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.


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. 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.

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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! 

Photography @My_Dutch_Angle

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