How Family Fund has helped us and how they could help you!

A Little Bit About Family Fund

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Family Fund, like so many other charities, helps families like ours across the UK. If you are raising a disabled or child who is seriously ill and they are under the age of 17 and are on a low income, Family Fund may be able to assist you as a family or the individual child.

Last year, Family Fund provided over 88,000 grants and services worth over £33 million to families across the UK but without regular money coming in they wouldn’t be able to continue the great work they do. We were one of those families. Thanks to their kindness and grants, we have been able to proper time together as a family.
Family Fund was first established in 1973, and the first grant of £26 for hospital visiting costs was issued on 1 April 1973. In 1996, Family Fund became an independent charitable trust. Today, they are funded by the four UK governments, private donations and income they generate through the work of their Family Fund Business Services.

Our Story

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We discovered Family Fund through our son’s Occupational Therapist. We wanted to go on a proper family holiday, but having recently given up work to care for our disabled son, we only had one income, and it was a struggle. So we discovered Family Fund, and I was pleasantly surprised by how straight forward the application process was. Our application was sent via the post with the supporting documentation, and it was roughly four weeks before we had our first approval. We’d applied for a Haven holiday voucher. Like most charities, you have to have a particular item or holiday in mind when you apply. They offer Ipads, white goods, garden modifications, holidays, clothing, just to name a few. You can apply, however, to change your funding once it has been approved if you want to change your award. We have never requested two items, but I have friends who have applied for money towards a holiday and garden equipment like a trampoline.

Once the voucher is awarded. It takes seven days to be credited to Haven or the appropriate holiday provider. Our first voucher we’d already booked our trip, so I called up and told them about our award, and they credited the amount to our holiday. This has since changed, and you can’t use the voucher for any holidays already booked. You can, of course, book two trips and use the voucher towards both.

What it has given us

We are no longer cramped in a budget hotel, in one room having to go to bed at 9pm with our son, having a caravan provides us with the flexibility to put him to bed and sit in another room and spend time with our daughter. We have found both Haven and Perran Sands to be so accommodating. Thomas is sensitive to noise, so we have always requested a caravan away from the entertainment centre. For the first time, this year have requested an accessible caravan as it was a struggle last year.
We have used Family Fund now for three or four years, I logon to our online account and once a year request a Haven holiday. They limit you to once a year applications for obvious reasons although in exceptional circumstances the may accept a further application.

How can you help them

It is often underestimated how much it can cost to raise a disabled child. In fact, on average, it costs three times more to raise a disabled child compared to a child without additional needs. Family Fund understands this and is committed to help families, improve their quality of life and help them feel included. A big key to their success is fundraising.
Every penny raised will help Family Fund continue to develop and deliver new ways to support families raising disabled or seriously ill children.
Whether you fancy hosting your own Messy Tea Party or Dress Fun Friday on the 21st June 2019. There are still so many families to help! Please check out their website for more information about how you could help.
If you have any questions about donating to, or fundraising for Family Fund, you can speak to their Fundraising Team on 01904 550033 or email fundraising@familyfund.org.uk.
*We are not affiliated, associated, authorised, endorsed by, or in any way officially connected with the Family Fund or Haven Holidays.*

Navigating Legoland Windsor with a Special Needs Child

What is Legoland Windsor?

Now, if you are from the UK. Most of us have at least heard of Legoland Windsor. It is a Merlin Attractions owned theme park in the Berkshire countryside, within an hours drive of London (traffic permitting). It is influenced by Lego and is ideal for children under the age of 13. Rides range from pre-school to primary school. If you like thrills and rollercoasters, you may be better visiting nearby Chessington World of Adventures or Thorpe Park.

Costs in Involved

Like most theme parks, Legoland isn’t cheap and the average price per ticket is £50-£60 per person. Under 3’s go free. They often do deals with Kelloggs, where a parent gets in free with a visiting child, this is usually towards the summer months but can offer significant savings.

My daughter and I have Merlin Premium Annual passes (Please see my other post on perks and costs involved). She’s nearly 12 and loves theme parks, so I invested in Annual Passes last year. My son has special needs and I’m not currently sure, whether the cost of the annual pass would be worth it (watch this space). My husband gets in free as a carer. So entrance wisely it cost us £15.00 for our son as we used a Friends and Family discount (perks).

I would suggest booking in advance as you could save up to 30%.

The Disabled Visitor

Driving towards the Legoland car park is easily signposted, I especially love the extra touch of mini lego characters. Disabled parking is located near the premium parking and right at the front of the entrance. We couldn’t have parked any closer. The picture of us in front of the blue railings is a foot in front of our car!

Like most theme parks now, you are greeted by security doing a bag search. They are lovely and high fived us all through the gate and at the end of the day are for our own safety.

To the average family, a trip to Legoland is like any normal day out but to a child with special needs, it could be all kinds of hell. Long queues, long noises from all directions, music, lots of people, unfamiliar surroundings, I could go on. But why should learning difficulties or social disorders stop our children from experiencing the norm? Especially when Legoland Windsor assist in helping cut out a little of the stress.

Thomas is eight years old now and I want him to experience things that other children his age do, just with support and a lot of advanced planning. I had heard rumours that Merlin and Legoland especially had changed their Ride Access Pass. I was keen to understand how it would work and why a few families were upset with the change.

With hindsight, I should have pre-booked our ride access pass, as that queue was empty and we spent 15 minutes with a distressed eight-year-old! The man at the Ride Access Pass explained all the details and we went on our way.

The Q Bot System

So the new Legoland version uses the QBot system. It’s basically a virtual queue. So for example, we love The Dragon rollercoaster and reserved our ‘space’ in the queue. It gave us 30 minutes, so we found a couple of five-minute queues and the time raced through. It did get busier and we found that by 4pm, the thought of waiting 45 minutes to get on any of the rides was just too much but I like the system. It’s a phone based system (remember battery charger although you can borrow phones). There are limitations, I agree it would be handy if one queue is 45 minutes that you could be able to add a second ride.

So our time counts down and we approach the ride through the Qbot entrance, pretty much enter straight away and don’t feel guilty for queue jumping as we have been queuing ‘virtually’ for the same time as the people at the front of the queue. It is however frustrating when your child wants to go straight back on but the queue is 40 minutes! That being said, I do like how it works, it probably won’t work for everyone but have a snack, drink, toilet break, face painted, lunch, look around the shops, it soon ticks down.

Ninjago: The Ride
Ninjago: The Ride

Staying Over

Legoland Windsor is a resort with two onsite hotels. The Legoland Resort Hotel includes everything for the die-hard Lego fan including The Bricks Family Restaurant and themed rooms, while nearby you can spend the night with Knights and Wizards in the Legoland Castle Hotel. Added bonus staying on site, closer to the park and an extra 30 minutes park access to some of the rides.

If you can’t stretch your budget for an onsite hotel, there are plenty of nearby budget hotels including Hilton Bracknell and The Copthorne Hotel both which are in easy reach of the park.

A Few Negatives

There has to be a few right?

  1. Now TV giving away free sticks – Now I’m all for a freebie but we passed them five or six times and it grew irritating!
  2. Some rides need an update. Vikings’ River Splash for example, we barely got a dribble of water on us, the bucket had been removed and nothing sprayed water anymore, it was a little disappointing.
  3. The NEW Wafflemeister – I love a good waffle, who doesn’t? I was excited to see one at Legoland Windsor, however, it should have come with its own queue time! I left the queue after queueing for ten minutes without moving!

My Top Five Tips for Navigating Legoland Windsor

  1. Pre-Visit – Check out Legoland Windsor Resort for all the update news, opening hours, new attractions or any ride restrictions.
  2. Pre-Visit – Make sure you have a fully charged phone and bring a second portable battery charger. My S9 lasted until 1.30pm before I needed an extra charge during lunch.
  3. During your Visit – Have fun, it is such a lovely family day out, there is a changing places accessible toilet in the main Heartlake City area and various disabled toilets dotted around, that need radar keys.
  4. During your visit – If it gets too much and you need a time out, there are plenty of picnic spots, with grassy areas to chill out or maybe take a look at the Total Sensory Space, its located in Heartlake City and is perfect for chillout. Unfortunately, during our visit, it was quite busy so I struggled to take photographs. There are a few on Legoland Windsors Resort. 
  5. After your visit – Don’t forget to download photographs (if you have any) and consider your next trip.

So there are a few of my tips for navigating Legoland Windsor with a Special Needs child and probably for most children under the age of seven.

Conclusion

Despite our original reservations, we managed a full day in the park. We tried out the City Walk Pizza and Pasta Buffet for lunch and wasn’t disappointed, we even saved 20% due to having Annual Passes. It’s all in the planning, taking the day as it comes and having no expectations. We’d already made the decision that should he struggle after an hour we would call it a day but he loved it. I can’t thank the staff enough, they were all accommodating, happy to help and on hand if we needed any advice.

Have you been to Legoland Windsor recently? Did you love it? Did you hate it? Do you think the Q Bot system works as part of the ride access pass? What do you think of the Merlin annual passes? Please drop me a comment below or click follow to read more posts like this in the future!

Thank you for Reading…

My Weight Loss Battle Update 1

My Weight Battle 2*All opinions are my own, I have not been sponsored, paid or gifted any items in respect of my views and opinions.*

So it’s been three months! Three long months of counting calories, watching every little crumb and I’ve pretty much lost 5lbs. Okay, can’t complain an awful lot as lost but still! Unfortunately, I like to see results! Getting on those scales, I want to see a loss than I can feel celebrates the week I had rejecting cake!

As per my previous post My Weight Battle I’ve done it all. So I read an article that like many diets ‘Weight Watchers’ had rebranded and I thought ‘what the hell’ let’s give it a go. Week one is going okay, trying to get into the swing of meal planning. I’ve found that I find it hard to stick to such a restricted ‘point’ system. Even with the flexible points, I find myself torturing myself if I even slightly dip into them! (I know, bad attitude).

jennifer-burk-118076-unsplash (1)My first ‘proper’ weigh in, was this morning, I say proper because I had a sneaky one yesterday! (I know I know). I find with Weight Watchers, I lose but slowly. I rarely lose more than a lb a week.

I’d like to know if I found time for the gym (and could afford it) would it make a difference? I’ve previously wasted my money with a gym membership that cost me £45 a month and I went once or twice a month, then not at all. I am much more motivated in the morning, after work I just want to chill out and relax not go and sweat it out in the gym! I also feel incredibly self-conscious surrounded by skinny beauties because no one seems to use my local gym unless they are a size 6! I know, it shouldn’t matter, but it’s hard not to look around and feel like a giant elephant as I thump away on the treadmill.

I walk! During my lunch break, I march up the road, for ten minutes and back again. It’s what I miss about working part-time for the last few years, I was walking every day for at least 40 minutes! Now, it’s impossible apart from weekends! Although, this weekend I was on fire!

So a little bit about Weight Watchers. It has recently been redesigned and is called WW Freestyle. Unlike the traditional group meetings, there is now an option for a ‘digital’ membership. I have opted for the ‘digital only’ version as it works for my lifestyle. The idea is, you start with zero point foods and then add the points as you go. Adding a little exercise for good measure. Everything you do is awarded with WellnessWins. From tracking three meals a day to your daily activity. I am liking the new layout, digital membership and its a bonus that it connects with my Fitbit!

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So three months in and I’m still giving it a go. Another three months and the gym might be introduced! Anyone else currently doing Weight Watchers? Is it going well? Perhaps you struggle like me!

Thanks  for Reading…

My So Called Life – My Monthly Battle

My Monthly Battle

It’s tough being a woman! It’s also tough being a man but at least they can choose if they want to shave every day and it is socially acceptable if they decide not to.

I’m not often one for discussing things so personal as periods/AF/time of the month/menstrual cycles but for the last four years, I’ve realised that I am not alone! I was surprised by how many women could sympathise or experienced the hell that some of us experience.

I was 13 and a half (April 1996), it was during my PE lesson (would you believe) when the period gods shined down on me and greeted me with what would for most of my teenage years control my life! I was first greeted with the sudden realisation that everyone would ‘know’ that suddenly I would have this neon sigh above my head that pointed down and said ‘on her period’, then came the panic of ‘oh my god, can they see I’m wearing a towel!’ This pretty much continues for a couple of years, prompting regular trips to the loo. Then once a few more girls joined the ‘club’ boys became aware and if you left the classroom to sneak to the toilet ‘god forbid taking your bag’ it was across the class. ‘On her period’, there’s the neon sign again! As girls, I don’t remember sitting around with my friends drinking tea discussing periods, in fact, I was the earliest of my friends.

Years, pass. You get on with the monthly groan of ‘oh, here we go again, please I don’t want children anyway!’ (Maybe just me) and suddenly you also realise that you are allergic to towels, tampons and in fact most sanitary wear! PMS hit me pretty hard, I’d get hot flushes, faint, feel sick, emotional, angry, get the shakes and that was on top of period pain, heavy bleeding and stomach upsets. It was pretty consistent. By 18, I’d had enough and approached a Doctor for help. There were no reason for the heavy periods, I was just unlucky and told having a baby would regulate my cycle and reduce the issues (that wasn’t going to happen at 18, so I went on the pill). Which I took for five years, then came two kids and up until four years ago I was pretty good, then it all went crazy and it was like being 18 (and my god, I don’t want to relive those times). I approached my GP, who sent me for tests, nothing solid so sent on my way.

Currently, my monthly cycles consist of pain that feels like I am in early labour, my ovaries are trying to escape from my body and this is accompanied by heavy bleeding. More tests, and all appears well but every month I feel like locking myself away for six days. I know I’m not the only woman to handle this but it feels like it is our own personal struggle.

So, I’ve been thinking about ‘self-care’ how I make myself feel better when my body is turning against me! Here are some of my tips…

1. Pain Relief

Sometimes despite my best efforts, deep breathing and yoga positions are not going to ease the pain so I reach for the pain relief.

a) Paracetamol – Basic and not effective for me anymore.

b) Ibuprofen – I know not everyone can take it due to various allergies and reasons but it’s probably one of the most effective.

I highly recommend ‘Feminax’ you can buy them in all good supermarkets or pharmacies, as well as Amazon. They are on the expensive side. It was my GP that actually recommended I try them as it covered more than just the pain.

Moving forward and am now on prescription painkillers as they help with the pain and the flow.

2. Hot Water Bottle

One of my fave Amazon purchases this year has been my Hotties Microhottie Microwavable Hot Water Bottle in purple fleece. I bought it from Amazon and although coming in at £11.49, it was worth the expense. You place the pad inside a microwave for two minutes and it’s so cosy.

Before this I had tried Cura Heat Period Pain which I also purchased from through Amazon. Now, I loved this because they are discrete and I walk around forgetting that it was there but I found that the heat was on the outside and didn’t really have much effect on my own pain, that’s not to say that they wouldn’t work for other ladies. Just not for me.

3. Hot Bath

abigail-lynn-517203-unsplashWe all know what a warm bath can do to help us unwind, light a few candles, throw in a Lush bath bomb (my personal faves are The Big Sleep and Big Blue) find a mindfulness app on your phone or maybe your fave chill out tunes and shut out the outside world for a while. There is also something soothing about floating away for a while.

4. Duvet/Blanket with Netflix

Now, I love a good duvet day. There really is nothing better than curling up in bed with a Netflix series on, a cup of tea and shutting out the world. If only every day was a duvet day!

5. Pamper

I’m a mum of two and my youngest is disabled so you can imagine how much time I get to pamper myself but occasionally I like to apply a face mask, paint my nails and if I’m really in the mood a deep cleansing hair treatment. I am currently using the TRESemmè Keratin Smooth Deep Treatment Masque which I received as a Christmas gift. I have never tried any other versions but if anyone has any of their own recommendations please let me know.

So there you have my five top tips on self-care when your body seems to want to turn against you. Please let me know what you do to soften ‘that time of the month’. Maybe you do something completely random?

Thanks for Reading…

*All opinions are my own, I have not been sponsored, paid or gifted any items in respect of my views and opinions.*

How to Survive the 101 days of January!

101 days

For those of you who don’t know, it was ‘Blue Monday’ on Monday 21st! The day in January when it’s been five weeks since December payday, cupboards are empty, bank accounts running dry and the thought that payday still seems a million days away, so it got me thinking. Here are my tips on How to Survive the 101 days of January…

 

You were probably under the impression that I was going to 101 tips on how to survive January, sadly not but here are my top five tips to beat the January blues.

1. A Post Christmas de-clutter

Since I was a little girl, I have enjoyed the post-Christmas clear out! The time when I had to find more room for Christmas gifts and always felt it was the perfect time to rearrange not only my storage but my bedroom (miss those days). I now have come accustomed to the fact that my room is what it is, so after purchasing some Ikea wardrobes (I waited nine years) it has to stay but I have ordered some new storage boxes, reorganised my drawers and feel better for now empty appearance.

2. Budget Planning

I know, I can hear your groans! The dreaded Budget word but actually think of it as a tool to save for all those lovely things you want! We have been in our house for three years and apart from decorating we haven’t really added the finishing touches. So I have a house ‘bucket list’. Mainly for all those items like sideboards, fridge freezers, tables etc.

You could have a budget to save towards anything, ‘holidays, cars, business expansion, family, houses. I’m sure you could come up with more compelling reasons. Talking of budgets that leads on to my next idea.

3. Plan a Weekend away or Summer Holiday

January may be the time where everything just feels ‘blue’. Whether you decided to go Vegan, you suffered with ‘dry January’ or you decided it was time to give something up, that doesn’t mean the year has to be ‘blue’. I’m all for giving stuff up but I’ve also learnt that with a little motivation, perhaps it might not be so ‘blue’.

For us January is the month when we’ve overeaten and overspent, so everything just feels a little less ‘enjoyable’. So we usually recover from this ‘boring’ month with planning our summer holiday! We used to have a mini break in March/April and then a summer holiday in July, this year after many years we are mixing it up a bit and having a week away in May and then a few days at Disneyland Paris (screams with excitement) at the end of the summer. You can probably hear my screams! I am so excited. More will follow on both those plans in the coming months.

4. Plan, plan and planners

I’ve always been a calendar and diary kinda girl. I like to see it written down however lately I’ve been using my calendar on my phone. It’s colour coded for life, work, kids, blog, there are quite a few and it has been amazing! However, I told myself this year that its time to get with the old again and have bought two new planners and reinvented an old one as a new ‘travel’ planner. Why not spend an hour or two making some plans.

5. Get outside into the big wide world

January is often the month for the dread new years revolutions, giving a lot of things up with the motivation of losing weight, saving money and we all know that by the 31st they will be a distant memory. However, don’t let that stop you! I’ve lived in my little town for nearly three years and the last few months has been a time of discovery, little side alleys, a new pub and re-discovering my love of a library. You don’t often need to travel too far to experience things, It’s my year’s goal to visit all the coffee shops, restaurants, bars and boutiques in the area and give them a try. We even have a local museum, I have yet to wander around! Bring on the year of new things.

Did you do anything different to escape the January blues? Any suggestions for the year ahead? Perhaps you find the whole of January as a blessing! Please drop me a comment below!

Thanks for reading!