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Category Archives: Parenting

Sharing the Seasonal Love. Part 2

So we finally handed in the toys we collected for our local Social Services Children & Family dept.
Here was the final mountain!!

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A huge HUGE Thank You to all the people that dropped off a toy or two at this time of year when money is tight. You are all amazing people.
Thank You. xxx

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Posted by on December 15, 2014 in Care Leaver, Kids, Parenting, Thoughts

 

Benefits Street.

Okay, so there’s this new series on a certain TV channel called Benefits Street…

The main characters all live in houses on what appears to be a run down street and they all claim benefits and are unemployed.

I’m totally split in my opinion of the show…

One half of me thinks that the production company has hand picked the worst examples just to turn the country against people that claim benefits.

I’m not going to name the characters or go into details but there are people with poor hygiene, bad etiquette and rough speech going to get their payments then shoplifting alcohol from hardworking shop owners and laughing about it, There are people claiming benefits as single people but are in a relationship who have had their benefits stopped but are complaining that it’s not their fault and the benefits agency is in the wrong, the children are grubby looking and eating crap and the house is a tip… 2 adults are at home all day and the house is a bloody tip… They are rough and brash and if you were walking down the road with them, their calls of “oi wanker” to their friends would make you cringe…

Then the other half of me remembers how my life used to be and what sort of friends I had and I remember the feeling of hopelessness and worthlessness and depression and confinement.

I remember the ‘fuck ’em’ attitude I had towards the world.

In my last few year in care, when I was living in a bedsit at 16/17, I was asleep and the guy from the room next to me snuck into my room, I woke up immediately, I was used to being on alert when I was asleep… he had a hammer in his hand, it was wrapped in a blood stained tea towel and he was trying to hide it. I was terrified so I let him hide it and then he realised I was awake. To cut a very long story short, he forced me to sleep in his bed and lie to the police that we’d been there all night, I had felt safe there until that night. So I clung onto other teens in my position. We’d all sleep over each other’s bedsits, we’d shoplift for food and clothes, we’d spend any cash we got on drugs and alcohol. I didn’t care about what drugs they were, who cared? They blotted out the bullshit of life and made me feel like I was living someone else’s life. I really didn’t care less if they’d kill me, life was seriously shit and I couldn’t handle it without drugs, men and a sharp object to harm myself and anyone else who took the piss. We’d fight, we’d steal, we’d commit criminal damage, we really didn’t care.

I used to sit on the tube watching other 16/17 year old’s with their parents with bags of new stuff, laughing and hugging, on their way home to somewhere safe, they could sleep without fear and I’d seriously feel hatred… no-one was there for me so ‘fuck ’em’… they’d get home and probably realise their purse was missing, the money spent on drugs they’d never have to take to blot out the life they’d never have to live… fuck ’em.

When social services had finished with me at 18, they handed me the keys to a flat 10 miles from where I had been living and a bundle of benefits forms, a leaving care grant of about £500 and a community care grant form (that I had no idea about) and that was it…

I was a scared, pregnant 18 year old girl, standing in a cold empty flat with no support and no idea what I had to do next.

I filled in the forms and messed that right up, I managed somehow to scrape some furniture together and of course I met the locals… I stopped the drugs and tried to sort my life out but knew that the local junkies would get you anything you wanted for a much lower price than the shops… all you needed to say was ” I need a new kettle” and half hour later they’d be on the doorstep with a £50 kettle asking for £20. You could easily haggle it down to a tenner and course you never asked where it was from but of course everyone knew.

People were always getting evicted or going into prison so furniture was easy to get hold of cheap or it’d be dumped at the back of the block for the kids to set alight to later for a bit of entertainment.

I had an on-off relationship with my eldest son’s dad and by 19 I was a single teenage mum of 2 little boys… A right gobby bitch, smoking, drinking, swearing, stealing, fighting, looking for trouble at the same time as trying to stay out of it and the local police knew my details on sight. That was life, it was normal, it had been normal for years… it was what people expected from an angry careleaver, it’s what they expected from a teenage mum and most of us knew no other way.

Then something happened to change my life forever. I woke up and saw things differently, I saw what I was and what I could be. I learnt to value myself and to value those around me. I learnt about ambition, education, about love, about accepting and letting go of the past, embracing the present and jumping headfirst and grasping onto the future.

I learnt to love myself and value my own life and in turn value other people. I learnt compassion and empathy and tolerance.

I did parenting courses, I went to college and gained childcare qualifications, I spent my days trying to be a better mum and a better person. I made better choices, I started working and being productive, I found a boyfriend, he joined the army. Our army friends had no idea of our pasts so it was easy to change, no-one could point the finger and say “That was her that did ****”.

I changed because I was lucky… I am still in touch with my friends that weren’t so lucky, and I’d love nothing more than to change their lives, but it’s so so hard… they’re not getting away from ‘Benefits Street’ any time soon.

I’m not that much better off now, I live in social housing, only just above the poverty line and I can barely afford the bills, I’m unable to afford to replace our broken cooker or carpets and we have no real luxuries.

But now we pay our own way, we never break the law or take drugs, we’re a world away from Benefits Street but I’m under no illusion… it only takes a small action, a marriage split, getting laid off… we’ll be back on Benefits Street and I’m well aware of the struggle to survive…

So when I watch Benefits Street, I watch it with open eyes, I see the state of the woman’s house and see she has no support, she has no reason to keep a tidy house, it’s going to look just as bad with the toys away. The guy drinking is trying to blot out the bullshit of a life with nothing, and it is a life with nothing.

I ask those of you who have nice jobs and live in nice houses in nice areas, would you trade lives with those on Benefits Street? I am assuming the answer is a resounding “HELL NO!” So free money and free housing isn’t a great life.
Have any of you tried to live on £70 a week? £15 on gas, £15 on electricity, £5 tv license, leaving £35 to divide between water rates, food, phone top-up, bus fares, clothes, and everything else a person needs to get by. Now you can see there’s no money to make a home look nice, can you see that the house will never look tidy? Tired old carpets and walls?
And hardly enough to fund a drug or alcohol addiction is there?
And before someone even thinks about that issue of all the benefits claimants owning big TVs etc… Ever heard of Bright House? It’s one of those shops that no matter how bad your credit, you can get a nice modern tv, and better still, you can have it and pay just a few pounds a week… But for a few years! You’ll pay 3 times the rrp for the privilege. A bit like those provident loans where you can borrow £400 to get through Xmas or buy a new sofa but you’ll be paying back £700.
The poorer you are, the more you’re exploited.

You have to be so careful when you’re judging another person’s situation… there is a much bigger picture and no-one is truly happy to live on benefits.

Entry level jobs are hard to get…
You can’t walk onto a building site nowadays an pick up a broom and become a labourer… You need a cscs card before you can get on site. And to get a cscs card you need to be literate, pass an exam and have a few quid for the card… £50 will get you the card alone… Out of your £70 weekly benefit.
The big corporate businesses like British Telecom have sold out our job seekers. Instead of those jobs being available to our unemployed, BT and other companies use call centres in countries like India because it’s cheaper than paying British people a living wage.
And we are constantly being told how single mothers are a drain on the system… But our government is happy to help with child care and pay childminders to look after children so they can force single mums back to work, but are unhappy to pay the mums that same amount to take care of their own children for just a few years?! It makes no sense.

But our government and our media will continue to demonise those on benefits… not the 50% that are pensioners… Nor the disabled (though they are beginning to be targeted) but the 4% of claimants that are unemployed. This is like a modern day witch hunt. Only the media is a much more powerful tool for the hunters….

And remember… Child benefit, DLA, state pensions, housing benefit, child tax credits, working tax credit… These are ALL benefits and those who live in glass houses…

 

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The Season of Goodwill…

As you know I’m not a Christian but the Yuletide season is still very important to me and my family.

I don’t believe in the traditional Christmas story of the birth of Jesus etc but the values we seem to only make important in December are values I strongly believe in and they are values I want to install in my children.
The season of goodwill to all is something we all say we believe in, but not it seems, when we’re in the queue in Argos waiting for the £200 worth of toys for a 3 year old who won’t appreciate them, nor will they be particularly bothered by them come Xmas afternoon when the big cardboard boxes will seem like a much better plaything!

The real meaning of goodwill and season of giving is about doing good things for others. Getting yet another pair of novelty Xmas socks for an uncle you rarely even bother to visit isn’t what it’s all about.

I want my children to understand what giving really means so we buy new toys to give to vulnerable children.
There are Just under 100,000 looked after children in the UK and many have been taken into care after abuse or neglect, others because they’re parents are poorly or in prison or for some other reason. Whatever the reason, it’s never happy and lots of children will be feeling sad and lost at christmas and it should be a magical time. All children need to feel wanted and every bit as lucky as those spending the day opening presents from Santa with loving families.

One small gesture is to buy some new toys and donate them to your local social services department to give to children in care. They don’t have to be big and expensive, it really is the thought that counts.

There are also lots of food banks across the country, I’m sure they can pass gifts to vulnerable families or point you in the direction of somewhere that will.

I once knew someone who used to buy gifts and leave them on the doorsteps of single mums in the area, small gestures that give people hope and faith.

Then there’s the operation Christmas child where you fill a shoebox with small inexpensive gifts for children in often war torn countries that would otherwise get no Christmas gifts.

If you have no extra cash but want to do something, there are millions of lonely people that would really appreciate an hour’s company and Christmas is an especially lonely time of year. Look out for elderly or lonely neighbours, maybe even take a meal over for them. As I said its the small gestures that mean the most.

Pagans used to burn a log outside their homes around winter solstice to let passing travellers know they had a warm place to rest and a hot meal, true goodwill.

These are the values that I want to instil in my children so they can touch others lives, these are the values we should all be teaching our children by example.

 
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Posted by on September 21, 2013 in Faith, Parenting

 

Kids Being Kids…

Before you read this post, I’d like you to read this article

I read that article this morning and I have to be honest, I thought it was a case of a mum receiving a letter and being a little over-sensitive in her reaction, assuming people had complained about her 3 year old daughter but being a mum I get that, you’re lucky to have a safe area outside your home and let your 3 year old play outside in the fresh air with neighbour’s young children. They pick flowers and bark and act like young children discovering the world around them.

I happen to log into facebook and a certain tabloid rag has a twisted version of this story advertising their latest edition on their page talking about ‘kids running amok and ransacking other people’s garden’s’. This has escalated into a huge thread of people slating this woman’s parenting skills and her children. Comments like @she looks like a little monster!’ and ‘a 3 year old out on the streets, 2 words… BAD PARENTS’ and a barrage of people offering ‘useful’ snippets of advice like ‘social services should get involved’ and ‘the mum should get an asbo’ and ‘the mum should tan her daughter’s backside’.
It’s obvious no-one actually read the article properly, or I’ve totally misread it myself because what I got was that little girls were playing and maybe picking flowers and trampled a few plants. There has been some degree of anti-social behaviour in the area so the police decide to issue each house with a warning about how anti-social behaviour won’t be tolerated. This mum felt as there wasn’t a problem in their particular road, that it was aimed at her children and got defensive. Why do tabloid rags have to turn it into ‘Britain’s youngest child threatened with an ASBO’???
Let’s get this into perspective now, they’re not smashing neighbour’s windows or shouting profanities or smoking drugs or stealing cars, they’re picking flowers… that’s what children do.

My children have spent the best part of the last 2 weeks exploring our local woods, discovering plants, (and yes, picking some!) collecting sticks, leaves and basically being children! We’re so lucky to have the woods so close by, there is a children’s playground built into the woodland and a bmx track so children can enjoy the space.
When my older 2 boys were younger, we lived in London and the streets and local parks were their playground. They were good kids and I knew roughly where they’d be if I needed them. I had an ‘open door’ policy, our door was always open to them and their friends for drinks, snacks, lunch, toilet or a safe place to be for a while. They had the odd mischievous moment, #2 came home one day soaked to the skin and ran upstairs sheepishly, 2 minutes later a frail lady knocked and told me she’d just thrown a bucket of water over him and followed him home as he was playing ‘knock down ginger’ at her door and she was poorly. I made him come down to apologise and told him off, apologised to the lady and that was that. I have to admit to having a giggle later on as I remember being 8 and doing the same (without getting caught!) as I’m sure most did. It was naughty but hardly deserving of an asbo. He’s now almost 20 and working at the same engineering job he’s been at since he left school at 16, my eldest has just graduated from University. Neither has a criminal record or an asbo. 🙂

My point is, we’re so quick to judge kids behaviour and adults parenting skills nowadays, they really can’t do right for doing wrong. If the children sit indoors playing games consoles or watching TV- the parents are bad, they play outside and their parents are still wrong because it’s irresponsible or the kids might get an asbo.
Really? Is this where we are now? Have people forgotten what being a child was about? Full of wonder, full of energy, a bit mischievous but today’s discovers, explorers, creators, inventors… are tomorrow’s Lord Sugars, Richard Bransons, Larry Pages, Cesar Pellis and Sir Norman Fosters.

How can it be ok if we imprison our children and stop them from reaching their potentials by holding them back out of fear of being branded ‘bad parents’?

 

 
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Posted by on August 17, 2013 in Family, Kids, Life, News, Parenting

 

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Things Will Always Get Better!

Well I’ve been neglecting my blogs lately, I’ve always been a bit of a procrastinator! But here I am, better late than never and a bit more positive than last time!
The husband has gotten a new job which pays slightly better. It’s only a stopgap because he is in the running for another job which pays exceptionally more than both and offers more in the way of promotion. So finger’s crossed on that one, we may just get out of the financial shit creek we’re in!

Anyhow, thinking positively, my crafting is going well, especially the crochet blankets and rice charms, it’s so rewarding when people appreciate something you spend so much time and effort creating.

The school holidays are going well, we’ve had some great days out.  A group of us had a picnic in the park for a friends birthday, the kids played happily and the princess juice was flowing for us mums, it was one of those carefree days where everyone’s happy.
Then we had the pirate adventure in the woods… 7 adults and 11 kiddies = another great day out.
We’ve had a few days in the park that became more hours than planned but I love it when you don’t have to check the time and you’re engrossed in good conversations with friends.

My cousin is coming out of care this month and as I write to her, I’m hoping for a meeting at some point. Some details in her files sit badly with me as I know she was blamed for things she didn’t do and I want her to know the truth, there is no reason for a child to be blamed for another child’s injury when it was one of the parents, it is disgraceful. I can’t wait to see how she’s grown and how she’s doing. I can’t wait to tell her what a precious little girl she was and how we love her and truly missed her. How we have a photo of her in our living room right next to her cousins. I want her to know we never forgot her. And most of all, I don’t want her to feel like I did when I was her age…

 

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A Sunshine Award to start off the Summer!

When I started this blog, it was for a few reasons… Firstly, I guess it was just because I like to write, it’s something I enjoy doing almost as much as I like reading.  It’s also a form of therapy for me… I write about things and those things become clearer in my mind.

The thing is, for some reason, it hadn’t occurred to me that people might actually read it! So imagine my surprise when I checked my emails today to find a Sunshine Award from fellow blogger justbetweencousins!

I’d like to say a big Thank You (!) for nominating me for the Sunshine Award and for actually taking the time to read my thoughts on here, it’s much appreciated!

Now, in accordance with the Sunshine Award Rules, I agree to;

  • Include the Sunshine Award image. (check)
  • Thank the person who gave you the award. (check)
  • Answer 10 questions about yourself. (Apparently, the giver can make up new ones. It could get interesting!) (check)
  • Pass the award on to 10 Sunshine-worthy bloggers (Only 10?!) (check)
The Questions…

Love or Money? Love (can I have some money thrown in?… no?… okay just love!)

Favorite Book? I love childhood memoirs, my favourite being Ugly by Constance Briscoe.

Who is the Television Character you simply adore? Waynetta Slob… Kathy Burke is truly a comedy genius! (Though I do love Nan Taylor too, Catherine Tate is too funny!)

Favorite Music? I love strong women that say it how it is. Pink, Linda Perry, Eva Cassidy, Jessie J and Amy Winehouse to name a few.

Favorite type of movie? I like comedies best, thrillers are great but NOT horrors!!

Facebook or Twitter? ooohh, I can’t decide, I love both… facebook just edges it… for now!

Favorite number? 13. I was born on the 13th so consider it my lucky number!

Favourite Animal? Horses, I love them just because they are so beautiful.

Giving or receiving? Totally giving, I just wish I could afford to give some more!

Favorite flower? Poppy… that’s why I named my daughter Poppy!

And last but certainly not least, here is my list of Sunshine Award bloggers in absolutely no particular order…

One Fierce Mama I love Mummy blogs, they give us mums a way of expressing ourselves and proves there is a lot more to us than ‘nappies and baby sick’! I especially like the ones that keep it real!

Journey to my Heart… a day to day discovery we’re around the same age and have so many things in common, yet are so different. It’s refreshing and interesting to read about someone that you feel even the smallest connection to.

Heaven 4 Earth I love reading things that make me think… truly think on a really deep level. This is a blog that makes me think.

A Three Day Hat Another Mummy (or Mommy!) blog that ‘tells it how it is’!

Grenglish I went to school with Sarah and though we weren’t in the same circle of friends, the power of Facebook put me in touch with her blog… brilliantly written and touches on subjects everyone can relate to.

Cathy’s Voice Now I love her honesty and her fearlessness when it comes to her sharing her voice.

Texas Gaga because repurposing and upcycling is a dying art… but the only way we’ll save our planet…

Precious Paper A new blog but proof that upcycling is beautiful!

Missy B & Family She is ME!  But she makes it much more interesting!

Pearlyqueennotebook reworking beautiful things… I need say no more than that!

These Bloggers old and new have caught my interest, inspired me, or made me look at my own life differently. I think that’s an amazing talent to possess and should be recognised.

Enjoy your Sunshine Award nominations and pass it on.

 
 

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Mother’s Instinct, Women’s Intuition, call it what you will…

Mother’s instinct, women’s intuition, call it what you will but TRUST in it!

My little #4 who is 4 ½, has been 12.4kg since his 2 ½ year check up and we’ve been to the doctor about it but as he sleeps well, isn’t lethargic, his behaviour is normal and he eats (albeit minimally) they don’t seem as concerned as I do.

He also has obstructive sleep apnoea where he can stop breathing for up to 30 seconds at a time ALL through the night which is often scary especially when he’s poorly as it gets much worse!

Then there’s his MASSIVE tonsils, I’m not exaggerating, they are HUGE! I have always believed that his tonsils are at the root of is failure to gain weight, his sleep apnoea and the fact that he had to have 6 teeth removed last year. (He used to hold food in is mouth and not swallow it, he could keep it in his mouth for ages before we noticed!)

I kept going to the doctors but I know how silly I sounded. They finally referred him (us) to a dietician (who put him on prescription high-calorie shakes) and paediatrician, but didn’t refer to ear, nose & throat as he’d never had tonsillitis!

To cut a long story short, I filmed him sleeping on my phone. The doctor took one look and referred him to the dept of paediatric respiratory medicine. He had blood tests, echocardiograms, sleep studies and a number of other tests.

The results were somewhat worrying… PRM… “Although there was no dysmorphism he had chest assymetry with a degree of pectus and a sternal dipping. His tonsils were enormous and there was no nasal airflow of note. Importantly, he did also have a degree of right ventricular heave and a rather loud pulmonary secondary sound that might indicate a degree of pulmonary hypertension”

The echocardiogram was a bit better… “From the cardiac perspective, he has an entirely normal heart.”

The sleep study… “Channels monitered: oxygen saturation, heart rate, chest & abdominal movement, nasal airflow & video.”

 

“The study showed a reasonable baseline saturation of 95% but several periods during the night, he demonstrated significant obstruction. His saturation dips were generally to around 85% but occasional dips down to 70% were noted. During these episodes there was paradoxical chest and abdominal movement with airflow obstruction typical of obstructive sleep apnoea. His apnoea/hypopnoea index was 10. Summary: significant abnormal study with moderately severe obstructive sleep apnoea.”

A week later I had a phone call to get him admitted to hospital for a tonsillectomy the following week!

So last Thursday, #4 had his tonsils removed and for the 1st time ever I heard him sleep peacefully!

I have to say the actual experience of having a child go under general anaesthetic is absolutely awful but when you know their quality of life is going to improve it’s bearable.

That night we stayed in hospital as they wanted to keep an eye on his sats which were still very low. He was on a monitor and it had an alarm set to go off if his sats went under 91% and it went off all night and most of the next day! He was put on oxygen and had steroids put into his cannula and they improved enough for us to go home.

Although he’s a little sore, he’s breathing much better and we’re yet to see if it improves his eating.

I do wonder though… if the doctors had listened to us in the first place (2 years ago!) would his growth and breathing have been as affected? I guess we’ll never know but I say a Mother’s Instinct is a very valuable tool and health professionals should take that into account more often.

 
 
 
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