Glastobaking Part 2 : Surviving Glastonbury without the sweat.

Glastonbury!!

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Chilling in a ‘Water Pod’

So I just posted on the blog how we survive our time on the road and in the fields with no  electric, camping with any ED family. To see hoe we do it see here.

With all the practicalities of camping  aside how would you cope with ED at the biggest festival in the UK?

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Yup it’s big!

 

I know many ED families shy away from festivals and large events in summer when they know they will be separated from the normal ‘safety nets’ you might have at home.

I am here to demand you get those Glastonbury tickets booked!!! its the most incredible family experience you could wish for and you really don’t need to worry about keeping cool and safe!

Glastonbury is HUGE!!! It literally is a a city and can take two hours to walk from one side of the site to the other! There are hundreds of stages, areas and fields to explore and the festival lasts a whole five days! Like Disneyland you can’t expect to do it in one visit!

We have been working Glastonbury as a family for over a decade and still we haven’t visited many of the areas if offers.

But like any city you have all the facilities an urban community relies on.

how-to-work-at-festivals-and-who-to-contact_latitude-festival-quest-mark-and-volunteer_800PxSq72Dpi.jpgEmergency services

When on site at Glastonbury you are told not to ring 999! This is because emergency services are already on site and ready to help.

There are fire, police and medical ready and based around the site, with fully stocked chemists and a fully working hospital!

There are stewards and security on every corner armed with radios and contact with these services, you are literally never for than two minutes from help.

Glastonbury-volunteers.jpgThe hospital is fully working too, with 250k people on site the hospital and medics have delivered babies, patched up cuts and breaks, pumped fluids into dehydrated festival goers and even restarted the odd heart! it all happens here just like it does anywhere else.

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Of course they call in outside services when needed but as a rule you must always use what’s provided! it takes so long to get in to, and across site from the ‘outside’ that the onsite peeps are essential and they really know what they are doing too!

ALTERNATIVES

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Glastonbury is at its heart a hippy and green festival and within that there is an entire field dedicated to healing.

The healing fields comprises of hundred of different clinicians and practitioners from massage to midwives..gong baths to laughter therapy… its all here…  have a wonder through and chat to homeopaths, aromatherapist and some of the more weird and wonderful … it’s surprising what ideas and potions they can offer to help.

The Homeopathic Network are a firm staple of Glastonbury and have their own ‘hospital’ on the main road through the site, offering free consultations for everything from sun stroke to wasp stings, muscle pain to anxiety! They ask for a donation but it’s totally voluntary.. many of the irritations that come along with ED in the summer can be treated here.. you don’t need to suffer because you are at a festival.

WELFARE

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The welfare team at Glastonbury are utter legends! period!

Not just there to sooth those who have over indulged or are suffering any mental health problems, they are there to offer a safe space, quiet, water, suncream and best of all spraying water on everyone when they are boiling!!!

They literally stand on the road and spray you!!!.l.. to cool you down!!… legends I tell you!!!

The Samaritans are also on site, but I found when William was little he often would totally melt down when he started getting hot (he still does actually) just having somewhere to go and sit with no questions asked was so helpful and the Welfare team became Williams sanctuary. They have different posts around site with the main ones offering cushions, mattresses and blankets in cosy tents to cocoon you.

It’s worth noting that they are very good at making sure kids don’t get put next to adults who are maybe struggling through adverse effects of drugs and alcohol.. they are professional enough to quietly make sure you get what you need when you need it without having to ask.

SHADE & REST

festival-goers-stay-in-the-shade-at-the-glastonbury-festival-2017-worthy-farm-pilton-shutterstock-editorial-9758327a.jpgWith hundreds and thousands of stalls, tents, stages and sculpture there is always somewhere to sit in the shade.. it’s that simple! everywhere is pretty and beautiful.. the shade comes as standard.

Thousands of benches are put out every years to sit on and many of them have built gazebos and flower arches to sit under.

 

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Putting shade into our pitch

Some places are busier and noisier  than others of course.. but no matter if you are at the main stage or meditating by the stone circle you will find shade

I ensure we integrate shade into our pitch design, everyone does, the whole of Glastonbury is designed to take every kind of weather in account.

 

 

After years and years of attending the festival we have found some special places to find solitude.

Our favourite places to go for shade and rest are as follows;

 

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The Dragon!

This magical little area is sited halfway up the left hand side of the stone circle field.  Its one of the only permanent features on the site. A little gap in the trees makes way to a stream in which a stone dragon has been built.

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A favourite place for crew children before the festival starts, there is a gentle stream running through the leafy little treeline. its perfect for a little paddle and sit in the cool of the trees. expect a few hippies burning incense but as a whole its generally unknown and a magical little spot.

 

 

 

The Peace Garden and Dome

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On the other side of the stone circle field ( Dragon field) opposite the secret dragon, you will find the Peace Garden and the Peace Dome.

Now I am very aware this all sounds like a hippy-fest of the highest degree but I promise its not like that at all. Yes there are lots of things that smell of incense and lots of talk of peace and the environment but you don’t have to have a head of dreadlocks and bare feet to be welcomed. In fact both these areas are not manned all the time and are left totally in your trust. Glastonbury is the only place I have even been to where EVERYONE returned to face value.. your job, your age, gender of anything else becomes unimportant its a very freeing and liberating feeling.

So the peace garden is just stunning and you won’t believe it has been built just for that weekend. Honestly it is dismantled and redesigned each year!

With ponds, straps and bridges, pagodas, giant chairs and little winding trails its a wonderful place for refuge, picnic and shade.chalicewellphoto300dpi.jpg
  The Peace Dome is near by the garden although not part of it. often you will find it slightly down the hill but clearly visible from the garden.

It’s as you’d expect, a huge dome with nothing but a circle of candles and hanging sculpture and lantern. The flame from the lantern originates from the Hiroshima explosion and was taken from the burning wreckage at the time. The candles and lanterns are all lit from the flame and you are invited to visit and light a candle too.

Its a wonderful experience and is very educational as well as powerful. IMG_1828-e1468078317179-225x300.jpg

The space is quiet and calm and worth visiting at least once… early evening  is out favourite time to visit so you can watch the sunset from the same hill too.

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Please don’t think that these are the only places to go.. the festival is full of these special corners of rest and shade.. everyone finds there own.. thats the beauty of it.,

 

WATER

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Glastonbury is very much invested in water and its importance. Something ED families know only too well.

Over the years they have  developed more and more waterless toilets which are surprisingly much more pleasant that the porta-loos or traditional long drops.

TheyPRI_72200274.jpg work in partnership with Water Aid and they do an awful lot of work with the festival goers and provide the water points across site.

This year the festival banned single use plastic which meant everyone had to bring their own reusable water bottles. The festival put in hundreds of water refills points to ensure folks have plenty of water to drink.

Campsites have water points for filling up containers and all toilet blocks have washing facilities and soap/cleanser.

There are also a number of lovely water features around site which add another dimension to the site.

 

REST OF THE FESTIVAL

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So thats the practicalities of what the site offers now all you have to do is to plan your packing list. As you know the British weather is totally unpredictable and you need to prepare as much as you can. But saying this you also do have to pack wisely.

TROLLY?

Walks from the car parks into the festival site can be long and tiring. Investing in a trolly is a great tip, you can pull along your heavy stuff and then in the festival you can throw the kids in it and let them fall asleep while you have a dance. ( you can also buy or make canopies for them.. portable shade!)

BOOZE

Yes the booze is pricy on site at £6 a pint!! but not as bad as other festivals. However you are allowed to take limited amount of booze with you… but no glass or plastic bottles!!.

Decant spirits and wine into reusable containers and look at cans of beer/cider rather than bottles…remember how heavy it is though before going mad!article-2349467-1A89C63C000005DC-180_964x655.jpg

The co-op has a very useful and well priced shop on site where you can buy booze and ice at supermarket prices.

FOOD

You don’t need to go mad with packing food if you don’t want, snacks and drinks are probably your priority. You can buy the most incredible food on site and it doesn’t all cost the earth. The-Goan-Seafood-Company-Glastonbury.jpg

Glastonbury is the FA CUP of pitches to win, so they literally choose from the worlds best food traders. They all have to buy sustainable and local produce from the onsite markets, so you know the costs have to be maintained across site. GlastonburyCafe.jpg

 

You may be on a very tight budget or run out of cash.. in this case you can find free basic food at the hare krishna tent daily  and the 50p tea tent is open 24 hours and serves basic hot drinks and cakes at the very cheapest of prices.

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The co-op super market on site offers food and drink at supermarket prices as well as offer meal deals of sandwiches and crisps as you’d find in your local highstreet store.Unknown-5.jpegUnknown-4.jpeg

Hygine

Ok you are going to be in a field for more or less a week… keeping clean is challenging.

Try looking for a collapsable bucket or bowl, soap in plastic container and a flannel for strip washes. Many plump for baby wipes but seeing the mess millions of these make afterwards I would never recommend them. A bowl and flannel is lighter and doesn’t take up much more space than a box of wipes ( you will need a lot to keep a family clean for a week) I promise you will feel much cleaner after a proper wash and you can even wash your hair too if needed.. you cant do that with baby wipes.

There are showers in the Greenpeace area and the kids field offer free bathing for children.

But its ok to get dirty for a few days.. its a standing joke among Glastonbury crew that you don’t realise how much you smell until you reach the first services on the way home!

For other ideas on how to camp at a festival with ED look at the first part of this blog here

Stages and Stuff to do!!

I want to give you a whole wonderful paragraph that gives you the smallest of tastes of the magic that is Glastonbury, but its impossible.

maxresdefault-1.jpgI know its a cliche but you really have to do it to get it! There is a reason why tickets sell out in seconds and that people of all ages come year after year..( note kids can go to every part of the festival… I have raved with a 2 year old on my shoulders and felt totally safe) .. It simply is magical and you will never forget it… even in the muddy years you will remember, with a full heart, the people you met and the things that you saw and were amazed by.

57-Glastofest-AndrewAllcock-160624-1051.jpgIt is said to be the best show in the world and I really believe it to be true. If you don’t like the stuff on the main stage then don’t worry that is less that 3% of the program.. its not just what you see on the telly!…

article-2670511-1F26272400000578-58_964x631.jpgI haven’t been to the pyramid stage for 4 years! in fact I haven’t left the green fields.. my Glastonbury is very much based in the Green Crafts field, the Healing Field, Avalon ( more alternative and folk music) Circus, Theatre, Tipi and Kids fields. My hubby prefers the dance areas, Arcadia and Shangrila, My teens love the Pyramid and the Other Stage.

My 5 year old simply wants to paddle in the stream and run around in the peace garden , although she does love the pirate ship ( yes a full sized ship) and kids field where everything is free!!!

Just check out the website and research the stories and photos of those who have walked the Glastonbury fields… it won’t take long to persuade you!

Just do it!! theres no need to worry about not managing to keep cool or hydrated.. all that is sorted. Glastonbury is a city and has all the things a cart has but just in a very different way… come play with us in the field of Avalon 2020.

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Our Glastonbury team! aged 5 – 63 years

 

 

We came home as always, tired, smelly and full of love… its our very best time of the year and wouldn’t change it for the world. I am so very blessed that I could make this into my job and that my whole family can do it with me.

I run a workshops pitch in the Green Crafts field where we set up a lovely area and charge the public to come and make things with us. We all muck in, even Kitty (5) its an adventure form start to finish…

 

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ps: you need to register here so you can apply for tickets next year x

Glastobaking part 1: Camping with ED

A small part of our Ed family.. 3 out of 6 of us have the condition.

We have the best job in the world!

About 15 years ago I managed to turn my love for festivals and camping into a real life job! Fast forward to 2019 and we, my family of 6 , are still here travelling the UK every summer, working at festival after festival with scores of incredible creative and wonderful people. ( Libby 21, Grace 19, William 13 and Kitty 5)

But this blog post isn’t about our fab summer lifestyle, it’s about how we managed to maintain this lifestyle, in a field without power and still managing to keep our boy ( and husband and adult girl) cool this year at one of the hottest Glastonbury’s on record.

Out of the six people in our family we have three with Ed. My husband, my 19 year old daughter (who doesn’t struggle as much as the boys) and our 13 year old son William. This post talks more about keeping William cool as he is the one that struggles the most, however the rest of the team use all the facilities too.

If you don’t know what ED is you can read about it here

This is how I kept my family cool at one of the hottest Glastonbury’s on record!

Our Glastonbury

We are privileged to work in the Green Crafts field at the festival and this means we all live and work without tapping into any electric and having to fetch and carry water as we need it.

Glastonbury is first and is very much the most important part of our summer…We arrive on site the week before the festival and our home is our vintage caravan Molly and her awning.

Molly The Caravan

Molly does have the ability to hook up to the mains but it’s not an option for us when we are at festivals.. its back to basics! So we have created a caravan that completely runs off grid….are you ready?

Firstly Mr O rigged up two sets of solar panels on Mollys roof.

At this point it’s worth mentioning Molly only cost us £400 and is 20 years old. We chose something of this age so we could adapt her and ‘knock her about’ a bit without feeling we were damaging her value.

The solar panels sit on her roof and are rigged up to two outlets inside the living area. We chose to use usb hubs as they hardly take any ‘juice’ and it’s surprising how many helpful items run from a usb!

From the USB ports we can charge our phones but can also run a few other helpful items.

Fans

These fans are from amazon and cost us about £17 each. They are small, about the diameter of a cantaloupe melon, but they really do blow a decent amount of air!

They have a clip on the back which allows us to move around the caravan depending where we need the breeze.

We also worked out if you charge up a phone charging power bank you can take the fans out with your where ever you go.. power bank in pocket and fan clipped on to your clothing.. Kitty did this most days and was the envy of the festival!

COOL BOX

We can also run a cool box from a usb!!! Now this was a little expensive at £160 but it cools on the usb to fridge temp and is a good size.

We do have a fridge that runs on gas in the caravan, so tend to use the cool box for drinks and (wait for it) cooling towels!!! Very important kit!

We travel to the festival with the cool box full of ice. We have an ice maker in the fridge at home which we empty, but bags of ice are a pound from the supermarket.

As we travel from Yorkshire to Somerset we tend to split the journey by staying overnight somewhere halfway.. the ice in the coolbox melts a bit during the journey but keeps our drinks nice and cold. By the time we arrive on site and plug in the box, we have a box half full of ice cold water which we use to soak four or five hand towels.

We just put them in the water and let them soak up the water and keep them there ready.

We often unplug the box over night and find the cool box keeps everything cold until morning.

Wringing out the towels and placing around shoulders is a quick way to cool down and as a woman of a certain age, I find this useful too!

TIN BATH!

We always take a tin bath with us too.. not a ‘step toe and son’ adult sized one but a beer cooler/baby bath type sized one. They are quite fashionable at the moment and you can pick them up all over.

Ours is from a junk shop and it comes everywhere with us. We use it for strip washing in (we are on site 10 days! Needs must) for washing clothes in, bathing the kids in and for filling with cold water and putting feet in!

This is an incredibly quick way to cool you down and for a child (and his dad) is something quick and easy we can do.

WET SHEETS

Another tip for keeping cool on a night (we only do this on the odd day that the British summer delivers a VERY hot night) is to dampen a flat sheet. Wring it out fully ( one on each edge as you twist) and use it on your bed as normal. Don’t lay on top of it directly on your mattress or you’ll soak your mattress. Drying a mattress in a field just doesn’t happen! .. so just place the sheet over your body at any time of the day and voila!

Now all these things are great at cooling you down individually, depending on how hot you are you can choose what’s best for you.

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But we had a moment at Glastonbury where our boy overheated! Not just felt hot but really started to become ill. His legs went and he was sick, seeing double and generally falling very ill. Because we had all these things ready to hand we had him wrapped in damp towels, feet in a bucket with fans on his face and within moments he was back with us.

I know for a lot of ED families, camping and festivals feel like too much trouble.. but it doesn’t have to be.

I know we have done a lot of prep and it may seem over-kill to create an ED friendly caravan!.. but remember we are on the road without power for weeks on end so it makes sense to have all the facilities we can. We aren’t just on holiday on a nice campsite but we are working in a field with nothing but grass and a shared tap.

Al this aside some of these things you can still do.. you don’t have to have a ‘Molly’ to have solar power!! you can get fold-out solar panels and leisure batteries to use in a tent too. They give you enough power to run the fans and cool box … just having cold wet towels can make a huge difference! so don’t be afraid to look into it.. this is an exciting time for renewable energy.. and that means its a great time to explore the possibilities that brings.

So thats how we prepared top keep cool at Glastonbury read here to find out about how to keep cool in and around the festival!

 

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Decant and Decrease

I don’t know about you but I really like having lovely toiletries in my bathroom.

I have my favourite shampoo and favourite conditioner, I have a face scrub, make up remover and separate face washes and hand washes.

All this leads to having loads of plastic bottles all over the bathroom and of course everyone else in the family wantS their own special bottles and tubs too! ..we end up with just tons of half used plastic bottles and tubs.

 

Messy bathroom
Cluttered sink! (mine wasn’t this bad though) 

They all have different graphics and designs as well as costing ( sometimes in excess of £3). As well as expensive we all know that all these plastic bottle are going to end up adding to the plastic mountain we are battling at the moment.

So how can we keep the things we love and still reduce our plastic waste in the bathroom?

Well fear not!!! I figured it out… It saves money, looks tidy and actually could even be described as looking a bit posh!!!

 

Decant!

After doing up my bathroom at the beginning of the year I decided I didn’t want all those bottles cluttering up the lovely new room. As any budget conscious parent does, I trawled through Pinterest for storage ideas and by accident found this concept.. its the best thing ever!!! ( ok I may be exaggerating a bit here)

By decanting your products into nice jars and bottles you solve all your bathroom related issues ( well mostly) .

I found some lovely pump bottles for the side of the sink and bath ( not waterproof) and some clear plastic pump bottles for inside the shower-cubical ( totally waterproof) . I spent a bit more on them so they’d last but you can get them for less than a pound.  I figured if I want them to last I should buy something that was made to be reused over and over again. I spent £12 for 3 plain clear ones and a little more on some more “designed” fancy ones for the side of the sink. ( £5 each)

 

Nice Labelling makes a difference

I found some little blackboard labels on string to hang around the pump part of the containers and instead of using chalk pens I used a white enamel pen to write what was in each container.  ( chalk pens are water soluble so not great for bathrooms)07A057E2-5785-43D2-918C-2F43020E8231.JPG

I decanted the products into each bottle and found that everything looks so much more pretty in a clear bottle.

When I first did it I used up all the half empty bottles of products we already had. (I admit to mixing them too, I think I had four different shower gels in one bottle at one point, but it looks kind of cool!)

I was thrilled to finally finish all the bottles up and start to use something more permanent.

Brands and Cost

There are loads of recognisable brands available in larger containers. I was able to find our favourite shampoo and conditioner, shower gel and hand wash in 5ltr tubs/containers.

Yes of course they are more expensive that your normal sized bottle but when you work out how much they cost per bottle ( a normal sized container off the shelf) I found the savings were huge.

So where I was paying upto £3 for a bottle of shampoo, buying in large bulk bottles I was paying less than a pound for the same amount!

USE LESS!

Also I found we were using so much less product!

IMG_3631When you use a normal bottle of product often the dispenser deposits a good old blob of product on your hand much more than you need. But when you use the pump bottle you have much more control over the amount you use.

I recon we are using less than a third of what we would before for each wash.

This means we are getting three times more use from our product.. again saving money!

 

 

If you can’t afford to buy the 5lt tub, using a normal sized bottle would still have a difference on your pocket and the amount of disposed plastic.

For every three bottles you’d use normally you’d now be using one! taking two out of the bin!!! If everyone did that.. it would have a huge affect!

Same goes for shower gel, hand wash and face wash. You can buy these in bulk sized containers. Search for hotel/pub/hairdressers/ beauticians suppliers and your find everything you need.

Don’t be afraid to use products you don’t recognise either. Many suppliers use the same products just rebranded. Hotels and spas don’t want to provide rubbish so these are still good quality.

 

Remove Babywipes for Make Up.

I also have two teenage girls who use huge amounts of baby wipes to remove their make up and I was sick of seeing them all over the place.  I also knew the mess they cause in our sewers. ( our girls don’t flush them down the loo but they still end up in the bin.. and all over the house!)

IMG_2326So I thought about a way to reduce the use of wipes too. I found a litre of witch hazel on line for around £5 or you can use regular make up remover . I decanted into one of the containers and bought some facial flannels…. 10 flannels all together cost £5 from a hotel supply company. I cut in half and folded up nicely in a basket.

The girls now put the witch hazel on the flannels and use them instead of wipes, they rinse out and hang them on the radiator to dry. When they need a wash just throw them in the laundry and they come out ready to be put back in the basket.

(You could use old (or new) baby muslims for this too and even cut up cotton squares.)

I didn’t think they’d do it, but I think it makes them feel like its a more luxurious process and they’ve stuck to it. We’ve cut out all the baby wipes from the house and they didn’t even notice.

 

Bringing a Home Spa into your Home.

Besides the obvious money savings and cutting down of plastic waste, there is another thing too…. They look really Posh!!!! and it feels luxurious too.. it feels like you are in a hotel and thats always a good thing! I feel like I’m in a spa every time I take a shower!!!

Why removing branding revamps a room!

I read the Marie Kondo book at the beginning of the year (she’s a ‘tidying up’ guru in case you don’t know!! ) and she talked about how clearing away all the bottles and containers that have labels on helps to create a calmer environment.

She explains how we tend to ‘speed read’ everything we see without realising. By removing these products, bottle and labels, without realising, you stop reading everything and the room becomes quieter and calmer… (not to mention much tidier)

It really works!! the bathroom felt so much calmer and lovely, as well as looking a bit posher! so that was it..Im now obsessed!!  

I’ve done the whole house!! everything is decanted!!! washing liquid, hand wash by the kitchen sink and even cleaning fluid for wiping down the sides… if its in a bottle.. its decanted!!

 

The only obstacle we had was from the teens as they complained they wanted ‘nice’ shampoo, when they realised we were still using the products we always had they soon stopped moaning.

 

Future Issues?

We’ve not had a Christmas yet. everyone buys us tons and tons of smellies, I’m hoping we will still decant them to use them up but I know some of the posher ones have lovely bottles than we might want to display.  I am guilty of this already and have two sneaky premium brands that I keep out in my bathroom. But I put them on the shelf and display them like ornaments! I know.. its pathetic…..

 

next week… teeth, toothbrushes and toothpaste! oh I can feel your excitement!!

 

 

Going Green Without The Grief

We all want to do our bit for the environment, of course we do, but its not always that easy.

We know we need to reduce plastic and recycle more but there’s so many obstacles in our way.

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With complicated labels not telling us wether we can put packaging in the recycling bin or not, companies charging almost double for products in reusable and recyclable packaging and a whole host of conflicting advice. It can feel like a bit overwhelming and its not surprising that we sometimes end up telling ourselves that ‘its not worth it’ and that we ‘wont make a difference’

 

The truth is that so many of us think the same, and when everyone thinks that they can’t make a difference then no-one makes a difference!

Granted many of these issues would be solved by the manufacturers and large companies. Once they start to produce items in biodegradable or fully recycle-able  materials then we are all forced to input into the plight of the worlds eco system. It’d be so much easier for us all to live a more considerate life! But until then we have to find ways to do our bit. Even if its a small change.. its still a change and its better than nothing.

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So how do we live the life we want to live? and use the products we want to use? without discarding our want and need to be considerate of the environment. I understand that you don’t want to compromise your lifestyle… you can deny it.. but I know none of us do.. so we need to find ways to incorperate green ways into our chosen lifestyle!

I was thrilled to be asked by Wakefield Recycling Services to share my ideas with you.

I am a mum of four and live in Pontefract. I live in a normal semi on a normal street in a normal town. I like nice things but I like a bargain! I like good food, nice toiletries, nice clothes, shoes and accessories… oh and I love to make my home look nice too ( as nice as a home with four kids can ever be) so how do I do my bit for the environment, but like you don’t spend more money and don’t have to compromise quality and style?

Is it possible to live a modern life and still be green?

654-03906087en_Masterfile.jpgThis blog will help you find a way to be green and be considerate without having to buy a small holding in the woods, grow a beard, live in a tipi and have a number of goats and chickens. ( but you can do this if you want.. I do know a number of families that live a wonderful self sufficient life style but thats another post!)eco-community-tipi-valley-wales-united-kingdom-06-stemajourneys.com.jpg

You can still live in a normal town in a normal home with normal kids and normal friends and STILL be environmentally aware and active.

 

 

 

So follow me here and I will try help you and your family find a way to be more green and environmentally aware. I’ll share stories of others and discuss environmental stories in a way that affect us.  I don’t profess to be the greenest or most environmental person in the world.. but I am always looking for ways to make a difference.

 

If you have any questions or things you want ideas about then drop me a message. I can’t say I will have all the answers but If I don’t I do have plenty of people to ask for you.

 

 

 

 

 

Why Are Kids Banned & Punished For Grieving?

15727213731_fc3dde6aec_b.jpgWe got Williams report today and they gave him 10 unauthorised absences for the days he missed after mum died (his very much loved grandma) in September.

I’m absolutely appalled by this and on doing some research it seems its quite normal, in fact any child taking time off following a death is classed as taking an extended ‘holiday’ It is just not allowed ! You will be fined! It’s official.. Kids are not allowed to grieve!

During the first few days of mums unexpected death (it was a very traumatic time) we were ‘door stepped’ by the school who sent round the schools attendance officer and LEA attendance officer to knock on our door without warning and question us. It was one of the most traumatic, humiliating and upsetting moments of our lives.

I sat at my dining table with my exhausted body slumping and a red raw face from crying solidly for three days , in front of me was the details of the procedures the funeral director needed to carry out on mums body and a number of forms I needed to fill out to register the death. I sat slumped with humiliation , William by my side as he sobbed Silent tears of grief and sadness and They stood over us and talked at us , we don’t remember what they said.. We just stared at them unseeingly and on mute through our pain.

We were so shocked and too upset to be able to react properly at the time, we had maintained contact with the school letting them know why William wouldn’t be in and even requesting the pastoral team to contact us with advice on how to support our broken young man. They responded by turning up unannounced (just after we’d seen the funeral director ) to check up on us. How is this even allowed, let alone appropriate, to intrude on a grieving family? I can only presume they turned up to check we weren’t lying about mums death?! They returned un-invited four days later and did the same.

William took 10 days off in total, two of which he was ill, one he was at the funeral and the rest he was simply broken. (You get two attendance marks a day )

Both our girls were given three weeks off university at this time but William apparently wasn’t entitled to any, yet at 13 was the one struggling the most.

To make things worse the school also dished out 10 behaviour points and 10 detentions on his return, among other things , for not completing homework that was set during the time he was absent.

We had been assured that during his return that all his teachers would be informed of his situation and that they would help support him. It was agreed that at anytime should he find himself getting emotional or that any time felt he was overwhelmed, that he could let the teacher know and they’d send him to the pastoral office where the dedicated staff member would support him.

On his first day he became upset after been given his third detention.. (teachers hadn’t been informed after all) and requested that he could go to see the dedicated staff member. The teacher reluctantly let him go after saying ‘don’t you think you’ve had enough time off?’.

As William arrived at the pastoral office he discovered that the staff member who was looking after him was busy with another pupil. So he was sent to the first aid room where the school nurse sat him in a room and gave him a box of tissues and left. He was in that room over an hour on his own and when the nurse came back she snapped ‘ you still crying?’ Tutted and left the room again. Not helpful.

He called us sobbing and we went to collect him, we were told we couldn’t just ‘pick him up’ without permission .. our own son? .. the conversation didn’t last long as we demanded firmly that we were taken to him and we could and indeed would ‘just take him’ at any time. Indeed he was found sat on his own sobbing to an empty room, our broken boy.

Just as you think you can see the light

Five months later and after counselling (that we organised privately) William is much better but on finding out his absences were ‘un authorised’ yesterday we felt very let down.. again! We are so very upset that it’s clear they care so little for our child and his needs. How can kids feel safe and ‘held’ when their grief is dismissed so easily? And how do we as parents trust the school to take care of our children when they are in their care?

For most kids loosing a grandparent it’s most probably the worst moment of their life so far, their first experience of loss and their first time that they question their own mortality! The way this is processed will determine how they deal with death into the future. Belittling this grief and not allowing or recognising their pain sends them a very strong but clear message… it says ” we don’t care about your family or your feelings, we just care about you passing your exams” it also tells them that grieving is somehow not acceptable.. perhaps even weak. This approach is not going to encourage any child to feel encouraged to engage in school life, the place they spend a solid eleven years of their live, day to day and it certainly doesn’t build us healthy and strong adults of the future.

The school report we received yesterday informs us that it is ‘very likely further action will be taken’ (due to this high level of unauthorised absence) . How fantastic! So after we start to recover from the hardest and most traumatic time of all of our lives, we now have to deal with a fine and the humiliation of having to sign a document that promises that we commit to ensuring excellent attendance or risk a trip to court and even social services getting involved.

As parents.  we are all committed to our children’s school and education , but our priority is always the commitment to our children and their overall health and happiness.. that always comes first!

I, like every other parent, expected to have the control over how we parented and that we’d decide what was best for our child. When you hold your baby for the first time you never imagine you won’t be able to care for your child at times of sadness without having to follow someone else’s rules or risk been fined or threatened.

Could we be at risk of social services getting involved? They did turn up at our house without warning and if they do take us to court what will happen? Will we be seen as a family who doesn’t do our duty and provide a solid education for our children? We weren’t the ones leaving a distressed child alone in a room, nor were we humiliating him in front of his peers or dismissing his sadness. We only let him grieve in a safe and loving environment, so how is it we feel so frightened?

It’s a no from me

Did you know a child can only attend a funeral at the discretion of a head teacher?

No matter what, who or how the death occurred. It’s right there in the report from the former schools minister ( it is the former schools minister, but I cant find any more recent information so have to presume this thinking still stands) 

It’s not a given they can attend to say goodbye to their loved ones at a funeral with all their other family members and parents . No, it’s something a near stranger decides for you and your child.. let that sink in a moment.. you don’t decide if you child attends the funeral of a family member with the rest of their family!

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Punishing with behaviour records.

William has an exemplary behaviour record, teachers always tell us he is attentive, quiet, polite and considerate. I’m not just doing the ‘my child is never naughty’ thing, he has him moments like any normal child, but William is and has been a gentle and quiet boy, the easiest of our four children and best behaved, he is a good kid. But this year so far he has so many ‘behaviour points’ given to him without any discussion or consideration.

It seems the way forward is to punish our kids whatever, in any circumstance. In fact they don’t even allow a child to try an explain their situation ( this is disrespecting the teacher) . So now , on record, he is suddenly seen as a child in which ‘action needs to be taken’ and he didn’t do anything wrong but grieve.

These ‘points’ come from him not completing homework that was set while he was absent (following the death …in one instance he didn’t get a log-in for an online learning scheme and was put in detention for not knowing about it.. it was given to children while he was at the funeral) one of the detentions was handed out for taking the wrong socks for PE on his first day back after the funeral. Socks??? if only they had seen the courage and strength he mustered to return to school that day! ..Then to top it off, another detention, because we didn’t sign his personal planner during the two weeks he was off school. I mean really? what were they trying to do to us? were we not broken enough? This was beginning to feel like they were bullying us.

He was shouted at and punished without any consideration of what was going on with him, blanket rules for individual children really doesn’t work .

When in training

When you train to be a teacher you are taught to always consider the needs of each individual student/learner. In fact I remember tons of sessions during my training where we examined how to see each learner as an individual with individual needs. We had brain storming sessions weekly where we were encouraged to think of reasons a student may be struggling or need support. Of course hitting a teacher or another student is a pretty black or white case, but giving the same punishments to a child for forgetting his PE socks (when they are going through a really rough time) is not something you are trained to do! It’s common sense to everyone surely?

You are trained to recognise when your discretion should be used. It’s your job as a teacher, your responsibility. Are teaching staff forced to implement no tolerance to all students now? It’s a dangerous and cruel tactic if they are?

As it stands at Williams school, you get the same punishment for your parent not signing you planner as say, a student who just verbally abused a teacher in a fit of rage.

This attitude is not teaching fairness and doesn’t give children the space to be heard or respected. School is not the army! This is a modern school, a place that is supposed to offer safety, pastoral care and social enrichment not punish the kids at every opportunity no matter what the specifics.

This stuff messes kids up! They don’t forget! It shapes them and sends them into the future believing their voice is not worthy of being heard. They believe that they are a failure and that if something out of their control affects their performance they must take the blame and just ‘carry on’ .

Not such a great message when the biggest cause of death in young men is suicide and that young people are self harming in higher numbers that ever before.

Schools are actively and openly damaging our children.

Problem parents and problem child

Not only did William go through a very traumatic time and loose one of his closest relatives, but he has now been tarred as a problem child in school and we have been labelled as problem parents. (Just to be clear, we have dedicated our lives to our children) we are not problem parents!

Looking at employment information and guidelines, adults (including teaching staff) receive 5 days minimum paid bereavement leave and up to 6 weeks unpaid.. however our children are not granted any. They are children, why aren’t they supported?

How does this make any sense? When we are in a time where the mental health of our children is at an all time low, surely we understand the importance of self care and pastoral, supportive environments ? Is the school system really supporting our children or are they marching them straight into a life of depression, self harm , mental illness and anxiety?

Apparently according to the former education minister, children can not use the death of a loved one as an “excuse to take an ‘extended holiday’ under any circumstances” as it affects their overall results long term! Don’t worry about the shell of child they spit out when they turn 16, as long as they get the results!

In what era do we live in? We moved on a long time ago from believing children should be separated and kept away from death. It’s clear that these archaic ideas have caused untold damage to the lives of children in the past.

Parents and experts (parents are experts on their child by the way) now understand that children must be able to grieve , to do this they must be told the truth about death and kept involved with people they love both in life, illness and in death. It’s the only way to heal and only way to move on into the future. It goes without saying that some children need to get straight back into life, but that is up to the parent and child to decide.

A funeral is crucial part of this process, a ritual and a closure, a final goodbye in the presence of you family and friends.

I repeat the only people that know what is right for a child is their parent and the child themselves. It certainly isn’t the call of a head teacher, who in most schools have very little to do with each child on a day to day basis. I doubt Williams head teacher could pick him out of a line up..he certainly says he’s never been face to face with her. So how does she get to give her blessing for him to attend a funeral? What does she know about what his needs are? or indeed who is is at all?

Cruise and Marie Curie, among others,  advise that each child is individually affected in their own way and that they should lead the way when deciding when they are ready to return to every day life after a loss. It certainly is not the duty of the education minister, the head teacher or the attendance officer, it’s the child and their parents.

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Just to make sure they are well and truly broken

To make things worse and to fire the final nail in the coffin (pardon the pun) they continue to punish that child who took time off to grieve for the rest of the year. Every report sent out that same year will mention their low attendance (anything under 97.5. % is low) and this low attendance is forever referred to as staff make decisions on who is moved up and down in subject sets that reflect their abilities.

It’s openly acknowledged in school that often ability related sets are over subscribed to. So they need to make space to move kids up to achieve their potential. To do this they will take out the students with the lowest attendance before those with the lowest achievement level. This was told to me by staff when we questioned why our high achieving son was moved down a set. He was moved down not because he was struggling with the work but because he had taken time off due to illness.

So students who are ill, disabled, grieving or simply struggling with life, are put down into groups that don’t provide them opportunity to fulfil their potential academically. All because the system sees only ‘healthy’ students as their priority. In short it’s not about how clever you are, it’s about how lucky you are to stay healthy and that you are lucky enough to be blessed with an easy life. Yet another blow in the confidence of the child who is already facing challenging times.

If you’ve ever sat in a class where you are far beyond the level you are taught , you will understand the frustration and how it sets in a strong feeling of dissolution. Particularly as lower sets do tend to have less disciplined and positive learning environments.

Treats for the healthy and Lucky

At the end of the academic year many schools have a treat for those students who have excellent attendance. It maybe a film or take-out pizza, sometimes it’s a trip to a theme park. In the final year it’s the eligibility to attend prom.

It goes without saying that students who have been unlucky enough to be ill throughout the year or have lost a loved one, they will be excluded from these celebrations.

It is often normal for these children to sit and witness those celebrating their good health and fortune, while they are publicly excluded from the fun. A humiliating day and I guess that’s the entire point of it, to humiliate the kids into attendance?!

William’s school also offers a prize for the form with the overall highest attendance. Of course this creates added peer pressure and tension as poorly students and students who need time away, “let down the whole class.” Encouraging bullying and extra pressure these struggling children just don’t need the extra pressure.

For all those sick kids, for all those with challenging home lives , who are grieving or are suffering with their mental health, their school life consists of one miserable day after another. Something that really won’t help them during their already difficult lives.

So as they trudge through their childhood in an environment that doesn’t hear them or believe in them, they end their year sat in a detention room as their friends celebrate the end of school. They just sit punished once more for no other reason that not fitting to the expectations of every other ‘normal’ or healthy child. Often this repeated insinuation that they are not good enough sets in a attitude if ‘why bother’ and eventually they give up even trying at all.

Prom

The prom, albeit a modern and imported American tradition, means a lot to the kids these days. It marks the end of their school life and in turn marks the beginning of their adult life. It’s a milestone for them, a little like a modern debutant ball.

Yet even here, at the last opportunity the school has to bring all their students together, celebrate their childhood and achievements they still exclude and refuse to let some children celebrate.

Not only do they make them miserable and separate them from day to day school life, they then make sure they end it all with a parting shot of ‘ we don’t think you should be at prom because it’s to celebrate the ‘successful’ kids, you are not one of them, your time here was pointless, your childhood was wasted! ‘

Talk about a final kick in the teeth.

 

 

Providing a safe environment

What ever happened to providing an environment in which children can achieve and flourish? For many ‘unlucky’ children, school is torture. It punishes them at every corner. Staff don’t hear them, they don’t consider them and they punish them for the things they have no control over.

To finish them off they separate them from their peers and create a behaviour record that doesn’t reflect that child in any way, yet that reputation follows them into the future.

Recently the press reported that the rates for children deregistered from schools to be ‘home educated’ has risen sharply. These parents repeatedly say they felt forced out because their children were not a good statistic for the school. Is this what is happening? If a child doesn’t fit the desired mould do they purposely make them feel so undervalued and unsupported that they feel they have no option but to leave?

After all, parents only want their children to be well and happy. If school is not only preparing them for a life of work but for a life of mental illness and lack of self worth, then I don’t see many parents not taking them out of the system.

Perfect for those schools wanting 100% pass rates they separate the proverbial wheat .

Remember you can sit a gcse at any age, you can learn at any age, only the school system demands it has to be achieved by the age of 16. As many parents ask themselves what is more important? Is it health, happiness and confidence for life? or is it 8 GCSEs by the age of 16?

It’s clear the schools, government and Lea’s need to consider their responsibilities to our children and mostly they have to stop abusing them for not fulfilling their blanket expectations.

 

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2018 can Sod off !

Goodbye 2018…

It’s almost the end of the year and I can’t wait to see the back of 2018!

As I lost my mum, I had five friends who lost parents too. Loosing a parent is something you will never be ready for! Until you experience it you will never understand the grief it brings. I saw my mum only once a week ( she had an amazingly full life) but we text and spoke almost daily… it leaves a big gap when that person you always call isn’t there anymore.

When she passed away the first person I want to call to talk about it was her! The realisation she wasn’t there was a shock even though I was there when she passed!

This year I also lost an aunt and an uncle and witnessed people become very sick and frail.. I saw relationships fail and families break, it really has been a torrent of a year! I have to say it’s been the hardest I’ve ever had!

I had friends struggle with their business and money to make ends meet and the amount of friends and family struggling with mental illness and depression is unreal . We’ve all struggled here and some of us start seeing councillors in the new year to help us move on.. this is positive! Getting help and reaching out is a big step towards healing.

Health wise , both Keith, Grace,William and I have struggled (I’ve had a few (stress related) seizures over the last few months and my energy levels and back pains aren’t great) we have also had family and friends who have had terrible health worries this year. Everyone seems to have something going on with them! But the nhs supports us.. I’m greatly appreciative that we all get that support

We’ve had family stresses too , money issues, time issues, difficult neighbours, family and people in general behaving difficult, gossiping and generally lying and using us as their favourite topic of conversation.

Ive been shocked this year at how much people love to gossip. We did have a laugh though.. we literally sat at home not talking to anyone and still managed to be doing something wrong 😂 my dad always told me, if someone wants to find a reason to dislike you they will search to find one.. even if it’s not there.

But through the upset and hurt We’ve learned to walk away rather than try defend ourselves… this revelation has had positive affect and although it’s hard knowing people believe horrid untrue things about you and your family .. but knowing and realising you can live in peace without begging for your innocence is very freeing.

All these things, and more, have been felt by friends and family this year.. suffering in the same way we have…everyone seems to have had a tough old year… and everyone will be glad to see the end of it!!!

But—

…we have had good stuff too, HUGE BLESSINGS including weddings, engagements, babies and new friendships .. it’s always wonderful to see life changing moments happening before your eyes.

I also had my faith in mankind restored . The kindness I witnessed (from strangers as well as friends) when mum died was incredible and

I’ll never forget those people I came across on my way back from Ireland. I think about them a lot and it really helped me knowing such kindness was out there..

Also at that sad time in September we found out who was there for us and who our friends were when they rallied around to support us. ..

Matt and Keira took great care of me when I was alone and frightened , Booked me flights home from Ireland and generally had my back…, it was above and beyond.. I’m so grateful.. Em was at the end of the phone constantly and was around to help me with difficult jobs and supportive words..she was my rock. ..Tara was there to understand and listen and importantly to make me laugh!!!

…and that’s just a few of the special people!!! so many people supported us, and not always the ones we expected to pull through! , but we needed them.. we felt very isolated and alone.. you saved us…you are the ones who know us and love the people we really are… just as we do you…we are so blessed to have you…and we will look after you too when you need it!

We had amazing adventures this year too and travelled well , across the UK in Molly the caravan , camping in lay-by’s and various fields , enjoying festivals and our festival friends…This summer we walked around a fire mandala, had paint fights, saw amazing music, drama and arts, watched burlesque, cycled through magical woods, explored fairy gardens , saw parades, watched naked cricket and drank champagne while watching an orchestra play. We met incredible people, famous and normal lovely folk, we shared incredible talent within our space and our crew. As always we made things happen! I love my work and my team!

We also travelled to Norway, Thailand and Ireland, both on holiday and for work.. we experienced two completely different environments and we are thrilled we have been able to give the kids such experiences. We sledged, built a toboggan run for our sledge, went in an ice church, drank vodka in glasses made of ice, nearly broke our bodies sledging and trekking through 3 metres of snow! Thailand brought us utter breathtaking scenery, sun, spirituality, sea, monkeys, spiders, lizards, food, culture and more than we could ever wish for! Amazing!!!!

We celebrated Graces 18th in June with a big party at the local golf club. It’s was great to get family and friends together to celebrate… as expected it went on into the wee hours!

William turned into a teenager in 2018 and he’s turned a corner in health.. he seems much better this year! Mum turned 70 and Libby entered her 20’s! Milestone birthdays are always something to celebrate!

We had lots of good work come in and more importantly we survived it all ! We took on one of the biggest and most exciting projects we’ve ever done at work and we (and our team) completed it well and handled the stress! ..just! (It tested our relationship at times) Opti-Pharma continues to thrive and Angel Gardens continues to inspire and share.

We put food in our tummies and heat in our home and we will continue to do that thankfully with less financial pressure this year. Shelter and home is everything.. and we will do more this year for the homeless and those who have less than us.. collecting left over festival tents and sleeping equipment will be a start and I will work with my local church to support our local food bank ..

Our children learned and thrived, and even after they all struggled after their grandma died they found their strength and are again succeeding. We remain very proud of their humour, sense of individual style and their ability to behave properly when they need to, with excellent manners and consideration to others. They are passionate about important things and know right from wrong on a global and political scale as well as in a day to day environment. They all bring us such high levels of pride!

We did some work on our home too, with us moving out in November to the hotel down the road while we had a new boiler fitted. The kids loved living near Xscape and enjoyed climbing, cinema and eating out.

The new heating in the new ‘wing’ of the house made a big difference and the installation of the new log burner just before Christmas finished it off nicely!

The gardens were lovely this year, although we lost the new beds at the front of the house during a heatwave while we were in Thailand. We will re-plant these in the spring although the bulbs are in already!

We have plans to get the new floor fitted in the new part of the house in January and the new family bathroom will be fitted while we are in Norway. Hopefully we will finally finish the house this year.. let’s hope our paid work continues to pay so we can make that a reality!

So this new year we are going to hold our heads high and not let anything get to us.. my little (big?) family are strong and good, we will continue to work hard and continue to live and behave ethically and with kindness where we can…. we might fail at times, but nobody is perfect.. as long as we do our best we can sleep well at night.

We will take care of each other and our people, we will share what we have and be there when they need us…

We will have adventures and experiences whenever we can, and mix our business and work with pleasure as we continue try to find a good life work balance.

We will distance ourself from things that make us sad or uncomfortable and not get dragged into any unnecessary drama.. We will rise above it and get on with the importance of bringing our children up among good people who bring love and inspiration.

So.. 2018..

phew you’ve been tough!!!

But there’s always good stuff too… come midnight tomorrow I’ll be saying goodbye.. not just to 2018 but to everything that’s hurt us or made life difficult for me, my family and my friends ..

2019 will start clean and fresh… as I become the matriarch of my own family , Keith and I have become the elders and head generation of our little branch of family.. we will take on our role proudly and ensure new adventures await us!

May 2019 bring happiness, love and inspiration to you all!!! Xxxxx

Violent trumping causes unknown emotional damage to four year old!

Mr O and I decided to do a two week detox/boost diet thingy before our holiday in a few weeks. We just fancied a little boost as we’ve been feeling the pressure a bit recently and felt we needed a little clean out.

Unbeknown to us that’s exactly what we would be getting …in spades!

We have been doing it five days now and it’s all a bit surprising.

The foods been lovely actually and we both know that if we weren’t actively aware we are on the program we’d be enjoying it as normal. But no it just doesn’t feel enough.. we are craving sandwiches (we don’t normally eat sandwiches) and a not grabbing a quick cereal is causing Mr O great distress…

To lift the mood I’ve got the stuff in to make gin and tonics today as it’s ‘allowed’ so that will cheer him up! If it doesn’t at least he’ll be pissed and forget about sandwiches for a bit!

Anyway.. I digress…

Yesterday we did start to notice a difference in our bodies.. both of us… !!!

So my swollen tummy has halved in sized (I’m pretty sure it’s the bread that’s been making me so bloated). Mr O has noticed a weird salty taste in his mouth and most noticeable of all.. we both are trumping like troopers!

It’s bad! It’s not the kind of trumps that are silent and deadly but the kind that are loud and rattle the bedposts!

Violent trumping!!! (VT)

I’ve never violently trumped before! But yesterday I sneezed and my bottom made the most ridiculously noisy ‘dad’ fart ! It actually vibrated against the chair and hurt my buttocks!!!!

What. The. Actual. F*ck????

Anyway it made me jump and as I jumped up from my chair in horror it made Kitty jump and yelp in fear! She then frightened the cat who deftly shot off leaving the cat flap swinging in the shocked aftermath …. like a pendulous plastic tumble weed!

This all happened in a millisecond and I was left stood looking at Kitty, who was looking at me, shocked and horrified in equal measures.

I may have scarred her for life! Will this be an event she recalls in therapy in her twenties? Will she need intensive Emdr therapy to rid herself of this traumatic memory?

Later on Mr O was fitting the new dishwasher and one of these violent trumps forced its way through his work trousers as he leaned towards the stop tap .. as it came without warning he jumped and banged his head on the worktop he was currently under doing the plumbing. Kitty jumped in shock and as she did she stepped back and stood in the cat food! In disgust she cried out and as she removed her foot she knocked over the cats water. As her screams grew in volume and horror with each passing event, her Daddy tried to scramble out of the cubbyhole was working in to get to her…but as he tried to turn he knelt on a screw on the floor which, got him in the exact place that takes out every part of your ability to hold your body upright.. causing him to collapse in a heap and slump back against the unit knocking off a plate that was innocently waiting to be washed in the new dishwasher! … it smashed on the floor.. the cat ran out again the cat flap swinging in the silent aftermath once more!

Mr O stared at our daughter, as he slumped in a pathetic heap under the kitchen sink while she returned her equally appalled look. She stood one foot in a puddle and the other raised displaying squashed meaty chunks (from whiskers gravy range) oozing between her tiny glitter painted toes.

We are really messing with our four year olds stress levels now!

Friday night is Kitty’s night for been allowed in our bed.. so as she was starting to get sleepy last night while in the middle of us both, we discussed the events of the day. Suddenly mr O did, one of these now normal, violet trumps!

We laughed and I said ” at least aim your arse away from me” he maturely responded by explaining he was “keeping Kitty’s feet warm”

Well our 4 year old saw red, it was the final straw ! She’d Been putting up with this all day after all!

She threw back the covers “daddy now my feet are too warm! I don’t want you to warm them up!”

She was ready to cry and very cross…

…to cut a long story short I spent the next half hour ‘wafting’ her feet to cool them down from Daddy ‘over heating’ them with his violent trump!

You really couldn’t make this shit up!

We start today with a sense of interpretation not knowing when the VT will strike next!

Wish us luck!