Sunday 30 September 2012

Teaching your children the value of money

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Over the years I have seen many conversations erupt online about pocket money and how much your kids should get.  People seem to be focused on how much is age appropriate?, what is it OK for them to spend it on? and should they work for their money?  I think they are all good questions and ones my husband and I have chatted over quite a few times in the nine years since we had JJ.

I have to be honest and say that until dh gave me a lesson in money management I was pretty rubbish with my money. I am not sure why this was, I did not come from a rich family and my parents are extremely hard working with a sound work ethic.  From the age of 14 I worked outside the home and earned my own money but I also spent my own money - yes all of it! I do not really have a recollection of any conversations with my parents about money and budgeting and perhaps that was part of the problem, who knows?

As a child (and even now if I am honest) I also received an awful lot from my parents in the way of purchases (as well as time, love and attention) and maybe this just gave me a thirst for buying things and the thrill that shopping can give. When it comes to spending I know my worst addictive personality traits rear their ugly head, I love that instant gratification of feeling good when you buy something new.  Luckily I am now old enough and wise enough to realise it lasts just a fleeting moment and is not worth it.

Anyway enough about me, back to the kids. From birth dh and I set up a savings account for our children and we would put money in each month (just a small amount) and also pay in money from things like birthdays, if they received a lot. Each child now has a nice little nest egg and in the future when they are allowed access to this money they will be able to buy a car, use it towards a deposit or university or perhaps go travelling with it.  Something big and impactful, we have not scrimped to save this money for it to be wasted on nights out and new handbags!

What we have realised is that it is important for us to set up a second account for each child, one they can manage and have full access to. At nine JJ is very money savvy, we have been encouraging him to do his own cash transactions since he was about three years old. Not only does this improve your child's confidence but it starts to help them recognise coins and realise how much things cost. He is a regular at Game and trades in his DSI games when he is bored of them knowing he can save for a better game, he has also helped with car boot sales and is willing to do jobs for his money. All good I feel.

JJ receives £2 a week and he is allowed to decide what he does with this money, sometimes he buys a Beano comic, others football stickers and more often than not he enjoys putting it in his money box and watching it add up so he can buy something bigger, like a longed for Lego set.

I think the key thing is that dh and I are not afraid to be honest with our kids.  I'll often tell them we cannot afford something or speak to them about the compromises we need to make. They all realise that I work so we can have holidays each year, when they moan about going to after school club once a week I ask them what they would prefer - once a week there and family holidays or the opposite? It is good to help your kids learn that not everything comes easy in life, we have to save and compromise and that is the way the world spins.

My girls are now five years old and they are chalk and cheese with money, as in everything else. Miss E likes to save her pennies and look at them and count them and see she has lots, whereas Miss M wants to spend them all but I don't think it is about greed and the ownership of what is bought, it is about the excitement that being able to pay brings. It appears to make her feel grown up and this summer she has generously offered to pay for everything we have done from her own money. If only she had enough to substantiate that offer.

I'll share with you some principles that dh and I have applied in regards to pocket money and our children. I hope they act as useful tips for you -
  1. Talk to your children about money, do not push it under the carpet.  It is OK for them to understand some things are out of your budget, others are infrequent luxuries and that there are ways to make your money go further.
  2. Get your child to start undertaking transactions in shops or at car boot sales. I have found that this improves both money awareness and also confidence to talk to new people in different situations.
  3. When deciding how much pocket money to give your child, think about your own financial situation, what can you afford and what are you expecting them to buy from the money? Will you give it weekly or monthly and does it need to be earned?
  4. Once you have decided the pocket money you will give, let your child spend it how they wish. Yes really, even if they want to blow £2 on rubbish sweets or something you deem a waste of money. When they have done it and start to ask you for more money or to buy something for them that opens the way for you to have a conversation about how different it could have been if they had chosen to spend half and save half. They will learn I promise.
And that's about it.  Share with me any tips you have for helping your children to understand the value of money.

Friday 28 September 2012

Starting the #WWBack2Best Challenge

Today I am taking on a new challenge. Right now is not an ideal time to be taking on a challenge to be honest (I’m off to Ethiopia in a week!) but then if I am being really honest I need to admit that there is never an ideal time for me when it comes to dieting. Since the age of 14 (that’s 25 years) I have been on and off a diet and thinking about my weight, my body shape and issues related to those things!  It’s not healthy and I’d love to stop, I do want to be free of the constant preoccupation with food and weight but so far I have not found anything that has worked for me.

This does not have to be my life story forever though, does it? OK, I have not succeeded so far but I’ve learnt lots along the way and what better time than now to try and sort this out once and for all. I am pretty sure my attitude has stopped me from being successful in the past. In most things in life I am a glass half full kind of girl, I know I will do well and I can visualise success. It has not been so with my weight. But right here, right now I am drawing a line under this negative thinking.  Mich WILL become healthy, I may never be a supermodel, nor a size 10 but I CAN get to a healthy body weight and I CAN live a healthier life.

So there it is – that’s the line right there. Drawn.
Destructive old ways and negative thinking OVER.
New life starting today!
I WILL lose weight because I need to.
I mentioned earlier that I have not been able to visualise success so I’ll cheat a bit. In August this year on holiday we visited a theme park that had some of those comedy mirrors, the type that distort your body shape and there was one that made me look slimmer and I got a snap of what I WILL look like in the not so distant future.

I love that photo!  I need to get lots of copies printed and stick them everywhere as a visual reminder don’t I?
Here is actually what I do look like, taken that same day.  I have not got a full body shot but the podge on the top half will give you the idea!
I have weighed today and I weigh 17st 8lb, that is a humongous amount of weight but I won’t dwell on it too much as it is just a starting point and I WILL enjoy watching the numbers go down.
The way I am going to be losing this weight is by following the Weight Watchers Pro Points plan. I have been given 6 months online membership and there are quite a number of bloggers joining in with this #WWBack2Best challenge so you can watch/ encourage us on twitter with that hashtag.
I have been having a browse of the online site and there is a wealth of information on there, I just need to get my head round it all now. I also have a really useful app downloaded onto my iPhone. This lets me track everything I eat during the day and it calculates my Pro Points for me so that I do not have to worry.  I am just going with the principles of sensible choices and cutting my portion sizes and I fully expect my Weight Watchers app to do the rest.  I’ll be sure to report back to you and let you know how I get on.
If you fancy trying it out for yourself too then Weight Watchers have created a great deal for us to share as part of the #WWBack2Best challenge. You can access the online plan for a week for just £1 and trial the app for free. Do make sure you read the small print though as the plan will automatically renew unless you instruct otherwise.
I’m looking forward to reporting back in next Friday morning to let you know how I have got on and how much weight I have lost.
Have a great week all those on this journey with me.  Mich x

Disclosure:  I have received 6 months online membership and a Weight Watchers hamper for the purposes of undertaking this review of the plan and products. I have not been instructed what to write and I remain honest.

Thursday 27 September 2012

Reasons to be Cheerful - S is for Simple

This week I am taking #R2BC right back to its origins. Way back when I launched Reasons to be Cheerful in January 2011 (91 weeks ago, yes really, can you believe that Clare?) I did so because I wanted it to be accessible to everyone to join in. For some time before that I had been writing a series of posts titled Grace in small things. They were simple posts were I just took the time to remember the things that lifted me up, those placed where I saw God’s grace working.

This week should be ‘S’ on my alphabet theme and I am using that for Simple, ie:  this week I am keeping my post simple and going back to #R2BC’s roots. Here is a list of some the things that brightened my day yesterday -

1.      A very tasty bagel with butter for breakfast

2.      The rain staying away as we walked to school today

3.      Hearing some very complimentary things from my manager at my appraisal

4.      Finishing the first draft of a big project I am working on at work

5.      The girls doing their homework without fuss

6.      We all enjoyed our spaghetti bolognese that we ate as a family

7.      It was a pleasure to listen in on my conference call with the US in preparation for my trip to Ethiopia next week (yes next week!)

8.      Miss M then asked me if they speak English in America and would I need anyone to help me understand them!  This did have me in absolute stitches as of course there are a few things we say very differently!

9.      Miss M then went to bed like a little angel and this is pretty unusual

10.  I got all my ironing finished, yay!

And there we go, easy done!  That was not hard at all. Why don’t you give it a try too?  When you change to an attitude of gratitude and dump the grumbles you will find that your whole world starts to change.  Not only do you start to feel happier you will also feel more content with your lot in life too and that is not to be underestimated.

Talking of being content, I’ll share a few photos from our family hike last Sunday.  It cost us nothing and we had such a lovely couple of hours together – exercise, fun, chatting, fresh air, blackberry picking – what more could you want?

Over to you, I’m sure you know what to do.  Write yourself a post sharing your reasons to be cheerful, grab the blog hop code from below and then go visit some others in the hop and say hi.

I’m so sorry I did not get to visit people and comment last week.  Time seems to be escaping from me - work, getting ready for Ethiopia and also for Belarus and of course spending some time with my family are all just eating away at my time.

I hope you all have a superb week and are blessed.  Mich x

Tuesday 25 September 2012

#SaveSyriasChildren - It's too important to ignore!

It would be so easy to be all wrapped up in my upcoming trip to Ethiopia. Yes it is amazingly exciting that I get to travel to a different country and to experience life there for a short while.  I hope to share stories, raise awareness for and to do my bit but I can not just ignore what is going on in the rest of the world, that would all but defeat being involved with this type of activity.

For over a year now atrocities have been happening in Syria. there is so much in-fighting and needless killing that it breaks my heart. Children and adults alike are being killed and for no reason better than they got in the way or they happened to be there. It's true me and you alone can not really do anything to help the people in Syria, we can't bring back all those people who have been massacred but we can spread the word and we can pressure the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to ensure the UN and its member states are doing all they can to make sure every crime against children is counted and their perpetrators held to account. By making it clear to the perpetrators that the world is watching – that they will be held to account for their crimes - we can help put massive pressure on them to stop.

Normally I write long posts but today I have nothing more to give than this.  I just need to present the simple facts as they are, I'll let these children who have fled Syria put their own case to you -

Please join me and help in one or all of the following ways -
  1. in signing the Save the Children petition HERE
  2. by donating any spare cash that you have, so that those on the ground in Lebanon and Jordan are able to carry on supporting all those children who are fleeing Syria.  They don't want new Wii's or iPod touch's like our kids are asking for this Christmas, they just need the basics of food and some blankets. Donate HERE.
  3. spreading the word.  if you are a blogger, do what we do best and blog - spread the word!  if not talk to friends, send an email, share on Facebook, Twitter, Google + or anything else you use.  Just get the word out there.
From the bottom of my heart thank you, thank you just for reading this and then bless you if you are able to do something more.  Mich x

Monday 24 September 2012

Harder than I thought (Ethiopia - Part 4)

A least a couple of times a year I go away for a night or two, be it with work, girlfriends or to a conference, so my children have grown up with me doing this and have always seemed really happy to be left with their daddy.  My husband is a super hands-on dad and this makes it very easy for me.  I don’t have to worry about whether they will get fed well or go to bed on time.  He has it all in hand.
In fact the kids normally have a ball when I am not there as dh organises to do fun stuff with them.  He seems to come alive when I am not there and they disappear off to have fish and chip suppers down at the park and a quick paddle in the river, on a school night! Does he think to do these things when I am about? oh no,  I have had the odd jealous moment in the past where I have wondered if they have more fun with him than me. It’s not helped by them sometimes asking me when I’ll go and stay in a hotel again so they can sleep downstairs with daddy and watch a DVD and have popcorn.

I realise now though that I need not worry. Mums seem to hold a very special place in their kid’s hearts, whilst they want me to go away for one night to a hotel; it is a completely different thing when I am going away for a week and on an aeroplane.  I’m off to Ethiopia in just under 2 weeks and the kids have known about my trip for some time and everything has been going along as normal.  Then in the last week both of my girls have said they do not want me to go.  I was mock packing my case yesterday to try out the weight and unprompted Miss E came up and got in my empty suitcase and said ‘pack me, I’ll go with you Mummy’.  I explained I was not going on a kid-friendly trip and she would have much more fun at home with daddy but she told me with quite a lot of passion that she did not want me to go, she loves me and I’m her mummy, not other children’s.

I instantly realised that she was referring to photos of dh that the kids saw when he came back from his mission to India a couple of years ago.  There were loads of photos of dh playing with the kids at the orphanage that he stayed at and they all looked very happy as he gave them gifts of pencils, small cars and balloons. But I remember at the time the girls being quite adamant that he was their Daddy and not other children’s.
Miss M is my tougher twin and will often go to her dad rather than me but again yesterday after we had said family prayers at Church she said to me that she would miss me whilst I was away and of course I reassured her I would miss her too but the time would be over in a flash.  She then said ‘I did not miss Daddy when he was away, but I’ll really miss you Mummy’. Very heart-warming to know I’m loved but a bit heart-wrenching to leave my little ladies when they feel  like this.
Luckily for me JJ seems much happier about me going away; I suppose those extra four years make you a bit more secure.  He knows I’ll still come back as their Mum and we’ll still swim, play games together and do the fun stuff that we like to share.
People kept saying to me to prepare myself for when I go away but I thought they were talking about being prepared for when I am in Ethiopia, not prepared to leave my babes. I will miss them, of course but I know that it is right for me to take this journey and to do what I can to help put an end to social injustice and extreme poverty.
If you think others will enjoy taking this journey with me, then please share this and my other ONE Ethiopia posts and don't forget to sign up to ONE and offer your voice. I am taking this journey with Jennifer Howze of BritMums, so do follow her journey too and follow #ONEMoms on Twitter.

From 6th October I'll be travelling with a group of 11 other inspirational Mums and Moms to Ethiopia as part of an expense paid trip courtesy of the ONE Campaign. Our trip is about success – Living Proof -- of what is working and why it is important that we continue to support projects that are making a huge, measurable difference for less than one percent of the entire US budget. It is about letting more people know what a tremendous difference the US and UK are making in the lives of millions around the world.  And it is about adding thousands more voices to those already letting their elected officials know they support these life-saving programs.

Sunday 23 September 2012

Review - Pink Lining wheelie Case

I'm sure you'll have seen that I'm off to Ethiopia in 2 weeks, yes just 2 weeks now.  Well 13 sleeps to be precise and today I did my trial run packing my suitcase and luggage.  A girl has to be prepared and make sure it fits the 23kg case and 7kg hand luggage quota after all.  I'm pleased to report that both are fine and I feel that one step closer to getting on the plane now.

As I have not flown in quite a few years (well since 2004) I did not have anything suitable to take on as hand luggage really and when I spoke to my Trip Adviser at ONE she told me that a compact case or bag on wheels would be best as that would make life easy when we are moving about.

I thought long and hard about what I wanted and it was Nickie at Typecast that mentioned how she loved her Pink Lining bag which she uses for work.  I know Pink Lining, they are the makers of the most adorable and coveted change bags but as I have not had any babies for quite a few years they are not a company that came straight to mind. After Nickie's mention I decided to take a peek at the website and imagine my surprise when I saw that they actually have a small range of beautiful products for 'on the go'.  The wheelie case was just what I needed so I emailed them to see if they might like to sponsor me a bag to use on my trip and I'm thrilled to say they said yes.

I was like a child the day my bag arrived, I slowly unpacked it and stroked the beautiful fabric and admired the stylish and robust design. Anyone would have thought I was 5 rather than 39 as I wheeled the case around the house practising how it might work for me when I am on my travels. Obviously I have not gone further than my garden yet but the case appears to have good balance and I genuinely am looking forward to using it.

I'll share a few photos that I took today when I was doing my mock packing exercise.

As you can see from the photos the company is called Pink Lining for good reasons, all their products come with a beautiful signature pink lining.  I can honestly say this is a premium quality product, the fabric is cotton canvas that has been coated in EVA laminate (an environmentally friendly, food-safe vinyl that is made without chlorine or plasticizers) and this means the bag can be wiped with a damp cloth.

The handles and shoulder strap are thick and feel really durable. Each of the hooks and loops are metal and very substantial and sturdy.  It all looks as if it is built to last. There is a large pocket on the outside of the bag which will make it easy to get my passport and other essentials out and then inside there is a smaller zip pocket perfect for valuables like jewellery.

I was impressed with how much you can fit into this case and it still be under the 7kg weight limit for my flight.  I was able to pack a spare set of clothes, my toiletries, netbook and charger, phone charger, 2 reading books, sunglasses and some other small bits and bobs like tissues etc. Oh and don't forget the pillow I am taking with me, yes really - I like my comfort!

The cost of this wheelie case is £105.00 so it is not the cheapest on the market but I do fully expect to have the best hand luggage on my flight. I am happy that this presents good value for money as I believe the bag has been built to last and it will still be being used in 20 years time.

Dimensions - 51(L) x 21.5(H) x 29(W) cm and it weighs approximately 2.2kg when empty. The size fits the requirements for cabin/ hand luggage and is makes the bag easy to stow in the overhead locker.

The wheelie case can be bought directly from the Pink Lining website and delivery will be free of charge as it is over £100 or you can buy from John Lewis and some other quality retailers.

I am happy to recommend this wheelie case/ bag.

Style/ Design                    5/5
Practicality                       5/5
Ease of use                       5/5
Ease of order/ delivery     5/5
Price                                 3/5

Update January 12th 2013

I thought it was apt to update this review as I have now given my Pink Lining travel bag a really good trial period.  It has travelled with me to Ethiopia as hand luggage, been checked in the hold for Belarus and taken train journeys to London, Chester and Surrey. I'm pleased to report that my bag looks as good as new, only the wheels have some scratches on them, but how would they not when it has travelled thousands of miles?

The plasticised coating on the bag does the job and there is not even one mark on it. Everywhere I go I get comments about how individual and cute it is. All the zips work really well, the small pocket inside has been appreciated as it keeps small items safe and the larger outer pocket is great for your book, water and travel items as a flight bag.  It is just the right size to use as hand luggage on a plane but you can get a ton in it. It has been used as an overnight bag for two people staying away and comfortably fitted in computer and swim equipment as well as our essentials.

I would have to be honest and say that it is not as sturdy as a small case in terms of the wheels and pulling by the long handle but then it is not designed to be a case, it is a bag which is versatile. You can use the carry strap and carry it over your shoulder or you can pull it along if that is easier.  I have used both options and they both work well and I like the fact that I get the choice.

Having now used this travel bag quite a lot I am happy that the Pink Lining travel bag is a good value for money and would recommend it as a good purchase.

Disclosure: I have been provided with this wheelie case free of charge.  I have not been instructed what to write and I remain honest.

Thursday 20 September 2012

Reasons to be Cheerful - Week 38, R is for....

Good morning cheery ones.  How are you today?  The sun is shining here and that makes me smile.  As you read this I'll be busy beavering away at work but that is OK as I really love my current job, and what a blessing that is.  Not everyone can say that.

You might have seen that I've been using an alphabet letter prompt each week for quite some time now.  This week should be the turn of Q but come on, who can write a half interesting post around Q? (Hmm, I expect at least one of you will prove me wrong now). I then thought that I could combine Q and R together but to be honest I'm not even sure what I would use R for.  So I'll cheat just a little and this week R is for random....

1.  Weight Watchers - I have signed up to be part of the #WWBack2Best challenge with BritMums and Weight Watchers. Just yesterday I received a super hamper from Weight Watchers to get me started and I'm really looking forward to learning all about the ProPoints plan.  I just know that supporting others and being supported will make a big difference too.

2.  The amazing opportunities that have come to me because I write this blog - You are probably aware I am off to Ethiopia in a couple of weeks with the ONE Campaign but I also have a second amazing trip lined up that I have not announced just yet (R2BC sneaky preview here!) I'll be travelling in early December with Operation Christmas Child to Belarus where I will blog and write for them as I follow the journey of some shoe boxes.  I will be stoked to see all those children's faces light up as they receive their gifts. I have started my preparation already as I coordinate the collection at my kids school and I have even committed to a couple of assemblies this year - ekk!

3.  Taking time just to be with my family - JJ played his first football match last weekend and that was for sure a proud mummy moment, I loved being on the sideline cheering him on.  We have had some good weekends just recently spending time with friends but this weekend it is just about us.  Watching JJ play football again, a walk in the woods, Church and a meal out at Prezzo are about all our weekend will consist of. Those and some down time at home to just be and enjoy each others company in a relaxed way.

So now over to you....

What is making you happy, cheerful, grateful this week? Take some time to count your blessings, say thank you and put it down in a post - share in any way you fancy, R2BC is not about rules and stats, it is about counting your blessings and meeting a wonderful community of like-minded bloggers.

It really does make a difference when we choose to be happy and thankful for our lot in life.  Check out the Reasons to be Cheerful page to find out more.

Do leave me a comment, it is always nice to get a bit of encouragement and then I'll come over and do the same for you.

Be blessed this week, Mich xx

Reasons to be Cheerful at Mummy from the Heart

Tuesday 18 September 2012

Ethiopia Part 3 - Preparations & Panic!

Not long to go now, 18 more sleeps to be precise and yes I am really, really looking forward to it. The last week or so feels like it has just been one small panic moment after another to be honest.  Most are completely unfounded and not at all important but you know, I'm human so these silly things pop in my head and thankfully my logical side (that side in tune with God) clicks in and then I'm fine.

Each time I tell anyone about my trip or I meet with other bloggers I get asked 'how can you take this trip?' and often they follow up with 'I don't think I would cope'. To be honest I do not see anything special about myself taking this trip. When the ONE Campaign asked me to join them my instant reaction was that I would love to, it will be a real privilege. I might be being naive and completely unprepared, some may suggest I am wearing rose-tinted glasses but actually I just know that God has placed me in this situation and that gives me confidence and conviction. Travelling with ONE to Ethiopia is the right thing to do. I'm going to meet some awesome people, I just know it.

Elderly woman near Debre Birhan, Ethiopia. Photo credit: Laura Cook. Do follow the
link and look at her awesome photogaphy.

Sunday 16 September 2012

Guilty of neglect.....

Yes me.

It came as a bit of a shock.
It is not a label that I would ever have given to myself, well not in regard to parenting anyway. I think I am a pretty good parent, not perfect but good enough certainly.
It does appear that good enough parents can be guilt of neglect too. Not total neglect of my children you understand.  There is no need to go ringing social services or anything like that.  Nope, the neglect I am guilty of is looking after JJ’s teeth.  A few weeks back he had to have 2 fillings in his big teeth and that means they are now there forever.  That’s pretty crap isn’t it?  A 9 year old should not have fillings.  There should be no need for that.  It is not like he has sweets every day and has an awful diet, he doesn’t.  So it is down to looking after his teeth, or lack of looking after them more to the point.

Shall I tell you want I am really guilty of? Treating JJ as if he is older than he is, forgetting he is just a little boy.  My JJ is so lovely that since the twins were born 5 years ago he has learnt to be more self-sufficient - he can shower himself, help the twins, sort his room and brush his teeth or so I thought.

Friday 14 September 2012

Those topless photos and why debate is good

Earlier today the news broke that the Duchess of Cambridge had been papped in France and there were now topless pictures of her on the cover and in the French edition of Closer magazine. Let me start by saying this is of course outrageous and unacceptable, no one should have to worry their whole life about having photos or videos taken of them when they are in private, we should all be able to make a choice about what we share of ourselves.  

However as Royals I do believe they know they get photographed all the time, she is on the cover of practically every British paper today.  A different kind of photo thankfully but she is still there and is no stranger to media attention. In general I think the Royals would probably say that the media hype that surrounds them is a good thing for our country as it brings in lots of tourism. And yes I know it is different, being photographed in a public place as adverse to in your home or on a private holiday villa.

I have been astounded today to find myself drawn into this topic and the debate surrounding ‘was she asking for it?’.  I don’t do debate or controversy really, I have my opinions and they are based on my Christian beliefs and I sit happy with those and do not judge others for their’s. But today I have realised just how healthy a bit of debate is, it can really open your mind.

Thursday 13 September 2012

Reasons to be Cheerful - Week 37

Welcome all, lovely to see you, My baby has returned home today and it feels great to have #R2BC back here. What a super job all my guest hosts have done over the summer, thank you all so much for your support and hard work, I really enjoyed my time out.

Continuing with the alphabet theme it is the turn of P this week to guide my reasons to be cheerful.  So what can I come up with for P?

Party - I was pushed out of my comfort zone last Sunday and we opened our home to about 30 people to share a BBQ after Church.  I am not big on entertaining people as I get really nervous and stress about things being right but amongst these wonderful friends I was able to let go and really enjoy myself. It can be hard to make sure the food you choose is sutable for everyone as well but these egg free cupcakes are perfect and enjoyed by all.

Prayer - As a Christian, prayer is a big part of my life and I was excited and humbled to listen to Miss M's prayer tonight.  As she laid there and asked the Lord to help her to remember to pray each day (without any prompting I might add) my heart swelled and I was a happy mummy. It was also a super reminder this week to read a tweet from@DigitalNun saying that prayer is not only about 'chatting to God' but also waiting on him and listening.

Then my last 2 reasons are not P's but they are making me too cheerful not to mention them!  I am off to Blog Camp in London today and I can't wait.  On one hand I am nervous as I have not planned to meet anyone but the thrill of a grown-up day out with the chance to meet up with like-minded bloggers is a big draw.

And I'll be taking my new iPhone with me.  Yes I know I am about 3 years behind every other blogger but at last I have my own iPhone and only a day into owning it, I am loving it.  So quick and it makes life very simple and the bonus is I can listen to my music and podcasts on the train.

Then lastly not a reason to be cheerful but another P none the less.  Could I ask that we all pledge to try and visit a few more people in the link up please?  Community really does come about when we take the time to interact and I don't know about you but I have made some of my best bloggy friends through this link-up.

A big hello and welcome if you are new here today.  Please write a post about what is making you happy, cheerful, grateful right now. Grab the blog hop code from below, add it into your post and link up.  I'll be over to visit everyone who links up a related post this week.  Tweet with #R2BC too if you fancy.

Wishing you a wonderful weekend, be blessed.  Mich x

Image Credit

Monday 10 September 2012

How to make sandcastle flags (for the non-crafty family)

If we are honest I am a little late getting this post up on my blog but seeing as we are having an Indian summer right now, I'll go for it.

Here is an easy crafty activity that I do with the kids each summer. I am not at all a crafting guru and this is super simple and hardly costs a penny, so any regular mum like me can have a go!

Every child I have met so far seems to love playing with sand and of course a trip to the beach is even more fun.  I recall wonderful times as a child going to the seaside with my family and I have very fond memories of making sandcastles with my Dad.  He is a bit of a sandcastle hero really and even now 30 years later he is still enjoying making them but with my kids now.

Whilst Dad mostly did the hard work digging moats and crafting the multi layer castles I always enjoyed the final decoration and would collect shells and stones and also place small flags on the sandcastles.  We used to buy a little pack of these flags and I recall they used to be pretty expensive.  When JJ was first old enough I knew I wanted him to have the fun of flags too but I did not want to spend out on them, so each year we sit down and make some flags. Here's how.....

Saturday 8 September 2012

#SilentSunday - JJ making me smile!

Just a bit of fun, hope I do not offend anyone.  JJ wanted to get in on the action! How much fun does a near 9 year old think this is???

For more #SilentSunday pictures go and visit the linky on Love all Blogs.

Have a great week, Mich x

Friday 7 September 2012

InnoTab2 V LeapPad2 - Which is better?

We have been very lucky this summer to be sent both an InnoTab2 and a LeapPad2 to have a play with.  I had a look at both and a bit of a play but to be honest I passed them on to my chief tester JJ, my near 9 year old son.  He is very tech savvy and happy to put these children's tablets through their paces.  Last year we received the original LeapPad so JJ was familiar with that but the InnoTab was new to us.

I know from chatting to my friends and seeing forum posts last Christmas that many parents have no idea which child-friendly tablet to choose.  The beauty of these is that your child cannot connect to the internet and access unsuitable content, so these offer a lot of peace of mind and of course are geared to be educational in a fun and engaging way.

To me, the untrained mum, both tablets seem very similar and I would have no idea which to choose.  It really does fall down to personal preference.You can of course search the web but often what I find is that the content out there is written by geeky types and that means that I have no idea what they are on about!  To try and help you to decide I have put together some key facts about both tablets and offered the opinion of us a real family, with 5 year old twin girls, a near 9 year old boy and a non-geeky mum and dad.

Thursday 6 September 2012

Come journey with me - Ethiopia, Part 2

Not for years has my head been quite so full and buzzing.  I am flying by on excitement and adrenaline at the moment as I get ready for my trip to Ethiopia in October. This planning stage and anticipation of what I might see, what may happen and how my world view might be changed is pretty all-encompassing.  As I mentioned previously I want to invite you to travel this journey with me start to finish, so here is an update of the last week or so.

As someone who likes to be organised I have been chomping at the bit waiting for an itinerary and my flight details, so I was super pleased when I got confirmation of my flights about a week ago.  The really good news is that I need to be at Heathrow at a decent hour and therefore dh and my kids can drop me there.  I think that will be great as long as the kids and I can manage to part ways without any tears.  It will certainly be nicer to travel there by car than train or bus. Coming back is a different story and I think I will be getting the bus back home but dh will give me an orientation of Heathrow when he drops me off so I am prepared.

Having my flight times also means that my Visa can get sorted and that is another worry off my mind.  I filled out the form and sent my passport/ photos off to ONE in London and they are sorting this for me which is just great and I really appreciate all their organisation and management.

Tuesday 4 September 2012

The Summer that was.....

It feels like this summer has gone exceptionally fast and while I am now ready for the kids to go back to school (tomorrow morning, yay!) I want to acknowledge just how great it has been.  The children are now at a good age for having fun and once Miss M has grown out of this minxy stage (do we ever think that may happen?) things will be perfect.

So here we go - a post to look back over when I am 60 and I can say to my grandchildren, oh look what I did with your parents when I was 38/39.

This was the summer that -

*  we ventured up North on holiday for the first time and yes the journey was far too long and the kids did bicker and constantly ask 'are we nearly there yet!' but the lodge was divine and we had a great time. Ohh how the girls loved that kiddie disco each night.

*  my girls learnt to shop..... yay, partners in crime established! Most of it was in charity shops and the sales so we were thirfty but Miss M loves trying things on and wanting to pay with her own money.

*  involved lots of time for relaxing with my family and getting a nice tan, well on my top half anyway. The legs are still lilly white! I think I would be hard pushed to try and count the amount of parks I sat in this summer.

Monday 3 September 2012

Who knew school uniform could be so exciting?

It does not say a lot for our summer that my kids can not wait to go back to school.  Or is it the other way and we have done so many wonderful things that they have now just overdosed and need some routine and discipline back?  I think actually truth be told they just miss their mates.  There is only so long that adults can keep kids truly entertained, I have never been the best at make believe play!

When we returned from holiday last week I told the kids that we had some school uniform from Tesco waiting at the post office for them.  They all insisted that they come with me to collect it and then there was a frenzy as they opened the boxes and delighted in their finds!  I do love it that they are so happy to please sometimes.