Happy Halloween

My nearly 3 year old boy was almost falling asleep on the toilet just before bed today. Why? Because he had spent the past 2 hours walking all over the village where we live dressed up as a big black furry spider going from door-to-door trick or treating. He also struggled to keep up with his 8 year old sister and her friends as well as his little girlfriend who is about the same age.

It turned out to be the best Halloween ever, with virtually every door we knocked on doing something for Halloween, complete with gruesome decorations and in some cases, live acts. One house on our street is known as the ‘scary house’ because of the lengths that they go to spook visitors from slow creaking doors and smokey hallways to hands grabbing at you under tables – brilliant.

Not so good if you have a rather sensitive boy who has nightmares and was crying every time his sister or friends blew a whistle near him. So to placate him, I kept feeding him chocolate and sweets from his bag. So much in fact that he only had sweets for dinner (I figured it was only once a year so what harm could it do?).

We started trick or treating in the pub, with my son pounding at the bar door to let us in. We were greeted by a landlady dressed as a blue witch with a flashing skull over the door, cobwebs in the windows and tombstones and a blood red water feature in the front garden. Some Canadian friends ofours then made their way over, we ordered drinks and then before we knew it, we were put tricK or treating with glasses of wine in our hands. At one point a family that greeted our call at the door topped up our glasses and we took their kids out trick or treating in return. If I had had two glasses more it would have been very inappropriate for me as an adult to be ‘trick or drinking’.

We then rounded off the evening with a showing of Ghostbusters. The children had  even been to a Halloween inspired disco earlier – made me want to be 8 all over again!

This blog is for Unicef.

Thanks for reading.

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Constructive kick-ass

I am pleased to be writing this blog for Unicef, especially at times of crisis such as the Ebola outbreak. It is heart-breaking to hear how many families it has devastated so any support given to Unicef to help protect families from this horrific disease is fantastic.

Human resilience and perseverance despite the most awful conditions, both physically and emotionally, is amazing and if everyone can pull together it is possible to fight such diseases. I wonder how much longer cancer will be around for. I love the current advert about the progress to fight the disease, ‘cancer its time to die’. There is nothing like the feeling of empowerment to conquer grief and fear. Sometimes you just have to grit your teeth and get on with it.

If all else fails, get angry and channel that anger effectively.

The worst thing you can do is bury your head in the sand and dull the pain, which the vice of alcohol and drugs tends to support all too easily.

I’m rambling now but I guess what I’m trying to say is when you are feeling low, no matter what the reason, shake yourself up and go kickass (but in a constructive not destructive way).

This blog is for Unicef,a charity that has been kicking ass on behalf of vulnerable children for decades.

Thanks for reading.

Inspiring the campaigners of tomorrow

I was given the task of selecting library books for my daughter to read, “can I have 3 big books to read please” she said. So I swoop up some titles that fall loosely into categories I think she likes: jokes, ghost stories and animals. All get the seal of approval apart from the title in the animals category, ‘Moon Bear’ by Gill Lewis.

I start to read the first chapter for my daughter’s bedtime read and it ends with boys trying to steal cubs for money. The following day, my daughter reads-on by herself then later that evening I offer to read some of the story for bedtime but she doesnt want me to continue with the book, ‘it is too scary Mum, you should have read the blurb at the back’. This prompts me to spin the book round to read the back cover and I then see her point, it is about bear bile farming in Vietnam and nearby areas and the extreme cruelty the bears suffer.

My daughter doesnt want to read about animals in suffering and directs her anger at the bears’ treatment and story at the author. I explain to her that we should be glad the author is bringing  the plight of the moon bears to our attention, as otherwise they would suffer in silence with no help of rescue. I also referred her to the children’s section of Animals Asia and how my daughter could get involved in helping the bears.

I know she wont read the rest of the book because she finds it too upsetting, but I know she will want to help via the website – a fine example of how books and the internet can help empower young people so they dont become like so many in our society of being a helpless consumer of bad news and sad stories.

This blog is for Unicef.

Thanks for reading.

An oily subject

We continue on the quest for a greener alternative to oil as a heating fuel.

My husband has wood, lots of it and it is free. We just need to figure out how to burn it in a way that will heat our radiators and hot water.

So we looked more into the cost of wood burner boilers. It appears there is a good reason why not many people have them in their homes – the majority of people (including us) do not have £14000 – £18000 to purchase the boiler (and thats before any money is spent on installing it).

There is an incentive from the Government that pays 12p per kw per hour generated (which for our house would be 23000 hours per year. However, that is still not enough to convince us to make an investment. Whatsmore, the addition of the boiler will not add value to the house, if anything it devalues it, because it is bulky and not everyone has copius amounts of wood to burn. Energy Performance Certificates are not held in high regard – people are still more interested in kerb appeal than green credentials. Why do you think Range Rover sales are so high?

So think we are back to plan A getting the wood burner in the fireplace connected up to the system instead – just need to get the chimney re-lined first…oh and the fireplace expanded…….and the plumbing put in.

Whats the price of oil again?

This blog is for Unicef.

Thanks for reading.

Crisis saves Spirit of Christmas

Thank God for the film The Polar Express.

As the big month nears, pressure is starting to build – the start of my daughter’s spanish inquisition as to whether Santa is real or no real.

I am having to dust off every acting face and quick-thinking wittedness I can in an effort to try and delay the inevitable. So I had to confess to her that both myself and her Daddy would be very sad when she no longer believes (just like in the Polar Express) because she (just like her fellow classmates) are seriously questioning FC’s presence and many of her friends have already drawn their conclusions.

I said to her that the magic of Christmas goes once the belief goes (as it did with me and hubby) I am a bit of a bah humbug about Christmas and ‘the most important thing is being together’. If you can only find time to be together once a year then that’s a bit crap. It also instantly short-changes those who are not in a typical family unit and who struggle to get together or even have anyone to ‘get together with’.

Thats why I am keen to volunteer for Crisis to help those living rough in London use Christmas as a chance to get a better life away from the streets. Its not easy giving up time at Christmas, particularly if you are a parent, but providing I can get the childcare thanks to my Mum (either before or after the 25th and 26th, I think it will be brilliant and will set an example for my children who could also do it once they are old enough.

In which case Christmas really will be worthwhile in years to come, with or without FC.

This blog is for Unicef.

Thanks for reading.

October is the new August

It is that time of year when you start to get a tickle in your throat and a snuffle in your nose. That combined with two glasses of wine, a tummy full of curry and a day spent painting the garden fence meant bed beckoned early, minus the blog post – so £1 in the pot to Unicef, as per the fundraising initiative.

I admit it became obsessive yesterday – a wooden fence, a large tub of green paint, kids occupied, a dry October day – it didnt get better than that – it was project paint the fence.

I also got paint on my face, hands, trainers, jumper and jeans. As it was green I looked slightly mouldy, perfect for Halloween preparations. The children were having fun in the front garden in the ‘trench’ that had been dug up for the new car park area. Every now and then I went to check on them and tried not to look at how muddy and brown their faces and clothes were quickly becoming.

Sometimes doing things on impulse, just because the weather is good and doing an activity that doesnt cost anything or requires you to drive anywhere can be immensely satisfying. During the day I turned a brown fence green, while I turned green too and the children turned brown. Not often you can enjoy so much quality time outside in late October.

Today I went out on a ride on my friend’s horse, when he went loony after my Jack Russell decided to chase and bark at him while were cantering along. But she had a grin on her face the entire time, which gave her something else to think about other than picking a fight with her Mum.

We then got the boat out of the water for the winter and my son enjoyed feeling for barnacles on the hill while my daughter helped scrub seagull poo off the deck.

Turns out October is the new August.

This blog is for Unicef.

Thanks for reading.

Giving the boot to Father Christmas

My daughter is nearly 9 and she asked me if Father Christmas is real.

I came up with the most realistic response I could think of, ‘Thank God he is real because Mummy and Daddy wouldnt be able to buy you two lots of presents. Father Christmas saves money for Mums and Dads worldwide’. Seemingly satisfied she asked no further questions and I breathed a sigh of relief inside.

Every parent wants to prolong belief in Father Christmas for as long as possible because Christmas just isnt the same afterwards.

The pressure builds every year and you find yourself getting angry with high street retailers for giving the game away. For example, I picked up the Boots gift guide the other day and found a section titled Stocking Fillers ‘great gifts to keep your little ones happy at Christmas’. It made me so angry to read this. I was then thinking up excuses to tell my daughter if she happened to stumble upon those pages.

Marketers forget that children can also read and still believe in FC.

I wish FC was a reality for everyone – Christmas just isnt the same once you discover Dad in a red dressing gown (which is how I found out). I forget what age I was……

This blog is for Unicef.

Thanks for reading.