Sunday, 21 December 2014

Christmas is coming!

I messaged my sister in law last night to see how she was getting on with her wee ones in the run up to Christmas.  She has a brand new baby boy and it's been a really busy time - I think she must be some kind of superwoman for getting everything together for Christmas and also looking after two kids aged two and under.  I remember quite well what it was like for us a few years ago - and Ethan's birthday was in October, which meant I had phenomenally more time to get my shit together (and I sincerely did not)!

This year I feel really overwhelmed - due to losing approximately 9 weeks of my life to morning sickness and the wonderful early stages of pregnancy, I feel like I woke up about a week ago to a nightmare-ish scenario of loads to do, lots to sort out and virtually no time left at all to do it.

Panic stations!

Ho Ho Ho!
Hence there has been a lot of panicked buying, planning and hasty wrapping going on. I feel like we have missed so much this year - usually I do all sorts of crafts and fun stuff with the kids, but this year we just haven't had the energy nor the time.  Still, we have done the fundamentals; we took the kids to see Santa at our usual venue and we still went to the cinema to see our annual festive film (which this year was Paddington - very nice indeed) which I think I enjoy more than anything.  I love making memories.

The boys popped into my workplace last-minute with Dave to make some lovely crafts with some other families, who all had an amazing time making snowmen out of cotton wool, glittery decorations and playing in the 'snow' foam tray with polar bear figurines.  It was so nice to let them be glittery and gluey and foamy without having to worry about house destruction!

In my panic about whether we have enough sellotape, or if I have forgotten anyone on my card list, I try to remember the stuff we have done.  The boys have been hyped since November - Christmas has been absolutely everywhere.  Our tree has been up since the first of December.  Tom has written his cards for his classmates.



Yes, there are things we would like to be able to do but there is also the fact that the kids don't care!

And I don't mean that they don't care about doing all of the things that make Christmas for us, but what I do mean is that they don't want to hit that saturation point.

None of us do.  There is stuff absolutely everywhere.  Where we live, we could visit a different Santa every day of the week for a month.  We could attend every single Christmas showing, Christmas panto, visit all of the Christmas shops, spend days and days watching a plethora of Christmas films, tv specials and documentaries.  The shops are stuffed to the gunnels with jumpers, antler headbands, santa hats and (of all things) Christmas leggings.  It's crazy.

Yet, I have been constantly reminded this year that it really is the little things.

It's spending time all together instead of stressing out at the shops.

It's watching The Snowman before bedtime.

It's reading Christmas books borrowed from the library.

It's getting excited at a Christmas card through the door.

It's dipping your cookies in your milk because 'That's what Santa does!'

It's dressing up like Santa, beard and hat included, because you are 4 years old and you idolise Santa.


In our wee catch up, my sister in law rounded off with this sentiment, which is something I have found to be very true: 'Christmas with kids is the best!'

You know what?  When you forget about the other rubbish, the magic of the season, especially in the company of little people who are very excited and loving the participation, really is the best.

These guys are really my reason for the season.
Ethan loves to dress as Santa - 'I HAVE to wear my red coat, mummy!'





Friday, 19 December 2014

Gremlins...

It's been a while.

I never meant to stay away for so long, but hey, life is never straightforward and is always happy to throw me a few curveballs.

First of all, Dave was working in a crazy-demanding job which saw our routine with work and kids and childcare and house stuff go completely to pot.  There were simply not enough hours in the day to complete everything.  Needless to say, any spare time was spent catching up with stuff we didn't have time for; piles of washing, dishes, school notes, appointments...life was crazy.

Thankfully he has a new job now and so far  (touch wood), it seems to be a much smoother ride.

There's a lot to be said for work/life balance.

While this was going on, we are also house hunting.  We are hoping to buy our first house in the very near future, so I have been trying to use free minutes perusing house-buying sites, hoping to stumble upon something cheap and cheerful.  Needless to say, it's a terrible time of year for it!

While scouring various domains, my poor wee laptop managed to pick up a few Malware gremlins.  It took a long time to get rid of them - in fact I am still sorting stuff out after having to restore my computer back a few months...grumble.

Add on to this the other pressing gremlin we discovered one day a wee while ago...

They always look very odd in the first photo - although, look!  Tiny wee hand!

Yes, check it out!  Turns out there's a wee guy/gal hiding out inside of me!

I have been feeling horrendous these last couple of months - hence the lack of blog - but I have to say, I am feeling a lot better now, even more so after going to the hospital and actually seeing a real-life baby on the screen! Paranoid-me likes to imagine I was imagining it.

So, I missed a couple of things; my 30th birthday wasn't quite as intense as I'd planned, but the way I was feeling, that was okay by me!  I had a really great meal with my family and had some really lovely gifts given and even delivered!  I certainly feel very loved indeed.

I've had a great time keeping this a secret from real life people too.  Some I told, knowing I'd need support as I felt so rubbish.  Some I told accidentally.  But others, as I have discovered this week when I told them, already knew.  Apparently the bump which I didn't think I had much of gave me away. Ha!

I am going to be huge.

But hey - it's (most definitely) the last time I am going to be doing this and I am determined to enjoy every last second of it.  Pregnancy hasn't been a positive experience for me, but now I am that bit older and wiser, I seem to have a different attitude towards it.  Things are so very different from when we had the boys, it's kind of nice to just not worry quite so much.

We told the boys on the day we got the scan - they were both ecstatic.  Tom really wants a sister.  And you know, sod's law, Ethan really wants a brother. One is going to be sorely disappointed!

So, yeah!

Bear with me - I might not be around so much in the next couple of weeks (although the sickness is fading and I'm getting some of my energy back - hurrah!) but I shall do my very best!



Monday, 3 November 2014

Poppies




Every year I wear a poppy.  I make a point of buying a new one most times I see a box. I feel like I owe it to past generations to wear one; they sacrificed a lot for our freedom.

As with most things, it was a habit passed on to me from childhood.  A big deal was made in our house about making sure that we wore a poppy.  That we observed the silence on Remembrance Sunday, and it was with solemnity and silence that we thought about the strong family ties that linked us with some of the greatest tragedies of human time.

When I was a wee girl, my Grandad spent ages teaching me how to march like a soldier.  In the long summer days in the garden, after he'd spent the afternoon cutting the huge hedges or cutting the grass to perfection, then he'd sit in a white fold down chair beside the summer house on the yellow and pink patio, smoke a horrible-smelling cigarette and have a cup of tea, and teach my restless, childish mind about things from his own past.

It always baffled and frustrated me as a teenager, and even as a young adult that we never knew more about what my Grandad did in the war.  He bore the scars so obviously physically (he had a glass eye and had been through major plastic surgery on his face and body) and later on, sadly, mentally, yet we never really heard what happened.

We agonised as a family over his own personal torture; what had he done?  What had he seen?

It was just never spoken about, out of respect more than anything.  And that was alright.

It's only now, now that I am that bit older and wiser, and now that I have children of my own, that I look back to my own childhood and the little detailed nuances of warm summer afternoons spent with my Grandad that I realise that he told me more than I understood.

As I stood in my shorts, face muddied after digging holes for plants, t-shirt stained green with grass and dirt, a smile on my face, waiting to be 'entertained', I was just a wee lassie spending time with her Grandad.

Clasping my bamboo cane 'gun' to my chest, he'd give me orders, showing me how to properly carry a gun while marching, how to do a proper 'about turn' and how fast the pace should be.

There's something quite bitter-sweet about that image; an old war veteran, showing his grand-daughter moves from a war which almost claimed his life.  And if his life had been claimed, I wouldn't be here today either.

He'd teach me how to make signals and signs with stones and twigs; secret signals to those who knew the code.  We'd spend hours making them for each other on the garden path, and without even thinking, I turned it into a game with my friends, which we played over and over again.

He taught me how to camouflage my face with fresh-pulled grass, how to conceal myself with cut-down branches when we lopped the tree branched together and how to wash my hands with leaves.  He showed me which berries we could eat and how to use dock leaves after a nettle sting, and how to whistle with blades of grass.

He taught me how to use old rope and carpet and whatever I could get my hands on to build a hide-out at the side of the garage.  He showed me how to stay silent when playing hide and seek with my sister, and how to avoid being caught out by shadows.

My Grandad never told me stories of his wartime buddies, nor did he boast about anything he had accomplished.  His silent victory was in his survival, and the rebuilding of his life and getting to share it with his children, and his children's children.

Every year however, the same silent ritual.  The same respectful moments; dropping pennies into every collection tin we passed on the street or in the supermarkets, pinning our red poppies to jumpers, jackets, scarves, t-shirts.  Falling silent on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month with more solemnity than our young years should have been able to muster. And afterwards, sticking our poppies in drawers with great reverence, heads bowed, ready for next year.

War was never really spoken about in our house, but it was still a relevant thing.

Of course, we learned about it at school, we talked about it with friends and we looked at pictures in books from the library.  We learned about injustice and hard times and what those we knew and loved had had to do to survive.  We learned about rations and the suffering of those at home and the many, many people who never returned from trying to fight evil and make the world a better place.

It was so black and white to us; there was never any doubt that by wearing a poppy and dutifully remembering those behind us who sacrificed so much, that we were doing so out of respect and love.

When my Grandad died, the ritual carried on, except with even more reverence.

Now I truly had to remember my departed and dearly beloved as he was in life, and as a man who bore so much pain for his whole life in order to ensure our freedom today.  Now when I fell silent, I remembered him and him alone, and I felt even more sure that yes, he had returned from a war so vicious, but it had also claimed a huge part of him that had never come home.

He's been dead for ten years now, and I miss him every day.  I have amazing memories of him and the time we spent together, and I am so very grateful for that.  In that time, I have grown.  I've come out of the awkward teenage years, I've started a family and become involved and interested in politics.  I have read my way around the war - researched where he was posted, read about the battles which he may or may not have fought in and tried to make sense of the part of his life which he never divulged.  I've looked into history books, read about the holocaust, the home front and the man who treated him in hospital, where my Grandad was one of the first to receive pioneering plastic surgery.

I've learned and now understand so much.

And as I have grown, I have made a point of getting my red poppy, every single year.

Times have changed and now a war like the one my Grandad and his friends faced, are thankfully far past most people's lifetimes.

Now they relive this through their parents and grand-parents, and with this kind of distance comes a special kind of forgetting which is neither our fault nor our fancy.

Many of us are desperate to change the world.  Life and politics move so quickly nowadays, with the advent of media and technology. We can often hear of news on the other side of the world via our Twitter accounts before it hits the six o' clock news.

With technology, war now seems further away than ever.  We have been at war as a country for a huge amount of time now - we have had troops in places like Iraq and Afghanistan for years, fighting for things we have been told by governments we need to protect.

Oil.
Investments.
Ourselves from 'terrorists'.

We send troops to foreign countries to get maimed, killed and injured.  We bring them home and make a half-assed job of 'rehabilitating' them.  We press buttons to kill faceless people we don't know in the name of fighting terrorism and protecting the world.

Just recently, we, Britain, started yet another 'campaign' in Iraq.  More war without consultation.

I wonder what my Grandad would make of it.

I used to buy my poppy every year.  Every year I'd make a massive point of pinning it to my chest.  I did to honour what my Grandad and his generation had been through. To remember the sacrifice that they had all made; the lives lost, the children gone, never to return, the rupture of a whole lifetime for the whole world.  A lesson hopefully never to be repeated.

I did it out of respect for the man I loved, for his experience and his health and his life.  To show thankfulness for his life.

For the first time I am considering not just donning my usual red poppy, but instead wearing a white one alongside it.

This year, more than ever I am aware of what is going on in the world, and I just don't know if I would feel right this year wearing just a red poppy on my lapel.

A white poppy signifies hope for peace. A hope that no more blood be spilled.

I will still drop a pound in the poppy box when I can.
I will still bow my head in remembrance.
I will still hold my silence.
I will still be thankful.

But this year I think I have realised that war never ends.  The justification for the current wars are just not enough. Men, women and children around the world are suffering every day. We still need to support those who fight, but we need to show that it's not enough.

This year, I need hope. I will be seeking out one of each.  Red for remembrance and to support those who have suffered through war.  And white for hope.

Everyone needs hope.










Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Teaching fairness to the kids, and expecting some ourselves: RBS, Hello, Goodbye

Teaching loyalty and fairness to my kids is something which (I hope) comes across as an everyday event in our house.

Having two boys so close in age, it's an ongoing task to teach them to be kind and courteous to each other.

 Sharing is a huge deal too - my boys are always having to learn how to share and how to treat each other fairly (or try to).

Being so close in age (just 2 years between them) they have had to learn to share a lot.  My eldest son has felt the brunt of this - he learned very quickly what it meant to be a big brother, and I'm very proud of him; he very often defaults to his younger sibling automatically for most things.  Ethan on the other hand can be a little more reluctant to show fairness.  He is the bitter to Thomas's sweet a lot of the time, and it's an ongoing task to make sure that Ethan learns how to show fairness to his brother.

I'm happy to report that, in the main, I receive a lot of lovely compliments about how polite my boys are, which is something I am very proud of; if nothing else, I wish for them to have good manners.

They are in no way perfect though - we've definitely had our moments!

What do we do?  We do our best.  That's all anyone can ask.  We try.  We're not perfect, but we do try!

1. Be the best role model.


Being kind to animals!

Children model your behaviour.  Like wee sponges, they soak up your social cues like nobody's business.  If you listen while others talk, they'll listen while others talk.  If you always say please and thank you, they will also insist on doing it.  You are the best role model for your child - never forget how heavily they monitor the little things you do.


2. Teaching Empathy

I have always worked in customer service, so more often than not, I'm either trying my damndest to provide a great service for some people,or hoping to receive the same courtesy.

Transferring this into my personal life, I always try to treat others the way I would like to be treated.  I try to teach the kids this too - so when they are squabbling over something and they hurt each others feelings (a daily event!) I always say to them 'how would you feel?'

Giving them this wee moment to consider how each other would feel if in each other's shoes usually hits home for them.

3. Books and Storytelling

Book reading is fun too!
Books are a brilliant way to get a message across - they cover almost anything that you wish to teach your child, making it easier to discuss topics which may otherwise pose a problem, without being too daunting for a wee one.

One of my favourites is this one by Mo Willems:


It really makes me and the kids giggle, as well as showing them a wee bit about fairness and loyalty, without being at all heavy.

4. Board Games


Playing games teaches fairness
This one is a bit harder to do with young children, but this is definitely one of the great tools of teaching.  Not just focusing on chance and luck, games teach about taking turns, playing by the rules and doing your best.
Our boys love a board game, and I like to encourage this.  It fosters a sense of competition while allowing them to see losing and accepting failure (not always graciously - but then I know some adults who have a huge problem with this!)

Loyalty and fairness is a difficult concept to grasp!

RBS have launched a new campaign which deals with fairness and equality,making the point that it shouldn't just be new customers who benefit from great deals.  Which is so true!  Having been a loyal member of some schemes int he past,I'm always a bit miffed when deals and awesome giveaways pop up 'for new customers only, as seen in this video:



How many times have you been wooed by fancy gifts and polite conversation, only to be pretty much shoved out of the door when you happen to mention that you've already been a happy customer?

It's even happened to me in the street!

I completely agree that companies should work hard to keep their customers happy and to reward those who have been loyal.

That only makes sense to me.

RBS are saying 'Hello' to great offers for existing customers, and saying 'Goodbye' to a lot of the things that banks are otherwise notorious for - like extra overdraft charges on missed payments and only new customers getting the best rates.  Check it out for yourself here.

We spend a lot of time teaching our children the meaning of fairness and equality.  It's time we expected a bit back.

It's great to see RBS rewarding existing customers as well as new ones!


Disclosure: I'm working with Britmums and RBS on theis project and have been compensated. All opinions are my own.




Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Safety Nets


It's that time of the month again.

Over a week until pay day and we are wondering what in the heck we are going to do.  We will manage.  We will cope.

But it all comes with a lot of jumping through hoops and a lot of thinking outside of the box.

At this moment in time I am considering my options; I'm mentally going through everything in my head - what we need to have and how much money we will need in order to get to the finish line.  What we have to sell which might be able to tide us over.

Our safety nets.

We've been going through our safety nets a lot quicker recently.  It used to be that they were a last resort - we had too much, so we set things aside and never even thought about them.  Never even thought of them as saleable items, never even realised that we would be using them as resources.

Now I tally them mentally every month when yet another crises arises, when yet another bill rears it's ugly head.

Things are very tight, there's no doubt about it, but we are very good at strategising, very good at working out what we can live without.

We are lucky to have safety nets like this.  Not everyone does.

A lot of people get uncomfortable when they talk about money, about finances, about not having enough of it or having too much of it.  Nobody likes to discuss their own personal situation, unless it's in hindsight or with a close personal friend.

Money is life's great equalizer, the great judge who deems whether we eat or heat, the one who separates the have from the have nots and divides and rules.

Our dealings with it, be it the debt we owe or the millions we have stashed away are whispered, like a huge dirty secret.

It's a strange old thing.

The concept gets weirder, the more you think about it.

Why do I document this?  Why do I write this down? Surely I should be quiet and get on with it like everyone else?

For the future, I suppose.  So we can record what it is like now and hope that one day we will look back at it and know that we got through it.  To laugh at the crazy things we got up to later on.  To hopefully remind myself in the future to build more safety nets.

And to teach my children that they can build them too.  And to be grateful for each and every one.



Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Four

Today, my baby boy is Four Years Old.



Four!

How did that happen?!

I'm looking forward to Four, but I'm going to miss Three.

Three was...

Discovering Mickey Mouse

Getting grommets and finally being able to hear properly

Starting to listen properly to books at story time

Being a 'prown up!'

First rollercoaster ride (and loving it)

Singing songs

Discovering 'Let's get ready to Rhumble' and listening to it over and over

'Everybody wants to be a cat'

Jake and The Neverland Pirates

'I'm not wittle, I'm a big boy!'

Having a 'big' seatbelt in the car

Eating fruit and veg sneakily, anywhere else but at home...

Imaginative play

Susan the ladybird

Watching movies with the family

Toilet training (at last) and doing it in one go after months of treating the toilet like it was a volcano

Donald Junior

I'm excited for Four, but there's definitely something bitter-sweet about it.  This year will mean my baby will finally no longer be a baby.

All part of the adventure!




Monday, 20 October 2014

Party Day: The Two Birthdays in Two Weeks Quandry

Our boys have their birthdays within two weeks of each other, which has always been a bit of a headache for us.

Two little monkeys

The first year, we had two very expensive celebrations, feeding our huge family twice with a lot of food to honour both our then three year old and one year old.

The second year, we had learned from the year before.  The month was already expensive enough with two birthdays, why not have just one celebration?

We hired the local hall, complete with bouncy castle, musical statues and pass the parcel, and decided to host it here for everyone - we also invited some of the boys' friends from nursery!  Bonus!  We held it between the two birthdays, sure that this was the obvious, perfect solution.  There would be food for both adults and children. Perfect!

Wrong!

We hugely underestimated how excited both children would be for their birthdays, and also how excited everyone else was for them (which of course is very lovely).

We ended up with not just one celebration, not two, but three whole celebrations, complete with three cakes and snacks across three days.  It was crazy - and much more expensive than the previous year.  But, no matter, by all accounts we were still experimenting.  And also, there's nothing wrong with eating party food for a whole month (I quite enjoyed the extra cake, crisps and chocolate that happened to be lying around - who wouldn't?!)

The kids had had a blast, and we had really enjoyed seeing everyone so frequently and were really grateful that they had made the time and the effort for the kids, but we also felt guilty about asking folk to make such time and effort so close together.  Our family, although large, is not especially social and doesn't spend a lot of time together naturally, plus, you know, the usual busy with life stuff.

Dave: "How can we make it so that we have one efficient birthday celebration? Hmm?"

Me: "Disneyland!"

That's right.  I'm crazy!

We went from the sublime to the ridiculous last year when I suggested, researched, booked and executed an elaborate surprise trip to Disneyland Paris for the kids' birthdays.




But, I surmised, it combined the elements of holiday and birthday celebration perfectly, and, oddly, was quite cheap (I got an amazing deal in the January sale).  We booked up for 4 nights, children were free and we got a free food package.  It was brilliant.  And what's more, our best buddies decided to come along too and join in the birthday celebrations! Amazing!

We had such a great time - it was truly magical.  I won't go into the whole holiday (that's a completely different blog post), but we were all completely blown away.

Due to school holidays and pricing, we ended up going away the first week in October.

We ended up in the Mickey Mouse cafe on Tom's 5th birthday, complete with cake and singing and finished the night with fireworks at the castle.  As we were walking back to our hotel, Ethan in the buggy, Tom on the buggy board, Tom whispered to us 'I can't wait until I have kids so I can tell them how great this has been.'

Deal, done - best time ever.

We had tried to make it about both kids - we packed presents for both, gave them both as equal a share in cake celebrations as we could, but there was no escaping the fact that Tom definitely had the best birthday out of the two.  We had a small pirate party for Ethan at home when we got back, and Tom got in on this too: because we hadn't been at home on his actual birthday, everyone was really keen to see him and give him gifts too, which was great.

But it was tough to make it equal.

Delight!


This year, they are that bit older, that bit wiser to birthdays and what they entail.

Poor Ethan is still a bit young.  At very nearly 4 years old, he is very excited, very much into it all and really clued up on parties, cake and presents.

Having Tom's birhday first has really confused him though.

First, he got a few really cool presents on Tom's birthday from some relatives, which meant he felt included and he was really excited about that.

Next, they both asked for a party for them and their friends, which we held yesterday at a local hall. We decided, to be fair, to hold it in the middle of the school holidays and in the middle of their birthdays.

It was chaos.  Nearly 30 children in a hall with a bouncy castle and lots of bikes.  We spent a lot of time making Pinterest-inspired food, sourcing cheap tablecloths and stressing out about invitations.

Ethan's birthday is tomorrow, but his dad is working overnight tonight and then until late on tomorrow, so instead of missing it all, we have decided to have Ethan's birthday today, so we can celebrate together.

Much more chaos has ensued.  Instead of having one birthday and a party between them, they have both ended up with one party, a gathering of family on each birthday day and Ethan is technically having two birthdays, plus celebrated on Thomas's and got loads of lovely presents from his party yesterday. Both boys have been absolutely saturated!  But what the hey - you're only wee once!

Yeesh!

Next year it is Ethan's 5th birthday and we plan to go away for it - I'll be searching for a deal in January, but blooming heck! Who knows if we'll ever come up with a solution for the birthday problem!

When they are older it will be easier to explain, but at the moment it's really nice that everyone is so keen to celebrate our little boys.  We are so lucky and really grateful.

A huge thanks goes out to everyone who has celebrated with us.





Tuesday, 7 October 2014

Six

Six years old.


Five Years was...

Skylanders.
Lego.
School.
Mummy, I'm finished, but I'm still hungry!
Kickboxing.
Cake.
Apples.
Arguing with my brother.
Crying with happiness at the end of films.
Scared of the dark (but only a little bit).
Getting to like the cinema.
Theatre trips.
Blackpool Pleasure Beach.
Rollercoaster Loving.
Friends.
Computer Games.
Cuddly Toys.
Good at making friends.
Made myself like bananas and peppers!
Fish and Chips.
Learning to ride my bike.
Being an amazing reader for my age.
Awesome school reports.
Sometimes not listening...
...but a first clear hearing test!
First wobbly tooth.
Barber visits.
Long walks.
Visiting the zoo.
Secret late nights on the couch with Mum and Dad.
Making toast!
Getting my own breakfast.
EvanTube
ThomasTube!
Planning a career in video games making.
Playing the Yes game!

Properly counting the sleeps until my birthday...

Happy 6th Birthday Thomas!


Monday, 6 October 2014

I tried it, and I liked it #1

Skulduggery Pleasant, The Dying Of The Light

So, the main character is a guy who is dead and is a skeleton. And a detective.  That's grounds enough for an epic story, right?

My first experience of Derek Landy's epic series, combining horror, fantasy, comedy and intrigue was in the library.  Of course.
I work in a children's library, and as such, I get to spend a lot of time talking to kids of all ages about what they read.

So here she is, the young lady in the green jacket.  She approaches me nervously as she hands back her book.  As I scan it back into the system, she stutters, 'Do you have the next one in the series?'
She's not nervous because she has to ask me for a book, she's nervous because she really  really needs the next one  right now and she is worried that I am going to say that I don't have it for her.

And I don't!

I search high and low and in the secondary stock and even in the Teenage library, but it's not there. These things happen in a children's library - it's a hazard of the job.

 I break the news to her gently, and then I tell her we can order a copy in for her, but it might take a week.  She's not too disappointed.  Instead she grins and nods her head enthusiastically, just glad that she can get it at all.  Curious, I ask her about the book, while I apologise profusely for the missing copy, and she's eager to tell me all about it, telling me that actually, she's glad she has to wait a bit, because she needs a break, just to absorb it all.

'Wow!  Is it that good?' I laugh.

'Yeah, it's really awesome.  It's just so thrilling and I really love the characters - the writing is really unpredictable and it's not done in a formulaic kind of way, so it's really different.  You can never tell what's going to happen.'

I make a mental note to look out the first of the series.

Just as she leaves, and I put the book she just returned on the book trolley, a young lad comes in, he's maybe about 10 years old.  He looks awkwardly at the book on my trolley.  I smile and say,

'You okay, dude?'

He points at the book and says nervously, 'Is that...is that for anyone?'

'Err...' I look at the hope on his wee face and smile.  This is why I love books.  They are magic.  

'Just you, mate', I say, handing him the book.  He looks at the cover and then I ask if he wants to take it home.  He nods and I beep it out for him.  He's happy.  I'm happy I've made him happy, job done.

I was sent a copy of the last Skulduggery Pleasant book in order to review it, but I think that these two experiences do all of the talking for it.  Landy's writing is fast-paced, energised and exciting - to all ages. The characters are a work of art, all relatable and, the beauty of it is, none of them safe from Landy's plans, no matter how awful they may seem.  Nobody is immune from being killed off or sidelined, and the plot is twisted and fun.

I'm sad to see the end of the series, like may Skulduggery fans will be, but like many, glad there has been a conclusion.  And a very thrilling conclusion at that!

Available in Hardback in all good book shops!  If you are looking for a gift for a pre-teen for Christmas, this is the one!


RAVPower Mini Lipstick Charger


I hate my phone.  For some reason, it's never got any battery on it and it never has quite enough when I need to do important things like take photographs for work, or upload stuff to my G+ account (all very important for a blogger!)

I have to mention that since I dropped it, it's kind of lost its appeal to me too  It's not quite the same trying to scroll down a broken screen.  The cracks catch on my finger and well, it just makes me sad.  And I still have another year on my contract! Poop!

I can't fix my screen without forking out a lot of money, but I can sort out the battery issue.

I was sent the RAVPower Luster Mini Lipstick charger to try out, and I have to say, it's been great.

Doubling up as a torch too, it charges from my computer via USB port, and then the wire simply flips around to connect from the charger to my phone.

It takes up no more space in my bag than a lipstick case, is a sleek design and comes with a small price tag of just £10.99 too.  A fab piece of kit.  No more blogger emergencies!  It also ensures my phone is charged when I'm out all day - very important as a parent!

You can buy it from Amazon.  And it's compatible with:
 
iPhone 6, 5S, 5C, 5, 4S, 4, iPod (Lightning Cable not Provided); Samsung Galaxy S5, S4, S3, S2, Note 2; Nexus 5, Nexus 4, HTC Sensation, One X V One X V S, EVO 4G, Thunderbolt; Nokia Lumia 1020, 920 900 N9; Motorola Razr; LG Google Nexus 4 and other Android & Apple Device, Smart Phones and Tablets!

Phew!


Vimto Squeezy


We spend a lot of time out of the house at the moment and a lot of time in the car.  Nobody ever told me how crazy it could be, running between all the kids diffeent groups and classes, not to mention my own day to day stuff.

I need sustenance!

It's very important to stay hydrated when busy, and water can get boring.  I was sent some cool new wee bottles to try to jazz up my water. Vimto now comes in tiny little bottles, ready to turn water into tasty goodness with just a few drops.  What's more, the bottles are handy for slipping into a bag or even coat pocket, providing a wee treat for when you are rushed off your feet.  They come in three fab flavours too, original, cherry and strawberry, enhancing your water with as little or as much flavour as you like!

And you know what? No Added Sugar! Win!


Sunday, 5 October 2014

Happy Birthday, Charlie Brown

I have a slight Snoopy obsession.



It's not something I have been vociferous about since I entered adulthood, but yes, I am a huge Peanuts fan.

This week, Charlie Brown celebrated his 64th Birthday!

Wowee!

I didn't really fathom this however, until I was perusing my various social media accounts and stumbled across the AMA section on Reddit, where none other than Jean Schultz herself was answering questions about Peanuts and the whole franchise, including details on the new Snoopy Movie which is to be released next year.

What a lady!  I had goosebumps as she described her husband's drawing routines, his views on copyright and also his health issues, of which I had no real idea.


The reason I love Peanuts is because it encompasses humanity.  It corners those feelings that all people have on relationships, the ironies of everyday life and its nuances and also the breadth of emotion felt at such a basic, but very complex level.  The protagonists are children, and I really do think that not only do they link in with our inner children, but help us to simplify our feelings on a basic level, which is sometimes is all anyone needs.

Plus, it's pure joy.

Old Sparky left us with a lot of that.

Thank you, Charles Schultz.

In honour of Charlie Brown's big day, here are some of my favourite Peanuts quotes!










Enjoy!