My name is Lily-Sue, but my mummy calls me Munchkin (or 'Munch' for short!) I am 8 years old, and this is where my mummy will help me write all about all the fun things we do together. I hope you enjoy reading about the adventures of my mummy and me, Munchkin, with the occasional appearance from the siblings - Beastie and Plumlet.

Wednesday, 30 April 2014

The day the NHS listened to me!

Getting things wrong, and putting things right!

A few weeks ago, I had a few harsh words to say about the NHS. To summarise, we had been left feeling very let down by our country's National Health Service following the birth of Baby Plum back in December 2013. He had been born with a prominent case of tongue tie that had not been detected by any of the health professionals put in place to care for us during Plum's first couple of days in the world. Even with the struggles I was having trying to help him to breast feed, not one trained medic thought to inspect the state of his tongue and just put it down to him being a 'difficult baby'. 

"He'll get used to it when he's hungry enough ..."

This was the answer I was given every time. 

Once we were discharged from hospital and the tongue tie was discovered by a midwife on a home visit, we were then let down by a 'lost referral'. Whether this referral was never actually made or it was lost somewhere in the system, I do not know, but this caused our ordeal to be stretched out even longer. 

Once the referral was made (again) and we finally received an appointment for his tongue to be released, we were then let down by the hospital when the doctor refused to carry out the procedure due to us not having a bottle with us and claimed all medical regulations would be broken if he cut Plum's tongue tie without having a bottle of milk present.

On being turned away, disappointed, frustrated and in tears, I was forced to wait for another appointment. We were then let down by the fact that we had to wait nearly 2 weeks for another appointment to be issued to us which was for another 2 week in the future.

That is a whole lot of let downs from a professional body that is in place to help and support your health and well-being!!

However, there have been developments. After being discharged from the maternity unit following Plum's birth (Hospital A) all of our dealings concerning the tongue tie referral and appointments were with another hospital (Hospital B) Following my first post (a link to this is at the beginning of this post), I contacted the PALS office for Hospital A and went through my story with them. They offered to help by logging my complaints and by chasing up the rebooking for me. A few days after receiving our rebooked appointment date from Hospital B, I answered a phone call from Hospital A. Someone there had picked up our complaint and taken notice. Someone had looked at it and recognised the unfair treatment we were being dealt by Hospital B. This person really did make a difference. That Friday afternoon, a voice on the other end of the phone said to me ...

"Bring yourselves in to *Hospital A* on Monday morning and we'll carry out the procedure for you"

And this is what we did. 
Appointment time: 10.50am
Back in Waiting Area post procedure: 10.52am

And do you know the crazy thing ...?

Yeah, thanks Hospital B!

In fact, when I asked the doctor at Hospital A if I should make Charlie's bottle up before he performed the operation, and then started to relay to him the 'regulations' we were turned away from Hospital B for, he actually looked at me as if I were crazy! He had never heard of any such regulations and said I was free to feed Plum outside the Treatment Room afterwards, but it was not at all an essential part of the procedure or indeed the measurement of success.

I felt a bit silly and quite embarrassed. Not because of the doctor's reaction, but because I had walked away from Hospital B having allowed that doctor to lie to us completely! I felt ashamed that I had let that happen and I felt guilty for Plum as the extra few weeks of discomfort he had endured had not been necessary.

Back to PALS it was. I wanted first of all to thank them for helping to push the referral through for me. If it hadn't been for them, my case would never had been picked up by the relevant staff at Hospital A. The PALS team were caring, understanding and sympathetic, and more importantly than all of that, I trusted them. I trusted they would do what they were promising to do for me, and I was right to trust them! They also assisted me in carrying my grievances with Hospital B further.

Then they had a small request for me, and this takes me to today's events!

This morning, Wednesday, 30th April, 2014, Plum and I were invited in to Hospital A to attend their monthly Board Meeting. They had asked to hear our story in person! Not doctors, midwives or administrative staff ... but the hospital's Board of Directors. These are the people who can really make a difference. Today was my chance to talk to someone who would actually listen with the power to act on our experiences.

In the few weeks leading up to the meeting, I went through a whole mix of emotions. First of all, I was shocked that they wanted to listen to me. These are the people you never see, the people who are busy in the background, making things happen! I then felt privileged that they deemed our ordeal worthy of a place in their important meeting, which probably had a very full agenda already. I was proud that I had managed to put my issues across in a way that actually prompted people to take notice. I was extremely nervous at the thought of speaking in front of a dozen important and very influential figures within the hospital, like, really nervous! I mean, I'm a reasonably reserved individual, not used to asserting myself in public places, yet here I was, about to put it all out there. I was about to reveal all to a group of people who make all the decisions, apply all the plans and make all the rules!  Ultimately, however, I was very excited. I felt really positive at the thought that this meeting could change all sorts! Because of this talk, another family could be prevented from enduring the struggle that we, and so many other families did!

The meeting went really well. The Board listened to the good, they listened to the bad and they even listened to the ugly! I told them everything! From the amazing midwifery staff that cared for me when I gave birth to each one of my beautiful babies, to the not so good midwifery staff who failed to care for us when they needed to. From the wonderfully caring Paediatric staff who examined each of my children for any underlying conditions before sending us home, to the one Paediatrician who cared a little less and let us down, let the Trust down and let herself down. From the amazingly supportive PALS team at Hospital A who assisted me through this whole ordeal and were the machine behind our attendance at the Board Meeting, to the disappointingly disinterested administrative staff at Hospital B who couldn't care less that we had been turned away from having the procedure the first time around. From the warm, friendly, informative medical staff who carried out Plum's procedure at Hospital B, to the dismissive, dishonest medical staff who refused to carry out Plum's procedure at Hospital B.

And most of all, how Hospital A got it wrong ... Hospital B got it more wrong ... Hospital A admit their error and put everything right!

Ok, so I may have lost out now on my final chance to breast feed, but at least Plum is now slowly adjusting to a more natural, comfortable way of feeding and is a much happier baby boy as a result!

I want to finish up by saying a huge thank you to everyone who played their part in putting this right for us. You all know who you are ...!

Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Beautifying your home inside and out

Recently, I have been posting quite a bit about home improvements. In the lead-up to our imminent house move, we are all getting excited at the thought of settling somewhere for more than a few months! We have moved so many times during the last few years, for one reason or another, we are looking forward to being able to make our house a home for once.

We've talked about creating bedrooms that the kids can be proud of, adding splashes of their personalities through accessories and decorating, we've dreamed of the perfect garden and talked about all of the wonderful things we would fill it with. We've imagined having enough space to have a playroom or dedicated play-space for the children and their millions of toys and we've smiled at the thought of claiming back some of our living space that has slowly become dominated by toys over the past 5 years.

The Munchkin Patch wants to settle now!

The place that we call home is very important to us. After all, as the saying goes: 

"An Englishman’s home is his castle". 

Here in Britain we have relationships with our homes like many other European countries. We take pride in how they look both inside and out, and want to create a comfortable and beautiful nest for our family to grow up and us to grow old.

DIY projects

That’s why DIY is always one of the most popular pastimes in the UK. Each year we spend billions trying to make our homes nicer places. Whether it’s painting, building, repairing or extending, it all makes a difference and adds to the value. And, as you may have noticed, it does get a little rainy here in the UK, so we also need to do what we can to protect our properties from the ravages of water. Brickwork, metalwork and especially woodwork need lots of protection from water damage. We need to make sure it is sealed and painted so that wood doesn't rot and bricks turn to dust. That means that it’s a good idea to keep on top of the little outside jobs.

Don’t neglect your windows

Making sure window frames are sealed and painted regularly will help to keep your woodwork looking good for longer. However, there are times when even this is not enough and you need some more serious work carried out. Sash windows repair is an especially in-demand service in the UK as collectively we are very fond of this kind of kind of traditional window design. As sash windows have moving parts, they need to have the mechanism looked at 
and checked every now and then. Rotten beams and sashes need to be replaced and cords and runners greased and checked.

You’ll be amazed at the difference some repaired sash windows can make to the appearance of your home. Brightly painted and restored wood will instantly add to your curb appeal and the monetary value of the property. So, if your windows are looking a little tired or it’s time to give the outside (and inside) of your home a little facelift, then why not look into sash window repair? After all, it’s only right that your own individual castle should have some good defences against the attacking elements.

I grew up in a home with sash windows, and now, where I live, they are very rare. The birth of double glazing many years ago seemed to bring us such a huge variety of designs, the traditional varieties seem less and less common. However, I adore sash windows and love the traditional feel they bring to a building. I know if I am lucky enough to move into a property with sash windows, I'll be very happy to maintain and keep them. 

Another little potential job to add to the ever-growing 'to-do' list!

Thursday, 10 April 2014

A perfect place to play!

Anyone that has been following the Munchkin Patch recently will know that we are really excited to be moving soon. We can't wait to be out of the cramped place we are in now and into somewhere with a little more space. During the past few weeks, I have written about decorating bedrooms to reflect the personalities of the kids, I have written about creating the perfect garden and about designing little havens of calm throughout the home! In our world of crazy, I think me and The Man deserve a little haven of calm of our own ... surely?

Anyway, Munchkin has been saying lately that she would love a playroom for her and Beastie when we move. Now, I don't know how possible this will be as it will all depend on the size and design of the home we relocate to, but it got me thinking. It got me thinking about how nice it would be for the girls (and Plum when he's older!) to have a little space to play together without getting in the way at several points in the day, about how lovely it would be to be able to decorate a room especially suited to them and maybe release my creative side again on the walls to create a wonderland of fun for them, and about how blissful it would be to reclaim our living space again and free it from drowning under a sea of toys!! Refer back to my comment about the mysterious haven of calm ...!

So it is something that The Man and I will seriously consider if possible. If we left it up to Munchkin to plan the design herself, we would end up with an interesting combination of pink and purple princess themes, with a splattering of ballerinas, the occasional animal including rabbits, owls and unicorns and brightly coloured polka dots. We should possibly intervene here! Now, I have never claimed to be an interior designer, I'll leave that up to the experts! But I have a number of ideas swimming around in my head about what would look lovely, keeping in mind we also have a boy who would, before long, be playing with the girls too! Maybe a world on pink isn't so suitable after all! 

Now, having three kids means that we are slowly being dominated by toys. Every day, I am having to find 'new homes' for different toys that Munchkin has excitedly retrieved from boxes or cupboards, feeling as though she has just been given something new! And this situation is only going to get worse. Having two girls first means that a large number of Beastie's toys once belonged to Munch. Recycling toys is so useful! However, this is not to suggest that said toys haven't multiplied in their numbers ... by the dozen! And soon, Plum will have his own toys, causing us even bigger issues in the storage space department!

We have never been very 'blessed' with space in our homes, and this has become more and more noticeable as the number of children grow! The lounge has always been the main play area for them, meaning both their bedroom and the living room are full of toys. Extra storage would be a dream right now. Whilst looking for ideas, I came across some good advice with regards to storage!

"If a room is going to waste, there is no reason why it shouldn’t be filled to allow for an all over tidier home."

Award winning Interior Design company Darren Mercer Interiors has today launched a brand new site, and it offers some great tips on using 'spare' spaces around the home as storage. It encourages you to let go of your inner hoarder for the sake of better organisation and greater amounts of space. I am a self confessed hoarder, and a terrible one at that! I need to de-clutter, desperately! I need to accept that those dresses in my wardrobe from 15 years ago will probably look better on someone else than me now, that my favourite pair of killer heels ... with the broken heel ... have seen better days and should now meet the dustbin ... I need to be stronger! This will be my first step to a tidier, more spacious home!

Once I have this bit conquered, I can go on to think about creating the perfect playroom for the kids. I can look into clever ways to store things for them and for us that will contribute towards a tidier home and better organisation. I can move forward in the right direction with regards to making our home somewhere to be truly proud of and a comfortable place for The Man to return to each evening. And best of all, as I said before, maybe we can claim a little of our space back within our vision of a haven of calm by helping the kids to create their very own haven of crazy!! 

Any tips to share ...?

Thursday, 3 April 2014

Designing and Digging ... Planning the perfect garden!

Planning for ... One day!

We have been without a garden at the Munchkin Patch for a little over a year now, and we miss it terribly. we miss all sorts of things about having the garden, things I took for granted when we had it. Putting the washing on the line, throwing the door open for The Pooch to wander around freely, watching the kids running and falling around on the grass, sitting outside on a warm evening with my laptop and a glass of something cold ... it's often the little things I miss!

However, it looks as though we could soon be moving into somewhere more permanent ... somewhere with a garden! Yes, excitement levels are high!!

Munchkin can remember having a garden before. She recalls playing on her swing in the sunshine and building snowmen in the Winter. She misses it too. She was just 3 when we moved away from that house, so there are many things we didn't do then that we would love to do now, and she often talks about the things she would do with a garden now.

Munch has decided she would love her own flowerbed and vegetable patch. She has declared that in such a patch, she will grow sunflowers, roses and daisies, and tomatoes, strawberries and bananas (yep, bananas!), oh, and some green beans for Beastie Boo. 

When we had a garden, Munchkin loved caring for her sunflowers!
"Beastie loves green beans - I will grow them and she can eat them all!"

That's very generous of her, don't you think?! It seems Munchkin is very serious about getting active in the garden. We've talked about how much she would need to look after and care for her little gardens, and this has just made her more keen than ever! That got me interested in reading up a little on gardening with children. She is clearly very excited, and I want to make sure I get the best out of it for her. She is a very fussy eater when it comes to her fruit and vegetables ... maybe this could make a difference? I want to get as many ideas and tips for this as possible. And I would love to get Beastie Boo involved too. So I had a good look around at what information and inspiration was available and found a number of resources online for gardening with the little ones. Roll on Summer!!

Munch has also made a (very long) mental list of the different activities she would like to have available in her new garden! She wants a slide, swings, a sandpit, water trough, a trampoline, a see-saw, a climbing frame, a roundabout (!!) and, of course, an epic playhouse! It's beginning to sound as though we will need to move into a country park rather than a house with a garden!! Hopefully, we may have our new garden by the Summer, so I suppose a few widely recommended garden toys will need to be bought! 

Now, this is all very well, but at this rate, our garden will just be one big playground for the kids! How about my little place to sit on a Summer's evening ...? How about The Man's place to work his magic with a barbecue on a Sunday afternoon ...? Well, for starters, before I instinctively call my dad and father-in-law round to unleash the power of their green fingers and landscaping experience to turn my ideas into a reality, it would be nice if The Man and I could learn a little about basic landscaping ourselves. Nothing extravagant ... just some decking, nicely lined flowerbeds and a fish pond maybe ...? Then I just need to work on finding a few extra hours to slot into each week somehow in order to find the time to maintain it and keep it looking lovely!

As you can see, I would love a beautiful garden. Maybe in a few years, when the babies are no longer babies. That'll give me a few years to research all of the hints and tips I need to keep it looking beautiful, as right now, I actually know very little about gardening!!

Until then, I can carry on dreaming and just keep looking at gorgeous furniture for the garden, because let's face it, it's a place for us grown-ups too!!

So, my lovely readers, throw some inspiration my way. What are your favourite bits about your gardens? What are your ideas of the 'must have' garden toys? And finally ... anyone any good at landscaping who has a few extra hours to spare ... fortnightly ...?! Please, someone distract me, or I'm in danger of spending a fortune on beautiful garden furniture!! And I haven't even got a garden yet!!

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

Packing for 5 ... Days out with the kids!

Everything but INCLUDING the kitchen sink!

As a couple with no dependants, leaving the house was so easy to do. Grab purse ... grab phone ... grab keys ... pop jacket on ... good to go!
Those were the days when we would realise we were out of milk, and within 20 minutes of this discovery, a fresh bottle of milk would be sitting in the fridge. Those were the days when we could go out without the nagging feeling that something has been forgotten that now haunts us until we get home again. Those were the days when we could say "yes" to invitations from friends without a second thought.

"Fancy going out on Saturday night ...?"
"Ok, I'll go find/buy something to wear ...!"

These days are a very distant, almost invisible memory!
Closer to reality is now ...

"Fancy going out on Saturday night ...?"
"Ok, I'll go find a babysitter or two ... find something to wear that hasn't seen the light of day for around 5 years ... find something else to wear as the 1st outfit didn't look right ... buy something new to wear ... find another babysitter as the 1st one cancelled ... organise the things the kids need for the night ...

... How does July sound ...?!"

For a simple day out now, with or without the children, all sorts of missions require completion before anything can go ahead! So much so, that at the moment, our days out are at minimum in quantity, usually very close to home and kept quite short. With 3 children under the age of 5 years, home means safety! Everything we need is here, the kids are safe and reasonably contained, the toilet is nearby putting an end to the "mummy, I need a wee - RIGHT NOW!!!" moments, and if the baby cries, we can deal with it in our own ways without worrying that someone is getting angry at the sound or judging us for our parenting methods!!

It won't always be this way. Plum is still only a few months old, and Beastie Boo is at an age where everything needs exploring and she is too young to walk everywhere, but too curious to want to stay strapped in a pushchair. 

We are actually a family who love to get out of the home whenever we can. We love to take the kids to new places and enjoy watching them taking the endless delights of the outdoors. Both Munchkin and Beastie love little more than just running around a big park, even more so now that Beastie can actively join in the fun. However, the weather has been cold and wet and the days have been short, meaning we have been very restricted as to where we can go as a family.

Springtime is upon us and we have started looking at places nearby that we could consider visiting with the kids in the coming months. Munchkin is 4 now, and has a growing list of places she would like to go and things she would like to do during the Spring/Summer. She likes to sit down with me when I look for ideas for things to do, which is one of the reasons I love Away with the Kids.

Away with the Kids has everything in one place. I find it so helpful when I am looking at planning a day out with all or one of the children. In fact, Away with the Kids is a wonderful source of information whether you are looking for a family day out, a family holiday (either in the UK or overseas!) or places to eat as a family. Munch and I have been looking at different places to go in the Summer, as The Man has agreed to take some of his annual leave from work in the Summer months so we can have some days out with the kids as a family. Munchkin starts school in September, and therefore we are really keen to make this Summer one to remember!

I think we have Summer covered for the next 4 years after a brief session on the AWTK website!! Using the Search feature means you can filter your results to your chosen location(s), which meant that every time Munchkin said "I want to go there!", it was worth a consideration. AWTK lists places to go as a family, therefore all of the venues available to view in their directory are child friendly throughout. I can even look into the facilities offered by each location, ensuring that it is suitable for a young child, a lively toddler and a small baby. 

One of these days, we would like to look at going abroad as a family. This is something we have never attempted, but I think we could do it. Looking around, there are so many places that offer child friendly facilities that would be suitable for all 3 kids. I find that I am having to think less and less about what I need to consider and what we need to take with us when we leave the house for a day out! I have also found that maybe, just maybe, I don't need to take as much with us for a day out after all. With some venues providing essentials such as highchairs, travel cots, baby food, changing/feeding facilities and much more, going out and going away as a family is becoming less daunting!

Who would have thought that all of these countries are actually very family friendly. I love the fact that there are some really exotic locations there too. There are some places that would never have crossed my mind when looking for a family holiday!

So, for us mummies (and daddies!) who have far too much to do in the day to even think about fitting in some organisation - here is a way to put some method to the madness! Days out and holidays don't need to be such a mission after all!

Unless you're a mummy to Munchkin, Beastie Boo and Plum ... then everything is a mission!!

Post in association with Away with the Kids