Neurotypical- What’s that?

Neurotypical is a catch all phrase for anyone who is not atypical. 

I prefer the term neurodiversity. 

Neurodiversity is another opportunity for us to make room in this world for children who are ‘different’. 

When I use the term different I’m referring to children who have challenges with either communication, mobility or understanding, or all of the above. 

The world will not make room for these children unless we, as the caretakers and the therapists, believe this wholeheartedly. 

Every child thrives with love, every child benefits from positive reinforcement/as well as understanding inhibitory cues. 

Every child enjoys interacting with something or someone at different points of the day. 

Every child has the ability to interact with their environment if we, as their caretakers and therapist can create an environment that is accessible to them.

If you will it, it shall be. Necessity is the mother of invention. 

Find and create a motivational and supportive team who shares your vision for your child. 

Think outside the box and constantly create opportunities to introduce new challenges, you may be surprised. 

Always, read your child’s cues and concentrate on activities that motivate them.

We are all different. We all have likes and dislikes. 

I believe that in the era of diversity, inclusion and acceptance, it is also a great time to create a platform for the world to start thinking more globally about education, product design and accessibility, and even clothes.

For example, there are certain major name brand shoe companies who have started to make shoes that can accommodate an AFO. WHY SHOULDN’T YOUR CHILD WHO WEARS AFO’S BE IN STYLE LIKE THEIR PEERS!! 

It’s often up to us to understand how each child is a capable learner and to adapt the environment in order to help them relay to use what they know in a verbal or non verbal way.    

Learning occurs throughout the day. 

It is a group effort form the teacher, an aide, a school, a community, therapists, friends, extended family and everyone who is in contact with your child to make their environment interactive and accessible because everyone will benefit from this mindset.   

This process starts at home. 

I know that these past several months have probably been the most challenging, and in some ways, the most rewarding times of being a parent of a child with special needs. 

How has your consistent attention and caretaking impacted your child? 

I bet you have seen some differences.  Keep your eye on the prize, but celebrate the small victories along the way. 

I’m just sayin, we’re all different. 

Technology and new products are making it easier to address these differences. 

Seek out a team of players that will support your vision to help your child achieve their potential. 

Check DIY websites of other creative parents. 

Make sure you take care of yourself (mind and body).

Try to celebrate these differences, see the potential in any of these differences, and march forward. 

I started this blog because I felt that parents had a lot of questions that went unanswered.

Wishing everyone a brighter year, a year that builds on the self-realizations of this year, a celebration of a child’s ‘neurodiversity’, and an ability to stay steady on this marathon of parenting a child with different needs because this may be one of your greatest challenges in life, as well as your greatest success!

You’re not in this alone. 

Hopes for 2021

I’m very fortunate, in my 37 years thus far on this planet ive been very lucky and am so very grateful.

I travelled a lot as a child, lived in a foreign country and learnt another language. 

I collected along my way some of the best friends over the years and my amazing husband…….. life had been pretty sweet for a while.

I had so many high hopes for 2020 after 2019 had not been at all kind to me and my family.

This year though raised the bar; it has been mentally excruciating, I know it has for many and I don’t say that lightly.

As we entered lockdown in March, i’ll be the first to admit I was a little naïve and laughed at comments that this would be ongoing into winter. 

As I had started home-schooling, my husband was furloughed, and we were all in the house together all the time.

Those odd jobs that were built up around the house and never quite finished, were now being worked through and the glorious weather meant we could have evening in the garden. 

We spoke with our neighbours more and although there were difficult times – people were connecting and had a new appreciation for their home sand other people. 

We had our sons lockdown birthday and friends were dropping off lovely doorstep parcels and we became BBQ masters.

In May I found out after a long four years of trying for another child and a miscarriage the previous year that I was again pregnant, I laughed at the thought of announcing a “lockdown baby” but my joy again was short lived when I suffered an ectopic pregnancy that could have had potentially dire consequences.

Mentally this was even more difficult to go through being alone in the hospital during this time but I had a new found appreciation for our NHS staff and professionals.

I saw so many of my business owner friends and self-employed people struggle with the closures and having to stop working. 

My husband had been out of work himself for 10 weeks at one point and my son was in tears struggling with the subject matter in online work that he had not yet covered and could not get his head around. 

I was put at risk of redundancy for the second time in a 12 month period and the mood everywhere was generally just low.

Summer came and went, and we were fortunate that our summer staycation went ahead at the end of August although one of my best friend’s wedding was postponed, covid effects never really that far away from everything we did. 

I was frightful for my sons education and what his future now looked like from the after effects of this pandemic.

During work meetings we would start to say we were sick of having the same weary conversation and it was disheartening not having nice and positive news to share. 

Its now going on for nine months that I have not had any face to face interaction with my work colleagues and Secret Santa by post is just not the same! 

Not to mention my camera roll for 2020 was not pics of empty supermarket aisles and toilet roll shortage memes.

So I started to think about what I wish and hope for 2021 and to be honest, I feel like I can’t and actually don’t want to make any plans. 

My only true desire is to be ending 2021 with all the people I love and hold dear, then the same for the year after and year after that. 

Occasions may be cancelled, and holidays postponed. 

We may not be able to see people of often as we like in the surroundings that we want but the fact that we can look to be able too do these things, eventually – in the future should we all be alive and healthy to do so is the hope that will carry us all through.

The fear of the unknown

Why do we fear the unknown?

The wait and see period of a diagnosis is the most unbelievably heart wrenching part, the unknown of what is to come?

How bumpy the road ahead is? Will my child walk, talk, eat, go to university or drive a car?

I am ashamed to admit how many times I thought someone might know these answers at such a young and tender age, equally so when professionals say “we don’t think they will do xyz” I remind myself they don’t honestly know at 1 years old.

The textbook says this, but every now and then there is the kid that beats the textbook, everyone naively thinking my child will break the mould!

This year we have come to accept living with the unknown, it is a little bit clearer, still hazy in places of what the future holds but no were near as scary.

I can now live with the unknown demon in the back occasionally rearing his big ugly head but all the big fat accomplishments and unconditional love take up all the room on the stage right now.

Really though, why do we as humans fear the unknown when it comes to health and medical diagnosis?

We wouldn’t pick up a family dog and ask will it be a crufts winner? Or will it win the village show? When will it learn to sit? Will it be good at riding in the car? How will it be around other dogs?

That would be absurd to discuss all this or thinking round and round in our heads, but we do ask a professional like they are able to tell us about our child’s future.

Milestones are not a marker for success.

Society might place great weight behind them, but the sheer beauty of a smile, a giggle, a decent eye gaze to communicate is an amazing success.

I have got better at fending off well-meaning questions “are they walking yet?” “I bet they are crawling everywhere?” with an excited reply “yeah they are doing great, they like watching Bing and love Peppa, still not keen on pigeons but we can avoid them accept at the duck pond” and 9 times out of 10 the conversation changes, to our next adventure when covid19 clears off…. Visiting Peppa pig world!

Don’t Lose Yourself – You Matter

I remember about 15 years ago, watching a TV show here in the UK about regaining confidence and your identity as a woman/person.

The show usually consisted of different middle aged women, being forced to confront the mirror in their underwear and celebrate who they are.

Most of the time the women recoiled in horror, looked through squinted scrunched up eyes, or just flat out burst into tears.

They would disguise their shape in baggy clothing, they’d stick to the same hair style they’ve had in forever, they’d refuse to let their partner see them in any less than a baggy t shirt.

I remember back then watching this show and thinking wow, how did these poor women let their self esteem become so low.

Why is their opinion of themselves so negative and extreme?

I also remember thinking “that’ll never be me”.

So confident in who I was as a person, I felt like nothing could ever happen in life that could bring me down.

Even though I have always been a self conscious person, I never would expect I could be like the women on this show.

Fast forward 15 years. Hello baggy t-shirt, my best friend.

Hello same hair style I’ve had for 15 years. Hello not looking at my whole body in a mirror but falling apart when I do.

For me, at least. I can see how this has happened.

Becoming a parent, working full time, all of the “typical” stuff changes you.

You can become lost in that routine.

You’re sleep deprived, you’re busy, your body has been through so much and mother nature is doing her work.

I feel that as parent carers this is exacerbated tenfold.

I remember a big part of my identity used to be my work.

I was proud of the work I did. I worked in a busy social environment where I felt accepted, liked and valued.

This fed into my confidence and my feelings of self worth.

Quite often people ask you what you do for a living.

To me this can translate as “what are you offering society?”, “what makes you important”.

Being unable to work, being detached from that social environment, being sleep deprived, being busy.

It takes its toll on you. It’s so easy to feel undervalued, unnoticed.

Prior to having Amy I had no idea people lived lives the way we currently do.

I wouldn’t have recognised my importance or even acknowledged myself really. How sad is that?

“That’ll never be me”. We always think it won’t be us.

But things happen. Life happens. This is life now.

My point of this post is to 1) tell you that you matter. I see you. 2) past me was naive and wrong. I miss that me. But I am a better person for my experience. 3) parent carers are hugely unrecognised and marginalised. 4) I am so sorry to those women. You are amazing and you matter. Make over or not, you are wonderful.

How often in life do you appear in a normal setting and think “I am the other”, “we are different and people are recognizing this and looking at us”.

So many times behind a forced smile I am screaming out in my head “we are just like you!!”. 

Yesterday in a queue at a shop a little girl was looking with interest at Amy.

I was waiting for the “mummy why is that big girl in a pram?” and the usual awkward conversation that tends to unfold at this point.

The mum either pulls the child away shushing and embarrassed; or the preferred option of  teaching and making the moment a positive experience.

The lady said “look, that little girl has a toy like you have”.

It was true. Both of our girls had little electronic toys.

Sure there was about a 4 year age gap between them but the mum had chosen to recognise that indeed in spite of their differences we all still have things in common.

I smiled (and I hoped they could tell through my mask!) and did an awkward polite chuckle. 

InternallyI was thinking “please. Stop staring.” and wanted to leave the queue, get in the car and go home.

Sometimes when I’m anxious I just don’t want the interactions.

I read too much into things. Had Amy been a “typical” child I bet the child still would have stared at her.

But I’ve had so many awkward experiences that I am almost conditioned to want to bolt and retreat to our own world where we are the norm.

Being a carer can literally and metaphorically isolate you.

Being isolated and feeling forgotten can make you feel unimportant and undervalued.

These feelings can lead to a whole host of negative feelings.

I feel like my own worst bully sometimes. I see my peers in a similar situation, seemingly coping better than me and I berate myself.

Why can’t you be more like them? Why aren’t you coping better? Why do you binge eat and gain weight?

Why can’t you do something about your weight? Why can’t you do more on less sleep? Why is the house a mess? Why are you always chasing meds, why can’t you be more organised? Why can’t you try and get a job and juggle the two?

The interpretation of the word “carer” I often find doesn’t include us.

Most people seem to think a carer is a) a person paid to come and look after someone. or b) a person who is caring for an elderly relative i.e a parent or spouse.

I find rarely do people talk about the parent carer.

When I am having one of my down days I sometimes trawl google images for a suitable quote.

I have found almost all of the carer ones relate to it being a job where the person is employed to provide care but isn’t an actual “full time carer”, or it relates to people caring for an older relative.

The ones relating to parent carers seems to often be in the autism category.

I suppose though, the parents of children with high medical needs/complex conditions separate to autism are a smaller minority.

I have found that in the carer forums, whilst we are a minority much of the issues are feelings are the same but some of the challenges differ.

If anything it makes me dread the eventual (I hope) transition into adult care.

Every now and then I remember. Most people have a baby and have a few years of little sleep.

We are 6 years into this now and even with sleep medication and an airtight bedtime routine – we are still getting that same lack of sleep.

Sleep is a key factor in coping and well being. It is no wonder I’m a bleary eyed, eye bagged, coffee addict.

Throw into that the 24 hour tube feeds, the appointments, the therapies, the meltdowns, the decision making, the emergencies, the lifting, all of it.

Really we should be being celebrated and so should our children.

We go above and beyond what is “expected” of being a parent, in spite of feeling worse than some of my worst hangovers of my 20s.

To be honest everyday is a miracle. Every night of no sleep is a blessing that she is still here.

The day a full night’s sleep would be possible would be a day she isn’t with us, and it doesn’t bear thinking about.

There is hardly any aspect of our life that is the normal level of difficulty.

Everything requires planning, extra equipment, extra strength, extra knowledge.

It is no wonder our emotional and physical resources are depleted. I look back at my old full time job.

How could I think I was ever tired or stressed back then!? That isn’t to say I’m not grateful for my life.

Yes I wish I had more sleep, yes I wish simple tasks could be easier and not a battle, yes I wish simple things like a suitable bike weren’t £3000. But I am so lucky to be such a huge part of my daughters’ life.

I get to be there more than I ever could if I were working full time.

I get to be part of an almost secret world. I get to raise awareness and celebrate every milestone.

I applaud people’s differences and can display a heightened empathy I didn’t know I was capable of.

I sit here, in our small cramped adapted home… in my baggy T-shirt, craving a coffee, and knowing that come 4pm she will be home for school.

I can’t wait to see her smile and hear her laugh. I also can’t wait until bedtime. 

I know on those hard days you might beat yourself up. No amount of mindfulness, going for a walk, drinking green tea.. whatever remedy the internet would have you believe can fix this… you just have to take each day as it comes.

Sometimes even 5 minutes at a time.

So remember. You matter. Mums. dads. Everyone.

Whatever your situation in life. You’re doing your absolute best within your own set of unique circumstances, even on the days where you feel like you’re doing terribly.

You are not your job, or just “mum”, you are your own person with your own wants, needs and hobbies.

What makes you unique is so much more than the harsh standards that you likely judge yourself by.

Voice in the absence of Choice

Recently, my son and I were at a doctor’s appointment during which a couple surgeries were discussed and scheduled for my son.

Of course, surgeries are never a fun or preferred event for any child.

As the surgeon discussed what would take place during the surgeries and then had me sign consent, my son became withdrawn and angry with me.

He heard the surgeon describing surgeries that will be painful.

Then my boy heard me—his mama—say that I agree and we should go ahead and schedule these scary procedures.

My son voiced his disapproval using his communication device.

He told me to leave him alone. He told me he didn’t like this.

He refused to look at me and repeatedly asked for his daddy.

Throughout our entire discussion, the surgeon and I included my son the best we could in the explanations and questions.

However, when it came down to it, my son would have said no to surgeries that as his mother, I had to say yes to.

When the surgeon left the room, I turned to my son: “I’m sorry buddy. I know this isn’t something you want to go through. This has to happen though, and I believe it will be better in the long-run. I heard you disagreeing and I’m sorry you had to lose your voice for this particular decision.”

As soon as I said the last sentence, I caught myself.

My son had not lost his voice. Not a single ounce of it.

Throughout the discussion, my son was included.

We heard his disapproval. We could empathize with his frustration and anxiety.

His anger toward me was heard throughout his communication loud and clear.

My son has every right to feel and express each one of these emotions and thoughts.

It made me so very thankful for the device my son has and the hard work we have put in to make sure his voice (which he has always had, device or not) has a way to be heard by all.

Even though my son was not given a choice about surgery, his voice remained and was still heard and valued.

In all of our lives, there will always be times where having opinions and the ability to voice them cannot change an outcome.

There are often times that we as humans have to swallow hard, grit our teeth, and press on into situations we wouldn’t prefer.

That’s where bravery is found. It’s simply part of life.

One of the most beautiful things about being human is that everyone of us still has a voice.

The ability to share anger, disagreement, fear, frustration—all those things—is an absolute right that we are all entitled to.

It really is a beautiful thing.

Home Away From Home

As of June, my little family and I became new residents to the state of Maine.

Both my husband and I were born and raised in Texas, so this was quite the change.

A change we both were ready to make!

Moving here we envisioned frequently visiting family, but that has now taken an indefinite halt due to COVID-19.

And as much as I hate to make you read another blog about COVID-19, with the holidays it sure makes things extra hard.

Can I just pause and say what we are all thinking, “What a dang year it has been!”.

I did not imagine the whole year to fly by and be such a dramatic change from last year.

With the holidays and the precautions set in place by our Governor, Christmas is looking to be a small and intimate celebration with just us five.

Having three children in the home, and more importantly one that is more susceptible to illnesses, we just can not risk going out and taking part in all the ritual affairs that the holidays bring.

It is a hard decision to come to, and one the kiddos might not come to understand just yet; but it will definitely make one Christmas to remember.

With change, comes new opportunity though.

New opportunities to start new traditions, or put a small twist on old ones.

For our family, we will be starting a new tradition of gingerbread houses!

Since we have the time, I don’t just mean the pre-made ones either.

Go big or go home, right? (Although I am not sure that still works, considering we are already home…).

Anywho! I have come to realize that it can be all too easy to sit and mope about not being with my family during the holidays, or I can try and make the best of it.

For us, in this trying time, the best of this situation means spending quality time with my husband and children that they will hopefully carry in their memories for years and years.

I wish you all the best during the holidays, and may you all have merry, merry Christmas!

A very covid Christmas!

Well we are finally here…the last month of 2020! I can’t say I’m sad to see the back of it, as I’m sure the majority of people aren’t.

I made myself the New Year’s resolution to try my best to find the positive in every situation (although obviously I do epically fail when my child is hurting!).

Well played 2020, that was a SUPER hard one to keep.

There have definitely been things I will take from this year though!

  1. Health is wealth

It is so true what they say. Your health is never guaranteed and is so easy to take for granted.

For all the people who had their lives turned upside down by covid, I am so sorry.

I can’t express enough how my heart goes out to those who have lost loved ones to this devastating virus, and I could never take away from that.

I am genuinely thinking of the families who will be going through Christmas without cherished loved ones.

Now, more than ever, I am appreciating the value of health.

If you’ve read my blogs at all, you’ll know our son has faced a brutal year.

2021 looks set to not be hugely better as we are awaiting assessments that I think will lead to a diagnosis that will be a huge new challenge to face.

But Jacob’s here. The skill of surgeons, doctors, nurses, healthcare assistants, play therapists, OTs, physio, etc has allowed me the absolute privilege of writing this with my little boy safe in our home, along with his brother and sister.

  1. You have to think outside the box

We have all been forced to adapt to the changing situations we have been in during 2020.

Rules around seeing friends and family has meant we’ve had to use technology like zoom etc to keep in touch.

Due to my own health difficulties with my MS, I use social media a lot as well as things like snapchat and whatsapp.

I’ve discovered that this helps me feel less isolated when I’m stuck indoors (haven’t we all been?!) or at the hospital watching Jacob sleeping etc.

I’ve been blown away by the amount of people who have supported me during all the difficult times, despite the fact I know it can be “frowned upon” to share some things the way I have; including in blogs.

I find it cathartic to do this though, it’s a way to tell our story and hopefully make someone else feel a little less alone.

  1. We really shouldn’t be so quick to judge

I remember seeing some really disgraceful comments about migrants crossing the mediterranean sea in search of a safer life for their families.

Keyboard warriors came out and were asking how anyone could put their children in such danger.

Then the covid-19 pandemic hit and all the images started appearing of people pushing past each other in the shops to get…TOILET ROLL. Seriously.

I saw actual fights breaking out over toilet roll. The people who were commenting on those who try to cross the oceans have absolutely NO right to judge anyone after what our country looked like when the global pandemic hit.

I realise the irony of me judging the “judgers”…but I’m sticking with it.

I think the pandemic has shown the true colours of a lot of us, myself included.

  1. Gratitude

So many people have helped us all through this pandemic (and it isn’t over yet!).

From postmen, waste collection, nurses, doctors, pharmacists, shop workers…the list would go on and on.

To all those people who have continued working and volunteering despite the risks to them, THANK YOU.

As I’ve said, I really don’t have the words to thank the people who have saved our son’s life several times this year.

Yes, it was hell to go through and I’d not want to relive one second of it.

But I am just beyond grateful to all those people who made it possible to have him home with us.

So as we move forwards into 2021, I wish whoever is reading this all the happiness they can find.

Sometimes you will need to look very hard, some days you won’t find it at all (and that’s ok), but please hold on.

As my very wise Granda would say, “this too shall pass.”

Happy Christmas everyone!

That festive feeling

Christmas is a funny old time really.

There is this innate habit we find ourselves looking back on the year or reflecting back to past Christmas times.

A year ago we were petrified of the future, 2 years ago I was 12 weeks pregnant with twins, 5 years ago we had no kids, 10 years ago we were young and carefree at the pub with our mates and couldn’t of ever imagined what a beautiful life we would share together.

For many parents of disabled children it can be a very emotional time at Christmas.

Looking back on another year of hospital visits, services provided to us, equipment, medicine changes, diagnosis, but also be a very uplifting time of reflection, new milestones, new found confidence of parenting, strengths found within ourselves that we never knew were there and friendships that have blossomed out of difficult times!

This year has presented us with its own set of challenges.

The dreaded covid-19 sent us all into hiding, with many of us still looking out of our periscope lying low on the radar whilst the rest of society return to normal whatever that means these days.

The freezing of the lifelines of care and support provided by health and social care really tested our community but I think we have shown ourselves what we are capable of and how much our kids really thrive on our first class input.

Most services have rightfully started to resume and everyone has welcomed them back, lagged in PPE none the less.

I am sure no doubt we will laugh about this in 10 years’ time at Christmas.

I have spent the evening looking back at photos from a year ago pinching myself at how far we have come.

How much more we know about early intervention, how our girls have shown so much resilience and how we naively knew nothing about the pandemic that was going to show up in 2020 and turn our lives upside down.

Tele-therapy has exploded and at the touch of the button I can get world class input from another continent on a different time zone.

Of course there has been some hard times and frank conversations, but we can’t get hung up on the low points it only takes away from the magic achievements.

I do wish however Santa had left me a pile of shares in zoom under the tree last year or a pile of face masks and hand sanitizer.

I can’t imagine what next Christmas will look like; I hope our house is still full of love and laughter, with an even bigger tree and some tyrant toddlers in standers and adapted seats ripping the tree baubles off and eating chocolate until we all feel sick.

Hopefully with coronavirus just another distant memory.

So Here It Is, Merry Christmas Everybody’s Having Fun?

This time of year, it’s hard to escape from the deluge of Christmas tunes; whether it’s on the radio, in shops, in TV adverts, the same old songs are everywhere. Probably the most recognisable is that 1970’s classic from Slade, ‘Merry Xmas Everybody’…

Hearing it again for the millionth time today, the chorus of the song broke through to me and I heard the familiar words in a different way; I heard them as a parent of a child with special needs.

“So here it is merry Christmas
Everybody’s having fun
Look to the future now
It’s only just begun”

I shuddered.

It evoked a physical reaction in me as I pondered on those words, words that I have heard, and even sung, so many many times, but had never considered in this way before.

Words that suddenly, unexpectedly, stopped me in my tracks as the new meaning that had now been revealed to me through them sunk in.

So here it is merry Christmas

Christmas can be a challenging time for families who have a child with special needs any year, but this year it is looking like Christmas will be unlike any that we have ever known or experienced in our lifetimes.

All of the different things that Christmas brings can be really hard for children with special needs to cope with.

Whether it is at school, home, or other activities, everything is different as we enter nativity season, transform our houses into Blackpool illuminations, see people that we might only see once a year, eat different food, even the TV schedule is totally different.

Many children with special needs struggle with all of that and it can make Christmas a really unsettling time for them.

The expected restrictions this year, though lighter that they have been during lockdown, will limit the number of people that we can invite or go to visit, which could be a help to children who struggle to socialise, or indeed to leave the house, however…

Everybody’s having fun

It will be hard to escape the social media posts of friends and family who are still having whatever the ‘perfect’ Christmas looks like this year, while we’re just trying to survive the day with everybody still alive at the end of it.

Coping with meltdowns, trying to make it a special time while recognising that our children would perhaps rather it was a familiar day of routine with no changes, while seeing photos of friends that look like they are having a ‘Hello’ magazine Christmas, can be draining… it most certainly doesn’t seem that “Everybody’s having fun”!

Look to the future now

Here’s something that as special needs parents we need to do, but the future can be hard and uncertain.

We plan for our child’s future, whether it is short-term as they go through school, or long-term as we explore what options there might be for them to live an independent adult life.

Perhaps the time in the future that we are most reluctant to look to is that time when we are no longer here to protect, provide for and advocate for our child.

That’s a place that’s hard to look to, but we can’t ignore it, we can’t hide from it, we have to plan and prepare for it to give our child, whatever age they are at that point, the support they need.

Or maybe the time in the future we find it hard to look to is when our child with a life-limiting condition or disability will no longer be with us; again, a hard place to look to, but are we doing all that we can to make sure that that time as gentle and peaceful and loving for our child and for us as possible?

It’s only just begun

We can end with a more positive note from the lyrics to this song.

Christmas is still coming, but we have time to make it what works best for our family.

We’re never going to compete with the ‘Hello’ magazine Christmas crowd, in some ways I’m not even sure I’d want to, but we can make Christmas special for us, for our family, in our own way, even if that is very simple.

If a successful Christmas means having chicken nuggets and alphabetti spaghetti for dinner then so be it!

If it means no lights, but we spend time together making some decorations then that’s OK.

If it means watching DVD’s of Thomas The Tank Engine all day long instead of Mrs. Brown’s Boys and Call The Midwife, then I’m in.

And as for the future? Well that can wait until the New Year can’t it?

It will still be there, waiting for us, but for now let’s just focus one day at a time.

And if you can, if you’ve found yourself on the ‘Good List’ this year, and Tesco tell us we’re all on it this year, then try (I’ll whisper it quietly..) try, and get a few minutes (OK, maybe seconds…) to look back at the year gone by and despite all the really hard stuff, give yourself a little pat on the back for making it through another year. After all…