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Alternative Easter Presents for Children

Every year, the week preceding Easter and the one following it, my Instagram and Facebook feeds fill up with pictures of eggs. I am not talking beautifully decorated chicken eggs here, but chocolate eggs, mountains and mountains of them! Children stocking them up, little ones getting all hyped up with an overload of sugar in the system on the big day…etc…etc.

This year Emma is more aware of the implications that excess sugar consumption can have on her brand new “grown-up” teeth and she has asked for only one white chocolate bunny for Easter!

I have decided to include here some of the things she is loving at the moment, so that, if your child presents you with the same sort of request, you can hopefully find some inspiration in this post.

First of all, her Little Passports World Edition subscription.

This will go with Emma's explorer kit, she will be over moon to see it when she gets home! @littlepassports

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Emma has been receiving this as a gifted subscription from November and totally loves it! She is so impressed with it that she even brought it into school for Show and Tell and told her friends all about the interesting countries that she has been learning every month!

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The initial blue box, looking like a tiny suitcase, comes with a world map, a passport and an introduction to the two main characters, Sam and Sophia. They start this amazing adventure around the world from their auntie’s garage, with the help of a magic scooter and they will accompany the children on every adventure.

The subsequent envelopes come with fact sheets on the new country, a stamp for the passport, a postcard with some sort of emblem representative of the respective country,  an activity sheet and a small souvenir in the form of a toy.

So far, we have had Japan, Brazil and France and we look forward to this month’s envelope arriving in the post, as we will get to learn about Egypt.

What do I think about the subscription myself?

I was initially a bit disappointed in the contents, as the envelopes are pretty slim, compared to other activity boxes we know of. But seeing Emma’s look of delight every month and seeing her absorb the information so easily, makes me thing that the boxes are designed well, very child friendly and in consequence, worth the expense (£12.95 per ongoing month to month subscription).

Agi Bagi Toys and Games

Their DVDs and app are a good alternative to an Easter egg for smaller children, aged 2-5. The lovely team sent us a lovely bundle of goodies, as you can see in our Instagram picture below, even if Emma is a bit older than their bracket age:

Agi Bagi goody bag #review #blogger

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The characters are cute and the animation safe to watch for small children, as is their newly released app, The Meadow Flyer:

As I said, Emma found the app a bit young for her but she has loved the top she received as well as playing with Zeebee, the soft toy. Personally, I would like to see the clothing range available in GBP currency, as some of their items are truly cute (sizes available up to 5-6 currently).

Randomise

Randomise Cards

A good old fashion card game that gets all the family involved and looking ridiculous will always make a great gift, right :-)? Randomise has come up with this “mash-up of classic games like Charades, Articulate and Pictionary”, a hilarious game in which the participants either draw, act or describe what they drew on the card. This game will keep Emma and actually, the whole family, entertained over Easter and since it can fit into a bag easily, it will bring giggles in France too, when we go to visit my brother during the holidays!

The game is priced at £9.99 and sells at the moment on Amazon.

What other non-chocolate gift ideas do you have for your children this Easter?

Disclosure: we were sent the items mentioned above, a three-month subscription to Little Passports, the Agi Bagi goody bag and the Randomise game for the purpose of this review post. All opinions expressed are entirely our own.

Kuxxin Subscription Box- A Review

Our @kuxxin review box has arrived and we are very eager to tuck into these wholesome treats!

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

As you may know, I have been trying for the past few months to eat better, exercise more and generally, treasure the body I have been given so when Kuxxin approached me, enquiring if I would like to review their organic subscription boxes, I knew I was onto a good thing.

You see, I tend to overlook myself and almost never indulge in healthy, organic snacks on a regular basis as they do tend to be quite dear and I always prefer to see that money going towards something that will benefit us all as a family.

The Kuxxin subscription boxes are a treat in a box, for sure. Their 120g pouches of dried, organic fruit, granola and coconut, cranberries and chocolate drop trail mix come in handy for breakfast and also for mid-day snacks. They can easily fit into your gym bag (if you are the gym bunny type!) or be handed into small, grubby hands when out and about exploring. I am sat here, nibbling on my delicious dried mango so I guess they work perfectly for office folk too😉.

How have we been using our Kuxxin?

The Flaxeed and Hemp Granola is absolutely lush and has been making for delicious breakfasts on its own. Some mornings, we have added the trail mix on top of our porridge for that extra flavour kick but the mix can be added onto salads as well, as you can see in the picture below. As I said, the dried fruit is a very handy snack to take and have everywhere.

Salad Kuxxin

Photo courtesy of Kuxxin

The boxes are priced at £24.95 per month and the lovely people at Kuxxin are offering a generous 25% discount with the discount code HM25 if signing up for a Kuxxin snacks subscription following this post. The 25% discount applies for month to month subscriptions. A 3 months subscription will receive 1 month free and a 6 month subscription will receive 2 months free.

If improving your snacking and consequently your general health is on your priority list, do give Kuxxin a try, we have found the products brilliant!

Disclosure: we were sent a Kuxxin subscription box for the purpose of this review. The opinions expressed are entirely our own.

On Pan, the movie and the fear of Death

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On Sunday, Emma and I took the car into Belfast, on a very quiet and bright morning and went to see Pan, the movie released last year.

Emma knew of Peter Pan, of course and had watched the classic version of the film several times but you can never beat a Disney movie!

We had booked our tickets online via the Odeon Kids’ Cinema and paid £3.00 for both of us, so it was an extra bonus realising that we were the only ones watching Pan, as we got to sit in the comfy seats and chatted to our hearts’ desire, without disturbing anyone.

Emma was engrossed from the word go and although she found some elements spooky, like the pirates kidnapping the boys from their orphanage dormitory at night and of course, cruel Mother Barnabas, she thoroughly enjoyed it and spoke about it for the rest of the day.

What did I come away with myself, as a bereaved mother?

I picked some golden nuggets that continued to simmer in my head over the weekend and came to some very interesting conclusions.

First of all, Blackbeard and his Utopian kindgom, built on the intense labour of thousands of boys and grown up men, made me question our fear of dying.

Bleackbeard, just like the wicked witch in Rapunzel, is obsessed with staying young and stops at nothing in his pursuit of eternity.

Child labour. Manipulation of ideologies and promotion of a fake “free” land in exchange for personal gain. Abuse of power, control and killing of anyone who shows noncompliance.

Blackbeard does it all and more.

Why?

Because he is afraid of what lies beyond the grave. As simple as that.

In complete contrast, the native population of the island he had decimated systematically, has another view of life. When faced with death, the wise old man of the village proclaims it as “the biggest adventure yet.”

I am not writing this to encourage or promote suicidal thoughts. I am writing this because it has dawned on me, on Sunday, while watching a kids’ movie with my daughter , that I have had this wrong all along.

Death is not to be feared. Death is never the end but the mere beginning of the biggest Beyond adventure.

Yes, I still fear the pain of leaving or seeing a loved one dying. I now know very well the devastating impact the separation has upon the ones left behind.

And in the same thought thread, I also know why God never intervenes to “save” us from Death.

I understood this clearly last night, while I was modeling clay and painstakingly creating visual reminders of my grief journey in the Belfast Children’s Hospice.

The pleasure for God has always been in creating, in giving breath. That is His ultimate talent and life is to be seen simplistically, if you choose, as a gift.

Death, in the same consequential pattern, is part of the process. What is born must die. What had breath must cease existing one day. Laws of life.

Our calling, if you want to see it as such, is to accept both aspects.

So stop praying. Stop begging. Stop tormenting yourself with thoughts of death as punishment.

Instead, just choose to live fully and beautifully what was given to you. No matter how long or short your journey will be, make the most of it by simply being in it, consciously and intensely.

As for me, I dream of a boy with light hair and blue eyes who, just like Peter Pan, is proud to be “his mother’s son” and whom I will meet again one day, with plenty of tales of life well lived. Because his death has opened my eyes to life.

An Easter Egg Hunt with Monty Bojangles

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This year, March will be full of celebration and cheer: first, we had Mother’s Day and now, we are all getting excited about the fast approaching Easter school holidays and the compulsory chocolate eggs:-).

When Monty Bojangles approached me and asked if we would like to review their new Easter egg range, what do I think I said?

Of course, a big resounding YES, what else?

So, what are the flavours we were enticed with, first of all:

  1. The Flutter Scotch  combo is a delicious Easter egg, made with Belgian milk chocolate which accompanies a selection of Flutter Scotch cocoa dusted truffles.This is by far my favourite and the truffles, which I had to smaple for the purpose of this review:-) are absolutely divine! IMG_0326
  2.  The Scrumple Nutty Truffle, comes also with a chocolate egg and a selection of Scrumple Nutty cocoa dusted truffles this time.IMG_0321
  3. The Berry Bubbly: the chocolate egg accompanies a selection of Berry Bubbly cocoa dusted truffles. IMG_0345
  4. The Choccy Scoffy, finally, is again, the same delicious milk chocolate egg which comes is a very pretty box, just like the previous 3, along with 80 g of  French cocoa dusted truffles this time! I think this will be Emma’s favourite, for sure, she is a hard core chocolate addict and this is definitely up her street! IMG_0337

I have been waiting for almost a week for a good, sunny day and this morning, when I saw the clear skies, I knew I had to make the most of the opportunity.

Emma was supposed to accompany me on this Easter egg hunt but you know what, we will simply have to do it again, closer to Easter!

As you can see, the eggs come packaged in absolutely beautiful boxes, the bright colour scheme and design have already earned recognition and Monty Bojangles the Red Dot Design Award in 2015. The stunning and intricate decorations is what makes them stand out from the crowd!

The Monty Bojangles Easter egg range can be purchased on the website. They each retail at £6 per box and are worth every penny, in my humble opinion!

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

A Mother’s Day surprise from Tesco

Since it is International Women’s day today, I find it appropriate to write about the absolute treat Tesco organised with Alex’s help as my special Mother’s Day surprise.

It all started with a lovely email from their marketing team, asking for Alex’s email and having all to do with Mother’s Day. I am not daft, who does not like surprises, right, so I was quick to connect the two parties and let the whole thing in their apt hands.

Last Friday afternoon, a beautiful parcel arrived but I was not allowed to have even a peek in, as it came with strict instructions to be opened by Alex and Emma, close to Mother’s Day.

Saturday morning they decided to organise a rehearsal for Mother’s Day and I got treated in bed with beautiful porridge, loads of fresh fruit and freshly squeezed orange juice and loads of grins from both of them:-)

Sunday was even better!

With the other bits that arrived in the hamper, Emma wrote me a beautiful card and delivered a hand decorated cookie while Alex used the bagels and one of the recipes included to treat me to cooked breakfast in bed again!

He cooked me breakfast in bed again 😍. Happy Mother's Day everyone! Thank you @tescofood for the lovely hamper!

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When I thought things couldn’t get any better, Alex announced that he was going to cook lunch too and so he did! A beautiful roast chicken and potatoes in the oven, all bought with the gift card the Tesco team had generously included in the hamper as well!

And he has made us lunch as well! Happy Mother's Day!

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

I am sorry, my photos were all taken with my iPhone, I am afraid, as I did not want to stage a photo shoot and spook the cook :-)!

Thank you, Tesco, for allowing my family to express their love on Mother’s Day in this way! I have truly appreciated all the pampering and your kind gesture made our day beautiful!

The Way Back Home with The Belfast Children’s Festival

If you remember, back in February the lovely people at Young at Art invited me to the launch of their 18th annual Belfast Children’s Festival. I found out loads about what was planned for the festival this year and we were also invited to attend and review one of the shows in March.

Time flew by fast and last Friday, on a gorgeous spring day, Emma and I took the train into Belfast and went to see the adaptation of The Way Back Home, by Oliver Jeffers at The Lyric Theatre.

Gorgeous day

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In all honesty, I should have been better prepared. I should have bought and read the book with Emma before we went to see the show but it had been a busy week for this mummy and it just didn’t cross my mind. We love Oliver Jeffers, we have several of his books already and like his work and original illistrations. The Way Back Home is beautifully illustrated as well and has so many subtle messages for the young reader, about friendship and camaraderie in front of adversity.

Here is the initial story read on the CBeebies Story Hour:

The show, put together by Branar/Teater Refleksion was an absolute delight in itself. The puppets looked amazingly true to story, so to say, and were the very embodiment of Oliver Jeffers’ rich imagination. The bits the two artists had added, as their own interpretation of the story, complemented and never clashed with the original version. The magic bed scene was adorable and had the children in giggles of laughter.

If there is one thing that maybe could have been adjusted was the admission age. The show had to be played in absolute darkness, so the special effects can be fully visible and some of the younger audience found that spooky. The show captured the imagination of older children while the young ones found it hard to keep quiet and still, as we had all been required at the start.

Emma struggled with the additional noise and got distracted several times. She was also unsure of the dark but afterwards, on our own way back home, she kept mentioning “favourite bits” from the show, a sign that it had all been internalised and most importantly, enjoyed.

Thank you, Young at Art, for having us over and for such an imaginative and beautiful show!

Disclosure: we have been given two tickets to the show for the purpose of this review. All opinions expressed are entirely our own.

Jumping Dog – A Children’s Clothing Collection Like No Other

Back in 2013 I came across this amazing project by photographer Joost Vandebrug. He was trying to raise money through his CINCILEI photography project for a bunch of homeless boys living in the sewers of Bucharest. I wrote all about it here, you can have a look before you read on.

The project has meanwhile evolved from the initial book to creating an entire centre in Bucharest where street children can feel at home and reintegrate into society.

Jumping Dog Info

The name of new Jumping Dog children’s clothing collection was inspired by the stray dogs street children develop strong bonds with during their years of living rough.

The collection is beautiful and emanates strength. The strength these street children have proven over the years, surviving the unimaginable, transcends into a collection that invites children to play and exploration.

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I love their reversible t-shirts and I am planning to get Emma the adventure one for Easter. Not because my child needs another top but because ALL the money raised from the sale goes towards making the centre in Bucharest a reality. A better reality for  children who haven’t had a childhood but I hope, with all my heart, would have an adulthood that involved loving care, hope and shelter .

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I am not a sales person and I will not try and play with your emotions in order to get your attention.

I am a mum who has lost a precious son to illness and whose heart is sore knowing of so many children  and young adults in my home country who haven’t had the love mine would have been given unconditionally.

Use this appeal as doing one of your good deeds this lent, use it as a chance to pay it forward or use it simply as a way to show these children that someone cares.

Stop by the website, purchase one of their gorgeous items for your little ones and give hope to someone who has none.

Once again, thank you Joost for allowing me to write about your lost boys and getting involved in this amazing project!

Mother’s Day…on Instagram

I have been using Instagram separately from my personal Facebook for the past six months, in an attempt to separate business and personal life but I have recently realised that most of my friends have missed on our news in this way.

So, inspired by a fellow blogger who has an Instagram post once a week, I will attempt to keep my friends and family updated in this visually pleasing way as well.

This week has been all about the coming celebrations for Mother’s Day as we got loads of bits to enjoy on the occasion, all thanks to this blog.

We kicked off the celebrations (I know, I am the mummy here but I cannot leave those two out, can I?) with lovely, scrummy food from Charlie Bigham’s, for which we had been sent vouchers the week before.

Charlie Bigham is the amazing chef who came up with the brilliant idea of “oven-prepared convenience dishes”, designed for one or two and selling at a very reasonable price, in an attempt to bring harmony back into the home. My two were definitely saved a lot of cooking and the washing up also with the amazing lasagna and individual pies we chose from the range.

Looking even than in the picture, our @charliebighams steak and ale pies! #review #blogger

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We would definitely recommend them, a thousand time tastier and healthier than a takeaway and for a fraction of the price! The good thing is that it is not too late to grab some from your local supermarket (aim for the bigger stores, our Sainsbury’s doesn’t stock them so we had to drive to Lisburn!) and wow mum or wife with them!

Then, on Tuesday, an unexpected and absolutely beautiful parcel from the Cooperative Food brightened my day with amazing looking cake and a bit of fizz :-):

A better shot of my Mother's Day treat from @cooperativegroup #twitterteaparty

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The Cooperative has plenty of afternoon tea and gift ideas for organising the Mother of all Tea Parties this Mothering Sunday so why don’t you pop over if you are still in need of inspiration for the big day. There are even free music playlists via Spotify, to recreate that perfect atmosphere for mum!

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But of course, the best present Alex and Emma can always give me is the gift of time spent together. We had plenty of that last Saturday on the North Coast, taking pictures for World Book Day on the famous stones at Giant’s Causeway and enjoying amazing fish and chips suppers.

There is nothing I want more this Mother’s Day than having them close and making loads of happy memories together. Of course, a little baby boy in Heaven will also be in our thoughts and hearts on the day, as he always is!

Whatever you do this Mother’s Day, hope you have a happy, full of love day. And cake,loads of cake :-)!

A spoonful of strength

I was going to title this blog post “To the idiot who preached at my husband in the gym yesterday” but decided against it at the last minute.

But my blog post is going to deal with that incident and let you into our lives and our rawness, once again. Not because we need your sympathy but because our pain needs to serve a purpose. And if that purpose is education, so be it.

My husband is a bereaved parent, just like me. Men deal differently with pain and sorrow, as we all know, but that does not mean that they do not feel the anguish of parting with a beloved child.

My husband is a great dad and loves both his children very much. He has very strong bonds of love with Emma and with Georgie, bonds that transcend death and distance.

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My husband’s heart has been left bruised and emotionally, he has been severely traumatised by what he has seen his son go through.

My husband displays signs, just like I do, of post-traumatic stress disorder in the form of IBS, as physical symptoms and a lot of anxiety, as emotional ones.

My husband has been told, just like any other boy, from when he was very young, that men need to be strong and that men need to provide. He has been doing this excellently, allowing me to stay at home and look after Emma and my own bruised heart.

But my husband needs a sympathetic ear and loads of love, just like I do. As a woman and a blogger, I have been at the receiving end of love but I think it is time we made it clear, bereaved fathers needs grace and love and understanding too!

I have recently come across the spoon theory, an extremely helpful concept that people with chronic diseases are advised to apply daily. People who have a long term illness or suffering are encouraged to get to know themselves and their strength and use their energy wisely during the day, to help them manage daily tasks.

Unconsciously, this is what we have been doing as bereaved parents as well, in order to survive. We have had to relearn to live and spare our energy by avoiding people and activities that leave us completely depleted. This is one of the reasons we decided to stop going to church, as the preaching not only did not help with our pain, it actually drained the meager resources we would have had, by presenting us with a God-theory that for us couldn’t have been further from the truth.

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But yesterday, while at the gym, my husband was submitted to a completely unrequited tirade of arguments in God’s defense from a guy who thinks himself a Christian.

I will never understand the need to preach at someone. But to preach so bluntly and insensitively at someone you know to be in emotional pain and anguish is, to me, inexcusable.

I wish this reached the guy. Not only his ears but his heart.

I wish to tell him that yesterday, his tirade of self-assured religiosity left my husband with zero “spoons”, in the short space of a few minutes.

That probably unlike you, you pompous little prick fervent little Christian, he had to face 12 hours of driving and work in harsh conditions, tormented by an all consuming anger we know too well and you know none of, as you have never felt the pain of losing someone you love, I am pretty sure.

That last night, I left him with my precious surviving child, while I was out at a bereavement seminar (oh, the irony, right?) and although he would NEVER do anything to harm her, he was totally incapable of providing for her needs. His all consuming anger blinded him totally to everything around himself and made him withdraw into his shell, like a wounded animal.

That upon my return, he was almost incoherent with emotional exhaustion and collapsed into bed and a heavy slumber of temporary obliteration.

That all this, ALL this, could have been avoided if you had displayed more empathy and less bigotry yesterday morning.

You, my non-friend, who call yourself a Christian, should have been a helping hand; your words could have been a salve for my husband’s broken heart. Instead, you chose to tear into his heart, uninvited and with great violence.

I do hope this reaches you.

I do hope that if you are to learn one thing from your “Christian” walk is that love can be expressed in so many other ways, words being the least effective.

I hope you learn to be someone’s strength by showing empathy and care and not drain someone of the little strength they have.

Be well, and please, for everybody’s sake, stop preaching!

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Tuck n’ Snug for a Better Night’s Sleep

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Emma is a great sleeper and once asleep, she stays put until the morning. But she is a great bed wriggler too which means that many times, her duvet ends up all crammed in a bed corner and she would sleep without a cover over over for hours!

When I learned about the Tuck n’ Snug covers, I immediately emailed the lovely PR team and asked if we could review, as I wanted to see if these special duvet and pillow covers would make a difference to Emma’s quality of sleep.

The concept is simple yet very efficient: to a normal duvet cover strips of fabric have been attached on the sides and to its bottom bit so they can be tucked under the mattress. The strips secure the duvet in place, making incidents like we have every night with a normal cover impossible. This is not to say that the cover does not allow for plenty of room to wriggle in bed, as there is still plenty of opportunity for that!

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What did we think of it?

I loved the concept, as I can now sleep peacefully at night, knowing I do not have to check on Emma and her covers. I appreciate that the fabric is soft cotton, allowing the body to breathe and absorbing sweat if the child overheats. I am not too bothered by the extra flaps as I can dry the whole lot on the line outside on a dry, sunny day.

All in all, as a mum of a night wriggler, I would recommend it warmly as an efficient and safe way to keep your child warm and tucked in all night.

The sets retail at £39.99, come in two cute models, kitty or doggy, to suit both boys’ and girls’ bedrooms and in two sizes, single bed and toddler bed.

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