Words of love

Each night as I tuck them in, the words of love are uttered.
"I love you" I say "I love you too" Maxi replys "I love you to the moon and back" I say "I love you three million, twenty two thousand and ninety eight miles" Maxi responds
maxi asleep Then I move on to Mini's room.......................
"I love you" I say "I love you more" he responds "I love you MORE" I reply "I love you the MOST" he says with such conviction it makes my heart ache
Not possible I think to myself, not possible. mini sleep  
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Fountains Abbey

Spring finally sprung in North Yorkshire this past weekend and we decided to take advantage of the National Trusts free weekend and visit Fountains Abbey. climbing fountains There is something wonderful in just getting outdoors and having fun as a family.  We packed a picnic and set off for an adventure. Maxi Fountains Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal is a great place to walk, explore, learn and have fun as a family.  It is a world heritage centre and the boys love being able to run and just generally have fun whilst I amble along at my own pace taking lots of photographs. mini fountains I love spring days out as a family.  Exploring places and enjoying each others company.  Over the Spring and summer we try to ensure that we spend one day at the weekend out as a family.  The thing is that the boys love being out and about as much as me and MadDad do and we spent Sunday pottering in the garden and the weekend was pretty screen free for all of us. You can see more of our photos from Fountains Abbey on our facebook page  Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall
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Encouraging writing in Boys – Scrapbooking holiday memories

recording holiday memories We are really focussing on trying to encourage our boys to move away from the electronic and take up more tactile pursuits!  I gave you some ideas for encouraging writing earlier in the week, but I wanted to concentrate on recording holiday memories this time.  When I was younger one of the most exciting aspects of any family holiday was receiving the developed film back from the chemist  and putting together an album of the photographs and writing the name of the holiday in the inside page. scrapbook 1 In todays digital world I find that my images stay on my PC, phone and on the digital photo frame we have and that made me sad, so I decided to encourage Maxi to make a scrapbook of our recent Orlando visit.  This was made even easier as we were gifted a whole host of Papermainia scrapbooking things in the All Aboard travel theme from Docrafts.com Whilst we were in Orlando Maxi made sure that he took maps, leaflets and keep all his tickets in to the theme parks, so in addition to any pictures I printed out he could also keep all this memorabilia and have a wonderful physical memory of our holiday. Firstly we sat at the PC and decided which images to print.  In future I think that I would send them off to an online provider to print, that way we could have a better quality print. Then we cut all the photographs out using the guillotine and then I let Maxi lose with the glue and a pen! scrap As much as I wanted everything to be neat and in a certain way, I knew that it was best that I just stayed on the sideline and let him fill the scrapbook in how he wanted it to be.  Afterall this is his holiday memories we are recording. The best thing is that whilst Maxi was busy doing this, Mini decided that he needed a scrapbook too and starting sticking in receipts and maps from visits to London in.  I hope that I have started something and that the boys start collecting mementos on holidays and trips and they keep on making scrapbooks. Recently our friends went on a holiday in the Norfolk Broads, which is somewhere we haven't visited at all and both the boys have decided that they want to  go on a Richardson's Boating Holiday.  They both love the idea of all the things they could record and keep in their new scrapbooks! 3.
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A day in the life of my hands

Maxi's hands

  • Two hands, one for each of my children.  I still take joy in the fact that at eight and nearly seven the boys want to hold my hands when we go places.
  • Two hands, to hold on tight to the man of my dreams
  • Two hands that love to get dirty with bread, paint, glue and glitter (not all at the same time mind you)
  • Two hands, one to hold the book and one to turn the pages as I read the bedtime story
  • Two hands that love to gently stroke my children as they sleep.
  • Two hands that tippy tap away on the keyboard letting the words flow from brain to blog
  • Two hands that hold the camera capturing the moments to make the memories
  • But mostly my two hands to help, they help my children learn to make their own way in the world

hands

To celebrate its 20th birthday, Carex has launched a nationwide competition to reward 20 busy pairs of hands around the UK!

The Carex Live Life Hands On Awards celebrate all the wonderful things that we do with our hands. Carex wants people to share a day in the life of their hands, showcasing the real life moments that hands unlock, every single day. Entries can be a couple of sentences, a short written diary, some photos or even video footage. Hands The competition is open to everyone and Carex will pick 20 of the most compelling entries to each win £500 worth of Red Letter Day vouchers, plus a year’s supply of Carex hand wash. To enter The Carex Live Life Hands On Awards visit the Carex Website 

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House of Secrets

We love books in The Mad House and one of my favorite times of the day is when we read to each other.  As the boys are growing up I still feel it is important to read to them and I am aware that sometimes the length of books is daunting to younger children if they want to read them themselves, however, chapter books are great for family reading.  We were recently sent The House of Secrets and we have been reading a chapter or two each night and it is a fab family book.  It is a real page turner. house of secrets We were keen not to let too much away, but have decided to do a very quick video review for you. This is a great book.  I read it all in the bath one night after reading the first four chapters to the boys!  It has encouraged us to talk about lots of issues as a family, but it hasn't been too spooky or scary for either of the boys.  It has really introduced the boys to the concept of cliffhangers and is a proper page turner.  It is crying out to be made into a movie, infact Maxi asked when it was going to be on at the Cinema. I would urge you to get this book, I am enjoying reading it to the boys as much as they are enjoying listening to it. Ned Vizzini is the bestselling author of the acclaimed young-adult books The Other NormalsIt's Kind of a Funny Story (also a major motion picture), Be More Chill, and Teen Angst? Naaah.... In television, he has written for ABC's Last Resort and MTV's Teen Wolf. His essays and criticism have appeared in the New York Times, the Daily Beast,and Salon. He is the co-author, with Chris Columbus, of the fantasy-adventure series House of Secrets. His work has been translated into ten languages. He lives in Los Angeles.
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Encouraging Writing in Boys

writing With the onslaught of electronics in todays lifestyle writing can sometimes take a backseat and I for one am keep to encouraging writing in my boys.  I think the fact that Maxi is both a reluctant reader and writer makes me more determined to find ways to encourage this skill.  Mini who is nearly seven loves to read and write and can often be found with a notebook and pencil in hand and is keen to improve his handwriting as he wants to get awarded a handwriting pen at school. Over the summer holidays last year we focussed a lot on writing and pen skills including making our own books, creating a writing centre and making memory stones. One of the things that I discovered was that good quality writing equipment was key in helping both the boys.   Triangular and wide pencils were easier for them to grip and paper with lines on made it easier too.  Good quality paper that they can press on without ripping is essential.  I also found that providing them with notebooks and letter writing stationery or their own choice helped to encourage them. Journaling q&A Now the boys are a little older (eight and nearly seven) we have moved on and they are currently filling in a Q&A a day for children journal each night before bed. These are brilliant journals, which asks a simple question each night and your child completes it.  It is only a sentence, so fast and simple to do before bed.  I want the boys to get into the habit of writing and feel this is a fantastic way to do that, plus it is a good way of recording how their answers change each year. Maxi is also putting together a scrapbook style journal of our recent trip to Orlando (more about that in the near future). Penpals ASwholarge Both the boys also have a penpal that they write too.  This is a great way of encouraging writing, penmanship and also communication skills.  They choose their own stationery and learn the joy of sending and receiving letters. We have even been collecting stamps to make a display with.  I know that the boys are  excited to use the special edition Dr Who Royal Mail stamps (released to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of Doctor Who this year)  on their next letters. mini writing 3.  
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Encouraging individualism in children

I want my children to be individuals  to not be afraid to be different. I want them to have the courage of their convictions and I want them to know that uniqueness is something to be embraced not shunned.  However, this is not easy ion today's mass market society   Everything looks the same and they often want to follow trends, well Mini does.  Maxi is much happier to stand out from the crowd. boys Over the Easter holidays we were invited to London Zoo by Next to see their Spring/Summer 2013 range and as both the boys have started to show an interest in the clothes they wear it was an interesting event.  Maxi gravitated towards the bright colours, whilst Mini loved the streetwear.  I was going to blog about the clothes, but realised that there are already some great posts out there from This  Mummy Loves, Inside the Wendy House and The Crazy Kitchen. hats As we left they were gifted a goodie bag that contained a monochrome hat and some sunglasses.  When we got home they thought it would be a great idea to use some fabric pens we have and to customise their caps.  I thought this was a great way of introducing individualism and we had great fun. hats next Both the boys really enjoyed personalising their hats from Next and took a lot of time in picking the colours they wanted and it was the perfect quiet time activity.  We sat at the table after bath time and discussed why it is OPK to wear what you want and that it is what is on the inside that matters not the outside. How do you encourage your children to be unique?  
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Geocaching with Children

Geocaching is a great way to get out and about and treasure hunt with Children.  For the uninitiated Geocaching is an outdoor activity where you navigate to a cache (or treasure for children ) using GPS.    Now that most of us have built in GPS on our mobile phone this is a great family activity and it is becoming a much more mainstream and Geocaching activity. geocaching with children What is Geocaching? It is a modern day treasure hunt using GPS.  There are over 2 million caches worldwide and to show you just how popular and accessible it is there are 14 within 2 miles of where I live on the North Yorkshire Coast! How do I find the location of Geocaches? You can search by location, postcode, county on geocaching.com.  It is a great way to get out and explore an area that you are going on holiday too.  There is a North Wales Geocache Trail, which is great for people holidaying in that lovely part of the British Isles (we had our honeymoon here and are looking to visit with the children next year).  The North Wales Geocache Trail is a great introduction to Geocaching as a family, it has a map for you to look at and decide which trail you might wish to use and the added bonus of prizes!  You can also search on difficulty, which makes it great for children.

nwb cover photo

What equipment do I need? Now that you can get Geocaching apps on your mobile phone, such as Geocaching by Groundspeak Inc for the Iphone and CacheSense for android you do not need to have a dedicated GPS device.  As with any walk it is recommended that you have good shoes or boots and dress appropriately, but as you can see it is a very low outlay activity. What is a cache? A cache is the treasure and a cache always contains a logbook or logsheet for you to log your find.  One of the guiding principles of geocaching is "take something, leave something." A geocache hider places a number of goodies in a container when a new cache is first started.  As people find the cache, they exchange goodies that catch their eye with trade items they've brought with them on the search.  The rule of geocaching is that if you take something from the cache, you must replace it with something of equal or greater value Have you been on a  geocache with your children?

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Perfect games for Children

Whenever I am asked for recommendations for games or toys to buy for younger children I often recommend Orchard Toys.  It is one of the first things that come to mind and both my boys have grown up loving and playing Orchard Toys.  In fact at one time or another I think we have had every single game in their range.  When the boys outgrown them I have passed them on to friends with younger children, these games are universally loved. spooky steps I love them for the following reasons:
        1. They are easy to play
        2. They are suitable for toddlers,  preschoolers  and upwards upwards
        3. They are fun and educational
        4. They are not mind numbing for adults
        5. They encourage independent play. My two can play without adult supervision
        6. They often combine chance with strategy, which means that people of multiple ages can play
        7. They are often 3D, however are easy to assemble and really strong and sturdy
        8. They are designed to hold children's attention and are played over a short period of time.
        9. They encourage and enforce educational skills through play without the child even noticing.
        10. They are reasonably priced, perfect for gift giving.
        11. They have great longevity
        12. Super playability
        13. They work within children's short concentration spans
Spooky Steps 159-548-spooky-steps-pack-shot We were recently sent Spooky Steps, which is a fun game for 4 to 12 year olds and focusses on maths skills.  It costs £14.99.  The boys both loved this and built it and played independently without any input at all from me and MadDad.   The instructions were clear and concise and they loved the 3D effect of the game board.  The quality of the materials is really obvious and although it has been played with extensively it does not yet show any signs of wear. The object of the game is to  creep through the spooky house to reach the cauldron and break the witch’s spell.  It encourages math skills, but also adds chance to the game, so evening out any age differences in players. As a parent this game was a real hit as it meant that the boys were using mathematics in a meaningful context without even realising that maths were involved.  This is the joy of Orchard Toys.  If your child means a little encouragement in a specific area you can focus on it without them even noticing and it makes learning a fun experience through play.  
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My Thatcher Years

I am not one for talking politics, but I was sat in the car listening to Jane Garvey on Radio 2 (much better than Jeremy Vine incidentally) discussing what people thought of Margaret Thatcher last week and it really got me thinking.  I understand that she polarised public opinion and there is a real North South divide when it comes to her and the politics of the era in question.    In some ways it wasn't a North South divide, but a class gap, which even shows in my home and the opinion MadDad and me have of The Thatcher Years. 318939_10151070661202084_1745406940_n I am a child of the eighties, I was born in the early seventies and lived on the North East coast with my Mum, Dad and Grandad.  My Dad and Grandad both worked in the shipyards.  Both were in management positions and my Mum was a SAHM.  My Dad had gone to Grammar school and college and apprenticed at the "Dock" in the Engineering department.  My Grandad was a blacksmith and had worked there from leaving school at 14, so you could say that shipbuilding ran in my blood.  All the other males in the family either worked at the Docks, the steel yard or the chemical works.  I grew up in Teesside an area of heavy industry born from iron and built of steel. My parents were the first in their family to buy there own house and we lived a relatively good life.  As a family there was two incomes coming in to the house and my mum was a stay at home mum from when I was born, so we never really wanted for anything.  We ate well, had great holidays and life was fab.  I remember riding my bike after school to meet my Dad on the way home from work.  We would get half way and he would stop the car and put the bikes in the back and go home together for a meal that my mum had cooked.  We spent many a summer evening on my Granddad's allotment where he grew vegetables cutting flowers and kept chickens   We would often build dens in the nearby nature reserve.  Life was uncomplicated.  My Dad was often to be found in the garage repairing car's for friends or doing up one to sell for some extra cash. I remember homemade clothes, family get togethers and riding my bike everywhere.  I remember having to be home for 4.30pm for dinner as Dad and Granddad got home at 4.15 and a meal was on the table at 4.30 every night.  There was band practice twice a week and my Dad got his license so he could drive the Band Bus on a weekend to cpmpetitions.  I remember sitting with my tape recording in the bedroom I shared with my brother taping songs off the radio trying to pause it before the presenter spoke, so that I could make mix tapes for the weekends journeys on the bus. I went to a good primary school and an even better senior school and my Mum became a School Crossing Warden or LollyPop lady.  We walked to school on our own from about seven years old and could often be found in the park after school fishing for guppies in the beck, carrying on at the golf links, crabbing at the boating lake or messing around on the beach. 560822_10151070659317084_1400903836_n Then things changed.  My parents tried hard to hide it from us, but it soon got out that the Shipyard was to be closed and thousands of men were to lose their jobs.  Their livelihoods gone, just like that.   Yes there was to be a decent redundancy package, but there were clauses about not being able to work for any other Shipyard for a set amount of time.  These things I didn't realise at the time.  It was as though someone had ripped out my Grandpa's heart.  Both my Dad and GrandDad had long service awards.  I remember my Dad going out looking for work.  I remember him traveling 60 miles each way everyday for work at Sunderland.  I remember the hushed conversations about tax and making sure the mortgage got paid.  I remember my Dad telling my mum that he wasn't too proud to do any work, but he was not going to sign on.  He never had and he never would.  I remember the mornings that my Mum got up at 5.30 am to go and clean the local British Legion Club before coming home to get our breakfast before school. My Senior School "merged" with another "not so good" school, but in reality, my school closed and the other school remained open crammed to the gills.   I went from loving school to hating school in one foul swoop and became rebellious. You know what, my Dad was one of the lucky ones.  He eventually got full time permanent employment, but not in his field.  Not doing what he trained all those years for and in an industry and position that eventually killed him (he died in an Industrial Accident in 2000).  Many people were out of work for years.  Families torn apart and lives shattered.  It is hard to find employment when the jobs do not exist. As a family we survived, we didn't thrive like some people.  But we were lucky, we had the allotment, which meant that we had lots of fresh veg   My Dad repaired the fishermans tractors and boats in exchange for fish  and seafood and my mum was an amazingly thrifty and resourceful woman. Love her or hate her, Thatcher stirred things up in the UK.  She was the first female prime minister in the UK and that is something to be proud of.  Growing up I never thought it was odd to have a female in this position it just seemed like the normal thing to me and for that I am grateful. So that is my Thatcher years.  What are yours?  
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Make Spring Cleaning a Family Affair

It's that time of year when we perform the exasperating task of preparing our homes for the spring. From shooing away dust bunnies to taking an inventory of your spring and summer wardrobe and picking out pieces to donate or give away, spring cleaning consists of many 'must-do' chores in order to prepare your home for the upcoming season. As difficult as it is to get ourselves motivated and actively cleaning, it's even more knackering trying to get your family to chip in; particularly the little ones. Face it, the last thing a kid wants to do is clean up, especially if it involves getting rid of some of their prized possessions (even if they haven't touched them in years). You can still clean house without it ending in tantrums and tears by following these simple tips. 80618803

Leave Those Tricks Up Your Sleeve

While we all tell our children little white lies every now and then, it's best to avoid deceiving your little ones or conning them when it comes to getting them to help around the house or do chores. While it's best to be truthful with your children about spring cleaning, you should also use a little charm and finesse. Ask or invite your wee ones to help you as most tots love being helpful and beam with pride when they've done a good job. Keep this in mind when you and your kids are going through their toys, games, and clothing. First, explain to them why you need to purge your home of some things that are old or no longer used. If you are donating some of their possessions, discuss with them the importance of giving their old things to other children who aren't as fortunate as they are. Next, let them make a pile of items they want to keep and those they can part with or no longer use for items that are in dispute, make your children justify why it’s necessary to keep them. In keeping with these tips, you're sure to have enough drawer and closet space ready for those spring and summer clothing pieces from Marks and Spencer.

Have Some Fun

Spring cleaning doesn't have to be a bore. Make a game out of cleaning with your children. Split your family into teams and assign them each a task or area to clean. Whichever team finishes first (and does the best job) wins a special treat. Turn spring cleaning into a scavenger hunt of sorts by hiding clues in places that need to be cleaned or organized, such as toy chests and closets. Again, be sure to reward your kids for participating and a job well done.

End With a Family Celebration

Treat the entire family to a night or day of fun after your spring cleaning is finished. Have a pizza night filled with games and sweet treats, or take your family out to a fun, themed restaurant, specifically designed for the kiddies. Even a simple activity like a family day of exploration at a nearby park or a nice picnic is an excellent way to commemorate your family achievement. And, in rewarding your children for their assistance and cooperation, you're not only letting them know that you appreciate their efforts, but you are encouraging and reinforcing positive cleaning habits. 18.
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School holidays, are you a lover or hater?

When the boys were toddlers I used to dread the holidays.  No toddler groups, no toddler only swimming, the park would be full of big kids and woe betide trying to do to soft play without an older and larger child pushing my poor smaller babes. Yes I really did hate the holiday times.  In fact I would sometimes sit and cry at the thought of what I was going to do to keep them occupied without our regular hangouts and places to go.  Even story time at the library was cancelled over the school holidays. I felt that I needed to have a routine.  that my whole world would collapse without the organised, regimented activities that we did each holiday.  I used to fool myself that the children needed these things.  That they needed to socialise and be with other children, but the real truth is that I NEEDED to go to these things.  I needed the adult company that going to a regular activity brough.  Those Tuesday morning toddler group at the Church was the only hot cup of coffee I got all week and what's more it was always made with hot milk! zoo

 The boys with the Frugals!

My two boys are fifteen months apart and going to these activities often kept one of them occupied whilst I could concentrate on the other or even better kept them both busy for five minutes peace.  I was never one to have friends at the groups, but I did used to enjoy getting out of the house and away from the monotony of the early years of parenting. When other parents, inevitably the ones with school age children would tell me they looked forward to the holidays I would inwardly wonder if they were mad! However, I couldn't feel any different now they are both older and in school full time.  I long for the holidays.  For the lack of routine and the ability to relax and slow down.   I love the fact that there is no rush in the mornings to get ready and get to school.  That we can be a little more relaxed about bedtimes and really enjoy each others company. I love the thought of not having a week of activities planned and being able to just go with the flow.  If we fancy fish and chips at the beach there is nothing stopping us.  Want to try a different park?  Yep lets just jump in the car!  We all love getting so engrossed in an activity that the hours role by and we have no where we HAVE to be. In fact the longer the holiday the better.  One week is too short, it takes a week for the boys to decompress and stop fighting with each other.  The second week is much better, they learn to make there own fun.  To cooperate with each other.  They start to get into the groove of playing out with friends and making their own games. But what do you think?  Are you a school holiday lover or hater?  
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Win a Haven Holiday

Fancying winning a 3 night weekend or 4 night Midweek break with Haven Holidays?    I thought you might............ All you have to do is share a picture of one of your Haven holidays saying why you think nothing beats a holiday by the seaside using through Haven’s Facebook app before 14 April 2013. Then Rory the Tiger will choose a winner and they can either have a 3 night weekend or 4 night Midweek break in a Deluxe caravan for up to six people before October 2013 (but this excludes July and August). Now I know that I am lucky to actually live by the sea, so I am biased, but I also know that nothing beats a seaside holiday.  There is something about the sea that makes me and the rest of the family relax and feel grounded.  The boys adore the sea.  They never seem to feel the cold of the water until they get out!  They love digging and making sandcastles and honestly nothing beats fish and chips out of the paper at the seaside. When I was growing up even though we lived by the sea, most of our family holidays were taken in our touring caravan at the great British seaside resorts.  In fact look at the photos my brother found of one of our holidays! holiday I love the fact that no matter how hot it was my Grandad would be fully dressed! I love reliving my holidays of past with my children, so why not enter and see if you can win a seaside holiday. For full terms and conditions please see the Haven Facebook app page
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For Better or Worse

MadDad and I have been together over 19 years and have been through many ups and downs, but how well do we actually know each other.  I like to think that we know each other pretty well, but Osbornes Solicitors asked us to put our knowledge of each other to the test with their new app For Better or Worse. scan0012 So We put the app to the test and I was pleased to say that MadDad kew quite a lot about me.  OK he didn't remember what I wore to our first date, but then neither did I!  However, he knows just how I like my tea and so he should has for the last eighteen years he has brought me a cup of tea in bed in the morning.  He knows my shoe size and my favorite food.  So as I far as I am concerned he knows all the major and important information. How did I do in comparison?   Well I am pleased to say that I too did OK.  Again, I can not remember a lot of the firsts. First date clothing, first words, first live band................... I have no idea, but then neither did he.  These things really do not matter in our relationship.  What matters is the present and the future.  What matters is that we continue to respect, love and cherish each other and that we put effort into making our marriage work. But he has never forgot an anniversary or a birthday and I know that my man is a keeper. So what about your that special someone?  How would they fair?  Why not give the app a go.  It made for some fun conversation and reminiscing in The Mad House. You can play on Osbournes Facebook page, or on the Osbornes website. 3.
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Homemade Birthday Cards

We are a family that loves making and receiving homemade cards.   However, I am aware the boys are getting older and I want to keep their enthusiasm for the homemade and very amateur cards.  So I thought I would share with you the cards I made for Maxi this year. Eight candle birthday card. 8 candle card Materials
  • Paper Straws
  • Card
  • Bakers twine (from Papermash)
  • Yellow and orange pen
  • Washi tape
  • Glue
Method
  1. Firstly I cut the straws to length
  2. Then cut a small amount of backers twine and glue in the straw to make it look like a wick
  3. Then glue the straws to the card.
  4. I then used the pens to make the flames
  5. Finally I ripped off some washi tape and wrote happy birthday on it
You could make it look more professional by layering and matting a happy birthday stamp or even print happy birthday and print it off and use that. Bunting Birthday Card bunting eight   Materials
  • Washi tape
  • bakers twine
  • Card
  • Scissors
Method Card making doesn't get much easier than this!
  1. Make bunting flags equally spaced on the twine using the washi tape by foling it over on each other.
  2. Then cut a triange shape to the bunting using scissors
  3. Stick on to the card with tape at the rear of each side.
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Keeping children entertained on car journeys

We have just come back from London, which for us is a five hour car journey each way.  We used to put portable DVD players in the car for these length of journeys, but at the moment we are working on reducing screen time, so we left them at home. entertaining I also am a great planner and in the boot of the car I have travel packs for journeys.  If you have ever been unlucky enough to have a flat tire or a breakdown with children in the car, you will understand just how much of a lifesaver having something they can do in the car is.
With this in mind I have we have activity packs in the boot of the car.  I have folders with everything they could need for a specific activity.  So if there is puzzle books, then I will make sure there is a couple of pens of different colours and also a highlighter for the wordsearches and a small dictionary for crosswords.
I tend to save all the crayons and pencils you get in restaurants and also all the little sticker packs and gift packs you get with children’s magazines.    The pound shop is also a perfect place to get things for this too.
Other things you could include in the packs are:
      • dot to dot books
      • puzzle books - maze, crosswords, word searches
      • Maths or english books
      • sticker books
      • Mess free painting
      • Plasticine
      • Small pots of playdough and a tray
      • Travel games such as battleship, connect four
      • A pack of cards
We also have other games that we play, that do not need anything at all and the boys current favorite is "I am thinking of..............".  This involves them thinking of something ie a country and then we have to ask questions to try and figure out what it might be.  I have learnt that their geography and knowledge of flags is way better than mine! How do you keep your children entertained on car journeys?
This is an entry in to the Tots100 Jolly Journeys competition in conjunction with Travel Supermarket.  Take a look at their UK car hire , as this is where they will be displaying some of the best tips they receive.
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Eggs decorated with washi tape

This is one of those craft activities that you can do whilst mindlessly watching the TV.  Sometimes on an evening when I spend time with MadDad I have the urge to craft, but it needs to be be something that I can do whilst chatting about our day and perhaps watching TV or listening to music.  These masking (washi) tape eggs really fitted the bill. washi eggts   To make it even easier you could use polystyrene eggs rather than blown eggs and then you wouldn't worry about pressing too hard either.  All I did was place strips of tape length way on the eggs from heat to point and kept going over lapping each time. They would look lovely hunt onto a branch as an Easter tree too, however, mine make me happy in one of my many cake stands and dishes. washi tape eggs
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Pom Pom Bunnies and Chicks

We have a thing for Pom Poms and have made lots of things with them preciously including pom pom bunting.  However, with Easter on the way we decided to try our hand at Pom Pom Bunnies and Pom Pom Chicks.  It was also the ideal opportunity to let Maxi lose with the glue gun. pom pom bunnies Materials
      • Yarn
      • Pom Pom Maker
      • Felt - yellow for the chicks, pink and white for the bunnies
      • Glue - we used the glue gun, but also fabric glue
      • Small beads for eyes
Method - Bunnies
  1. Make two pom poms using white wool.  One smaller than the other.  We used a clover pom pom maker.
  2. In white felt cut out a small heart for the bunnies feet and two ear shapes for each ear.
  3. In pink felt cut out a smaller Inner ear and also a tiny triangle for the bunny's nose
  4. Using a glue gun, stick the smaller pom pom on top of the large one
  5. Using fabric glue stick the pink inner ear on to the white ears and allow to dry
  6. Using fabric glue stick the eyes and nose on to the smaller pom pom and then the ears to the rear of the pom pom.
  7. The stick the heart to the bottom of the bunny with the pint facing the rear.
There is a super tutorial at maedchenmitherz. pom pom chicks Method - Chicks
  1. Make a largeish pom pom in yellow wool for the chick's body
  2. In yellow felt cut out two shapes for the chicks wings and one for the chicks tail feathers.  Also cut a small triangle for the chicks beak - in future ones I will make this orange to stand out more.
  3. Stick the wings and tail to the pom pom using a glue gun.
  4. Stick the eyes and beak on using fabric glue
bunny collageWe have also been making pom pom bunny bunting over on A Thrifty Mum. pompom bunnies and chicks
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Smartie Birthday Cake

It has become something of a tradition that Maxi always has a chocolate smartie cake for his birthday.  This year I decided to try and do something a little more eye catching.  I love baking, but find icing larger cakes something of a chore.  So this cake is very forgiving. cake   Cake Ingredients 
  • 6 oz of butter or marg
  • 6 oz caster sugar
  • 5 oz of self raising flour
  • 1 oz of coco powder
  • 1 teaspoon of baking powder
  • 2 eggs
  • half teaspoon of vanilla extract
  • 3 tablespoons of milk
Method.  Cream together the marg/butter and sugar.  Then add the rest of the ingredients in and mix well! Put in two 7 inch cake tins (I line the tins with parchment and grease) and place in to a preheated oven of 180 degrees for 15 to 20 minutes.  You can tell if the cakes are cooked if when you press the top it gives slightly but springs back. Remove from oven and leave for 2 minutes before removing from tins and placing on to a wire rack to cool. inside cake Icing Ingredients:
  • 1 block of butter (250gm of 10 oz)
  • 450 grams icing sugar
  • 50 gms of coco powder
  • half teaspoon of vanilla extract
  • 4 tablespoons of milk
Method Soften the butter in a mixer before adding the other ingredients.  Make sure you start mixing very slowly so you do not get icing sugar everywhere.  If your mixer does not have a splatter guard then cover with a tea towel. cake 1 Assembling the cake Sandwich together your two cakes with icing and then apply the remaining icing around and on top of the cake.  You are going to use the using around the cake to stick the chocolate fingers to the cake, so make sure you have enough at the sides. I applied the fingers and then refrigerated the cake overnight, before covering the top with smarties the following day. smartie cake
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How to make a Pinecone Owl and other pinecone crafts

Maggie at Red Ted Art (who has a new craft book out) hosts a regular Google + Hangout and this weeks was all about Pinecone crafts.  Mini has been studying nocturnal animals this week, so we decided to make a pinecone owl. This is one of those crafts that you can adjust dependent on the age of your child yu cutting out all the felt (or foam) and allowing them to glue it or they can cut it out and glue it too.  I made templates for the boys to draw around on the felt with a soft pencil and they cut out the felt themselves. pinecone owls Materials
  • Pine-cones
  • Felt (or craft foam) in yellow, brown and orange
  • googly eyes
  • Glue gun or glue (Maxi uses a glue gun, but mini uses craft PVA)
felt for owl Method
  1. Cut out in yellow a figure of eight shape for the base of the eyes larger than your googly eyes and stick the eyes to it.
  2. Then using orange felt or foam cut out a small triangle for the beak and curves with points which are the owls feet.
  3. You cut out a square in brown for the owls hat - approximately 2 inches in size, but this depends on your pine cone.
  4. Cut two triangles for the owls wings
  Other Pinecone crafts I have done over the years include:

pinecone garland

Pinecone and heart garland

IMG_3366

 Pinecone bird feeders 

pinecone doorPinecone door decoration

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If only I had know…………..

        • me and baby boysThat time truly flies and people were not exaggerating when they said "they grow up so fast"
        • That life really does change when you look at that tiny bundle and suddenly realise you are responsible for another human being
        • That one so small can create so much poo
        • That irony is not lost on babies
        • That boys WILL wee on you as soon as you remove their nappy
        • That no matter what colour you dress your child in, people will always think they are of the opposite sex
        • That second hand is not second best
        • That it will take 30 minutes more than you allowed to get out of the house
        • That babies smelled so good after a bath
        • That sleep is for the weak
        • That colic does get better
        • That cold tea is all I will drink for months and to invest in a thermos cup
        • That LEGO is a weapon
        • That poo could be such a funny word to toddlers and boys of all ages
        • That it is OK to get angry
        • That I will never again be able to go to the toilet in peace
        • That I would know The Hungary Caterpillar off by heart
        • That I would cry on their first day at Preschool
        • That DVD's do not wear out though repetitive play even if you wish they would
        • That nativities are so emotional
        • That is it perfectly acceptable to get sick of cooking and preparing meals
        • That it is natural to live in constant fear of something bad happening to your child
        • That it is not acceptable to fancy one of the presenters of CBebbies
        • Daytime naps for Mummy as well as baby are totally acceptable
        • That the odd jar of baby food and bit of salt will not harm your child
        • That saying no to homework is OK
        • That the cleaning can wait
        • That it is not a sign of weakness to ask for help
        • That weetabix dries like concrete, so wipe it up quickly
        • That when people are starring at your whilst your child is having a tantrum are actually thinking "oh no, poor woman" rather than "gosh what a crap mother"
        • That I would be a better parent for having some me time
        • That being a parent is the hardest, but most rewarding job in the world
This post is my entry into the Aptaclub ‘If Only I’d Known…’ competition  
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Spring Manifesto – 2013

Firstly back to my Winter Manifesto and how I have fared.  I am really pleased to say that I pretty much have ticked everything off bar joining the local WI.  I have tried and rang them twice, but they have not got back to me.  I have finished Mini's quilt (blog post to come) and love my weekly craft lessons.  They are a real highlight of the week for me. minis quilt So onward and upwards, what do I want to do achieve over this spring:
      • Sew some seeds for the raised beds.  MadDad is the green fingered one, but I do love plotting and planning with him
      • Get on my bike.  I still haven't felt able and I really want to join the boys on theirs this spring
      • Take more photographs with all of us in.  I need to make a conscious effort to get in the picture.  I have even bought a remote control for the camera
      • Take the boys to park after school now the weather is improving
      • Sort out the conservatory/playroom.  The train table is about to collapse and we need to find some new storage for board games and a coffee table on a very tight budget.
      • Keep sewing and book some more day courses
What are your plans for this spring?
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A birthday treasure hunt

We adore birthdays if you haven't already guessed.  I love making the day special and fun and one of the ways we do that is to have a birthday treasure hunt.  This is right up Maxi's street as he loves puzzles. maxi birthday These are the clues we used, which I took from the Real Treasure Hunt website. Refrigerator A clue to find where you keep things cold Where to go next is what you'll be told. Computer Letters, a screen, and even a mouse, look around, you'll find it somewhere in the house. Bed When it gets late and you turn out the light This is the place you'll be found each night. Socks You’ll need to think hard to solve the next clue Find a covering for your foot, but it’s not a shoe. Oven Turn up the heat it will help you bake Cookies, casseroles, even a cake. Shower A place where water falls down like rain after it falls on you it goes down the drain. Microwave A metal box with numbers is usually the norm For this thing that helps us get our food warm. My boy adores gemstones  so his birthday present was a tiny wooden chest filled with gems.  He also got some LEGO and Tech Deck too.
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Spring clean the clutter

The sun perhaps popped it head out from behind the clouds today, enough to make me see just how dirty my windows were! However, before I start on the epic spring cleaning, it is time to declutter.  Firstly I see no point in cleaning around clutter, secondly that clutter might make me some cash on somewhere like Gumtree (where it is free to list and sell items) and lastly a tidy house always means a tidy mind for me. So now is the perfect time to have a clutter clear out.  Firstly you have to find a system that works for you. But I have some ideas for you below. declutter
        1. I love this storage for transient items from The Red Chair Blog.  It is the perfect way to store items until you have enough to make it worthwhile doing something with.  Mine would read Donate, Sell, Recycle and Toys.  I am on the look out for a similar wire rack or bookcase for our garage space.  By keeping toys out of sight you will truly see if children play with them.
        2. Get your children involved in clearing their toys.  Have an agreement where they get 50% of any money you make from selling them or let them donate ones to people less well off.  It is a great way to learn about charity.
        3. Let go of children's artwork.  If you realty attached to it, then take a digital photo of it to display in a pocket system or recycle it to make cards or recycled art bookmarks.
        4. Work clockwise round a room from the door.  This way you are going an an organised manner and if you have to stop then you know where you are up to.
        5. If you are unsure of getting rid of something, then ask yourself if you have used it in the last year?  If you haven't then why not part with it.
        6. When it comes to children's clothes, why not have a swapping party with friends who have older and younger children.  That way you will all get something new out of it.  You could always do this with toys and books too.
3.    
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Spring cleaning in the bedroom

Hopefully spring is on its way.  This for me means that I start to think about spring cleaning.  I do try to keep up with most cleaning tasks throughout the year, but there are a couple of things that I only do once or twice a year. bedroom spring clean The weather this time of the year is pretty changeable, but we tend to change over our winter duvets and clean and store them and replace them with our spring/summer weight ones.  I also pop an extra blanket or throw on the beds for when the nights are really cold and to help the transition from winter bedding to lighter weight bedding.   Now is also the time to review the state of your bedding.  Perhaps your duvet or pillows are starting to show their age and it would be more economical to replace them rather than clean them.  So search online for Duvet and pillow warehouse promotional code and see if you can find vouchers that make the cost less expensive. My local laundrette offers duvet and pillow cleaning and it is much less expensive than the local dry cleaners.  It only takes a couple of days and the duvet comes back all ready for me to store in the airing cupboard.  By having getting it done as soon as I swap it means that it is ready to go back on and I do not have to worry.  I do this for our super king sized duvet cover. The boys single duvets are OK to go in our washer, however, I need to wait for a blowy day, so they can be line dried. Spring cleaning shores:
  • Hoover the ceiling to remove any cobwebs
  • Swap bed linen
  • Clean the curtains (mine go in the wash and on the line)
  • Clean the inside of the windows, first wiping down the frames (I use a solution of vinegar and water for this)
  • Wipe down the doors, light switches and skirting boards
  • Clean any pictures, both the glass and the tops of the frames
  • Clean on top of doors and the door frame
  • Vacuum under the bed, chest of drawers, bedside cabinet and dressing table
Regular cleaning Due to the fact that I am removing cobwebs etc, I may make more dust, so I also do my regular cleaning in the bedroom too.
  • Polish furniture
  • Clean all mirrors (we have mirrored wardrobe doors)
  • Vacuum
  • Dust light fittings and clocks
  • Empty the bin
  • Flip the mattress
MyVoucherCodes
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Easter Baskets and Egg Free Peppermint Creams

I love crafting with the boys, but as they get older, we need crafts that can fit in with school, cubs, football, cooking and the rest of everyday life.  So things tend to be done in small chunks.  Yellow Moon sent us a fab box of Easter Craft items including some wonderful Baskets and self adhesive foam shapes. The thing is these baskets needed filling and we decided to make some Peppermint Creams, but as we were using them for gifts I wanted them to be egg free. egg free peppermint creams Ingredients
      • 225g icing sugar, sifted
      • 115g Condensed Milk
      • peppermint extract
      • Food colouring
      • Dark Chocolate
Method
  1. Gradually mix the icing sugar together with the  condensed milk. We used the mixer for this on slow.
  2. Add  peppermint extract to taste and knead until smooth.
  3. Dust a clean surface with icing sugar and roll out the mixture to 5mm thickness. Cut into shapes with small cutter (the boys chose hearts and bells).
  4. Leave in a cool place to dry for two to three hours.
  5. Melt the chocolate in a bowl over simmering water.
  6. Drizzle the peppermint creams with the melted chocolate
  7. Allow to set.
This keeps refrigerated for up to three weeks.  
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Eighteen

Eighteen years ago yesterday at noon, MadDad and I were wed.  We have had a wild ride of marriage with some downs and some great ups.  He is always by my side no matter what I do or where I go.  He is my lifeboat in stormy seas and my biggest cheer leader.  We have grown up together and we are lucky enough to really enjoy each others company.  He is one of the most unassuming people I have ever met and is a real joy to live with. He has been by my side in sickness (more often than not mine) and heath (his) and is a wonderful partner and even better Dad.  I miss him when we are apart and love spending time with my family.  He really brings out the best in me and reminds me to always be the best person I can be. He has a weakness for great coffee and curly wurly's.  He likes the odd pint of Guinness and loves Beef and Yorkshire Puddings. Back when we got married I had AJ to JL 18 March 1995 engraved inside our wedding rings, just in case he ever forgot the date (ever the realist I am) and so far he hasn't. He really is my cup of tea...................... my cup of tea
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Birthday weekending

weekending What can I say, this has been a weekend of celebrating  cake eating, family, friends  fun,  scoring his first two goals and lots of love.  I live for weekends like these.  
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Should you prepare for isa season?

As a parent we all want to try and save for out children's futures and even in today's climate it is worth trying to save for a rainy day.  MadDad works in the financial industry so he is my go too guy when it comes to asking about money etc, but I would always suggest that you find an Independent Financial Adviser to help you out with financial planning. maximad So firstly what is isa season? In very basic terms it is a six week period in the lead up to when you have to subscribe to your Is, the 5 April 2012 (if you don't use it, you lose it). This often means that you can be bombarded with information telling you to  open a cash isa on the lead up to this date and if can be very confusing. So what is an isa? A Cash isa is a  savings accounts where the interest isn't taxed. A stocks and share isa  is a managed collective investment again where the interest isnt taxed. Should I prepare for isa season? I decided to ask MadDad this and he said he would advise anyone to make an appointment with a Independent Financial adviser to discuss this.   My first response was that IFA's are for people with money, to which he told me this isn't at all true.   Many IFA's get their payment from any investment you make through them or charge a nominal fee and they are perfect for people who are going through major life changes such as parents.  They can often take an overview of a situation and help you put your new priorities in perspective. People often think that isa's are only for people with money and that they are not something that they can utilise to manage their finances, but again it is often about working smarter not harder and in today's climate we need to know the best way of making our money work for us. But don't take my word for it, go and see a professional! Lloyds Watermark  
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Eight

Eight things I love about you! maxi bath
  1. You adore being tickled and trying to pretend that you are not ticklish.  You challenge me to make you laugh.
  2. Oh and what a laugh.  it is infectious, it fills my heart with such joy.
  3. You are fearless.  You are a mini thrill seeker, adrenalin junkie and embrace new things.
  4. You are an early riser, but as soon as your head hits the pillow you are off in the land of nod.
  5. You are a team player.  You love football and being part of a team.
  6. You do not mind being different.  You embrace your curly hair, wear checked trousers and love being you.
  7. You are kind and considerate. You help other people when you can.
  8. You love with a passion.
How can you be eight already?  We never really believed that we would have you.  You  were a challenge form the moment you came in to being  and kept us on our toes.  You are a joy, my eldest child, an integral part of our family and I love you more each passing day.  
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Where’s Wally?

wally CollageComic Relief day today at school and it was dress up as Where's Wally (or Waldo, for any American chums) or a character from the books and pay a pound for the privilege  which they decided to take from their pocket money.  My boys never sit still so this is the best you will get picture wise.  They decided that we needed to have a family nerf fight this morning! They also packed MadDad off to work with red nose day cakes to sell. What are you doing for Comic Relief?  
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The best things in life are free

or why I love handmade mothers day cards.mothersday There is nothing better than collecting the boys from school and them being really animated   "I have something in my bag for you Mum", "So do I".  As we get near home the boys get even more excited about it "I can not show you, it has to be a surprise" and the two of them whisper conspiratorially to themselves. I am smiling big beaming smiles, as I know that Mothers Day is nearly upon us and this means they have both been busy creating their own special card for me. Come Sunday morning and the boys loudly come running in to the bedroom with a cup of tea for me and their cards and jump on the bed and tell me all about their cards.  Maxi explains he drew round his left hand, but turned it over once he cut it out, so it looks like his left hand and how I have beautiful brown eyes and love heart lips for kissing.  Mini excitedly tells me he did all the cutting out himself and used a punch to make the tree.  He used zigzag scissors to cut out his label. What more could a mother ask for on Mothers Day?
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Win tickets to see The Harlem Globetrotters live

If you are of my generation then you will remember the amazing ticks that the Harlem Globetrotters did.  In fact they were all I knew about basketball at one point in my life! Harlem globetrotters Both of my boys are sports mad and after checking our their you tube video I knew that this would be something that they would adore.   The UK tour starts on 25 March, so in order to be in with the chance  to win a family ticket (2 adults and 2 children) to the UK venue of your choice then please complete the rafflecopter entry below.  The draw will close at noon on Friday 15th March. Wondering if there is a venue near you?  You can find the Harlem Globetrotters tour dates and venues online.   a Rafflecopter giveaway livenation  
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Motherless on Mothers Day

mum and tori  

My mum and my niece on her christening

This week I have been acutely aware of missing my mum. There has been a mum shaped hole in my days. This is my third Mothers Day without her and although she was not one for the soppy sentiments in Mothers Day cards, it still makes me aware of her absence. But more than my pain and the pain of my children, I hate the fact that my wonderful sister in law now has to go though Mothers Day without her mum. Her wonderful mum died on Friday night. I hate that I am welcoming her in to a club that I do not want to be part of. That I can not take away her pain and also that I know how much heartache she is going through. I read this post by Becky and so want to echo the sentiment. Family is not something, family is everything. To all the motherless on Mothers day  
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Family essentials for an Easter holiday

Warmer weather is just around the corner and that means family holidays are just around the corner too! Packing the bags for everyone in a family can be a stressful process but for this reason it can be made easier by writing a list. If you start it well in advance of your holiday, you can add things as and when you think of them, rather than having to remember everything on the day you pack. The good thing about a checklist is that you can check the contents of your bags against it when you unpack too. Let’s start with some of the items you’ll need in your handbag or hand luggage. You must have all of your passports if you’re going abroad, European Health Insurance Cards (which replaced the old E111s) and any other details of travel, flights and accommodation. You’ll also need payment methods (either debit/credit cards and/or travellers cheques and cash in pounds and your destination’s currency), medication, water and snacks. Any sharp items such as scissors or tweezers will need to go in your hold (checked-in) luggage if you’re flying. on the plane As kids get fed up very quickly when travelling, save them (and yourself) from the pain of boredom by packing them games, toys and books to keep them well entertained. If budget allows, it is worth considering buying them something new for the holiday so that it’s still a novelty to play with. When it comes to beauty products, it’s unlikely you’ll want to spend ages doing your hair and cosmetics. So the best holiday makeup tips include keeping it simple and fuss-free. Pack waterproof mascara if you’ll be spending time in the water, and maybe save the other basics for evenings out. Skin care is important on holiday – take day and night moisturiser and be sure to remove any foundation you wear at the end of the day to avoid breakouts. Look after your feet too if they’ll be in sandals all day – Cosmopolitan has a great article about getting your feet ready for the summer. You’ll also need high factor sun cream for yourself and the children, sun block and after sun. Remember that your toiletries and beauty products need to meet airport regulations. Although you don’t want to end up being like a walking chemist, it’s important you have some basic medicines and first aid items to hand in an emergency. Adult- and child-friendly painkillers are essential, as are travel sickness tablets, diarrhoea medicines, antiseptic cream, antihistamine and plasters. In terms of clothing, check out the local weather report online before you go and pack accordingly. As a general rule, if you’re going somewhere hot, although you’ll want thin, light fabrics and you won’t be wearing so much, you do need to cover up between 12 and 3 when the sun is at its hottest as well as when the temperature drops in the evening. So pack a variety of clothes that will allow you to cover up. Don’t forget your sunglasses, hats, swimming costumes and beach towels. If you’re heading to a colder destination, of course pack lots of thick clothing as well as items that will keep you dry if it snows or rains. Take hats, gloves, scarves and waterproof jackets as well as garments that can be layered up. 18.
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Mini’s London Quilt

Mini's favorite place in the whole wide world is London.  He loves visiting it, loves reading about it and sleeps in a London themed room.  So when it came to making him a quilt (my first one ever) it had to be London themed.  I have had this fabric and the deciding for this quilt for over six months thanks to Kelly, but have discovered that cutting fabric is my kryptonite   I just can not bring myself to cut it at all.  Knowing that I had to get past my fear, I booked in for a sewing class.  I go two hours a week on a Tuesday and the quilt was my first project. minis quilt So finally Mini has his quilt and he loves it.  I made it over 5 weeks mostly at class and with the support of some fab online buddies too (yes you Katy and Justine, who listen to and answer all my insane questions). quilt   I am really pleased with how it turned out.  It is the perfect fit for his cabin bed and he loves it, which is all that matters. Oh and I have already started another one and me and Maxi are on the lookout for the perfect fabric for his quilt.
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Disney World Orlando

Any visit to Orlando would not be complete without a visit to Disney.  We only had a day to cram in as much of it as we could and boy did we cram it in. fireworks 1 We were lucky enough to experience two of the parks (Magic Kingdom and Hollywood Studios) with a VIP tour guide, who walked us miles around the park in just 10 hours (one of our tour guides, Fred, had a pedometer which showed 13,000 steps around that day).  A VIP tour experience costs around $300 an hour for a group of up to 12 people. Our guides  were amazing, real pied pipers, who connected so well with the children.  They really were invaluable when it came to making the most of the parks in such a sort period of time.  They knew all the best routes, where all the toilets were and also which rides to go to when. As a VIP guest, you’ll also have unlimited Fastpass access, which means you can join the express lines at the most popular rides and attractions. parade Our highlight of the whole day was the parade and fireworks.  Just look at this image of Maxi's open mouthed as he watched.  It was amazing and the perfect end to a wonderful experience. watching fireworks Maxi's favorite ride was Toy Story Midway Mania and being the competitive family we are the game was on to see who would score the highest and whoop I kicked ass that day! mania You can find places to meet your favorite characters and get them to sign an autograph book if that is your thing, but Maxi at nearly eight decided he was too old for all that, however, he did have his picture taken with a toy soldier that was hanging around outside the Toy Story Mania ride. toy soldier We visited the newest part of Disney World Magic Kingdom, Fantasyland and had a delicious Le Fou's Brew at Gaston’s Tavern, which is a mixture of frozen apple cider (which is non alcoholic apple juice)  and marshmallow with a mango foam topping, which Maxi loved.  Lunch was taken in the Be Our Guest restaurant.  One of the guides stood in the rather large queue whilst we went on another ride (which was another amazing perk of the VIP tour).  The food was amazing. Le fou's Brew Our Top hints and Tips for Visiting Disney WorldOrlando
        • Make sure you book a table for Dinner as the restaurants get busy
        • Always buy your tickets online. They're usually cheaper and save you the headache you'll get waiting to purchase at the gate
        • Download the free Disney Magic app, you can plan rides and check show times and once you’re inside the park it will let you check how long the lines are on different rides
        • Bring your own water bottles. It will save you time and money!  If you don't want to carry a water bottle, just ask for a cup of water at any food or drink vendor
        •  Have your children look for Hidden Mickeys is a great way to keep them occupied especially when queuing
        • When the park opens at 9am, go first to Toy Story Midway Mania, which has the longest lines in the park, and FastPasses are usually gone for the day by noon.
        • Plan a show for the hottest part of the day, but be aware that the air conditioning can be fierce!
        • If it’s your first visit, get one of the first time badges from Guest Services
For more pictures take a look at Mum in the madhouse Facebook Page . Thank you to Walt Disney World for making our visit so memorable on our trip to Orlando hosted by Visit Orlando.
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Top tips for getting the most out of Universal Orlando

I think that after LEGOLAND Florida, Maxi's favorite time in Orlando was the day we spent at Universal Orlando. Universal Orlando is actually two separate theme parks – Islands of Adventure and Universal Studios. universal Universal Studies is where you step  beyond the screen, and jump right into the action of your favorite movies and TV shows, with attractions based on Shrek, The Mummy, Men in Black and lots of other Universal movies. It includes Marvel Superhero Island, featuring rides based on Marvel characters like Hulk and Spiderman.  The Spiderman ride was our favorite ride of the whole trip.   In Island of Adventure you will find Seuss Landing, which is a brilliant area for younger children and Dr Seuss fans (Mini will love this part of the park when we visit in November as he is a HUGE Dr Seuss fan).  You will also find the Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Islands of Adventure    seuss Thrills and technology make for amazing rides in Universal and this really blew me away.  I wasn't prepared for just how technological the park would be, however, with hindsight the use of CGI in movies should have given us a clue!  For big thrill seekers there are traditional coaster style rides such as The Hulk (Island of Adventures) and the and the Rock It Rollercoaster (Universal Studios) with its 17-storey vertical incline and 65mph drop on the other side was the only ride that left me terrified and really did scare me.  You can also buy a video clip of yourself on the Rock it Rollercoaster.  This really is the future of parks for me.  I can see being able to download the clip and send it to your friends and family via social media as something you can do in the future. hogsmeade The Wizarding World of Harry Potter Our biggest tip would be to head for the The Wizarding World of Harry Potter later in the day.  The queues in the evening are much smaller than at any other time of the day.  Plus most people tell you to get there early and our guide said that as everyone heads there first it is really busy early on, so go later   It was the busiest area in the park by far.  There are three rides or experiences in this area.  We both were really wowed by Forbidden Journey.  This is an amazing ride where you make your way through the familiar classrooms and corridors of Hogwarts™ School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Then soar above the castle grounds as you join Harry Potter™ and his friends on an unforgettably thrilling adventure, coming face-to-face with an array of malevolent creatures! We loved how Universal had made the queue an experience too. minion Our top tips for getting the most out of Universal
      • Take some american stamps and postcards to use the owl post in  The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. This is where you can send a letter with a Hogsmeade postmark.  You can buy usable Harry Potter stamps but they were rather overprices at $15 a pack especially when we only wanted to send three postcards.
      • Frozen Butterbeer is much nicer than regular Butterbear (which tasted like cream soda).  If you want to get a souvenir cup with your butterbeer you can ask for the butterbeer to be put in a regular cup so you do not have to wash out your tankard for putting in your bag.  Also you can bypass the cart and buy it straight from The Three Broomsticks which is a lot faster.
      • The mixtures of movies and rides is fantastic.  The Despicable me experience is fantastic, we loved being turned in to Minions.  Oh and the fart gun does smell of bananas!
      • The temperature gets really hot around lunch time, so make a beeline for the indoor rides like Despicable Me, The Mummy or Spiderman during this time.  Alternately why not take a trip to Jurassic Park and be prepared to get VERY WET!
      • Take a refillable water bottle with you.  You need to keep drinking as you can dehydrate really fast.  Alternatively you can ask for a cup of water at any of the street vendors.
      • Check what rides your children can and can not go on before you visit to avoid disappointment.
      • Consider a Universal a Express Pass which costs around £30-40 per person, and allows you to go to the front of the line once on each ride, although you get this sort of ticket for free if you’re staying at a Universal hotel.
police - Copy   For more pictures take a look at Mum in the madhouse Facebook Page . Thank you to Universal Florida for making our visit so memorable on our trip to Orlando hosted by Visit Orlando.  
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LEGOLAND Florida – perfect for mini thrill seekers

We are already fans of LEGOLAND Windsor, so had an idea of what to expect of Orlando's newest theme park LEGOLAND Florida.  However, I have to say that it blew away all of our expectations and was a fantastic day out.  It is pitched at children aged 2 to twelve and have over 50 rides and attractions.  This meant that Maxi who is nearly 8 could go on every ride accompanied by me and most rides on his own. welcome We experienced a VIP tour at LEGOLAND, which meant that we bypassed all the queue and had an out of this world experience.  Regular tickets start at $64 for an adult and $54 for a child (3 - 12).  As part of the VIP Package we got to jump all the queues and to visit the master model builders workshop.  Oh to have a LEGO collection like this at home! lego behind the scenes However, the park was not too crowded on the day we visited.  At certain times during the year the park is closed on a Tuesday and Wednesday and had only just reopened on the Tuesday we visited, so was quieter than usual. city The park is set out in lands very much like the UK Park.  I would advise that you start at Lego City which has the Driving School, Junior Driving School, Boating School and Flying School rides, which are the most popular in the park (just as Driving School is in the UK).   You just need to remember to drive on the right side of the road! driving Maxi's favorite ride in the park was the LEGO Technic coaster which is located in the Technic area of the park.  This is the perfect area for mini thrill seekers and has the three most high thrill rides on the park (although Flying school ranks with them too). trill seekers Hints and tips for getting the most out of LEGOLAND Florida
  • Make sure you arrive early for the park opening at 9 am.  Rides open at 9.30 am
  • The park is 45 minutes from Downtown Tampa and the other Orlando Parks
  • You can exchange your own LEGO Mini Figure with any of the Model Citizen's (LEGO Employees).  They have theirs on their name badge.  Also keep an eye out for the Mini Figure Ambassador as they have a shirt covered in Mini Figures.
  • Go to the back of the park either LEGO City or Technic first
  • If it your birthday, then collect a badge from a Model Citizen  (A LEGO Employee) at Guest services at The Beginning
  • If you want to visit a show, try and turn up 30 minutes before the start time
  • Make sure you take plenty of sun cream and hats as it is much hotter and sunnier in Orlando that the UK. We actually purchased Maxi a pair of sunglasses and shorts strap in LEGOLAND
  • The park also has many attractions for children and adults that prefer  gentle pace including Safari Trek and Duploland
  • Download a Park Map before visiting, it shows you all the height restrictions, so you can set expectations before visiting
  • There is a large selection of places to eat all catering for children,  but you need to try the parks signature dish of Granny Smiths Apple Fries
  • It gets very hot in the middle of the day, so eat inside if possible as the restaurants are air conditioned
  • The LEGOLAND Florida water park reopens in March and you can upgrade your tickets for $12 each and this would be the perfect place to cool down
  • The park closes earlier than other parks around 5.30 each day
  • The Big Shop is the largest LEGO shop in the world
giraff   For more pictures take a look at Mum in the madhouse Facebook Page or Google + page Thank you to LEGOLAND Florida for making our visit so memorable on our trip to Orlando hosted by Visit Orlando.
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Seaworld Orlando

I have to admit that I was really skeptical about Seaworld.  I was unsure about using animals in shows, however, I have to say that I was completely won over and we had an amazing day.  First things first, there is no way you can see everything in a day (unless you opt for one of the excellent VIP tours, which cost from £172 per adult and child in addition to park admission and includes a freshly prepared lunch) . I would advise you to plan your must see's before you get to the park. rays Seaworld Orlando offers the perfect mix of action rides, educational exhibits, hands on interaction and amazing shows.  It is a great place for all ages and would be a super place to visit for children and grandparents, although there are some rides which are for 54 inches and above, but you can find this information on the park website. Shows dol We managed to see the Dolphin show (Blue Horizons), which was epic (in Maxi's words),  So make sure you check the times for the shows.  The shows are designed to showcase the animals natural behaviors and  Blue Horizons was a really spectacular combination of dolphin, human and avian entertainment.  Maxi was transfixed for most of the show and he thought the divers were amazing.    It is advisable to turn up to the show 30 minutes before it starts and do keep an eye out where you choose to sit as you will get wet in the splash zones! Food and Drink shamu There is a good range of dining experiances at Seaworld, including an all day dining option. We were lucky enough to experience the Dine with Shamu experience which starts at $28 per adult and $19 per child.  This meant that we got to see the Killer Whales behind the scenes in training for their One World show at reserved tables.  The food was a buffet style and it was a great way to get up close to the Whales and watch them with their trainers.  The trainers do not go in the water with the whales at any time.  If you are looking for a unique experience then this would be on my list of must do's.   Maxi has been raving about this. Rides Manta and Kraken are the big thrill rides and you need to be over 54 inches tall to be able to ride.   Maxi was too small to ride, but I did go on Kraken and loved it.  It was exhilarating, but smooth and was so much fun.  Oh yes I screamed like a girl.  Maxi is a mini thrill seeker and loved the Shamu Express.   He also loved the Wild Arctic simulator ride, but being someone who suffers from motion sickness I gave this one a miss!   There really is a ride for everyone at Seaworld. Exhibits  One thing that really stood out for both Maxi and I at Seaworld was the exhibits including the fantastic 3D turtle trek.  This showcases the manatee and the plight of the vulnerable sea turtles.  The animals that are used in the exhibit are all rescue animals and this makes it even more interesting and amazing.  You get to experience what it is like to be a turtle in an amazing 3D dome, which gives you a 360 degree experience  so there is no shouts of "I cant see" from smaller children.  The park guides and staff are amazingly well informed and more than happy to answer any questions you might have. Why not time your visit to the ray pool so that it coincides with feeding time, you can even search the bottom of the pool for teeth to bring home as souvenirs. Once exhibit that we didn't get to experience, but hope to when we go back in November is Antarctica, Empire of the penguin, which opens on 24 May this year.   At this amazing new attraction, you’ll be surrounded by the sights, sounds and awesome encounters found in this frozen place, embarking on a one-of-a-kind ride and an incredible, first-of-its-kind family ride. Maxi and Cecelia We did however, get to "pet a penguin" named Cecilia and she didn't feel anything like I expected. You can see more photos of our trip on The Mad House facebook page  Thanks to Seaworld Orlando for looking after us as part of our trip to Orlando hosted by Visit Orlando   
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Number games for Children

Both my boys love numbers and math.  We have been working with Maxi and the school to show his workings out, as he has always said that he just sees the answers to math questions in his head.  As he gets older points are often given for using the correct method and for showing the workings in exams. number games One of the ways we do this is by playing games.  I recently picked up a great little bingo set at the charity shop, which both the boys love top play.  They use it for making up their own number games.  They add the numbers, add up the lines when they score to work out who is the winner and just generally have fun with the numbers and the counters.  When I was growing up I loved bingo too, I used to tag along with my cousins when they visited and go to the arcades to play bingo. There are lots of other number games you can play with children including:
    • Domino's - great for number recognition, counting and strategy
    • Cards - you can play lots of card games with children, from basic snap, which is great for number recognition to something more difficult such as two's and eights.  Cards are so portable and are great to have in your handbag.
    • Dice - a pair of dice is great to carry in your bag.  You can use them for very basic sums by getting your child to throw the dice and add, subtract, divide or times the two numbers.
    • Monoploly is great for introducing children to the concept of money and they often do not realise   they are using maths skills whilst playing.
    • Battleships is a fantastic game for introducing children to co-ordinates.  Perfect for playing before they have to use graphs.
    • Skittles or ten pin bowling.  You can make your own skittles from bottles and give them numbers.  This can help number recognition and addition skills for scoring.
What are your favorite games to play that reinforce maths skills?  
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Black and Decker Steam Mop Review

We have laminate floors everywhere downstairs and one of my pet hates is cleaning them.  Well it has become a pet hate since I slipped on a just mopped floor and broke my shoulder! So I was delighted when I was offered the opportunity to review a steam mop by Black and Decker.  We have had hard floors for the last 10 years and I have grown to love them.  They are practical, especially as I have two very active boys.  But I just wasn't sure that a steam mop with no cleaner could keep up with them and actually ensure that my floor was clean. Black and Decker So we have put the Black and Decker Delta Head Steam Mop to the test.  The version that we have reviewed costs £120 and comes with four washable pads.  Two large ones and two delta ones for getting int o the corners. What I liked:
    1. The floor is dry within 15 seconds.  No slipping on wet floors and fearing broken bones ever again.  This also means that I can use it when the boys are around without shouting at them not to step on the wet floor
    2. No chemicals are needed.  I love the fact that the floors are clean and that bacteria is killed without bringing chemicals in to the house
    3. There is no additional costs.  No paying for replaceable heads or chemicals, which means that although you have a large initial outlay, the cost per use is really reasonable
    4. It heats up ready for use in just 15 seconds
    5. It is easy to store and I do not have to lug a bucket of water round the house, even less worry about spillages
    6. The additional steam burst function works really well and is very effective on stubborn marks
    7. I can use this on both my laminate floors and lino floors as I can select the right flooring type with the Autoselect® digital handle
    8. It is so easy to use that even the boys can use it!
    9. The unique and innovative design of the delta lift off head means that with a quick push of the foot peddle I can use the triangular cleaning head to get in to all the corners, this is especially effective in the kitchen
    10. It leaves the floors clean and streak free with minimal effort on my part
I have to say that other than having to plug in the mop, I haven't found anything that we do not like.   I am kicking myself for not getting on the steam mop bandwagon earlier.  It is a great addition to The Mad House and I no longer live in fear of anyone slipping on a just mopped floor! The official blurb: The Black & Decker® steam-mop™ with Autoselect® digital handle commands and steam burst technology easily gets rid of tough to move marks and germs with minimal effort, ensuring that your floors are sparkling clean. Ready to use in 15 seconds and it will run for 25 minutes on a single tank. With Autoselect® digital handle command technology, simply push the button to select the specific floor type -hardwood/laminate, tile/ vinyl, or stone/marble - and the mop automatically releases the right amount of steam. Autoselect® helps to assure thorough yet delicate cleaning on all sealed hard floors and is even safe on sealed hardwoods. The addition of steam burst mode removes even the most stubborn dirt - it releases 50% more for steam in a concentrated 5 second burst when you need that extra cleaning power, you don't get from ordinary steam mops. With the unique and innovative design of the delta lift off head you can, with a quick push of the foot peddle, use the triangular cleaning head to get in to all the corners of your home.
  • Kills 99% of bacteria and germs - no chemicals required.
  • Quick dry and streak free, it takes less time and work than a mop and bucket.
  • Swivel head for ease of use around furniture and awkward areas.
  • Self standing for convenience with auto shut off when locked in the upright position.
  • 1600 watts.
  • 6m power cord.
  • 0.5 litre water tank capacity.
  • Ready to use in 15 seconds.
  • Steam ready indicator.
  • Steaming time 25 mins per tank.
  • Machine washable pads.
  • Suitable for all floor types.
  • Accessories included.
  • Weight 3.07kg.
I am a member of the Mumsnet Bloggers Network, a group of parent bloggers picked by Mumsnet to review products, services, events and brands. I have not paid for the product or to attend an event. I have editorial control and retain full editorial integrity.
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Half Term in Orlando

Maxi and I are spending the half term holiday in Orlando, Florida thanks to Visit Orlando.  This is perfect timing for us to explore it all prior to our family holiday there in November with my brother and his family. We will be exploring the major attractions including including Walt Disney WorldSea World Parks and Universal Orlando Resort. I have taken a look at the Orlando Holiday Planning tool, so I know that the weather is going to be great and have packed our swimming things and the sun cream and for the first time I will not be taking prescription sunglasses on holiday and I am looking forward to being able to see things from the top of any rides we go on and not worry about my specs falling off. UK Homepage Header But I need your help, as we are only going for a week and spending a short time in each of the parks.  We need to know which rides and attractions are a must see for a very nearly eight year old and a super excited Mummy.  What food should we try and where should we try it. So can you help me:
  1. What do I need to take?
  2. What MUST we see?
  3. What rides to we need to make a beeline for?
  4. Your top tips for the parks and attractions?
  5. What should I bring back for Mini?
I am so looking forward to some one to one time with Maxi.  I am excited about going on the rides together and just generally having fun with each other.  However, in order to placate Mini, we need to make sure that we have a super itinerary for our trip ion November and have told him we are scouting it all out, so that he gets the best holiday ever in November! There is no way I am going to sleep for the next two nights!
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Al Fresco Holidays Young Story Writers competition

Do you have a budding novelist in your house? Thompson Al Fresco Holidays have a fantastic  Young Story Writers competition at the moment.  The competition is for budding young story writers aged 6-12 years old and open until the 31st March 2013.  Your child has to write a short story no longer than 500 words with the theme My Fantastic Journey.  You never know they could win a family holiday for up to six people. You might want to get your young story writer some inspiration and  Jeremy Strong' has created his very own story created exclusively for Al Fresco Holidays. mini writing Here is Mini's (aged six) Story
I was playing football in the playground and scored a goal.  I went to get the ball from the back of the net when someone shouted my name.  I turned round to see the scout from Middlesbrough Football club.  He asked me to go and have trials to play for their junior team. I went home and told my mum and dad and we all went in the car to Riverside Park and I got to go in the changing rooms and change in to my football kit. I walked on to the pitch and my family all cheered as a played football with other children. They really liked my tricks and skills.  So they asked me to become part of the team.
He told me the story was about his journey to becoming a football player! holiday Further information of the competition can be found on the Al Fresco Kidz blog. 18    
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Team Skylanders

For over a year I had managed to dissuade the boys from Skylanders.  I feared they were just an expensive fad that they would get in to and as we were unable to afford the characters the game would not be able to be fully played with. The thing is Skylanders didn't go away and then Skylanders Giants came on the scene and I had two boys who both desperately wanted Skylanders.  So they entered the Tots100 competition to become part of Team Skylanders and were lucky enough to be chosen as one of the ambassadors.
Tots100 Index
We were sent a Skylanders Giants starter pack, this came with a console specific game, a portal of power and 1 Giant Skylander ( Tree Rex), two standard figures (Cynder and Jet Vac), 3 trading cards, sticker sheet and a poster.
The premise of Skylkanders is each toy figure, sold separately, is placed on the portal of power to access the character in the game.  You can use the figures across the different 360/Wii/PS3 versions to bring your progress with you when visiting friend. Skylanders Giants introduces new characters, a new adventure and a host of improvements and upgrades.
 skylanders The good points:
  • The boys do not fight when playing Skylanders together.  Although there is a lot of "battling" in the game, this does not creep out in to real life like it can in some games with the boys.
  • It is a pretty social game.  They can share their figures with friends that also have Skylanders, even if they use a different games platform as the figures are universal.
  • Maxi loves the Mini games.
  • Even if you do not have extra figures you can still play a lot of the game.
  • No more worries about what birthday present to buy as it seems all the children play Skylanders, so a character is a great present.
  • Even I can play it!
The not so good points:
  • It can be hard for an adult to get their head around.  I initially thought that we had to but the other 48 figures to be able to play all the game.
  • It is complicated getting to know which element each figure belongs too (for adults)
  • It could get expensive if you gave in to pester power
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Valentines Wreath

My first wreath blew away off the front door (Sad face), but it meant that I had an excuse to get messy and make a heart wreath and get it up early! February wreath No how to on this post, as it was very straight forward, although I do wish I had been able to get red bells, instead of painting them and spraying them with matt clear sealer. This wreath was inspired by a Christmas decoration I had seen at Salisbury's and took a photo of. I used two thicknesses of florists wire, a think one to form the hear and then a thinner one to connect all the bells.  The ribbon is red gingham from my stash.  I have popped in on the front door, but instead of just hooking over the hanger, I have wrapped it round it. MadDad was concerned that it would jingle in the wind and bother us, but the only time it makes a noise is when the door is opened and closed. When I take this one down I will be replacing it with an Easter one. If you have made a wreath I would love to see it.
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Lenten resolutions

The last two years I have resolved to give up shouting for lent.  I did  not succeed and some days I am still a total fishwife, but I guess it is the trying that matters.  The living intentionally. mini car wash This year lent starts early today in fact.  We have been discussing the reasons behind lent, the fact that it lasts for six weeks, 40 days and nights excluding Sundays.  A couple of years ago The Coffee Lady kindly sent me a list of things that children can do over Lent (they came from the Live Life, Love Lent book published by the Church of England) and this year the boys have decided to use this list. Give your pocket money to a charity Clean up your room and give something to a charity shop Share a smile Say sorry to someone Do a chore or errand for a family member Water some plants or a green space with recycled water Help prepare a meal and find out where the food was grown Write a thank you letter Share a treat with someone at school Thank of three good things and say thank you to God Have a TV and computer free day and do something with your family instead Say please and thank you all day Find out about the countries where your clothes are made Read a story to a younger child Save trees by using both sides of the paper Spend five minutes quietly by yourself Turn off the tap when brushing your teeth Hold doors open for others Give a home-made gift to a loved one Offer to help your teacher with a task Recycle your rubbish Go for a walk in your area with an adult and pray about what you see Show an adult how to do something they can’t do Plant some seeds where the flowers will be seen Have a conversation with someone older than you Lend a friend a good book/cd/dvd Find out about children in a developing country Say a prayer for someone who is unwell or in need Find out about life as a refugee and spend the night in a tent (we are very much giving this one a miss – too cold!) Help a parent or carer with shopping Give a lollipop to your lollipop person Feed the birds Pick up some litter Getting towards Easter Make a palm cross and give it away Give someone a Fair Trade Easter Egg Make hot cross buns and share them Polish some one’s shoes for them Make or draw an Easter garden in a place that will be seen Celebrate Easter maxi car wash The Fab Coffee Lady also sent me the adult version of the Lenten tasks. Make someone laugh Spend some time in silence Have a meat-free day Give up your place in a queue Write to someone and thank them Light a candle and pray for someone Give someone an apple Have a TV free day and do something you have meant to do for ages Turn off the tap when you clean your teeth Go for a walk in your neighbourhood with a friend Say something nice about someone behind their back Feed the birds Talk to someone new at church Phone or text someone to say goodnight Use local shops rather than supermarkets Put a jumper on and turn down the heating Buy a low energy light bulb Leave a £1 coin in a trolley or where someone will find it Find out about a litter clean up Watch the news and pray about what you see Help a bug out of the house rather than squash it Buy something at a charity shop and reverse haggle Buy Fairtrade Have a conversation with someone from a different generation Ring a loved one Plant seeds where the flowers will be seen Hug someone who needs it Give a friend a good book or CD Find out about blood donation Don't leave appliances on standby Talk to someone about why you go to church Buy something for someone anonymously Bake something to share Miss a meal and pray instead Find out about a church community project Make a drink for a neighbour or colleague Have a conversation with someone from a different culture Make an Easter card for a neighbour Use a buy-one-get-one-free and give the free one away Only fill the kettle with the water you need Do a chore for someone (Good Friday) Read St John's Gospel Chapter 19 Invite a friend to church Share an Easter egg So we are taking up, rather than giving up this lent.  What are you doing?
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Concentrating on the positives……….

We have been making strides in improving Mini's behaviour with help and advice from Franki.  It is really hard to see clearly when you are in the midst of horrible behaviour.  But she has really given us the ability to clarify what we need to do and support when things are not on track. So what are we doing?
  • Firstly we have set realistic expectations with Mini.  He has a reward chart with what is expected of him on and we also included Maxi on it so he didn't feel singled out.
  • We are making the actions achievable
  • We are working together as a team.  If he gets out of bed, we just tell him it is sleep time.  We do not engage him at all.  If we have to physically put him back in to bed we do, but tell him it is sleep time and then close the door.
  • If she goes to bed well then he gets his star first thing in the morning for his cart.
  • He gets a daily star if he completes a certain amount of his daily tasks.
  • We are reinforcing positive behaviour
letter   This are not perfect, but anything is an improvement on what we had.  At the moment we are concentrating on getting Mini in to a good bed and sleep routine and then we will look at the other behaviour .  I want to thank everyone for the comments, suggestions and support when I posted that we needed some help.  I have spoke to the school and Mini is really well behaved whilst at school.  The only time he is disruptive is when he isn't challenged.  So it appears that he holds himself together at school.  I have also spoke to our Health Visitor and have the option of taking things further with her if the current situation worsens.  However, we are really licky in that Franki and her colleague have offered us their support immediately, so we have no waiting times.
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The joy of learning something new

2013, the year of "Choosing Joy", but also the year of learning.  This is the year that I start to take time out for me and put these grey cells in my brain in to some use.  Where I try to see if an old dog can learn new tricks!

minimad

I am doing this in a couple of ways, firstly I am trying to improve my photography by taking a Capturing Childhood course.  I have started on the Collect the Moments e-course.  It is challenging me to think differently and I am learning lots of new things about my six year old camera.  I have even ordered a remote control so I can "be in the picture" more often.  The Kats' are helpful, insightful and full of useful information and I am really enjoying the community feel of the course, plus the ability to take things at my own pace.  Plus I got a positive comment on the photo's I take on the blog last week for the first time ever and I was beaming.

I am also looking forward to a day course on learning to use my camera better that I am going on with Cass from The Dairy of a Frugal Family.

maximad

Secondly I am taking regular lessons in handicrafts.  I have book on to a two hourly weekly lesson on a Tuesday morning and over the last four weeks I have nearly completed a quilt for Mini.  I have cut the fabric (cutting I have discovered is my kryptonite), sewed the quilt top, basted it, quilted it and made the binding for it and today I am learning how to put that binding on it.  It is wonderful to see something I have made come together and to have the support of a tutor that is there to support me when I need it.

I have also taken a couple of day courses, one on making a stacked coin quilt and one on making a zipped bag.  Neither projects are finished yet, but they are well on the way to getting completed.  There is such joy in learning a new skill and being able to do so with like minded people is even better.  Yes I am the youngest in all the lessons by a generation (two in some cases), bit boy do these ladies have tales to tell and it is great to see them making the most of their free time.

bag fabric image

I have also set two on making 2013 the year that I keep up with the cleaning and clutter within the house, as a tidyish house means that for some reason my brain is much less cluttered or that it at least has more room to concentrate on the things that matter and not stress or fret over the state of the house.  This month on A Thrifty Mum I am getting in to the habit of a cleaning routine and continuing on my declutter, which I started in January.

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Laser Surgery – The Small Stuff

It is now more than two months since I have had my laser eye surgery, thanks to Optical Express.  I am finally at the point that I am not pushing up imaginary specs on the bridge of my nose every four minutes and I am really thankful that I was given this wonderful opportunity.  So I have decided to do a small things so you can see the joy too. no specs  
  • Waking up and being able to see the small face snuggled next to me clearly.
  • Being able to look at the alarm clock and read the time without putting on my glasses.
  • Being able to see in the shower.
  • BEING ABLE TO SEE MY BOYS WHEN WE GO SWIMMING,
  • No glasses to steam up when I come out of the cold in to the warm.
  • Not wishing that my glasses had windscreen wipers in the rain
  • Being able to see my eyes more clearly and therefore, the bags underneath them.
  • The joy of trying to find sunglasses in the winter and those sunglasses not having to be special prescription ones.
  • Knowing that I will not have to wear bifocals or varifocals
  • My glasses not steaming up when I open the oven door
  • Not having to remove my glasses at the hairdressers, which means I can see my hair being cut
  • Being able to straighten my hair without having to remove my specs and being able to see myself in the mirror and therefore, not burning my ear all the time.
  • Being able to go on roller coasters without worrying I will lose my glasses.
  • Not falling asleep in specs and waking up with them bent as I have been laid on them.
  • No more costs associated with new glasses each year and the horror of finding frames that suit me.
  • Did I say that swimming is fun again......
So would I do it again?  Yes I would.  I am still having a few issues with dry eyes and night time halos round lights when driving, but that is getting better and better each week.  
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