How Do You Do Halloween?

Tomorrow is Halloween. If you did not know this, then you must either be child-free or live in the middle of nowhere.

Whether or not you celebrate Halloween may depend on the ages of your children, the neighborhood you live in, possibly your religion and your opinion on ‘begging’. My children are aged 6-12, we live in a Halloween-friendly area, are not religious and I have no problems with my children trick or treating. So we celebrate Halloween shamelessly.

We have been discussing costumes and pumpkin stencils all week; today we will start carving pumpkins, and tomorrow we will decorate the front of the  house. The kids are beyond excited. I think they prefer Halloween to Christmas!

We live among a group of streets that usually really embrace Halloween, and I don’t think this year will be an exception with October 31st falling on the Friday of the school holidays here. Most people are respectful of the ‘No Pumpkin, No Knocking’ rule. People who don’t want to be bothered by trick-or-treaters just don’t decorate their houses. Some put up a ‘No Halloween’ sign, but I don’t think it’s necessary.

The streets are very busy with children and parents once it gets dark, and if you stay in there is a steady stream of costumed kids knocking at the door. We will go out for an hour or so and the kids will come home with bags full of sweets and chocolates. Over the years I’ve tried different approaches with Halloween loot.

I’ve made them eke it out by allowing them to eat a few bits every day, but the nagging for sweets each day gets tedious. I also found it difficult to keep everyone’s sweets separate. Now I just let them eat as many sweets as they want after they’ve been out trick-or-treating. Usually they’ve had enough after 20 minutes or so and are quite happy to hand the rest over to me for disposal.

We not had any illness or too much of a sugar high since I’ve adopted this way of dealing with Halloween sweets, so I can see it continuing for the forseeable future.

Halloween sweets

What are your family’s Halloween traditions?


The Gallery: Light

The clocks went back on Sunday and with them, any idea that winter wasn’t just around the corner.

We’ve been kidding ourselves a bit down here in the South East. It hasn’t been constant blue skies and sunshine since school went back. but it’s certainly not been cold. Despite the usual headlines predicting the ‘ Worst Winter Since The Birth Of Jesus’, we haven’t even had a frost yet!

My favourite place to walk the dogs and kids close to home is an expanse  of woods that stretches across adjoining counties. I love the different light as the seasons change and the leaves move from the trees to the ground, and then appear on branches again in the spring.

A little further away is Black Park, which has large areas of conifers . These are evergreens, so retain their needles all year around. If the sky is cloudy and the sun is high, you get such a lovely soft diffuse light through the foliage, it’s almost magical.

This photo was taken during one lazy weekend walk last summer; DD3 and DS are waiting for the rest of us to catch up and are writing in the dirt with sticks.

Black Park summer light

It’s no wonder that some scenes from the Harry Potter movies were filmed in this Black Park, is it?

For more ‘enlightening’ photos, check out this week’s Gallery over at Sticky Fingers.




The Snow Queen: Review

snow queen

The Snow Queen was originally a classic fairy tale by  Hans Christian Anderson and has been the base for many a film since. It was, of course, the inspiration for the smash hit Frozen but even if your children have overdosed on that, then there is still a good chance they will enjoy this lower budget version.

The movie tells the story of the evil Snow Queen, whose ambition to freeze the world destroys everything, including the family of the glassmaker , Vegard. But before they turn to ice, Vegard and his wife are able to save their daughter Gerda and son Kai. When Kai is discovered to have survived, by the Snow Queen’s servant and is subsequently kidnapped, Gerda embarks on a journey across the icy wonderland, facing difficult obstacles and making new friends during her quest to set Kai free and defeat the Snow Queen.

Originally Russian, but now dubbed into English, The Snow Queen kept all four of our children, aged 6-12 years, entertained for around an hour and a half. DD2 was a little irritated by the slightly off-sync speech, and some of the animation feels a bit basic but the kids laughed, shrieked and covered their eyes during some scary bits, but no one had nightmares. They especially liked the characters of Gerda’s pet ferret, Luta and the rather odd looking troll, Orm, and thoroughly enjoyed the luge scene, although the older ones conducted a rather thorough risk assessment of this method of travelling down a mountain while watching.

The Snow Queen is an entertaining movie for children 10 and under which will buy you some peace and quiet over the coming half-term.

You can see The Snow Queen at selected cinemas from the 25th of October, and it will be  released on Blu-ray, DVD and other digital platforms on November 3rd.

We were sent a copy of The Snow Queen to review, but the opinion above is entirely my own.

What Should I Do With My Life?

A month or ago I had to finally shut down my small, work-from-home business. It had been running for over a decade, and had never made a lot of money, but it had been nice to have some income of my own. It also helped me keep a finger in the industry I had worked in Before Kids.

Over the years, the paperwork and regulations concerning the materials I used in my job had multiplied and became more demanding. Finally  it got to the point where I was going to have to spend a lot of money to comply. This was money that I probably wouldn’t earn back, and I wasn’t confident that the organisation that makes the rules won’t make things even more difficult in the future. So I finally caved, thanked all my loyal clients, got rid of my stock and closed the business.

Life does seem more empty without it. It was part of who I was and now I am ‘just’ a SAHM. Not that there is anything wrong with being a SAHM of course. it’s just I liked having this extra string to my bow.

And ironically, this has happened just as the kids got older. I have two in secondary school now, and two well established in primary school so I  finally have time to do some work without resorting to child care. But of course, like a lot of mums out there, I only want to work school hours and as little as possible during the school holidays. Basically, I need to join the queue!

I’ve looked into going back to my previous job full time but even if I could find work, the childcare would be prohibitive. I also think it’s important for my children that I’m at home for them after school. Also I’m not that keen on working for other people.

I’ve looked into working at a school but to be honest, I’m not that that fond of other people’s kids. Sometimes I don’t even like mine very much!

I’ve looked into seasonal retail work, but the hours are tricky  and again I’d need reliable childcare. DH works long hours and isn’t usually home before 8pm.

So here I am with some free time and a work void. I’m not bored.The kids may be in school, but I have dogs to walk and a house to sort out. books to read and some writing to do. Even on a school day, I still do  at least 7 hours childcare. I’m not sitting around  all day doing nothing and don’t have time to get bored.

But now and again, when I do slow down, I find myself thinking ‘What now?’ Because surely this isn’t all there is to my life?

I know I can’t just sit here and wait for something to fall into my lap; life isn’t like that.

But I sure could do with a clue about where to start looking.

creating yourself

Not Peas In A Pod

I can remember when DD2 was born, I was shocked that she had no hair. DD1 had been born with a head of almost black hair, so I was expecting DD2 to be the same. Instead I gave birth to a newborn with a very soft covering of blond fuzz. I never got another hairy baby, and have been weirdly jealous of mums who have one ever since!

DD2 didn’t even look much like DD1. She never has, although you can see the resemblance in some photos.

Sisters watching TV

I don’t know why I was expecting a carbon copy of DD1 as I am very different from my own sister, but for some reason I was. I was wrong and as they have grown, those differences have become more obvious.

sibling comparison

They are different shapes and sizes and have different temperaments. They have different strengths and weaknesses, although they still do a lot of the same activities. They are at the same secondary school, although we did consider sending DD2 to a different one for a short period of time. It’s quite difficult to make sure that life isn’t just one big competition, as they are only one school year apart.


One of the dangers of having a bunch of children quite close together, is that I have tended to treat them as an amorphous mass for years.I took them to the same activities, and to places that I thought all of them will enjoy. I had  no other option with a OH who works long hours and no childcare. And when they were young, it worked well.

But when they get to the preteen/ teenage years, kids really want to be their own people. And they actively look for ways of being different from their siblings. My two eldest don’t even seem to like each other a lot of the time which makes me sad, but I think it’s the way it’s supposed to before a while.

People always seem to be surprised about how different my older two are and when I feel annoyed at their sometime thoughtless remarks, I have to remind myself of my own unreasonable expectations all those years ago.

Peas in the pod, they are not and never will be. Unique works for us.

What about your kids? Are they more alike or more different? Has it changed as they got older?



The Gallery: Autumn

Autumn leaves

I feel autumn is a much maligned season in the UK.

Yes, it’s often a bit wet and blustery and you will no doubt have to dig out your welly boots soon, if you haven’t already. The mornings are darker and evening comes sooner. Autumn can be a bit gloomy, that’s for sure.

But the shorter days are also responsible for the brightly coloured leaves that cover our lawns and pavements at this time of the year.

Once the daylight hours begin to decrease, deciduous trees start to shut down their food and oxygen production, as there is not enough light available for photosynthesis to occur. The trees rest over winter and live off the glucose they have stored over the summer.

The green chlorophyll, a chemical that is required for photosynthesis to occur, mostly disappears from the leaves so you can see the yellow and orange colours that were there all along.

The bright reds and purples that we see in trees such as maples, are a result of high levels of glucose trapped in the leaves and the brown colour of leaves like oaks are a result of waste products from tree being discarded with the leaves.

The theme for this week’s Gallery is Autumn, so if you need some colour in your life today then pop over to Sticky Fingers and see what other people have been photographing.



The Gallery: Eyes

Eye close-up

The first time one of my friends had a baby, I was in my early 20s. I went to see the new arrival and was astonished to see that she had her eyes open. I’d been expecting the baby to be blind, the same way puppies and kittens are at birth!

My friend laughed at me indulgently and still trusted me to hold her daughter. Years later, we are no longer in contact but I have always been grateful that I learnt such a basic thing then, and didn’t  have to wait until my own children were born. Learning to change nappies was bad enough; if newborn eye contact had been unexpected, then I’m not sure I would have coped.

Like most new mothers, I lost hours gazing into my babies’ eyes and found it fascinating watching them change colour. DH and I both have green / hazel eyes, so we expected that our children’s eyes would eventually turn green/brown. And they have, but with DS they took a couple of years to change from baby blue.

My idea for today’s Gallery theme was to post a photo of each of the kids’ eyes and get anyone reading to guess which belonged to DS, as opposed to one of the girls. But DS scuppered that plan by falling over and grazing the skin around his eyes last week, and my two eldest were refusing to let me photograph their eyes. I put it down to hormonal mardiness, like I do most things these days.

So instead I have a photo of DD3′s eye ( above) and DS’s eye (below). Similar colours but DS is more blue/green and DD is more brown. And a couple of residual scabs around DS’s eye; kids heal really really quickly!

scabs around boy's eye

This post is written for this week’s Gallery theme of ‘Eyes’, in conjunction with Sightsavers and the Million Miracles campaign. They are using hashtag #seethmiracle and aim to raise £30 million by 2018 to fund cataract operations in some of the poorest countries in the world.

Check out Tara’s post here, for more details, and see what other people do with the theme.