Hallelujah!

Back to school

 

So judging from the feedback on my social media accounts this week I was not alone in merrily jumping out of bed at 6am this Monday morning in my best Mary Poppins mood and on countdown to the precious return of normality…….WOOHOO!!!  However, mine was probably a slightly different experience to many mums…..And my long-awaited ‘freedom’ was short lived as I was telephoned to collect the littlest baby after just 2.5 hours!

I have had a bit of a difficult relationship with State-provided schooling in the UK.  When done right, with passion and the right support, the kids flourish!   When done badly, it causes so much damage to a child.  I am a parent who has experienced both of these extremes.

I’m not sure if you know, but whilst providing your child (above the age of ‘Compulsory School Age’; AKA school term after they turn 5) with a full time suitable education is a legal duty of us parents; enrolling them at a ‘school’ is not a legal requirement.  Yes, I hear the gasps now!  I’ve personally chosen over the years to send my babies to State-provided schools; to home educate them myself when I’ve felt State-provided schools were damaging; and have also been forced into home-schooling (yes, this is different to home education!) by the failure of State-provided schools to meet their complex additional needs; and they are now back in a wonderful State-provided school.

Anyhoo…..moving on……

Like many single parents, school holidays can be fucking tough.  Your income doesn’t magically increase to cover the additional child care bills or the extra activities you need, or feel you need to be doing with the kids (the six week school Summer holidays alone cost me over £3000 in ADDITION to basic living costs!!!!).  And the extra food bills too!  Man, how come I can send my kids off to school with a packed lunch which on collection at 3pm they are still finishing bits off from on the way home, and yet come the school holidays they could quite easily eat the contents of a global buffet before 10:30am!?!?!  And if you’re a mother to TWO kids with complex additional needs like me, you can multiply this pressure by a billion, and times it again!

Every little minute detail needs to be carefully risk-assessed taking into account TWO very different set of needs – nowhere busy; crowded or noisey.  Nowhere with too many steps or too much walking.  Nowhere that’s too open-plan as I have a ‘runner’ who regularly escapes due to their total lack of sense of danger.  And equally nowhere too enclosed that it’s stifling.  The list is bloody endless.  And that’s before I’ve even thought about entry costings, travel times, along with ridgid medication and food times etc.  It’s an exhausting job just trying to plan the school holidays, let alone physically carrying out the said plan (which 9 times out of 10  don’t go to plan because of factors outside our control – i.e. health, weather, sensory overload, meltdowns, violent outbursts – the kids, not me).

BUT, over the years I perfected a small list of activities which are my go-to toolkit during school holidays and I print off a blank calendar that we complete in advance as a family:

Forest walks – on good health days – great as there are very rarely any members of the public around who can set off the kids’ anxiety (believe me, you do not want to be the kicking target of my special little monkey when they’re feeling overwhelmed!)  Price – FREE (sometimes a few quid for parking)

Swimming – my kids are both very sensory and absolutely LOVE being in the water.  We always go over a lunchtime when we can guarantee that the pools will be far quieter (again, to avoid an anxiety-driven violent outburst!).  If you’re on a tight budget like me, check which days your local pools offer FREE kids sessions – I took my kids swimming twice over the Christmas at two different local pools and it only cost me £4.00 in total!  Price – FREE to around £8 for a family of three

Museums – again, I have to ensure that we are there as the doors open first thing to avoid the crowds and only ever stay an hour so the kids don’t get too overwhelmed or exhausted – try to end the day on a high people!  And I always pick ones that I know THEY will enjoy; interactive ones with hands on experiences – rather that the ones that I want to visit to stop, read and learn about new things!  This is purely about keeping THEM calm, happy and engaged.  We are extremely lucky living in Wales as the majority of museums are FREE, and those that aren’t usually offer really good priced annual memberships which you can ask family members get your kids for birthday presents etc.  Price – FREE to around £20 for a family of three – Also worth checking in advance for concessions for those with disabilities and Carers as often discounts or FREE entry is available (sometimes a few quid for parking)

Beaches – We are VERY fortunate to be surrounded beaches, all within a 30 minute drive.  The youngest loves nothing more to dig big holes, roll around in them or run into the sea fully dressed (gets this from Mummy!).   They are in their absolute element, no matter the season or weather!  Eldest likes to throw a ball around and hunt for fossils as they are fascinated by the natural world.  Always one of our favourite activities!  Price – FREE

FREE events listed on Facebook – There are ALWAYS a ton of FREE kids activities listed on Facebook, found either by searching under the ‘Events’ tab or by joining various local parenting groups.  This year we went to a fantastic FREE wrestling match held at a local holiday resort. Yes it was busy and crowded; HOWEVER as my kids absolutely LOVE all things wrestling, with a few tweeks to the day and precision planning around food timings etc , we had an awesome time!  Price – FREE

BUT…..

My TOP tip mind as a single parent to surviving the school holidays is to take time for yourself.  I can tell you the amount of nights I’ve had away from my kids in almost 11 years and lets say it’s less than 10 and half of them were spent in hospital either giving birth the the youngest or having major cancer surgery.  Parenting can often feel like a thankless, never ending job, especially when you are the only resident parent.  Add in the often intense and complex needs of children with additional needs and it can be a recipe for total exhaustion.

I used to be made to feel guilty for paying a private carer/personal assistant for the kids so I could have the odd few hours off here and there, but now I proudly grasp those rare few hours to recharge and refocus.  I’ve fucking earned them over the years.  It’s not cheap, especially when your kids have additional needs and take medications – you need highly skilled and insured personnel; not some teenager daughter of a friend willing to work all morning for a tenner!  Over the 224 WAKING HOURS (i.e. not when they are asleep, although that is hit and miss with both of them!) of the Christmas holidays, I invested in just FIVE hours of paid childcare over TWO separate days to try and recharge my batteries a teeny bit.  The first session I went for a long run, and the second occasion I went to the gym and food shopping (yes; food shopping in peace, such a bloody treat!).  Price – PRICELESS!

So parents, especially single parents (and especially SEN parents!) – you just carry on celebrating the shit out of those ‘back to school’ moments, knowing you bloody rocked the holidays in your kids’ eyes yet again even when things didn’t always quite go to plan!

 

cheers mother fucker

 

Amy Griffiths, Well Being Freedom Services Ltd ©

Switching Off…

switch off one

 

Does anyone else have a love/hate relationship with their smartphone??  I love that I can be contacted in an emergency regarding my kids; love the fact I can fill boring waiting times by checking emails; love capturing magical spontaneous moments with my babies; they are brilliant networking tools; and it’s amazing that you can now be connected with friends and family far and wide.  Plus, I love a good Insta selfie.  However.  I also hate the control these little screens have over our lives and the message we are sending our kids; really hate it!  But probably not as much as I hate computer consoles, but that’s a whole different blog!

When I was growing up, if the house phone rang and we were busy or eating we just ignored it.  We didn’t rush up to see who it was, we didn’t have an answering machine or caller ID; and we didn’t have ‘1471’ in the early days (shit I feel old!).  So if you missed a call, tough titties & nobody really cared.  The phone was also wired to the wall and located in the busy kitchen so there was no privacy as such.  So phone calls were to the point and purposeful.   We hated being on the phone; we had shit to do and people to see – you know, in actual person!

screen_addicted_parents_ignoring_child_v_dunckley_md

As a parent, especially a single one I think it’s really important to spend real quality time with my babies, and actually be ‘present’ rather than distracted by my smartphone.  They are growing up in a fast-paced technological world (which is great!) BUT there is simply never ever any substitute for being present and giving your time and attention to both your loved ones and people in general for that matter.   Since Cancer, my time with my babies is even more valuable and precious than ever and I began to distance myself from technology as a direct result a few years ago.

For example, I deactivate my personal Facebook account a few times a year to take a break; there are certain apps that I turn the notifications off for; all group message conversations are permanently muted; certain emails are filtered straight into specific folders so I only notice they are there by physically checking occasionally; no phones allowed at the table; I rarely scroll through the Facebook newsfeed and I’m not one to ‘overshare’ my shit on there either (show some damn dignity people).  I am a HUGE fan of the ‘Do Not Disturb’ function and use it a LOT!  I’ve also always turned off all notification and phone calls from about 8pm at night (unless I am out and need to check in about my babies).   And when camping with my babies I have always turned my phone off to enjoy the peace and experience fully.  I always thought that this was enough.  It wasn’t. 

A few days ago I was trying to reply to a really important email; the kids nagging me for yet another snack; the youngest getting angry; I couldn’t concentrate on the email; it was turning into bloody chaos.  In that moment I had forgotten my priorties.  The email actually wasn’t that fucking urgent, yet my kids craving my presence was.  So the phone got ditched and I gave the kids their 10th billion snack of the day as we all sat and chatted about travels and holidays we were planning for next year.  How it should be. 

That evening I decided to stop ALL notifications on my smartphone and placed contact restrictions on many people in my caller list who are known to drain both my time and energy needlessly.  And it’s been liberating.   I only know if I have an email or message if I make an effort to physically check, and no more of those annoying Facebook notifications for everything single little bloody thing!

Now, we aren’t all Topsy and Tim (God those obnoxious little brats irritate the hell out of me and well that mother is clearly using something to get her through the day!).  But I do feel it’s important to set a good example as kids mimic behaviours they see.  I want my kids to gain confidence with the outside world and real bloody people – not waste their life away watching YouTube videos of some anti-social gamer playing a video game and commentating as they go (what the actual F is all that about?!?!)

So, if you don’t get an immediate response from me (or no response at all)…..it’s either because I have my priorities set differently to you; or I’m busy doing the other zillion things single parents have to do!  I’d definitely suggest giving it a go – you would be surprised at how addicted you actually are to those pesky little screens!

switch off 2

 

Amy Griffiths, Well Being Freedom Services Ltd ©

One Down….

keep-calm-one-down-many-more-to-go-1

Well, that’s the first official day of the Summer holidays over!  How did you do mums??  Did your day resemble this below by any chance?!?!?

tired-mom2

Or was it more like this…….

funny-parenting-meme-04

For us our day went a little like this:

6:17am: Wake up
Tantrums.
Babies bickering.
Tantrums.
“Mummy I want a snack.”
Breakfast.
“Mummy I want a snack.”
Get us all dressed.
“Mummy I want a snack.”
Watched a film at the cinema which was actually quite good (forgot the 3D glasses so now have an extra 3 pairs to add to the billion others in the drawer of crap!)
“Mummy I want a snack.”
Endured a grumpy person.
Babies collected for a few hours (yes, this is the FIRST time in TWO years that I have arranged having small breaks during the Summer holidays!)
Quick lunch & work emails.
Childfree trip to B&Q for screws.
Childfree trip to the gym where I snorted out a massive laugh watching this video whilst on the treadmill (WARNING, not for the easily offended ha!)
Childfree swim.  Bliss.
Had an allergic reaction to something.
Collected some parcels (new camping equipment, yay!)
Got harassed on Gumtree messages by somebody called ‘Jade.’
Home for DIY.  Realised I got wrong screws.  Bugger.
Childfree trip to B&Q for screws.
Collected babies; one happy; one sad. *sigh*
“Mummy I want a snack.”
Medical appointment for one of the said babies.
“Mummy I want a snack.”
Back home for tea.
Tantrums.
“Mummy I want a snack.”
Tantrums.
“Mummy I want a snack.”
Babies up to bed.
Told how much they love me and missed me today. *awwww* 
Lovely cuddles and kisses with my babies.
Housework.
“Mummy I want a poo poo.”
Housework.
“Mummy I want a drink.”
Housework.
“Mummy I want a drink.”
Housework.
“Mummy I want a drink.”
8:23pm: I start work for the evening when I should actually be preparing for a hospital trip to London in the morning. Bugger.

Sound familiar ladies???

One day down.  43 to go!

cheers

 

Amy Griffiths, Well Being Freedom Services Ltd ©

One Down….

keep-calm-one-down-many-more-to-go-1

Well, that’s the first official day of the Summer holidays over!  How did you do mums??  Did your day resemble this video below by any chance?!?!?

Or was it more like this…….

funny-parenting-meme-04

For us our day went a little like this:

6:17am: Wake up
Tantrums.
Babies bickering.
Tantrums.
“Mummy I want a snack.”
Breakfast.
“Mummy I want a snack.”
Get us all dressed.
“Mummy I want a snack.”
Watched Planet of the Apes 3 at the cinema which was actually quite good (forgot the 3D glasses so now have an extra 3 pairs to add to the billion others in the drawer of crap!)
“Mummy I want a snack.”
Endured a grumpy person.
Babies collected for a few hours (yes, this is the FIRST time in TWO years that I have arranged having small breaks during the Summer holidays!)
Quick lunch & work emails.
Childfree trip to B&Q for screws.
Childfree trip to the gym where I snorted out a massive laugh watching this video whilst on the treadmill (WARNING, not for the easily offended ha!)
Childfree swim.  Bliss.
Had an allergic reaction to something.
Collected some parcels (new camping equipment, yay!)
Got harassed on Gumtree messages by somebody called ‘Jade.’
Home for DIY.  Realised I got wrong screws.  Bugger.
Childfree trip to B&Q for screws.
Collected babies; one happy; one sad. *sigh*
“Mummy I want a snack.”
Medical appointment for one of the said babies.
“Mummy I want a snack.”
Back home for tea.
Tantrums.
“Mummy I want a snack.”
Tantrums.
“Mummy I want a snack.”
Babies up to bed.
Told how much they love me and missed me today. *awwww* 
Lovely cuddles and kisses with my babies.
Housework.
“Mummy I want a poo poo.”
Housework.
“Mummy I want a drink.”
Housework.
“Mummy I want a drink.”
Housework.
“Mummy I want a drink.”
8:23pm: I start work for the evening when I should actually be preparing for a hospital trip to London in the morning. Bugger.

Sound familiar ladies???

One day down.  43 to go!

cheers

 

Amy Griffiths, Well Being Freedom Services Ltd ©

Five Easy Steps to Improve Family Nutrition

 

For many busy families, trying to make the leap into a healthier lifestyle can seem an enormous daunting task.  Parents are pulled in every direction; the media bombards us with conflicting information regarding diet; kids are always on the go or being fussy; pressures from society.

HOWEVER, fear not!

Here are my 5 easy steps to introduce your family into a healthier nutrition lifestyle, without really doing very much!

  1. Stop buying shop-bought condiments – it’s amazing what you can make in under 2 minutes without any nasty artificial processed ingredients (jump to the bottom for our amazing tasting ketchup recipe!)
  2. Limit take out to 1-2 times a month – but then eat it without guilt and enjoy!
  3. Use the crock-pot/slow-cooker – especially as the weather turns colder – there is nothing more comforting than coming through to door in the evening to that gorgeous smelling dinner all done 🙂
  4. Get the kids involved in the food preparation & allow them to plate their own meals – it gives THEM power and satisfaction
  5. Take the kids to a local farm shop or world food supermarket – kids are fascinated by facts and new items

By making small simple changes, you will find your family naturally begins to gravitate towards healthier choices as a way of life, enjoying and experiencing new exciting foods and cultures.

Try it!

 

Homemade Sugar-free Ketchup 

Ingredients:

300g tomato puree

200g passata

2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

¼ teaspoon mustard powder

¼ teaspoon cinnamon

¼ teaspoon salt

2 shakes of ground allspice

Directions:

  1. Combine all the ingredients in a bowl, mixing well.
  2. Store in a jar in the refrigerator, using as required.
  3. Enjoy as part of your 5-a-day!

 

 

Amy Griffiths, Well Being Freedom Services Ltd ©