New year

I’ve not written in so long…and yet it feels like the last year went so quickly. So quickly, but also there was so much going on .. as a combination that was stressful, especially as I have had little control over most of it.

I have written about Amy’s birth, her gifts and her challenges. This year her health has challenged her more than anything we could have prepared for.

We have however enjoyed many things this year, some fabulous friends got us through.. and there’s a coffee vein running through me now (more on that later)..

And.. here’s what we learnt:

1- we have an amazing capacity for ice cream

Even on a December evening, after a hospital appointment is the perfect time for many scoops of frozen yumminess, topped with as many sweet treats as they can stick on the available surface area!

We have turned hospital visits in to opportunities to try a variety of coffee shops and ice cream parlours. I fear this habit (plus this Christmas acquired one of consuming half my body weight in Baileys salted caramel) may expand my waist further..but hey ho..

2- my girls have an innate 80s dance vibe.

There have been a lot of spotify playlists.. and a lot of singing. It’s shortened car journeys and made us laugh. Lucy always gets the words wrong and her version usually sticks.

My heart swole in the waiting room of the Ulster Clinic when the Nolan sisters ‘I’m in the mood for dancing’ came on.. it started with shoulder dancing (in sync..), but following a quick check that the room was empty bar us, they were both up on their feet dancing away.

Even when awaiting results, the music was the primary focus. It filled a gap.. took their mind off things.. lightened the mood.

3- although they fight like cat and dog, my girls put each other first when it matters

Lucy has trailed along to appointments, even when others were available to look after her. She worries. She’s heard too much but that’s been a judgement call based on the fact that its easier to talk about facts than leave her worrying that she’s only heard part of a story. It’s been helpful for Amy too as Lucy’s logical but insightful way of looking at things has given us laughs and pauses to reflect.. it’s given us the chance to talk through things that might underneath it all worry Amy too- the most recent one being Lucy’s concern that maybe some day they’d ‘put Amy down’ as there might be nothing more they could do. Whilst funny, this let me see how deep her worries go and in clearing it up for her, we were all able to talk about how things, although tough, were far from that stage and how we still had so much to be thankful for, compared to many others.

4- our ability to keep going has been tested to the limit.. and passed.

Exhaustion has been real for Amy.. and to a certain extent for me too. Juggling work with sometimes up to 4 appointments per week for some months has seen me working many nights on things I’d otherwise have done in the daytime.. we have been snappy and irritable and cancelled plans with friends, rearranged others. Despite it all, everything got done. No friends were lost.. no deadlines missed. Some sleep was lost and some wrinkles gained.. (but they may have happened anyway?!).

5- we have good friends

Friends remain the most important value added to family life. No man is an island.. and no family should be either. Each stolen hour for a coffee was cherished this year.

6- school is important, but only as far as you need it to be.

This is Amy’s last year of school (!!).. and there have therefore been a lot of assessments, exams, deadlines.. and a lot of missed school. I support a lot of parents in my day job to make sure they can help their children to access the most appropriate and supportive education.. and thankfully, actually without any effort, Amy has been afforded the most sensitive, caring and supportive school environment that we could ever have hoped for. Yes education is important, mostly because its compulsory and lasts for at least 12 years, so it should be at least comfortable..but more than that, it is your guide for how much people that are not related to you will do to make sure your needs are met. Its where, when this happens, you feel valued, respected and you develop trust. These are the valuable life lessons that no matter how much a parent does cannot be gifted- knowing that they do what they do, not because they have to, but because they care is priceless.

7- its the people you meet and your interactions with them that make the world go around

We have had many laughs this year. Of note was the now infamous float parade (thanks for not sharing the dressing up as an octopus tenticle part until the last minute blondie!). We love people, although admittedly some days I’m just not as peoply as i used to be .. Lucy loves an audience and Amy finds crowds difficult so we try for a happy medium.

8- we see skills every day.

From the words Lucy uses which astound us, to the practical skills of every day life that I’m thankful for, we don’t miss opportunities to complement each other on the diamonds.

9- there are endless possibilities..

Amy’s ‘a spoonful of sugar’ blog began as a way to document good coffee shops that we visit on the way to hospital visits. Within 20 min (I jest you not), Amy had identified a social purpose for it… and an income generating stream. I’m excited by how much purpose it has given her, at a time when her confidence could be rock bottom. I’m excited by development opportunities, not just for A spoonful of sugar, but most importantly, for Amy.

10- we are so grateful.

Amy’s odds on day 1 were slim. She’s still fighting. But although we had got complacent about physical health, nothing about Amy can be taken for granted. We are grateful for the support she has had and for the love we have all felt.

We are grateful for those instrumental teachers in both girls’ lives.

We are grateful for our families..

We are grateful that although us both being self employed is tough, its given us flexibility to meet new challenges this year, and see new opportunities.

We are grateful for each other.

On the last day of a year that’s taught us so much, Amy got her National Insurance number. Such a poignant dawn of a new start beckoning.

Mothers Day

Mothers Day…

As ever, I am very thankful for my mum and hope I tell her often enough how much I appreciate all she does for me, but this weekend more than most I’m thankful for those who call me mum.

I am very lucky to have them both and although I often have to remind myself this (sometimes several times a day), I am also frequently struck by how odd the mothering thing is.. I grew these people? These people who have their own minds, their own thoughts and their own opinions and who are not afraid to share them!

Amy will be 14 on Thursday. I can’t quite believe it. I usually find her birthday difficult.. but last year for the first I didn’t have flash backs or glimpses of what I might have been doing at the same time x years ago on that fateful day.

Tonight she was telling me how she will still be up at midnight the night before, so that she sees ‘turning 14’. I told her she was born at 2.09am.. and instantly I got that stomach lurching feeling that I didn’t want to have again. But I let it come.. and go.

Amy’s birth is not something I like to remember. It was traumatic.. for her especially. And its still traumatic. No amount of people telling me to wise up, it’s a long time ago.. look how well she is now.. etc makes that bit any easier. Ever. And I’m not naturally dramatic or attention seeking. The problem is that our brains are powerful things and the impact of what we went through is stored away deeply in the iceberg that is our subconscious mind along with all the self esteem building moments and those moments that shake your view of yourself to the core.. the hurts and the low body blows that we get from time to time. When something is triggered from that deep core it bubbles up and over all too easily (for something you thought you’d locked away).. The iceberg (think of your brain as a huge triangle.. only the tip of which is visible.. the rest under water) can as easily be filled with happy and positive memories or experiences which boosted your self esteem. I tell people about this often.. when you get a compliment for example and it feels good, be aware of the feeling and enjoy it and store it in the bottom of your triangle.. the point being that someday you’ll need to draw on those reserves.

I can still now bubble up with the gut wrenching fleeting sickness when I recall Amy’s birth and early days. It can be triggered by the oddest of things.. like the beep of a photocopier.. if you’ve stood in intensive care you’ll know what I mean..

The thing is that you can’t reason with your subconscious. The reactions are triggered without you even being consciously aware that they have been. Until you ‘see’ yourself acting irrationally..

I can now clearly feel the trigger, which means I can acknowledge the pain, and then move on from it. That’s taken some time though.

I’m acutely aware that mothers day is not about mothers. It’s a retail landmark.. but nonetheless it’ll be a landmark day for those who may not wish to be reminded of it.

We lost 5 babies and barely managed to bring Amy safely into the world. Lucy was lucky number 7.

Amy’s survival is nothing short of a miracle and I choose this way to remember the experience when the bubbles come.

Amy was 6 days old on my first mothers day. We still hadn’t held her (she was 6 weeks old before that happened.. and she died in my arms). My mum and the nurses made tiny footprints in a card for me and it was the most heart breaking card I ever received.

I don’t actually think I can write about it all if I’m honest. It’s not very interesting if you weren’t there.. it’s kind of a ‘you had to be there..’ story. As in, you actually wouldn’t believe it all.. In short, our miracle wouldn’t take it lying down. She fought so hard that despite having little going for her (apgar score of 1), she was determined with all of the little resource she had. They had to sedate her as she refused to let the life support machine breathe for her.

Amy was no bigger (or heavier) than about 6 slices of streaky (not even back) bacon. We were priveledged to watch our wee scrap of life develop in front of our eyes. Her ears, fingers, skin.. her heart had to learn to pump, her blood had to learn how to renew itself, no reflexes indicated that everything would be a journey. And it has been..

So now she is almost 14. It’s as far away as ever. We are reminded often of how hard she has to work to process what we make sense of innately, but that strength of will that kept her here against all odds is the strength of will I clash with often now.. and for which I’m thankful.

I’ve learnt a lot from Amy. I think many people will learn a lot from Amy. The gifts she has are many and diverse. I hope she can learn to see them. Lucy can see all her own attributes.. that is her gift.. a miracle by virtue that she made it here safely, Lucy is a force of nature.

So, rather than focus on cards and chocolates tomorrow (although there will be both and they will be appreciated), I will look at my miracles and be grateful for them.. hormones and all.



Today was the re-run of world book day (as school was closed on the actual day).. what was the bet that schools would be closed for a random snow day after parents spent 85 fortunes on costumes depicting characters from books their children had never read, or from movies or comic books (losing the concept of book day and focussing on the ‘dressing up’ part of the note that comes home about 2 days before the appointed day).

I had the unenviable task of managing the expectations of my (built like her mother) 8 year old in the days before the original book day. Having scannd the shops and realised that all children in NI would be dressed as one of 4 or 5 (loosely related to literacy) characters, I knew Lucy would not feel happy dressed as red riding hood (Lucy is 16 in her head) or gangsta granny (Lucy is a hip kind of 16 year her head).. She was less likely to be a disney princess (all costumes designed to fit swelte 6 year olds at best) or Harry Potter (because shapeless cape).

But I need not have feared. As I tentatively raised the issue in the car she said ‘but mum, it’s not world costume day..its world book day. I’ll wear something I already have. ‘ A gem, this child.. It didn’t stop there though. To cut a long story short- Lucy was wonder woman today. I was all prepared to dash off to buy a book to support the costume choice, but no.. she’s thought of that too. A library book no less.. we’ve got this literacy thing licked! The library book is about Wonder Woman- the Amazonian princess! Imagine my delight when she produced this. It saved me a trip to a book shop (saving me about £50 I’m sure- it’s a small fault in a good woman though), but it’s also a fab book! Page 1 describes how being a princess isn’t about balls and princes and disney dresses.. it’s a birth right; she’s part of a royal line and she has a responsibility to her people. She doesn’t just tell people what to do- she shows them the way. This makes Diana (!)a great leader.

Well.. if this wasn’t a lesson for girls in leadership right there.

My girls and I have quite profound chats. Not intentionally, but because they are both insightful and empathetic in nature they often draw parallels between behaviours and lessons. I love how they bring these insights to me rather than me raising them.. it’s the wrong way round! Amongst some of the profound chats of the last month has been my particular favorite- how I am like Miss Rabbit in Peppa Pig. Not with long ears and a round yellow stomach, but because each day when they ask what I’m doing, there are many possible reponses! I do so many things and love the flexibility that my self employment offers me.  If I start selling crepes at a fairground or operating the bin lorry like my yellow counterpart please let me know I’ve taken it too far!

I love the model that my girls are able to see that the world is their oyster; that they can choose their path; that they can add value. Yesterday was international womens day as you know, and almost opposite of feminism I’m not sure really why we have to keep talking about womens roles, about how women can do all things for all people, about equality… I’m worried that a whole generation of women misinterpreted this as you need to do ALL these things to show youre better than men.. we don’t have to prove anything to anyone. Rather than ‘I can do what I choose’, many heard ‘you can have it all’ but this is only true if you are aware that you’re  only human and sometimes something has to give. Rather, I chose to focus on the value women can add to each other’s lives in a uniquely strong way.

I’ve recently started to coach a group of women through a leadership programme borne from the understanding that women in communities have an often untapped ability to effect change. Through the programme women are enabled to carry out transformative work in communities and equipped with leadership skills. I am loving seeing growth already.. enjoying seeing the strength in the room, the support for each other and getting glimpses of the lives that have shaped them. I am honoured to have this experience and hope I can in some small way impart skills which will in return add a little value to their lives.

Today I talked about wonder woman to the ladies. We talked about how we are all strong. And we all possess the ability to lead. We talked about putting ourselves first and if Lucy hadn’t have had her book in school, I think we could have supplemented a module with it..

But the book was in school. Probably never out of the bag, such was the focus on costumes. The point of book day should be on how books change lives, how literacy and indeed the power of books was an opportunity denied to many. The point of book day is the impact on your child’s vocabulary and (by default) life chances if books are a part of your daily life. The point of world book day should be that when it was cancelled, Lucy said it was a travesty! A travesty. She is 8. And struggles with reading but tries very hard and loves books. Her expressive language is amazing and that is the point of world book day.

Anyhow, my diva rocked the wonder woman look with a denim jacket. As you do..




At the car wash…

I defy you not to be singing the title.. !

I’ve talked about Lucy here many times. But yet she never ceases to amaze me. I seem to have made a little human who grounds me and through who I can see my words and my actions..

Last week we went to a local car wash.. 3 men were handwashing cars. We sat in a queue for a while listening to the guy in charge yelling orders, hearing him telling the other 2 men what they were doing wrong and feeling jumpy as he burst into rages if cars were in the wrong place.. and as cars joined behind us we realised we’d just have to sit and wait our turn rather than be able to just drive off. The atmosphere was tense and Lucy was aware of this…

The first man who approached the car was very pleasant and calm, despite being constantly shouted at. Lucy really felt for him and she completely empathised with him and how he would be feeling.

Empathy is held in the innula in the right brain and it develops before the age of 2 through the right exposures. It is key to being able to tune in to other people.. and not just see things from their perspective, but really feel them..

We had quite a deep conversation in our soapy car about what might be making the cross man so cross.. and Lucy showed tremendous insight into the impact of the man’s words, actions and the atmosphere he was creating. She understood why he might be feeling cross (lots of cars, danger at the side of the road, a lorry reversing through the middle of a line of cars potentially causing damage, perhaps the job not being done by the others in the way he would like it done), and I was heartened by her ability to put herself in his shoes as it showed real emotional intelligence (awareness).. but more than this, my 7 year old gave me a wonderful view on leadership from her perspective.

She could ‘feel’ the impact of this guys behaviour on the others and regardless of his motivation, she could see that by behaving in the way he was, he was not going to get the best out of the employees. She told me that ‘those men will go home feeling sad and feeling that they can’t do the job. They mightn’t come back.. or if they do they are probably not going to try very hard cause they know it won’t get any better’.

Wow! What insight… She thought that it was a pity that the cross man couldn’t see the impact that his behaviour had on the others or indeed on the people in the cars who were watching and listening to his erratic, anxiety producing behaviour.

I explained to her that the best way as a leader to get the best from people is to show them how you’d like things to look and encourage them towards that.. that leadership is about showing the way and modelling behaviours.

Then she played a blinder.. she said ‘being a mum is like being a leader isn’t it? Sometimes I know you’e trying to show me the right way and I mightn’t like it but I know it’s the right way so I want to make you happy.’

Well.. what do you say to that..?

I spend my days talking to rooms of leaders, developing them, sharing insights into their own emotional intelligence as a tool to empower others to do what you need to have done and here at home I have a 7 year old who has it off pat.

She’s a future leader.. of that I have no doubt. She’ll charm people into doing things they really don’t want to do by appealing to their feel good emotions..

The development of emotional intelligence is something that can be learned at any stage of life. It is a vital skill to help manage relationships (at home, at work, with others in general), by learning how your emotions can be regulated, their origins understood and acknowledged to keep you emotionally safe and how to interpret and manage others’ emotions without them affecting yours…

I’m working with the SE Trust on this area for parents of autistic children, but think all parents would benefit, as would a lot of leaders…

However all the knowledge in the world is of no use unless I’m refreshing it, and its clear I need to up my parenting game.. or I’ll find myself running errands for this young lady as she runs rings round me.. oh wait.. too late?!





Reasons that I’m so ready for the new term… I think

1. I need some space!!!

2. I’ll elaborate on no 1.. I literally have no minutes from opening to shutting my eyes when there’s not someone or something (cat) needing me.

3. I’ll elaborate on no 2.. ‘bedtime’ seems to be akin to a greek myth or legend. We’ve heard of it, can’t really remember the gist of it, and are not really sure what it’s about. More specifically, this is my girls’ understanding of the term. To me, it’s a fond memory in the near distance. A bit like believing in Santa.

4. No matter what we do or where we go, apparently all I ever do is work. Really?! I seem to remember a time when I had to pay people to take them to the beach (that sounds dramatic.. I mean they were with a childminder/nursery who did fun things whilst I worked in a glass box which had the windows sealed shut in case we jumped). No, I’ve told the girls that when they have to get up at 7 in the summer to go to nursery so I can get TO WORK, that’s when I’m ALWAYS WORKING..

5. When they’re at school it’ll surely mean that I will be done with the endless stationery, shoes, PE kit, uniform, random bits that I seem to be buying. Especially stationery… But, they’re my kids so I’m allowing that one. We have some of everything. It will be lost/lent/broken in days and that’s an excuse (reason) to buy more.  They’re costing me a fortune in preparing for school.

6. I’m tired. So tired.

7. It’s hard to please kids with such an age gap. We didn’t plan this gap, but it’s there. At certain points it’s been less significant, but it’s a fair gap, especially on wet days. Indoor activities rarely span this gap well. (Ideas on a postcard please). We love outdoors but admittedly this year haven’t done as much as I’d hoped, due in some part to breaking my bum (sorry.. my tailbone). Agony is the only word for it. We love adventure, we love nature, we love fresh air and imagination. All that is tough when I feel as though everything might fall out with each step, but we’ve tried our best.

8. Its hard to ‘work from home’ when you’re supposed to be all things to all people all of the time. I’ve loads of exciting things on my many to do lists and I just can’t get at them as my time comes last on the list. That’s ok.. But it’s frustrating when I’m champing at the bit to move things along with my work. I’ve got great ideas for the business world, for the education sector, for parents. I’ve some collaborative work planned with some exciting new partners and most of all I want to get admin done. Like properly done. Like all over the table in piles, folders with labels and brightly coloured box files… At present those papers would be stuck to jam, or be drawn on.. I’d also like to be able to make a work phone call without having to lock one child outside (on the trampoline) and ensure the other has headphones in upstairs.. everything takes so much planning! And whilst my children are not demanding, they just do not understand the international hand signals for ‘get out/be quiet please.. I’m on the phone’.

9. Quiet. There will be occasional quiet in september. I hope. I’ve got so much in my head that by the time it gets to bedtime (what is that?), noise can tip me over the edge. Unfortunately my patience is like thin ice past that mythological point of the day and I become demon mum. Sorry kids… xx

10. I want a tidy house! Sometimes I pick all the pruck up and set it on the stairs in the vain hope that the offender will take it up with them the next time they pass. This is not a good plan (see broken bum reference above..). No honestly I didn’t trip on anything, I just lost my step, but I’d secretly love to be able to blame barbies as maybe then they’d take them upstairs?  It is simply amazing how much stuff Lucy can bring downstairs each day then leave outside at the trampoline/in the car/ in the kitchen or living room. That last phrase was not suffixed by ‘delete as appropriate’ as she fills all of those spaces each day. I aspire to a routine where I cheerfully kiss the cherubs goodbye, nip home (alone in the car – bliss!), clean the kitchen, spend 20 min making beds, cleaning the bathroom and running the Hoover round before being able to start work at 9.30 at a tidy desk, make phone calls when I want and be able to concentrate!!


Then I’ll miss them.

Lucy got upset last night as she realised she’ll be in school until 3pm for the first time and will only be home for about 45 minutes before Amy. She is a suck really and she eloquently described how it made her feel to be with me by herself.

I got a bit teary myself then..

I’ve loved the lack of routine, the late nights prioritising fun, sweaty tired children, impromptu adventures, meetings loads of friends, eating too much ice cream, realising how grown up they are getting when they’re mature enough to do new things each year, sitting round a fire built in a washing machine drum, drinking cider and toasting marshmallows, the pride I’ve felt at the challenges they’ve given themselves this summer and the hundreds of photos of smiley children in many many fun places.

I’ll miss a wee hand in mine, company, last minute adventures and the delight in little things.

But not right away.







I haven’t written in ages. So long in fact that I got a bit of stage fright.

I’ve had some signs over the last few days that I needed to write and I decided that if I didn’t start I never would. Today I felt moved to write.

Today we watched the emoji movie. Classy stuff! But you know.. it spoke to me (I shouldn’t admit this..). Without wanting to spoil it for you as clearly you’ll be going to watch it..(!), it’s about being true to yourself.. about not confirming to the stereotype.. about speaking out. I know a lot of that will be lost on the majority of viewers (7 year olds?) but if that’s the case then I’m happy to spell it out.

I’ve been a long time supporter of being outspoken. Subtle I’m not. Indeed I often say my filter is broken.. if i think it, I say it. And in a way, at least you know where you stand with me. I can usually be relied upon to say what most people are thinking but have thought better of expressing. Sometimes I wish I didn’t.. but then I’m reminded that on my best days I’m my father’s daughter. Dad had a charm which meant he got away with most things. I’m a classic mix of mum and dad- I might be outspoken, then apologise..

Outspoken is a positive I think. I’m certainly outthinking. I try hard not to offend people.. but yet on my first day in the civil service, my boss suggested I join the union as I’d probably offend people. Really?! He was probably right. I have a low level of tolerance for ignorance, nonsense and bad manners. But maybe I need to keep it to myself..

Anyhow, today’s movie made me think.. I’m passionate about promoting personal development- I think everyone needs to know how to find their own voice, to trust what it says to them and to believe they can be themselves no matter what others say or do. Women in particular are each others most fierce critic. Not to each others faces though.. they’re not that brave.

At every personal development group I coach I talk about your voice. About respecting others voices. About respecting difference. About growth. It’s been well received thankfully. It’s a big gamble delivering something you’ve written and feel passionate about incase it’s not what people want. 99%of the attendees of my groups have been women. More than that actually, as there’s only been 1 man. I make it my business to tell them that my ideal world is somewhere where people can say if they’re not feeling ok without fear of what others will think, or of what they’ll say (to others about them). I know that many people who do not feel ok, keep this to themselves rather than risk the *ridicule/scorn/mockery/amusement (delete as appropriate) of those around them. This is literally a crying shame. I know everyone is different, but in those tough times, it is exactly those around you who get you through. If they know.

I remember at a particularly difficult time for me many years ago, my mum found it very hard as she saw my state of mind as a reflection on her, as in there was something that she’d not done to help. This couldn’t have been further from the truth but it opened my eyes to the fact that this is a very real thing. Friends often find it hard when you say things are tough.. because perhaps they should have seen it coming, could’ve asked how you were before you told them, could’ve done more. They couldn’t. Everyone owns their own feelings. Why is this so hard for people to understand? But yet it is.

If parents were given this wisdom perhaps they’d not see the toddler tantrum in asda as a reflection of their (in)ability to parent, but rather see an overwhelmed child.

If teenagers were given this wisdom perhaps the whole world wouldn’t be against them, and things that happen, just happen.. they’re not DONE TO YOU..

If staff inductions imparted this wisdom perhaps there would be no need for ‘managing difficult conversations’ or ‘conflict resolution’ training. No one enjoys those! But yet, they are 2 of the most common things I’m asked if I deliver. Next to ‘managing children’s challenging behaviour’. Oh boy does that grind my gears. Behaviour is not DONE TO YOU. Or done to annoy you. Behaviour shows you what’s going on in that wee head. Behaviour is communication. So that tantrum in asda..? Hungry, overestimulated by noise or light, bored, lonely…

If we’re honest we all feel like tantrums in Asda. It’s only social norms that hold me back as an adult. But I will freely admit to walking my kids out of the occasional shop if I’m ignored in a queue (stood for 10 min waiting for ice cream whilst the staff talked to each other right in front of me. ‘Am I invisible?’ I asked. Apparently not.. ).

I’m way off topic here.. but if you know me you’ll know I’ve often too many tabs open in my head! Indeed my friend and I were joking this morning that we’d make a great sitcom. A dash cam recording as we have about 8 simultaneous conversations (neither has the attention span to complete one at a time!) would make for hilarious viewing (but might need censored..😂).

Oh.. I’ve typed an emoji! Yes.. that’s my point..! Today we watched the ‘Meh’ emoji struggle to just be ‘meh’. I don’t think I’ve actually ever felt that emotion if I’m honest so I got that. ‘Meh’ felt a whole range of things but had to keep them in in order to be able to sit in the cube waiting to be picked by the guy who owned to phone to insert him in a text.

The movie tracks his journey through ‘just dance’, ‘candy crush’, ‘spotify’ and ‘dropbox’ to get to the cloud where he can be factory reset..

How sad. Why would you want to be ‘Meh’ when there’s so much else? Why would you want to conform if you’re not feeling it. Why not just be yourself?

The princess (👸) emoji explained that when emojis started to be used, girls were just depicted as a princess or a bride (👰) and that made me think too. We’ve come a long way, but this wonder woman thing is a state of mind. We do not have to change the world. It’s OK to save ourselves. That’s a big enough job.



This is the picture of the brownie that I didn’t post last week.. I just had to share. I’ve thought about it (the brownie) a lot since last week. I may have to go back for another.

Anyhow, the reason for including the picture of said brownie, is that it signified more than just the caramelly chocolately amazingness that it was… I was in a coffee shop by myself.

It’s not that long ago that I couldn’t have contemplated going out for coffee by myself. What would have been the point? (Not in the ‘I can make coffee cheaper at home’ sense, but in the ‘who would I talk to’ sense). And also, would people stare at me, or think I had no one to have coffee with?

Coffee is the international word for ‘company’.. I think.

I like company. almost as much as I like coffee. In fact I have, on several occasions over the last year, contemplated buying a coffee shop, just to combine my love of people and coffee beans… For me to go to a coffee shop alone was a big thing. Growing up I was always the chatty one. In groups, I fill silences; include the quiet ones; I chat…I cannot be quiet. I have tried, but I always end up worrying that the people I am with will think there is something wrong (not necessarily with me, but perhaps with them). I remember a friend of mine who,, as a teenager would have quite happily gone to the cinema by herself. I could never understand why you would do that (enjoying or needing company as I did), but also I would have worried what others would have thought.

But now that I am 40 I am perfectly content in my own skin. When I think about it, the children broke me in to this, as it was acceptable to be in a coffee shop with no other adults but with one or two children. But now.. I can do it alone. I’m not bothered what people think, primarily because I know no one cares, and even if they do, I don’t care what they think*. how enlightening! In fact it was so therapeutic to have the silence amidst the hustle of all that was going on around me. I felt as though I had treated myself to a stolen hour; that no one noticed me and that I wasn’t required to smile or tell funny stories – not that i didn’t want to, but because its ok not to. It’s ok to enjoy your own company.

* I’m not sure why I was so worried about what people might think of me drinking coffee alone… there are so many other far more interesting and nuts things that I’ve done in my life that people could have had opinions on (!).

We were at a wedding party on Saturday night. It was a perfect location, in a marquee slap bang in the middle of a barley field. A balmy night with fab live music.. and then a dj in the wee small hours. I found myself completely content to do the casper slide alone on the dance floor (its ok, i’m not that confident..! I mean alone as in my hubby left me at the ‘criss cross’ bit and I stayed on to finish as I was having such a laugh. There were others on the floor of course; I just didn’t know them). I just love dancing and used to line dance about 20 years ago when I was thin. I love that its coming back.. I need to get a bit fitter so that I can enjoy it again the way that I used to. You can be in a line, but alone in a line. and that’s amazing. Like laughter is a social thing (we rarely laugh alone), dancing is the same.

I had my epiphany this afternoon, realising that this shows how much I’ve ‘grown’.. you wouldn’t buy a car and not put petrol in it, or service it. But yet we expect our wee bodies and indeed our wee ‘selves’ to just cope. Some time thinking about your ‘self’ is important so that there are sufficiently strong enough roots to weather a storm.

One of the courses I’ve recently developed is ‘personal development’. It primarily focusses on leadership, team work and resilience but there is a significant module on self awareness and personal growth. The course is generic, but will be marketed to team workers who work with children in the first instance, and this is deliberate. You will recall if you are a regular reader, that I truly believe that as parents we need to have a strong sense of who we are, other than ‘parent’ in order to demonstrate for our children the need for them to do the same. The same is therefore clearly true of those who work closely with children, especially within daycare in which children spend a huge proportion of their time. Daycare staff have such an important role in children’s lives.

I know as in any profession, there are huge variances in the quality of staff, but parents should take comfort in the professional standards set by the authorities and rigorously checked by Early Years teams within the Health and Social Care Trusts. The current standards are described as the ‘minimum standards’ and indeed they are just that; the minimum that is acceptable practise. The minimum has however been raised so as to ensure that all settings are professionally led and managed and this, whilst an increasing pressure for settings, raises the professional status of their work right up, so they can uphold their organisation, business or setting with the best of the best in this country.

The personal development course will be listed on my website as soon as I manage to work out how to do it.

(I’m busy watching you tube videos of line dancing and expecting that to be the clincher… when its the ‘breathless before 1min 50 of Footloose’ that is the real issue. Maybe I should skip the brownie next time…?)



It’s sports day on Friday. Lucy cannot contain her excitement! We’re not competitive here (it might have sthg to do with what she plans on wearing though!). We’ve had 7 primary school sports days with Amy where you willed her on but as her wee legs were so much shorter than everyone else, finishing was the goal. Her first sports day was a tear jerker. My p1/2 mummy friends (Amy was in a composite class) will remember.. it was the day my faith in humanity was clarified and I was sure we had picked the right school. Amy, at the end of p1 was wearing age 2-3, weighed significantly less and measured a lot smaller than children her age. The last race of sports day was a relay with a child from each year group in each team. They ran from p7 to p1. It was a scorcher of a day and Amy was freezing (her internal thermostat doesn’t work).. the children sat in rows eldest to youngest front to back and although I can’t remember who the children in her team were, I remember clearly what they did. One of them put a fleece jacket put round her shoulders and they took it in turns to keep her warm as she waited for her turn. When it got to her turn I could see she was purple with cold and her wee legs were dragging as she ‘ran’. She was by this stage the only child running as all the other teams had finished. Every child in the school cheered for her and one of team members was waiting with the coat as she collapsed at the finish. I’m crying writing this as I remember how proud I was of her but also of them. I ran round to scoop her up and take her to the closest car that was open to get her warmed up. That’s her spirit for you..

But yes, Lucy.. 3 times today I’ve been astounded by things she has said to me. I mean totally blown away. We should listen to children more and I mean really listen..

Lucy wants to come second at sports day. That’s her aim. I asked her why second.. in fact I think I said ‘or third? third’s good too..’.

‘Second’ she said, ‘because it’s almost first but more realistic’. Right..

I’ve struggled with setting the bar too high for many years. Not any more. Last week I contented myself that it’s not my job or responsibility to fix everything. And this week Lucy has shown me that my responsibility is to lead by example. Parenting girls is a huge responsibility for women. They model themselves on you. So we must care for ourselves the way that we want our daughters to care for themselves. We must do things we enjoy, spend time with friends, have interests and experiences without our children as well as with them so that as adults they know how to keep a bit back for themselves. I’m not advocating selfishness, I’m advocating healthy balance. If we give ourselves all away, then that’s what they’ll do.


So, second. I can see Lucy not feeling the need to please me (or feel she has to be the best). She’ll enjoy the healthy competition and she’ll try her best, but it doesn’t faze her at all what I think of what she does. I love that.


The second pearl of wisdom actually came this morning as I was brushing her (tatty) hair. I said I’d just pull it back into a Pony tail and that’d do, meaning I wasn’t going to hurt her getting all the tats out; that I’d just make it tidy enough. No she said, please don’t make it ‘just do’, please do it properly. She then said that it made her feel good when her hair was done properly.. and then the clincher… ‘mum, I’ve decided that when I go to high school (you’re 6?!)that I’m not going to have a really short skirt. I’ve decided it looks better closer to my knee and really fashion is wearing what you want to wear, no matter what other people think, but wearing it right’. Well. This is a shocker from my dallas cowboys cheerleader who is only happy with her skirt at trampy heights. I’ll remind her of this when she’s 12 but, really the wisdom behind the meaning of fashion just blew me away. Lucy has a sense of style second to none. It’s not that she has spectacular clothes; many of them are hand me downs..but she throws together the oddest combinations and makes it work, without giving a toss how it looks. Perhaps it’s the not giving a toss that makes it work?


I had a coffee with an old friend this morning. Old as in we’ve known each other for more than 25 years (!).. I really enjoyed that wee hour and it did my heart good. Kenny Rodgers is right-you can’t make old friends. I was listening to the Lisa Mchugh and Nathan Carter version of that song tonight on my way home from a beach walk with Lucy. She asked what ‘you can’t make old friends’ meant. I explained that the friends you’ve known for ages are the best kind of friends as they really know you. So she said ‘then why do they sound so sad about it?’ And she’s right! (Shocker). Do we make enough happy noise about and to our friends? Do we tell them they matter and do they know? We need to be able to tell the people in our lives how much they matter.. should that be a simple ‘thanks for being you’, ‘ I enjoyed spending time with you today’, or ‘you do me good’. Everyone needs to hear that. And some people need to hear it more than others. If people matter to you, let them know.

I love Lucy’s simplistic view of life. For 6 she has a surprisingly mature view on the big issues. But she also sees the joy in the little things. I took her to the beach tonight. She spun her arms round and said ‘mum isn’t this fantastic. We are so lucky’. Yes Lucy, we are. X

what i learnt today…!



Today I had reflexology. well, I say I had reflexology, but actually what happened was more like  – ‘oh my word your feet tell me you are stressed.. in fact.. I think I’ll start with your head, never mind your feet.. ‘and so the lovely ‘K’ did some reiki on me which relaxed me so much that I don’t really need to know what she was doing -whatever she was doing, was just great.

It’s true I’ve carried some stress for a while. In fact I tend to carry the world on my shoulders. Its my own fault – I call it an overdone strength. I used to attribute it to my mum, but the apple didn’t fall far from the tree and now I too ‘cant help helping’.  If I’m with you and you have a problem, invariably I will offer to fix it before I leave. Or better still, I’ll come home, stress about your problem and then that’s both of us carrying the worry. Even if its not a problem I can fix, I somehow feel I should (I have not yet attempted to fix a car.. but there’s a first time for everything I suppose ). But what I learnt today is (leaving out the bit where its not my responsibility to be a fixer), that I have tremendously large shoulders. Do you ever just sit back and think, boy I’ve dealt with some shit?!  this brings me to learning no 2 of today – although I am laughing whilst delivering the above phrase, not everyone does this. just have a think about the number of ways that line could be delivered…

This morning I was at a meeting where there were several other parents of a child(ren) with autism. This was a big day out for me in that I do not put myself or my family in that particular box, but today I needed to, for the purpose of the seminar. Anyhow, I had to sit on my hands for most of the morning as I have difficulty keeping my opinions to myself. (that’s a shock, right?!). Suffice it to say that I learnt a lot at the seminar (on the topic), but I also learnt a lot at the seminar about myself in that I mentally patted myself on the back for the positive attitude I have, most days. Don’t get me wrong – if you ring me at 8.30 in the morning I might be a banshee, and indeed if you  spy on me 2 hours after bedtime as I hear feet on the floor upstairs, I’m likely to spring off the sofa like a bat out of hell to capture the child that cannot stay in bed. But in general, I think we’re doing ok.

I don’t like to go on about Amy (its a bit derogatory), but I hope you can hear my voice bursting with pride. We are parenting a developing adult. Amy will be an adult and it is our responsibility to prepare her for this and for the world of work, or home life. We are doing this in the best way for us, which is to address each thing that arises in a positive and constructive manner.. and every day I am amazed by a little thing that she has picked up and added to her drop down menus in her brain.

I’m also amazed by Lucy – todays gem was her explanation of the lifecycle of a bird.

  • a bird lays an egg
  • the egg hatches
  • the chick grows some feathers
  • the bird ‘finds love’
  • the bird lays an egg
  • and so on…

now isn’t that lovely?! ‘the bird finds love’! I’m stupidly proud of this simple logic from a 6 year old. Now when Amy who’s studying reproduction in science (!) overheard this, we had a wee smile at each other across the kitchen and she had a wee snigger at Lucy’s interpretation. I loved that she then told Lucy how great her explanation was.. if you’ve seen my two in action, its like a war zone here when they have to talk to each other, so this was a major achievement in terms of sibling co-existence!

I firmly believe that I ruined Amy’s life when I had Lucy (to be fair I almost ruined my own, as my body has never been the same since!). Not only had Amy been an only child for almost 6 years before Lucy came (as we lost 2 children before Amy and 3 after – Lucy was lucky no 7!), but Amy’s limited understanding of her emotions meant that she is wired to panic and ‘react’ to everything. If you know Lucy, who is little miss dramatic, this is not a great combination.. but what great life experience for Amy. Some parents this morning (well, one in particular) focussed on what was not possible. at all. and how resentful this made her feel. Well I choose not to feel that way about autism at all. I choose (and that’s the important bit I think) to see it as a gift. Rather than march through life, we think about each situation in terms of how might we make that easier for Amy. Not with a ‘we cant do that because..’ attitude, but because its just generally easier if we think.. I’m thinking here about going on the school residential (we visited the place first so she could feel the pillows and see the bathrooms), playing rugby in front of 20,000 people at the RDS (visited empty Kingspan on the way, talk about the noise being happy noise, don’t sit beside her as she uses me as a crutch but is learning to use her own coping strategies, so is best left to do that, with frequent reassurance), but also less huge events such as visiting a cousin – no one sees the thought that is now second nature, but which helps to avoid a crisis, by thinking ahead. We might anticipate there being someone else there (Amy finds conversation hard.. so we might talk about things you could say in the car on the way), we might talk about what there might be to eat (Amy is not a picky eater, but she might have an assumption that we need to break down so there is no disappointment – not that round garlic bread is ever a disappointment, but you know what I mean).

I just think its a wonder when you can literally see right in front of you how the cogs fit together in that wee blond head (that’s not so much lower than mine these days). I learn about my own head through hers.

I’m reminded of the glass half full or half empty conundrum…and my response is that the glass if refillable. and what’s in the glass?!

I would love to share this mindset with more parents, but I fear that the entitlement mentality has put paid to most peoples positivity. Not mine. I choose to be positive. This brings me back to the shoulders though – I have tremendously large ones (shoulders) and although ‘K’ was a bit concerned at the state of them (physically and metaphorically) I cant change who I am. I know that I should just be concerned about my family.. but I truly believe that there is a whole generation of people who are being disempowered by parents, albeit unwittingly in many cases. I understand that all children are different, but there is a place for everyone in this world and there is something that everyone can feel good about. our role as parents is to guide them towards experiences which develop their inner voice, their sense of self.

The whole time I’ve been typing, I have a theme tune playing in my head so I’m going to post the link. Amy loves the words of this song and I’m delighted with her taste. And she’ll never be alone. x

come dancing…!

I took Lucy with me to vote yesterday. After having had the conversation about why your vote was secret, why I wasn’t voting for the man whose face is plastered on everything that stands still near our house (he just criticises other people and doesn’t have his own opinions on anything …how perceptive Lucy), and why if they are wanting to make a difference in their community they should keep it tidy by taking the posters down.. I thought we had ‘voting’ covered. It seems not.

When we came out, Lucy said ‘is that it? I thought you’d all sit round a big brown table with curly brown legs and talk about it then hold up cards with numbers..’ It’s not strictly come dancing Lucy, but wouldn’t it be more interesting if it was?!

I’m loving that the elections might mean change within the children’s sector here as there will be some new faces and hopefully a new path on some agendas. I’m also loving that I don’t have to concern myself with all of the possibilities here, rather, now that I am self employed I can watch with interest and position myself to support delivery of high quality service for children if at all possible.

I’ve had a good day today – to be fair any day that starts with minstrels for breakfast will be good, right?! In my defence they were left over from last night’s trip to the Opera House and were in an open bag and they’d have gone off if left in my handbag, so I was just minimising waste. Today has been full of plans. big plans. and coffee.

I’m on the verge of a very exciting project which will tick all my boxes and tie together all of the strands of my work. more to follow, hopefully next week!

Anyhow, over the last couple of days I’ve had a long hard look at the things I’m working on and I’m delighted that its all coming together. To be honest it has been a slow journey thus far, not least as I refined my list to something workable. Although, if I’m really honest, I’m pretty sure I’ve still got too much on my plate. But this new way of working suits me. There has not been a single day that I’ve been on my way to meet a client, a friend, or a colleague and have not appreciated the view. What a beautiful part of the world we live in. Having the time to soak in the beauty on the drive was something I didn’t even know I was missing as I was always ‘in the wrong town’ (ie already late for where I was meant to be). My family is benefitting from more of me, not the dregs at the end of the day, or in fact in an interval before I had to start work again once they were in bed (hubby included sometimes). I’ve learnt a lot on this journey – not just to appreciate the view, but that you can decide what the view will be.

I’ve also learnt that other people are happy enough for you to run yourself into the ground. why not? saves them a lot of work it seems.. and I need to take some responsibility for some of this as I didn’t ever wave a distress signal a mile from shore (not waving, but drowning). That says more about me than I’d like it to, but I’m learning. Always learning.

In this country people have an awful habit of focussing on the negative.. ‘how are you?’ ‘not too bad’… what about ‘I’m well thanks’?  (as long as you are of course). An alternative is honesty. This little known trait means that it would be ok to say ‘actually I think I’ve got too much on my plate at the moment. can I ask you for some help?’ weird.. no?

For this approach to work though, we’d need to be comfortable enough in our own skin to not worry about how this reflected on us. I aspire to this. And I’m really trying.

Anyway – have you heard about my ‘Personable‘ approach? I’m aspiring to create an environment where this would all be possible.. where we would live in environments where everyone could have the confidence to go out into the community and to engage as equal citizens

The Personable approach aims to ensure that the sensitivities of all persons are taken into account within the environments that we learn, shop, play and work

People who have difficulties processing information received from their senses can have difficulty in understanding the world around them. Unfamiliar environments can make them feel anxious, and they may choose to stay at home rather than going out. This can make them strangers in their own communities.

Difficulties with the processing of sensory information underpins many labels such as dyslexia, dyspraxia, autism and other communication, learning, behavioural, motor, genetic and chromosomal disorders, and you know that many people live without a label, but with many insecurities.

The Personable charter is a commitment by businesses to consider the needs of their customers; respecting their individual differences. Awareness seminars are available on a range of topics and for varied audiences to ensure that businesses can best meet the individual needs of their customer population. The key to the success of this approach is having front line staff who are trained to respect difference and to show sensitivity. A comprehensive self evaluation framework has been devised to enable businesses to regularly assess how well they are ensuring that individual needs are being met by their service.

Businesses who subscribe to the approach, signing the charter to demonstrate their commitment to the needs of their customer population are licenced to use the Personable logo and display the charter, giving confidence to their clientele that the business is people friendly.

I’m hoping that through implementation of this approach in a range of settings where we learn, shop, play and work, we can make our localities much more accommodating.

I’m working to create environments where more people can go out dressed head to toe in red with fabulous eyelashes intact if they so wish (you know what I mean) like in Lucy’s picture. I’m not sure who the character is. I’m not sure I need to know. I do know I am proud that she is happy and that she lives with me.