I wish I was a Stepford Wife

Or a Stepford lone parent in my case. Which isn't quite as catchy.

I was always fascinated by that film.  I wondered why a man would prefer a robot to a woman.  And why all their lives seemed so empty.

But I always thought that the essence of a Stepford Wife is that she has no feelings.  She flies through her daily duties, a sunny smile permanently fixed to her face.  Calm and efficient, she is never cross or cranky or tired, she never complains, and never ever yearns for another life.  Why wouldn't everyone enjoy having her around?

Doesn't that sound attractive?  Perhaps if I was a Stepford Wife I would get up with the dawn and have a sparkling kitchen floor and freshly baked bread ready for my children when they wake.

All the household and DIY jobs would follow daily, weekly, monthly and yearly rotas and I would fly through them every morning while the children were in school, as well as all the forms, phone calls, emails, post.  My lucky children would arrive home to more freshly prepared healthy snacks to enjoy followed by help with homework, and lots of friends and activities all perfectly planned to fit the hours until bedtime.

If I couldn't feel, I would never get angry with the kids. I could always remain perfectly calm. Isn't that how a perfect mother should be?  Especially the mother of a child with Asperger's?

Being unemployed or sick would not matter, a Stepford Wife would just take it in her dainty stride.

It really does sound better doesn't it?  Feelings are for the young, surely? The delight of young children with a new toy or a new experience, the passion of young love, and the joy of being a new parent.  They are merely exhausting in middle age.

Now most feelings seem to be about grief.  Grief at the loss of parents, friends or family.  Grief as you and those you love start to lose their health and their youth.  Grief at all the things you have to give up and those you never got to try.  The loss of jobs, ambitions and hope for the future. Fear of what lies ahead for yourself and your children.

Now you have to bottle up feelings, make yourself appreciate all the little things, a shaft of sunlight, a red umbrella, a happy child.

My friends on Facebook often post stuff like this:

"If you go ahead and listen very carefully, you will hear the sound of no one caring."

Says it all really, so I don't moan on Facebook anymore.  Mostly.

But this is MY space.

And until I make it as a Stepford Wife I need somewhere to vent my feelings.

What about you? Do you value your feelings?  Or not?  And how do you vent?

When starvation causes more than hunger: ONE solution

Compassion fatigue has taken hold.  Pictures of starving children no longer have the shock value they did in 1985.  How do you reach people in prosperous countries?  How do you make us sit up and take notice?  So many causes are clamouring for support or funding, it's hard to know which one to choose.  I've been disappointed by the apparent lack of progress in improving conditions in the Third World, and in recent years have only supported emergency appeals.

And somehow I'd always assumed that once the famine was over, people would return home and get on with their lives.  It never occurred to me that the effects of malnutrition and starvation could be lifelong and life-changing and affect the brain as well as the body, until I read this from the ONE campaign:

Poverty means parents can’t feed their families enough nutritious food, leaving children hungry and malnourished. Malnutrition leads to irreversibly stunted development and shorter, less productive lives. 

This year, 178 million children, more than twice the number of children in the United States, will reach their 3rd birthday stunted. Their brains and bodies will never fully recover.

Their brains? I never knew that brain damage was a consequence for some children.  And of course I'm very familiar with brain damage.  Because that's what happened to my daughter.

I try not to wonder how Smiley would be if things were different.   I try not to imagine her as a 'normal' teenager: queuing and shivering outside the teen discos in a short skirt.  Listening to music I hate on her iPod.  Sleeping in till noon.  Oh how I wish she did all these things.  But she has always been the way she is.  And always sweet and smiley and a delight.  I look at my daughter: the cause of her brain damage unknown.  I used to torture myself and go over and over what might have gone wrong.  Was it the sprained ankle I got running around the playground?  Or the day-old milk I put in my coffee in the office?  Or the champagne I drank the night she was probably conceived?  It certainly wasn't lack of food.  She isn't starving now, nor is that likely to happen.

But how many mothers - and fathers - sit hopelessly in the hot African sun with their starving children, knowing, as they surely must, that even if their children survive, they may never be the same again.  That they may never reach their full potential.  All those children who were once future scientists, engineers, artists, writers, even politicians, may now have a different life.

Some people are trying to effect real changes to the lives of children, to prevent the lifelong effects of lack of food, including One.org, which I have been supporting for the past year.   I hope that you will too.  They are not looking for money, just for your help in raising awareness. 

ONE is a grassroots advocacy and campaigning organization that fights extreme poverty and preventable disease, particularly in Africa, by raising public awareness and pressuring political leaders to support smart and effective policies and programs that are saving lives, helping to put kids in school and improving futures.

For more information and posts about ONE please head over to Mummy From the Heart who is now a Mum ambassador for ONE.org.

A Rainy Day in Dublin

This morning for the first time in weeks I had no kids, no appointments and no sickness. Even so, it was midday before I had finished dealing with the urgent emails, and stopped faffing around on Facebook and twitter. By then, serious cabin fever had set in. But of course today Dublin is due to get almost a months worth of rainfall in one go...
You wanna go out in that!
What to do? It's too cold to walk, so I dug out my waterproofs and my camera-that-is-really-a-mobile-phone and headed out for a run. I'm not the best photographer in the world, but this is a selection of pictures taken on a rainy day in Dublin...
Not deterred by the rain
Also not deterred!
Battling the elements..
Looking better in the rain
I like the rain
Me too!
Pink Snow
Bluebell wood
Five minutes from my house...
So there you have it...the last two are a little blurry as I tried desperately to protect my camera (phone) from assault by the relentless rain.  Now all I need to do is warm up!


Good Samaritans and a DIY Success #R2BC

And they did over the past couple of weeks, during which I fought battles against various unpleasant germs and ailments affecting different members of the household, aspie anxiety over a very special 11th birthday, trekking back and forth to solicitors' offices, and changing broadband provider.  Just some of the things that I haven't blogged about during the past fortnight.  I've also had appointments every morning this week while the kids were in school: though today's was with the hoover...

But back to the good Samaritans.

Good Samaritan One

He pulled me aside when I was pushing Smiley back to the van in the underground car park.

"You've a flat tyre, " he said helpfully.

How can that be, I wondered silently?  My tyres have been protexed, which mean they should never puncture.  And my tyre wasn't completely flat.

My shoulders must have slumped because he hesitated and then he told me that he might be able to help. After disappearing for about 5 minutes he returned with one of these:

(No picture because I meant to buy one and haven't gotten around to it yet...)

Anyway it was a foot-operated air pump.  And it worked.  Within a few minutes I was good to go, and my good Samaritan advised me to purchase a pump myself.  It proved its worth the next day at my local tyre centre, as they were able to fix the tyre for €10. The person behind me in the queue drove in on a flat tyre and was quoted €80 for a new one...

Good Samaritans two and three

I may have mentioned before that Smiley is prone to constipation and last weekend she endured another bout that sadly was at its worst in Tesco.  I bought some painkillers but they didn't help.  I thought about abandoning the shopping, but some of the stuff I needed urgently, for her.  Her crying got louder and louder.  But I saw no judgemental looks.  Instead when I joined a queue for the till,  we were pushed to the front and others unpacked my trolley while I tried to comfort my child.  And then helped us out to the car.  I was nearly in tears myself at their kindness.

A DIY success

A small victory for me over something else that had me in tears of frustration: I fixed this when it wouldn't close after weeks of trying :)


And finally, thank you for nominating me in the MAD Blog Awards.  

MAD Blog Awards 2012

It actually does mean a lot to know that people like reading my stuff.

These are my reasons to be cheerful for this week.  Head over to Mich's blog to check out some more, and have a lovely weekend x

When the wheelchair breaks and the buggy does too

Bear with me as this does have a happy ending.  For now anyway....  

I really don't expect anyone to wade through all this...unless you know something about disability, in which case, please do!

It was a Friday afternoon when it all went wrong.  

Just over a week before, the frame on Smiley's buggy had broken for the second time.  It went straight back to distributors for review and repair.  But I'd been very clever.  By having a buggy and a wheelchair, Smiley would always be able to go places. Or so I thought.

Since the buggy was gone, I'd had to use the wheelchair for everything.  

And just to remind you again, this is a wheelchair that has no accessories, and is so big that the metal casing on the front wheels takes lumps out of doorways: the ones that you can actually get it through.  

It has a special moulded seat that I don't think is designed to cope with Irish downpours, though she does sit beautifully in it.  And, as I discovered, it does not travel well....

This is the wheelchair firmly tied down in the car before we set off.

During the ten minute trip to the supermarket Smiley sways and bounces around in the back and when we arrive the straps look like this:

That does not look right to me.  PROBLEM ONE.  And it doesn't happen with the buggy.  But there are apparently no reports of this happening with other wheelchairs so I've got to traipse down the country to the place where I bought the van to rule out the straps.

(I haven't blogged about this before as I was trying to calm down.  It seems I am still not succeeding!)

So back to Friday afternoon.

There has been an incident the previous day when the handle of the wheelchair had unexpectedly dropped suddenly, and then one of the adjustment handles snapped off when I was trying to fix it.  This might not sound much, but imagine the handle of your baby's buggy dropping just as you are trying to manoeuvre it off the pavement.  Then it happened to the bus driver on the way home from school on Friday and the other handle broke off and the brakes stuck.

So I was stuck on a Friday afternoon with a potentially broken/unsafe wheelchair, no buggy and no idea what to do.

I spent the rest of the afternoon on the internet, and on the phone to anyone who hadn't gone home.  An urgent call was made to an engineer to come and look at the chair, but I was told it probably wouldn't happen until Monday.  I couldn't find anywhere in Ireland that hire supportive wheelchairs and buggies for children like Smiley who have a weak upper body: The Irish Wheelchair Association has standard adult wheelchairs for hire but they would not be suitable.  

I could find no plan in place to deal with this situation.  PROBLEM TWO.  It seemed that to be completely safe, she should have spent the weekend in bed!  Would this be acceptable for a non-disabled healthy teenager?

Of course she didn't stay in bed...I took her out in the wheelchair very carefully.  And she got lots of floor time.

On the Monday the wheelchair was 'fixed', but it still rocked around the van.  Soon afterwards I was loaned an ex-demo buggy, so everything was looking up.

But then the bad news started to trickle in.   The buggy can be repaired, but it seems that Smiley is just over the maximum weight limit, which means that the professional therapists recommend that she should no longer use it.  PROBLEM THREE.  In fact at a meeting to which I was not invited, those attending noted that she is too old to be in a buggy.  I can understand that.  I worry that I am babying her.  But she is not aware of this.  She just enjoys all the opportunities it gives her and us.  There are very few restrictions - apart from not going on beaches (now) and mountains *sigh*.   

But perhaps it's time to accept a life indoors unless there is a guarantee of a rain-free day?  Don't expect Smiley to be happy in one of those silly wheelchair capes with the rain running down her neck...

I really don't know what to do. 


That flat feeling after the visitors have gone.

The best visitors.

The ones you've waited months or even years to see again.

The ones you've known forever.  They saw you at your worst, they forgave your stupid mistakes and still want to be friends.  Or they're family and fabulous.  When they visit they wait patiently while you get your children ready to go out, when you've forgotten that you need a 30 minute head start on everyone else.  Their children entertain yours.  They help with the cooking and the clearing up, and even fixing stuff.  You catch up on life and parenting and education and politics in two different countries.  They make you laugh and smile, the worry lines are smoothed away and you feel normal for a while.   Outings happen and no-one has a meltdown.  Okay so aspie boy is hyper, so we each take turns enduring enjoying his antics.  But he is happy and that is fabulous to see.   

Smiley was happy too, I've had a few days of sickness over the Easter break, and many of our plans to go places were cancelled.  This visit helped to restore some balance to our lives.

Now my son is a sad.  He wants them to come back.  Right now.  He says wants to go on more outings.  He even said they are more fun than the X-Box.  

So to our visitors this weekend all I can say is thank you so much.  And please, come back and see us all soon....

I'm hoping to include this post in the Renata's #definenormal blogging challenge. 

I climbed a mountain! #GoodFridayWalk

By the age of 16 I never wanted to see a mountain again.  Okay they look very pretty on postcards but after ten years of family holidays in the Lake District, I certainly never wanted to climb another mountain, or so I thought...

I haven't exactly had the opportunity either: wheelchairs and mountains do not make a good combination.  But I do struggle with the restricted life of the stuck-at-home carer and the idea of escaping to the hills has become more and more attractive.  I didn't know if I could make it happen though.

Then two things came together. Smiley was given a respite night on Holy Thursday, and I was asked to take part in the annual 20K charity walk in the Wicklow Mountains on Good Friday organised by @delganylady to raise funds for Irish Autism Action and My Canine Companion.   

So I started to plan.  Aspie boy would spend the day with his Dad, Angel decided to stay at home. 

I asked a few friends to join me, but no-one volunteered.   Hmm, I wonder why?   I developed a sore throat, which meant no training was possible.  So I arrived at the meeting point in Crone Wood on a bright Friday morning with no company, just my mobile, a large bottle of water and a packet of strepsils.     Just after ten, almost 200 people set off in the sunshine...

Somehow I forgot to read the small print.  I hadn't realised quite how far 20K is when you're on foot and walking over mountains.  But it was an amazing experience.  I met interesting people along the way, learned what a hydration bladder is - so many walkers looking like ghost busters piqued my interest.  I also realised that turning 50 does not mean that life is over, even when you have two children with special needs.  If I can do this, who knows what I might do next?

The walk did get more challenging after we headed above the snow line.

We walked through the misty marshes on the mountain tops.  I felt like Frodo as I stumbled along over the sleepers, trying not to fall in the water and wondering what I would find if I did.

As we started to descend the views became magnificent, sometimes glimpsed through the mist, sometimes dark and brooding, sometimes bathed in sunshine, but each one was a different surprise and a reward for aching legs.

I was half thinking of stopping at the half way point, but when I arrived, I could see that was impracticable...with encouragement and chocolate from @delganylady I got going again.  Many of the walkers took a lunch break at this point, but I had a nasty feeling that if I sat down, I would not be able to get up again, so I just kept on walking.

The second half of the walk was warmer and easier, but I was VERY glad to see the finish.

Delicious soup and sandwiches was provided by the pub, and the organisers had a minibus to take everyone back to the car park.  It was just a brilliant way to spend a day in the mountains, knowing that everything had been organised for you, and raising money for two very good causes.

My mum and dad would have been proud.

When I was seven

When I was seven, my little world was perfect.  Cereal box perfect.  I lived in a pretty country town in Wales with my Mum, Dad and my two brothers.  Everything seemed safe and friendly, and life was predictable.  Most days my Dad left for work with his briefcase just before nine and finished up around six.  He also came home for his lunch.  My Mum minded the house, and was always there for me and my brothers.  Grandparents were visited regularly and no-one seemed to die until they were very old.  In fact bad things only happened far away in other countries.

When I was seven my primary school closed down and I had to start in another school across town.  It was too far to walk, and in those innocent days no-one thought it odd that a seven year old would get the bus home from school.  So every afternoon I said goodbye to my friends and crossed the road to the bus top swinging my satchel on my arm.  I enjoyed the short bus ride up the hill.  I felt quite the grown up.  

But then one day something happened.  One day the bus did not stop at my stop.  I can still remember the overwhelming panic as the stop receded into the distance and the houses flashed by the windows.  The tears and the kindness of strangers who offered comfort and tissues.  I wondered would the bus ever stop? Where was it taking me?  

In fact it came to a halt a few minutes later.  At the next stop.  All I had to do was walk down the hill home, instead of up.

But even so, it was the most terrifying thing that happened to me when I was seven.  

Luckily for me there was someone waiting for me when I came home to calm and cuddle me.  But what if there had been no-one?

That day flashed through my mind as soon as I heard about the new Irish Social Welfare and Pensions Bill 2012, which will eventually stop the one-parent family payment when the youngest child in the family turns seven.  Lone parents will have to sign on and look for work, for many that will mean poorly paid and part-time work which may not cover the cost of child-care, and so kids as young as 7 could be home alone.

Could I have done that? I don't think so.

When Angel was seven, she seemed to be living the cereal box dream too: she was lively and sporty with lots of friends.  She loved gymnastics, the Spice Girls and her barbie dolls, and was a proud big sister to Smiley, no longer a sick little baby, but small, portable and very cute.

How would Angel have coped at home alone at 7 if I was working and unable to afford childcare? What dangers would she have faced?  What noises would have scared her?  What if she blew a fuse and the lights went out?  If some stranger came to the door and kept on knocking.  How would she feel, how would she cope?  And why should she have to?  The Irish Constitution claims to cherish all Irish children equally.  Exactly how this new law will help cherish the children of lone parents I have no idea.

I am lucky.  I am a lone parent, but all my children are older now, and my family will not be affected by this.  But many families will be.   And perhaps there will be many more frightened seven year olds, just like me, but with no-one to comfort them.

Written in support of the #7istooyoung campaign being organised by OPEN, the Irish organisation for lone parents.