Reasons to be Cheerful 29.11.12

Reasons to be Cheerful at Mummy from the Heart

Six weeks of being cheerful! I didn't manage to stick to the original plan, and some weeks I've just posted a couple of lines on the Facebook page, but despite my world being rocked yet again in past week, this evening I looked around the dinner table at three smiling faces and I knew that the most important people in my life were eating with me and together we will keep putting one foot in front of the other.

Or four wheels at a time if you're Smiley...

So here are this week's reasons to be cheerful:

1. I'm a winner!  Twice.  And both times by accident.

There's been a surfeit of egg yolks in this house recently and so this post about cooking with eggs by Cherished by Me caught my eye.  All I did was leave a friendly comment!  But there was great excitement here when the book finally arrived, and Angel is busily working her way through the pages.

Then it happened again...I was feeling guilty after too many Saturdays avoiding bag packers and shaking tins. So I got into the Christmas spirit and sent a donation to a special needs charity through Facebook.  Then this email arrived:


You have won a prize at our recent Monster Raffle.

Sound great doesn't it?  This is what I have to do to claim my prize:

(photo removed)

It's called city kayaking.  I did think about re-raffling my prize, but then I thought about my blog and how I'm always moaning on here aaaaand so before I had a chance to regret it I asked Angel would she like to try it out too, and she said yes.  So all I need now is a babysitter and a warm day...

2. Time out with friends.

I stole away for a couple of hours on Monday to meet up with two very good friends, it's hard to believe that I've known them for more than 20 years.

3. Family dinners.

They don't happen that often.  Children are not always here at the same time, and the best laid plans go wrong.  Usually I'm cooking four different meals or versions of a dish, so it's rare that I manage to get everything ready at the same time while fielding phone calls, text messages, and trying to hoist Smiley.  

Tonight I needed a break, so I ordered a Chinese.  And it was great the way that everything was ready at the same time!  So we all sat and chatted.  We talked about the future and Angel's plans to develop her gymnastics coaching and my son explained how he was planning to become a games developer.  For once no one grumbled or fought and by the end of the meal everyone was smiling.  Even better, Angel had offered to bring Aspie boy to Coderdojo*. and HE had agreed to go.  I'm keeping all fingers and toes crossed that he doesn't break his word...

*Coderdojo is a free computer club where children and teenagers learn to code.  My son tried it before but left after a few weeks.


The Gallery: Through his eyes

Do your children like photography?  Do they have an 'eye' for it?  My son has talked about 'tography' ever since he was little and occasionally borrows the camera.  When he does the results are usually quite impressive, but then his Dad is a talented photographer too.  One day I hope he'll ask for his own camera - it would be a much better hobby than gaming.

Like many Mums there are very few everyday photos of me: I'm usually the one behind the camera.  Except for the ones taken by my son.  So here are three images of me, through my son's 'eyes'.

2007: posing Mum

2009: relaxed Mum
2012: tired Mum
The theme of The Gallery this week is 'eyes' and this entry was inspired by an early morning tweet from @tots100.  Click on the coffee mug below to see other entries.

When homes are not castles: domestic abuse

Is your home your castle? Do you close the door on the world with a happy sigh knowing that you are now in a place where you can relax, be yourself, and feel safe.  Living with domestic abuse means that the home can be the scariest place of all.  Where life is lived on a knife edge all the time, where you are either experiencing abuse or waiting for it to happen.  Where you are afraid to leave, and terrified to stay.  Where you wake up in the morning delighted to be still alive, yet dreading the day ahead.

It's a cause that I care about. A lot.

But I wasn't going to take part in yet another campaign - International 16 Days of Action against domestic abuse - until I saw this brilliant infographic from Women's Aid in Ireland.

You can download the poster here:

DISCLAIMER: I was not asked or paid to write this post or promote this poster

A right to life for my daughters: a post for world prematurity day

Today is World Prematurity Day, a day to celebrate our children who were born too soon, and to remember those who did not make it.  It's especially poignant this year, following the awful death this week of a young woman and her unborn child in a Galway Hospital.  Surely this shouldn't still be happening?    It reminded me yet again of the birth of my special girl, and what might have happened to both of us.  

Smiley was born in 1996, weighing 875 gms or 1lb 15 oz and was a footling breech birth.  Almost everything else about her birth is not clear.

I say 26 weeks, they say 27.

I say I was in labour for 3 days, they say a few hours.

I say her head got stuck for more than 15 minutes and one set of hospital records says a few minutes.

So I have lots of questions:

Why did my waters go at 24 weeks?

How safe is it to leave women and their unborn babies after losing their waters?

Why wasn't I put on an antibiotic drip when an infection was detected after 2 weeks?

Why was nothing done while I had contractions for 3 days?

Why did no-one try to stop full labour commencing?

Why was just given pethidine when I couldn't sleep for the third day in a row?

Why was I barely monitored that night?

When it was discovered that the baby was a footling breech presentation, why was a decision taken to let me give birth normally?

Would my daughter have fewer problems if she had been born by caesarean section?

I tried to find out the answers to these questions, but no-one wants to tell you.  No-one wants to admit that they may have taken the wrong decision.

And my understanding is that no-one is now allowed to give birth naturally to a pre-term baby in the footling breech position.  So perhaps something has been learned from Smiley's birth.

But this is ancient history, I hear you cry..  Well is it?

After this week I wonder again how safe it is to be a woman if your pregnancy does not go to plan.  One of my daughters will be disabled for life, and the other may have children of her own.  One day she may be in a hospital feeling frightened for herself and her unborn baby.  So for the sake of my daughters I would love to have some answers.

For more information on World Prematurity Day check out these sites:

Tommy's for information on research

Bliss for support in the UK for premature birth

Irish Premature Babies for Irish readers

Could my son have ADHD too?

I know what it's like to be the mum of a happy, healthy, affectionate, interesting, fit, helpful 11 year old. I was that mum.  I loved being that mum.  That's why I had more children.

But now I am a miserable shouty mum, depressed, anxious, frightened, worried, helpless and sometime hopeless.  I just don't know how to rear a child with Aspergers.  The advice is conflicting, and very little of it works for long.  We had a truce last week in the long long battle, and for a couple of days I was smiling and my son, well he seemed to be himself again: sincere, cooperative, making plans for the future, talking about topics other than video games.

It all ended on Saturday night and I am not proud of my reaction.  I did not stay calm as my hope were dashed once again.

Then last night we watched a programme on Irish television about ADHD.  Some people do not even believe in this syndrome.  We saw the anger and the violence and so much of it looked so familiar.  We saw the out of control teenager being arrested and I shivered.   Is that my sons future?  Perhaps watching it might make him stop and think.   I really hope it does.  He is so bright, he has so much potential, but it seems that everything I do is wrong.

Everything I try fails in the face of his need for total control.  He would rather have that than any reward it seems.  The only sanction that works is taking all his consoles away, and I can't do that 20 times a day.  And if I do take them away I have to make sure that there is someone available to mind Smiley and see to her needs while I deal with the fallout from the punishment.

Can I stop things getting worse?  Not without help, and guess what?

He's back on the waiting list....

A surfeit of egg yolks

I love the word surfeit.  It makes me think of Henry VIII and sloshy syllabubs, and farmer's markets and bounty and feeling full after Christmas dinner.

But a surfeit of egg yolks, now that's a challenge, especially as I rarely eat eggs.

The reason? Well Angel has started a new diet, not to lose weight, or so she says, but to remain fit and healthy.  And it certainly looks that way:

Among the commandments of this diet are these:

1. Thou shalt eat eggs every day.

2. But only the whites.

She tips the yolks into a pot for the fridge and there they sit, like eyes, watching me and waiting to be used.

So I challenged myself to use an egg yolk every day for a week.  And this is how I got on..

Sunday: A sweet treat

Cake in a mug

1tbsp ground almonds
2 tbsp self raising flour
2 tbsp drinking chocolate
2 tbsp brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla essence
sprinkle of cinnamon
1 egg yolk
1 tbsp vegetable oil

1. Mix all the ingredients together and cook in the microwave on full power for 2-3 minutes
2. Eat!

You can replace the ground almonds with flour (or vice versa as recommended by awesome food blogger Wholesome Ireland) and it does work even better with a whole egg..

Monday: Something warming

Sweet Potato Soup

1 small sweet potato
1 small garden potato
dab of butter
1/4 onion
dash of white wine
dash of cream if you have it
1 egg yolk

1. Roast sweet potato and onion until soft on a baking tray smeared with butter. About 200 degrees for 20 minutes or so.
2. Boil garden potatoes, Irish ones take 10 minutes.
3. Put both types of potato, onion, wine, cream and enough water in a pan to boil.
4. Liquidise and stir the egg yolk into the hot soup.

Tuesday: An egg too far

Scrambled egg yolks, toast and homemade coleslaw.  Looks pretty but was too rich for me!

Wednesday - Fishy, fishy

Baked cod with Hollandaise sauce using the link below, except I made it by hand.  No picture proof that it didn't curdle (it didn't) because I had to make it in a horrid pink plastic bowl as everything else was in the dishwasher.

Thursday - A birthday surprise

Left-over birthday cake and home-made custard.  Heaven for Smiley :)

Friday - Empty the fridge soup

It can't be just me.  Towards the end of the week my fridge is always full of random half carrots, mashed vegetables in pots, a few forlorn chicken bones and more egg yolks.  Time to make more soup...

Saturday - An ambition fulfilled

Pumpkin pie

My son had asked for this, I was curious and I didn't want to throw away the pumpkin.  I used this recipe but replaced the eggs with egg yolks and I made my own pastry.  Does anyone remember Blue Band margarine?  It was always in the fridge in my home in the 1970s and my Mum got the recipe book, along with the Cadbury's one and the BeRo flour one, and many more (some of which I still have).

Blue Band Pastry: Sieve 6oz flour into a bowl, add 4oz of margarine and 1 tbsp of water.  Mix together, roll out and you're done. So easy :)

So there you have it, a week of eating egg yolks.  Now the stocks are building up again.  But check out the dresser.  Anyone for orange curd?

Thanks for all the tips from @cathyby, ‏@RosieJosie76, ‏@NiamhPitts and @LennyLovet which included lemon curd, lemon meringue, mayonnaise, custard, chocolate mousse, omelette, quiche, creme caramel, pasta sauces and this:

Frozen Egg Yolks: Whip egg yolks and add a pinch of salt/sugar. Freeze in ice cube trays overnight, then transfer to a freezer bag the next day. Usually two to a bag. They keep for about three months.

Mini Post: Reasons to be Cheerful 10.11.12

Today was set to be hard: one year ago exactly I said goodbye to my Dad for the last time.  Perhaps it hasn't hit me yet, or perhaps I am living life as he would want, because today I'm feeling pretty good.

It's all down to my son.  I have abandoned the 18 month bedtime battle that caused so much stress for me and led to meltdowns from him.  Then something happened on Wednesday at about 11am in school.  It's almost as though someone flicked a switch.  He apologised to everyone, settled down, started working and has been a different child since then.  Well mostly..

So this is week three of my six-week challenge to find 3 good things and 3 reasons to be cheerful

Reasons to be Cheerful at Mummy from the Heart

Three good things in my life:

1. My neighbours who are reserved but friendly and helpful.

2. My GHD. Okay I *may* have mentioned it before, but if you saw my hair this morning you'd know just what a central role it plays in my life!

3. Britney, Kylie and all the other pop princesses who brighten up Smiley's day when I am busy.

Three reasons to be cheerful:

1. More free time to blog, to cut my nails, to wash my hair, even to meet friends.  What a relief!

2. I reluctantly gave up yet another morning to attend the first week of a course on parenting teens with aspergers.  It turned out to be interesting, and hopefully useful too.

3. Another ambition fulfilled: I made pumpkin pie to use up spare egg yolks (if which more another day) and the - slightly scorched - jack o'lantern, and it's delicious :)

Why are children dividing us? #crref

Who knew that a referendum about children's rights could be so divisive?  If you're not in Ireland you may not be aware that there will be a referendum on Saturday to change the Irish Constitution to include the recognition of specific rights for children.  This referendum has been discussed for years.  My impression was that it was long overdue and would be universally supported.

I was wrong.

I have never seen so much division among my on-line friends over any issue ever.

I had always assumed that I would be in the 'yes' camp as people whose opinion I respect and trust are promoting a 'yes' vote.   I discounted the 'No' side at first.  I did not like their spokespeople and their emphasis on parental rights and ownership as though children were no different to cars or kettles.  That made my skin crawl.  They've learned.  Now they're talking about family rights.  Articles and videos have been circulating raising fears about the State taking the place of parents in deciding how children will live their lives.

Especially the lives of children with special needs.  So now I find that most of the special needs mums that I know and like are in the 'no' camp, and most of the organisations that I respect are in the 'yes' camp.  I am very confused.

Is it significant that it is worried parents who plan to vote 'no', and organisations that may be part-funded by the State, that want us to vote 'yes'?

When I asked whether the referendum would prevent parents taking cases against the state to secure right for their children with special needs, I got this reply:

"This is not true, a parent can continue to take a case against the State in relation to their children and the amendment will not hinder this. Indeed, I believe the case taken by the parent will be strengthen as the amendment says children have rights and the State has a duty to uphold those rights. The amendment will help make the State more accountable, not less." *

As a separated mother whose custody and access arrangements are by mutual agreement, I am aware of many situations where the 'rights' of parents sometimes seem to take precedence over those of children in the family courts.  My understanding is that children cannot leave the country to go on holiday or visit relatives abroad if one parent refuses a passport.  They cannot refuse to see a parent, even if they don't want to go.  Even if the child returns from an access visit tired, hungry or injured, because of the fear of being charged with parental alienation.  Overnight access can be ordered even when the parent concerned has addiction issues unless it can be proved that the parent is a danger to the child.  A 'yes' vote in the referendum should help to change that:

"The amendment will ensure in any decision about access, custody or guardianship the views of the child must be taken into consideration. Also the best interests of the child must be the paramount consideration in the decision making. These two things combined will ensure that all family law arrangements set by the courts will be child-centred and if they are child-centred they better protect children."*

Is the State really a big bogeyman determined to rip children from the loving arms of their parents?  I really don't think so.  And how would I vote?  Probably yes.  But the seeds of doubt have been sown.

What about you?

* with thanks to Senator Jillian van Turnhout

Thanks also to Barnardos Ireland for this explanation:


Meltdown after meltdown

I know I said that I would stop writing so much about my son with aspergers and my difficulty in coping with his behaviour, but we both need help and I'm almost out of ideas.  The State therapist that he likes and respects is busy, and he is refusing to go to any of the private services that I've found.   He won't take any advice: "It doesn't work, Mum".  He won't write about his feelings as asked by one therapist.  So I am, but he won't even tell me how he feels, so I'm having to write about each meltdown and guess how he is feeling.  Another activity that has kept me very busy during the last week.

He won't follow any other advice either now.  He's stopped using the trampoline, he won't push his sister's wheelchair any more, he didn't even go to tennis last week - the one sport he claims to like.

Yet he is asking for help.  He says he can't control his anger.  I know that he can't control how he feels, but surely even a child can control how they respond to their feelings?

If you're a regular reader you know that I am stressed to the max about him refusing to go to sleep on his own and I have been asking over and over why he is so afraid.  He is still blaming it on an episode of Supernatural that he watched with his sister 18 months ago that featured a 'wraith' that knocks on windows before coming in.  We live in an old house and I can understand why he can easily think that he hears knocks on the windows at night.  But he's never seen me wielding my light sabre against marauding wraiths in all the hours that I have sat in his room.  So why is he still afraid?  Or is he?

Yesterday I tried bribery, tapering off time in his room in exchange for a new game.  No interest.  He wasn't falling for that.  Even though it is almost two months until Christmas and he is completely out of money.

Last night it was almost midnight before he went to sleep amidst more fights and tears and then he woke me this morning with a screaming complaint that I had not woken him at 6 am as "I told you to".

It is not good when you find yourself shaking with stress before you've even had coffee.

Other recent meltdowns have been about perceived unfairness, meanness, misunderstandings, jumping to conclusions and changes of plans.

Yesterday I told him that he could not see his friend today if there was any more bad behaviour.  This morning he shouted and screamed and swore at me and so I told him the visit was off.  Cue a teary meltdown.  Now I am trying to find a way back.  I have suggested a written and signed contract between us that would slowly wean him off his bedtime/morning routine, in return for seeing his friend today.  "Okay," he said.

So were the last 18 months just a big game to him then?

And will this work? Or will he change his mind this evening once his friend has gone home...

Yesterday I walked into town with Smiley and we took part in a protest against cuts to child benefit. That's all though, I wasn't involved in the organisation and promotion.  It was great to see some of my friends from the PACUB group, and it was great to feel normal and relaxed, even though I had a child with severe special needs with me, she wasn't trying to control anything, she wasn't having meltdowns, she was just smiling and laughing and enjoying the day and the attention.  I just want life with my son to be like that too.

Not sure how I ended up so far away from Smiley in this pic!

Mini post: Reasons to be cheerful 1.11.12

This is week two of my six-week challenge to find 3 good things and 3 reasons to be cheerful..

Reasons to be Cheerful at Mummy from the Heart

Three good things in my life:

1. My lovely home hairdresser who copes with a busy Mum, a gorgeous young wan, a boy with aspergers and a girl with cerebral palsy.  And I must book another appointment as Smiley is starting to resemble Rapunzel...

2. A great university just a couple of miles up the road, so Angel can live at home. I know that she will have to leave at some point, but right now it's so lovely having her here.

3.  My blog and the blogging community.  It's better than therapy, cheaper than counselling, and I can do it anywhere.  Am eating pizza right now.

Three reasons to be cheerful

1. Halloween.  At 5.30 pm I was still carving the pumpkin, and the scary cakes were still in the oven. Two hours later and it was all finished. With every last sweet given away. A relief in every way.

2. My special girl had a lovely birthday weekend. A party, shopping and cheesecake all featured, as well as lots of time with mum. The first thing that aspie boy did on Smiley's special day was sing happy birthday to his sister without being prompted.  Not only had he remembered her birthday, but he decided to do something nice for her too.

3.  I was wondering where my son was earlier today and I found him and his big sister Angel sitting together to watch a film, just like any other brother and sister.  Definitely a heart-warming moment.