Monday, 28 November 2016

Autism in the Media - Part 1 - The Rain Man Effect

Autism is in the media a lot at the moment and I felt that I needed to write about my viewpoint of autism in the media. I think there's a lot of points to cover so I'm creating a series. You may have read my reaction to the recent viral blue cup in my post But What About My Child? and this is sort of an exploration of how autism is presented by the media and the positive and negative effects it has.

Like most people, my first experience of autism in the media was Rain Man. If you are too young to remember Rain Man, it was a film starring Tom Cruise looking after his severely autistic brother, played by Dustin Hoffman, who had extreme abilities and could memorise the Yellow Pages and count a load of matches that fell on the floor in seconds. That really shaped my opinion of what autism was. This was furthered by various documentaries on autistic savants. The effect of these portrayals can still be felt today as most parents of autistic children will at some point be asked 'what is his/her special talent'. I tell people that my daughter's is climbing and then mention the last time I found her on the roof of a building. But truth be told, autistic savants are a very rare part of the spectrum. Most autistic people do not have a special talent. A special interest, yes, and they may be able to talk to you for hours about Minecraft or Thomas the Tank Engine or the solar system or Kelly Clarkson, but this is the result of intense focus on a subject, not an almost supernatural ability. 

The other problem with the Rain Man effect, was that it has become a by-word to refer to someone who can recount statistics or shows a slight autistic tendency. And it's very rarely in positive context.

The next mention of autism in the media that sticks in my mind was one of the Extreme Makeover Home Edition shows. There was a family with several autistic children, and it was the first time I was introduced to the concept of a spectrum. The children varied on the spectrum from non verbal to Aspergers, as I recall. It was the first time I was aware there was variety within autism.

After that, I can't really remember having much awareness of autism in the media. It was there I suppose but not something that held my attention. I didn't become expose to autism until I found myself facing it within my own family. And it turned out to be something completely different to what I had expected. And nothing like Rain Man.

Wednesday, 23 November 2016

Nim's Fruit and Vegetable Crisps

When you're a parent, you know how hard it is to get your kids to eat healthily. They want all the rubbish, sugary, highly processed, awful stuff. And I keep it in because it saves arguments and it's easier. I try not to give them sugary stuff because it sends Boy and Missy completely loopy. But they are quite often to be found munching on a bag of crisps! I do have a saving grace in that they love their fruit and vegetables. Well, when I say vegetables, I mean carrots and cucumber. So when I was given the chance to review a new product of air dried fruit and vegetable crisps, I jumped at the chance.

Nim's Fruit and Veg Air Dried Crisps range

I was sent a box of 8 packets of fruit and vegetable crisps from Nim's Crisps. Created by a mother, they advertise the following benefits:

Nim’s is the original fruit crisp brand that ticks all the boxes!
- They’re delicious.
- They’re nutritious.
- They’re 100% natural.
- They’re high in fibre and Vitamin C
- They have a great authentic taste of fruit and veg (because they are made only from fruit and veg!)
- The texture of crisps married together with the goodness of fruit and veg. 
- We’re even licensed by the Department of Health with each pack counting as one of your 5 a day!
- Our entire range is gluten-free and suitable for Vegans, Vegetarians and Coeliac sufferers. We are also Kosher certified.
- In fact, they are the perfect ‘grab and go’ snack making it easy for everyone to get one of their 5 a day!

This pretty much covers all the things I want from a snack for my kids. I love the fact that one packet counts as one of their 5 a day! We were sent the following flavours: Pear, Pineapple, Pineapple and Kiwi, Apple, Melon and Orange, Beetroot and Parsnips, Tomato and Cucumber, and Peppers and Courgettes.

Nim's Fruit and Vegetable Crisps we were sent to try

On opening each packet it is pretty obvious that the crisps are purely dehydrated fruits and vegetables. The kids were pretty bemused by the shrunken dried up fruit but tucked in with gusto. You can see some of the flavours below.

Nim's Melon and Orange Fruit Crisps
Melon and Orange

Nim's Tomato and Cucumber vegetable crisps
Tomato and Cucumber

Nim's Apple Fruit crisps

We all loved most of the fruit crisps. The apple, pineapple, kiwi and pears were very tasty and the kids would definitely eat them again. I think overall the pear was the favourite. They had an almost caramel taste to them. All the crisps were sweet and crunchy, Boy's favourite combination! I was worried about the high sugar content, albeit natural sugars, but they certainly didn't seem to have any negative effects! 

The melon and orange flavour crisps were divisive! Missy liked the orange but the other two didn't. It was very tangy, and flavoured the melon. I didn't dislike them but I couldn't eat a lot. It's a very distinctive flavour!

Out of the vegetable crisps, the beetroot and parsnip went down really well and I would buy these again for me to eat, instead of regular crisps. The vegetable crisps were all quite filling which makes them an excellent snack on the go when you need something substantial but easy.

Overall I would buy these again, maybe not all of the flavours, but definitely the pear, apple, pineapple and beetroot and parsnip.

Nim's Crisps are currently running a Crowdfunder campaign to develop a new range of kids crisps at

Nim's Kids Crisps proposed range

The plan is to reduce unhealthy snacking in children, and there are some great rewards on offer for backing them. They haven't settled on the final flavours yet and there is a chance to have some input as part of the crowdfunder.

Rewards for backing Nim's Kids crisps

I received the product in exchange for this post, however all the opinions stated are my own.

Wednesday, 16 November 2016

But What About My Child?

Yesterday, a father's appeal to social media went viral. His son has autism and will only drink out of a certain blue Tommee Tippee cup which has since been discontinued. The man has been overwhelmed by people from around world rooting through their cupboards to find him a replacement cup. You can read the full story here.

I am really pleased for the father that he is getting help. In his situation, the cup could literally make the difference between life and death for his son, as it is the only way of getting fluids into him.

Yet there is a small part of me that gets a little bit cross every time I see the post shared by fellow bloggers and Facebook friends. The same part of me that will get upset when I watch Children in Need this Friday, and not because of the heart wrenching stories.

You see, my children have special needs. I am in touch with thousands of parents with children with autism, and the story about the blue cup is being repeated daily in many autism households. Something precious is lost, something important which gets your child through the day gets discontinued, BirdsEye change the recipe to their fish fingers or Persil add a slightly different smell to their wash powder. Autistic children thrive on routine and struggle with change and a slight difference, which may be undetectable to you and me, can cause them extreme anxiety. This can result in meltdowns, refusals to eat, self injuring behaviour, things that are extremely distressing to the parent and can have serious consequences to the child.

My problem is that although this happens on a daily basis in autism households, where is social media for those parents? Where are the offers of help and replacements in those situations? Why did one parent manage to touch a chord with millions of people yet so many of us struggle with the same thing day in day out, but no one cares?

A group of SEND bloggers recently tried to raise awareness about the lack of suitable changing places for older disabled children. I wrote a post about it and we did our best to raise awareness in the media but it never 'caught on'.  Then again, if we could work out the magic formula to go viral we bloggers would be very happy people!

This is the problem I have with Children in Need. They do a wonderful job and some of the services they provide are fantastic. But where are those services when I need them for my children? Or any of the other thousands of parents with autistic children? 

I realise that by posting this I can come across as a bit of a grumpy jealous old cow! But that's not why I feel this way. I think it's the reaction to the unfairness of the world. And I also think it's something not many would dare to say.

If you don't have special needs kids, the next time you see an article like this, please give it some thought. Ask yourself if it's possible there are other children in similar situations. Please don't forget about us just because we didn't go viral.

Monday, 14 November 2016

Review of Logic Roots Board Games - Ocean Raiders and Cloud Hoppers

I was recently approached by Logic Roots, who have created a range of maths based board games, to review a couple of their maths games and give my feedback. I was a bit dubious at first as Missy struggles with maths and concentration levels but Logic Roots reassured me that their games would be suitable, and even helpful for a child with additional needs.

The two games they sent us to try were Ocean Raiders and Cloud Hoppers, both maths practice games at a fairly basic level.

Thursday, 10 November 2016

How To Survive The Sickness Bug of 2016

If you have children, you will either have had it by now or it is waiting in the wings. It's the reason there has been radio silence from Conflab Corner. I will now present you with my survival guide for the sickness bug of 2016.

I wrote about my first survival strategy of using a body sock to deal with a sensory seeking Boy. These are further tips I have picked up during the week.

Sickness at Conflab Corner

1. Get them to throw up at your sister's house.
My sister provides me respite and has the kids to stop over the weekend. Somehow both girls timed it so they threw up in her house and in her bed - oooops! I did offer to let her have the Boy until he was sick so she could go 3 for 3, but she declined - I don't know why?!

2. Have your washing machine pack up
Obviously when people are being sick what you really want is for your washing machine to pack up. And because nothing says 'mum' like lying on the floor in the utility room trying to unblock the filter of the washing machine 15 minutes after you've been violently sick. Then finding that the machine has probably had it and it's not under any sort of protection plan and having to choose a new washing machine and find the funds to pay for it distract you from all those yukky feelings.

3. Make sure you have an amazing mother
I don't know what I'd do without her. She came round, looked after us all, even stayed the night as me and Missy were still quite poorly.

4. Have amazing mother get everyone up an hour early
Because at 5.30 in the morning, after Bug went in for a cuddle, she misread the time on her phone, thought it said 6.30 and got Boy and Bug up for breakfast. Boy then blamed the rest of his bad day on Bug for waking Nana up. And there's nothing like having tired, stroppy kids when you aren't feeling 100%.

5. Invest in TenaLady or lots of towels
I have sadly learned this week that when you have had three kids then not only is trampolining out of the question, but when you are sick you either need lots of TenaLady to hand or some towels. They never tell you things like this when you become a mum do they? "Oh, by the way, not only will you lose all your dignity, but add to the discomfort of puking the fact that you will at this time lose control of your bladder". Nope, never saw that in What To Expect When You Are Expecting. That's why I'm wildly hoping to win MamaVIB's HelloElvie competition in the aim to somehow reclaim some of my dignity.

So that's my tongue in cheek survival guide. How have you survived the sickness bug?

Monday, 7 November 2016

Autism Sensory Feedback - Body Socks

An envelope made from Lycra, otherwise known as a body sock, came to the rescue of my autism household yesterday.

It was one of those days you dread as a single mum to any kids, let alone those with special needs. The dreaded sickness bug had hit! I'd been up half the night with the Bug who had the bug, and I didn't feel much better myself. I'm never actually sick but I felt pretty rough. My usual helpers were steering well clear for fear of succumbing to the plague themselves (understandably), so there we were, all stuck in the house, me pinned to the sofa by a 5 year old who was feeling pretty sorry for herself.

I did what we all do - stuck the TV on, got the iPads out, anything to keep them occupied all day. But as the day wore on I could tell Boy was desperate for sensory feedback. He was spinning and stimming, making strange noises and doing his best to irritate his sisters. It was a freezing cold day so although he tried to go out on the trampoline, he just couldn't face it. Missy was having one of her days when no-one is allowed in her room, so he couldn't even go on the climbing frame.

To be honest, I'd forgotten all about the body sock. You try out so many things to help your kids that some get swept away with all the regular detritus. He hadn't used it for ages and it had been buried in his bedroom somewhere, but Friday night he had used it as an overnight bag, a la Dick Whittington, and it reminded me we had it.

What is a body sock? Well basically it is a large rectangle envelope of Lycra, big enough to fit a person inside, with a hook and loop fastening. When a child who is craving sensory feedback is inside, they can stretch and push against the Lycra and get the sensory feedback they need. It can also provide much hilarity when you have a child wandering around the house in a blue envelope. Alternative uses (but not to be recommended) are fitting yourself inside it, sliding down the stairs and seeing how many pairs of shoes you can knock flying, while screaming at the top of your lungs. The fabric is very breathable and the kids assure me they can see through it when they're inside it. They can use it with their head inside or outside of the sock. It's also a great way of feeling cocooned.

Remembering this wonderful device I sent him upstairs to fetch it. Instantly I could see the affect it was having on my bouncy, sensory seeking boy. He stretched in it and fought against the fabric, then curled up on the floor, enjoying the safe feeling of it being all around him. Once his sensory needs were filled it was then a case of being an average 8 year old boy and trying to work out what else you could do with it, especially if it would annoy your sisters!

Stretching against the material of the body sock

Stretching the body sock against the body

Enjoying feeling cocooned in the body sock

I would highly recommend getting a body sock if you have a sensory seeker, if only for those days where you just can't fill their needs any other way. They can be bought at a range of different places including Amazon. Do be cautious when searching for body socks however, as there is an alternative product with a whole different use! Sensory body sock is usually a better search term!

I hope this post helps someone who has a child like mine, who desperately needs sensory feedback, and is looking for different ways to fulfill it. If there is a product you have found which really helps, please let me know in the comments section.

Thursday, 3 November 2016

How to Clean Makeup Brushes

One of the questions regarding makeup I see asked most frequently, is 'how do I clean my makeup brushes'?

I'm quite obsessive when it comes to my makeup brushes and clean nearly all my makeup brushes after every single use. It is necessary to clean bacteria that may be lingering in the makeup brush, and to get rid of pigment stuck in the bristles. I wasn't always this obsessive but it's become part of my routine. I'm also guilty of having lots of makeup brushes so I don't have to clean them every time! 

There are lots of ways to clean makeup brushes, but I thought I would share what works for me.

How To Clean Makeup Brushes

To remind me to clean my dirty makeup brushes I store them in a pot in the bathroom. It also ensures I don't reuse them once they are dirty and so that they are handy when I do decide to clean them.

Dirty makeup brushes
Just look at all those dirty brushes!

Supplies You Will Need to Clean Your Makeup Brushes

Rumio Makeup Brush Cleaner Mat
Rumio Makeup Brush Cleaning Mat
There's a few supplies you will need to clean makeup brushes. One is a silicon mat with a raised and varied texture, which will get all the muck and makeup out of the brush. I like this RUIMIO Makeup Brush Cleaning Mat Butterfly Shape (Silica) from Amazon. It's £6.99, which makes it much cheaper than other brands like Sigma, but it still does the job. Alternatively a textured silicon oven mitt would work, or Popsugar have a video which shows you how to create your own out of a plastic clipboard and a glue gun. I used to just use the palm of my hand, but it isn't textured enough, and my hand gets really sore after a while!

Solid makeup brush shampoo
Hard Brush Soap
Personally I prefer to use a hard soap to clean my makeup brushes. This Clean Brush Shampoo is my favourite makeup brush cleaner but it's difficult to find a UK stockist so I have to import it. However, any hard bar of soap will work as long as it lathers well. A hard bar of soap gives some resistance to your makeup brushes as you lather them up and it starts the cleaning process. There are lots of recipes on Pinterest etc for using washing up liquid and a bit of oil on a plate, so use what works best for you.


Method to Clean Makeup Brushes

Firstly, run the soap and the makeup brush under warm water and swirl the brush against the soap to create a lather. Sometimes you get a residue of makeup on the soap but that is easily rinsed off.

Wet makeup brush swirled in the hard soap
Swirl the wet brush around on the soap

Next, rub your makeup brushes on the silicon mat so that the bumps and ridges can clean all the makeup and bacteria out of the bristles, making sure to use a fair amount of pressure so that even the deeper bristles are cleaned. If it is a particularly manky foundation brush it can take a bit longer or need a bit more soap to get right down to clean the bristles near the finial. I rinse the excess soap as I go so that I'm not rubbing dirty makeup water into the clean bristles. This butterfly mat has lots of different textures to help you get all the dirt and muck out and leave you with beautifully clean makeup brushes.

scrub the makeup brush on the silicon mat

When you are satisfied you have all the makeup out of your brushes and there is only soap left, make sure to rinse out all the soap until the water runs clean. You don't want soap residue on your nice clean makeup brushes as it can affect makeup application.

Drying Clean Makeup Brushes

The worse thing you can do, after getting your precious makeup brushes nice and clean, is leaving them to dry, bristles pointing upwards. The bristles are held in the finial (the shiny bit metal bit between the bristles and the handle) by glue, but water will dissolve that glue, and if you dry your clean makeup brushes upside down, the water will run into the finial and destroy your brushes. Especially if you have spent some money on getting decent brushes, you want them to last as long as possible.

There are various techniques for drying brushes so that the bristles point downwards, without also deforming the clean makeup brush in the process, but my preferred method is to use a smalls dryer, the type that comes with lots of little pegs. I hang it from my shower rail so it's always to hand when I have cleaned my makeup brushes. I attached some larger pegs to the smaller pegs to hold the bigger handled brushes. I can't always hang them straight down but they are mostly pointing downwards, so the water will drain away from the finial. It also ensures that as long as you shape the brushes before hanging them up, they keep their shape whilst they dry.

Makeup brushes hanging to dry on a smalls dryer
Lot of lovely clean makeup brushes

Quick Ways to Clean Makeup Brushes

This is a really effective way to deep clean makeup brushes and it doesn't take me too long to do 15 or so at a time. But what about when you just don't have time to clean your makeup brushes, or you only have one of that particular blending brush and you need it right now, but it's got a darker shade on it and you want to use a lighter shade?

There are various quick brush cleaners on the market where you spray and wipe but these have the disadvantage of leaving your makeup brush damp, which can affect the application of your eyeshadow. Thanks to one of my favourite YouTubers, I discovered Shadow Switch Dry Makeup Brush Cleaner which is an incredible product for cleaning your eyeshadow brushes on the go. It's a rough textured sponge in a tin and by simply swirling your makeup brush round on top of the sponge a few times, it cleans all the pigment off your brush ready for the next shade of eyeshadow. This product is such a time saver for when you are in a rush in the morning.

Shadow Switch sponge Dry Brush Cleaner

I hope you enjoyed this tutorial on how to clean makeup brushes and you have picked up some helpful tips. If you have any suggestions please leave them in the comment box or if you have an idea of another tutorial you would like to see, I would love to hear from you.

Wednesday, 2 November 2016

Make the Most of It - You Never Know When It Will Be Your Last

Everyone tells you to make the most of it. Everyone tells you that they grow so fast. What they don't tell you is that you will never know when it will be your last. 

I went into a playbarn today to pick something up and realised that we never come here anymore. But I didn't know, last time we went, that it would be the last time.

Last night I had the luxury of my bed to myself. I've had it to myself for a few nights now. The last time you crept in with me - was that the last? The last time I'd have my little hot water bottle snuggled up with me keeping me warm?

We don't read bedtime stories anymore. I can't remember when that stopped. It wasn't a conscious decision, just a natural ending, but now that it's over I miss it. It wasn't my choice.

I can't remember the last time I held you to my breast. I didn't know that would be my last feed. I can't remember the last time I picked you up - when did you get too heavy for that? You still climb on my lap - will today be the last?

Today I make a vow. Today I promise you this. Each cuddle, each story, each childish moment of fun I will treasure because I never know when it will be my last.

Monday, 31 October 2016

#Blogtober16 Day 31 - Changing Places

I don't celebrate Halloween so my post is slightly off topic, but what I have to write about is quite scary.

I'm writing this post in Starbucks. This is their disabled toilet:

Disabled Toilet
Standard Disabled Toilet

Changing Table
Standard Changing Table

Floor Space
Floor Space in Standard Disabled Toilet

On the face of it, great. A wheelchair can fit in there easily. There's a changing pad for babies. What's wrong with it? It's just like disabled toilets all over the county. And THAT is exactly what's wrong with it.

Imagine you are disabled and need a hoist to get you out of your wheelchair. Now how are you going to use it? Or imagine you are doubly incontinent, in nappies or diapers. If your nappy needs changing, where are you going to lie down? On a public toilet floor?!

Sadly this is the reality for thousands of families. The lack of suitable changing places can stop a family from taking their disabled child out, simply because there is nowhere to change them.

Although not personally affected by this I have a friend who's ten year old son is doubly incontinent. He has Down's syndrome and is fully mobile and doesn't use a wheelchair, yet the lack of suitable changing places can have a huge impact on their lives. I asked her how she manages and she says she carries a blanket with her in the back of the car or her husband changes him in the car. This works currently but as he gets taller I can imagine this is going to present some challenges. What about when he doesn't fit lying down in the car? And what about if they didn't have a car and were reliant on public transport? Where would she keep the blanket to change him on?

Where we live she is aware of only one place that has suitable changing facilities: Chester Zoo. It has a hoist and a changing bed. However they only have one. And if you're on the wrong side of the zoo when nature calls, you are in difficulties.

I took a poll in an autism group I'm in. Several people have had to change their child on a public toilet floor, others had used the car, yet others couldn't even fit their wheelchair or buggy in the public toilet!!!

I am aware of one 'disabled' toilet in a well known fast food restaurant in Wrexham, where the toilet is tucked down the side. I've struggled to get in it with a buggy as there is usually a wall of chairs and pushchairs to fight through to get to it. Once you are in it, either the lock doesn't work or you can't move once you're in with a buggy. I can't imagine what it's like with a wheelchair. Add to this that it is the only toilet on the ground floor and I think you would agree it's hardly disabled friendly.

There is a culture around disabilities where when people think of disability the image of a person in a wheelchair instantly comes to mind. Even the symbol for disabled access is a wheelchair. Yet mobility issues are just a small part of the disabled spectrum.

The issues I personally face when it comes to public toilets is that there is often only one toilet. Even in a very busy place. Which means waiting to use it. My children are continent but my son is 8 years old, has ADHD and Autism and is very vulnerable. The last thing I want to do is send him into a gents public toilet. But what choice do I have if there is no disabled toilet available? He's 4' 8". I can't take him in the ladies with me! Sometimes he has accidents, but if he has an accident in a public men's toilet, how can I go and help him out. Plus there's the minor embarrassment of spending an awful lot of time hanging around outside men's loos!!

And if there is a disabled toilet available, half the time they need a special radar key to get in. I understand why they're kept locked up, but I don't have one of those keys. They're huge so you can't fit it on your keyring and although I did have one, because I had nowhere sensible to keep it, I kept losing it. And even if it is open, he's 8. I'm trying to teach him privacy and keeping himself safe. How can I do that if I have to go in with him to the toilet every time.

Some places have family toilets, and for my family, they work really well. We can all go into the same bathroom but the toilets have separate cubicles. It means I can be close by but still give him his independence and dignity. Unfortunately these are few and far between too.

As SN parents we are trying to raise awareness of the lack of appropriate changing facilities and there is a petition to get this problem addressed and there is a website providing more information.

We are also hoping to spread as much awareness as possible across social media so please share this post using the hashtags #phantomloos, #benchandhoist and #changingplaces. Please visit The Inclusive Home to view other posts around this issue.

Finally, don't forget to follow the bat to see what the other bloggers taking part in Blogtober16 have been up to!


Sunday, 30 October 2016

#Blogtober16 Day 30 - A Letter to Children's TV Creators

Dear Sirs,

As I have to watch an inordinate of children's TV I would like to point out a few things I have noticed whilst watching these programmes, and also some issues I would like you to address.

Firstly, when your show is about an anthropomorphic pig and several other creatures, then the line "she can't talk, she's a fish" is probably the most ridiculous line in the history of children's television. And that's saying something. If one animal can talk then all the animals can talk. That goes for Paw Patrol too. How come only the dogs can talk? Why not the cats or the very annoying Chickaletta?!

Also, when you decided to anthropomorphise a potato, getting it to suggest that the animals need to eat all their fruit and veg sounds vaguely cannibalistic.

Character voice actors should have it in their contract that they are not allowed to do adverts. I find it very confusing to hear Daddy Pig or Miss Rabbit on an advert when I'm watching grown up TV.

For the sake of my sanity DO NOT dub American programmes with British voice actors. For one it comes over slightly stilted. For another we aren't stupid and the programme is so obviously set on the other side of the Pond so don't insult our intelligence by pretending it isn't. I'm pretty sure Mayor Goodway's American voice isn't half as annoying as her British voice.

Show the parents. My kids are firmly of the belief that Charlie and Lola and Ruby and Max are orphans.

Would it kill you to give the characters some other clothes? Poor Peppa only has one dress, which resulted in Daddy Pig having a pink football shirt.

Since when was a monkey smarter than several scientists combined? And what on earth is a monkey and a cat doing allowed in a kitchen? Health & Safety should have shut Chef Pisghetti down by now.

What is with alive vehicles? How do they pick things up when they've got wheels not hands? And what about toys that come alive? They get told to stay dehydrated and clean their teeth but when do they eat? And what about when Doc isn't around? Do they get hungry? Do they sneak down to the kitchen?

Thank you

A frustrated mum!

Don't forget to follow the bat to see who the other bloggers wrote to.


Saturday, 29 October 2016

#Blogtober16 Day 29 - Three Confessions

Woah. Three confessions. What to choose 😂😂


First confession: I have a thing for Tom Cruise. I was never bothered in his early career but these days he doesn't seem to take himself too seriously and his current films are quite funny. I'm not sure why I have something for someone pint sized when I'm on the larger side myself but there you go! I've seen him interviewed and he seems to have passed the bouncing on the settee thing he had going on for a while. He does his own stunts and learnt to hold his breath under water for 6 minutes while training for Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation. I think that's pretty impressive.

Second confession: Coffee sends me to sleep. I seem to have a lot of symptoms of ADHD and one of them is resistance to coffee. So although I love coffee and possibly spend far too much time at Starbucks they are no good for me if I need to stay awake.

Third confession: I have a secret desire to be a crazy cat lady. I'd love a house filled with cats. I've only got two so far. Maybe I need this:

Don't forget to see what the other bloggers taking part in Blogtober16 confessed to!


Friday, 28 October 2016

#Blogtober16 Day 28 - Favourite Instagram Photo

Ok, I cheated a little on this prompt. It's actually a Snapchat photo which happens to be my profile picture.

I don't post my kids on my public profiles so I chose this one to prove a point. Here is my picture, taken with full makeup, good lighting, a flattering pose and a pretty Snapchat filter.

Power of makeup
Makeup, filters, lighting, pose

This is by far the most flattering picture of me I have had taken in recent years. Now compare it to the photos below. The first picture is one where I actually used makeup to make myself look ill. The lighting is natural but there's no filters

Power of makeup
Made up to look ill, no filters

Finally this is just a selfie I took at home, bad lighting, no makeup, no filters.

Power of makeup

My point is that it is very easy to look at instagram and other social media and wish you could look like the people posting selfies. But no-one actually looks like that in person, especially without makeup. Makeup, lighting, flattering poses and filters can make a huge difference. And are great fun! But always remember that it's all an illusion.

Follow the bat to check out the other bloggers taking part in Blogtober16


Thursday, 27 October 2016

Autism 'Super Parenting'

Yesterday a news item caused quite a stir in the autistic parenting community (yes, there is such a thing, and yes, we talk). The title of the news item was 'Super-parenting' improves children's autism.

It was, on the face of it, a patronising and insulting title. Are we not, as autism parents, superparents already? Is this yet another study telling us how we have failed yet again?!

autism super parenting

The article stated: 
Dr Catherine Aldred, a consultant speech and language therapist with Stockport NHS Trust, stressed it was not about blaming the parents.
"We're taking the parent's interaction with the child and taking it to a 'super' level, these children need more than 'good enough', they need something exceptional," she said.

This statement in itself was contradictory. On the one hand she's saying that she's not blaming the parents, yet on the other hand she's saying the children need "more than 'good enough'"

Good enough?! Good enough?! I have yet to meet an autism parent who didn't work so much harder at their parenting than any NT parent. We have to battle schools, healthcare professionals, disbelieving friends and family, as well as managing extremely challenging behaviour and I refuse to call that 'good enough' parenting.

However I pushed the semantics aside and carried on with the rest of the article. And what is being done makes sense.

Most parents are left in the dark about their autistic child, at least in the UK. If you're fortunate, you get a diagnosis and a few sheets of paper with the phone number of the NAS and suggestions for carers coffee mornings. There is no preparation for the battles that will follow. It's like sending someone into a minefield, blindfolded, with ear plugs, extra weights and some long pointy sticks for good measure, just in case you miss any of the mines you are stepping over, while people on the outside tell them not to be silly, there are no land mines. All land has funny metal bits in it. In many places there is no support. It's horrendous.

I've been fortunate in that I'm now doing the NAS Early Birds Plus course for a second time. The phrase you hear over and over when doing the course is 'be a detective'. The idea is that all behaviour has a cause and by closely observing your child you can see why certain behaviours exist.

There seems to be a similar idea behind the study being done for this article, but in this case the parents aren't having to do the detective work as all the behaviour is being recorded so it can be analysed later. It has worked and for the families it has helped, that is fantastic.

But to achieve that without a team of experts around you is really hard. For instance in my household I'm a single mum with two autistic kids and one NT. When do I get to analyse behaviour when all hell breaks loose? It's not that simple.

The idea behind the treatment or therapy or whatever you want to call it is sound. And yes I suppose in a way it is super parenting in that no parent can ever achieve it without help or actual super powers! But to suggest that parents on their own can achieve the same results is ridiculous. We need training and support. We need early diagnosis and shorter waiting lists. We need to be listened to when we tell the professionals that something isn't right with our children.

We are ALL super parents. We don't need telling to up our game. We need a side kick. We need support.

I've added this post to Spectrum Sunday.

Spectrum Sunday

#Blogtober16 Day 27 - Place I Would Most Like to Visit

We live in a beautiful world and there are lots of places I would like to visit, but if I had to choose one, it would be a place I have visited as a child and a teenager, but never as an adult. It's a place I would love to take my children to. It has inspired Disney and is instantly recognisable to whole generations of film lovers. The place I would most like to go back to is:

Wednesday, 26 October 2016

RIP Great British Bake Off

Tonight was a bittersweet moment on British television. We said goodbye to the Great British Bake Off as we know it when we should have been celebrating the crowning of the latest winner. However it is revised on Channel 4, it will not have Mel & Sue and their terrible witty puns, or the driving blue eyes of Mary Berry. No longer will summer Wednesday nights be spent reveling in a TV show that turned out to be quintessentially British.

Who would have known, 6 years ago, that a baking competition set in a tent could come to represent a country? Could come to cause such controversy over Baked Alaskas, or joy over a bread in the shape of a lion? That macarons (macaroons?) would become something that bakers would just 'whip up' as part of a Showstopper? That a Hollywood Handshake would become a consummation devoutly to be wished? Or that a Mel and Sue sandwich could become the highlight of a baker's career?

Whatever form the Bakeoff takes next year, whether it on Channel 4, or whether the BBC come up with a new baking competition featuring Mel, Sue and Mary, it will never the be the same again. It will always be different, and slightly tainted. 

In bakery terms, it seems there are worse things than soggy bottoms, raw dough and dry sponge cake. The Great British Bake Off is no more.

RIP GBBO. You will be missed.

#Blogtober16 Day 26 - Top 10 All Time Favourite Songs

This is a really hard one for me. If you read Day 17 you will know that my music tastes are eclectic. I hate being asked my favourite song as I don't have one - it depends on my mood! My 'Belt it Out' playlist has Adele, Michael Ball, Meatloaf, Rhianna and Glee on it.

So I will try to list my top 10 favourite songs but this could change next week!

Perhaps Love by John Denver - this was one of the songs I grew up listening to and I always loved singing along to it.

You Don't Bring Me Flowers by Barbara Streisand & Neil Diamond - again, a song I grew up listening to. My parents were big Barbara Streisand fans and she had the most amazing voice. I love trying to sing alongside her. This particular song about love gone awry was always very poignant.

Defying Gravity from Wicked - a song I love basically because it is such a challenge to sing but you get such a sense of accomplishment if you hit that high f near the end!

I Know Him So Well from Chess - you may be sensing a theme here of songs that are incredibly beautiful to sing but are also quite poignant and about loss rather than love. This touching song by Andrew Lloyd Webber has beautiful harmonies and speaks of lost opportunities.

Take A Bow by Rhianna - I've actually surprised myself by sticking this one on this list but it tells a story and is another beautiful song to sing along to. There are some witty lyrics in this song and you have to applaud the woman taking a stand against her cheating boyfriend.

It's My Life by Bon Jovi - ah, an anthem song. Always guaranteed to lift my spirits. Best played at full volume, in the car, windows down.

Someone Like You by Adele - who doesn't love this song? The haunting melody and the tale of a love that hasn't quite been forgotten.

Kiss The Rain by Billie Meyers - it was one of those songs that never really took off but it was on a Now That's What I Call Music album and I loved it. The song about two lovers separated and the singer wondering if he still loved her or was with someone else really touched an angst ridden 17 year old!

Fernando by Abba - this was another song which I grew up listening to. It all sounded so exotic and mysterious.

All I Ask by Adele - my current no 1 song. It's heartbreaking and for some reasons struck a chord with me. It's one of those songs I have to stop and sing along to.

Well that's my list. I haven't numbered them because that would be nearly impossible. I'm sorry it's such a maudlin list but I like songs that I can sing along to and some of the best songs are written from a place of pain. I can't wait to see what my fellow bloggers have picked - please check them out by following the bat!


Tuesday, 25 October 2016

#Blogtober16 Day 25 - What Superpower Would You Most Like to Have?

Can I have all the superpowers? Most of them would come in handy, heat vision for warming up cold dinners, cold breath for cooling down hot chocolate, flight for avoiding traffic jams, invisibility for hiding from people, the list is endless!

On Day 18 of #Blogtober16 I mentioned that one of my favourite TV shows is The Flash, and having given it some thought, I think speed would probably be my superpower of choice.

The possibilities are endless. I could do my makeup in 60 seconds instead of 60 minutes, which means if I wrecked my cats eye it would be no bother to take it off and try it again. I could do all the ironing, laundry, dusting, washing up etc in the first couple of minutes of the day, and then have the rest of the day to do what I liked. If we were late for school, it wouldn't matter because I could get us there really fast. And literally dodge the raindrops. Plus there was a really cool episode where he went so fast he created an echo of himself so he could actually be in two places at once! As a mum, how useful would that be?! I could even run to the shops and be back again faster than nipping to the loo. And just think of the blogposts I could hammer out.

I don't think I would mess with the time travel aspect though; that hasn't worked out too well for Barry. And he has to eat an awful lot to keep up that metabolism, which would probably work out expensive. On the other hand, it keeps him very slim, and he heals fast.

Yep, I'd definitely go for speed. Or doing the Salmon Ladder. No, speed, for sure!

Don't forget a new series of The Flash starts tonight at 8pm on Sky1!

To see what superpowers the other bloggers taking part in Blogtober16 have chosen, follow the bat.


Monday, 24 October 2016

#Blogtober16 Day 24 - Disney Character I Most Identify With

Belle and her books

Asked which Disney character I most identify with with, I was stumped. I've never seen myself as a Disney princess. Probably if anything it should be something completely daft, like the waiter penguins in Mary Poppins.

But if there's one Disney character I totally got, it was Belle from Beauty and the Beast. She always had her nose in a book and I was the same. As a kid I had several books stashed around the house to read. I read Lord of the Rings in a week. Belle was much more interested in books than the boorish Gaston. And when she did find someone special she was more interested in his personality than his looks.

The library!
The beast wooed Belle the same way I would love to be wooed - with a library! All those books! My biggest problem in my house is not enough room to store books. I do read a lot of books on my tablet now but nothing quite beats holding a book in your hand.

Outside of Disney, the character I identify with most is Jo March from Little Women. She is such an emotional character and has incredible heart. I always wanted to be able to write like she did and she was an inspiration to me growing up. As a teenager I could never understand why she turned down the handsome Laurie and ended up with the older Herr Bhaer but now I'm older, I know she made the right choice, choosing a man who would support her and challenge her reading.

This was a prompt from the Blogtober16 series, follow the bat to see who the other bloggers taking part chose.


Sunday, 23 October 2016

#Blogtober16 Day 23 - My Favourite Time of the Year

I know on Day 18 I said that my favourite month of the year is October because of the returning TV shows. But my favourite time of the year is Spring.

I suffer from SAD (seasonal affective disorder). Fortunately I'm on slightly better medication this year so it hasn't affected me as badly as it usually does, but I find the winter months incredibly hard. It's like a dark cloud settles over and there is no light in front of me. The future seems doomed. It's rather hard to describe and unless you've experienced it you really wouldn't know what it's like. I do find some SAD lights help, but as the nights draw in and then the clocks go back and the afternoons get dark, it's really hard to shake off the blackness. I do what I can but a lot of it is waiting for the months to pass and the days to get longer again.

This is why my favourite time of the year is Spring. There is more light, which helps me considerably. But it also feels like there is more hope in Spring. Everything is new and young from the lambs in the fields to the buds on the trees, and it lifts my soul. All that was dark and miserable is lightened and lifted. The lambs always make me laugh as well - I love watching them form gangs and chase each other, wriggling their little tails.

What's your favourite time of the year? Do you suffer from SAD too? Let me know your thoughts below.

Don't forget to check out the other bloggers taking park in Blogtober16 by following the bat.