The secret to being a brilliant blogger...

24 August 2016

Dear blogger,

I recently had a massive blogfidence crisis. I lost my blogging mojo after reading somewhere that blogger statistics were rubbish. To my dismay I found out that, unless you opt out, blogger records your page views and previews too. And seen as I rather obsessively look at my blog around a million times a day (joke, although probably not far off) my stats were certainly a bit skewed!

Focusing on the Analytics made Diary of an imperfect mum, feel and look like a totally different blog to the one I thought I had (although I was looking and comparing users to page views initially, which didn't help the matter.) It was a huge disappointment to say the least and got me thinking. What is the secret to being a brilliant blogger? Am I missing something? So I did some research...

The Secret to being a brilliant blogger...

1. Be Consistent: 
I have a schedule. I write about my family, parenting and autism and I hope my readers know what to expect and they will come back.
2. Build a loyal following: more often called find your tribe. 
I am massively grateful for all of the wonderful tribal chat ladies who have offered me so much support, are always there with a positive comment and who have been so instrumental in making #ablogginggoodtime such a success. 
3. Grow your social media channels.
I am definitely not a marketing/sales person. My social media is improving but I am by no means an overnight success.

4. Engage Your Audience.
I hope that this comes through my writing and the replies to comments made on the blog and through social media engagement too. I always put effort into my comments. But it is sometimes hard to find time to be as engaged as I'd like and I have had to leave some groups lately because I needed to focus more on my son's needs.
5. Network!
I guest blog, join linkies, join Twitter chats, comment on and share posts. 
6. Make your blog easy to navigate. 
I hope my blog is easy to navigate. Let me know if it isn't please! 
7. Find your voice.
I am unapologetically me! I write with passion and honesty. I am aware that my blog can be seen as niche as I often write about our experiences with autism. 
8. Concentrate on growth.
I know this is something I need to work on. (Why I downloaded Analytics in the first place.) But in all honesty I have no idea what any of this means or more importantly what I should do with this information anyway. 

Reflecting on my blog hadn't really helped so caught up in the middle of this crisis of confidence, what did I do? I contacted my blogging best buddy Katie and had a major meltdown! I think my behaviour could be likened to a toddler throwing all of his toys out of the crib. It wasn't pretty or funny or carefully considered and even included a threat to pack it all in. What I didn't expect was the response...
A brilliantly written, heart warming, loving post to tell me that I do matter... A post that showed me that yes my words do have an impact, that my writing has made a difference to her. (Yes it did make me cry!) The post got so many fabulous comments with many bloggers saying they also questioned their impact at times. So is this something most seasoned blogger's experience?  Perhaps this is why most blogs don't last beyond 2 years (a milestone my little space in the blogosphere is rapidly approaching).

Another brilliant blogging friend Lisa, who is a seasoned blogger and has seen many bloggers come and go since she started her brilliant blog mrssavagevangel. contacted me after reading Katie's post and made an excellent point. Was it my success/lack of it that was the problem or my expectations? She told me that we are writers not marketing people...perhaps it wasn't my content but the other stuff I needed to reasses.

I needed to get my mojo back but how? I went back to my own writing to  remind myself why I started fell in love with 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. 

Blogging is inspiring. One of the best things for me has been discovering a world that I never knew existed. A community of people who are willing to share their personal experiences, advice and expertise to help and support others. What a great community.

Blogging is social. Being an expat can be a really lonely experience. I have left behind my best friends and relocated to a place where language is a barrier and culture can be confusing. I have found a way to connect with like minded people. I am making new friends.

Blogging is therapy. It is my way of figuring out life's little difficulties and challenges. But it has grown from that original purpose and has become my own, small way, of raising acceptance of difference. The thing is, the more I write, the more I realise, it is my son who is teaching me.

Blogging is cathartic. On here I can say whatever I think and not feel judged. I can get everything out in the open and not worry about hurting people's feelings. I can be imperfect!

Somewhere along the line, in the hurry to be a big  blogger I lost my focus, I lost my way...I became too focused on the mechanics...the schedules, the tips and tricks to increase followers, the Klout scores, the back follows, the blogging charts etc Instead of seeing the amazing supportive friendships I've made, the beautiful, inspiring comments I receive and the feeling of peace that finding my voice has given me.

The secret to being a brilliant blogger is simple. Write the blog that you want to write and be the blogger that you want to be! 

Being mama...

23 August 2016

Dear Friends,

I have been kindly nominated for the mummy tag by the lovely Laura over at Adventures with J. The rules for this one are simple, answer the questions and then tag two more mummies to take part. It has taken me ages to do this with holidays, work etc etc I am so sorry Laura. When I first saw this tag I thought it was better suited to mummies of younger kids so I have done a bit of adapting along the way... I hope you enjoy learning a bit more about me from the answers.

I work part-time. I initially worked 2 days a week and now I work 3 although I finish at 2p.m. on Wednesday. I work as a primary school teacher and children in Holland are free on Wednesday afternoon.

If we won the lottery I'd happily stay at home to be honest but I do love my job!

My boys are 7 & 10 so no. But we love a sleep over when papa is away and will all climb into mama's big bed. The boys have their own bedrooms but choose to sleep together in one room in a bunk bed.

An electronic device as sometimes the big lad needs to retreat into his electronic world when the sensory input is too much for him. Or a box of top trump cards can keep my two busy for ages!

3 but after a big scare when I was pregnant with little man we stopped at two. We had many extra scans and check-ups as little mans heart was thought to be bigger than normal. It was a very scary time!

Not often enough... But we have sofa picnics all the time at home that is our relaxing time. When we do go out it is normally for a meal. We socialise a lot with our neighbours/friends, we have BBQs together and dinner parties.

The boys love Pokemon of course and watch anything on Cartoon Network or Disney Channel. CBeebies is long gone (thank goodness) but used to be on all the time and the big lad had a bit of a Bob the Builder obsession...

A furby! Little man went mad for one and he has never touched it. Lego- I know most kids love it but not my two!

Little man sausages and big lad pizza - we are very healthy!

One. But I also have a scooter, a lovely pink one... We live in Holland.

No idea I don't own scales. I am about a size larger than before my boys were born.

Last year we stayed in a 5 star hotel in Turkey, it had a great kids program and we had an amazing time. I like to relax and read and sunbathe and hubby can't sit still so we need somewhere that can satisfy us both... I like to visit places with history.

Everything has changed. Simply put my kids come first...

Next, Vingino, Tumble Dry, Name-it...

I see my boys together, laughing, talking, playing just being together. They are inseparable!

I can't go out without my eye-liner and mascara on! But I am not a slave to products. I do swear by Nivea cold cream, my nana used it and she had the most beautiful skin!

I never really questioned it. I just always accepted I would...

Unconditional Love...

I don't want my sons to be heroes...

19 August 2016

Dear man at the beach,

If I wanted your advice I would have asked for it. If it wasn't bad enough that my son was jumped on by a dog and chased around shocked and scared you choose to attack me too...

Did you think it was a good time to step in with your excellent advice? Are you a child behaviour expert or just an interfering knob head? Do you even have kids?

None of this actually matters. You don't matter, neither does your opinion. All that mattered to me at that moment was comforting my frightened son and making him feel safe. 

You don't know me or my son. You have no idea who we are, how we tick. What if my son had been attacked previously by a dog? What if he had special needs (as it happens it wasn't my autistic son who was shocked.) Would you have reacted the same?

At first I thought you were showing sympathy but no... according to you by comforting my son, I was making it worse, making him frightened of dogs. As I understand it (you were speaking quickly and angrily in Dutch at the time) he needs toughening up...

At this point I was like a goldfish gulping for air and conscious that my autistic son was now looking very stressed at this man talking loudly to his mum. (Loud talking makes him very nervous.) So I muttered something about; What are you talking about? We have a dog ourselves, he's not frightened of dogs...and walked away quickly!

But then I mulled over what you said all the way home and all afternoon it went round and round my head. Stupid really as I imagine I haven't crossed your mind once. Maybe verbally attacking vulnerable women with children is a regular occurrence for you? Having my parenting skills questioned thankfully isn't a regular occurrence for me.

I wish I could see you again to ask. Would you have reacted in that way if he had been a girl?

Why is it that my son must be a hero, a tough guy, why must he hide his emotions and not show fear. Why shouldn't I comfort him?

I am raising my son to be a loving, kind, caring human being who is not afraid to express his feelings. He is sensitive and thoughtful and wants nothing more than to be a clown because they make people happy. I am proud of the person he is becoming...

I do not need/want to toughen up my son. Why should I? Does it make him more of a man?

I suppose that depends on your view of what a man is.

Let me tell you that he is already becoming the kind of man that I admire, who will make a difference to others, will treat his partner with respect, be a strong yet caring father, who will spread happiness and laughter, wonder and fun wherever he goes...

I hope you heard our conversation as we walked away. I told him not to listen to the silly, big, tough man. I told him never to hide his feelings. I told him it was normal to be shocked and scared when a dog jumps up at you... I told him he was OK and I held his hand until he was confident enough to go off and play.

A boy does not have to act like a super hero to be a man... My boys are my heros they make me proud every day simply by being themselves... 

So man at the beach take your advice and stick it where the sun doesn't shine!

Book Corner: The Night Pirates

15 August 2016

As a Primary School teacher I recognise the value and importance of reading with your children. We have a house full of children's books and each month we choose one of our favourites to review. This month I choose:

The Night Pirates by Peter Harris & Deborah Allwright

This months exciting adventure of a tale is a very special book from Peter Harris and Deborah Allwright called The Night Pirates. We have had this book in our library at home for a couple of years now but it remains one of our regular reads. It is the perfect bedtime story for any young pirates in the making...

Meet Tom, he is tucked up in bed one night when shadows begin to creep down the bedroom wall - his imagination races as to what they could be but oh no it isn't monsters or trolls... It's pirates!

Parenting from a special Perspective: Autism Mumma

8 August 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 Jeanette. 

Hi, I'm Jeannette and I'm from Berkshire, U.K.  I started blogging 4 years ago when I realised it helped me to "blog it out" when days weren't so good.  Other people's blogs had helped me and I wanted to pay it foward as it were.  
The blog has helped me through diagnosis of my second child with autism, my depression and battling some inner demons, we do have some lighter moments too!! 

1. When did you first realise your children have autism?

I started child minding when my daughter (D) was 18 months old, it became apparent that she differed in progress from her similar aged peers, they'd be chattering away and playing and I'd started to wonder and investigate autism.
She was diagnosed at 4.5 years and it wasn't a surprise, more of a relief that she'd receive support in nursery.  I did go through a grieving period for the child she wouldn't grow up to be but that was very quickly replaced by a passion to understand more about autism and try and increase some awareness and acceptance out there.

Her brother (T) is 18 months older and we knew that he was also displaying some traits, he was also 2-3 years ahead of his peers and again, as he grew older, his mannerisms and traits were setting him apart from his peers, although he is very good at masking emotion during the day.  T was diagnosed with high functioning autism at age 10.5 as, by then, we realised that, should he need any support in secondary school - which was looking fast - he needed a "label" by way of a diagnosis.

Parenting from a special Perspective: Autism Mumma

T is now 13.5 and D is 12 on 20th May.

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

As above, I almost grieved at first but then became determined to try and change the perceptions of others for them.

3. Where did you first turn for help? 

The nursery school D was at.  I found authorities very unhelpful, they didn't see her as an individual, more a budget figure.

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

To seek out other parents and speak to them.  Professionals who've studied autism are no match for those who live with someone on the spectrum.
Trust your instincts and act on them.  If you suspect that your child is struggling in an environment, despite being told that everything is "fine", act on it.

Don't be afraid to ask for help or advice.

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

I knew of autism before D was diagnosed as I'd had my suspicions.  The traits she was showing all made sense once I'd researched the condition.

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

Acceptance from others.  Because neither D or T look autistic, it is tricky if we're out and they become uncomfortable.
We haven't had a family holiday for years because they prefer their own environment.
I never "switch off" and that has been detrimental to my health.
My biggest worry is the future, they are children with autism who will grow into adults with autism, they won't be "cured" but they will hopefully learn to cope more with the challenging environments that they'll encounter.

Parenting from a special Perspective: Autism Mumma

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

Talking to other parents.

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

That in the right environment they can flourish.
When D was diagnosed, they couldn't tell me if she'd read or write and she was overwhelmed by a mainstream environment.

She now reads anything and everything! Writing is still a challenge but she has achieved far more than I ever envisaged.
Her SN school has provided wonderful opportunities, I'm so glad she's in the right environment, for her.

Also, that my children are so similar but very different.  For example, D will cuddle, cuddle and cuddle, the tighter the better and is very affectionate, T doesn't like cuddles or any contact, he'll put his head onto an arm or shoulder and that's as far as it goes.

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

Trust your instincts and don't be afraid to seek help or guidance from others.  Appreciate your child for the individual they are and focus on what they can do, not what they can't.

Parenting from a special Perspective: Autism Mumma

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 no two days are the same, which is strange considering my children require a routine! That a diagnosis can be a positive if it means that support can now be sought.

Jeanette blogs over at Autism Mummaand started out as purely a parenting blog, but she now finds it helps to journey her wellbeing and battling some inner demons! 

Thank you very much to Jeanette for taking part in the series.  Jeanette's brilliant blog was one of the first autism blogs I ever read and I am over the moon that she agreed to take part in my virtual interview series!

Spectacle wearer of the year!

2 August 2016

Dear friends,

I have been wearing glasses daily for over 2 years. It started as an attempt to help lessen or stop my migraines. Although my prescription is not strong, I have got used to wearing them and can't go a day without my glasses now. So when Catherine from got in touch asking if I would like to work with them on a product review I jumped at the chance.

Now to me glasses frames are a bit like shoes or handbags are to some people, I love trying on new glasses. But I don't own loads of frames and tend to stick to the same pair. My imagination carried me away (picture the shopping scene in pretty woman but only with glasses). I'd love to have a different pair to go with each outfit but unfortunately I don't have a celebrity sized bank account. I often have celebrity glasses  envy. Now who should I look to for inspiration?

4 celebrities wearing glasses. Jennifer Aniston, Eva Longoria, Kate Beckinsale and Anne Hathaway
The incredibly beautiful, Jennifer Anniston, Eva Longoria, Kate Beckinsale, and Anne Hathaway. Let's face it they would look amazing in even those really old National Health black plastic things (oh wait they are quite fashionable now!). 

The GlassesShop.Com website was really easy to navigate and I liked how you could see customer tryon pictures and also read reviews from customers.  And what a brilliant selection... I spent a happy evening browsing before I made my choice and you can even upload a picture to see how the frame would suit your face.

I must admit that I was worried about the quality of the glasses and I did ensure that I used a recent prescription to get the correct lenses. However, the company do state that their aim is to provide high quality prescription glasses with lenses of accurate prescription. It is really easy to enter your prescription details and you can also choose the type of lens you want; clear, tinted, polarised etc You can also customise your package with anti scratch and anti reflective coating .

The total cost for the frames and my prescription lenses was 35 pounds and 7 pence. A fraction of the price I paid for my last pair.

The glasses took 8 days to arrive. I was very excited to open the box. They were really well packaged.

tortoise shell glasses large round frames.

The frames are light and comfortable to wear and the lenses were perfect. I've been wearing them ever since they arrived.

The boys verdict: Mummy you look like a professor.
Hubby's verdict: They suit you well.
My Verdict: fabulous! I honestly did not expect them to be this good for that price. I am even thinking of picking up some prescription sunglasses.

Perhaps my pretty woman day dream can come true? A pair for every outfit?
Maybe I could sign myself up for spectacle wearer of the year? 😉

The glasses were gifted to me in exchange for writing this post. 

Photography @My_Dutch_Angle

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