Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Happy New Year!

As the end of the year approaches it's time to reflect on what has passed and look forward to the year to come. I know that this time last year I had no idea that I would be where I am now, in a brand new home, having so much that I could only dream of before. Life had become very difficult in our old home, and although I loved the area and our neighbours, and the kids school, I longed to have somewhere bigger to live. We were really overcrowded and stress levels were high. Sleep was a word no longer in my vocabulary because it's hard to sleep in a house that is always awake. And no matter how I tried to make the house nicer nothing really worked. It was too small, and we had way too much stuff, too much clutter. I had to cook dinner in 'rounds' because my kitchen was too small to cook for seven people at the same time. Things are so different now, I still can't quite believe it. Of course moving house wasn't easy, in fact I hated every moment of the actual move, it was my worst nightmare come true. I really would be happy to never have to move ever again. Then there were problems finding a school for the littlies, so many of the local schools just didn't have places for all three of them, but we got there in the end.

Back in February my Little Man went for his very first haircut. This was a momentous moment as I'd allowed his curly blonde locks to grow really long and having them chopped off completely changed his appearance. Then in March we were invited to a press event for Start-Rite Shoes where the Little Man took to the Catwalk.

We've had some lovely days out in our home town, most memorable being our trips to see A Squash and a Squeeze at Gas Hall, Room on the Broom at the Town Hall and last week we went to see What the Ladybird Heard.

The year also had some very lovely surprises and treats. I was nominated for a MAD Blog award and actually reached the finals. I still can't quite believe that. This meant we had a wonderful trip to Legoland as a family which we really enjoyed and of course I got to attend the finals at the Royal Kensington Gardens Hotel. We also had a fantastic holiday at Center Parcs as I was chosen as a Center Parcs Family Blogger, and I also won a fabulous break in Blackpool with my recreation of Blackpool Tower in cake.

So there is so much good I have to look back on, but there always has to be bad too and that comes in the form of my precious little Star managing to slip a disc in her neck causing many months of pain and discomfort and resulting in a manipulation and the dreadful halo collar which she is still wearing. 

So what am I looking forward to in 2014? First up has to be the removal of Star's halo and having her finally fixed and pain free. I'm also looking forward to a new stage in my life as all three of my littlies will, eventually, be in school full time. Will I find a job? I've been missing work for a long time now, but my children come first so I've held off until the time is right. My dream is for all the adults in our home to be working by the end of next year. My daughter is doing really well in her new job, my son is taking some time out from his studies but will soon be looking for some work experience so he can continue with his chosen career choice. My other half has had trouble finding work since he lost his last job on medical grounds (he failed a hearing test) so it would be brilliant if something came his way. I don't really know what I will do, it's been a long time since I had a job. I better start working on my CV.

Sunday, 29 December 2013

Christmas 2013

When we went to a local Christmas fete at the end of November I picked up some information on all the Christmas activities we had coming up locally. There was another fete  the week before Christmas, a Christmas market, carol singing and lights switch on, on the local village green,  carol services at local churches, nativity plays, Christmas themed messy church and probably a few other things I forget now. Of course there was the wonderful German Market in town too, which thankfully is about the only thing I managed with my girls.

The day we went to the German Market is the same day Star had a hospital appointment and CT Scan. Then she was admitted to hospital and had her halo fitted and then all plans of doing anything else for Christmas were abandoned. Star has been virtually housebound. It's not that she can't go out with the halo, but transport is a problem as we don't have a car at the moment. She can't get wet, she can't get too cold, and we had problems finding her anything at all to wear for while too.

So we gained a Christmas Angel with her halo, but had to abandon so many of our Christmas activities I'd hoped to do. We did manage to get Star to the school to watch their nativity play, and we still had Christmas in our new home to look forward too. I found Christmas day to be so much more relaxed and fun with having so much more room, our last home was so pokey we were always tripping over each other. Opening presents would create so much mess that I'd had no choice but to clean up along the way. Then toys and gifts had to be stacked away and used one at a time. This year I just didn't have to worry, and it all looked less like a pile of mess and more like a fun room filled with Christmas gifts.

We had our Christmas dinner around our new dining table. We'd had dinner around a table before but it would involve having to move furniture to fit us all in. Our old table was pushed up against a wall and only two chairs were in use at any time because we just didn't have the room. My new kitchen is so much bigger that preparing all the lovely food for the day was so much easier for me. I love my new home and especially my new kitchen.

Boxing day meant a trip to the hospital for Star. That was a little strange, I've never seen the place so quiet, even in the middle of the night! Most of the children on Star's ward had been sent home for Christmas, and staff was at a minimum. When we went for an x-ray, the usually full to bursting department was empty and we were straight in without even a minutes wait. Then Star was treated to a little gift because apparently every child who needs an x-ray at Christmas gets a gift. All was well and we were on our way home within an hour. That's another appointment down, just a few more and the halo should be off.

We braved the weather on the 27th to go and see 'What the Ladybird Heard' at the Town Hall. The littlies loved it and it was good to get Star out again. Although she couldn't wait to get home afterwards, she does get tired out really quick.

Then to top off our Christmas Celebrations we had a party on the 28th. I woke up that morning feeling pretty rough and wishing I hadn't invited anyone over, but I battled through the day, whipped up a great buffet, and bought some booze. The party turned out to be good fun and I'm glad I made the effort. There is nothing more special than spending time with family and friends at Christmas.
Maybe next year we'll get to fit in all the other fun, Christmassy activities that we didn't do this year, but this year was good enough as it was.

My Christmas cake was the centerpiece on the table. 

Friday, 27 December 2013

What the Ladybird Heard

As you probably already know we are big fans of Julia Donaldson. In the summer we went to see A Squash and a Squeeze and Room on the Broom, so we were delighted to be offered the chance to see What the Ladybird Heard today at the Town Hall Birmingham. We had a truly wonderful morning and the show is on until January 10th and tickets are £11.50. I would recommend it to anyone with young children.

Having read the book I did wonder how they would turn this quaint story into an almost hour long performance. Well, there is lots of music as usual and audience participation, and the whole start of the show is about getting the show started. You probably need to see it to understand.

The animals are fabulous and imaginative, even the little ladybird is captivating. The actors are great fun and extremely talented. The story is really brought to life and is totally enchanting.

I went to the show with Daddy and the three littlies aged 8yrs, 6yrs and 3yrs. Maybe eight is a little old but she really enjoys anything live like this with lots of singing, dancing and joining in. The six year old was really captivated and enjoyed every moment. The three year old went from being captivated to fidgety to a little tired and back again...nothing new there then!

Just in case you are unfamiliar with the story of What the Ladybird Heard, it's about a couple of bungling thieves, Hefty Hugh and Lanky Len, that plan to steal the farmyard's prize cow. However, the ladybird hears their plan and with the help of the other animals such as the woolly sheep, the fat red hen and the hairy dog, she works out a plan of her own to the foil the thieves.

On January 10th there is a relaxed performance especially for children on the autistic spectrum, with learning disabilities or a sensory or communication disorder.

We were given tickets for the purpose of this review. All words and opinions are my own.

Friday, 20 December 2013

Living With a Halo part two

My little star is a real trouper. She is coping so well and I'm so proud of her. We had a hospital appointment yesterday where she went to have all her screws tightened up. They also gave her an x-ray and things are still looking good. Her Daddy got to see the scan pictures all in order from the start and was a bit shocked at how bad it actually became before they did the manipulation. Thankfully things are looking much better now. It's still not perfect because the consultant over compensated, but he insists that it will go back once the halo is off.

Sleeping has become easier for Star. It's probably down to just getting used to the halo more than anything else. She only has pain relief when she asks for it, which is usually last thing at night and first thing in the morning. She has really adapted to wearing the halo and never lets me forget to clean her pin points regularly.

We have found a way of washing her hair.
First I put towels around the edge of her sheepskin. Then I cover her with a black plastic bag. Then I use a plastic hair dressing cape across her shoulder bars.
I put the Little Man's step in the bath for her to sit on. Then I wash her hair trying to use as little water as possible.
It's not easy but it gets the job done and so far we've not got the sheepskin wet.

Clothes are still a problem but we've found that spaghetti strap vests that are a couple of sizes too big will go up from the bottom and stay on her shoulders. They manage to keep her tummy and side bits covered up.
Then we can but button through cardi's or blouses over the top. Luckily there is not problem with her wearing her normal jeans and trousers. I did buy her some dungarees but she's not keen on them.

We took her to her school for the Christmas concert and they all made a fuss of her. We even had seats reserved for us at the front. We may consider sending her back to school after Christmas for a couple of mornings a week.

Here she is feeling a little sick after her trip to the hospital, but I wanted to show you how she relaxes, and also how we are dressing her.

Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Christmas TV, Downton Abbey

Do you watch Downton Abbey, the period drama set in a country estate? The drama has gathered a huge following of loyal fans who love tuning in to see the wonderful scenery, architecture and costumes as well as the often scandalous story lines. It's the most successful TV costume drama since Brideshead Revisited.

This year Downton Abbey has a special Christmas day bonanza episode starting at 8.30pm on ITV. It promises royal balls, potential romance (that's a given) and a trip to beach...mmm just what you need on a cold Christmas day! What will be revealed about Crawley sister's love lives? What will happen to Edith's baby? And will there be romance between Carson and Mrs Hughes? Something to look forward to as you cuddle up on the settee with a nice glass of a little something, a box of chocs and possibly a box of hankies.

Of course at Christmas times our thoughts turn to holidays and getting away for a while. Now if you are a Downton fan have you ever fantasised about the living the lifestyle of the characters? What would it be like staying in a luxurious English Manor? It doesn't have to be a wanton dream. Take a look at this list of English Manors available for getaways, or even weddings!

I love the way they are presented giving you ratings for poshness and modernity.I quite fancy the first one, Tumbledown. It has an equal amount of poshness and modernity while being in a lovely quiet village. Plus, it's a gorgeous house! I can't imagine a nicer set of places to get away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life.

Highclare Castle AKA Downton Abbey

Downton Abbey is set in Yorkshire, but the exterior shots are actually of Highclere Castle in Hampshire. The village of Bampton in Oxfordshire is used for exterior shots of Isobel Crawley's house.

Let me know if you are a fan of Downton Abbey and tell me what do you enjoy about the drama? I hope you enjoy the Christmas special.

Tuesday, 17 December 2013

What's On This Christmas

There is nothing I like more than getting out with the kids at any time and it's even more special when it's at Christmas. Therefore I'd like to share with you some fantastic events that are on this Christmas in Birmingham.

Dr Bunhead's Very Dangerous Christmas is on at Birmingham Town Hall from 22nd December to 5th January. Take your budding scientists to find out what is the worlds loudest Christmas Cracker, and I'm sure they'll be dying to know if Dr Bunhead can set his head on fire like a Christmas pudding!

If Dr Bunhead is a little too explosive for you, how about a lovely performance of What the Ladybird Heard, based on the award winning book by Julia Donaldson and Lydia Monks. On at Birmingham Town Hall from 20th December to January 10th. This is suitable from children aged 2 upwards and I'm sure all children will love it, we thoroughly enjoyed the last Julia Donaldson show we went to at the Town Hall, Room On The Broom.

Town Hall are also putting on their first ever relaxed performance of What the Ladybird Heard which is perfect for children who have autism and learning difficulties and may find it difficult to sit through regular performances.

At the Birmingham Symphony Hall you can catch Jingle Bell Christmas on Friday 20th December.  You can enjoy Christmas music such as Jingle Bell Rock and Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer by the London Concert Orchestra and dancing by The Jingle Belle Dancers.

Then on Monday 23rd December you can enjoy the Christmas Carol Singalong, where Jonathon Cohen will be leading you through his most loved carols and Christmas songs.

I was offered the opportunity to see Dr Bunheads Very Dangerous Christmas preview but was unable to attend because Star was still in hospital. However, I decided to share these wonderful performances with you anyway. Merry Christmas. 

Monday, 16 December 2013

Twelve Things That Make My Christmas!

On the first day of Christmas....I love looking out for Christmas lights, small or big I love how everything lights up at Christmas time. Christmas trees sparkling in windows, huge light displays along shopping precincts. I don't do it myself but I love seeing houses that have gone over the top with lights everywhere. In my own home I am a little more conservative but I love having a twinkly tree. I adore fairy lights and have them all year around in the bedrooms, but Christmas lights are the best and a sure way of getting me in the mood for Christmas.

On the Second day of Christmas....we have the Christmas Markets. I live in a big city and each year there is a big market from Frankfurt, Germany. Adorable wooden huts adorn the city centre streets and the German visitors sell their wares. We also have an adjoining craft fair of wonderful hand made items. Best of all is the lovely food available, I cannot resist a Bratwurst sausage and a cup of Gluwhien but my all time favourite is the gorgeous Schokukuss, chocolate kisses.

On the third day of Christmas.....it's time for Christmas shopping. Now, I admit it's no fun with kids in tow, a ton of things to buy and crowds of people trying to do the same. However, give me an afternoon on my own, a small list of special people to buy for and plenty of money and I'll happily join the crowds and queues. There is nothing that makes you feel in the Christmas spirit than arriving home after a busy shop laden with presents.

On the fourth day of Christmas.... let's put up the Christmas tree. I always put mine up the first week in December. It's my birthday the last week in November so it just doesn't feel right putting it up before, but really I can't wait. I love bringing out the tree (not real for me, too much mess and the cats would destroy it) and getting the kids to help decorate it. We always put some Christmas music on in the background to get us in the mood. I'm not a perfectionist when it comes to the tree, we fill it with all sorts, home made decorations, glittery baubles of different colours, and special ornaments we have collected over the years, including some lovely white snowmen my mum bought me just before she passed away. On top we always have a golden fairy.

On the fifth day of Christmas....I will write my Christmas cards. This usually consists of a couple of hours helping the littlies to write cards to their school friends, and ten minutes of writing my own. It makes you think of all the people you rarely see and wonder if they will turn up this year. Christmas is a time of thinking of other's and this is what you do when you write them a card.

On the Sixth day of Christmas... The Christmas cake will be decorated. Now, I love my traditional Christmas cake and it will be baked sometime in November. Each week I'll bring it out of its air tight tin and greasproof paper wrapping and 'feed' it a tablespoon of brandy. This is definitely not a cake for the littlies. I love decorating cakes and long to decorate my Christmas cake traditionally with royal icing and little plastic figures, just like my mum used to make. However, I don't really like royal icing, I much prefer fondant icing, but I do still use marzipan. You really feel like Christmas is on the way when the cake is finally decorated.

On the Seventh day of Christmas.... the Christmas spirit arrives by my nose. The smell of mince pies baking, or sherry trifle. Oranges and cloves as we get ready for Kristingle. Apple, cinnamon, gingerbread and peppermint candy canes. Not forgetting the smell of pine trees. Very soon it will be time for the smell of roast turkey and Christmas pudding.....mmmmmmmm

On the eight day of Christmas..... We attend the School Nativity. There is nothing that says Christmas more than watching your children and all their school friends re-enact the Christmas story. These days a lot of schools veer away from the nativity and have other musical shows instead, but for me, Christmas is all about the birth of Jesus and I'm quite happy for my children to share the wonderful story of his birth.

On the ninth day of Christmas....we watch Christmas movies. There is nothing like cuddling up on the settee on a cold winters day with the Christmas tree lights twinkling and watching a good Christmas movie. There are so many to choose from, The Polar Express, Elf, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, Miracle on 34th Street, Scrooged everyone has a favourite.

On the tenth day of Christmas....Oh no it isn't, oh yes it is, it's time for a pantomine. Such a wonderful, fun Christmas tradition watching a familiar story brought to life on the stage with larger than life character and heaps of laughs. It really is time for Christmas when the pantomines arrive.

On the eleventh day of Christmas... we visit Father Christmas, ok the littlies know he's not the real Santa, just one of his helpers. How lovely to see their little faces light up as they meet the special man and tell him what they want him to bring them for Christmas, while I have my fingers tightly crossed that they say something that I've already bought for them.

On the Twelfth day of Christmas...we follow Norad Tracks Santa and wait for the big man to arrive. There is nothing more exciting on Christmas Eve than seeing where Santa has been already and watching him travel all over the world. Then it's time for bed as we anxiously await his arrival to our house with all our lovely gifts. Merry Christmas!

This is my entry to the Center Parcs and Tots 100 December challenge. If I'm chosen, I would like to visit Sherwood Forest.

The tip that inspired me the most was :
4. Meeting the man himself – what better way for you to get in the Christmas mood than by visiting Santa and his little helpers in Santa’s Woodland Workshop?

Saturday, 14 December 2013

The Evolution of Energy

It's Christmas time and although your usage of energy in your home is usually the last thing you are thinking about, it really does help to be aware. Check out how Christmas can hit your energy bills  and find some useful tips regarding your Christmas lights, Christmas cooking, entertainment and heating.

Did you know that in the past 40 years, the amount of energy we consume by household has risen by nearly 20%?  No surprise really,  given the needs of the workforce to be ‘always on’ and the emergence of a generation of habitual internet users.  As a result, our consumption habits have forced society and businesses to innovate new ways to control the increased demands… and the results are astounding. What will they think of next!?

Be smarter with your consumption and choose the right energy tariff

Post produced in association with Ovo Energy.

Thursday, 12 December 2013

Warming Up Drinks

At the end of a cold winters day there is nothing nicer than curling up with a nice warming drink. Here are a few of my favourites. 

Nutella Hot Chocolate.
Now this one is so simple, almost as simple as making your chocolate from a sachet, but it's a good one to star with especially if you like a nutty flavour, or are simply a Nutella addict.

Take a saucepan and put a mug of milk on to heat.
When it's warm add two heaped teaspoons of Nutella, or you can add more if you wish.
Stir until almost boiling, pour back into your mug and enjoy.
Do you love Nutella? Here are 50 more recipes you may enjoy.

Baileys Hot Chocolate.

If you fancy something with a bit of an alcoholic boost then this one is definitely a firm favourite.

Put 300ml of milk into a saucepan and add 1 tsp of hot chocolate powder.
Warm through stirring all the time, keep on medium heat until hot but not boiling.
Pour 50ml of Baileys into a mug or heatproof glass.
Add the hot milk and stir.
Top with chocolate flakes or whipped cream.

Find more recipes to make with Baileys

Hot Vanilla Milk

This is perfect as a bedtime drink. 

Warm a cup of milk in a pan on the stove.
Add 1 1/2 tsp of vanilla extract
Add sugar to taste

Sleep tight.

Winter Lemonade

Have a nasty cold, or just need warming up, you will love this.

Slice a fresh lemon and put them in a pan with a cupful of water.
Bring to the boil and simmer for a couple of minutes.
Pour carefully into a cup leaving the lemon slices behind.
Add a spoonful of honey.
If you like it sprinkle with cinnamon or ginger.
Leave the lemons in the pan as they will be good for another cup later.

Produced in association with Inghams, all recipes are my own.

Christmas Wish List from Compare 4 Kids

We found this brilliant compare site for kids. Compare 4 Kids helps you save time and money in listing loads of things you need for your kids whether it is bedroom furniture or Christmas presents.
I tried out their Gift Finder with my eight year old daughter Star.

We logged on and put in our preferences, girl, aged 8 year and set our budget. With £100 to spend we chose one large gift and made up the rest with smaller gifts.

Straight away Star spotted the Snow Cone Slushy Maker for £49.99. We all love slushies so this would be a gift for all the family.

The we went on to the £25 price range and Star chose a board game, Logo billionaire. When clicking through to the shop we found it had been reduced to £17.99 so we are sticking with that price.

Next up was a Robo fish for £11.50.  Then Star spotted The Slap Watches at £7.45 and said she would like two, one for her one for her sister. That's another £14.90 spent.

The total now stood at £94.78 so that left £5.22. We looked in the £5 section and star found a dinosaur woodcraft set for £4.99.

We found the gift finder fun, quick and easy to use. There was lots to choose from and the price range was brilliant. I've bookmarked the site for future shopping sprees.

The Gift finder takes your preferences and then gives you ideas from over 50 of the UK's top websites such as Argos, Toys R Us, Hamleys, Prezzie Box and many more. It saves you from having to trawl each site individually and lets you see the best prices for what you want to buy. Or if you don't know what to buy it will give you loads of ideas within your price range.

This is my entry into the Compare 4 Kids competition. All thoughts an opinions are my own (and Star's)

Tuesday, 10 December 2013

Christmas List Linky Round Up

Just over a month ago I set up my Christmas list linky, where everyone was invited to submit a blog post featuring a list of anything Christmassy. I've had some lovely link ups and as promised here is a little round-up post.

Kerry from Lived with Love submitted her list of Luxury Gifts Ideas for Her, there are some lovely ideas here, I really like the Michael Kors watch.

Sarah from Ups and Downs, Smiles and Frowns submitted her Winter Bucket List, I wonder how many she has achieved? Looking at the list again I see that I've still not achieved a few that I would have liked to have done.

There is a whole heap of gift guide lists over on Mums Thumb Reviews.

Over on Emmy's Mummy (and Harry's too) There is a fabulous gift guide for 1 year olds. Some really good ideas here if you've a little one to buy for.

On The Oliver's Madhouse the lovely Jaime gives us her list of what she would like her hubby to buy her for Christmas. I wonder if he's read it yet, what will Jaime find under her tree on Christmas day?

Julie from Mama Owl writes her bucket list for Christmas, including putting the Decs up on 1st December (did you Julie?) and opening presents from the elves on Christmas Eve.

Kim from Northumberland Mam has given us a fantastic list of Christmas Decorations 

And the lovely Steph from Steph's Two Girls has given us a fabulous list of goodies from Great Gizmos, these would make great stocking fillers.

Suzanne from 3 Children and It has listed their Top Ten Favourite Christmas films, is your favourite there?

Thank you to everyone who has submitted at link so far. If you have a post it's not too late, the only rules are it should be a list and it should be Christmas related. The linky is open until Christmas eve, so do join in.

Merry Christmas.

Do you have a list of anything related to Christmas? Come and join our Christmas List Linky.

Living With a Halo

One week on from Stars operation and we are learning how to cope with the halo. Just over a week ago I was thinking of how I would cope with Stars long hair if she had the halo fitted (it wasn't definite then) but now I see that really was the least of our problems.

 Starting with the hair though, it really isn't too bad. The halo doesn't go all the way around the head, there is a gap at the back, perfect for reaching the hair and putting it in a plait or pony tail. We do have screws in the side of her skull which means hair brushing is difficult, but it's not so impossible to keep it tidy. Also, I've been told that it may be possible to wash her hair next week when the pin point wounds have healed more. We just have to find a way of doing it without getting the vest wet.

 Now, our biggest problem is clothing. I didn't realise just how big the vest is, both at the front and the back. And the bars come right down onto the chest making putting clothes on almost impossible. So far we have managed to fit her in a cardigan which just covered her arms and fitted around her back. So I tried one of my bolero type cardis which has a fastening at the front. It just about does up at the front but tends to slip off her shoulders. The other day I took an old vest top apart and sewed on some ribbons to see if I could adjust it to fit around the vest. I had a little success, although the vest was way too small. I think with a larger vest it just might work but it's going to look weird. I've ordered her some dungarees, and praying that they fit. They seem the perfect solution as they open up at the shoulders. Also, they are adjustable at the sides so we could just leave them open if they don't fit over the vest. Fingers crossed they do the job.

Another huge problem is getting out, especially to hospital appointments. I currently don't have a car but I would so appreciate having one right now. We can't really take her on the bus, it just wouldn't be safe for her, I'd be scared of her bumping into one of the bars, or someone else. The ride can be quite jolty too, even if I ask the driver to stop while she sits down or gets off. I think she could cope with the stares, we're kind of used to that with her having to wear a collar for so long. However, the halo is unpleasant to look at and I wouldn't want to distress anyone on public transport. Taxi's are a good alternative but so expensive, and we don't exactly have a lot of money right now. I've tried to find some hospital non-emergency transport but so far had no luck. I'm managed to get two offers of lifts from friends and family, that leaves four journeys until the halo is removed. Also, I can't really take her anywhere else. We have been invited to see a play at the town hall at Christmas but I have no idea how to get her there.

Now, I'm quite used to not having much sleep. The Little Man has only been sleeping through the night for a short while, and Star has never been a good sleeper anyway. However, I'm finding looking after her during the night a big strain. She calls out to me often needing me to turn her over, or rub her knees (this is usually what keeps us awake) or give her painkillers, or just comfort her because she's distressed. This is happening all night long and I'm lucky to get an hour in-between. I do hope she settles more as she gets used to the halo, for both of our sakes.

Other things we've had to get used to are;
Cleaning the pin points. I found it quite hard at first, but now I don't think too much about it and just get it done. The ones at the back are the hardest because you can't see past her hair, but I'm so glad they didn't have to shave her.
Washing. We can't get the sheepskin under the vest wet, so no showers. She can have a shallow bath, but to be honest, I'd be terrified of her getting in and out, she's not the best at this without a halo. So it's wash downs. And we can clean under the sheepskin with baby wipes. I'm dreading what her skin will be like when it comes off.
Stairs. Star has always been a little awkward on the stairs and now it's ten times worse. Now she has to balance herself and has limited vision. I have to follow her every time she goes up, and come down in front of her just in case.

The halo is big and hard, I'm already sporting bruises on my arms and shoulders from it, and every time I go to kiss her it feels like I'm close to losing an eye. It's really not a kind or friendly contraption, hugs are out of the question. Also, when you collide with her, and believe me we are trying very hard not too, you worry about hurting her, although she hasn't complained yet.

On the plus side, and it's really hard to find a plus side, Star has been brilliant. She hasn't complained much at all It has to be uncomfortable, and sometimes I watch her facial expressions and know she's in pain, but when I ask she says something like "it doesn't hurt too much, mummy" She's a proper trouper. I really hope this is all worth it and she comes out of it fixed and pain free.

Boo woke up this morning and said "mummy, I had a wonderful dream" I asked her what it was and she said, "Lucy didn't have to wear a halo or a collar any more and everything was great"

Despite everything my little girl still smiles

Saturday, 7 December 2013

Dream Toys for Christmas

Less than three weeks to go to the Big Day! Is all your shopping done yet? With my little hiccup of a week in hospital with Star I'm now falling behind with quite a few things on my shopping list to get. I've been checking out what is popular with the kids this year as mine can't seem to make their minds up and I came across this fantastic list of Dream Toys Here at Argos.

I'm surprised at how many toys come around again. I remember Eldest Daughter having a Furby first time around. She loved it, but I think at the time I played with it just as much as her.
Now you can get the fabulous Furby Boom, bright and colourful and incredibly interactive. The more you your child plays with it, the more it learns. Not only interactive but addictive!

Furby Boom

Another interactive, and one that's definitely on my girl's Christmas lists to Santa is the Teksta Puppy, available in pink and blue. It has over 100 interactive play features and comes with a ball and a bone.

Teksta Puppy Pink

How about something for the boys? Lego is always a big hit and this is Lego City Coast Guard Patrol is bound to be a Christmas favourite.

Lego city Coast Guard Patrol

Kids too young for their own Tablet, then the Leappad and Innotab3 are fantastic alternatives with loads of learning opportunities and colours to suit both boys and girls.

Innotab3 and Leappad

Still not found something suitable? Then pop over to Argos and see the rest of their Dream Toys for Christmas right here

Do you have a list of anything related to Christmas? Come and join our Christmas List Linky.

This post is produced in association with Argos, all thoughts and opinions are my own. Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, 4 December 2013

My Angel

On Monday I brought Star into hospital to have a manipulation on her neck to try and get it straight again.
The day started fine, with Star settling in on the ward and having a lesson with the school teacher there. We had a chat with the consultant who told us all the gritty details of what they would be doing in the theatre, all the possible outcomes, what could go wrong and why they had to do it. It wasn't easy to listen too but we knew it had to be done. We signed the consent form.

Star was taken down to theatre around 1.30pm and we stayed with her while she was put under the anaesthetic. Then we left her.

Nearly three hours later the consultant came to speak to us. They had a few problems in the theatre, one being some soft tissue wedged between the misplaced bones, but they believe they've put the bones back. However, it was not as stable as they had hoped and so they fitted her with a halo collar while she was still under the anaesthetic. Then he took us to see her which was really difficult. Star was incredibly distressed and she looked awful.

The halo collar is to prevent her from moving her neck at all, it keeps it perfectly straight. The collar consists of a vest made of plastic which is lined with sheepskin. She cannot take it off. Around her head is a metal band which is screwed into her skull by eight screws. The band, or halo, is attached to the vest by metal rods. None of it can be removed by anyone but a doctor.

Star has been so brave but she really doesn't like the halo collar, who can blame her really? She knows it is screwed in and is totally freaked out by it. It's hot, itchy, uncomfortable, sore, heavy and just plain ugly. She will have to keep it on for six weeks, we can only pray that by this time her neck will be fixed.

I don't think we realised just how distressing it would be. We were told that the halo collar might be used but they couldn't tell us for definite before she went into theatre. Because she was in theatre so long we realised that it was probably because they were fitting the halo. I will never forget how I felt when we went to meet her and I saw it for the first time. I couldn't even cuddle her properly.

Star has never really been a cuddly person, but I so miss getting close to her, even kissing her is awkward, those pins could have your eye out! The first time I saw the wounds in her skull I felt like vomiting, but I had to hide my feelings so as not to distress her further. You soon get used to them though. I would be quite happy to clean them, which of course will be my job once she is home from hospital.

We tried to prepare her for the halo but we didn't want to scare her too much and of course we didn't know for sure it was going to be fitted. So we omitted the fact that it would be screwed into her skull. She didn't take this too well, who would? She still keeps asking to have it off constantly, but you can see that she is getting used to it.

She has also been feeling pain in her neck, just as much as before the manipulation, but that's normal. The pain will be controlled with drugs until she feels better. The first time she moved off the bed (to use a commode) she had a really bad shaking fit which was really scary. Just one day later though and she's helping herself off the bed and walking to the toilet. She would shake a little but she was determined to do it.

I thought that her neck would be straight but I noticed straight away that it wasn't. The consultant said they had over compensated so that she was slightly bent in the opposite direction. This is in case the bones decided to pull back. But what if they don't? I'm having trouble trying to understand this idea. I thought the halo was used to stop her neck moving after the manipulation, so how would the bones slip back anyway? I have to trust the doctors though, they obviously know more than me.

Today, day three and Star has been up out of bed a few times. Her teacher had her sitting at a table making cookies. I think Star was about three quarter's there, she was just going through the motions, but carried on without complaint and was proud of the end result, even though she couldn't eat more than a nibble. She was taken to the stairs by the physio therapist who made her walk up and down them, which she did without complaint but was happy to get back to bed afterwards. She didn't move again all day.

This is Star this afternoon, relaxing in front of her bedside tv.

Tuesday, 3 December 2013

I'm Dreaming Of a White Christmas

I'm dreaming of a White Christmas, just like the ones I used to know.

Where tree tops glistened and children listened to hear sleigh bells in the snow.

I love snow. It rarely snows at Christmas time yet it's something we associate with the holiday. Cards and decorations depict pictures of snow and snowmen. I just think it would be lovely to have a truly white Christmas where we can stay warm and cosy in our new home admiring the glistening white through the patio doors. Of course the littlies would want to go out and play.

There would be time for that, we could build a snowman too. Then afterwards we would come in and get dry and warm and snuggle up in front of Christmas movies. I can't think of a more lovely way to spend Christmas day.

I'm dreaming of a white Christmas, with every Christmas card I write.
May your days be merry and bright
And may all your Christmases be white.

I love the whole build up to Christmas, writing cards, wrapping presents, decorating the tree, singing carols, every moment is special. Then there is seeing the littlies in their school nativity plays and carol concerts. It's all so wonderful. On Christmas day itself I like to keep things special by playing carols and lighting candles to remember the loved ones that are no longer with us. If I could I'd bring them back for Christmas day, but that's not possible so a little time remembering them is the best I can do.

It's the whole run up to Christmas that makes it special. It's not the gifts you receive on the day, although there is nothing that compares with your little ones faces as they rip the paper off revealing their favourite toy.

I'm dreaming of a white Christmas, with every Christmas cake I bake,
May your taste buds be treated with delight
And may all your Christmas cakes be white.

One last thing that makes a perfect Christmas is the food. I love Christmas dinner with all the trimmings, sitting down together, pulling crackers, telling the jokes and wearing the paper hats. I also love baking, I make my own Christmas cake at least eight weeks before Christmas and feed it with brandy every week. I make my own mince pies, gingerbread, shortbread, stollen as well as fudge and chocolate truffles which I give as gifts.
Here is a tasty little cake I made today, lovely soft sponge with an Italian style meringue frosting.

Merry Christmas! This post is my entry into the Tots100/Argos 12 Days of Christmas competition.

It's Party Time!

I love kids parties, I've been doing them for years (I've two grown-up children as well as the littlies)
I've always started well in advance, picking out the theme first, then planning the food, the decorations, the games, every little detail. Here is a My Little Pony Party I had for my daughter's seventh birthday.
I'm just the same with grown-up parties, everything has to be planned to the finest detail.

Christmas parties are my favourite, we have one every year. It's great getting friends and family around for some seasonal party fun.

Here are some of my time saving party planning tips:

  • Pick a theme, it doesn't have to be too specific but it makes it easier to plan your food and decorations around a theme.

  • Find Shortcuts, homemade delicacies are lovely, but why put so much strain on yourself. Don't try to make everything your self.

  • Find help and delegate, it's not fair for just one person to be responsible for everything, pass the jobs around, ask family or friends to take on the roll of table laying, or putting up decorations etc.

  • Start gathering items you need well in advance, party plates, table clothes, decorations, spread the cost and shopping stress.

  • If you are having a fancy dress party then try out the Party Planner App from Fancy Dress Ball. It's an easy to use Facebook app. where you can plan your party, choose your theme and invite your quests. It's quick and easy and will also help your guests to choose their party outfits. 

I'm loving the fancy dress costumes for Christmas at Fancy Dress Ball, from Elf onsies to Santa outfits, reindeers to snowmen, they have a huge choice, better than I've seen anywhere else and all in one place. . Definitely a time saver.

Images source Fancy Dress Ball

Collaborative post with Fancy Dress Ball, all thoughts and opinions are my own.

A little Note About Positive Reviews on Raisie Bay

Some people only write reviews when things go wrong with products, which is good because it lets people know that there could be potential problems. I've also seen negative feedback with say things like, I had to return this item because the colour did not suit me...is this useful?

I write reviews on most items I buy because I like to give genuine feedback. If I have a genuine problem with a product I will write my review in the appropriate place.

I write reviews on my blog too, but they are mostly positive. Why? Because I only write reviews for the things I've loved. If I don't love them I let the person who sent me them know with details why and then let them decided if they would rather me write a negative review or not write one at all. It's always the latter.

This is my blog, my place and I'll let you know about the things I love. If you want to find out what other people have hated about the product then you will need to look elsewhere.

My reviews may all be positive, but they are still genuine.
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