Gratitude is officially good for your mental health. (Harvard says so, so it must be true.) As a self-care practice, it’s great to record things you’re grateful for – big and small. So here’s Thankful Thursday – my list of things I’m grateful for this week.

New hat

This week I’m thankful because:

  • After a year containing more overseas trips than I can remember, and having just spent four days in Sweden for work, Mr Meadows is home for the rest of the year. He brought me back a rather excellent new hat.

  • Charlotte (7) was able to tell me how terrified she is of maths lessons and how she copies her friend because she has absolutely no idea what the questions mean, let alone what the answers are. Obviously on one level it’s heartbreaking, but if we know, we can help. Her teacher had no idea. Our suspicions were aroused when we were presented with an exercise book full of correct answers at last week’s parents’ evening, because we know how hard she finds maths when we do it at home. One meltdown over homework later, and a few PLACE-esque curious questions, and we had the best conversation about her emotions and how she bottles them up at school that we’ve ever had. Conveniently, I’m writing her EHCP form at the moment, so I filled in her section verbatim.

  • Next week is crazy busy – visiting a potential SEMH school for Joanna, taking both girls for genetic testing, meeting the powers that be at CAMHS, and a multi-agency meeting happening as a result of Pete’s latest email copying in all and sundry including our MP. It’s unclear whether we’re invited to this last one – no-one has actually said anything directly – but the fact that they are finally going to discuss the CPV, the girls’ CAMHS provision, and Joanna’s SEMH school place (and whether this can be a weekly boarding place) is progress.

  • Joanna injured her wrist while managing what was by all accounts an epic save in football yesterday. I got a call from school and took her to the GP, who decided it was almost certainly just a sprain. The on-call doctor saw us within 10 minutes! If I make an appointment online it takes 5 weeks! I then found her a sling (which she LOVES, because attention), took her for a sneaky hot chocolate, and returned her to school. Within seconds of our return the sling attracted all the melodramatic gasps from her friends that she could have hoped for. So I’m thankful (a) that it’s not more serious and (b) that we managed to get it all sorted out quickly. Also I got to be supermum in her eyes for a couple of hours which made a nice change.

What are you grateful for this week? Share the Thankful Thursday joy and let me know in the comments – it’s good for you! 😉 


WhotChilli is a collection of family card games designed to promote numeracy to children in fun and engaging ways. It consists of six sets of six numbered cards, a 12-sided dice, and instructions in numerous languages. The whole box is the size of a deck of playing cards, so it’s pleasingly portable for travelling or keeping in a bag as an emergency distraction!

WhotChilli card game

I tested out three games with help from Joanna (age 9) and Charlotte (age 7). I was interested to see what level of numeracy was required of them. Joanna is about average for her age in her maths abilities, and has a good memory for her tables. Charlotte, who we think has FASD, really struggles with maths. She is easily overwhelmed and frightened by the idea of having to work out answers. I was going to have to sell this one to her with diplomatic skills of the highest order. I showed her the funny pictures on the cards and hoped for the best. It worked.


We started with the game Salsa, in which you each make your own ‘recipe’ using the cards. The object of the game is to work out another player’s choice of cards and what order they have placed them in. You score 5 points for the right card in the right place, and 1 point for the right card in the wrong place. Every round you have to use the score from the previous round to deduce what might be right. You agree before the game how many cards (between 3 and 6) you’ll use.


This game proved a bit too tricky for us, so we tweaked the rules a bit, pointing out which cards were right. It still worked well as a game of reasoning, but removed the scoring element. Maybe we can add that back in once we’ve got used to the concepts.

Lookin’ Hot

Next we played Lookin’ Hot. Everyone starts with a set of cards up to one number less than the number of players, so for our group of three players we each used cards 1 and 2. The first player rolls the dice, then chooses which card to put face-down in the middle, then the others put their chosen cards down too. If the first player is the only one to choose that number, they can multiply it by the number on the dice. If someone else has picked the same card, they multiply the card number by the dice number, but subtract the result from their score instead.


Joanna coped OK with the multiplying (she loves her tables), and Charlotte, as predicted, needed help. But the constant adding and subtracting two-digit numbers using mental arithmetic was too much for both of them, so we decided only to add on positive scores and skip the subtraction. We also decided to add in the number three card, because we found playing with two choices was a bit limiting. This made it more likely that we would choose different cards. Once we’d made those adjustments, we were away. We could also have whipped out pens and paper to carry on adding and subtracting according to the instructions, but our version felt more inclusive for Charlotte.

Chilly Chilli

Finally we played Chilly Chilli. In this game all the players get a set of the six different cards, lay them out face down in front of them in the order of their choice, and memorise which is which. You then take it in turns to swap two of your cards for two of anyone else’s. The object is to get rid of your hot chillies and gaining lots of cool ones. This was much more of an even playing field, as Charlotte has a great memory for these sorts of games. We all enjoyed this game the most of the three.


WhotChilli card games

WhotChilli: the verdict

WhotChilli would make a good gift for a more able young mathematician (or one with slightly more patience as they improve). It says it’s suitable for ages 6+, but that doesn’t apply equally to all the games. I’d recommend it for children 8 and up.

The cards themselves are fun, and if left to their own devices my girls would happily invent a few other games to supplement the ‘official’ ones. The pack costs £9.99 and is available from Amazon.


Do you emerge from a meeting, a phone conversation or an exchange of emails with the professionals who are supposed to be helping your family, feeling, well… like this? 👇 Then you need these five tips for dealing with professionals that will help you take back control.

Five game-changing tips for dealing with professionals


1. Dress like them

By which I mean, dress as though you are at a business meeting. Don’t let them look down on you as ‘just a parent’. I work from home and live in jeans and jumper most of the time, but for meetings with teachers, social workers, and medical people I wear work clothes – usually black trousers and a tunic top – which is similar to the kinds of things worn by the professionals who work with our family.


2. Take framed photos of your child(ren) to meetings

This is a tip from Yvonne Newbold’s excellent book The Special Parent’s Handbook. I did this at Joanna’s EHCP review meeting, because so many of the professionals there had never met her and we were there to make potentially life-changing decisions for her. I wanted them to remember the little girl behind all the paperwork – the girl outside of the school environment who is still utterly vulnerable in the hands of the decision-makers. I’m pretty sure it helped. It certainly showed them we were serious about representing her best interests.


3. Ask ‘What would you do?’

A helpful technique I read in Elizabeth Gilbert’s book Committed and was reminded of in Gretchen Rubin’s podcast Happier this week is to ask the professional who stands between you and the outcome you want, ‘What would you do, if you were in our situation?’ This makes them pause, if only for a few moments, to consider things from your perspective. They may have more information than you about potential solutions and loopholes in the red tape. This is a good way to help nudge them into suggesting practical compromises or ways forward.

4. Escalate!

If you want to get things done and people are dragging their feet, get free and easy with the CC button. Copy in the head of department, the county councillor, the MP… this often results in emergency meetings being called and conversations being had that you were previously informed couldn’t possibly happen. Oh look, now they can.

5. Write kick-ass emails

I know your time is precious and this thing is frustrating and you have Big Feelings about it all. And I also know that the recipients of our emails sometimes don’t read them as thoroughly as they might. But we’ve got this. Writing good emails can get results. It’s often the easiest way to get your message directly to the top of the organisation you’re dealing with.

The who, the what, the where, the when, the why*

(*This is a quote from my favourite episode of my favourite TV programme. Bonus points for naming it in the comments. 😉 )

I’ve previously tried hard to be professional in my tone, keeping it measured and taking out some of the more emotive stuff. But it turns out that doesn’t get results. Letting a bit of emotion show seems to be working better. If, like us, your children are hurting you and each other and you feel desperate because help is too slow in coming, say so.

Emails with action points are likely to get good results. And a strong subject line doesn’t do any harm, either. This might sound ridiculous, and of course it shouldn’t be necessary, but thinking of your message to them like a marketer thinks of their audience can help. (Yes, for me and Pete this is our day job, and we like to think we’re quite good at it, but it’s not rocket science. You could start here if you want to read more about basic principles of copywriting.) If you prefer, write it as you would write a blog post.

The paper trail is important, and if you end up needing to refer back to something you wrote several months ago, how much stronger is your case if you can quote the email where you laid it all out clearly and said exactly what action was needed and why. So write them a belter. And don’t forget to CC your MP if things need a bit more of a shove.

Bonus patriarchal nonsense tip

A bonus tip – that I really hate to share because it is unfeminist, unfair and enormously frustrating, but we’ve found that when Pete emails it gets a better response. What’s different about his writing? Not much, though he is much less concerned about being concise and polite than I am.

Even if it’s an email we’ve written together, sending it from his account seems to result in more action. So maybe, if you’re female, get a bloke to grumpy it up a bit/send it from their account/experiment with seeing whether this makes a difference for you. I’m sorry. Just throwing this one out there for you to take or leave.

If you have thoughts or experience of this, please leave a comment – it irks me but I really think there’s something in it, and I want to know if you’ve noticed this too.

Do you have any other tips that help you get the results you want when you are dealing with professionals? I’d love to hear them. Please leave a comment below.


Gratitude is officially good for your mental health. (Harvard says so, so it must be true.) As a self-care practice, it’s great to record things you’re grateful for – big and small. So here’s Thankful Thursday – my list of things I’m grateful for this week.


This week I’m thankful because:

  • After I shared Carrie Grant’s excellent post about the horrors of the school run when your child is different, someone has given us some money to cover an extra night of after-school club every week until Christmas, which also means 2.5 hours more peace and sanity. I am so grateful I cry a little bit whenever I think of it.

  • It was great to meet some of my Twitter friends at the Adoption UK conference. Hello! Also, I had a flaming zombie cocktail (think rum on fire) at the networking evening. That was rather excellent.

  • My December Daily planner (pictured above) arrived this week. I love a bit of scrapbooking geekery. This is command central for all my Christmas planning – presents, food, Christmas card lists, self care, all the things – and memory-keeping: daft things the children say, what we’ll do during the holidays, that kind of stuff. All in one lovely notebook. My life is complete.

  • I bought this jumper (from Selfish Mother) for wearing to TAC meetings. It amuses me. You know when they insist on going around the room so everyone can introduce themselves? Sorted.


  • Parents’ evening happened last night. We all survived. Joanna is having a much better term than the second half of last year and seems to be really engaging with everything much more. Charlotte’s sensory issues are becoming more pronounced as she is less able to keep up with her peers and tries to self-soothe with whatever sensory inputs she can get her hands/teeth on. She is still so creative and imaginative and when she is able to express herself with stories and drawings it is a complete joy to see.

  • I gave the SENCo a folder full of handouts, book catalogues and leaflets I’d collected for her at the conference. I was particularly pleased to be able to point her in the direction of Stuart Guest’s presentation (lots of other resources on this link too) and give her and Charlotte’s teacher copies of NOFAS UK‘s booklet Teaching an Child with FASD (this link takes you to a free downloadable PDF of the booklet).

  • I’ve been having a good week behind the scenes blog-wise, and have sorted out some technical things (behold – new sharing buttons below!) and social media stuff (especially Tailwind tribes for Pinterest). I love having a bit of time to do this stuff, so that has made me happy.

What are you grateful for this week? Share the Thankful Thursday joy and let me know in the comments – it’s good for you! 😉 


Let’s face it, for most of us, self-care is a struggle. It’s so tempting to think of it as an optional extra that it can be hard to prioritise it and make it happen. We sometimes wonder why we should bother with self-care. And when we do it, we wonder if we’re doing it right! We all have self-care questions, challenges and obstacles. So let’s discuss them and work out some solutions.


I’d like to write a post answering your self-care questions and talking about potential solutions. So if there’s something you’d like me to address, please leave your question in the comments below.

  • What are your biggest self-care challenges?
  • What’s one thing you’d like to change right now to give yourself a break?
  • What resource would really help you this week?

I’d love to hear your ideas, questions, and comments. Thanks in advance for your contributions!