Regret is hopeless

The theme of today’s post is regret. The inspiration, is the mother of April Jones who now faces a life-time of regret now that her daughter’s murderer has been convicted. It can happen to any parent, a few moments of distraction or untested faith that nothing bad will happen and then the worst happens, your child is gone. I can only imagine the gut-wrenchingly sick sensation when, after suppressing panic in the hope that they will be found, the realisation dawns on you that they are lost, perhaps for good. To then find out that they have been murdered is unthinkable. That they might have suffered at the hands of a stranger who they had initially trusted is completely unbearable.

Whether cases of child abduction and abuse has increased is uncertain, but what is certain is that parents need to be vigilant. We live on a road similar to that of the Joneses – a cul-de-sac with a green in the middle. I often see children playing on the green unsupervised, because children like to play with other children and parents trust that nothing bad will happen to them. I have even done it myself, on the proviso that my daughter is playing in a neighbour’s garden, not out in the street – but that doesn’t make a lot of difference. A front gate and fence is no barrier to a ‘friendly’ stranger. The risk of abduction scares me more than any other scenario. The case of the missing 17 year old is another example of a child’s continued vulnerability even in their late teens.

So what can we do as parents to protect our children? First we need to expect the worst rather than hope for the best. Gone are the days where you could let your children play outside unsupervised (as I did as a child). Second we need to empower them and equip them with all the information necessary to be vigilant themselves, third, we need to give them the tools to defend themselves if challenged, forget football coaching sessions and ballet lessons – bring on martial arts.

Finally I think more should be done to look out for one another’s children. I had an incident a while back when a boy I was looking after got off at the wrong bus stop and when his brother got off the bus, I asked him where his five year old brother was, “oh he got off at the earlier bus stop”. Thankfully it was only 30 seconds up the road and I drove like I was on a drag strip to get there and retrieve him. He was standing all alone next to a main road with tears streaming down his cheeks. I was saddened that not one parent had noticed he was on his own and looked after him until he was collected. Many of us lead lives in a bubble and to help someone else out is considered to be over and above the call of duty or meddling in someone else’s business – Jamie Bulger would not have died if someone had stopped the boys and had the courage to recognise that 2 ten year olds should not be in sole charge of a toddler and taken them to the nearest police station, or at least telephoned their parents to check their story. The British are particularly guilty of this introvert approach. We should also be setting an example for our children so that they feel it is right and OK to help someone in distress, or at least report it to an adult immediately.

As it stands at the moment, our children are vulnerable because of society’s approach to letting the world happen and to turn a blind eye to suffering for fear of misreading signs and causing offence. If people had the courage to go with their gut feeling I’m convinced the police would not have so many tragic cases on their hands.

I am blogging every day to raise money for Unicef. To check out how I am doing, please visit my page on Unicef’s website. 

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Milking cows

Today I learned how to milk a cow. I am apparently rather good at it and may have a hidden talent as (I quote) “Not many people are able to get so much milk in their first go”, I like to think it is because I sympathise with another female mammal seeking release from a body laden with milk (I remember the feeling of pressure, which can be unbearable). After a short demo in manual milking, our tour guide (known as Farmer Paul) then rigged the cow (known as Lovely) to the milking machine, which sucked off 10 pints in a matter of minutes. This experience was all part of a half-term visit to a ‘model farm’. As we entered, Farmer Paul greeted us and took the children for an interactive tour of the farm, feeding lambs, chickens and pigs, collecting eggs and milking cows – not a fairground ride in site. However, in the middle of the visit was a rather thrilling ride in ‘barrel bugs’ (basically converted oil barrels towed behind a tractor). The farm was situated in a stunning location and we also enjoyed a picnic lunch afterwards. In addition Farmer Paul was full of amazing facts, here are just a few:

– a family can survive living off the land of just one acre
– The strongest plant in the world is grass – very difficult to pull in two pieces – can’t even do it with a tractor
– There is such a thing as natural pink milk and that comes from a Yak
– A pig is closer to humans genetically than any other human yet has a greater variety of genetics than humans despite the fact that there are more humans than pigs in the world
– Stinging nettles are very nutritious and you can make all sorts of food and drink from nettles including soup and wine

There were many more facts that my daughter will probably remember better than me. When I woke up this morning I had no idea I would be learning how to milk a cow – I like that about life.

I am blogging every day to raise money for Unicef – check out my page on Unicef’s site more information and to donate.

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Positive Discipline early days

Okay so the positive discipline approach works. Remove the pressure on enforcing punishment and the stress of disciplining a head-strong seven year old is almost gone. You don’t ignore misbehaviour you just delve underneath to discover the true cause and tackle that instead.No shouting, nagging, hassling, power struggles are required – just the willingness to have a mature civlised conversation with your child that asks them calmly to explain why they are behaving that way and what needs to change. In the Positive Discipline approach, the author states, “When did we start thinking that in order for children to do better we must first make them feel worse?”

I had one particular Eureka! moment today. My daughter’s best friend came to play for the day. They are very similar in character so power struggles between them are inevitable and I often find myself playing piggy in the middle. Before her friend arrived, I set some ground rules with my daughter -“lets all focus on having a good time and avoid confrontation because I want you to enjoy your day”. This worked until after lunch when we were about to embark on a short car journey to visit a farm play park. “I want to sit in the back with (baby Boy)”, my daughter replies “No I want to sit in the back, I will sit in the back on the way there and then you can sit in the back on the way home”. Her friend retaliates “No, (baby boy) finds me funny and I like to make him laugh, I will sit in the back”. Then the inevitable happens, they both swing round to me “She won’t let me sit where I want to sit”. They look to me for answers like I am the UN. No I am going to use  the positive discipline method and believe in the capabilities of children and empower them. “Right, baby boy and I are going to wait until you both have discussed this and come up with an amicable agreement as to the seating arrangements. All the time you continue to argue, we are not going anywhere.” There is a delay while they process this and then I can’t believe my eyes because they turn to face eachother and actually have a civilised discussion without any raised voices and they agree on a compromise deal. I had just witnessed two seven year old girls avoiding conflict and coming to an agreement without any adult intervention. We left the house relaxed, happy and the girls actually discussing how they were going to share helping to load and unload the car. I had to pinch myself.

In fact, I have had to pinch myself all week so far with the PD method as it traces back all misbehaviours to four key issues – with my daughter it is power. This is a good attribute to have as a leader in later life but it needs to be channelled correctly. So,

(sorry I have just had to interrupt this blog by saying that I have just watched the latest giffgaff advert which is ridiculously long and features Zombies) It is a shite way to promote a mobile network and you can tell some advertising geek said “Zombies sell films…why not use them in adverts?”. But as much as I hate it, it has got me talking about it and will I remember Giffgaff……probably….but will I use it….no I’m happy with Tesco’s ‘Every little Helps’…)

So, before I was rudely interrupted by a crap advert, the key thing I have been doing differently with my daughter is not entering into the power struggles and instead, giving her responsibilities around the house for her to take ownership of – she is loving it!

I will keep you updated on how I keep this up – not sure how I use it with baby boy though – there is a book that you can get for pre-schoolers, which I might have to read next.

I am blogging every day for Unicef to raise money for the charity. If you are able to donat ethat would be great – just go to my page on Unicef’s site.

Thanks for reading.

In search of ethical banking

My husband and I care about where we put our cash and look for a well rounded bank – one that invests ethically and supports social enterprises, charities etc. While the service it offers and interest rate is important, just as important to us is how the bank operates from an ethical perspective. I don’t think we are alone in seeking this. So, a few years ago we started banking with Smile and the Co-Operative. They have provided us a with a very good service and we have no complaints. However, recently, there has been media coverage of the decision by the Co-Op to pull-out of the bank branch deal with Lloyds. This caused significant media commentary hinting “Does this mark the end of retail banking for the Co-Op?”.

Then my father-in-law (who used to work in banking before he retired early on  handsome sum….although less handsome thanks to Equitable Life), mentioned that we may need to consider banking elsewhere because “the Co-Op’s gilt bonds” (or something like that) “are not good”. “Why don’t you try HSBC?”. Pfft to that – don’t like HSBC’s significant profits and question where they go. However, HSBC’s former Chief is taking over the helm at the Co-op to help them out so hopefully this is just a minor wobble.

We also received an email from Smile to let us know where we stand on compensation claims. We asked ourselves “Why are they sending that to us now off the back of the media coverage?”. So we are tempted to hedge our bets and open up another account with an ethical bank and are currently researching the best one. These banks only invest money in like-minded green or ethical organisations (charities/ social enterprises/ community businesses etc). They don’t support companies that are in to animal testing; arms provision; fossil fuels etc. Hopefully the banking sector will sit up and listen to the growing trend of customers choosing banks for green and ethical reasons – check out the Move Your Money campaign for more info. Also check out The Guardian’s list of ethical banks here.

I am also making blogs more ethical by running this fundraising blog – I hope through each blog post to raise £1 for Unicef. If you are able to support the campaign please visit my page on Unicef’s site.

Thanks for reading.

Dog dilemma

I volunteered to look after my friend’s dog who lives across the street, while she was away for the weekend. Truth is I feel sorry for the dog, he comes way down the priority list in the family, which is to be expected given the commitments of a baby and working lives BUT a dog is still entitled to get a decent walk every day and to not be left for prolonged periods of time. My friend knows that really she needs to re-home it, particularly as she wants to have another baby when the dog will receive hardly any attention at all. The dog is a big strong male labrador with oodles of energy. He is not the kind of mutt that is happy moping around the house all day, confined to its bed most of the time because otherwise it causes a nuisance. This is another case of cute labrador puppy grows up into mad, energetic being that needs exercising. 

It was no skin off my nose to walk him whenever I walked my 2 dogs and then feed him. We did try to socialise him in our house with our 2 – but entire males and small bitches don’t combine well. So I kept him at his house and then made sure he had plenty of time enjoying the sunny bank holiday weather on walks. 

Today I made sure that he got a good walk at lunch-time as we were planning to go out in the afternoon. We left our dogs on their own for 3 and half hours tops and returned expecting to see my friend’s car back at their house after their weekend away – but no car. I got a text from her to say thank you for looking after the dog and I explained that he hadn’t had his supper yet as I wasn’t sure when her husband would get back (she was working a night shift so husband was due to return with kids on his own). Time ticked on and still no one tuned up so I sent a text asking if she wanted me to let her dog out as it had been a while. No response and then finally, a couple of hours later, he shows up. The dog had been on his own for over 7 hours. 

I don’t agree with that at all, so I am going to drop a few hints to see if she can speed up the re-homing process! Its tricky because she is my friend so don’t want to offend her but also don’t like to think of the bad quality of life her dog is experiencing.

I am blogging every day to raise money for Unicef. If you would like to support the campaign, please visit my page on the Unicef site.

Thanks for reading.

If you are getting married – make sure you film it!

Why? Initially I would have said no, however, when digging out Steve McQueen’s ‘Bullitt’ for a movie night, we stumbled upon a video we hadn’t seen in a while – our wedding. Initially I cringed, and held my breath every time it was my turn to speak (like most people I hate the sound of my voice), for some reason I sound like an 8 year old. After a while though, we got caught up in the emotion of it. The cameraman (a friend of my Dad’s) was standing so that he caught my husband saying his vows to me so most of the time you just saw my back, but it was so lovely to see him say the vows. We even forgot the moment when our Vicar (who passed away a few years ago) asked the congregation to turn off mobile phones, not use flash photography etc and then, right on cue, a mobile phone starts ringing (the classic Nokia tune) and everyone swings round to locate the offending person who dared to keep their phone on during the service. It was actually my phone, which was in my bag that my Stepmum was keeping hold of for me so my poor Stepmum had to cope with everyone staring at her while she fumbled to turn it off. As I am hard of hearing, the ring tone was set to ‘outside’ level so the Nokia tune ricocheted around the walls of the church at full pelt. 

One thing that struck both of us watching it back, was how dark-haired we were (you don’t realise how grey you are until you look back 10 years). My husband was so dark he looked like a Just for Men advert. 

Some video was captured at the wedding reception too, with some footage of a relative who sadly died, aged 40, two years ago. It is strange to watch people on camera who have since passed away. Their mannerisms, chatter and body language all immortalised on film. It is also interesting to see how people have changed over the time. My husband’s Auntie now suffers from Alzheimers and has a stoop but she was so different when we got married. Yet my mother and my mother in law have hardly changed – this is the same for my dad and stepmum. However my dad was a slightly different colour following his barber’s insistence that he try a special Italian aftershave for the wedding day – at one point my Dad matched the colour of my bridesmaid’s dresses (a cerise pink).

It is also lovely to show the event to your children, pictures give you a glimpse of the day but film immerses you into the unique atmosphere that, if not captured, is confined to the memories of those who were present (and even they don’t remember everything – particularly those special moments that are difficult to describe).

So take a camera with you on your day and ask a couple of people if they wouldn’t mind filming the key moments (and anything else they fancy) You won’t regret it.

I am blogging every day to raise money for Unicef. If you can donate, please visit my page on Unicef’s website – £1 per blog post would be fab!

Thanks for reading.

A state of unrest

My husband is not alone when he is hunting stuff to buy on his day off. The idea of retail therapy is intriguing. How does the process of buying help people? How does it give them ‘therapy’. Whenever I buy something for myself, an item of clothing for example, I don’t feel very good about it at all. In fact quite the opposite, I feel guilty about spending money on myself. Whenever I do shop for myself, I spend so much time thinking what other things could be bought with the amount the shop expects you to spend on one measly pair of jeans, that it sends me into a state of purchase paralysis. I don’t buy anything – but that doesn’t feel good either. On the other hand, if I buy something for a loved one or a friend I get a really good feeling because I am hoping that they will like it and that they will be pleased with me for purchasing it. If you buy something for yourself, the only thing you notice is your diminishing bank account. But that can be forgiven when buying for friends (well at least it does in my world). 

Going back to my husband, he isn’t hooked on shopping he is hooked on the idea of shopping. He likes gadgets and cars, so he will happily browse the internet and shops for hours but will very rarely make a purchase, because he also feels and fears the guilt after making a purchase. Particularly as cars and gadgets don’t come cheap. 

Does this approach change when money is limitless? Imagine you had millions in the bank, would this make you more or less spend thrift? Yes I think I would indulge a little more in the big things (house, car, holiday) but I think I still couldn’t bring myself to spend £100 plus on a pair of jeans or a bag – that seems obscene to me. Even when it comes to the house, I still wouldn’t want anything so big that it would be a nightmare to keep clean (even if I could afford to pay a cleaner too). 

Retail therapy is a luxury of the western world. People don’t have to worry about where their next meal is going to come from so much, so on their days off they think about what other ‘stuff’ they can fill their loves with: sofas, TVs….. even designer dogs. 

On the flipside, it feels really good to ignore the pull of the high-street and go out for an all-day bike ride and picnic (or some similar outing instead). Time enjoying the world around us, family and friends is so much better spent – and it costs nothing.

I am blogging evey day to raise money for Unicef. If you are able to support the campaign, please visit my page on Unicef’s website.

Thanks for reading.