Tuesday, 9 July 2019

It's Our 10th Birthday!

We're TEN! Can you believe it?

Ten years of growth and meeting new families. Ten years of exploring new adventures and seeing how far we can take the #NoLimits ethos and just generally had a great time with it all We've had mostly highs but some lows but in every instance we've learnt along the way.

And we celebrated it all at our 10th Hiccups Birthday Party in style at The Royal Armouries who as always provided a fantastic venue and gorgeous food. We had 200 attendees helping us celebrate our Circus themed party. The two circus folk that came to help us celebrate and to entertain everyone certainly did a good job looking after the families. There was balancing on a giant ball, stilts, juggling and hoops that were lit and glowed beautifully and entranced many a child with its rhythmic cycles. Children were watching vividly at all the acts and joining in and trying their luck with some of the skills. They were engaging and friendly and even when they towered over everyone there was only fascination, never fear.

And just to ensure it was a sugar fuelled fest (sorry about that by the way!) there were popcorn and candyfloss machines (which the children loved!) which you could visit as often as you wanted and to entertain there were Fairground Stall games featuring Hook A Duck, a Coconut shy and a Hoop a Loop.

Claire was also back with her face-painting and was again a massive hit. She was there when I arrived already at work and she was only just packing up when I left with no break in between. A huge thank you to Claire for spending all that time and effort making the occasion special for the children. I saw some fantastic faces and glitter tattoos including my own children. I'm currently entering negotiations with my middle child who is trying to convince me that he doesn't need to shower again in case his dolphin tattoo comes off...

It was lovely to see so many families come and enjoy themselves and celebrate our birthday with us (and one that we are lucky enough to share with the gorgeous girls Emily and Adina - Happy Birthday girls!) and it's amazing to see how much we have grown in the last ten years.  Thank you all for joining us on this journey. We are honoured to have you all as part of Little Hiccups.

Wonder what the next ten years will bring us?

"Happy birthday and thank you Little Hiccups!"

"Great party thank you! Georgia really enjoyed the hula hoops!!"

"Thank you for a brilliant party"

"Happy birthday. Thank you for a great party xx"

"Happy 10th Birthday Little Hiccups!  Thanks for a great party!"

"Firstly... happy 10th birthday secondly ...Thank you so much for letting us share in the celebrations today its fabulous that little hiccups has grown and for the last few years we haven't been able to fit upstairs!!! Lovely to see all our hiccups family&friends today xxx"

"Happy 10th birthday little hiccups, we had a lovely time celebrating with you."

Thursday, 13 June 2019

Having a wild time

When it comes to Little Hiccups Family Fun Day we do strive to stretch the boundaries and explore new activities and events. Things that you would maybe not think about normally doing with your child. We want parents to experience new activities in a safe environment. And despite the uneven ground and the campfire, this one was a major success. It obviously wasn't suitable for our children that used mobility aids due to the uneven ground but despite this we were fully booked. So much in so that when a second slot opened up that one booked up quickly too.

So what was Forest School? When I arrived the woods were set up into different areas. There was a sign welcoming up and inviting us to go on a Gruffalo Hunt. Cuddly toys of the animals found throughout the book were scattered around for the children to find. There was a fairy dell hidden away in the corner and in another corner there was an owl book to enjoy with some cuddly baby owls.  There was a swing over a small ditch which my son spent an age on. There was a Potion Corner with pots and pans and bottles full of magic which the toddler disappeared straight to and conjured up spells. There were dinosaurs and digging, bug books and bug toys and supervised craft making. All the children came home with a necklace made out of wood and string that they drew a design on. They then had to use a manual hand drill that they wound themselves to drill a hole for the string to go through. As well as all this we had hammocks scattered around which we lost various children and adults into. They had the capability of enveloping the person completely and could leave the user cosy and isolated while surrounded by people. 

And of course there was the campfire. And the food. We had tortilla pizzas roasted over the fire followed by Digestive S'mores. There was many a sticky and happy face after that treat! All guided and supervised by the Grassroots Muddy Boots team.

The children and adults alike loved this event. I think we'd like to do this event again but in the meantime the Grassroots team are now hosting special sessions for children with additional needs so make sure you give their Facebook page a follow and give their website a glance.

"Had such a great time this afternoon thankyou very much!!! Kids loved it..!"

"What a fab day!"

"He did lots of activities like make a necklace and bracelet, mud kitchen, hammocks, leaf printing amd frames, pizza making and marshmellow toasting on a fire, potion making, den building and much more.. Would definitely recommend grassroots muddy boots forest school for the little ones."

"Absolutely brilliant time at forest school today, thank you Little Hiccups. Sooooo much to do, kids loved all the activities! Thank you x"

"We've had a fantastic day with our Little Hiccups family in the forest. Owen was so happy! Just the kind of day we needed to bring an end to the school holidays. Thank you guys!"

"Thank you Little Hiccups. A fantastic morning. “Kody with a K” as he’s apparently now known 😂 would like to say a big thank you to Simon and Nick who were ‘awesome’ at cooking outdoor pizzas. And of course Sally for making s’mores... that just made his week! One of Kody's favourite little hiccup events."

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/grassrootsmuddyboots/
Website: https://grassrootsmuddyboots.com/

Monday, 20 May 2019

Sniffing out some good fun

 Well it is a farm after all and farms smell of well...farms! 

As it turns out you cannot beat some good old fashioned farm fun. Cannon Hall is a regular with my family simply because it has it all. You know that it will be a good day out when you come here and it was again this weekend.

Little Hiccups has been to Cannon Hall a couple of times before but we'd had a couple of families ask if we could go again so it was duly booked and organised. The staff as always were helpful and friendly on arrival and were more than willing to put aside a picnic room for the families to eat their lunches in. Its a small thing but it means that a family has a quieter and more relaxing place to have their lunch in if needed. And sometimes that is the make or break of a good day out!

If you haven't been to Cannon Hall before it was lots of animals including your usual farm animals, the fluffier type (bunnies!) and the scalier type with the newish addition of a Reptile House. Its fascinating in here as above your heads is a trail of Leaf Cutter Ants on their journey from the leaves back to their house. There are also plenty of Meet and Greeting of reptiles and we have images of people stroking Iguana's and Cockroaches among others.

And if the animals are not enough there are several play areas for all ages and abilities. I bumped into several families in this vicinity which was pleasant as some events you seem to miss everyone! This time I actually got a chance to chat to some (plus a sneaky cuddle with newborn Alex).

There is also of course the Tractor ride and the soft play area - The Hungry Llama - which entertained my family for some time while we had a much needed 10 minute rest and an ice-cream. And who can forget the Sheep and Ferret Racing. Always a highlight to any day to see sheep chasing the food and the ferrets...not...:-)

All in all - it felt like a very easy and full day out. And a massive thank you to Cannon Hall who on leaving shared some Discount Vouchers for all the families that attended. I've posted these out to you all.

"We had a great day today. A few moments where my little madam wasn't happy. Once because the birds were singing and she wanted me to turn them off but other than that we loved it. Thank you xx"

"We all had a great time at Cannon Farm Hall. Many thanks to Little Hiccups for organising"

"Thank you so much little hiccups, we had a great time at cannon hall farm xx"

"Amazing day once again. Thank you Little Hiccups we would be lost without you!!"

"Thanks for a great day Little Hiccups!"

"Thank you for a lovely day out!"

Wednesday, 15 May 2019

Never apologise

I am 33, a single parent who lives in Leeds. I have a daughter Jenna who is my angel.
She has a rare life limiting brain condition. She saved me from a future of abuse. She’s
strong, fragile and will never know her absolute worth in this world. She has given me pure
happiness and asks for nothing in return. I don’t need to be proud of her determination and
passion, but I do need her to be proud of herself.

I am a Carer. I’m also part of the Little Hiccups family.

I don’t know what it’s like to have a friend, a daughter, auntie, sister or partner who’s a Carer
like me.

I do know what it’s like to be a part of Little Hiccups. To have a two amazing friends who I
trust implicitly, a solid brother, four girlfriends like sisters, a friend who’s daughter loves mine,
a niece who I admire, a mother and father who epitomises what family is and recently a
partner who just cares. All of these people have chosen to share a part of my life with Jenna.
I never asked, begged, willed or bought their time or love. They chose it. I’ve spent hours of
my life questioning why, wondering when they’ll leave, why they put up with my endless
stories, problem solving, updates, cries, excitement and often impatience. Eight years in I
still don’t know. I’m learning my job isn’t to question it but embrace it and be her gate
keeper. The one who vets all the others we meet, who by watching her relationships with
them builds a village of family and friends who she can depend on.

These people choose to be a part of the fun, chaos, exhaustion, despair and love. My life
honestly is exhausting. The highs are built on pure joy, relief and problem solving. The lows
usually revolve around years of no sleep, all the negative self thoughts and feelings that
accompany that level of tiredness, and simply having to watch somebody that you love
suffer daily knowing that doing everything you can do sometimes doesn’t feel enough.

I have 90% patience for Jenna. 10% for everybody else and I don’t apologise for it. I work
my backside off her her and always will. I’m grateful with all of my heart for the time, support
and love we’re given. I don’t care anymore that being a carer has a stigma to some. I don’t
care anymore that being a single parent has a stigma too. I care about Jenna, I am
answerable only to her, she is my heart, my job and my life. I could tell you all about the
exciting things we’ve done together....flying, climbing, skiing, river swimming, cinema,
trampolining, kayaking, the places we’ve been, the time we drove to Scotland in our pj’s to
watch the sunset, bought our first record...the list goes on. I could tell you all the best bits
and sugar coat our story with all of that. Stories of how lucky we are, the brilliant people
we’ve met, the kindness I never knew existed. But that’s just a part of it. If you’re not living
it I would be stupid to assume that you could imagine the thought of watching your child
suffer, handle thoughts of being in this world without them, find the words to support your
friends who have similar stories or burst with joy at every single win!  I can only describe
our life as a raw version of every emotion.

But if I’m honest I don’t care how you see me, Jenna or our life. My dad once said the world
will see you as it wants, and he’s right. Those people in our life have made their choices to
know us, you can make yours.

I’m grateful for those who have chosen to care, those who cut us and friends like us some
slack, constantly. I’m grateful for the side of people we see that shows they care. I’m not
sure I ever really saw that before. It doesn’t matter what the condition or illness a child has
or how much somebody understands about it. It does matter that that kindness keeps me
and families like mine going when they need it.

Tuesday, 30 April 2019

Entrancing the senses

This month we visited Lush for a smelly, sensory and bubbly party! I have to say that it would be hard to find a more enthusiastic bunch of people to run a party. The staff were just wonderful every time I popped in and were so welcoming before, during and after the party. For an example, I popped in with my 2 year old before the party to assess the shop for the Risk Assessment (its terribly exciting my job!) and to scope out toilets, access, etc and ending up staying a good 30 minutes while the staff entertained the 2 year old with bubbles, colours and play-doh soap (which we ended up buying - its fab!) I think that this in itself was a perfect example of just how welcoming they are in this store.

The team opened up before the official shop opening hours to enable us to have a private party and arranged access with the White Rose store to ensure that the environment was friendly and quiet. The Lush party itself was free-flowing. Children were allowed to do what they wanted and move between activities to suit them which included bath art, Bubble Bar Making, Jelly Games, Knot Wrap Fashion and lots of different scents, textures, colours and things that make noise.  The team were on hand and flexible to suit the children's needs and I hear that Jack had a lovely hand massage! 

It was a wonderful and welcoming event and I feel that this is going to become a regular activity in our diary! Thank you Lush :-) 

"Thank you little hiccups kids had a fab time this morning. Loving the concentration for the bath jelly spoon race"

"Connie is now in the bath. Thank you for this morning. Lush staff were absolutely fabulous xx"

"We had a fantastic time at the lush party. Many thanks. Willow loved it."

"Hi. I thought the lush event was great, lots of fun sensory activities on offer,  brilliant staff . A lovely experience"

"The kids loved it. It was simply amazing. So relaxed. The children could use as many bombs, jelly, foam and anything else as they liked. No judgement, no pressure. Nothing was too much trouble. The staff were welcoming and engaging. We didn’t want to go home "

"The staff were so so lovely , they let the kids explore at their own pace , no pressure to join in but if u did join in they were fantastic with the kids, I was so impressed with them."

"It was really relaxed and all the staff were great with the kids. Seeing Jack enjoy his hand massage was a definite highlight for me."

Tuesday, 9 April 2019

How Little Hiccups started 10 years ago...

Thirteen years ago I gave birth to my little boy, full of the joys of becoming a parent and filled with all of the dreams and aspirations for our lives ahead…. those dreams were shattered just a few days afterwards as we very nearly lost our boy to Hypoglycaemia. We spent the following weeks in PICU and HDU before finally bringing our son home, only to keep returning to the LGI as the extent of his injuries came apparent. Jack had been left with scarring all over his brain, resulting in him having severe cortical visual impairment, he cannot sit, stand, hold up his head, or use his hands. He cannot speak (though he can certainly vocalise and express his teenage strops ;) he is fed via a gastrostomy and has a very difficult to treat form of Epilepsy called Lennox Gastaut Syndrome which means he has 20-30 seizures a day of every different kind. All that said, he is the most loving and inspirational boy I have ever met :)

I remember how hard life was back in the early days. I felt consumed by grief and fear for what was to come. Friends and family didn’t always understand - how could they!!? Some people backed away and left me completely isolated and alone. Jack had a growing number of therapists involved in his care, physios, OT’s, speech and language, epilepsy nurses, community nurses, VI teacher, Portage worker, Specialist health visitor, neurologist, paediatrician ….. and they were great, always asking if I wanted to be “put in touch with another family” but I knew if I had to speak the words out loud it was going to make it real!

Finally I did speak to another mum. We spoke of Epilepsy meds and hospital visits, the hardest conversation I have ever had, trying to speak with that lump in my throat and hold back the tears. However, that was my turning point! I realised I wasn’t on my own, there are other families out there going through this too!

The next couple of years saw me leaving my job of 18 years and becoming a single parent, not how I had expected my life to go but Jack needed me more than ever. I recall sitting in Children’s Outpatients one day and looking at the other parents with small babies and a look of total fear in their eyes, wondering what the Drs would tell them next. I knew how they felt and wanted so say “Its ok, you’re not on your own.”

We had been told that Jack’s condition was life limiting, heartbreaking! Somehow I had to get my head, and my heart around that. For a while it did consume me, until I realised I was grieving yet my boy was still here! Still in my arms! This was not the time to grieve, but to make sure I do Jack proud, and give him  the very best life I can. My greatest fear is to stand at his grave and feel I have let him down, which I have no intention of doing!  

Ten years ago I happened to be in the right place at the right time and secured the backing to get “Little Hiccups” up and running. I wanted to bring families together so they would know they weren’t on their own and could support each other. We started with bags of toys and a jar of coffee, ten years later we support over 300 local families and offer a range of services!

We run Stay and Play every Thursday afternoon at Leeds Mencap, an Outreach Service, Hydrotherapy Sessions, Information and Counselling services and a monthly Family Fun Day offering families the opportunity to do activities such as visit local attractions, the cinema (which is always fun with feed pumps, wheelchairs, walking frames and excited children) Canal Boating, Bowling, Water Sports, Parties, Skiing, Wall Climbing, Photoshoots and even Indoor Skydiving!

We firmly believe that our children, no matter what their diagnosis, have the right to experience as much of life as possible and make oodles of many happy memories with their friends and family. Life is a journey and this path we walk certainly isn’t an easy one, however it is very rewarding and we consider ourselves blessed to be part of these special children’s lives and to help make a difference.

Monday, 25 March 2019

Ever just wanted a decent picture of your child??

You all know the routine - you have a child that won't sit still, that struggles with a new environment, that cannot or will not pose for photos. There are many frustrations from families that just want a decent family photo and are unable to get one. One of the main concerns is that the photographer will not understand or be patient enough with the child. That the child will end up frustrated at being forced to pose in a way they do not want and the session ends in a melt down. 

I have so many families contacting me before these sessions worried about how it will go - and I always tell them the same thing.  You don't need to worry - not with Dean. 

Dean has many years experience working with families who have children with additional needs. His experience stems from his personal life and his work life and shows itself beautifully in his photos. We've never had a family come away unhappy and in fact many declare that this is the fist time a photoshoot has been successful. You can't really ask more than that! 

Although I didn't go along to this photoshoot (we just leave him to it now!) I've been myself with my children and I can speak from first hand knowledge at how good Dean is at capturing every person's personality. My two eldest children are polar opposites. I have one that won't say a word when she's out and just stares at people and I have another who is impossible to pin down and speaks at around a million words a minute and yet its not a problem. Trust is earned within minutes and the children are giggling away at Dean's entertainment. They love him to bits now. We generally start with the loud one! He's up for all kinds of poses and shows off while Dean snaps away (they'll always be one that isn't a blur!) The quiet one stands and watches and slowly prepares for her turn then when its is I even glimpse a rare smile. We can then persuade them to have photos together and, dare I say it, even hug...(they've hit that age after all!) We're never disappointed and the results always end up on the wall!

But don't just take my word for it. Here's some feedback from Little Hiccups parents:

Picking the photos on the laptop
"Fantastic experience. Dean greeted the boys, made them feel at ease in a judgement free zone! We’ve done a few photo shoots before but never been able to get good pictures or had the boys enjoy the experience before. Fantastic photos, great stress-free experience. Would highly recommend to anyone who dreads the ‘mission impossible’ of family photos."

"We went to deans and from the minute we walked through the door he was so pleasant and welcoming and made Ella feel so at home by letting her be herself. She loved every minute of it and he managed to get her to sit in the box for the photos to be taken and even got some amazing smiles from her. (No idea how as when I ask her to smile for pictures she acts the clown and pulls funny faces) she loved looking at the photos he had taken on his laptop before taking some more. The finished in the box picture is amazing. We will be booking with him again at some point through the year because we loved it so much"

"Dean was brilliant with us and great with Jack. He really put us all at ease."

"I cant believe this little beauty came from me.. i know im biased but hes sooo beautiful. He absolutely loved his photoshoot the little poser. Thankyou little hiccups xx"