huge difference to know that you are not alone in the journey.

Finally, know that the choices you make are the right ones for you and your family.

5. What exactly is HLHS? Did you know what it is when it was first diagnosed?

It’s a congenital heart defect where the valve between the two left chambers of the heart is blocked causing the left ventricle of the heart to become very small and underdeveloped.

In the normal heart, the left side of the heart pumps the blood around the body and then the deoxygenated blood returns to the other side of the heart where it is pumped to the lungs to pick up oxygen before going back to the heart and then around the body again.

With HLHS, the blood is unable to travel through the two left chambers of the heart and into the aorta to go around the body because of the blocked (or absent) mitral valve. In the womb, there are bypass systems which mean the blood can still get to the aorta, but these close shortly after birth and so without surgery, babies with HLHS will die.

The surgery for children with HLHS is done in three stages and effectively replumbs the heart so that the right hand side of the heart is able to pump the blood around the body and then it travels to the lungs under its own pressure before returning to the heart to be pumped around the body again. Basically the right hand side of the heart is doing all the work. Children with HLHS effectively only have half a working heart.

In Jessica’s case, her anatomy was further complicated by her having a restrictive atrial septum which meant that the prognosis was particularly poor. We were initially told that post-birth surgery was very unlikely to be successful – thankfully we were offered in-utero surgery to open up Jessica’s atrial septum and give her a chance of being able to have surgery after birth.

Parenting from a special Perspective: Little Hearts Big Love

6. What are the biggest challenges facing your child and your family?

On a daily basis, the biggest challenge for Jessica is energy levels. Her oxygen levels run at about 80% and she can get breathless and tired quite easily. She also gets cold easily (which causes her to go quite blue) and this is particularly noticeable when we take her swimming (she needs a wetsuit to help keep her warm). Minor illnesses can also hit her hard – coughs, colds and sick bugs have all been known to result in a hospital admission. Thankfully most of the time though she is well and happy and over the last couple of years hospital admissions have been few and far between.

In the immediate future, the biggest challenge facing Jessica is her next open-heart surgery – the third of the three procedures that replumb her heart. We don’t yet know when this will take place, although it may well be before she starts school in September.

7. What has been the greatest help for you, your child and your family in overcoming these challenges?

My faith and the support of my family and friends. Knowing that there are so many people out there who have been thinking of us and praying for Jessica during all the hospital admissions and surgeries has helped immensely.

8. What has surprised you the most about raising a child with HLHS?

How normal family life is most of the time. All the little everyday things that once I barely dared to dream of are a reality. I’ve also been surprised about how much joy I have found in the journey because of being forced to live in the moment. It’s made me appreciate the little things even more and enjoy them because I really don’t know what tomorrow will bring.

9. What’s the main bit of/the best advice you’d give another parent who has a child with HLHS?

Connect with other heart families – knowing that you are not alone on the journey helps immensely and having others to be able to talk to during the tough times is invaluable. Focus on the here and now and don’t let the fear of tomorrow rob you of the joy of today, but at the same time know that it is okay to fall apart when it all feels too much. Let others help ease the load where they can.

10. Generally, what have you learnt about parenting, life, people or children from your experiences as a parent of a child with additional needs?

That people cope with these kinds of things not because they are superhuman, but because they have to. It is amazing how strong you can be when you have no choice but to be strong.

Louise's blog; Little hearts big love shares reflections on life as a heart family as well as posts about normal everyday family life, days out, crafts and reviews. She hosts two regular linkies – From the Mouths of Babes each Monday which is all about sharing the things kids say and Heart to Heart on the 15th of each month where heart families can link up posts.

Thank you very much to Louise for taking part in the series. I love how she shows strength and sensitivity at the same time and particularly loved her final paragraph, it is so true!

Liked this post then check out more in the series here. 

My Sunday Photo

10 July 2016

Silent Sunday One Photo no words 

Like this photograph then follow the rest of my photography series here.

Autiquotes: Quotes about Autism

9 July 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.

What makes a good teacher?

8 July 2016

Dear friend,

The holidays are here, that's it another school year crossed off, my 21st to be precise. I looked it up out of curiosity and because I was saying goodbye to my current school. I was shocked to discover that this was indeed my 21st year in teaching. Should there be some kind of medal or party? Perhaps I should be celebrating but all I feel at the moment is dispirited...

Over the years I have had the privilege to work with some great teachers and I am happy to say that my boys have had brilliant teachers this year. But what makes a good teacher?

I can look it up on google and I can find a list of qualities. I can search for the criteria that school inspectors use. I can even look to the American's for inspiration courtesy of the Washington post. And I agree with what they are saying...

Teacher's need:
  • Passion
  • Knowledge
  • Understanding
  • Great organisation
  • The ability to be reflective etc etc

The list can be literally endless and of course it is also dependent on your viewpoint.

What Makes a Good Teacher in 2016 Infographic

Find more education infographics on e-Learning Infographics

But to me the answer is simple... A good teacher - knows their kids.

A good teacher is passionate and driven because they want to do the best for their pupils, they know them, understand what makes them tick and how they can learn. In short they care...

I pour my heart into my job. I always have done. Over the last few years I have worked part-time as I wanted to be with my family but also didn't want to let go of a career that I loved.

When I ventured into part-time work I immediately felt judged by some people; because I was a mum who worked part-time they assumed that I wouldn't care so much or put in as much effort. If anything this attitude made me work harder. I still wanted needed to be a good teacher!

It is so important that people feel valued, particularly in a job like teaching where, let's face it, most of us do this for the love and passion, not for the money or rewards. Yes, I know some people may say; First you need to value yourself... But one kind word or positive bit of praise can make a massive difference!

I have been blessed to work with some amazing teachers over the last 21 years. It is a pity that we must wait until the end of a school year, the end of a job or the end of a career to show our appreciation and tell people how we really feel.

The fondest goodbyes for me were from colleagues who spoke from the heart, telling me how I had helped them and that I'd be missed and the colleague who wrote a special poem that made me cry. I didn't want to be told I'd worked hard, I know that! I wanted to know I'd made a difference to children and colleagues, I'd made an impact...

My favourite moments in this school have been when I walked into a classroom and a child shouted; Yes it's Catie time! The surprise e-mail from a father who attended one of my lessons and felt compelled to write and tell me how much fun it was and how much he had learned. The note from a parent that simply said; Thank you for loving my son...

It is the people that make our lives special and that make schools amazing places. It is not how many boxes we have ticked, projects we have completed or meetings we have attended. For me, the people will always come first!

The best teachers teach from the heart not from the book...

Weekly Roundup #26

Dear friend,

Welcome to my weekly roundup an opportunity to look back at the moments that have made our week extra special. I love the saying: Enjoy the little things in life because one day you'll look back and realise they were the big things... This post enables me to focus on the little things and see that even in the difficult weeks there is always something to be thankful for. I love capturing the ordinary moments and special times with my camera, looking at our life through a lens gives me a clearer perspective.

IG Roundup from this week

Weekly Roundup 26

Is technology giving parents a false sense of safety?

6 July 2016

Dear friend,

We've run into something this week and hubby has done his typical shrugging of shoulder and it's no big deal whilst Ive started over thinking... I need your advice!

The big lad has a phone. It is an old one from Papa. He is almost ten and regularly goes off to play at friends homes after school. (We all live close together.) Initially the mums had an app group and we would app each other but that didn't always work. I wanted to be able to contact my son and know exactly where he was so we gave him a phone for his safety. So far this set up has worked (as long as he remembers to take the phone) and we have been happy with it. He picks up when we ring and apps if he wants anything. All good, hurray for technology helping us to keep our son safe!

Other friends have phones too of course and there is an app group for his class. He shared with me a "strange" (his words) conversation via app. One girl had asked, "Why is he in the app group?" Thankfully another child had answered, "Why shouldn't he be in the group? He is in our class too." A couple of others had responded with, "Yeh".

It shocked me... It made me feel unsafe had we opened him up to bullying? Whilst I thought I was protecting my son by handing him technology have I actually exposed him to something far more dangerous. It made me feel uncomfortable!

A couple of nights later I checked big lads phone. Hubby told me off but I totally disagreed, arguing that; we need to be aware of what is happening, Cyber bullying is real (but feeling slightly stupid as I said it!)

Cyber Bullying is: willful and repeated harm inflicted through the use of computers, cell phones, and other electronic devices. There were 7,296 counselling sessions with young people who talked to ChildLine about online bullying and safety last year.

That is a worrying statistic...

There wasn't anything to report! I was overthinking, over analysing again...But it kept going around and around my head...bringing that uncomfortable feeling back.

That same week, Little Man came home from school all excited because one of the boys had said he could join their clan... he is playing Clash Royale on the iPad a lot at the moment. He asked me to help him with finding his friends clan and help him join (they are 7!). We sent a request and a boy from his class accepted him but then another rejected him.

Why had this child rejected my son? Doesn't this child want him to take part?  How dare he exclude my son? Is he being bullied? Do I speak with the parents/school? So many questions flew through my brain at a million miles an hour...

This happened whilst Little man was sitting next to me on the sofa in .our house... He wasn't upset, more confused. Hubby shrugged his shoulders (again) but I was left feeling really annoyed, worried and unsafe...

Later on he showed me the comments (you can chat with clan members) one boy had said, "That is Little Man." (he uses a gamer name) and another replied, "F***! You don't mean that!" I was shocked... Maybe he hadn't recognised his name but I still felt uncomfortable with the language. Did his parents know?

Is technology giving parents a false sense of safety?

Technology means I am raising kids in a world very different to the one that I was brought up in. A world where children can play together without seeing each other...

But have children changed?

Kids fall out, kids disagree, they don't always get on, they say and do mean things but now they have a forum to do it on/through... It feels... dangerous...Do kids really consider the lasting impact their words can have and the wide audience it can reach?

I spoke with my brother about this (his kids are teenagers) he told me that teenagers are engaging on social media (his aren't yet) and there have been some incidents at their school of people sending naked pictures of themselves and pictures of private parts. Do these children think about the long term future? These pictures could crop up again and again.

I don't think the answer is to take technology away... do you?

What is the answer?

I will continue monitoring my kids phones, tablets etc and online playing for the foreseeable future but I will also continue to trust them to tell me if something happens. Like it or not my kids are growing up and in an ever changing world filled with technology. I need to trust that I have given them strong enough roots to grow...

Ironic really that the technology that we are using to communicate is forcing us to communicate more with our children. I want my boys to feel confident that they can tell me anything... We will be having another chat about staying safe online. Will you?

What would you do?

Why is it so hard to say goodbye?

5 July 2016

Dear friend,

This week I leave work. It was a difficult decision but overall the right one for me. Whilst the professional Catie wants to leave on a positive note and not burn any Bridges. Sassy lady Catie would love to get a few things off her chest...  I must admit to several Miranda Hart style moments where I've allowed my imagination to run away with itself. It put me in mind of my fabulous nana who lived to the amazing age of 93. That woman was an inspiration and in her later years was known for her forthrightness, once telling me my new ornaments looked like someone from the holocaust! (I've never looked at willow tree the same ever again.) How liberating must it be to say what you really think, not tiptoeing around others, no worrying about consequences...

Making any change is hard and having to say goodbye to my colleagues and friends after nine years has left me feeling unsettled with my emotions running high. After the beginning of the year seeming to drag on and on like the insides of the clock had been filled with treacle, the final part of this year has zoomed past leaving me stunned, trying desperately to tie up loose ends so I can enjoy the final moments with my wonderful pupils...

Although I am ready to move on, the reality of what it actually means has been creeping into my psyche over the last few weeks...

This change signifies the end of an era professionally and personally. I started my time here as a new mum, a mum who wanted needed to be with her son, but also needed to work, I carried my second son in my belly, shared heartaches and successes and settled into a foreign country that grew into my home. I am very grateful that I found a job that enabled me to work part-time to fit around my family, that brought us a steady income, good friends and gave me a sense of purpose when I needed it.

Even if you know what's coming, you're never prepared for how it feels...

I am ready to move on but there it is again, my heart jumping... The unspoken fear that I have hidden away that I am struggling to verbalise when my husband asks if I'm OK, that is making tears Spring to my eyes when I watch heart warming moments on TV or look at my sons cuddling. Am I actually ready for this next chapter. Am I ready to shut the door on the baby years. To be a working mum instead of a mum that works. Will I get the work/life balance right? Will my kids be happy? Will I? 

The reality is that I need to accept the start of a new chapter, accept that my boys are growing up and that times for us are changing. I am no longer that knackered, new mum, my boys are older, more independent and have their own social lives and a daddy who is home for them after school. They don't need me as much so I need to stop feeling guilty and adapt with the time. Time for me to be Working mum, doing something I love, providing them with a strong female role model and helping to support my family financially, enabling us to do more...

Making a big change is pretty scary but you know what is even more scary? Regret...

Change is always challenging and rarely comes with easy acceptance.  But I know that if I don't take this chance I will look back with regret. It's time to say goodbye. Goodbye to my colleagues, goodbye to my pupils and goodbye to a wonderful chapter of my life...

Why is it so hard to say goodbye?

My Sunday Photo

3 July 2016

Silent Sunday One Photo no words 

Like this photograph then follow the rest of my photography series here.

30 Days Wild Dutch Style

2 July 2016

Dear friend,

During the last month we have taken part in 30 days live. An initiative from the Wildlife Trusts to get families enjoying and connecting with nature but most of all spending time together. It sounded right up our street. We love getting out and about and exploring our local environment. 

I was worried that we may not be able to join in because we are based in Holland but never one to be deterred I investigated further. The challenge was all about making time for nature in your life and having fun and when I contacted the Wildlife Trust they were really happy to have us on board...

30 Days Wild Dutch Style: Week 4

June Roundup

1 July 2016

Dear friends,

Welcome to my monthly roundup an opportunity to look back at the ordinary moments that have made our month extra special. It is so easy to take for granted people, places and things and this look back really helps me to appreciate their importance and rejoice in the everyday memories we are making together...

Latest Instagrams

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