After a pretty pants weekend

Most of my weekend has been spent feeling very sorry for myself with my head in a bucket and my bum on the sofa, so I was planning to use today to catch up, get the ironing done, plan some craft activities and finalise some of the reviews I have been doing too.

But fate has conspired against me, I went to the GP first thing to discuss my  crohn's diagnosis and get my blood results, only to find that my iron level is shockingly low.  Yes is is down to 8.1, so it looks like a need a blood transfusion again (yes it was only 4 months ago that I had one and yes I also take iron supplements every day).

So I am writing this, when really I should be arranging to have boys collected from school, mum taken to her hospital appointment, cancelling Maxi's GP appointment, arranging to get myself to hospital (no I didn't fancy going in an ambulance from the surgery) , getting MadDad home and sorting out dinner for everyone tonight, as I will be in overnight in all likelihood.

So time to turn off the PC and get cracking, catch you all later!

Edited to add that I am actually going in Tuesday now, so that I don't have to remain in overnight - fingers crossed!

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What do you do when your children are bright?

All children are unique, they are wonderful souls and a joy to be around.  But what do you do when your children are bright?  Maxi and Mini are both above average when it comes to intelligence.  I say this not as a smug mum, but as a concerned mum.  My aim for my children is and always has been happiness, for them to take life in both hands and enjoy it.  But this last week I have experienced something I never have before, Maxi has not wanted to go to school, as it is boring.


So MadDad and I decided that it was time that I spoke to his new teacher and discussed what could we all do to help and an appointment was made.  I am lucky enough to have a couple of really great twitter friends who have been available to advise me on life with bright children, the wonderful Chris at Thinly Spread and also working with bright children, Julia from What will Julia Do Next?and The Heads Office.

This cleverness is not something I discuss with many people in real life, as I don't want to Maxi to be labeled or for that matter be to be labeled as a smug, self centred mother who pushes her children, but it is becoming an issue.  The few parents who go into school and read with the children have already approached me about his reading skills and one mum asked me if he was a genius (erm no, he is a 5 year old)!  I have struggled to find an outlet for my fears and concerns as I don't want them to come across as a boasting or over proud mother, who can only define herself by her children's achievements or in the slight competitive about education, which I certainly am not.

But the fact of the matter is that Maxi not being challenged meant he was board and that mean he didn't want to go to school, which in turn meant he and I wasn't happy.  So I felt I had to take this in hand and deal with it and it that means Maxi being labeled as gifted and talented then so be it.  I am concerned for the here and now, we can deal with next years education when it comes around.  I need him to want to go to school now and moving him up a year is not the solution in my eyes.  He is 5 years old, he has the social skills of a five year old and he needs to learn to deal with his talents and also with his peers to become part of their group.

So it was with great trepidation I went to meet Mr P, Maxi's teacher.  I was keen for Maxi not to become know as the pushy mothers son and lots of other analogies, but truth is, he is clever and advanced in both mathematics and literacy.

I am pleased to say it was a great meeting and I was also delighted to realise that Maxi's talents had already been picked up on and that action was going to be taken to keep him more involved and challenged throughout the school year.  We agreed on an interim action plan for the next couple of weeks (until Parent Evening) and I came home with a new reading book for Maxi (bought by his wonderful teacher) and a much better feeling about sending my child off to school.

We also made the decision that Maxi was not going to remain in the AFA (Achievement For All) scheme and would rather be moved in to a special maths group with the older children, which will be finalised over the next couple of weeks.

We are lucky in that Maxi is great at sport and hope that he can use this as an outlet to help get through school without sticking out as the clever one or the nerd.  It was how MadDad managed his intelligence and maybe Maxi and one day Mini can do the same.

I feel so much more relieved know that we are putting a plan of action in play for Maxi.  For the next couple of weeks he will be focusing on his writing ability, to enable him to move and be taught with different classes as he needs to be.  He will be focusing on spellings of tricky words, rather than reading (which he is fine with) and also some of the mathematics from later in the year, until his teacher gets his personal learning plan in place in time for parents evening before the end of term.


I am happy to say that Mini's needs are being catered for as he has Maxi's teacher from last year, the delectable Mrs S and she is one of the best teachers I have ever had the pleasure to meet.


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I have moved!

Virtually that is, to


Please come and join me.

I would also love it if you could change my links in any blog rolls etc I have been lucky enough to be added to.

Thanks for taking this journey with me.

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Finallaly getting a Diagnosis and learning to live with it

Over the last year or so I have been pretty under the weather.  I have been constantly shattered, had major issues with my bowels and been in and out of hospital for numerous tests including scans, x-rays, a barium follow through and blood transfusions.

Yesterday I was finally given a diagnosis.  I have Crohns Disease, which although isn't curable, but it is treatable and hopefully I will go into remission once the right treatment balance is reached.  The Crohns explains why I am anemic and also low in B12, so dependant on blood results I will have either an iron infusion or blood transfusion next week (hopefully) and also a B12 injection and we will see how I progress and my options going forward will be discussed with the consultant at my next visit in a month of so's time.

The crohns diagnosis explains most of my symptoms, but not he acute pain I have in my shoulder and chest at times and also the pretty constant feeling of nausea, however, we have also discovered I have giant para esophageal hernia (which in all likelihood has been with me since birth), but with pregnancies and my mastectomy surgery may have moved to create these symptoms.  This is going to require surgery, however, I need to have a much higher hemoglobin level before this can take place.

My illness has had a pretty big impact on family life, but now we know what it is, we can take steps to treat it and I am very relieved that it isn't bowel cancer (which due to the BRCA gene I have a higher risk of).  It will also mean postponing any reconstructive surgery until after my para esophageal hernia surgery, which is a little upsetting.

However, we have come though much worse than this and I will get though, no we will get through this as a family.



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Children’s Craft Showcase – Halloween is creeping up on us!

It has been a wet, wild and windy week in TheMadHouse and what with the dark nights and dark mornings we need something to look forward to, so we are going to start on our Halloween Preparations.


Last year we did lots of things and I thought I would do a nice review post for you here to get you in the mood for the spooky festivities.

I will also be holding a special Halloween Children's Craft Showcase on the Monday 25 October (start of half term) to collate everyone's ideas and to give you some more for the half term week.


Balloon Scary Faces


Paper Pumpkins


Salt Dough Decorations


Spooky secret drawings



Boo to you ghosts

Finally if you are looking for some food inspiration for the night look no further than my super dooper hairy hotdogs.



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Liz Earle – Review

ReviewBack when I was a DINKY (Duel Income No Kids Yet) Liz Earle was my beauty brand of choice for a number of reasons.  I hadd very sensitive skin (at least I did have till I was pregnant) and Liz Earle worked really well for me.  I really agreed with their philosophy and also the fact that they do not use parabens and that they use organic whenever possible.
Believe it or not Maxi was first washed in their orange flower botanical body wash.  I still use their Cleanes and Polish every day, although I can not afford much else nowadays and I rely on birthdays and Christmas to keep me in stock.
Liz Earle kindly sent me a set of their Cleanse and Polish, Instant Boost Skin Tonic and a Skin Repair Moisturiser to try.  It has been a revelation to be using the whole system again.  My skin has visibly improved, even MadDad has noticed the difference and it feels smother, more moisturized and an even texture.
Not only has it made a real difference to my skin, but it has also been a great pick me up too.  Liz Earle products smell divine and using them is a real treat and I have got back in to a really good morning and evening routine.
They also sent me some botanical shine shampoo and Botanical shine conditioner for dry hair.  I have been using this for the last three weeks and it is wonderful.  Firstly, the smell is divine, making it a real treat to use.  I have been conditioning my hair and then cupping my hands to breath in the wonderful uplifting scent.
But smell isn't everything and yes I have seen improvements in the condition of my hair too.  It is more manageable and less frizzy.  At £7.50 a tube it is pricey, but it seems to last well, it lathers very well and the shampoo has no SLS in (which is great as Maxi has issues with SLS).
So I have made a decision, I am going to save my money and rescue the number of things I buy, but I am going to be purchasing Liz Earle's cleanse and moisturising products and also the haircare products and keep on enjoying this wonderful routine I have been using.
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My Priorities – Should our children fit in?

Way back when I had pink hair and lived my life in the minute I never thought I would be conventional.  I left home at 16 due to me and mum clashing and not agreeing on my "lifestyle" choices!  Back then I wanted to be different, I didn't want to fit it, I didn't want to become another ant on a large planet of ants, I wanted to be someone and I was happy to stand out for all the wrong reasons.

I was never the easiest child or teenager, I would rebel against convention, against expectations and would be difficult for difficult's sake, I was the black sheep of the family.  I was the one pinching the home brew pina colada from the wardrobes in  the garage and drinking then under the cinema on the beech or at the park.  I wouldn't do any homework and I skived off senior school.  

Everything was boring or normal and I was sick of living a stepford life and felt constrained by living in the town I did with the friends I had and I wanted more.

Then I met MadDad and everything changed.  I didn't need the pink hair or the outrageous behaviour (which was always a front), as I had him.  We got married and relocated to Berkshire and we lived a great life.

We had fantastic holidays, worked hard and lived life to the full coping with the potholes in the road on our way (my Dad dying, the numerous miscarries and health issues) and I started to live a conventional life.

The the minimads came along and we decided that we wanted them to grow up back in the north east close to our family and the beautiful North Yorkshire coast and country side.  I have become Mrs Conventional, not that that is an issue, but I already see my boys struggling against convention.

I see Mini not wanting to wear a school uniform, both of them not wanting short hair like the other boys and start to wonder when they will start pulling against the boundaries of society.  How to I encourage them to have their own opinions in life and to be their own men.  School doesn't allow for children to be different and my children are different.

Maxi is mathematics mad, he is a natural leader and old beyond his years in some ways, but also he is a typical 5 year old boy in others.  He loves being boisterous, playing tig and building dens, but he also loves working out how things work and wants to know how many miles are there between each planet and how much hotter the planets closer to the sun are.

Mini is already realising that he is different to the children in his class, he is having to go and get his reading books from Maxi's class and spends time reading to the TA.  Yes he can read, but he can not write and shows no interest in learning yet.  Give the boy a chance he is only just 4.  

Maxi has been chosen to take part in a special project at school (funded due to the fact he was assessed for Speech Therapy) called Achievement for All.  Initially I didn't see how my son would fit in to this project as is aims are to raise the aspirations for children and a lot of the children on the project need their confidence raised.  So I went to meet this the team implementing the project to discuss their hopes for Maxi and also what and how their thought he would gain from the project.

It turns out that they have talked to Maxi teachers and think that the project will really help Maxi, that it will hone his natural leadership skills and that his educational outcomes will be based on that and also focusing on his writing, which could do with some improvement (It isn't bad for a five year old).

The first part of the project will be music based and I will have the opportunity to go in to school once a week (Wednesday afternoons) and share in his experiences and work alongside him.  The team feel that moving Maxi from the classroom, will keep him more challenged and also help him feel less different from the other children.  But he is different from the other children, all children are unique and I am not sure how I feel about this.  It has raised all sorts of issues and thoughts for me.

Yes my boys are clever, I have discussed this before, but for me it isn't everything.  They are 4 and 5 years old.  They need to be happy, yes part of that is keeping them challenged and inspired, but also isn't it about letting them know that it is OK to be different, to be unique. 

It seems to me as this is the start of what is to be a long road through their schooling and childhood.  How do other parents cope?




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The Gallery – An Apple Tree


This apple tree is 3 years old, we planted it after we moved in and started work on the garden.  It is small and only bore 6 fruits last year, but this year its branched are bowed under the weight of its fruit.

For me this feel like parenting, sometimes you feed the children, nurture and look after them and it feels like they are just ignoring your advice, but then it just happens.  It clicks and there is please and thank you without prompting.




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Frugalicious Food = Frugal + Delicious

Myself and Cass from Diary of a Frugal Family have decided to start up a food blog - Frugaliscious Food.


Frugal + Delicious = Frugalicious.

You can find us on twitter to @frugaliscious_
We are looking for guest posts too, so if you have a great receipe, then please let either one of us know.




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Cooking with Children – Lamb Stir-Fry

 We were given a some welsh lamb and the ingredients to make a welsh lamb stir fry from the Cool2Cook2 book which has been produced by Meat Promotion Wales (Hybu Cig Cymru) to help get kids cooking.
lamb stirfry
I love getting the boys in the kitchen, so we set about following the recipe on Saturday evening.  The boys chopped all the vegetables, whilst I did the ginger and MadDad prepared the lamb, which was welsh and organic.
I have to say that the recipe was really easy to follow and the boys did the majority of the work, with me and MadDad supervising.
We really enjoyed it and there was 4 empty bowls at the end of the evening.  In fact the boys enjoyed it so much that we made Lamb Kofta Kebabs out of the book for Sunday dinner.
They went down a treat.  If you can get hold of this cook book then I would, it has some very easy, well balanced recipes in it and the MiniMads want to try them all and I can see it being used time and time again, especially when they are a little older and I can get them to cook dinner for us all!
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Spiritual Sunday – Grateful

I am so grateful to Interflora who sent be a bouquet of flowers just because they like my blog.  They even matched them to the blog colours too.
I am grateful that it is my mums 67th Birthday today, after her hospitalisation and all that came with it earlier in the year, I didn't think we would get this far and we have and she is doing really well.  
I am grateful that she got on to a special COPD trial at the local hospital, even though it makes me taking her twice a week.
I am grateful that we have had a week of Mini going to school without any tears and tantrums.
I am grateful for heating on a cold Sunday morning.
I am grateful for the wonderful friends I have made blogging and on twitter for the support I have been given with Mini starting school.
I am grateful that my Brothers MIL may be released from hospital next week, she has made a miraculous recovery. 
What are you grateful for this week?
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Quality Time with Mini – Face Painting!

Mini and Maxi usually got to football practice on a Saturday morning, but mini has a bit of a cold after starting school, so we decided that we would spend the morning together and let MadDad and Maxi go off to Saturday Club together, whilst we had some quality time together.
So we got out the face paints we had been given as part of the TRU Toyologist programme and had a morning of painting and fun.
Mini decided that he wanted to try out some different ones for Halloween, so I give you the skeleton and vampire looks.
But before you think I got out of this scot free, just being the painter, then think again.  Mini decided that it was only fair that he have a go at painting mummy..............  So let me present Mrs Mad the wicked witch of the North.
The paints are so easy to use and watch off very easily and I removed Mini's first design with baby wipes.  We had such a fun morning.  Plus we are going to look really good at this years Halloween Party.
Review
We were provided with a set of boys Snazaroo Face Paints from Toys R Us which retail at  £9.99.  They are really easy to use and the accompanying booklet gives you loads of ideas for images which you can copy and step by step instructions.  The only issue is the booklet uses both the girl and boy pains which contain different colours and paints.
The pack comes with both a sponge applicator and also a brush and both are very easy tiouse, as you can see from the photo of me, which Mini did all my himself from the book.
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Mourning more than the children being at school

Since I am laying it all bare about how I feel about the boys being at school, it is only fare that I really admit as to why I feel so bad.



Back in July 2008 I had my ovaries and fallopian tubes removed, an oophorectomy is the technical term.  As you may know I carry a genetic spelling mistake which makes me very high risk for a number of cancers.  My Aunt died from ovarian cancer and my other Aunt who had already had a hysterectomy had primary peritoneal cancer (she is currently in remission).  So my risk of ovarian cancer was over a 60% lifetime risk.

We talked to specialists, McMillan and my family and we knew that the risk of contracting ovarian caner increased if I still had my ovaries when I was over 35.  Also ovarian cancer is a silent killer.  Woman tend to be stage 4 before they are even diagnosed, as its symptoms are often just passed off as women's problems.   Also there is not an effective screening programme for it in the UK.

So we made the very hard decision for me to undergo surgery.  This decision was harder than the one to have the mastectomy.  My children were hard come by, I had numerous miscarriages and difficulties when pregnant with both the boys, but we always wanted more.  We discussed when we got married that we would love to have 4 children at least.  But we made the choice that it would be better to be alive for the children we already had rather than take a big risk and try for more children.

I though that I was happy with this decision and it is only since Mini has started school that I realise that I am mourning, not only by gorgeous handsome boys being at school, but I am also mourning the loss of future potential children that we might have had.  I am mourning the life I always thought I would have.



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The Gallery – A smile is the light in the window of your face that tells people you’re at home

I have said before that my main motivation for my boys is happiness, I think that if you are happy you can do anything, take on any challenge and be what ever you want to be.  

Also I find happiness infectious, a smile can light up a room, so for me picking out images that reflect this weeks Gallery was hard, not because I didn't have many to chose from, rather I have lots of images with smiles on.


So enter our world for a moment, Mini is using my hoodie to be Obi-Wan_Kenobi, who is is here (well after MadDad) and the other photo is one of a series of out takes on the first day of school, where the boys couldn't stop laughing!




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Electronics – where do you draw the line or how much is too much?

We have a lot of technology in TheMadHouse, lots of electronic gadgets, gizmo's and games, but for my sanity I we are introducing technology free time.

It has never been an issue for us in the past, but both the boys are getting to an age where they would gladly play on the Wii, their leapsters, Daddy's ipod touch or the PS2 for all their waking hours.  We are getting tantrums when they are told "no more electronic time".  We have never had to ration it in the past but that is where we are headed.

So we are going to be changing the rules on our reward system and the boys will be able to exchange their points for more than just things in Mummy's shop they will also be able to exchange them for time on the wii, PC or an electronic gadget.  We already work on the premise of no screen time after 6pm, after I read some where that it helps them switch off in time for bed.


 I don't think I am going to be in for an easy ride from the boys and this is not a decision we have taken lightly, but we are going to try.  I am aware that it is going to be hard for me too, as it means no PC or twitter for me too once they are home from school.  It also means that I can not bribe the boys or use the wii as an easy option to stop them fighting, but I am hoping it enhances all our days.

We are also going to have one whole day at the weekend which is technology free after 9am.  This shouldn't be too difficult as we always have a least one family day at the weekend.

I am doing this now, as I don't want to end up with teenage boys who are glued to their screens and have no conversational skill at all.

So wish me luck and where do you stand on the how much is too much line?



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The odd one out

I have that follow feeling in my tummy, the one I describe to the boys as butterflies, but truth be told it isn't.  It is a physical pain caused by dropping them off at the school door each morning.  At least today Mini went in without the tears and upset of last week, at least Maxi always runs to be in, but I walk away with a heavy heart and a hollow emptiness that nothing can fill.

I used to have a career when we lived down South, I was a successful Facilities Manager and my colleagues were shocked by the fact that I was pregnant.  I was the most un-maternal woman in the building, but my love for  my boys has been a slow burner.  I never had a POW feeling when they were born.  They never swept me off my feet with a barrage of warm feelings, but these feelings have grown and developed as I have had the pleasure of learning to be a parent and now I am consumed with overwhelming and unconditional love for them both.  There are days when I might not like them, but I do and always will love them.

I enjoy their company and the time we spend doing, making, playing, baking and just being together.  I fear I am becoming a bore, a lonely, sad mother.  Yes that is what the issue is I am lonely.  I do have friends here, but they have both just gone full time at work, so I am left on my own during the day and I am sad.

I am looking for part time work to help pass the time and to try and make new friends, but it easier said than done.  I have applied for positions, only to be told I am over qualified and to be left feeling even more worthless than I feel anyway.  Before now I have only ever had positive interviews, but I live in an area of high unemployment and my skills although transferable are not as sought after as they should be.  Coupled with the fact that I want to collect the boys from school, well it makes getting a job pretty much impossible (or that is the feeling I have).

So on Wednesday I start 2 mornings a week helping out with the reception children at the school and I am looking forward to it.  I hope that it will help lift my mood and stop me coming home with tears in my eyes.

Worse still are the people who say take some time to do things you want to do, well I WANT to be with my children, I don't want to pamper myself or go for a run, I want to cuddle my boys.  I want to wallow in this self pity.  I don't want to clean the house or do the ironing.  I want to go to the park and find shells with the boys on the beach.  I want more children, which I can not have.
I am mourning the loss of her children.  The woman who has marked the calender and is looking forward in an unnatural way to half term.  I listen to the other mums talking about their children being at school and I feel nothing in common with them at all.  I do not relish the start of the school day or dread the clock ticking closer to collection time, in fact I feel the opposite and look forward to collecting the boys and visiting the park.

So in a lot of ways I guess I am the odd one out.



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Wonderful Whitby Abbey

We are lucky enough to live a mere 20 minutes away from Whiby and thankfully the boys love the place as much as MadDad and I do.  We take every opportunity to escape the humdrum and melt in to the old fashioned perfectness of Whitby, but we don't often go to the Abbey, in fact I can not remember the last time we went.

So on Friday as the sun was shining, school had not yet started and MAdDad was off, plus we were looking after my 5 year old niece (as her Nanna is terminally ill), so we decided Whitby was where we were going.


We loved it, yes it is often windy, but it is a fantastic place to explore and allow the children to be free.  I have to say that we have been members on English Heritage since Maxi was born and I love visiting with the boys. 

We took a picnic and some books and had a wonderful relaxing visit.

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TheMads go Mad at Butlins

As I was going to be at TheMads we decided to make it a family break and take the children to Butlins, now I have never ever been to Butlins and the last time MadDad went was over 35 years ago, so I think we had preconceived ideas.
We stayed in the Shorline hotel and I have to say I was super impressed with the size and layout of the rooms.  The boys room area had junior bunkbeds and a TV and DVD player, which showed children's TV channels.  The room had a big fridge and also tea and coffee making facilities.  It was perfect.  The only issue we had was that our package didn't include breakfast and that would have been £30 for the four of us in the hotel, but that didn't put us off, we took advantage of the large fridge and had cereal and milk!
The first thing the boys wanted to experience was the pool and experience it we did!  In our two days at Butlins we spent more time in the pool than anywhere else.  We were wrinkly prunes, but the boys adored it and so did we.  Maxi got to go on 3 of the slides as he was the right height and Mini enjoyed the children slides and also the white slide too.  My only gripe about the pool is that there is nowhere to hang your towels in the shower area and we like to wash our hair after being in the pool.  During the days we either spent our time in the pool or the play area outside.  The boys didn't go on any of the rides at all, although they did spend an hour in the indoor soft play.
I have to say I was pretty apprehensive about the entertainment.  I had visions of young children being entertained whilst the parents all had a drink and left them too it (not that there is anything wrong with that, its just not my cup of tea).  Well I needn't have worried.  The little ones entertainment is in the pavilion and there is a stage in the centre and a coffee area where parents and children can sit.
The boys had so much fun, they watched Barney, acrobats and got involved in all the drumming.   If they are happy, then we are happy and as parents of young children neither of us want to have a hangover, so a nice coffee went down fine with us.
We ate at Papa John, which is a pizza place and offers a buffet service between 5 and 7, which was perfect for us and the children.  It meant they could have as much salad and pizza as they liked (it was £7.75 for adults and £3.75 for children)
So my verdict, well I am going to leave it to Maxi this time "Can I live here Mummy?"
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The Mads – I love my fellow nominees


We have just got back from the inaugural Mads ceremony at Butlins Bognor and I have to say I have had a fantastic time.  The event itself was amazing, celebrating everything good.  You can see a list of the  Mads nominees and the winners here, but I wanted to use this post to tell you about the e-mails that were sent and received the day before the event.

So ladies - tomorrow it's handbags at dawn ;) as one of us emerges victorious: Queen of Family Fun. I'm still amazed I made the final and feel honoured to be in such great company. I think we all share very similar philosophies about what family fun and childhood is all about. I'd kind of forgotten the MADs are a competition and it seems a bit silly for us all to be in a heat together. I just wanted to say well done to all of us for having blogs that people read and enjoy.

Jen and Pippa - hope you have a fantastic time at the awards. I really wish I was coming as I'd love to see you both again. Victoria - meet you at the virtual bar?


Cathy xx (Nuturestore)

I so agree with you Cathy, I feel very honored to be in the final and to have you wonderful ladies there too makes it oh so much more special.  I have made so many wonderful friends though blogging and count you three ladies right up there at the top.
 
I don't care who wins, we are all winners really, what is fantastic is that who ever it is - it will be a stand up blog and a great example of what a family fun blog should and can be.
 
Good luck to us all and hope to see you on twitter!
 
Love
 
Jen (me)
 

Thank you Cathy. I feel the same. And while obviously I would be honoured to win, I can genuinely say that I would not feel in the least put out to lose to any of you. Which is a very nice situation to be in. See you at the virtual bar!

Victoria xx (Its a small world after all)

I was trying to think of something funny to say that would make you all laugh, and then realise how funny I am (I am really funny) but I couldn't think of anything that didn't make me sound like a complete idiot who was up her own bottom.
 
So instead I shall go for soppy.
 
I was so chuffed when I was named a finalist, but then seeing who my fellow finalists were I did then realise that this wasn't about winning this was about celebration. I love that we all got through to the finals, because all of us are about family fun and its not just one aspect, I think between us we pretty much have the market sewn up!
 
Whoever wins will deserve it and as much as I hope that it is me, I won't mind if it is any of you guys either. Well maybe not you... Anyway I hope that you will all join me in a toast via our email right now to us lovely ladies and to being finalists.
 
Mwah to you all
 
Pips (A Mothers Ramblings)


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Stape – Our Secret Place


I have blogged before about our secret favorite place.  Well we have been back and it was magical as always.

The water was lower and my Niece took a tumble, but all we could here were the birds and the slow, slow trickle of water.
We drank tea from the flask and water and I drunk in the boys playing together, imagination running wild and Enid Blyton childhood I want for them.

Long may it continue.




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Why We Need More Male Primary School Teachers

I spent Thursday night at 9pm glued to BBC2 watching their School season, more specifically Gareth Malone's Extraordinary School for Boys.

It highlighted what is a real worry for me the feminising of teaching and the lack of male teachers in our primary schools.  According to a recent piece in the telegraph am only make up 12% of of the teachers in primary schools.

As a mum of two boys I find this a worry statistics and would love for my boys to go to a primary school where the teaching mix was much more appropriate to the society we live in.

We are lucky in the Maxi has a Male teacher for Year 1 and also had a male teacher in Preschool, but there are no more male teachers at the school and there are no male teaching assistants at all.

Why are male teachers important?

I often though that the reason boys and girls were different was due to their upbringing, but being a mum to two boys has been a real eye opener for me. I realise that they are completely wired differently and need different things to girls and I feel that we need to take this in to account when teaching them.

Boys need positive make role models, they need to be able to let off steam.  They need their differences to be embraced, but to be made to learn like girls.


Anyway back to the programme, what struck me so much was that they boys were really engaged, they interacted to Gareth and they were happy.  They were not stuck in some apathetic state.

I spent some time on twitter too and it was amazing the number of people who all agree that we need more male primary school teachers and that boys need a different approach to girls.

I am so looking forward to the rest of the program on Thursday.

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I am on my Way to The Mads, well I will be on Monday


On Monday we will be on our way to Butlins at Bognor Regis for the finals of TheMads 2010, where I am a finalist in the Best Family Fun Blog.


Name: Jen

Blog: www.muminthemadhouse.com

Twitter: @mum_themadhouse

What am I going to be wearing? Clothes, yes, shallow I know, but I have no idea!

I would really like to say thank you to everyone that voted for me and we are all really looking forward to going to Butlins, as we have never, ever been before (and one of Maxi's classmates told him it was better than Disney)!


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The Winds of Change

Change, that words sweeps a world of emotion over me at this time. It makes me feel a little scared, a little worried, a little apprehensive for what will be, for you see my world is turning and changing.  My whole family is experiencing the winds of change.

I have lost my youngest companion, my wonderful Mini to school this week and it is a huge change in my life.

My balance is off, my sense of direction skewed and I am not sure which way I should be facing.

For you see, my child, my wonderful confident, happy child has embraced this change in his life with open arms and gone running in to the unknown to breathe in all he can.  To learn new skills, make new friends, experience new things, to learn to be still in life and to also use the life lessons I have spend the last four years instilling in him.  He makes me proud, proud that he is confident enough in himself to feel the joy of newness.
Maxi too is being stellar about the change from Reception to Year one, which is some ways is harder than the transition Mini is going through from preschool to reception.  Maxi now has a timetable, regular break times and regular lessons throughout the week.  He has more responsibilities within the class structure too.  He is relishing the changes and is enjoying being back at school. 

But for me it is harder, I put on a brave face, a happy front and will not allow them to see my feelings or to pick up on my anxieties, for these are mine not their to be concerned about.

So what of me, well I am trying to put my best foot forward and look at this change as an opportunity.  A beginning, yes the beginning of the new me.  I am still looking for part time paid work (writing, PA, sewing, anything for some extra money), but in the interim I will be going in to school twice a week and baking with the 90 reception class children.  3 children at a time, so hopefully I will have baked with them all by Christmas. 

I am going to be making biscuits with them and some of these children will have never baked before.  Many of them will think that biscuits come from a packet.  We live in Teesside, which is where the BBC predict the public spending cuts to hit hardest.


This post was inspired by this weeks writing workshop over at Sleep is for the week and more speicfically by the work that Sian, Mummy-Tips Josie, Sleep is for the Weak and Eva, Nixdminx  are doing on behalf of Save the Children

Every year almost 9 million children under the age of five die, most of them from preventable illnesses such as diarrhoea, pneumonia and malaria.

At the end of September Nick Clegg will be at the UN Summit in New York. Ten years ago world leaders set targets, called Millennium Development Goals , to reduce poverty, hunger and disease.  So please sign  the petition to get Nick Clegg to push for commitment to the targets at the UN Summit.  Lets make change happen for the people less fortunate than us.



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My Top Tips for Starting School

I feel like an expert, now I have survived the first four days of both the boys going to school, so I am compiling my top tips for starting school, so I can remember them for next year (oh and look back on them after the each half term break)!


School clothes

I have the boys school clothes hung in their wardrobes in sets and they get them out the night before along with a pair of underpants and socks.  I also get my own clothes out the night before. 

School shoes

I am a big fan of the spray on protector and then we use good old leather polish.  The boys help me clean their shoes every Friday, yes it can be messy but a lot of fun too.

School Bag and Coat

We have hangers at child's eye level and I make the children hang up their coats when the come in from school.  We also have a set place for their book bags too.

Dinner Money

Many schools will accept dinner money, weekly, monthly or on a term by term basis.   I pay monthly, that way I don't have to worry about change every Monday morning.  The same with snack money.

Dates

I swear by my Organised Mum Family Calender, which runs from September until the following December and I love using the stickers that come with it.   I make sure I record the whole school years dates on it as soon as I get them.  I also record class mates birthdays etc the week before they take place so that I get cards and presents sorted.

Exercise, fresh air and sustenance is important after school
I always find that the boys behave pretty well at school (I know I am not sure who they swap them with), but they do need to let off steam afterwards, so I make sure that weather permitting we go home via the park and that I also pack drinks and a snack as the boys are always hungry (but then they are boys).  If it is raining that I will take their wellies and we can puddle jump on the way home.

Sleep, Sleep and More Sleep

I am a sticker for going to bed a decent hour, not only do the boys need their sleep, but I need my down time too.  I had to wake Mini this morning at 7.30, he had been asleep more than 12 hours!

Breakfast

There are studies that have proved that a good breakfast is key to learning.  I have to say I thought I had it covered, as Maxi is a porridge every morning boy, but Mini is another matter, getting him to eat anything is a challenge on a morning!

Don't expect too much after school for the first two weeks.

It is hard to transition back to going to school, so don't expect your children to do much after school for the first couple of weeks.  Be patient and know that they will be tired and ratty.

I would love to hear your top tips for surviving back to school after the holidays.


PS Sorry for the poor picture, Mini stood on my camera!

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Ambling at Amble


Amble is a real gem, a small fishing village on the Northumberland coast, with a brill rocky area, which is great for playing, rock pooling and jumping on and a small secluded beach too.

We had the whole beach and rock area to ourselves and enjoyed a pleasant morning.  I had a great time taking photo's of the rocks, the wonderful amazing patterns that the sea makes on them.  Next time I will be taking paper and crayons to take rubbings of the rocks.



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Our Art Corner in the Kitchen

We have decorated the kitchen this week and I have also rearranged the art corner, with the introduction of the boys small table in to the kitchen are and the addition of some great storage from Ikea for the pens etc.


We have painted the kitchen Willow (a soft soothing green) after MadDad decided that the green I had chosen was too green!


The table is from Ikea and I painted the top with blue chalk board paint ages ago and the boys love to use chalk on it.  


It works really well, as it means the boys can come in to the kitchen and do art or puzzles etc whilst I cook dinner and it is also a great area for showing off their artwork.  It is my favourite place in the whole house.  The whole art corner upgrade was inspired by The Happy Home.

How do you display your children's artwork?



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I survived their first day at school


We were all prepared the clothes were names, ironed and set out last night.


Mini was beyond excited this morning, he has wanted to go to school since Maxi started last year. 


I took these images this morning and have kept myself busy today, MadDad and I are painting the kitchen (he didnt like the colour I chose and I took my upset out on him and then we went and exchanged the paint) and I have taken mum to her COPD appointment at the hospital too.

I really missed having Mini around this morning, most acutely around I0.30am at cup of tea and chat time.  But I also missed our quiet reading time and snuggles too.  However, I was glad to collect him and find that he hadn't missed me at all and he had a brilliant first day at school.


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Bamburgh


Just perfect, made even better by meeting with Crystal Jigsaw and Amy.  Mini has declared his love for Amy to anyone that will listen and is running off with her to some far away place.



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On Monday – A letter to MiniMad

You are so excited, on Monday you start the first of what will be many years at school.  It is not a big step for you as Preschool is in the same building and you have walked the register down to reception and had a lunch with the bigger children too.

You are looking forward to getting your uniform on with Maxi and taking those first steps to adulthood, but I am not yet prepared.  I am following your lead and making sure that I am excited with you and we are busy talking about your friends, your wonderful teacher (who was Maxi's last year) and school lunches.




I have written your name in your uniform and you have been wearing your school shoes for a few hours inside each day to make sure they are comfortable and you are raring to go.  To make a start on the journey that is life.  It seems such a small step for you.

But for me it is immense, for the fist time in four years, I am entrusting you to someone who will spend more waking hours in the day with you that I do, that will have more influence over you than me and Daddy will.  We know you will be safe, well looked after and secure.  Your teacher is a star, one in a million, but it doesn't stop the worries running through my head.

Not only that, but it is the start of a lifetime of pressure to conform, of people highlighting your differences and trying to fit you in to a round hole.  

Me and Daddy have discussed many times what we wish for you.  I want you to be happy, that you take life with two hands and smile in the face of adversity.  I want you to grow up knowing right from wrong, with a good moral compass and the strength to act when you see things happening that are not acceptable in life.

I want you to be able to feel comfortable in your own skin and know that I love your uniqueness and I will endeavor to instill you with the confidence to continue to be the man that you are growing into. Don't worry about your differences, embrace them, I do.
So go on Monday with that big smile on your cheeky face and the song in your heart and sing my baby, but most of all dance to the beat of your own drum.



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Mini Me Puppets – An Idea by Nuturestore

My friend Cathy from Nuturestore has done a wonderful guest post for me all about making Mini Me puppets, which is fantastic.   Nuturestore is a fantastic blog with a wealth of ideas of things to do with children, so please pop over and say hello (she doesn't bite honest).






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The Gallery – One Day in August 2010


Not the best picture in the world, but this was taken on MadDad's phone on Sunday evening after a week of sickness in TheMadHouse.

The reason I chose this is it is in stark contrast to the the images that Josie, Sian and Eva (working with Save the Children) who travelled to to Bangladesh on this Sunday will see.

9 million children under 5 die from illness like my family suffered from last week, just look a this post about the children in Addin Hospital .


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Children’s Craft Showcase – Dying fabric with Permanent markers


Materials

Permenant markers
Surgical Spirit (from the chemist)
Jam Jars
Plain Fabric
Elastic Band
Syringe

Method

Put your fabric over the jam jar and secure with the elastic band.  Using your pen draw a pattern on the fabric.


Circles work best, but any pattern will do.  Leave a gap between the lines for the colour to bleed.


Take a syringe and fill with surgical spirit and then drop in to the centre of the fabric.


Move the fabric to a blank area and repeat as required.


I washed the fabric after we dyed it and some of the colour did come out, but not much and then I heat set it with a hot iron.



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School Shoes from Clarks

A while ago I was asked if I would post a video from Clarks about the six steps to shoe fitting, to which I responded honestly that we hadn't actually been to a Clarks shop  in more than two years due to a very bad experience with Mini and that we used the local independent shoe shop.

I was really surprised when the PR responded with the fact the Clarks would like the boys to go for a fitting and would sent a voucher towards the cost of the boys shoes.

So on Saturday we set off to have the boys feet measured and get some shoes from our local Clarks shop.  Now shoe fitting with the boys is not a great experience any day of the week, but a shoe shop on a Saturday the week before school starts is usually some fresh hell in my book.
We walked into the store at 1.30 in the afternoon and my it was busy, but I was really surprised to find out that there was more than enough staff and we were next to be served.  The boys were measured and fitted by Beka, who was wonderful.  She made sure she asked the boys what their names were and used it throughout the fittings with them.


Before she went to get the shoes from the store area, she checked if there were any that we preferred and I mentioned that I liked the ones with the rubber bumper at the front.  She also brought out trainers and plimsolls for the boys to try too.  Beka returned with two pairs of shoes to try and before popping them on asked which one I preferred.  I have to say that Beka was really thorough with ensuring the fit was correct and showed me the growing room in each pair of shoes.  When she was unsure about the fit she asked for the Manager to come across and check the fit and alternative plimsoll's were tried instead.

We actually came away from the shop with 2 pairs of shoes, 2 pairs of trainers and a pair of plimsolls for the boys which cost a total of £121.00, although we had a £50 voucher towards the cost.
So do I feel confident in posting the video now, well yes I do.  I was also glad that I watched it before I took the boys for their fitting too.




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Sunday from the Sick House

Back in the olden days there would be a black X painted upon our door this week because this week TheMadHouse has become The Sick House.

It started on Monday Night when Mini vomited in his sleep allover himself and his bedding, so we cleaned him up changed his bed and popped him back  and he went straight to sleep.  Now I have to say at this point although I vomited my way through two successful pregnancies and many unsuccessful ones, I hate sick.  I really do.


 So when he was sick again we popped him into our bed and gave up on finding any more clean bedding till the morning.  Bad mistake because he the proceeded to do it all over again in our bed - poor little man.  We eventually gave up and all huddled under a blanket downstairs for the rest of the night until MadDad gave up and went to work!
Tuesday day time he was fine, but to be on the safe side I made sure he ate only bland food, whilst I tackled the washing hockey koky  (you know the one, you pop it on the line, it rains you bring it in, the sun comes out, you put the washing out, in, out, in , out all day).

Tuesday and Wednesday nights were a repeat of Monday night except I covered all the beds with every towel we had in the house!

By Thursday evening my mum had decided to take pity on me and offered to take Mini over night and face the vomit monster.  So off round I dropped him, putting my headache down to tiredness.  Mini actually sleep through Thursday night with my Mum, no vomit at all, but alas I didn't.  Oh no I had caught the dreaded lurgy.  I spent Friday night much the same and then last night MadDad came down with it.

Maxi (touching wood) still seems fine and I am going to bleach the house to an inch of its life today in the hope of keeping him that way.

I am so pleased that school doesn't start until the 6th September.



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The Library

There is something about the smell, about walking in to a Library and, bang you are hit by that musty, booky smell.  The one that has stayed with you since childhood.

I often take the minimads to the small library in the village.  They love playing with the books, the stacking plastic chairs and also the jigsaws, which are never complete.  They adore the thrill of having their own plastic library cards and being responsible for taking out their own books and putting them in mummy's book bag.

But the other day I took Mini to the library of my childhood.  The main library on the street where I grew up, the street on which my mum still lives.

So much is the same, but so much has changed in the last 30 off years.  The smell is just the same, it hit me straight between the solar plexus triggering all sorts of happy memories of Meg and Mog, of dancing on graves and of worrying about fines for late returned books.
The children's section is still in the same part of the library, but you have to walk through a theft detection device now and go through a swing gate before you can enter it to the left.  It still has the wooden crates on the floor full of picture and board books.  The red train seats and the blue faux leather adult chairs.  There are still images on the red brick 1960 walls drawn by children who attend the regular reading sessions like I did.

The brick fishpond has gone and in its place a tank with small exotic fish.  No longer can you throw a penny in amongst the water and vegetation and listen to it plop against the bottom.  Gone are the vinyl seat cushions which used to rest on benches made of bricks.

However, all the rest remains the same, apart from the row of 12 PC's which run across the centre of the library where I remember their being microfiche.

The counter is still in the same place made with the same 1960's brick.  The whole library is a glass and steel structure with brick internal fittings and supports.  It must have looked for modern in the 1960's when it was build.

I remember meeting friends at the cafe in the entrance with my mum and baby brother in his buggy.  I loved the Eames metal chairs with their orange seats.  I would be allowed an orange squash and have a biscuit from the packet mum got with her tea.

How sad that these wonderful seats and squash have been replaced by a frothy coffee and bland brown leather sofa's.

A strange place for me it holds so many memories and lies juxtaposed between history, fiction and imagination.




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A New Beginning

The sixth of September marks a new beginning for Mini and I.  Yes you guessed it he will be going in to Reception full time and Maxi will be going in to year one.

I have trying to make the most of this summer together as it seems like the end of an era, but I have decided that I am not going to look upon it as such, oh no this is just the beginning, the start of something wonderful.

To help the boys on their way to school Clothing at Tesco sent us a school uniform bundle of each of the boys and also a voucher for me to spend online at Tesco clothes (which I am going to put towards an outfit for The Mads).


They have also said that I can nominate another Mum for a pack too, so I am nominating Cathy at Nurturestore, who has a little girl who is starting school in September too.



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Sometimes Mothering is harder than hard

I have a neighbour, yes we all have them, but I have one who manages to make me feel terrible with just a single glance and a turn of phrase.  She is always beautifully turned out, drives a brand new sports car, runs her own successful business,  has a hot tub in the garden and one perfectly dressed nine year old boy who in her eyes can do no wrong.

So this morning when I am screaming at the boys like a fishwife to get in the car or we will be late, hollering my lungs out to leave the drink at home and just get in the car, who would it be that walks past.  Yes you guest it the PP neighbour (practical perfect) and she says "I see you are having issues with the boys again".

I didn't know how to respond to that so I just mumbled something about having to be somewhere and get the boys strapped in the car, but it stings, it really does.
The thing is she is right and the truth hurts, I have gone back to the screaming banshee I was before we underwent the trying to give shouting up for lent and I am ashamed.   We all seem to be shouting to be heard, I shout, therefore, the boys shout and I feel the need to shout loudest, it is a contest and it shouldn't be.

I have a temper, a really bad temper and it bubbles up inside until it explodes with a vengeance and I am tired.  Mini wasn't well yesterday and it meant that we had to cancel plans and spend the day in the house and the boys don't do well without their exercise.  But in truth this is an excuse, there is nothing I can say, I shouldn't be dragging myself down the boys level.

This morning things went from bad to worse, Mini had taken a drink in the car with him, which went everywhere as I drove round a corner far too fast (blackcurrant oh joy) and I started shouting again.  

I am really struggling to hold it together, to be the mother I want to be and should be.  I miss Mr Smudge desperately, I see him everywhere around the house, a carrier, a cushion on the sofa.  I am trying to do the best I can on very little money, even less sleep and be there for my mum too and life is hard.  

I am still waiting for the results to my test on the 7 July and have received nothing but excuses from the hospital as to why I haven't had them - The consultant is on holiday, the radiographer is on holiday, we haven't received the report from the radiographer, the file is on the consultants desk, his secretary is on holiday.  They are sick of me, I rang up this morning and have cried at the cover secretary.  I am tired, tired of all the waiting, the not knowing, the health issues I have to live with on a day to day basis.
Please don't think this post is a cry for attention, as I don't do that.  I am not looking for sympathy, I just wanted to get it all out and to try and writing does that for me. 


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The Gallery – A photo I am Proud Off

Oh my I can not get that "What have you done today to make you feel proud" out of my head.  This week I am supposed to show you an image I have taken that makes me feel proud. 

I am not a professional photographer or even an amateur really.  I am a snapper.  I capture moments of our everyday lives to trigger wonderful memories.


This image was snapped with my now defunct original Olympus digital camera, the first digital I owned, which was the size of a house brick and I love it.

It captures a wonderful day, the first time we went out of the house as a family of four in July 2006.  Granted it was only 200 yards up the hill from our then rented house to the in laws garden, but we did it.


So this is me one week post c-section, first day out of bed, with two babies, one aged 15 months and one 2 weeks and really signifies the start of the parenting adventure for me and my two boys.  Proud - you betcha, I couldn't think straight, but I managed to capture a wonderful time.


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Lets Talk About Respect

There are things happening in the world of British Mummy Blogging, there are posts about Bulling, people giving up blogging, wondering why they bother and people questioning the validity of blogs with advertising, reviews and sponsored posts.
I wasn't going to get involved, I was going to keep my mouth shut, but I read something last night that made me realise that my silence wasn't helping anyone, in fact I felt pretty guilty by omission.  Some other wonderful woman have got there before me and had some very wise words about it all indeed.
If you are anything like me, you read these posts and even if they are not directed at you, you can not help feeling if it is someone pointing the finger at you.  Yes I know I am not that important and it is a sign of self obsession to feel that people are talking about you behind your back, but it does happen!
So what spurred me on to write well it was this comment by Maggy at RedTedArt, A woman I respect hugely
There is so much I want to say and comment on this, but I dare not, in fear of getting "lynched" "poo pooed" or "excluded" by some of those in the established blogging network.

Which means that the competition is fierce and makes newbies feel very unwelcome and unsupported (not by everyone I hasten to add).
 
So here is my two penneth worth and I would love to hear yours, if you are concerned about reprisals then please comment anonymously or e-mail me and I will comment for you.
 
The beauty of blogging is that there are so many out there, that if you don't like what someone is doing, then that's easy, stop subscribing and find one you like.  It takes all sorts really, that's why best seller lists are made up of much more than just chic lit and parenting manuals. The bigger the arena gets then it will start to splinter and people will form more close knit groups, this is inevitable. The thing is cyberspace is big enough for everyone and there is no reason why we can not be more tolerant of other people.
Just because I don't agree with everything, doesn't mean I stop respecting people. We should really live and let live, shouldn't we?  I am bring up my children not to follow the herd and to be individuals, who are true to themselves.  Nicky talks about the battle beginning and people bashing her square pegs into round holes here and it really struck a chord with me.
Bullying is never acceptable and neither is it acceptable to stand by and watch it happen.  I hope that I am never in a position where I do either.  We would not allow our children to be bullied, so lets not let our friends be bullied either.  I do sponsored post, review posts and take advertising. Does that mean that when I blogged about my issues with my health and parenting that it wasn't worth reading - I hope not. People should stop judging books by their cover and start to live and let live. I am all for healthy debate, right to reply etc, but I can not stand by whilst people like Maggy are scared to say what they think for fear of reprisals and being excluded. I think we should be concentrating on allowing people to have a voice and feel secure in the knowledge that their opinion is as valid as the next persons. Lets cut the crap and start respecting each other a little bit more.
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Living with a child with a health condition

When Maxi was 4 months old he became unwell.  He got a cold and was very unhappy, not his normal self at all.  He also fell off my knee and we were so concerned we took him to A&E at 6pm.  The doctor took a look at him and said he was fine and just to keep an eye on him and bring him back in if he was being sick.

Maxi on the afternoon before he fell off the sofa

We put our little baby to bed at 8pm that night and tried to give him a feed at 11pm, as usual, but he wouldn't take the milk, in fact he didn't cry, he was just struggling for breath.  We decided to ring the out of hours GP service and the doctor was with us within 30 minutes.  Within 2 minutes of entering the house, he told us to out our baby in the car and to drive straight to A&E.

He took our house keys and said he would lock up and meet us there, that there wasn't time to call an ambulance and we could get him there quicker.

A doctor and two nurses met us at the door to A&E and rushed our baby in to a cubical and then all hell broke out.  Maxi was ventilated and a cannula put in.  He has wires coming from his foot and finger and was put on a heart monitor too.  I have never been so scared since the crash section 4 months previous when we thought we were losing him.  
Maxi on CPAP in the HDU at Royal Berks

Our baby was moved to the high dependency unit as the Royal Berkshire doesn't have an ITU and we started what was our long long Vidual.  Maxi was suffering with breathing difficulties and they couldn't figure out why, he didn't have an infection, it was the middles of the summer not the bronchiolitis season, they were flummoxed.  Instead of getting better, our little baby got worse and was transferred to ITU at Great Ormond Street, it was suggested that we get him christened.

We didn't, he started to improve, we returned back to The Royal Berkshire High Dependency unit and began the long recovery, he was tube fed, changed on to nasal cpap and gradually got better.

A month later we did it all again, bar the Great Ormand Street part, as we managed to deal with it at the Royal Berkshire.  1 day after he was released we dashed down the M1 and had a joint christening for Maxi and my Niece (we basically hijacked their prearranged day), thanks to my wonderful sister in law, who arranged and planned everything.

Maxi's Christening

This became our life for until Maxi turned 3, we couldn't go a couple of month over winter without an admission.  We had over 10 sweat tests for cystic fibrosis, each time the results were in the grey area or there wasn't enough sweat to test.  Finally we for a negative test, we were overjoyed.  We were very lucky that we had a super Consultant, who agree that we needed to take some steps to prevent this happening.

So Maxi underwent numerous blood tests  and other tests and it was discovered that his specific antibodies were virtually non existent.  So Maxi underwent six months of re immunization and also had additional immunizations and guess what.  It made a huge difference.  He no longer picked up every virus going.

We have actually gone an entire winter without any hospitalisations.  It is wonderful.  We are able to manage his condition at home, which is wonderful.  He has done a whole year in Reception Class without one absence. 



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The Benefits of Play

I was invited by Pampers to come and look round their never ending world of play exhibit at the Metro Centre and to meet Pampers play expert Professor Dieter Wolke.


To be honest the interactive exhibit was pitched at children much younger than Maxi and Mini, so I bought them a slush each and we sat down to chat to the professor about why play is important and also the difference in play of boys and girls.

Firstly as a mum of two boys, I asked about the fact that the boys will always turn something in to a gun or a sword, they will build one from Lego, use a stick or even just use their hand and make the noises, should I be worried about this?

The professor reassured me that this was perfectly normal for boys and even children of pacifists will engage in this type of play and it is nothing to worry about or intervene with.

I also asked about developmental and educational play, as I am concerned that these terms are banded around so often at the moment.

All play is educational and you should be led by your children with the type of play that they enjoy, so if they seem to love dressing up, then dress up with them.  If they like to copy mummy cleaning, then get them a small cleaning kit and let them join you.

Play doesn't need to be end specific, children should be able to just enjoy being to see where it takes them.

A lot of this is just common sense, but as a mum I do know that sometimes you do worry.  I worried that the boys didn't get tummy time and other types of developmental stuff when they were small, but when you have 2 children in fifteen months then you learn to let go a little.

What is your child's favorite type of play?


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The Gallery – A Memory

This weeks prompt for The Gallery is A Memory.  I have thousands of photographs and each one is a precious memory in its own right, which makes this week harder than most for me.

How can I pick a specific memory, just one memory out of all of the millions that I have.  

At the beginning of July we all went to London for the weekend, I went to CyberMummy, but we made the most of the weekend and made many precious memories as a family.



So it isn't the best picture in the world, yes it was very dark in the Aquarium, but we were busy making a memory for years to come and surely that is what being a family is all about, making memories.

If you want to read more about our wonderful day making lots and lots of new memories then go and take a look at the review I did for Have a Lovely Time.

Also take a look at their fantastic 20 sites for summer fun, which I also featured on.



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Mummy bloggers head to Bangladesh

At the end of August 3 influential UK mummy bloggers will be heading to Bangladesh with Save the Children to see first hand the work they do first hand. 
Sian, Mummy-Tips and on twitter @mummytips
Josie, Sleep is for the Weak and on twitter @porridgebrain
Eva, Nixdminx and on twitter @nixdminx
Every year almost 9 million children under the age of five die, most of them from preventable illnesses such as diarrhoea, pneumonia and malaria.
Why are they going to Bangladesh?
At the end of September Nick Clegg will be at the UN Summit in New York. Ten years ago world leaders set targets, called Millennium Development Goals , to reduce poverty, hunger and disease.
By going to Bangladesh and highlighting the work done, then hopefully the team can reaffirm the need for these health targets to be met.
What can you do to help?
Sign the petition to get Nick Clegg to push for commitment to the targets at the UN Summit
Donate direct to save the children
Help publicise the trip by writing, tweeting (using the #blogladesh hashtag) and putting the badge on your blog
You do not have to give if you can not afford it, but we have the chance to make a difference, to raise awareness and to try and afford change.
I am proud to know these 3 amazing woman who are going on this trip (I can not even watch comic relief without tears) and will be watching out for all their updates in the coming weeks and months.
So come on together we can all make a difference.
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Hearing but not Listening

My boys, especially MiniMad seem to have issues with listening. I and the preschool were so concerned with Mini's hearing that he was referred to an Audiologist.

Thankfully it turned out that Mini's hearing was perfect, although it took four different attempts to get him to co-operate with the tests.  You could see that he was hearing the sounds, he just refused to acknowledge them!

The Audiologist was a lovely lady who went on to explain that she sees now boys than girls and that they can hear, they just don't listen.   They tune out or focus on other things.

So what can I do about making the boys not only hear what I say to them, but also listen and take notice of it.

1)  I have been getting down to their level.  When I have something important to say I get on my knees.

2)  I gently turn mini's head to my face and ask him to listen and watch what I am saying.  I try to keep eye contact.

3)  I have been keeping it simple.  I am trying to say what I need in the least words possible.

4)  By keeping a good tone and not shouting, over lent I tried to give up shouting and it was pretty effective, but I am guilty of slipping.

5)  By rewarding listening with praise.

6)  By responding with the unexpected.

I am also going to try writing notes, especially for things that I keep having to repeat myself on. ie hanging up coats.  The boys have a low peg in the entrance for their coats but at the moment they just keep running in and dropping them, so I am going to leave a note on the door to the living room asking them to hang up their coats.

So what are your children like, do they listen to you, or do you sound like a stuck record?  How do you get round this? I would really appreciate all your hints and tips.




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Frugal Food – Utilise your Garden

One of the many comments I got on my feeding a family of 4 for £50 post was that we must be green fingered or have a lot of room for growing vegetables.

The truth is we don't and I am not, we have a small back garden, but in 2009 MadDad built me 3 raised beds, they are not large, they are 6 foot by approx 3 foot and we also have a couple of barrels that we fill with potatoes.

But those raised beds and what pots we have round the garden supply me with a steady supply of vegetables right through till the Autumn.


At the moment we have the following

Bed One - Draft Beans, Runner Beans and Pea's
Barrel - New Potatoes
Bed Two - Spinach, Rainbow Chard, Kale
Barrel - New Potatoes
Bed Three - Leeks and Onions
6 Hanging baskets + Home made fence baskets - Strawberries
2 troughs - Cucumber
2 troughs - Tomatoes
1 Container - Courgettes
4 Containers - Herbs
2 Containers - Salad leaves

Come Autumn, we will be planing garlic and Spring cabbage, we have already eaten the spring onions and all the radish that we grew.


We have grown everything from seed and have shared the initial cost of the seeds with our neighbours who also grow and friends that have an allotment.  We don't have a green house, but I germinated and grew all the seedlings on the window ledges!

We planted our apple tree 3 years ago and this year is the first year we will see many apples from it (we only got about 7 last year), but you need to bear in mind that our back garden was that of a new build - full of clay and bricks with very little soil at all.  

We also planted a pear tree and will get our first fruit from that this year, which is very exciting indeed.

Upkeep and Daily Maintenance

We bought a reduce water butt in the sales last year and we water the beds and containers every night which takes us about 15 mins , or longer if the boys help!  I also go out a couple of times a week and weed, but we don't get many weeds as we plant very close together.

Slugs and snails are our main enemy, but the boys are well trained.  If they see a slug or snail, they squash them.

I think this post shows that you don't have to have a lot of space or a huge initial outlay to start growing your own vegetables.

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RIP Mr Smudge

Yesterday we made the decision that we have been dreading making, but both knew was coming, we had to have our beloved cat Mr Smudge (our rather large and old white cat) put to sleep.

He was 15.  He was my first baby, one of two brothers that we got after I miscarried twins at 20 weeks 15 years ago.

He had been with us through thick and thin and we couldn't bear to see him deteriorate in this way and decided that the time had come to stop looking for what was wrong and let him die with dignity.  To save him from further pain, to learn to live with the pain that it meant for us.

So whilst me and the boys were out yesterday, MadDad took him to the farm vets and today we will be having a little funeral service for him, as requested by Mini.
MadDad will be digging a rather large hole in the garden and we will be laying both the cats to rest (as we lost Snowey 3 days before returning to the north east and had him cremated) in their blanket and placing a bird bath over the area.

I have to say both the boys were very brave, pragmatic and realistic about Mr Smudge dieing and being unwell.  Mini even want to see him before we bury him (we are undecided as what to do about that yet).

The thing is my heart is breaking.  I keep imaging I am seeing him round the house and I guess that feeling wont go away any day soon.


RIP Mr Smudge
June 1995 to 13 August 2010


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Wordless Wednesday – A big Thankyou


Just look at this wonderful drawing I received from the very clever Suzie over at Itch 2 Stitch.  We adore it and have framed it and popped it for all to see.



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Mini(isms) Part Two

Mini has the ability to make friends wherever we go, which I assume is is partly down to his generous and happy nature, but also down to the fact that he is just so............................ unique!

We went to an adventure playground the other day and there were loads of older children there, Maxi went go off and played solitary on the monkey bars etc, but Mini threw himself in to the centre of the most dangerous games with the big boys.


Often I am not partial to the conversations that take place, but this time one of the older boys came over to tell his mum about this "super little boy they were playing with".
Big Boy "He is so funny mummy, he told us he has a pet mole and his mummy is dead"

Big Boys Mummy "Oh poor thing, which child is it?"

Big Boy "That one with the curly hair and glasses"

Me "Oh that would be Mini, he is mine and I am his mother!"

Big Boy "Oh, he also said he has a brother and wants a sister and is friends with the half inside out people who live on the high street"

Me "Oh yes, that is Mini, he has a very active imagination, think nothing of it"

So this is Mini, the half inside out people are his imaginary friends call Dave and Vic.  They have been around for about a year now, although the pet mole is new to me!  He has always wanted a sister, in fact both the boys talk about how they will get a sister all the time!

But I do feel the need to shout out HE HAS A MOTHER, I AM HERE.  I AM ALWAYS HERE!

But who could resist him, he is just adorable!



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Fresh from the Garden




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Personalised Lunch Boxes from Getting Personal – Review

Review Post
We were sent two personalised lunch boxes from Getting Personal to review.  They costs £9.95 each.  Maxi received a rocket-ship one in red and Mini an animal one in Blue.
What we liked:  The lunch boxes are a good size, larger than some on the market and the name is on both sides.  The boys loved the fact that they have their names on and even though neither has packed lunch at school they have both been used a lot over the summer.
Maxi took his on a couple of school trips and the lunch box was large enough to hold a good sized lunch (Maxi eats a lot)!  The name is on both side so you can always see it.
 
What we didn't like: The personalisation and image is a sticker stuck on the side of the lunch box, so you can only wipe the outside with a damp cloth. In order for them to last a little longer I covered all the stickers with clear sticky backed plastic (yes I had a Blue Peter moment too)!Overview:  We really like these lunch boxes and will get a lot of use out of them.  We would like personalised water bottles to match please!  Oh  and it would be much better if the personalisation was water resistant.Review Post
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Feeding a family of four on £50

Zooarchaeologist (being a mummy) did a great post recently about shaving £200 off her monthly budget and I commented that I had got our weekly food shopping bill down to £50 for the four of us and she asked to see our Menu Plan, so I thought I would post one for you all to see, with prices too.  I do a weekly shop at Aldi and if anything else is needed it tends to be the co-op in the village.

Now I do have a good store cupboard and freezer with staples like gravy, frozen stock), herbs, spices, flour etc in.

Sunday

Lunch - mince (£1.99) and onions with veg from the garden and new potatoes from the garden too
Dinner - Poached eggs (99p or six for the butcher or friend) on muffins (60p)

Monday

Lunch - Scrambled egg on toast (99p for the eggs and 99p for a loaf of bread)
Dinner - Bolognese made with left over mince pasta (99p a bag) and pasata (59p) with added herbs and any veg left over from Sunday dinner (pureed).  Garlic bread (home made)

Tuesday

Lunch - Beans and Sausage on Toast (59p)
Dinner - Curry with home made naan bread
 
Wednesday

Sausage rolls form the bakers (4 for 99p)
Sausage casserole with Potatoes from the FIL

Thursday

Lunch - Scrambled Eggs with cheese and ham 
Jacket Potatoes with Cheese and Beans or leftover curry

Friday
 
Sandwiches (cheese and ham or egg)
Fish and Chips with peas from the garden

Saturday

Hot Dogs and rolls with potato wedges (from the garden)
Home Made pizza (ham, salami, pasattatta, mozzarella and onion), garlic bread

Shopping list

Mince (1.99)
Breaded Ham (99p)
Mozzarella (2 x 49p)
Salami (99p)
Sausages (99p)
Bread (99p)
Hot dog rolls (55p)
Bratwursts (99p)
potato (69p)
Apples (1.25)
Banana (1.01)
Natural yogurt (49p)
Flour (33p)
Oven chips (99p)
Frozen battered Cod (1.99)
Passata  (49p)
Gouda (1.15)
Onions (69p)
High Juice (99p)
Jelly mix (20p)
Coffee (2.59  a month)
Paracetamol (2 x 19p)
Spreadable butter (1.79)
Marg for baking (50p)
Pull ups (3.59 once a month)
12 eggs (1.98)
Milk Iceland £1 for 4 pints we use at least 16 pints = £4)
Porridge (99p)
Choco Hoops (1.15)
Teabags (2.10 very 4 weeks)
Salad Stuff (currently 39p for tomatoes, lettuce and onions from ;Mar £1.20)
lemonade (40p)
Yogurt (2 x 80p)
Chicken pieces (1.99)
Hot Chocolate (99p)

I DONT buy cakes or biscuits, but I do buy the ingredients to make them and have baking powder, raisins etc in the cupboard board all the time.  I buy one loaf a week and then make all the rest (lidl do a really good inexpensive bread flour and I buy in bulk when passing).
 
I also make sure I have Ice cream and cone in  and when we hear the ice cream van  we make our own.  Sprinkles on top to make special or if they are really lucky then we might have a flake.

The garden is a huge source of produce for me, the peas are just coming to pod and the beans will be ready in the next few weeks. The spinach and chard is all cut and come again. We have tomatoes and onions, which we turned in to pasta sauce last year.

I always check the Internet to find out who has what offers on and shop around to ensure I get the best deal.  I will buy cheese and freeze it.

So how much do you spend on your weekly shop and how do you keep the bills down in the current climate?



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Three for the price of One – The Gallery, Play Academy and Children’s Craft Showcase

 


The Gallery this week is extra speical as it is linked with Cathy my friend over at Nuturestore and her Play Accadamy, so I thought that I would use a new Childrens Craft Showcase for this week, as it really seemed to fit the bill.

I think that this craft is pretty self explanatory, we all have bubble wrap and using it to pain on and create texture is so much fun for children.


We used our bubble wrap to make a sea on cards and on some paper.  We painted the wrap blue and green.


Then pressed it down on the card and paper.


To make a funky pattern.


We used foam shapes on the cards.


I cut out images of fish on paper and the boys painted them.



To make fish on the cards, we used the circle stickers and cut out a triangle to make the mouth and stuck it on as a tail, inspired by The Frugal Family Fun Blog.

We used tissue paper as sea weed.


This is our final art work which is gracing the wall in the dinning room.  It even has a treasure chest!

So if you have any crafty posts of things you have been doing with your children over the last few weeks then please link up below.  I would love to see what you have  been busy making and doing.


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    Teachers Gifts 2010




    Maxi made mugs for his teacher and teaching assistants.  We used porcelain paint from my stash and some 50p mugs from Morrisons,  He used his finger and thumb to make prints on them, which we turned in to pigs, beas, a caterpillar and flowers.


    Mini and I made lavender bags for his Preschool teacher and the teaching assistants using fabric that Mini and Maxi had previously dyed (tutorial to follow).  Mini picked the ribbon from my stash and sat on my knee to help sew (I use the term help very loosely)!


    The cards were super easy to make, we punched heart shapes out of tissue paper and used a paper brad to hold them on the card.  I then printed out "Thank you for helping me bloom" and the boys stuck them on to the cards.



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    Sunderland International Airshow 2010


    What a weekend, what a fantastic time we have all had.  This was my first experience of the Sunderland International Airshow and I can safely say we will be there next year.  

    We went on Saturday with mum and found a great spot on the promenade grass for us all to sit.  We packed a picnic and flasks and drinks and had a super afternoon watching all the planes.  

    Mum took the boys to the beach and they made a volcano and sandcastles and I went down to join them before the tide came in.

    Sunderland Airshow i Europe's largest free airshow and all you pay for is parking at the park and ride. Sunderland is such a great place as there are plenty of places to sit and watch and you get great views of the planes pretty much where ever you may be.  The programme only cost £3.00 and you really do need one to find out what is on when and it also tells you all about the aircraft and pilots.

    The boys loved it, so much so that the boys begged to go back again on the Sunday.  So we packed up a picnic again and set off.  The weather was colder and more overcast, so I was glad that I packed a blanket for us all to cuddles under.  I also took some colouring for the boys for in between the planes.

    The highlights of the weekend for us all were the Hawker Hunter, who was called Miss Demeanour on Saturday, she had such a cool paint job and the boys loved her.  MadDad really loved the Typhoon, which Mini also declared the best as it was the loudest!
    On Sunday Team Breitling were something else, we were in awe of the lady wingwalkers and the Red Arrows put on a fantastic 20 minute display to end the show.  They were out of this world and spectacular just doesn't cover it.

    The only down side was getting out of the car park and home on Sunday evening.  It took 2 hours to goo 100 yards and by this time the boys were very tetchy and tired.  We didn't get home till 8.30 and then it was straight to bed for them.

    Top tips for next year:
    • Arrive early to go round the aircraft on the cliff and look round the stalls.
    • Take a beach tent to pitch on the grass area in case of rain.
    • Get lost children wrist bands for the boys and agree a meeting area if lost.
    • Take buckets, spades, swimwear and towels for the boys.
    • Take an extra flask.
    • Take colouring etc for the boys.
    • Take a good picnic.
    • Leave 15 mins before the end, so you can get out of the car park!



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    The Gallery – Nature or Nuture

    What can I say, well today I took the boys to the local woodland centre, where the plan was to collect shells and small stones on the beach to make jam jar lanterns.

    We actually spent far to long on the beech to get them made so will have to do them tomorrow at home, but boys being boys they didn't want shells on their jam jars, oh no they wanted dead crabs....


    So as much as I nurture their artistic and creative sides, sometimes the force of nature is just to great!


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    A few of my recent makes



    A gorgeous table setting mat for children which is washable and backed with towelling, also available in blue - £8.00 plus postage 

    A selection of girls back to school hair slides and bobbles.  Can be customised, just ask.  Prices from £2.75 to £4.50


    A variety of hair grips and clips, made with stunning buttons.  Prices range from £1.50 to £2.75

    I have committed (or should that be need committed) to holding a stall on Sunday at the Gala at my SIL and Brothers Social Club - hmm, must get busy making, which wont be easy with the boys at home too!

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    Legoland July 2010 – Top Tips


    A couple of weeks back we took the boys on what appears to be an annual trip to legoland, so here are my top tips:

    • Use Tesco vouchers to pay for your entrance tickets, or keep an eye out on the two for one deals.
    • Pack hats and sun screen!
    • Arrive early, the park opens at 10am, but the shop and entrance open earlier, avoid the queue and turn up early.
    • Pick up a lost parent sticker at the guest services area.
    • Start a back of the park and work forward, this way you will get on more rides.
    • Take a picnic - the food in the park is overpriced and not very nice at all.  We ordered pizza, garlic bread and chips and it was tasteless cardboard and the boys didn't eat it.
    • Take swimwear and a towel.  The splash area in Duplo world is great for little ones.  We went at about 3pm for an hour and it was fab, I even managed to drink a cup of tea!
    • The Clutch Powers 4D show is a must see, we all loved it.  We went at lunch time when the sun was at it its hottest (join the queue early to get good seats)
    • The boys laughed and laughed at the pirate show, a great time and place to eat your picnic!
    • The boys are too small for a lot of the bigger rides, which seemed to have the large queues, when they get bigger I may consider the qbot.  Take treats for the queues as it does get a little boring for children waiting.
    • We did the water rides just before going to the water area at Duplo World, giving the boys clothes time to dry out whilst they enjoyed the water.
    • Remember to get a parking ticket on your way out - yes you now pay £1 for parking.
    • Leave 15 mins before the park closes, or you will get stuck in the traffic leaving the park.




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    Maxi’s Foundation Stage Graduation

    Thursday was Maxi's last day at school in Reception before he goes up to year one in September.

    This year has been a amazing one for my little man, one that I hope will give him a great foundation to all the years of learning he has to come.  The biggest part of this year has been his wonderful teacher Mrs Sayer and her two wonderful teaching assistants (Mrs Holmes and Mrs Jackson)


    Mrs Sayer has a wonderful way with the children and they all adore her, she brings learning to life through play and is the perfect Reception teacher (which is why I was overjoyed to find out Mini is in her class next year).  Not once has she pushed Maxi too hard, she has a great grasp of his abilities and keeps him challenged.

    Anyway Wednesday night was his graduation and he had a great time and didn't want the party to end.
     Maxi running to us with his Math certificate

    All the children got a certificate and a book and then Maxi got a certificate for being the best Mathematician.  We were very proud indeed.
     
    Dancing the night away




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    Mini Makes Music

    As you know the boys stayed at my mothers on Saturday night and when I went to pick them up yesterday we decided to go to the beach and have a picnic in a nearby park with my Niece.
     Little did we realise there was a council run event on at the park and it turned out to be a wonderful afternoon.


    There as a wonderful couple who had a load of drums and were showing the children how to play them and Mini had a fab time.


    He managed to keep in time (most of the time) and really didn't want to stop.  My niece also loved it.  Maxi decided he would rather play in the park with Grandma!


    As we were leaving the chap came up to me and told me that Mini had a real talent.  I was ever so proud of him.


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    The Boys are away and I don’t want to play ……

    My Mum has the MiniMads for only the second time in their life.  Yes this is the second evening me and MadDad have had to ourselves and we have no intentions of going out (not that we could afford to anyway).

    Before we had children we swore we wouldn't become parent bores, you know the ones......  the people who have no other topic of conversation apart from their children and guess what we are turning into them.

    We decide not to bother with the grand dinner I had planned to cook, instead we settled for some cheese on toast with a cup of tea, none of the sparking wine either, as we sat in front of the television to catch up on some of those shows we have filled our Sky+ with.

    We sat in comfortable silence, snuggled under the throw, punctuated by random sentences about how weird it is for the children not to be here and how sad I was that sports day was cancelled and how will find the cash to pay for swimming lessons again, especially as it is the week before pay day.  Then back to the snuggling and silence.

    We trotted off to bed an hour or so later than usual, no having to get up for the boys, but as we reached the top of the stairs we both felt the need to go in to their rooms.  You see we do this every night as we go to bed, we take turns to check on the boys, to tuck them in and stroke their foreheads and give them an extra kiss, oh and to just watch them sleep.

    I woke this morning at 6.20, which is what time Maxi is usually up.  My body clock hadn't yet got the message that he wasn't here and I lay still, not moving, breathing evenly as not to wake MadDad.  Over and over in my head the thoughts that I was boring, didn't have anything other than the children to take about, that I wasn't witty that we didn't have intellectual debate and worse than that I didn't even know what was a number one in the Charts, let along who where the DJ's on radio one. 

    How had it come to this?  When did I stop being a person in my own right and transform in to a mummy?  

    MadDad it turns out had been laying there not moving too, awake, but not wanting to wake me up.  Oh how we laughed about that, we would rather let each other catch up on precious sleep than use the time making love, like we used to.  So we laid and cuddles and I talked about how I fell that I was a non-person, a mother.  That I had nothing intellectual  or interesting to say and that how our conversations revolved around the children.

    "But the children are interesting to me and I love hearing how your day with them has been.  I want to know what they have been up to whilst I have been a work" MadDad told me.  Funny isn't it, I crave adult company and conversation, but when I get it, I have nothing to talk about other than the Children.  But then that is all I know nowadays really, that and the day to day issues of caring for a loved one as they get older (my mother).  

    We do tend to stick to talking about the things we know about and experience and I don't want to bring every conversation down to my health (or lack of it), my mood (deep dark and scary), our finances (enough said) and as for politics (money again!).  So I talk about what I know, what I experience and  what I live and for me at this time in my life it is being a mum.

    So we have resolved that if mum offers again to have the boys (and after speaking to her this morning, I am not sure she will be) then I will be more comfortable with things.  It doesn't mean that we wont miss them or go in to empty rooms to check on them though!



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    Stepping away from this Blog with the Bad Stuff

    Over the last month or do, my mood and therefore, by blog has become darker and darker and that really isn't what this blog was and should be all about.
     The boys asleep holding hands in our hotel in London (3rd July 2010)
    So I have made a decision that I am going to go back to basics and use this blog to record what I do with the MiniMads over the summer, a journal if you like of our days and time together.  I may still do The Gallery and writing workshop (if appropriate).
    Also summer holidays will be starting with a vengeance next week and I will have less time on the laptop, as I will be spending it with my children, therefore, I will have less time to visit all your wonderful blogs and comment.  Please bear with me.  I will try and read them, but may not have time to comment.
    Thank you for all the comments regarding finding employment, firstly I am not cut out to be a child minder (I looked after a friends 22 month old yesterday and although it was OK, I couldn't do it everyday - no way, plus until my anaemia and other issues are sorted, I don't have the energy to give to my own children let alone others!).  Secondly I was in no way saying that my opinion was right, just that I want to spend time with my children, but last night MadDad and I made the decision that I may have to look for full time work (sad).
    I have started another blog for my writing, musings and general moroseness here at Musings from TheMadHouse.
    I have also decided that I am consolidating my reviews on to yet another blog TheMadHouse Reviews and will be reviewing for The Great Toy Guide and Mummy Reviews.
    So thank you very much for all your comments and I do hope you stick with me over these coming months.  I really do appreciate all the comments every single one.
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    Transition – We have hit a wall

    I think we are reaching one, yes as I type. I have adored everyday I have been afforded as a stay at home mum of my two wonderful boys, but my oh my it has been hard. Not only mentally and physically with my health issues, but mainly financially and it looks like we have hit the wall.

    We originally thought that we would manage on just one salary, but then illness came and smacked us in the face meaning that MadDad had to take unpaid leave to look after me and the children.  We were daft we relied on our credit cards to pay the bills over those very hard and tough months and we got in to a pickle.

    We are still in that pickle and even though I try hard as I can I just can not make the budget work anymore.  What with two sets of school uniforms to pay for (done thanks to a car boot sale), clothes and shoes (yes the boys are growing at such a pace), swimming lessons, football lesson, school trips, cars to run and insure (yes I do need it, I have to look after mum as well as the boys and she lives in the next town and I live in a village that is even past the end of the train line).

    We live a pretty frugal lifestyle.  I manage to feed us all on £50 per week, subsidised by the wonderful veg in the garden, but it is just not enough.
    So I guess the transition we are in it that I have to finally accept that I need to find a job and it needs to be a job which will cover the child care and help pay the ever increasing bills and you know what, it scares me.  Yes for all the reasons I have blogged about before, but also for the fact that I didn't have my children to leave them with other people.  We never thought we would get in this pickle and it is killing me.  I am crying on the inside and the outside and working hard at hiding it from the boys.

    The fact is a magic job isn't just going to appear, no one is going to come and offer me a great job writing for them whilst I remain at home.  I have looked for evening jobs, but I live in an unemployment black spot and the council closed applications for a position last week when the number of CVs they received hit 1000, yes 1000!

    Yes I am bitter and upset about it all.  I have paid £13 in school trip money this month, just for Maxi and it is money I don't have, but how do you say that he can not go on them.  What really gets my goat is that Children on free school meals (we don't qualify) get to go on trips free and this will all double with Mini stating in September too.

    We fall in to a forgotten category of people, who's mortgage is a chain around their necks, we are in a tied in deal and it is crippling us.  Add to that massive gas and electricity payments, council tax, TV licence, phone bills, food, insurance, and then the dreaded credit card payments (how could we be so stupid).

    I am happy to take advertising on the blog and do sponsored posts (within reason).  I would love a small regular income from writing, as anything helps, but I am not sure it is going to be enough.

    So I have bought the local paper, I am scouring the Internet, I have been in to Tesco's and I am making an appointment to go to the job centre.  I need a job.


    This post is part of the writing workshop over at Sleep is for the week and inspired by prompt 4. Share your experience of a difficult transition. A moving ‘from’ to ‘something new’.

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    The Gallery – Can you see What it is yet? – The Reveal

    The Reveal


    The origional image is a crop of this image, which was taken when we were in  London.


    Have you guessed what it is yet....  Look there are little people down below!


    Yes it is the London Eye


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    The Gallery – Can you see What it is yet?

    For this weeks Gallery over at Sticky Fingers you  have to take a photograph of something everyday, but take it at a different angle, from a different viewpoint, using a close-up zoom, whatever - something that makes that everyday object look totally different.

    And we all have to guess what it is.





    So this is my entry, if anyone gets it right, they might even be a small prize, you never know!



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    Bringing out the Lioness in me

    Just don't go upsetting my cubs in front of me, as it will bring out the lioness in me.  She has surfaced this week and I am still upset and angry about how my boys, Mini in particular has been treated.


    Every Monday there is a youth group at the local church and although I don't attend church, I want the boys to have experience of church and the fact that this is help in the church itself, rather than a hall really appealed to me, in such that it demystifies such a quiet place.

    So I registered the boys and they went for the first time a fortnight ago.  They had a great time, I collected them, no one said anything to me, apart from the fact that it wasn't on last week.  

    So we got all ready to go this week, after taking Maxi to the doctors.  We arrived and I apologised for being slightly late (the GP ran over, nothing unusual there) and the boys went to play with their friends, when a lady stopped Mini and told him, he wasn't allowed to stay.

    She brought him to me and told me he was too young and they went insured, but there are other four year olds attending, so I questioned her and said how could mini be too young and the others aren't?  She then went on to say that it is a health and safety issue and he asked for help in wiping his bottom.  At this point he burst in to tears.  Now he doesn't ask for help at school and yes occasionally at home he will ask for us to "check" his bottom (to be fait Maci does now and again too), so I said that it was possibly down to him being in a new environment.  To which she responded "we don't want him here and I have spoke to the Vicar".  I asked her why she hadn't telephoned me prior to our coming and that this wasn't an appropriate conversation to have in front of everyone, but she wouldn't budge.  She was happy for Maxi to stay, but not Mini.

    So I took both boys home with me and it then took me an hour to calm Mini down.  All the time Maxi was telling him he would help wipe his bottom if that was all that stopped them from going.  Mini wanted to know why they don't want him, what has he done wrong, don't they like him?  I managed to hold it together until MadDad got in and then that was that I was in tears telling him what happened.

    I couldn't find the Vicars number to discuss this with her, I was far too angry to go back and talk to the Youth group organiser, in fact I am still so upset about the way this has been handled.

    I managed to speak to the Vicar last night and expressed my concerns over the way it has been handled and the inequality of it all, but I am waiting for her to come back to me.

    And I am stewing, yes Mini is hard work, yes he can be challenging, loud, he doesn't always listen, he can be cheeky, insubordinate,  naughty, downright infuriating at times, but is this the reason that they don't want him there?  What have I done wrong?  He does come across as boisterous, but he is also loving, fun and a joy to be with.  I can not believe that they have made their decision based on one session with them.  It breaks my heart and I don't want Maxi to go without Mini and truth be told, neither of them understand what the problem is.
    The longer it takes the Vicar to ring me back the more I think about it and reflect on the even, they are better ways to do this, without upsetting me and my children.



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    Children’s Craft Showcase – How to make paper flowers

    heart petal flowers
    Heart petal flowers are a really simple way to make flowers for someone special, not for any reason, just to say I love you.  They would also make a really great gift to say thank you to any teacher at this time of the year.
    Materials Tissue Paper Heart Punch or template and scissors Paper Straws (Art straws - 99p from The Works) Paper brads
    Method
    This is such a simple piece of craft, that Maxi actually made all of our flowers (roses) which we took with us to see The Wiggles and give to Dorothy.
    Use the punch to make heart shapes out of tissue paper
    With a single hole punch make a hole in each at the point end
    Place you tissue paper petals on to the paper brad
    Place you brad in to the end of your paper straw.
    Keep going until you have a bunch of beautiful paper roses (we gave ours to Dorothy the Dinosaur, when the boys saw The Wiggles)
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    Christmas with John Lewis

    The institution that is John Lewis invited me to their Autumn/Winter and Christmas launch this week and I had a great big glimpse into what they think might be the next big thing and guess what I love it!



    From a toy perspective, I was really pleased to see that there was a focus on traditional role play and musical instruments.  I have earmarked the fantastic electric guitar for Mini a snip at £35 when they get them in stock (well Grannie will be purchasing it for his Christmas present).  There was a lot of toy story on display too, in addition to a fab Lego camera and MP3 player.


    I have always been a fan of John Lewis' Christmas section and was very impressed with their offerings for Christmas 2010.  I was really inspired by the crackers made from recycled newspaper.


    I have to say though it was the home section that totally blew me away.  I loved the retro vibe of the connections fabrics and prints, which they had actually gone in to the JL archives for. 


    The furniture was stunning, I especially liked the Mr Bright Chair, each of the buttons were a different colour.  If made my heart sing!  Rob Ryan has also done a fantastic collaboration too and they his and hers mugs are on my Christmas list.


    Then  there was the haberdashery, how wonderful, so much eye candy.  Beautiful buttons, ribbon, fabric and  rickrack.  John Lewis are going to start stocking fat quarters and quilting fabric too.

    So thank you to John Lewis for a great day.


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    Behind this Good Woman, is A Great Man


    He stands behind with solid arms to catch me should I fall
    His tender words, his comforting stance
    The safety net in my world

    He watches with a knowing eye that only time can bring
    He is ever present, should I need him
    Not pushy or making demands

    He is the banks that my river flows through
    The day to my night
    ever present

    He is the galaxy that makes my stars shine brighter
    The oxygen in my air
    The love of my life

    He makes me smile a thousand suns
    He is mine
    Together we are one




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    Lets make a list outdoor games

    I was asked about outside games by the very funny Mr Shev and seen as I didnt have the answer, I asked him to write a post and said that I would throw open the floor to my wonderful readers.

    Browsing through the average toy shop, I sometimes wonder what kids did on a sunny day before NerfSupersoakers and themed paddling pools.

    But then I realise that I do know because I grew up in a world without them and we had to invent our own entertainment. So, we played football, developed innovative ways to kill ants and trawled the streets looking for useful trash to transform into go-karts or even more sophisticated and intricate ways to kill ants (makes me sound like I came from a family of pikeys, but the kids toy market was not as sophisticated as it is today.)

    I still don't know why we hated ants so much.


    The reason that I have been ruminating about this is because this weekend my Darling Son reached the ripe old age of four. Being neurotically proud parents we went through emotional turmoil about what to buy him (a bike), what to feed him (his favourite: chicken wings), what to do with him (boat trip) and who to invite to his party (everyone). We decided, because the weather is so good, to have it at the park and do a barbecue.
    We obviously organsied the ubiqitous, much maligned, steeped in corruption (with allegations of bribery): pass-the-parcel. The kids all knew what to do, even the really young ones. It's as if there is an infant internet using Leapfrogs or something and they all learn how to do it on web forums in the dead of night.

    I did face-painting. *RANT ALERT* I searched high and low in both Swiss and French toyshops for decent facepaints and eventually found a box. They are the worst facepaints I have ever used. They are like proper make-up and if I (an animator, with 7 years of art school tuition and years of industry experience) can't paint a kid to look like a bloody dragon then no one can. ALSO, they supplied make-up remover because once this stuff goes on it stays on - try explaining that to a 2yr old as you're scrubbing their face for the third time. FFS.

    Afterwards we hadn't organised a children's entertainer - NO! - or a ballon modeller - WHAT?! - or a travelling menagerie of animals - EVIL PARENTS! What we did was bring a football or two and left the kids to themselves - BAD, EVIL PARENTS! So, what did they do? Well...
    1. Stick-in-the Mud One person is 'it' and then have to run around like a nut-nut trying to tag a kid. However the difference with this is if you tag someone then they are 'stuck in the mud' and only their team-mates can free them. What happens, in reality, is that the kids go all Thatcherite and don't give a monkey's about anyone's skin but themselves and carry on running (in a pack!) away from the person who is it. You can play this in teams.
    2. Peep-Behind-the-Curtain Someone stands at a tree or a wall and all the children line up 20m away or so. They have to creep up on the 'peeper' and tag them. If the peeper sees someone moving then that someone is out. The first one to tag the peeper is the next peeper. Best to have a parent as a peeper as they can do slow-motion turnarounds that give the younger kids a chance to stop moving. If kids do it they end up turning around every second and it ends up looking like everyone is vogue-ing.Also, kids like nothing better than to become bonefide supergrasses and will stop at nothing to win. The little buggers.
    3. Wolves & Sheep This is, essentially, tag but when the person who is it (the wolf) tags a sheep then they become a wolf as well. Growling is optional...as is wearing wool.
    4. Runaway Train I don't know what this is called, but we coined it as this. Get a big picnic blanket (preferably one that you don't mind getting a bit trashed) and a Daddy runs around trailing the blanket behind them and the kids have to jump on and stay on. If you get more that two or three kids on you might need to get another couple of big lads involved to drag the weight. The kids go bananas for this.
    After this lot we ran out of ideas and I wanted to put it to the people: what games do you know that involve minimal props and lots of kids? Explain the game, what it's called and the rules and let's compile a list!


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    Mima with Maxi

    Maxi's class were lucky enough to go to Mima (Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art) on a school trip and I managed to get MadDad to work from home that day so I could go to.


    Now I am not sure I will be taking the boys back just yet, but it was a great, if not a little long day.  In between looking and thinking about the installations the children did get to do some art activities, but they were not allowed to touch anything and with a group of 4 and 5 year olds you can imagine how hard it was for them.




    I was very proud of all the children, they were so well behaved and Maxi's teacher is such a gem.  She really understands reception children, so after a picnic lunch on the lawn, she got her class all playing games to let off steam.


    There is currently an exhibition by Anish Kapoo which tested the children's don't touch capabilities, as well as mine too. 



    Fantastic sculptures and pieces, which made them think, look and really explore what art can be.


    The exhibition co-insides with the opening on Tememos in Middlesbrough, which the boys have seen from the car.


    I really enjoyed the day and will be going back on my own for some quality me time.


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    CyberMummy 2010

    A bit like winning a luxury holiday with no flights.............
    Now please, please don't get me wrong here, I had a super fantastic day on Saturday and the best bit for me was meeting for the first time all these wonderful, nay remarkable women. These people that I am overjoyed to call my friends and with whom I have shared so many ups, downs and just middlings!
    The mummy blogging world is just full of so many inspirational and amazing people and I feel truly blessed to be part of it.
    So lets talk about the day, well firstly a big hats of to Suzanna, Sian and Jen for having the will and wherewithal to pull together such a great event, if can not have been an easy task and I was honoured to have been able to attend the inaugural conference, thanks to a wonderful Anonymous benefactor and to Carex for sponsoring me.
    Anyone who met me will realise that I am a pretty open and honest person and that hopefully I come across as that on the blog too and also that I am a pretty positive person, so don't get the wrong end of the stick with these comments.
    What would have made the day better for me:
    Less goodies and swag
    I was fortunate that there was a mishap with my freebies from Carex top giveaway, as they was so much stuff being given away that people wouldn't have had room for them.  I should have taken my old lady shopping trolley with me, next time please can I have vouchers for the products that I can collect at a shop or apply online for them.  But I do have samples of the great Carex Goodies I reviewed here, so please e-mail me with your name and address and we will get them posted out to you.
    Sessions and Cyber Labs
    I sat through the content, stats and influence and also the working with brands sessions and have some constructive critique on them.
    Good Content
    lets start with the content - I would have loved to hear more from India Knight and also heard from top bloggers about what they think is key with content.
    Stats and Influence
    Actually I really wish I had the balls to get up and walk out of this one.  I was hoping this session would remove the mystique surrounding technorati authority and how to use your statistics to help you blog.  For me the whole session fell flat from the start when there wasn't even a blogger on the panel and the best bit when Jax from Making it up outgeeked Ladygeek, which wasn't all that hard to do (especially when she confessed her husband did all the techie stuff).   I want to learn more about self hosting, the pros and cons of each platform, meta tags, links etc, so next year please can we work on this session.
    Working with Brands
    I lived blogged from the Working with Brands sessions (wow that was not easy, so many things to listen too and I do not type fast enough).  My feelings about this were it was very US centric.  We don't have a blogher type organisation dealing with reviews and working with brands here in the UK, yes it is great to here about a successful model, but I want more.
    I wanted to hear more from Natalie Lue on how she makes it work for her, how many people read her e-books and how she is managing to make a living from blogging.
    I would have liked Leapfrog to put show us a brand ambassador, rather than talk about it  (Samantha my boys would love to review the new Leapster Explorer) and I would have liked MS&L to have talked to the bloggers who have recently been on a trip to the Pampers factory, rather than just put down their PR company.
    I would have liked opinion of how much is too much, how to work out what to charge for your time, rather than being told to value it.
    Keynote Speakers
    This was a real highlight for me and i was honored to be included as a keynote speaker and wow, what a roller coaster that was.  I laughed and I cried listening to some inspirational women read out their blog posts.  To hear it in their own voice, with their intonation was just..........  well beyond words.  For me this is why I blog and this is why I read blogs, these woman have something to say and blogging gives them a voice.
    Pub Quiz
    Linda, dear Linda you made me laugh so much I nearly wet myself.  You do a mean impression of Jo Brand.  I only wish we could have seen more of you and I am sorry that you had to attend such a sad event prior to coming.  I do have to admit to being rather crap at it all and spend it eating cupcakes I had pinched from a nearby stand!
    Overview
    It was a fantastic day, I had an amazing time and met just the best people.  I can not wait to do it all again.
    Oh and the holiday.  Yes I won a holiday, a fantastic 4 night break for me, MadDad and the MiniMads in Cyprus, but and it really is a big but it didn't come with flights, so anyone wants to help pay for flights, then please do get in touch.
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    CyberMummy, Working with Brands – Live Blog


     14:00 - 14:50 Working with brands and the tricky business of making money

    How to successfully branch out, work with companies, and make your passion for blogging pay
    I have been lucky enough to get to CyberMummy with the help from a number of brands.  I am the product ambassador for Carex and have been lucky enough to receive some of their new hand and Surface Spray and Aroma Gels, which I will be reviewing here.  I have also received sponsorship in the form of an anonymous benefactor paying for my ticket - A great big thank you to you (I really appreciate the support and help).  Seven Seas have also paid for an advert on my site too.

    So this session really appealed to me.  I am keen on trying to make my blog pay a little bit, but also not take things too far, so for me it is all about balance.

    I will be updating, saving and re-posting this transcript live from the CyberMummy Conference and will tidy it up after the event, so please excuse any spelling mistakes and remember to bookmark this page and come back for all the coverage on the day.

    Natalie open the session confirming that she makes her living from blogging and that it is important to develop good relationships and not to be afraid to think about engaging with brands and that selling out is not working with brands.  That is it important not to over think things.

    Be savvy about working with brands, find out the difference between marking and PR.  Get involved with the people you want to.

    14.14   Kelly from MS&L

    Kelly explains that she is aware that mums are using the Internet for information and that companies are looking for ways to be involved in Mum's conversations.  "The delete button is the new receiver being thrown down"  An honest lunch the benefits both parties, MS&L US came up with the Blogger guidelines, so that transparencies is for all to see.

    What is key from this is the need to disclose the nature of the relationship, trust must be maintained at each link of the conversation.  It needs to be none negotiable and maintaining the integrated means that their clients need to let go and that MS&L can put the product in blogger hands and if the resulted opinion is negative then they and the client needs to live with it.

    Can you be an ethical blogger and accept free trips etc?

    Am I free to write honestly about it
    Is it something I really want or need

    14.22  Gina from Blogher

    55 million a week read blogs in the US, woman who blog are the most socially savvy, half of the most popular media destinations in the US are social.  They have 21 million viewers.

    2400 bloggers at the Blogger Conference in network  with 95 sponsors, who recognise the influence and importance of bloggers.

    There is a halo effect and a rub off in clients who invest in woman in the blogosphere.  They pay bloggers for their time, not for the review outcome, they have profiles and match them up to the brand.

    Monitirising is possible as long as it is authentic and open.

    14.28 Eva Keogan
     
    Eva has just spent a year building Last minutes social media section and her message is to truly understand the value of what we do.  It is an amazing vehicle, it isn't all about advertising.

    There are many ways to work with brands.  Eva makes her living as a social media evangelist and works with brands.

    Eva had three key messages.

    • How can people get in contact with you.
    • Be clear about what you right about - Eva isn't a poo blog
    • Know your value
    14.32 Samantha from Leapfrog

    Blogging is every important voice in social media and leapfrog have been working with mummy bloggers for over a year.

    61% of toys are bought from recommendations and Leapfrog actually read all the blogs of the bloggers they work with,  They  send products to them for reviews, although reviews must be honest and appreciate all feedback, both positive and negative.

    They also give the mummy bloggers exclusive offers for their blog site.  In the long term they are looking for a brand advocate and they like to give the products to mums before they giving them to journalists.

    14.36 Sian To

    Working from a PR/Mummy Blogger perspective.  Sian can often feel stuck in the middle ground and reiteraed not to feel bad about not doing something, just hit the delete key. Dont feel pressured.

    Mummy Bloggers are Sian's Market and the main reason for her getting in to blogger.   

    14.38

    Open Questions

    Antiona Chitty from Family Friendly Working - Woman she works with don't really value themselves are UK Mummy bloggers undervaluing their blogs?

    Gina - there is huge poential, if you don't value what you do it can be put on the same level as any TV show, magazine.  Our audience loves what Mummy Bloggers do.   We are fabulous.
    Samatha - Yes some mummy bloggers do undervalue themselves.  Word of mouth is key.  Ask for things we have nothing to lose.
    Kelly - Ask yourself when was the last time you purchased a products from an ad or whether you purchase it from world of mouth.

    Eva - brands search out bloggers, there is some value attached with that
    Natalie - People have funny relationships with money, don't overvalue yourself, but do get behind yourself

    Kat from Bambingo Goodies

    There is a rise of blogs charging upfront for review, but not disclosing this, what are your thoughts?

    Samantha - Leapfrog don't do that - it is a partnership for them about mutual benefit.  Blogging should be from the heart, you should feel it rather than being paid for it.
    Sian - I wouldn't work in this way with a blogger, it is about creating a buzz and a direct voice with consumer.  You can feel really passionate about the product.

    What if you really want to do a review of the product, how do you approach the company yourself?

    Eva - Eurostar supported something that she tweeted about, so just ask!
    Samantha - Utilise the contact us page on a website and drop them a line and Ask.
    Sian - you could do a review
    Gina - bloggers have gone to brands and said that if you done give me X oe W I will say nasty things about you  and yes everyone knows who their bloggers

    If you do a good review, then 2 bad ones, would the company still use them?

    Samantha - Leapfrog would still contact you and maybe have more work for you if you have constructive criticism and hopefully learn from it.
    Kelly - fair and constructive is key.  They like  bloggers with firm opinions


    Arggggggggggggggggggg  - so much to take in and I am now going to do a key note seach, so will come nad edit is a little more later.  Please feel free to add any comments on anything I may have missed






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    Flamingoland 2010


    We all had a fantastic day out at Flamingoland last week for Mini's birthday.  I used my Tesco vouchers, but was really disappointed to discover that this arrangement ends in July, which would mean that it would be £90.00 to get in to.




    The beauty of Flamingoland for us, is the variety, there are some wonderful animals.  We had a great time watching the sealion show and I could watch the mearcats all day.  Look at the camels in the photo, I had no idea that they moulted their coats.



    As we took the boys out of school for the day (we also took Maxi's best friend), it was pretty quiet, apart from lots of school trips.  This meant the boys got to go on lots of rides and didn't have to queue.  Mini has sprouted and could go on everything that Maxi could, which made for happy families.



    There is also a fantastic splash area, so we took the boys UV suits and they had a really good cool down for an hour and half in it.  It was really upsetting to see the number of children who are not allowed to get wet.

    The weather was fantastic and we had a great picnic lunch under the shade of some trees, in fact we just had a wonderful time together.

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    Childrens Craft Showcase – Gifts for the Teacher

    The end of the school year is very nearly upon us here in England, so I have started to think about teacher appreciation gifts for MaxiMads wonderful Reception teacher and her assistance and for Mini's Preschool Teacher.


    I am a firm believer in child made is best, I don't want my gifts to be expensive, just used and made with love.

    So I have a selection of things that we have made previously for people that would make great gifts to say thank you to a teacher.  



    This is what Maxi made for his teachers last year and will be doing again for his current teacher.  Click on the link above for a tutorial.



    We gave all the teaching staff these for Christmas and they were a huge hit.



    Mini has drawn a picture of his teacher and I am busy turning it into a wonderful bookmark.



    This was what we did for mothers day, but would also make a great teachers gift too.



     We made these for Nana and Grandma for Christmas, but would be easily adapted.

    Please fee free to link up any other ideas you might have or any crafty makes you have been busy with.

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      A Family of Emotions

      Mini just can not control them, they are so visual, so transparent.  It is like looking at me.

      I see burning red and hot orange embers.  The lava flow that just erupts before he has a chance to think about anything else.  He has no hold on them, no way to stop acting on the impulses they give him.  He has no perspective, no patience, no understanding of them.

      He physically reacts, throwing, hitting, shouting, screaming, banging and crying.

      He feels them in his heart, head and fists.  

      To the point of exhaustion.


      Maxi is comtenplative, a real thinker, he is learning to harness his emotions and to keep them in check.

      He is brave and often his lower lip will tremble, when he skuffs his kness, just a little, enough for me to see.

      When he is tired, then the emotions bubble to the surface.  I watch as he attemps to supress them, holding his breathm until they have to come out.

      But his joy, wonder and amazement are still there for all to see.


      MadDad is a happy man, a mellow fellow who lives his life with joy on his face and in his heart.  He is laidback and tolerent of nearly everything.  In all our time together I have only ever seen him angry on a few occaasions.  He always tells me that anger is such an unproductive emotion, that it doesnt solve anything, so he has learned to let it flow out of him.

      He is a protective man and you can see how much he loves his family on his face, he is not afriad to show his emotions and he sets a wonderful example to the boys.


      So that just leaves me, I for far too long have found that the dark emotions have been the ones that are the strongest, but I no longer allow them to take over my life.  I have learned to make the most of everything.  To look to the best in people and things.  To see the joy in the small things in life.



      I am also taking part in The Frugal Families Welcome Wednesday




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      A Birthday with The Wiggles


      Mini had a fab time opening his presents this morning.  This year is really the first year that he has understood what is happening and has been counting down his birthday since his cousins on May 31st!  He was almost too excited to get to sleep the night before!

      The joy on his face for his presents was wonderful, we got him a scooter and an Uno game, but his best present so far has been his Star Wars the Clone Wars Clone Trooper Outfit from Gran.

      Now the thing is my boy adores The Wiggles.  I have my mother in law to thank for it, as she was the one who introduced the boys to them and for some reason with Mini they really did just stick in his brain.

      We took him to see the live last year and seen as they were live in York on his actually birthday this year, we really didn't have much of an option.
      So this week we have made a bone for Wags the dog and also paper roses for Dorothy (a post on the roses to follow).  



      We set off early Thursday morning and Mini and Maxi were very excited to see them. What can I say, they had a blast and because they had a blast, so did we.  We have Ernest staying with us at the moment and he enjoyed The Wiggles too.



      Although I think that Ernest's Bad boy ways must be rubbing off on Mini, as he threw his drinks carton into the crowd, yes it was empty, but I wanted the ground to open up and swallow me whole.  I was mortified.  So if you were the mum of the little boy it hit - I am sorry and I hope the blackcurrant stains come out.



      We then went to Pizza Express for a treat (thanks to Tesco Vouchers) and mini spent his birthday money on a wii game.


      We also went to see one of MadDad's clients Shakeaholics and the boys had a wonderful Milkshake each.



      Maxi chose a smarties one


      Mini a fresh strawberry one.


      It is such a cool shop, they can make a shake that tastes of anything, MadDad had a Reece's peanut cups one and it was just wonderful.


      And yes, we did buy the boys a tour t shirt each!  York was such a wonderful day out.



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      Spiritual Sunday – Grateful


      I am grateful for my wonderful boys, who came with me to the car boot sale and really behaved in this heat (yes I really am that pale).

      We are grateful for cool paddling pools in hot weather.

      We are grateful for plentiful elderflowers and have made yummy cordial.


      My beautiful rambling rose, which is full of buds and flowers, the whole of the bottom of our garden (and next doors) is filled with wonderful scent.


      The fragrant honeysuckle which has cover the boys playhouse from next doors garden.

      What are you grateful for this Sunday?




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      Tell us your story – A street to school campign

      I have been asked to help publicise the "Tell Us Your Story" campaign, which is a fantastic opportunity to recognise and reward people who you feel have really made a difference to someone or a community over the past year.  Entries are submitted online at http://www.avivatellusyourstory.co.uk/

      Launched by Aviva, for every entry they will donate £1 to the Street to School Programme - a global initiative with the aim of reaching 500,000 children worldwide, helping them get off the streets and back into education.

      A weekly prize of £1000 will also be awarded to the local hero that captures the hearts of visitors to the site and receives the most votes. One overall winner will be chosen by a celebrity judging panel for a prize worth £10,000.

      AVIVA Tell Us A Story Large

      Not only is this a great way to recognise someone who has made a difference, but by nominating someone you will be making a difference in a child's life to.

       Did you know....

      • 100,000 children under the age of sixteen run away from home every year in the UK
      • 1 in 12 young runaways are hurt or harmed while they are away
      • There are now only 5 refuge beds for runaway children in the whole of the UK
      • 1 in 6 young runaways sleep rough
       As a mum those facts are hard to swallow.
       
      This is not a sponsored post


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        Four

        There are four seasons, Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter
        There are four great elements, earth, water, wind and fire
        A human heart has four chambers
        The forth finger is also known as a ring finger
        There are four basic states of matter: solid, liquid, gas, and plasma.
        There are four human bllod groups
        Cancer is the 4th astrological sign of the Zodiac
        Tetra the Greek word for 4
        four is the only number with the same number of letters as its value  
        common time is constructed of four beats
        There are 4 movements in a symphony
        Four rules: addition, subtraction, multiplication, division.
        Four parts of a day: night, morning, afternoon, evening.
        Four cardinal directions: north, south, east, west.


        Last night Mini went to bed as a three year old
        Today he woke as a Four year old

        I see much more of myself in you than in Maxi and I know that you are learning to control your temper and emotions and hope that it can continue to develop and you learn to harness the feelings inside.
        Sometimes I am filled with the fear that you will always do things the hard way and wish you could learn from my experiences.
        You couldn't be more loved.
        You have developed my love of books and listening to you read is one of my favorite times of the day.
        You are both a mummy's boy and a dads lad.  The perfect blend.
        You are independent to a fault, but you love with out compare.
        You make me swing with you and skip, hop and jump.
        We watch the clouds and give them names.
        We sign songs making up the words as we go along.
        I am your kiss and cuddle express.

        Who is Mini?
        The baby of the family in years, but not in size
        Larger than life, you fill a room with your deep laughter
        A great force of energy
        A body that has to succumb to his emotions
        People adore mini, he has a way to endear himself to everyone
        He is cheeky with a twinkle in his eyes
        A boy with words from an early age
        A ferocious reader
        Affectionate to a fault with cuddles for all, but especially for me
        He sings from his heart and has music in his soul
        His imagination knows no bounds
        A loyal brother
        An observer
        A wonderful son

        Each day I am blessed to see you grow, develop and learn.  You will me with optimism and joy and have a way of making even the sternest person smile.  You have a gift of innocence.  I will hold you tight forever.



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        The Gallery – Creatures of South Africa

        Once upton a time long, long ago, in fact 3 years BC (before children) MadDad and I visited and stayed with friends in South Africa.  We spent some wonderful time in what is a glorious country and The World Cup really reminds me of the special time we spent there.  So for this weeks Gallery I present to you some of the creatures we saw on our fab holiday.



        The Penguins on Boulders Beach - oh they were cute, but the smell - ugh





        They were such characters, we spent hours watching them




        Majestic Lions


        Bab Cheetahs


        Yes, that is me with two white baby Bengal tigers


         Mama and other female elephants protecting a 2 day old foal


        Big birds!


        Big Mouths!


        If you loo closely, a big splash from the whales we spent the day watching.  We could have stayed for a month and still not want to go home.


        One day, we will go back and take the MiniMads with us.  One day...............


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        Mini The early weeks

        As I said in this post, MadDad took care of all of us for the first week of Mini's life and he was such a happy baby.  He fed well, burped like a dream or should that be a builder and went back to sleep really well after a feed.  He fitting us like a soft glove.

        But the peace wasn't to last.  MadDad had commented that Mini wasn't pooing.  The midwife told him it was because he was being bottle fed and suggested we change his formula to a comfort one, which he told her we were already using (after Maxi's colic we made sure we had every angle covered).  She then suggested that he give additional water, as it was a hot summer.  We decided to mention this to the GP when she next came out to me.

        She agreed that this wasn't normal and that he needed to be seen by a pediatrician and went about referring him.  The next day Mini started to vomit, it was not the standard little bit of sick after a feed, it was all his food and it was projectile and it was after each feed, so I rang the GP and she suggested that I take him straight to the hospital and she would ring and tell them to expect us.



        We were admitted to the children's assessment unit and they agreed that he was getting dehydrated and they wanted him to stay overnight, but before putting in a drip they wanted to try and feed him again.  The staff were amazing, I explained that he hadn't pooped and the nurse told me to take the bed and they popped Mini in a cot next to the bed.  He was not happy at all, he was pulling up his legs and screaming and I couldn't comfort him.  So the sister decided to take him to a walk with her and told me to go to sleep.  I woke up at 6am the next day in a real pickle as Mini wasn't in his cot and within a minute the sister brought him to  me, but he was in just a nappy and she was in scrubs.  It turns out the mini screamed for 2 hours until he poos out his body weight, all over the poor sister.  not only did it come out of his nappy, but it went though all her uniform and underwear.  



        He went from a screaming child to the placid baby we knew after that.  The consultant examined Mini and discovered that he had a tiny bum hole, but they were also concerned that he had other issues too.  So we were referred to a specialist at Newcastle.

        3 days later MadDad and I took Mini to meet his new surgeon and to discuss the options.  As he hadn't pooed since the incident in the hospital it was decided that he needed to have urgent surgery and it was scheduled for the following day, so we went home to pack a bag and make all the necessary arrangements.  I was terrified by baby needed to have a general anesthetic and he was under 3 weeks old.  

        We were not allowed to feed Mini for 12 hours before the operation, so we set off to the hospital.  I felt terrible, why was my baby suffering in this way?  We were taken to our room.  There was a double bed for me and MadDad and a bot, bath, changing table etc for Mini.  It only really hit home when we were asked to bath him and pop him in to a gown.

        Our fantastic surgeon came in and tried to calm me down and decided that before the operation she was going to have another quick examination and use a special implement to measure mini's anus and have a quick probe.  As she was doing this we all heard a strange tearing sound and mini suddenly stopped crying.  The doctor removed the probe and then whoose, out cam the poo, which was like water as he had been taking lactulose to try and help him poo.  He lost 4oz in weight in less that 5 minutes and we agreed that we would postpone the surgery for a week and that I would use a shorter probe and medication (lactulose and suppositories) to see if it made a difference.

        Mini just minutes before the surgeon came in

        That week turned in to six months, but it meant that he didn't need an operation and I am glad to say that he no longer needs medication and our months of carrying 5 changes of outfits were all worth it.
        Maxi is fine, he bowels are fine and you would never know that he went though this.  It confirmed to me that Mum and Dad always know best and we learned to trust our instinct implicitly.

        He was a joyous baby, a pleasure to be with and the easiest baby in the world.


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        Getting Mini – Part Two The Birth

        You can find part one here........ so now on to the next part of the saga.  Now just like I did with Maxi's birth story I want to preface this too.  
        Yes getting and giving birth to both my children was traumatic and more so that these stories can ever tell.  But you need to know that I would do it all again in a heartbeat.  They are so worth it.  They are wonderful boys, no more precious than any children and just because their births etc were difficult doesn't mean that they are more precious than any other child.  Every child is precious, every child is a wonder in their own right, but to me mine are just indescribably incredible.  I have said before that neither of the boys are aware of how hard their births were and they will not know if I have my way, not until they ask. 
        One of the reasons for writing this, is each year it seems less real, more of a fairy tale, somehow I am afraid I will lose it all together if I dont write it down somewhere.
        May 2006 was warm and June was proving to be warmer still,  Maxi and I took each day as it come, resting, relaxing and playing.  MadDad often arrived home to find us both asleep cuddled up on the sofa and ended his days cooking and looking after the two of us.
        My vomiting had stepped up a pace and I was finding it very hard to keep hydrated and I had keytones in my urine and I knew it was getting worse, as my breath smelled of nail varnish remover (strange, but true) and also the movement of mini had reduced (I as 36 weeks) pregnant, so I agree with the midwife over the telephone that I would make my way to the day unit to be monitored for a few hours.  I wasn't worried, I Dropped Maxi at my Mother in laws, I didn't take a bag and was singing alone to Snow Patrol in the car on the way.
        When I got to the unit, they found Mini's heartbeat straight away, which was very comforting, but they struggled to take blood (15 attempts) and I had protein and major keytones in my urine.  They suggested I gave MadDad a call and suggested that I went on to a drip immediately to help rehydrate me, which mean more attempts at trying to find a vein.
        Anyway when my bloods came back they made the decision that I needed to be admitted and also see the consultant immediately, as the results were not great at all.  The vomiting had gone from 5 times a day, to constant and I was also bringing up fresh blood.  So MadDad packed me a bag and came in.
        The Consultant made it clear that we needed to get mini out, but he wanted to try and wait until 37 weeks and we decided that I would have steroids to help mature his lungs and I was to remain in the hospital where they would try and control my nausea.  The following week is not one I wish to go in to in detail, suffice to say, the nausea didn't stop, I was very ill, I discharged myself against doctors orders and physiatrists got involved and the final outcome was that I agreed to a scheduled c-section for the 24 June at 1pm.  SO lets fast forward to that time.
        I have to say that the scheduled section was a much better experience than the crash section I experienced with Maxi.  It was more relaxed and I didn't panic about vomiting, as I knew they would be there suctioning it for me.  It was as pleasant as it could be and by darling mini was born at 37 weeks gestation weighing a very respectable 6lb 12oz with a head of dark hair.  They didn't drop my placenta like they did with Maxi, but it did go off to pathology for tests (as I had previously had a hydatidiform mole pregnancy).
         
        I was still vomiting, with Maxi it stopped the minute he was born, but I still felt terrible.  I was left in recovery with mini laid flat despite asking to be sat up and without a drink for in excess of four hours and then only moved after MadDad put his foot down.  They were reticent about removing the catheter or even getting me standing, which was very odd, as with Maxi I was encouraged to be as mobile as I could be as soon as I could be.
        I couldn't wait to get out of hospital, as I was in a private room all on my own with a newborn and I was vomiting every hour, so we agreed that I could go home the following day.
         
        MadDad was wonderful,  Maxi was missing me and overnight went from my little baby to a toddler.  He adored his new brother and him and MadDad looked after mini for a week, whilst I was bedridden and visited by our GP 3 times a day.  It wasn't the best recover as I wasn't allowed any other pain relief apart from paracetamol suppositories due to the blood results and the nausea  (I couldn't keep anything down), but slowly things got easier.  Mini sleep in a cot next to the bed, initially next to MadDad.
        My three boys bonded, they spent a wonderful hot week watching the world cup and learning each others likes and dislikes whilst I recovered best I could upstairs.
        I was lucky in that I got all the support and help I needed from the hospital, but if you feel medical negligence might be involved in your birth then get in touch with irwin mitchell
           
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        Fathers Day Meme

        Karen from If I could escape, who is a great blogger started a Fathers Day me me, so I asked both of the boys their answers.

         Mini
        1. What does Daddy wear for work?  –  Work Shoes, work shirt, work trousers, work pants, tie.
        2. Where does Daddy work? — Bishy Auland
        3. What’s Daddy’s job? — Makes Tea
        4. What does Daddy do at work? — make tea
        5. What does Daddy do at lunch? – work
          Maxi

        1. What does Daddy wear for work?  –  A work suit and tie, pant and a shirt
        2. Where does Daddy work? — Bishop Aulkland
        3. What’s Daddy’s job? — To earn Pennies
        4. What does Daddy do at work? — He talks and adds things up
        5. What does Daddy do at lunch? – Eats his food.
        MadDad is actually a Client Manager for a firm of chartered Accountants and a wonderful provider for us all.


        Happy Fathers Day MadDad.

        Fathers day is always bittersweet for me, as yes it is a celebration of my husband and my FIL, but it also it is sad, as my dad is no longer with us and I miss him so so much.  I wrote about my father here for one of the writing workshops.  I still love you Daddy.


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        Meet me at CyberMummy and ask for samples!

         

        Name:  Jen aka Mummy Mad
        Blog:   TheMadHouse
        Twitter ID:   @mum_themadhouse
        Height:   5ft 2 ish
        Hair:   Brown and grey!
        Eyes:   Mucky Brown
        Likes:   Family, sewing, crafting, art, chatting, eating and living!



        I am going to be at CyberMummy as the brand ambassador for Carex, who are introducing a two new aromatics handgels and a hand and surface spray, all of which are handbag sized.  


        I am ever so thankful to Carex for providing me with this opportunity and I will have a review of the products before CyberMummy and also a giveaway of them too, for anyone who can not attend.  I also need to say a great big thank you to Seven Sea's for doing their bit too with an advert on my sidebar and also to DotComGiftShop, who I will be writing an article for all about the Mummy and Daddy bloggers at CyberMummy - A top 50!

        Also a special thank you to the wonderful person who paid for my ticket to CyberMummy in the beginning (you know who you are).  The generosity of the blogging world never ceases to amaze me.  Thank you all.

        Anyone at CyberMummy, I am looking forward to meeting with you and if you would like samples then please remember to ask.




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        Getting Mini – Part One

        My darling boy will be four on 24 June, I truly can not believe how time flies, so now is the time to tell you all about getting mini.  I have told you about getting maxi here
         Maxi and I on the day I found out I was expecting Mini

        After the pregnancy I had with Maxi, I wasn't sure about having another baby, but watching him grow we knew that we didn't want him to be an only child.  So we made the decision not to take any precautions, well other than the fact I had just had a baby!
         
        Maxi didn't sleep, well never more than about 4 hours at a time, but that was what I expected.  So when I started to feel sick and dizzy I put it down to the fact that I was tired, exhausted even.  Compounded with the fact that he had just been released from hospital and we were back from the North East from his joint christening with my niece. 

        The last thing I expected to be was pregnant again.  We had a test in the drawer from Maxi, so I took the test and me and MadDad were nearly floored, but you couldn't wipe the smile off our faces.  Maxi was to be a big brother.

        I spent the next couple of days still feeling terrible, I was dizzy and nauseous and then the vomiting set in with a vengeance.  I suffered Hyperemesis with Maxi, so knew that this was it all over again.  I was petrified.  How was I going to manage looking after my baby if I was going to be that ill all over again.
        So MadDad and I went to see my wonderful GP and she agreed that I should start on the anti nausea medication immediately, this meant that MadDad had to inject me 3 times a day in my bum.  It was worth it, it reduced the sickness from pretty non stop to about 5 times a day.

        We also made the decision that we would relocate back to the NorthEast, as I wanted to be a stay a home mummy.

        I was due to return to work at the end of March from my maternity leave and we agreed that I would take any holiday due to me and then roll straight on to my new maternity leave.  I don't think I was particularly popular!

        I also made one of the biggest decisions of my life, I would learn to drive.  I did try when I was 17, but after 3 fails gave up and had never felt the need to drive since.  So I found a sympathetic driving instructor and explained to him my situation - pregnant, sickness and nausea and really wanting to pass my test and I started to have lessons.  Paul my instructor was great and I passed my driving test in the March, 3 months before Mini was born and the inspector didn't even know I was pregnant!

        We sold our house and found a house to rent in MadDad's home village.  I cant say that moving 360 odd miles, with a one year old and and being pregnant was fun, but we managed.  We moved in the April 2006.  Maxi had just turned 1.  I was getting more and more tired every day and we spend a lot of time snuggled up on the sofa and playing cars in the front room.

        Yes I was still being sick, coupled with the fact that I had low blood pressure which meant that I would often faint when changing a nappy.  I used to sit and cry at the fact that Maxi would know to bring me the tissues when I went running to the toilet, but we managed with a lot of help from my mother in law.

        After my experience with my previous section I as determined not to have one this time.  I couldn't contemplate the thought of a 15 month old,  a new born and a section.  So I went through copious meetings with my new consultant (I was going to give birth up North, rather than at the Royal Berkshire, where Maxi had been born) and we agreed that we would aim for a VBAC, but there could be no induction and they would monitor me closely after the abruption I had with Maxi.  I would like to say it all got to that stage, but me being me, it didn't!

        to be continued.....



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        The Gallery – Motherhood


        Motherhood is planting a seed
        Motherhood is helping them grow
        Motherhood is watching them bloom
        Motherhood is about new experiences (yours and theirs)
        Motherhood is about growing with your children
        Motherhood is about dipping your to in the water
        Motherhood is about love, amazement, heartache and pain
        Motherhood is late nights and early mornings
        Motherhood is new places
        Motherhood is new friends
        Motherhood is having fun
        Motherhood is creating
        Motherhood is endless worry
        Motherhood is unbridled joy
        Motherhood is learning to trust
        Motherhood is about taking a step out in to the unknown and embracing all it has to offer.
        Motherhood is me





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        Writing Workshop – Tainted Blood


        Mini sometimes I look at you and it is like looking at a mini me in the mirror.  My boy, you are going to have to learn to control that temper of mine that you have.  That boiling anger that I can see clearly inside.  You are going to have to grow and learn how to engage the brain, before putting the mouth in gear, learn to count to ten before erupting into the volcano of fury you can be.  It isn't going to be easy, I have said some hurtful things in my time due to my bad temper, but one thing that being a mother has brought me is a modicum of patience.

        Maxi, I see a lot of your daddy in you, your intelligence, you willingness and your kindness are all wonderful traits of your Father.    You also have your Daddy's love of all sports and it is so lovely to see you get involved and enjoy being outside.

        You both fill me with so much joy, you have the best and worse of the two of us and with that all the potential to be a unique individuals.  You can mould and sculpt the traits you have inherited and turn them in to something new, something special.   This is all in your hands, they are your choices to make.  All I can do is influence you to be the best you can.

        There is something though that is out of our hands, that we have to leave to destiny, to fate and to this end I pray every night to a God that I am not sure exists.  I pray that you do not carry the same genetic "spelling mistake" that I do.  I have stopped trying to see who you most take after physically in the hope that I can not passed on my tainted blood, in addition to those wonderful brown eyes you both have.  

        I hope that the small top lip you both have doesn't mean that you too are susceptible to the genetics that have made me make the hard decisions I have.  

        People often say "doesn't Mini look like you and Maxi like his Daddy" and each time iIhear it, I cry a little inside.  I hope that looking like me, doesn't mean that you too are sentenced like to to worry, wonder and pray.

        This is my burden, mine and Daddy's and we try and carry it with dignity and grace.  I graciously accept all complements about you both, for you are my pride and joy and together we will deal with what my tainted blood will bring.  I love you.


        This post as wrote for Sleep is for the Week's writing workship, I chose promt 1. What qualities or traits do you think your children have inherited from you, you partner, or even from your extended family?



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        Saturday Story Workshop

        Maxi was lucky enough to be invited to a special storytelling workshop which as held at a local school on Friday.  He had a funtastic time and we were invited to take him back for a morning of fun and activities on the Saturday.  So we decided that Maxi and I would go and MadDad and Mini could go and have some one on one time at Football Tots together.

        What a treat I was in for:


        The event was run by a local school (one of the smallest in the area) for a number of the local schools and was specially designed for Reception children (4 and 5) year olds.

        It was hosted by the divine Marina the Mermaid and Stony Fag the good pirate.


        Maria told the children all about the council evicting her from her home in a cave at Saltburn by the sea, as she had lost her magic shell, which enabled her to sing.  


        The children helped Marina find her shell and get her home back in the end.  It was brill a real interactive story.

        On the Friday the children had all had all made fish and helped to decorate the school.


        Maxi made another one on Saturday too (look out for a sea inspired Childrens Craft Showcase next month).


        We then all went in to the underwater tunnel to hear Stony Fag tell us about how he met Marina and how he changed from a bad pirate in to a good one.



        The event ended with the children and parents getting involved in the Hall in yet another story about how the seasons came about.

        We had a fantastic morning, both me and Maxi.  The event as brilliant and they even put on refreshments.  The only down side as that only 20 children per year got to attend and as they are nearly 90 children in Maxi's year at school, children had to miss out.
        We had a fantastic time.



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        Apron Swap 2010


        I had a great time making my pinny for The Great Apron Swap over at Red Gingham.  This is what I sent my partner (modeled rather unflattering on me).


        I also made a couple of yo yo broaches to be pinned on the pinny too!



        In return I received a wonderful pinny which I have been wearing a lot.  I love the fact the pockets are  handkerchiefs.  I never thought of adding pockets!




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        Children Craft Showcase – Red Ted Art

        I am delighted to welcome Maggie from Red Ted Art to TheMadHouse and to present this weeks Children's Craft Showcase. 


        Over at Red Ted Art, my son (Red Ted (2)) and I (Maggy (old)) do lots of crafts projects. Sometimes Pip Squeak (0) joins us. Usually we are inspired by books that we read - the tagline from another crafty mum being – story + art = great stART. I love the idea of bring books and crafts together. And some days, when I really don’t know what to make, picking up one of Red Ted’s books really does inspire! 


         So. Today, I brought out one of Red Ted’s older books:  Tell me about The Sea, by Justine Smith. We have two books in the series and also have Tell me about Baby Animals. When he was a little younger he preferred Baby Animals. Now I think he prefers The Sea. But they are both lovely books – nice simple images with things to “do” on every page (count, find, look), some nice shiny surfaces to touch, as well as some flaps to lift towards the end. Lovely for them. Lovely or you and a little education on the side!

        This time we decided to make a boat!

        1)    Materials: although I knew I wanted to make a boat at some point and thus bought a 12 egg egg carton, I did wing this a bit. So my photo doesn’t show all the materials needed. But to be honest, just be crafty and do what works for you! My basic materials: egg carton (12 egg & 6 egg), chopsticks (for mast), paper & paint (for sails), ribbon/ string (to secure mast & bunting), glue, scissors, blue tack, staples…





        2)    We began with the sails. To be honest you can do WHATEVER you like for these. We decided to paint, as Red Ted likes painting. Also, I we use the “water technique” of wetting the paper and letting the colours run a little, as I thought it fitting with “The Sea”. However, you can re-use an old drawing, draw a new one. Paint patterns or even use a scrap of fabric! Whatever takes your fancy.


        3)    Once the sails where done, I made the basic boat, whilst Red Ted ate a pair, looked at the book again and got excited! The 12 egg egg carton is ideal for a boat, as it has a raised bit right in the middle of it – perfect for a mast. Whilst he 6 egg egg carton, has a dip in the middle and the mast is a little wobblier. I just poked it through, put bluetack underneath and added some precautionary glue.



        4)    The ribbon/ string helps secure the mast – I tied round the top, threaded it through little holes on the side and tied them again underneath. Seems to do the trick! Also added some blobs of glue just in case!



        5)    Once dry, I cut out some sails and flags. Glued on the sails and stapled on the flags. Using clothe pegs to help keep things in place.


        6)    FINISHED! And ready for play!


        If you enjoyed this post, do pop over to Red Ted Art and see what we get up to on a regular basis – Get Inspired by our monthly Get Crafty or just visit for Wednesday Crafts!! We look forward to meeting you!

        Maggy & Red Ted (& sometimes Pip Squeak)

        If Maggie has inspired you to get crafting with your childrern, or you have any blog posts about art and crafts, then please link below.

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        Writing Workshop – Lost



        Something lost, but where?

        I am bereft without, alone

        Mine to find someday.


        Very short and sweet this week, but my brain can not function, this post was inspired by Sleep is for the weak writing workshop prompt 2 what part of you is lost and you would like to find again?


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        drowning

        I am struggling at the moment, to find my get up and go, yes as per all the cliches it has got up and gone.

        I had blood tests last week and I am already anemic again, my lips are splitting at the sides and the junior doctor who discharged me after my last transfusion didn't order the additional tests I needed, which means I still don't have a date for further investigations.

        But my blood results showed that it is unlikely I have pernicious anemia as my B12 level was still up thanks too the injection I had received. 

        I feel like sitting and crying, I keep asking why me, why my family.  Surely we have been through enough.  I am tired all the time, not the normal go and have a nap and everything will be alright tired.  No what I am experiencing is like walking through treacle. I am exhausted, but have lost the ability to find restorative sleep.
        My temper is shot, I am usually patient with the boys but the anger I am experiencing is red hot.  I want to lash out and hurt people, I want to bang my aching arms in to the wall.  I want to sit and let all the red hot pain out through the tears which burn by checks as they fall.  

        But it doest go, it remains seated firmly inside me,  making me no fun to be with.  This is not me, I don't recognise this person I am becoming.  Everything is too much trouble, to much effort.

        I miss my caffeine, I miss my get up and go, I miss the all encompassing feeling of joy of doing something with the boys.  

        My housework is getting on top of me, it is hard keeping up with my appointments, let alone my mums.  I am feeling terribly guilty as I have had to ask my brother to take mum to the consultants this week, as I can not find the time to take her alongside everything else I need to do.

        Yesterday was also the first day back at school for the minimads and now I can not wait for the school holidays to come.  I missed them, my hear physically ached for them and couldn't wait to pick them up and have a big cuddle!

        I fear I am drowning.



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        Fabric Addict Swap


        I took part in the Fabric Addict Swap and was paired with the wonderful Serenta at The Balancing Kiwi.  Look at how my parcel was wrapped in Fabric, doesn't it look inviting.


        She sent a couple of books for the boys, the pirate one has already been tucked into.


        I adore the card


        A wonderful Pin Cushion and needle case


        A brill badge which is already on my summer coat



        Some vintage threads and ribbons


        A selection of buttons


        Some delicious fabrics


        And some felt and a sewing magazine.

        I have really enjoyed the swaps I have taken part in and was wondering if anyone fancied joining me for another swap over the summer or maybe one to coincide with the children starting school, A September Surprise (to help ease the pain of losing both my boys to school)?  If you are leave me a comment and I will pop my thinking cap on.


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        Half Term Highlights

        Today is an teacher training day, so we are off to spend the day with Grandma, original plans had to be changed due to the weather, but we have had a fantastic half term break, the weather has been mostly kind and it has been so much fun watching the boys play together.


        Our Fab day at Emma Bridgewater


        Baking our best in the world oat and raisin cookies


        Spending time together just chilling in the garden


        Watching our veg plants grow, the warm weather has made a real difference


        Having fun in the paddling pool


        Good job the neighbours don't mind the boys running around naked


        Visiting Whiby with Grandma and having fish and chips from The Magpie and treats from the old fashions sweet shop.


        Days out to the beach


        We really had great weather for it (no it is not my windbreak)!


        The boys spent more time wet than dry.


        Lots of fun in the local parks was had too.

        Before we had school and preschool I used to dread the half term holidays as all the things we did, the toddler groups would be cancelled, but now it is wonderful to spend quality time all together.  I can not wait for the summer holidays.  I hope you had a great time too.

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        Why you should vote for me

        Today is the final day for voting in The Mads.  I am one of the final five who are up for the Best family Fun Blog, so I am putting in a shameless, last ditched attempt to gain your votes.


        So here are some reasons why I think we fit the bill

        Crafting with Children


        Fathers day is June 20th, so here I have some great ideas for Fathers day cards and gifts you can make with your children.

        One of my most popular posts via search engine is the rain catchers we made inspired by Cbeebies.

        Do you have lots of broken wax crayons?  Don't throw them away, try out recycling them in to make your own funky multi-coloured crayons.

        Cooking with Children



        Get creative in the kitchen with this recipe for home made naan bread and dahl.

        best carrot cake in the whole wide world, don't believe me take a look at the comments!


        Great Ideas

        .  Well my car packs came in so handy when we had a breakdown


        When I was teaching the boys to set the table, I made a printed table mat and also made a fabric one for each of them too.

        Rewards and Incentives for children.   Read about our method of positive reinforcement and rewards to encourage good behaviour

        Wonderful Readers

        One of the most inspiring things I have learned from blogging is the support and comments I receive from my readers and commenter's. A great example is that fact that Mini suffers from terrible tantrums and the advise and support I received was life changing for us all. Read about the recomendations and how we implemented the ideas.



        Voting closes tonight at midnight, so if you haven't voted for TheMadHouse yet, then please click here and give me your vote!


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        Emma Bridgewater – Getting to be a designer


        The highlight of the afternoon of our day at Emma Bridgewater was that we all got to have a go at decorating some mugs.


        It was so much fun, they have a large selection of pre cut sponges and a great choice of paint.


        The boys really enjoyed expressing themselves.



        MadDad had a go too, in fact his mug looked fantastic, he did tractors.


        Maxi really concentrated hard whilst painting his mug.


        Mini had some expert help at hand.


        We can not wait until the glazed finished mugs are posted to us.  It was so much fun and it as fantastic watching everyone get really stuck in.


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        Emma Bridgewater – Factory Tour, Part One

        Part OneWe had a fantastic day out at The Emma Bridgewater Factory on Tuesday to celebrate their 25th Birthday. 


        We started the day in the newly refubished cafe area of the factory for a tea and coffee and to meet my fellow bloggers.  Josie at Sleep is for the Weak, Becky at English Mum with her two boys (who were a real pleasure), Racheal from Tales from the  Village and we also made a new friend in Kate from Kitchen Critic.  There was this fantastic Aga, I was salivating!


        It is such a lovely relaxing area to meet and have a good old chat with everyone.


        We were then taken on a tour of the factory by Jamie, it was amazing and managed to hold the attention of Maxi and Mini most of the way round.  It is wonderful to see so many crafts people at work, showing real skill and dedication.


        This is where the slipwear is made - The web site has a great video explaining it all, which we showed the boys before our visit.


        There are pots drying everywhere and you can see the difference in the colour.


        MadDad had a go at throwing a plate.  One of the best parts of the factory tour for us was the empoyees, they were all really welcoming and freindly.  The didnt mind us taking pictures nad were really happy to chat.


        Many had been employed for a long time and they all really enjoyed their jobs.  This lady is finnishing the pots by removing excess clay from seams and edges.


        There are two types of decoration, this photo shows the transfer method, which is done on preglazed pot.


        The other method is by sponging the pattern.  It was wonderful to watch everyone at work, the photo above shows the personalisation.



        It is such a skill and there is one lady who spends all day cutting the sponges for the patterns.  Each sponge only lasts on average 3 days.


        Look at all the pottery waiting to go in to the kiln.  






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        The Gallery – Still Life

        This weeks theme for The Gallery, which Tara at Sticky Fingers hosts is Still Life.  Me and a group of bloggers were invited to Emma Bridgewater this week and I took over 300 photo's.  So here are a few (I have a full post to follow), so this is a sneak peak.











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        A Wonderful Bank Holiday Monday spent in the Kitchen and Garden


        I think the sun forgot our little park of the North East today.


        So we have spent the day baking.


        Maxi did all the weighing and measuring


        Mini did most of the stirring and tasting


        We have had a lot of fun and made lots of cakes

        Oat and raisin cooks and mince pies (mini's favorites)


        Many Muffins, sweet mincemeat and St Stephens Day Muffins, in addition to some fairy cakes.


        Whilst I was busy in the kitchen, MadDad tended the garden, including planting out the courgettes and cucumbers.


        Everything is looking great and really coming along.

        He also washed and cleaned the cars, ready for the trip we are taking today to Emma Bridgewater's Factory to celebrate their 25th Anniversary with them. We are very excited and I am sure will have loads to show and tell you.



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        Maxi’s first letter of appology!



        Maxi went round a friends after school for an hour last week (whilst I took Mini to his first swimming lesson) and was a terror, he didn't listen to her and in the mayhem a paddling pool (hard shell type) got broken.

        After his swimming lesson he came home and wrote this (all by himself)


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        Spiritual Sunday – Nourishment


        What feeds your soul?

        What to you need to enable you to live everyday?

        For me my family, my faith and my spirituality help me get through everyday, they help me find make some sense of the day to day struggles that we all call life.

        For me affirmations play a big role in helping me find calm and serenity during the day. They help keep me focused, balanced and calm.  They also help me in exploring my thinking and expanding the way in which I approach issues that I have in my life.  They help nourish me both mentally and spiritually.

        I am also trying to bring affirmations in the boys life.  Nothing scary, but basic affirmations, introducing confidence.

        I am smart, I can do this
        I am beautiful
        I am a good reader
        I am great at Maths
        I am always doing the best I can
        I am loved
        I am unique
        I am helpful

        In helping them chose the affirmations for them, we have been working on keeping them concise, focusing on "I am" and making them positive.  They are really starting to work, it is wonderful listening to Mini tell me what a great reader he is or Maxi telling me how he is quiet in the line for lunch.

        As the boys are now able to read we have printed these and others on to business cards and keep them in a small box.  When we hear the I cant word, then we tend to jump in with the affirmations, rather than the standard cant means wont.

        What so you do to help your children believe in themselves and develop confidence?
        How do you nourish your soul?



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        The Duckpond


        Let me take you on a little adventure and introduce you to a our local pond, which for a long time I had no idea was there!

        We live on a new estate on the edge of village and tucked away behind the houses and between the bypass, there is a wonderful pond.

        It is firmly becoming a favorite place for me and the boys to visit after school, as it is only a three minute walk and it is often deserted.


        We are the only people there feeding the many ducks, duckings, geese and goslings.




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        Guest Post Day – Rock n Roll Baby World

        It is the second guest post day, which is the fab idea of Erica at Little Mummy. I took part in the first day and was matched with the fab Kelly at A Place of My Own. This time I have been paired with Rock n Roll Mummy, who has just started blogging at Rock n Roll Baby World. Her post is pretty close to my heart as my wonderful Neice, who will be 5 on Monday is Ginger too

        Ginger and Proud

        When I was little I didn’t realise having ginger hair would make me the subject of cruel jibes and jokes; as I got older and started middle school I began to realise my hair which I had always loved made me stand out and made me different.

        Over my teen years I began to hate the colour of my hair and wished it was just brown like many of my friends not only was it bright red when the other kids called me names my face also went bright red.

        Rock n Roll Mummy with Rock Baby

        I had gone through a blissful childhood of my parents and family telling me what a beautiful colour it was and my mum used to dry it for me and spend ages perfecting it for me after bath time as it was so long, pretty much to my bum that I couldn’t do it on my own. I used to love the time we had, whilst she would lovingly tend to my hair, gossiping about my day at school, her grilling me as to whether I liked any boys, and just spending quality time with each other. My mum passed away when I was 17 but I have really fond memories of this time together.

        My brother had it worse than me his hair was even brighter than mine and he wore glasses he was particularly bullied and used to get called Duracell by the local school thugs. No wonder he has now shaved his head!

        In my late teen years, early 20’s I started experimenting with different colours trying to make it more brown, I went really dark at one point, then I tried highlights but ended up looking like Ginger Spice; nothing really worked for me. Not only was my hair ginger it was like a thick bush not a very glamorous look!

        But then something happened in my early 20’s, people kept commenting on how lovely my hair was, I had started seeing boys and they were always complimenting it, I had grown in confidence and started to realise its actually quite cool to be different and stand out from the crowd. I got a new hairdresser who just happened to be male, gorgeous and even better straight! And he told me my hair colour was actually copper gold not ginger and so now when people comment, normally just when they think its for a laugh I firmly correct them well actually it’s Copper Gold. When I discovered GHD straighteners, they literally changed my life. This will probably sound very shallow but when you were the geeky ginger kid at school with a bush for a hair cut only then can you appreciate how much of a difference they make.

        It is amazing how much discrimination you can get from having a different hair colour and how victimised you can sometimes feel. I was actually ashamed when I was younger and at many points wanted the ground to swallow me up. Even now music videos like M.I.A ‘Born Free’ are highlighting this in a particularly disturbing video in which US troops are gathering up ginger haired boys and assassinating them. The video is supposed to be art and a symbol of discrimination as a whole but I wonder what impact the video will have on all the children at school who are already the butt of numerous jokes, will this video make it worse for them?

        Pop Princess

        Then I think about my own children, my two girls Pop Princess who is 2 ½ and Rock Baby who is 4 ½ months. PP was born with a massive mop of thick dark hair and while it does have a red hint she is darker than her little sister. RB on the other hand was born with bright red hair, very much like her mummy. I think she is stunning with gorgeous red locks and bright blue eyes. I just hope that she will love her hair as much as I love mine now and that she doesn’t suffer from the same old jokes and jibes and that society and the media may change their perception. I want her to grow up proud to be ginger!


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        Writing Workshop – Hues of Orange

        We had a caravan when I was growing up.  No, not one of those wonderful static caravans, no we had a box on wheels, so summers were spent setting off in the dead of the night to the English Riviera. 

        Well before seat belts became compulsory, my parents would pack the cool box, the pillows and the duvets to make the back seat in to a makeshift bed for my younger brother and me and once we were asleep they would gently lift us to the car and start our adventure.

        Often the we woke to the sound of cars thundering by, as my parents had a cup of tea from the thermos flask in a lay by before setting off again on what seemed like a never ending journey to the other end of the country.  A place where the sun shone and was much warmer than our little patch of the North East.  

        Once we arrived at our destination we were dispatched to the park on the site whilst the van was prepared for that night, only returning when our stomachs started rumbling.  Left to make friends and leave the parents alone, so that they could open up the wine and get the windbreak pitched.
        I remember these trips fondly.  Of baths in buckets and cold showers.  Of share toilet blocks and running in the dark and cold for a pee in the middle of the night.  I look back on the endless days playing swingball with my dad and my mum managing to cook a Sunday roast in a caravan oven and I want to repeat them with my children.

        I grew up with regular visits to the English seaside.  Where you needed to have a windbreak and a great big towel for once we came out of the water.  I have memories of being in the sea in a blow up dinghy connected to my dads arm by a long piece of rope, of having the freedom to rock pool and build sandcastles.  The great big moats filling up as the tide came in.

        The Breakfasts were always cooked by Dad and we would have sausages, bacon and eggs fresh from the closest farm.  We never had to have cereal like at home.  Holidays were special.  A break from the norm, something to be cherished. e feeling of sand between by toes and often between my teeth too.  

        I used to hate the holiday coming to an end, I used to dread the packing up.  I loved spending time with my dad and this meant that he would be returning to work.  I was a real daddy's girl and we would be inseparable for most of the holiday.
        We would always stop at a farm and pick up bags of plums and other fruit before making the long journey home, once home we would make jam or "sunshine in a jar" as it became known to me as a reminder of those heady days of high summer.

        Those care free, heady days of the 70's, where everything seemed to be orange or brown or it is in my memory, but I wonder how much of that is due to the orange hue that the photographs have taken over time.

        I loved the summer, I still do.

        This was written for the writing workshop at Sleep is for the weak and I chose prompt 1. Summer



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        The Gallery – Freindship


        Long may it last


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        Children’s Craft Showcase – Fathers Day Cards and Presents

        Fathers day will soon be upon us, it is Sunday 20th June this year and I have been busy thinking about cards and gifts for MadDad.  If you are anything like me then you would prefer to give a home made card every time.I have a couple of very simple ideas for you. kid made fathers day cards
        I was inspired by Valerie at Frugal Family Fun Blog for this card.
        Materials
        Card stock
        pencil or pen
        circle stickers, various colours
        scissors
        Method
        Initially fold your card stock in half to to create a greeting card shape
        Draw a number of lines horizontally across the card to make the wire for the birds to sit on.
        Depending on the age of your child, you can either cut the stickers for them or help them.
         
        You use half a sticker (semi-circle) for the birds body, a sixth of the sticker to make the tail feathers and an eight of the circle to make the birds beak.
        Using either a pencil or a fine liner add some feet and eyes for the birds
        It is really easy, simple, very effective and then all that is left is to add your cheesy bird quotesNext up is a twist on our favourite chick cards, we have done this for my niece who is 5 this week.
        Materials Card stock Paper Scissors feathers Googlie eyes Glue Method Again very simple, Mini cut out two bird shapes (semi circle) and stuck them to the folded card stock.
        We used two triangles cut out of foam for their beaks and a feather for the tails.  He also used foam shapes to add an age and name on to the card. Scrap Art Book Marks This is a super way of using up and making purposeful bits of art that the children have done.  For ours I used our Mable Paintings.
        kid made fathers day bookmarks recycling art
        Materials Card Scissors or paper cutter Scrap Artwork Paper Glue Laminator or clear sticky backed plastic (also know as contact paper) Method
        Cut and matt the scrap artwork and your choice or card, making sure that the artwork is slightly smaller than the card backing and glue on.
        We made a back for the bookmark out of paper, which read Happy Father's Day 2009 and then mini decorated it and stuck it on to the rear of the bookmark.
        I then laminated them, I got four in to one pouch leaving space for the sheet to adhere between the bookmarks.  If you don't have a laminator (mine was £5 from Tesco), then you can use clear sticky backed plastic or contact paper.
        I then used my guillotine to cut them up to individual double sided book marks.
        -------------------------------------------
        I hope I have inspired you to get crafting for Father's day this year  and if you do, I would love for you to come back and link here, so that we can all see and maybe have a try of your ideas too.
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        Halcyon days – An afternoon event at the school


        MadDad and I spent a wonderful afternoon at Maxi's school last Wednesday.  We had been invited for a coffee, cake and fun with the children.


        I had forgotten my camera, so I took these images with the histomatic application on the iPhone - yes I know old hat by now, but I am a late adopter!


        We spent a brilliant 1 and half hours listening to all the children in the year singing songs and playing games.


        The weather was perfect, not too sunny, but warm.


        The teaching staff had all been very busy baking and the cakes were delicious.


        But the best part for us was just watching Maxi have fun in his own environment.


        To be able to chat to his teacher in a relaxed environment and meet up with more of the parents.

        Yes it was all to raise funds for the year group trip, but it was a fun afternoon and I want to say thankyou very much for a great way to fundraise.

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        A Weekend in Pictures











         

        Yes, we have all had a blast!


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        Spiritual Sunday – Kindness


        I talked earlier in the week about the values I am trying to instill in to my children and this week we have been discussing kindness.

        Fellow Blogger Suzie at New Day New Lesson has a kindness club, so we have been talking about her weekly initiatives.


        What is kindness and why it is important? this is one of the things we have been discussing this week
        • the quality of being warmhearted, sympathetic, considerate, charitable, pleasant and humane
        • To be able to forgive
        The boys have been actively working on their acts of kindness this week and we had a great example by Mini at our community coffee morning yesterday.  It has been very hot and they were serving ice pops for the children and Mini had consumed so many he was facing turning in to one and they were running out.  He took his 10p and and went to ask for another and was told it was the last one, when one of his friends from school came and wanted it, as he hadn't had one, mini gave him his.  I didn't prompt this, he just did it.

        I am trying to explain to the boys that they should treat others, as they would wish to be treated and slowing I do believe it is going in.

        How to you introduce Christianity or spiritualism in to your children's lives?  I found MadDad chatting away to our local Jehovah's Witness this morning, now MadDad is an atheist through and through, but he was discussing with them the importance to him in bring up his children with christian values and beliefs until they were old enough to make their own decisions.
        It really made me smile, he was stood on the drive with the boys (waiting for me as usually to go off to the coffee morning) and they actually waved us goodbye, he might not have agreed with their methods or branch of religion, but he listened and chatted to them and this made me proud to be with this great man.




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        Good enough to Eat Swap


        I took part in the good enough to eat swap, where I was partnered with Gill The Vintage Gardener


        Gill is a very talented lady and she sent some wonderful things, all tied up with gardening twine



        A fab lavender heart and marching bookmark


        Some delicious fabric


        Two wonderful pot stands, we are using these on the dining table



        Look at these stunning tags, Gill makes these and sells them at her Folksy Shop


        I also got this divine pouch filled with more tags, which I adore


        Plus some lovely stationery (which for some reason blogger wont include the right way up).
         
         


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        I am over at Baby Budgeting

        In  case you are wondering where I am today, you can find me over at fellow Mads Finalist's Baby Budgeting where I am cooking with glue.


        There is still still time to vote, so please do vote for me by clicking here.


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        Writing Workshop – The best things come to those who wait

         
        The best things come to those who wait, well that's what they say.
        I am not good at waiting, no I don't have a patient bone in my body.
        If I want something then I want it yesterday.  I want it NOW.
        I have been known to stamp my feet and bat my eyelashes to try and get what I want.
        But what about when not one can give you that thing?
        What then?

        For me I hid my need, I pretended that I was happy.
        I even managed to convince myself that life was good.
        And it was.  I was happy.
        I lived a good life, a great life and managed not to think about what was missing.
        But ever so often, something happened to make me realise what was missing.
        Something that made me take a sharp breath in order to take the pain away.
        Where was I, yes life was good.

        Every so often, I would be given hope, only to have it dashed.
        I was given glimpses in to the life that might be.
        Sometimes these periods lasted six weeks, sometimes a lot longer.
        But each time they were fleeting, leaving me with a sense of deja vu.
        Each time I came back stronger and more determined that there was nothing missing in my life.
        We talked about the fact that we were content with our lot and I was finally resigned to what I had.
        Then it happened, something collided and the planets aligned.
        Finally after years of waiting,
        After the heartache of getting close, far too close on occasion.
        We were blessed with a happy, healthy baby.
        And then just like buses who seem to come all at once.
        fifteen months later we were blessed with another.


        No I no longer need to convince myself that life is good.
        life really is good, we really didn't know just what we were missing.
        I didn't realise that my jigsaw puzzle had four pieces.
        But now I have what I wanted all along and I am not going to stop giving my all.
        I am happy.

        This week for Sleep is for the Weaks Writing Workshop I chose Prompt 2 Write about something that was worth waiting for – what was worth the patience and frustration?
         
        -Inspired by new mummy’s Tiddlyompompom and And One more Means Five who both had gorgeous babies this last week. Congratulations!






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        The Gallery – Self portrait

        Yes I too am the one always behind the camera in this house, the one taking hundreds, not thousands of images. 

        So when Tara at Sticky Fingers posted that this weekstheme was Self Portrait.

        So May I present, me

         
        Me and the boys all snuggled up and watching Doctor who a couple of weeks ago.


        Me with Mini as a baby with long hair, before my operations


        Finally me, about an hour ago, after my first trip to the hairdressers in a while, shorter hair, a lot greyer, but happy.



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        Tiffin/Rocky Road

        In an homage to my fellow MAD finalist Nick at My Daddy Cooks, Mini and I made a twist on his and Archies Tiffin 


        We followed Nick's basic recipe, but made a few tweaks as we went along.

        125g butter
        250g digestive biscuits
        4 tbsp golden syrup
        3 tbsp high quality cocoa powder
        75g raisins
        250g plain/dark chocolate

        Instead of using the microwave we melted our butter, golden syrup and chocolate over the stove, for me I love the way it all melts together, so smooth and silk like.


        We then added it to our biscuit mix and added in raisins and mini marshmallows.


        What is truly great about this recipe is that mini did most of the work, but adding golden syrup, you make the chocolate more pliable and it takes longer to set.  I always add golden syrup to the chocolate when making crispy cakes or our Jelly Baby Jesus Cakes



        We placed the mix in to a silicon tray and pushed in some more marshmallows on top and I left it in the fridge for an hour or so, whilst mini set to on the spatula and bowl.


        Once it was set, I cut it in to very small squares.  We have been enjoying this as a treat once the boys are home from school with a nice cup of tea.


        If you would like to vote for me in The Mads (Mummy and Daddy Blogger Awards) then please follow this link.  I really appreciate your vote.


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        Manners Maketh the Man or Boys, but what is imporatant?

        I have said many times that I want my children to be happy in life, but in order for me to be happy with them, I need for them to have a firm and good set of core values and beliefs, so below are a list of things we are working to instill in them.


        Respect for the opposite sex

        It is incredibly important for me that the boys, value, cherish and respect girls.  That they understand the differences and uniqueness and celebrate them for it.  I want the boys to become good men.

        Family

        To me family is everything, I want the boys to learn to love our family, to understand that we all love each other, even when we do not agree and that our love is unmovable and so will theirs be.  That home is a safe haven and will always be just that their home.  They should be houses built on a firm foundation.

        Hardwork

        I want them to understand that you have to work hard to get what you want and need and that there is no shame in putting in 100%, in fact that the more you give often the more you get back.  I want them to be determined, tenacious and to strive for things.  I want them to come to me with solutions for approval, to look beyond the issues.

        Honesty and Integrity
        I want the boys to always try and be honest and truthful.  I want them to understand that the cornerstone of most relationships is trust.  This is a hard lesson, especially as a child, but one that will see them through their whole lives and enrich relationships. I also want them to be honest to themselves.

        Love and friendships

        The more we give the more we receive, to be loved is the most precious thing in life.  To have firm friendships and develop close bonds.  I want them to learn to trust their intuition regarding their friends and to be good friends to each other too.  To learn that showing affection is a good thing and should be expressed.

        Quietness

        This is a hard one, but I hope to instill in them the ability to enjoy peace and quiet, not only in the world around them, but to find it in themselves.  To be aware of the stillness, openness and potential of intentional silence and not find the need to fill the spaces.

        Respect

        I want them to respect their elders, to know when to open doors and step back, but I also want them understand respectfulness,  to take peoples feelings, needs, thoughts, ideas, wishes and preferences into consideration,  To grow to understand that respect is earned by their actions and reactions.

        Compassion

        For me this means teaching what goes around comes around and that they should treat people how they would wish to be treated.  That it is OK to empathise with someone, but that sometimes compassion requires an action.

        Responsibility and accountability

        To understand that they have a choice of what to do with their lives, but that choice comes with a cost, that they have to be not only , responsible but accountable for their actions and to learn to understand the difference.

        Manners

        As my mum will say, manners cost nothing, but mean so much.  Please and thank you are sacred words in this house.  Please may I have, not I want.  It is amazing what a difference a turn of phrase can make.  Holding open a door, not pushing past someone.  Manners maketh the man and in my boys case I really hope this is true.  I feel that they can get away with being a little cheeky if they have the manners to back it up.


         So for us the next challenge is how to keep instilling these essences in to the boys.  How to reinforce our messages and help them become the men that I hope they have the poential to be.  I am a great believer of behaviour breeds behaviour, so a lot of the time, I try and do as I say and lead my example, but it is not always as easy.


        What values do you want your children to have and how are you working on instilling and teaching them to them?




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        Spiritual Sunday – Grateful

        I spent a wonderful day yesterday with my Mum.  For the first time since she was in hospital in March we spend the morning  pottering round our local shops (yes I took and she filled my shopping trolley).  We then came back to themadhouse and spent an afternoon as a family.  So I thought a gratitude post was due.


        Things I am grateful for

        Sunshine - this makes such a difference to life, we shopped in town, hung washing on the line, went to the park and sat in the garden .

        Mum feeling happier - even though mum is not physically any better, she is mentally on the mend, she was able to spend an hour at the park with the boys on her own and texted to say she had really enjoyed her day.

        Mini in the Kitchen - I am grateful that my children enjoy helping me cook and bake, mini and I made garlic bread and pizza for dinner and had so much fun.
        Painkillers - corny, but they really did save the day, making it much more tolerable for me.

        Good neighbours - We found out that one of our neighbours are expecting their 5th child in October, how wonderful is that?  Plus they have a new greenhouse and offered us some space in it if we wish.
        Mr Smudge - There is nothing like curling up and stroking him when the boys have gone to bed.

        So my friends, what is making you grateful this beautiful Sunday?




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        Spring Swap

        As you know I really do enjoy a nice swap and have signed up for quite a few recently.  I was paired with Helen for Molly Cupcakes Spring swap and look what she sent me


        I was lucky enough to get some wonderful things including some CK smellies, napkins and chocolate of course.



        A lovely tin bird house, which the minimads have popped on the front of their playhouse!


        A hand painted sign, which is now hanging in my kitchen.


        A beautiful lavender filled bird, which I adore.

        A pink bead heart


        A super cute bunny.  I was overwhelmed and love it all.  Thanks Helen

        If you want to see what I sent Helen, then take a look at her blog here.

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        International Postcard Swap



        We signed up for the International Postcard Swap over at Playing by the Book and have been having a great time sending the postcards to our families we were allocated.


        Maxi helped write the cards, letting everyone know about the boys favorite book Aliens Love Underpants by Claire Freedman and Ben Court.


        Mini decided that he likes the taste of stamps.  We were somewhat disappointed that our village post office and that of the two closest to us didn't have any interesting picture stamps, so sorry folks.


        The boys also looked up the destinations of their postcards in their atlas, Germany, Canada, USA x2 and UK.


        They then stuck the relevant flag in their sticker book on flags of the world, which was £2.99 from Amazon.


        The following day we took a trip to our nearest post box and carefully posted the postcards to our swap families.


        We have started to receive our postcards and I will be doing a post on what we are doing with them as soon as they all arrive.

        This is a great swap and I would recommend more people to join the next time Zoe does one.  I also want to say thank you to Zoe as I understand that this was very much hard work.



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        Writing Workshop – My Spring and Summer Manifesto


        Dear Voters (well my boys in this one)

        We will make life fun, we will focus on laughter and giggles and grasp what we can get out of the day.
        We shall enjoy the seaside and I will ensure that we have the wet suits in the car at all time.
        We shall endeavor to make the most of the sunshine and of the environment around us.
        We shall picnic in our secret place and run free on the moors.
        We shall barbecue in the garden on a Saturday evening focusing on good food and great company.
        We shall enjoy the harvest from our garden.
        We will make, bake and create on a regular basis. I will not worry about the mess, or stress about the outcome.
        We with feed the ducks and float homemade paper boats on the pond.
        We will go on family walks and use your maps to explore new places.
        We will explore the wonderful parks in the local area and find our favorites.
        We will camp and explore new areas, cuddling up under our canvass.
        I will try not to shout, but you will need to listen and not just hear.
        We will swim and play football.
        I will try to say yes more.
        I will try and be the best I can.
        We will dream, we will grow and we will remain family.

        This post was inspired by promt 4 What’s YOUR party manifesto? for Sleep is for the Week's Writing Workshop


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        The Gallery – Men

        This week's prompt over at The Gallery is Men. Pictures of the men in your life - dads, sons, uncles, teachers, partners, brothers.   Let's hear it for the men!

        So I give you the men in my house:


         

        My wonderful constant companion thought life, he can be many things to many people, including a maker, an educator, a boss, a colleague, a lover, a husband, a dad, a provider....


        He has and is there for me and the boys when we are unwell, always putting us first no matter what.  He is a wonderful daddy and they couldn't have asked for more.


        He is fun, amazing and just wonderful, as I have said he is practically perfect in every way!


        He is the reason I have the two little men in my life, who fill each day with joy, terror, noise and love (not in equal measure)!

        Maxi writing a shopping list

        Mini making a smoothie


        The boys are constant companions for each other and love doing things together, which really makes my heart sing.


        And last but not least the other "man" in my house, because this is a house where I am the only female, let me introduce you to Mr Smudge, our somewhat geriatric, but totally adored cat.


        So thanks guys, for being here, for taking this ride with me.

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        Children’s Craft Showcase – Painting


        Sometimes painting with children can seem such a daunting task, it can take on a uncontrollable pace all of its own, which is why it is often great to use paint with an end in mind.

        So I set up the painting tings on the dining table yesterday for when I collected the minimads from school and decided we would do blow painting with a straw and then do some marble rolling.
        Materials

        Paint
        Water
        Paper
        Straws
        Marbles
        Tray (A bowl would be better from smaller children)

        Method

        You need to water down your paint for this to make sure that it blows and rolls easily.  I tend to drop blobs of colour one at a time on the paper for the boys to blow with the straw.


        I also show them how to turn the paper so that the paint doesn't come off the edge.


        They both prefer marble rolling, they have such fun and we all ended up in a pile on the floor laughing at all the times the marble left the tray, which is why a washing up bowl would be easier for smaller children.


        You can also use a larger ball and dip the ball in the pain rather than rolling it through a large splodge on the paper.


        I love the randomness of the images and the ways the colours blend.  We had a great fun few hours.

        So anyone who is doing crafting with their children, please link up below, I would love to see what you are doing and get some inspiration for me and the boys.


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          The Best Ever Oat and Raisin Cookies in the world

          I dont say it lightly, but these cookies are amazing and never last in our house.  They truly are the best.  This is an American Recipe (it came on the back of some sunmaid raisins from the US), but that said is super easy for the boys, as I have some plastic cup measures that they use.

          So here goes



          Ingredients

          3/4 cup softened butter or margarine
          1 cup soft brown sugar
          1/2 cup caster sugar
          1/4 cup milk
          1 large egg
          1 teaspoon vanilla extract
          1 cup plain flour
          1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
          1/2 teaspoon baking soda
          1/4 teaspoon salt
          3 cups quick or old-fashioned oats
          1 cup Raisins
           
          Method
          Heat oven to 180. 
          Beat butter, brown sugar, caster sugar, milk, egg and vanilla until light and fluffy.
          Combine flour, cinnamon, baking soda and salt.
          Add to butter mixture and mix well.
          Stir in oats, raisins and nuts, if using. Drop by tablespoonfuls onto greased cookie sheets.
          Bake 12 to 15 minutes. Remove from cookie sheets.
          Cool on wire racks.


          Then get the children to clean up after themselves!


          If you like them, then I am sure you will love the best carrot cake in the world ever too, dont take my word for it, have a look at some of the comments.

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          Spiritual Sunday – Happiness

          Now and then it's good to pause in our pursuit of happiness and just be happy.

          Guillaume Apollinaire

          This kind of hits it on the head for me at the moment.  I need to stop all the hustle and bustle, all the pushing and pulling and just be.  


          So this morning I am thankful for the boys returning from the shop with some lovely flowers and I bit my tongue about not having enough money.


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          A little help for my friends

          I have been ever so lucky in this wonderful world of blogs to have made some great friends and have met some really inspiring people, so today I want to tell you about a couple of them and ask you to help where you can.

          Firstly Stephanie.  Stephanie is an inspiration to me, has been since the moment I first read her blog Bah! to Cancer, you see Stephanie has been dancing with Breast Cancer (you don't die from dancing do you?) and  doing so in a dignified and insightful way.

          One of Stephanie's Ideas is the Bah! Brilliant Book Bonanza, This is a great way of giving uplifting books to people who need a good read. 

          She is also taking part in the race for life and has a Bah! to cancer team.  All in all she is a really special kind of person, once that you don't come across all the time.



          Next up is Dan and the Hadrians Walkers, who are these people you ask and what are they doing.  Well they are a group of 60 people who in July will be walking the length of Hadrian's Wall in six days. That's 84 miles across the entire width of England.
          space
          They are  walking in aid of the Joseph Salmon Trust, a charity founded by Dan's friends in memorial to their son Joseph who died aged 3 in April of 2005.
          space
          The Joseph Salmon Trust supports parents who have lost a child by providing financial assistance to those who need it most.


          You can find their just giving site here 
            


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          Mini(isms)

          Me and Mini take my mum shopping every Thursday and whist in the car on the way yesterday we were chatting as you do and he just stopped me in my tracks.  I can not believe this little man of mine, my baby, my cuddler will be 4 next month and I just had to record some of the things he says and I love.
           

          Although shopping with Mini and Mum can be stressful, I love the speical time I have with mini on a morning, I love our cuddles and our little chats.

          You want to be a nurse, not a doctor as you don't want to wear a stethoscope, but you do want to help people and you like the way the nurses always help me.  So yes you want to be a nurse that travels round the world and first you want to go to Haiti.   This really stopped me in my tracks as we have never talked about jobs before.

          You told Grandma today that you would be going to college after school.

          I love the way you stop mid-sentence to try and think of the right word, you just sit waving your hands.

          You also seem to start every sentence with the words "you know mum", to which I often reply "yes I know mini".

          You have started to clap out syllables and spell out words

          You ask for J A M on your toast

          When asked your name, you always reply with your full name, including your middle name.
          You are fiercely independent

          You still love your dummy and are not ready to give it up just yet, although you only have it for bed.

          Your bears are also firmly required when you go to bed and I often wake with a bear and you beside me.
           

          I love how you always manage to turn upside down in your bed!

          You think I am beautiful.





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          Please Vote for me!

          I am such a happy little blogger right now, I have reached the top five in the Family Fun Blog Catagory in The Mad's, the awards for  Daddy and mummy Bloggers in the UK.
           
          To say I am overwhelmed is an understatement, especially when you see the others in the Family Fun Blog Category, I am in such good company.  So I am asking you to please vote for me, but I would also like that vote to be a fair and just one, so please let me introduce you to my fellow and somewhat amazing peers: Have a Lovely Time Have a Lovely Time is a collaborative blog written by a team of ten parent bloggers and journalists, who review family-friendly days out and attractions. The site covers everything from overseas holiday destinations to pantos and British days out, with a focus on affordable ways for families to have fun together. Website havealovelytime.com
          NurtureStore   NurtureStore is a store of ideas and inspiration for parents and childminders based on the experiences of Cathy, a part-time childminder and full-time Mum to two little girls of her own. The blog covers a range of activities, from cooking and gardening to crafts, imaginative play and yoga. Website nurturestore.co.uk
          A Mother¹s Ramblings
          A Mother's Ramblings is the story of Pippa, and her two children, known as Top Ender and Little Ender. Pippa shares with her readers stories of family days out, country walks and holiday plans, with lots of laughs along the way. Apparently Pippa¹s favourite TV programme is Neighbours, and her favourite colour is blue.  Website amothersramblings.com It's a Small World After All Family It's a Small World After All Family is the story of Victoria, Stephen, Eve, Edward and Dickon, who are planning to head off on a round the world trip in late 2010. In the meantime, this blog has lots of fantastic posts about family days out in and around London, with gorgeous photographs alongside. Website itsasmallworldafterallfamily.wordpress.com I didnt ask directly for any votes for the nomiation stage, but I am asking for your help now. So please vote for me, please ask your freinds to vote for me, please blog about voting for me and ask friends of your friends to vote for me too. I really appreicate and value everyone who takes the time to read my blog.
          Click here to vote
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          The Gallery – Hidden Places / Secret Britain

          This week The Gallery theme is about painting a picture of the world we live in: The hidden bits, the bits you feel are special and people should know about. The bits people wouldn't necessarily see. It is inspired by the  BBC initiative to discover Secret Britain.


           When Countryfile was on TV on Monday night this is what the boys said their secret place was.



          We have a place that we go, a place that is just perfect.  It has a fjord, so the boys can watch as the cars drive through it.


          It has a beck so the boys can paddle, now they don't care if it is in wellies and clothes or wetsuits and crocs.  They just love water.


          It has grass, so you can picnic and we always do.


          It often has wind (well we are talking the North of England here), so perfect for kites.


          It has some fantastic signed walks too, even a roman road.


          So where is this wonderful place I hear you ask, well it doesn't have a name, it is on a road in the middle of the North Yorkshire Moors, about 15 minutes drive from TheMadHouse.  It is the place we go to have fun as a family, to relax, to enjoy each others company and to just be. 

          It is our place.


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          Whats going on In TheMadHouse

          Things are moving forward in the MadHouse at the moment and we have so much going on, so this is a bit of a mixed bag of a post to say the least! Mini and School
          My wonderful, adorable and perfect little one is due to start school full time in September and I am finding the transition and knowing this really hard at the moment.  I commented on his preschool review that I was disappointed that they had been unable to move him to mornings with his key worker to enable the transition to full time easier for him and guess what, the head of year informed me last week that they have a position for him going on a morning.
          So MadDad and I have had a chat to him and on Tuesday he is going to spend an hour at preschool with the morning children and me and we are going to see how he settles.  I have decided that if he doesn't settle that I am not going to push it, as he has been rather clingy since I was in hospital last week.Mini and Pampers Underjams Mini has been dry during the day for the last 11 months, but night time has been very different for him.  I know you shouldnt compare children, but Maxi was dry night and day at the same time, so we dont have any other experiance.  So when Lucinda at Fleshman Hillard offered to sent me some Pampers Underjams, I jumped at the chance and they have done the business for us, no more upsets about not being a big boy, no more of Mini not wanting to wear any protection and no more wet beds.   They have really worked for us, Mini wanted to be like his big brother and not wear anything, but underjams are designed not to look like pulls ups, so he wore them and it has got us though to a stage where he doesnt need them at all. If you would like a sample of Pampers then please e-mail Lucinda directly and let her know your name, email address, mailing address, name of blog (if applicable), gender, and weight of child and she will get some out to you.
          Jury Service
          I blogged that I had been summonsed for Jury Duty and  was really concerned about how I would manage with it all, so I tool your comments in to consideration and wrote a letter to the court service explaining my situation.  I detailed that I am main carer for my mum, that I really didn't want to put Mini in to child care and that I also had health issues and I have been excused from this and future service, which is such a relief.  So thank you for all your advise and comments.
          Mum
          My mum is settled at home, has given up smoking and is really doing very well.  I am so proud on her for making such an effort and I know that it is really hard for her, as she used to be so much more independent.  We received a wheelchair for her this week, which will make getting out and about much easier.
          She was initially turned down for a ramp and a stair lift, but I have had a meeting with the Head of Occupational Therapy and we are waiting for a visit from an architect to see how a ramp can be installed and also the man from the stair lift company came this week to look at how a stair life could be installed.  My mum lives in a listed terrace and it seems that nothing is going to be simple!
          We have also seen the consultant about the test results and although mum does have a hernia, she is not well enough for surgery, so they are going to treat it medically, so all in all, things are looking much more positive for mum.
          Now we just have to see it she is entitled to attendance allowance, we have submitted the paperwork (5 weeks ago) and are just waiting to hear.
          Maxi
          My ever enchanting eldest is going to be taking park in a six week craft course after school on a Wednesday, which he is really looking forward to.  He also wanted to take part in an after school multi sport activity, but it is for 2 hours and is very expensive, so MadDad and I felt we had no choice but to say no.  Firstly his swimming tuition would be due the same week and also we feel that 2 hours is a long time for a 5 year old, plus he would be ravenous, I always take a snack for him when I collect him from school and he still manages to eat all his dinner, he would never survive till 5.15 without any food.
          He was pretty upset initially, but I am sure that he will get over it pretty quick.  I find it pretty annoying that they offer these things over the summer term, which is when I least need organised physical activity.  We always do something after school when the weather is good, even if it is just a trip to the beach, woods or the park.  I would much rather they do something over the winter.
          Me
          Well I am still shattered and I think that my iron level must still be low, as I am struggling for breath quite often.   I have had to give up caffeine, which for those of you that know me, you will realise it has been a really hard thing to do.  I am a Tea Monster.  I love my tea.  I am down to one cup of decaffeinated in the morning, which MadDad brings me in bed and then I am on to Mint Tea, which now the mint is growing again in the garden is not too bad (who am I kidding).  The reason for giving up the Tea is that caffeine inhibits the absorption of iron and I am keen to try what ever I need to, as I would like to avoid any more blood or iron transfusions.
          My tummy is still swelling and I am waiting for an appointment for some additional tests.  I have an appointment with my Plastic Surgeon to discuss reconstruction again.  I am not yet ready, but this way I am at least kept in the system.
          I have bought a shopping trolly to make life easier when taking mum shopping, less bags for me to carry means I can offer an arm for support
          Edited to say shopping trolley purchased from Ikea for £17
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          Locomotion – A great day out


          The boys took me to Locomotion, which is part of the National Railway Museum, but based at Shildon, as they had a steam gala on today and the Tornado Peppercorn Steam Train is there this weekend.


          Yes, even though it was raining, we decided to make the most of the holiday weekend and take a picnic anyway!
          So I made chocolate cakes and biscuits with the boys first thing, we packed a flash or two and also took some hot-dogs and buns in our food flask and set off.


          It is a great place, with loads to do for the children, games of all sorts and we had a great time.  In the photo above Mini and Maxi are setting the table against the clock in Hackworth's cottage.


          There is lots of small interactive games scattered throughout the place, which is great for keeping the boys occupied and of course it is full of trains!


          And even thought it was cold and a little damp there is a fantastic play park, which the boys really enjoyed.  A perfect day with my boys regardless of the weather.

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          Writing Workshop – Untill the next night



          I am anxious, trying not to think about what might be wrong
          I am trying hard to banish any worrying thoughts from my mind
          To compartmentalise my health worries
          Separating them from our everyday life

          But I am tired, oh so tired, exhausted beyond belief
          Trying hard to keep up with my boys
          which I do manage most day's
          But my nights suffer for it

          The thoughts they run free in the dark
          No longer masked by the bright sunshine of the day
          They invade my sleeping hours
          Leaving me no where to hide

          So how do I verbalise my worries?
          Will talking about them make them feel more real?
          I can not give them any more power than they already have
          So I will keep them to myself for now

          I will the night to pass, the clock to tick forward
          bringing the darkest hours before the dawn
          Dawn brings me my family, my reason, my being
          Giving me something to distract me

          I can almost feel the apprehension gripping on to my heart
          The nervousness making my tummy turn to jelly
          Yes I am worried
          But I refuse to allow the dread a presence during the daylight hours

          And soon enough the day does come
          A shard of light piercing the dark night
          The tiptoe of tint feet
          And great big warm cuddles making everything alright

          Untill the next night .......


          This week I chose prompt number 5 - Pick an emotion that best represents your state of mind right now and write creatively on that theme.

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          The Gallery – Portraits

          This weeks prompt over at Sticky Fingers for The Gallery was Portraits, how apt seen as I received these from school this week.




          They don't get much more adorable than this, do they?

          I am so lucky to have two such wonderful children, so some special things about my boys.
          I love nothing more than my morning snuggles with Mini, he often comes and joins us at some point during the night and we love it, we are cherishing the fact that he wants to be close to both me and MadDad.;;;;;I

          I love the fact that tucking Maxi in to bed is always such a treat, he is usually asleep before you even get out of the room!

          It is hard to believe that Mini is very nearly as tall as Maxi and he now has size 10 and a half feet!
          I am so impressed with Maxi's reading, it is coming on in leaps and bounds and he gets really animated when reading to us on an evening, the four of us sit together on the sofa and really love this time.

          I also really like the fact that they are becoming part of our neighbourhood and love that they are often called on to come out and play (I go up to my bedroom and watch them out the window).


          I think maybe the time is coming for the stabilisers to come off Maxi's bike.  We are only holding off, as we know that what one does the other always wants to follow.

          There is nothing better than coming home to two boys who make my heart sing and make most things a joy.


          They both blamanche or milky jelly.  They adore making it, which couldn't be simpler.  Dissolve the jelly in a quarter of a pint of boiling water, allow to cool but not set and then add half a pint of milk, pour in to moulds then pop in the fridge 30mins later you have this....


          Perfect to serve with strawberries


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          A weekend spent in the Garden

          I said that I had grand plans for the garden this weekend, well the weather was mostly kind and we did manage to get quite a lot done


          Onions have been planted out, 2 varieties, Red Barron and Bedford Champion.  We have also sown some spring onions (Lisbon) direct in to the bed.


          Rainbow Chard has been transplanted in to the bed too, alongside side Chinese Broccoli, which is a new vegetable for us.

          We have also direct sown the runner beans, peas and dwarf beans in to another bed.


          The potatoes have been planted in to our two barrels.


          Our Sunflowers have been transplanted too, the boys are so excited about these and can not wait for them to start getting bigger.


          We also managed to move the sandboat and the playhouse, well we swopped them round,as the sand needs to get more sun to dry out, we dug the wet sand in to the raised beds and will be getting new play sand at some point.

          There is still lots to do, but I have put away the other seeds for safe keeping and for the life of me can not find them!  I have also got some strawberries and tomatoes coming, which I used Tesco club card point to pay for.  Our neighbour dropped in two raspberry canes, which we are soaking ready to plant later in the week.

          We didn't plant the sweet peas out yet, as they could do with getting a little bigger. 

          So my plans for this week are:

          Sow some lettuce in trays
          Find my other seeds (spinach, Kale, Leeks) and sow in the conservatory
          Sow some radish in between the rows of beans
          Sow some borlotti beans in the conservatory

          Me and MadDad even contemplated putting our name down for an allotment, but part of the reason I love growing so much is that I can see it, the boys can see it and I can walk out the back door and pick something for dinner.  So even if I only have 3 small raised beds, they are wonderful.


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          Come over and take a look at TheMadHouse Makes – Blatant Self Publicity!

          As you know I love to craft and make things, whether that be with the boys or for the boys.  They have certainly brought out the creative side of me.

          So in order to help fund my fabric addiction and also to try and bring in some extra money (which we sorely need -  £82 for 2 pairs of school shoes!), I have decided to start selling some things that I make.

          Now I have no idea what will sell, so I am dipping my toe in the water, but I would also like to say that I can make to order should anyone wish.
          So please take a look and subscribe or become a follower on my new site TheMadHouse Makes.



          I am also busy stocking my Folksy Shop too, which can be found here 

          So here is an idea of the things I can and have made:


          Fabric table mat with place settings - £6.70 inc postage. 

          Pencil rolls - £6.50 including postage


          Children's celebration crowns - £15.00 including postage


          Mother of Pearl button hearts - £5.00 including postage


          Soy wax tea cup candle, Jasmin scented £10.00 plus £3.70 postage


          Quilted Laptop/Mac book covers - £25.00 including postage

          I am more than will to work with you to personalise and choose fabric, if you are interested then please get in touch.


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          Spiritual Sunday – Grateful

          This morning is such a contrast to yesterday morning.  Yesterday the sun was beaming in the windows, we had the doors all wide open and spent the day in the garden, but this morning it is grey, dull and RAINING, but in some ways this only makes me feel so grateful that we made the most of yesterday and really enjoyed it.


          So some other things I am grateful for this Sunday.

          The Rain... yes the rain.  We planted some vegetables and seeds yesterday and this rain is doing a pretty good job of watering in the raised beds.

          Warm porridge with maple syrup, our breakfast of choice at the moment.
          Mint leaves from the garden to make fresh mint tea with.  The docs asked me to try giving up tea for a while as it inhibits the absorption of iron, this is hard for me being a tea monster.

          I am also so grateful that the boys really do seem to be really enjoying each others company and play well together at the moment.

          I am also ever so grateful for whoever has nominated me in the MAD's, Mummy and Daddy (MAD) Blog Awards, celebrating the utter brilliance of British parent blogs.


          Today is the last day of open nominations for the first stage of the awards, so if you haven't voted yet, then please follow this link to give your opinions and make your votes.




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          Dear So and So – The Hospital Version


          Dear Bolshy Horrible Young Woman in Hospital

          What goes around comes around and it is no wonder that the nursing staff and consultant treated you in the way they did.  Your language was appalling, you were forever off having a cigarette and missed rounds twice, you answered your phone in front of the Consultant.  Courtesy and politeness cost nothing, even if you are in pain.  You are young, you will learn.

          A very Angry Mad
          --------------------


          Dear Nursing Staff

          Thank you very much for the superb treatment I received this week, I know that you are understaffed and underpaid, but you really did make things much easier for me.  You work non stop for your whole shift and still found the time to come and sit with me and explain again about my treatment.

          A very grateful Mad
          ----------------------


          Dear Consultant and sidekicks

          Again a great big thank you for putting my mind at rest regarding any possible cancer and for explaining everything to me so clearly and concisely and then doing it again when MadDad visited.  It can be so hard to explain my paranoia sometimes with out sounding like a complete hypochondriac and a loon.

          An OK there is something wrong, but it's not cancer
          ------------------------


          Dear Blood Donors

          A huge big up to all those of you who regularly give blood, without you I would not be home with my boys.  I had four pints of some generous peoples blood and it really makes a difference, often a life or death one.  I can not put in words how thankful I am

          Yours vampire Mad
          ------------------------


          Dear Mini and Maxi Mad

          I know the hospital is a scary place that brings back memories of a terrible time, but I wanted to let you know that I was and am so proud of the way you behaved when you visited me, you made me a very happy mummy indeed.

          A besotted MummyMad
          ---------------------------

          Dearest MadDad

          Well what can I say, sorry to keep putting you through these sleepless nights worrying about me.  At least it isn't cancer, we can deal with whatever it may be.  Plus you run the house and the boys better than me!

          Your loving wife
          --------------------

          If you have a Dear so and so letter then come along and link it at Kats at 3 Bedroom Bungalow



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          Raffle in Aid of Cancer Research

          My wonderful talented and very clever friend Abi from Bub's Bears and Mutterings from the moor decided to start a raffle for one of her fantastic bears in aid of Cancer Research


          The response has been overwhelming and she is well on her way to reaching her target of £200, but offers of more prizes have been flooding in, so below is a selection of what else you could win.

           
          Prudence the chicken made by Claire


          A Book of weird and wonderful short stories by Abi's husband


          A Tea Cosy from Kelly


          Beautiful handmade cards from Al


           A stunning cushion by Amber


          An amazing reversible adults apron from Julie
           
           
          A handmade button heart from me!

          So please, please, please make a donation and you could be in with a chance to win.  All we ask is that your donation is over £1.




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          Been In Hospital

          I have been in hospital a couple of nights and had to have a number of blood transfusions due to serve anemia.  I have also had a B12 injection as I am lacking in that too.

          I have also undergone a number of tests, scans and x-rays, but the doctors have not yet ascertained why I have this anemia, but I am coming home and we are going to continue investigations as an outpatient. 

          I am starting to look a lot better and actually have some colour, although I do feel a bit like a vampire the amount of blood I have seen over the last couple of days.

          Thankfully It look all clear on the cancer front and I will be having some additional test before the consultants decides I have Pernicious Anemia, which will mean quarterly visits to the hospital for iron infusions and B12 injections.

          I am so glad to be going home, to my boys and my bed.



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          Childrens Craft Showcase – Volcano’s


          I dont know about your children, but my two are now obsessed with volannco's thanks to the icelandic one.

          We caught them making thier own volancic ash cloud with dust and mud from the pavement and then water on Friday evening and decided that we would have a go a making our own active volcano.

          Materials


          Bicarbinate of soda
          Vinigar
          Bottles
          Hot water
          Food colouring
          Funnel


          Salt dough is optional, mine wanted their bottles to look like mountains!

          Method

          Fill the bottles 2 thirds full with hot water and add a drop of washing up liquid and food colouring (to make your lava authentic!).  Add two table spoons of bicard to the warm water solution.