I am a finalist! #blogfestIRL

blog awards ireland

Thank you so much to everyone who nominated and voted for me in the new Irish blog awards, and all of you who read, comment and share my stuff.  I really can't believe that I've got this far. The news broke last night but I was too overwhelmed to pass it on: my delight was mixed with bitter disappointment at the blogs that did not make it.

The full list of finalists is here:


Congratulations to all, and a special mention for my favourite photographer Foxglove Lane,  and also Magnumlady's Blog which always makes me want to move to Sligo..

Reasons to be Cheerful: The Cabbage Edition

I've been a moany Mum for the past week, which means it's definitely time to find some reasons to be cheerful, and here they are:

1. Winter warmth: I'm old-fashioned about money after a nasty brush with having absolutely none at all in my early twenties. It may sound quaint but I save up for things, and put money by...does anyone even say that anymore?  Anyway a major bill came in recently, and it was a lot lower than I had anticipated, so I've just got my 100 year old rattly sash windows double-glazed.  They look the same, as they haven't yet been painted, but the difference is toasty toes and warm quiet rooms..

2.  Fabby friends: I cried on them, discussed work with them, borrowed stuff that might help with the kids and talked and talked and talked.

3. Cabbages and bags: There are few everyday things that I dread more than bag packing in supermarkets: I don't want to be there, the shoppers don't want me to pack their bags but they feel cornered into throwing money into the bucket, as it's for charity.  I do my best, I am Princess Di at the checkouts with my shy smile and best manners, but after two hours the stress got to me when the third shopper in a row wanted to do their own packing, even as the queues built up behind them.

I was saved by a bleeding finger, about which I plan to tell you nothing.

But before I escaped, I had a number of unlikely conversations, including one with a lovely couple who told me all about their holidays in Tenby, and also felt obliged to explain their purchase of a pot of cream.  It was for the cabbage, they said. I must've looked puzzled because they then gave me the recipe. And since cabbage is not the easiest vegetable to make enticing, I thought I'd give it a try.  And it's delicious, so here's the recipe. I have no idea of quantities though....

Cabbages and cream 

Savoy Cabbage
Vegetable stock cube

Chop cabbage.
Dissolve stock in a small amount of boiling water.
Add cabbage to the pan and boil gently for about 7 minutes (depending on how al dente you like it).  Drain stock.
Pour a little cream into the pan.  Return it to the heat and boil for another minute or two.

Now head over to Mummy from the Heart for more reasons to cheerful, but no cabbage.

Motherhood backwards: Life as a special needs mum

A few days ago I fell asleep on the landing.

I was waiting for my son to go to sleep.  He is not 1, he is 11, but he tells me that he is too afraid to go to sleep on his own.  That's Asperger's for you.

I am not a patient person and waiting for up to 2 hours for my son to go to sleep does not work well for me, even with an iPad to keep me company.

This particular evening I was more tired than ever, and I lay on the carpet, and my eyes started to droop.  So I closed them for a second, as you do.  And woke up some time later.  Luckily I didn't tumble down the stairs.

I knew then that something had to change.

A new regime was needed.  So now I sit down with my son in the living room for a hour after putting Smiley to bed, and then bring him up just before 10.  Then I load the dishwasher, clean the kitchen and go up myself to try and get in enough hours of sleep to cope with the early morning call of my son or the alarm.  He has trained himself well.   Even with the later bed time he still wakes at 6am and sees absolutely no reason to get up any later.  If he gets up, I have to as well.  No longer will he go down stairs on his own.

So my evening is gone.

Is the pattern set now?  I could live for another 30 years.  Will I be at the beck and call of 2 children around the clock for the rest of my life?  I'm not coping well with this thought.

You see I've also had to cancel Smiley's respite again.  It's not that they're doing anything wrong, but it's just not working for her, and I am not hopeful of finding an alternative.  No new dates for Smiley's Sunday outings have been suggested either, so perhaps that service has finally been cancelled too.

It's like motherhood backwards.  It was difficult when they were little, then it got easier as grew, but from about 10 onwards it has all changed.   I can no longer carry Smiley and pretend she is an overgrown toddler, and my son also needs huge amounts of my time, he does things for himself now, but needs lots of reminding and direction and my presence: I'm becoming a helicopter mum: the other kind.

The lives of many of my friends are very different now and some relationships are fractured. For years I was able to say that I had lost very few friends as a result of my two younger children.  But that too is starting to change.  Some have disappeared altogether, others no longer get in contact, or the weeks pass and I forget to contact them.  I can understand it.  Their teenage children have completely different needs: lifts, money, guidance, grinds.

Yesterday I cried in front of one friend as I recounted the hurt I felt as yet another person told me how much free time I have now that the kids are back in school.

I'm sorry, but you're wrong.

I don't have a bad life.  Far from it.  But remember the first year of your baby's life?  It's still like that here.  And it's not "just a phase", it's for real, and perhaps it's for life.

But I have a good life compared to so many.  And I need to hang on to that thought...and organise another night out...

NOTE: This post is for me, it's self-therapy, and I hope it doesn't sound too moany, but it helps me so much to work through things.  Perhaps it might help someone else too.

So you think I have aspergers?

Because some people do.

And this is where the evidence starts: I look at that sentence and start to worry.  Is it okay to type that?  Is the expression 'some people' acceptable?  To me it is simply a statement of fact, but I am well aware that what I say and write is often over interpreted.  That layers of meaning are added that I did not intend.  Perhaps this is why I love reading books but couldn't see the point of English Literature classes!

I've always felt a bit different, I've always struggled to fit in, but I assumed that this was normal.  I knew very little about Asperger's Syndrome when my son was diagnosed, and I certainly did not recognise myself, nor sometimes my son, in the recommended books.

But then this test started flying around Facebook.  It was designed for adults to indicate if they have autistic traits.  You can try it yourself here:


I've taken the test a couple of times, and answered the questions in a very conservative way, but my score is consistently around 29.  Three points higher and the results suggest I should seek 'professional medical advice'.  What?  I was shocked.  Not just by my score, but by how some of my friends got scores below 10.  How was that possible?  I had thought that almost  everyone was like me!

I have more evidence, but if you take aspergers and autism very seriously, you may want to look away now:

I had several very serious interests as a child: coin collecting, bird watching, house design and more.  But perhaps that was because we had no TV?

I learned the capitals of every country in the world.  For fun.

I love boxes and lever arch folders.  They mean order.  Even toys were always boxed as far as possible.  And I have all household bills and correspondence for the past 20 years carefully filed so I can check stuff if necessary.  That does happen, honest!

I dislike the smell of perfume and aftershave.  In fact as far as possible everything has to be unscented!

I never leave home without lip salve and hand cream...I hate the feeling of dry hands and dry lips..

I bored a whole class in primary school once with a long winded demonstration of origami which the teacher had to bring to a halt before everyone fell asleep.

Preferred reading: children's books, science fiction, fantasy.  On TV I've no interest in Coronation Street but love Dr Who.

Discipline and direction make me angry and annoyed, unless it's work-related, and I'm being paid.

I was rubbish at ball sports, I couldn't see the ball without my glasses or if the sun was out, I couldn't catch it and if it came anywhere near me, I ducked!

Then I became self absorbed and self centred teenager who saw herself as a collection of faults.  But is that so unusual?  I didn't really grow out of that stage, so blogging is perfect therapy for me.

But I worked in PR for years I hear you cry?  Ah but I was a back office worker, wheeled out for the occasional meeting and pitch but rarely asked to attend events.  I have a history of hiding in the ladies toilet rather than facing the challenge of networking with a bunch of confident strangers.   Yet I don't mind public speaking about a subject that interests me.  

So you think I have Asperger's? My friends seem to accept me just the way I am, so perhaps it doesn't matter.

(It does matter to my son: his label is the gateway to services, information, help and support)

NB: This post was based on notes jotted down over many months and pulled together in my head while I washed my hair and typed up while I slowly fed my daughter her breakfast, in case anyone is wondering why I am moaning so much about being tired, having no free time and yet still blogging! 

The life and times of a new Mum: in 1992

My baby will be 20 years old in a few days.  Not only grown up, but not even a teenager any more.  Twenty years, gone in a flash, but I still remember those early days with my beautiful baby girl and so it was the perfect topic for my guest post for Babyhuddle, the social shopping site for new Mums.

Head on over - you'll be amazed at how much has changed...and how much has stayed the same.


DISCLOSURE: I was not paid to write the post for Babyhuddle.  I just like writing :)

Listography: lessons in love, life and looks


After fifty years of being awkward, annoying and adventurous, I must have learned something, so when I saw that this week's Listography over at Kate Takes 5 was about sharing the collective wisdom of women, I started to jot down a few thoughts, and then a few more.  Many more than five, but I have five categories, so that's alright isn't it?

On ageing

When I was 16 I ditched my 29 year old boyfriend when I saw him in bright daylight because he looked so old.  So do you.  Get over it.  All the lotions, potions, nips and tucks may make you look good, but they are are not going to make you look young.

Ra ra skirts looked pretty silly in the 80s and they look even worse now you're over 30.  That also goes for jumpsuits, pussybow ties and bikinis with skirts.

It's too late.  You are never ever going to look like Wendy James (substitute your own teen idol). Even she doesn't look like herself now.

On food and drink

Chocolate is fattening.  Sorry.  So is wine.  Coffee is good and bad for you #phew.  Just run it all off and you should be okay.

On life

If it sounds too good to be true, it is.  Just ask yourself, how long do waterproof plasters last in your house?

A hard sell is usually something that is hard TO sell.  Ask yourself why.  And that goes for chuggers, cold callers, toy ads and slimy salesmen.

Substitute with care: If the rope is gone, don't try and swing off the tree with a piece of string.  You will break something.

On men

Nice guys do not always wear cool clothes.

They don't understand hints, just tell them. Or ask them.

Apart from that, I seem to have learned very little!

On friendships and children

Cherish them and love them and you can't go far wrong...

For more womanly wisdom just click on the Listography icon at the top of this post.

Stuck in a lift

"Our call centre will be in touch with you shortly."

Call centre?

I could feel the panic rising.

Just how was some guy in Delhi or Bangkok going to open the doors of a lift in Dublin?

It was a very small lift, just room for Smiley in her enormous wheelchair, and me, and as the seconds ticked by, it felt as though the walls were closing in further.

Not good for someone who struggles with mild claustrophobia.

It began as just another shopping trip with my special girl.  She loves shopping, especially in familiar streets. She owns them. She sits and surveys the crowds and laughs and giggles and smiles and chats with anyone who stops to give her attention. And lots of people do.

Getting in a lift is almost unavoidable in the city centre shops, even though I dislike them.  Though if they have windows they are almost tolerable.  Lifts involve lots of things that makes me anxious: waiting, small confined spaces, heat, unexplained noises.

But with a wheelchair I have no choice, and Smiley has no concerns.  So once again we waited, entered and pressed the button for the first floor.  The doors closed and the lift rose.  Then it went quiet and the doors started to open.  Well one of them did.  It opened a couple of centimeters and then stopped.

There must be some mistake I thought, and pressed the <> button.   Grinding noises.  A little shake.  And again the inner door opened a fraction.

All I could think of were scenes from movies.  The good, the bad and the potentially useful.  I pushed at the doors with all my strength and willed them to open.


I could not quite believe that this was happening.

I knew that I had to stay calm.  The lights were still on, so at least it was not a power cut.

Okay, so press the alarm button. And that's when I got the message about the call centre.

And started to feel much less calm.

I pressed the buttons again and again, and was just about to start pounding on the doors when....

Somehow, my prayers were answered and the doors finally slid drunkenly open.

Shakily I pushed the chair out and stumbled over to customer service to report the fault.  I must have been a little pale as tea was offered.  I declined, but have been avoiding lifts ever since...

I dream to sleep

A helping hand over the summer seemed like such a good idea at the time.  I normally get 45 minutes of home help on school mornings to ensure that my two children with special needs are ready when the bus arrives.  The extra help gives me time to deal with aspie anxiety, and assistance with showering my special girl 2-3 times a week - the shower chairs and equipment I have for Smiley is no longer suitable and the whole thing is physically tiring and time consuming.   I don't *need* home help when the schools are off, but this year it was offered, and I had visions of leaving the house on sunny mornings with the kids and staying out all day.  We would go places and visit people and make memories.  I wouldn't still be in my PJs at lunch time...

And some days we did, especially during our staycation week when my brother and nephew came to visit.

But I was a bit too optimistic!

There are always bad nights, even in August, but I hadn't realised just how much I need a month of taking life at a slower pace.  Switching off the alarm clock on the last day of school is one of things I like about the school holidays.

Gradually over the month the kids would sleep in a little later, we would do less, often not leaving the house until mid afternoon.  There would be nights when I would get a magical eight hours of sleep!

But not this year.  With the home help arriving at 6.45 am every morning I often found myself still wiping down surfaces at 1 am.  Not good.   Other nights I stayed up late because I dreaded the ring of my alarm clock so much that I would put of hearing it as long as possible.  Even more stupid.  I know that some of my friends struggle with insomnia, and I have no idea how they cope.  I felt permanently tired and grumpy, and sometimes dizzy and faint as well.

Can you bank sleep?  Having started the new term feeling absolutely exhausted, I now believe that you can.  In the past two weeks since the kids went back to school I have spent my days trying to organise everything so I can get to sleep as early as possible.  But it's not really working yet.  I've a huge 'to do' list as well.  So if I turn down invitations, and say 'no' to night's out, it's not you, it's me.  All I'm dreaming of right now is sleep...


Lack of sleep is a huge problem for the parents of kids with special needs, and a major theme on this blog.  Here are some of the other stories:

I've written about driving on two hours sleep...


The effect of having a teenager who stays up late and smaller kids who get up early...


On being woken early on a Sunday morning...


Should our daughters ditch the moisturiser?

Many men don't use it, one of my best friends doesn't use it, my Mum didn't use it. And she had peachy unlined skin until she was in her 60s.

I never bought into the whole beauty industry thing either - it just seemed to require huge amounts of time that I would rather spend actually doing things.

And I have sensitive skin, so it was always going to be Simple or E45 for me!  But I do like the feel of moisturiser on my face, the way it wakes up tired tight skin.  The ritual of doing something purely for me, timeout for pampering, even if it's only for a few seconds.

Before I discovered moisturiser there was Anne French, which Jackie told me to use to remove my make up. The moisturiser came later, when I was in my late teens, and I never questioned the need for it.

Until this week, when I read an interesting post on Facebook from a mum who is trying to wean her child off using lip salve in large quantities every day.  Apparently this can lead to lip balm addiction and  eventually your lips lose their innate ability to moisturise themselves.  Who knew?

This got me to thinking.  Could this apply to skin as well?  It's too late for me, my skin would be addicted to moisturiser at this stage, but perhaps we should be discouraging our daughters from slathering on all those chemicals and letting their beautiful young skin look after itself.

What do you think?  Is moisturiser really necessary?

When calls for help go unanswered #Aspergers


There has huge upset in the autism community this week and some disagreement. But what everyone agrees on is that many many families who have children on the autism spectrum find that their calls for help go unanswered, sometimes until it is too late.

Children with Asperger's are amazing, they can be clever, funny, creative, interesting and basically wonderful. But at times their behaviour can be very difficult for their parents to understand and manage without help and support.

One mother would like to share her story - names and details changed. It could have ended badly too. Luckily it didn't. After three very difficult years the authorities did act and, following a spell in residential care which included intensive therapy and some medication, her son is now a handsome young man who is back living at home.

"Mary" is a lone parent living in the Midlands, and one of her sons has Asperger's Syndrome...

My family was torn apart because the authorities refused to listen to me for three years. There were times when I could easily have hurt my son or he me as he was extremely aggressive or volatile. There were times I wished my son would just die of natural causes or that I would ... that's how bad it was here. Until you experience it, you have no idea of just how hard it is to be afraid of your child, and know in your heart that without help he could unintentionally kill you or your other children.

For three years I was on constant alert as his meltdowns were every day and so aggressive. Myself and my other children have spent hours locked in a room as it was too unsafe to come out. We sat there hugging each other and crying while he broke everything he could find. He punched his fist through a glass door and still the authorities didn't listen. He beat me and his brother, and even the social workers did nothing when I showed them our injuries.

During all this time just one person listened: a psychologist, who was extremely concerned, but even he could not get child psychiatry to see us. He did a battery of assessments, and my son came out in the 95th percentile for aggression, anxiety and depression, and still they said they could not see him. Our story could have been headline news too, but nothing was done.

When you're in a very dark place you do not function correctly or think clearly. And you can end up in a very dark place indeed if you are the lone parent of a child with autism, caring for him 24/7, and dealing with challenging behaviour with no help, support or respite.

Just one message: when families ask for help, DO NOT ignore them. Please.

Listography - Cheesy Childhood Music Memories

Music of every kind has always played a huge part in my life, but it wasn't always Arcade Fire and The Heathers.  So when Kate from Kate Takes 5 asked for cheesy childhood music memories for the first Listography of the new term, I couldn't resist digging into the archives...

1. In a house with no TV and a radio with the dial permanently turned to BBC Radio 4, there was little chance to hear chart hits.  The Beatles were different. Even my parents couldn't avoid them and I remember my Dad singing Yellow Submarine to entertain us kids, especially in the car.

2. My Dad's family introduced me to opera and Mozart and playing the piano, and we had piles of sheet music all over the house which I bashed out when I got fed up with practicing scales, including this one:

It was years before I heard the recorded version..

3. My Mum's parents were more into 'popular culture, and at their house I would hear snatches of Burt Bacharach and classics like My Way, by Frank Sinatra, of course.

4. My first faltering steps into teendom were taken at the local Methodist Youth Club which was open to all religions and none.  I was shy and created a role for myself as the DJ who changed the records.  That way I didn't have to go talk to anyone, as they would come to me with requests.  It also opened my ears to new music and I discovered that there was other stuff out there besides sweet saccharine love songs.  Pre-punk, that meant Status Quo and songs like 'Down Down'.

Could they have started my obsession with noisy guitar bands?

5. Then in January 1976 I went to my first disco at the local comprehensive school.  I was thirteen and wearing the unfortunate combination of a green dirndl skirt and flowery blouse.  Luckily no photos survive.  The disco was a a heady mix of loud music, sweaty bodies and raging hormones.  I was hooked.  This song was number one at the time and it will always remind me of being young...

Click on the Listography icon below for more music memories.