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Create Your Own Happy Book

How To Teach Children To Be Kind

Becky Goddard-Hill, who blogs at A Beautiful Space and Baby Budgeting, is the co-author of Create Your Own Happy, a happiness boosting book for kids. Create Your Own Happy is full of activities and is a fun, interactive book. It was published in September 2018 by Harper Collins and is available from Amazon and all good  bookshops. A good two thirds of book is dedicated to teaching kids how to make other people happier and the world a happier place.

In this guest post she considers kindness.

Create Your Own Happy Book

‘No act of kindness, however small, is ever wasted’ Aesop (Greek fabulist and storyteller)

We all know kindness is tremendously important, it makes other people feel so much happier, and it makes us feel better too when we are kind or when we receive it.

Kindness is a treasure.

It is something I believe every parent wants their children to be.

One of the very best ways to teach children to be kind is to look out for it, notice it and comment it. Do this when you see it on the news or when you see it in the paper, mention it when you spot it in other people and, most loudly of course, mention it when you see it in your child.

Praise your children for kindness more than you would if they aced a test or came first on sports day, for after all, it truly is the most important thing in the world.

Model kindness to your children too. Let them see you put kindness into action, let them hear you speak words of kindness and compassion. Let your kindness be on full display.

Random acts of kindness

Random acts of kindness are a fun way to bring kindness to the world and a lovely idea to present to your kids. A random act of kindness is basically an act of kindness for no particular reason or reward. You can do these for people you do or don’t know.

Here are some suggestions for random acts of kindness kid’s could undertake

  • Take flowers from their garden (or the shop!) to a local, older persons care home
  • Donate their pocket money to a charity
  • Feed the birds
  • Tell someone a joke
  • Say something lovely to their teacher
  • Ask a grown up if they can do some chores for them
  • Leave a book on a park bench with a note inside saying ‘Enjoy this book and once finished pls place it back on this bench’
  • Make their grown-up breakfast in bed
  • Put enough money in a vending machine so the next person gets a freebie
  • Put together a little photo album for a relative
  • Smile and say good morning to someone new
  • Litter pick for 15 minutes in their local park
  • Read a story to someone
  • Offer to make everyone tea
  • Start a collection for a local food bank at school or on their street
  • Make a bookmark and leave it in a library book
  • Run a second hand stall and donate the money to charity
  • Ask someone new if they want to play

Encourage them to come up with their own ideas and try putting these into action. Be sure to make time to reflect with them on how they feel after. I am sure they will soon realise that being kind to someone else makes them feel JUST AS GOOD as it were being done to them.

The Random Acts of Kindness Foundation has discovered that carrying out random kind acts will:

  • Reduce depression: Thinking about helping other people stops us worrying about ourselves.
  • Reduce pain: Helping releases endorphins, which are natural painkillers.
  • Reduce isolation: Helping others encourages human contact.
  • Reduce blood pressure.
  • Reduce anxiety: Good actions can lift mood and decrease social avoidance.
  • Reduce stress: Kind people have 23 percent less cortisol (the stress hormone) and age more
    slowly.

Wow, it’s SO good for you to make other people happy – and such an important thing to teach our kids.


Thanks so much to Becky for sharing such wonderful ideas for helping children learn about kindness. One of the things I love most about raising Little Man is when he will thank us for doing something, because it was kind. For instance, the other night as we got ready for bed he said to me, “you’re the best mother I could have chosen,” and I replied with, “thank you, that’s so kind!” The following morning, I repeated his words back to him, telling him that he was the best son I could have wished for, and he replied with, “that’s so kind!”

He understands the importance of kindness in our lives, and it fills my heart with joy that of all things this is what he has grasped the easiest. He has Autism, and so a lot of social conventions seem quite confusing to him, but for some reason kindness seems to be something he has inherently picked up. And it makes every other challenging situation so much easier.

In a world that is increasingly full of anger and strife, it is more important than ever that we teach our children the importance of kindness. And I do hope that you’ve found this guest post by Becky helpful and inspiring. Create Your Own Happy is a wonderful book – we bought a copy for Little Man for Christmas, and it is gorgeous. Do go and check it out and grab a copy for your family.

Festive scene of red and white painted stars with numbers on, with the words "Advent Ideas for Everyone, including books, yoga, crafts, and random acts of kindness"

Advent Calendar Ideas For Everyone

Can you believe that Advent is almost upon us? I know it sounds a bit trite, but it honestly does feel like only yesterday when we were celebrating Halloween (and if you look at my blog you’ll see clear evidence of this, as that was the last time I wrote a post!) But here we are, heading into December once again, and that can mean only one thing – it’s time to crack out the Advent Calendar.

My memories of Advent as a child included a cardboard chimney with little boxes we pulled out to find a treat my mum had put inside for us. I even remember my sister and I naming one sweet as “yum yums” as they were a particular favourite of ours. I loved that Advent Calendar and have tried to find a similar one for years (with no such luck). I did try to make one years ago, but it was a bit rubbish to be honest. This year I’ve got a Santa’s Sleigh version that works on a similar basis, and I’ll be filling it with the leftover Halloween treats we never handed out, which reminds me I need to crack on with that as soon as I’ve posted this.

We also have the typical chocolate Advent Calendars too, as my mum always buys us all one. But sometimes it’s nice to complement them with other ideas too, isn’t it? Which is why I thought I would bring together some of my favourite Advent Calendar finds with you, in case you’re looking for a bit of inspiration this year. Do let me know if you try any of them, I’d love to hear how you get on.

Festive scene of red and white painted stars with numbers on them and words, "Advent Calendar Ideas for Everyone, including books, yoga, crafts, and random acts of kindness."

Guide to advent calendars available in 2018

If you’re looking to buy a slightly different Advent Calendar this year, Katie from Mummy in a Tutu has created a guide to a variety of offerings this year, including preserves, bath bombs, and gin & tonic. There really is something for everyone in the selection, so if you’re still stuck for ideas for someone who isn’t really a fan of chocolate then check out the selection over on Mummy in a Tutu.

chocolate-free Advent calendar ideas

Speaking of people who aren’t fans of chocolate (or who cannot eat chocolate for dietary/allergy reasons), there is a wide variety of chocolate-free Advent Calendars available these days. Beth from Twinderelmo has collected 20 chocolate-free options for Advent, including Haribo for those with a sweet-tooth, crafts for those who are more artistic, and activities for the more adventurous amongst us. Find out more about all these ideas over on Twinderelmo.

book advent calendar

This is such a brilliant idea, especially if you have book-loving kids. It might even be a great idea for getting reluctant readers to enjoy sitting down and reading with you! Claire from The Ladybird’s Adventure has put together a fantastic step-by-step guide to creating a Book Advent Calendar. Claire has listed a great variety of festive books which you could include, but even if you wrap up non-festive books it’s still a lovely way to enjoy Advent. Check out Claire’s tips over on The Ladybird’s Adventure.

activity advent printable

I couldn’t put together a post on Advent Calendar ideas and not share the free printable I created a couple of years ago! The idea is simple – you print out the 24 activity cards, cut them out, and either stick them in envelopes or hang them on the wall, and do one activity each day. It is always a favourite of Little Man’s, and the activities have all been chosen to be easy to do with limited time, energy, and funds. There’s even a full A4 page of supporting ideas for each activity, and some Pinterest boards to go with some of them too. Get your copy, completely free (with no need to sign up to anything) here. 

random acts of kindness ADVENT CALENDAR

If you like the idea of doing some kind of activity each day, and want to include the spirit of giving into this, then why not check out this brilliant Random Acts of Kindness Advent Calendar by Lauren over at Dilan and Me. The activities included range from something as simple as smiling at a stranger through to making donations and buying a suspended coffee at your local coffee shop. Check out the ideas over on Dilan and Me and either follow along or use it as inspiration to create your own list of kindness activities.

reverse advent calendar

Speaking of kindness at Christmas, another way you can give to others is to do a Reverse Advent Calendar. The idea behind this is that for every day on December you put something aside for someone else, rather than getting something for yourself. Reverse Advent Calendars tend to focus on putting food aside to send to the local Food Bank which, with so many people living in poverty in our country at the moment, makes a big difference. Laura from Savings 4 Savvy Mums has created a fantastic selection of resources for anyone wanting to try a Reverse Advent Calendar this year, including a list of food items that most Food Banks in the UK are keen to receive. Find out more at Savings 4 Savvy Mums.

cosmic kids yoga advent calendar

I cannot tell you how excited I was when this popped up on my instagram feed this week! As I’m sure you already know, Cosmic Kids are a huge favourite of ours. We regularly use their books and YouTube videos, so it is really exciting to find that there is an Advent Calendar this year. You can find the Cosmic Kids Yoga Advent Calendar here – make sure you bookmark it for easy access every day in December!

32 elf on the shelf ideas

Okay, so this isn’t exactly an Advent Calendar, but it is something that a lot of people take part in during December, so I thought I would include it here. Alana from Baby Holiday has created a brilliant post with 32 simple ideas for keeping the magic of Elf on the Shelf alive. Each idea is portrayed in an image, making them super easy to copy. Check out the post over on Baby Holiday.

advent at the north pole

And finally, as we’re talking about Elves, don’t forget that I have a whole series of Advent poems all about how Santa and the Elves are preparing for their big night on 24th. There is a video for every day in Advent (and an extra one for Christmas Day) over on YouTube. You can find the whole playlist here.

I do hope that one of these ideas inspires you, and that you have a very festive Advent!

View of the bungalow from the garden

Welcome to Our New Home

I cannot quite believe I am writing this post, and I keep wanting to pinch myself to make sure it is real. After 8 months of anxiously bidding on properties with our local council, we were offered the most perfect little bungalow at the beginning of May.

Photo of Tim standing by car in front of bungalow
It is, quite honestly, a dream come true. When we first found out that the council had approved us for a bungalow, I immediately thought of these. They are on the same estate as my Grandma, are just a short walk from my parents’, and are still within the catchment area for Little Man’s school. I’d even been in one several times as a child, as my best friend lived in one of them.

But as the weeks and months passed, I began to think we’d never be offered one of these. The estate we now live on is very popular, and before this bungalow became available I had only seen two other properties come up in this area (both houses).

I had come to think we would have to move out of the area, and that we would be on the waiting list for many more months to come. Because, like in most places in the UK, there is nowhere near enough social housing to meet the need. And bungalows in particular are very hard to come by, and usually offered to the over 60s.

View of the bungalow from the garden

But here we are, in our dream bungalow and, as I said before, I keep having to pinch myself to make sure it is real. I cannot tell you what a difference this is going to make to our lives.

We’ve been living here for a week now, and already we are noticing how much easier life is (even though we are beyond exhausted from the move and still have boxes everywhere!) The simple fact that I can get from our bedroom to the kitchen in less than 20 steps means I am actually able to get up and get myself a drink whenever I need one. I simply couldn’t do that in our old house, as the stairs and distance made it completely impossible on my bad days, and even on my good days I’d only venture downstairs when absolutely necessary.

Having easy access to every part of our home feels incredible. I hadn’t even realised just how much of an impact it would make. I still struggle with joint instability and pain. I still battle with presyncope and migraines. And my energy levels are still far lower than the norm, with post-exertional malaise (PEM). But the difference is that my home is no longer contributing to the severity of those things.

New bungalow in need of decorating

Getting here hasn’t been easy though. We signed the tenancy on the bungalow at the beginning of May and had 4 weeks in which to pack, decorate, and clean our old house. The new bungalow had been replastered throughout, and every wall needed painting. We also had to source flooring for all but the bathroom and kitchen. And as this bungalow is much smaller than our old house we had to have a major declutter.

We could never have done any of that on our own, because as you know Tim and I are both very poorly right now. It seemed a little bit ironic that we had been given this bungalow based on health needs but then expected to be able to decorate throughout. Thankfully, though, we are surrounded by truly amazing people who have supported us every step of the way.

We’ve had mums I’ve met on the school run coming round to help paint, along with our Minister and his wife. Family friends have done tip runs and taken donations to the charity shop for us. An old work colleague brought his van and helped us move free of charge on the big day. And my parents and Grandma have helped us fund new flooring and a new cooker, which we could never have afforded at this point on our own.

My parents have also done a huge amount of work on both the new bungalow and our old house, and we really couldn’t have got everything done in time without them. I know that as a parent you just do these things for your children, but I also know that they are as exhausted as we are right now. So I am so relieved we had others step in to help out as well. We truly are incredibly blessed.

Despite all that help, the move has still taken a massive toll on our health. In amongst the usual stress of moving, we also all had a sickness bug, I fell and badly bruised my arm (it’s still bruised and sore 2 weeks after my fall), and I had my PIP assessment. Combine all of that together with our usual health issues and you can begin to understand just how exhausted we truly are right now.

But the wonderful thing is that it really doesn’t feel that bad anymore. Physically it does, of course, but emotionally I’m doing really well. I had some really big realisations during this move, mostly brought about by the fact that I had to swallow my pride and just keep asking for help over and over again. And the fact that we are surrounded by green spaces and living in a home filled with light pouring through the windows is a major contributing factor too.

view of the garden from back door

Yesterday, for instance, I set Little Man up with his trains in the back garden and he happily played whilst I sat and soaked up the sun. I have so many plans for this garden space we have (including growing fruit and veggies), but for now we are simply relishing the fact that this is just outside our door. Little Man has even taken to sitting on the grass and looking at the clouds, which is quite a big deal for a boy who never seems to stop moving!

I cannot wait to get outside of a morning to meditate or do a bit of yoga and my physio exercises. And I’m so looking forward to having a more manageable home, once all the boxes are unpacked. But it’s going to take us some time to recover from the move and get fully settled in. It took me 3 weeks to pack up the old house, so I’m giving myself at least as long as that to unpack. Hopefully we’ll be sorted by the time the Summer holidays come around.

And I cannot wait to share it all with you on here. I have so much I want to tell you, but my head is swirling and it’s getting hard to type right now so it will have to wait for another day. Until then, make sure you’re following me on either Instagram or Facebook for mini updates, I’d love to see you there!

Introducing Advent at The North Pole

Introducing Advent at The North Pole

Way back in 2009, several months before I decided to set up The Family Patch (at that time known as Amanda’s Patch, as we were still 2 years away from having a baby!), I wrote a series of poems called Advent at The North Pole, as a way of exploring what it would be like to prepare for Christmas if you were Santa and the Elves!

It was a fun project, which brought me a lot of joy, and I originally recorded the poems as a series of YouTube videos, however as they were done on my webcam, the quality of them was absolutely shocking. So for several years I have wanted to re-record them all. And finally, this year, I have.

The poems will be shared on both YouTube and the blog, so you can choose to follow them wherever suits you best. I do so hope you you’ll enjoy spending a bit of Advent with me, finding the magic that makes Advent so exciting. And to kick things off, here’s the first video for you – an introduction to the series. Enjoy!

Free Activity Advent Calendar

Free Activity Advent Calendar

I am so excited to share today’s post with you. For several years now I’ve wanted to create resources for other families to enjoy together. And I couldn’t think of a better resource than a free, printable Activity Advent Calendar for you to use this December.

I’ve always loved Advent so much – the anticipation and build up to Christmas is such a joyful time. But I also know that it can be super busy and rather stressful as an adult, especially when you’re trying to balance work and home life and still fit in all the extra preparations and events that occur during December. So I wanted to create an Advent Calendar that helps us, as busy parents, to spend some quality time with our kids each and every day, and that’s exactly what I’ve done.

The Family Patch's Free Advent Activity Calendar Printable PDF

What’s included?

Within the Activity Advent Calendar, you will find:

  • 4 sheets, each with 6 daily activity cards to cut out and stick on the wall, hang on the tree, hide in envelopes, or however else you want to use them
  • A full A4 sheet to accompany each activity, with an explanation of why I chose it, some suggestions on ways to make it special to you, and even blog post and Pinterest board links for some of them

what kind of activities are included?

There are all kinds of activities included in the Advent Calendar, including: various crafts; donating to others; exploring the Nativity Story; celebrating the Midwinter Solstice; and generally having fun by watching films together, seeing the Christmas lights, and carol singing.

Every single activity within the Advent Calendar is easy to do with even the most limited time, resources, or energy! I know this because I planned them specifically to be this way (as a chronically ill parent, this is a real necessity for me!) To help make it even easier for you, I’ve left the activities unnumbered, so you can organise them in whichever order works best for you.

Can I adapt it to fit my own ideas?

Of course – in fact, that’s what I’m hoping you’ll do! I have tried to keep this Advent Calendar flexible enough to fit into your own family’s traditions, whatever they may be. But it’s my first attempt at doing such a large scale project as this, and so I would love to hear from you if you use the Advent Calendar – let me know what you like and what you were not so keen on. Your feedback helps me to develop further resources for the site. You can contact me via the blog, Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter.

How Do I get my Free Copy of the activity advent calendar?

All you have to do is visit my Freebies page to download your completely free copy of our 30 page Activity Advent Calendar. It couldn’t be easier.

Advent at The North Pole Characters

Welcome to the New Look Family Patch!

Well, hello there! I cannot tell you how wonderful it is to have the new look Family Patch back up and running. Once I had made the decision to rebrand the site and integrate all the stuff from Spirit Kid Network into this single blog, I felt the creative flow suddenly burst open and I couldn’t wait to get writing again. But of course I had to do all the behind the scenes preparation first, and as I’m not in the best of health right now it has taken me near on two weeks to sort out the new look.

But it’s finally done and I am so happy to welcome you back to my little corner of the internet. What do you think to the new look? Do you like the logo? What about the choice of fonts and colours? And the layout? I’d love to hear your thoughts on it… I personally love it, but does it work for you? I love the clean design, the clear sections, and the fact it is all set up ready to let the content I create shine. Because that’s what it’s all about, right? I’m a writer and a creator and I want that to be the main focus here, not some fancy design that takes me forever to create and distracts me from what I love the most.

So what’s new?

Well, Tim and I are about to start recording the daily poems for my Advent at The North Pole series. This is something I created way back in 2009, but the videos I created then were terrible. They were recorded on my laptop webcam, so you can imagine the quality! I’ve wanted to redo them for years, and now I finally am. We’ve got the gorgeous characters below, a Christmassy backdrop, some festive music, and a better camera. The plan is to post a new video every day during Advent over on YouTube and we’d love to see you there.

Advent at The North Pole Daily Poem Video The Family Patchwhat else is new?

I’ve also got a free Activity Advent Calendar the whole family can enjoy. This is something I created last year for Spirit Kid Network, and we loved doing the activities within it. There are 24 colourful activity cards to print out and each one has a whole A4 page of supporting material to help you make the most of them. There are even blog posts and Pinterest boards to give you even more ideas for some of them. Oh, I am so excited about Christmas this year.

Free Activity Advent Calendar

You can download the Advent Activity Calendar over on my new and improved Freebies page. There you’ll find 5 different freebies that you can download directly from the website. There’s no need to sign up to any mailing list in order to download your copy – just click and enjoy!

it’s all about the love of blogging

All of these changes reflect the fact that I am finally rediscovering my love of blogging. I first discovered blogging way back in 2006, long before it became the big business it can be today. Back then it was all about sharing your heart, and nobody worried about social media strategies and marketing. Over the past few years I’ve allowed myself to feel like I wasn’t doing a very good job as a blogger because I wasn’t investing the same time on those things as other bloggers do.

And all of it has done nothing more than make me feel like a failure. It stifled my creativity, made me think that I had to separate my content into different sites, and even made me consider giving it all up. So to find myself back at this place where I am simply enjoying blogging for the sheer love of it is so amazing. I can feel the passion for it running through my veins as I type this, and I can’t wait to see what the next year brings.

But for now I’m going to end this post so I can get cracking with the videos. Have a wonderful week, everyone!


I’m linking up with my Share The Joy Co-Host Christina this week, as this post has certainly brought me a lot of joy! Do check out the #sharethejoylinky for your weekly dose of positivity and inspiration.

#sharethejoylinky LadybugHome.com

Prayer Candles

Embracing Uncertainty, Grief, and Vulnerability

I was unsure what to call this post, because there are so many things that are heavy on my heart right now. But I think the title I’ve chosen sums it up rather well. For such a long time I have been desperately fighting the uncertainty over my future, the grief I feel over things beyond my grasp, and the vulnerability that comes with accepting that I am sick and that I can no longer give until I first learn to receive. Resisting all of that has taken its toll, and it’s time I learned to embrace it instead.

I hasten to add that this isn’t a new concept to me – I’ve known I’ve needed to do this for years, but knowing something and actually accepting it are two very different things. Even as my health has deteriorated over the past few years, I have refused to acknowledge just how ill I have become, because doing so felt like giving up. Even up until the very beginning of this year, I was determined to make it all work somehow – I’d go freelance and work from home, I’d schedule in time each day to focus on my well-being, I’d cook healthy meals from scratch, and I’d find a way to do all of this and continue to run two blogs, be active in social media groups, and get more involved in my local community too.

How hard could it really be? I thought. After all, I wasn’t quite as sick as I had been when first signed off work last summer. Several months of trying to rest as much as possible had made a difference, but I needed to get going again to help make ends meet financially, and I didn’t want to be held back by my illness anyway. Unfortunately, with all the determination in the world, there are some things you just cannot change. For me, this is my health. I’m not talking about small changes like eating healthier and getting exercise – of course those make a difference. What I mean is that, if you are chronically ill, sometimes you just have to accept your limitations and find a way to work within them. But that it something I am terrible at!

The past 3 months have practically broken me: I’ve been working with several clients on some pretty big projects; I’ve seen my family struggle with my Nan’s final weeks on this earth; I’ve had multiple conversations with Little Man’s teachers as he has been struggling to settle into the school environment; and I have tried to keep my home running as smoothly as possible throughout all this change, all whilst suffering from multiple viruses on top of my general ill health. And yet despite all of that happening, I still continued to try and do more…

When I look at it like this, I realise how unbalanced my thinking really is. And I understand why I live with this constant knot of anxiety at the pit of my stomach, never knowing when a full-blown panic attack may occur.  Because I haven’t given myself time to breathe, time to sit in the uncertainty of my life and grieve for all that I had once wished for but which can no longer be. And I certainly haven’t allowed myself to be vulnerable, because that fills me with absolute dread – what happens if I do that and it all falls apart?

So, of course, life enabled me to experience that which I feared the most, didn’t it? This week I was faced with “saying no and letting go” to so many things, things that I not only felt I ought to do but which I really wanted to do too. I had filled my week with fun activities – a trip to the Cathedral with a friend, and singing in the choir for the Church Panto. But a stomach bug stopped me in my tracks and made me realise I simply cannot do it anymore, I cannot continue to pretend I am coping when really I’m so close to breaking.

Prayer Candles

I toddled off to the Cathedral with my friend, feeling worse for wear but determined to make it through the week, and ended up spending half of the time in the toilets! I then sat quietly in a little chapel, knowing that I had to cancel my plans but so terrified of letting people down. Thankfully my friend was a wonderful comfort that day, encouraging me to allow myself to be vulnerable for once and not worry so much about other people, and I cancelled attending Bible Study that afternoon and Panto Rehearsal/Performances for the rest of the week. I cried so much when doing it, partly because I hated to let others down, but mostly because of what this signified. In cancelling these plans I was truly beginning to acknowledge how ill I truly am right now.

Which led me to thinking about all the areas in my life that drain the energy I simply do not have to spare. Many of them are things I love and am so passionate about, and it breaks my heart completely to have to put them aside right now. But the alternative is continuing until I break, and having been there just a year ago (and again a couple of years before that) I am desperate not to return to that place any more. This time I want to truly embrace the uncertainty of it all, to grieve for all the things I wish were different, and to allow myself to be vulnerable in this space. No more “putting on a brave face” and pretending all is well when it’s not. Wow, that is hard for me to write… and even harder to live!

Which brings me to the point of this blog post, really. I’ve had a good, long (and extremely hard) look at all the things that I have going on in my life and decided that I have to cut back on so much in order to give myself the time, space, and energy to truly begin this healing work. And here’s what I’ve decided:

1. I shall make time every single day to seek out the love of God which I know is helping me through all of this. This will take various forms – sometimes it may be reading a book, sometimes it may be walking in the park, and sometimes it may be sitting in silence.  Whatever form it takes, I want it to become a prominent part of my day, helping me to truly embrace the uncertainty of it all, trusting that I don’t have to have it all figured out!

2. Leading on from this, I shall use The Family Patch as my place to simply write what feels important to me, rather than trying to produce “useful” content. And right now that is likely to be a lot about faith. I know that this isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, so please do feel free to unsubscribe or mute updates from me if you don’t want to read this kind of content. But for those of you who are interested, please do share with me your own thoughts and experiences in the comments, as I’d love to hear from you.

3. Even though it is faith-based, I am taking a break from Spirit Kid Network. I simply cannot devote the time needed right now to build up the kind of content it deserves. There is still content to be found over there from last year, plus my free chakra guide for kids, so I’m not shutting it down completely. I simply need to release the pressure of producing new content on a regular basis on both of my blogs.

4. I am also going to limit my use of social media, particularly Facebook Groups. To be fair I haven’t been using Twitter, Instagram, or Pinterest that much lately anyway. But a large chunk of my time gets caught up in Facebook Groups. Most of these are relevant to the work I do at Shortman Media, so it feels a bit risky to step back from some of them, but I really do need to limit my time spent helping others – every short answer I give soon adds up over the length of a week.

The Faith Space

5. That being said, I do want to spend a bit more time in The Faith Space, which is a Facebook Group I set up for those of us who wanted to discuss faith in an open and religiously diverse way. I’m not promising anything in terms of how much I’ll actually do on there, but if you’d like to join us please do request to join the group over on Facebook.

All of this means that the limited time and energy I have outside of what I have to do (freelance work, housework, family life etc) is less likely to be eaten up by multiple different things and more likely to contribute to my overall well-being, by focusing on what is most important to me right now. I am a giver by nature – I want to be there for everyone, encouraging and supporting them, no matter what. But that takes a lot of time and effort, which I simply do not have right now.

So, that’s where I am right now – embracing uncertainty (and trusting in God’s plan for me), grief for all the things I have to let go of right now (including all those big, exciting plans I have), and vulnerability (so that others can offer love and support where I cannot). It’s an emotional place to be, and I have cried more over the past few days than I have in months, maybe even years. But that’s all part of the journey, isn’t it?

TravelShades Review The Family Patch

Easing Motion Sickness with TravelShades (Review)

Do you suffer from motion sickness? Do you hate how much it affects your ability to enjoy travelling (either because you feel sick or you feel drowsy thanks to anti-sickness medication)? Yeah, me too…

You might be surprised to know that I’ve suffered from motion sickness since I was a very young child. After all, I studied foreign languages at University, which involved quite a lot of international travel. But the reality is that I have struggled with motion sickness to varying degrees throughout my life, and still do.

It started when I threw up all over the back of the car as a toddler, just as we pulled up into the driveway (oh dear!) and I have many childhood memories of taking travel sickness tablets before any journey, hoping to avoid a repeat of that experience. But even with such precautionary measures, there were still many occasions when I felt sick to my stomach by the time we reached our destination.

To be fair, the more I travelled and the older I got, the more my body seemed able to cope with it. Travelling across the UK by train as a student enabled me to travel without even needing travel sickness tablets, as did commuting to work every day by bus. Believe it or not, I actually became able to read a book on the village bus that swerved around several bendy roads on its route, due to that daily commute. But still I continued to suffer from time to time.

My first clue that I was pregnant was how nauseous I got on the bus journey just after conceiving (a good couple of weeks before those two pink lines showed up on a test!) and I continue to feel sick and panicky whenever I have to set foot on a plane, because nothing I do seems to settle my stomach when flying.

And since a severe bout of labyrinthitis in 2008, I even find myself feeling nauseated simply doing the grocery shop some days (which I assume is due to the sheer amount of eye movement involved in trying to locate items I need and compare prices across shelves). And even more alarmingly, I seem to have started suffering from a form of “virtual motion sickness” over the past couple of years, where looking at my computer screen sometimes makes me feel sick to my stomach, thanks to scrolling information and scanning multiple pages at speed. This, as you can imagine, is not the best experience for a blogger and freelance online media specialist!

So imagine my interest when I heard about a new product that promised to reduce the effects of motion sickness without any kind of medication. It sounds too good to be true, right? Well, let me introduce you to TravelShades…

TravelShades Review The Family Patch

TravelShades

TravelShades are a revolutionary new form of sunglasses that aim to combat motion sickness by reducing the visual stimuli to one eye. Motion sickness is caused by conflicting messages received by the brain from the eyes (visual system) and ears (vestibular system), or put another way your eyes see movement but your body doesn’t sense that same amount of movement, and it causes confusion in the brain. By reducing the amount of visual motion picked up by one eye, TravelShades promise to reduce that conflict and therefore the unpleasant symptoms it creates.

Of course there are a lot more factors that have been considered in the creation of TravelShades than simply covering one eye. Through extensive research and product development, the design of TravelShades has been refined to become an ingenious solution where one pair of glasses can be flipped so that the wearer has the choice to cover either eye at any time. And even more fascinating, “The special lens also allows light to pass through so the occluded, covered eye may still see an image and can relay this message to the brain but with no indication of movement” How amazing is that?

TravelShades Review The Family Patch My Experience

My Experience with TravelShades

I have to say that the theory behind this really intrigued me and I was really quite eager to give them a go. If I could reduce the debilitating symptoms of dizziness and nausea by simply putting on a pair of sunglasses, it could make things so much easier for me. So I was thrilled to be offered a pair to try.

The glasses arrived within a couple of days, and it was quite an experience putting them on for the first time. With absolute honesty, I found having the vision from one eye affected was rather alarming at first. I was concerned the strain of adapting to this would create a headache and an inability to get on with TravelShades, but I needn’t have worried. The brain is a wonderful thing, and it adapted to this change relatively quickly and before too long I began to get used to this new way of seeing things.

I won’t say I was completely comfortable with it – I think it’s going to take a few more attempts before I stop feeling slightly confused by this when first putting them on. But it’s still preferable to me compared to suffering from debilitating nausea or the extreme drowsiness caused by anti-sickness medication!

Did They Work?

Yes, I have to say that I think they did. We haven’t been on any long journeys yet, but I have tried them on shorter journeys around town on days when I have already been feeling quite woozy and not really wanting to go anywhere in the car. I have certainly found those journeys easier, whereas normally I find myself facing forward and wishing the scenery wasn’t shooting past at such speed.

I’ve also tried them in the supermarket when I have found the dizziness and nausea creeping up on me. Now that one is slightly more interesting… looking around for items with one eye covered certainly makes me more aware of the fact I am wearing TravelShades and not quite seeing things as normal. But I’ll definitely take that over the nausea that usually has me rushing to finish the shop and get back to the car as quickly as possible.

The only thing I haven’t had a proper chance to try them on is the virtual motion sickness, because the few times it has happened recently it has been so severe (due to already feeling sick with a virus) that I’ve had to simply lay down and avoid the screen completely. But I have every hope that they will work just as well as they have in other circumstances when the virtual motion sickness is at a lower level.

Would I Recommend TravelShades?

Yes, I would. If you suffer from motion sickness at all, it is definitely worth giving them a go. Independent research by Leeds Beckett University Retail Institute found that 89% of participants in a trial experienced relief from motion sickness, which I’d say is an incredible success rate. Clearly it doesn’t work for everybody, so nobody is promising it will work for you, but I certainly feel they are worth trying.

Where Can I Get TravelShades?

The adult versions (for both those who wear prescription glasses and those who don’t) are available for pre-order on their crowdfunding Indigogo page, where you can also help fund the development of Junior sized glasses too!

Where Can I Find Out More?

Check out the TravelShades site, where there is a wealth of information, plus a great video with the TravelShades inventor.


Disclaimer: Please note that I was offered a complimentary pair of TravelShades in return for this review, however no further financial incentive was given and all views are my own.

 

 

Celebrating Nan (2)

Goodbye Nan

Yesterday evening my Nan passed away, after months of being very poorly. We didn’t expect her to make Christmas, so it has been a very long journey.
 
I’ve spent several weeks thinking about how cruel the end of life can be, as your body slowly and painfully shuts down. So when my mum called to tell me she had finally passed last night, my reaction was one of relief, not grief.
 
I went downstairs so I could spend a few minutes alone thinking of her, telling her how I loved her and would miss her, but that I was glad she had finally moved out of the pain and would be reunited with her husband and sister. Immediately I was overwhelmed by a sense of absolute joy, and I just knew it was from her – she faced her biggest fear (death) and is now at peace.
Celebrating Nan
With my Nan and my uncle on our wedding day.
I had been feeling guilty that I hadn’t been able to visit her since November. I’ve been so sick that it just wasn’t possible, but even knowing that I still worried that I would regret not getting to see her one last time.
But last night I knew that it didn’t matter. She is finally home and at peace. And as my mum said, it’s better to remember her as she was, rather than the battle she faced at the end.
 
So today I am remembering the feisty woman that my Nan was. Highly opinionated, and often sharp with her words, but fiercely protective of those she loved. She knew her own mind and wasn’t afraid to voice it, and you couldn’t tell her anything if she didn’t want to hear it! I guess we know where my stubborn streak comes from…
More than anything, that’s what I’ll remember about my Nan. She wasn’t the stereotypical, cuddly grandmother whose house you ran to when your parents were driving you up the wall. She certainly wasn’t the first person I thought of when I had a problem that I needed to share. But she was a strong woman, who survived many challenging times and experiences through her life, with the grit and determination that she held onto right to the bitter end.
Celebrating Nan (2)
I have no doubt this laughter was caused by something rude or rather inappropriate!

She walked on the edge sometimes, and more often than not the things she said were the least politically correct you could get! I think there have been times when we’ve all looked at each other with an expression of, “did she really just say that?” in our eyes, which makes me chuckle now.

But more than that, I’ll remember the cheeky side to her, the times when she laughed so hard she cried. Like the time my cousins told her that sex education these days involved putting a condom on a carrot, and she hadn’t quite believed them so asked me and my sister if it was true. Oh my word, I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone laugh as hard as she did that day!

That is the Nan I’ll remember. The lady who was stubborn as hell, and lived life the way she wanted to. She would have been 87 tomorrow, and though I am sad to know that we’ll never see her (in this life) again, I am glad for all these memories.

Goodbye, Nan… I love you.

Courage, Dear Heart Word of the Year 2017

Courage – My Word of the Year for 2017

Today I want to share with you what I have chosen to be my focus keyword for the year ahead. Choosing a word for the year can be a lovely alternative (or accompaniment) to the more traditional New Year’s Resolution, and it’s something I have personally done for several years now. And as I look back I can see how the word I have chosen each year has helped me to focus on what is most important to me at each stage of my life.

But more than this, it has also provided me with a lens through which to understand and reflect upon the things that have happened in my life. It helps me put things into a new context, rather than simply thinking, “why me?” or “will this never end?” when things get tough. And it also helps me to set goals and focus on developing new skills and habits which help me reach those goals too. I no longer aimlessly wander through life, because my focus keyword gives me a purpose.

Which is why I am so thrilled that this year’s Word of the Year is a big one, that will challenge me to step out of my comfort zone (which isn’t always that comfortable, I might add!) and make real, lasting change in my life. Are you ready for it? Here it comes…

Courage, Dear Heart Word of the Year 2017

That’s right, COURAGE is my word for 2017. As has been the pattern over the past couple of years, this word actually just popped into my head (and my heart) rather than being something I consciously thought about whilst trying to choose a word. Which is why I love the above quote so much, because just as Lucy felt sure the voice whispering to her was Aslan’s, I also feel sure that these words are being whispered to me from the Divine.

It all started at the end of 2014, when I was in a truly awful place and I felt like I had been broken beyond measure. In a moment of prayer I heard the word “Surrender” and that became my word for 2015. It was a very apt word indeed, as I faced redundancy, relocation, and the beginning of a deterioration in my health. The latter led me to choosing the word “Healing” for 2016 and, as I wrote in my previous post, I have done so much healing in ways I could never have imagined this year, despite being very sick for most of it.

Which leads me to where I am right now, looking towards the future with hope that the uncertainty and challenges I have faced over the previous few years will finally begin to settle somewhat. Had I tried to choose a word for myself, I’d have most likely opted for something like “peace”, “stability”, or “security”. But those are only a part of the equation, I cannot even begin to get there without the courage to walk forward, one step at a time. Which is why I know this word is a message for me, guiding me into the unknown with hope and certainty that if I do so with courage, things will start to happen.

But what does this actually mean? What does walking forward with courage look like? I cannot help but hear the Cowardly Lion’s speech in the Wizard of Oz, when he lists all the different ways he sees courage in the world:

Lion:      What makes a King out of a slave? Courage.
              What makes the flag on the mast to wave? Courage.
              What makes the elephant charge his tusk in the misty mist or the dusky dusk?
              What makes the muskrat guard his musk? Courage.
              What makes the Sphinx the 7th Wonder? Courage.
              What makes the dawn come up like THUNDER?! Courage.
              What makes the Hottentot so hot?
              What puts the “ape” in apricot?
              Whatta they got that I ain’t got?
Others: Courage

When I remember his speech I am always reminded that courage isn’t as simple as “being brave”. Courage is what makes us who we are, and it’s what drives us to do what feels right to us, no matter how hard that may be. It’s what keeps us going when things get tough, and it’s what allows us to admit defeat when we need to. There isn’t a one sized fits all approach to courage, and often the most courageous things we’ll ever do are those which make us feel the most scared and small.

But though we may feel afraid, it is the act of following our heart and doing what feels right that brings us the courage to change our entire life. And for me this is the aspect of courage I want to focus on this year. In 2015 I began to learn how to surrender to God and his plan for me. In 2016 I began to learn what it means to heal at the deepest, darkest level of my soul. And in 2017 I hope to learn how to step forward with courage, to embrace the unknown, trusting that I will find the path I am meant to tread, and doing things which I have fought out of fear for so very long.

17 Ways to be Courageous in 2017

For me this means following all of the above. It means saying “yes” to new opportunities that terrify me, because to do so I have to believe in myself and my abilities. It also means saying “no” to things, even things I would love to do, because I cannot do it all. And that, my friends, takes a lot of courage for someone who has long defined herself by what she can do and achieve!

It’s about making myself a priority, so that I not only carve out time for myself every single day but I actually make it a sacred promise to myself to do so, no matter how crazily busy my day may seem. And it means allowing myself to have big dreams, even when they feel a million miles away. Because by finding my tribe, asking for help, and forgiving myself, I will pave the way towards those dreams in ways I could never do alone with only my fearful inner voice pulling me down.

Yes, courage feels like the perfect word for me this year, and I know I have already placed the foundation stones on which to build my future. I’ve been blessed by some truly wonderful friendships this past year, which have helped me delve into my heart to find the courage hidden so deep inside. My tribe has helped me dream big, plan for the future, and surround myself with resources to make this my best year yet. And I wish for nothing more than the same support and encouragement to find you too.

So, here’s my invitation to you – follow me on instagram or Facebook as these both offer me the opportunity to connect with others on a much more regular basis than I can here on the blog. Let’s build a community to support each other through the coming year, one in which there is more emphasis on being kind to ourselves and following our own paths than trying to keep up with the rest of the crowd.

And, if you want some help choosing a word for your year, do check out my friend and mentor, Michelle Reeves, who has created a special coaching package specifically for making 2017 your best year yet!


I’m linking up with Share The Joy, hosted by Lizzie Somerset (on behalf of Michelle Reeves) because this post has filled me with such joy and enthusiasm for 2017!
Share the Joy linky at LizzieSomerset.com

The Family Patch Midwinter Solstice Activities

Celebrating the Midwinter Solstice with Kids

21st December marks the Midwinter Solstice in the Northern Hemisphere. This is the shortest day of the year, and falls right in the crazy run up to other major holidays such as Christmas and Hannukah. As such, it is understandable that it gets overlooked and forgotten about!

But if we can take a moment to mark this point in the Wheel of the Year, we will be reminded that life continues in cycles as the seasons pass and that nothing lasts forever. During the cold and dreary months of Winter, it can be truly uplifting to realise that the hardest point (the longest night) has now passed and we are on our way to brighter, warmer days once more.

So whilst I know you’re probably super busy right now (I know I am!) I do hope that you’ll find some time to stop and reflect on the Midwinter Solstice this year.

5 Easy ways to celebrate the Midwinter Solstice with Kids

The absolutely wonderful thing about the Midwinter Solstice is that a lot of the things we traditionally do at this time of year to celebrate Christmas work just as well for Solstice Celebrations too. So you really don’t have to go out of your way to mark this occasion, nor do you need to worry about it interfering in any way with the “reason for the season”, whatever that may be for you.

Each one of the suggestions below would easily fit in with your festive plans, so I do hope you try at least one of them!

1. decorate the house

Okay, so you’ve probably already done this anyway, right? But how many of your decorations were bought in a shop and how many have you foraged for or made yourself? There’s absolutely nothing wrong with store bought decorations, they add so much colour and joy to our homes during this otherwise very dark month. But there is something very special about bringing a little bit of the outdoors inside, or using fruit and grains to make orange slices and gingerbread cookies that fill your house with such festive fragrances.

If you go for a walk, see if you can spot some holly or other greenery to bring indoors (remembering to ask permission if you need to cut it). Bringing nature indoors is such a time-honoured tradition, that connects us to nature at a time when we are usually so busy huddled up inside our houses that we rarely stop to just focus on the world around us.

And if you fancy baking cookies, why not see if you can source some locally ground flour or use a traditional recipe from your local area (ask your neighbours, church groups, schools, bakeries, and local library if they have any recipes to share). Using local ingredients or recipes passed down through the generations will help ground what you do, connecting you to the memories of all of those who have gone before you, as well as the promise of those who will come after you. You really do become a link in the chain that connects us to one another in all directions.

2. light a candle

This is an obvious one, I’m sure, but I often find the obvious things are the ones we tend to overlook, so it’s worth mentioning this activity here.

Lighting a candle is perhaps the single most symbolic way you can celebrate the light in the darkness, which is so important to us all. It is why we light candles in the Advent wreath, and it is why we string fairy lights on our tree and around our homes at this time of year.

We all like to be reminded of just how much of a difference that comforting glow makes to an otherwise dreary and miserable month, when the skies are grey and the nights so long. But why not make it extra special but choosing a specific candle (think about the colour and fragrance especially) to represent the hope and joy you wish to connect with on the Solstice. You could even say a wish or prayer, and imagine the candle flame burning brightly with the intent to make your wish come true!

3. make a manifestation collage

This is an excellent way of celebrating the hope and joy that the Winter Solstice brings with it. We have come through the increasingly darker days of Autumn and are now heading into the bitter Winter months feeling frazzled and worn. But we know we can make it, because from this point onwards the days will grow longer as the sun shines both warmer and\ brighter upon us. And that’s the perfect time to let go of the past and embrace the future.

I love making manifestation collages at this time of year, and enjoy cutting up images and words from various magazines to then stick on a large piece of card. I’ll then place it somewhere prominent so I can reflect on it throughout the coming year. It reminds me of all my hopes and dreams, and keeps me going when the going gets tough (as it inevitably does from time to time).

This is a great exercise for you to do yourself, but it’s also super easy and fun for your kids to do too (who doesn’t like cutting and sticking pictures of what they want in life?!) It also offers you a great chance to get to know what is on your children’s hearts right now, what they are hoping for in the coming year, and how you could help support them in that.

4. give food/shelter to others

We all love to celebrate with a bit of abundance at this time of year, right? But there’s no denying that it’s often a real struggle to make ends meet for so many of us, and for others it is impossible to even provide the essentials needed to survive these cold, Winter months.

As much as we’d like to think that we are no longer at the whim of the elements as our ancestors were, when a good harvest could make the difference between life and death for many, we still struggle with poverty and homelessness. The use of Food Banks is constantly on the rise, and the number of families living below the poverty line is shocking. Add to that the increasing number of people recently described as “JAMS” (just about managing), who are just one paycheck away from losing their home or having no food on the table, and we begin to see just how stark the reality is.

So, at a time when we are all splashing out on good food and drink and celebrations of friendship and family, it only takes a little bit extra to make a real difference to someone else. Donate to a Food Bank or shelter, send toys to the local children’s ward, of buy that homeless guy you pass every day a hot drink and some lunch, to help him get through another day. It’s so easy for our kids to be completely oblivious to the struggle that so many face, and yet my experience is that kids can be the most generous and loving of us all. So let them make a difference too – it is the season for giving, after all.

5. go for a moonlit walk

What better way to focus on the darkest night of the year than to go for a moonlit walk. Even if it’s cloudy and you can’t see the moon or stars, take your kids for a walk in the dark anyway. There’s something really magical about doing that as a child, as it’s something you rarely get to do when you’re young. It feels much later in the day than it is, they get to see the Christmas lights along the streets, and then you get to come home for a nice hot drink before bed. Ahhh, bliss!

want to know more about the winter solstice?

I haven’t written a huge deal about the history and traditions surrounding the Midwinter Solstice, or the modern Pagan celebration of Yule. This is because I know December is such a busy month for many of us and I wanted to keep this post super simple. However if you’d like to find out more, you may find the following sites helpful:

The White Goddess has a wonderful page explaining the origins of Yule. It also includes a recipe for Yule Wassail, and a ritual for celebrating this Sabbat.

The Goddess and the Green Man also have a great page dedicated to Yule. There is so much information on this page that it is hard to provide an overview – just check it out!

Exploring the Nativity Story with your Kids

Most of us know the Nativity Story, right? Even if you’ve not been raised in a Christian family, chances are you know the basic storyline, thanks to Nativity plays at school, Christmas carols on the radio, and cultural references to it in both literature and on tv. The same will be true for our children; even if we don’t actively seek to introduce them to the Nativity Story at home, they will come across it in other ways.

Which is why I think it’s a really lovely idea to actually sit down once in a while and explore it all in more detail. Doing so often helps us to gain new insight and a whole new perspective on things, and can be really beneficial in helping us figure out what it is we actually believe and how that impacts on our lives. Obviously how we do this will depend on our individual age and background, but I hope the following will help you begin your own journey of exploration of the Nativity Story.

Explore The Nativity Story with Kids The Family Patch

Understanding the nativity story

What would you say if someone asked you to tell them the Nativity Story? I’m guessing it would be something similar to this…

Mary and Joseph travelled to Bethlehem and, because there was no room in the inn, Jesus was born in a stable. Angels appeared on the hill-tops and proclaimed the birth to the Shepherds. And three Wise Men travelled from afar, following a bright new shining star. 

It’s no surprise that our retelling of the Nativity follows this same pattern of events, as that is what we hear about every single Christmas. But did you know that no single Gospel account of the birth of Christ includes all of the above aspects?

The vast majority of it comes from Luke, whose account of Jesus’ birth is by far the longest and most detailed. His account includes the census, the stable, and the shepherds and the angels. However it has no mention of Wise Men, who only appear in Matthew’s Gospel. However Matthew’s version of events is much shorter and less detailed, appearing to race through the birth in comparison. There is also a marked difference in who the Angel appears to during the pregnancy – in Luke’s version the Angel appears to Mary, but in Matthew’s the Angel appears to Joseph, encouraging him to support Mary.

Then, of course, there are the two other Gospel accounts of Mark and John. Neither of these even mention the Nativity! Mark’s Gospel begins with John the Baptist proclaiming the coming of Christ, and John’s is entirely different, with far more spiritual leanings as he writes about “The Word made flesh”.

So what does this all mean in terms of how we understand the Nativity Story and the truth we find within it? Does it mean that the typical story we hear year after year, bringing the two accounts of Luke and Matthew together as if they are one single narrative, is false? No, I don’t think it means that at all!

We must remember that each of the Gospel writers were telling their version of events in a very specific time and culture, which means they were also writing it for a very specific audience. Just because they adapted it to express a deep truth in a way that those who read it would understand, doesn’t make it wrong. Just think about how often we ourselves adapt what we say depending on who we are talking to – you wouldn’t expect a young child to understand with the same level of experience as that of an adult, would you?

I am reminded here of the Bible Study I went to this week in which we discussed this very thing, and I wish to share two quotations from it with you…

“This is always the task of Christians and the Christian church: to find ways to speak into our particular situations. We are not called to proclaim the gospel again, but to proclaim it afresh – wherever we find ourselves.”

— Living in the Light (York Courses)

“As has been said:

’Many will never read the gospel according to Matthews, Mark, Luke, or John, but they will read the gospel according to you!’”

— found in Living in the Light (York Courses)

I found these quotations so refreshing, as they reminded me that it’s not only okay to reinterpret the Bible in a way that means something to you, you are actually encouraged to do so. And how you do that will depend entirely on your individual and family culture.

activity ideas

Obviously, such deep theological ideas are not the easiest of topics for young children to grasp (hey, I struggle with them myself!!) Which is why it is probably far more useful for you and your family to explore the Nativity Story in some other way. Here are some ideas that you could adapt to suit you and your family:

Re-enact scenes from the Nativity

Role playing is a great way to step into someone else’s shoes. Why not ask your kids how they think the various people felt, or why they think some events happened as they did. Questions could include:

  • Do you think Mary felt happy or scared?
  • What do you think Joseph thought about it all?
  • Would you like to meet an Angel?
  • Why do you think the inn-keeper offered room in the stable?
  • What gifts would you have brought if you were one of the Wise Men?

Make your own Nativity Scene

Get creative and find ways to make your very own Nativity Scene, so that it reflects your own ideas about it. How you do this will depend on whether you have a particular interest in a certain craft, and the age of your kids. Younger kids may enjoy simply drawing it on some paper, or colouring in cut-out figures. Older kids may enjoy learning a new skill such as knitting or embroidery. Make it your own and then treasure it for years to come.

Write your own Nativity Story

Older kids may enjoy looking at the various different versions there are available and then thinking about how they would retell the story to someone who didn’t know it. Would they write it like a fairytale, starting with “Once Upon a Time”, or would they want to embed it in history like those Gospel accounts that start with the ancestral lineage of Jesus? And what style would they use – prose, poetry, music? Have fun with this one and have a go yourself, it may be fun to compare stories with each other!

Resources

There are so many resources available to help you explore the Nativity Story, in whichever way you wish. A quick Google will get you started, although it may also be a bit overwhelming too! With this in mind I have collected a few of my favourite resources together over on Pinterest. You can find it at bit.ly/SKNNativity

I hope you have enjoyed this blog post. Please do let us know by leaving a comment, we’d love to hear from you!

telling-ouronly-child-we-wont-have-another-baby

Telling Our Only Child We Won’t Have Another Baby

So, this blog post is quite a tough one for me to write. But it’s also one I knew I would probably have to write at some point. Little Man is an Only Child, which is something I’ve written about a fair bit in the past. But we’ve never really had to talk about it with him before. I mean, he’s only just turned 5, it’s not a conversation that naturally occurs with a young child. Until today. Today we had to tell him we won’t ever have another baby. And that was unbelievably hard.

telling-ouronly-child-we-wont-have-another-baby

It all started because we were watching Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (of all things). A character in the episode was giving birth and Little Man showed interest in what was happening. So TJ explained to him that babies grow in their mummy’s tummy and then mummy has to push them out. We’ve mentioned this in the past when talking about friends who were expecting, and we’ve even told him he grew in my tummy, but he never really questioned it before. So we didn’t really expect him to do so this time.

But just after the baby was born, he started telling us how cute the baby was. Again, this is nothing new – he often tells us how cute babies are whenever he sees one. (He does the same with kittens, but that’s another story!) But this time he seemed to fall into thoughtful silence. So I asked him, “do you think you’d like to be a daddy one day and have a baby?” And that’s when things got interesting.

Maybe a minute or two later he started pushing down on his belly towards his bottom and grimacing. I automatically asked him if his stomach hurt (as it was less than 24 hours since he had vomited with an upset stomach). But he said, “no mummy, I’m trying to push!” For a moment or two I had no idea what he meant, and then it suddenly dawned on me. “Are you trying to push a baby out of your belly?” The answer was a firm yes.

I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry, it was one of those moments! My heart practically exploded at the adorable nature of his innocent misunderstanding of what we had told him. I explained that only ladies could grow babies in their tummies and so even when he was grown up he wouldn’t have a baby himself. But he could still be a daddy one day if he wanted to be. And I hoped that might end his confusion. Except I don’t think it was mere confusion, he really did seem to want a baby.

He started trying to pull my top undone to get to my belly, so he could push on that. So I had to explain to him that mummy doesn’t have a baby in her tummy. At which point I think my heart broke in two. As hard as it was for TJ and myself to decide never to have another baby, I always knew there might come a day when Little Man would show an interest in a brother or sister. And I knew it would be difficult to explain why we’d chosen that, not because it was the wrong choice but rather because it was a choice I desperately wish we’d never had to make.

I’d have loved nothing more than to be able to tell Little Man that mummy doesn’t have a baby in her tummy right now but one day she might. But I couldn’t. I had to explain to him that we won’t ever have another baby growing in mummy’s tummy. Only he got to grow in there when he was a baby. He turned to TJ and asked if he had a baby in his tummy, making us explain once again only ladies get to do that. She he turned back to me and said, “maybe there’s a tiny baby!” I told him I was sorry, but no there wasn’t even a tiny baby in there. “Maybe, as tiny as an ant!” he replied. Oh, my poor, broken heart!

There are many, many times when I wish things could have been different. When I see how much Little Man adores playing with other kids at the park or seeing his cousins. When he tells me how cute babies are, or says, “I hear a baby” and looks around for them when we’re out and about. And also when he takes such wonderful care of the numerous teddies and soft toys he takes to bed with him. He hates being alone, in fact his standard response when he can’t sleep or wakes in the night is “I’m lonely”. I wish, more than anything else, we could have expanded our family as I’m sure he’d have loved it.

But we can’t. It’s just not an option for us. It never was. But even in those early days I clung on to the idea that maybe one day we could still foster. I thought if Little Man showed an interest and seemed able to cope with the demands fostering puts on a family, maybe we could do it. But the reality is that I’m too sick to do that. It really is just going to be our little family of three.

And in many ways that’s alright. I love the dynamic we have and the fact that Little Man can have as much attention as he craves. Although, actually, he craves a LOT of attention – because he doesn’t like being alone, remember – so I’m not sure he’d agree he gets as much as he wants! But the point is, he has us all to himself. We’re busy parents, working and balancing our many health issues, and so we don’t have a lot of time and energy to spare. What we do have is all his. And that works for us.

So, yes, my heart feels fragile tonight. This whole thing has reminded me just how much my health has robbed from us, both in terms of not being able to have another baby and in terms of not even being able to think about fostering. But there’s nothing I can do about that. So I’m choosing to see the beauty in Little Man’s hope and interest in us having a baby as something we can cherish, even if we can’t make it come true for him. Because, if nothing else, it shows he is growing into a very loving little boy.

The Family Patch History of Halloween

The History of Halloween

Love it or hate it, there’s no denying that Halloween is thoroughly embedded into our modern day calendar as an exciting time for kids to dress up, have fun, and enjoy a bit of trick-or-treating! When I was growing up in the 80s and 90s, it wasn’t as common for kids to celebrate Halloween here in the UK, but I remember always wishing we could celebrate it and so Tim and I have made it a big celebration every year since we met. We’ve never missed a year of decorating the house, playing games, and handing out sweets to those who knock on our – we even dressed up when WB was just a few weeks old!

The Family Patch Happy Halloween

But as much as we love the modern day secular celebration of Halloween, we also love to celebrate the spiritual side of its history too. And its history is really rather interesting, to say the least. It amuses me slightly when I hear people saying that they don’t like or agree with Halloween because of its origins, because it has changed and developed so much through the years that it’s neither one thing nor the other now. By all means dislike Halloween because you don’t like kids knocking on your doors or the commercialisation of it, but don’t dismiss its very colourful and complex history as the reason for not liking today’s Halloween celebrations.

Because it is constantly evolving! In recent years I have seen more and more churches offering “Light Parties” as an alternative to dressing up as ghosts and ghouls to go trick-or-treating. Whilst I personally don’t feel the need to do that (I have never seen Halloween as “dark” or “menacing” in any way – death is not something to be feared, but rather a part of the cycle of life) I love the fact that people are allowing the celebration to evolve to better reflect their own personal and/or religious ideas. Surely that is what it has always been about!

So what is the History of Halloween?

Well, most sources of information talk about the origins of Halloween lying in the ancient Celtic celebration of Samhain (pronounced Sow-een). This day marked the end of one year and the beginning of the next, and was also considered to be a day in which the veil between the worlds of the living and the dead was particularly thin. It was a time of passing between two worlds, the old and the new, not just about connecting the living and the dead. And so it was a time of reflection on the past, the present, and the future in all areas of our lives.

As Samhain fell at the end of the harvest and before the long Winter months, death and scarcity were clearly things to consider. Not only would more people be susceptible to death during those bitterly cold months ahead, but the world itself seemed to die away as the trees lay bare and the fields barren of most crops. The bounty and joy of the summer months had passed, remaining purely as a memory, just as those loved ones who had passed before us did. At this turning point in the Wheel of the Year it’s no wonder there was an emphasis placed on those no longer with us.

And yet, as I mentioned before, death was not something to be feared but rather accepted as a natural part of life. The beauty of The Wheel of The Year is that it reminds us of the cycle of life, that brings us from birth, through life, to death and right back to birth again through renewal as the wheel turns once more. We may well fear the dark mystery of death now that we are so far removed from it in our day-to-day lives, but when we accept it as part of the cycle we can look back and honour our ancestors and those who have gone before us, especially at a time like Halloween as the year draws to its end.

The Christian church later carried on this tradition in its own way, with the introduction of All Saints Day or All Hallows, which also remembered those who had passed into the next world. It focused on those who had given their lives to spreading the love of Jesus to the world, which (as far as I understand it) is the focus of the Light Parties thrown by many churches. Whilst this may not have had quite the same emphasis on a thinning of the veil between the two worlds, there still remains a time for reflection on life and death., particularly on the promises of ever-lasting life offered to those who follow Christ. That light in the dark, and eternal life, are only a stone’s throw away from the reflections made by the ancient Celts at Samhain.

But what about Trick-or-Treating? Where did that come from?

Again we have to look back at the ancient celebration of Samhain and the idea of this thinning of the veil. Traditions related to this included placing food on the doorstep to feed the ghosts that roamed the earth during the night, as well as wearing masks so that the living would be recognised and accepted as fellow ghosts when leaving their homes. It’s easy to see how these traditions have developed into the modern day Trick-or-Treating fun of dressing up and knocking on doors asking for sweets, isn’t it?

I found it really interesting to learn that the family friendly traditions we know and love today may actually only have really begun in the 1950s in America, as this video from The History Channel explains. It seems that there have been many different variations over the years and even those we think of as really entrenched into our society are actually relatively modern additions!

So what does Halloween mean today?

Well, it can mean anything you want it to mean really.

If you want to take from all of this that Halloween has simply become a secular event with no real relation to the ancient traditions from which it came, then feel free to celebrate it (or not) as that.

And if you feel like it is too “dark” with it’s connotations about appeasing and tricking the dead with food and masks, then maybe a Light Party is what you need.

You might even be like us, choosing to celebrate the fun of the secular Halloween excitement whilst also holding a little personal ceremony to honour the loved ones who have passed before us whilst looking forward to the year ahead.

Whatever you decide, know that it is perfectly okay to make it work for you and your family – that’s what raising spiritual kids in the modern world is all about, making spirituality mean something to you personally. There’s no point in following a tradition that means nothing to you, just because you feel you should. Embrace it, relate to it, and celebrate it!

I’d love to know what you think about Halloween and how you celebrate it (or if you don’t). Please do leave me a comment to share your thoughts!

 

 

 

 

The Family Patch autumn Equinox Activities for Kids

Celebrating The Autumn Equinox With Kids

22nd September marks the Autumn Equinox here in the Northern Hemisphere, a moment in time when day and night are of equal length, and it is a great moment to reflect on all that has been achieved throughout the long summer months. Soon the shorter days and longer nights of Winter will draw in upon us, and it will seem as if the Earth herself has fallen asleep, but before then she will shower us with beautiful gifts as the world around us shines in golden hues and we reap the rewards of the fruit harvest.

It is a time of joy and, thanks to our modern school calendar, a time of new beginnings for many of us as our children return to school and focus on a new year of learning. This ties in quite beautifully with the forthcoming Samhain, known as the Pagan New Year, at the end of October and reminds us of the cycle of life that brings new beginnings even when we think everything is ending. But it’s often hard to keep that in mind as the days grow shorter, the trees more bare, and the temperature cools. Which is why celebrating each turn of The Wheel of The Year can be so glorious, as it keeps our minds and hearts focused on the continuing cycle.

celebrating the autumn equinox with kids

What is The Autumn Equinox?

The Autumn Equinox is one of the 8 Sabbats celebrated in the modern Pagan calendar, known at The Wheel of the Year. Within this calendar, the year is split into 8 equal parts, to help mark the passage of time through the seasons. Traditionally it begins at Samhain (or Halloween), which marks the third and final harvest at a point when we begin to draw within in order to survive the darkness of Winter. This means that the Autumn Equinox is the 7th Sabbat in the Wheel, close to the end point in the year.

However the world is far from bleak right now. We are reaping huge rewards from the seeds we planted so many months ago, in the form of fruits and vegetables. It is no coincidence that Harvest Festivals are celebrated at this time of year in the Christian calendar too – we really are filled with abundance right now. And it is a time to be thankful to the Earth for that bounty.

However, there must always be caution, a balancing of the splendour with that of preparing for the coming months, for if we do not save enough now we may not survive the Winter. This balancing act is so beautifully expressed within the Autumn Equinox itself, as it marks the moment when the day and night are of equal length – perfect balance! If we can live out that same balance in our lives, everything will be so much easier.

So in giving thanks to the Earth for her bounty, we can also remember that it is by working together that we have received these gifts. It takes a whole community to put food on our table – from the farmers who plant the seeds and nurture the crops, through the drivers who take the food from farm to shop, and even the work we do in society in order to earn the money to pay for the food we eat. And it is important to remember that if any single part of that community falls, we will all suffer.

5 Easy Ways to Celebrate The Autumn Equinox With Your Kids

1. Buy seasonal produce from a farmer’s market or local farm shop (and make something special).

Right now there is an abundance of fruit and veg that is in season – not only will it be more cost effective to buy seasonal produce grown locally, it will also be much tastier. Why not make the most of all the fruit and make a delicious apple pie, plum cake, or if you prefer savoury to sweet, get out the slow cooker and make a delicious root vegetable stew!

2. Go for a walk in the woods and collect conkers and fallen leaves.

Once you’re home, you can display them on your altar or nature table, or use them to make an Autumn collage, leaf mobile, or even suncatchers.

3. Make a gratitude collage (or share what you’re thankful for with each other)

If you fancy getting crafty, why not get a great big piece of card and write, draw, or glue pictures of all the things you feel thankful for right now. If you’re not feeling quite so crafty, you could take time out to sit together with your kids and take it in turns to share what you’re grateful for.

4. Donate to a Food Bank (or the collection at your local church or school).

With Harvest Festival coming up, many schools and churches will be collecting food items to pass on to their local Food Bank or Community Larder. Share your blessings and abundance with others who are less fortunate, by finding out what they need and then donating what you can. This teaches our kids to be thankful for what they have and that giving can be just as wonderful (if not more wonderful) than receiving.

5. Create your own Autumn Equinox Ceremony

There is nothing more special at each of the 8 Sabbats than creating a ceremony that reflects who you are and what you believe. Ceremony draws the family closer together, brings out the best in us in terms of creativity and giving thanks, and gives us all a reason to celebrate.

Ceremony doesn’t have to be grand and ornate, it doesn’t have to follow any specific creed or structure, and it certainly doesn’t have to be created by someone “in the know”. These are all things I used to think about ceremony, and I was so wrong! Ceremony can be as simple as sitting down together with the intention to honour the earth. You could light a candle, write some words, say a prayer, or sing a song. It doesn’t matter… all that matters is that it means something to you.

That being said, if you’re struggling for ideas why not consider some of the following to get you started:

  • Buy a large pillar candle that you can light every day throughout the long nights ahead (you could specify you’ll do this until the Spring Equinox when the sun begins to dominate the sky once again) and say a little prayer or blessing over it to set the intention that it will remind you that even in the darkest night a light can be found.
  • Put together a gift box for someone in need (warm clothes, food supplies, etc) and together, as a family, imagine all your love flowing through your hands and into the box so that the recipient may feel that love and share in your abundance
  • Change your bedding, putting away the summer duvet and getting out the winter blankets, preparing your home for the cold months ahead. As you do so, you could light some incense or play some music, to help recognise the shift in energy.

There really is no limit to what you can turn into a ceremony, so please have fun with this.

Want to know more about The Autumn Equinox?

There are some fantastic guides available online for those interested in learning more about the Pagan Wheel of the Year, and here are some of our favourites:

The Goddess and the Green Man have written a fantastic page all about The Autumn Equinox (and it’s more modern name of Mabon)

The Paganism/Wicca Expert on About.com has created a page explaining the 8 Sabbats in the Wheel of the Year, including The Autumn Equinox.

The Family Patch Lammas Activities for Families

Celebrating Lammas with Kids

1st August marks Lammas in the Northern Hemisphere, which is a time of celebrating the bounty of the first harvest and beginning preparations for the coming months. It is a lovely time to stop and reflect on how much we are blessed by the earth, and focus on what we can do in return. But it can also be challenging to know how to share this with your children, can’t it?

I know I have found it difficult knowing how to celebrate the Wheel of the Year with my own child, having grown up in a family and society that barely mentions this beautiful tradition. Which is why I’ve created this post with information and activity ideas for celebrating Lammas with Kids. I hope you find it useful, and if you’d like to share your own experiences and ideas with us, please do so in the comments at the end of the post. Happy Lammas!

Celebrating Lammas with Kids

What is Lammas?

Lammas is one of the 8 Sabbats celebrated in the modern Pagan calendar, called the Wheel of the Year. This Wheel of the Year marks the turning of time, and celebrates the cycle of life from birth, through growth, to death, and right on back to rebirth.

It is symbolic of the life-long journeys we are all on, and is played out within our lives each and every year through the seasonal changes we see all around us. The Wheel of the Year traditionally begins at Samhain (or Halloween), when the crops have all been harvested, the leaves are falling from the trees, and the earth is returning to a state of slumber for the dark Winter days ahead.

As the Wheel turns we move through the depths of Winter into the hope of Spring, when the seeds that were planted and lay dormant over the previous months begin to burst into life. We continue on our journey as the Summer months bring abundance of life, and Lammas marks the first of the harvests.

There are generally 3 harvests celebrated within the Pagan Wheel of the Year – Lammas, or the grain harvest, Mabon (Autumn Equinox) as the fruit harvest, and Samhain as the final harvest of nuts and berries. As such, Lammas is a time of gathering sustenance from the earth, thanking her for her (hopefully) bountiful harvest, and beginning preparations for the year ahead. It is not just about reaping the rewards, we must also help the cycle continue by ensuring we leave enough seeds and nutrients in the earth for the next year’s harvest to grow.

This is what I love so much about the Wheel of the Year, the focus on the continuity of life and the dual focus on celebrating the moment whilst also remembering that what we do now will affect our future (and that of our children and grandchildren), just as what we are experiencing now has been affected by the actions of those who have gone before us. And that is the focus of our family celebrations throughout the year.

5 Easy Lammas Activities to Enjoy with Your Kids

1. Bake some bread

Lammas is traditionally a time when the first of the wheat harvest was brought in, so making bread with this wheat is a fantastic way of honouring the way that the earth sustains us throughout our lives.

If you have a local mill where you can take your kids to learn about how flour is made, even better! I remember doing this as a child and it is a great way to introduce kids to the many stages of food growth and production.

2. Go for a Walk in Nature

What better way to be present in this moment of abundance and beauty than to get out in nature and see all that the earth is providing. Here in the UK we have had quite a miserable Summer this year, with many cold, wet days and not much sun at all. So we need more reminders than ever that the Wheel is still turning and that life is still continuing.

You don’t have to go far, your nearest park will do, but for maximum joy why not find a local walk which takes you by some fields? There’s nothing more beautiful than walking beside a field of gold when the sun shines upon the grains gently waving in the wind.

Kids adore getting out and about and it is a fantastic way to let them burn off all that excess energy they seem to have over these Summer months (I suspect not being at school means they are less exhausted!) But instead of simply going for a walk, make it an intentional choice of where you go and what you do – it’s all in the intention!

3. Make a Nature Table or Altar

While you’re out and about, why not grab a few bits to take home with you to remind you of this stage of life on a daily basis? Pick flowers or herbs from the garden, collect loose stones from the ground (symbolic of the stones needed to ground grains into flour), and take photos of the crops you see growing in a field. Place these in the home, in your own Sacred Space, and remember to say thanks to the earth for all she provides.

You might also like to create a nature collage for your kids’ rooms, or let them try out other nature crafts such as making dye out of herbs and flowers, trying your hand at making corn dollies, or even making bird feeders ready for the cold, Winter months ahead.

4. Collect Seeds (and make them into Gifts) or Plant New Seeds

If you have flowers in your garden that have gone to seed, why not collect them and keep them safe ready to give as gifts to family and friends at one of the other Sabbats or Christmas? Homemade gifts are always a real treat to receive, but how much more wonderful would it be if your seeds turned into flowers in someone else’s garden? What a beautiful symbol of the continuation of life!

If you don’t have any seeds you can harvest, why not buy some that are ready to be sown in August and plant those instead? That way you are still playing a crucial part in the cycle of life, and can look back on this moment when the seeds begin to grow and bloom further down the line.

Kids absolutely love getting their hands dirty, and gardening is such a great tactile experience for them which helps them to ground themselves and connect with Mother Earth. Talk to them about how we need to tend and nurture the earth so that she can continue to provide us with such beautiful gifts. Remind them that we give, just as we receive.

5. Create your own Lammas Ceremony

This last idea is one that I really love, because you can really make it your own! For a very long time I was really hesitant about creating ceremony, because I felt like a fraud. But once I started creating my own ceremonies, reflecting on the things that were most important to me and my family, I started to truly fall in love with it.

Ceremony doesn’t have to be grand and ornate, it doesn’t have to follow any specific creed or structure, and it certainly doesn’t have to be created by someone “in the know”. These are all things I used to think about ceremony, and I was so wrong! Ceremony can be as simple as sitting down together with the intention to honour the earth. You could light a candle, write some words, say a prayer, or sing a song. It doesn’t matter… all that matters is that it means something to you.

That being said, if you’re struggling for ideas why not consider some of the following to get you started:

  • Break some bread and eat it as a family, sharing your thoughts on how lucky you are to have this food on your table
  • Light a candle and say thanks to the earth for her sustenance
  • Write down a list of things that you will do over the coming year to honour the earth and support her (make these easy things for kids, such as litter picking in the park, establishing a “wild flower” section in your garden, feeding the birds etc)
  • Create a gift of food for someone in need (or donate to your local food bank), saying a prayer over it to wish the recipient love, health, and abundance in the coming year

There really is no limit to what you can turn into a ceremony, so please have fun with this.

Want to know more about Lammas?

There are some fantastic guides available online for those interested in learning more about the Pagan Wheel of the Year, and here are some of our favourites:

The Goddess and the Green Man have written a fantastic page all about Lammas and Lughnassadh (a celebration of the Sun God, Lugh).

The Paganism/Wicca Expert on About.com has created a page explaining the 8 Sabbats in the Wheel of the Year, including Lammas.

Ozark Pagan Mama wrote a brilliant post about celebrating Lammas with Kids.

 

The Family Patch Meets Jaime at #cosmickidslive

Meeting Jaime at #cosmickidslive

A few weeks ago, I heard that Cosmic Kids Yoga were going to be holding a fan event called #cosmickidslive at the YouTube Space in London. I put mine and Little Man’s names forward, and was super excited to receive an email telling us we were invited to attend. I’m not sure who was more excited, me or Little Man!

If you’ve never heard of Cosmic Kids before, can I suggest that you go check them out over on YouTube? They create the most amazing yoga adventures, mindfulness videos, and disco beats that kids adore. We wrote a review about Cosmic Kids a year or so ago, and I have to say that as much as we loved them then, we love them even more now that Little Man is that bit older and more able to fully interact with what is going on.

So, as you can imagine, we were hugely excited as we headed on down to London yesterday. And as we were at YouTube, I found myself inspired to create a video about our adventure rather than simply writing about it. It’s not the most polished video ever, but I hope it gives you a good idea of just how amazing the event was (scroll down below video for further info).

Of course, we had so much more to share with you than I could edit into that video, so here are the extra photos I promised.

YouTube Space London #cosmickidslive
Arriving at the YouTube Space in London was super exciting – here we are, about to go in and meet Jaime!
Jaime at #cosmickidslive
Jaime welcomed every child individually and quickly got the party started!
High Fives at #cosmickidslive
All the kids wanted to speak to Jaime after the adventure – she was such a huge hit with them all!
Goody Bag from #cosmickidslive
All the kids got to bring home this amazing goody bag, filled with wonderful surprises.

As you can see, we had an amazing time at #cosmickidslive, and it was so wonderful to meet Jaime and Martin in person. Jaime is a real natural, full of energy and enthusiasm which the kids all love and respond to so well. We were already big Cosmic Kids fans, but after yesterday I am more excited than ever to see how they grow and develop new ways of inspiring kids all around the world!

I’ll be sharing more about our day yesterday both here on the blog and over at Spirit Kid Network over the coming days, so do keep checking back. In the meantime, let me know if you’re a Cosmic Kids fan too in the comments below, I’d love to hear which your favourite video is!

*Edited to add: I’ve now published our review of the book over on Spirit Kid Network – you can read it here.


I’m linking this post up with #sharethejoy, your weekly source of inspiration!
Share the Joy linky at TheJoyChaser.com

The Family Patch Kid Friendly Summer Solstice Activities

Kid Friendly Summer Solstice Activities

I can hardly believe that the Summer Solstice is almost upon us. The summer sun has been such a long time in finding us this year, and even today the sky is grey and gloomy as showers pass overhead. It feels like the Summer will have been and gone before we know it, and what a hard Winter that will make for us, without enough time to fully soak in the power and glory of the sun.

Which is why it is more important than ever that we do embrace the Summer whilst it is here, remembering the power that lies within the sun’s rays to warm our hearts and nourish the land on which we live. The Solstice itself is such a fleeting moment, a snapshot in time when for a tiny moment the sun prevails and provides us with more warmth in a single 24 hours than it will for another 365 days! If that’s not a message to cherish the moment and trust that life ebbs and flows but always comes around again, I don’t know what is!

But how do we celebrate that with our children? How do we make it clear to them how important it is to celebrate the sun and rejoice in all that it provides us with, both now and in the future (after all, our Winter stores all come from the Harvest that is currently growing thanks to the Summer sun!) It is quite a challenge to explore all of this with young children, although older children will most likely find it interesting to look more closely at life cycles and why we celebrate what we do.

The answer, I have found, is that it doesn’t matter so much how we celebrate, only that we do. What feels right for me and my family may not feel right to you and yours, and vice versa. So with that in mind I have turned to Pinterest to collate a range of kid friendly Solstice activities that the whole family can enjoy. I’ve chosen some of my favourites to list here, but you can find more over on Pinterest.

Kid Friendly Summer Solstice Activities

Make Dandelion Crowns

I absolutely love the idea of making floral crowns and there are many different ideas and tutorials for this over on Pinterest. But my favourite has to be this fantastic illustrated guide to making a dandelion garland by Oscar Ate My Muffin. There are dandelions everywhere at this time of year, so why not take a walk to your local park for a picnic lunch, and collect dandelions to braid into a garland or crown as your dinner goes down? If you want to take this further, you could talk about how different people may celebrate different religious holidays by wearing certain costumes, and think about who might like to wear a flower garland and what it might symbolise.

Make Dandelion Bread

Talking of picnics, how about packing some of this delicious looking Dandelion Bread by Saving 4 Six. Baking bread using items you have managed to forage yourself from your garden or local area is a fantastic way of exploring how the food we eat is made and why it is so important for us to cherish our earth and try to avoid waste. It could open up an opportunity to discuss how food may seem to be in abundance right now, and that we can rejoice in this, but that it may not always be as abundant – a great message for celebrating the Summer Solstice and all it shares with us.

Get Messy with Feet Painting

There are so many craft activities out there for kids, and I’m sure you have your own favourites, but I have to say that this idea for Painting with the Feet by Home Grown Friends is hands-down (haha) one of my favourite finds yet. What better way to celebrate the warmth of the summer sun than getting outside and doing something barefoot? How many months of the year do we hide our feet away in socks and shoes – let’s free them for just a little while, hey? Feet Painting looks and sounds like so much fun, and you could make it as creative as you like. I also love the idea of using the end result as wrapping paper! For the past couple of years we have made our own Christmas wrapping paper and I’m sure that pulling out brightly coloured paper with fun memories of a hot, Summer day might just cheer up those dark, gloomy Winter nights as we race toward the Winter Solstice.

Make Beaded Bubble Wands

Every kid likes bubbles, right? And chasing bubbles on a sunny day has to be one of those wonderful memories we all enjoy, so it seems like such a lovely idea to celebrate the Summer Solstice by having a bubble party, don’t you think? Why not make it even more exciting by creating your own beaded bubble wands like The Artful Parent? I love how pretty they are, they could be personalised to each child’s individual favourite colours or colours that you all associate with the Summer. Then, as you blow the bubbles, you could imagine blowing all your worries into each bubble and watching them float away on the breeze before popping and releasing it all out to the Universe. Or you could imagine blowing love and light into each one and watch as that spreads into the world around you. Kids are so good at visualisation so the sky’s the limit with this one!

Create a Sunshine Spinner

If you’re looking for a super easy craft activity that you and your kids can enjoy, then I may have found just the thing for you. Kimbo from A Girl and a Glue Gun shared this fantastic tutorial for a DIY Paper Spinner over on Makes and Takes. Paper spinners are quick and easy to make and can be packed up and taken with you anywhere, so why not make a few and then take them out into the woods or your local park for a little Solstice Ceremony? You could focus on how the earth turns on a daily basis, creating night and day, and that it also rotates around the sun, creating the seasons. Ask your kids to spin their spinners at different speeds, holding it high and then low, and maybe spinning around themselves (have you ever noticed just how much kids love to spin until they are so dizzy they almost fall over?)

I could carry on all day, sharing my favourite Pinterest finds with you, but there really are far too many to share in a single blog post. So please do pop on over to my Pinterest Board to see more fantastic ideas for summer-based fun that you could incorporate into your Summer Solstice Celebrations. And if you have any other ideas, please do let me know in the comments – I’d love to hear from you!

Container Gardening

How to Turn a Back Yard into a Garden on a Budget

You may remember that when we moved home last year, one of my concerns was how we could quickly and easily create an outdoor space that was as lovely as the garden we had gradually established in our old home. If I could have relocated that garden with me I would have done!

We did what we could with what we had last year, but a combination of busy schedules taking up most of our time and the need to wait until all the weeds had been killed off meant that we were limited in our choices. Aside from putting a few plants in pots, it remained very much a grey and blank concrete yard…

The garden is a blank canvas

I can’t actually describe just how much of an effect this has had on me. I grew up with a beautiful garden that my mum and dad maintained and developed throughout the years (their garden now contains a mini orchard as well as a veg plot and multiple borders and water features – it is like a little haven), so I really miss having a garden full of life the whole year through.

But, of course, we live in a rented home and as much as I’d love to develop the garden fully I do not want to invest huge amounts of time and money into something that we will likely leave again within the next 5 years. Which is why I am pleased to say that we have managed to create an almost complete transformation overnight with hardly any outlay at all, thanks to my dad’s experience and my bargain hunting at the garden centre. And I thought it might be helpful to share some of our tips with you, just in case you are feeling as overwhelmed as I was when looking at a blank back yard and wondering how to turn it into a beautiful garden space.

How to Turn a Back Yard into a Beautiful Garden on a budget

1. Ask your friends and family if they can help

I know that I am very lucky that my dad is so enthusiastic about gardening and brings over 30 years’ experience with him – not everybody has a father to supply them with enough bedding plants to fill a blank square of their garden! But the reality is that even if no-one in your family is a gardener, chances are someone you know is and they may well have spare plants they would be more than happy to give you. Last year a colleague of mine gave me a whole tray full of marigolds she had going spare, and this was someone I had only known for about a month at the time!

Alternative options may be to ask friends and family to buy you some bedding plants as a gift (housewarming, birthday, etc) instead of the usual token gifts we often receive but don’t actually need. You can pick up some lovely bedding plants at most supermarkets now, so they don’t even need to go out of their way to the garden centre to buy them, making it easy to swap that bar of chocolates for a pack of petunias!

Bedding Plants

The plants above were all grown by my dad from seed and so cost us nothing. We have sprinkled random seeds around the area too, in the hope that something may take. Some of the seeds came from our old garden, some we picked up in the bargain aisle over the years. Obviously the seeds will take much longer to appear, but having bedding plants put has completely changed the entire look of this area of our garden.

2. Scour the clearance section and budget stores

Did you know that most garden centres have a clearance section where they place plants (and other seasonal products) that are past their “best dates” or looking worse for wear? It’s just like the clearance section in a supermarket where items that are close to their expiry date or end of season get reduced drastically for a quick sale.

I love the clearance section and always head there before looking at anything else. Sometimes you have to hunt quite hard for it as it is often hidden away at the back of the store, but when you find it you’ll be happy that you looked. Over the years I have found some wonderful bargains here, from herbs that looked like there was no life left in them to trees in pots that just needed to go to a new home asap. Some of the things I have bought have not survived, but most of them have with a little bit of TLC, and it has been a great way to fill out our garden on a budget.

Clearance Section Bargain Buys Garden Plants Sweet Peas 25p

These came from the clearance section in a couple of places we visited lately – as you can see, the sweet peas were a mere 25p! I love sweet peas as they remind me of my childhood, but I have never had much luck with them in the past. How could I possibly pass up the chance to try again at that price? The most expensive of my bargain buys lately have been a marrow and garden pea plants, but both only cost £1 each, so again a total steal!

3. Think Outside The Box (which might include a box or two!)

Don’t think that just because you have a tiny back yard with no lawn and hardly any soil you cannot create a colour garden, because you can! We’ve been growing plants in pots ever since we moved into our very first flat together. In those days it was simply a trough on the windowsill, but it was still something that we had grown.

In every other move since we have grown vegetables in large boxes, because digging a vegetable patch in a rented garden is not necessarily the easiest of things to do. There are so many herbs and vegetables that will grow quite happily in containers, so long as the soil is both well watered and has good drainage. You don’t even have to go out and buy fancy pots, ours grow in old plastic storage boxes which we drilled holes into the bottom of.

Growing Vegetables in Pots

We’ve currently got courgettes, carrots, beetroot, spring onions, lettuce, and two types of radishes planted in the blue boxes and tomatoes growing in pots along the wall. We’ve had huge successes with this kind of vegetable growing in the past, especially the year I was pregnant with Little Man when we had a real bountiful harvest and I was picking tomatoes off the plant to nibble on throughout the day.

4. Use What You Already Have

This may sound like an obvious one, but actually it’s often easy to overlook what you already have. As I’ve already mentioned, old plastic boxes can make excellent planters for your garden, as can old buckets, and even large tin cans. They may not be the most beautiful objects, they will soon be filled with greenery of all sorts, so it doesn’t really matter that much.

You will also find that, over time, you begin to collect quite a selection of plant pots of varying sizes, as you plant things in different spaces. That small, black plant pot that housed the bargain garden peas? Why not fill it with compost and plant some herbs? Herbs are one of those things that grow so well in pots and are actually much easier to maintain in a smaller garden by keeping them in pots rather than in the ground where they can expand and take over in a short amount of time.

Container Gardening

We have lots of plant pots that we have amassed over the years, from our own buys and from family and friends passing them on to us. As such we now have a lovely little selection of patio pots containing a wide range of herbs, ornamental grasses, lavender, a rose, and even some strawberries. It is so lovely to look out of my kitchen window and see this area blooming so well.

5. Small Steps Make Big Changes!

Remember that gardens are always going to be a work in progress – there is always something more that you can do, so dream big and slowly but surely you will get there! Our last garden was just getting to the place where I wanted it to be after 5 years there, so I don’t expect our current garden to be exactly what I want it to be in just our second year. But with each small step we take it becomes a much more pleasant place to sit.

Tomatoes growing in pots

My current plans include gradually adding more and more top soil to the borders and patch of land underneath the vegetable boxes. We are taking this slowly in order to remain on a budget – yes, we could go and buy a load of top soil today but actually we have a family friend who has a surplus he can give us every now and again when he is in our area, so we are not going to turn down that offer. The beauty of growing vegetables in boxes this year means that we can continue to place more and more top soil under and around the boxes so that next year we can plant straight into the ground and use those boxes for even more plants further down the garden. Slowly, but surely, we will get there.

And I hope that you get there with your garden space too. Do tell me what you have growing where you live and how you make the most of the space you have. And if you want to follow along with our journey in more detail, follow me on instagram where I often share little updates on a day to day basis.


Linking up with #sharethejoy linky, your weekly place for inspirational posts full of all the good things in life!
Share the Joy linky at TheJoyChaser.com

I love myself too

And You Love Yourself Too…

This afternoon I was sitting with Little Man and asked him, “do you know who I love?” When he turned to look at me, waiting for my answer, I told him, “I love you, and I love daddy, and I love Thomas and Percy (our two new guinea pigs)”. And do you know what his reply was?

And you love yourself too!

This isn’t the first time he’s said this to me, but every time he does I am blown away by how deep and profound his response is. And yet, to him, it isn’t deep or profound at all, it just is. And therein lies the beauty of it – if we can love another, we must surely love ourselves.

And it makes me wonder – at what point in my life did I stop seeing things with this kind of clarity and start leaving myself off that all important list of those I love? If asked about self-love, I’d say that of course I think it’s important that we love ourselves as well as others. But thinking it is important is not the same as actually loving myself with the same level of intention and intensity as I love and value others.

Which is why Little Man’s response is so powerful to me, because it challenges me to really consider not only whether I truly love myself (and what that may mean) but also how that love manifests and why I have (until now) valued it far below the love that I have for him and others. I want to live a life with that same kind of simplicity that says, “you love yourself too, don’t forget that!”

You love yourself too, don't forget that!

But then, of course, my rational mind comes into play and I start over-analysing it all.  I begin to ask questions like “what does loving yourself actually mean?” and “what does that even look like?” I don’t know about you, but whenever I think about self-love I often come across a wall where the bricks are engraved with words such as “fear”, “ego”, “pride”, and “selfish”. I am so worried that by loving myself fully I will become unbalanced and “full of myself”, and that scares the hell out of me.

And I wonder why that is, why do I fear love so much when I know how powerful it can be? Of course, therein lies the crux – love is so powerful. I know that by loving myself everything will change, but instead of focusing on all the positive results this could bring I see only the negative possibilities. Why is that? When did I stop trusting love and start fearing it?

Love is so powerful

I’d like to be able to blame it on all the bad things that have happened in my life, all the difficulties with my health, struggles with finances, challenges in the workplace etc, but the reality is that I can’t blame any of these things. The circumstances of my life have naturally had an impact on me, but the lack of self-love goes much deeper. No matter what has happened in my life, I have continued to have a great love for so many people, that side of love (the giving side) has never been compromised. But the receiving side, that’s where I struggle. And that goes right back as far as I can remember…

This lack of self-love has manifested in so many ways – low self-esteem, lack of confidence, inability to say no, acting like a martyr, I could go on and on! In fact , over the past couple of days I have begun to realise that the only reason my dreams of making a living doing the thing I love most has never quite come true is because I do not value myself and my skills enough to expect payment for them. I feel hugely uncomfortable at the idea of charging for my services, even though I know that I do it so well. And so, the reality of this is that year after year my dream remains just that, a dream that other people get to do but I don’t, not because they are any better at it than I am but rather because I do not value myself enough to get out there and do it.

And even though I know this, I find it so hard to change. But change I will. I want to love myself, I want to follow the advice and inspiration of so many who have said time and time again that the key to living a happy and successful life lies in loving yourself enough to feel you deserve a happy and successful life. And I want be like Little Man, with the knowledge that self-love is the most natural thing in the world. And that starts today…

I love myself too

Tell me – do you love yourself too?


I’m linking this post up with the #sharethejoy linky hosted by Michelle at The Joy Chaser and Regina at You are a Daisy, because this post really was written at the start of a very incredible week for me, one which brought me a huge sense of joy! I have so much more I want to write about the amazing shift in perception that self-love can bring, and just how much that changes everything in your life, but for now I am sharing the post that started one of the most amazing weeks I’ve had in a very long time!
Share the Joy linky at TheJoyChaser.com

The Family Patch Easy Ways to Celebrate Spring

5 Easy Ways to Celebrate Spring

Does anyone else find it hard to believe we’re in March already? It feels like only yesterday that we were saying goodbye to the old year and ringing in the new! But, regardless of my disbelief at the speed in which this year is passing us by, we are indeed in March and that means that Spring is well and truly on its way.

Today is the Spring Equinox (20th March) and next Sunday we’ll be celebrating Easter (27th March). It’s a wonderful time of year full of great joy and promise, as new life begins to “spring” up all around us, so I love the fact that these two celebrations are so close together. I have a post lined up for you at the end of this week regarding my thoughts onintroducing the Easter Story to WB in a way that reflects our more liberal interpretation of it, but for now I want to focus on celebrating Spring itself.

Recognising and reflecting the changing seasons and passing of time is one of the main reasons I feel drawn towards the Pagan Wheel of the Year. For me, the intention of marking certain points in the year as special and sacred in their own unique ways is just beautiful. However Tim and I are not so good at preparing to mark these occasions and often find they speed past us without us even noticing (I bring you back to my very first sentence of this post as a case in point!)

When I set up Spirit Kid Network I didn’t really know what I was going to write or how I was going to present my thoughts. I’m still figuring that out even now and will probably continue to do so for a very long time. But one thing I did know for sure was that I wanted it to be real, and I wanted it to be accessible. There’s no point me dreaming up grand plans for amazing experiences when they just aren’t possible for the vast majority of families.

So the basis for everything I do here is this – can we do this as a family… and do even we want to?

Suddenly, *wham* there go all those crazy ideas for craft activities, family gatherings, meaningful ceremonies, and anything else my wonderfully creative but entirely over-ambitious mind comes up with! It’s not that that aren’t good ideas, many of them are great ideas (if I may say so myself), but they are as far from doable as I could get right now. I’ll file them in the “maybe, one day” section of my brain and get right back to finding simple, easy ways of enjoying this moment in time.

Because, you see, if there’s one thing that becoming a parent has taught me it’s this – sometimes the most simple things bring the most pleasure. And with that in mind, here are my 5 easy ways to celebrate Spring which I hope you’ll enjoy too.

5 Easy Ways to Celebrate Spring as a Family

Learn about “life cycles”

You only have to look at the selection of Easter cards in the shops to realise that baby animals are a major hit at this time of year, so why not embrace the excitement and use it as an opportunity to learn about life cycles? How you do this will, of course, depend on the age of your children and whether you want to visit a local farm or learn about it from books and videos, but whatever you do be sure to have fun.

A couple of weeks ago Little Man came home from school with information about the chicken eggs that had arrived at school. There was a link to the live webcam that we placed on my laptop and left running throughout the evening and following day and we all got to see some of the chicks hatching. We talked about how the chicks come out a bit wet and when they dry off they get all fluffy and then we thought about how some animal babies grow in eggs and others grow in their mummy’s tummy. We ended the day by reading a Topsy and Tim book about puppies, which led to even more talk about where babies come from.

Spring Learn About Life Cycles Chicks Hatching

Little Man is 4 and it seemed like a great age to start thinking about how babies are born and then how we all grow at different rates. It has made us determined to plan a trip for Open Farm Sunday this year so WB can see more animals at different stages in their lives. But until then we’ll be making the most of the good old internet for videos like this one.

Plant some seeds

So this follows on from the last point quite nicely, don’t you think? Animals are not the only ones who bring new life into the world at this time of year. Looking out my window this morning I was welcomed by the cheery sight of some purple crocuses opening up. And then there are the lovely, bright yellow daffodils on my table, bringing cheer to the room and reminding me that many more flowers will be coming soon. Life is quite simply Springing from the ground right now and it is beautiful.

But those first joyous blooms would never have appeared had their bulbs not been planted at the right time for them to grow. And this is a great opportunity to discuss not only celebrating the life that we see before us but also preparing for the life which is to come. Many flowers and vegetables that we will hope to see over the Summer and Autumn months need to be sown over the coming weeks. What better way to encourage your children to understand the sheer magic of life than by including them in the process right from the start?

Growing Herbs in Pots

This is such a simple activity that anyone can do it, you don’t have to be green-fingered or have vast amounts of space to enjoy growing things from seed. Even if you have the smallest garden (or no garden at all) you can still enjoy growing herbs and salad leaves that can sit in pots on your windowsill!

Go on a scavenger hunt

Nothing could be easier than popping on your shoes and coat and going for a walk somewhere in nature. It doesn’t matter where you go or what you do, simply getting out and about will get you noticing the signs of Spring all around you.

Spring Scavenger Hunt Bee Hawthorn

But if you want to make your outings more adventurous, why not try a scavenger hunt? Go online and find some images of Spring flowers, the shapes of certain leaves, birds you think will be in your area, even insects and bugs you want to try and find, and then print out your selection and stick them on a sheet or in a notebook. Then when you’re out and about see if you can find them all. Make it a game, who can find them all first and what else can you find along the way?

Do some cloud spotting

Nothing speaks of the hope of better days to come than the appearance of a bright blue sky and fluffy white clouds after months and months of grey skies without end. I swear, I never realise how much the lack of light during Winter affects me until one of these days comes by and I suddenly feel so much happier and brighter and like all those things I have worried so much about no longer matter! I feel like I can breathe again and it makes me so happy.

Spring Cloud Spotting

So, obviously, I spend a fair amount of time looking up at the sky on days like those and cloud spotting becomes a wonderful way to pass the time whilst sitting on a cold bench because I just don’t want to go home yet or standing at the school gates waiting to pick up WB. Cloud spotting can be as simple as looking at the clouds and acknowledging their presence or as detailed as seeing shapes within them and imagining whole worlds that live there.

Bring some colour indoors

Again, just like I said above, the lack of colour through the Winter months really gets to me and so I love the colours that begin to emerge at this time of year. They seem so vibrant and bright, even though I know that once the Summer sun arrives they will look somewhat muted in comparison to the kaleidoscope of colour that graces us during those hotter days.

Pick Daffodils to Bring Spring Colours into Your Home

So, naturally, I want to bring those colours indoors with me (as it is often still too cold to spend too much time outdoors!) Sometimes I do this with flowers, but you could just as easily do this by painting pictures, creating a collage with pictures from magazines, changing your bedding or even choosing clothes in bright, Springtime colours. If you do decide to get creative and make Springtime pictures, why not make it an opportunity to talk about which colours are your favourites and how they make you feel?

So there you have it, 5 easy ways of celebrating Spring this year. As I’ve said before, simple and achievable is everything to me right now in my parenting journey and so I hope that these are all things you can try out yourself and enjoy too.

Healing Journey - Steps Into The Soul

Solstice Musings

Today marks The Winter Solstice, the longest night of the year and the point at which the light begins to return to the world once more. This time last year I wrote a post called Solstice Reflections and reading back over it I am reminded of both major similarities and differences between this time last year and where I am today (it’s like a spiral dance).

spiral stone

Like last year, I have been very sick lately, pushing myself further and further until breaking point at the beginning of December. What is it about me and refusing to stop until something (usually my body) forces me to? But unlike last year, I am in a much better place both mentally and spiritually, if not necessarily physically.

I remember writing about how 2014 had been a year so tough that I felt like my soul had shattered into a thousand tiny pieces. Whilst that sounds horrendous, and it was in many ways, it was also a total blessing in disguise. It led me to choosing “Surrender” as my word for 2015 and surrender I have.

These past 12 months I lost my job, moved home, watched a loved one suffer greatly, found two new jobs, supported my husband in a new job as well, helped Little Man adjust to a new home and nursery, and begun to really find my feet with blogging again (two major highlights of which were reading this poem as part of the BritMums Live Bloggers’ Keynote and my recent post on the BritMums Blog about Endometriosis).

I could never have coped with all of these changes without first surrendering to the natural flow of life, which has taught me that no matter how dark things may seem, there is always a light at the end of the tunnel. For the first time in my life, I learnt to accept what is and go with the flow rather than fighting a losing battle. And it has been great.

Going with the flow - water

But I still have a long way to go – this journey is far from over! Whilst I have moved with the flow, this year has moved at such great speed (how can it be December already?!) that my heart, body and soul all need time to adjust. Physically I am beat, and despite my best efforts, pushing onwards regardless has left me very weak. Which leads me to only one conclusion – my focus for 2016 needs to be that of Healing.

If you follow me on instagram, you may have seen that recently I started reading a fascinating book called The Healing Power of The Sacred Woman by Christine Page. Within its pages I have discovered the need to really embrace that which fills me with joy, making time to express myself creatively rather than stifling that great spring of inspiration whilst putting everything and everyone else first. As the author states, it’s often those who are “too nice” who get ill… I feel very much like this is a message I needed to hear (from someone other than my mother – sorry, mum, I know you’ve been telling me this for a long time now!)

Whilst it feels totally against my nature to do so, I have decided it is crucial that I do it. Putting myself first doesn’t mean that I no longer care about others, but rather that I am beginning to understand that only through self nurture can I have the strength needed to truly nurture others (without burning myself out entirely).

So, how am I going to do that?

Do more of what makes you happy
The cover of the binder which currently holds my novel…

 

Well, my thinking is this – I need to take a serious amount of time “out” to focus on the healing power within me, which for me comes very much through the time and space to create and write. I am a writer, it’s what I do. My teachers knew it at school. My friends and family have known it for years. My blog readers have often commented on it, and so have colleagues from time to time. And when I think about it, I realise that I know it too and always have – writing brings me complete joy (regardless of the subject) and when I write I tap into a powerful force of nature, that flows through me, easing my soul.

Looking back over the year I can see that I have started to do this, sharing poems such as Yet Still We Stand and How Long Must We Wait this year, but would you believe there was a time, around 10 years ago, when I wrote something new almost every day? And that year I was happier and healthier than I think I have ever been!

So, for the next few months I want to focus specifically on this – finding time to write and be inspired by the world around me. There is a novel I wrote a first draft of in 2010 which I am longing to rework and expand, and there are opportunities to write stories and poems that reflect all that is happening in our lives. There is also Spirit Kid Network to begin building, a process which I hope to turn into a creative rather than business one. Already I know the way to release the blocks I created through trying to make it “fit” rather than allowing it to be what it is meant to be.

And in order to do this, I need to really make the time and space for it. In recent months I have chosen to sit in bed and read, rather than staying up late watching TV, but I still struggle for time. There are things I have to do – work, cook, clean, look after Little Man etc – but equally there are things I can cut back on. And social media is one of these things.

Finding the Gifts Within
Finding the Gifts Within

 

For years now I have been saying I need to step away, but it seems so much like “social suicide” to do so, especially as a blogger. But you know what, blogging began long before the likes of Facebook and Twitter, and I do think a break from those will do me good. I spend so much time scrolling through them, time which could be spent creating something or actually reading someone else’s blog posts and commenting on them! So that’s what I’m going to do – I’m going to focus on the reading and writing and less on the sharing and tweeting, at least for a while. I want to find the “gifts within”, rather than relying on the outside world to feed my soul!

I’ve decided I want to be as symbolic as possible with this – today is 21st December and the Winter Solstice, in 3 months’ time we’ll reach 21st March and the Spring Equinox, or first day of Spring. That feels like a beautiful metaphor for this journey I wish to take – a hibernation of sorts, through the dark winter months, turning inward to find the source of my spark ready to burst forth with life once the Spring appears.

Let the Healing begin 🙂

Healing Journey - Steps Into The Soul

Blackout Blind in Bedroom

Making a Rented House Feel Like Our Home

This past week I have finally found the time to sort through the many unpacked boxes (left from our move in the Spring!!) and our house is beginning to feel more like our home – just in time for Christmas. The biggest challenge, for me, has been personalising a rented house so that it works well for us as a family and reflects who we are. I think we’re finally getting there, and so I wanted to share it with you.

Our house is a typical period terrace (late Victorian/Edwardian I believe – I must ask my sister!) with two rooms downstairs plus a galley kitchen, then bedrooms and bathroom upstairs. We also have a third floor with another bedroom, which will become an office/guest room/play area/whatever we need it to be! So we have a fair bit of space to work with.

I’m not the most naturally tidy person (just ask my mum!) but I do like my house to have some kind of order, and so making the most of the space we have is really important to me. I find it a constant challenge to stop the spread of Little Man’s toys from taking over the entire house, but I can try and make sure other areas of our lives are kept in check…

Craft Supply Storage Idea

 

For instance, my craft supplies now live in the dining room – crochet yarn in baskets on the welsh dressed, papercraft in the cupboards beneath, and sewing supplies in a nearby cupboard with my jewellery making stuff on top. You don’t know how happy it makes me to know exactly where everything is for those rare moments I get to sit down and craft!

Dining Room

 

The dining room itself is often taken up by everyday household activities – clothes on the airer, piles of stuff on the table that need sorting, and bags dumped where they land when we come in cold and wet. It’s a transitional room and one which we are still working on, but sorting out the cupboards has really given me hope that one day we’ll get it right.

Kitchen Storage Solution

 

The kitchen is, again, a practical room which has been hard to personalise. But we are getting there. The fact that we have very limited storage space has actually been quite a blessing in disguise, as it has made us think rather than simply shoving things in cupboards. I love the hanging racks for our pots and pans, which would normally end up in the cupboard, and the plank of wood across the top of the fridge and freezer is the perfect spot for storing all our small kitchen appliances. It’s tidy and personal, in its own way.

Making The Tea Cupboard a Feature

But my favourite part of the kitchen has to be this little shelving unit that shows exactly what teas we have available at any time. Our friends all know just how many varieties we like to have, so it’s great to have them in easy reach and bringing a little bit of brightness to the wall, don’t you think?

Living Room Personalised Art

The final room downstairs is our living room. This is the place we spend the most time as a family, so it seems perfect to fill it with things that reflect us as a family. The painting on the wall was made by my friend Dawn as a wedding gift and takes pride of place (it’s the first thing you spot when entering the room). The silver frames on the adjoining wall have prints of each of the 8 pagan holidays in the Wheel of the Year…

Family Altar

We’ve also made a little “altar” in the alcove, one shelf for my and one shelf for TJ, to keep the things that we feel connected to at the present time. Little Man’s contribution to the room is, of course, his toys! It’s so nice to come home, flop on the sofa, and know this room is a real family space.

Romantic Rose Bedroom Theme

Upstairs things get even more personalised, without losing the practicality. Our bedroom is a really decent size, and we’ve managed to fill every space with storage of some kind. But we’ve also filled it with things that reflect our relationship… last year I chose a romantic rose theme for our bedroom and you can see that we’ve been slowly building on this idea with photos of loved ones dotted around and a feature rose on the wall. We’ve also opted for pink bedding, and a matching pink blackout blind.

Blackout Blind in Bedroom

A blackout blind is really important for us, as our neighbour tends to leave his kitchen light on all night long (how crazy is that?) and it shines out directly beneath our window. We chose this blind from Direct Blinds and it was so easy to fit as it comes ready cut to fit your window exactly and has a safety latch for the cord.

This is something I wish we’d had when we got Little Man’s blackout blind a couple of years ago, because my worries over him getting tangled in the cord made me snip it, which wasn’t the most practical thing to do!

Personalising a Small Bedroom

Little Man’s room is the epitome of making the most of space, as it is far smaller than his room in our old house. We’ve added a bookcase to his room to store the hundreds of books he already has, and opted for a chest of drawers rather than a wardrobe to avoid the feeling of crowding in such a small room. Like us, he has photos in his room and we plan to add many more as he loves looking at them and telling us who they are and what memories they show.

And that’s about it, for now. I still have to sort out the top floor, but once that is done we’ll be ready to decorate for Christmas. Isn’t it lovely to have a warm and cosy home to return to at the end of a winter’s day?

Thanks for virtually visiting our home, I’d love to know what you think. It would also be fun to hear about what you’ve done in your home to make it reflect who you are!

************

Disclaimer: The pink blackout blind was provided by Direct Blinds in return for this post. However the style and content of the post are my own. I would happily recommend Direct Blinds, having used their service and being pleasantly surprised by the vast range of options, ease of selecting a made-to-measure blind and the speed with which it was delivered!

Pink Rose

Celebrating 5 Years and Looking Ahead

This time last week, TJ and I were in Glastonbury, celebrating 5 years of marriage. We hadn’t had a holiday since the last time we visited in 2012, and we never had a honeymoon, so this felt like a really special moment…

New Wedding Rings

We decided to create a little ceremony to mark the occasion and give each other new rings, as I had lost mine during my pregnancy (I had to take it off as I started reacting to the metal and it just disappeared). We originally planned on getting wooden rings, to celebrate our 5th year of marriage, but then we found these hematite rings a few months back and decided they were a good alternative.

It was such a wonderful opportunity, to get back to Glastonbury (one of my favourite places on earth), meet up with a dear old friend (who I managed to forget to take a photo of!) and hold a sweet little ceremony in the Chalice Well Gardens, the exact same place we held Little Man’s blessing ceremony 3 years ago. This time, however, he was very much an active participant in the ceremony…

Family Ceremony

I wrote the ceremony for us the morning of our anniversary, and purposefully included Little Man into it. We recognised how much has changed in the past five years, celebrated the growth of our love and how Little Man arrived into our lives, and shared our dreams for the coming 5 years. I used to feel so self-conscious and uncomfortable with ritual, but I am beginning to really love marking moments in our lives in this way.

Lighting Little Man’s candle with the flames from both of ours and then inviting him to join us in lighting a “unity” or “family” candle was so beautiful and really helped him feel involved with the entire thing, as he chose the colours for each of our candles that morning. It gave us a way to include him in what we were doing and express his own ideas into it, which we all loved.

Candle Lighting Ceremony

Which brings me to how we’re looking ahead to the next five years…

When I knew we were actually able to get to Glastonbury this year, I knew how important it would be for me symbolically to use the break as a chance to return to my roots, let go of the pain , sadness and anger of the past few years, and begin to really focus on moving forward in my life. This past year has been a crazy one, to say the least, and I have learnt a whole lot about myself and the changes I still need to make. One of these changes has been taking more time for myself and not filling it with needless activity but rather being present in the moment.

One such moment brought an idea into my head that has not let go since. More than an idea, in fact, it was a calling from my soul to fully embrace a part of myself that I have hidden from the world for many years, only letting glimpses of it show, in the hope of preserving something that can feel very fragile and intimate. I’m talking about my faith, or rather my interest in spirituality…

I have sometimes spoken about it here at The Patch, but it has always been in a guarded way. I had thought this was simply because it didn’t fit (and that is a part of it) but the reality is that I have closed my whole mind and heart off from the thing that brings me the most comfort and joy. Through fear of being seen as a multitude of negative words such as “deluded”, “dogmatic” or “naive”, I have actually prevented myself from enjoying all the positives such as “inspiration”, “peace”, and “exploration”. This is not only affecting me, but also affecting my ability to raise Little Man to know his own mind, follow his own heart, and carve his own path in life.

Pink Rose

More than anything, I want Little Man to grow up to know his own mind (and heart) and choose a path that reflects what he feels inside. I want him to be confident in this, secure enough to live in his own way whilst respecting the ways of others. And I am beginning to realise that I cannot do this without first living this way myself.

So it is beyond exciting to me that I am suddenly inspired to start something new, something that reflects the things I love most with the skills I have to create something that I hope will begin a lifelong journey of learning, friendship and community.

Spirit Kid Network

Spirit Kid Network is a brand new blog and community for people like us, looking to raise “spiritual kids” who are confident and excited about exploring life and finding their own paths. TJ and I are working, whenever we can, to get everything ready for going live, but you can get a sneak peek at the new site by visiting www.spiritkidnetwork.com

You can also pre-register your blog or business with the site, or join us on Facebook and Twitter. We’d love to see some of you there. And if you like what you see and fancy getting involved (by providing blog content, helping out on social media, or working with us in other ways) do get in touch. We want this to be far more than just us – we want it to be open to all.

And don’t worry if spirituality isn’t your thing… I’ll still be posting about our day-to-day lives here at The Patch, this isn’t a replacement for my online home here, rather an addition to it. And as Christmas is fast approaching, you can be sure there will be some posts coming up about how we’re preparing to celebrate on a budget!

 

Construction Site Cake

A Construction Site Birthday Party (Somebody Turned Four)

This weekend, Little Man turned four. In many ways it is impossible for me to believe that four years have flown by so fast since we first met him. But it seems even more surprising that he has only been with us for four years – he is such an integral part of our lives that I cannot quite believe there was a time when he wasn’t with us!

Birthday Boy

He is an absolute joy, and I feel blessed every day that we get to be his parents. It isn’t always easy (in fact it is often very challenging and exhausting beyond measure), but there is joy in every single day with him. He is so kind, considerate and inquisitive, and his enthusiasm for exploring the world around him is so infectious that I find myself marvelling in the wonder of things I would normally have found so mundane. Such is the pleasure of having a young child.

Take, for instance, his birthday party… when I asked him a few months back what he wanted for his birthday, he thought for a moment before requesting a construction site party. He has continued to tell me this over the past few weeks and became more and more excited as the big day came ever closer. This is the first year he has really understood what birthdays were about, and it is so exciting to enjoy this with him. So, of course, we were more than happy to oblige and make his wish come true.

Construction Site Cake

We had just a few friends over, and kept it reasonably simple (I do not have the time nor energy for planning anything fancy!) but it was actually quite a nice theme to do this with. Empty boxes became building blocks for towers, kitchen roll tubes taped to smaller boxes became makeshift hammers, and packaging paper screwed up into balls became boulders. Add in the mega blocks, some toy construction vehicles, hi vis vests (which, incidentally make a nice gift for the party-goers to take home with them) and a few construction site signs found on Pinterest and you’re pretty much set to go!

Traffic light jellies

My mum helped by making traffic light jellies (how awesome were they?) and I decorated the cake (shop bought cake and frosting for total ease) in a simple but pretty effective design and the rest was simple party food to feed the “busy builders”. Talking of which, we had “busy builder” lunchboxes (plastic tubs from Poundland, decorated using Sharpies) instead of the traditional loot bags, which were really quite fun to make.

Busy Builder Lunchboxes

All in all I think we pulled off the theme and it made me even more excited for all the years to come when we can get even more into his chosen theme with party games and much more. But right now we need to sleep… four year old birthday parties may be fun, but they sure are exhausting!

Birthday Evening