What is life with 3 kids and a disability like?

As Christmas is around the corner I thought what better time to actually wrote a blog post about being a mum of 3 in the lead up to the stress- I mean, festive period. Well it’s been going on for weeks but you know what I mean.

But I’m not just a mum of 3, my 4th ‘child’ – ie the other thing that I have to plan for, take care of, moan about, stress over and spend money on – my disability, is what makes being a mum for me that whole lot different. Unfortunately unlike my 3 actual human children, I don’t love this one.

As the kids grow up (way too quickly) I guess there are many things that they won’t need doing for them that I have always had to get someone else to do for me. Like nappy changes and wiping sick up (if that happens during the week while my partner is at work, my PA has to do those things for me) but at the moment I still wish that I could climb into Amélie’s top bunk bed and snuggle up with her in the evening. Or carry a sleeping child to bed. Or join in with the parents’ race on sports day. Or actually wrap up their Christmas presents myself.

The thing that I miss a lot at the moment (and I say miss because that’s how it feels, even though I’ve never been able to do it anyway) is doing my girls’ hair. Now don’t get me wrong – Tom, my partner and best daddy ever, is a-ma-zing at doing little girls’ hairstyles. Most of it I guess I’ve kind of taught him, without actually teaching him if that makes sense. But that just makes me sound arrogant and a bit bossy. But there are ways to verbally describe doing a ponytail! However he is also quite creative and uses his own initiative to do their hair because I can’t. Although I’d like to think that even if I could do their hair, he’d still have probably learnt to do it anyway. There’s no reason it should only be something mummy can do. But when it’s something only mummy can’t do, well that’s just not fair. The fact that I literally cannot operate an elastic hair band is excruciating! The best I can do is clip the side of their hair out of their face by doing the clip with my mouth. Yes it’s weird. No I haven’t got a photo. However I do have a photo of Tom’s gymnastics competition hair do for Amélie.

And that’s just one example of why I find my own life so incredibly frustrating and there’s not much I can do about it.

But what about the specific Christmas struggles? Well this year I’ve tried to do most of our present buying online. I used to LOVE shopping, and I mean my step sister and I would spend all day in Truro city centre and get home in the dark after Christmas shopping for hours and be buzzing. Now, that thought makes me want to vomit. The thought of all those people asking me if I need help when I’m looking at a gift set of bubble baths, and the narrow aisles and inaccessible tills, and the people walking in front of me and just stopping. They just stop walking and expect me to notice in a split second and not bash my wheelchair into their achilles tendons. And being at that awkward place between bum-height and elbow-height in crowded places where the likliness of getting knocked in the face by someone flailing their arms about, being farted on or having cigarette smoke blown in your face is all too high. No thank you. I’ll shop on Amazon. Or failing that, go to larger stores like The Range and Wilko where you can kill several birds with one stone in the gift buying world.

As for Christmas day itself, we are staying in our own house this year rather than stay with family. So the cooking will all be up to me and Tom. Well, there won’t be much I can assist with but I shall entertain the children by putting Christmas movies on and moaning at them to tidy up even a little bit, so Tom can get on with food preparation.

We will see. I will attempt to update with a new blog post after the big day has been and gone.

Don’t forget….

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How to survive Christmas with kids

Christmas as a child: TOYS! CHOCOLATE! PLAYING! NEW CLOTHES! YUMMY FOOD! GAMES! A NEW BIKE! ENDLESS FUN FOR SEVERAL DAYS.

Christmas as an adult: Responsibility. Refereeing. Regretting all the tat you bought your kids.

Christmas is supposed to be fun, isn’t it? Well, sometimes it can also be very stressful and make you want to jump out of a window. Here are some tips I hope will help keep the festive period running a little more smoothly as a parent.

1. Let them eat junk. They will want to eat whatever yummy foods they see and unless you fancy hiding everything that isn’t broccoli and saying similar lines over and over and over all day throughout the Christmas and New Year period, it’s sometimes easier just to say “by all means, have chocolate for breakfast”, and secretly hope they feel a bit sick after gorging on too much sweet stuff. Try and make sure they’re given other, more regular savoury food so they’re not peckish and reaching for chocolate, but it’s Christmas. Who are we to deny treats? We’re only the parents.

2. Bedtime can be a bit later. I say this knowing full well it’ll get to 6.50pm at my in-laws’ house and I will have had enough of the constant moaning and arguing and snatching and pooing and I will want them banished to the land of nod. But, if it’s been a good day and they’re behaving favourably, I think it’s okay to allow them to stay up a bit later. By that I mean 7 minutes.

3. Find a room. Whether it’s a room to send one or two of the kids into with the iPad and free-reign on YouTube so you can have half an hour’s peace, or a place of solitude where you can go and sit in the dark and reminisce about quiet Christmasses pre-children, it’s good to have a room for these purposes.

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This poor lady has lost the will to live, and has escaped Christmas. Lucky cow.

4. Use the threat. Even after Christmas Day has been and gone, you may still use Father Christmas as a threat. He can retract new toys you know. He keeps them in a black bag in your room until you feel guilty enough and want to give them back. I mean, Santander will, obviously.

5. Don’t feel guilty. Whatever you have or haven’t bought them, it’s enough. Even if they wanted a specific sodding LOL Doll and you refused to spend over £10 on what is basically a glorified Kinder Egg, without even the bloody chocolate, and couldn’t find them in stock anywhere when you actually tried, the stuff you did get is enough. I can’t really remember specific ‘big’ presents that I asked for as a kid.What I do remember are the silly, random stocking filler toys my brother and I used to get and ridiculously complicated family games we’d play around my Gran’s dining table. What I mean is, kids remember the traditions, the people and the silly things that make them laugh, not necessarily the ‘popular’ toy of the year that they wrote on their letter to Father Christmas. So if you couldn’t buy it, they won’t hate you. If they do, send them to ‘the room’.

6. Have a ‘toy purge’. In the fortnight before Christmas, spend a few secret sessions chucking out or sending to charity shops, all the crap they never play with. Go through toy boxes and ditch any broken stuff, eject anything which sits there month after month untouched and offer it to other parents with kids, or flog it on eBay if you have the energy. Otherwise, you’ll drown in a soup of old toys and new tat they have acquired come January. I may have just thrown away an awful Play-Doh dentist head thing. Awful thing. Evil toy. Hopefully they won’t remember it. Who am I kidding – they love that stupid thing and I am going to hell.

Look at those perfect children behaving beautifully and acting like they love each other. Must be being paid.

7. Have a bit of alcohol. As long as you aren’t needing to drive anywhere and you can still safely look after your own children and make semi-sensible decisions, it’s okay to have one or two drinks. If you can’t string a simple sentence together to make them go to bed, you’ve gone too far.

8. Watch lots of Christmas movies. This is another great way to make kids sit kind of still for an hour or so, and all in the name of nostalgia. Parents and children alike can enjoy Home Alone or The Grinch, and also you can threaten your children with your disappearance next Christmas if they misbehave throughout the year. They’ll see how remorseful Kevin McAllister is and promise to get on better with their siblings in the coming months.

9. Teach your children that they need to tidy up their own crap. There’s nothing worse on Christmas day than not being able to walk through your own front room because of the sea of brightly coloured plastic strewn all over the place. They are perfectly capable of picking up toys and packaging and putting them away after. Although if I can suddenly walk on Christmas day, the toys scattered everywhere would be the least of my concern. (I am a wheelchair user and cannot stand, if you didn’t know).

10. Above all, try and enjoy it. I’ve said all this stuff ^ and I know my kids’ Daddy and I will probably still be the most stressed-out people in the house and will constantly be ranting at the children and wishing for peace and quiet and more sleep. But the hyped-up, spoiled-rotten, and grubby kids (why are they always so grubby at Christmas?) will, hopefully, go back to normal daily behaviours by just after New Year. Just keep reminding them that this chocolate-for-breakfast thing is only going to last so long, then it’s back to linseed and pearl barley for breakfast, strictly 7pm bedtimes and regular tooth-brushing.

Me with the John Lewis penguin three years ago. Just because.

It’ll be Christmas again before we know it.

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Christmas comes but once every few days

Let me begin with the fact that it cannot possibly be Christmas again.

What is it about growing up and pretending to be an adult that makes time go so frightfully quickly, that it is impossible to wind one’s head around the realisation that twelve months have slipped under my consciousness and just disappeared. When I was a child, each Christmas felt like an eternity away and time never went quick enough.

So here we are at Christmas again. Another rushed few weeks leading up to it, stressing about what I want to buy for my nearest and dearest, wondering how much is appropriate to spend, stressing about how much there is to do and being frustrated at not being able to do enough of it myself.
I am currently suffering the consequences of trying to wrap presents independently, and it comes in the form of a missing piece of skin on my lip from battling with the Sellotape. It is one of those tiny things that HURTS and I can’t stop nibbling it with my teeth, making it worse in the process. It is also quite hard to distinguish whether a gift has been wrapped by me or my youngest daughter.

Then there’s the wondering which clothing I can wear on Christmas day which is smart enough to personally feel like I’ve made an effort but comfortable and practical enough to suit being sat down in a chair all day and needing to access one’s bosom to breastfeed a tired and grumpy 15 month old whom has eaten one too many savoury snacks.

My next Christmas conundrum is whether or not to engage in alcohol consumption and if so, how much? I have self-diagnosed as a complete lightweight these days. My mum and surrogate mum (mum’s friend) came to visit recently and I had almost two glasses of wine and felt like I couldn’t talk quite properly. I’m inclined to blame my lack of circulation and lack of movement as the cause of my alcohol tolerance level being lower than that of most adults my age. So it’s probably best that I stick to only drinking with Christmas dinner, but in all honesty it doesn’t bother me at all. I don’t need alcohol to have fun and enjoy Christmas with my family. At least I’m a cheap date.

My next worry is how many fingers and thumbs I might dislocate unwrapping presents. I have recently started employing Amélie as my official present unwrapper, much to her delight. It’s easier than instructing people to only use the saliva of a newborn fairy as an alternative gentle gift wrap adhesive. And gift bags just don’t have the same level of “eek!” as trying to force my way under super strength tape and luxury Waitrose wrapping paper.

There are times on most Christmas days where I will inevitably feel a bit like a ‘Nana in her armchair’, sitting around and verbally try to control my children’s hyperactivity whilst everyone else is milling around sorting Christmas nibbles, bucks fizz and assorted poultry. Even my own Gran doesn’t fulfill the stereotype.

I keep thinking that at some point I’ll bloom into some sort of domestic goddess, hosting Christmas, letting Tom sit and drink Christmas ale and not worry about household chores, and refusing people entry into my kitchen for fear that they’ll be under my feet.

I would love to be THAT kind of mum one day, the mum like my own, who made my childhood Christmas days magical and full of enjoying each other and the food and the gifts and ripped paper everywhere and everything else that Christmas is. I want to be THAT mum for my children and my children’s children.

But at the same time, I want to go back to being a child and being given that kind of Christmas experience. Woolworths and not Amazon. The Pogues and not X Factor.

This year I’m looking forward to my mum’s cooking, my stepdad being sentimental and telling questionable jokes, my girls’ faces on Christmas morning and when they’re opening presents, my dad and stepmum in general knowledge themed domestics as we play ridiculously long-winded board games and enjoy good cheese, my sisters’ inevitable a-capella performances in the evening, and falling asleep on Tom’s arm after a long day that again, went way too quickly.

Christmas as a little girl with my brother and cousins. I’m the one being really camera shy on the left.

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My first Christmas as a mum.

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My first Christmas as a mum of two.

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Amélie’s idea of a perfect Christmas.

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And finally, this. Because this is the first year I’ve entertained the idea of the mince pie..

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I’m not going to steal anything. Promise.

I used to love shopping. I could never get bored of it. My stepsister Charlotte and I had a commitment to shopping like no other. As young teenagers we would get on the bus in the morning from Helston to Truro (the metropolis that is the capital of Cornwall) and spend all day traipsing around the cobbled streets and routing through the sale-rails in all of our favourite high-street stores, not a care in the world. We’d stop for lunch in Burger King, and get the bus back home in the early hours of the evening, ready to showcase our shopping loot to our respective mums, who were by then best friends (weird, yes, but totally normal to us). That is, of course, providing the Truronian bus company had stuck to their published promise to provide an Easy-Access bus when we arrived at either stop. I think they were under the impression that disabled people in need of ramped buses were just asking for the jolly fun of it. In reality we can all get out of our chairs, fold them into a tiny pocket like you get on a cagoul (kagoul?) and saunter up the steps of the bus exclaiming ‘I was just feeling lazy, I don’t really need the wheelchair! One return ticket please’. Anyway, bus rants are meat for a whole other blog post, (I do indeed have some tantalising and gripping stories involving bus journeys. Contain yourself please).

Those were the good old days. I loved shopping.

These days, I’m close to divorcing myself permanently with the activity of going shopping. Our relationship has hit a rocky patch, we just don’t have the chemistry we used to have. It’s not shopping, it’s me.

When I’m shopping with someone else, I don’t feel quite so uneasy but when I’m alone I get this overwhelming sense that everyone is looking at me, wondering what I’m going to buy, wondering why I’m looking for fashionable clothes, wondering if I’m a fake and am going to steal something.

It is paranoia, I’m sure of it. I’m pretty sure people don’t think I’m about to steal something. But I carry my handbag on my lap with my hand on it so it doesn’t fall off, and because I have to look down at the floor to ensure I’m not going to flatten a small child, I can’t help but think I just have a suspicious look about me.

I am however, fairly convinced that people might be scrutinising my shopping in children’s clothing or toy departments. I know, I must be buying a present for my niece or nephew, or a friend’s child. Everyone buys nappies and toddler-sized knickers for their friends’ kids, right? Er, no, I’m pretty sure they don’t. Those duties are usually solely a parent’s role. Which makes for more wondering in the nosey minds of other shoppers and store staff. I couldn’t possibly have my own children. Surely! I probably don’t even have a uterus!

Ridiculous aren’t I. ‘Get a grip, Lizzy’ I hear you say in your head, or out loud, whatever. Yes I probably am coming across as a paranoid idiot right now, but what has changed as I’ve grown up that has selfishly caused me to loath my favourite pastime? I have just been into Mothercare on an unsuccessful hunt for nappy-liners, I couldn’t find them so I had to ask a lady-staff-person to see if they had been put somewhere else. I then went to look at kids shoes, all the while wondering to myself who and how many people are wondering why I’m in Mothercare at all, and if the shop assistant might be under the impression that the nappy liners might be for my personal use, seeing as I had no children accompanying me!

The other reason I am beginning to hate shopping is because of the other shoppers. People should know better than to choose to be out shopping at the same time as me. They get in my way and then realise they are in my way and leave me a three-inch gap to squeeze my wheelchair through. Or they are walking in front of me down the street and decide to just stop walking. What is the deal with that? You wouldn’t do that on a motorway and just not expect to get driven into. Or even worse, they are not at all in my way and start apologising profusely for being in the way and ruining my entire life, and ‘oh sorry sorry sorry, I’ll move out of your way dear’. Fine, move however you like. Do the Macarena. You weren’t anywhere near me.

This year, the majority of my Christmas shopping will take place in the bustling aisles of the Amazon warehouse. Carried out by someone else.

Regretfully, Bah-shopping-humbug.