Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Favorite Child?

 (This photo was taken before my youngest was born.)

I am struggling to understand something. How is it that some parents with more than one child can have a favorite? How is that possible?

I can't imagine choosing one of my children to love more than any of the others. Each of my children is loved completely. They each have different things about them that I love, but I don't love any of them more or less than I love the others. I can't imagine a life with any one of them missing from it. There is room in my heart to love them all immensely. There is room in every mother's heart, if she's willing, to love all of her children just as completely. I find that I am incapable of  understanding how some mothers can love one child more than the other.

How can anyone compare their children to one another. Would you really want them to be alike? Each of my children has their own bright spark, that special something that makes them unique. I love their individuality. I love the fact that I can have a conversation about the same topic with each of them and have that conversation be completely different with each one.

I love all of my children with all of my heart, so I don't and can't understand the term "favorite child." What about you?

Saturday, 25 February 2012

DIY Chalkboard Craft (guest post by author & illustrator Hannah Holt

Author/illustrator Hannah Holt is favoring us today with a crafty post. She blogs about healthy kid's snacks and crafts over at her Lightbulb Books blog.

DIY Oval Chalkboard

Create your own oval chalkboard for under $10.

Hannah Holt Picture 1

What you'll need:

a 12” by 9” wooden board (sanded, about $4)
black acrylic or wood paint (to prime, $2)
chalkboard spray paint ($2)
a sheet of paper torn from an old over-sized book (free)
½ inch rickrack ($1)
white glue sponge brush
a plastic card a paper towel
this oval pattern (Click "download file" on bottom right.)

Step 1) Prime the wood by painting the entire surface black. Use the sponge brush to create a smooth finish. Let the paint dry.

Step 2) Spray a thin coat of chalkboard paint onto the wood. Let this coat dry and then spray at least one more coat. I recommend 3-4 thin coats. Let dry for 24 hours.

Step 3) Cut your over-sized sheet of paper to fit the board. Then download and print the oval pattern provided here and use this pattern to cut an oval out of the middle of your paper. Be sure to center the oval before you cut. Sadly the pattern is not perfectly centered within the page. My pdf writer was giving me grief today.

Hannah holt Picture 2

Step 4) Using chalk and the cut out sheet of paper, trace an oval on the center of your wooden board.

Step 5) Mix white glue with water in a 1:1 ratio. You'll need about 2 Tbl of white glue and 2 Tbl of water for this project. Paint around the outside of the circle with the diluted glue.

Hannah Holt Picture 3

Step 6) Place the paper with the oval cutout over the glue and smooth with the side of the plastic card. You'll want to remove ALL the bubbles.

Hannah Holt Picture 4

Step 7) Paint diluted glue over the top of the paper. Dab off excess glue with a paper towel.

Hannah holt Picture 5

Step 8) Put a stripe of undiluted glue around the interior of the oval, and press the rickrack into the glue. Let the glue dry overnight, and you're all done!

Hannah Holt

Along with being an illustrator, a writer, a blogger and a crafter, Hannah is also a mother to four.

Friday, 17 February 2012

DIY holidays for the whole family (guest post)

Today's guest post is contributed by Lauren Bailey, who regularly writes for accredited online colleges. She welcomes your comments at her email at It may seem a bit early for a post about DIY and budgeting for the holiday season, but the earlier in the year you plan and budget, the easier it will be to prepare for all your family's needs.

There’s no hiding that the holiday season comes as a stressful time for most people; big families can have an especially tough time managing the season with so many kids to consider. Whether it’s October or February, people jump from one holiday to the next with a zealous enthusiasm to decorate their houses and buy seasonal ornaments. And the procession of holidays is year-long: Christmas, birthdays, even the Fourth of July bring about high spirits in the family.        
Unfortunately, this season also marks a time of high spending for families who often stretch their budgets thin in order to keep pace with the expectations of each holiday tradition. Given the current rocky economic climate, it’s more important than ever that families safeguard themselves from further monetary peril by spending wisely during holidays. Consider some of these tips the next you’re your family participates in holiday festivities, whatever they may be.  
Budget appropriately       
First of all, you need to draft a realistic budget for the holiday. Some people try designing one comprehensive budget around all the holidays where they expect to spend the most money on their family. I advise allocating funds more towards the end of the year, as you’ll likely spend more money on gifts for holidays (Christmas or Hanukah, for example) than you would for decorations and food on Halloween or Memorial Day. You can set a realistic budget by assessing how many people are likely to be involved in your spending. For example, do you plan on spending the same amount of money celebrating the birthday of your two year old as you would for your seventeen year old? Probably not. Will you be buying gifts for people outside your family? Take them into account. Will you be hosting a large family dinner? Estimate the cost of cooking for many more that month. If you budget proactively then you won’t have reason to overspend!    
Recycle old items   
This rule of thumb primarily applies to the holiday decorations for your home. One of the great things about the holidays is that their themes don’t really change from year to year. Your decorations (unless they’re tattered vintage items from decades ago) will likely fit the bill for this holiday season just as well as they did last year. You can save a ton of money by forgoing the expense on newer and flashier decorations and save for items more deserving of your hard earned money. You can also recycle old costumes and holiday themed clothing from previous years rather than splurging on pieces that only have relevance for a single day.  
Do it yourself
If you’re really dissatisfied with your holiday inventory, try constructing new things on your own. A trip to your local arts and crafts store could cost you significantly less on decorations, trinkets, and baubles that can normally cost a fortune. Why spend tons of money to create the atmosphere for a holiday that will only last a few weeks? If you’re in a tight financial situation, some DIY holiday creations may be just the thing to prevent gratuitous spending this year. If the kids protest, invite them to make decorations of their own. You’ll be met with less resistance if the entire household gets a say in what you create for the house during the holidays.       
Spend only on those closest to you                                     
If you’ve decided to give gifts this year for any of the upcoming holidays, consider limiting your list of recipients. Draft a list of people to whom you want to give gifts, but bear in mind your financial limitations. Don’t be afraid to cross some people off that list. It may sound harsh, but frugality will go a long way to saving your family finances this holiday season. If you do give gifts, keep them modestly priced and practical. In these tough financial situations, no one wants to spend more than they have to; don’t feel pressured to spend extravagantly because it’s likely that others will be just as economical in their gift choices. Above all, keep you and your family’s financial security chief among all your concerns this holiday season.

Sunday, 1 January 2012

Goals For The New Year 2012


It's a sort of tradition in my family on New Year's Eve for everyone to say at least three things that they want to achieve in the new year.

Here's the list my children gave me, from youngest to oldest.

Cameron (age 3):
- to see fireworks (His siblings told him there would be fireworks last night, so that is what he had on his mind.)
- to get more hugs and cuddles
- to go to school

Connor (age 5):
- to see fireworks (see above explanation)
- to go shopping more often
- to see Nana and Grandad more often

Isabella (age 6):
- to learn more at school, especially in science, reading and numbers
- to see Nana and Grandad more often
- to get a new pet kitten

Gabriella (age 9):
- to learn to maintain her bike (cleaning it, oiling the gears, etc.)
- to start walking places on her own
- to go to a special art school
- to learn to shade better in her drawings

Kayla (age 17):
- to learn at least 7 different languages
- to learn Judo
- to learn ballroom and Latin-American dancing
- to get her driver's license and a car for the family
- to become a firefighter when 18

Angelica (age 18):
- to join Parkour (a kind of running and fast-movement group)
- to learn martial arts
- to increase her muscle tone and increase her flexibility through exercise
- to pass all of her University courses
- to start the cat army invasion (inside joke with her flatmates)

Victoria (age 20):
- to finish writing her novel "Bark Lord"
- to learn to play the ukelele
- to start a writing YouTube channel

Josh (my son-in-law, age 22):
- to start on a bookkeeping course
- to learn martial arts
- to start a tree climbing YouTube channel

It's good to make goals for yourself, whether they are goals for the year or goals that you hope to achieve in a more long-term sense. And the new year is always a popular time to set those goals.

My friend Kayecee asked me to join her Reflection Meme, so here it is:

1. Did you keep your New Years' resolutions from 2011? Will you make any for 2012?
I didn't have resolutions but I did have goals. While I didn't complete some of my goals for the year, I did make huge strides towards achieving them.

2. How will you be spending New Year's Eve?
I spent it with my family, playing board games, eating snacks and watching the ball drop in London through our TV.

3. What was your biggest achievement of the past year?
I continued to be featured in magazines for my weight loss. I've managed to maintain my healthy lifestyle too. I'm also pretty pleased that I managed to write 50,000 words of my novel in just 14 days.

4. What did you do in 2011 that you'd never done before?
I just submitted a short story to a publishing company for an anthology. I don't know yet if it's been accepted, but I have never actually submitted any of my fiction writing anywhere since reaching adulthood so this is a big step for me.

5. What was your biggest failure?
I put about ten of the 145+ lbs. that I have lost back on.

6. Do you have any big events planned for 2012?
There is nothing specifically planned, but I am aiming to have my fiction published this year.

7. What would you like to have in 2012 that you lacked in 2011?
This is a tough question because I don't feel as though I am lacking anything. I have a loving husband, wonderful kids, a roof over my head and good health. I suppose getting a literary agent to represent my writing would be good.

8. What do you wish you'd done more of?
Going to the beach. I really miss my home state (California) and being able to visit the beach as often as I liked. The beaches here in the UK are not at all like California beaches, but I still love to watch the ocean's waves and hear them crashing to the shore.

I also wish I had done more writing.

9. What do you wish you'd done less of?
Procrastinating. It's a real problem in my nature.

10. Do you hate anyone now that you didn't hate this time last year?
No. Hate is not a word I ever use in regards to people. My emotions just don't run that way.

11. Did you suffer illness or injury?

12. Did anyone close to you give birth?

13. Did anyone close to you die?

14. Did anyone close to you get engaged/married?

15. Where did most of your money go this year?
I have seven children. Need I say more?

16. What was the best thing you bought during 2011?
My Kindle! I didn't actually buy it; my family gave it to me for my birthday. I am an avid reader and books were starting to take over my house, but now I can just buy them in Kindle format.

17. What places did you visit this past year?
We didn't manage to take any vacations this year. We did drive up to Lincoln to visit my daughter Angelica in her new flat near her University.

18. What song will always remind you of 2011?
None stand out, but my motto last year has been along the lines of "Happy Girl" by Martina McBride. 2012's motto will be "Something Worth Leaving Behind" by Lee Ann Womack and "I Hope You Dance" also by Lee Ann Womack or Maybe "Blessed" by Martina McBride.

19. What was your favourite TV program?
Hard to choose. Dr. Who, The Fades, Dollhouse, Fringe, Big Bang Theory, Supernatural, Eureka - I had a lot of shows that I enjoyed.

20. What was the best book you read?
This is an even more difficult question as I read loads and I enjoy most of the books I read. I can't really say I have a favorite though.

21. What was your greatest musical discovery?
I didn't listen to much music last year, but I intend to rectify that this year.

22. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year.
From "Unwritten" by Natasha Bedingfield:
I am unwritten, can't read my mind, I'm undefined
I'm just beginning, the pen's in my hand, ending unplanned

Staring at the blank page before you
Open up the dirty window
Let the sun illuminate the words that you could not find

Reaching for something in the distance
So close you can almost taste it
Release your inhibitions
Feel the rain on your skin
No one else can feel it for you
Only you can let it in
No one else, no one else
Can speak the words on your lips
Drench yourself in words unspoken
Live your life with arms wide open
Today is where your book begins
The rest is still unwritten

I break tradition, sometimes my tries, are outside the lines
We've been conditioned to not make mistakes, but I can't live that way

23. How would you describe your personal fashion in 2011?
Fashion? Ha! I scoff at your fashion and just throw on whatever is comfortable.

24. What was your favorite film of 2011?
I don't have a favorite but the one I last saw was "Captain America."

25. What did you do on your birthday?
My husband made a cake for me and I celebrated at home with my family.

26. What kept you sane?
My friends (both in my day-to-day life and on on-line/Facebook/Twitter) and my family.

27. Who did you miss?
California, the Pacific ocean, and living near my parents, brother, sisters, nieces, nephews, cousins, uncles and aunts.

28. Compared to this time last year, are you:
a) happier or sadder?

b) thinner or fatter?
about the same, barring a bit of weight in either direction
c) richer or poorer?
I'd say financially, I might be slightly richer this year.

29. Were you in love with anyone in 2011?
My husband, as I have been since the beginning.

30. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2011:
Everything in life changes; it's the one fact that never changes. And it's up to you whether or not those changes are going to help you or hinder you. Make your own changes!

Come and join the Reflections Meme here.