I have already written to tell you what my parents and sister mean to me and the important roles that they play in my life, well I now want to tell you how much my friends mean to me, by telling you the things that they have done to support me, just in the last few days:

  • Last week was a difficult week in terms of juggling work, motherhood and visiting my Mum in hospital. I stayed away for two nights and got back home on Friday evening. I unpacked the car and then saw that two parcels were waiting in an outbuilding as they were too large for the postbox. One of them was addressed to me and had come from my first best friend in Texas. I ripped the packaging off to find the most beautiful, vibrant patchwork quilt that she had made for me as a gift. One side is turquoise – my favourite colour – with large orange flowers on it but the other is made up of so many different bright fabrics, some floral prints, some with bambi on from our childhood and some busy bees. It is such a work of art that I was reluctant to use it, for fear that it might get dirty or ruined, as it looks too perfect to use. I emailed immediately to thank her, and she told me that it was a ‘working quilt’ that is machine washable too and that it was to be enjoyed, like my baking she said. I was so touched by the time that she devoted to creating my present, with me in mind. She told me that she makes quilts to thank important people in her life, in the same way that I bake cakes, as my original quilt had been given away to her cancer doctor as a thank you, which of course I understand totally as I take the same approach. However a cake takes an hour or so of my time, making a patchwork quilt is a much bigger undertaking.
  • Last night I had been sad as I came away from hospital as Mum was not as well as I had hoped and I had told my best friend . She had immediately offered to come over to my Mum’s house – all of 100+ miles away – to stay with me, but I assured her that I would be OK.  She then gave me practical help for the first 45 minutes of getting to Mum’s house, offering me IT support in trying to make emails work again on Mum’s iPad. She patiently tolerated my technical incompetence and talked me through each step that I needed to do. So she kindly gave me the gift of time and, as a result, we seem to have fixed the problem together and also , it usefully distracted me from the way that I had felt on the drive home, as I had a practical task to focus on.
  • A Mum from school had shared my recent blog about school nurses on social media, saying that her ” lovely friend posts this blog everyday..” and I was touched by her kind words and her support of me, my blog and the school cause. When I thanked her, she described me as a “warrior” who has taken on battles for Joshua, myself and now for Mum, which was a lovely thing to say and gave me strength, when I was doubting my own abilities. Many Facebook friends , even if they do not know Mum ,have been asking after her on a daily basis, which is really thoughtful. Some friends asked after her when she first went to hospital three weeks ago, but there are many who continue to support and ask about her progress even now, which gives me a warm glow.
  • Yorkshire Grandma is a friend of the family and once again, she has stepped into the gap this morning. I expected to set off home early enough to be there when Joshua wakes up and to get him ready for school, as my husband needs to leave at 7.15 for work. However, even as I was driving over yesterday, Yorkshire Grandma let me know that she was available in the morning, if things did not go to plan – how well she knows me! So that meant I was able to offer to come back to hospital in the morning, without checking first about Joshua’s care, which was invaluable. These last three weeks she has been a rock that has enabled me to focus on Mum, knowing that Joshua was in safe hands and would be happy too.

So as you can see, I am blessed with very kind, thoughtful friends – as is my Mum judging by her get well soon cards and the people eager to visit her!- and they are invaluable when life takes a difficult turn, as I am not sure where I would be without their support. Thank you my friends, you know who you are xx


Coffee, cake and chatter

Today is the penultimate Parent Coffee morning of this academic year, so I have been busy baking last night and this morning to tempt more parents with homemade treats. I never know how many parents will attend so it is always tricky to judge how many cakes to prepare. What I do know is that there is usually a small queue of staff at midday to gather up any leftovers, so there has never been any waste so far.

I have been trying to recruit new visitors over the last couple of weeks and I hope to take some photographs today for the school website and noticeboard. Many mums that I have spoken to have felt intimidated by the concept of a coffee morning and walking into an imagined room full of strangers. So I want to show that we are friendly and informal, as well as not such a large crowd that feels overwhelming when you know nobody. Several of the mothers that I have called on the telephone have described themselves as being ‘anti-social’, which is rather sad. I wonder if they have always had that personality or if it is as a result of parenting a child with special needs that has lead them to withdraw, to become shrinking violets? We feel different to ‘normal’ parents and face different challenges, but that is something that we all have in common even though our children’s disabilities are so varied.

We usually cover a wide range of topics and I am sure that this morning’s referendum result will be discussed today and I am expecting to hear some wide ranging views. I have explained that the discussions are not all doom and gloom, special needs parents all feling victimised and alone. It is quite the opposite, the debates are helpful and often empowering and advice is regularly shared. There has been talk of extending the group beyond daytime coffee to a night out together, so let’s see how that idea progresses today.

I am looking forward to this morning, so had better get a wriggle on…..

Cake and chat

It was my fourth parent  coffee morning at school yesterday and it went well once again. There is always a moment of doubt in the morning, that everybody will forget and that nobody will come. But as I brought Joshua into school, I recognised a number of Mums waiting in the foyer as Joshua made his slow walk passed to his classroom. So I set up the room and put the kettle on, now with more confidence that we would have some parents in attendance.

The room was immediately full as I invited those waiting to come down, which was great and everyone started to chatter away and tuck into the cake and biscuits. Very early on, somebody asked when the next event was going to be , which I took as a positive sign. We had settled on the last Friday in the month , but as that will be Good Friday, we could either make it in just three Fridays time, or wait until after the Easter holidays. The consensus was to repeat the event in just three weeks time, so that too is encouraging.

We all have at least two things in common : we all have a child that attends the same special school and so we all know the challenges of raising a child with special needs, even though each child’s disabilities are different and their ages range from juniors  up to 18 year olds in the sixth form. So as well as everyday chat, a range of topics were covered either by the group as a whole or in smaller pockets of conversation, such as carers allowance, respite, transitions to  adulthood and the complicated payroll system for Direct Payments. I heard one lady say ‘ It is a good job you came, or else I would never have known that!’, which was great to overhear.

It is a relaxed  and friendly atmosphere and I am hoping that it will steadily grow so that more parents get involved. I was trying to persuade some Mums that I met on Wednesday to come along. One said that she was reluctant to come alone, as she did not know anyone, and I do know how intimidating entering a room of strangers can feel, as I have faced that fear many times in my life. I used to be more lily-livered than I am now, I have more self confidence now than before, but I am close enough to it to remember how frightening it could feel. So I tried to reassure her that we were a friendly group and I pointed out that        ” You know me now.. and you never will know any more parents, if you do not give it a go” So we shall see.. the cake is the hook to persuade them to come, but I am hoping that it becomes more about mutual parent support, than about eating free cake and biscuits, although that is always good too.