Is your oxygen mask on?

It’s a year since I started this blog, and in honour of that i thought I’d reblog my most liked blog and I think it’s my favourite one too.

Annas Blog

Do you put your own oxygen mask on first?

You know when you’re flying and how they during the safety demonstration always say for parents and other adults to put their own oxygen mask on first before helping others?
Well, most of us probably think that it makes sense. After all, we won’t be any use to anyone if we pass out or die ourselves, will we?

But do you put your oxygen mask on first in the real world too?  Where you’re not up in the air, but living your everyday life with your feet firmly on the ground?
I have a feeling a lot of people don’t.
I know I didn’t.
And I know plenty of women who don’t.

We prioritise everyone else but ourselves.

Not only are we just as ‘worthy’ as everyone else, but even if we do feel like we are only here to serve…

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Happy Lucia!

Today is the 13th December, a day when, in Sweden we celebrate “Lucia”. It is an old tradition which has it’s name from the Italian saint who died a martyr in the 3rd century.

Lucia would secretly bring food to the persecuted Christians in Rome, who lived in hiding in the catacombs under the city. She would wear candles on her head so she had both her hands free to carry things. The word Lucia comes from the latin word ‘lux’ which means ‘light’ so this is a very appropriate name.

December 13th was also the Winter Solstice, the shortest day of the year, according to the ‘Julian’ Calendar. And what this tradition so importantly brings to us up in the north, is light during the long, dark winter.

The tradition doesn’t have much in common with this saint, but for us it is more of a pre-christmas celebration. A (young) woman with a red ribbon around her waist and candles in her hair, is walking at the head of a procession of women, each holding a candle all dressed in white, singing ‘Lucia songs’. Men can also participate as ‘Stjarngossar’ (star boys) and when children join in they can also dress up as ‘Tomtenissar’ (Santas elves/helpers) or as gingerbread men. They usually bring ‘glogg’ (mulled wine) pepparkakor (gingerbread biscuits) and ‘Lussebullar’ (saffron buns)


This Lucia celebration takes place in pre-schools, schools, churches, hospitals and many workplaces all around our country. It’s also broadcast on TV from the major celebrations.

I understand that to outsiders it sounds like a very strange tradition. My husband still thinks it’s quite weird.

I think that, as with many traditions, if you didn’t grow up with it, you won’t quite ‘get it’. And that’s fine.

But I miss it.

I miss seeing kids all excited and dressed up, in the early hours to sing at their pre-school with their parents there to watch.

I miss the songs they sing.

I miss going to church, really, really early to see Lucia with her procession and hear the beautiful music.

I miss the light that it brings.

Every year it kind of sneaks up on me, and I never plan for anything. One year I hope to be organised enough to manage to book a ticket to the celebration in the Swedish church in London. One day.

But today, in honour of this tradition, I’m having my own celebration today with ‘Glogg’ ‘Lussebulle’ and ‘Pepparkaka’

Yes, we drink our mulled wine in a small mug, usually with raisins and almonds in it.

Glad Lucia!



We’re off to London!

I’m spending the weekend with my husband up in London. Not a big deal for many, since we live just 40 min away, but it is a big deal to us.
Time alone, just the two of us is rare, just as I think it is for a lot of parents and especially parents of children with additional needs, because you can just “get a babysitter”
Thankfully Richards sister and mum help us out when they can and we try to go away at least once a year just the two of us, last year we went to Venice for example.

Venice last year

This year we weren’t so sure we could go anywhere because we had a few other family trips lined up and didn’t think we could really afford it or find the time.

Then Harry entered his toddler/teenage stage.
I’ve written about it before here, so I won’t go in to details, but after one particular Saturday we were at our wits end.
He was supposed to go swimming with his activity club (for children with special needs) along with his brother and a few other kids. None of this was new to him.
We had gone through with him what was going to happen that day so that he was prepared: I would take him, he would swim, dad would pick him up etc.

He was very excited to go, but once he got there he burst out crying and wanted to go home again. We could not persuade him to stay and in the end I ended up bringing him home again.

Richard and I had been looking forward to a couple of hours to ourselves that Saturday morning. We don’t get much alone time. And as it turned out we didn’t get it that Saturday either.

The day after, Richards sister came over for a cup of coffee and we spoke about this and about Harry, his unpredictability and mood swings. She suggested that she’d take the boys for a night or two and we could go away for a bit. Thank God for her!

We jumped at the opportunity and immediately booked and payed for a hotel in London.

And I am so glad we did because as it turned out we’ve had to cancel one of our planned trips to visit family in Berlin this summer at the last minute due to… *drumroll*… buying a house!
We weren’t seriously looking, but it just so happened that we found a perfect house for us and we could not miss the opportunity to buy it. But as anyone who’s ever bought a house knows, it is expensive, far beyond what the price tag says. So we’ve had to make some sacrifices and cancelling the Berlin trip was one of them. Luckily for us, we’d already payed for the hotel up in London, so we can still go without feeling like we’re spending money we really should be saving.

So, enter a lovely, relaxing weekend with the husband. And, boy, do we need it!

The best part right now is that we don’t have to feel like we ‘have’ to do anything, we can just relax and eat good food and do what ever we feel like, as we can always come back because it’s ‘only’ London.

So that’s what we’re planning on doing.

Just relaxing. Spending quality time together. Eating and drinking. Go for walks (which we NEVER get to do when we take Joshua up to London since he’s train mad and ‘have to’ take the underground everywhere!)
Maybe go to a museum or catch a movie.

I can not wait.

And I’m shamelessly plugging my husbands fantastic photos of London





This weekend was a win

Richard and I took our boys to see Kung Fu Panda 3 this weekend. Taking our boys to the cinema is always a bit risky and if we can go all four we try to do it and not just one of us with the two boys.

A couple of years ago, while Richard was travelling I took the boys to see Paddington, or should I say I tried to take them. Both had said they wanted to go, but as we got there, Harry just decided that No, he wasn’t going. I will never know what made him change his mind, but he blankly refused to even enter the cinema. He ended up having a complete meltdown outside and my only option was to tell Joshua that I’m sorry but we can’t go in. Joshua, who really wanted to go and had his heart set on in, got really upset and started screaming and crying how unfair it was and why should Harry always get his way? I tried to explain that it just wasn’t doable, I couldn’t have Harry in the cinema in complete meltdown mode! But Joshua of course didn’t understand that, so there I am, with both boys crying their eyes out and I can’t please any of them! We ended up going home of course, and I felt like a complete failure as a mum.

Last summer we took them to see Jurassic World, it was the first ‘grown up’ movie we’ve taken them to see and they were both so excited to see it. We made it in to the theatre, and we occupied Harry with a tub of popcorn so he would sit still which worked quite well, but about half way through, Joshua leans over to me and whispers: “I’m a bit bored”
This is a action packed movie filled with cool dinosaurs running rampage! How can he be bored?!
But to look at it from an autistic point of view, it is a lot going on, in fact too much. People on the autistic spectrum can’t filter all of lives inputs like us ’neurotypical’ can. They see, hear, feel, smell everything and have trouble sorting the informations as to whats important and whats not. So in an action packed movie like that, it is simply to much input. Sensory overload. His brain had had enough and he couldn’t see the forrest for all the trees anymore. Hence the boredom.

A few years ago, Richard took both boys on his own to the cinema. This was quite early on on our autism journey and we didn’t quite understand how they experienced the world, so this was before we knew the importance of ear defenders, which they now always wear at the cinema to lessen their sensory input. It all got a bit to much for Harry about half way through the film and he wanted to leave. Joshua didn’t want to leave, and Harry ended up screaming the place down to which point poor Richard had to carry them both out of the theatre, kicking and screaming.

All these experiences really makes us think both two and three times before we decide take them to the cinema.

All their lives they have struggled to watch a film all the way through the first time, which we now know is for this reason. They could watch a new movie a few minutes in, then the next time they saw it they could watch a little bit more, and so on until one day they could watch the whole film. Of course by then they’d probably watch it, or should I say part of it, probably 10 times. And being on the autistic spectrum they like and take comfort in watching the same thing over and over and over. So then they started to watch the whole film, over and over and over. Thats why we always bought their films instead of renting them and ended up with a massive library of childrens movies, because we certainly got our moneys worth! And I know probably a hundred kids movies by heart, haha. I don’t know how many times I’ve seen Cars, or “Many Bil” as Joshua used to call it when he was little. (“Many” because, well, there was a lot of cars in the movie, and “Bil” because thats swedish for car)

They still like the familiarity of watching something over and over, wether it being a movie, a youtube video, a song or a game. For us it gets a bit boring and repetitive, but for them it’s comfort-knowing what’s coming next, what to expect. They live in a world of so many uncertainties and doing something repetitive brings comfort.

So this weekend when we took them to the cinema, seeing them laughing and enjoying a film for the first time, that for us was a huge win!


I feel like I need to explain myself…

I recently gave up my job. I had thought about it for a long time. I think I thought about it ever since I went back to work a year and a half ago after being a stay-at-home mum for five and a half years. Not because I’m lazy or don’t want to work, but because sometimes we have to change our priorities in life.

Before we moved to England 7 years ago we lived in Sweden, where I worked as a nurse. But when we moved we decided that I would stay home as long as needed for the boys to acclimatise to their new country. But then the boys got their autism diagnosis and our life changed. Harry was three, Joshua was four.
Things didn’t turn out the way we’d planned.
So I ended up staying home for over 5 years because our boys needed it and because it is so hard finding something that would suit us as a family. I knew I didn’t want to go back to nursing. It’s not what I really want and realistically a nursing job would require a lot more both in time and energy than I can give. I want to do something positive and now was the time to follow my passion so I became a Personal Trainer. Now, that’s still what I want to do eventually, but at that moment it didn’t quite workout the way I’d planned, for reasons I’ll cover at another time.

Then I found a job working in a school kitchen. Great! All hours while the kids were at school, all the holidays off, it seemed perfect on paper. Not so much in reality.

Here’s the thing. Having children with autism and ADHD is not easy. It’s never easy, and it will never be easy.
Our children don’t socialise. Not like other children do.
After school clubs barely exist in our world.
Play dates don’t exist in our world
We have no grandparents near by to help us out.

Our boys are now 11 and 9. But they are not like other children their age:

Harry is quite a social boy, but he doesn’t have the communication or social skills to play independently with his peers, not for very long at least. And even though he has a few friends, most with autism themselves, I could never leave him in the hands of another parent, they would have enough on their plate without having to look after Harry as well:

He is a flight risk, he has escaped several times and is very good at working out escape routes from any given situation.
He has very little sense of danger.
He might act aggressively and violently if things don’t go his way
He doesn’t understand ‘common sense’

For all these reasons and more he can not do any activities after school, unless I am there too. (Apart from once a week when he does an after school club for one hour at his school which is a special needs school, so it is of course catered for children like him)

Joshua goes to a mainstream school, but he doesn’t socialise. He doesn’t have friends. He never plays with children after school. Even though he’s now 11 we still don’t feel he’s mature enough to walk to school by himself. School is very hard for him. Not academically, but because of all the pressures of the day to ‘keep it together’, stay focused, not be bothered by other children, noises, events, and so on.

When he comes home in the afternoon, he’s exhausted. Trying to get him to do homework can be like World War III!

The boy is the laziest child I’ve ever known. He will not voluntarily move all day unless we make him. He is not overweight by any means but all that sitting all day is not healthy. Walking to and from school is his only exercise, apart from PE, or the occasional bike ride at the weekend with us.

So everything we do as a family is a struggle. Very rarely something goes smoothly. And when I came home from work, I was tired, but like all working mothers I still had more work to do. Their whole life depends on us. And if we didn’t have the energy or time to play, do homework, cook, encourage (lets face it, NAG, haha) battle every. single. thing. Then who would?

Now add everything else that needs to be done as a special needs parent:

Review meetings
Parent – Teacher meetings
Form filling (There’s a lot!)
Dentist appointments (our kids go more often than regular kids)
Doctors appointments (again, more often than regular kids!)
Countless workshops for parents of children with special needs
And the occasional playdate, because, like I said, they can’t go without me
and so on…

This is why I gave up my day job.
To be able to be there for the boys wholeheartedly. So I can go to that workshop. So I don’t have to hoover, do the laundry, have my dentist appointment, or workout when I should be with them.
Now when they come home from school, I can focus on them and their needs. I don’t snap “What?” the tenth time Harry calls “Muuum!” Well… not as much anyway 😉

It wasn’t an easy decision.

It was nice to go to work, distract my mind and not just be an autism mum. BUT in the big picture:

1) We are very fortunate that I don’t have to work. We’re not rich by any means, but we can survive on one salary. Ok, so we can’t go on a big family holiday every year, but I get to spend quality time with my boys every day!

2) What matters in life? Money, or your family? Is anything more important than the wellbeing of you children? And since our children are different, we have had to adapt around them.

3) Nursing or working in a school kitchen weren’t my dream jobs. Now I can spend time figuring out what I actually want to do with my time. Again, I know this is a luxury most people can afford, but I see it as a pleasant side effect of 1)

We all have to make sure we make the choices in life that suit us and our families and not what other people think we should do. It is Your life, so live it on purpose!


Now is a good time to start


I have been thinking about starting a blog for a while now. A looong time in fact. Trouble is, I kept putting it off:
I was busy! (Not so much any more, but more about that another time) and
what would I write about?
Who would read it?
and so on.
Truth is, I really wanted to start writing a blog for myself, because I enjoy writing and I do feel like I have a lot to say. So now is as good time as any to start.


Welcome to my blog.

I am glad you found it.
I am glad I finally started it.
No, more importantly; I am PROUD I started it!
See, I try to live by the ‘no complaints allowed rule’ which basically means, that in any given situation where you face an obstacle, it can be anything; This workout is so hard!
I am so tired!
My job sucks!
…and so on,
you get to complain about it once. Then, you either do something about it (the situation or problem) or change your attitude about it!

Please don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying you can’t talk about your problems or ongoing issues, this is just my method for dealing with these things.
So, if I should go by my own rule that means I could sit here and moan about the fact that I hadn’t started my blog because of, well…life, OR I could just start one!

I haven’t always been this way. In fact, it is a fairly resent mindset of mine, and I still struggle from time to time to NOT moan and to DO, hence me being proud of actually getting around to starting this blog, but I’ve worked hard the last few years to shift my mindset.
And it is a work in progress.
I will write a lot about it here on my blog.
My life hasn’t exactly been a smooth ride (who’s has?) and I’m sure I will return to my ‘issues’ more in the future, but for now lets just say that it is only by working on myself, my mindset on my ‘issues’ that I am now in a very good place.
A good place to start my blog.
And I have a lot to say
A lot!
So here I am