Friday 29 March 2013

A life changing reason to be cheerful

I'm a day late and I wasn't supposed to be joining in this week as #R2BC is being hosted over at Seasider in the City but I am very excited and can't hold it in, so here is a quickie from me -
  1. My hubbie has got a new job and with that job comes a house, a very beautiful stone built house that is being refurbished as I type (well maybe not at this moment but in general). So we are all moving and this is pretty massive and quite scary but also amazingly exciting and very much faith led. We believe that God is leading us to this new life and hopefully more time together as a family with a slower pace of life. As for me and work who knows but we have a few months to sort that, this won't all happen until early summer.
Not all of it (of course) but one of these cottages is our new house!  Yes that is a real Church in our back garden!

And this is where dh will be working -

And there are 3 lakes on the 220 acres and apparently we can swim in one of the lakes all summer -

Do you think our lives may just be changing beyond recognition?  I do.

Now starts all the hard work - new schools, changing jobs, moving house, sorting our finances.........  and on and on.

Wishing you all a blessed Easter.  May the peace of the Lord be with you.

Mich x

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Thursday 28 March 2013

Trying out the Tesco Price Promise

When Tesco contacted me and said that they had a new Price Promise I basically asked them what the fuss was about. 'Tell me why this is different to what Sainsburys and Asda do?' said I.  So they invited me along to my local Tesco store to meet a couple of Price Promise Champions and what lovely ladies they were and super happy to help me understand why the new Tesco Price Promise is a really good deal. I'll share with you what I learnt -

So what is the Price Promise?
Basically if you could have done your weekly shop for cheaper at Sainsburys, Morrisons or Asda then Tesco will issue you a voucher for the amount different to be used in store on a future shop.  Or equally the promise applies for online shopping too and you will be emailed the result.

Where this differs to other supermarkets with other similar schemes is that the Tesco Price Promise covers practically everything - the big-brands, own label grocery produce and also fresh foods. It also includes household and health & beauty products. If products can't be compared it will be down to a difference in brand, size, flavour or quality.

How much do I need to spend? 
There is no minimum spend but for the Price Promise to be active you need to have a basket of at least ten different items and one of those has to be a comparable grocery product (comparable basically means that one of the other 3 big supermarkets - Sainsburys, Asda or Morrisons have to sell an equivalent product in terms of size, weight and volume).

How are Tesco's checking the prices?
The prices on the websites for Sainsburys and Asda are being checked on a daily basis and in store collections are happening twice a week for Morrisons. Tesco are ensuring their price information is the most up to date and reputable by using an in dependant agency to verify them.

How do I spend the voucher?
If Tesco calculate that your shopping could have been done cheaper elsewhere they will give you a voucher for the difference, up to £10 in value. Then next time you shop, either in-store or online you can use up to 10 of these in one transaction and receive the cash straight off your total amount.  You can also use them alongside other vouchers and special deals which is pretty good.

What about special offers?
Yep I'm pleased to report that in the main you will still receive the Price Promise even when there are special offers, you know the type - 2 for the price of 1, half price etc. The only exceptions that are not included are what they call category -wide deals like 5% off 6 bottles of wine and food meal deals.

How long does the voucher last?
This was the first question I asked as I get frustrated to find that my Sainsburys one run out before the 14 days are up but no worries with Tesco as I have a full 28 days to spend my voucher and cash-in.

How did my Tesco shop go?
All went smoothly, I shopped as per normal with no problems and then at the till I was pleased to find that my shopping was cheaper at Tesco and I received a small slip to confirm I had saved 35p today in comparison to shopping at one of the other big three supermarkets. I spent just over £70 in total and did a varied shop so it just proves that the Price Promise works. I was also impressed to receive a Helping Hand Coupon for £5 off my next £40 shop for the next week.

Here is what I managed to buy from tesco that day for the sum of £70.47 -

What else do I need to know?
  • The price promise is not available in homeplus or Tesco express convenience stores
  • You will still receive Clubcard points on your shopping in the same way you do now
  • Price Promise vouchers can be used alongside any other vouchers and the result will be calculated before your vouchers are taken off
  • You can read the full terms and conditions on the Tesco website
And that is it - nothing hidden!

I'm happy to say that I believe the Tesco Price Promise is a good deal!

Tesco paid £50 of my shop to allow me to undertake this review. They have not instructed me what to write and I remain honest.

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Sunday 24 March 2013

Operation Christmas Child: It's Never too Early...

Since travelling with Operation Christmas Child in December last year the charity has never been far from my mind. It has just become my norm (and that of my children) to be on the lookout for gift items that can go in shoe boxes. I love it that people see me and think shoebox gifts, recently a friend was moving and there were a few times I turned up at her house and she gave me things she had thought would suit the shoe boxes. What makes this even more precious is that she has so little herself.

This afternoon I went to do a presentation about my Belarus trip, to the local warehouse volunteers and it was great to see all these people who are so committed to helping children enjoy a gift-filled box at Christmas time.

It reminded me that I wanted to share some great finds with you and to remind you that it is never too early to start collecting to fill a shoebox or two. I often hear from people who tell me it is too expensive to make up a shoebox and I do beg to differ. For the majority of people spending £10 over the course of a year to fill a box with gifts and love is achievable.

Here are some really nice items I have picked up for bargain prices in the last couple of weeks. The Entertainer toy shops have been very good and I managed to buy some beautiful Pride of Britain lions leftover from Olympic memorabilia sales, these plush toys cost me just £1 and there were smaller ones for 50p each too.

Then also from the Entertainer, I picked up these Lego-style sets for just £1 each.  Just think how much a  child abroad will love and cherish this toy.

Then the last thing I picked up this week was a pack of 3 erasers from Tesco for just 25p per pack.

On all these things you see here I have spent £6 and what else could I have spent that money on? A couple of cappuccinos or part entry to the cinema? Or maybe a couple of greetings cards or soft play entrance for one of my kids?

All these simple gifts make me so much happier than going out and doing any of those things. I go to bed tonight knowing my £6 was well spent and that my shoe boxes are already starting to fill up ready for collection in November.

Have you spotted any good bargains yet?

Do share with me, as I'm always keen to keep topping up and even if they do not make it into the 4 boxes that our family makes I like to help make up boxes at school or  I can donate them to the local warehouse where I was today.

Thanks to all involved, your boxes really make a difference. Just look at these 25 happy recipients from Belarus last year.

All images by Jonty Wilde

Friday 22 March 2013

Review: The Cavendish Hotel, London

Our family was really pleased to be invited to the 4 star Deluxe Cavendish Hotel in St James, London to review what the hotel facilities are like for a family with primary school aged children and let me tell you from the offset we had such fun. This is one classy hotel, not only does it look divine, it also has wonderful friendly yet professional staff.

We arrived at the hotel at about 7pm on a Friday night and were the only guests in reception, we were greeted with a big warm smile and the kids loved helping themselves to the Cavendish branded sweets, they even played peek a boo with a passing staff member and the hotel post box. I was instantly put at ease and felt very welcome.

The Hotel Room
Our first stop was the hotel room and boy was it a room and a half! We were lucky enough to have interconnecting Executive rooms. In one room we had an enormous king size bed and in the other there was a king and a double sofa bed all made up and ready. The interconnecting rooms are perfect for a larger family like ours, as my husband and I had some privacy but we felt completely comfortable knowing that our children were just next door and the interconnecting doors were wide open.

Without the sofa bed made up the rooms are super spacious, definately the most spacious 4 star hotel room I have ever stayed in, in London and even with the sofa bed (which incidentally is big enough for 2 children up to about 12 years to share) there was plenty of room for all 3 kids to move around and be happy.

The first thing we did when we entered the rooms was to look out the windows and wow, what a view. The hotels strap line is 'The only thing we knowingly overlook is the London Eye' and how true that is, in both senses. I can't imagine any little details being overlooked at this quality hotel and yes the London Eye looks fabulous from the rooms, especially at night when it is all lit up.

You'll be able to see from the photos above that the decor in the bedrooms is beautiful, lots of supple leather, strong colours and soft pillows. Every Executive room has a Nespresso coffee maker as well as a traditional tea tray with yummy Duchy shortbread biscuits. All the classic signs of a really good hotel were there - open the cupboard door and the light comes on. Raining outside, take the umbrella with you. Forgotten your toothbrush - just call and a free dental set will be bought up to you. Afraid you might slip in the triple length shower - use the rubber mat provided. Fancy a glass of water - it's provided as standard.

Oh and I can't not mention the bed specifically, I think I love the beds at the Cavendish, they are super comfortable. I wanted to take the pillows home in my bag and the duck down duvet was just right. They tell me that they also do hypo allergenic bedding as well if you prefer.

There are 230 bedrooms in the hotel, all with the same high standard of decor but ranging in size and facilities from Classic Rooms to the Penthouse Suite. We would all love to return and stay here again.

Breakfast in the Restaurant
To my dismay the girls awoke super early, even after a late night and so we headed off into the rain for an early morning stroll around St James, Piccadilly and Mayfair. I can recommend this, it was serene and quiet and the girls enjoyed being able to run down the Burlington Arcade and watch the buses go by without too much hustle and bustle. Once the rain started to really pour down we headed back to the hotel so I could print off an important email (for free) and the girls had a play on Cebeebies, how kid friendly is that?

About 9am the boys were up and dressed so we went down to the restaurant for our breakfast. It was quite busy at this time but they handled it well and we were shown to a table within a few minutes. The waiting staff were friendly but maybe a little slower than other 4/5 star breakfast services that I have experienced. At the time we were there our children were the only ones we saw in the hotel and I breathed a big sigh of relief that they were behaving!

The buffet was very nice and included a few different items like smoked salmon, a well stocked cheeseboard and watermelon juice (which Miss M loved). We all had a full English breakfast and then I enjoyed some bread and cheese and the kids really went for it and had muffins (excellent by all accounts), croissants, yoghurt and fruit - oh yes they were very hungry. The breakfast normally retails at £18 when booked in avdance (or £22.50 on the day) and you can eat as much as you like and there is also a menu to order extra items from, we had hash browns but we could have chosen from a wide selection of things like Eggs Benedict, Smoked salmon and cream cheese muffin or poached haddock.

I really liked the fact that you could have the exact same breakfast in your room for the same price. You nearly always pay a premium for room service and if my husband and I had been here alone I could imagine breakfast in bed would have suited us very well, especially as it is served until Noon on the weekend.

Afternoon Tea in the Lounge
After filling up on breakfast we had a lazy hour in our rooms to just relax and then headed downstairs to store our luggage. The concierge took care of this with no effort and we were able to head out for our fun day in London.

We arrived back at the hotel at 3.30pm ready to enjoy a full afternoon tea, our children's first. Every one of us was excited by the prospect of cream scones, something we all love. I have to be honest and say I think some of the customers were surprised to see children joining us for our afternoon tea but the children behaved well and the staff were completely unfazed and gave them a little colouring pack each.

The service we received was attentive and the food was absolutely excellent. The children got to try a few things they had not experienced before and they felt very grown up with their delicate glasses. When we were ordering I asked the waitress what was available drink wise for the children and she looked a little thrown for a moment, it is obviously not a question she has had before but she thought on her feet and Miss E had an apple juice and Miss M a hot milk included in the afternoon tea price of £18 per head.

Most of the guests having tea that afternoon were groups of ladies obviously having a great time with their girlfriends and were all dressed up for the occasion. I can thoroughly recommend this as a great place to have afternoon tea when you are in London.

Child friendly hotel? -
I've already mentioned that all the staff we came into contact with were excellent and particularly those working on reception were great with our children. This is the sort of hotel that I felt if I called down and asked for any kind of child-friendly item they would do their best to accommodate my needs - nothing would be too much trouble.

There are high chairs and cots available for use at the hotel and no extra charge for these.

I think it would be apt for the Cavendish to think about offering a half size portion for children for things like the breakfast and afternoon tea. I did see they had a very well priced children's menu for the restaurant but sadly this is not on the website. The pricing was excellent though at about £4.50/5.00 per child for a main course.

One thing that would have been great for us would be a small step in the bathroom, the sink is very high and my smaller twin had trouble getting to the sink to brush her teeth.

Overall Verdict -
Our family would most definitely recommend a visit to the Cavendish Hotel, it is as good as it markets itself to be. You can tell from the happy staff just why this hotel was awarded the 63rd place in the Sunday Times  top 100 small employers. If I am honest the price is a little out of my range, the rooms we stayed in would have cost us £259 per room inclusive of VAT and breakfast. However saying that a classic room can be as low as £140 for double occupcany and that is not at all a scary price for such a prime London location.

Thank you to the Cavendish for our wonderful complimentary stay. I have not been instructed what to write in this review and as always I remain honest.

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Thursday 21 March 2013

Creative tips to improve the quality of your sleep

At least Alfie enjoys a good nights sleep!

By now, most of us know the conventional rules on how to improve sleep quality. After a restless night, it is likely that we have all listened to similar advice, with turning off the TV, avoiding caffeine and a good relaxing soak being amongst the most well-known tips.

While the above information is completely valid, there are a few alternative ways to improve sleep that you may not have considered. As good quality rest is a key ingredient to a healthy lifestyle, why not try out some of the suggestions below to see if you can achieve a better night-time routine?

Think about your meals and snacks - while you may have heard that caffeine can affect sleep, there are also certain foods and drinks that can promote a better night’s sleep. Combine carbs and dairy such as cereal and milk, or snack on melatonin-rich cherries and magnesium-filled pumpkin seeds and spinach to aid deeper, restful sleep. Turkey is also a great sleep-superfood as it contains the amino acid L-tryptophan which, when metabolized, releases neurotransmitters which help to regulate sleep and has a calming effect.

What about your bedding? - as it's National Bed Month, why not say yes to a new duvet, pillows and mattress topper? If your old ones are a little shabby, you may find that they no longer benefit your sleep like they once did. Whether you fancy splurging on a goose down duvet king size, a comforting mattress topper or brand new feather pillows, getting the right new bedding can help you achieve better sleep, and the little treat can also help you look forward to going to bed.

Offload your mind - conclude your day by jotting down any thoughts, whether positive or negative. You have a chance to offload any anxious or angry feelings onto the paper, rather than letting them keep you awake at night. It also gives you an opportunity to think about something pleasant like what you are grateful for, allowing you to end the day on a happy note.

Sleep in a cool bedroom - you are likely to know that a warm bath or shower can help you to relax, but did you know that your body temperature needs to drop in order for you to drop off? Having a room that’s even slightly too warm can disturb sleep, so turning the radiator down a notch and choosing the right tog duvet can help.

Look forward to the morning - while this may seem a little strange, having a good routine in the morning can often help you to sleep better at night. Set a wakeup time every day, have a good dose of sunlight in the morning and wake up to mood-enhancing music. By awakening in this positive setting, you are less likely to fall to sleep dreading the call of your morning alarm.

Armed with these sleep tips, some of which you are likely to have never tried before, you may find that you wake up on the right side of the bed a little more often. If you have any more creative sleep tips, it would be interesting to hear how other people achieve a good night's sleep.

Monday 18 March 2013

Review: The London Aquarium with Superbreak

This weekend we had a lovely stay in London and of course needed something fun to do while we were there, something that was indoors, as in real British style it was raining again!

We set off for a day at the Sea Life London Aquarium as guests of Superbreak. Their London hotel deals which include aquarium tickets offer you priority entrance and this meant we were in the aquarium and starting to look around within about 10 minutes of joining the queue. I guess the standard queue must have taken about 1/2 hour so it made a difference to us.

Literally the minute you enter the aquarium you walk over a glass walkway with sharks swimming underneath, JJ thought this was pretty awesome but it was a bit of a shock to my little ladies. Miss M had a right fit until I demonstrated to her it could hold my weight and she would be just fine!

The aquarium is split into nine distinct areas and you follow the flow to go through each step by and step and see all the aquarium has to offer. We arrived at 12 noon on Saturday and it was very busy, I asked the staff how the busyness compared to the summer and they said it was about the same. I was glad to hear it would not get more busy. We were able to see everything but it did mean spending some time and waiting for people to clear away from a tank or window to get a good look. The staff member I spoke to said the quietest times of day are when the aquarium first opens at 10am or the last hour or two in the afternoon - about 4/5pm onwards.

Each of the areas is quite different, the turtles were by far my favourite and I spent ages watching them, as did Miss E. JJ enjoyed the sharks and it was good that you could get a look at shark reef from 3 different levels. Daddy liked the rays and we even saw a baby ray coming out of it's mermaid purse where the mother had laid her egg, that was pretty special. Then Miss M enjoyed watching the penguins bob in the water and touching the ice wall too.

Take a look at some of the great pictures we got -

Personally I would like there to have been more interactive things for the children to get involved with. Miss M did enjoy touching a real starfish but I think the highlight for the kids was completing their little passport book. Basically in each zone they had to stamp (or emboss more accurately) their passport and at the end they get a prize for doing so.  I must have competitive kids as mine made us go back to hunt for a stamp machine or two. Then at the end what did they end up with?  A sticker and a badge and a 15 minute queue to get them form the photo kiosk.

Talking of which there are various times throughout your visit when you can have your photo taken and it will cost you £10 for one photo or £12 for two and there are a variety of novelties available like glass blocks and snow globes. We declined to have our photo taken as I know I can easily get sucked into buying things we do not need.

We spent about 2 hours in the aquarium overall, we could have spent far longer and the staff told me you could look round, go away and come back again in the same day if you want to but to be honest we had done our bit by that point and were ready to move on.

Facilities at the Aquarium
  • As we left we passed through the gift shop and I was pleased to see plenty of small trinkets and toys with reasonable price tags, such as £2. Miss E took a fancy to a small plush seal which was £4.
  • There is no food facility on site but as you leave McDonalds is directly opposite and there are a few restaurants and coffee shops around the river close by.
  • There are chocolate and ice cream vending machines as you leave the aquarium and the prices are reasonable, my kids enjoyed a twister for £1.
  • We really missed the fact that there was no where to have a drink or even a drink vending machine and we were all gasping for water upon leaving.
  • It is advertised that there are toilets and baby change on every floor but they were not quite frequent enough for our children to be honest. there were all clean and well stocked though.
Our verdict

Miss M and Miss E both cited the aquarium as their favourite part of our stay in London, JJ said he was a bit bored, that we were there too long but to be honest I think this is because he has been to various aquariums before and it was not anything new for him.

If you and your children have not been to an aquarium before and you want to learn more about marine life then I am sure you will love it.

Do take a look at Superbreak if you fancy a theatre break, attraction break or dinner package in London or elsewhere, they have something to suit every taste and every pocket.

Disclosure: Our entry to the aquarium was free of charge courtesy of Superbreak.  They have not advised me what to write and I remain honest.

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Thursday 14 March 2013

Being grateful for every moment

Tonight I am feeling a tad overwhelmed, overwhelmed with gratitude, the kind of way I imagine people might feel when something big has happened in life or they have just received really good news. Nothing out of the ordinary has happened to me recently and that is OK as I am really enjoying the ordinary and being thankful for everyday life.

Last night I went to bible study and we talked about gratitude and what a difference it can make in your life. A friend said she has heard someone talk about 'being in the moment' for a full day and literally praising and thanking God for every little thing as you go through your day. It takes some effort to remember to do that and some might feel a bit foolish to be thankful for waking in the morning, clean running water, the birds singing and all the other things we take for granted but just one full day can change your whole outlook and tomorrow I'm going to do it.  For me I will be thanking God and directing my gratitude to Him, for you it might be different and you might just be being thankful in general. Both ways will work.

How I love this bunch of nutters!

Today I am been feeling immensely grateful to be a parent and not because of the nice and fluffy side of parenting, days like Mohering Sunday or lots of hugs. It is actually the harder parts of parenting that I have been really grateful for as I feel those are the ones that will pay dividends and my tough love in putting Miss M to bed early tonight will pay off when she remembers that there are boundaries and it is not OK to do as you please and not listen to Mum. Also, my tender love with Miss E tonight when she wet the bed and was mortified that it happened, those gentle words and just quietly changing her bed with no fuss will, I hope, help her to be more confident and less embarrassed in the future.

A bit of a different post for Reasons to be Cheerful this week, but then I have always said that this linky is one with no rules and we can all interpret it as we see fit. As long as the post you link up is cheerful/ grateful/ thankful/ positive then it fits the bill!

Clare at Seasider in the City is hosting Reasons to be Cheerful for the next couple of weeks, so pop over and see her and link up and could I pretty please ask you to leave her a comment as the host. Last week I had about 25 posts linked up and only about 8 people left me comments, it does feel a bit disheartening if I'm honest. In real life you would not dash in a persons house and not say hello, or would you?

I'll be over to visit anyone who leaves me a comment and I'll try and stop by a few more as well. I think I managed to get around everyone last week which was good.

Wishing you a fabulous week.  Mich x

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Monday 11 March 2013

Happy Mothers Day

Dh has been teaching the kids valuable lessons in the kitchen

I had the most delightful day yesterday and you know what? I want to write about it on my blog, not because I want to show off to you, nor because I want to divide mothers into those who have great days and those who don't but there is a really simple reason why I want to write about it here. And that is because this is my blog, my personal memory of three children growing up.

When I first wrote on this blog in 2008 I said I was writing this blog for me, it is something for me to look back on and to share with family and friends. My Mum does not live close enough that she will see the cards the kids made for me but I know she will be pleased to look at them and that matters.

So I really am very sorry if you had a bad day yesterday and it is not good if you felt pressured to have perfect children and a super-fun day. But really no-one else puts that pressure on you except yourself, if you feel this day is full of commercialism and you don't want to be part of it, don't.  You are an adult and you can make that choice and in doing so you teach your children to be assertive and to go with what is important to them, instead of going with the crowd.

I love the tissue flowers the girls made me, they had stickers on them with beautiful bible verses on them which mean a lot. They all made me personalised chocolate bars at school and just look at that butterfly card JJ made, that will be cherished forever.

Yesterday the most expensive gift I received cost £3 and I promise you I was 100% content. I just had the most wonderful day but that does not mean I did nothing - I cleared up the breakfast things, I put a wash on, I folded washing. I do not see Mothering Sunday as a day to make my husband a slave to me, we are a team and I'm lucky that he did help the kids cook me breakfast in bed and then he cooked us all a wonderful roast later in the day but we work together. We also had a lad from church come over for a couple of hours to play as that makes him happy and that has to be more important than me being able to say I sat on a couch and did nothing all day.

Mothering Sunday is a long held day in the Christian calendar, originally it was about all servants being given the day off work so they could return home to their 'mother' church and spend the time with their family. Along the way to church the children of the families would often pick wild flowers and then display them in church or give them to their own mothers. Today for me, Mothering Sunday is a day when we celebrate those who mother, that could be the Sunday school teacher, grandparents, friends, God parents, voluntary leaders of groups such as Rainbows and Brownies - it is all the people who mother or take on mothering roles.

For my children Mothering Sunday is the day when they show me how much they love me. No they do not need a special day to do that but do you know how excited they were to keep their special handmade gifts a secret from me and then to cook me breakfast and serve it to me in bed? In allowing them to do that they learn gratitude, love and a servants heart, all things I want my children to know.

Thank you dh, JJ, Miss E and Miss M for a lovely day yesterday, I really appreciate each and every one of you.

A special mention goes to my own Mum, who is wonderful. We have a truly fabulous relationship and she taught me how to be a mother. My overriding thoughts yesterday were of her as her own Mum died just a month ago, so how raw must that have been? But she took time to remember the great times they shared and she went with her sister to the crematorium and paid respects to the Mum she adored. Then  my brother did his bit and took her out. Looking forward to seeing you soon Mum. xx
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Friday 8 March 2013

Priceless - One-on-one time with your child

When you only have one child they have your undivided attention and then as you have more kids it gets harder and harder to have that special time that is just about you and them. I have found it particularly tough as my daughters are twins and seem to expect to come as a package and do things together. However I feel it is very important for each of the children to just have time alone with me.

Probably what I should also say is that I believe the time should be directed and led by the child. Yes this means I end up doing all sorts of things that frankly I'm really not that interested in. Miss M loves role play and most weeks I am a pupil in her school and I get a sneak peek into what it must be like to be in her classroom as I watch her mimic her teachers. Other weeks we play makeover, what fun that is! Often I end up a big old mess but I have one very happy 5 year old on my hands and it is not as if she is using my make-up, that is where the local pound shop comes into its own.

Generally if we are playing at home then the time tends to be limited to about half an hour as it can feel incredibly hard to find enough time for all three children. I work 4 days a week so I understand the time pressures that working parents feel but for me I make this special time a priority and it pays off. I have three children who are all willing to help and listen to me. 90 minutes investment for an enjoyable week and in-tune family.

Miss E is a very different child to Miss M and her idea of a great time with mummy is sitting down to do craft or play with playdough. We have loads of beautiful collages and coloured pictures that we have tackled together. Junk modelling is also fun and probably something we will spend some time doing tomorrow and then perhaps painting them on Sunday.  I actually thing our craft supplies have now got to excess as Miss E has three large boxes of supplies and I have one as well as I enjoy making cards for friends and relatives.

My time with JJ is often spent going swimming together. I've posted before about spending time with my boy, he is such good company and hated his swimming lessons, so it seemed logical we would go swimming together on a Friday evening when dh is home to babysit the girls. This is such an important life skill and if I can help him improve and enjoy some time with me then that is perfect. Of course the evening is rounded off with a hot chocolate.

if we are not swimming together then it is normally a cuddle up watching TV or a board game for JJ and I. He is trying to teach me Chess at the moment and that is a giggle as I am not into the strategy side of things, his thrashing me keeps him happy anyway!

As JJ gets to go out with me this week Miss E insisted that she should get to go out as well and especially as Daddy was off work he could look after the other two. I asked her where she wanted to go and was told John Lewis for a babychinno.  OK, sounds good. So after a trip to the Entertainer toy store where she bought herself some colouring we headed for a drink together and a look round John Lewis as I had some vouchers to spend. Good old work and their Christmas gift!

Dh has been whinging at me about buying a spice rack, well I can sort of understand, look at the state of our spice storage currently but come on, these vouchers where a Christmas present for me so surely a bottle of perfume was much more the order of the day! Well it was for me anyway and I came away with my favourite Dune by Christian Dior.

Because mine and Miss E's trip out took longer than normal I need to schedule in time tomorrow with the other two, as mentioned Miss M and I will be doing junk modelling and JJ and I will set about creating a Lego empire whilst watching a film tomorrow afternoon. I feel a PJ day is in order.....

What about you, do you try to spend regular time with your children one on one?  I'd seriously recommend it, yes it feels like a big ask at first but you soon get in the swing of it and from my experience they appreciate it so much.

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Thursday 7 March 2013

Family Reasons to be Cheerful (year 3, week 10) #R2BC

Reasons to be Cheerful at Mummy from the Heart

Hello all, How are you today? I hope you are having a good one, I'm doing a bit of work at home today and then it is housework all the way until I pick the kids up. How much fun does that sound? I'll be pleased with the result but I'm not too thrilled with the hard work that goes before it to be honest.

I'm not doing very well at staying away from this blog am I? lol, I had fabulous intentions and then  #R2BC needed my help these last two weeks and the ONE campaign got in touch and asked me to blog about malaria and after watching the Richard Curtis film Mary and Martha, how could I not? Did you see it last Friday on BBC 1? It is excellent and I highly recommend it, in fact this film is my first reason to be cheerful this week, I am super excited for something like malaria to be given a slot on prime time TV.

I haven't done much that was notable in the last week so I am going to use this time to count my blessings and express my gratitude for -
  1. My job - which is varied and interesting and keeps me out of mischief
  2. My house - which is warm, comfortable and big enough for us all to be happy here
  3. My husband - who is a superstar, there I was panicking about how we would cover childcare in all the school holidays and he pulls out the stops and sorts it out
  4. Miss E - who was invested at rainbows last week and made me so proud when she confidently said her Rainbow promise. This was out of the ordinary as she gets very embarrassed and was nervous. After we told her how well she had done and she told me her strategy - she pretended she was not shy, how fabulous is that?
  5. Miss M - who showed us just how confident a 5 year old can be. In the supermarket a couple of days ago she went through one aisle on her own and I went through the next watching her. She had an impatient woman behind her and she kept smiling at this woman. Then the cashier tried to charge her a different price to the one on the shelf, so Miss M said no and the supervisor had to go and check and she waited patiently and chatted away and then paid the correct price, much to the annoyance of the hurried woman behind!
  6. Lastly my boy - who is blossoming into such a wonderful young man, he is helpful, loving and really quite mature for 9 years.
Nothing massive in there, just the beauty and fun of everyday life - perfect!

And now it is your turn, what is making you cheerful and grateful this week?

Why don't you join up with Reasons to be Cheerful this week? It is such a fabulous opportunity to stop and reflect on your life and to see the good in it. Have a read about what I believe and why #R2BC started, it has literally changed my life to have this weekly focus on what is good (or God) in life.  How easy is it to allow things to become doom and gloom?.

So if you want to join in, go for it.  We are a no rules kind of linky - you link up what you fancy (well as long as it is not just a blatant advert), a recipe, the simple things in life, photos, a story - whatever! Add in the blog hop code so people can travel around and then visit others and share the comment love.  But if you are not sure how to add in code or anything else, don't worry - just go for it and leave a link to your post in the comments and I'll link you up.

Have a great week, Mich x

#R2BC will be back with Clare at Seasider in the City as soon as her blog is all back to normal, hopefully very soon, it has already been far too long for her!

Monday 4 March 2013

Every parent feels the same pain

I've just sat and watched Mary and Martha on BBC catch-up and I can't begin to recommend it to you. It is a powerful and poignant watch.

I sat and wept as I watched the grief of those parents who lost their children to malaria and because they are western parents just like me I could really relate to their sorrow and imagined how I would feel if I lost one of my children, my heart broke for them. I know everyone back home would consider it a tragedy and there would be great mourning. Then as I sat there and reflected on that it struck me that just because parents in Africa are losing their children to malaria everyday does not make it any different, any less sad. We are all parents who love our children and seek the best for them and it hurts each one of us the same when we lose a child.

Malaria is a preventable disease, very simple measures can stop children dying of malaria. Put a quality insecticide treated net over the child's bed and you are potentially saving their life and how much does each one of these nets cost? You can get a decent net for less than $5, not a lot is it? The charity Malaria No More says it can purchase, transport and safely install a net for £5, I'd say that's value for money.

I'm sat here with tears streaming down my face and I'm pretty sure this is not a coherent entry on my blog but it is a heartfelt one. Every child deserves to live or as Save the Children would say 'no child is born to die', no matter what country that child is born in. They should all live and be able to fulfil their potential -

That could be their dream to be a farmer like their mother...

Or their dream to be a nurse, a teacher or a mother themselves.... these are all good valid dreams that they should have the opportunity to live out.

Next week when Comic Relief ask you to give money please think about the children dying needlessly of malaria and give generously. Or if like me you feel compelled to act now then why not check out Malaria No More, there is real progress being made in the fight against malaria, the film Mary and Martha ended with a statement saying 'we could see the end of malaria in our lifetime' - wouldn't that be out of this world?

Did you know that at the moment malaria kills nearly 2 million people per year, 90% of these people will be living in sub-Saharan Africa, places just like Ethiopia where I travelled to last year. Even though that death figure is still horrifyingly high it has been reduced by 26% globally since 2000, over 1 million children's lives have been saved in Africa. The progress has been pushed forward as many governments have recognised malaria as a priority and since 2000 international funding has risen from less than $100 million to almost $1.84 billion in 2012 – a 17 fold increase.

This year our government in the UK will meet and agree what figure they will be giving to the Global Fund in the fight against malaria, I pray they make the right decision and choose life for all, not riches for some and poverty and death for others.

I'd urge you to watch Mary and Martha, why not think about gathering a group of friends and showing it or an evening at Church and see what you can all come up with to help fund some nets. Every small donation we make adds up and makes a real difference to those living in countries where the common mosquito is a killer as it is carrying the malaria parasite.