Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Hillarys Blinds Country Craft

Hillarys Blinds are asking bloggers to cut, stitch and craft a unique creation using one of their four fabrics. I choose the Calluna Amethyst because I thought that it was very pretty and I love the deep purple in it. I was very excited when my material arrived but the big question still remained what would I be making with it? I thought about all the usual things that I could do with it - recover something, make a bag, design an apron, make placemats but none of them really felt original. I can sew but I don't currently have a sewing machine so I wanted to do something crafty that I was able to make at home that wasn't going to use equipment that I don't currently have. One night whilst getting into bed I realised that we have a huge gapping wall above our bed that would be perfect for a picture or some artwork. I love unique pieces but they usually cost a lot of money because they are bespoke, so that became my inspiration - create a unique piece of wall art.


I chose to create the outline of the UK using different fabric to separate out the different regions. I found lots of different fabric scraps that I had (and I also raided my Mum's fabric collection too) to use along with my Calluna Amethyst. The first thing I did was print out a picture of the UK which I used as a guideline, I then drew out each region making it much bigger as a template which I could then later use to cut out the shapes in the material. When I finally had my full template cut out of paper and laid out I looked at it has a whole and I ended up taken quite a lot of Wales to bring it into proportion with the rest. It was also fun to have my boys helping me at this stage to put the UK jigsaw pieces together. I finally measured the outline to make sure that it was going to fit on my 30" x 40" canvas frame that I had.




Once my boys were in bed I got out the pins to pin the pattern, material and bonda web together so that I could cut out the regions from the material, I also laid out the material next to each other so I could so what it might look like together. At every stage of the process I was very careful to ensure that the regions continued to fit together. I then found an old white sheet to use for the background and I carefully ironed on each piece starting at the bottom and I worked my way up. If you have never used bonda web before you should have a go, it is very fine and when heated (as its name suggests) bonds two pieces of fabric together and it makes sticking everything together much easier. 





The next step was to stretch the sheet around the canvas frame and see what it all looked like together. This bit was quite tricky and I had to enlist the help of my husband and my dad to help stretch whilst I stapled, then I trimmed the material down on the back once everything was in place.  Finally it is finished, and up on the wall!

I am really pleased with how it has turned out and I am already beginning to think about what other pictures I could create using the same technique - the London skyline, an abstract pattern? The possibilities are endless and what great presents they would make. Crafting is something that I love to do and I have found this project very relaxing and a great way to take my attention from the business of life at the moment. There is also something extremely rewarding about seeing your own handiwork up on the wall everyday.

This is the finished picture up and on the wall!

If you want to find out more about the Country craft competition you can here at Hillarys Blinds.

Sunday, 23 March 2014

Sorry for the radio silence

Life at the moment seems to have gone a bit crazy, so I want to apologise for the radio silence and fill you in a bit. My husband has accepted a new job (to start mid May) in Lincoln so we will be on the move again. I can already here the groans of our nearest and dearest. Yes again, and yes I realise that this will be our sixth move in the six years we have been married! This time I am hoping and demanding for a longer term house, and some of those moves have been in the same area so it's not quite as bad as it looks. I am trying to convince myself of that as much as you. As a result of our upcoming move I have been thrown into all that comes with it, head first. I consider myself to be some what of an expert mover but with other commitments as well it's meant I have had less time to blog, and my love for competitions is very much on hold!

Being totally honest I spent the first two weeks whilst we waited for a job offer fidgeting and highly agitated about the thought of moving again. I think it's almost worst when you know it's coming and you can do nothing to change it. I don't want to move, the boys and I are settled for the first time in 2.5 years since we left our apartment in the US. However I think I have finally got over myself. It's not what I had planned but I am sure that as usual God has a bigger one for me and my family and moving is just the first step. 

The job for Matt is a step up and having been invited to share in the interview process a little with him I am excited about the possibilities and so proud of him. But Lincolnshire? That bit feels me with dread. It's not a place I know at all, so it will be a whole new start in a whole new place. Exciting and scary at the same time but I am ready for the adventure, I think.

We are in this weird place at the moment where we have a start date and we will be moving out of our rented accommodation in the next few weeks but that's pretty much all. We have a rough idea of where we want to live but google maps and the physical could look very different. As a huge big picture person with a need for routine and fact points I am finding it pretty stressful and challenging to not have things totally organised. It would be a lie to say I am not apprehensive because I am, but I am also hopeful for the possibilities.

So for now I am waiting to see what tomorrow will bring, eek! 

Monday, 17 March 2014

Dino Supersaurus Review

This month as part of the Parragon Book Buddy's scheme we have been sent two their new Dino Supersaurus books; Superpower coloring and Stickersaurus. These books are brand new and have only just been released and my son who is 3 was very excited as he opened up the envelope. They are aimed at children aged 6 -12 and although my son is a bit younger he still very much enjoyed having a look at them. It just meant that I had to read the comic strip text out to him and help him to complete the activities. Set in the fictional land 'New Dino City', the Dino Supersaurus series follows four young dinosaurs with awesome superpowers as the protect the city from the evil Sinistaurs. The illustrations and comic strips have been created by Tim Wesson and Nikalas Catlow and they are really fun. The way the illustrations have been done capture all the fun that you would get reading a magazine within a book and will definitely appeal to a wide range of children.


At the beginning of each book is a 'How it all began…' page which helps the reader to see where it all started and it also introduces all of the supersaurs and the sinistaurs. My son is very much into dinosaurs at the moment and he quickly recognized which dinosaurs they all were. Trix the leader of the supersaurs is a triceratops and Doc is a diplodocus. If you haven't guessed already the leader of the Sinistaurs is T-Rex. We very much enjoyed reading about their adventures to save New Dino City.


At 3.99 each for the two book I reviewed I think the books are really good value as you could easily pay that for a child's magazine and these books hold a lot more material in them and can be read over and over again. The Stickersaurus book was my favourite of the two books as the pages open out to create a four page spread, which my son and I both really liked as it meant you could see the bigger picture and it is very different from other books that we have. The Superpower coloring book continues with the comic theme throughout, continuing the story and giving you coloring and activities to do. It also came with a flick book which had my son very intrigued. Despite being quite a bit younger than the recommended age my son has really enjoyed reading these and it has been lovely to find him sitting in a chair quietly studying the comic strip and following the story of the Supersaurs.


There are four books in the Dino supersaurus range: 2000 stickers, superpower colouring, doodlesaurus book and stickersaurus and you can find out more and buy here on Amazon. Other stockist include Debenhams, WHSmith, Sainsbury's, Toys R Us and Amazon.co.uk


Overall these are fantastic books, in fact I have been so impressed with them that I have ordered my God son some for his birthday. I would definitely recommend.


I wasn't paid for this review and all opinions are my own, however I was sent the book in order for me to review it.

Tuesday, 11 March 2014

Look what we made...

A couple of weeks ago I was looking at Facebook when on my news feed popped up this amazing car storage garage made of toilet rolls. I was impressed, and I immediately thought "we could do that".  In true Hannah fashion I paid no attention to the detail of how they did it but captured the image in my head. My son was quick off the mark collecting our toilet rolls and kitchen towel tubes we had lying round. He also instructed our local family members that they needed to be saving theirs too. In the meantime I found a large poster tube.


Feeling brave last Friday morning I decided to embark upon the big make. We put our large collection of tubes together and figured that we would improvise if we didn't have enough (which we didn't quite). We had a large cardboard rocket that we painted last summer which wasn't holding its shape any longer. The cardboard was still good though and that's what I used to cut out the cardboard shell for which our garage would be formed on. I think other people used a wooden crate but we didn't have one and the card worked just as well. 


Painting the tubes was fun, and messy. I instantly regretted given my three year old a paint brush inside as he flicked paint up onto the ceiling. Thankfully I was stood at the ready to swoop in and clean up the splatter. I didn't trust my youngest with the tubes and they were a bit tricky to paint inside so we just gave him some paper and that kept him happy. 


Whilst the tubes dried out I continued to glue the outside box shape together. We then carefully glued in the painted tubes sitting them quite tightly to hold the shape. We didn't have quite enough so I found some tissue boxes to use to fill in the gaps. We then left it to dry overnight before we stood it up. 


The following morning the boys were very excited to see it finished and couldn't wait to put their cars in it. I have to say I think we did a good job and we are really pleased with it. The tissue boxes are actually great for storing the aeroplanes we have.

What kinds of things do you like to make with your children? 


Sunday, 2 March 2014

On your bike

As a parent I always like to stand up the challenges laid out before me, I have a heart for adventure and I want to give my kids lots of opportunities to explore. Muddy splashy puddles I'm in, conker hunts I'm finding, stomping across small grassy paths I'm there but biking... I need help with! For a start I no longer have a bike but I am certainly going to need one.  My son whose three has become some what of an expert on his balance bike, and I by foot no longer cut the mustard, I can't keep up. I tail behind him puffing and panting so it's certainly time to invest in a new bike for me and get my husbands back up and running.

This is my biking inspiration - my son!
So it's time to face it and jump back on! The thing is the last time I went biking was a bit of a disaster all around. A trip grounded to a halt by me. For a while it haunted me, but in truth now it's been so long I just laugh at just how ridiculous I must have looked and it's become almost a fond memory. So I thought I would share it with you so that's it's off my chest and I can move forward into this new biking era. 

Picture the scene, I'm 17 I was away in Toxteth, Liverpool on a mission trip to help in a local church, and during the final week of our stay we get a day off where we can explore the city. I was very excited, I was independent and away from home and I couldn't wait to see more of Liverpool. This trip was a really turning point for me in so many ways, and despite my parents reservations about Toxeth it really opened my heart up to how vibrant such run down places can be. 

On this particular morning our host had managed to borrow a couple of bikes from local people for us to use, and I eagerly clambered onto mine. For a bike it was beautiful, not what I expected to be riding and far from my bike that was 7 years old at home that I had had since I was 10. This was a real ladies bike, glistening under the lovely sunshine. We set off three of us in a row our host leading and myself at the back. After having travelled all of 20 metres the person in front of me began to slow down so I gently tapped my brake. I say gentle because it was barely even a touch, any less and it wouldn't have even counted as touching. I abruptly stopped flew over the front and the bike landed on top of me. I really wish at this point it had been a crash of high speeds or an amazing stunt that went wrong but no, the humiliation I crashed by tapping my brake! No helmet meant my face was pretty grazed and bleeding and I had one of those moments where you feel your face expecting blood and get a handful of gravel instead. It definitely looked worse than it was and I'm thankful we hadn't even made it down the first street. I didn't return to the bike but saw Liverpool by car after been patched up pretty embarrassed that I had ruined our special day trip. 

Turns out that the bike was brand new brought by a cycling enthusiast who got pregnant before ever taking it out for a spin. I certainly gave it a christening! What's worse is that when I arrived home to the station a few days later I realised I had forgotten to tell my mum about my little biking incident. To say she nearly had kittens when she saw me was an understatement, she immediately assumed I was the victim of an attack and started going off on one. Oops! 

It seems so silly now when I think about it all and I do really want to get back on and start riding again so that I can create some new biking memories that hopefully aren't quite so embarrassing! Biking is such a fantastic way to get out and about and my son begs to go out on his bike pretty much everyday. After my little braking incident we opted to get a balance bike without brakes whilst he was learning to ride so that he would learn to control the bike and his speed first. If you are considering a bike for your child you should definitely look into a balance bike they are incredible at teaching balance and you miss out the need for stabilizers.


So things to take forward into my new biking adventures are: 
- Always wear a helmet 
- Remember to tell your Mum when you fall off before she sees you
- Be careful when your on a new bike as new means works really well! 

This post is my entry for the ProBikeKit Blogger Competition


My Greatest Internet Fear

Dear Friend,

As someone who knows me very well and also has children of your own, I wanted to share with you my fears about the Internet, and also ask your advice about upcoming decisions I need to make about their safety. As you know my children are only small (one and three) so up until this point I have not been worried about their access to the internet. After all their access is supervised, they can't read yet and they are primarily interested in the internet to watch their favourite cartoons and to play games. But, the other day whilst they were watching five player at the beginning of their programme was an advert that spoke to them saying "Click here, you know you want to find out more" to my horror I saw my three year old clicking as instructed. Thankfully I was there, and we have never seen the advert again, but it got me thinking; what if I hadn't of been there, or if someone was deliberately trying contact my children, or put content in front of them that they innocently clicked on? How easy would it be for them to be manipulated without even realizing what was happening? Or worse to be innocently looking for the answer to a question for school and find themselves looking at inappropriate content by accident? I already know that on average most boys see their first porn material online at nine years old which is pretty scary in itself and I don't want my boys to become one of those statistics.

So my dilemma is this? How do I teach internet safety and good decisions without just limiting what they access? I don't want to stop them going on the internet as I think that is far more dangerous later on in life for them when they find themselves looking at google wrongly forbidden. So how do I instill asking before clicking on the unknown, thinking about what they should and shouldn't be seeing in a public forum and being careful about what they search for? We have all had those days where we search for the answer to something on the internet accidentally spelling the word wrongly by switching two letters and ended up on a very inappropriate site? (Please say thats not just me.) So how do we help our children to use the internet as a tool and resource without pulling up data accidentally that they shouldn't, without them feeling that we are sitting on top of them to supervise and without hindering their independence and development of good decisions. How do we teach them to respect the internet?

I am dreading the day when my son turns into a teenager and asks if he can have a computer in his own bedroom because "all of his friends do". To add to my fears teenagers now (unlike in our day) expect to be a given a mobile phone which readily has internet available on it, ready to be looked at, beckoning to be searched with answers at the ready. We are at least 10 years away from that, and look at the advances in internet access in the last 10 years as well as the reduction in cost to such services and put that 10 years away from now and we are looking at accessibility for everyone in most places. With this readily accessible internet it makes me more adamant that I don't want to just limit access "just in case" but we need to be pro-active. I don't want to be facing this in the aftermath but preparing whilst I still have time in a positive and constructive manner, after all the internet is a great resource no matter what my fears are about it! So please, help me to turn my fears into a positive and respectful experience for my boys. One where they can use the internet and know and use their knowledge of it for good decisions themselves rather than being my restrictive ones. One where they can be good examples to their friends and not be afraid to ask for help if they are unsure. Finally I want them to enjoy using the internet and to be able to trust in their own instincts when using it.

I look forward to hearing your suggestions and tackling this together.

Hannah

This post is my entry into the Check and Secure challenge. For more advice on family safety online, see Mums on Security




Saturday, 1 March 2014

Life after an Ectopic

Some of you may have read my previous post about my Ectopic pregnancy back in November. My first post was more about the facts, what happened, and how I responded in the moment. But of course there is always much more. I wasn't ready then to share the emotional side of how I felt and how I feel now about it all, but I am now. If you want to read more about my first post you can here: My unexpected November. 

As I sat in my living room waiting for the ambulance to come, and for my Dad to return from collecting my eldest son from playschool I knew I had to remain calm. I always think of myself as a bit if a hedgehog when it comes to my emotions. I am very sensitive, perhaps too much sometimes but my way of coping with that is to put up my defence spikes. I often feel that I am so overwhelmed with emotion in a situation that it comes across that I am not that bothered by it, or that I am calm and in control. I flicked into emotional lockdown pretty quickly on the way to the hospital, I had already been in it to keep both of my boys calm before I left so it was easy to stay in it. 

As soon as they asked me for a urine sample in A&E I knew that it would come back positive. I think sometimes you just know. The surge of emotions hit me in the hospital, my husband hadn't arrived yet and I knew I had to keep a clear head ready to fight the pain that was consuming my body and draining any piece of energy I had. But at the same time the loneliness of the cubical and the unknown was consuming my thought space. 

I prayed. Being told that I was pregnant was just words, I heard them but I already knew this baby was on its way to heaven. I felt God's peace on me as I prayed my baby on. It's a really strange feeling to know your baby will never breathe, never see your face, and you will never see them. You won't dream big dreams for it, see it smile or help it walk. On the other hand this baby made it to heaven before me, it gets a perfect and complete body before it's body was even fully formed, thats pretty special too. Such mixed emotions!

I felt God's presence upon me giving me peace that it was ok to let this baby go it would be in good hands, safe hands. It was that quiet reflective moment that got me through what was to come. 

The deteriation to my own body was quick, my life hung in the balance in the hands of the surgeons and hospital staff. I didn't once consider the dangers of my own life at the point until afterwards, reflectively! That was my fighting talk, I wasn't going anywhere just yet! My husband hasn't quite got over the bit where my life hung in the balance yet, not surprisingly he is still very emotionally sensitive to this. I was also struck that afterwards people comment on how sad they are you have lost the baby but they seem to miss the fact that I could have died. Emotionally thats a pretty huge thing to face. 

When I woke up the baby was gone, I never saw it and I was left with the normal questions that no one could answer; boy or girl? How many weeks was I? The difficult thing about an Ectopic is that it's just seen by hospital staff as another life threatening surgury. The baby is to them a foetus which they never once give a second thought to, considered just a mass that they remove. That's how my husband saw it to, he has never been one for emotion but I think it just drove my pain further and deeper into numbness for the first few days. My husband and I have always processed things in different ways so I didn't really expect anything different. 

When the numbness wore off I had to face reality, I have always found talking about it helps, so thats what I did; talk it through, rationalize it in my head and move forwards. After all I had two beautiful kids right in front of me who needed me to get my head around it so that they could too. It was hard in those first few weeks, still groggy from the anisthetics, tired from losing so much blood and seeing how much my husband as much as he tried just couldn't be me. I was forced to give up breastfeeding my youngest as it was just too challenging to tackle with everything else so I also faced a frustrated toddler and a three year old who was desperate to help me get better.

Life is always bitter sweet and just after Christmas a friend of mine whose baby is just a few weeks old asked me to take her to the hospital because she was pregnant again and was bleeding, she expected the worse. I was ok emotionally until they told her the baby was fine, I was pleased for her but at the same time it felt like a smack in the face as she didn't really want the baby.

I also found it very overwhelming and weird when complete strangers offered to hug me about it all as its like a fierce reminder of what has just taken place. I never feel like that when my friends and family have spoken to me about it. Everytime I think I am feeling less emotionally sensitive my son plays one of those Disney movies that catch you unawares like Cars, its ok until they get to the final race where Chick Hicks knocks The King and he crashes, so Lightening McQueen pushes him over the line so he can finish his last race *Sobs*.

We are getting through it, we are nearly 4 months on and normality has resumed on the whole. I am visibly reminded of this baby everyday by the 3 little scars it left behind on my stomach, its not forgotten. People that say time is a healer are wrong. I don't think time is the healer I just think in time we get better at dealing with it. Time helps you to focus your emotions, to contain them better, to trust God that  his plan is bigger. I am very nervous about getting pregnant again, I think anyone would be when your odds go from a 1 in 100 chance of an ectopic to a 1 in 10, but when or if we get to that point we will deal with it all. 

More than 'just a Mum'

Recently we were at a wedding and we were talking with people that we knew and catching up when that dreaded question came up, "So, Hannah are you still just a stay at home Mum". At the time I laughed a little and questioned "just" as if being a stay at home parent isn't enough. On this particular occasion it really wasn't meant to be a negative thing, and believe me the person in question squirmed a lot at my response. But it did get me thinking, is this how we see women that stay at home as a society? Why do people belittle it so much? I hate the "just" it aggravates me that people can't see what an opportunity it is to raise my kids my own way, or how much work it actually takes to do that!

I see it as being a privilege and a blessing for me to stay at home. I know plenty of parents who would give their right hand to be in my position and not have to be forced back into the workplace in order to provide for their families. I see my role as a Mum as one that utilizes far more of my skills and abilities than I have ever used before in a job. It challenges me on a daily basis to be more than I was the day before and everyday pushes me evermore. What other job has you on call 24-7 and gives hugs when you do a good job? I am not saying its easy (there are at times when I want to tear my hair out) but it is definitely rewarding to see your child making good choices, using clear what you have taught them.



When I choose to leave my job in 2011 having gone back only for just a few months after my first son was born, it was not a decision I took lightly. It was made because I felt that my attentions were divided and I couldn't do both, no-one was getting my best and for me I am all or nothing so something had to give. When I considered my options one of the things that struck me the most is why would I want someone else to teach and develop my child for me? Our children are only young once and those first few years are so crucial in shaping who they will grow up to be, so why would we not want to do that ourselves? I have the ability to be fundamental in my child's life so thats what I am choosing, to stay at home and be the best parent I can be. I just wish that more people were open minded about stay at home parents.

I was thinking about all of the jobs that I do as part of my role as a stay at home Mum and that I am expected to be good at. We don't ask chef's to also cut hair or engineers to clean their offices as well as work there, and yet we ask our Mum's too. I am expected to know how to build intricate train tracks and duplo skyscrapers, engineering and shaping designs that can't fail. I cut hair, cook balanced and nutritious meals, clean the house, tackle unlimited amounts of laundry (a lot created by my husband) and thats only the beginning. I don't even feel like I have got to the teaching part of my role yet and this is so crucial. I turn dreams into realities when my son comes with a toilet roll and asks me to transform it into something from his imagination. I am a teacher who specialises in every area, a domestic engineer and an expert in every topic of conversation, and believe me that is tricky. My three year old asks some of the most difficult questions on topics that I didn't even know existed.

So why do we belittle the stay at home parent so much? Why are all these jobs seen as 'not important' and 'nothing' type jobs? After all these little people now are our future so I think its only fair we invest in them now. If you think I do nothing all day, I want to challenge your way of thinking. I am not "just" a stay at home parent but "just" the crucial, influential parent, challenging and teaching my children by staying at home with them.