Accessible travelling and staying at Travelodge

*Disclaimer – I’m aware that many Travelodge hotels are being refurbished and updated to improve their style and facilities. However I have stayed at the Oswestry Travelodge hotel several times over the last few years and it doesn’t appear to have had any sort of makeover, yet.

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I’m not expecting rose gold taps and feather pillows, I’m just expecting a clean, accessible room which I can move around easily in, with my partner and my children.

Booking a Travelodge stay online (and this applies to Premier Inn hotels too) you select the destination, the dates, the number of guests and the room you require. Quite simple it should be!

Not when you’re a wheelchair user who is also a parent! If you select an accessible room, AND you have a child/children with you, no such room exists for your needs. You can either book an accessible room OR a family room. Apparently people with disabilities don’t have children.

So I book an accessible room, as those requirements take priority incase they give us a room up 3 flights of stairs or something. I do not add that I have children staying, which I’m sure goes against their fire regulations but that is not my fault. We bring our toddler along and his travel cot fits in the corner of the room. We were even able to select an option to add a domestic pet, as our whippet Jackson also came along. So I could bring my pet dog (not an assistance dog) but not my child! Luckily my grandparents live nearby and our daughters could stay at their house. It’s easier for us to stay at a hotel down the road as it has the access we need, privacy and an accessible bathroom.

OR DOES IT?

When I think of an accessible hotel room I assume it will have a wet room type shower and accessible sink and toilet. Not here. Many older Travelodge hotels have a bath in their ‘accessible’ bathrooms. A bath which, when you sit in it, has a massive grab rail along the wall which sticks into your side meaning you have to sit leaning to the outside edge of the bath whilst washing. Comfy!

The room is almost big enough, but with my wheelchair taking up a large proportion of the available floor space, there is little room for me to sit on the floor to get dressed.

The beds are twin beds, usually placed separately unless you request for them to be put together. Because of course disabled people don’t have partners, silly! Luckily my partner hooked the beds together, though one hook didn’t work so if you lean on the gap you might slowly disappear between the beds like I almost did a couple of times.

Did I mention there was only 1 set of towels? Tom looked great with the tiny bath mat towel wrapped round him though.

So to sum it up, no facilities will suit everyone with differing needs. But a wetroom and a room with space to move around is a start. And disabled people have partners. And children. So why do we have to pretend to be childless single people when booking a hotel room?!

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10 things that mums of toddlers can say – and why it’s not necessary to make her feel bad!

I think there are many things that mums and dads do that they may not admit but maybe it’s time to just stop lying and admit that we all feed our kids biscuits to shut them up sometimes and hope they absorb some sort of nutritional element from said biscuit.

1 “I’m so tired” – You have kids, you should expect not to sleep properly again, for a long time. But clashing with that, is the expectation that your baby or toddler should be sleeping 7pm-7am before they reach their first birthday. If that’s your kid, well done. You don’t get a prize. For most other people, young toddlers won’t reliably sleep through the night without making a peep until much nearer their 3rd birthday, if ever. Humans are mammals, we aren’t evolved to sleep like a brick for 12 hours solid… fact. Before you had kids, you got up to go to the toilet or get a drink in the night sometimes didn’t you?  Kids do that too. So when a mum has a bit of a moan about being tired at 10am as they didn’t sleep very well, there is NO NEED to ask why their kid isn’t sleeping through yet.

2 “Yes, we ordered takeout twice this week” – sometimes even the simplest of meals are too much effort, mentally as well as physically, when you’ve been battling with the emotions of 3 kids all day. £15-£20 on two meals sounds awful, but sometimes it’s a necessary evil.

3 “I’m still breastfeeding” – SHOCKING.  Children can breastfeed well past their 2nd birthday. We are not in a developing country, formula and safe drinking water are readily available (albeit overpriced if it’s your only choice), but if you have chosen to use your boobs for what nature intended and are still feeding your toddler, then that is ace and should be celebrated, not questioned. No mum wants to have to answer ‘Uncle Nigel’ asking “when are you going to stop that?” Might I also add, it’s perfectly okay for a toddler to often nurse just for comfort, there is nothing wrong with that.

4 “Being a parent sucks sometimes” – it’s not always funny moments and seeing your kids flourish in every way, all the time. Sometimes they are hilarious, or they can be arseholes. Sometimes, they hurt themselves or are unwell, you have to go to hospital and you can’t believe how much you love them. But sometimes, life gets in the way of enjoying your kids and sometimes, kids get in the way of you enjoying other stuff! Like when your toddler has been asleep for 30 minutes, and you just sit down to eat dinner and then they decide to wake up screaming suddenly for no apparent reason.

5 “My daughter said ‘dickhead’ last night” – I have been a mum for over 7 years now and at no point have I been able to completely stop swearing in front of the children. I don’t mean I regularly scream “dinner’s on the p*ssing table now, come the f*ck on” – I just mean sometimes when the dog has just peed on the floor right by the back door when he can easily get outside, it’s hard not to call him a ‘knob’, despite the kids being right there wanting to look at the puddle of wee, because it’s so fascinating.

6 “I need a gin and tonic” – parents are allowed to have an alcoholic drink. Providing you’re completely able to meet all of your children’s needs in a safe and appropriate manner and aren’t needing to drive, then surely there is nothing wrong with enjoying a nice glass of white while they’re running around in the back garden and you’re actually feeling quite relaxed on a sunny Sunday afternoon.

7 “Maybe I shouldn’t have had kids” – this is something I’m sure most mums, or dads, have thought on several occasions, especially when things are difficult. You feel like you can’t give your kids everything you want them to have and you sometimes wonder if their life would have been better with a different mum. But then, they wouldn’t be the same children.

8 “My kids have had fish fingers 3 days in a row” – occasionally their weeks aren’t filled with asparagus and corn-fed chicken breast, and they eat stuff that goes directly from freezer to oven. Hell, throw some oven chips and some frozen peas on the plate for good measure. No one is going to arrest you, and if you feel like people will judge you as a bad parent, then lie. Easy.

9 “I’m not looking forward to picking them up” – don’t get me wrong, I love my kids more than I love bacon. But often the thought of picking them up from somewhere and battling with getting in the door with a million bags, children and wheelchair, fills me with dread. I’m pretty sure this is a blip left over from when they designed toddlers. They’re both excited to get in the car, and want to murder you as soon as their bum touches the carseat.

10 “I love them so much I want to squeeze their head off” – honestly, I have wondered if I should write this bit at all. But sometimes, in the evenings or when everything is suddenly calm, you feel an enormous rush of mammalian instinct in which you want to cuddle them so tight that they pop. Not literally, but you get the sentiment. Right? It’s apparently called ‘Cute Aggression’ (which can also apply to puppies and kittens etc) – there is no point in making parents feel weird for saying this! This article explains it better: https://thoughtcatalog.com/gaby-dunn/2013/01/science-explains-why-we-want-to-squeeze-cute-things-to-death/

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Top 5 awfully lazy ‘slummy mummy’ meals

Awful isn’t it. The thought that as mums and dads we might sometimes (most of the time) feed our kids meals which didn’t take hours to prepare, or have all of their 5-a-day organic vegetables that they’ve never heard of in them.

The Daily Mail called us ‘slummy mummies‘ last year, in the light of the popularity of [bloody brilliant] blogs such as Hurrah For Gin and The Unmumsy Mum.

How dare we feed our kids fish fingers and drink alcohol even when it’s 1pm?

To celebrate being am ordinary slummy mummy, here are some of my go-to quick meals that I regularly give to my three kids: Amélie aged 7, Geneviève aged 4 and Rafe aged 21 months.

1. Something on toast (pick off the small bits of mould if necessary). Beans are cheap, tasty and can be microwaved in a takeaway container in just 2 minutes, meanwhile you’ve toasted and buttered the bread. If you’re feeling extravagant you could grate cheese on top. Alternatively, crack a couple of eggs into a jug with a glug of milk and microwave for a minute, stir and microwave for another minute. Sorted. And actually quite wholesome.

2. Pasta bake. YES I MEAN A JAR OF PASTA BAKE SAUCE. Call social services, I didn’t make the sauce myself because I couldn’t be bothered and it looked at me from the shelf in Aldi looking all easy and simple. Chuck some pasta in a pie dish, pour over the sauce, fill the jar with water and shake, then pour that over. Mix it all up in the dish and add some cheese and, if you’re feeling fancy, some cherry toms, bake for 15 mins then stir and bake for another 15 mins. You did not make the sauce yourself, hurrah for not being too proud to use a jar once in a while.

3. Pizza. Shop bought pizza. Yes that’s right, also not homemade.

4. Tinned potatoes, fish fingers and frozen sweetcorn. I think we all know that sweetcorn has next to no nutritional value as everyone has seen it ejected completely whole, in their toddler’s poo. But adding sweetcorn to a meal relieves some of the working/busy parent guilt.

Now doesn’t that look pretty? Who cares!

5. Corned beef and baked bean cottage pie. Stop pretending you’re too good to eat Corned beef. It’s yummy. Pour a tin of beans into a pie dish, add on top of that the chopped up corned beef and some mixed frozen vegetables, and then make some cheat mash to the top: forget peeling potatoes, just chop them, boil them then mash the hell out of them with some milk and a knob of butter. Leaving the potatoes skin-in actually means that the top of the pie goes nice and crispy. Then when your kid says they don’t like that bit you can eat it yourself.

I even put some peas on the side for decoration, also because I forgot to add the frozen veg to the pie.

Take that, Daily Fail 🤜

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When Mummy doesn’t say ‘yes’ enough.

I find myself saying ‘no’ to a lot of the kids’ requests which makes me a bit sad at times, and the more times I have to say no to them, my mum-guilt tank gets topped up.

So I’m trying to say ‘yes’ more.

The problem is that it’s usually when we are just about to leave the house to go to school and Amélie (age 7) will ask to bring a toy to school, to play with at lunch time with her friends. I normally say no because a) the teachers would rather they don’t bring toys in from home and b) we are about to leave the house and I know that bringing a toy doesn’t just mean grabbing a toy, it means rifling through the drawer of small figurines for what feels like about 12 minutes while I sit by the door getting more and more irritated by her not choosing anything quickly and swearing at her in my head. Awful mummy. What I’d like to do is remember to say to her much earlier on in the morning, that if she wants to bring a toy (one small toy and nothing of great value) then she needs to choose it well before we go to leave the house. This paragraph seemed a lot more interesting in my head. Sorry about that.

Our eldest has also recently got into reading. Like reading to herself without our help. While she was reading a particular book at the weekend, I tweeted this picture of her to the author, Gwyneth Rees:

She had barely read half of the book when she asked me to buy the next one (advertised on the back of the book) and I went to say what came most naturally which was, ‘Amélie. You have about 100 books on your shelf that you’ve never read, maybe you should read those first’. But instead I said I’d look on Amazon or eBay for a second hand copy and said when she finished Mermaid Magic she could start the next one. Of course I also reminded her of the gazillion other books on her shelf but I thought, well she’s finally discovered the satisfaction of reading to herself for pleasure and I don’t want that to stop. It was £1.99 I was willing to spend to encourage a healthy habit which didn’t involve Anna or Elsa or pooing Barbies. (If you have girls you’ll know what I mean).

When it comes to weekends, we tend to want to get stuff done in the house, like cleaning the bbq ready for summer, and trying the living room furniture in a different configuration (one of Tom’s favourite past times) or needing to go to B&Q. Of course ideally this is something that Tom would go and do by himself but as I need a lot of help to do things with the children, we tend to do things all together at the weekend. And I love it. I spent quite a lot of my childhood in B&Q or Trago Mills (if you are not familiar with Cornwall or Devon life then you’ll be wondering what on Earth Trago Mills is) but it didn’t do me any harm and I think it has given me an appreciation for household diy products and hand-tools. Me and my brother had great fun watching dad choose new drill bits and sandpaper!

But diy stores aside, when the kids say ‘can we go to the park?’ Or ‘can we go to the beach?’, we are making an effort to say ‘yes’ more. Of course we did do these kind of things anyway but at the expense of letting other things not happen. Even though we might need to go to somewhere which might not spring to mind as a wholesome family attraction, we know that those things can probably wait a little and while the sun is here (remember the sun?) we make weekends about them. Even if that means me sitting in my chair watching the kids play in the sand while I look after the puppy. I absolutely love watching Tom dig massive holes and bury the kids until they can’t move (parenting hack) and them giggling as freezing sea water goes over their ankles at the shore. They will be doing things that they’ll remember when they’re grown up and think about how mummy and daddy sometimes took them to really exciting diy shops but we also had great fun at the park and at the beach. Both of which cost little to no money. Bonus!

So although sometimes we have to do stuff that isn’t on their wish-list, I think saying yes more is helping. Helping me appreciate their little quirks and discover what shenanigans they can get up to when they are given the opportunity to do something they really want. Is this even making any sense?

Perhaps most other parents already dedicate all of their spare time and weekend days to filling up their children’s excitement reserve. Maybe we have neglected to notice what they really want to do. I don’t know. I think they’re doing okay. I think just thinking about how often I tend to bark ‘nope’ at them before they’ve even finished the sentence and rethinking my response, helps.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ll still say ‘absolutely bloody not’ when Geneviève asks if she can watch Peppa sodding Pig at 6.30pm when they desperately need to get in the shower on a school night. I mean, I still need my sanity.

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My current favourite kids products

I previously wrote about my favourite baby products in this blog post, and included things like my favourite baby beaker (very important) and also essentials like nappies and wipes.

So following on from that, here are a few more things that make me squeal with excitement as a mum of 3 kids age 7, 4 and 20 months.

1. Supermarket clothing.

If you follow my YouTube channel or Instagram account you’ll probably know that I’m a little bit obsessed with buying the kids’ new clothes and shoes from the UKs best supermarkets. These are usually Sainsbury’s Tu Clothing range, Tesco’s F&F range, Asda’s George range and the slightly random but always fun selection at Aldi and Lidl.

Supermarket clothing is usually always amazing value, and if you quickly need to pop in after work or while you’re grocery shopping, to buy your toddler some new pants or shoes for PE at school you can guarantee they’ll probably have what you need for less than £5. I also like to check out the supermarkets’ websites for clothing and thoroughly enjoy trawling through the clearance items. I have been able to kit my daughters out for gymnastics training with crop tops and sports leggings from supermarket ranges, for much cheaper than you’d get buying them from big sports brands. And they are just as nice, if not nicer.

I love that supermarket kids’ shoes don’t cost the Earth, (these ones from George at Asda cost just £13 and are really good quality) you won’t need to save up much to buy new school shoes when they trash theirs and after my daughter’s shoes which cost £36 from the leading children’s shoe shop were thrown away as the strap broke before she’d grown out of them, I solemnly swore to not spend so much on them. I also love M&S both for casual shoes and clothes, and for school too.

2. Second hand books.

I love charity shop shopping, and if I’m ever in there with the kids I usually let them choose a book which might cost a grand total of 50p. I’d rather they choose a nice book even if they don’t read it straight away than another piece of tat or a Barbie with matted hair which I have to cram into one of the numerous toy baskets.

And if you Tweet the author of your kid’s new book, they might even reply to you!

3. These plates.

What kid doesn’t love a segmented plate? And as a mum it is strangely satisfying organising fish fingers, new potatoes and peas into neat little compartments. 3 plates for just under £5 – yes please Munchkin.

4. Google Home mini

Not very very cheap but surprisingly less than I would’ve guessed especially when they periodically reduce them to £35. Tom bought me the first one for Christmas and then I bought him one too. It’s like a new walkie talkie that also plays music and can give you voice control over the TV amongst other things. “Okay Google, turn off living room TV” has become my new favourite parenting sentence when they are downstairs failing to clear up their toys and I am upstairs (mummy powera ha ha haa). Full review with parenting hacks coming soon.

5. Vosene kids hair products.

Seriously if my kids get headlice again this month I am sueing the school. We have had to treat them so many times over the last few months. And by treat I mean like full-on poison the little buggers (headlice not the kids) by combing with all 4 nit combs lying around the house, treat with headlice solutions, comb again, rinse, comb again, hoover everywhere including beds and wash pyjamas, towels and pillows etc. They. Keep. Coming. Back. But I have since started using Vosene headlice repellent shampoo for kids, and after their hair is done for school I douse them with the repellent spray, which smells like anti-mosquito candles. So far, we haven’t had any more bug guests.

So those are my next 5 favourite things to get your juices flowing if like me you get excited by over-hearing the words ‘isn’t the baby event on this week?’

I mean, we’re sleep deprived and can’t wee alone. There’s got to be something to enjoy. Even if it’s knowing you’ve just bought a 3 pack of kids tops for less than a glass of wine.

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The tumultuous times of toddlers

After 2 children, you’d expect me to, at least to some extent, know what to expect when it comes to toddler antics and their interesting behaviour third time around.

Rafe is 19 months old today. 19 months is an interesting age. Isn’t it? They’re starting to talk more and come out with some hilarious expressions and attempted communications. Isn’t it all supposed to be fun and games? Right now it doesn’t really feel fun. But I guess it is a bit of a game.

Guess the moan. It could be that he is hungry. Aha! Feed him I shall! Oh wait, no he won’t eat the food that I’ve just cooked for their dinner. I shall give him another biscuit to let us have 2 minutes of no moaning.

HAHAHAHA who am I trying to kid?

Even bribery with biscuity things won’t work for 50% of the time anymore.

He comes up to me and sticks his hand down my top and grabs a boob. Trouble is, I am in the middle of doing something and now is not a good time to sit exposing a bosom that will undoubtedly be nursed from for approximately 3 seconds before he gets down again. I put boob away and he moans at me to get it out again and I say ‘No, not right now’. He cries at me with his arms out and says ‘duddle’ and of course it is illegal to refuse a toddler cuddle request, and offer a cuddle. He pushes me away saying ‘no’ like I’ve just tried to make him eat a bar of soap.

Daddy, he wants daddy. Daddy comes over and picks him up, crouches down with him sat on a knee and then he shouts ‘UUUPP’. But daddy doesn’t want to stand up and walk around. Well it’s not up to the adult. The toddler thinks he should be in charge right now.

He is quiet for a good 5 minutes and you realise the peace that has ensued. Then you think ”hang on..this isn’t a good peace”. You leave the kitchen and find him in the bedroom drawing on the wall with eyeliner. Bloody societal pressure. If it wasn’t for the requirement to look *awake*, there would be no need to have eyeliner in the house. What on earth does one use to get eyeliner off matt emulsion paint?

But then, bedtime comes and with each child comes a randomly concocted night time routine of funny little quirks and rituals. I give him his last feed, if I can get him to sit still for a few moments. When he’s ready (he’ll yell ‘boobieee’ if not), one of us will shout ‘cudddddllle’ and daddy holds out his arms into which Rafe will throw himself. You have to make sure your chin and mouth are out of the firing line. He is nestled up the 6’2″ frame of daddy where he waves to me, blows kisses and in response to me saying ‘love you’, he replies “n-night!” Daddy takes him into bed where he waves goodnight to his sisters and usually lays down and is happy to take himself off to sleep after daddy says goodnight and the door is shut.

Despite having ‘the fear’ of nighttimes for over 7 years now, as you never know how successful the night will be with a baby or toddler, I think bedtime is one thing we do quite well. Our kids have been happy to be read to in which ever room story time happens in, be kissed goodnight in their bed and then left to it. They love their beds and I know that in a few weeks or months Rafe won’t really need to wake up to be told that it’s still bedtime and the night fear will be a distant memory.

They’re seriously testing our patience at times (read that as most of the bloody time), but we do love them.

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Pregnancy in a wheelchair

As a mum of 3 and an essential wheelchair, I think there’s still a lot that needs to be learned about having babies when you’re very much ‘a disabled person’.

Before my first baby, (our daughter Amélie is now 7) there was so much that we just didn’t know about what it would be like to be a pregnant wheelchair user, and go through childbirth when I can’t even stand up. Of course, any newly pregnant first-timer doesn’t really know exactly what it’ll be like, but they can be pretty sure that their experiences will normally be quite similar to other people of the same age and ability, with all the usual differences in each individual’s life. But as a wheelchair user, there was very little I could ‘look up’ online or in books and no one really I could ‘look up to’ as a realistic example of how a wheelchair-using woman might experience pregnancy and childbirth.

For the midwives and other medical professionals around me, they didn’t know much more than I could search for online about how someone with severe CMT disease would handle pregnancy and childbirth, and whilst I was under consultant care for all three of my pregnancies, the decisions were largely made by me and my midwife, deciding what would probably be the most sensible thing to do. The consultant saw me a few times during pregnancy #1 (as with the following two pregnancies) but to be honest there wasn’t much she needed to do as physically the pregnancy was pretty straightforward. The main thing we had to think about was what would happen in the birth and what help I’d need.

My midwife was amazing and supported whole-heartedly the argument that my partner, Tom, would need to be present throughout the whole thing and not asked to go home and leave me to it at any point, especially after the baby was born, which most non-disabled mums would experience. As well as the fact that dads/significant partners should be there to experience this with the mother and for their new baby’s sake, in my case Tom also needed to be there so that there was no need for health care assistants/midwives to have to use a hoist, or other equipment when it’s so much more comfortable and easier for all involved for Tom to lift me and to help with going to the toilet and showering. Luckily the matron of the labour ward agreed and he was with me constantly through all three experiences.

Physical limitations and needs aside, I don’t know what I would’ve done without him. I don’t know how any woman would be able to go through that life-changing episode without their partner.

How did the actual births of my children go?

With Amélie I was surprised at how well I coped with the pregnancy but she was a pretty small baby and my body coped well apart from pelvic pain. With the pain of childbirth it was important for me to conserve as much energy as possible, so I had an epidural which worked well once it was in, but because of the curve in my lower back it was very difficult for the anaesthetist to get it right. With our second baby, Geneviève, I was a little more uncomfortable during the later part of pregnancy as it was summer and very hot and I find it difficult to regulate my body temperature. She was also a lot bigger than Amélie! I wanted to try and give birth without an epidural, and then at the last minute decided I did want one but it was too late, so I gave birth to her with gas and air and also diamorphine. With our third baby, Rafe, who is our only boy and the biggest of all three, it was again the height of summer at the most uncomfortable part of the pregnancy and I wasn’t particularly enjoying feeling like a sweaty beached whale. Because I have to crawl from the bedroom to bathroom at night or if I’m not in my wheelchair, my wrists really took a beating with the increased weight I was carrying. I decided to go for an epidural in labour again but after nearly 2 hours of failed attempts it didn’t go into the right place in my spine and so I pushed him out just with gas and air. Ouch.

I have managed to breastfeed all three of our children, and am still feeding Rafe. The first time around it was very difficult as Amélie was such a tiny baby. But after a few weeks it became easier and it was so important for me that I could breastfeed them, seeing as there are so many other things I cannot do. Nobody else would need to feed them, and it was very integral to me bonding with them as babies.

I’m pretty sure that we’re done having babies, although if we had loads of space and money I’d love to have more and more. For now, 3 beautiful children and a new puppy is enough work (and lots of fun, of course) but it isn’t easy. There are many things I can’t do for them as a mum and I will always find that frustrating. But I know that what I can do for them will hopefully make up for all of that. And again, none of it would be possible or enjoyable without the best partner and daddy ever by my side throughout it all.

……………………………………………………….

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