10 5 / 2013
Sometimes people pass on their baby clothes to us - as foster carers who often have children passing though our doors (some arriving only in the clothes they are wearing) we are always exceptionally grateful for the pre-loved wonderfulness of these arrivals, especially as when sorting them I often get to reminisce about the glorious memories I shared with previous owner while they were wearing them.
However as I sorted some recent arrivals I found myself getting increasingly frustrated! As my room turned pink, why oh why is it always pink, I started turning red. It was not the colour however that was making me flip.
DISCLAIMER -This is in no way a reflection of the amazing parents who passed me these clothes. They are awesome and inspiring parents who engage with their children and raise them with with creativity and love. They both seek to empower their children with great success - their daughter is a firecracker of wonderfulness - this is a comment on our society and how we collectively brand our children.
I have to read the slogans and charity shop any that say ‘mummy’ ‘daddy’, that kind of thing, as these are not foster child friendly. As I read I found myself getting more and more frustrated - now there was nothing offensive. By this I mean in the shops they sell such slogans as ‘wag in training’ to a 3 year old! There was also a wonderful lack of the minor offensives of ‘drama queen’ or ‘shopaholic’ or ‘shoes shoes shoes’ that would go straight in the chuck bag. Yes this is what we put on our children’s clothes! What made me want to scream was the seemingly innocuous and widely accepted ’cute’ and ‘pretty’. At least 90% of these clothes had reference to how the child looked. Why on earth does it matter how a newborn looks - do we really want to brand our children with the oppression of perceived beauty as soon as we cut the cord - is this really the most important thing we have to say about our children! How unimaginative are these clothes makers, and how awful is our society that this is norm THE NORM. How we look does not define us - nor should it be what we emblazon on our children’s chests from birth! By the time they are two it is not even subtle - huge slogans all about how they look! My child is not ‘cute as a button’ but she is smart as a tack! So I am going to make my own range replacing ‘cute’ with ‘loved’ in newborn clothing and when they get to toddler age they will be branded with such words as -‘kind’, ‘funny’, ‘caring’, - no child of my will ever be ‘pretty’ they will however be ‘pretty awesome’!
10 5 / 2013
Please excuse my extended silence my laptop died - but now has been brought back to life by an amazing friend! During my silence my rantings have been loading themselves into my brain overloading my cortex and I am about to explode with ramblings, opinions and frustrations!!! So lets do this and get our rant on!
20 2 / 2013
So a year ago I posted my 35 things to do before I am 35 list a few weeks before turning 32. So here I am, nearly 33 (glup!) reviewing if I am on target!!!!
1. Read every book on the BBC Big read list. My wonderful hubby keeps returning with books off the list from charity shops, yet shamefaced I can admit I am yet to read one!!!!
2. Learn how to and make a quilt.
3. Go strawberry picking.
4. Cut my hair short. I have a pinterest board of styles ready for the big day!!!
5. Go to a salvage yard, and buy something.
6. Make my own icecream.
7. Go white water rafting.
8. Verbalise one positive thing about myself (in private) each day.(oh that will be hard).
Attend the Olympics or Paralympic games. Yes! and here is the proof.
10. Learn to drive (a much overdue goal!)
11. Learn how to and make pickles.
12. Walk Hadrian’s Wall.
13. Sew myself a garment that I would wear out in public.
14. Learn to french plait.
15. Get a qualification in photography.
16. Finish decorating our house (nearly there!). Play room done…getting there
17. Write letters to my friends and family telling them why I love them.
18. Get in a size 12 pair of jeans. on track!!!
19. Visit 3 different countries. One down 'Uganda'
20. Create a ‘craft’ space, and use it!
21. Cook a gourmet meal from start to finish and host a dressy, adults-only dinner party.
22. See the Aurora Borealis.
23. Learn to play at least one song on any instrument.
24. Finally get my Tattoo (have wanted the same one, in the same place since I was 18!)
25. Go on a bike ride with my husband (this would involve learning!) I have a bike- step one!!
Sell a hat I have made. I have now sold two in charity auctions
27. Run 10k.
28. Redecorate my Kitchen.
29. Create my own quote book.
30. Learn to play chess.
31. Watch the top 100 films as voted for by Empire Magazine.
32. Go on a cruise.
Learn to ice a cake well, and then create my own ‘show-stopper’ cake. Took classes and think my Christmas cake could possibly count - it was two tiered which is as good as I can get!
34. De-clutter and sort my wardrobe.
Make at least 20 things I have pinned on Pinterest. Indeed I have! Check out all the #happilycreating posts
So yeah , got a long way to go!!!!!!
07 2 / 2013
We are passionate about home-made gifts, and what Ivy gets is no different. Last year she got a rocking horse for Christmas, this year she got her own A-Z book! Here are all the pages.
03 2 / 2013
"Being very accessible sometimes makes it hard to connect with people"
02 2 / 2013
I recently watched someone get married on the internet. I was not watching a live stream, or skyping – just people’s news feeds. Although the girl is on facebook she rarely posts or comments so it was a strange on sided affair. First the ‘congrats on your engagement’ posts appeared. A few months later the ‘travelling to the hen party’ updates, followed by the intagram pics of cocktails and cupcakes with arty filters, oh and a few less classy shots of drunken dancing. Then the ‘morning after’ status updates. A few weeks later there were ‘good luck’ comments, and ‘I can’t wait’ statuses and then the big day arrived. My news feed was full of her beautiful smiling face looking stunning all in white next to a very proud looking man! Its amazing how publicly our lives now play out now.
However this post is not about how public our lives have become and how social media seems to now validate our existence (its not a night out till there is a photo of us all smiling on twitter) although I may write one soon! This post is about how I probably would have counted this girl as one of my best friends, until I saw all this and realised I was not invited! This post is not a dig at her – it is a dig at me, and how lazy I have become at staying in touch. Pre-facebook I was a writer – a snail mail geek! I still have boxes of letters I used to back and forth with friends. I loved finding or making the right card to tell someone I was thinking of them. My letters served no higher purpose than that of saying hi! Now I click like! I have sacrificed interaction with laziness and then wonder why I become virtual a bi-stander.
A few years ago I got quite sick, I pretty much spent a year in bed. As a result of this I lost days, confidence and friends. I missed important days like weddings and birthdays, and time kind of stopped. In my mind relationships froze, but in reality they moved on without me. My life may have been on pause, but for so many others it was on fast forward – and I was missing out, but fooling myself into believing that being an internet voyeur and commenting on the odd status still meant I was included. I was ill, now am I lazy and this has been the wake up call I needed. Facebook is not a relationship – just because I know everything that is going on in someone’s life does not mean I know them!
Its ridiculous how hurt I was by the lack of invite – I mean I was floored for days! I truly would have listed this person as one of my best friends – yet in reality they ‘were’ a friend. They were once one of my closest friend – but I let that slip (in reality we let that slip as friendship is two sided, but I can only change my actions) I also think part of my hurt is due to my ‘no one gets left behind mentality’ but I think I’ll blog about that another day! It has been a well needed slap to evaluate my friendships and my interactions. My best friend list is weird, kind of barren, territory now as I try to view things through others eyes and that of perspective. Now I know there is that adage that best friends just pick up where they left off like they have never been apart, which I do in some part believe in, but it, like Facebook, are not an excuse for lack of effort. My new motto – Friends make the effort!
So yes, I am a crappy friend – I have squandered my relationships and lost good people along the way. So in 2013 I must try harder.
On aside it makes me saddest to realise I will now probably never be a friend’s bridesmaid (not so I can shine, anyone who knows me would know I would hate being looked at and all the photos, I struggled on my wedding day – but the being there to support and share with someone on their special day) But hey with enough effort maybe one day someone will deem me fit to be a Godmother!!! (Saying that my amazing youth leaders made me Godmother to their son when I was still a teenager – an honour I totally cherish and I hope my new found passion makes me live up to it even more!)
So yes; I will try harder. Sorry if you are one I lost upon the way – that is inexcusable.
30 1 / 2013
Sometimes it is hard to stop as a parent and let our children just be - just to explore, create and play on their own. But today we managed to step back and they did just that.
We woke up to a wonderful white carpet - and armed with our amazing Christmas gift of a ‘snowman kit’ we went off to explore. We figured we would make a small snowman with them, they would ooooh and off home we would go. But after a watching us collect and ‘pat’ they were off!
They gathered, patted, imagined and built. We guided a little, but mostly watched! We were next to a road (our house is having some work done on it, so we couldn’t go far - just to a bit of wide pavement and verge by the house) and everything in me screamed to hold hands and ‘keep safe’. But the girls were so careful staying away from the edge and not running off!! There is definitely a place for safety - but also a time to trust!!! I worried about them getting cold or wet - but they were just having fun! We created our man!
The kit (made by a very creative friend) was put together using air dry clay and dowels, a fab home made gift.
Then the girls really got creative - a dog, lets make a dog - and they were off. Gather Gather, Pat Pat (although this time there were a lot of hug breaks!!!
I love how they play together (on good days)
After a while we had our snow dog!!!
Its amazing how much fun we have when we step back and let them be in charge. They had great fun exploring, gathering and hugging. At one point they were playing some kind of kiss chase game, then it was all about who could sneak up and touch the dog!!! A good reminder to stop and let them be!
Of course being the ‘controlling mum’ I can be sometimes I had organised one game for them - coloured snow. I had frozen bags of food colouring filled water a few days before and we had great fun placing them and naming colours.
27 1 / 2013
Aside from giggles (I had a wonderful moment the other day when Ivy was in the supermarket with my mum and I was coming to meet them. Across the aisles I heard the distant sound of her giggling! My heart swelled, especially when a man turned to me and said ‘is there a greater sound than that giggle’. Personally I think not, but I am biased! )I think my favourite noises that come from my little girls’ lips at the moment are two phrases they have picked up. The first one is ‘try again’, the other ‘I did it’. Can you tell we are working on independence!!!!
I did it
I love the infectious joy that comes with the triumphant cry of ‘I did it’. The sense of success at achieving the task that has been failed at, worked at and improved at. I love it when THEY succeed. Sometimes as a parent/carer/adult it is so hard to stop yourself doing it for them. The desire comes from many places - hating to see them struggle or be frustrated, our need to get to the next task quicker, our lack of patience, or lack of belief - but sitting on those hands, slowing down and gentle encouragement is all worth it for the pride, confidence and wonder that accompanies the cry ‘I did it’ - yes you did my wonderful and gifted little girl, and with hard work, effort, patience and dedication you my dear dear child can do anything!
This empowering phrase spoken by one of my two year old to the another is, I think, I pinnacle of my parenting!!!! They have not only learnt that things are possible with effort, that they can do it it if they try, and to not give up - but they have learnt the unspoken power of encouragement, that in someone’s darkest hours our words and actions have the power to change things for them. My girls have learnt love in action! My girls know how to quietly encourage, because these words aren’t shouted, they are not ordered, they are whispered, if you are not still and listening you will miss them (another reminder to myself to be more still and give them a chance to try!). They are the unconscious overflow of one child wanting another to succeed! They are my girls loving each other, and yes I am proud.
Oh and just for a reality check I am going to stop writing now as to intercept the fight they are currently having over who has ownership rights of the elephant!
Here is a ‘success smile’ after writing her name! (well not bad writing of a name for a two year old!)
24 1 / 2013
"If you judge people you have no time to love them"
24 1 / 2013
Our little boy turned one yesterday, and today it is his year anniversary of living with us! What a joy it has been celebrating the past year with him, he has changed so much. We celebrated with an hour party of singing and cake! His cake featured characters from all his favourite songs and nursery rhymes. Twinkle twinkle star, baa baa black sheep, dish and the spoon, old MacDonald, the ‘bus’ (from wheels on the bus).
Two speckled frogs (one on a log), 3 blind mice, Humpty Dumpty, Mother Goose….and more!
I had great fun late night modelling all the fondant into shapes.
As I reflect on his last year I can’t help myself thinking about his Mum. It is so easy to vilify the parents of children in care – but I don’t think it is that easy. There is always a background that leads someone to this place, damage, hurt, broken childhoods or their own abuse. These are broken people struggling, because they lack the support, resilience or education I am blessed with. So today I think of her – all she misses out on and all I am blessed with. I pray she will find peace, love and support though what must be a very difficult time. It is so easy to judge, but what she, and many others need is love. Spare a thought/prayer for her today.
01 1 / 2013
Well what a year 2012 was. A year when words like velodrome and legacy became part of everyday conversations, super-humans ceased being things of comic books, for me Africa became a memory not a concept, and my life was enriched by a new little boy restoring our family to 5. It was a year of celebration, and also a year of heartbreak as the breakdown of a happily ever after scars my soul and hope forever. Here is my review!!!!
Mr C was born, and arrived with us at 23 hours old. Funny how quickly you forget how tiny new born babies are, and how much care they need!!! Sleepless nights jolt like a bolt from the blue and sleep deprivation digs its nails into the corners of your mind! But we wouldn’t have it any other way.
We slowly adjusted to our full household and survived having baby again.
We had a fab family getaway to London involving a Easter egg hunt across the city, and the total joy of being taken to see Matilda (my new favourite musical) by my very generous brother.
I was blessed enough to be able to visit an orphanage and school in Uganda, a trip we all hope to repeat in the future. The experience has profoundly affected me. It was a real honour to work alongside the staff in the baby house sharing with them some of my limited knowledge on fostering and attachment disorders, offering some extra man power and helping with the completion of one of the new buildings. I even put my wood work skills to use making some tables and chairs and a changing table/storage unit. The children we met with were a real joy, full of life and fun, keen to share a giggle and learn something new. (I had great fun teaching some of the older children how to crochet.) The trip was life changing, but also helped to reaffirm my calling to fostering and how right I believe it is to be where we are, doing what we do, which is a relief! I think the main thing I will remember is how generous everyone was. Relatively they have so little yet are so generous with all they have, often giving away their best to bless others. It is so different to how we can so often be generous; only giving out of our excess and surplus. We rarely give away our best and go without so someone else can be blessed (especially, as in our case, they really don’t deserve it). I hope that challenge stays with me. Read more in postcards from Uganda, and postcards from Uganda Mark 2
We get a wonderful State-side visitor and the air is full of delighed shouts of ‘aunty Ja!!!’ The weather as if replicating Savannah turns hot, and we enjoy a wonderful day at Castle Howard
Simon and I entered the 21st century, trading in our so ancient they are now ‘old skool’ phones and got iPhones!
Ooopic (as Ivy Calls it) fever strikes with the arrival of the torch! We discover a bubbling patriotism and a love of flag waving!
The Queen comes to visit Stockton and we enjoy more flag waving!
We enjoyed lots of family days out and a very muddy but wonderful weekend at the Greenbelt festival.
We were honoured to cheer on the Paralympians in person. In the pool we were wowed, at the basketball court we were awe inspired and in the stadium we were overcome! It was an amazing couple of days and such a joy to be there. Read more here and here
Our baby girl turns two and enjoyed all things are Seuss-Tastic! (see One Fish, Ivy’s two Fish) I also got involved with the Hope for Justice, joining the local Act for Justice group. Hope for Justice are a charity that seek to end human trafficking, by rescuing victims, raising awareness and training police officers and other professionals to spot the signs and work with victims. Modern day slavery is a real problem in the UK (and the rest of the world) though often unseen or unheard of. The Act for Justice groups work locally to raise awareness and funds for this amazing charity.
We celebrated 9 years of being married, Ivy met Yoda (again), we got involved in the ‘flag up campaign for Hope for Justice and we all donned a tash for movember!
As part of our redecoration of the playroom (full blog entry to come) we said goodbye to our old mural and welcomed in a new one! Maps maps glorious maps – yes I am obsessed!
Christmas came with all its loveliness and we decked the halls with gusto!
That was the year that was - what will 2013 bring?
25 12 / 2012
24 12 / 2012
This year I had a go at baking my own Christmas cake. I am blessed with a mother-in-law who makes the most fantastic fruit cakes, so I have never needed to before, but as I had completed my sugarcraft course, I thought it would be fun to have something to place my creations upon! As my M-in-L and Sister-in-law have the most beautiful tradition of making the cakes together, and as Ivy and I live to far away to join in I thought it would be lovely for us to create our own ‘northern’ cake tradition. My cake turned out ok, nowhere near as good as theirs, but enough of a success that Ivy and me may try again! Plus the smell of fruit soaking in brandy is just divine!
I added a top layer of a red velvet cake to fruit cake and topped with penguins and petal paste snowflakes
With two tiers and fancy icing and petal paste I am totally counting this as my show stopper cake from the 35 things list!
The Fruit cake had a marzipan layer under the fondant. The red velvet had a cream cheese frosting underneath, and running through the middle. I originally made two red velvet cakes with the idea of stacking them up on each other with frosting between but the cakes rose so beautifully I was able to split a single cake into two layers, resulting in an extra red velvet cake.
Iced with cream cheese frosting and petal paste snowflakes this cake was a great help towards our ‘homemade’ gift tally, making a fab gift for some friends.
The snowflake cutter definitely earned its keep this year - also making the fondant toppers for some cupcakes I made for a play group party.
As a gift for my Mum I also iced her cakes for this year. She hates doing it and I was happy for the practice. Her first cake got a mixture of figures I had been making in class out of fondant.
On one side a ‘whistling’ elf - although he looks more worried!!! He is standing on the snowballs as his legs fell off!!! So he should be worried really! On the other a snowman and some trees.
To be honest the class was not great, the teacher was super critical and did nothing for my confidence, but I did pick up a few tricks. Firstly Tylo Powder - you add it to fondant to make it stiffer for moulding and makes it set hard. Second ‘spaghetti scaffolding’ Use it to hold on heads, secure models to cakes - its a wonder. I also learnt the basics of sugar flowers - and here is the second cake that I decorated using those.
So there are some of my Christmas bakes.
20 12 / 2012
02 12 / 2012