New Year Musings and Milestones Worth Celebrating

Let’s face it on a global scale 2017 wasn’t the greatest was it.

Unless you’re a fan of orange-hued ego-maniacs with a bigger love of irrational and grammatically incorrect social media usage (‘Covfefe’ anyone?) than the importance of international diplomacy and the uncomfortable truth that sexism and sexual harassment against women is still a horrific reality in far too many workplaces.

On a personal level many people I know have faced difficult hurdles this year, including bereavement, anxiety attacks, bureaucratic battles that weren’t so much uphill as vertical, serious health worries (both mental and physical) and struggles to cope with difficult news and change.

We’ve had our fair share to deal with as well in the Neat Freak household, and my OH and I have commented infrequently that 2017 has probably been the toughest year of our lives so far – but it’s also been the most rewarding in many ways.

After the initial shock of the A Word diagnosis, now some 18 months ago, we’ve all grown as a family and learned much about what this lifelong condition is, how it’s somehow curiously the same and ever-changing as well as being ever-present, and how it can bring as many joys as it does difficulties.

A lot of what we thought we knew about the future has altered and we’ve had to learn to accept (sometimes grudgingly) that when autism affects a member of your immediate family it’s easier to take things a day at a time and not look too far ahead, even if occasionally that really hurts.

As a mum I’ve always hoped that my children will be able to pursue their chosen path in life, with many doors and possibilities open to them, but with Blue-eyed boy I’ve had to accept that his autism may mean some things are more difficult for him.

As someone who was bullied at school I fiercely vowed a long time ago that no one would ever pick on my kids, but I’ve had to swallow the fact that Blue-eyed boy will probably be an ‘easy target’ for unkind people who prey on the little quirks and differences that others fortunately celebrate. I’ve had to learn to grow a thicker skin.

And hardest of all, we’ve had to come to terms with the fact that Blue-eyed boy may never be able to attend mainstream school and that, even though this was the right  option for us and Mini-me, the best one for him involves a place at the local special school – at least for the next couple of years.

But what we’ve also learned is how the A Word shakes up your view of the world around you in glorious kaleidoscope technicolour, and how things you once took for granted or viewed as ‘little’ can suddenly be the ones that light up your day.

Things such as your child using new words and stringing several of them together, doing a simple jigsaw puzzle by themselves and beaming with pride when you praise them, dividing numbers into odds and evens leading you to wonder if one day they’ll be a ‘maths genius’ and watching your two kids play brilliantly together because as well as being a fan of Barbie’s Dream House the eldest sibling is also a carer at the age of just six and kind and accepting beyond her years.

2017 was a year of many firsts – a new specialist pre-school, many new friends, new understandings and knowledge and a dawning realisation that we’ll never stop having to battle the local council and fight for our child.

2018 will no doubt bring many new challenges, highs and lows for us and others close to us. But with the support of our family and good friends hopefully we’ll all come out smiling the other end.

And if all else fails Trump may get impeached. Fingers crossed on that one.



Feeling thankful for the ties that bind

Well we’ve reached that ‘weird bit’ in the middle of Christmas and New Year again.

When you stop feeling festive, may be working and try to kid yourself that it really isn’t possible to put on half a stone of flab in a week.

(It is of course and the only way to deal with it is to demolish another box of chocolates and curse the person who gave them to you. It’s all their fault that your skinny jeans no longer fit – obviously!)

When you wake up thinking you must have a night off the booze and find yourself downing a G and T by 7.30pm.

Usually this time of year my thoughts turn to New Year’s resolutions. The ones I didn’t keep last year, the ones I hope I’ll stick to this year and the ones that will probably always be wishful thinking.

It’s also a time for family and good friends of course and how, despite occasionally driving each other bonkers, pondering just how crucial they are to keeping you sane.

Someone wise once said to me that really close friends are often a second family, the family that you choose.

Not that this means you wouldn’t choose your actual family you understand, just that the people you know you’ll always be able to rely on aren’t limited to the ones you’re related to.

Since becoming a mum I’ve realised just how true this is. When we started our little family with Mini-me friends that I’ve known for decades became even more important to me – even if having kids in tow means that literally years can go by between us meeting up.

I know that should I ever need them they’ll be there, no matter what different directions life has taken us in.

But also the new friends you make as a parent, especially when thrust into the scary world of becoming one for the first time, are some of the most important of your life.

There’s no pretence or glamour about discussing the perils of labour, breastfeeding and which bits of you have gone irreversibly saggy, but that’s why the bonds you forge are so quick and so strong.

It’s been less than five years that I’ve known many of my mum friends, but they’ve seen me through not only those sleep-deprived, blurry, wonderful early days, but also a heart-breaking miscarriage and the darkness that followed, a difficult pregnancy and then adapting to life with two and keeping both offspring alive without losing the plot completely.

I really don’t know what I would do without them now and I say a little prayer for them coming into our lives every single day.

So whether they’re living next door to me or hundreds of miles away I think this is probably the perfect time of year to say a massive thankyou.

Thanks for understanding when I want a glass of wine and not a cuppa at 4.30pm on a playdate.

Thanks for picking up Mini-me from school for me when I’m poorly.

Thanks for listening when I need a protracted, disjointed, barely comprehensible rant.

Thanks for pointing out all the good things on days when I can only see the grumbles.

Thanks for making me laugh until my bloody pelvic floor lets me down again.

Thanks in advance for sticking around for the next five years. And the forty after that!

And Happy New Year, of course, to you and yours.

This Year’s New Mum Resolutions

This may be somewhat late(ish) in the day, but I’d like to wish everyone reading this a very, very Happy New Year!

Today has been a somewhat bleary-eyed affair as hubby, parents and I didn’t get to bed until 3am. And no we weren’t out clubbing, and for once I wasn’t working, no we were playing Articulate. Yes it’s life on the edge these days!

Although to be honest I’m very glad that my days of frequenting some sticky-floored pub I’d had to pay a tenner just to get into are over. Not to mention the sheer awful-ness of having to find some semi attractive person of the opposite sex to snog at midnight. Yes staying at home with a nice meal and a good bottle of something strong suits me just fine.

What I really love about bringing in the New Year though is that feeling of starting afresh, almost like sitting with pen poised above a perfectly clean, white piece of paper. I like the feeling of anticipation, thinking about what I just might possibly achieve over the coming 12 months if I put my mind to it.

I always seem to start off with a good list of resolutions too, although sticking to them is always harder than you think isn’t it.

Who knows though – with blue-eyed boy fast approaching his first birthday (how did that happen?!) perhaps I might have a little more time to invest in making sure they become reality rather than remain merely wishful thinking.

And to that end here’s my little collection of ‘New Mum Resolutions’ – good luck with your own!

*Blog more

I’ve loved launching Neat Freak Mum and having an outlet for my constant stream of consciousness. And according to my website stats some of you kind enough to read my ramblings (no doubt because you stumbled upon them) hail from pretty far afield, which is pretty exciting to ponder. And proof that parents get irritated by Gwyneth Paltrow the world over! Now it’s time to build things up.

*Make a start on ‘the book’

My biggest fear is being one of those writers who never get around to it. And the excuse that you have to wait until ‘the right time’ is basically just redundant.

*Expand my business

The fact that people pay me to pen things is still a source of joy and amazement after 15 years. Hopefully by this time next year this will also include more people who need help writing copy for their websites, businesses and blogs.

*Try to worry less

Whether the kids watch too much telly, whether I should do more ‘crafts’ with them, whether mini-me’s drama queen tendencies are inherited, whether blue-eyed boy is simply too chilled out to crawl, whether my tidying/other neuroses are rubbing off on the offspring. Gah! Enough!

*Spend more ‘quality time’ with mini-me

Rather than trying to finish an email and complete several household tasks at the same time.

*Read more for pleasure

And actual books too. Not just the latest issue of Grazia on a Tuesday accompanied by a large bag of Haribo Starmix.

*Brave more solo family trips further afield

Surely myself, the pre-schooler, the baby, the buggy and the London Underground don’t have to add up to anxiety?!

*Cook more

I used to love cooking, it used to be the thing I did to relax at the end of a long day. Plus I can’t keep make hubby eat pizza and salad. Or asking him to ‘cook’ it…

*Be a better friend

Moaning less to my two mum BFFs would be a good start. Also keeping in contact more with old friends – whether or not they have children – and remembering birthdays and important dates so I don’t have to keep sending belated cards and gifts but ones that actually arrive on time.

*Try to be kinder to myself

Occasionally I might need a self-inflicted pat on the back rather than dismissing something good I’ve achieved for the never-ending list of jobs. I must be semi-successful at this working mum/life juggling thing because mini-me and blue-eyed boy are: still alive, usually polite, mainly happy and smiling and loved by many.

Make sure you try that last one too, and have an amazing 2015!