Leaving home. Going home.

It’s quiet. Oh, so quiet. No voices calling for me, no guitar playing, no continually repeatedguitar movie dialogues, no lengthy exchanges about the fact that it’s time to get dressed/eat dinner/turn off/go out/come back/go to bed. I can hear myself thinking. It’s wonderfully strange and strangely wonderful. I have left them all at home and flown to my other home to visit Mum (and Dad, but Mum’s the patient with the broken wrist.)

In my quiet thinking time I have wondered how they will survive without me being there to organise them, mediate and feed them. In my quiet thinking time I have told myself not to worry. In my quiet thinking time I received an email from the boy to say that (while I was still on the way, on the plane) they had been locked out of the house and he’d had to ‘break in’ and save the day! Reward – £5! Mmmmmmm, feeling the anxiety climbing.

As much as I love my work uniform I didn’t really want to wear it on the way over, so got changed before I left. That’s when I discovered that my water bottle had leaked into my ‘change of clothes’ bag. There was no option. I flew damp.

I’m not a happy fly-er at all, but with my last minute ticket I’d been allocated 29E which was the very back row. Hemmed in by two sleepers, head down in my Good Food magazine, I enjoyed the happiest flying in a very long time. Anyone else find the back of the plane is better? I’m choosing back seats next time.

My friend Claire had kindly agreed to pick me up and so I waited outside the airport along with several other fellow fly-ers. Sure enough, a car pulled up with Claire’s hubby Jon driving. He smiled, I smiled. AND waved. AND leant to open the door.It wasn’t Jon! Embarrassed laughter. Obvious but pointless explanations.


Home, the one I’m returning to, has been famous throughout the centuries for a whole number of reasons. From martyrs to incapacity benefit fraudsters, from being voted the most boring town in the UK to now being the home of TOWIE!

Brentwood has been home for my mum for her entire life (coming up 82 years) and she is a mine of information on its history and has been interviewed by newspapers, local radio and a local author, all gleaning facts from her memories. She’s resting now with her broken arm on a pillow, but fortunately her fingers are wiggling enough to text!

Having home far away from home would leave me feeling pretty helpless in a situation like this, so I’m very thankful I was able to get over this weekend, see my sister in amongst all her own busyness and cook up a few meals for Mum and Dad’s freezer.

I have enjoyed the quiet, I must confess, punctuated by incoming texts from Katy, keeping me up to date! I am relishing each hour of it. But, equally looking forward to hearing their voices soon.

And my clothes are nice and dry for tonight’s flight back home again.

Nerf Wars

This past week has been mid-term break and a mixture of calm and storm. The boy was at a Lego camp each day for four hours. He loved it! He came home every day with a new mini-figure and a clay creation (in various states of squashedness). Could he tell us the names of any of his new friends at camp? No. Could he give us details of any of the teacher-led constructions he made? No. The only piece of willingly offered information was that on the last day, they played Nerf Wars! And he had scars to prove it.


On Thursday night we had our own version of Nerf Wars here in the house. He had had a blast of an evening at his ASD youth club, playing hockey with Adam Keefe, Captain of the Belfast Giants ice hockey team. When he got home, his sister was in the final minutes of a movie she was enjoying and Ethan decided that if she was watching that, he could use his Kindle. At this moment I made the WRONG decision. I put myself in the battle frontline and said NO! It was bedtime. It was 9.30pm and it was bedtime.


The bedtime routine for Ethan is very structured, involves me being there and I could see it being very late before anyone got to bed if I added in the struggle to get him off his Kindle. So, NO. No Kindle.

The battle began. Doors slammed, words spewed. ‘It’s not fair!’, ‘You hate me!’, ‘I hate you!’, ‘You don’t love me!’, ‘I don’t love you!’, ‘You’re mean!’. Missiles flew (mainly empty toilet roll holders I’d been saving to make seed pots!) and then the Nerf Gun was brought into play. Looking down the orange barrel I was filled with a mixture of nerves and bravery. I stood my ground. He’s not such a great shot. I survived. This lasted about 45 minutes and could have been avoided, maybe, if I’d said YES.



When Ethan has been to the height of his mountain, he spends time alone coming down the dinosaurother side and then is totally remorseful. ‘I can’t believe I said that to you. I’m so sorry. Did I hurt you? I love you.’ As I comforted a sobbing sister (‘All I want is some peace in this family and for everyone to stop shouting!’), Ethan’s remorse appeared in the form of a note, attached to the Nerf gun. ‘I’m sorry about the way I behaved. Can you forgive me? Here’s the Nerf gun so you can get me back.’ After a few words on ‘forgiveness is love, not revenge’, there were hugs. For Katy, the sobs subsided as we talked about the best way to love Ethan through his mountain-climbing. For Ethan, he had immediately moved on and away from the battle. Never to be mentioned again. Apart from by me in the next day consequence of NO KINDLE FOR A WHOLE DAY! Yes I bravely went there, stuck to it and survived with no threats from the Nerf.

Changing lenses

A few weeks back I had an idea for a new blog which was going to be reflective and have a devotional feel to it. You can have a look at it right here if you like! Please do. But, in doing so I began to rethink this blog, which I have pretty much neglected over the last year (a bit like my garden), and let’s be honest, have never really faithfully done anything about it.

The reason for the new blog was to try and ‘get writing’. Well, get writing and get it out there where someone would actually read it – hopefully. And then I started to think about this poor blog, dormantly hoping I’d get back and give it some attention.

I had to have a rethink then about the purpose of this blog. I needed to hone things a bit in my mind. The ‘mud and sparkles’ of life with the Fyfes was its original intention and I guess it still is to a degree, but there are some specifics of our life that I wanted to be able to express.


Just over a year ago we brought home our Lacey from the animal sanctuary – our 13 week old mad puppy. A week later, Tony (hubby) had a stroke. In the weeks following that, late at night in the middle of winter, Lacey and I would wrap up and walk the streets of Belfast. She was probably oblivious to the oceans of tears that I shed on those walks. I was trying my best to look after a recovering stroke patient, a hormonal ‘tween’, a 9 year old son with ADHD and ASD and now a puppy! Mostly the tears were from emotional exhaustion, but I had to try and see the funny side. It’s a good job God was walking the streets with me, because he and I had some very long conversations during that winter.

There were a lot of stories to be told in that year, and if like me you keep a journal, you’ll understand the pages of outpouring. Maybe it was wise that they weren’t all spilled into a blog, maybe it’s time to share some of them and maybe it’s time to talk about the rebuilding of our life together.

So, I’m adjusting the lens a bit on what I want you to see in our ‘mud and sparkles’ , refocussing I suppose, and hoping that our journey will inspire and encourage  you in yours.

Celebrating Autism!

autism butterfly

Just in case you didn’t know, today is Autism Awareness Day! Look out for jigsawed ribbons and people wearing blue!!!

Our son Ethan (9) is blessed with a collection of letters after his name…ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder) and ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder).  So, today, I am celebrating Autism and the beautiful things that it brings to our life as a family.

Autism is a neuro-developmental disorder. Ethan’s brain is wired differently to yours and mine and probably was so from birth. The exact cause of this is still being universally investigated, but probably a combination of genetic and environmental factors contribute to the disorder. More than half a million people in the UK have Autism, around 1 in 100. And Ethan has joined quite a hall of fame: Stephen Spielberg, Bill Gates, Einstein to name a few. (With his ADHD he will proudly tell you that he joins the same club as Leonardo da Vinci, Alexander Graham Bell and Will.i.am!!) There are a host of other famous names to add to both these lists.

All children with ASD share three main areas of difficulty although it affects each child in unique and different ways. These difficulties affect the child’s  thinking, talking and the way he interacts socially.

If you analyse a conversation with Ethan you will soon realise that first and foremost his conversation is about…..Ethan! Oh,  and Ethan’s interests! Match this up with another ASD trait, obsessions, and endless dialogue about Spongebob or Lego can ensue. The other day, he asked me what I was knitting. This was cause for celebration as he rarely verbalises an interest in what others are doing, just to make conversation. When he was 4, prior to diagnosis, he was referred to Speech Therapy because his speech was so unclear. Actually he was just speaking incredibly quickly because his brain has so much going on all the time and he was tripping over his words to get it all out there.

For Ethan, life is very literal. Everyday sayings that we take for granted have to be explained to him, otherwise he would be looking out the window for rainclouds spilling cats and dogs. This black and whiteness means he says it like it is. If you have a spot on your nose, Ethan will tell you about it, just in case you hadn’t noticed.  And he will be completely unaware of any effect his comments have on you!  Ethan has caused offence by commenting on people’s size and colour. He is not judging or being unkind,  or even rude, just telling it as it is. We are doing our best to teach him how these comments can make a person feel.

Living with Ethan is sometimes very challenging. He is the sweetest child and also in his frustration he is quite an aggressive child, full of deepest remorse after a hurtful outburst. To those who meet him out and about, in their home, at church, on the street, I think he probably comes across as a funny, friendly, slightly quirky young fella with a huge amount of energy. I’m not sure any more because we have just gotten so used to him being who he is. From strangers (and people we know)  we  see tuts and shaking of the heads brought about by his hyperactivity usually, but by those close to us who really know him, he is very loved and that love for him we truly appreciate. Thank you.

So, that’s the awareness bit over and done with. On to celebration!

Ethan is fun and funny. He is physically strong and energetic. He has an incredible memory and a super quick brain for learning stuff. He is able to learn concepts and put them into context while I’m trying to keep up with the initial explanation. He can construct a Lego set in no time at all and plays strategy and logic games annoyingly well. He loves stories and characters. He loves to snuggle with me and a good book at bed time and (because he lacks the sleep chemical melatonin) finds it incredibly difficult to go over to sleep on his own. But hey, what an excuse for longer snuggles! He brings noise to our home. Lots of it. Mostly laughter, singing and of course those endless movie dialogues. He has inspiring determination  and one of his favourite words is ‘perseverance’.  He has very few real friends  (because most ‘normal’ children think he’s weird) but to those few friends he has, he is intensely loyal and loving!

ASD does not make Ethan who he is. Neither does ADHD. He is unique and destined to be who he is, created by The Creator who knows every hair on Ethan’s head and every thought in his oh, so busy mind. In our church, we have a tradition that on the day a baby is dedicated, a candle is given to the family. We light Ethan’s candle every birthday to remind ourselves of that dedication day. Ethan’s candle is quite unusual. It’s like three plaited cords of wax, woven together in the colours blue, red and yellow. We, and Ethan’s Godmother who chose that candle, had no idea that those colours, in jigsaw pieces, would represent the very condition that he has. But our heavenly Father who gave us the honour and joy of being Ethan’s parents; He knew.

ethan dunaff 2011

‘Go on yer girl ye!’

A milestone! Week one completed! And on my third run, in the morning darkness I was encouraged to go all the way by a little old lady in her dressing gown having a ‘feg’ on her front doorstep. I wasn’t sure whether or not to stop and engage conversation, but then decided maybe that I would be distracted from the beeps and instructions that are C2 5K! My legs have stopped feeling like I’ve been torturing them and I feel totally pleased with myself that I’m an eighth of the way there. I confess that on day 3 as I was running and most definitely feeling the need for vast intakes of oxygen, I had a vision of my friend Karen serenely running along the road at Ballylinney and doubted that I could ever achieve the same! But, definitely buoyed by A LOT of encouragement from my friends and family, I head into week 2 with ENTHUSIASM!

(apologies if I’ve misspelt the title by the way. I’m sure a NI friend can correct me!)

Happy New Year!

Dry JanuaryHappy New Year everyone! January 1st 2014. No new year resolutions for me but some resolve about a few things like getting organised and sending birthday cards and Christmas  cards this year! Getting fit and losing a few (actually quite a few!) pounds. Much more decluttering, physically and mentally, to give more space for the important things in my life…. God, my family and my health and well being.

So yesterday I started the C2 5K (couch to 5k in 8 weeks!). I’m laughing with myself really, because I can’t remember the last time I did any kind of organised fitness regime. I’ll have to keep smiling anyway if I’m going to break through all the pain barriers to get fit and lose at least a stone!!! Last night my toe was in agony and this morning all my leg muscles are politely reminding me that I did exercise yesterday for half an hour. Luckily for them they get today off!! I have absolutely no proper clothing for running and looked quite a sorry state in Tony’s waterproof coat and 10 year old joggers. You’ll understand why I chose to start running while it was still dark and raining! Less chance of anyone I know seeing me, or for that matter anyone I don’t know!

I know I have to do less of the eating stuff too. Well eating the wrong stuff anyway. It’s tough this getting fit idea isn’t it. No more chocolate indulgences, crisps, peanuts and birthday cake. Oh so sad, but oh so necessary!

And then this morning I heard about ‘Dry January’. An alcohol free month to raise awareness of alcohol related diseases and give people a chance to change their drinking habits. My drinking habits aren’t excessive, but it was the promise of losing a few pounds that intrigued me. I’ll add it to the resolve list for January and stick it out…it’s only 31 days!

I’m slightly reluctant to tell you that I weigh 11st 4lbs, but there, I’ve just done it. My goal is to get to 9st 13lbs so I can say I weigh less than 10st!

Happy  ‘dry, fat free, running in the dark’ New Year everyone:-)