Thursday, 30 October 2014

A Christian mother's thoughts on Hallowe'en -allowing teens to trick or treat- & World Vision's pumpkin hearts appeal.

I hate Halloween. I know this is not a popular view but I just don't get how this so called festival has grown so much in the last few decades to the point where you can't go for a meal, or do any children's half term activity this week without the whole thing being black and orange.

Top that with the fact that I am actively Christian. Now I don't believe that Halloween encourages our children to take up the Black Arts or aspire to be vampires -  I'm just vaguely uncomfortable with the idea of making anything related to the occult toddler-friendly. And don't start me on zombies!

my son;s pumpkin patch at schoolI hate the way it has become an excuse for every High Street store and a host of organisations to sell us "spooktacular" stuff. I wrote about this whole subject last year.

I hate that I feel pressured to dress up, decorate my home and trudge round the streets begging for cheap sweets. I hate the wafts of cold air every time we are visited by overexcited children in ever increasingly identical supermarket costumes collecting sweets I can ill afford and would never normally buy.

At least from what I've seen in America the focus is not always on witches and ghouls - it seems you can dress up in anything with some people making gorgeous costumes - I'd love to see a parade of super heroes and cute animals at my door.

I've taken inspiration from the States and encouraged my children to create their own costumes or choose something away from the fake-blood stained aisle.

So this year my 14 year old daughter will be sporting day-glow leggings, a rainbow tutu and headband boppers while my 8 year old daughter plans to wear a sparkly dress with a cute bowler hat with cat ears - whiskers to be added with face paint.

Grumpy will be dressing as Pikachu for our church's Light Up The Dark party - but then he dresses as Pikachu on a daily basis anyway. And I believe my 9 year old son is donning his favourite gorilla onesie. We will serve hot dogs, play games like apple bobbing, eating mini doughnuts off dangling string and generally have lots of fun.

PikachuThis is the first year I have told my older children they could go Trick Or Treat-ing with friends instead of coming to the party ( which really is aimed at younger children).

I said they could go in a group with friends,  time limited, with restrictions on where they go. I am happy with my decision because for them the excursion is all about sweets and friendship.

They don't intend to scare anyone and they know to only visit homes of people we know - easily done in our small village. I did chuckle though - having allowed them the choice of church party or Trick or Treating I heard them discussing their plan which seems to involve them spending most of their allotted time actually at the party. Big relief for me to know they really do enjoy our alternative.

Today we will be carving pumpkins - but I have suggested to the children that at least one of them is carved with hearts to support the World Vision charity's appeal to "turn a night of fear into a night of hope."

The idea is to show the children of Syria who live in fear every day that we are thinking of them - you can carve a virtual pumpkin or upload a picture of your real one on the World Vision website with a message for the children. All the messages will be made into a mosaic which will be shown to Syrian children living in Lebanon next month.
World Vision digital pumpkin carved with hearts
Our family's digital pumpkin for World Vision

You can also donate £5 by texting "HEART" to 70060 if you are able to support World Vision's work- the same cost as a bucket of sweets which we hand out on Halloween. I know what I'd rather spend my money on.

Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Ditching those L plates- memories of learning to drive & a look at black box discounts

I am very glad I am not learning to drive in this day and age. My friend is - she has a clever "theory test app" on her smartphone which I had a go at and failed miserably!

Peugeot 206cc steering wheel in red and black leather

 To be fair there seemed to be an awful lot of questions about obscure road signs, some of which I have never actually encountered in almost three decades of driving!

I remember my first lesson - like many people I booked one for my 17th birthday and the instructor picked me up from school. I was so excited! I bunny hopped down the road so proudly!

I had just ten actual lessons - I remember they cost £10 each- and the rest of my training came from my very calm and very brave step-dad Dave who helped me conquer my fear of roundabouts and curbed my innate need for speed.

I drove a Nissan Micra with my official instructor and a variety of vehicles with Dave including a very snazzy and incredibly powerful Ford Capri which was one of the must-have cars for youngsters at the time.

Dave was by far the better teacher when it came to understanding the car. My official instructor talked about rules and regs and Dave taught me to listen to the car, understand the noise the engine made to help decide about gear choice, and to drive smoothly and confidently.

So many of my friends are nervous drivers, even now, but Dave gave me the ability to jump into any vehicle and not to be afraid of traffic. I am happy to drive in cities, abroad, in unfamiliar areas and round as many roundabouts as necessary - including the bonkers "magic roundabout" in Hemel Hempstead where you can turn left or right!

I have driven all types of car, automatic, manual, Citroens with barmy gear sticks, a long wheel base VW transporter, a steam name it, I'll have a go at it!

Butlins Bognor car ride
starting young!
I have had very few accidents, the worst being when I was 18, cocky and driving a very trendy (at the time) Ford Fiesta Ghia. I went into the back of someone at traffic lights, driving too fast. Luckily nothing was hurt but my pride.  Oh, and the car.

The car was a write-off. Thank goodness for car insurance! Luckily my parents had always urged me to pay for fully comprehensive insurance and so I was not left without wheels for long.

Talking to other friends with teenagers who are shopping for car insurance now made me realise that although the test might be more challenging than it was when I was young, the variety of insurance options is much greater.

I am particularly impressed by the insurance companies who offer the black box option - basically you can choose to have a telematic box fitted to the vehicle which tracks when and how the vehicle is being driven. Good driving is rewarded with insurance premium discounts or cash-back schemes!

It proved useful for one friend whose 18-year-old son was involved in an accident. It was totally not his fault. The other (older) driver decided to try the "your word against mine" trick and said my friend's son was speeding and had braked suddenly. The black box fitted to my friend's car proved the other man a liar.

As a bonus my friend (who shared her car with her son) said knowing the black box was there made her drive more carefully too.

I love driving which is a good job really because with my "baby birds" starting to fly the nest I can see many miles passing under my wheels over the next few years! Not a chore with my beloved Peugeot 206CC- just give me a dry day to take the roof down and some good music to sing along to and I am a happy girl!

madmumof7 in Peugeot 206cc

Disclaimer: This post contains a link. I have received compensation for including it. 
All views & opinions remain honest and my own.

Y is for Youngest- The Alphabet Photography Project

This week is half term here and I took my five youngest children to a friend's cottage in the Cotswolds for just a couple of days.

We decided to visit Bourton-on-the-Water - my children love paddling in the river there even when it's freezing cold!

I took my DSLR camera and had been snapping the beautiful buildings, the river, bridges, the trees and of course the children.

My eldest son and his girlfriend had travelled up from Portsmouth to join us and the younger children were very excited when he told them they could all choose sweets in the old fashioned sweetshop- his treat!

The lady in the tiny sweetshop looked less impressed when we all crammed in and she realised she had to weigh out 7 different lots of sweets tipping them out of jars onto scales then into little paper bags.

My picture shows Grumpy - my youngest who was so pleased with his bag of jelly crocodiles that he insisted I photograph each and every one of them!