What is life with 3 kids and a disability like?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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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