If your children are anything like mine they might have slipped back in to the habit of reaching for screens first over this festive period. Both the boys now have an Ipod, which seems permanently attached to their hands and I really have felt the need to look at ways to encourage them away from their reliance on technology. I find that this is only really an issue over the dark winter months as during the lighter nights their first reaction is to play outside with their friends.
So over January I am going to be giving you (and them) a screen free activity each day on The Mum in The Mad House facebook page. Come and join us and let me know if the prompts are working fo0r you and your children.
Yesterday we worked on our words for the year and Mini's was Harmony as he is going to look at improving his temper and to try and not fight with Maxi!
Maxi's word was Creative as he understands that he needs to be more creative in life and not look to technology all the time.
Maxi initially had issues with doing this activity, but it seems he just has problems with failure to transition from one activity to another. Once he started this task he really enjoyed it and had so much fun. I am hoping by having a word to focus on we can light that spark of imagination again and be a little more #ScreenFree.
My word for 2013 was Joy, or more specifically Choosing Joy. I focused on looking past the negatives and choosing to find joy in all I see, do and make. It wasn't always easy, but the more I did it, the easier it became and I actually found that I started to do it automatically without thinking about it.
We have been truly blessed in 2013 with some fantastic family experiences, but there has also been some real challenges. I hope that I have dealt with them mostly with dignity and also learned from the experiences. I have certainly learned who my true friends are, but I have also learned that I need to let go and just make the most of everyday.
This year I want to concentrate on Nurture.
verb: nurture; 3rd person present: nurtures; past tense: nurtured; past participle:nurtured; gerund or present participle: nurturing
care for and protect (someone or something) while they are growing.
"Jarrett was nurtured by his parents in a close-knit family"
bring up, care for, provide for, take care of, attend to, look after, rear,support, raise, foster, parent, mother, tend; More
help or encourage the development of.
"my father nurtured my love of art"
cherish (a hope, belief, or ambition).
"for a long time she had nurtured the dream of buying a shop"
the action or process of nurturing someone or something.
"the nurture of children"
encouragement, promotion, fostering, development, cultivation,boosting, furtherance, advancement More
upbringing, education, and environment, contrasted with inborn characteristics as an influence on or determinant of personality.
"we are all what nature and nurture have made us"
upbringing, bringing up, care, fostering, tending, rearing, raising,training, education More
I need to nurture myself a little more and focus on finding answers to the ongoing health issues I suffer from and find ways that I can support my body and soul with my condition and be a little gentler on myself. But I also want to extend this to all the other areas of my life too.
I am going to continue to learn new skills and keep up my sewing lessons on a weekly basis and also the Saturday workshops now and then. I also want to work on my photography skills and have joined the Manual Overdrive course with Capturing Childhood. I have found that learning new things nourishes me and enables me to be a better person and give more to my family.
I am going to spend time supporting my children, tending to their changing needs as they grow up. I want to find ways to encourage them to be less reliant on electronics and to nurture their other talents. I want to make spending more time outside a priority and have fun as a family. I want to nurture their life skills. I want us to cook, bake, make and create together.
I am going to give more time to my marriage. I have loved having MadDad around during this festive season and realise that we need to spend some more time with just the two of us. We had lunch together on my birthday and it was a rare treat that we both loved and we decided that we are going to make more time for each other. Maybe not date nights (as it is hard to get people to look after the boys), but why not meet for lunch more often or watch a movie together. My marriage is important to me and worth spending time and energy on to nurture it.
I also want to nurture my career. More on this to come!
Finally, I am also going to nurture our Finance, but there is much more on this on A Thrifty Mum, where my word of the year financially is PRUDENCE.
So each quarter when I produce my seasonal manifesto's I will use Nurture to help me focus on my tasks, hopes and plans and update on the previous quarterly goals and aims.
I find that my having a one word that sums up my goals and plans for the year it makes me much more focused and I use it as a visual reminder. I print it out to remind me of what I am looking to achieve.
Cass also told me that Ruth at Dorky Mum does a word of the year too and she is much more eloquent that I, so hop on over to read more about her word. I also completed Susannah Conway’s Unravelling the Year workbook after reading about it on her blog and it really helped me reflect on 2013 and put 2014 in to perspective.
It has been something of a challenging couple of weeks here in The Mad House. I was not very well up on returning from our fantastic holiday in Florida (more on that to follow) and have had to spend some time in hospital. Christmas and my 40th Birthday have really had to take a back seat to me getting to a stage where I could be at home.
Being in hospital at this time of year really got me thinking about all the families who spend the festive season apart for whatever reason and for all the fantastic NHS staff that work over this time of year.
I have been so lucky that friends have been able to step in and collect the boys from school and feed them, enabling MadDad to visit me and ferry me around. I am so grateful for the support I received online, in addition to a dear friend even coming in to our house and making sure it was all clean and tidy for my return.
Christmas is not about the presents, it is about the presence.
It really is about the presence of people you love and care about. People that make your life shine and fill it with joy.
So I am not worrying about the reviews I need to write or other commitments I have, but I do want to say a few heartfelt thank you.
We are delighted to be Center Parcs family bloggers here at the Mad House and cannot wait to start planning our trip to Whinfell Forest and enjoy our first family Center Parcs holiday. Center Parcs are currently running a fantastic competition to win a stocking full of goodies OR a family break at Center Parcs.
Below is the stocking full of goodies you have a chance of winning if you enter.
Center Parcs are launching a brand new advert on Christmas day, so before it launches they are offering you the chance to guess some items which appear in their advert. Each day the mystery gifts are featured in a vine which Center Parcs will tweet here at midday or if you need an extra clue for today, check out the image below. The competition finishes today, the 19th December, so make sure you keep an eye on their twitter feed .
Once you think you know what the item is, head over to the Center Parcs twitter page.
RT the tweet containing the clue and use the hashtag #CPGift and don’t forget to add your guess.
Make sure you are following @CenterParcsUK
Check back the following day to see if you were lucky.
View full terms and conditions here.
We are an eclectic bunch in the Mad House, but one thing we all love is Christmas Movies and snuggling up on the couch watching them together. Now thanks to Laura Ashley we have a new throw to snuggle under and watch our movies and the Tartan Cranberry Check Cotton Mix Throw is perfect in colour to match our traditional red and green decoration, so henceforth will become known "The Christmas Throw"!
There is also lots of other things that can be done with a Laura Ashley throw, just take a look at this round up post where other bloggers show what they did with theirs.
I would never attempt to wrap the presents without Elf on the screen and a Baileys in my glass! Now bear in mind that Mini is seven and Maxi eight and me and MadDad a lot, lot older (in fact I have a significant birthday this Friday)!
Our current favorites are:
We have our Advent Box and it is filled with Christmas Books and films that we get our year after year and add to them too and the throw will be added to it this year when it goes away. I so look forward to winter evenings with the boys after school once we have done a craft where we can shut the cold, dark world out and enjoy a film together. We have had such joy introducing them to classics like Gremlins and Home Alone.
I would love to know what movies I have missed and what would be on your list. Disclosure: I was given a new throw and compensated for this post, plus it contains affiliate links too.
I love this time of year, It makes me feel all crafty so the boys and I decided to make some vintage spool christmas decorations to combine my love of sewing and their of making things for Christmas. They love looking back at the decorations they have made in previous years.
Vintage spools or empty cotton reels
Ribbon (one for tying round and another for the hanging)
Embellishments (ours were felt)
Measure the ribbon, so that you have just enough to wrap round the spool ot reel.
Apply a blob of glue and attach the end.
Wrap round and attach with a further blob of glue.
Take a ribbon and thread through the hole in the reel or spool
Knot the bottom allow sufficient for a decorative dangle!
Apply hot glue to the bottom of the opening and allow to dry against the knot
We finally applied a felt christmas tree embellishment to a number of the decorations to hide the seam.
I am a huge fan of making Christmas memorable and one of the ways I do this is by giving gifts that we have made. So I am delighted to be working in partnership with Halifax the bank who give you extra to inspire more of you to give extra this Christmas by taking the time to produce homemade gifts for that special someone.
I want to share with you some ideas and inspiration for craft ideas that can be produced by you and your family and given as christmas present this year. None are hard to do and are fun family activities and I guarantee you the receiver will be over the moon with the little extra that you have added to your gifts made with love and thoughtfulness.
One of our advent traditions is to make and decorate a gingerbread house. With being out of the country this year we accepted a pre cooked one from Sykes Cottages to build and decorate. Unfortunately ours came a little damaged (hence the silver foil bottom), but I managed to get it stuck together and then provided the boys with a selection of sweets and icing and left them too it.
I have to say it looked a little difference when they first decorated it (they gave it icicles), but Mini kept eating them! Also they do not know the expression of less is more, so this is a #moreismore gingerbread house and it was two sweets for their mouths and one for the house!
Each year I say I will make a pretty one all of my own, but in all honesty the boys adore decorating the house and it has become part of their advent traditions and activities. So for now I am happy to let them put all of their artistic endeavor in to the house decorating and I take a back seat. I do not even stick around when they are decorating it as I know I would try to take over!
If you are looking for a fab, not too gingery gingerbread then I have a fab recipe here.
Disclosure: We were sent a free Gingerbread house for the purpose of this post
Back in September (yes it seems like ages ago), I was fortunate to go to LA and visit the Dreamworks Campus and get a sneak peek in to how The Croods was made. My trip to DreamWorks was to celebrate the release of The Croods on DVD and Blu-ray. Now I have to say that as a family we adored The Croods and went to see it at our local cinema over the summer and the boys were delighted that it was on our flight home from Florida last week.
As this was my first trip to a Studio I had no idea what I was about to see. Well it was pretty mind blowing and I had a really unforgettable experience.
The day commenced with a visit to the Dreamworks cinema and an introduction to the film by Kirk DeMicco and Chris Sanders, who wrote and directed the film. They told us about the fictional prehistoric era known as The Croodaceous period and introduced us to the main characters, The Croods, who are the worlds first modern family.
I was then lucky enough to decorate a pair of Ugg Boots which represented Eeps discovery of shoes in the movie, which is one of those seminal movie moments for me and has stuck with me since seeing the movie. But The Croods is about much more than shoes, it is about family and how even though we can all have different aspirations, fears and thoughts that ultimately family is everything.
I was gobsmacked when we were taken to the CGI stage, where real people become animations by having sensors placed on to them. It really was mind boggling that a computer becomes a camera allowing the filmmakers to get new camera angles.
I learned that lighting is one of the major aspects of making an animated feature so watchable and that the sound team go all around the world to record the actors for the voiceovers. Dreamworks Studio is as much a technology company as much as it is a movie studio, hence it being in Redwood California.
The whole day was just amazing, I even got to meet one of the head animators and have a go a drawing my own belt character and so can you as it is an additional feature on the Blu-ray and DVD!
DreamWorks Animation's The Croods DVD & Blu-ray is out now