How to survive a road trip with teenagers

Alternate title: how I drove over a thousand miles with three teenagers and managed to not completely lose my mind or abandon them on a highway

We have just got back from our CleasbysAmericanAdventure, a two week road trip from Long Beach up the Western coast of America to San Francisco and it has been a blast! But as any parent of teenagers can imagine, there were times when traveling in a car with 13, 15 and 17 year olds wasn’t the easiest thing in the world. There were tears, shouting and tantrums and that was just me!

I adore my kids, but honestly, sometimes parenting teenagers can be challenging and putting a family into a tin box of an SUV for 14 days becomes a bit of a pressure cooker situation, but hooray! We survived it! And so I thought I would put down a few of the lessons learnt from road tripping with the family.

surviving a roadtrip with teens

Space matters

Whether it is in the car or a hotel, space matters. Go for the biggest car you can afford, squashing multiple teens into the back of a mini is asking for trouble! If possible, can you get a car with two back rows? We went for a medium sized SUV, basically the biggest we could get on our budget and to be honest, it was still quite small.  This meant daily arguments of who went in the middle, who was touching whose leg, who was breathing in an annoying way…

Move around, let them swap seats for different sections of the journey, I also sat in the back sometimes making sure each of them got (equal) amounts of time in the front passenger seat.  This actually was quite nice, it gave Timm a change in front seat buddy, a new DJ and I got to hang out and chat with the other two.

The same goes with accommodation, due to us being a family of 5 it can be tough on a budget.  We tried to get family rooms or airbnb apartments but this still tended to mean two double beds and a single meaning two of them had to share… You honestly would have thought we’d asked them to tear off their faces and rub them in salt rather than to share a sleeping space with a sibling.

In hindsight I wish we’d paid more attention to this, as the air bnbs where everyone had their own bed were so much more peaceful!

Your idea of relaxing and theirs may be completely different – and that’s OK!

So imagine the scene, we pull up to a buffalo ranch, like actual real life buffalos are roaming in the garden, it’s the most beautiful site I have ever seen.  The house we are staying in looks like it’s from an old western movie and we are surrounded by trees, animals, sky and little else.  It was amazing and I was so proud that Id found this hidden gem.  We quickly unpack and I am raring to get out and enjoy the views, I grab a sun hat, a g&t and a book and head to the garden to take in the awe inspiring beauty.

I look around, waiting for the teens to join me, after all what else would they want to do? But they are no where to be seen! Have they fallen down a well? Has a buffalo gored them and are they lying injured calling to Lassie to find me? No.  The little shits are all in their own beds, searching for the internet code, watching youtube, playing computer games and messaging their mates.

For a moment, I was FUMING.  Were they taking the piss?? We’d brought them to the most heavenly place, I had been planning this for months and they wanted to lay in bed on phones and ipads??? THE UNGRATEFUL LITTLE SHITS!!!!

Then I took a breath.  I remembered that we had all been together for the past 6 hours in a car, we’d stopped at multiple view points where they’d trailed out of the car and posed for photos at the spots I loved.  I remembered that for me, relaxing is sitting in the sun and reading a book but that for them, it was chatting with their mates or playing a game and I realised that is all ok.  We can have chill out time in our own ways, whether I understand them or not.

surviving a roadtrip with teens

Electronics – yes or no?

Do you have a total ban on phones/laptops/ipads on your road trip? Well if you do, you are a better person than I am.  Honestly, the devices saved all of our sanity and kept them happy.

I don’t allow electronics at the dinner table, that’s my only rule and they were left in the house when we were on days out, but otherwise I let them amuse themselves with their devices.

Also there were times where I just wanted to scroll through Instagram and look on pinterest and so it would have been a bit hypocritical! And teenagers can sniff out hypocrisy and unfairness at a mile away!

On a similar note; find the wifi codes asap, they are the best currency you will ever have.

surviving a roadtrip with teens

Ask for their ideas

Get them involved in the planning stages, ask them where they want to go, what they want to do. I got mine to do a bit of research and let me know their ideas.  A family holiday with teens is nothing like a holiday with younger kids where they go and do whatever you want, this should be a collaboration.  If you want them to go see a bridge you want to see, then expect to do something they want to do too.

As it happens, my kids ideas ended up being some of the best days out.  They all wanted to go to Universal Studios and to be honest, this is not mine or Timm’s idea of a good day out, but it was the only thing the three of them agreed on and so we went for it, and it was joyous!! We all had an absolute blast and they appreciated that we listened to them.

Other examples were the Getty Museum, the Queen Mary ‘haunted’ ship and breakfast at Denny’s – all brilliant times and things we may not have thought of otherwise.

The joy of teens is they’re (usually) OK to be left alone for a while!

I have done my time of having a child attached to my hip 24 hours a day, those days are passed and now I can leave them for periods of time. Praise be!

When we rolled into Santa Cruz after a long day of travelling and sight seeing at around 8pm, the kids groaned and flopped onto beds and put the TV on. Timm and I needed to stretch our legs and not watch repeats of Seinfeld and so we left them in the motel and headed out for a few hours.

I do still worry about leaving them, especially in another country, but the eldest is almost 18! We left them with a phone and instructions to not open the door and to call us if they needed anything and went out.  When we got back a couple of hours later, they literally hadn’t moved a muscle.  And we’d had a nice time!

surviving a roadtrip with teens

Cold, hard cash

Before we went away, we explained to the kids that we would be buying everything we needed and a few treats thrown in but if they wanted to buy extra things then they needed to make sure they had their own cash.  We gave them plenty of warning for this to save wages/spending money and then gave them free reign to spend their own money as they wanted.

This meant that the eldest had £300 whilst the youngest had £30 but it worked for us, there wasn’t any unfairness as it was money they’d all earned separately. (The youngest does chores for weekly spending money, the middle one did some extra jobs to earn spends and the eldest works in a bar/restaurant so had his wages).

We still treated them, they all got a Harry Potter wand from Universal courtesy of us and we bought American candy and obviously all food/drinks/treats but it meant we weren’t having to say ‘no’, we were saying ‘can you afford it?’

Get used to listening to them talk crap

This may sound harsh, but it is true. At least in my family! I spent two weeks listening to them bang on about this youtuber and why he is amazing, and that computer game and detailed explanations of the best ways to smash level 57.  I’ve heard about how Jack and Leonie did it at Julia’s party but Jess told Simon that Louis had smoked weed and passed out in Bella’s sister’s bed…

There were times when I smiled and nodded but inside I was imagining what it would be like if I ever met Oprah and how we would become BFFs, but there were other times when I revelled in these glimpses into the usually unseen and unheard lives of my kids. Times where it was wonderful to have the time to lie on the beach chatting to my kids rather than rushing about trying to juggle work, housework and life in general.

Have some idea of a plan. And then ignore the plan

I am a planner, I love to organise and to find new and exciting things for us to do, Ive spent the last few months on pinterest scouring the internet for all the best places we could go and I had a general plan for each day we were away.  I do this because I don’t want to miss out on anything that we would regret later. BUT it is also important to not stick so strictly to a plan that any spontaneity goes out of the window.

There will be hiccups along the way, days when your plan just doesn’t work out, or when you find something so much better! Especially if you are disabled or have a chronic illness, there were lots of times during our holiday when I just wasn’t well enough to do the things we’d planned.  I could have let this get me down but instead I tried to just go with the flow, my kids have grown up with my illness and are aware of my limitations and so sometimes you just have to give in to it.

surviving a roadtrip with teens

Enjoy them

I may sound like the teens are a thorn in my side, that holidaying with them was a chore. This simply isn’t true, I have adored spending time with them as a family unit but also one to one.  Yes, there have been times where their arguing over whose leg was slightly over the imagined barrier between them in the car or when they take forever in the shower whilst you are all queuing for the same bathroom, but I have loved it as a whole.

Someone who’s kids were all grown up once told me “You never know when it’s your last” – be that last time they get in your bed after a nightmare, the last time they hold your hand to cross the road, the last time they genuinely care about your opinion on whether they should wear that outfit.  And for us, this feels like it could be the last time we all have a big holiday together as our family dimensions stand right now.

In three weeks, my eldest turns 18.  He will be an adult, legally responsible for himself and who knows where life will take him, and so I made sure I enjoyed the time we had together, as I have no idea when it will be my last with him.

 

So there you go, I hope some of this helps! I think the main thing is to remember that you are privileged to be going on holiday and so try and make the most of every moment.  I love to travel and wish we could do it more, so despite the fractious times, I knew that in no time at all, it would all be over and we would be back to normal life, work, school, college.  Busy lives where sometimes we don’t have enough time for one another, so if you are planning a trip, have a blast and enjoy it!

Sam xx

Healing an old stoma site from the inside out!

Just a word of warning, this post has lots of graphic and medical images of my old stoma site healing and may not be suitable for everyone.

So after the last surgery where they resited my stoma, the old site was left open. I was gobsmacked when I first saw it as I’d never seen an open wound like this before.

They explained that they heal better if they’re not sewn up and they want it to heal from the inside out and so it was packed with dressing and I saw a district nurse every day for just over a month till it healed up.

I had a big cry when I first saw it, it was 3.5cm deep and looked like a gunshot wound, they said it would take around 4-6 weeks to heal and I couldn’t believe that could be true!

So I took photos of the healing process as I found it intriguing and I thought it might help others going through the same situation.

What follows are the images of it healing, as previously warned, they may be upsetting to some so don’t scroll down if you don’t want to look!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here we go…

Open stoma wound healing

12th June – 5 days post op

Open stoma wound healing

21st June – 14 days post op

Open stoma wound healing

27th June – 20 days post op

Open stoma wound healing

29th June – 22 days post op

Open stoma wound healing

1st July – 24 days post op

Open stoma wound healing

2nd July – 25 days post op

Open stoma wound healing

5th July – 28 days post op

Open stoma wound healing

11th July – 34 days post op

15th July – 38 days post op

18th July – 41 days post op

Open stoma wound healing

11th August – 65 days post op

So there we go! Isn’t the body brilliant!!!

I hope this helps anyone who is facing this sort of healing process to know that it does get better.

 

Loce Sam xx

Chronic illness and guilt – when we can, we do

I got a message from someone on twitter today from a mum who is facing stoma surgery.

“You have made a difference. You made me feel ok about stoma surgery, you help me to remember I’m not the only one feeling like this. These school holidays are breaking my heart, I feel so guilty for not doing things with the kids. Thank you for reminding me I’m not alone xx”

I responded telling them that today I’m in bed as all my kids are on computers and though I feel bad about this, I remind myself that when I can, I do.

It struck me that this is a good motto for anyone with chronic illness who is feeling guilty.

 

There is so much guilt in living with chronic illness or disability, it’s wrong, it’s unhelpful and it’s crap but almost everyone I speak to has had feelings of guilt at some time in their lives.

Guilt that they’re letting others down, that they’re not good enough parents, partners or friends. Guilt that they don’t pull their weight with work, guilt for taking time off. Guilt that their houses aren’t tidy enough, their dogs aren’t walked enough. Guilt that they sometimes eat fast food as they’re too tired to cook. Guilt that their kids have to care for them when they want to be caring for the kids. Guilt that family days out get cancelled or become about their illness rather than the fun of it.

Its easy for me to say that it needs to stop, that these things we feel bad about are out of our control and that guilt doesn’t help anyone. But I’d be a hypocrite. Because I feel all these things too.

But I do remind myself that when I can, I do.

When I can take my kids out for the day I do. Yes, it’s sometimes to the cinema as I know I’m not strong enough for a more physical day but I do.

When I can, I work hard, I put my everything into careers that I love.

When I can, my house is clean and tidy (and when I can’t, I hire a cleaner!!)

When I can, I see friends, I think about others, I’m there for them.

Life can be tough, but remember…

When we can, we do.

 

✌🏽& ❤️

Sam xx

Matron, Medicine and Me – 70 years of the NHS

I was thrilled to be interviewed for the BBC’s Matron, Medicine and Me which was aired recently.  The episode I was on was hosted by Fern Britton who went back to the hospital that saved her life from sepsis a few years ago, there were lots of amazing stories shared about the NHS and if you’d like to watch it again, head over to the iplayer here.

You can see my interview here.

 

Love Sam xx

3D meditation?

At a time when everyone I know seems to be in such high stress mode, I was interested to read about 3D meditation from Bellabeat.  I have used a few apps over the years to help with health, sleep and wellbeing, Im a big fan of the Sleep Well app that uses guided meditation to help send you off to the land of nod.

So what the hell is 3D meditation? Bellabeat has come up with some products and an app that are designed to immerse you in the moment of meditation through the experience of hearing, feeling and breathing and is designed by women for women.

They do this through an app but also with the add ons of a wellbeing clip-on health tracker device called a leaf (think of a fit bit but for your soul), headphones and mala beads that add a tactile addition to count your mantras on.

Even though I know that using guided meditation and taking that time for myself is really beneficial, I still find it hard to actually force myself into doing it.  There always seems to be another more important thing to do, but I know I need to try and prioritise some time for self care and a bit of me time and so I’ll be trying the Bellabeat package in the coming weeks to see if it helps.

You can find the Bellabeat app on your App Store it’s basically a lifestyle app that has both the physical stuff like step counting and activity levels, sleep times but also your menstrual cycle handy if you are trying to get pregnant but also good to keep track of when the red mist is about to descend.  You can count calories and water intake too.

Obviously the app is developed to go alongside the clip on health tracker and other products but you can use it without those things too. The meditation side of the app has lots of different meditations based on mind, body and soul, they are quite specific from one about menstrual pain to ones to help you sleep as well as more general calmness and wellbeing ones.

bellabeat wellness health tracker

The Leaf health tracker looks cool, it could easily be a piece of jewellery rather than a traditional tracker and are available to purchase instore and online from John Lewis and Selfridges, as well as amazon.co.uk, OutdoorGB and ASOS. Whisper and Mala Beads are available from the Bellabeat webstore.

bellabeat health tracker leafbellabeat leaf

 

I have been feeling a bit overwhelmed by everything since the surgery and losing my nan and I am trying to take steps to improve my health, my happiness and my wellbeing.  I am making better food choices (mainly veggie, cutting out as much processed food as possible), I am seeing a physiotherapist and working on my physical health and I am trying to make time for quiet, for calm and for meditation so we will see how it goes with these products soon.

How do you help yourself? Do you have any self care tips to share? When life is just so bloody stressful and busy, how do you find time and energy to give yourself what you need? I would love to hear from you.

I will let you all know how I get on

Love Sam xx

 

 

Disclaimer: I have not been paid or reimbursed for this post, I do sometimes choose to work with companies who either pay me to share a review or give me free products.  All my reviews are honest and all my own thoughts and feelings and I will always let you guys know if I have been paid in any way for those posts.  I pick who I work with really carefully and only work with brands that I feel have something of interest to my lovely readers.

 

 

Work and chronic illness

I’ve been thinking a lot about work at the moment, I work for the brilliant charity Scope and have been off sick since my emergency surgery at the beginning of June. They have been great but that doesn’t stop me feelinh terribly guilty about having time off and the pressures that puts on my team.

During this time off, I have also found out that I got my own show on BBC Radio Sheffield and so it’s felt pretty weird to get a new job when I’m not even at my current one. I’m thrilled to start presenting my radio show and there was no doubt in my mind that I would be staying at Scope and doing one evening a week with the beeb.

They too have been really understanding about my recovery and we’ve prerecorded the first two shows to fit in around my time off and my health. We’ll be going live on the 5th September!

I obviously also run this blog and the so bad ass social media and I have to admit that everything is getting a bit much.

I love all the work I do but as I feel my body fails me year on year, it’s hard to fit everything in and the fatigue, joint pain, aches and ostomy bag troubles do make life really difficult to be in the work world every day.

I give myself a hard time, I push myself so hard because I despise the fact that I can’t do everything that I’d like to do and I’ve got in a bad habit of cycling through the phases of push, push, push, crash. And repeat.

Im questioning dropping my hours with Scope but this brings on waves of anxiety, both financial and the feelings that I’m letting them down, that I’m so useless I can’t even do the hours and the job they hired me for! I think this is exasperated by the fact I’ve been off sick for so long. I’m terrified of letting them down and scared I’m not up to the role any more. I need to say this is all coming from my head, not at all from my employer.

Having a chronic illness is a full time job in itself, I wake up almost every morning feeling hungover and like I’ve run a marathon and adding in full time work just is exhausting and draining. I worry massively about whether working full time and then consequently sleeping and resting a lot means that my kids are missing out. Am I a good enough mum? Am I there enough both physically and emotionally?

And so to add in one night a week doing my radio show is scaring the pants off me.

How do I fit everything in? How can I be ‘enough’ at work, on my show, on the blog, as a wife, as a friend, as a volunteer, as a mother?

Yet dropping hours at work will affect us financially, it makes life harder for my husband who will have to do more hours to make up for it, it will affect my team at work, my role and maybe my potential as an employee.

I feel like I can’t do right for doing wrong, like whatever decision I make will negatively impact someone. But I need to think about my body, my mind and my health.

The last surgery broke me, it was so tough to get through and the recovery was horrific. I’m still getting the odd panic attack whenever I think about going to see a doctor or hospital. I’m scared about my future, I’m worried, I’m still in pain, I’m still recovering.

I feel I need to make changes to myself and my lifestyle to self care more. I’m seeing a physiotherapist, I’m looking at my diet, I’m thinking about my attitude and how I can live a more positive and happy life.

On one hand I feel that reducing my hours will allow me down time and a better work life balance which could really benefit both work, the blog and the radio show, but on the other I find this decision upsetting and embarrassing.  I hate feeling like my body is letting me down.

I’ve no idea how best to move forward and I really need to start some planning around the desision to get to a point where I’m happy and comfortable

Anyway I’m sorry there’s no resolution in this post but I’ll update when things change and I’ve made some decisions

✌🏽 & ❤️

 

Sam