When you have to be the birthday party mum.

It’s our eldest daughter’s 7th birthday tomorrow. 7 seems really quite grown up, doesn’t it? Like she’s not a teeny little girl any more, and is getting scarily close to 10. Which means she’ll almost be in secondary school and then she’ll be moving out. My baby is about to move out! *hysterical weeping*

She’s not so much having a party, more a gathering amongst her friends at our house where they’ll watch a movie, have pizza, throw popcorn at each other and spill nail varnish on my coffee table.

So not too much of the pressures of throwing a full-on party style party with games and screaming children (except her little brother maybe), so why am I dreading it?

I guess I’m sort of looking forward to it, but I have this big lumpy stressy thing lurking in the pit of my stomach. We’re not really like any other family, are we? Her friends all know I’m in a wheelchair, although how much she gets asked about that at school I don’t know. I am completely comfortable around my own children, and to them anything I do physically which is, let’s face it – a bit odd, goes unnoticed because to them it is normal for me. But with other children in the house, most of whom I haven’t really spent much time with, I feel like I’m going to be stared at by little girls from school and it’s quite a familiar feeling. They’ll gawp at my floppy hands and my picking up a mug of tea with both of said floppy hands… And they’ll notice they were staring and feel awkward, and they’ll think to themselves “why does Amélie’s mummy sound different?” I’ll come over to the sofa and say (after psyching myself up) “right girls, can you go and wash your hands before food please?”, and they’ll look at me like I’ve just thrown up on myself.

Maybe they won’t think that at all. There’s a big chance I’m being completely pathetic at stressing about being ‘the mum’ at my daughter’s pizza party. How ridiculous is that. Amélie won’t care at all. All she cares about is the fact that she gets to have school friends over ON A SCHOOL NIGHT, and they’ll all be really giggly and excited. I don’t want her to ever feel embarrassed by having me as her mum.

I really hope she has a good time. I hope it’s everything she wants it to be and next year mummy will be a bit more organised several months in advance and book her a swimming party. Better start mentally preparing for that about…now.

To my tiniest 5lb 10oz of first babyness… Happy birthday for tomorrow. Love you baby.

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Half-term stress no more

We’ve only just had the Christmas holidays with the kids off school but next week they’re at it again, being at home and not in the hands of their teachers for a week. A whole week.

I think I’m a bit of a stressy person and being a wheelchair user I find there are a lot of things I can’t do with the kids that I wish I could, and would certainly do if I was more able. Our kids don’t go without exciting adventurous activities, but when it comes to half-term I try and think of simple things that we can do at home, or cheaply out and about which will keep them entertained and my sanity intact.

1. Cook things. Cakes, biscuits, the evening meal, anything really. Get the kids involved in chopping food, measuring and pouring. Cooking with kids can indeed be very stress inducing but if you resign yourself to the fact that it may all go wrong, you’ll get very messy and they will undoubtedly lick their fingers and then touch the food again, anything good that comes from it is a bonus! You are not obligated to eat the food that they have helped make.

2. Go out for a colour walk. Get outside either to a park or the woods or even just into town and get the kids to collect things of every colour. A green leaf. A brown stick. A pink shell. A read leaflet. You get the idea. Make a collage at home. Channel your inner Blue Peter goddess.

3. Write a story. Each day of the week write a paragraph to a story. Have a character each that you can name and draw. Even do one story each but don’t read anything aloud until the end of the week. I think my almost 7 year old will love this. You could even type them up or scan them in if you can work a piece of technology. Scanners never work though do they.

4. Have a charity toy sort out. This is really decluttering sugar-coated as a fun activity. But your kids will probably know better which toys they still play with and which they don’t. You can even explain to them that some children don’t have money to buy toys and so we can give up some of the things we no longer need so that they can be loved by someone else. Take the children with you to the charity shop, or a local hospital to donate the toys. They’re more likely to want to help people if they can understand why it’s needed, by seeing for themselves how it is appreciated by others.

5. Make mosaics. Cut up bits of magazine, newspapers or junk mail and make beautiful coloured pictures. You could even buy some blank cards that they can make into birthday or greetings cards for their family, friends and teachers.

6. Make sock puppets. There are ALWAYS odd socks at the back of the drawer that you’ve put there in the hope that one day they will be reunited with their twins but let’s face it. It’s not happened for 6 months. It’s not going to happen. Get out the sharpie pens, glue, scissors and coloured paper and make sock monsters.

7. Make smoothies. Grab the fruit that’s going a bit brown, chuck it in the blender with some milk or yoghurt and get the kids to press the button (they always want to press the bloody button). Snack sorted.

8. Go to the beach. If you live by the coast, that is. Throw pebbles into the sea. Build rock towers. Bury your feet. By a box of 4 supermarket own-brand Cornettos for £1 and act like you’re the best parent ever for getting the kids ice cream at the beach even though it’s February. (And not been robbed of over £10 on 4 ice creams from the counter). Discreetly steal some pebbles and take them home to draw on or paint. They have now made a paperweight for Nanny’s birthday.

9. Get the kids dusting and polishing. Seriously they love it. My kids squeal with excitement if they get to ‘do the spray’. Of course, this needs to be supervised so they don’t end up spraying Mr Muscle in their eyes or drinking Dettol, but kids enjoying cleaning can only be a good thing. Just remember to keep the products out of reach of very little ones, but they can certainly use a cloth to do some questionable wiping. My parents used to let me and my brother tie dusters to our feet and slide around the French parquet flooring in our hallway. Great fun.

10. Read books! It’s the simplest thing ever but I remember being at my Gran’s for half term as my mum had to work still, and we’d walk to the local library and pick up a few books and I’d lay back fully reclined in my Granddad’s La-Z-Boy arm chair and reading entire Babysitters Club books in one day (I was very proud of myself). But there was no Sky TV or Netflix or apps to play on. There were real books and my brother and I loved it, despite trying to claim we were bored. Having said that…

“But Mummy I’m booored”

11. Let them be bored. Like I’ve just said, I remember being bored as a child. But in hindsight this was definitely not a bad thing. I think kids need to be bored from time to time. They don’t need constant entertainment and amusement all day every day. I do most of my best thinking and mental planning when I’m bored in the car on long journeys (if Rafe is asleep and the girls aren’t arguing). But I think a bit of ‘boredom time’ is good for their brains. It gets them thinking. It gets them inspiring and motivating themselves to do something else and use their imagination. Kids have fabulous ideas of their own. If you let them get a little bored every now and then, they’ll access those little sparks of ingenuity.

12. Put a movie on. There is absolutely nothing wrong with putting trashy TV or a cheesy film on for the kids whilst you get the proper housework done or if you need to sit and chill for a bit or feed the little one. Children won’t turn into vegetables just because they’ve had a bit more screen time than in their usual week. If they are really into a funny game on the ipad then let them indulge themselves. There are also loads of apps available that look like games but are actually teaching little ones basic maths, phonics and music skills. My daughter uses Times Tables Rock Stars at school and also at home on the iPad and it is very game-like whilst also getting her maths up to speed, and more.

13. Open a home beauty salon. This is where you cover the house in newspapers and allow the children to paint your nails. Or let them loose with the hair-stuff box and attack you with 3000 hair clips, which you’ll still be pulling out of your own hair at 9pm. Look how pretty…

I think those are most of the things I’ll be doing with the kids in half term. Of course there will also be the inevitable food shop with children that I can’t avoid, and because of the stress that might cause, we will probably also go for brunch in Wetherspoons on one of the days. Who would’ve thought pancakes and maple syrup in a gastro-pub would be such a good bribe for good behaviour.

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Is it because he’s a boy?

I have 3 kids. The youngest of whom is nearly 17 months. He is a ‘he’. The other two are girls and despite my best efforts to not classify some of his behaviour as just ‘being a boy’ (which I really hate hearing. They’re children, they’re all different and I don’t want to be told that boys or girls will necessarily behave a certain way because of their being born a girl or a boy), he definitely seems to have a very specific difference in his personality in that he won’t stop climbing. On everything. Everything. The dining table. The coffee table. The bedside table. The TV stand. The bookshelf. My desk. Me. The shoe box. The other shoe box. The stairs. The toilet. His sister’s bed. Our sanity.

Call the Health and Safety brigade!

Some of it, is fine. It doesn’t bother me that he constantly wants to climb on his sister’s bed. In fact it’s quite cute. He climbs up, gets under the covers and lays his head down. It will be lovely when he’s big enough for his own bed. For now, he still sleeps in his cot (Haha! I say ‘sleep’, and then I laugh to myself and say ‘don’t lie to the readers of your blog. He doesn’t sleep!’) but bizarrely his cot is pretty much the only piece of furniture he hasn’t tried to scale. Yet. He probably will have by the time I publish this.

We thought, stupidly I guess, that getting out the little slide for him to climb up, and slide down gleefully would suppress his desire to climb everything else. But we were wrong.

We thought, stupidly I guess, that being away in a different environment for the holidays at Christmas would mean that once we got back, he might be over this phase and not be bothered by walking along the dining table every 3 minutes. But nope.

We thought, stupidly I guess, that removing him and saying firmly ‘No. We don’t climb on there/get down/we sit on chairs’ for about 4 months now, would mean that he may have gotten the memo by now. He did not get the memo. The memo was quite bloody obvious but was ignored.

He is pretty much disinterested in anything which doesn’t involve physical exertion. Play with other, actual toys is short-lived.

He played with the calculator for about 27 seconds.

One day, he had better be some sort of sporting hero, or an explorer famed for his courageous ascent of Everest in just his pyjamas or something. Then when he’s rich he can pay for our psychological therapy for these times when he drove us completely fucking mental because he just will not give it a rest.

Currently all 8 of our dining chairs are laying on their backs on the floor. The room looks untidy and like it’s got squatters living in it (we’ll blame his sisters for that bit), but despite not having any chairs to clamber on, he’ll find something else.

I’m pretty sure this wouldn’t be driving me quite so mad if I was able to easily grab him off of each thing he climbs up in a split-second. But being in a wheelchair makes grabbing a toddler from the middle of the dining table pretty difficult. Even more so because I don’t have much use of my hands either. Maybe I should explain to him about discrimination and mummy not being able to pluck him off of the bookshelf and how unfair this kind of behaviour is to me as a disabled parent he might rethink his decisions. Yeah right.

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What happened in 2017

First of all, where the hell has this year gone? I know everyone goes on about year flying by and years going by faster when you’ve had children especially.

But I’m quite seriously a little worried that physically, time is actually going faster. I mean literally… Literally literally.

I don’t feel like enough has happened to fill up 12 months, but I guess a lot has happened.

Just after the new year in January my partner’s family went through a really scary time with an immediate member of the family. They are my family too. We were expecting the worst, and although the worst didn’t happen, we almost lost somebody fundamental to my partner’s life and a lot was lost. I spent a long time being petrified of every phonecall whilst my partner was away, and above all terrified at how this would affect him. Knowing that I couldn’t fix it for him was awful.

I can’t quite believe that it is almost a year since it happened.

What else happened in 2017?

Well, Rafe turned into a proper baby-toddler person and not just a vegetable. He started walking at 10 months. Then he started climbing shortly after. He has not yet stopped climbing. Our favourite phase became “get down”, much like when you have a dog. Except unlike a dog, bribery with food items was short lived and now he just laughs in our faces. He is so much more mischievous than the girls were. It’s a good job he’s cute.

I started making YouTube videos. Well, I say start – I started a few years ago and only uploaded videos sporadically but I love the satisfaction and buzz you get from filming and editing your own little movies and with my trusty Tom by my side teaching me how to do a lot of it, I’ve started making videos much more often. Hopefully 2018 will see another increase in the amount and quality of videos Tom and I can make. Mostly to do with our life with three kids and me being a disabled mum but with the odd Poundland/Primark Haul thrown in. Just because I am a woman I guess.

In 2017 I had a bit of a first in that I spoke at the WOW Women of the World Festival in Exeter, where I was part of two separate panels talking to audiences about childbirth experiences and about the Women’s Rights Movement marginalising disabled women. It was scary, nerve-wracking but apart from all that I am so glad I did it. I hate speaking in front of groups of people and I think I always will. Yet for some reason I want to be involved again and do more things like that. I’m hoping to be involved in the CMT (the neurological disease I have) Festival in some way in April.

I won a long-standing annual family tournament which might not sound like much to those outside the family, but it’s quite the event and I love seeing everyone get involved each year.

Amélie, our eldest was the bravest of brave girls having double eye surgery and took it all in her stride. She also got moved up into one of the gymnastics squad groups and I have loved seeing her finally get that fire in her belly to do better. She is doing marvellous work in school and has grown in confidence so much.

Geneviève is in her last year of nursery before starting proper school in September. Bizarrely the prospect of Geneviève starting school feels more scary than when Amélie started. I’m looking forward to seeing her joyous little face as she learns to write her own name properly. We’re getting there but the poor child has quite the mountain to climb there with all the Es under the sun. At least she’ll be almost 5 when September comes.

So here’s to another year of all that comes with having three kids and hopefully making more time to be creative and productive.

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10 Signs You Love Parenting 

Disclaimer: please read 10 things you can’t stand about parenting’ if you’re not in a positive parenting place right now, like me most mornings. That fluffy focus-on-the-good parenting stuff needs balancing out a bit.

 

1. Spending ridiculous amounts of time just looking at your baby/child. You know their every detail to the extreme, and of course they are the most beautiful thing you’ve ever seen. You often feel smug when you look at people who aren’t your child’s parent (so pretty much everyone else except your partner) and gloat inwardly that they don’t get to look at your child every day. You regularly feel the urge to ferociously approach strangers crying “look at her face, she is beautiful!” because, they didn’t seem to be paying much attention.

2. Feeling that aching proud feeling in your chest when they’re so scared to swim in the swimming gala but they do it eventually. Even though they came last, they did it. All the other kids were probably doping anyway.

3. Watching your kids hug each other. It’s quite a skill to have made a little pack of humans whom you hope will confide in each other when they’re bigger and always have a friend who knows them so well. This morning I overheard my two eldest discussing how they liked ‘their baby [brother]’.

4. Wanting to bottle the smell of your baby’s head. I know it’s a cliché but if one of my kids is sat on my lap it’s quite likely that I’ll have my nose in their head (that sounds normal), which is fine until they notice and tell you to stop sniffing them.

5. Loving the power that the iPad or sweet foods has over other humans. I am God. You can make them tidy anything with the promise of an ice lolly.

6. When their favourite song goes from ‘Twinkle Twinkle Little Star’ to something over 20 seconds long and becomes ‘Paranoid Android’ by Radiohead, like my 6 year old daughter (which Daddy is very proud of).

7. Watching them learn to read, or write their own name. The months of choosing their name suddenly becomes a lot more serious. (May have set the bar quite high for our daughter Geneviève, poor kid.)

8. Sitting on the floor and having your baby crawl over to you and rest their head on your thigh. Loving that you’re what they want right now, not a brightly coloured, obnoxiously noisy toy in the corner.

9. Spending weekends watching them run around in the sun and play in trees, or even just giggle at cartoons. This is their childhood. Remembering what you remember from your childhood and realising that this is that, for them, right now. Wanting to make it brilliant.

10. Having made some freshly squeezed brand new people that are largely part of you, but are also separate beings and wanting them to be a bit like you, but also have a better life than you. You know they will probably make the world a tiny bit better.

 @shopgirlygm

10 Things You Can’t Stand About Parenting 

Disclaimer: read ’10 signs you love parenting’ for if you need to be reminded that you do love it really.
1. When someone misidentifies the gender of your baby. You may like to think you’re quite a liberal parent and want to buy your girl a red truck for her birthday, saying ‘fuck you’ to gender stereotypes, but it’s still a little infuriating when your dainty little girl dressed in a blue dress and flowery sunhat gets told she is a handsome young man.

2. Mornings when you feel your stomach acid start to bubble up due to the rage caused by the amount of times you have to tell your daughter to not just stand there in yesterday’s pants for a further 23 minutes, but actually make movements – any freaking movements at all – to get some additional kind of clothing on. And also, when you ask what on Earth they’ve been doing for the last half an hour they seem to have no recollection of their activities. Astonishing. Like it’s been erased from their memory. Which reminds me…

3. Sometimes, they remember everything. Apart from important stuff. But they do somehow remember that last week you promised them they could have packed lunch at the end of this week, and now it is Friday, 8:27am and you now have an obligation to rustle up a nutritious picnic for the clever little thing.

4. You want to be a fly-on-the-wall at school lunch time and have the power to poke other kids when they say something mean to yours. You hate the idea that your daughter is sad and you’re not there.

5. Dressing babies. Due to my disability I can’t do this myself but I’m usually the one trying to pin said baby down while others try to insert him into trousers. They should use this activity to torture prisoners – see how long they last with a baby (okay maybe just a doll) who, just when you’re getting leg #2 into place, they retract leg #1. Leg #2 then becomes leg #1 and the ordeal is repeated about ten times. It’s the same with sleeves and shoes. You all end up screaming and you put your son in a dress and be done with it.

6. They do not want you to sleep. Babies are arseholes during the night and that’s all I have to say on the situation.

7. When you’re supposed to cook something nutritious to fuel their growing bodies but you’ve just got home and it’s 6pm – fridge tapas will have to do. You boil up some pasta, add cheese and a bit of sandwich pickle, some sliced up cold sausage from the weekend BBQ, and throw in some frozen mixed veg to pretend it’s healthy. They don’t eat it, and instead have some questionable yoghurt from the back of the fridge for dinner. If they get the runs it’s their own fault.

8. Meltdowns which occur outside the home. Nothing screams “look how shit I am at parenting!” than when your child decides to lie down on the floor in the frozen section in Morrisons. You’re a mum in a wheelchair and the verbal attempts to get your child to stand up are not working. Then the Parent Samaritans rock up and offer help and you just want to scream “You can fuck off too. Leave me alone.” in their face. You’d quite like to just ignore your child and leave them to their tantrum as you might at home, but unfortunately it is frowned upon in the public arena.

9. Morning wake-up calls before 7am when you’re not getting up early to go on holiday. I love that my kids want to snuggle in bed next to me in the mornings but when they are 3 and 6 years old, it is 5.48am and within 3 minutes they are arguing about not having enough space or any covers, you regularly scream “it is MY bed, it’s not even 6 o’clock, bugger off”. You load YouTube on your phone and some sickly sweet video of some girls unwrapping Frozen-themed Kinder Eggs, and send them on their way. You’ll deal with the post-YouTube comedown later on.

10. After all the other trivial, albeit shitty stuff that happens day-to-day as a parent, you have the overwhelming sense of disappointment that you can’t give them everything you want to. You can’t promise the world will be nice to them always and you can’t promise nothing bad will happen, and that sucks.*

*Although you can help them to be strong, loving and open-minded people, and that might help with those things.

@shopgirlygm

You can’t feed your baby here

I visited Marks and Spencers in Torquay recently with my young baby and my friend. We went into the baby changing/feeding room to change his nappy and I was surprised to see a place where mums can breastfeed in private, in a nice comfy chair, if they so desire. Even if you’re confident to feed wherever, it’s nice to have the choice to feed somewhere calm and comfortable. 

There was also a separate toilet cubicle for non-babies/adults/grown-ups to wee in private. However, neither of these rooms were accessible to me. By that I don’t just mean that there were no grab rails (there weren’t) but I literally couldn’t get through the ridiculously narrow doorways. My wheelchair is a pretty standard width and I can normally fit through ordinary doorways. But these were in no way ordinary. In fact I’m sure normal mums (I’m not quite normal) would struggle through them with a baby carseat or pushchair. I’m sure there is a perfectly understandable reason why M&S couldn’t spend out on wheelchair accessible change & feed rooms, it’s probably because they spent too much on vocal coaching for the tantalisingly sexy voice-over of their TV adverts. 

Aside from the toilet and the breastfeeding room not being available for me to use, the changing tables are also too high for me to reach. This is something that occurs in pretty much every baby changing cubicle however. They’re normally situated in disabled toilets which is just lovely. I get to smell my own kids’ poop on a daily basis, I don’t need to sample the aroma of 30 other babies’ sh*t when I go to the toilet but that’s a minor issue compared to how much room the changing tables and giant nappy bins take up when you’re trying to turn an electric wheelchair around in a tiny space. 

So I was left with a conundrum. I could wee in the separate disabled toilet across the corridor and just about fit the baby carseat in there too, but where could I breastfeed my baby? I didn’t like the idea of feeding him in the only toilet that I could fit my wheelchair into, and why should I have to? Would you eat in the toilets? Did it not occur to anyone that some mums might use a wheelchair? No, probably not. 

Instead, I whipped a boob out in the middle of the school uniform area and self-consciously fed my son. Hopefully I didn’t scare any young children, vulnerable pensioners or anyone in between.

To briefly conclude – These aren’t JUST breastfeeding rooms… These are 100% British M&S inaccessible breastfeeding rooms. 

The feeding room…


The parents’ toilet…


The hungry baby…


@shopgirlygm