Everyone can lose a home

Tomorrow I will be volunteering for the second time for a local homeless charity called Stonepillow. Im not doing anything much, just wrapping Christmas presents donated by the public. I consider it to be quite a privilege to have the opportunity to help out. It was heartening to hear from Stonepillow’s admin team that they were inundated with calls from people wanting to help serve meals and help get people off the street on Christmas Day. I wanted to help with Crisis in London, but because volunteering is so popular, they ask people to commit to at least 2 shifts and when you have to find childcare and the money to pay for a ticket o London it becomes more difficult, so I decided to leave that opportunity to the Londoners and stick to volunteering closer to home. It is brilliant to hear that charities are overwhelmed with support. While it may be harder than before to fundraise, it must be reassuring for charities o know that people genuinely want to help, if not financially, then by giving their time, care and skills.

When I see adverts for appeals about homelessness, I think about how this situation could happen to any of my friends and family. Money and circumstance is all that stands between a home and homelessness. My Dad slept rough when he went awol from the Navy because he had been put there by his social worker as there was no longer any room for him at home after he left boarding school. I worry about my children’s future, it doesnt take that many false moves to end up on the streets and as parents we bear that responsibility of weaving a safety net just in case.

This blog is for Unicef. Thanks for reading.

Christmas bugs

I missed my blog post last night because I was busy examining both of our toilets on a frequent basis, the attack of tummy bug mark 2. By midnight my head was throbbing because of dehydration (it was both ends) and frankly I just wanted to be switched off. Then I overheard my hubby trying to catch the sick from baby boy when he was mid tooth brush and I was more upset for him as you would suffer twice over if it meant your children didnt get it. Thankfully it was only the once for him, he slept soundly and was right as rain by morning. A couple of ibuprofens and  dioralytes later and I was finally on the mend too. This came as a relief o hubby who had managed some serious multi-tasking on Saturday: tree work, log deliveries, dog walk and christmas food shopping all with kids in tow.

I remembered all the times myself and my family had been ill and it had been mostly over the Christmas period. The bugs, the colds and the lurgys are worse in this country over winter because we are all inside more exchanging more germs. It made me hanker for the sunny states of America, Australia or anywhere else where the sun shines and people are happy and healthy. One year before I die I would love to experience Christmas in the Sun.

This blog is for Unicef, for every missed post I donate £1 and fellow bloggers are welcome to donate too.

Thanks for reading.

The mutual appreciation society

We have just enjoyed a version of Aladdin at my daughter’s school ‘Aladdin in Trouble’. It went on for 1 hour and 20 minutes and while it was lovely to watch it did go on for a tad too long. It seems like 2 hours when you have a toddler fidgety and grumpy on your lap because it is way past their bedtime. Like most primary schools, the school hall cannot accommodate all the year groups and parents, so a lot of the children have to stand either side of the stage and get up and down every time the chorus of another song starts without the opportunity to get on centre stage. For those that have tall children you can at least see them in-between each stage performance but for most of the time you are craning your neck to catch a glimpse of your little one.

But the enjoyment comes from seeing all the little ones and seeing how they have grown and flourished since pre-school. Now they are nearly 9 you get o catch a glimpse of the future teenager and young adult in them too. Then you look around at all the parents who are on the same fascinating journey as you and wonder are they thinking the same thing.

And when the applause comes at the end it is for a mutual appreciation of every child’s performance and what more lies ahead. There is so much to look forward to, whatever the ups and downs.

This blog is for Unicef.

Thanks for reading.

Post sugar ramblings

Oh dear my no sugar diet is starting to slip as we approach Christmas. My daughter won a tin of Cadburys Roses in a raffle and they have started to talk to me from the cupboard.

On the flip side my daily morning anti-love handle exercises are starting to pay off and I have started a new part-time job which involves a lot of horse-shit shovelling then pushing it in a wheelbarrow through mud as deep as the trenches – kind of like a poor girl’s gym -perfect!

I have paused this post to watch Celebrity Juice contestants spit brussel spouts at a plate on the end of a table, which is surprisingly entertaining.

Even more entertaining, the contestants having to guess what each other are saying about Christmas as if they have just gums and no teeth. I think I might give that a whirl as a game on Christmas Day, reminds me of my granny.

Later this week I am on the hunt for an alternative Christmas Tree, in other words something vaguely tree like in the woods which wont cost anything. Artificial trees are around £100 and real trees less than 6 foot start around £30. I can think of better ways to spend that money  – such as a donation to the charity Tree Aid which empowers the poorest communities in some of the countries worst affected by climate change to combat its effects.

This blog is for Unicef.

Thanks for reading.

A monkey nativity

Today my baby boy, just turned three, played the part of Joseph in his pre-school nativity. Prior to his performance, my Mum took us all put to our local pub for lunch and he ate half his bodyweight in chocolate ice-cream. We were all treading round him on eggshells today, keen not to upset him or over-tire him so that he would be on good form.

He was all willing to dress up as Joseph and then when the pre-school leader, affectionately known as ‘Auntie Carol’, took him down to the stage were all his other ‘tiny friends’ were, he freaked out. So I followed him down the aisle to the stage and tucked myself behind his little chair to calm him down (and swapped his toy sheep that went with his Shepherd’s outfit, for his comforter toy ‘Monkey’). Throughout the performance he sat patiently next to Mary and calmed down enough that I could leave his side.   He said all four lines with a little help and was happy to stand in front of everyone o say them (while clutching monkey).

When it was time for him to walk with Mary down the aisle, he was happy to hold her hand and walk through the audience (while Auntie Carol held monkey). But later on in the play when they were all singing he just suddenly started to cry, so I hopped up and sat with him again, but as I sat down I knocked the Joseph and Mary pictures on the wall off, so had to keep putting them back up.

Afterwards there were pictures, and baby boy was still intermittently crying, which didn’t help with the publicity photos, but when it was all over and he had the freedom to play with his girlfriend Sam, he was grinning from ear to ear and we all breathed a sigh of relief that he hadnt been mentally scarred by the experience and had managed to keep the show on the road.

Our 3 year old did good.

This blog is for Unicef, thanks for reading.

What would Santa do?

There is a part of me that feels like a fraud and a part of me that is celebrating in another year of Christmas belief for my 8 year old daughter. The pressure of preserving Father Christmas for the continued enjoyment of both my daughter and son is one that all parents feel. Because we all know Christmas is never quite the same when the belief goes.

So I set-up an email account for our Father Christmas, which has resulted in a email ping pong between my Father Christmas alter ego and my daughter. I am now getting to see messages that she would probably not mention to me so enthusiastically as her mother.

She has requested that for her ‘Christmas wish’, she would like her Dad to be happy in his job and get ‘the money we need for the family and to be happy’. My daughter is obviously all too aware of her father’s change in job and financial circumstance. He is driving further for less but is on the rigt career path – just has to grit his teeth and get on with it for the next 6 months.

I replied with an encouraging email and a reminder that money, while helpful, cannot replace the happiness felt in binds between friends and family.

In each email I end it with a twinkly star icon for the authentic Christmas look.

I am just hoping he does not reply again with more angst or queries as it is starting to feel a bit weird to be pretending to be a man with a long white beard and formal way of speaking.

I have to keep asking myself, ‘what would Santa do?’

May be this is a question I should ask of myself on a more regular basis…..

This blog is for Unicef.

Thanks for reading.

Good news gives

I received an email from Oxfam today. I clicked on it, wincing, in preparation for what horrible headlines and images would greet me to make me feel bad and want to do something despite money being tight. Refreshingly the newsletter led with an incredibly positive story about how people were successfully rebuilding their lives following Typhoon Haiyan. Another story followed about how the charity’s team are pulling together successfully to fight Ebola. I then wanted to click on their website and find out more. Other good stories popped out including children in a UK primary school who had used their points for good behaviour to buy an Oxfam gift to an African village of a chicken. Other gifts include a goat, seeds, medicine, food etc. Oxfam even offer a wedding list service to buy resources for people in need – makes a refreshing change to John Lewis.

In fact, it is not penguins that should be making us coo with sentimentality during Christmas adverts, its people pulling together to help others.

With the opportunity to buy vintage designer wear through the Oxfam site and even wedding dresses there is now the opportunity to indulge in some shopping and know that you are helping society in the process – genius!

I received a letter from the NSPCC and on the envelope there was a picture of a depressed child and a slogan about tears not joy at Christmas. I couldnt face opening it, so decided to wait until later. Now I cant find it and suspect my husband may have put it in recycling for fear of the clash between our budget and the calls from an increasing number of charities to give. I now have over 10 missed calls from one charity call centre over a one week period asking me to set up a Regular donation. Im not in a position to do so But give when I can.

But this is never enough and the bad stories keep flooding in.

Charities like Oxfam know good news in many ways can be more motivating for people to lend their support. If something good is happening, you want to help to keep that good flowing.

This blog is for Unicef. Thanks for reading.

Crafty ideas for Christmas

I am a fan of Kirstie Allsopp and all things that look nice round the home for next to nothing.

There are some people that like to have a ‘themed’ Christmas tree every year favouring one or two colours and storing or selling anything that clashes from previous years. We have more of an ‘everything from previous Christmases’ vibe to our tree, with clashing colours and styles mixed in with children’s decorations and the odd random bit of wrapping accessories. It looks more like someone detonated a bomb of random Christmas decorations near the Christmas tree and wherever they landed was the end result.

There are, however a few baubles that make me slightly wince to put on the tree, yet I don’t quite have the heart o consign them to another year in the attic without a festive outing.

However, the London department store Liberty, have come up with a brilliant way to ‘upcycle’ these baubles – check out their blog post for a fab idea for Christmas 2014.

(Sorry if for some people this is all a bit too early to talk about Christmas, but at least we are the right side of bonfire night).

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.