Friday, 30 October 2015

Embrace Autumn - Our Walk at Home #CountryKids



Now I realise not everyone is as lucky as us and doesn't have this kind of walk on their doorstep but literally everywhere is beautiful in the Autumn.  Even in massive cities there are public parks and green spaces where the leaves are changing colours and falling from the trees.

I swore when we moved to our unique home 27 months ago that I would never take the beauty of this place for granted and I don't think I have but our walk yesterday did make me realise I have also not been making the best of it and getting out enough.

It is probably six weeks since I have last been for a really long walk and taken my camera with me. The girls and I rediscovered the grounds at our home on this Autumnal walk and had loads of fun too. All these photos are taken around the estate that we live in.

Thursday, 29 October 2015

Thank You Lord for My Boy



The girls had an inset day today and as a treat I drove JJ to school so he did not have to ride the bus which requires him to leave home 80 minutes before school starts. Today we drove the 11 minute car journey and wondered why on earth the bus journey takes such a very long time!

That's not what this post is about though. I was on the journey back home when I started to reflect on how very lucky I am that JJ sets his alarm and gets himself up in the morning. I have many friends with 12/13 year old children who have a battle each day to get their child up and dressed. I am truly lucky and very, very grateful that I don't have this fight with JJ. Of course it could all change, the hormones are arriving and it could get much more tricky but for now, I am just happy that he is generally a really good lad and great fun to spend time with too.

Wednesday, 28 October 2015

U2 at The O2 - Inspired to Speak Out


I've been working with the NGO (non-governmental organisation) ONE for a few years now and my passion for the work they do continues to increase day by day. As they are not a charity seeking funding but a grassroots campaigning and advocacy organisation they suit me much better as a partner. I'm more comfortable giving voice to issues and allowing my voice to speak on behalf of those who can't be heard than I am at raising money.

One of the founders of ONE is Bono, the lead singer of U2 and as such my husband and I ended up as guests of ONE at the U2 concert at The O2 this week. To say it was good is a major understatement, U2 really know how to put on a show. Due to my poorly knee I had changed our standing tickets to seated ones at the last moment and this meant we were up in the Gods on the 4th floor.

Tuesday, 27 October 2015

Guest Post: Jesus is my Friend

Helping Hands by Shutterstock

Another guest post for you today in my series 'Why am I a Christian?'. This time from Nicola -

I keep trying to write this piece on why I'm a Christian and I keep getting stuck, or sidetracked! It's not that I haven't ever thought about it before - I've probably thought about it too much - it's that there are just so many reasons.

Firstly, I come from a place of philosophy - it's important that what I believe makes sense to me.  And I just can't believe that there wasn't a creator of all this intricate creation.  I see it this way - I'm a mother and I'm pretty convinced that my 'creations' cannot have things in them that I don't have myself - so if I, as a thinking part of creation, can love, then my Creator, God, must be thinking and loving...

I'm going to leave that one there, otherwise I'll get sidetracked into philosophy and that seems to go on to be something in the nature of a 10,000 word essay.

Sunday, 25 October 2015

What do you Love about Mummy?


Earlier this week I went to an event at a local church, it was run by a charity called Care For The family and was called Mums the Word. It was sold as a night for mums to come together, have fun and be inspired. The speakers were Diane Louise Jordon, who you may know from TV and surely from Blue Peter if you are anywhere similar in age to me and also Cathy Madavan, who you might only know if you are a Christian.

I've heard Cathy speak a number of times at Spring Harvest and always really enjoyed her natural and friendly style; she doesn't fail to make you laugh. Add Diane into the mix and you have a great combo, the two of them genuinely seemed to get on like a house on fire and had a lot of parenting wisdom and humility to share.

There was far more content in the three hours than I could ever share in one post, so you can expect some more parenting/mums type posts over the next few weeks and that is no bad thing when I am still classified as a parenting blog but in recent times I've noticed that the subject is dwindling.

Friday, 23 October 2015

5 Reasons We Do Not Celebrate Halloween

Image used with permission
I’m not a big fan of Halloween, I never have been. However as a child I was desperate to dress up and go out trick or treating with the hope of a night of fun with friends and a bag of booty at the end of it but as for the scary and ghoulish stuff no thank youI never did get to trick or treat as my Dad was adamant that no child of his would go begging door-to-door and I didn’t understand what his issue was when I was a child, I just thought he was a meanie. I get it now though.

I wrote a post about Halloween back in 2011 which was a bit controversial as I said if you celebrate Halloween you were worshipping all things evil including the devil himself. It was purposefully provocative to get people to think about Halloween and what they were doing. I wasnt actually saying that I believed many of my readers were devil worshippers, because who am I to make that judgement? Ive always been a live and let live kind of woman so I do feel it is your choice as to whether you and your children celebrate Halloween or not. We are all answerable for our own decisions and as long as we make them rationally and with all the information available to us then it is no-one elses business.

I do worry however, that many people just go along with Halloween as they have never really thought about what it is or what it teaches our children. This is when it becomes problematic. I have heard Halloween referred to as harmless funon so many occasions, just look at the 59 comments on my earlier mentioned post. Yes there were a few people that agreed with me that it was dark, best stayed away from, over-commercialised and teaching our kids the wrong things but most people thought I was a party-pooper. That's right, I'm the up-tight Christian woman who doesn't know how to have fun!

Thursday, 22 October 2015

Guest Post: Why am I a Christian?

Close up Wooden cross necklace from Shutterstock
I'm sharing another guest post today, in my series to find out what inspires other people to be a Christian. over to Naomi -

I think the simple answer to the question ‘Why am I a Christian?’ is ‘Because of God.’ I did, I admit, go looking for Him, and He found me. I know that sounds confusing, and probably a bit over-spiritual, but I’ll share a bit of my story.

Having grown up in a Christian home, with Christian parents, going to church every week, I never really questioned the existence of God. What I did question was what I saw as a fairly restrictive lifestyle: a lifestyle where my teenage version of having fun was disapproved of; a lifestyle where my friends (none of whom were Christians) wouldn’t fit in; a lifestyle which looked very much about duty, and very little about joy.

I think a big factor in that way of thinking was that I didn’t have any friends my own age who were Christians. I was pretty much on my own in my parents’ church. Now, I look at groups of teenagers from my own church, and hope that they are actually friends, that they do hang out together. Anyway.

Monday, 19 October 2015

BRITA Back to School Hydration Challenge


Recently BRITA (the water filter people) approached me and asked if I knew how much water my children were drinking when they are at school during the day. Of course the answer was no and if I'm honest I knew what the answer probably was - not enough!

I was therefore very happy when they sent me some of their superb Fill&Go water bottles (with nifty integral water filtration) for the kids to take to school each day.  As well as the bottle they also sent me some great ruler stickers to attach to the side of the bottle and these give visual reminders to the kids of how much to drink and by when. This ruler is based on official guidelines and recommends they drink 300ml by morning break, 600ml by lunch, then there is a lunch time reminder to refill the bottle and to have drunk another 300ml by afternoon break and the last 300ml by home time. Thus meaning they would have consumed 1200 mls between the hours of 8.45am and 3.15pm.

Saturday, 17 October 2015

Finding your Joy in Every Day


This week I'm part of a video that has been put together by Michelle Reeves, who formally blogged at Bod for Tea and now at The Joy Chaser and The Essex Barn. Michelle and I first got chatting back in 2010 when she was an expat living in China and a fairly new mummy. When I started my Reasons to be Cheerful linky in January 2011 Michelle was one of the first to join in and it was clear even then that she wanted to seek out the joy and the good in life, turning her back on old habits of negativity.

You can read about Michelle's journey to joy and how she has found her new happy over on her new blog but being involved with this project has had me reflecting on the subject of happiness and joy and how for me they are very different constructs.

I know most people use the terms interchangeably and I think perhaps my perspective is different due to my faith. I view happiness as something very surface, usually dependant on external circumstances and it is normally achieved when everything is going your way and life (or a situation) is good. Whereas joy is always achievable, even in the darkest of times because it is an internal; found in our relationship with Jesus. It is a gift that He freely gives to us, in the same way He extends His grace. All these amazing things that we don't deserve and yet He wants us to receive them freely.

Friday, 16 October 2015

Can Kobo convert me to an eReader?


I'm a bit behind the times, you can call me old fashioned but I don't mind. I have been resisting the lure of an eReader in favour of keeping my paperback books. I love the fact I can walk out of a charity shop with a bag of 5 books, all picked up for under a fiver. Second hand is my thing and it always feels like a real bargain.

What I don't love is the mountain of books that take over my house, waiting to be read. I'm very good, once a book is read it gets passed straight back to a charity shop but I do confess to have a whole big wicker hamper full of books waiting to be read. This could be a thing of the past though as I now have a Kobo Aura H20 eReader and it comes with 4gb of memory built in and the option to use a Micro SD card to boost it to 32gb, that would literally take thousands of books. 

Wednesday, 14 October 2015

10 Ways to Share your Faith with your Children

Lake baptism at our home and my childrne praying

It's funny how things don't work out as you imagine sometimes. When Cass at Diary of a Frugal Family asked me "how do you share your beliefs with your children and how do you encourage them to have faith too?" I had this idea that I'd write a crowd sourced post. I'd ask lots of Christian friends how they share their faith with their kids and put together a treasury of ideas.

It was all very simple in my head but what I forgot to factor in is that sharing your faith with your children is the norm when you are a Christian. It is an intrinsic thing, something you mostly do without having to think about it or orchestrate any special activities. So when I asked the question in a fabulous Christian FB group that I'm part of the kind of responses I got suggested involving your children in your everyday life and this is very true and really valid but it doesn't perhaps help a non-believer or a new believer know the mechanics of what to do.

Monday, 12 October 2015

20 Tips to get More from your Money

Money in Glass Jar by Shutterstock

Just over two years ago we moved to East Sussex from Hertfordshire and with this move came lots of change. I gave up my out-of-home job, we sold our house and dh took a massive pay-cut. Without a doubt it is the best move our family ever made but it didn't come without its fair share of challenges!

Due to the massive cut in our income we have had to look for ways to be much more creative with our money and to save spending out unnecessarily. I'm not the type to go without all my luxuries so we have had to shop smarter to get the things we need (or even just want). I thought it might be useful to share with you some of the ways that I have become thrifty and saved money along the way -

1. Pick your credit card wisely. We pay off our balance every month so interest rates hold no real attraction for us but we do like to choose a card that offers us a little extra. Our card comes with points for every pound we spend and then we can exchange these for restaurant, cinema and holiday vouchers. We gain loads of days and meals out in this way.

Sunday, 11 October 2015

Our On The Glo Beanie - Fabulous but an Argument Creator!



As a blogger I get offered dozens of review opportunities every day and in the main I have to say no to about 90% of them. There is only so much time in a day and frankly I can't drum up the enthusiasm to wax lyrical about a tin of beans when I have parenting and real work to do.

Friday, 9 October 2015

Family Visit to National Trust Attingham Park, Shropshire #CountryKids


A couple of months ago when we were on holiday in Shropshire we took a visit to Attingham Park. As we are members of the National Trust we always try to visit at least one of their properties wherever we are and our membership has paid for itself dozens of times over. I do love the freedom membership gives us as it means we are happy to go to a NT site for a just a few hours, rather than having to take a whole day.

We arrived at Attingham Park about 2pm after a morning in Shrewsbury and we wasn't quite sure what the weather would do so we headed straight off to explore the grounds and find the play field that we had heard was fabulous. After a meander through the glorious walled kitchen garden, past the bothy, through a conservatory and across a small orchard we came to the play field and no, we were not disappointed.

Thursday, 8 October 2015

Guinness World Records Books 2016 - Great Christmas Presents


I mentioned before that all my kids love the Guinness World Records book and there does not seem to be any sign of them growing out of it. JJ is now 12 and the girls 8 and it is as popular as ever.

When the 255 page book arrived at my house a couple of weeks ago there was a scrum to see who would read it first. JJ being the biggest won and it remained in his bedroom for over a week. Each time I popped my head in his room he was buried in the book and told us the girls could not have it yet as he was busy reading and he was no-where near finished. This week I got a bit firm with him and now the girls have it back in their grips. This means the next few weeks of school car journeys will be full of chatter with all the kids I drop off discussing this years records and interesting facts.

Wednesday, 7 October 2015

Guest Post: Finding My Faith Again

God Loves you from Shutterstock

Another guest post for you today. In this one Rachel of Rachel in Real Life shares her experience of growing up a Christian and then walking away from her faith and rediscovering it a decade later. What a difference ten years makes! You can catch up with Rachel on Twiiter too - @Rachel_IRL.

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One of my earliest memories is of the day that I became a Christian. I was around six years old and it was the day of my mum's baptism. I can remember knowing what it meant to commit my life to Jesus and being absolutely sure that it was what I wanted. Although my dad never went to church he certainly never stopped any of us from going or made us feel uncomfortable for doing so. 

I was baptised when I was 14 and went on to help to run a youth group at 18. By 19/20 I had left the church and my faith behind. There wasn't a single event that made me leave but an accumulation of events and feelings. I never really felt as though I was a part of the church or that I had any friends there. Everyone seemed to be a better Christian than me, loved God more, were more holy, doing everything right, they were happy while I had started my battle with depression, a battle that would continue for years to come. 

My mum also felt unsupported which certainly influenced me. My mum died when I was 21 and neither myself nor my siblings felt as though we had much support from the church although I guess that was probably because her own attendance had dropped in the months prior to her death. I then spent 10 years not really knowing where I was at as a Christian. I still believed in God but I couldn't say with a great deal of conviction that I had a faith. I still believed in heaven but I couldn't be sure that I would be going there and I didn't know what that meant for me.  

Last year, after my youngest sister arranged for lifts for me, I attended an Alpha course and I started to go to her church.  During the first four weeks of my going there, I cried during every service. I came out with panda eyes and tear-stained cheeks, the husband would ask me what had happened and I simply couldn't explain but somehow, I knew I had felt just something of God's love for me. Earlier this year I had major surgery and was in hospital twice. A lot of people who go to the church got in touch, offering support and love and seemed to be genuinely pleased for me when I was back on my feet. People I have known only a short while have asked me how I am recovering and continue to ask after my health each week. 

What's the difference between now and over 10 years ago? Jesus has become personal to me and in the church I now attend I don't feel like I have to pretend to be filled with the Holy Spirit all of the time or to be immensely grateful 24/7. I have a thirst for more knowledge that I never had before and I am active in the church again, this time working with young children. 

There are, of course, difficulties. Jesus never promised us that a life following him would be easy, in fact he promised just the opposite. For me, the biggest challenge is that my husband isn't a Christian and doesn't ever come to church with me. A few months ago we attended a dedication and he enjoyed that service, even telling me he almost responded to ask for prayer but he didn't. Just this morning he said he might come along then decided against it. Unfortunately the service would have been the perfect message for him to hear but I have to trust that there will be another opportunity. 

My son comes along sometimes and I get upset when he doesn't, when he would rather stay at home with daddy because he does have fun when he goes. The husband is however very supportive of me attending church and of my Christian values. Despite not going himself he always tries to encourage our son to come along (sometimes he will even say he has to work when he doesn't, I'm not sure what God would make of that!) and he drives me the 20 minutes each way and picks me up because I can't drive myself. 

While Sunday mornings may be a bit of a write off for the husband being my personal chauffeur, our home life is actually a lot better. Yes I have changed as God has worked in me but so has the husband and I can see God working in him too, even though he may not even realise it. Despite being 32 years old, I still find it difficult to admit that I am a Christian. Sure it is easy enough to tick the box on a questionnaire but it isn't something I particularly bring up in conversations. We are viewed as "Bible bashers" or "weird" for having a "religion". 

The Christianity I know isn't full of rules and regulations and orders and religious practises but is one of love and simplicity. No Christian is any closer to God than another, none of us has sinned any worse than another despite what the laws of the land might say. Nothing I can do can make God love me any more or any less. I don't have to pray 10 times a day, offer myself as a sacrifice or convert people; He already loves me as I am, He always has and He always will.

Thanks so much for sharing Rachel, it sounds as if the recent leg of your journey has been a good one, I pray you continue to find great joy in your faith and that your husband will come to share it too.
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Tuesday, 6 October 2015

Dear So and So - Welcome October

The West Lawn at my home

Dear Jesus,

Thank you so much for healing my knee. There I was last Wednesday ready to cry and in pain. My knee felt strained again like it was back in June and I was hobbling around. Gutted that I needed to cancel my weekend trip to Blog On Win and out of pocket to the tune of £55.

As much as I wanted to go I knew being sensible and staying home was a far better idea. Well how chuffed was I that after some considerable prayer I awoke Saturday morning to have a nice long bath and no pain in my knee. I'm again walking well and I pray this continues.

Thanks again mighty healer,

Love you, Mich xx
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Sunday, 4 October 2015

Review: Y Flicker Air A3 Scooter


For quite some time now my girls have been going on at me about the new style scooters, the ones that have split foot boards and you can ride them without putting your feet on the floor. Miss M has been the one, on and on she has badgered, can she have one and I said yes, if she paid for it.  They both have perfectly good regular scooters and I didn't want to be spending money out where I didn't need to.

It was for this reason that when I saw the Yvolution Y Flicker Air A3 Scooter available for review I applied straight away. When all three kids arrived home from school and saw the scooter box there was whoops of joy and both the 8 and 12 year olds were equally as happy and could not wait to try it out. I have to say I thought it would be Miss M that rode it most and would not be willing to give it up to the other two but actually it has been her twin Miss E who is besotted with her scooter. She has been ready at 7.30am each morning before school so she can have at least 1/2 hours play before school. I can not moan at that!

Friday, 2 October 2015

Do you think she is trying to tell me something?

Miss M has a bit of an obsession. Can you guess what?

The other day she told me she was going to re-do her walls and make her room over, a couple of hours later I found this....


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