The Importance Of Writing Love Notes To Children

I’ve been thinking a lot about a dying-out medium, that of letter writing, and specifically, writing love notes to children.

My mom and I had what I remember as a difficult relationship during my teen years. Not an uncommon story, I know, but still something that impacts into your adult life.

A few years ago, my mom’s cancer took a terminal turn a few weeks before Christmas. On Christmas eve, the UK was deluged in rain and our garage flooded, along with many parts of the country and some of our neighbour’s homes. On Boxing day, my mother died, and all flood debris was ignored until a few weeks later.

I was going through a trunk full of old photos, cards, letters, and other things I had at one point deemed important enough to keep, when I came across letters that I had quite honestly forgotten about. Discovering them was shocking to me, because I had forgotten their existence. But it was powerfully affirming of my mother’s love for me. I mean, I knew she loved me but seeing those letters reminded me of the days I’d come in from school and find a letter from her on my bed. Love Notes To ChildrenRead more: The Importance Of Writing Love Notes To Children

8 Ways To Not Lose Your Mind When Moving House

Moving to a new places is fun. I should know. I’ve done it a dozen times in my adult life. Moving to a different house in the same area lacks a lot of that excitement because, well, all that’s new is the place you’re moving to. Moving house with children however, is a whole new ball game. You’ve heard those jokes about tidying up with children being like making a smoothie with the blender open? Or brushing your teeth while eating an Oreo? Those apply to moving house with children too.

And add to that home schooling children and it’s like being caught in an episode of a really bad slap-stick comedy. I can just visualise it. Pack a box of toys, go make dinner, come back to those toys all over the living room floor. Repack the box of toys, sit down to check your emails, telling the kids to get ready for bed. Go to put them to bed and find that same box of toys all over their room!

Yeah, it’s not funny when you’re living it. So here are some things to consider doing if you’re moving house with children.

  • Find somewhere else to stay

I’m not kidding. I grew up military and whenever we moved we’d have two weeks in a hotel on our exit destination and a week in a hotel near the new house. I thought it was a nice gesture from the army. As a parent I realise that it was the military’s way of keeping military wives from mutiny!

Find a hotel or a holiday park, spend four or five hours a day packing, then leave. Have somewhere comfortable to sleep, cook healthy food without having to think of what to pack and what to leave out. Get to your accommodation, have a swim, relax, get to bed early, start fresh the next day. It’s for your mental health!

  • Get one room completely finished first

If you can’t stay somewhere else during your move, or if you still have children around while you’re packing this is especially important.

Get one room packed up and cleared out as your first priority. The temptation might be to get the biggest job done first, but by getting one room done you either have a place for the children to ‘be’ without being surrounded by boxes, or you have a place for all the boxes to go once they’re packed, making the room out of bounds. (We weren’t able to do this this time, and it showed in the constant unpacking and repacking of not-yet-sealed boxes.)Moving house

Read more: 8 Ways To Not Lose Your Mind When Moving House

I’m A Freakin’ Parfait {Or The Many Layers Of Mothers}

I’ve had an odd week.

Things have happened, I’ve connected with an old friend, taken a walk down memory lane, had totally unusual conversations, and you know what – I’ve been fully there with it all.

Does anyone remember this scene from Shrek? About the layers?


See. Layers. Like a parfait.

Motherhood changes you. You go from spreadsheets and workshops (if you were an adult educator and project manager like me) to nappies and breastfeeding in a blink of an eye. Unless you make an effort to stay current in your work place, you can quickly be left behind. It’s just how it is. World news has to be big to even break through the fog and haze of sleepless nights, sore nipples, and the mind-numbing awareness that you’re probably doing something wrong.

It’s just how it is.Read more: I’m A Freakin’ Parfait {Or The Many Layers Of Mothers}

Simple Christmas Decorations For A Child’s Room

I don’t know about you, but my children are worse than any cat I’ve ever had when it comes to Christmas decorations, and fiddling with things on the tree! They simply can’t leave well enough alone. Of course Christmas is a family affair, but when you’ve spent hours putting it all together, it can be soul destroying to have little hands pull it all apart again – especially when they do that to everything else all year round anyway!

There are a few things you can do give children their own creative space for Christmas – preferably in their own room.

If you’re lucky enough to have an amazing room for your child already, like one of these nursery ideas, then you’re off to a good start:Read more: Simple Christmas Decorations For A Child’s Room

#nothingbeatsabike Halfords Competition

Halfords has a great competition on at the moment where they are offering a new bike as a prize every week till the 16th of December.

Enter the competition to WIN a Carrera Star 16″ Kids’ Bike! Excellent for 5-8 year olds, the Star is lightweight and really easy to ride! It’s got the same high quality parts you’d find on grown-up bikes, making it perfect for little ones who can ride without stabilisers. Entrants for this competition must be must be 5 to 8 years old.


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Closing date for this week is 2nd Dec 2015, with the new competition being announced that day.

To be in with a chance of winning a bike in time for Christmas, all your child needs to do is draw a festively fun picture of their dream bike! Let their creativity run wild, and show exactly how they’d love their dream bike to look – the more colourful and unique the better!

To enter the competition, a grown up needs to take a photo of this drawing and upload it to the Halfords Christmas page here. Each week the most creative dream bike drawing will be featured as the Bike of the Week on Facebook, and the lucky drawer will win a shiny new children’s bike!

The competition at Halfords is now in it’s fourth week. This competition requires your child to draw their dream bike. The parent or guardian will then take a photo of the picture your child has created and upload onto the Halfords website. The most creative drawing will be picked as the winner. You can find out more here.

For a wide choice of Kids Bikes Visit Halfords Today

Christmas Gifts: 4 Fantastic Magazines For Children

While children today have so many amazing things that we didn’t even dream possible when we were kids, there was one thing that we had that they don’t: mail. Or ‘snail mail’ as we know it today. While adulthood has dulled the joy of the postman’s ring a little, since most of what he brings me is bills, there’s still a momentary thrill of excitement when I see him (or her) walking up the path. What’s he bringing? Is it for me? Is that a parcel I see peeking out of his over the shoulder bag? So exciting. (Or maybe I should get out more?) But either way, this is a thrill our children don’t really know.

As a child and later as a teenager I had pen pals, and a subscription to a Tinkerbell, and a later a couple of teen magazines and the arrival of the postman was the most wonderful thing.

This year I’ve been working with some magazine publishers and have been thrilled to have magazines arrive every month for  my girls, and have loved passing on that excitement too. Here are five magazines I get for my children. I think they would make wonderful  Christmas presents as they are gifts that bring new and fresh excitement every month (or two, depending). Few Christmas gifts will last through to next Christmas, so you’re looking at value for money too!

Please note these are affiliate links, but we subscribe or subscribed to these magazines. 

Eco Kids Planet Magazine

  • For boys and girls aged 6- 11
  • 11 issues a year
  • Trial offer: 4 issues for £9.90
  • 6 Month Christmas Gift Subscription Offer: £19.90 (choose a Christmas subscription if you’re subscribing to 3 or more magazine.co.uk magazines for £15 savings – November 2015)

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You can read a full review of Eco Kids Planet Magazine here.

This is a lovely magazine for environmentally minded youngsters with an interest in learning about the world. Each issue has a topic – Himalayas, Scotland, India – and deals with different aspects of each area.

Eco Kids Planet also has a current offer on where you can pick up 4 magazines for £9.90, with their direct debit offer.  The magazines are normally £3.50 or subscribe and save up to £6.80, here.

Storybox Magazine

  • For boys and girls aged 3-6
  • 10 issues a year
  • 10 Issue Christmas Gift Subscription Offer: £50 (choose a Christmas subscription if you’re subscribing to 3 or more magazine.co.uk magazines for £15 savings – November 2015)Storybox

Storybox Magazine is very different to the previous one. It’s all about imagination, stories, a little bit of seasonal learning (why do we wear sun block, going back to school) and a few activities. It contains a full story, and plenty of short stories, and provides a few hours of entertainment for young readers. It’s ideally pitched at those learning to read, but also fantastic for reading with smaller children.

You can read a full review of Storybox Magazine here.

Okido Magazine

  • For boys and girls aged 2-8
  • 6 issues a year
  • 12 Month Subscription: £24Okido

Okido Magazine focuses on art and science, and is filled with games, quizzes and features that will keep children  entertained as they learn. Each magazine has a theme, such as space, habitats, or feelings, and has activities, games and science experiments to try at home. With input from artists and even poetry and short stories there’s something for every interest in this subscription, . Each issue of this great kids’ magazine has a different theme, introducing little ones to subjects as diverse as space, habitats, and emotions and feelings.

While there’s great carry over from lovers of Messy on CBeebies, the magazine stands alone too, and doesn’t require knowledge of the TV Show to be enjoyed. Subscribe to Okido here.

Little Cooks Dora the Explorer Collection

  • For boys and girls aged 2-8
  • Fortnightly issues
  • Up to £4.99 per magazine

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We love this magazine and have a huge box full of all the goodies that come with it. While one of the things I love about the top three magazines is that they are their own attraction and don’t come with loads of tat, I love about this one that it comes with cooking and baking equipment as required for the recipes in the book. We’ve had this subscription for over two years, and the baking accessories are still going strong.

Each magazine comes with a variety of recipes to make together, a story to read and a few activities to do.  Little cooks don’t have to be Dora fans, nor do they have to watch the show in order to enjoy this series.  It’s no longer available as a subscription, but you can still buy individual magazines.

Review of Little Cooks Dora the Explorer Collections here

Elastoplast Launch New Vintage Tin

My family pretty much keep the plaster industry in business. Aside from the fact that I’m really accident prone in the kitchen – I’m not kidding, a meal is hardly a meal if I haven’t shed blood or given a burnt flesh offering, and quite frankly my life insurance should have gone up when I started a food blogBut aside from that, my youngest daughter tends to be an accident waiting to happen too. She can fall over from a stationary position, that child.

EP1I always carry plasters around in my handbag because any fall, no matter how big or small can pretty much be ‘fixed’ by a plaster. Okay, that’s not entirely true, but it would be if my children were in charge. They would use plasters for decorative tattoos. Especially the ones with Disney characters on them.

The problem I have is that the boxes always end up scrunched up in the bottom of my bag, and the contents scattered across the inside, which is just a waste really.

Recently Elastoplast have found a solution to my problem! They’ve launched these cute retro vintage tins for keeping your plasters safe and secure in your handbag – I have two so there’s one for my kitchen too!

The good thing about this cute little tin is that you don’t have to fill it with plasters only, but can put safety pins, nail clippers or other every day essentials in the box too, making it an on the go emergency kit.

EP2One tip I can offer you, if you find yourself handing out plasters like Halloween candy, is to stick to the plain old ‘boring’ varieties. If it has pictures on, my kids will throw themselves down stairs for one! But the plain skin toned variety are less tempting.

And also, as a mother, I’m always in and out the kitchen, dipping my hands in the washing machine, helping with bath and hair and face cleaning, and the Elastoplast plasters hold up really well to the in – and – out of wetness conditions, though of course you have to change them frequently so your fingers don’t go soggy underneath.

Well, I think these tins are really cute, and super convenient!

 

Three Extra Weeks Of Activities For Preschoolers – Flash Sale

Remember a few weeks ago I told you about the Hands On As You Grow ebook series filled with activities for you to do with your small people?

Well, HOAWG has a 48-hour FLASH SALE that’s just gone live and will go till roughly midnight on Tuesday (roughly, because it’s past midnight as I write this and I don’t feel like figuring out time zones!)

LEARN MORE is a free bonus of 3 additional weekly activity plans filled with 21 hands on learning activities planned out especially for your preschooler. LEARN MORE is only available when you purchase one of the other Weekly Activity Plan eBooks during this Back to School special. (It will not be available after this short 48-hour special!) Valued at $7.Capture

So basically, if you buy one of the existing eBooks, you’ll receive this added three weeks for free, giving you 8 weeks of activities for you and your little ones.

One of the things that drew me to this programme was the talk about accountability. I know that being accountable makes it easier to stick to it, and there’s only benefits to be had both for my small person, our relationship, and with it our daily interactions and by association my feelings towards my parenting.

The weekly activity plans come in:

You can also see a PREVIEW OF THE EBOOKS here.

weekly-plans-sneak-peek

 

Ways To Find Work As A Freelancer

As a homeschooling, freelancing mother, time is never on my side. Between running a home and providing a sufficient – hopefully more than sufficient! – education for my children, I have had to find efficient ways of making the hours I am able to work every week count.

A lot of freelancing involves pitching for work, applying for opportunities, hoping you’re selected. The reality of blogging, however, is that you never really know what the client is looking for, so you may or may not be chosen for the project, whatever it is.

I’ve been freelancing for 5 years now, and here are some of the ways I go to look for work – hopefully they can help you find work as a freelancer.

Freelancer

1. Relationships with clients

When I started blogging, way back in the days of yore – sometimes it feels like back in ‘the olden days’ – you’d feel elated when a PR emailed you, offering you pretty much anything in exchange for a post. Back then I used to take pride in replying to every email, whether I was interested in the opportunity or not. A few years in and sometimes over 100 emails a day, I looked at my newborn baby trying to crawl across the floor one day and I realised how much of her babyhood I’d missed by trying to reply to every email, for no return.

Politeness costs nothing, but it does take time. For a freelancer, time is money. I now use an out of office with an explanation of why I might not respond, but asking the emailer to get in touch again next time. Some people don’t like it, but my time is more precious than the opinion of someone who doesn’t think enough of me to pay for that time*. 

That said, relationships are essential to ‘easing’ the work load. I have a number of clients that I have an ongoing relationship with. Every few months, I’ll get an email requesting extension of an advert, for example, and for the time-cost of 3 or 4 emails, I earn a repeat advertising fee. This is ‘easy money’, but it comes off the back of relationship building, and repeat business.

2. Email approaches

The above said, it’s still really important to be visible as a freelancer. You might not love being on social media all the time, and you don’t have to be, but you do need to have a profile and be reachable. I’ve received approaches through Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, in comments on the blog and even on Instagram. The most important thing is to be contactable. Make sure your blog has your email address on it. You won’t get the work if they can’t get hold of you.

3. Sign up with assignment-based websites

If what you’re looking for is sponsored posts or reviews, sign up with companies that offer those. Look at websites like WeConnect* or Bloggers Required where you can keep an eye on what’s available. You need to pitch for these, telling them why your blog is the right one for their assignment, and the brand will then get in touch with everyone it’s chosen. Most of these aren’t paid opportunities, but sometimes what you’re able to review makes up for it since generally you’re able to keep the product.

4. Sign up with networking websites

Websites like LinkedIn and Hiive are great for finding longer term projects. Sign up with them, and network. I think most people know LinkedIn now – the online place where people can connect with others in the same fields and areas of interest? Hiive is pretty similar, but with more of a focus on creative people.

On Hiive you can create ‘swarms’ or join someone else’s swarm, and get involved with their projects, see what’s going on in your field across the web, apply for job vacancies, connect with professionals in your niche and usefully, take some of the courses they offer online too.

I think the most important thing about being a freelancer is staying current, taking advantage of the opportunities out there, and moving with the times. Old fashioned principles – politeness, kindness, courtesy and patience – will always stand you in good stead, and with a little bit of time and luck, you’ll be a successful freelancer in no time.

*I don’t respond if it’s just not something that’s relevant to me, I don’t dismiss all unpaid work as sometimes that has value too.