When you’re 6, tired and hungry

We went out to watch the local fireworks last night and while we were there we bumped into one of Amélie’s best friends from school. She was desperate to try and see her friends but when she saw one of them she was very quiet, and although this little girl was so excited to see Amélie and was walking right by her, chatting away to her, Amélie ignored everything she said and just kept facing the other way.

I kept saying to her how she shouldn’t ignore her friend as she is talking to her, but Amélie remained silent and non-responsive to her friend. I felt awful for her and eventually she kind of gave up trying to chat to Amélie. It was about 5.30pm, and Amélie was both hungry and tired as her little brother had been crying in the night before. I am sure this was why Amélie wasn’t feeling very sociable when she saw her friend, but even so we explained to her that even though she was tired and hungry, she should still speak to her friends when they talk to her. Amélie has this trait where she just shuts down and won’t respond when she finds something difficult or when she’s anxious. I really don’t want this to mean that people think badly of her, or feel that she’s rude (which is exactly how I would’ve read last night’s situation).

Today, she was writing Christmas cards for her school friends and I said maybe she could write a note to say sorry in the card for her friend from last night. The picture here is some of what she wrote in the card. She went on to draw a picture of,the two of them and the words “best friends forever”.

It’s hard being 6, isn’t it?

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Baby product reviews – nappies, wipes, cups and potties.

I’m three kids in so I feel like now might be an acceptable time to review a few baby, toddler and children’s products and even a few parents’ products. I’m a disabled mum of three, ages 6.5, 4 and 1 years old.

1. I’ll start with nappies as I’m pretty sure most mums and dads will have come across one every now and then with having a baby. My favourite nappies by far are Aldi Mamia nappies. At the moment my 13-month-old son is in size 5 (although he can also fit in a 4+), and you can currently get a pack of 40 nappies for £2.99. For the equivalent of a leading brand, you should expect to pay more than double. You might think ‘well lower cost = lower quality’, but no. I find Mamia nappies are perfectly soft and comfortable, hold their structure well with minimal sagging after 1 wee. They have good coverage to hold in most normal poo episodes (poopisodes) – I say ‘normal’ because there are some poo explosions that just won’t be contained by a nappy. Never underestimate the force with which a small child can fire their own poo up their back whilst sat down. Mamia nappies are pleasantly decorated, with an array of jungle animals. To be honest none of my three children have ever paid much attention to pictures on nappies, but maybe that’s just them. They last a good 12 or more hours of night-time weeing, without leaking and don’t create a strong chemical smell when they’re very wet. According to Aldi, they are extra soft, breathable, hypo-allergenic and dermatologically tested, and are regularly tested for effectiveness against the leading brand. They are comfy, work really well and don’t cost much. Therefore they’re winners in my book. A book which doesn’t physically exist.

Mamia Ultra Dry Nappies Size 5

2. Wipes – I probably think about wipes a bit more than is necessary even for a mum with three kids, but I feel it tug right at my heartstrings when they start putting FEWER WIPES PER PACK! Why? A while ago, pretty much all supermarket wipes had 80 per pack, and cost just under £1 for a pack, or £3 something for a pack of 4 – stay with me folks – leading brand wipes had less, either 72 or 64, and then some had 56. That is 24 less wipes than what I would call a normal amount of wipes per pack. I really think too much about this. Anyway, now most supermarket brands have 64 wipes per pack, and then Asda’s Little Angels range started producing an ‘extra large’ pack, with 80 wipes, like it was a new thing to sell 80 wipes per pack. I wish they would just pick a number closer to 100 and stick with it, then we wouldn’t have to keep opening new plastic wipes packing every few days, and maybe each pack would last longer.

Favourite wipes – again the prize for my favourite wipes currently goes to Aldi Mamia wipes. Granted they have only 64 wipes per pack, but they are a good price, currently only 55p per pack, or £2.09 for a 4 pack. They are a nice soft texture, don’t rip when you take them out of the pack which is convenient although as far as I know, a wipe that rips means it’s probably made from renewable/recycled natural fibres like tissues are, and therefore better for the environment than a woven ‘cloth-like’ wipe. But I’m only a mum guessing, I may be wrong! They have a closing plastic lid, meaning the wipes shouldn’t dry out, although personally as my hands don’t work very well, I find these more difficult. The sensitive unfragranced wipes are what we usually get but the fragranced packs are also good for when it comes to cleaning hands, or wiping sick off your top in desperation as it masks the aroma a little!

Mamia Sensitive Baby Wipes 64 Pack

3. Drinking cups – I think over the last few years we may have bought almost every cup going – valved, free-flow, non-spill, straw, 360… my partner thinks I’m slightly crazy as I can’t resist a new cup. They are so pretty! But at the moment I am liking the Nuby 360 cup as it’s pretty much non-spill, and encourages drinking from the edge of the cup. So it makes for a good transition to drinking out of an open cup.

360 Mini No Spill Cup 240ml (4-12m) RED/ROCKET

I have also always been a fan of the standard Tommee Tippee free-flow cup which is great for all ages even young babies of 4-6 months. It’s free-flow so babies might get a bit of a shock when the water flows quite freely into their mouth but it teaches them to moderate the flow themselves. This is a good cup for babies who might struggle to suck out of a valved cup. It’s also a very good value cup, generally found for less than £2 in a choice of colours. #parenton

First sippee cup blue 1 count

4. Potties – when it comes to toilet training, nothing is more exciting than choosing your first potty. For the child I mean, for the child, not me, I don’t find it exciting at all. Much. We have had a few over the years but the one I’ve preferred and which has worked best for our middle child (when we got it) was a potty like this – ours was unbranded from Tesco  and is just plain pink, but has the same ‘steady’ design and looks comfier than the others we have had. It has grippy feet so won’t slide out of the way as your child goes to squat down on it (disastrous), has a broad seat so it doesn’t dig into the backs of their little legs and a high back so they are a bit more supported as they sit. I’m sure our boy will use it even though it is pink and that will mean he will turn gay, but nevermind.* This potty only cost around £5 and does a perfectly good job of being a potty. It doesn’t sing songs or have a heated seat but our daughter seemed to survive the ordeal of sitting on it.

In my next reviews I will be focusing on clothes and shoes for children!

*Please be assured I am joking.

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You can’t feed your baby here

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

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

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

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

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

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

The feeding room…


The parents’ toilet…


The hungry baby…


@shopgirlygm

Rock, paperwork, scissors 

My life has recently been put into a list. Broken down into a series of trivial activities which are apparently all that I am. They are assigned a figure signifying how much of each item I am entitled to do.

I didn’t ask for the list. It was given to me and maybe I should just be grateful and move on.

I asked for some help, and if you know me personally, you will know this alone is difficult enough for someone as stubborn as I. But I asked for help from the local care trust, to provide support to allow me to be as independent as I can. To not have to rely on my family and my partner to do things for me when they have their own lives to live day-to-day. My partner needs to have a full time job in order for us to afford our own home, and to raise our kids in the way we want, with the income we have. Ideally he wouldn’t have to work, and he’d be around to help me to the things I can’t do. He regularly does these things throughout the week, but he can’t work and help me at the same time. He is only one man! He needs his own independence too, I can be quite annoying. 

Of course, ideally we’d be bazillionaires, own a massive house with everything we want and need and not need to work, and enjoy doing jobs and making things better for others. We’d have a pool outside with sun loungers and a cinema in the basement with huge reclining chairs. We’d have an enormous shiny kitchen with an island in the middle and a giant oven and hob with 12 gas burners. We’d go and visit other countries and take our girls to see the world. Don’t say that’s not your dream as well because we both know it is. Nobody wants to earn just enough to get by, to co-own your house with a bank, knowing you’ll be paying back so much more than your house is worth. Groaning at the price of diesel at the fuel pumps, dreading the letters from BT to say they’ve increased line-rental prices by £2.30 more per month, to have to receive help from the state to pay for someone to take you for a wee at work. You know, the things everyone worries about. But sometimes things are necessary and for certain things we need to ask for help. 

Luckily there is a welfare state in the country I live in and for that I know I am grateful. What other people in less developed countries are lacking due to their country’s wealth or their government is sad. And I am grateful for what we have.

I will always be grateful for what I am given and it is important for me that whoever is reading this understands that. But right now I am struggling to respect the behaviour and attitudes of those in the power to give.  I am sorry that I want to scream in the faces of those people who are in a position to give me the means to the support I need, scream at them that they don’t get it. They just don’t get it. 

I am a mum. A disabled mum. A disabled mum whose two girls live with her at home because that is where they should be. So when the person who ticks the boxes on the oh-so-important paperwork suggests an  amount in the proposed budget, assigned for ‘childcare’, please, tell me how I am supposed to feel. Because for  over FOUR years, we have been explaining to those in the adult social care section of the local care trust that WE ARE NOT ASKING TO USE A PA FOR CHILDCARE. They argued with us before and after Amélie was born in 2011, with us explaining the help and support is for ME.  If MY needs are taken care of, from personal care, to helping me do the weekly food shop, and helping me carry out my role as a mum, (FYI, this falls under Adult Support services) then there are no concerns about my children. They tried to suggest that Children’s Services needed to be involved. We disagreed, as did the Health Visitor and my Occupational Therapist. Why should we be subject to being analysed by the same people who investigate abuse or lack of parenting skills, when there’s never been a concern about my kid’s welfare? Because, they were trying to get out of providing help for a disabled parent by claiming my child was ‘at risk’ if I couldn’t look after them by  myself. If they ignored part of the ‘problem’ that was my needs, maybe it would go away. Passed on to someone else with a slightly different form of paperwork. That was a fun time. It’s always nice being told you’re a risk to your own baby. 

 We pay a lot of money for our children to go to nursery when we work, that’s childcare. When I look after my children, that’s simply me being a parent. At what point have I ever asked for them to pay for someone to come in and care for my children while I sit there and have a mani-pedi? 

Anyway, back to the recent reassessment. Do you know how many hours were suggested I could or might use for ‘childcare’ (it’s not for CHILDCARE) out of the weekly amount?  

Three. 

Three hours is what this lady assigned for my role as a parent. As a mum. Three hours in a week. Of course this doesn’t mean I can only get my PA to do three hours a week of helping me take care of my own kids. It’s a figure that this person so kindly broke down theoretically into areas of the help I need, in case I can’t work that out for myself.  I ask my PA to work at certain times (usually just weekdays while my partner works full time) that I know I need help and a large part of that is to help me carry out the physical aspects of my role as a mum. Of course she does more than three hours of that. Which young children only need things doing for them for three hours a week? I guess I could only feed them breakfast on certain days, dinner on different days, send them out in their PJs a few times a week, that would save time.

Two hours a week she guessed as what I might use for ‘socialisation’. Bloody hell. What am I? A puppy? A prisoner being allowed outside with the other delinquents for a couple of hours each week, to get some fresh air in my lungs? What crime did I commit?

I promise I am not, and have never asked for anything I don’t think I need. I understand completely that this country is a little tits-up when it comes to budgeting and controlling its  spending. But I am not asking for more than I need. So why does my life have to be broken down into time and money every year in such an intensive yet careless manner? I am fully aware of the burden I place on the state. I see how much I cost them. Written down on paper just to rub it in. You know that shitty feeling you get in your belly when you know something bad is going to happen, like when you go into a chemistry exam knowing you did precisely 7 minutes of revision for? That feeling stays with me. It comes back to rear its ugly head quite often but it never properly goes away. 

So my last response via email a few days ago was reiterating yet again about the need to cover the physical help I need as a disabled mum, and I have yet to hear back about a more final figure they’ll allow me. Final. Ha. Of course I don’t mean final you silly goose! Until they decide to do this all over again.  And again. And again. There’s no continuity of care, we can’t get it sorted and get on with our lives feeling  assured. My condition isn’t going to improve, It only gets worse, so it’s like we have a general election in our lives every year, where our way of life may change in a heartbeat down to the opinion of whomever happens to get our case that year. 

In a particularly sad and depressing end to such a positive blog post, all of this makes me sometimes feel guilty for having my own children. For being a costly member of society because I selfishly wanted to reproduce knowing fully that there would be many things I’d need someone else to do for me. 

Of course, I don’t regret my children for a second. They’re a little annoying at times, waking us up in the night, puking on my face, and demanding to be fed several times a week, so selfish. But between the two of us we somehow managed to spawn some pretty cute and hilarious small people. I guess they can stay.

   
 

@shopgirlygm