Monday 31 December 2012

#RealLifeRocks in 2013

I'm writing this on the evening on 27th December, so we have just four days left of 2012. I've looked back over the last three years on my blog and each year at this time, I say the same thing - that I won't set any resolutions and set myself up to fail. That does make sense but tonight I have been questioning whether I have not set any resolutions in recent years so that I do not have to actually keep to them. There are certain things that really do need to be tackled and I keep pussy footing and not grabbing the issue by the balls and dealing with it.

A couple of months ago I posted about my main focus for 2013, that being Operation #RealLifeRocks, I totally standby this and it is my overreaching aim of the year, to live in the now and to cherish what I have in front of me.

I do need some direction but I want to keep it positive and simple, so rather than a list of do-nots.  I'll share with you in pictures what I will be doing in 2013...

Most of these I look at and think yes that is achievable I can do that but when it comes to my weight I have a brain block, so I'll leave you with this simple thought and I have to admit it made me cry when I read it -
 'If you believe it .... you can achieve it'. 

I need to start believing...

Books image credit

Sunday 30 December 2012

2012 - A year of highs!

For the last week or so I've been wanting to write a post to pull together this last year and to round it all up. The logical place to start was to look for a resolutions, goals, wishes type post from January gone to see if I achieved what I wanted to. You know what, I could not find one.

There was a post about my weight - isn't there always, and yes again I had vowed to eat less, move more, sleep more and dump some pounds.  But sadly it has not happened, I think I am the same exact weight now as I was at the start of Jan in 2012. So I might as well start this post off with the low point and as far as I can recall this is the only downside from 2012, so I can hardly complain at that, can I?

Right, on with the highs - I'll take you on a month by month tour of what happened in the life of Mummy from the Heart -

I moved jobs in Jan and adore my new role.  It offers everything I want from a job and a girl could not ask for a lot more. In the bloggy world I published a post titled Blogging is just like the real world.  This went down well and I read it out at BritMums Live in June as a crowd sourced speaker.

My own little animal at the Muppets preview

I hosted my second New Bloggers Fortnight and had some great guest writers, my favourite posts were probably those by Ruth and Clare. Geek Mummy's was the most read by far and I will always feel joyful that Kerry posted here too.

I ended the month asking people what their opinion on blogging awards is and 91 comments later we can sum up that it is completely mixed. Will I put myself through the agony in 2013, who knows?

My blog received its much longed for make-over in March and here I am 10 months later and thank the Lord I have not bored of it, so I obviously made the right choice in the design.

It was also the month that I travelled up to London to meet the ONE Campaign and to learn about who they are and what they do, of course I then went on to do great things with them in October.

Paultons Park for a review

We took our annual trip to Spring Harvest, the huge Christian festival at Butlins in Minehead. This was an amazing week of family time and worship. Whilst we were there I wrote a post called 'seeing myself through my kids eyes ' and this struck a cord with lots of people.

I also wrote one of my blogs biggest SEO successes.  Not one I would have chosen to write, I revealed my tactics for having dealt with a clothes moth infestation!

May seemed to be a month when I wrote about blogging.  I often hear that it is the kiss of death to blog about blogging. Apparently it makes me boring.  Oh well, my stats tell me you like it and people keep coming back.

I had a great weekend away with the ladies from my Church, lots of down time and relaxation and then the next weekend I headed off to BritMums Live to spend time with my best bloggy buddies.

July marked my girls turning 5 and we headed off to Yorkshire for my first review holiday, it was a great time. On our journey back I got a tweet to say I had been picked to be a Butlins Ambassador in 2013 and then later in July I was asked by the ONE Campaign if I wanted to travel to Ethiopia in October.  I also felt I needed a change of direction with my guest posts on the BritMums blog so the Positively Inspirational round-up was born. It was a VERY good month indeed.

I had a lot of down time this month, blogging less and being with my family more.  We stayed in Bournemouth with my parents for a week and enjoyed family, sun, good food and just simple time together.

In general I had the best summer with the kids and will never forget the time we spent together, laughing, singing and playing.

This month was all about the mental preparation of getting ready to travel to Ethiopia, the kids went back to school and I worked hard. I also joined in with the debate about Kate Middleton and those topless photos.

We went to Legoland for JJ's 9th birthday and shortly after I boarded a plane for the first time in 8 years. My journey to Ethiopia is well documented on this blog and I'll never forget what I saw, heard and learnt there, I have been forever changed.

I don't really feel as if my feet touched the ground when I came back from Ethiopia, I was swept away in a need to blog about everything I had experienced and also conscious I needed to get ready for my journey to Belarus in early December. I knocked out a post about blogging (yes again) as I was getting a tad fed up with the newer bloggers keep moaning about things.

Towards the end of November I was honoured to be a part of a group of bloggers who came together for a very public show of prayer and healing for Kerry of Multiple Mummy. Sadly for us and her family, God had plans that Kerry should join Him and she passed away in December. RIP Kerry.

Bringing us right up to date, the month started with me travelling to Belarus with Operation Christmas Child. Yet another amazing journey and so different to Ethiopia but equally as rewarding and thought provoking. Upon my return I wrote an expose of what I had seen and heard whilst travelling with this Christian charity. I also published a post on the same subject on the BritMums blog.

2012 has been good, thank the Lord for the wonderful opportunities He has put in my path.  I pray He finds many uses for me in 2013.

Happy New Year readers, thanks so much for keep coming back.  Mich x

Saturday 29 December 2012

#SocialPix - my first time!

I have been meaning to post today, really I have but just recently I have been enjoying surfing the blogsphere and reading rather than writing, so my blog is bare!  But then I just saw Annie post and remind me about #SocialPix and seeing as I have not joined in before, I will now.

Here are my favourite series of photos from this week as shared on FB and Twitter -

Why don't you join in too and share an image that has amde you smile.

Thursday 27 December 2012

A simple Christmas #R2BC (Week 52)

Happy Christmas one and all, this is the last Reasons to be Cheerful of the year, this linky has now been running a full two years and I am pondering its future - is it here or elsewhere?  We will see, I know there will be lots of changes a foot in 2013 but I'm not entirely sure what they all are yet.

I don't think there is anything else I could make my #R2BC about this week, it is Boxing Day evening as I write this and I am pleased to have a bit of calm and some downtime.

Here is what I have been thankful for this Christmas -

1.  Getting to spend time with my husband, children, parents, brother and Nan. No frills, just simple conversations, board games, craft, food enjoyed together and hugs on the sofa.

2.  All my family being well over Christmas, normally at least one of the kids gets ill but no so far. It is also a blessing that my Nan is still with us, she went into a hospice back in October and is the only person I have ever known to get well enough to come out again.  Yes she is bedridden and has terminal cancer but boy is she fighting!

3.  Christmas day had a purpose, as well as being fun. Dh cooked food for our church dinner and I ferried it back and forth and helped to set up/ serve.  We also had one little lad come over our house to play for a few hours and I think this made his day.  We were both exhasted by the end of the day but lots of people who would have been lonely got to spend time together and that is what counts.

4.  I got Mum to myself for a couple of hours on Boxing day to go to the sales and enjoy a nice cappuccino together. The bonus was that I managed to buy some really lovely goodies, Next leather shoes for £14, a beautiful leather purse (I won't say the price of that one) and a couple of pretty vest tops for just £3.50 each as well as a gorgeous crystal hair accessory, annuals for the kids some nail varnish - result!

5.  The girls had the best time playing beauty boutiques with Mummy.  I spent £3 in the cheap shop last week and bought a set of brushes, eye shadow and lip gloss for the express purpose of having a play together. We made each others faces up, did our nails and they did my hair - there was giggles all round.

6.  There is still loads of time before we have to go back to work/ school. Lots of chilled days at home with games, movies and crafts.

Over to you...

So that was us, how was it all for you?  I hope you had a great time. If you fancy, write a post about what has made you cheerful/ grateful/ happy and link it up.  Then we can all go visit each other and leave some comment love.  I'm not expecting there to be many this week to be honest, but you just never know....

I hope to catch you soon but if not I wish you a very happy New year!

Monday 24 December 2012

Take a nosey at our Christmas trees

I'm very late to the show but who is keeping watch of time hey? Cass at Diary of a Frugal Family set up a linky for us all to share our Christmas trees and I do love a good nosey, so time for me to link up and go and visit the others. I'm hardly expecting anyone to turn out here as it is Christmas eve after all.

This year we have two Christmas trees, I decided that I wanted an adult one in the front room, one where everything matches and then the kids had fun literally throwing decorations at the other. It appears that the bag with all their decorations has not made it down from the loft but they had fun with the coloured sparkly decorations I had bought ready for a Christmas tree festival this year.  I have to be honest and say I like their tree much more than mine.

I think next year we will go back to one tree and we will just put all our favourite decorations on it, I miss the mismatched, hotch potch approach that I remember from my childhood Christmases. I hope my parents still have some of my favourite decorations in their loft, I must ask them to have a look.

I find that decorations hold so many memories and that is far more important that the overall glamour (or not as the case may be) of a tree. Between our two trees we have decorations made by the kids, one that were bought when they all were born, decorations bought on honeymoon in Barbados and more recently some from my trip to Belarus. Ones chosen by the kids and ones bought for them, it really does represent my family and all the Christmases we have spent together and I love that.

Until this year we have alwasy had a tree entered in our local Christmas tree festival and thus have literally hundreds of decorations to choose from. My trip to Belarus with Operation Christmas Child this year stopped us taking part but hopefully we will be back with a vengence next year.

My tree in the lounge, which sadly you can't really see much of due to the lights! lol

And the kids tree - aren't the lights fab on the kids tree?

Saturday 22 December 2012

It's such a perfect day.....

...and I'm glad I spent it with you - Daddy, Miss M, Miss E and JJ.

I really am very easy to please, I don't hanker after the finer things in life, just time with my family, a small amount of money to spend to make that time extra special and then lots of relaxation. Only a couple of small things could have made today even better - 1. that my Mum and Dad were here and could join us and 2. that I had some elves who could finish wrapping the presents for me!

Today we visited Santa at his grotto, went for a cream tea afterwards and had a good browse round a beautiful garden centre.  Then we came back for lunch, made crackers for Christmas day and sat and watched three Christmas movies back to back.  I even managed to fit in the ironing, some wrapping and tidying up the house.

Dh was a diamond and did lunch, dinner and showered the kids.  That's what I team work!

It's now time for a movie snuggled with my hubbie.  What are you up to?

Thursday 20 December 2012

#R2BC - Christmas preparations with 2 little ladies (Week 51)

Hello, happy Thursday!

We are practically at the end of the year, I can't believe this is the 103rd week of Reasons to be Cheerful. Time really does pass quickly when you are having fun! Thanks again to all of you who keep me company on this, my weekly vigil.

Last weeks reason was the children I met in Belarus and all their happy smiles, this weeks reasons are my own two smallest beams of sunshine. I seriously need to remind myself of how much I adore them as they are driving me potty right now! It is a case of pre-Christmas fever and there is only so many Christmas carols I can tolerate when they are sung at the top of their voices!

We have had a lovely couple of weeks preparing for Christmas - wrapping presents, making crackers, making fudge, decorating the tree and so much more....

This is the shy and retiring Miss M!

and her twinnie Miss E

and the Hama bead decorations they had made and were hanging on their tree.
 After their school performance the little ladies pose for a random picture!
Posting letters to Father Christmas in John Lewis

Time to tell the nativity story....

Enjoying time just being together - finally we have completed the puzzle which took us days!
Over to you - what is making you grateful/ happy/ cheerful right now?
Write your post, add in the blog hop code and then go visit some fellow happy peeps. Tweet with #R2BC if you fancy but most of all have fun and share the comment love. I'll aim to come and visit you all - lets be honest, it is practically Christmas, I don't expect they will be that many of you!
If we don't speak before, have a fabulous Christmas!  Mich x

Sunday 16 December 2012

Operation Christmas Child Exposed

Belarus church
Me with our translator, Nastia
I’ve been back from Belarus for almost a week now and I have been enjoying the downtime, it is as if I do not have enough brain capacity to blog right now, I am well and truly spent. I did wake up this morning though and have a silent longing for it to be last Sunday again; we met so many fabulous kids in Belarus and we were riding the high of our successful webcast. Last Sunday was for sure my best day there and the people I spent the week with were such fun and kept me grounded during a week which could have been very emotional.

I feel as if I have been propelled on a journey that started in November 2011 when I was first asked to travel with Operation Christmas Child to be part of and blog about a shoebox distribution abroad. Once the initial panic of just three weeks’ notice had dissipated I was so excited to take this journey, as OCC is a charity I have supported for years and love the idea of, so why wouldn’t I do this? I soon realised the answer to this – there are so many people who are anti-OCC and they were not going to make my journey easy. The number of negative comments I have received in the last year could have been seriously demotivating if I had allowed them to be.
For one reason and another I did not make the journey last year but it was agreed I would join the OCC team this year, so I had lots of time to prepare and that was much better for me. If I’m honest I spent much of this year in a bit of a panic that I might not be able to offer OCC what they wanted from me. I was really conscious that as a charity they do not have money to waste and were putting a lot of faith in me to write their stories for the web and their publications. My trip to Ethiopia with the ONE Campaign helped to boost my confidence I could do this, but still, the niggling doubt remained. Oh Michelle, ye of little faith!

Boy receiving a shoebox gift
Image Credit: Jonty Wilde

Thursday 13 December 2012

R2BC (Week 50) - 50 Smiles....

Some of you might have noticed I was missing from Reasons to be Cheerful last week, I was in Belarus with Samaritans Purse, the charity that runs the Operation Christmas Child initiative.

It was a superb week, I met so many awesome children and had my eyes opened in so many ways. If you look back through my last few posts you'll see more from my trip if you are interested.  At the weekend I'll be publishing a post about what I learnt about OCC while I was away with them, it will make for interesting reading.

Thanks so much to Kat for being a great host last week and this week is being hosted by Sally over at Pressies by Pebbles. Write your post and then please go over and see her to link up, leave a comment and go share some comment love. I'll certainly come to visit anyone this weekend that leaves me a comment.

#R2BC will be back here with me again next week and will run each week over Xmas and the New Year, so do join in.

So what is my reason to be cheerful this week?  Simple - 50 smiles as they received their shoebox gifts...

Have a great week, Mich x

All images by Jonty Wilde

Tuesday 11 December 2012

Operation Christmas Child - Belarus, Andrey's story

This is Andrew but pronounced Andrey when said with a Belarusian accent. He was just the most gorgeous boy that we met during our whole stay in Belarus. Yesterday at dinner I told my family about him and I kid you not both my husband and son nearly had tears rolling down their cheeks.

I'll tell you his story -

Andrew is now nine years old and has been living happily with his Babushka (Grandma) for the last three years, it is clear for all to see that they adore each other. We were proudly shown the medals that he had won in the local family fun days, apparently, he had run on behalf of himself, his mother and father and then his Babushka had taken her turn and they had come home with the medal! Very impressive and a good start to Andrew’s desire to be a ‘Speedy man’ when he grows up, that is a racing driver to you and me.

Andrews life did not start out anywhere near as happy. When you learn that he lives with his Grandma you automatically start to wonder where his parents are. It turns out that Andrews’s parents had not been married when he was born and in fact, his father had gone off to Russia to make a new life with his wife and children. Andrew lived with his mother for the first couple of years of his life but sadly she was not fit to look after him and he was taken into care and ended up in an orphanage.

During this time his Babushka learned of his existence and set about proving she was his biological father's mother, this was an expensive and lengthy process but luckily one that she won and Andrew was able to come home with her.  No wonder he is so happy now.  His first couple of years were spent with his mother who I do not really know much back history on but I do know she lost her parental rights through a lack of care for Andrew and she has now died.  He then spent about 4-5 years in the orphanage where he was just one of many abandoned children, it can't have made for a secure and happy young childhood Andrew now lives in a very basic house which is desperately in need of repair but it appears he does not see his surroundings as he feels blessed to be loved. He greeted us at the door of his house with a smile that could light a room. He started to look through his box straight away and then his Grandma called us into the house to take a seat and chat for a short while.
Andrew asked us who had made this box for him and his manner was very inquiring and you could tell it was important to him.  We informed him that children in the United Kingdom had made up the box as they wanted to send him some gifts.  When he saw there was a hand made puppet in there he asked us if he could make something to send to them to say thank you.  We told him his smile and photograph were enough...... 
And they will be enough for me for many years to come. I am sat here feeling so emotional as I type this. The children we met in Belarus were so respectful and giving and are a fine example to our own children. It literally churns my guts when I think of how much kids here have and how ungrateful they are for it. Don't gte me wrong my kids are no worse than anyone else's in the UK but you would have thought the world ended yesterday when I told JJ he was having a week without his computer.  I think maybe he learnt a little lesson himself when I talked about children over there of the same age as him never having used a computer.
May the Lord bless you, Andrew, I hope your dreams come true.
This was my SoundCloud made on the last day on the trip and I think I might even have mentioned Andrew in it, he touched me deeply.

 Last photo Image Credit - Samaritans Purse/ Jonty Wilde

Sunday 9 December 2012

Operation Christmas Child, Live web cast in Belarus - Job done!

I have had such an amazing time here in Belarus, we have experienced so much in such a little time. A real whistle-stop tour of this great place. The culture is so different from anything I have experienced before and I have been really impacted by the place and the people I have been privileged to travel with. My eyes have been opened to new opportunities, ways to achieve things and avenues to explore.

There are loads of blog posts brewing in my head but for today I'll just share with you the live webcast that we filmed this afternoon and my sound clip made last night at the end of day 4.

It has been fantastic having you join me on this journey. Thanks so much for reading. God bless. Mich x

Day 4 sound clip for you -

Oh, and I have to share my favourite pictures of today too. We went to visit the Sunday school at the church where our translator Nastia is a Sunday school teacher and the children had been working on the topic 'God holds each of us in His hand'. The children drew some pictures and asked me to take them back to my children at my church/ school, they liked the idea of reciprocal gifts.  Yes, I was welling up at this point and as I just had not expected it.

One of the drawings

The budding artists!

Saturday 8 December 2012

OCC Belarus - They may look well dressed but....

Before I came here I hooked up with a lady who has been on an OCC distribution trip to Belarus in the past and I asked her if she had any advice for me.  She said not advise really but just be aware that when she showed her pictures on her return home everyone said 'they do not look poor' and she is so right.  Very often the children here do not look poor.....  but we all know looks can be deceiving, right?

At the moment in Belarus, the snow is about 6-8 inches deep and it is -5 degrees, I think we would all agree that means every child should have at least a thick, warm coat and a pair of good boots. What they also have is probably a couple of outfits, one to wear and one for best. The best one might have been worn and outgrown by dozens of children before them but it still looks nice as it is cherished and looked after. The Belarusians I have met maybe poor but they are also proud and keen to present a good image.

Take a look at Eger and his little brother Vladik, they do not look too poor, do they?  No holes in their jumpers, their clothes appear to fit, their hair is tidy - they must have enough money in their family, right?

Shall I show you where these two beautiful little boys live?

These pictures will paint quite a different picture for you and you'll see why a shoebox of small and insignificant (to us) items mean such a lot to these children.

I couldn't have made that up, could I? The back of their house has literally fallen down and the inside is not a great deal better. Leonora, their mother cooks in a tiny, cold thin wood outhouse with a peeling ceiling.

My message to anyone reading this is to not judge a book by its cover. Just because a family wish to present a good front does not mean that all is well and they are trying to deceive you into giving when they do not require it.

You also have the other side of things to think about as well..... is poverty just about a lack of money?

Or could it be a lack of love or a lack of spirituality as well? I certainly think it can be both of those things too.

I have been to two social shelters since I have been in Belarus and both of these have looked really well maintained - they had nice rugs, toys for the kids to play with, ample heating and lots of room to run around outside but what they do not have is parents, people who love the children and will be there forever for them.  Don't get me wrong, they have superb staff from, what I have seen but the children only stay there for six months whilst longer-term solutions are sorted out.  I would call those children poor too, despite them being well dressed, like this -

I hope you will give this post some thought and if you feel compelled to visit Shoebox World where you can still make a shoebox online for as little as £12.60.

Go on, make a child's Christmas....

And for those who asked, here is my day 3 update sound clip -

Thursday 6 December 2012

Do you have to make noise and smile widely? (OCC Belarus Day 2)

This is a question that the team here in Belarus have been asking ourselves since yesterday.

Tomorrow and Sunday we have two live webcasts (God willing) to transmit to the UK from a live Christmas shoebox distribution here in Belarus and what are the people back home expecting to see I wonder?  Hmm, I suspect they may be looking for children whooping, jumping for joy and beaming big smiles. So much work has gone on in the UK to help these 9000 odd boxes make it safely to Belarus that it would just be the icing on the cake to see how much they are loved.

However, I have a little concern, having now met a number of Belarusian children it is evident that children are far more traditional and reserved here (especially in front of adults and esteemed guests at that - yes that's us! lol), they are extremely well mannered and polite but quite distant at first too - not in a bad way, they just appear cautious and watchful until they know you a little better.

When I was in Ethiopia just two months ago I had to ask the local people if it was OK to hug the children or to lift them up as they literally throw themselves at you with open arms and want to be loved and feel affection. I do not have this dilemma in Belarus as the children maintain a distance and smile coyly if I catch their eye.

It would be easy to be fooled into thinking that Belarusian children have no sense of fun or joie de vivre but by chance yesterday, after we had spent time with a group of children at a social shelter and then gone for tea with the adults we asked if we could see more of the centre and we got taken unannounced into the older boys dormitory bedroom and there was the sight I wanted to see. All those children happy together, engaged in free play and chatting about their boxes and what they had received and what could be swapped.

It is not a great photo but you can see how natural the children are here interacting with each other.

Then today we visited a family home and again the children were quiet and appeared underwhelmed with their gifts, but then as we went upstairs for a quick tour we got to watch the children being natural with each other as all the foreign guests had gone (or so they thought) and this is when you see them really happy and at ease.

I pray you'll get to see some children on the webcasts who are able to relax and show you how much they appreciate the gifts you have given them. You can rest assured they will turn up in their best outfit (perhaps their only outfit) to make a good impression for you.

Just remember that if they look a little apprehensive or pensive it is because this is a very different occurrence for them to their everyday life and they have not been taught to embrace difference but to be aware of it.

Once the camera stops and we leave the room then the real fun starts for them and you have been part of that, thank you and God bless, Mich x

There is still time to make a shoebox online if you would like to - visit Shoebox World.

Wednesday 5 December 2012

OCC trip to Belarus - Day 1

I really need to sleep but equally, I really want to share. So I am going for the time-saving option and I'll share some photos from our visit to a social shelter today and if you want to find out more then listen to my SoundCloud clip, please. What a fabulous bunch of children we got to meet if only I could speak their language...

I promise I'll post in full tomorrow.  For tonight I must be sensible so I can survive the rest of the week.

Oh and if you were wondering about the weather here in Belarus, yes I am glad I packed for it to be very cold!

Tuesday 4 December 2012

I used to try to fit in, now I just dip in! It's much more me

I was listening to the radio today and the guest speaker said something that really resonated with me. She said that as Christian we will be judged on how much we have loved and not on how much we know. It occurred to me that whether you are a Christian or not most people would do well to remember this. It surely has to be more important to be loving, kind and generous than to be the most knowledgeable, have the most or be the popular one?

Without ever having thought of this as a stand-alone concept I have always had to ask JJ the question – ‘Is it more important to be right or kind?’ He knows what the best answer is but he is still at an age when the lure of being right is very appealing. Some people never seem to grow out of that desire to be right and I do wonder why - Is it so satisfying to know that you are correct; does it help to make you feel superior? I do wonder how empty their life must be and how little inner joy they have, that those outward insignificant things have to take on such worth.

These thoughts about the importance of being loving have not left me today and I have realised that I must keep this caring approach at the forefront of my mind. I do strive to be a nice person, I want to be available to help others when they need me and I hope to come across as approachable but this has not always been the case. Well, not unless you ask my Mum, she would probably tell you I have always been an angel! However, I know I’ve been on a journey and turn the clock back 15 years and people might not have used such positive words to describe me, but I refuse to beat myself up about the past, God has forgiven me and wiped clean my slate and it is therefore imperative I do the same.

I was surprised earlier to find myself thinking of this radio comment in relation to blogging. I realised that many people in the blogging world would do well to remember that it is more important to be loving than to be knowledgeable, right, popular or whatever else it is they desire. I feel as if my eyes have been open to the fact that blogging is just like any other part of life for quite some time. I found out early on that there are some truly supportive people, some champions who will go out of their way for you and then there are those wearing their masks and pretending to be sweetness, luring you in to their evil games and they think nothing of trampling over you as they win points against their opponents or climb up the popularity charts. There are of course lots of other people sitting in the middle, some dipping into blogging, others diving in and becoming so absorbed they lose sight of real life and what it is all about.

Blogging is wonderful and rewarding but highly addictive and it can bring out the worst traits in people. You only have to watch my Twitter timeline at the time of the month when the Tots100 updates to see that some people go through every possible emotion as they ponder why ‘so and so’ is more popular than them, why they have not moved up in the chart despite their best month ever and what else they have to do to rank higher when they have already slogged their guts out that month.

I’m not perfect, don’t worry about that. There have been times when I have yearned to be more popular in blogging terms, to have such a wonderful technical knowledge like XYZ or to be able to create a visual fest like ABC. But I’m me, perfectly as God created me. I can only be me. I am so glad that I got my head around the fact that I do not have to fit in with blogging. In fact there is no such thing as fitting in with blogging or parenting blogging or any other blogging circle you frequent. We are talking about 4000-5000 parenting blogs alone that is a massive number. Would you ever fit in with that amount of people in a real life situation? Hardly! You just have to find the bunch of people that you relate to or fell most comfortable with and spend time with them, or don’t spend time with them, the choice is always yours. A while back I sent a tweet in response to a comment on a recent post I wrote about blogging, it said ‘I used to try to fit in but now I just dip in, it’s much more me’ and I think that sums things up nicely. Be you. You are perfect as you are. Be immersed in blogging or don’t, the choice is yours - just enjoy and be content!

Ohh and ignore the negative bloggers that try to sap your energy, they are not worth it, they obviously have issues and you know what they say, what goes around comes around.

So now over to you, have you found your happy medium yet? And any advice you want to share with other bloggers to help them maintain perspective? Just leave a comment….

Friday 30 November 2012

2013 New Bloggers Fortnight - call for recommendations

For the last two years in January/ February I have hosted new bloggers fortnight and I think the title gives away what it is really........ but in case you are not sure, read on...

Basically I ask fairly new bloggers (well those who have been doing it about a year or less) to write a guest post to be published here on Mummy from the Heart. All the posts are directed at new bloggers and aim to share what they have learnt in their time blogging. 

So in a nutshell - advice for new bloggers by new bloggers!

In 2011 I had some awesome guest posters, the likes of now established bloggers - Inside the Wendy House, Ghost Writer Mummy and SAHM Loving It amongst others.

Then in 2012 I welcomed DorkyMum, Geek Mummy and Seasider in the City as well as many more to introduce new subjects and their own personal take on blogging and what it means to be new to the scene.

The topics covered in these two years have been vast - joining in with linkys and meme, building relationships, blogging anonymously, establishing your identity, the stress of being a newbie. paid content on your blog, blogging myths, running giveaways, reviewing with integrity, geeky questions etc.

Want to join in?
So how do you fancy posting here in the two weeks commencing 28th January 2013?

Please leave me a comment if you think you are a seriously good new parenting blogger and you have a subject matter that you want to blog on, that you think will interest and engage other new bloggers.

I hope to welcome at least 10 guest writers during the two week period and at the moment I only have about 3 people that I know I want to approach an confirm arrangements with. I hope you would find it a worthwhile experience to guest post here and that it might just direct some new readers your way.

If you leave me a link to your blog or a recommendation for a new blogger that I should approach then I'll come visit them and have a good read and get to know their blog later in December and then I'll approach people to set up the guest writers.

If you want to take a look at the variety of posts written for New Bloggers Fortnight in 2011 and 2012 then check out the roundup posts linked to here.

Many of you will know I am off to Belarus on Tuesday and as such please don't tweet to FB me any links as I am likely to miss them.  Just leave them as a comment and I will definitely come visit and comment.

Thanks all, Mich x

Thursday 29 November 2012

Simple Reasons to be Cheerful - Week 48

Hello all,

Lovely to see you here, I'm just back to keeping it simple this week and sharing a few things that have made me smile this week.

*   The visa came through for my trip to Belarus next week with Operation Christmas Child.  I just need to get some currency Friday and pack and I think I'm all ready. No stressing this time and no time to think about being nervous!

*   I hit 4000 twitter followers last night.  I was trying to fathom why this makes me smile, as logically I know it won't change my life and it doesn't mean I'm any better than I was before but I realised it does mean that I can disseminate my message just that bit further and that is a good thing.

*   I made some animal Christmas decorations with my girls yesterday after school and we had such good fun.

*   This weekend before I go away the kids will write their letters to Santa and we will decorate the trees - a nice coordinated one for me and one they can put whatever they like on, you know the type - more is definitely more!

*   The kids have friends coming round after school on Friday and I am actually looking forward to it.  The little ones are bringing their Mum and she seems a really nice lady, so I'll enjoy getting to know her more.

Over to you - what is making you grateful/ happy/ cheerful right now?  Write your post, add in the blog hop code and then go visit some fellow happy peeps.  Tweet with #R2BC if you fancy but most of all have fun and share the comment love.  I'll aim to come and visit you all before I head off on my travels early nest week.

I have two super guest hosts lined up for the next 2 weeks whilst I am a busy girl. They are both relatively new bloggers so please do show them some blogger love and support them -

Week 49 - Thursday 6th December - Kat at Kat A Pillar (formally Kat Sighs)
Week 50 - Thursday 13th December - Sally at Pressies by pebbles

Link up and let me tell you something nice I learnt yesterday from Brent Riggs, the guy who developed an downs Linky Tools. Each time you enter a link up you get a follow backlink for your blog, so that's all good for building your pagerank!

Wednesday 28 November 2012

My new project #RealLifeRocks

I love my blog, I really do - the release, the doors it opens up for me and the chance to share.

I also love the parenting blogging community - the way we pull together when we need to, the chance to speak to like minded people, having the privilege of reading snippets of peoples lives and of course making wonderful real life friends.

However, I'm feeling a bit burnt out.  I'm not unhappy with blogging, not at all but I am just a bit worn down and tired.  The last few months have been really full on, what with travelling to Ethiopia and then going to Belarus next week too. Add those trips into an already busy life and that makes for a worn out Mich!

So for now I am going to take some well earned R and R and focus on my new project....

It is called #RealLifeRocks and it means that I will prioritise what I have time for around my real life. The first time I thought about a priority order, I came up with this  -
  • God
  • Dh and our children
  • My wider family, including my friends who are like family
  • Any neighbour who needs my help
  • My paid work
  • My hobbies, of which blogging is one of them
But then it occurred to me I had forgotten one pretty major thing - me! I am not particularly good at taking care of myself and it is one of the things I need to do while I am full in the swing of Operation #RealLifeRocks, so I better add myself in there somewhere, so that I make sure I sleep enough, eat well, exercise and take down-time to relax.

I'll add me in, but I'm a bit undecided if I should come straight after God or after Dh and the kids. Actually thinking more I suppose I just need to be on a par with them in that number two slot.

One of the areas of focus I have decided to concentrate on take over the next couple of months is to listen more than I talk. This is in prayer, real life and blogging. So I intend to get out there and do lots of blog reading/ commenting and not half as much blog writing or publishing. I think the discipline of only doing a maximum of about 3 posts a week (or none if I feel that way inclined) will be really freeing for me.

I'm not leaving blogging, don't think that.  I'm just toning it down and making it work for me and what I need in my real life right now.

I know from experience that bloggy breaks work wonders for me. I need the time to have more moments like this -

I hope you'll keep reading.  I certainly intend to come and see you, if you want a return visit then leave me your URL below and I'll hop over once I am back from Belarus.

God bless, Mich x

Sunday 25 November 2012

Keeping warm with Simply Piste

A couple of weeks ago I wrote a post asking for your advice about how to keep warm when I travel to Belarus in just over a weeks time. As I have never really skied (once when I was 13 in Scotland and there was a distinct lack of snow, so it doesn't really count!) nor properly travelled to a very cold country I am all new to this and was not equipped in the least.

The thing I kept hearing from friends in the know was that if my hands and feet were warm I would be able to cope. I was really pleased to hear this as my contact at Simply Piste had agreed to help me out and send me a few items to help make this trip a happy one.

I received a beautiful pair of Dakine Lynx ski gloves. They retail at £25.00 at Simply Piste and this is a good price, the average I found them for on the web was about £33.00 for this same model. They are specially made to not only keep me warm but dry also and if I was skiing they have rubberised palms to ensure a good grip.  There is even a little pocket inside where a heat pack can be inserted, never heard of that before - genius!  From a novice point of view I like these gloves as the lining is super soft and they come in S, M and L so I could find a pair that fitted me really well. They look stylish and have an adjustable band around the wrist to help with fit and also a draw string on the top of the glove so I could ensure that no snow would get inside.

They also sent me some snazzy ski socks from snow-tec and my friend Sue has already asked me if she can have them when I return from my trip!  The socks are knee high purple with big white stars on them and are 50:50 wool/ acrylic for the best comfort and breath ability. I have to be honest and say that I never knew so much science could go into a pair of socks.  I just needed some that will keep me warm and these will certainly do that but also be ultra comfortable too, due to the technical supa-fit zones which provide comfort and support, especially if I was wearing hard ski boots for skiing for snowboarding. These socks retail at £12.95 per pair.

Obvioulsy not me modelling this jacket and sadly not my husband either!

Then lastly I was super happy to receive a fleece jacket from the North Face. I have obviously seen this brand name before but being as I am so completely not sporty I have never worn or bought them.  I knew it was a good brand but after having worn this jacket for just 3 or 4 days I am in love and I totally understand that this is a quality product which comes at a price. Being a larger lady I opted for a men's fleece jacket so I could have a really good fit on my body, this did of course mean that the arms are a bit long but when I am in Belarus and it is really cold this might be a bonus and for now in the UK, I have just turned the cuffs back as they are slightly elasticated and stay OK that way.

The jacket is light to carry and wear and as such I did not think it would be very warm but I was wrong.  I have been wearing it this week in 5 degree temperatures and that has been enough, I did not need a coat over it. This is really encouraging for me, it means in Belarus I'll be able to wear a light top, my fleece and ski jacket and be super warm.  The fleece fabric appears to be built up in layers to ensure the wind cannot get though and there is also a cinch cord at the bottom to ensure the cold does not get in that way either.  I am really happy with it.  This mid-layer fleece retails for £79.95.

There is a great selection of items available for winter sports and weathers, including lots of super ski jackets from Simply Piste. If you need to kit yourself out this winter it is worth taking a look. Delivery starts at £2.99 for standard delivery and you will be able to track your parcel and kept fully in touch with what is happening. I have received good service from Simply Pistes sister company (Simply Swim) before and was really pleased and again this time things went smoothly.  It appears I am not alone in being happy with the goods and service received as I checked on TrustPilot and saw that Simply Piste has 188 reviews on there and an overall 9.5/10 rating - fantastic stuff!

Thanks so much for your help kitting me out for my trip Simply Piste, I am now feeling equipped and excited to travel!

Disclosure:  I received these products free of charge for the purpose of this review. I have not been instructed what to write and I remain honest.

Saturday 24 November 2012

I'll be praying for #Healing4Kerry at 10pm tonight (& every other day too)

Today I am giving over my blog to a lovely friend. A blogger who is warm and giving and well respected within our community.  Sadly the beautiful Kerry of Multiple Mummy is very ill at the moment and has been for some time now.

Kerry and I first developed a bond back in early 2011 when she was a brand new blogger and still on a blogspot address. We started to talk as she is a Mummy of twins and not just that, but she has an older child too, so her family are younger than mine but replicate mine in many ways. I guest posted for Kerry back in July 2011 and I must say I have been very remiss in having her back here, once she is well we will rectify that (if she wants to of course).

I finally met Kerry at CyberMummy in June 2011 and then again at a blogger event for Perform in November 2011. We have also seen each other a few times this year at events but she is one of those people that you do not have to see in real life to have a good old chat and a bit of fun with.

In short Kerry rocks!  Here is my prayer for Kerry today and every day -

You might have seen me post the other day that lovely Liska has put a call to action out to the parenting blogging community, so tonight at 10pm we will all join together to pray, meditate, send positive thoughts and such to demand #Healing4Kerry.

Kerry, Nick and your three beautiful children - we salute you!

With love, Mich xx

Photo montage shamelessly nicked from Liska.  Top photo shows Super Amazing Mum, Liska and Kerry.  The other photos are all Kerry before she had her gorgeous hair crop that we now know and love.