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 when you first meet somebody! 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 Charlotte 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 literally 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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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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