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The other week we were invited to the launch event of Lazer M.A D. latest blaster.

Now, before I let you know about the event I will talk about the blaster.

The basic set blaster comes with an attachable target. The blaster itself is unique compared to others that are currently available on the market due to some very clever design features. Lazer MAD is the first home blaster that’s completely wireless for unrestricted play as well as having a design that makes each blaster customisable due to the accessories for it.

This aspect alone I think is really important. A lot of blasters I have seen or reviewed in the past usually offer an upgrade where you have to purchase a whole new blaster making each level up more expensive and ultimately, if you are that way inclined, having multiple blasters collecting up. However, with Lazer M.A.D the upgrades and attachments adapt the basic blaster for more fun and a greater gaming experience.

 

With each blaster you receive a target. This target can be clipped and attached to a chest attachment called an “X strap” therefore making it sturdier.
 
 
However, because of the clever design to the back you can also add the target to any top. This easy attachment would, in my opinion, help save time fitting each child with a target rather than a strap but also give a “whatever you’re wearing” excitement. This also means that it is easy to attach to object’s, moving or still, and change the game play. Although the target requires 3 AAA batteries it does have a total of 20 “Life Points” to play with and indicated with 5 lights. 

Between the blaster and the target it works with state of the art technology in the form of IR (Infrared) emitters and receivers.
This is then set and arranged according to the settings on the blasters and the target. If, for example, you have two sides one side would set their devices to A and the other to B ultimately allowing direct play between teams and sides rather than a “all in” environment that I have seen previously.
These inclusions then create an amazing range of gaming styles. For example, you could just do person verses person, teams against other teams, last man standing (Hunger Games style) or create scenarios where you can have medics, new lives given and work for a “cause”.

The basic set offers two blasters and, again, this allows game play to be more engaging and unique where one set comes in the colour green whilst the other comes in orange. The blaster has a target range of 15 metres so space to play is increased compared to other comparable items.

Along with this each blaster has single blast and charging blast actions with reloading action produced by light and sound effects.

But, what if you get the upgrade adaptions?

 

This, in my opinion, is where game play can change. 
 
Due to the design of the blaster you can purchase a handle grip for the base and a butt stock to make sturdier firing.
 You can also buy the 20 metre blaster module that connects to the front to increase blaster range but also unlock the continuous blasting mode and different sound SFX and damage.  Then there is an option for another 20 metre, smaller, module. So, if you have been adding it up, you can have a range of over 50 metres if you have the space to use it!
We have had a couple of weeks now to play with these blasters. Due to the design we have had games where they have used single blaster without adaptions, games that start that way but they have to find and adapt along the way as well as games where we start fully loaded and ready.
 
 
The flexibility within the design and how you can play is something that I haven’t seen before in a blaster. The fact that it is wireless makes moving and playing much easier and that is something, as a parent, that I appreciate; I was always stressed having to spend time untangling wires or getting annoyed when they were damaged.

Now, briefly about the event.
At the event we were introduced to the blasters and shown how they were used. Throughout the day and the game play the games were ever changing so you could really see how each adaption worked and how flexible the device could be with the style of game that you want. By the end of the day we had fully adapted blasters that could range over 50 metres which, being in a game playing bunker made the experience even better.  You could choose the style that you wanted to play in whether it was sniper and staying still (my chosen game play) or to run, target, blast and attack. I can honestly see that these would be great for families as well as for events and birthdays making each play engaging and ever changing!
If you’re a fan of blasters then I’d highly recommend Lazer M.A.D!
(This was a collaborative post. We were given this experience and the blasters for free to review. My opinions, and photos are my own. I am under no obligations to give a positive review. Please see my full disclosure at the bottom of my blog)
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I often receive emails asking if we are interested in going to one event or another and although I think many would like these events I usually turn them down if they either don’t strike something we would all be interested in as a family or are not educational for Home Ed.
It has always just been something that I have done and never mean it to be a negative to the event we have been invited to.

Recently, The Historic Dockyard, Chatham contacted us regarding “Brick History;” an event that travels through time exploring 13.8 billion years of the world. Now, admittedly, I have always enjoyed the exhibitions that they hold and as we are currently studying Castles and what they were made of, clever clogs over here thought learning about history of bricks that it would fit quite nicely.
Well, as many of you would enjoy, I was wrong; not that learning about how bricks were made wouldn’t be a great exhibition to visit but the truth behind the exhibition itself was surprising and cool…

LEGO! The Historic Dockyard, Chatham is holding an exhibition that journeys through time in models made from Lego. Something that made both Will and I super excited when we arrived and saw the banner!
Apart from the Dockyard holding this fantastic event the actual artist behind it is Warren Elsmore. Warren is an artist in LEGO® bricks and a lifelong fan of LEGO® who is based in Edinburgh, UK. He has been in love with the little plastic bricks since the age of four and now spends his days creating amazing models with LEGO.
Exhibitions of Warren’s models tour museums and galleries throughout Europe, entertaining hundreds of thousands of people.
The exhibition itself is fun, engaging and fascinating for both children and us children at heart. They cover, very cleverly, areas of their own history like the model of the Battle of Trafalgar and Chatham made HMS Victory, to local history featuring Rochester Castle both at War and at Peace time and other areas of history like Prehistoric models to the Suffragette movement with, in total, over 40 models that are not only historically accurate but a piece of art work in itself!
Each model displayed is rich in detail, engaging and “cool” for the children and is accompanied with brief historical facts for all to read and learn.
Anyway, enough of me talking away (because I could for ages at how good it is) and let me show you a few examples of this ingenious exhibition.
Underground Railroad

 
Many of the models had a real impact on both of us adults as well as the children. For me, I knew many of these enriched historic points but in some ways seeing them being shown, with additional information, made me really grasp how much has changed, for many, in the world today.
 
In the above and below photos you will see the representation of the underground Slave Railroad. It stated that the underground railroad marks a very dark period in American history and has nothing to do with actual tracks and trains. In the nineteenth century the United States was split with one overriding fact; slavery was legal in the Southern states but illegal in the Northern ones. Many people living throughout the United States felt slavery was wrong, so they helped slaves escape to the Northern states, or even Canada, where they could be free.
 
 
It was a small detail in many ways, yet at the side of the manor house you saw 3 slaves running for their freedom. This alone raised lots of questions from William and served well as a poignant reminder of a darker point in history that we shouldn't forget.
 
The Suffragette Movement
 
 
We read and learnt that although democracy has been in existence for a very long time, voting was long restricted to men. In the 1900's, the women's suffragette movement in Britain started a campaign for equality, frustrated that women had to follow laws and rules that they could not vote for.
 
 
What I loved about this model, aside from showing and highlighting the struggles and rights for women, was the clear historical reference to the police uniforms, the fact that they were riding horses, carrying batons and you could really see the struggle upon the woman's face. Even in Lego form it made you sit and contemplate the age that they were in and the battle that they had.
 
Along with these harder hitting models in history we also found different landmarkschanges in engineering and structure.
 
The First Underground Train
 
 
At first glance at this model you notice the detail on top which shows horses pulling carriages and it makes you really question that trains would match this scene. However, as with the other models, the accompanying descriptions helped us gauge a greater understanding.
 
 
London in the 1850's had a problem. The railways were bringing thousands of workers into the city, except the train could only go as far as the stations. The trains were not allowed to go further into the city above ground so the only option was to go under the city.
 
Rochester Castle
 
 
The castle is a clear representation of Rochester. The design and layout is outstandingly perfect! However, what I loved more was that it was split in two; one half showed what the castle would have looked like at war and the other in peace. The fact that they did this just showed the level of craftsmanship that was put into it and the dedication in trying to educate the person viewing it.
 
At Peace
 

In Peace time we saw that they had knights surrounding the castle, people selling food, carrying items for both the Lords and soldiers as well as looking into the castle and seeing the cook arranging dinner, the Lady of the castle drinking from a chalice and meetings being held.
 
At War
 
 
The instant change in how the castle looked was incredible. You saw catapults, soldiers climbing ladders, soldiers defending the keep and castle and Lords holding council meetings and being guarded.
 
 

 We learnt that after the peace when the Magna Carta failed, rebels took control of Rochester castle and King John besieged the castle, which was the largest siege in England and took 2 months! The siege was eventually broken when the royal troops undermined the castle and destroyed part of the keep.
 
The Boston Tea Party
 
 
Again, like many of the above, the Boston Tea Party was a point in history that I knew a fair bit about but it wasn't until this visit I realised that I knew very little.
 
 
This model showed that it was one of the defining moments in the struggle that led to the American revolution. America paid their taxes but had no say in the British Parliament. It was said that the protestors rallying cry was "Taxation without representation is tyranny"; something that I didn't know was actually not said until we learnt it here!
 
 
However, the clear distinction between the costumed Indian "natives" and the British soldiers during this demonstration definitely highlights and captures the escalating conflict that fuelled the movement for independence.
 
I hope with these few examples from the exhibition you can see why it is a fantastic idea that is engaging for both child and adult.
 
On the day I took over 100 photos of all the different models and the sheer detail that each held. It was more than just history, it was art. Although I wont spoil the visit for anyone by showing all the photos that we took I did want to just highlight a couple more that you should see!
 

 
Greek democracy in action!

 
Prehistoric dinosaurs in action!

 
The viewing of the first "Talkie" movie. (I just loved that they used black and white blocks for the picture!)

 
Finally, the globe of Earth. This beauty is actually continually rotating around so you get a chance to identify the different places as well as learning about globes too!.

 
Once you have taken your time to look round, learn about history and just stand in awe at the beauty of the craftsmanship in making this there is, of course, a place for all to sit, make or even attempt something of your own of history.

 

I hope you can see how much fun this was for all of us that went. It was an exhibition that blew our minds and imaginations and one that I think everyone should go and visit. It is on from the 6th July all the way to the 16th September so is perfect for Home Ed families to go and visit in school time or for families to visit over the holidays.

 This is also part of their big 400th birthday celebrations this summer. The Historic Dockyard, Chatham is holding a summer "Party" to celebrate which will include Black History of Kent, Brick History, Pirates who are taking over the Gannet, Doc.Yard (Science and conducting experiments) and we were told that they are turning part of the site into a beach by using a massive amount of sand on the main court yard! They are also, rather sneakily, saying that there will be much more in store!
 
If this exhibition is anything to go by then it isn't something that you would want to miss out on!

 


(This was a collaborative post. We were given this experience for free to review. My opinions, love of Lego, stupidity in thinking the event was something else and photos are my own. I am under no obligations to give a positive review. Please see my full disclosure at the bottom of my blog)
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It has now been a little over a month since James has started school.
I have always believed that every child is an individual. Everything about them can make them unique and their education isn’t any different.

As a class teacher we had to assess each child and within that separate them into groups according to their ability. It works the majority of the time; you end up with 3 or 4 small groups within the class and work is set to that ability. It sounds so seemingly perfect but the truth is that many children don’t fit the groups you produce. These children may show that they have a greater understanding than children in Group B but are quite far behind some of their peers in Group A. You, as a teacher, just have to be continually aware of each and every child and adjust where possible. Yet, as mentioned above, every child is unique and it isn’t always possible to suit THEIR exact needs.

With this in mind, the ideal situation is to look at every child and see exactly what they need. Being a Home Ed parent this is something that really needs to be considered. You have twice the amount of responsibility; you have to consider what is best for each of your children both educationally and emotionally.
William started his Home Ed journey because he really struggled in the school environment. He started off top of his class and ended his year at the bottom. In the words of his teacher and school “William has made none or very little progress throughout the entire year”. As a teacher at the time I, of course, held responsibility to the school. Something like this shouldn’t happen to any child but I was obviously going to be more passionate when it happened to one of mine.

William’s personality by the start of the second term had changed. He was highly emotional, upset, angry and aggressive. Every day was a battle to get him to school. I say this because I do need to really push home the fact that it was EVERY day; it wasn’t just a couple of bad days and we were going to the extreme reaction, William had changed.
Bullying, school environment, teacher absences, under staffed support and a, unknown at the time, additional need, meant school wasn’t for him.

The first term of home education was an eye opening revelation to a real tailor made and unique education. William was happy again. He became our loving, caring, bright and educationally interested child again.
James came to school age and, again, we had to look at him individually. He had real speech and language difficulties where he would slur, stutter and could only be “translated” by people who knew him the best. He seemed highly emotional and prone to wanting to run, hide and cry when things were difficult or overwhelming and finally, he was still physically behind in his motor skills, pencil manipulation and still having the need to wear nappies during the day.

Without official documentation and statements, school placement seemed difficult so the logical step was to Home Ed him too. I had experience with some of his difficulties as a teacher and knew that I could help him. It was, for me at least, only a matter of time to place him in school when he was ready.
Over the last 2 years he has made some real progress and although he may, in some areas, be behind some peers I knew that he was ready to be reintegrated to a school environment. James is a very different child to William; he is very keen to be round people, thrives so much more under a stricter routine and is a “happy, I’m up for it” child.


Since he has started we have had some difficulties but with that he, as expected, has adapted and thoroughly jumped in with enjoyment and enthusiasm.
We still had, however, Hannah’s children at home being educated after they took the massive move up from Cornwall to Kent. Their aim was to always go straight back into a school setting but we needed to wait for places to become available and preferably in the same school as James.



So now we have gone from two Home Ed children, to four children, then three, two and now just one. With the mix of children, abilities and ages some of the lessons were “off the mark” on what I thought they would achieve. Trying to create a targeted and tailor made education at home was pretty much the classic school days grouping and sometimes I got it right and others, wrong.
Last week we had finally moved all children, bar William, into school. In my opinion William isn’t and won’t be for a while ready for school. His needs really need to be catered for and without further investigation into what they are, working independently at home is the best option.

I was so worried about him and how he was going to respond to being “alone” again. You could see that the week running up to one of the children starting school that he was struggling with them going; so much so that we had quite a few “meltdowns” in the final week.
As always, I seem to under estimate my son. What looked and seemed like him struggling with losing people around him was clearly just his way of trying to process what was going on.

Yet, just like the first time we took him out of school William has changed back to being a happy, cheeky, fun-loving and educationally hungry child.
For me, both as a parent and teacher, I can finally really get back to doing a tailor made education again and see what flourishes and growth will come next.



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I decided a couple of years ago that I should talk about my Muscular Dystrophy on the blog. It was something that I had briefly mentioned in my posts in passing but not in detail until people began to express an interest in it after meeting me at a blogging event, and seeing for themselves how it affects me.
Since then it has become a topic that I continue to talk about on here and I am always really proud of that.
Although many people may have heard of Muscular Dystrophy not many have heard of the particular strand that I had. FSHD gets its name because of the type of progressive loss of all skeletal muscle, where weakness is usually noticeable across facial (facio), back (scapula), and upper arm (humeral) muscles.
Throughout the last couple of years I have tried to show my readership the highs and lows of living with it and bring a wider awareness of this horrible disease.


For me, at the time, it was a big step to finally open up but I am so pleased that I did; I felt it showed the side of me that not many people would really realise is going on.
From there I even showed you guys the new adaptions that my specialists arranged for me to improve my walking; despite them being painful to use and then discussed why I stopped wearing them.
There have also been the harder posts when I shared how scared I am with the noticed decline in my walking and if it was time to use a wheelchair, what happens when I fall and more recently the fact that I felt I pushed myself too much making both myself and the boys vulnerable and then having William calling 999. There have also been the posts that I have shared where I have struggled mentally and physically with daily pain and opened up to how I feel trapped in this broken body.
Finally, I have spoken about how it affected me as a parent.  How there were and still are things that I wish I could do with the boys, how I am proud to be disabled because of how the boys react with me being in publicand my heartache as William showing signs of having it.
Each post showed a little more; it equally exposed my vulnerability and highlighted the different areas of the disease.
There is still little known about it, so here is what we do know:
FSHD is estimated to affect about 870,000 individuals worldwide, the actual number of individuals with FSHD could be significantly higher due to undiagnosed cases.
FSHD is worldwide in distribution, affects both sexes equally, and has no particular racial, geographic, or ethnic distribution.
The age of onset can range from infancy to adulthood. The eventual extent and degree of muscle loss is also highly variable. The prognosis for FSHD includes a loss of muscular strength that limits both personal and occupational activities, and approximately one-quarter of patients over 50 years of age require the use of a wheelchair.
Although the progression of FSHD is quite variable, it is usually relatively slow, with most patients developing noticeable muscle weakness by the age of 20 in males, and by the age of 30 in females.
Thirty percent of new FSHD patients have no prior family history of the disease and are a result of congenital spontaneous genetic mutation. Once present, however, FSHD is genetically transmissible in an autosomal dominant fashion. This means that an affected parent has a 50 percent chance of passing the genetic defect on to each child.
As you can see there is very little known and what is understood is so varied. Sadly, along with this there is even more limited understanding related to finding a cure or treatment. 

Yet, there are still too few people talking about it; even MDUK shy aware from recognising It!

A clear example of this can be seen within the UK group for Muscular Dystrophy who posted once on Facebook that it was #WorldFSHDDay and 2 times on Twitter amongst other MD related news last year! (The latter in fact only appeared after it was publicly pointed out and questioned)

Muscular dystrophy has many different strands that cause a varying type of weakness and yet I mostly see that Duchenne's or SMA being promoted and awareness shown. I am not writing this to say that one in worse that the other but I think that all strands need awareness within the public view.


This just made me see how much was and still is needed to be done for people to see and understand what FSH truly is. So, at the moment, although money would be appreciated I think awareness is the main goal. 
However, this year, as well as 2 previous years, the FSH Society will be embarking on a social media campaign, the Orange Slice Selfies campaign. Supporters are encouraged to share selfies using orange slices in place of their smiles, using#WorldFSHDDay.
Every June 20th, people gather to celebrate World FSHD Day to raise awareness. Participants from across the globe, advocacy organizations, including individuals with FSHD, as well as their families and supporters, come together in various ways to raise awareness for, one of the most prevalent forms of muscular dystrophy, FSHD.

Orange Slice Selfies for #WorldFSHDday 2017 - YouTube


Like last year, I knew that I had to join in. This is only the third year that there’s been a #WorldFSHDDay
The response last year from our action was amazing. People sharing my posts, videos or posing with orange selfies were totally overwhelming. Yet,when it came to me sharing a video the realisation that my voice needs to be heard more became clear.

I wanted to show people the truth behind my life. Something that I don't really talk about or show people and definitely something that would make people see and pay attention.

For anyone who missed it then you can watch it below.

FSHD - Falling over and using an ELC #WorldFSHDDay - YouTube

The video has, to date, 28, 
182 views!

The day for me was, in truth, really overwhelming. I didn't expect the response and definitely didn't consider more than a handful of people joining in!

I will be sharing some bits across social media for the day as well as supporting all the orange slice selfies so keep a look out.
I am not asking for money or even for anyone to donate.
However, what I would love though and ask is if everyone would do what the campaign is asking for and unite to find a cure and share an orange selfie for awareness and just use the tag #WorldFSHDay and/or tag @FSHSociety
If we are the only ones in the UK discussing it then it needs as much help as it can get!
Let’s unite for a cure.



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A day that many enjoy is coming and it always makes me feel a little bitter sweet; Father’s day. A day to celebrate being a dad or at least it is meant to be.
Royal Mail did a survey about Father’s Day and came back with some interesting answers!

 “Simple pleasures such as a meal out with the family, hugs from their children and receiving a Father’s Day card are the top three ways to make the perfect Father’s Day, according to new research from Royal Mail. 

·         But, despite these findings, its survey of 2,000 UK dads found that they were most likely to receive generic gifts such as beer (32 per cent), socks (29 per cent) and aftershave (24 per cent) this Father’s Day. And, if previous experience is anything to go by, around one in four (23 per cent) can expect a “World’s Greatest Dad” mug for the shelves this June 17!”

William was born in 2009 and becoming a dad was an amazing thing. What I thought and what life was actually like was a wake-up call to a reality that I don’t think anyone could prepare me for.
When James was born in 2011 I thought I had “mastered” this parenting thing only to find that he wasn’t going to be exactly that same as Will. What worked for one definitely didn’t work for another; this was a whole new parenting game and, once again, taught me more to be a dad that a “zoo keeper” of just making sure that they were fed, watered and happy.

It was shortly after James was born that their mum and I separated. I look back now and openly admit that I wasn’t the husband, father or man that I should have been and it has only taken time and hindsight to realise that.

In many ways separating from their mum allowed me to grow and become the man that I am today. Yet, single dad life was, once again, a shock realisation.

The time and access that I had with the boys were limited and varied. It was a mix between words and actions as adults towards each other, just like most have when they first separate, my attitude to what “being a dad” was and my own physical and mental struggles and difficulties at the time.
This isn’t in anyway an excuse. I acted, quite often, in a way that makes me feel ashamed now. How could I ever do that?

Over that time the co-parent relationship, one solely based on what is right for the children, grew and we have something together as parents that I am extremely proud off. There had to be give and take on both sides and I know that the boys mum would agree there. A few years ago I even suggested that she could write a post about it and however hard it was to read, from my point of view, you see that there was real struggle, hurt and anguish becoming the team that we are now.
Father’s day and celebrating such a day was out the window for some time. If I didn’t have that day down when we scheduled which days we would have then I would go without seeing them. I would see other dads celebrating and I would feel a bit lost.

It carried on. When William was at school in his first year parents, especially dads, were invited in to take part in Father’s day crafts. He wanted to take his stepdad and yet, with support from their mum, I went instead and whilst we were there all William spoke about was how “S” would love what we were making. He didn’t realise it, of course he wouldn’t, but it hurt.
It is no surprise then that Royal Mail found out that:

 “When fathers are unable to be with their children in person on the day, a Father’s Day card was the most valued way for children to show their love for their dads – selected by 28 per cent of respondents. This is followed by a video call (22 per cent) and a phone call (20 per cent).
·         Those who preferred a card did so because it was more personal and because they could keep it. In fact, seven out of ten dads have kept some or all of the Father’s Day cards they have received from their children. 

·         When asked what would make them happiest in general, four in 10 fathers selected receiving a Father’s Day card or handmade Father’s Day present, and 34 per cent opted for quality time with their children.”

When times were difficult here I can see why these were many of the dad’s chosen choices.

It took us between 3 to 4 years to get to grips with our situation and yet cards made at nursery went home to the “other dad”. This is the man that I am happy with being the boys step dad so there isn’t anything resentful towards him but there was still a tug at my heart. 
Then it changed.

I received a homemade card from William. That was all but the gesture had me in tears. The following year I received an actual card from both of the boys and, again, this really touched me. I finally felt like I was their dad.


Last year was the best for me; I received 2 homemade cards and a chocolate orange from the boys and Hannah spoiled me by getting a canvas of my favourite photo of the boys made.


7 years on from being a dad to both boys and I can see the change that I have made in my life and as a person. Do I think I am a great dad? Of course not! I am now resigned in knowing that parenting is eternally a learning curve, I have to adapt and change to be a new man and importantly, being a dad isn’t about receiving a card for Father’s day but what you do as a father.
Royal Mail’s results found that:

Top five Father’s Day gifts, as chosen by British dads:

1.     A meal out with the family

2.     Hugs from the children

3.     Receiving a Father’s Day card

4.     Spending quality time with their children

5.     A walk in the countryside with their children


When I saw the top 5 I could totally relate. Presents, cards, meals out are definitely now something that I enjoy but the time and personal approach is the thing that gets to my heart.
Mark Street, Head of Campaigns at Royal Mail commented: “This study shows that, when it comes to Father’s Day, it’s the personal touch that counts. All UK dads really want is quality time with their families and a lasting reminder of their children’s love. If you can’t be there with them in person, sending a Father’s Day card with a personal message and picture is a great way to show your dad that you are on their mind, and that you care about them.”

With all of that in mind, little (and big!) ones around the nation are reminded to post their letters and cards with enough time to spare for Father’s Day. The last posting date for 1st Class stamps is Friday 15 June 2018.
For me, when I sit with the boys, even in the run up to Father’s day, and they want to draw me a picture,  something personal from them, show how they feel about me and just laugh and enjoy the moment is the real gift that I want.

(This was a collaborative post. My opinions and photos are my own and I am under no obligations to give a positive review. Please see my full disclosure at the bottom of my blog)
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I was going through my Facebook memories the other day and the photos of the possibly logo for this blog came up.
I remember at that time there were many suggestions how it should look. The blog, as it has always been, was about my life and everything around it. It didn’t seem right for me to feature the boys or as the “standard” family logo that you see many have because my blog can be quite diverse; it is literally anything, as the title suggests, that is in my thoughts.


The suggestion was to have my “head” or “face” and within that what facial features should be included within the mix. One suggestion offered a full head that covered the pushed back quiff that I am currently sporting but I wasn’t keen to go with that. It is well known amongst people who know me the best that my hair styles change more than they probably should.  This subsequently meant that it would probably be best that the logo doesn’t feature the top or hairstyle section. The next question that arose was about the beard.
Up until I left teaching or working in schools I was always clean shaven. It was only down to how I looked and presented myself within my profession over the personal taste of having a beard.

Despite the fact that I felt I looked like a weird 14 year old boy when I was clean shaven it was the actual act of shaving that bothered me the most.
I, even to this day, hate shaving. It doesn’t matter what type of pre-shaving ritual I try, as I have tried so many, but by the end I look like I have lain down flat and shaved with a lawnmower with the amount of nicks, cuts and blood that is over my face.

It has never been that clean shave.
Once the restraints of looking smart were removed the beard was happily being grown. This on its own has often caused a lot of debate because, you may have guessed, I am even lazy to upkeep that. My chosen look is often matched with a hermit that doesn’t care; although I did always feel this gave credibility to the tired and struggling single parent aspect of my life.



It is never because I didn’t want to look good even with the beard but more that my hair grows at different rates and it takes regular maintaining to get it right.
The issues I have are mostly around my neck and eventually the hair grows much quicker and I seemingly end up with more of a “neck beard” than a good looking beard. The second is on my cheeks. I personally prefer having a cut and shaped line that boarders and creates a distinctive place between my face and beard; potentially stopping myself looking like a werewolf!




Due to the fact that I look like I have had a close encounter with Edward Scissorhands I have just been relying on a beard trimmer. This allows me to trim to a set level, despite it never being quite right, and change to the closest level in the above styled places. The look may appear that I have made an effort on my appearance but the truth, when looked closer, is more the difference between long hair and faint stubble.  




It has kind of worked and ultimately given me more time to be dad, home educator and general household dogs body.
When, therefore, I was offered to take part in BIC’s “Dishevelled Dads” campaign in the run up to Father’s Day I thought it would give me a renewed chance to see if I can get a better grasp on the style I would actually like rather than the one that I pretended to have.



BIC Shave Club is a monthly subscription for busy men on the go; perfect for us dads that are continually juggling priorities through the day and never putting themselves, or their appearance, first.
The start of the subscription you receive a new quality razor and a 5 blade cartridge. Then each month or when YOU need them new blades and cartridges get sent to your door. Therefore allowing you to never forget to refill, can always shave with new blades and to do so without breaking the bank and finding time to show for what you need!

I was sent a #5 razor which has a lubricated strip enriched with aloe vera and vitamin E for a gentle glide, a precision blade at the back for hard-to-reach areas such as the upper lip and sideburns, a wide rubber protector to hold skin taut for a close and comfortable shave, a simple refill system and a blade protector to guide you. The following months I would then receive the refills saving me time and money and still allowing me to look good.
The ultimate test then was to see if it gave me the refreshed and clean shave that it promised!


The razor itself is fantastic and I can see why it is one of the super quality razors out there. Using this made maintaining the neck beard easy and with the way the head is designed allowed the cutting in on my cheeks and around my sideburns easy and neat.



This would allow me to keep the beard, still care about my appearance and stop me from falling into the trap of being a lazy shaver! Especially when you consider that the subscription is only at the Trial rate of £3 per month.




One thing is for sure, with BIC shave Club delivering blades whenever I need them it stops me falling into the hermit look and allow me to be a bit more presentable!
(This was a collaborative post. My opinions, my want for a nicer garden and photos of my garden are my own and I am under no obligations to give a positive review. Please see my full disclosure at the bottom of my blog)
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The sun has finally started to come out. For us, this just means one thing; sorting our garden out, get our fruits and vegetables growing and make the most of our small yard.
When we first moved in, over 3 years ago, the garden that came with the flat was a complete mess and every border was overgrown.





This became evident when we started clearing all the unwanted growth. We found that we had a raised bed, one long border, one medium but wide border and one smaller border.




Despite being disabled I have always enjoyed gardening. Yet, the real challenge for me is finding and utilising the space that I have.
My long term plan has always been to create a "growing garden"; a garden where we grow as much produce as we can in the little space that we have.

Due to the size of the garden, as well as my disability, it has always been just a long term plan. When we first moved in around July it was too late to do anything other than clearing the growth, see what we were working with and prepare it for winter.


The second year we regrouped and attacked all the new growth and started to create distinguishable sections in the garden. 





We made sure we had space to grow some potted plants, a couple of tomato plants and a batch of runner beans.



Last year was the first year that we started growing a better crop and used the garden better. We had another good batch of runner beans, a pot of strawberries, two different types of tomato plants, a bell pepper plant, chilli peppers and one cucumber plant.




This was also the year that my idea of utilising the garden better started happening.
I am a big fan of recycling and upcycling. If I really can't use it then I will dispose of it appropriately otherwise I will try and find a use for it.

One example of this was when I got a new bed. The old bed had a nice wooden frame but the sheer height of it made it difficult to get on and off. Yet, as always, I didn't want to get rid of it so decided to upcycle it.



I used the centre slats as a form of "decking" for our new BBQ area, the bottom and head boards as fencing and finally used the frame as a border decoration. The fact that I did this made a massive difference not only to the environment but to the garden. It was a simple action that made the garden look so much better.


We are now entering the fourth year and I am finally where I want to be.

We are planning to continue having more runner beans but with a simple construction we could get double the growth from previous years as well as using the pots for three times the amount of strawberries. Going forward we have sectioned off and area for cucumbers and courgettes, will use the raised bed for tomatoes and peppers and use the smallest bed for our herb garden. I have also collected 6 tyres with the hope to use 3 each and grow our own potatoes in them.



The final, medium but deep, bed is my final hurdle. 



The sheer depth of it makes it difficult for me to use it; even if I was sat on the floor or in my wheelchair I couldn’t reach the furthest section. I have thought long and hard and have come up with two options: create 3 or 4 raised beds with a small path between or  place some fake grass over it.

The raised beds would allow us to then plant parsnips, radishes, rhubarb and carrots. However, the fake grass could create a little space for the 4 children to sit and have lunch on. It would seem ideal regarding my muscular dystrophy as I wouldn’t need to cut it or upkeep it in anyway.
I will have to think about it a little longer but luckily I have some time before we start planting but I would love to know what you all think I should do with it.

One thing is for sure, this year will be the closest for me achieving my growing garden.
Are you green fingered? What plans do you have for the garden this year?

(This was a collaborative post. My opinions, my want for a nicer garden and photos of my garden are my own and I am under no obligations to give a positive review. Please see my full disclosure at the bottom of my blog)
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I love living in Medway. We are really lucky that our area is full of lots of activities and full of history! It could be a trip to a castle, Sweeps festival (coming up next weekend) and the Dickens festival to name just a few.
These events are always a wonderful family day out, a little learning adventure and, for me, a family tradition that has carried on from when I was a child to being a parent.

At the weekend we had the English Heritage Festival which is always a fun-packed day out for the whole family celebrating the most iconic and ironic of English traditions.
It is always a day full of activities, fun and good food and drink; something that I have always loved and so have the boys. It was also the first time that Hannah had come to join us. With the good news that she can finally come and live here in Kent it seemed right to start throwing her and the kids into some of our local events.

Riverside country park is quite large and with a play park in the middle as a central point the grounds are split into three themed areas - The Countryside Experience, Iconic England and Village Square.
Once we had arrived I had to go and pick up the boys from their Mum. She is a NCT Medway support worker and is always keen on volunteering so it's great that we find a way to co-parent and support each other’s interests at the same time. I also have great respect for the NCT volunteer team and being available to have tents and supporting people available. If you want to find out more follow the link above.
The NCT tent was based in the village square which seemed like a great place to start looking around!  

The square had a vast array of  entertainers, local businesses and farmers market, with a whole array of local producers.
We started by looking at some of the craft stalls where they had some lovely girl accessories like ribbons and bows as well as so special bath soaps and bombs. One of the first stalls that jumped out at us was a lovely garden ornaments and pots. Some of the quirky characters as well as the clever engineering of materials suited the style we are looking for in our garden.

We, of course, bumped into Joanne's Preserves; Jo offers a range of Jams, Marmalades, Jellies and Pickles and we always have to stock up.

We couldn't resist getting some and William has already had some ideas on using them in his baking so watch this space for some of the future recipes!

Next we came across the lovely guys selling some fresh local strawberries and we couldn't resist grabbing some for a treat at lunchtime.
Then not too far were the lovely guys at McCathy's who offer a range of baked goodies! The smell of their bread made us stop in our tracks and yet their versions of pasties, pies and rolls just carried on filling our senses.

Just like Joanne's preserves, we had to stop at The Brownie Edit to grab some snacks. I managed to grab this Mars Bar Brownie for an afternoon treat when I knew I wouldn't have the boys! We also found out that despite creating these gorgeous goodies that the next day they were running in the London Marathon; now that's commitment!
And finally for the food, we came across the fantastic guys at The Giggly Pig who offered a range of different flavoured sausage products. They were also running a stall to grab some cooked lunch with!

With lunch time looming we headed back to the car for a picnic but found a giant deckchair that we couldn't resist walking past. It was deemed, however, unwise for me to get in in case I couldn't get out!
 

After lunch we went and explored the different areas. The first was the iconic England.


Here you had an array of different situations.
Along with funfair type attractions like an inflatable slide and a helter-skelter there were classic sweet stalls, ice cream makers and candyfloss.




To the side we found a classic post van. We found that the owner had restored it to its original condition and then collected surrounding memorabilia including an original photo of the van when it was first put "on lot" that was sent to them following another event. 



Next we came across the classic Victorian characters. Just like the Sweeps and Dickens festivals it is always fun seeing people volunteers, re-enact and enjoy the history of the area. The moment we approached the actors were straight into character, doing the voices and interacting with the children.

Here we also saw the collection of vintage cars, Mini owners club and along with that Dellboy's Robin reliant with a Pearly King!
Even whilst we were looking around you could see the owners cleaning and taking care of the cars. The love and attention to something that is a staple of English iconic history was brilliant!


We then found a replica model of the Queen Mary that has been under restoration at our local docks for the last 18 months. We learnt about the history of the vessel where it was one of the leading ships at Dunkirk where it rescued 7,000 soldiers. 

 

There was a classic Punch and Judy show and although I have always found them a tad weird James was very keen to see them.

This nicely went into to the countryside experience section.

We started off with a chance to chat to Medway Bee Keeping who had some great resources available but the kids loved learning how to make candles! It was an interesting and actually quite simple process that I would love to try again with the boys.
A new attraction and feature this year were the Kent wood turners. Although these were individuals and groups coming together we saw a wooden vase being made and got to see some beautiful and detailed crafts.



Usually the boys love riding the donkeys but last year they missed the chance where the donkey's were resting. Although it was a tradition I did feel that the kids were now too big and I didn't want to put the poor donkey's under the strain. They were still beautiful though!


There were options to have a chance to be physical with a local dance club showing everyone different iconic dances from swing time to waltzes. Will was quite interested so, in a very non English way, plonked himself down next to a stranger to watch.


As in the other area, we also found a selection of classic tractors. Previous years we have been able to get a lot closer but it was still interesting hearing about the different types but this year they were paraded in the main square.
Another new feature this year was the inclusion of these stunning miniature steam engines. The sheer engineering to create these working models I found absolutely incredible.
Here we found a petting farm with Chickens, lambs, pigs, cows and calves and to the side some beautiful shire horses!

 
My favourite were these absolutely beautiful calves; much to Hannah’s disgust and dislike of cows!
The countryside area had a combination of classic rural culture to active farming.
We even had a chance to watch a blacksmith and a real highlight for the boys and myself, sheep shearing!
Finally, on the way out, we saw some falconry and owls. Although we didn't get to see them fly we did get to see them up close and stroke a few.

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My mum used to quote the title of this post to me regularly growing up and at the time I never really understood it.
Ultimately, too much confidence about your own abilities and something bad will happen showing you that you are not as good as you think.

When it comes to my disability I am always cautious. I look to find ways that make my life easier, safer and keep me able to do as much as possible. Either walking or in the wheelchair I take each step with caution; carefully watching and analysing the environment to know where I can go next.
When I was a teenager my mum told me that being disabled was not the end and that there was so much more to being me. This wasn’t for an ego boost but more to show me that I should never give up, that I can do and be more whilst not being defined by what I can’t do.

This has pretty much been the case since then. My disability doesn’t define me at all and I would hope my ability and tenacity to do more would be seen by anyone who knew me. However, all my long term readers of the blog would know that I have been slowly adapting my life over these last years to seek support and have more equipment to keep going; ultimately, swallowing my pride and realising that with the decline of my health I may need a bit of a boost.

A few years ago I had a terrible experience in London on a day out which scared me to the point that I realised I needed to use my wheelchair more. It was, at the time, a shock for me to realise that I had reached the point of needing to rely on it out in public. Once my pride lessened I grew to the point of using it regularly when out. It was my safety net, the thing that kept me active and allowed me to continue being the dad that I wanted to be.



That was until it was no longer safe.

This blog has been pretty much abandoned for the last few months. Not for any other reason than my adaption to the new aspect of my life.
Towards the end of January I had a fall whilst being inside my wheelchair. It was bad and one of the worst falls I have ever had.

It was easily done. Will was pushing me, we approached a low lying slope and he turned the wheelchair to go up it and one wheel was side facing, caught the low part of the curb and I catapulted out of the wheelchair.
Luckily, good Samaritans helped me out, the boys supported me and the hole in my chin was an easy fix by gluing me back together.


I recoiled in the sad thought that it was no longer a safety blanket and that it could have been far worse.
When I thought about it the real truth started to sink in. I was having very little sleep because the pain has become really bad at night time, when I did wake I was struggling to find the strength to roll over to ease the pain and I was struggling sitting upright on my bed. I was now falling once or twice a week, I could no longer have a bath or shower whilst the boys were at their mums in case I slipped and keeping up with the housework became difficult through fatigue.

The pride I had needed to be swallowed more. I needed to reach out to different services and get the support to carry on doing all that I do.
After a couple assessments a few things were set into place.

I now have a Lifeline box put in place for when I fall. This will support me when I fall and the boys aren’t here so there is always help coming for me. It would also help if I fall and knock myself out when the boys are here.




I have a new pressure mattress which has a “toblerone” shaped top. This should help me sleep better and have less pain.Also, attached to the side of the bed I have a new rail. This is to give me something to grab onto to roll over with as a well as to grip when trying to sit up.




They have also given me a bath cushion which is a cousin to the ELK. Once attached it will help me in and out of the bath, won’t leave the floor wet (like the shower would) and keep me safer when the boys aren’t around.
Finally, the biggest aspect to swallow, I have funding for a carer to come in 4 times a week. 3 morning calls and 3 afternoon calls. This is to help me get dressed in any type of clothing, help me prepare food when fatigue hits and to help make sure that everything is in place when I am alone.

When Hannah and the kids do finally move in the last aspect won’t be needed but until then it is great for that extra support.
The reality is that my Muscular dystrophy will always be declining to some degree and with that some levels of my lifestyle will have to change. For me to be at my best for myself as well as my family I need to welcome these changes and strive to continue tackling everything life throws at me.

The saying is definitely right, my pride went after a fall and my confidence in my abilities needed that reshuffle to carry on. After some time using them there has been a clear difference so hopefully they will continue allowing me to push forward for a lot longer.
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I don’t talk about my mum much; I probably should but even after this time I still find it quite painful.
She was stern, hard and a force to be reckoned with. She came across as stubborn, strong willed and quite interfering.

Then there was her sweet and loving side. She would do absolutely anything for anyone even if that meant that she had to go the extra mile to help you out and show you that she cares.
I have spoken on here a few times now that I was adopted. Before I found my family I experienced what a bad mum truly was like. From knowing that as a child to then having a woman who literally defines the true meaning of what a mum should be shows a great comparison and it is because of this that I can spot the amazing mums a mile off!

Being in the world of blogging you see lots of mums doing their best so I decided that I would highlight my 5 top Mum bloggers; especially the ones that remind me of my mum. 


Donna is a mum to Athena, 6 and Troy, 4. I had the pleasure of meeting both Donna and the children at a blogging picnic and one thing that was strong from meeting them in person and through learning about them on her blog is how wonderfully polite and happy they both are.

In Donna's blog and across social media they always have a smile on their face, always inquisitive and seem to have so much fun! This, for me, shows the type of mum that Donna is. A reflection of the children’s happiness is always found in and from good parenting and this was obviously the case. The effort that she puts into work is to provide a better life for her children and still offer such wonderful experiences makes her a fantastic mum in my books!

She reminds me greatly of my mum because of her work ethics and commitment towards her children. My mum worked 3 jobs for over 10 years, 2 of those for 15 and the final one for 40. In her long standing role, and unknown to us at the time, she hadn't taken a day of sick in those years; all to give my brother and I as much as she could.

2. Natalie Plutoniumsox
Natalie is a mum to two girls Libby, 5 and Lia 3. I haven’t had the pleasure of meeting the girls but I have met Natalie a few times and she is exactly the same as she is online, which makes me believe that the girls must be too.

Both girls manage to enjoy lots of different activities throughout the week, month and year. If you are a fan of her blog then you would know that her Thursday photo posts usually encapsulates the week in the life of the girls and what always amazes me is how much they have achieved. Natalie somehow manages to juggle all these different extra-curricular activities with work and blogging and does it with style! 

Natalie has so much integrity in all aspects of her life. Like my mum, she is strong willed, honest, plays everything straight even if it is a no. Her honesty and integrity never seems to waver and is something I respect massively about her. 

3. Hannah Cupcake Mumma
I know it may seem biased to feature my partner but equally she is a fantastic mum so shouldn't be excluded.

Hannah is a mum of 2, Midge aged 10 and A aged 7. She is one of those mum's that not only supports the children's activities but will put 100% into everything at school or at home. I have had the pleasure to see her tackle some of the more challenging and ever-changing aspects of parenting and not give up despite how hard it was. 
In addition, she has come into our lives, received and welcomed my boys and treated them as her own. 

The fact that Hannah has not only taken on me but the boys is why she should be on this post. My mum, despite not being able to have any children of her own, adopted both my brother and then later myself. A woman that can take on other children, welcome them, love them and support them, however difficult, is something that I respect.

Vicky is a single mum to S aged 5. You can find her writing about crafts, activities, mundane day to day tasks to household tips, mental health and even into politics, dating and current affairs. 

The amazing thing here is that she does all of this whilst being self employed. She balances life and seems to do it with ease. She is a woman who seems to go that extra mile for whatever she needs; even when helping others out. Her passion, strive for more and her strength that really reminds me of my mum.
Ember is a mum to 2 girls, Eva, 7 and Izzy 3. The thing about Ember that is often not found spoken massively about is her disability and rubbish health. As a parent with equally rubbish health I can see and know how difficult it can be to do even the basic day to day parenting duties yet she manages to!

I have had the pleasure to really get to know her and call her a really good friend but I also see a lot of myself in her. She might not always get it right, or might want to hide on the rubbish days in her corner but she gets up and does whatever she can for her girls and that alone deserves nothing but respect and mum points!

People often ask me with my health "Why are you so determined to do more when you physically don't have to?" The honest answer is because my mum made sure that I never gave up, I proved the doctors, friends, family and the world wrong and that I could be more. The aspects where Ember and I are similar I put down to my mum. 

There are hundreds of mums that I could have featured in this post. All who have different parenting techniques but I think these 5 remind me more of my mum. They show hard work and determination, love, kindness and respect, stubborn attitude and importantly, doing everything in their power to be the best mum that they can be!
Whatever you beautiful and wonderful mums are up to I hope it is a fantastic day!
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