A summer full of Super Heroes.


This summer I decided to tick off another item on my bucket list. I decided along with a friend to do a one night trip to Disneyland Paris. Obviously I have been to Disneyland Paris 12 times before. The bucket list part of this trip would be to see how much we could fit in, in just under 48hours. We also travelled by Eurostar via Paris which was also a new experience for me.

8 years ago today I booked the first trip for my children to visit Disneyland Paris. Ben and I had been twice before and we have been 11 times since. Its safe to say its definitely our happy place. Our first four trips where with Eurostar direct to Disney. We then travelled by plane directly from Belfast and once from Dublin. Our go to favourite way to book now is to book our hotel directly with Disneyland Paris, either online or using Annual pass discount over the phone. We always book our first one or two nights offsite as Belfast flights are always in the evening and we don’t like to miss a whole day of our holiday. We have also done one trip completely off site (in the b&b hotel) and this was great too.

For this trip, as I was visiting England anyway. We booked the Eurostar to Paris and then would get the RER into Disney. This worked out a fraction of the price of the direct Eurostar and you also get to Disney around 3hours earlier than going directly. I stayed with my friend in Croydon the night before we travelled. We got up at 3am to get the 4am night bus into London St Pancras station. The night bus was an experience but easy enough to use, reliable and cheap. Once we got to St Pancras, the staff could not have been more helpful. There was a small queue but also a disabled access queue. Here the staff member checked us in, amended our tickets as the type of train had been changed, and then asked how could she assist me. She helped me carry my bag through security.

We travelled premier class on the way out which meant that we got breakfast while on the train. This only cost £10 more and was well worth that cost. The chairs are slightly bigger with more leg room and you get, tea or coffee, a croissant and bread roll, a yogurt and an apple as well as orange juice. The staff again where very friendly and helpful. We where on the train for around 3hours. When we arrived in Paris, we headed for the ticket machines to get out tickets that would take us on the RER to Disneyland Paris. The ticket machines have an option to do everything in English so its fairly straight forward. The tickets cost around £7. It took us around 15minuets to get our tickets and get onto our first train, we where on this for just one stop and then we swapped to another train which we where on for around 40mins which took us directly to Disney.

We arrived in Disneyland Paris around 11am, the queues for the main park where long and it was also already over 30degrees. My friend queued up to drop our bags off (we get free bag storage with our annual passes) and I headed over to studios where we hoped the queues would be shorter. Thankfully there was no queue to enter the park and I headed straight to guest services as i needed a new access pass as I have recently renewed my annual pass. It took around 20 minuets in the queue and I had no problems at all obtaining my access pass by simply showing my blue badge. I was given a two day pass as if I wanted a year long pass I would need to go to the annual pass office.

Walt Disney Studios have recently introduced an new app called lineberty, this app allows you to book a slot to meet a character of your choice and updates you with how long it is until your turn. This means that you can carry on with your day rather than standing in a queue for several hours. This app has had some negative press and my friend and I were very nervous about being able to meet any of the new characters as they are so popular. We were watching the app while we where on the Eurostar, and while we could see it go live (at 9.45 for mickey, buzz and woody) it told us we where too far away to be able to book a slot. We where really hoping to meet Captain America and the Incredibles. Theses don’t open until 10.45 so we where hoping there would still be slots available when we arrived. My friend managed to get an incredibles slot while we where still on the RER as we where under the park. I managed to get a captain America slot while waiting to get into the main park around 11am. Overall our initial impressions of the app were good. The following day we did have more trouble booking a captain America slot but the cast member was able to help us and give us a time slot on a piece of paper, we also managed to get a meet with buzz later in the day as more spaces became available. I do think the app is a good idea, its a fair way to queue (there are no access slots as there is no queuing required for anyone). We met each character within ten minuets of our time slot and we where not rushed for any and had excellent interaction. Its definitely fine if your there for a few days and if you’ve been there before or not on a tight schedule. I can see the frustrations if you only have one day and a child desperate to meet their favourite character and I can also see it being slightly more problematic in peak season. However i think once people adapt to it, it will work well. One downside was that lots of people didn’t know about it, they would go and join a queue only for cast member’s to have to explain the new system. It is explained on the park programme but its not massively clear. I’m not sure that had i not been part of the Disney community and on pages such as Disneyland Paris for Brits, I might not have been as aware and might have missed out. I also think its giving cast members a bit more grief until the kinks are worked out so pleased be mindful that is not the cast members you see who make these decisions or who have the ability to decide on if you get to meet a character or not so please be kind and respectful to them.

When we first booked this trip I have to admit I was hoping to catch the end of pirate and princess season. My main priority was a Disney trip so when I realised it was summer of super heroes I didn’t mind at all. Now as a kid and teenager I loved super heroes, although I must confess I was more of a DC fan! When I realised I would be here for this season and also with all the hype around the latest avengers film I realised I really need to jump onboard the marvel band wagon. This pleased my son massively as he has been desperate to watch all of the Marvel films. I have to confess despite my best intentions I only managed, the two guardians of the galaxy’s and the first captain America, oh and Spider-Man homecoming before we headed off to Disney. Thankfully I do have a limited amount of superhero knowledge and what I didn’t know was easy enough to pick up and follow enough to enjoy the season.

I have to say Disneyland Paris have done really well with this season. There are three marvel shows and a meet with captain America along with marvel themed meals and snacks. You also have the option of booking a marvel package as part of your holiday where you can also meet Spider-Man and go along to a marvel meal where you meet two of three characters, Thor, Captain America or Black widow. Disney have also now opened up this meal to people not on the package and if there is availability it can be booked three days in advance of your trip via the normal reservations number. We didn’t do the meal as we had already booked inventions but it has been getting great reviews. I was originally disappointed in reports that you could only meet two of the three characters and it was just a simple photo op instead of the characters roaming around but actually it seems to have worked well. I would have booked this meal if I had the kids with me.

We only managed two out of the three marvel shows as two of them are outside and the temperatures in Disneyland Paris that weekend where unbearably hot. The indoor Marvel show, which had queues of up to 4hrs long the first weekend, is incredible. There is disabled queueing and seating for this show (i had heard their wasn’t). While we where there the queues where around 40mins long and it did fill for every viewing but only around 10mins before it was due to start. Ill not include any spoilers for this but its a high action show which has something for everyone. Its certainly proving that DLP are upping their game when it comes to new shows and theming. We also managed to catch the Guardian’s of the Galaxy dance off. It was extremely hot while we watched this but everyone still entered into the spirit of things. Its fantastic because it includes music that everyone knows so the whole crowd sings along and you cant help but dance along. It lasts around 15mins and includes people from the crowd being chosen to join in. They characters even come into the crowd and dance with people too. I really enjoyed this and it was probably one of my favourite experiences over the whole weekend.

I do feel Disney could have included a few more meet and greets for Marvel season, even if Spider-Man had kept his meet for everyone and they had added on captain America that would have been a better compromise. I am all about the characters, I’ve met Spider-Man lots of times and I’m not a marvel fanatic but I feel like if id brought my child for the first time and they where a huge marvel fan (marvel packages weren’t available from the start) you might be a little disappointed with who you could actually meet. Its still a very well themed season and a huge improvement on season of the force.

As well as enjoying all the newness of summer of super heroes, we wanted to enjoy all our usual favourites. With arriving on a weekend in June, in sunny weather, we expected it to be very busy and went with minimal expectations of what we would be able to get done. The crowds however where not too bad at all but the heat definitely slowed us down. We had to stop and drink a lot but we enjoyed people watching and of course Disney snacks!!

We did managed way more than expected, we did some sale shopping, rode big thunder mountain, hyper space mountain, crushes coaster, star tours, the flying carpets and my friend went on TOT. We met captain America twice, the incredibles, Buzz, Minnie mouse and Darth Vader. We watched two of the three marvel shows and went to stitch live and watched the starlight waltz on the castle stage. We also went to Brunch in Inventions in the Disneyland Hotel which had an Hawaii theme which meant we got to meet Lilo and Stitch, along with Donald, Daisy, Mickey, Minnie and Chip and Dale in their Hawaii shirts. We spent two hours enjoying our meal and meeting characters. We had excellent interaction with the characters and outstanding service from the staff. I know inventions is expensive but it is worth it every time for the interaction alone.

Of course the very best bit of our trip was getting to watch the parade twice. I’m a little bit obsessed with the Parade. I know when people go they like to watch it once or twice. I’ve been known to have a hissy fit if i cant watch it every single day. I love to sing and dance along and I never care if i look silly because I’m never as happy as i am when I’m watching a Disney parade.

This was the first time I’ve ever watched the parade from the disabled area and both days we had the pleasure of meeting some really lovely people while waiting. Unfortunately this was also the first time since visiting Disneyland Paris that i have had someone question my Disability. While waiting for the parade on Saturday a lady felt the need to come and shout at me and two others who where sitting on a seat that how could we possibly be ‘invalids’ as we didn’t look like we where and her friend was far more deserving of a seat. To access the disabled area you need to show a cast member your green access card. To get that green card you need to show evidence that you have a disability. No one will be in that area that shouldn’t be there. I try very hard to hide my disability, I hate that i am disabled and quite often I am embarrassed by it. My condition isn’t obvious and requires explaining, this is not something I’m willing to go into with a stranger. The fact I have never sat in that area before and I was on that day (with my walking stick resting on my knee), was because I was struggling, the heat, the travel and the early start had taken its tole on my dodgy joints. I was also on this trip to tick an item off my bucket list. I have a bucket list because this condition and my medication cut short my life expectancy. This woman knew none of this, she made a snap judgement that was entirely based on my age. I wish I hadn’t needed that seat and I wish I wasn’t entitled to be in that area but life isn’t a fairy tale and it made me sad that someone could remind me of that in the place i go to forget reality. It did not however ruin our trip.

We made some lovely new friends while on this trip, this is what I love in Disney 99% of the folk who go there are amazing. Disney breaks every language barrier and forms bonds and friendships through the smallest of things.

We decided not to Disney bound this trip but we matched Disney style outfits, we did Coco for the first day in honour of the bucket list and on the second day we did retro Minnie/captain America as we wanted to mark season of super heroes but i also wanted to wear my California ears again and also my awesome new retro Minnie skirt which my friend made for me, (note to self do not twirl on main street in this, you will show your bright pink underwear to the whole world).

All in all it was a fantastic trip. I highly recommend summer of super heroes especially if you have a little (or big) marvel fan. Captain America is an awesome meet as are The Incredibles. Inventions is always worth every penny. The parade is the highlight of any Disney trip (well the parade AND the food) and although traveling on the Eurostar via Paris is very straight forward, I’m gonna stick to flying in future.

Thanks To Nicky for sharing this trip with me and helping me tick off an item on the bucket list xx

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It’s gotta get easier and easier somehow…


  No one really understands anyone else’s life. Do they? I mean we can have similar experiences and opportunities but no one’s path is exactly the same.

The path of depression is not one I ever wanted to be on. This path isn’t even my own, its one that runs along side mine and always has. Be it with my family, friends, husband it’s a path that has followed me, my whole life. That path is a really difficult one to navigate. The help to navigate that journey is improving, incredibly slowly, but it is improving. There is no doubt the people who have to walk that path, through no fault of their own have an incredibly difficult time. The decisions they face daily are painful and lonely and a massive challenge. I feel for them. I sympathise, I empathise, I want to help them, truly I do.

My path is the one that walks along side this one. The path itself is smoother, there are less pot holes, its better lit. I can see it’s a nice path and a I can appreciate all the nice things along my path, the flowers, the birds, the sunlight, the other people. The only problem with my path is that is joined to the depression path, which in itself isn’t a problem. I actually asked for this path to be joined with that one, I wanted to help share the positive stuff from my path over to the other path, I wanted my path to help hold up the other path when it got shaky. The problem comes in that the paths are joined with barbed wire, are there’s a gap between the two, its not a big gap but its very deep. There’s a very real potential to fall in that gap and be lost forever. Its possible to cross either way, but to overcome that gap, either way, can seem impossible. Sometimes the people on the other path are happy with their path, they don’t want this path, and fair enough, why should they. Sometimes they try to move my path further away, to widen that gap. Sometimes they move their path so far, its rocks the foundation of mine. Suddenly this path isn’t as pretty, its moves slightly out of the sunlight and the surface is a bit bumpier, the flowers have fallen into the gap and I got tangled in the barbed wire and although there are no physical scars, the fear of getting tangled again makes me cautious about bringing the paths together again.

Sometimes the paths can’t remain on the same course, their direction begins to drift too far. The gap simply gets too wide and both paths become too damaged to be able to repair each other. Whatever way each path goes you can see the join where the paths once connected, each path is forever shaped by the other.

You see even when depression isn’t your journey, it shapes you. It impacts how you navigate life. It effects your friendships. People know through how society teaches us to behave, that people with depression need support. The people living with those people also need support. The friends who understand why you always cancel, get fewer and fewer. The clubs that let you still join in when u skip several classes, are few and far between. The people who understand why your always so frustrated and exhausted are almost non-existent. People get bored of the complaining and they don’t understand why you can’t just change things for yourself. Supporting someone with depression is all consuming, at its worst it overshadows everything it comes into contact with. There is no room for logic or reason. There is no space for light to shine through and no method in which to force light in. You simply have to wait for it to lift. Living under someone else’s depression is difficult, the lack of control is frustrating, the responsibility overwhelming.

I realise this blog in itself is quite heavy, there is no happy ever after ending to this one. Some people I love have overcome depression and some have fallen into that gap. Sometimes it feels like this is an illness that will continue to spread and steal the people we love, sometimes we feel like were winning the battle and that love compassion and kindness will win out.

Whichever it is, remember to look up from your path, see who is running along beside you and check if they need a hug along the way.

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Two little Ducks went swimming one day…


Do you remember that nursery rhyme? My kids both loved it. Neither have mentioned it for a few years but last week it popped back into my head.

When we decided to go to Disney again, we decided to make it a longer trip. Our last trip with the kids had been hard for Elijah. We weren’t sure if it was that there where more people, that he was more aware of his difficulties and anxiety or simply the transition out of regular routine. This time round, we knew he’d need a day or two to adapt so we made the trip longer.

In the week running up to our holiday, Elijah started to say he didn’t want to go. He was afraid of flying, he couldn’t remember what a plane was like. He didn’t feel well, he didn’t want to leave his friends and he even said he would miss school too much. His sleep was more broken than usual and as his anxiety rose so did his little tics. He would bite at his fingers more often, found it harder than usual to sit still, his moods would change more. At this point you are probably wondering why we as parents would put him through all this. This however is Elijah’s regular reaction to transition. This is what we face two weeks before every school holiday and change in routine. While we knew, and could see Elijah was anxious we knew the end result would be worth it.

The day we where travelling Elijah was anxious. The wait at the airport to board the plane was ‘interesting’ with Megan also very excited. On the plane Elijah put on his headphones and played his game for most of the flight. He clung tightly to Ben. He really didn’t like the window on the plane and as soon as we where in the air he put the shutter down. I’m not totally sure where this has come from as he used to love looking out the window. He still decided that the window seat was better than sitting beside a stranger in the middle seat. The rest of our journey was smooth and Elijah loved our first hotel. The Magic Circus hotel was a big hit with Elijah, as he is loving the Greatest Showman film.

On our first day in Disney we met up with a friend from home. Elijah, did not want to speak to anyone. I do think this was just Elijah adapting to a new situation but it wasn’t a great start. Elijah was reluctant to do anything in the park at first as he was taking in his surroundings. After a little walk with Ben and a trip to the shop to purchase an autograph book, he started to come round. An autograph book is always a good purchase for Elijah. It gives him a purpose in meeting characters and is a good starting point for interaction when social skills can be such a struggle. Thankfully we met two of his favourite characters straight away, Pluto and Stitch. Elijah was even persuaded by stitch to speak in his stitch voice.

It was on our first day that Elijah noticed the two ducks. We where walking across the park and suddenly Elijah stopped in front of the castle. We stopped with him to see what was going on. He was watching a boy and girl duck who where sitting on the grass bank. These ducks, obviously used to being fed regularly where quite tame. They happily waddled toward Elijah and Elijah happily chatted away to the ducks. It is amusing in 12 trips to Disneyland Paris I have never before noticed how many ducks there are.

Quite quickly we started spotting these ducks in various places around the park. It instantly became part of our daily routine to stop every time we saw these two ducks. Elijah was sure we where seeing the same two ducks every time. When we eventually saw bigger groups of ducks he informed us all that these where the first two ducks friends and family. Over the course of the week these ducks developed a back story, names, and a relationship. By the end of the week our whole group where as excited about the ducks as Elijah was.

This might seem silly, but those ducks became a comfort blanket to Elijah. As the temperature dropped and our days got a little more tricky to navigate, those ducks where all it took to ease Elijah’s anxiety and lift our spirits. When my son is anxious, I am anxious. This Disney trip was a treat for Megan’s 10th birthday. I did not want autism to control our trip and overshadow her experience, but I was aware I needed my son to be comfortable and at ease in order for us all to enjoy our trip.

What I realised is that Autism always shapes our trips, it is such a huge part of our everyday lives, in ways we realise and ways we don’t. In actual fact, the things about autism that change our ‘normal’ and shake our perception and journey are the things that we as a family look back on with the happiest memories. There where so many incredible magical moments on our trip that will stay in our minds for a long time to come. However those ducks and the joy the brought us will always have a very special part in my heart.

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‘We are warriors, that’s what we’ve become’


‘I wont let them break me down to dust’

I am a product of all my experiences. They have shaped me and moulded me. They have never controlled me or defined me.

For many years in my life I believed I was ‘never enough’. In recent years this thought has reoccurred in my darkest times. When my friend lost her battle to suicide, when my husband battled depression, when both parents had difficult periods with their mental health.

‘When the sharpest words try to cut me down…’

There have been many times in my life were there has been a small voice quietly whispering in my ear, you are not enough, you will never be and have never been enough.

There is always a louder voice, coming from my heart shouting, you are more than enough. You have all you need to get through this, it is all already within you.

I am resilient. That is an actual psychological term. It is not a term that belittles or is negative upon someone else’s reaction to life or journey. It is an actual way in which some people deal with life experiences. I have always been resilient.  Some folk have seen that as me being detached or having not dealt with my past. I always struggled with these attitudes more than I struggled with any stuff I had been through.

One of the most fulfilling moments I have had in recent years was discovering that a resilient attitude is perfectly healthy. It doesn’t mean that I am not coping and it doesn’t mean that I am being disparaging of other peoples journey it is pure and simply how I deal with my own personal experience.

So now I bite the bullet…

‘I am brave, I am bruised, this is who I’m meant to be’

This isn’t something I’ve spoken/written publicly about. Apart from a few fleeting comments when I’m arguing for the rights of prisoners occasionally on Facebook. Today felt appropriate…I’m not 100%sure why.

From the age of 4 to 7, I was abused. I’m not going to go into great details about that. Sure its part of me. I needed medical treatment until I was 14/15 (let me tell you that is not something you want to go through as a teenager). It played a part in a good chunk of my life. I have never once struggled with this. It was the medical issue that prompted the abuse to be discovered and stopped. I didn’t at that time understand I needed to speak out. When I was old enough to piece it together, I never felt angry or hard done by. I never feel traumatised or victimised or broken. Occasionally I feel very uncomfortable around some people or in a certain situations. It is not something major just a minor feeling of being unsafe, which sometimes is just awareness of a not ideal situation and isn’t a bad thing to be aware of.

You see long before abuse began I knew who I was. I knew that despite what was going on around me, I was loved and cared for and safe. I still know that to this day. Bad stuff happens. Life can seriously suck at times but I will always be me. No one can steal that from me, some might try, but no one will succeed.

‘I know I deserve your love, There’s nothing I’m not worthy of’

I am aware of how blessed I’ve been with a peace and a strength that’s covered me since I was a tiny child.

The best to come of this is that almost from nowhere I discovered that I had compassion for people who have been in my situation and where people find it very easy to reach out to the victim in these situations I have known for years that my purpose was to reach the perpetrators. I wont lie, I didn’t walk willingly into this. My degree has been changed three times, I have tried many avenues and no matter what path I take, all roads have lead to this same conclusion. You see very few folk find themselves in prison because they where born with a desire to cause harm. Many have been hurt in various ways themselves. The best way to heal hurt and anger and stop these cycles is by showing compassion and love and I decided very early in my life to let my heart be filled with love over hate or anger.

See the reason I share this story, today, on international Women’s day. Is because women have spent centuries overcoming hardship. We have been put upon and disregarded and abused and mistreated. But all women ever did was fought back with love. We are awesome caring, strong, resilient, courageous wonderful people.

Here’s the thing, the reason I can speak about this so easily is because I am now surrounded by women who I love. Women who love me. Women who hold me up when I’m struggling to do life, women who I have the honour of helping hold up when they struggle. See when we are comfortable in our own skin, when we are ok with who we are, we know are scars make is more beautiful and less broken… then we can be stronger people. For ourselves and for others.


I am Nikita. I am a mother, a wife, a daughter, a carer, an arthritis warrior, a Christian, a student, a sister, a daughter in law, a friend, a home maker, a family worker, a kids leader.

I am NOT, a victim. I am NOT broken, I am NOT worthless.

I CAN make a difference.

‘Look out cause here I come, and I’m marching on to the beat I drum, I’m not scared to be seen, I make no apologies, THIS IS ME’

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The Greatest Showman


Hidden in the shadows

We went to see The Greatest Showman in the cinema yesterday as a family and I have to say what an amazing way to start 2018. I would confidently say that this will be the best film we see this year. There wasn’t a moment that I could take my eyes off the screen, I found my foot tapping along to the music, my heart felt like it was bursting through my chest. It’s not often a film moves you to the point where you feel like it’s speaking directly into your heart.

What was more emotional was watching my boys watch this film. Elijah literally couldn’t take his eyes off the screen and he could barely eat his nachos (which he had spent 2hours going on about before we got to the cinema). This is a fairly grown up film. It’s a PG and totally suitable for kids, but the themes are mature and it gives a real life lesson. I wondered before we went how he would manage through it but he loved it as much, if not more than, the rest of us.

Ben, however, sat with tears streaming down his face throughout 90% of the film. Now Ben isn’t a crier. I can count the number of times I’ve seen him cry on one hand. He’s also the worlds greatest cynic, especially when he’s in a depression fog, which has been particularly thick of late.

But this film, this story, it got to him or maybe this story simply got him….


You see, this story is that of the outcast. The folk who don’t ‘belong’, the people who don’t quite have a place in our picture perfect society. Now I’m fairly certain there aren’t many who will read this who can not identify with that feeling. Even if you’ve been the most popular kid in school and you are still the most popular person in your circle, there will probably be moments where you’ve struggled with loneliness and the need to fit in.

For my boys in their Autism world, and for others on the spectrum, for the girls, for kids and for the adults this is all too often an every day, life long struggle. I have watched my child struggle to fit, to try and work out how to befriend in a world he doesn’t quite understand, to have friends on his own terms and to struggle when some pull away from that and I’ve watched the pure joy when those friendships bloom and grow.

Ben, however, as an adult who didn’t understand his Autism as a child, whose family didn’t get it and who had circumstances make his ability to fit ever more difficult still struggles. I watch him try to navigate friendships and family relationships and I see the humour that he sets up as front come crumbling down as a result. I see the hurt hidden deep below the surface and I’ve worked hard to break down the ‘I don’t care’ façade that he’s spent so long building.

Like so many of the characters in this film, Ben has hidden in the shadows. He’s been the person with a huge talent, hidden behind a lighting desk so no one ever knows his face. He is the person who can put on the most wonderful event and bring so much joy to others, while hurting with the pain of a million hearts inside his chest. There is a line in the film that says ‘everyone has an act’. Ben’s is that of the joker, when it should be that of the ring master. He has so much colour to be shared with the world. The problem is there are so many small minded folk shouting down that beautiful colour and keeping it boxed.


Ben and Elijah both have ADHD. Ben says its like he can’t switch his brain off. Elijah just flits from one topic to the next as fast as lighting. Ben really struggles with sleep, he says he just cant keep his mind quiet, there are so many ideas just swirling around constantly, he finds it hard and I find it enchanting. When Ben lets go of what others think of him, he lets his creativity flow. His dreams, thoughts and ideas are the most wonderful life giving, enchanting , thought provoking musings I have ever heard.

Elijah struggles to sleep but he is the other way round. He wakes early, he is always awake and ready to start the day hours before everyone else. He is so full of life and energy. He is full steam ahead from the second his eyes open until his eyes close at night. It’s that kind of energy that can change the world.

I saw my boys in that film and I just love that again it promoted a idea that individuality is something to be treasured.

To be different is to be wonderful and exceptional and to choose to stand out and never fade into the background is what we should all be aiming for.

I don’t doubt for a second that my wee dude is 100% the ring master. He will steer the show, he will fill others with inspiration. The thing I love about my boys is their compassion. They can be cynical and appear rude and even anti social but they have hearts bigger than the ocean. They can spot others who have been outcast or hurt and they will always reach out to them. When these boys choose to champion you, you have the greatest ally you could ever find.

When I asked Elijah (future film critic) what his favourite bit of the film was, he responded, “The quote at the end….”

‘The Noblest art is that of making others happy’

The Noblest art is that of making others happy

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noun: thunder
  1. a loud rumbling or crashing noise heard after a lightning flash due to the expansion of rapidly heated air.
    “there was a crash of thunder”

You know those moments in life? The ones where you are trundling along nicely, all the pieces of your puzzle feel like they’re slotting into place and then BAM, as if from nowhere there is a massive flash of lightening and everything suddenly, (although often as if in slow motion), is blasted out of place and you suddenly find yourself scrambling on the floor looking for your lost pieces while being very aware than you’re still waiting for the Thunder that follows.

I have always hated change, I like to have a plan, never a hugely ambitious plan and I like to know where that plan is headed, who I’m following out that plan with and then a nice routine to slot into place while I see that plan through. When someone or something from that plan disappears and things need rearranged or locations change or even plans just totally fall apart or change, I don’t always take it very well.

The hardest change for most of us is Grief, loosing someone we love is obviously really difficult. What I struggle with the most is the impact of that.

When we lost Ben’s dad Geoff suddenly 4 and a half years ago, that initial lightning bold of grief was so painful, the shock was almost unbearable and the pain was not only emotional but almost physical. As hard as that moment was, the Thunder moments that followed were where my fears lay. When you loose a family member the whole dynamic of your family changes, in our case we had to work hard to keep all our family puzzle pieces together in the midst of house moves, life changes, job changes and dynamics changing… we survived that lighting and more importantly we survived the long running thunder.

When we got a diagnosis of Autism for Elijah that was a Lightning moment for us, even though we where fully aware of the storm we where in and saw this lightening blast coming it still rocked us. Again there was a grief aspect to this, letting go of a future planned in my own mind a realising that things would be different than I expected but also an acceptance that we had braced ourselves for the lightening but that the thunder was going to run for a long time to come. Every time Elijah comes home from school closed off or in meltdown the thunder hits us again. When he barely spoke for four days in the run up to Christmas, the thunder hits us. When his whole body shakes with fear in an actual storm, the thunder hits us. When he struggles socially, the thunder hits us.

When at 21 I experienced the lightening moment that would have the biggest impact on my life, I was shocked but in that moment of ‘you have rheumatoid arthritis’ I had no idea that the thunder to follow for the next ten years would be so much harder to bare. With this situation, it is almost as if every time you recover from one rumble you are almost immediately hit by another. Once I accepted I had a life long condition and began treatment I then learned it was aggressive, I then learned it was resistant to lots of drugs, then it was still progressing, then I would have to face meds with extra conditions of their own, then I would get secondary conditions, then it would spread to my lungs, then id have to decide ‘quality or quantity’. There are moments in the storm when I’m not sure ill ever be able to stand firm again, its like my world is constantly being shaken and I’ve got to fight to keep standing, and moving forward seems almost impossible, the worst part of this is that no one else hears the thunder, they might get a glimpse of the initial lightning bolt our of the side of their eye or be vaguely aware there’s a storm going on but it doesn’t impact them and its so hard to get my own head around and its scary. I don’t want someone else to be on that wobbly difficult path and so I navigate it alone constantly worried for the next rumble and pulling further and further away from others who aren’t in my storm.

You know the awesome thing with Thunder.. and lightening… and storms… they do pass. Sure more come along, but so far, I’ve always got through, some are constant and some are fast moving but there is always, ALWAYS, beauty in the storm. It often feels as if, with each lighting strike I am knocked over but with every rumble of thunder I am made stronger, as a family we are stronger, as a person Elijah is stronger. Although I am afraid, and drained by this storm, I am strong, and determined and unbeaten, I choose to see the beauty and the blessing and to always wait for the beautiful, overwhelming calm that WILL follow the storm.


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‘To live would be an awfully big adventure’


I had so many plans for blogs this month. Autism is a massive part of the reason I started to blog. Therefore when would I want to blog more than Autism awareness month?

The crashing reality is that almost as soon as this month started I feel immediately overwhelmed. I have no idea why this year is different. I have always recognised and celebrated even, autism awareness week and month before Elijah or Ben where diagnosed.

I think my issue has been that I have struggled with the reality of Autism the past few months. I have walked Bens depression journey with him and depression is known to walk hand in hand with autism. Helping anyone with depression is extremely difficult but add in the Autism difficulty in processing and reasoning and its all the harder.

We got thought that stage and then Elijah’s anxiety has been at an all time high, meltdowns are frequent, unbroken sleep is non existent. Add into that the fact that he is a dream in school and falls apart the second he walks out the doors. That might sound like a good thing and of course it is in some ways, but its very hard to explain to school to be understanding that hes struggling in general when they don’t see it at all. Or rather sometimes people don’t look close enough. I can see autism in every aspect of Elijah’s life, I see it in how he holds in together in school. Yea he has some friends but those friendships are on his terms and they are with people who follow rules and play the way Elijah expects them too. There is no stepping outside of his comfort zone and I’m not even convinced there is a stong foundation in his friendships. What happens when things don’t go his way and he is left sat on his own?

I think what is so hard is that autism completely dictates and controls our lives, it is a powerful force that over throws anything in its path. I read something recently that said the Autism gene has survived evolution because it is needed for survival. I love that, instead of looking at it as a defective gene its actually a strong gene. I guess I could tell you that looking at my boys though. Both Ben and Elijah are strong and resilient and thrive in adversity and actually find ways to achieve and survive that no one else would even think of.

I love Ben and Elijah with all my heart and I wouldn’t change a single thing about them ever! I would change the anxiety, the depression and the hurt that is all caused by the world around them and the need to be able to fit in a world that has a long way to go in understanding anything other than neuro typical.

Where I have struggled is that I am Nero-typical, I have found myself fighting battles for them, becoming so engrossed and surrounded by Autism that I don’t know who I am in the midst of it. I don’t want to be a hardened mummy, always angry at the world. I don’t want to be a soft parent who makes excuses for my husband or my son. I want to find ways to help them adapt and fit and I want changes and acceptance so they don’t have to change and adapt. I want research into autism but I don’t want them to find a gene and destroy it, I want the pieces to all fit but I don’t want them to think that they are broken. I want to colour the world and light it up blue but I don’t want to forget to light it up pink or yellow or purple. I don’t want to be annoyed at autism terms or sterotypes because mostly people are ust trying to raise awareness. I want Elijah to not have a spectrum condition, why cant it just be simple and one size fits all so it doesn’t feel like an uphill battle to get people to realise that just cause he doesn’t fit your idea of what autism looks like doesn’t mean he doesn’t have it.

And as you can probably tell from that jumble is that I have become overwhelmed and burnt out. I am not nor have I ever been that perfect mummy with all the perfect crafts and buns baking in the oven. I am the mum who cant find the school socks as we’re supposed to be out the door and on the way to school. I am the mum who dreads parents evening because I think ill get told off and I am def the mum who brings shop bought buns to the cake sale.

You know that phrase ‘God only gives special kids to special parents’? like hell he does!! If it worked like that I wouldn’t have any kids at all. I do not have those mummy skills in my DNA. In fact 24/7 I am totally winging it. Every. single. day. WINGING IT.

Ben and I went to watch curious incident , last week at the Grand Opera House in Belfast. It was a wonderful performance and as always a great experience at a lovely theatre, (that theatre is rapidly becoming my happy place). The reality of that play was overwhelming but oddly refreshing. I read the book years ago and loved it, but I think the timing of seeing it was key this time. By the interville I felt thouroghly overwhelmed and was in tears by the end. It hard t watch something that’s not all that far from your own reality. Ben struggled when people laughed and I reminded him, how ma ny times we have struggled to keep a straight face at what Elijah has said. Ben is also the funny one in our group of friends. Being able to pull back from the worlds game playing and see the world differently is refreshing and yeah sometimes hilarious.

As part of Autism awareness month the actor Richard Mylan was part of a programme, Richard and Jaco: life with autism. I have been aware of Richard’s work with action for autism, (came across this by accident while doing some twitter stalking after waterloo road). Richard’s son has autism, now I love the way Richard speaks about Autism and how he talks about his son from having followed their journey for a year or two now. What I loved about this programme was Richard’s aim to help Jaco be independent, to equip him with life skills.

This hit me, this is my aim, this is what Ben and I work towards every day this is what every battle and struggle is for. Yea, my boys shouldn’t have to fit in but the reality is they need to be able to navigate life, maybe by the time Elijah is grown up the world will be a different place. Obviously I am blessed in that I have a husband with Autism. Ben only got his diagnosis two years ago, he didn’t get to access services, he didn’t get to develop coping mechanisms and he wasn’t understood at all grown up. Ben is still successful, he was done so well in life, despite all of the hurdles! Things have been hard for him and a lot of the source of his depression comes from those struggles but how much can Elijah achieve WITH support and services and coping mechanisms and life skills and understanding and awareness.

This journey is hard and very overwhelming, sometimes I just don’t want to walk it, sometimes I want life to be simple and straightforward and yea ‘nero typical’, then I remember how unbearably boring that would be!!

No matter what way this journey goes, I know without a shadow of a doubt, my boys can be anything, will be anything, are my everything.

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Mummy in a mess.


Ever have one of those weeks you just couldn’t make up?

We’ve had one of those! Partly of my own doing by cramming so much in and partly just random life getting in the way.

I started the week by taking Megan to go and see Wonderland at the Grand Opera House in Belfast. We made a little girly evening of it. We got the train to Belfast, did a little bit of shopping in the Disney store and then headed for lunch with my lovely friend, before going to see the show.

I wasn’t sure what to expect. I’m not a huge Alice in Wonderland fan but Megan is. Her obsession has meant in recent months the Tim Burton films have been growing on me so I thought this would be well worth a try for Megan’s birthday gift. I have to say Wonderland is an amazing musical. From start to finish we were both captivated, Megs adored the Mad Hatter and I loved Kerri Ellis as Alice. The whole cast were wonderful and really brought each character to life. I could happily have watched it every night had I not had such a mad, jam packed week.

Of course being out on a week night took it out of Megan, who loves her sleep, and she was very tired. This was not helped by the fact that Elijah had surgery on Tuesday morning and we needed to leave the house at 6.30 to get through traffic and parked. This meant having everything for Megan organised and waking her just before we left as her Granddad was looking after her. We all were a bit exhausted on Tuesday morning. Elijah’s surgery in November did not go according to plan and so there wasn’t much sleep had for Ben and I on Monday night.

Thankfully on Tuesday, after a bit of a wait and a tricky bit of fasting, Elijah’s surgery went amazingly well – far better than we could have ever hoped for. It even seems as though if all heals well, this might be the last bit of surgery he needs. Although he recovered remarkably quickly, by the evening he was a little unsettled and upset so he ended up sleeping in our bed. As Elijah does an awesome impression of a starfish, it wasn’t the best night sleep Ben and I have ever had but on a positive note Elijah slept really well.

On Wednesday Morning Megan said she wasn’t feeling great. Assuming she was just a bit tired from the events of the past two days, and maybe a bit jealous of her brothers time off school, I sent her on into school. I then headed to Ballymena to have a tooth extracted. My medication has a wonderful side effect of making my teeth break (I do love sweets too so I have to take some responsibility). I have had three wisdom teeth taken out before but always with sedation. Now thanks to yet another wonderful side effect of my arthritis and dodgy lungs, I no longer can be sedated. I knew I needed to get it out to prevent infection, which would stop my infusions, so I bit the bullet and booked the appointment but the day after surgery was the only time they could fit me in. I felt bad having to go out the day after Elijah’s surgery but thankfully he was in good form with my Mum. The tooth wasn’t nearly as bad as I expected. I was just very nervous and I have to admit I was so tensed up that my joints are a bit more irritated still now two days on. My jaw joint is also agony, it was inflamed before the treatment and its pretty awful now having been irritated further but it will pass.

I was able to go home and watch movies with Elijah the rest of the afternoon, both feeling a little rough we were good company for each other.

When I collected Megan from school she wasn’t feeling great, I sent her up for a nap and she seemed to improve but then by bed time she had a really high temperature. Ben and I took turns trying to get her cooled down and calmed, with Ben eventually sleeping on her bedroom floor with the radio on to get her to fall asleep for a little bit. When I took her to the Doctor yesterday we established she has tonsillitis and needed an antibiotic, (bad mummy thinking she just wanted a day off on Wednesday). We have also had massive battles to get her to take her medicine with her declaring so loud, the whole street can hear that ‘you are trying to poison me’.

Thankfully last night we all had a pretty good nights sleep. Today, however, I realised that I had forgotten that Elijah needs to dress up for his BB display tonight. I’m having to be a little ‘creative’ with what I am sending for him to wear. I also reckon that at least one of us will fall asleep during the display.

So basically this week I feel exhausted and a bit of a failure. I didn’t have confidence in the surgeon and perhaps made Elijah more nervous than he needed to be. I didn’t realise Megan was actually sick, I had to leave Elijah when he was recovering. Ben had to sleep on the floor in Megan’s room even though he had to go to work the next day. I’m fairly certain none of us have eaten anything remotely healthy all week. I forgotten homework’s, notes and healthy break time snacks.

I could laugh because I have planned to write a few blogs for Autism awareness month which starts on Saturday. But I have realised this is our real life! It’s manic and crazy sometimes and none of this had anything to do with autism. Yes there were a few times within this week where Autism played a part but mostly this is just it. As a family we’re just a bit messy.

As much as I’ve felt a bit rubbish and like I’ve failed both my kids and my hubby, I know that I have done the best I possibly can. It’s just a fact that life is messy, things get in the way and we’re all just juggling the best we can most of the time.

There isn’t a huge point to this blog just sometimes when we’re all having a tough week it’s good to know that we’re not alone. None of us have it all figured out and all together but sure we’re winging it together nicely xx

Be prepared for the Autism posts in the next few days xx


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A tale as old as time.



This weekend I got to go and see the new live action Beauty and the Beast.

I have to say I was a little nervous that it wouldn’t live up to my very high expectations as this film, although not my favourite Disney movie was one that was special to me and I remember clearly going to see the original.

This version did not disappoint, not even slightly, it is beautiful, perfectly cast and a musical masterpiece.

I couldn’t help but draw comparisons to the theme of the movie and real life. The Idea of the beast that everyone fears, the need for change and adventure, the desire to break down stereotypes and the preconceived ideas that hold us back and change the paths of our lives.

This new version shows a Belle who is ‘different’ because she’s educated and desires to better herself. She takes her future into her on hands instead of relying on who she would marry to decide her fate. Belle has always been a wonderful role model for girls, the original made me love to read and proud of the fact that I got so lost in books from a very young age. This version encourages my little book worm daughter to keep working hard, educating herself and to not look to anyone else to give her an identity. So yea, ok Belle still gets that princess, fairy tale, happy ever after ending but she didn’t get it cause she was pretty and threw herself at the beast. She showed her true fiery personality and she brought out the prince within the beast because of her kindness and intelligence and determination.


The Story within Beauty and the Beast which I have always loved, is that is makes us look at who truly is the Beast in the picture. Yes at first the prince isn’t a nice person and he deserves his spell. This new version really helps with his backstory and makes us understand why he became the spoilt, narcissistic person who wouldn’t show any compassion to an old lady. As the story moves on we gather more glimmers of who he was and why he was that way. Its a lovely moment when Belle suggests that the staff didn’t deserve to be under the spell and Mrs Potts says ‘Yes we did nothing.. while his father twisted the person he was becoming, we did nothing’ . I love the idea that there is a responsibility in each of us to look out for those we love and when we see them going down an unhappy path that we should not simply do nothing.

Its also so true that Beasts aren’t born they are bred. There was a reason the prince became this way. He wasn’t born spoilt and selfish and yes his life and consequences where a product of his own poor choices but remember that hurt breeds hurt. How many people do we look at and see a modern day ‘beast’ but should be look a little further and see the hurt and wounds that have marked their lives and see that the beast is simply a mask put up as a protection and once that has been removed there is something rather beautiful underneath. (Ok so it unlikely there’s a Dan Stevens, living on your street or on your school run or in your work place, but there could be a fairly decent human being).

I love that by the end of the film both original and live action, we realise that the real beast was living amongst them all the time.  Gaston truly is the one with the beastly attitude and although in the new film it took me longer to truly not like him cause is a little more loveable rouge than villain, his true colours show in the end.

LeFou Sings ‘ There’s a beast running wild there’s no question but I fear the wrong monster’s released.’

How often do we turn on those we don’t understand, on the people are different just cause they scare us. As a society we like things to fit nicely into little boxes and compartments that’s even true of people. It was so easy for Gaston to summon a mob because people fear what they don’t know and fear causes people to do stupid things in order to protect themselves or what they view as protecting themselves.

I couldn’t help but view this through my Autism mummy (and autism wife) eyes. So often people rule out Elijah or Ben  from things because they don’t understand or their afraid of what life looks like from their point of view. For so long kids with Autism have been pushed to the edges of society and not included in a community because people don’t understand and instead of educating themselves on the facts they choose to exclude, attack and even demonise our kids, family members, friends. If instead of listening to the rumours, stereotypes and quite frankly crazy notions. These kids, these adults, these all round amazing human beings who are 100% equal and wonderful can add so much to a community and society. Love and compassion can go a very long way and turn situations right around.


So while we all come away from this truly wonderful cinematic masterpiece lets take a wee look at ourselves, at those we’ve cast out and those who we could reach out to.



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A spoonful of sugar…



Today miss Megan had her 9th birthday Party and although she was turning 9 this was only the second birthday party she has had. It took me a good few years to recover from the first one!!

Todays party was simply amazing though and I cant wait for her to go back again, and Eli to go back and well I’m even working on Ben agreeing to me having a birthday party there.

Todays party was at Flossy Treats in Galgorm . This is a family run business that is a sweet shop, selling all those childhood favourites as well as some modern masterpieces. Then in the back of the shop they have a workshop where they hold birthday parties, (They also go to events, weddings, school fairs and a whole host of other amazing things).

We started the day by collecting a few of Megan’s friends and heading the 20 mins down the road to Galgorm. Finally making good use of the 7 seater car these past two weekends. We got to Flossy treats about 15mins early and where welcomed in by the staff straight away. The staff where great fun from the start, chatting to the kids and making a fuss of Megan and showing them all the posters around the walls that explain where chocolate comes from, (see chocolate comes from a tree I say that makes it healthy!! also educational!!).

Once Everyone had arrived the kids all washed their hands and sat at the table. They were then presented with lots of bowls of sweets right along the table and then given a countdown before they all took a bun case each and filled them with all the sweets they wanted. Amazingly the staff where super kind when Elijah wanted something more plain and they let him have how own little bowl of jelly rings.



Once they had filled their cases they then had a plate which they then learned would be filled with chocolate before the decorated the chocolate with all their lovely sweets. The kids could each have milk chocolate, white chocolate or a mixture of the two, when they choose a mixture they could then have swirls, spirals or marble patterns made in their chocolate pizzas. All of the chocolate at flossy treats is the highest quality Belgium chocolate and its very true that you can taste the difference in the quality. It really was delicious and the kids could resist dipping their fingers into their pizzas. It was fun to see all the kids get creative and all do their own thing, no two pizza’s looked the same and they all admired each others handy work. The pizza’s where put into the fridge to shock cool and we moved on to the next part.


Next the kids could choose between making a chocolate bar and a lolly pop. For each of these they choose one type of chocolate and then decorate it with some more yummy sweets and they even got to hide a special little surprise in their bars if they wanted to, but ill not go into that to spoil the surprise if anyone chooses to have a party there. The kids loved this as much as the pizzas. These too went into the fridge.


While the kids waited for the chocolate to set they got some colouring pages to colour in and they all really enjoyed this and while they all happily coloured the adults got some tea and coffee.


Then we brought out the birthday cake (supplied by Little treats NI). This Unicorn cake went down a treat and there where lots of screams when we cut into it to reveal a rainbow cake! Best cake reaction ever!!


After cake everyone got their pizzas and chocolate bars/lolly’s back, they all looked amazing once they had hardened and they got put in awesome little pizza boxes. Everyone was so pleased with what they had made and all the kids raved about the party and even told Megan that because she’s on the student council she needs to get Flossy Treats to come to school…. watch this space!!


We had a brilliant day, I loved watching the kids really enjoy themselves and honestly a family run business with people who are full of fun and genuinely nice and want your kids to have a great time makes all the difference. So many places churn birthday parties out like a conveyor belt, there is nothing personal and the parents are on the side lines. I have got to enjoy my daughters birthday and know I have memories now we will never forget. Megan had a blast, while still feeling grown up and that she got good time with all of her friends in a setting that allowed the day to be all about fun and friendship.


Also Derek, who runs Flossy treats is a Disney fan – what’s not to love?!! So if your looking for an awesome Birthday party there is nowhere I could recommend more highly.




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