Children should not be scared to go out.

It isn’t right, it isn’t fair, it isn’t necessary. Life should and could be made much easier, and better, and inclusive for many people, adults and children. Greater awareness of the realities is what is key. No, disabled people are not already protected in law, there is still an awfully long way to go before they are.

Ordinary Hopes

I have this little boy called Adam.
He is very sweet and very kind.
He is loving and giving,
And scared of many things.

Because life has shown him a harsher side than it shows to most 10 year old children.

He has had many surgeries.
He has known much pain.
He has cried with terror upon waking to find most of his body in plaster.

He has broken bones doing everyday things.
He has had terrifying episodes of sudden illness.
He has struggled to breathe.

He has been stared at and pointed at.
At a theme park, a group of children even snaked their way BACK through the queue to stare some more.

It took him many years to learn to speak.
It took almost 10 years to master sitting.
It took over 10 years to be able to move his legs.

He still can’t stand.
He may not ever.

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When this is the best option you have.

Ordinary Hopes

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If you use social media you have probably seen a picture of a child with disabilities lying on a toilet floor.

I am sure that the mere sight of the pictures ignited strong feelings.

There are always many comments on these photos.

Most are from people who are horrified to learn that this happens. They hadn’tconsidered this before,but now they know, they hurt for these parents.

If you don’t live with these difficulties or know somebody who does, you cannot possibly be expected to know how awful things can be. There was a time when I didn’t know.

I wish I still lived in that time, with that blissful lack of knowledge of the horrors people face each day.

Then there are the hurtful comments. Maybe they come from “trolls” ormaybe they just come from people who don’t understand. Somehow they blame the parent. They would never do this. They

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Underground and Overground Adventures in the Sun

Our two final days before packing up ready to head home. We drove three hours south to Waitomo Caves to explore the Stalagmites, Stalactites, Columns, Weta and Glowworms before heading over to Matamata for the night ready for Hobbiton today.

On the way to Waitomo we took a slightly longer, more emotional, route to go through the city I was supposed to be working in (Hamilton), and the small down South of there that we had planned to live in (Te Awamutu). I knew I would never forgive myself if I didn’t have a look at them, I couldn’t quite manage to stop and explore properly though :/

At Waitomo there were three caves we toured, we did them in reverse order as we arrived at lunchtime. The first was a dry cave with Cave Weta, the second and third caves had flowing water and glow worms inside – no photographs were permitted in the third cave, the main one of the three. All three had stalagmites, stalactites and limestone, together with very knowledgeable guides who gave us lots of information.

After a quick overnight stay we headed over to the Hobbiton Film Set for a guided tour there. It was incredibly busy here, lots of tours going on alongside each other. I must confess I am not a LOTR or Hobbit fan in the slightest, I’ve only seen bits of some of the films by way of osmosis when the boys have been watching them. However, it was a beautiful setting and thoroughly enjoyable experience in its own right. There were only two downsides: 1 – time, because it was busy there was no opportunity to spend longer in the Green Dragon Inn and have lunch, we had to stay with our group and get the same bus back to meeting point. 2 – there were stoneware drinking cups in the Inn that they were serving the complimentary drinks in, I wanted to buy some, the gift shop did not sell them!

To the North!

Our journey continues up onto the North Island of New Zealand. In Wellington we took a tour to Zealandia, an amazing urban wildlife reserve where they have worked tirelessly to fence in the native species and remove as many introduced species as possible. Birds with flight are free to come and go, flightless birds are protected from the predators that were introduced by both the Maori and European settlers all those years ago. The result has been species close to extinction becoming reestablished, and a species thought to be extinct brought back after a few were found in the mountains.

The tour also took a drive around Wellington, the capital city of New Zealand, with a very knowledgeable coach driver giving us detailed information on various buildings of interest and the damage caused by a very recent earthquake. He also took us to the Old St Paul’s Cathedral for a look around, a wooden structure built by shipmakers, something giving the building real character when looking at the roof structure from inside which closely resembles an upturned boat.

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Between Christchurch and Wellington, it really is quite humbling to see the damage caused by earthquakes. Lots of empty spaces in Christchurch, fewer spaces in Wellington, but being more recent there are still cracks evident across the roads. Since our visit, we have heard news of devastating wild fires in Christchurch, truly saddening especially for a beautiful city that was still recovering from the 2011 earthquake.

After Wellington came the small harbour of Tauranga. We took an excursion to Rotarua from here to see the truly amazing hot springs and mud pools at the thermal reserve. Wow is the only way to describe it. If you’re lucky enough to get to NZ you must try and get to Waiotapu in Rotarua – this has got to be the best of the excursions by far. We learnt that the reason for the hot springs is the active volcanoes around the area causing hot magma to lie below the surface and heat the water. The extreme heat also draws mineral out of the rocks to dissolve in the water, causing the bright colours. There are hot springs, bubbling mud pools and geysers aplenty in this area. The Maori tribe that settled here used, and still use, the heat provided by nature to cook their food.

Our final day on board was in the Bay of Islands, just north of Auckland. We had booked a tall ship experience here, a day spent on an authentic schooner, sailing in the sunshine around the bays, finding a secluded beach for some swimming in the sea and relaxing with a BBQ lunch on board. Unfortunately the weather was not on our side, for the first time, so the trip was cancelled – I had a spa treatment on board the cruise ship, with a sauna and full body massage with hot stones, instead 😉

The final leg of our adventure is already underway in Auckland, I will post a summary of that in a few days.

Next Stop – New Zealand!

From Melbourne we spent two full days at sea before arriving at New Zealand’s South Island. The first day was spent on the ship admiring the views and wildlife in the Milford, Doubtful and Dusky Sounds, which it turns out are actually Fjords – the on board Naturalist explained the difference between the two features. We were lucky enough to get clear views of the Milford Sound which is more commonly draped in a thick mist. The temperature at Milford was icy, with cool winds coming down off the mountains.

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While cruising the sounds we were able to sea seals, dolphins and albatross in their natural environment. As well as mountain waterfalls going right into the sea, and amazing lines in the water where the freshwater from the mountains mixed with the salt water from the sea. A truly stunning welcome to New Zealand!

Onwards from the sounds was Dunedin, a city built predominantly some Scottish settlers, including the nephew of Robert Burns. The name comes from the name Edinburgh as that is where it was fashioned on. The timing of our visit could not have been better – the day of their largest annual market – Thieves’ Alley Market Day – the origins of which we’ve thus far been unable to ascertain! We were sure to visit the Cadburys’ Chocolate Factory while we were there with the awesome chocolate waterfall, although sadly pictures were not allowed on the tour 😦 Turns out the Kiwis like their chocolate with marshmallow in the middle.

Our final stop on the South Island was Akaroa, a beautiful natural harbour formed my a crater of an extinct volcano that has merged with the sea on one side. To get out of Akaroa and over to Christchurch we had to ride up and over the crater edge in a coach. Christchuch was really poignant; almost exactly six years on from the massive earthquake and there is still much evidence of the destruction that occurred. After our bus tour of the city we went to a nearby nature reserve to see the Kiwi birds and Kai Apline Parrots, as well as a Maori culture experience which included seeing original Maori huts and a performance of traditional Maori dances.

Magic Milestones!

My son was the one that had the special privilege of spending the night at the home of his very good friend. And a great time he had too!

Ordinary Hopes

We all worry about our children.

We worry that they will be unhappy or might not make friends or might struggle with all manner of things. Will they read at the “expected time” and to the “expected level”? Will they be able to “keep up” with the other children? Will they be “good enough” at school?

We all worry.

But when your beautiful child has a complex range of disabilities those worries really are in a whole new league.

One of my greatest wishes for my son is that he will have true friends.

It is a simple wish really but it has been a huge worry.

Because, whilst his wheelchair is obvious, what you don’t see from photos is his learning disabilities or social difficulties. Yet those differences can make a child stand out as being “different” just as much as the wheelchair does.

And sometimes those difficulties can…

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Are we OK, you and I, after you voted to destroy my dreams?

Andrew Reid Wildman, artist, photographer, writer, teacher

I feel like someone has taken something dear to me, my identity, my connection to my continent, and they have killed it. If you voted Leave, I hope you are prepared to take responsibility for what you have done, and that you do not regret it. It is over to you now, to sort out. Some friends view my reaction as an affront. That I am ‘dissing” them. It is not. It is just that you have killed something that was precious to me. You have created a country around me that I do not recognise, which feels broken and insular. That was your right to do that, you voted the way you thought was best. And you won and I lost. But in so doing you destroyed something. Many of you are now regretting your vote. Save your tears, I do not want to hear them lest I scream…

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Dry Run With Friends

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A weekend of dry weather and friends wanting to wild camp in their converted camper locally meant we jumped in, with our nowhere near ready set up, for a single night test run.

It differed from the planned adventure in July in several ways:

  • Our car is far from ready
  • We are far from having everything we need
  • We have a foster dog at the moment, as well as our dog
  • The weather is nowhere near as warm as we hope it will be
  • It was only one night, and was very local
  • So we had a lot less gubbins than we will have – but that’s fine because the storage isn’t quite sorted yet

Despite these differences there was much value in doing it. It helped to spot things that were or were not needed as well as any pitfalls from what we already had – for example the carabiners for the bags were not big enough to go on the handles above the doors as planned.

The dogs loved the space, the training leads were ideal for hooking them up to the load D rings in the car (neither has great recall at the moment!). We took the foster dog (Gilda) in the car overnight, and our friends took our dog (Indy) in their van. Gilda slept fine in the bed on the front passenger seat, and Indy slept fine in the bed in the living area of the van.

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The beds fit in beautifully, and both of us found them comfortable and spacious.

There is lots of space under my bed for storage, and I have ordered a couple of Really Useful Boxes to slide underneath. One for kitchen bits and food, and one for dog bits and food.

There should also be enough space on top the the boxes to slide our camping chairs and the ‘bog in a bag’.

 

 

There is a fair bit of space in all the footwells, apart from the driver’s seat, and I have also ordered Really Useful Boxes for each of them – one each for mine and my son’s clothes and the third for ‘bits and pieces’ such as wipes, towels, bog refills etc. There will be space on top of these for other things too.

The cubby holes along the roof will be used for underwear, toothbrushes, toiletries and tablets etc. The door pockets will hold the curtains, sunshades and anything else not already housed.

All in all it was a resounding success, and very reassuring in terms of feasibility. We really had loads of storage space. We’re hoping the weather will be kind, and allow us another test run before our friends set off on the road early next month.

 

Non Diet, Food Replacement?

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A cousin of mine shared something on social media last week. It was an article looking at a meal replacement drink. She, and her friends, were adamant that the author had merely failed to read the instructions properly, or not tried the right flavour. In any case, I had never heard of such a thing before.

I’ve seen, and tried, diet meal replacement shakes (for the flavour, not the dieting qualities I might add), and they’ve always been quite yummy. I sometimes find I don’t have time to eat properly at lunchtime as I’m so busy herding the children in my house (not all mine, I’m earning a living as a childminder presently), preparing their nutritious meals, refereeing disagreements, and ensuring the food is actually eaten. I thought I might try the product in question.

I went to their website and ordered a trial sachet of the flavour recommended by my cousin and her friends, after almost passing out at the prices. It came, and I vowed to wait until I had the time to prepare it carefully and properly, to give it the best chance on the trial run – did I mention the price?!

So, taking heed of the article and comments on my cousin’s post, I started to prepare my drink. Cold water, powder and then blend for 20 seconds. I have a Nutri Ninja IQ, so just used that to blend the mixture, then stuck a straw in it.

First impressions? Not disgusting, but not particularly nice either.

I pressed on, determined to give it a chance. It had a bit of a powdery texture to it, and a really strange taste.

Still I continued. By now I was getting a really horrible aftertaste in my mouth, tasting a bit like sweetener.

I gave up at this point. I couldn’t finish the drink. The aftertaste lingered, and I had to find some chocolate to try and mask it. Some two hours on, and I’m still tasting it. All in all I managed about 200ml.

The sample cost me £4.99, larger packs are, obviously, much more expensive. I think it’s safe to say I won’t be parting with anymore money on this one!