Half-term stress no more

We’ve only just had the Christmas holidays with the kids off school but next week they’re at it again, being at home and not in the hands of their teachers for a week. A whole week.

I think I’m a bit of a stressy person and being a wheelchair user I find there are a lot of things I can’t do with the kids that I wish I could, and would certainly do if I was more able. Our kids don’t go without exciting adventurous activities, but when it comes to half-term I try and think of simple things that we can do at home, or cheaply out and about which will keep them entertained and my sanity intact.

1. Cook things. Cakes, biscuits, the evening meal, anything really. Get the kids involved in chopping food, measuring and pouring. Cooking with kids can indeed be very stress inducing but if you resign yourself to the fact that it may all go wrong, you’ll get very messy and they will undoubtedly lick their fingers and then touch the food again, anything good that comes from it is a bonus! You are not obligated to eat the food that they have helped make.

2. Go out for a colour walk. Get outside either to a park or the woods or even just into town and get the kids to collect things of every colour. A green leaf. A brown stick. A pink shell. A read leaflet. You get the idea. Make a collage at home. Channel your inner Blue Peter goddess.

3. Write a story. Each day of the week write a paragraph to a story. Have a character each that you can name and draw. Even do one story each but don’t read anything aloud until the end of the week. I think my almost 7 year old will love this. You could even type them up or scan them in if you can work a piece of technology. Scanners never work though do they.

4. Have a charity toy sort out. This is really decluttering sugar-coated as a fun activity. But your kids will probably know better which toys they still play with and which they don’t. You can even explain to them that some children don’t have money to buy toys and so we can give up some of the things we no longer need so that they can be loved by someone else. Take the children with you to the charity shop, or a local hospital to donate the toys. They’re more likely to want to help people if they can understand why it’s needed, by seeing for themselves how it is appreciated by others.

5. Make mosaics. Cut up bits of magazine, newspapers or junk mail and make beautiful coloured pictures. You could even buy some blank cards that they can make into birthday or greetings cards for their family, friends and teachers.

6. Make sock puppets. There are ALWAYS odd socks at the back of the drawer that you’ve put there in the hope that one day they will be reunited with their twins but let’s face it. It’s not happened for 6 months. It’s not going to happen. Get out the sharpie pens, glue, scissors and coloured paper and make sock monsters.

7. Make smoothies. Grab the fruit that’s going a bit brown, chuck it in the blender with some milk or yoghurt and get the kids to press the button (they always want to press the bloody button). Snack sorted.

8. Go to the beach. If you live by the coast, that is. Throw pebbles into the sea. Build rock towers. Bury your feet. By a box of 4 supermarket own-brand Cornettos for £1 and act like you’re the best parent ever for getting the kids ice cream at the beach even though it’s February. (And not been robbed of over £10 on 4 ice creams from the counter). Discreetly steal some pebbles and take them home to draw on or paint. They have now made a paperweight for Nanny’s birthday.

9. Get the kids dusting and polishing. Seriously they love it. My kids squeal with excitement if they get to ‘do the spray’. Of course, this needs to be supervised so they don’t end up spraying Mr Muscle in their eyes or drinking Dettol, but kids enjoying cleaning can only be a good thing. Just remember to keep the products out of reach of very little ones, but they can certainly use a cloth to do some questionable wiping. My parents used to let me and my brother tie dusters to our feet and slide around the French parquet flooring in our hallway. Great fun.

10. Read books! It’s the simplest thing ever but I remember being at my Gran’s for half term as my mum had to work still, and we’d walk to the local library and pick up a few books and I’d lay back fully reclined in my Granddad’s La-Z-Boy arm chair and reading entire Babysitters Club books in one day (I was very proud of myself). But there was no Sky TV or Netflix or apps to play on. There were real books and my brother and I loved it, despite trying to claim we were bored. Having said that…

“But Mummy I’m booored”

11. Let them be bored. Like I’ve just said, I remember being bored as a child. But in hindsight this was definitely not a bad thing. I think kids need to be bored from time to time. They don’t need constant entertainment and amusement all day every day. I do most of my best thinking and mental planning when I’m bored in the car on long journeys (if Rafe is asleep and the girls aren’t arguing). But I think a bit of ‘boredom time’ is good for their brains. It gets them thinking. It gets them inspiring and motivating themselves to do something else and use their imagination. Kids have fabulous ideas of their own. If you let them get a little bored every now and then, they’ll access those little sparks of ingenuity.

12. Put a movie on. There is absolutely nothing wrong with putting trashy TV or a cheesy film on for the kids whilst you get the proper housework done or if you need to sit and chill for a bit or feed the little one. Children won’t turn into vegetables just because they’ve had a bit more screen time than in their usual week. If they are really into a funny game on the ipad then let them indulge themselves. There are also loads of apps available that look like games but are actually teaching little ones basic maths, phonics and music skills. My daughter uses Times Tables Rock Stars at school and also at home on the iPad and it is very game-like whilst also getting her maths up to speed, and more.

13. Open a home beauty salon. This is where you cover the house in newspapers and allow the children to paint your nails. Or let them loose with the hair-stuff box and attack you with 3000 hair clips, which you’ll still be pulling out of your own hair at 9pm. Look how pretty…

I think those are most of the things I’ll be doing with the kids in half term. Of course there will also be the inevitable food shop with children that I can’t avoid, and because of the stress that might cause, we will probably also go for brunch in Wetherspoons on one of the days. Who would’ve thought pancakes and maple syrup in a gastro-pub would be such a good bribe for good behaviour.

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Is it because he’s a boy?

I have 3 kids. The youngest of whom is nearly 17 months. He is a ‘he’. The other two are girls and despite my best efforts to not classify some of his behaviour as just ‘being a boy’ (which I really hate hearing. They’re children, they’re all different and I don’t want to be told that boys or girls will necessarily behave a certain way because of their being born a girl or a boy), he definitely seems to have a very specific difference in his personality in that he won’t stop climbing. On everything. Everything. The dining table. The coffee table. The bedside table. The TV stand. The bookshelf. My desk. Me. The shoe box. The other shoe box. The stairs. The toilet. His sister’s bed. Our sanity.

Call the Health and Safety brigade!

Some of it, is fine. It doesn’t bother me that he constantly wants to climb on his sister’s bed. In fact it’s quite cute. He climbs up, gets under the covers and lays his head down. It will be lovely when he’s big enough for his own bed. For now, he still sleeps in his cot (Haha! I say ‘sleep’, and then I laugh to myself and say ‘don’t lie to the readers of your blog. He doesn’t sleep!’) but bizarrely his cot is pretty much the only piece of furniture he hasn’t tried to scale. Yet. He probably will have by the time I publish this.

We thought, stupidly I guess, that getting out the little slide for him to climb up, and slide down gleefully would suppress his desire to climb everything else. But we were wrong.

We thought, stupidly I guess, that being away in a different environment for the holidays at Christmas would mean that once we got back, he might be over this phase and not be bothered by walking along the dining table every 3 minutes. But nope.

We thought, stupidly I guess, that removing him and saying firmly ‘No. We don’t climb on there/get down/we sit on chairs’ for about 4 months now, would mean that he may have gotten the memo by now. He did not get the memo. The memo was quite bloody obvious but was ignored.

He is pretty much disinterested in anything which doesn’t involve physical exertion. Play with other, actual toys is short-lived.

He played with the calculator for about 27 seconds.

One day, he had better be some sort of sporting hero, or an explorer famed for his courageous ascent of Everest in just his pyjamas or something. Then when he’s rich he can pay for our psychological therapy for these times when he drove us completely fucking mental because he just will not give it a rest.

Currently all 8 of our dining chairs are laying on their backs on the floor. The room looks untidy and like it’s got squatters living in it (we’ll blame his sisters for that bit), but despite not having any chairs to clamber on, he’ll find something else.

I’m pretty sure this wouldn’t be driving me quite so mad if I was able to easily grab him off of each thing he climbs up in a split-second. But being in a wheelchair makes grabbing a toddler from the middle of the dining table pretty difficult. Even more so because I don’t have much use of my hands either. Maybe I should explain to him about discrimination and mummy not being able to pluck him off of the bookshelf and how unfair this kind of behaviour is to me as a disabled parent he might rethink his decisions. Yeah right.

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What happened in 2017

First of all, where the hell has this year gone? I know everyone goes on about year flying by and years going by faster when you’ve had children especially.

But I’m quite seriously a little worried that physically, time is actually going faster. I mean literally… Literally literally.

I don’t feel like enough has happened to fill up 12 months, but I guess a lot has happened.

Just after the new year in January my partner’s family went through a really scary time with an immediate member of the family. They are my family too. We were expecting the worst, and although the worst didn’t happen, we almost lost somebody fundamental to my partner’s life and a lot was lost. I spent a long time being petrified of every phonecall whilst my partner was away, and above all terrified at how this would affect him. Knowing that I couldn’t fix it for him was awful.

I can’t quite believe that it is almost a year since it happened.

What else happened in 2017?

Well, Rafe turned into a proper baby-toddler person and not just a vegetable. He started walking at 10 months. Then he started climbing shortly after. He has not yet stopped climbing. Our favourite phase became “get down”, much like when you have a dog. Except unlike a dog, bribery with food items was short lived and now he just laughs in our faces. He is so much more mischievous than the girls were. It’s a good job he’s cute.

I started making YouTube videos. Well, I say start – I started a few years ago and only uploaded videos sporadically but I love the satisfaction and buzz you get from filming and editing your own little movies and with my trusty Tom by my side teaching me how to do a lot of it, I’ve started making videos much more often. Hopefully 2018 will see another increase in the amount and quality of videos Tom and I can make. Mostly to do with our life with three kids and me being a disabled mum but with the odd Poundland/Primark Haul thrown in. Just because I am a woman I guess.

In 2017 I had a bit of a first in that I spoke at the WOW Women of the World Festival in Exeter, where I was part of two separate panels talking to audiences about childbirth experiences and about the Women’s Rights Movement marginalising disabled women. It was scary, nerve-wracking but apart from all that I am so glad I did it. I hate speaking in front of groups of people and I think I always will. Yet for some reason I want to be involved again and do more things like that. I’m hoping to be involved in the CMT (the neurological disease I have) Festival in some way in April.

I won a long-standing annual family tournament which might not sound like much to those outside the family, but it’s quite the event and I love seeing everyone get involved each year.

Amélie, our eldest was the bravest of brave girls having double eye surgery and took it all in her stride. She also got moved up into one of the gymnastics squad groups and I have loved seeing her finally get that fire in her belly to do better. She is doing marvellous work in school and has grown in confidence so much.

Geneviève is in her last year of nursery before starting proper school in September. Bizarrely the prospect of Geneviève starting school feels more scary than when Amélie started. I’m looking forward to seeing her joyous little face as she learns to write her own name properly. We’re getting there but the poor child has quite the mountain to climb there with all the Es under the sun. At least she’ll be almost 5 when September comes.

So here’s to another year of all that comes with having three kids and hopefully making more time to be creative and productive.

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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

The thought-process of Breastfeeding.

So I’m pregnant. I’m excited, nervous and pretty overwhelmed. I think I’d quite like to breast feed, that’s what I will hopefully do but if not I’ll have bottles bought on standby, you know, just in case.

Meanwhile, a simple, quick and painless act called childbirth happens (in no universe EVER).

Aww look! My beautiful baby! (Tears, emotion, blood, tears, etc) I really hope I can get this feeding malarkey off to a good start. 

Okay, latching on. I’ve learnt a lot about this in antenatal classes. Nipple-to-nose, baby opens mouth wide, insert boob. How hard can it be? 

EXTREMELY BLOODY HARD. This baby is absolutely minute, she weighs 5lb 10oz and I think my nostril is bigger than her mouth. How the hell do I make this happen. Millions of women worldwide do this every single day, maybe it just takes a few attempts to get her to see just how irresistible my nipples are. Then it’ll be easy. “Strip her off down to her nappy”, they said on the postnatal ward, “she’ll wake up and be more alert and want to feed”.

She latched on! She stayed on for 76 seconds, I counted! It was amazing, I did it finally. We’ve cracked it. 

Okay it’s been 4 hours since she tried to fool us into thinking she’d feed. Nope, nothing since. I’m going to have to express by hand. How hard can that be? 

MY NIPPLES… I WANT THEM BACK!!! Where the hell have they gone! Oh no, wait, there they are, hanging out down there with my belly button since being stretched like a balloon being tied in a knot. But at least we have milk, all 1ml of it. Don’t drink it all at once now Amélie. 

Okay, you drank it all. I have nothing left to give now except my actual nipples, but you have no teeth so good luck with that.

Formula it is then. This feels so weird, I really thought I’d be able to breastfeed.

I’ve been home for 10 hours now and OH MY GOD MY BOOBS ARE GOING TO EXPLOAD. GET ME TO SAINSBURYS, THEY HAVE BREASTPUMPS…STAT. (Didn’t actually say STAT).

I am a cow. An actual real-life human dairy cow woman. I feel SO attractive right now. She has latched on a total of 5 times in three days, that is kind of progress. Right? 

I don’t want to give up on the actual feeding, what is wrong with me? My mum did this without problems, for a whole year. I can’t physically hold a bottle and a baby at the same time with my useless hands. This is going to be so difficult. I could keep on expressing but that’s a very tedious job where I don’t get much milk out and there’s so much else involved, sterilising, measuring, heating, none of which I can do myself either. The milk has come in properly now though, maybe it’ll get easier?

DONT TOUCH ME. I am fully aware that I have a sudden case of breast-Tourette’s but, bejesus this bloody hurts. I might instead saw off my breast with the blunt side of a bread knife and extract the milk that way, I think it would hurt less. Whose idea was breastfeeding anyway? Do not touch me either mini-child, your mouth is my nemesis! 

Okay yes, you need a feed again, I get that. Make yourself at home, left or right for you madam? I’d recommend the house breast. Would you like a taster before going for the whole thing?

She’s doing it! That’s the majority of the day now where she’s actually entertained the idea for a substantial amount of time and fed from me properly. Does this mean she’s exclusively breasted? I think it does. Man I feel smug right now.  I love this.

I hate this. It is 4.02am, we last met at 1.32am, that is not good behaviour. You CANNOT be hungry right now. Short sleep cycles you say? Stomach the size of a marble you say? Remind me why I signed up for this again. Oh yes, she’s right there in front of me staring at me with massive blue eyes. Then I remember all over again, why I chose to do this. Breast is most definitely best all round but this, is the one thing that ONLY I can do for her. I can’t change a dirty nappy, I can’t get her dressed and get kicked in the face in a miniature sock-battle or lollop around the room trying to soothe a grumpy baby. THIS is my job.

I have boobs and, well, what else are they for?

Okay tiny girl, you’re 15.5 months old now. It has become as much a part of our bedtime routine as brushing teeth and reading What The Ladybird Heard, but you are growing so fast and taking my nipples with you every time you turn to look at the TV whilst feeding. I love you very much, but I think we’ve done it now. Save some for your baby sister, who will be born when you are 2 years and 8 months old and I can start this all over again and teach you all about how brilliant boobs are. Months go by very quickly.

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@shopgirlygm
Photo copyright @tombunton

Talent Search

What are you good at? Singing? Photography? Teaching? Breadmaking? Egg and spoon races?

I’m still trying to figure out some things about myself, mainly what the hell I want to do with my life and what skills I can comfortably say I’m in possession of. I am soon to be returning to work, and so in a few weeks I have to be an ’employee’ again rather than a stay-at-home-mum and that partly excites me in that I get to be working again but part of me (a very much more substantial part) is dreading it.

Not *just* because my Thursday morning date with recorded episodes of Grey’s Anatomy and 24 Hours in A&E must come to an end (holding back the tears here), but I will have to spend whole days away from my squidgy Genebeeb and her beautiful cheeky face, and try not to start blubbering in work because I can’t hold her and sniff her head all day any more. I have to be working in a children’s centre surrounded by everyone else’s children all day instead of my own and that sucks just a massive bit.

I’ve come to a bit of a moment where I feel like I’m supposed to decide soon what I want to be when I grow up. It hasn’t happened yet and I’m a bit stuck. Stuck not knowing what my strengths are, stuck in a whirlwind of revolving interests, stuck trying to figure out what to do to bridge the gap between all that. I’ve got A Levels in Psychology, English and Photography, a degree in Broadcasting and postgraduate Early Years Professional Status… So you see there isn’t really a theme!

Most people I’m pretty sure, have worked out vaguely what direction they’d be happy to see their life going in by the time they are my age (twenty*something*seven). My mum has worked her way up the ranks in the local authority and education sector, she has suitable qualifications to support this, my dad was in the Navy for many years and still works as a civilian for the Navy, my partner and I met whilst studying for our Broadcasting degrees and his line of work as a video editor and content producer is both technical and extremely creative, both integral to a career in the field of broadcasting.

I just feel a bit lost, like I’m supposed to know what I’m good at by now, but I don’t. I have so many interests but my disability just rears its ugly head every time I entertain the idea of plotting those interests along some sort of career path.

I wanted to have children in my twenties. That is something I consciously planned as I did not want to risk not being fit and healthy enough in my thirties or beyond to be dealing with my own very young children, like others are more able to do. So having children at this time in my life hasn’t caused my career path to deviate as such… I just don’t have much of a career path to look at. I cannot express the frustration of looking through pages of job descriptions online and having the same thought as I look at every entry – I COULD do that job, I am qualified, skilled and passionate enough to be responsible for this role, but… – and then I look down at my hands (metaphorically, mostly) and realise, nope I can’t do that EITHER.

So since the beginning of this year and whilst on maternity leave I have been trying to discover my inner creative streak… It was hidden somewhere within me underneath a lot of sarcasm, cold cups of tea and soggy milk-soaked muslin squares. I first started making button jewellery, necklaces, bracelets, bag charms, and then for what actually happened to be my half birthday (entirely legitimate cause for celebration) I convinced Tom to buy me a sewing machine. It arrived the next day, and well…

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Maybe I don’t need an official career. Just an ongoing supply of oilcloth samples, fabric quarters, thread and brightly coloured buttons and I think I’ll be set for life. Or at least until I have to return to my ‘real’ job in a month’s time. At the moment I am loving just coming up with ideas of things I can make for my children, and for my family, friends and their children.
It’s never going to be midwifery, or paediatric surgery, or Olympic athletics… But at some point in the near future, in between making baby dresses and quirky purses, when I’ve got over the fact that I cannot ever have the job I dream I have when I’m asleep and not disabled, I hope to find out what I’d like to do for at least a substantial part of my working life.

Thought I’d end that on a chirpy note there… Happy Friday!

@shopgirlygm
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