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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

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 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