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New Resources to Support Bereaved Children

As you well know now, if you follow my blog, I am no longer able to watch a movie or read a book without putting it through the grief perspective.

Recently, two children’s programs, the first, a new movie entitled Beyond Beyond and the other a book written by LeVar Burton, from Reading Rainbows, caught my attention as valuable resources that could help bereaved children in comprehending their grief and seeking support in ways that are appropriate and safe.

I shall start with The Rhino Who Swallowed A Storm, by LeVar Burton, since he is such a favourite with Emma!

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Emma has been a subscriber to Reading Rainbows for a couple of years now and absolutely loves the wide range of educational videos they provide. Since she is an emergent reader, she has found the Read to me feature of the thousands of books on offer truly helpful and this is how I got to hear the story read by LeVar myself:

The book is about a Rhino and his beautiful world in which “magic turns tragic“. A huge storm destroys the valley in which he lives, much like grief destroys the world of a child and its innocence and safety when it hits. “Senseless calamity” tears through his world and takes away EVERYTHING he held dear. (Oh, how much I can identify with those words and my latest blog post for BritMums reflects just that sense of bewilderment and loss we feel, two years on!)

Rhino is left stunned by the scene, “death and destruction all through the ravine” and enraged by the scene, he does the unthinkable, he actually goes and swallows the storm!

Instead of being able to contain it, Rhino finds himself deeply affected by the inward storm of emotions and when the storm stops raging inside him, he finds himself at the bottom “of a very deep hole.”

“Lost, lonely and in such a dark place”, his help unexpectedly comes from a tiny spider, who comes down into his hole with clear guidance and encouragement:

“You must find a way to let that storm out and move through your sorrow,

You will find many helpers on your road to tomorrow.”

The Rhino tries to climb out but the Hole is steep and slippery and it is only with the help of his friends that he manages to get back up.

“When help is needed, we’ll pull you through it.”

Strengthened by the reassurance of their love and support, the newly freed Rhino sets on a quest but the storm still raging inside him makes things difficult, keeping his brain foggy and making him worry about many things:

“Where do I go, what do I do?

How will I ever make it through?”

After every dark night, there comes a new day,

Be kind, do your best and you’ll find your way” advise friends.

“Allowing yourself to feel those feelings

Is the first step towards healing” a wise tortoise tells him.

 As Rhino starts letting go of “raindrops from his eye” and has a good cry, he finds himself feeling lighter than he had felt in ages. His tears take him on a journey of their own now, towards the ocean, where he is advised by a Whale not to be afraid of his pain and sing it out, as a way of release.

Allowing his emotions to emerge leave Rhino feeling “calm, strong and brave”. His vision, no longer obliterated by rage, reveals now a world filled with love. He emerges on the other side full of gratitude to his loving friends and strong in their reassurance and support for the future.

With “faith in himself and faith in his friends” he can not dream of a world that is safe and connected.

“It was love that mattered.

Love can never be lost, love can never be shattered.”

I love this book, as much as Emma does, as it holds so much truth and provides such precious guidance to a bereaved child. Reaching out for help, trusting those who offer support and guidance, making sense of life after loss, it is all there and in clear and easy details a child can grasp and hold on to!

If LeVar’s book offers clear guidance to a child struggling with their emotions and ways to process grief, Beyond Beyond offers an explanation to all those “whys” a bereaved child has about the afterworld. Based on a traditional Scandinavian tale, Beyond Beyond is a beautifully animated tale for children about coming to terms with the absence of a loved one.

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Jonah the Rabbit, who lost his mother to the mythical Feather King, still cannot come to terms with her loss and attempts to transcend the beyond limits in her search. Jonah finds her but the worlds as they stood, separated as reality and the afterworld, come crumbing down, threatening to take down with them the happy memories.

Emma really took to the bottle messaging idea and wanted to write messages and send them to Georgie afterwards, which we encouraged her to do, as I strongly believe that somehow, her love transcends the time boundaries and can reach Georgie where he is.

I loved the idea of Death as a Feather King, a fragile sort of monarch of the Beyond kingdom whose role is simply keeping the order of things as they stand. It does reverberate with what I believe that death now has no more power on me, as in it, I will be reunited with my son and the movie reassures children with the same perception, explaining in the same time that their loved ones are well and waiting for them in the Beyond.

I found both resources wonderful in managing Emma’s grief and would recommend them wholeheartedly.

Disclaimer: we were sent the DVD for the purpose of this review. We have been subscribers to Reading Rainbows for ages and love the book and everything about the app and what it has to offer. The post expresses our honest opinions.

Spring male fashion

My blog has brought in a few very nice items over the last couple of months, especially for Alex, for a change, so it is time I told you all about them.

If you remember, back in winter, he was gifted a winter coat by Scruffs. I wrote all about its practicality for work here, if you want to have a look.

Come spring, the lovely PR company working with Scruffs contacted us again and offered Alex one of their spring-summer lightweight work jackets.

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Last time, he had remarked that the medium jacket was a bit loose as a cut so this time, I ordered a small, to fit him perfectly.

The jacket arrived within a few days and it was exactly what Alex had hoped for in a work jacket. The Pro Softshell is light, warm, waterproof and with reflective detailing which makes his work in the evening so much safer.

Although it is a work jacket it does look quite stylish and its trim is perfect, making working up ladders that tad bit easier.

The price (£49.95) reflects its quality and high finishing and it is quite reasonable for a great quality spring-summer work jacket which will last Alex a few good years.

Back in March and for Mother’s Day too (awww!), the lovely people at Samuel Windsor included Mama’s Haven into their Top 12 Magnificent Mums’ Blogs. They did not stop there with their kindness and got in touch shortly after to offer Alex a choice of shoes or boots from their beautiful and very extensive array of quality products.

Since it was still early spring, Alex decided to go for a pair of Prestige Kensington Boots, which are a classic pair that can be worn with both suits and semi-casual looks.

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The boots arrived and they did certainly look the part: great quality Italian leather boots that according to Alex are very soft and comfortable to wear for the office. Not bad at all for £59.99!

Now that the weather improved and we have had such gorgeous days, I have been having a peek at their summer collection and was left impressed with the large choice of both casual and office footwear and their prices as well! (They currently run this offer, 2 pairs for £75, which would be perfect for upgrading any husband’s less that new looking spring shoe collection).

 Alex is a gym fanatic and uses quite a lot of t-shirts during the week for that purpose. I have come to hate the plastic ones he wears as they can retain the smell for absolute ages so when I was approached and given the chance to review the Vintage Premium t-shirt range for men, I knew I had to say yes!

The t-shirts are supposed to be premium quality, 100% pre-shrunk soft cotton and come in a classic fit. Since we were given a choice of six, I went for two identical sets, one for Alex and one for my brother:

We gifted his set to my brother when we visited at Easter and Alex has been wearing his at the gym since.

What do I think of the t-shirts?

I love the fun logos and the fact that you can buy them as they are and present them as personalised age gifts.

I was not impressed with the quality of the cotton, as although it is supposed to be pre-shrunk, it continued to shrink slightly with every wash, making me worry that they would grow too small after a while. I am also not convinced that the price reflects the quality, I do find the £18.99 price tag a bit too steep for a t-shirt, be it personalised and all.

What would you recommend for spring male fashion, what are your partner’s favourite items at the moment?

Disclosure: we received the items mentioned above for the purpose of this review. All opinions expressed are entirely our own.

Forward

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First of all, my appreciation to all of you who took the time to comment, call or meet up with us after my last blog post.

I wish I could say the contents of that blog post were erroneous and I am now in a much better place. But it would simply not be true.

The last blog post was written out of  deep personal  anguish and a sense of disappointment with life and desperate search for meaning.

Afterwards, I went to see our lovely social worker in the children’s hospice, there is nothing I could say to her to shock, and she simply said:

“It sounds like you are desperately looking for a life purpose.”

And yes, that is what it is: I have been through a lot and at this very moment in time, my life makes very little sense as it stands. It needs to change, I need a direction and a purpose.

I am a visual writer and in that conversation, I did explain that it seems that since Georgie died, I have been in a huge whirlwind, a proper tsunami which has sucked my life out of place . I am trying desperately to pull stuff out from the terrible mess that grief has left my life in and rebuild it to resemble, even in the slightest, the life I once dreamt I would have.

Another metaphor that popped into my head was “circle of trust“.

Grief has made me question absolutely everything I ever believed in and it has been like a trust circle that has been drawing tighter and tighter.

I tossed away the image of a God who cares for little children, I see Him now as the Giver of life simply.

I tossed away the belief in the Church as a Hope place. I see it now as a club, a Sunday club.

I have tossed away the beliefs that in marriage the man in the “head” and the woman needs to submit. I have a head too and I now believe a marriage should be a union of equals, as we both carry equally important responsibilities, be it providing financially or raising a family.

I have also tossed the belief that has sneaked into my head over the past 10 years that I cannot do much. I can and I will. I am still young, only 37 and can still build a beautiful and stable future for my daughter and myself.

So, thank you.

To all of you who have not judged, who have not called me mentally ill, who have not referred me for “help” and who have had the ability to look at my last blog post and see the emotional pain that oozed from my words and the potential for great things that came from such vulnerable and very public ramblings.

For the ones who didn’t all the above mentioned things, never mind.

I know that you come from a place where you have never known great pain and sorrow. Your opinions on life are still shaped by tradition and propriety. You have not had the past two years of sleepless nights to ponder on life and dig so deep for meaning that your bare soul was left exposed.

You have a mind and have used it to form an opinion of me. It is your right, of course. You already had, most likely, already an opinion, all shaped by the neat box in which you had shoved me in when my writing started to get “ugly” and raw, two years ago.

I cannot change your mind nor your opinion. Only you can but these things happen ONLY when your heart and mind open up to see the pain, the anguish, the despair.

Your opinions cannot change me either. I am where I am, on a journey of suffering, self-discovery and maybe, one day, hope. A personal journey on which you choose to travel with me or not. It is of no consequence to me. I have not the luxury of escape from it myself, it is the lot that has been dealt to me and I will have to make the most of it, in any way I can.

What Emma Loved…in March

Emma got some beautiful toys and books to to play with and review recently and it is time we told you all about them!

First of all, as you know, she is in love at the moment with all things Zootropolis, she loved watching the movie and getting loads of merchandise from Disney Store, as we detailed in our last blog post. She loves them all but she has been having great fun with the Carrot recording pen, pretending to be Officer Hopps, down to a very heavy New York accent and all, hilarious!

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Alex splurged over Easter and got her also the Deluxe Figurine Set which has provided hours of role play fun already!

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Talking of sets, Emma was the envy of her wee friends these Easter holidays with the latest My Little Pony set.

She loves watching My Little Pony on TinyPop and she had already in possession of the My Little Pony Pinky Pie’s Rainbow Helicopter.

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The latest addition, My Little Pony Swan Playsetcan also play a little cheerful tune and proved very, very successful, not only with Emma, but with her little friends as well!

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We took the set with us when we went out for lunch with friends and the four little girls at the table patiently took turns to get Pinkie Pie in and out on her rowing boots and play with her and her beautiful little boat. I spotted the set reduced in Tesco yesterday from £20 to £15 and I do recommend it for any My Little Pony fans!

As you well know, Emma loves books and she has been getting one every month now from Parragon, as part of their blogger book buddy program, but I slacked and forgot to tell you about them!

In January, Emma LOVED the Factactivity: Human Body Kit she received; with her daddy, they spent loads of quality time putting the skeleton together and learning about different body parts and functions.

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The book is specially designed with small children with big inquisitive brains in mind. There are plenty of hands on activities to be done, like colouring in, drawing, quizzes and memory games.  Information is presented in a simple yet fun way for children to retain (The Gassy Guts Hotel proved a total hit, with Emma, I wonder why ;-)?). The book also helped Emma understand a bit more about Georgie’s leukaemia and we talked loads about red and white cells and platelets and how Georgie’s body wasn’t able to produce enough of the good cells to keep his body alive.

If you have a small child with a curious mind, like my Emma, who wants to learn more about the human body, I would totally recommend this activity set. Priced at £9.99, it is definitely worth every single penny!

This month, Parragon sent her two of their art therapy colouring books for children: the Disney Princess Art Therapy Colouring Book and the Disney Frozen Art Therapy Colouring Book.

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My Emma is not very much into princess stuff and I was a bit apprehensive upon opening the parcel as I thought she will want to touch them. But since the books offer plenty of colouring activities, which Emma adores and can spend hours on, she took to them immediately and has had loads of great fun with them so far. They are currently sitting on her desk and she periodically goes back to them when she needs a calming and soothing activity.

I was aware of the popularity colouring books have gained recently amongst adults but I never thought intricate patterns could keep a young child focused like that, for absolute hours!

The books retail at £9.99 each and if your child loves colouring in and finds the activity soothing, then I do recommend them, they provide hours of quiet and beautiful creations at the end!

What toys or books have your children been into recently? What would your recommend and what would you tell others to avoid when it comes to kids’ entertainment?

Disclosure: Emma was sent the My Little Pony set and all the Parragon books mentioned for the purpose of this review. All opinions expressed are entirely our own and truthful.

Zootropolis, the new Disney movie

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Emma has been very lucky this season as not only did she get to watch Zootropolis, the latest Disney movie, as soon as it was released, but she also received a whole bunch of beautiful toys, all through mummy’s blog!

We watched the movie as a family, shortly after Easter and we all came away with some real wisdom nuggets.

For Emma, the most important message was to believe in oneself and one’s dreams and never allow the society and other people’s limitations restrict what one can do. She loved officer Judy Hopps, the little bunny with a huge amount of courage, and she came away determined to make her own dream of becoming a scientist true! And speaking in a cute darn American accent as well:-).

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For the grown ups, the movie was all about manipulation of our fears to the detriment of our fellow human beings. The movie cleverly analyses the way in which an isolated incident is used to create panic among the masses, justify discrimination and ultimately, serve the interests of a few scrupulous individuals, rather than the herds they pretended to represent. It did make us think almost automatically about the world’s current affairs and the way we have reacted to them sometimes as isolated groups rather than in harmony and support of each other. Disney does not disappoint in its subtle analysis of current affairs and shedding light on our human strengths and failures.

The movie sheds light, often in a humorous way, on other aspects of our society, like the sloth-paced speed in the public services.On how we accept things as givens and how bunnies get to give parking tickets although they are fully qualified police officers, based on the judgement of their size alone.

Other times, it confronts prejudices like “foxes are the rabbits’ natural enemy” and smashes them by creating the most unlikely police team.

The fast pace, the action packed plot and the presence of gruff police officers and a slim gazelle are all appealing, especially for the daddy viewers😉.

All in all, Zootropolis is a great movie to watch as a family, with many lessons to be learned by young and old alike, so we wholeheartedly recommend it!

Have you watch Zootropolis yet? What were your impressions and opinions?

Disclosure: we were sent cinema tickets and all the beautiful Zootropolis merchandise for the purpose of this review. All opinions expressed are genuine and entirely our own, as usual on this blog.

Our French holiday

We spent Emma’s half term break in Greece seeing Alex’s family but Emma was sick the whole time we were there so  it is fair to say that that “holiday” was filed under “disastrous.”

My brother and his family have been living in France for the past two years and we had visited last year and had a great time. We had been toying with the idea of visiting them again but the flights were expensive so we had sort of parked that idea… Until one Sunday, a couple of weeks before Easter, when we just decided to have a last look. To our surprise, the flights were much cheaper, as we were looking to travel AFTER Easter and the train from Paris to Limoges, close to where my brother lives, almost the same price as a trip within Paris!

We decided to book on a spur of a moment thing, as the whole trip, flights and all, were coming up at less than £350 for the three of us!

We visited with them last week and returned on Tuesday and despite an impromptu train strike upon arrival and having to find our way around five different train trips, instead of just two, we had a great time!

We had time to admire, once again, the architecture in the old town of Limoges and have a leisurely breakfast on our first morning in France, before heading to meet my brother:

 

Old town, Limoges.

A photo posted by Mama's Haven (@mamashaven) on

We enjoyed my brother and sister in law’s wonderful hospitality, cooking and loving care.

And most importantly, we created memories with them and my beautiful niece and raved over the beautiful relationship Emma and Laura have, despite not speaking the same language and having three years of difference between them.

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We also spent time outside, discovering the lovely region of Limousin and the beautiful weather:

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A photo posted by Mama's Haven (@mamashaven) on

It has been good to see them during what is now such an difficult emotional time for us, Georgie was diagnosed two years ago, one week after Easter and the spring holidays are now filled with dread for me, not celebration. Being with my brother’s family offset some of those negative emotions, made us feel like we belong somewhere and gave us hope for the future and for real joy back into our lives.

We have thanked them many times for their wonderful hospitality but wanted to do it once again and publicly. It has been such a pleasure to spend time together and I truly hope we can see you all again very, very soon!

Gorgeous Easter outfits for little girls

I love dressing Emma up and her wardrobe is brimming with pretty things. The only “annoying” thing is that she grows out of them too fast!

This Easter, she will look beautiful because she has received new outfits from not one but two lovely shops we adore!

First of all, Lilly and Sid, need I say more?

I first heard about their gorgeous clothes from Jennie Edspire’s blog and then managed to order one of their tunics for Emma last autumn in sales. She loves it, it is one of her favourite dresses as it looks the part but feels comfy and soft to the skin. Emma has been wearing it with layers and on its own and has declared it many a time her party dress so she can wear it when seeing friends in town:-)

Pretty girl in her new @lillyandsid frock

A photo posted by Mama's Haven (@mamashaven) on

So I am so happy to let your know that her collection has increased by two new beautiful items that the kind Emma, founder at Lilly and Sid, sent my Emma to enjoy and look pretty in this Easter. Of course, we had to try and recreate the pose in the garden but the sun was a bit too strong on Sunday so it does not do the detailing on the dress justice and makes for the scrunched up face:

In her new dress from @lillyandsid #review #blogger

A photo posted by Mama's Haven (@mamashaven) on

Emma has been wearing it all weekend and has, once again, declared it as one of her absolute favourites. I love it for its double collar and the snug fit and for bringing pretty into our every day lives!

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Emma was also gifted one of the t-shirts from the new spring-summer collection which we hope she will be able to wear once the weather get a bit warmer and definitely while in France visiting her cousin these Easter holidays. I love it for its vibrant colours, its playful design and its high quality cotton, which will make it a summer favourite and see many ice creams enjoyed by Emma!

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The other collection which caught our attention this spring with its vibrant colours and fun designs is the Little Bird by Jools, currently selling in Mothercare.

Again, I bought Emma a warm cardigan from the winter collection a while ago and we have been on the lookout for their spring-summer collection so when we were offered the opportunity to review some of the items, we were more than happy to oblige!

We absolutely love the pinafore we were sent and the fact that we can match it up perfectly with the bright cardigan from Mothercare, for me, these colours spell Easter perfectly. Just in case the weather turns mean, we did get some lovely tights to keep those legs warm and cosy!

I also love the fact that the items in the collection fit girls from 9 months to 8 years, as more often than cute items tend to fit only smaller girls, leaving older girls left out!

What pretty items of clothing have you purchased for your little ones this Easter? Do you like the above items as much as we do?

Disclosure: we were sent the items mentioned in this blog post for the purpose of this review. All opinions expressed are entirely our own.

Healthy Chocolate Egg Alternative by Indigo Herbs

I decided to follow up my last post with a healthy chocolate alternative, just in case you decide to treat the kiddos this year to something totally healthy. The Indigo Easter Raw Chocolate Making Kit is all organic, vegan, dairy-free, wheat-free and gluten-free and is the perfect alternative to the sugar laden chocolate eggs in the supermarket, with the additional bonus that children get to make their own treats as well!

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 The kit comes beautifully presented into an all recyclable cardboard box, as you would expect a healthy product to be, and has a adorable retro feel to it.

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Everything you need for making your treats comes inside the box, Easter shaped moulds as well as a very detailed and easy to follow instruction booklet.

The making process is a breeze. You add water to a pan and once it is warm, a glass bowl where you melt first your organic, raw cacao butter in a bain Marie, then your cocoa powder, vanilla powder and the agave syrup. All you need to watch for is for the water to stay warm but not boil, as it will damage the goodness of the raw products and for the products to melt entirely and homogenise really well.

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Since everything is done away from a source of direct heat, your lovely little assistants can help at this stage, like Emma did:-)

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Pouring the warm chocolate into the moulds is straight forward but since I like to keep my kitchen neat, I used the old plastic bag trick and squeezed everything in easily by cutting a corner(literally, lol!). There is enough mixture to fill up two mould trays so we made good use of one of our Valentine’s heart one as well.

We allowed the mixture to settle in the fridge for a couple of hours and then enjoyed the fruit of our labour with a cup of hot milk. We made plenty and still have some to display as decorations for the Easter table!

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Have you heard of Indigo Herbs before this blog post? Have you ever made your own chocolate treats and did you know it is so easy to put together a healthy alternative to the traditional chocolate Easter eggs?

Disclosure: we were sent the chocolate kit for the purpose of this review. All opinions expressed are entirely our own.

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Sport Relief: Helping as a blogger through Team Honk

I love the idea behind Sport Relief and I know the impact the money is raised every single year has on human lives, both home and abroad.

I have known of Team Honk, an amazing group of bloggers who stop at nothing in their attempt to raise as much money as possible for charity, for a few years.

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They have done some amazing things since they started, from climbing Snowdon in 2014 to relaying the length of England in 2015 and dance marathoning at Wembley last year.

So, what’s a blogger to do when she lives in Northern Ireland and cannot join the team this year in their dash around the London subway, trying to establish a new world record?

She is to do her bit from home, of course, and raise awareness about this year’s Sport Relief efforts by putting together this post! In return,  Wayfair who has challenged me to come up with ways to raise money for Team Honk for Sport Relief from home, will donate £100 into Team Honk’s page.

This money will go to support self-advocacy organisations who support adults with learning disabilities to become independent and enjoy their lives to the full; it will help local hospices and provide respite or end of life care to families in need. It will make such a difference and I am proud to be a blogger and be able to support with my writing so many wonderful causes!

So tonight, Emma and I will don our pajamas and watch the Sport Relief show over pizza and popcorn. Tomorrow, Alex will return from Greece after a week of absence and we will rope him into purchasing some of our homemade banana bread. The money will be donated by Emma to Sport Relief so that she learns, from when she is young, that support is always possible and within one’s means, even when it means a few pounds!