Thursday, March 05, 2015

Another blogging slump...

I'm really struggling to get any blogging done at the moment and I'm getting really frustrated about it!

I'm struggling even to write this post, having written, deleted, and then re-written the first paragraph about 10 times? I mean really, how many different ways are there to say 'I'm struggling'.

Writers block is tough, and I find the longer it continues the more pressure I put on myself to get something done. And I do put an awful lot of pressure on myself. There are some nights when it's just not happening, and the best option would be to just step away from it and come back with a fresh head the next day, but I tell myself to keep going. And so I sit with my pad open desperately searching my brain for something to write.

I just feel a little bit uninspired, this week in particular. It shouldn't have been a big deal, I should have just taked a few days away from the blog, no one would have noticed and I'm sure I would have felt better for it. I've turned it in to more than what it is, by putting that pressure on myself.

It's not that I don't have anything to write about, because I have a notebook full of stuff, but I'm having a hard time with my words.

I have had this in the past. My little one year old blog has had it's peaks and it's slumps and I know it will have many more in the years to come. I have found in the past that the best way to deal with it is to get it out in the open. That age old saying 'a problem shared is a problem halved' is right, and I don't think it matters who it is shared with, you just have to get it out in to the open. Writing about my struggles on my blog gives me a chance to read over it and realise how silly I am being, and usually gives me a bit of a boost.

It wasn't that long ago I feel like I was writing a post identical to this one... Apologies if I sound like a broken record sometimes but this helps me get myself back on track!

I think I'm going to step back for the weekend, enjoy a bit of craic and hopefully be ready to take on the world on Monday.

What do you do when you reach a bit of a blogging slump? What do you find is the most effective way to get yourself out of it?


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Tuesday, March 03, 2015

Our Favourite Children's Books

Unless you have been living under a rock, you will know that it is World Book Day this Thursday. Across the country parents are trying desperately to make/ buy appropriate costumes (Elsa definitely counts, right? I mean, there were books written about the movie surely?!) and bizarrely turn muddy spuds in to favourite book characters. I honestly have no idea what that is all about, but it's quite a fun activity all the same. We somehow managed to turn a tattie in to The Cat in the Hat last year, which you can see here.

I love world book day. I have always been a bit of a book worm, and it's something I'm keen to pass on to my children. Any day dedicated to reading, and encouraging children to really get in to stories gets a massive thumbs up from me. This year, the kids have been asked to make hand puppets. We haven't started on them yet because we only found out about it on Monday. I'm panicking a bit because it's Tuesday, and book day is on Thursday! Meaning we only have tomorrow to complete them..... Oh dear!

In the meantime, I thought it would be nice to share our family favourite books. So here, in no particular order, are our favourite children's stories.

The Gruffalo - Julia Donaldson

This is probably the kids favourite. I think they went through a stage where they asked for this every night, and it shows in the condition of the book. It's a bit old looking and the pages are all creased, but that's fine because it just shows that a book has been well loved. The kids particularly love it when Daddy reads this to them, as he does fantastic voices for all of the characters, and they just find it hilarious. I would love to take the children to a Gruffalo trail, but there aren't any here in Northern Ireland which I'm gutted about!

The Princess and the Wizard - Julia Donaldson

This is Caitlin's favourite, because it is filled with sparkles and features a princess, and she loves princesses. It's a story about a princess out smarting a nasty wizard to escape his capture. It's certainly not my favourite from Julia Donaldson but it is a sweet story, and there is glitter all over the pages, and who doesn't love glitter?

The Cat in the Hat - Dr Seuss

Dr Seuss is my absolute favourite, I don't think I have read anything from him that I haven't loved. The Cat in the Hat seems to be the kids favourite. Neil used to ask for this most days, along with watching the film version (which people seemed to slate, but I thought it was good!). It is such a fun book, and you can't help but smile as you read it. Can you believe this was first published 1957!?

Oh The Places You'll Go - Dr Seuss

Oh The Places You'll Go was the last book to be published in his lifetime, and it is probably my favourite of all of his books. This isn't necessarily a favourite of my children, but I have thrown this in to my list because me and my husband like it so much. It's a story about life, and all of the challenges you may face on your journey. I read this to the kids regularly, and hope that the message stays with them as they get older... That sometimes things don't go so well but if you keep going you will be alright, and that you can take on the world if you want!

As you can see, there is a pattern to our favourite family books. I couldn't think of any that we really love that were not written by either Julia Donaldson or Dr Seuss! My personal favourite children's books are the Faraway Tree series by Enid Blyton, but the kids haven't had experience of those books yet so I didn't think it would be right to include them. I do have the collection ready to read to the,me hen they see the right age though!

What book do you and your children love reading together? I would love to find some more family classics that we may not yet have read!



Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Our Weekend - A Walk in the Woods

After spending half term week at home feeling sorry for ourselves, I felt we all needed a bit of fresh air to blow away the cobwebs. It feels like such a long time since we have been out for a family walk. Unfortunately, Daddy still wasn't feeling to well, so we left him at home and headed out for a nice walk.

We had planned on going to the castle, but were disappointed when we arrived to find the gates were locked. Thankfully, the castle is surrounded by a beautiful woodland path, so we changed our route slightly and took a little walk in the wood instead.

The kids had a lot of fun playing with felled trees, and collecting sticks for some ultimate stick battles, and we all really enjoyed just getting out in to the sunshine and enjoying a bit of time together, although it's such a shame Daddy couldn't enjoy it with us.

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Monday, February 23, 2015

An angry rant at the Belfast Telegraph

I read an article in the Belfast Telegraph this afternoon and it's left me feeling a little bit annoyed. Annoyed at the topic, and annoyed at how such a poorly written article could even make it in to the paper in the first place. It reminded me why I stopped reading the newspapers a long time ago, because most of the stuff in it is rubbish.

The article, '£35 million spent on taxis taking children to school' claimed that a 'whopping' £35 million had been spent over the last five years to transport some children to school via taxi. They said that this had taken a sizeable chunk from the £100 million annual school transport budget in Northern Ireland.

Wow, you might think, that is over a third of the yearly budget being spent on taxis. Remember though, the £35 million spent had been over five years, which meant the actual figure was £7 million a year. Less than 10%, not quite the sizeable chunk the Belfast Telegraph were making out.

All children in Northern Ireland are entitled to free travel to their closest suitable school, if they live a certain distance away. Currently, to be eligible for transport you must live more than 2 miles away from the closest suitable primary school, or 3 miles away from the closest high school. The majority of the children entitled to travel will do so on a school bus, with only a small minority being taken to school in a taxi.

Taxi travel is generally only given to children with special educational or medical needs, and I feel that is totally justified. Some children simply cannot cope with the demands of getting on a bus with a lot of children, or need a specialist wheelchair taxi to get to and from school. For a lot of children, these taxis are essential.

A local UKIP MLA is questioning why such a substantial amount is being spent on the taxis. Apparently, he too had fallen for the telegraphs clever wording, because in a short video on their website he mentions a third of the budget being spent on them. He goes on to say that he understands that some children have a right to taxi travel, such as those with special needs. Considering they are the only children who are given taxi travel, I don't understand what point he is making?

In fact, I don't really understand the point of the whole article. Children with extra needs are being sent to school in taxis, and it is costs money. How is that even news? They are telling us that each year a certain amount of money is spent on something that needs to be done.... it would be like writing an article '£100 million spent on medicine to cure people'. The article offers no information on how less money could be spent, but it written in such a tone that says 'how disgraceful that we have to actually spend money on people that need it'

Already there are comments being made on the online version of the article, what a disgusting waste of money, blah blah blah. Do these people not actually hear themselves? How is it disgusting that we spend money helping vulnerable children get to and from school? The board will only provide a taxi for a child it feel needs to travel in one, they certainly don't just hand out free taxis for a laugh!

I understand, at a time when cuts are being made from lots of valuable services, people will look to see where more money can be saved. Perhaps there are ways in which cost effectiveness could be maximised, and there is nothing wrong with questioning that. I don't know enough about the way it is currently run to really comment on ways to improve the service. Maybe if more research had been done, the newspaper could have given us a bit more information about it, and maybe some possible solutions, rather than just complaining about having to spend tax payers money.

Have you read the article? What do you think? Am I right to feel a bit annoyed by this?



Thursday, February 19, 2015

Word of the Week - Infectious

This week has been a bit of a write off. Something always goes wrong in half term doesn't it?
I was working at a show at the weekend and didn't get home until 8 on Sunday evening. When I came home I found the wee man lying on the sofa, not feeling too good. From that evening my family have been dropping like flies.

On Monday my husband phoned me at work asking if I could leave half an hour early as he too was starting to feel ill. There has been a bit of a flu like bug going around and our family had finally succumbed to it, and the rate at which it was spreading through the house, I knew it wouldn't be long until I caught it too.

That's why my word of the week this week is...

Caitlin fell ill on Tuesday, and my body eventually gave in on Thursday. As I write this, my whole boy is covered in goosebumps and my skin feels sore to touch, I'm shivering and my head is absolutely bouncing! I'm just about ready to take some lemsips and drag myself to bed.

It is bloody typical that we would fall ill during half term, meaning we couldn't get out and enjoy a few days off together. The kids were back to school today, which gave me a bit of peace to lie on the sofa and feel sorry for myself. It's so hard trying to look after children while you are not feeling good, so I was grateful for those few hours. I imagine tomorrow will be much of the same, putting my feet up and doing very little.

I hope you have all had a good week and enjoy your weekend, I'm away to hibernate until Monday!

The Reading Residence

Why I need to learn to drive...

When I was a teenager, I had no interest in learning to drive. My best friend passed her test at 17 and got herself a wee green Micra. The colour was awful, and the car wasn't the best, but we had some great adventures in that thing. I didn't see the point in getting my own car, when I was having so much fun in the passenger seat of hers.

Once I met my husband and fell pregnant I still didn't have any interest in driving. We lived on the outskirts of the city. Most things were within walking distance, and I have always enjoyed walking. I didn't see a point in paying so much to learn to drive, then pay for the upkeep of a car, when walking is free. Anything not within walking distance was only a short journey on the bus or metro, everything was so handy.

Now, things couldn't be more different. We live in a village with a shop, a pub and a few hairdressers and salons. While the village is beautiful, and there are plenty of places to take a picnic or go for a scenic walk, there isn't much else going on.

Moving from the big city to such a small village was tough. Suddenly, I felt very isolated without transport. There are regular busses to Belfast, but the journey takes over an hour, and the bus fare for the four of us is around £30 return. There are so many wonderful attractions across Northern Ireland, but most of them are not accessible without a car, unless you are willing to endure long bus journeys and multiple changes. Not fun with two kids.

Since moving here we have rarely left the village, except when Granda drives us places. I rarely visited toddler groups because getting two small children on to a bus ( and a lot of the buses over here are like coaches, and don't have easy access for prams) was my idea of a nightmare. The kids didn't go to nursery because there was none in in the village and limited transport to the closest one, and Caitlin is missing out on dance classes because we have just no way of getting to them.

On top of all of that, Neil now has to go to regular therapies and things to do with his ASD, and I have to ask granda to take us to them all, which I feel awful about. I have also had to turn down so many training opportunities and workshops because I cannot get to them by bus.

I feel like we are stuck in this little village sometimes, and it is driving me nuts! (Pardon the pun....)

With all of that in mind, I think it is about time I learned to drive.

I have been thinking about it for a while but now feels like the right time to start. While days out and things are luxuries, getting Neil to occupational therapy and social groups is a necessity, and I can't rely on my father in law forever
Having a car will make things so much easier for us.

I'm going to apply for my license this month, and aim to be driving by the summer. I know I am not giving myself much time, but I'm working to a bit of a deadline. I currently work in my village, so it's only a five minute walk in to the office, but soon we will be moving premesis, and I will no longer be able to walk. I want to be driving in time for the big move, so I don't have to put my trust in unreliable bus services to get to work on time.

I think driving will give my blog a bit of a boost too. I love writing about our adventures and days out, but as we are so limited on places to go right now, I don't have much to write about! I can't wait to be able to drive to exciting places around the county, and be able to showcase the best of Northern Ireland on my blog, as it really is a fabulous place!

I'm looking forward to getting started, and can't wait to share my progress with you all.

Brilliant blog posts on

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