I won!

I love sport.

There’s something you wouldn’t have expected me to start with. But I do. Well, some sports anyway. I am a great lover of Wimbledon tennis in the summer and I adore watching gymnastics, diving, swimming and athletics. I used to do gymnastics growing up from ages 6-12 and I also dabbled in wheelchair tennis in secondary school (it was hard to progress from dabbling when you are pretty much the only wheelchair user in a school in a small Cornish village).

But nevertheless, I think I would love to have nurtured some kind of sporting skill if my body had given me the chance, and the working nervous system that is quite fundamental to sporting victory.

But at age almost-31 I have just had my first major sporting success. The annual tournament is a family affair, previously revolving around a golf match (is it a match?) which took place at unsociably early hours on Sunday morning of the bank holiday weekend in August, and the women and children of the family occupied themselves with other activities for the day, such as making sandwiches and changing nappies until we all met up again when the golf was over and we’d have a big buffet-style tea in the garden of the previous year’s winner.

It is always lovely to see all the family in one place, and to try and remind myself of all the names of the great aunts, uncles, cousins removed, cousins’ children and second cousins etc (seriously, Great Granny, how on earth did you cope with six kids) and in recent years the sport has changed to a version of bowls (there are flags and string points markers involved but I don’t know what the actual name is. It just takes place on a bowling green with bowls balls so it seems appropriate to refer to it as bowls). Pretty much everyone in the family now gets involved, we are split into teams and play around the 8-flag course twice. Some members of the family already play bowls and so have an idea of how to throw the balls – they aren’t actually spherical and one side is weighted making it want to veer off to one side – but there is a handicap system in place allowing even novice players to be in with a chance of winning if they score highly enough.

But even with the handicap available, it still would not be a level playing field for me (insert bowling green pun here).

I have no muscle whatsoever in my hands and lower arms, any strength I do have has to come from my upper body, and the only way I can hold a ball is by relying on the tendon resistance in the extension in my wrists/hands (pictures to follow!). Even still, standard bowls are too heavy for me to lift let alone lob into the air (I mean, roll gracefully), so I play using two jacks, which are slightly smaller meaning my child-sized floppy hands can just about lift them. But even with this allowance, I would not be able to get the ball anywhere near the desired region due to my lack of strength, so I position myself about half way towards the post. Only then can I attempt to actually use some skill to get the balls as close to the post as I can, which is exactly what everyone else is trying to do.

I’m pretty sure my spacial awareness is slightly more ‘well-practiced’, than the average mum who doesn’t partake in a particular sport, simply because I have to use spatial awareness all day -steering an electric wheelchair through narrow doorways, or pushing a manual wheelchair amongst a room of small children and Duplo and trying not to break either. Also if I am trying to pick up a small item it takes a lot more concentration to persuade my hands into getting to the right place in order for something to hopefully fall perfectly and conveniently into my hands just so I can put moisturiser on my face, for example.

Well anyway, I am rambling. Cut a long story short, I won.

The family tournament which is in its 23rd year and is really a much-loved family tradition and something I hope my own children will still attend after I’m gone, I won. I scored 86 even without the handicap added, which I am most proud of. The coveted prize is my maternal Great Granny’s wooden walking stick which has been decorated with the winners’ names engraved on little silver shields since 1995 after Great Granny died.

We met at my Gran’s cousin’s house for a BBQ, feast, drinks and of course the awards ceremony. I knew I had scored quite well whilst we were playing but of course, I didn’t know others’ scores so when they announced my name as the ladies’ winner and overall winner it was a bit surreal. My first thought was “Oh shit. I’m going to have to make a speech”, and I hate talking to groups of people, and even more so when it involves speaking about myself. I’d much rather address the masses via computer keyboard where no one can hear my annoyingly quiet voice and see my awkward face. I sat for a few moments cleverly diverting attention to the kids who were playing with my prizes, all the while thinking “I’ve got to say something. They’re expecting me to say something. I want to leave now.”, but I managed a short, muddled and awkward little speech where most of what I said was trying to excuse my winning, and get across that I wouldn’t have had a chance against everyone else if I hadn’t been allowed use smaller balls and start closer to each post. Everyone clapped and congratulated me, my Gran’s youngest brother who organises a lot of it, seemed genuinely pleased that I’d finally won, after being close a few years ago. I worried some of the family might think I hadn’t really won, fair and or square but everyone seemed pleased. Tom was especially proud as was my mum who wasn’t there this year.

But most importantly, I won Granny’s Stick before my big brother.

@shopgirlygm

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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

Being Mum: Rehearsal In Progress

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It’s Mother’s Day in the UK today, and there’s lots I could talk about when it comes to being a mother.

I have three kids, ranging in age from 6 years to 7 months, with  3-year-old in the middle. When I was first pregnant with child #1, it was exillerating, exciting, scary, and new. Nothing had been experienced before except through observing other pregnant people around me, but nothing was to prepare me for what was really to come. Six and a bit years on, I’m still pretty much winging it at times, with the occasional moment of knowing what I’m doing.

With my eldest when she was a baby, I worried about everything – whether she had fed enough, whether she was putting on weight quickly as she was a tiny baby, whether I was doing the right thing by feeding her and putting her down, and letting her cry – because she’d fed and her nappy was fine so what else could she need at 2am apart from sleep? She surely had to understand as early as possible that cuddles and attention in the dark hours was not going to happen. Some people I spoke to agreed, and had similar sleep routines, and some had different opinions on how much attention a baby needs after feeding and changing had been sorted. I was pretty sure we were doing it right, although it was nightmarish at times and we were both shattered. But when we considered the alternative – co-sleeping or something similar and in the attachment aisle of the parenting shop. We got though the baby stage and came out the other end with a baby who slept quite reasonably by the middle of her second year of life and we had our nights back.

Then we had the sensible idea to bring another screaming human science project into our house. ‘We know what we’re doing….maybe’, we both thought at times, and we often heard people say something like ‘oh you must know what you’re doing if this is your second baby!’ Nor necessarily true but I could kind of see where they were coming from. With the second baby some things are very familiar, and some things come back quite easily like breastfeeding, which my second daughter took to like a baby to a boob, with no issues whatsoever as opposed to the first time around where I stressed more than anyone needs to, over getting her to latch on properly, being scared by hospital staff that she’d need ‘topping-up’ with formula in ber first few hours of life as she had not had many long feeds from me. Nowadays I know that that particular bit of advice was unnecessary and I needen’t have worried about her not feeding enough right from the word ‘go’. Of course babies need to feed, and to increase their blood sugar, but considering that their stomach at birth is literally the size of a small marble, there really was no need for me to cry over the fact that she hadn’t guzzled all 2oz of formula after a 5 minute feed from me, only for her to throw it all up everyhwere after. I probably would have too if I’d been made to drink about 5 x the volume of my stomach in one sitting. So with daughter 2.0 this part of parenting was a lot less stressful. Don’t get me wrong, the times they throw up an entire boob of milk before bed when they’re bigger, is definitely a pain in the neck, and there were many rimes when I’d worry that she had not eaten enough, and slept too much, but for the most part, a lot more successful.

With daughter #2, I was also a bit more easy going when it came to sleep. I’d still want her back in her own bed after most feeds because it is my bed and I am selfish – but in the very early days and for the odd night thereafter if she spent most of the night in our bed, co-sleeping as they call it, then that was that. She’s 3 now and has been in her own bed sleeping perfectly normally for at least 2 years, only stopping our bedtime feed at 2.5. I knew we had approached sleep better this time around, but I do have a lingering guilt that in fact with our eldest daughter, she was not sleeping at all badly – she was a baby and babies wake and need a cuddle. The problem really was that we had been conditioned to believe that from a few weeks old babies should be able to sleep solidly. Complete rubbish.

Now I’m on child 3, this time of the male variety and pretty much every situation is sprinkled with a generous layer of salt, rathet than a pinch. He spends the first 2-3 hours in his cot and then camps next ro me with my boob in his face for the remaining 6-7 hours. We both sleep better than if he was going back into his cot after every feed, there is minimal night hour crying and despite my bedsheets smelling more sicky than I’d like, it works for now and I know that he will sleep just as well as his sisters in the next year or so. So whilst the reality at the moment is that I share my bed with a sweaty 20lb boy most of the night, with his Daddy the other side of me, I know that reality changes very often and soon it won’t be like that.

Six years on from my parenting birthday, I have come to realise that children are extremely cute as babies, even when they grin at you with your nipple clamped between their gums. They are cute at times over the next few years, interspersed with moments when they might behave like a complete A-hole, but also have the capability to make you feel more proud than you thought was biologically possible, like when you leave them at their school on the first day of term.

How on Earth did we make it this far? I cannot for the life of me keep a house-plant alive, and I even managed to mess up growing my daughter’s pumpkin seeds that she won in school – but somehow, between me and my partner, we have managed to grow three complete children. They’re exceptionally good looking, fantastically irritating at times, but they’re ours, and we grew them.

We are not by any stretch of the imagination experts in raising babies despite having three insisting that they live in our house. Each and every day I have moments where I shout at them to get their shoes on instead of routing through the bag of never-played-with tat destined for the charity shop and I think to myself ‘shit, that was harsh, I’m really crap at this today’, or times when all I want to do is watch a BBC drama containing strong language througout, and these two girls just sit there on the sofa looking at me like ‘wtf are we going to enjoy about this?’ and I have to consider what is more important – my anticipation of finding out who killed Kay in ‘The Replacement’ or my darling children’s quality time with Mummy? Of course, it was spending precious moments drawing stickmen with the girls and laughing at their farts – that is until I got bored and tasked them with sorting out the shoe box so I could finally watch the last 3 minutes of this crime-drama really quietly and sat ridiculously close to the TV so the children didn’t start repeating obsceneties.

I’m not sure if I’m done having babies, if we might like to add another in a few years. Either way, the baby stage take:3 is rapidly reaching the end of the first year and whilst a relief, it is also tragic and sad that there will be a time when he has his last feed from me, and one day he too will no longer need to ride on Mummy’s wheelchair because he’s tired of walking. I’m enjoying being a mum, even if I don’t always feel like a mum when I can’t do something for them, and even if I have a habit of spending the first few months after habing a baby being a miserable slug. I know now that that is ok, and every othe mum should know that too.

You are allowed to be a miserable slug, shout at your kids ‘KEEP YOUR TEETH TOGETHER FOR CRYING OUT LOUD’ when brushing their teeth, and feed them hot cross buns and popcorn and claim it as a reasonable dinner. You are shattered, look like crap and lose the will to live every hour pretty much. But you are their mum and they won’t remember all this rubbish stuff. They’ll remember you reading them ‘What The Ladybird Heard’ without even needing to see the book because you are a seasoned pro, and they’ll remember getting into bed with you in the morning because you are the perfect bookend to their wake and sleep routine.

They probably won’t remember the times you measured their height and weight, and wiped away their snot for a photo so they’d sell quicker on eBay.

HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY.

@shopgirlygm

facebook.com/haveyoutriedwalkinglately

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.

Disabled Girl in France.

I have recently returned from a family holiday to France. It was lovely spending a decent length of time with my family, as our encounters are normally rushed over a weekend and it never feels enough. I always worry that my nephews and younger cousins won’t know me enough, and that when I do see them they will be nervous or apprehensive about what their disabled Aunty/cousin can and cannot do. But after spending a whole week around them, I felt so much more comfortable that everything seems ‘okay’ for them. My two-year-old nephew must have thought so anyway, he asked me just as much as anyone else if he could go on the ‘jumpoline’ and the swings. I love that complete innocent ignorance in thinking I’d have the strength to hoik him into a swing seat, as much as I’d love to.

Being away from home and with other people is not just a learning curve for the younger family members, though. Every trip out, let alone abroad, with me and two kids in tow is never just as simple as ‘pack bags and get in car’. There are delightful logistical mares (night or otherwise), such as the inevitable game of Suitcase-Wheelchair Tetris, and which route Tom will take from the car door, via said wheelchair, to retrieve a child yelling “I need a wee!” from a carseat buried amongst various armbands, bikes and bags of beach towels, being able to retrieve aforementioned older child, 10 month old non-walking baby, and non-walking me, my manual wheelchair, baby changing bag, pushchair and Tom himself out of the car and into a lift on the ferry all in less time than those people on Challenge TV wearing lime-green lycra and army boots trying to retrieve a crystal from a cage surrounded by code-protected sawdust. It’s exciting and sweat-inducing all at the same time.

Then there’s the joy of finding somewhere accessible to sit where I can actually sit in a different chair and try to ignore the stomach-churning sensation and headache which sets in after about thirty minutes of sailing. Seriously, if you’ve ever been on a cross-channel ferry and thought you got away without any sea sickness, try doing it sat in a wheelchair. It feels a bit like being stuck in a snow-globe. Without any snow or reindeer. Just overpriced pastries and takeaway tea. And other people’s screaming children in the background whom are so much more annoying than my own.
I’ve lost my train of thought now.

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Amélie and Geneviève enjoying the comforts of ferry travel

The logistics of holidaying with incapabilities such as my own, continue at each stage of the trip. It’s all well and good knowing somewhere has ‘disabled access’ and that is great, albeit ambiguous, but holiday accommodation abroad or in my own country will never just be simple to use for me. That aside, the gite we stayed in was lovely and clean, and pretty easy to get around, this makes for a happy Lizzy. And there was a downstairs toilet AND shower, quel surprise! Normal people don’t appreciate a good ground floor toilet like Tom and I do. Easily pleased and all that.

Then there are the trips out to neighbouring French towns, not knowing what the French government regard as a statutory level of suitable facilities for disabled people. It turns out that all disabled people living in France are one-armed. At least that is what I gathered from the apparent lack of grab rails in accessible toilets. Just on one side, not both. They like to make going to the toilet that little bit more of a cryptic challenge.

Back at the gite it was pretty chilled, lots of laughing, card games and delicious food and drink, just with the added game of Locate-a-Kid, somewhere within the large gardens belonging to the gite and main house owners. In the event of child misplacement, our first guess would be the infamous ‘jumpoline’ which was responsible for such injuries as my elder nephew’s fat-lip-with-blood and also my own squashed finger. I may have ignored the No Adults rule on the trampoline, but I figured that, well, I can’t stand up and/or actually bounce, so that rule didn’t apply to me. I was merely supervising the children from within the circular edging of the CHILDREN’S trampoline. The fact that I may or may not have a broken little finger is simply the price I paid for the rebellion of having great fun being out of my wheelchair and thrown around by surprisingly heavy kids.

“Get out your seat and jump around… “

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You leave your chair unattended for one minute and it becomes open to shotgun etiquette…
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The ferry ride home seemed to go very quickly, and before we knew it we were off the boat, had said our goodbyes to our nearest and dearest and were on our way home. Barely a week had gone by much too quickly and our first proper family holiday will definitely be one to remember. I just hope the next one isn’t too far in the distance. I think I might fly next time.

Don’t get me started on the logistical nightmares of even telling an airline that you have a WHEELCHAIR.