Merry Christmas

25 December 2017

One moment in time with Kerry Jordan

1 December 2017

Welcome to one moment in time, a guest posts series, where bloggers share the stories behind special or significant photographs. Welcome to Kerry Jordan from Crazy, Messy, Glorious. A huge thank you to Kerry for taking part, I love getting to know my fellow bloggers better and I love how we are going International with One Moment in Time too. It is super exciting that blogging can open the world to us like this! Now over to Kerry...

Our beach photos are my favourite. They're rare, because we don't get much beach weather here on the East Coast of Canada. The bright sunlight and uncluttered landscape is a mamarazzi dream. Also, my husband and the beach look great together. He used to be a surfer, ya know.

This photo, though. It really soothes my soul and here's why.

Our daughter was born with hip dysplasia which means that her hip joints didn't form properly during pregnancy. She had surgery at one and a half. When other kids were doing tummy time, she was in a cast from her chest down. All that worry and fuss, the scary hospital stays and the lack of mobility formed her personality. At six, we're struggling to love the surliness out of a very anxious and pessimistic little girl.

Still, it's not hard to count the blessings that came from this. Our prayers were answered and that painful time in our lives was brief. Our daughter's legs are just about normal now and she's active and plays sports as well as other kids her age. Seeing anxiety take over all our lives pushed me to get help to face my generalized anxiety disorder. That's life changing for all of us. Living with uncertainty, trusting that we will get through bad times, and not letting fear make decisions for us are all lessons that my husband and I took from this experience. The number one thing that grew out of all this was our compassion. We're learning to love ourselves and each other when it's hard.

When I look at this photo, besides being thankful that our daughter can walk on the beach, I'm struck by the symbolism. Standing on an endless expanse of shifting sand and water, Daddy and daughter practice tossing a big yellow happy face. She catches it. It's awkward and she staggers forward, before heaving it back with all she's got. It's about giving and taking. It's deliberate, not effortless at all. Every time she throws the ball, Daddy has to chase that happy face and bring it back before the waves carry it away. When she throws that ball and we catch it, oh the joy! Such a simple thing, yet so heavy with grace and love.

You can read more from Kerry at: BlogTwitterPinterest.

How to reduce Christmas stress

22 November 2017

Dear friend,

Our rose tinted memories of wonderful Christmases past, often lead to unrealistic expectations. We get caught up in the need for a perfect tree, perfect dinner, perfect presents etc all contributing to an overwhelming feeling of stress. Christmas takes a lot of work. 

Just mention the word Christmas in October and you can will see some people visibly wince. According to the Stress Management Society, one in 20 people considers Christmas more stressful than a burglary, and over half of Britons will have had an alcoholic drink before lunch on Christmas day – to try to cope with the stress.

There are many demands on your time but remember that it is your holiday too. It is completely reasonable that parents want to relax and enjoy being in the moment with their family. After all isn't that what Christmas is all about?

Talk: Make sure that you have conversations with your family and friends about everyone’s expectations of Christmas well in advance. That way you can make compromises that suit everyone. Don't be frightened to say; NO!

Planning: Be careful not to plan too much!
Advent calendars can help kids with the lead up to Christmas and we also use a month calendar with key events noted so that we can cross off the days.

Parties: Christmas parties and extended time with family and friends is special and should be treasured but some children may need support.
Encourage children to socialise initially but have a survival kit to take with you. (This could include a book, music, computer game/ipad, drawing pad and pens) Give your child a timescale e.g. We will leave at 8, but be prepared to leave earlier if necessary.

Decorations: Don’t go overboard on decorations: keep them out of kids bedrooms entirely.
If you are away for Christmas (hello my EXPAT readers) then why not focus on one area of your home or on one thing e.g. the tree.

No Bribery: Remember some kids take things very literally: Autistic parents do not have the advantage of 'neurotypical' parents who can use an element of blackmail to ensure their kids are good before Christmas. The big lad had a lot of stress around being good (as in his eyes he hadn't been good enough) and this lead to several sleepless nights. Many 'neurotypical' kids also find this pressure too much.

Routine: Stick to your normal routine as much as possible. Try to build in some quiet time before bed. But be prepared that kids may not be able to sleep on Christmas Eve, relax the rules a little and let them stay up a bit later.

Shopping: Set a budget and stick to it! Take a list and check off as you go along.
If you hate the Christmas rush then the kids will, leave them at home with a friend/relative.

Gift giving: The anticipation of a day when you get lots of new stuff can be totally overwhelming. Some children find it too stressful having presents under the tree and some children find too many presents overwhelming. Writing letters or making wish lists helps. You can also stagger your present opening. Set up some gifts so that they are ready to play with.

Food: A traditional Christmas dinner is a lot of work and many people are choosing to eat out or eat on Christmas Eve instead so Christmas day is free to relax. Why not share the work by asking guests to bring a dish?

Exercise: Get out of the house. Exercise reduces stress and keeps family strife to a minimum.

Relatives: We all have those annoying relatives who were obviously perfect parents. Nod and smile sweetly, or better still change the subject when they start to give you advice. Say, Can you excuse me for a minute, walk away and don't look back...


Have a stress free Christmas!

One Moment in Time with Amy from Mothers Mind

1 November 2017

Welcome to one moment in time, a guest posts series, where bloggers share the stories behind special or significant photographs. Thank you to Amy from Mothers Mind for joining me this month. 

This photo is probably one of the most precious things I own, it is the last photo taken of my Dad before he passed away. This was Father’s Day 2008; my Dad had just returned from golf and was putting together the bird table I had bought him. The bird table now has pride of place in my own garden.

When this photo was taken my Dad was being treated for Pancreatic Cancer, he was 6 months into a palliative care plan that seemed to be effective, the tumours were shrinking and his pain was under control. I can remember the conversation in the garden when this photo was taken - we were waiting for my sister, her husband and their 3-month old daughter to arrive, my parents were making plans for a holiday in September, talking about going to Spain to stay in a friend’s apartment.

We had hope.

Less than five weeks later my Dad passed away.

My love for this photo is not just because it’s the last one taken of my Dad, it’s because it captured a moment of hope during the darkest of times.

Thank you so much Amy for sharing such a deeply personal story with us and I just loved your beautiful message of hope!

You can read more from Amy here...

Kon Mari your mind - What Sparks Mental Joy?

18 October 2017

Dear friend,

The last month has been a struggle. Dealing with my mental load has left me floundering. My outward image of calmness and control has started to crack and snappy, anxious mummy has appeared.

We are constantly sold the ideal of a happy mummy making for a happy home, well perhaps they were right after all because my big lad has also had a month filled with struggles and anxiety. Sometime I wonder, does he feed off me or do I feed off him? I am sure that my personal happiness is linked to his. (Read this fab post from my blogging buddy Hayley at Mission Mindfulness: A parent is only as happy as their unhappiest child). My mental load has increased significantly with my worries about my autistic son.

I recently convinced my friend to Kon Mari her wardrobe. I heard myself explaining to her how it made me feel, lighter afterwards. It lead to a light bulb moment. Why not Kon Mari my mind?

For those of you who don't know; Kon Mari is a home organisation method created by Mari Kondo; "The life changing magic of tidying up." The method involves taking everything out of your wardrobe and placing it on the floor. You then need to look at it and think - Does it spark joy? If yes keep it and if no, donate, sell or throw it away. This method sparked a home organisation craze with the book becoming a number one best seller.

What if I applied Kon Mari to my mental load?

Kon Mari your mind:   

In a bid to organise my mind I started with a list of the main things affecting my mental load; Family, Friends, Home, Work, Blog. I then asked myself; What sparks joy?

Family: My number one joy sparker. I certainly don't plan on giving away either of my boys and hubby can stay (as long as he keeps doing some washing - joke). It is clear that big lad really needs my support at the moment and that has to be my priority. I need mental space to deal with this properly.

Friends: This is a part of my life that I am really guilty of neglecting but that can bring me the most joy. I definitely need to try and make more time to do things with my friends, or just to call my UK friends more.

Home: I hate housework but it needs to be done! But like many mums I know I do tend to take on too much and then feel resentful. I have decided to delegate some of the home responsibilities. I have made chore charts for everyone to share the load. I have started doing my housework to music too as music is a real joy sparker for me and it seems to go much quicker!

Work: I love some elements of my work and not others (I think it is the same for most people). I am learning to say no and to work smarter. 

Blog: Blogging is my hobby but my blog has grown beyond belief so taking a look at what on my blog sparks joy for me has been a real eyeopener. This is where I have made the most changes because I had fallen into the trap of doing what I thought was required to be a 'Good blogger' instead of being driven by my passion. I have let go of several posts/series and will be posting less. It feels gratifying to get back to what really matters to me; raising awareness of autism and supporting my blogging colleagues. 

I need more mental space and more time, to be able to give my son the support he needs and to be a calm and happy mummy.

Using the Kon Mari principle to declutter my mind has been a very positive experience. We all have busy lives, responsibilities and demands placed on us but it is good for your health to ask yourself, what really makes your soul happy. Why don't you give it a go?

What sparks your joy?

One Moment in Time with Petite Words

6 October 2017

Welcome to one moment in time, a guest posts series, where bloggers share the stories behind special or significant photographs. This week's featured blogger is a blogging buddy of mine, a fabulous illustrator and writer who always makes the blogging world more beautiful, Charlotte from Petite Words.

I rarely share sad experiences, mostly because I feel when something upsetting happens, it’s usually good not to dwell on it. However, some experiences aren’t just remembered for being sad, they are also very poignant moments in our lives. And this is one of them.

2 years ago was one of the worst days of my life: my wedding day.

Most women spend years planning every detail of their special day: the white dress, the gorgeous venue, fine tuning every last frill and canapé.

But for me, our wedding was just an essential task that needed to be completed, ipso facto a way to insure my partner and I could continue life together, because, yes the world really is that cruel. Anyway, to cut a long story short my husband is Colombian, I’m British, we met in China. And so, the government don’t care how beautiful your love is, if you haven’t got money to throw at an immigration problem, it’s a brick wall.

So, some time later off we flew to Hong Kong to get married. We had just enough money for 3 nights in a beach hotel, on a tiny island next to Hong Kong, Llama island; a bump of tropical trees, expats and frogs. You might be thinking, wow, what an adventure and that’s what I thought too! We’d made the very brave decision to forfeit anything remotely weddingy. We would have no reception, no white dress, no guests, just us and we would just do what we had to do, in the hope that a few years down the line we could have a real wedding celebration back in the U.K with our families.

The day started off as surreal as you’d expect. Breakfast looking out to sea, we didn’t talk much, but I tried my best to feel happy thought quite frankly, we were lonely. We missed our families, we missed the celebration of it all. We were both awash with emotions and somewhere between the cava and the getting glammed up, everything fell apart. My husband was stressed I had told him the registry office is pretty casual and that he wouldn’t need a jacket. But now he regretted not bringing one and had a massive superman without his cape moment. The wedding was in 2 hours and now he was devising a plan to head into central HK to buy a jacket and then meet me at the registry office. My husband has no harry potter time turner and is quite possibly the worst time keeper in the universe. So, fearing he’d be hours late for his OWN wedding and that I’d be stood there like a bridal lemon, I tried to talk him out of it.

But, with emotions already stretched, it all began to unravel and the arguments began. Screaming, shouting, our love letters and wedding gifts to each other, torn up, thrown around the room. My face, that had been perfectly made up, was now a mess of tears and smudges. I collapsed on the bed, sobbing, why was this happening to us? The rest was a blur. We bellowed at each other for what felt like hours and then, a reality check… we were already late for the ferry which would take us to the registry office and the final one was leaving in 10 minutes.

To wed or not to wed, that was the question…..

Then there was silence, and the next thing I know, we picked ourselves up. There was no time for fresh makeup, no time to get dressed, so I threw on my shorts and stuffed my bag with makeup, my dress, shoes, rings. And we ran. We ran for our wedding, we ran because we didn’t know what else to do. Through the bustling streets with men selling lobster and expats enjoying beers in the sunshine, our faces bathed in sweat, 38′ heat and we’re running, literally sprinting. My stick on bra, which stood so firm before, was now far from doing it’s job. (F.Y.I stick on bras don’t react well to humidity).

And we made it. And here in ferry bathroom I tried to piece myself back together, covering my blotchy cheeks with concealer, placing the flowers back in my hair, applying lipstick to my smile-less mouth. I was not a shining bride, but I was there.

We sat, bobbing up and down on the ferry, looking at each other painfully, our love so unsettled, we just didn’t know what we were doing. Most people would have taken a epic argument on their wedding day as a sign NOT to get married. I just wanted to press the restart button, have the day afresh but life is no game and we don’t have the luxury of 2nd starts. It’s go forward or go home.

In the end, 45 minutes late, with puffy eyes and frayed nerves we said ‘I do’. But not just to marriage, we said ‘I do’ to struggle, to life being difficult and accepting that real sadness is not a wedding day ruined or a disappointing moment, no, real sadness is something you can’t come back from and there were we, standing together accepting that.

After the wedding, things continued to be a nightmare, lots of ignoring each other, feeling strange and unsettled because honestly, we were both broken. I was desperate to make things normal, to push us back together but my husband, who was also hurt by the whole mess, needed time to find himself again. So we spent the following days with no smiles and lots of resentment.

Not exactly a honeymoon recipe, but isn’t that just life.

I mean, there is NO fairytale, marriage is not a dream and romantic things usually never work how you hoped. However love, if you want to put your money on anything, love is your best bet. Love IS a bit special, it’s the magic which binds life together, which makes disasters that bit more bearable and the happy days that bit more blissful. Love always wins, no matter your situation never forget that.

P.S Incase you’re wandering, my husband and I are still very much in love, have been together almost 4 years and have just had a renew wedding blessing, which was as magical as could be, read all about our WEDDING BLESSING, no stick on bra this time round and of course my husband had a kick ass jacket!

What an incredible story and I agree 100% love always wins. 

One Moment in Time with Tina Medlock

27 September 2017

Welcome to one moment in time, a guest posts series, where bloggers share the stories behind special or significant photographs. This month I am joined by the brilliant and award winning Tina Medlock who blogs at Joseph and his Amazing Spectrum Coat.

Blending two families together is hard but blending them together when one of the children has autism, could potentially bring a whole host of problems.

When my partner and I started our relationship, we were aware of the need to tread carefully with all of our children and knew that having a new partner is often difficult to accept. They recognised very early on though how much we cared for each other and that has been infectious. 

Although knowing very little about autism, my partner’s children treated Joseph as they should have; as Joseph. They did make allowances for him when appropriate; extra time to process information, considered what he would like to do when we went out and made sure it was something he could be involved in. 

Joseph has always struggled with interaction and forming relationships but my partner’s children have gradually teased it out of him. 

The first picture was taken on our first family holiday, entirely natural and instigated by Joseph. The second one was taken three years later and again capturing a natural moment. 

I look at these pictures and I see love, patience and a strong bond. So much so that Joseph now refers to them as his brother and sister without us ever saying that to him and his feelings are reciprocated.

Thank you for sharing this special moment with us Tina. I believe we can learn a lot about how to treat people from looking at how children do it. I loved this post! 

Read more from Tina here... where she describes the autism journey from diagnosis to present. It is funny, tearful and there is lots of swearing out loud.

Follow her on Twitter: ‎@JosephSpectrum  or Facebook: Joseph and his amazing spectrum coat

Book Corner: Rumble in the Jungle

13 September 2017

My Book Corner choice this month is Rumble in the Jungle by Giles Andreae and David Wojtowycz

There's a rumble in the jungle,
There's a whisper in the trees,
The animals are waking up
And rustling the leaves...

Rumble in the jungle is a great way to introduce your child to the world of the jungle and experience poetry too. This is a lovely collection of animal poems written by Giles Andreae (better known as Purple Ronnie) one of Britains best known modern poets. This books welcomes you into the jungle with a steady beat and a wealth of great rhymes and then introduces you to some of the animals like, Chimpanzees, Lions, Snakes and Giraffes. The rhythm and rhyme throughout the book will really interest your children. You can engage with the text by getting them to guess which animal will arrive next. This is a great story to read out loud. The text is complimented perfectly by the bold and colourful illustrations. My children enjoyed copying some of the pictures afterwards and the children in my class loved reading this story, we used it in a poetry unit to investigate rhyme and alliteration. Then we wrote some of our own animal poems.

This book certainly kept the children entertained with monkey's with fleas, amorous Zebras and hungry Rhinos. And the pace and rhythm with the clever rhymes make it a treat for the ears too. Our version is a board book so very robust too.

Giles Andreae is the author of many top selling award-winning picture books including Commotion in the Ocean, I Love My Mummy and the international bestseller Giraffes Can't Dance.

We throughly enjoyed reading this at home and at school (year 1) and I would highly recommend it for both.

Our rating: 9/10
Price: 5.99

10 things that make me happy

8 September 2017

Dear friends,

I love a good blogging tag and I am always really grateful when my blogging buddies nominate me for these things. A huge Thank you to the lovely Laura from Musings of a tired mum for my nomination. 

Here are the 10 things that make me happy...

1.  My dogs face at the window when we arrive home. She stands with her front paws resting on the windowsill and tail wagging. There is something magical about her excitement at seeing us, I love it!

2. The smell of home when you first open the door after a trip away. There’s nothing like it!

3. Enjoying a glass of wine with good company. I love nothing more than an evening with friends or family putting the world to rights. Even after 12 years in Holland I still really miss my best friends and love it when I return to the UK and we have a girly night out or in.

4. Singing loudly to a classic tune in the car. I once got a round of applause at the traffic lights by a group of handsome young men.

5. The sound of my sons giggle when I tickle him.

6. The Beach - it is my go to place when I need a bit of therapy.

7. Looking at old photos - I cherish the photos of my Grandma and Grandad but also love looking at the photos of my family in the 70’s and 80’s with classic perms and bell bottomed trousers. 

8. Taking photos - my love of photography really developed through blogging and whilst I remain a #PointShoot photographer I would love to do a proper course and learn how to take better shots.

9. My kids being happy - Is there anything better than seeing your kids happy?

10. Blogging - this is my space where I get to speak honestly and openly about raising a child with autism and do my small bit towards raising #autismawareness. The part that makes me happiest is the amazing comments that I receive and the thought that my small space may be helping someone to feel less alone.

Please feel free to take part in this great tag too. 
What makes you happy?

One Moment in Time with The Money Saving Mummy

6 September 2017

Welcome to one moment in time, a guest posts series, where bloggers share the stories behind special or significant photographs. This week's featured blogger is the lovely Kerryanne who bloggers at The Money Saving Mummy. Thank you so much for joining me!

This snap takes me back to the 14th May 2012. Aside from having my children it was the best day of my life. I'm not usually one for being super vain but looking at this picture reminds me just how special and loved I felt on that magical day. I've never experienced such a tangible sense of love and happiness directed at you by all those you hold close. I honestly felt that I was walking on air all day. It was a day that dreams are made of.

This type of fairytale wedding doesn't come cheap, but being the bargain hunter I am I was determined to have the wedding of our dreams at a fraction of the cost. We found the venue that is the spectacular exclusive use Clearwell Castle in Gloucestershire . It would have taken us years to save to be married in a venue like this. However getting married at short notice and on a weekday can help you secure the perfect wedding venue at a huge discount. I had 9 weeks to pull it off and a limited budget but on the day you would never know it. Would you know that the photographer was a Groupon deal? That my dress was custom made in China for little over £100? That the personalised wedding favours were purchased from Ebay?

Being savy enabled me to have the most wonderful day, one that I will never forget.

So when I'm being slummy mummy, tired with bags under my eyes, scraped back mum bun hair, clothes on that lasted clean for all of five minutes before being accessorised with grubby toddler handprints, it's nice to look back on this photo and think 'wow this was me!' and remember just how wonderful and loved I felt. It was from this love between me and the Hubs that my two darling girls were created and for that I am extremely grateful and blessed.

One Moment in time with Laura Beresford

30 August 2017

Welcome to one moment in time, a guest posts series, where bloggers share the stories behind special or significant photographs. Today I am handing over to the lovely Loopy Laura, Laura Beresford from Musings of a tired mum. 

I simply love this photo.

It was taken at a photo shoot just before we moved in together. It was the first time that we had ever done anything like that and Chris was referred to as Dad throughout the whole shoot: it felt normal and right. I was also pregnant with Zach when this was taken but none of us knew that at the time. We are planning to go back at some time to get more done that include Zach too (if we can get him to stop doing his cheesy grin!)

It has pride of place in our new house that we moved into just a couple of weeks after this was taken. The way the eyes follow you around the room is great and makes me stare at it every day, grateful for meeting such a wonderful man who has completed our family. The kids are so lucky that he loves being their dad and is a constant source of support and fun!

Chris and I met on a dating website after Matthew told me not to give up on love because I always tell him never to stop trying. Wise words. This photo represents a journey that I went on with Matthew and Anya and had a happy destination.

My family is the most important thing in the world to me and I am amazed at how well we have bonded together. I was worried that Matthew and Anya would feel a bit weird about our new baby but he is their brother and they adore him, there are no half- or step- mentioned anywhere.

Anya's face in the photo is a perfect example of her cheekiness mixed with a bit of cute to stop her driving me completely doolally! Matthew also looks comfortable and happy which is great because he found the adjustment to our new family the hardest.

I also love this photo because it is a nice one of me!

No F-word please I'm English

23 August 2017

Dear friend,

One of the things that really shocked me when I moved to Holland was the lack of censorship. On one of my first visits here I remember listening to the radio in the car and trying to decipher what was being said only to be confronted  with the F-bomb more than once! Songs are not censored and neither are the presenters and although there isn't gratuitous swearing it does happen.

When I grew up the only swear word we were allowed to use at home was crap. Don't get me wrong I did go through a phase in my teens when I had a serious case of potty mouth but I would never have dared continue that at home and face the wrath of my dad. God forbid the F-bomb should pop out or we would be in serious trouble. There was definitely a time and place for swearing and it wasn't at home!

The UK censorship laws also prohibit the use of public obscenity. No swearing allowed before 9 on mainstream TV and radio. It used to be punishable to swear in public too, however, in 2011 a High Court judge ruled that people should not be punished for hurling obscenities in public because such words are now so common they no longer cause distress.

Has swearing lost the power to shock us?

I think living in a land without censorship did mean that I became desensitised to swearing, the shock factor had gone but that was until my children came along...

I felt that swearing around my kids was just wrong! People regularly tell us that kids are like sponges, soaking up their environment and copying the behaviour that they see. I didn't want my cute little darlings uttering obscenities and I knew it would give my mother a heart attack so we listened to children's CDs and nursery rhymes and avoided the radio.

But then my kids got older. The eldest got into music in a big way, he started DJ lessons and began following the SLAM top 40.  As certain songs appeared on the radio or TV I would flip the channel over or mutter about the inappropriateness of this language. Hubby however took a different stance. This is Holland, we don't censor. I don't understand the problem. This lead to many heated discussions at the dinner table.

For some time my little DJ would sit in the passenger seat of the car and when a 'bad' song came on would dim the volume at the key moment and smile at me. Job done - mummy was happy, papa would laugh! But then I started to think about my behaviour. Why was I so worried? Did I think that by exposing my kids to profanity they would start to use it? Did I think it was damaging them in some way? Or was my negative reaction actually causing my kids stress?

There is no research to say that swearing is damaging to children. Directing abusive language at children is of course damaging but hearing swearing? Lets face it who is going to allow their kids to sit and listen to swearing for research purposes so there probably isn't any research available?!

I started to look at my behaviour and communicate more with my kids instead of just shutting down or getting cross. We discussed the difference between growing up in Holland and England and we discussed how mummy felt uncomfortable with bad language because she never heard it growing up. We talked about the watershed in the UK. We discussed why people swear (when they are angry, to express something strongly, or to abuse others.) We were clear that using profanity as abuse is wrong.

I am confident that my kids know there is a time and a place for certain types of language. 

A few days later we had a party with friends and someone swore. My eldest explained that in our house we don't swear until after 9 because mum is English. It made us all laugh and the joke is now set - whenever anyone swears we say;  After 9! 

I don't think I will ever be totally comfortable around people who swear gratuitously but maybe I am becoming more Dutch as I find the censorship peep used in UK TV very annoying and I feel really patronised when UK presenters give the; We apologise for any offence caused... speech when someone drops the F-bomb on their programs.

Maybe the judge was right and because Holland does not have censorship, swearing has become more common to me so no longer causes me distress.

What do you think? Should we still be shocked by swearing?

Blogger Recognition Award

18 August 2017

Dear friend,

I am a massive fan of Blogger Tags and Awards and was really honoured to receive this from one of my newer blogging buddies the brilliant Mom of two girls. I have loved getting to know her and I am pleased to see she embraces her imperfections as do I.

I am not a perfect wife or mother but I will never stop trying to be better for them.

Her blog contains a little bit of everything parent and family related, including healthy eating, baking with kids, DIY around the home, and lots of fun family ‘Days Out’ experiences and travel. I love her family motto: “Never backwards … Always Forwards” How inspiring.

Mom of two girls is based in South Africa. One of the things I love about blogging is how it can cross continents and connect us with friends all around the world!

How Diary of an Imperfect Mum started

Diary of an Imperfect Mum was born in a waiting room. I was spending a large amount of my time each week waiting for my son, sitting on those horrid plastic chairs that make your bum itch and smiling through gritted teeth at other equally stressed parents. I was struggling to come to terms with my sons autism diagnosis and felt incredibly lonely,  as an EXPAT in a new country.

I started writing things down in the notes on my phone when my son was in therapy. They were brief thoughts or ideas only. But I shared them with a friend and he told me that I should start a blog. Then I wrote an article for In Culture Parent magazine and it ignited the spark. On here I could say whatever I thought and not feel judged. I could get everything out in the open and not worry about hurting people's feelings. I could be imperfect!

I did not tell anyone about my blogging for quite a while but now everyone knows. Diary of an imperfect mum is my small way of campaigning for acceptance so that my son can grow up in a more understanding world.

Two pieces of advice for new bloggers

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! 

Find your voice: I am unapologetically me! I write with passion and honesty. Keep that. It is easy to get caught up in the blogging mechanics...the schedules, the tips and tricks to increase followers, the Klout scores, the back follows, the blogging charts etc But remember why you started and be you!

Engage Your Audience/Find your tribe: I always put effort into my linky comments and into the replies to comments left on It is also important to engage on social media and not just auto-tweet. You will find that some of your blogging buddies become your good friends!

I Would Like to Dedicate this Award to:

Feel free to join in or not but I want you all to know you are doing a brilliant job!

Now for The Rules

  • Thank the blogger who nominated you and provide a link to their blog. 
  • Write a post to show your award. 
  • Give a brief story of how your blog started.  
  • Give two pieces of advice to new bloggers. 
  • Select 15 other bloggers you want to give this award to. 
  • Comment on each blog and let them know you have nominated them and provide the link to the post you created.


One Moment in Time with Catherine Stribling

16 August 2017

Welcome to one moment in time, a guest posts series, where bloggers share the stories behind special or significant photographs. This week's featured blogger is the lovely Catherine Stribling..

This is my mum and her three granddaughters. This was taken last summer on the weekend of her 60th birthday. We had arranged a surprise weekend away at a house in Ramsgate with the bigger surprise being my brother and his wife hiding upstairs in the bathroom! They had flown over from America especially for mums birthday and the big surprise.

This photo sums up the happiness of that weekend. All if the family together having fun and making memories.

Planning her birthday was so exciting and she had no idea what was going on until she arrived. My dad was responsible for getting her there and he wasn't allowed to say anything about the destination. We were all there when they arrived. So excited for what else we had planned. We had hidden my brother and his wife in the bathroom and gave mum the 'tour' of the house all the way up to the bathroom where they were hiding. I have never seen somebody so surprised when she opened the bathroom door to see them sat in the bath! We even managed to catch it all on camera!

Photo of a grandma with 2 happy children

We all managed to keep it a secret for about six months which wasn't always easy but well worth it.

I loved that we were planning something for her that was so special and meant that she could spend the whole weekend with the people she loved.

She does so much for all of us and the girls are constantly being spoilt by her and my Dad. It was great to do something for her and we all had a brilliant weekend celebrating.

This summer we are heading off to a house in France as a family and I can't wait to create more memories all together.

Why I am proud to call Holland Home

26 July 2017

Dear Friend,

It's rather a surprising thing for a northern girl like me to be writing this post. I was always rather dismissive of people who returned home to the North East and went on and on about; London, New York, Australia etc Returning to Middlesbrough will always feel like coming home; family, friends, football and the hills (god I miss the hills).

12 years ago I moved to Holland.

I left Middlesbrough 12 years ago. I can't quite believe that I have been living in this tiny, busy, brilliant country for twelve whole years, this place has really become home and I am proud to call it that.

10 Reasons why I love living in Holland...

1) Community
There is a real community spirit. The Dutch are great at organising events and keeping up traditions. Every year our village will host special days where the community come together and during the summer every town hosts their party week. There is a real sense of belonging and pride in these events with everyone taking part.

2) National Pride

A great example of this is Kings day when the whole country turns orange. Music events, games, markets, street entertainment ensures that there is something for everyone. The rest of the year the Dutch need no excuse to hang out their flags; birthdays, party days, passing exams, births, they proudly display their colours.

3) Work/life balance

Most people work part time many men included, there is shared responsibility for child care, men taking papa days to take care of their children. Working hours are shorter or many people work flexi hours to have Monday or Friday free. People here work to live they don't live for work.

4) Bikes

Everyone bikes, everywhere. There is something liberating about the freedom of jumping on your bike to go to the shops, beach, work or school. It is reminiscent of childhood. The rush hour is quite a sight to behold as are the lines and lines of bikes at the stations.

5) Honesty

Dutch people are the most honest people you can meet. This can be a little startling for us reserved English lot but if you ask a question you will always get an honest answer. Dutch people will ask questions about finances, personal issues, health etc that English would not. But you always know where you stand. Problems are spoken about, brought out in the open, dealt with and forgotten about!

6) Food

When I first came to Holland I missed lots of English foods and I still need a fix of fish and chips and a corned beef pasty when I visit the UK. But I have grown to love Dutch food too; creamy cheeses, stroopwafels and bitterballs are firm favourites in our house. Don't expect a massive freezer section in the supermarket. The Dutch shop regularly and eat fresh foods. Perhaps one reason they don't have a problem with obesity?

7) Shops

Small individual boutiques with little treasures and one off pieces, handmade jewellery and art. Yes the big chains are here too but I love the Dutch style and fashion, offering classic pieces with a modern twist. Dutch people support their local businesses and because we eat fresh the baker and butcher are still thriving.

8) Beaches

The beach tents/cafes arrive around May and stay until September. We love this time of the year. Being able to cycle to the beach after work or school is such a joy! The North Sea may be cold but the beaches are beautiful. If the weather is good then you don't need to go abroad to holiday!

9) Canals and Canal Houses
It is my ambition to own a canal house one day. The Dutch canal cities are truly beautiful!

See more @ My Dutch Angle

10) Happy Kids
Dutch children regularly come out on/near to the top of the list of happiest children in the world.

Come and visit but be warned you may decide to stay!

I'm a blogging success because...

19 July 2017

Dear friends,

I’m a blogging success because…

When asking myself what is blogging success? I turned to google for help as I am sure many of you have done. My most recent searches include, other blogs, a clothes shop (sale time), a video about Mars and the kids school website, what’s yours? Anyway I digress. The wonderful Mirriam Webster was able to shed some light on what success actually is… I went for the simple definition.

Definition 1: Achieving wealth, respect or fame.

OK according to this definition I have not made it. My blog has not brought me untold wealth (although I am very grateful for the opportunities it has brought me). I am also not famous and don’t actually want to be but it might be nice to appear on, This morning and meet the silver fox that is Philip and the gorgeous Holly, like some of my blogging buddies.

Definition 2: The correct or desired result of an attempt.

I started blogging with no agenda, it wasn’t an attempt at anything. I hadn’t read blogs and had absolutely no idea what I was getting myself into. I just needed to write … My brain was filled with questions and thoughts that needed a space to grow. Through blogging I found that space and started to breathe out again. Then something amazing happened - people started to comment. Other parents reached out to me. People told me that I’d helped them learn more about autism.

Raising awareness felt good, it felt like I was doing something, achieving something. Other autism parents reached out to me, other bloggers, friends, colleagues… people were reading my words. It felt amazing when I saw 1000 people had read my I hate Birthdays post. I was voted one of the most inspirational Autism Bloggers of 2015. I guess that meant I had achieved respect (see definition 1).

But the goal posts had moved and I started to reach for the full definition of that success. I wanted a measure. I started to look at those statistics, question why it had taken me so long to grow my following. I began comparing myself to others, checking my DA and Klout too regularly and caring too much about charts. I felt my blog was failing. I was failing… and it forced me to reassess what I wanted for my blog.

If I needed reminding of my success then all I had to do was turn to the comments of my fellow bloggers and readers.

I am a blogging success because...

I am giving people a glimpse into what life is really like for families affected by autism. I am a success because I am challenging the stereotypes and raising important issues in the hope that the life of my son and other people like him can be improved. I may not be the best writer, campaigner, speller, social media guru but my voice is out there. I am a success because blogging has enabled my voice to be heard.

This post first appeared on mummyinatutu  as part of Katie's I'm a blogging success series...

Ageing with attitude

14 July 2017

Dear friend,

Are you celebrating getting older? Maybe it is something that has never crossed your mind or maybe you have planned for your old age? Perhaps you are going to escape in your camper van, retire to Spain or take up skydiving. All exciting opportunities but should we be ageing gracefully?

A poll carried out by Retire Savvy last year investigated attitudes towards ageing. According to this poll I am too old for leggings and girls holidays to Ibiza,  I have only 5 years before I'm too past it for Twitter and one year left before I should cut off my hair,  I am also way too old to get a tattoo (38 years old is the cut off).

I have been planning on getting inked for ages but when my friend's son had a new tattoo and I mentioned wanting one too, I was amazed at my hubby's half joking comment about having a mid life crisis. I also read a comment on an internet thread that likened 40 year olds getting tattoos to

...older men buying sports cars, screaming out to the world I'm not too old.
So are they right?

I remember distinctly an argument conversation I had with my mother when I was a teenager. She told me that inside she still felt in her 20's and that only when she looked in the mirror could she see it wasn't true. I found this hard to understand at the time but not any more.

Is it time to hang up the skinny jeans, stop with the selfies and cut my hair into a mum bob? Should I be acting my age or celebrating it?

Having a hysterectomy has seen my body shape change but unlike in my younger years when I put on weight and would look in the mirror and hate what I saw, I accept how I look and don't see it as a failure, rather a work in progress, no-one is perfect!

I may not be overjoyed with the physical changes ageing has brought but I love the mental ones! I know that my voice, attitude and resolve is stronger than it ever was in my twenties. I'm proud of the inner strength maturity has brought me!

According to retire Savvy, the nation expects older generations to go quietly into later lives.

I would be interested to know exactly who completed this poll. Is it a broad cross section of people or a load of teenagers with quite frankly a lot to learn? I could quite easily belittle the authenticity of a poll based on a relatively small focus group but I don't need to because after a long period of Men prospering from ageing, with descriptions like distinguished or silver fox, we have seen a shift. Strong women are challenging the ageing stereotypes.

Women who are ageing with attitude:

  • Dame Helen Mirren:  a brilliant actresses who has not been content to simply play the older woman but has had many diverse roles and has been recruited as brand ambassadors for leading cosmetics companies too. Not only was she voted as having the best body of the year in 2011, but the actress posed nude for New York Magazine in 2010. She also had her first tattoo in her 70's.
  • Vivienne Westwood, still designing and modelling her own fashion line at 76.
The sexiest people are thinkers. Nobody's interested in somebody who's just vain with a hole in their head, talking about the latest thing - there is no latest thing. It's all rubbish. - Vivienne Westwood
 Source - Harpers Bazaar
Source - Harpers Bazaar 
  • Carmen Dell'Orefice - the world's oldest supermodel.  85-year-old model Carmen Dell'Orefice closed the Guo Pei show in Paris (Jan 2017) in stunning fashion
  • Bernice Bates - Bates began teaching herself yoga in 1960. Now, at 92, she holds a spot in the Guinness Book of Word Records as the oldest certified yogi on Earth. Mantra: "I can’t do that—YET."
  • Ernestine Shepherd -  the world's oldest female bodybuilder by the Guinness Book of World Records. She is a personal trainer, professional model, and author and is 75-years-old.
Image source - NextShark
  • Yasmina Rossi - the 59-year-old is a highly sought-after model (you may recognise her from the M&S campaigns) and check out those beautiful long locks too!
  • Grandma Moses -  Moses started to paint when she was 76 years old, after her hands became too crippled by arthritis to do embroidery. She painted every day and created more than one thousand paintings in 25 years. Her collection was shown at the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) in New York. When she died,  aged 101, her paintings were on display in museums around the world.
  • Joanna Lumley OBE  is best known as Patsy in the long-running BBC comedy Absolutely Fabulous, and has presented several TV travel documentaries. She has campaigned and raised funds for many charities, most notably the Gurkha Justice Campaign.
'If you’re alive, you’ll get old. There is no point denying it.' - Joanna Lumley

The best thing about entering my middle age is that I no longer give a hoot what anyone else thinks. And it seems I am not alone. Forget ageing gracefully I'd rather age with attitude like these brilliant women.

Pass the heels and skinny jeans, I'm ageing with attitude, what about you?

Who would you add to this list of inspiring women?

One Moment in Time with Preemie Mummy

5 July 2017

Welcome to one moment in time, a guest posts series, where bloggers share the stories behind special or significant photographs. I am honoured to be joined this month by the inspirational Preemie Mummy. 

My son is 50 days old in this photograph. He was born 4 months premature weighing a tiny 1 pound and 9 ounces.

In those first 50 days he had endured 2 punctured lungs, sepsis, a central line procedure, a Chronic Lung Disease diagnosis, a lumbar puncture on his tiny spine, PDA diagnosis (Patent Ductus Arteriosus), Pulmonary Hypertension, COUNTLESS blood transfusions, 3 fractured ribs and contracted 2 different species of fungal infection.

However, this photo represents the first moment where I actually saw the light at the end of the tunnel.

Mere weeks before this was taken, we had spoken at length with all of his doctors about whether we wanted to transition to palliative care, or keep trying everything we could. For me, the decision was a difficult one. At the time I couldn’t foresee a happy ending and couldn’t let go of the idea that my beautiful little human was suffering. Thank goodness for my husband, otherwise the situation could have been an entirely different one, and this photograph may not have ever existed.

Matthew was weighed right before this was taken. He was 2 pounds and 9 ounces. One pound heavier than that of his birth weight. For me, it felt like we had come full circle in a sense.

When I took this photograph, my husband had put his hand inside the incubator and Matthew wrapped his tiny hand around his daddy’s finger. He lay like that for over half an hour.

Settled and secure.

I remember feeling the oddest sensation of inner peace.

As I said before, it was the first time I had felt our situation had any kind of a positive ending ahead. It is a day I will never forget, and I am so immensely proud that I have the photograph to remind me.

You can read more from Danielle here...

Book corner: Aliens in Underpants Save the World

19 June 2017

My book corner choice this month is: Aliens in Underpants Save the World by Claire Freedman & Ben Coat.

Aliens love underpants, It's lucky that they do, For pants helped save our universe, Sounds crazy but it's true!

How to answer children's awkward questions ...

14 June 2017

Dear friends,

It sometimes feels like I spend my entire day answering questions. As a primary school teacher and mother I must field hundreds of questions. Usually kids asking where something is or can I... but there are some absolute corkers that I've been asked. I wish I'd written them all down!

I know the sheer weight of questions posed by a toddler can be crippling. Who invented the word why? I must admit that I definitely don't have as many questions to answer now the boys are tweens but I am sure that the difficulty of the questions has increased. My boys have stumped me several times lately. A study carried out by supported my findings...

  • British parents are called on by their children to answer an average of 23 questions an hour. ... parents are the most quizzed people in the UK, and on subjects far and wide. They are asked more questions every hour than a primary school teacher - 19 - as well as doctors and nurses, 18. 
  • And girls aged four are the most curious, asking an incredible 390 questions per day .
  • Although the number of questions kids ask falls with age, they increase in difficulty - so much so that 82 per cent of mums admit they can't answer them. 
  • Nine out of ten parents even concede they have resorted to secretly using Google to solve their infant's problem.

Recently my little man asked, If god is real then who made god? I tweeted my little philosophers question out and got quite a response so I decided to throw it out to my blogging buddies. What questions have your kids asked that have stumped you?

Oh my goodness Leo is full of obscure questions. Recently, 'Is there a heaven for fish and sandwiches?' 'Do carrots feel cold?' 'Why is love called love?' ..and 'Do Donkeys speak French?' Usually asked last thing at night. Jade parenting jungle

When he was 3 'Where do elephants sneeze from?' and when he found out we were expecting twins (again when he was 3) his immediate reaction was 'where will they sleep?' We don't have enough beds' How very practical of a pre-schooler! mummy mindful

What is at the end of space? Anthony guessed it was probably white, and maybe that's where God was. He then set about asking questions as to why we hadn't got to the edge of space yet.... and that took a rather long time explaining. Rainbowsaretoobeautiful

What's stronger? A brick or a current in the sea? Erm!!
Pink pear bear

The question that stumped me was 'Mummy how did Daddy put a baby in your tummy?' on a BUS! I didn't know what to say!
Crummy Mummy

My eldest is to turn 3 in August and my youngest 2 in July (I know). Their questions are still slightly limited, or at least I can still fob of their questions with stupid answers that don’t always make a great deal of sense as they still have that beautiful unquestioning naivety and mum is always right. Yet one thing I have worried about, more so lately, is make up. My daughter, and my son, usually sit with me as I do mine, they rifle through my bag and play about with the content. My daughter usually asks some for her too. Yet I dread the day she asks me, ‘why do you make up?’. I worry because body confidence so prevalent in the youth of today, for boys and girls and I need my answer to be right. 
 Tammy Mum UK

My personal top 10 Awkward Questions:
  1. Grandma why are you so old?
  2. Do dogs feel love? 
  3. Does Nova (the dog) miss her mum?
  4. Why do we call them Private parts?
  5. Why do people take drugs?
  6. Where do bad dreams come from? 
  7. Why do you have hair everywhere except on your head? (Poor hubby.)
  8. When are you going to die? 
  9. If god is real then who made god? 
  10. When I'm older will I get a hairy willy?

How to answer our children's awkward questions...

  • Listen
  • Ask open questions
  • Take time to discuss
  • Don't give too much information but be honest!
  • Don't get emotional or be sarcastic, you want your children to trust they can talk to you about anything
  • Keep lines of communication open, don't be scared to return to discussions
  • Don't be scared of saying the wrong thing
  • Communicate, Communicate, Communicate...

On a more serious note, I know many of my friends and fellow bloggers have raised concerns about knowing what to say to our children after the senseless terrorist attacks of recent weeks. My little man asked, Mum why would anyone want to hurt or kill anyone else? And he wanted to know are the bad men in Holland too? Answering these sorts of questions when your emotions are still raw can be extremely difficult but we have to. The advice from professionals is that talking about these issues is better than avoiding them. The news is everywhere, it is unavoidable and I would far rather talk to my children and help them through it than they hear somewhere else. But how do we answer their questions without scaring them? I decided to do some research. This is what I found...

Advice for answering children’s questions about terrorist attacks...
  • Give simple answers. Avoid unnecessary (or nasty) details. 
  • Tell the truth. Faced with the question, Could this happen again mum? Tell the truth but emphasize that it is rare and very unlikely to happen to them. 
  • Think about your language. General comments like, This is a very rare occurrence, It's absolutely awful but thank goodness it's extremely rare and Security has been tightened are really reassuring. 
  • Try to make sense of what your child is really asking. Your child’s question might be disguising a fear. Whilst we should acknowledge that it is ok to feel scared. It is important that our children feel safe to go about their normal lives. 
  • Focus on the people who are helping. Reinforce the message that most people are good. 

Remember, your main goal is to convey a sense of security for your child. Listen to your child and provide information based on your child’s questions.
Ritamaria Laird, an expert in pediatric mental health in Chicago.
For more information see the BBC article How to talk to children about terrorist attacks.

This morning I have been asked, Do I have to brush my teeth? Can I have sweets for breakfast? Where are my shoes? Is today going to be warm? Is it raining? What time are we going to school? Is it a long day? What time is it? (several times) Should we go now? Where is my bag? Do I need a coat? You get the picture. Parent's are amazing! Good luck today people 😉

A special thank you to all my lovely blogging buddies who contributed to this post!

Parenting from a special Perspective: Life with ASD and the rest

12 June 2017

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 Helen.

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

We realised that my son had atypical autism shortly after he started Reception at school, and his behaviour at school quickly deteriorated to such an extent that he was at risk of exclusion before the Christmas holidays. We knew that there had to be something causing this behaviour, as he did not behave the same way at home.

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

It as a mixture of guilt, sadness and relief.

Guilt, that we had not noticed sooner or tried to get help sooner. Sadness, because I felt that the hopes and dreams we had for him would not come true. Relief, because there was a reason for his acting out and it was not down to a lack of our parenting skills.

3. Where did you first turn for help?

We first turned to our doctor and medical professionals to get a diagnosis, and understand more about my son's needs. Within just 6 months we had spoken to over 12 different professionals in our search for answers, however none of them could advise us on the best support to help our son as each child is different and the strategies that work for one child might not work for another.

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

Connect with other parents and families who are going / have been through, so that you have a support system in place to help you navigate through the many twists and turns involved in trying to get an autism diagnosis and the necessary support to meet your child's needs.

With so much information to absorb and so many potential challenges which need to be faced, these parents and their collective insights and support can be a life-line which keeps you going through the tough times.

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

Autism is lifelong, developmental disability that affects how a person communicates with and relates to other people, and how they experience the world around them. There are different types of autism, which is why it is referred to as a spectrum condition, and it affects each person differently. Autism also often occurs alongside other conditions such as ADHD, sensory processing disorder, dyspraxia, and dyslexia.

Atypical autism means that my son shows most, but not all of the symptoms of autism. A more accurate description for the current understanding of my son's autism is - atypical autism, with social communication issues and demand avoidant behaviour.

I didn't know much about autism when my son was first diagnosed, and I am still learning about it two years later as we learn more about my son's particular needs. 

You can find out more about autism from the National Autistic Society

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

One of the biggest challenges currently facing my son and our family is my son's need to control the world around him, and his difficulties is being able to see things from another person's perspective. In particular this prevented him from accessing education as he refused to take part in lessons as he was resistant to learning new things, and it has made it difficult for him to make friends.

This need for control often causes anxiety for my son when things don't go the way he expects, and is very tiring for everyone else around him. We have made great progress in the past few years, and his need to do everything his way is slowly changing.

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

Knowledge. The biggest help for us has been the increased insights and understanding of why my son behaves the way he does, and more importantly the strategies that we can use to help him on a daily basis.

Each week we learn something new about his needs, and how to support him. Currently he is learning about the concepts of personal space, how to engage in a conversation, and the fact that people can have different thoughts about the same thing. These are not things that my son intuitively understands, so we need to work with him to ensure that he can learn these life skills.

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

The personal impact that it has had on me. The last 2 years has been incredibly tough at times as we struggled to get my son the right support at school, however it has also opened up my world and allowed me to connect with other people in a way that I haven't done before.

I now spend more of my time at work meeting up with people to understand how things are going with them, and the insights I have gained through helping my son has allowed me to help others through their own challenges. I never anticipated that my son's autism would help me connect with the world around me.

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

Don't give up, and find people to support you during the moments when you are struggling.

There were times when I thought that we would never get past the daily behavioural incidents, and being called into school to talk about how challenging my son was being in school. Times where I was frustrated by a lack of information or knowing what to do. Times where I felt that I was battling against the impossible.

We are starting to turn a corner and I can see the progress that my son is starting to make. Whilst the difficult times are not all behind us, I do feel that we have enough of a support network now to carry us through the next challenging moment.

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

I have learnt that parenting works best when you follow your instincts and allow your parenting style to develop to match your child's needs. Sometimes this means taking the time to work out why your child is not behaving in an expected way, rather than focusing on the behaviour that you can see.

Helen is working mum with a young family. She blogs about finding her way through autism, special needs eduction, anxiety, demand avoidance, and a life-work balance at Life with ASD and the rest. She also hosts the ASD and SEND roundup a weekly roundup of blogposts and articles. I am over the moon that Helen found the time to take part as her blog is one that inspired me at the very beginning. Thank you Helen.

Photography @My_Dutch_Angle

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