Category Archives: Charity

Baby Tilda Barn Dance

A week ago today we travelled to Kent for a very special occasion.  A beautiful setting, a perfect late Spring day, so many friends gathered to remember Matilda Mae and to raise money for the Lullaby Trust.

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The children had a lovely time, playing outside, dressing up in silly hats and helping themselves to a selection of their favourite snacks – Tiddler couldn’t believe his luck!

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Then we moved indoors for the dancing.  Owl was pleased to be allowed to join in with the band and Rabbit danced every dance.  Monkey and Tiddler preferred to watch, but they all had a good time.

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Rabbit made the most of the craft table, and had her face painted too.  All the children enjoyed the play area, and of course the ice cream.  There were bubbles for Tilda, big ones and little ones, a reminder of why we were there.

Rabbit has asked to help write this post, so over to her!

I liked playing with the ducks and I liked the snacks and smoothies.  I liked dancing and having my face painted.  I had an ice cream.  I liked playing with my friends.  I made new friends.  It was fun playing in the playground.  My brother played the violin.

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Later there was more dancing inside, and then beautiful music by Classical Babies outside.  The afternoon ended with the three raffles being drawn, and we were very lucky to win some amazing prizes, including vouchers for Livie and Luca shoes and a Princess and the Frock dress.  Thank you Jennie for having us, and for all the hard work you put into it.  We had a wonderful day!


Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall

Mile in Memory of Matilda Mae 2014

On Saturday 17th May, we joined with Jennie and friends to walk a mile in memory of Matilda Mae and raise money for the Lullaby Trust.  The little ones chose to spend the day with Granny, so Paul and I travelled up to Warrington with the two big boys.  The venue, Walton Gardens, was lovely, and the weather was perfect.

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We gathered in the courtyard and blew bubbles for Tilda while we waited for everyone to be ready to set off.

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Pink and purple balloons marked the route.

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Thomas made an appearance and we were sorry that the little ones had missed him, but even the big boys were quite pleased to see him.

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Beautiful pink and purple flowers reminded us why we were there.

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After the walk, there was time to play in the playground, have lunch and explore the park.

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We walked around the mini zoo, and spent quite a while trying to get a good peacock photo but they weren’t really in the mood for performing!

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The boys had a go at bungee trampolining.

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Then they went on the bouncy slide.  By this time it was very hot and they needed an ice cream to cool down before finishing with a ride on Thomas.

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Thank you Jennie for letting us be a part of your day to remember Matilda Mae.


Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall

A Hug for World Prematurity Day

It’s World Prematurity Day this Sunday and this year’s theme is #GiveAHug.  Many of us take for granted that we can give our children a hug whenever we like, and hold our babies as soon as they are born.  But for many parents it is not that simple.  Around the world, 15 million babies a year are born prematurely, 60 000 of those in the UK.  In many cases, their parents cannot give them a hug for days, or even weeks.

To support Bliss in their #GiveAHug campaign, we have decided to share one of our favourite picture books, Hug, by Jez Aldborough.
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We read it together at bedtime while we were staying at Granny’s house.  Once the children were settled on the sofa in their pyjamas with an assortment of dolls and teddies and a blanket, Owl decided he would like to read it to the others.

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The story is simply told through eloquent pictures and very little text, which means you can’t just read the words, you have to talk about it.  This leads to some lovely conversations and an insight into the children’s point of view.

A little chimp has lost his mummy, and everywhere he looks he sees other animals sharing hugs.  An elephant takes pity on him, and tries to help him find his mummy.  They look everywhere but can’t find her.  He sits down and starts crying and the other animals look worried but they don’t know what to do.  Suddenly his mummy comes and finds him, and they share a joyful hug.  And then all the animals hug each other, and the little chimp hugs his friend, the elephant.

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It’s a heartwarming story, and it is very good for discussing emotions with children.  We look at the little chimp’s face in each scene and talk about what he is feeling.

On this occasion, as you can see in the photos above, when the children had finished reading the story, they all took turns to hug each other.  Only a couple of photos were usable as most of them were rather blurry (or silly!) but it was lovely to watch and it made me feel very lucky.

Matilda Mae Welly Walk

It’s taken me a while to write about the Matilda Mae Welly Walk, which was on Saturday 2nd November.  Being behind on blogging is nothing new, but it’s also hard to find the words to do it justice.  There were so many things I loved about the day.

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The beautiful setting of Beale Park in Reading, the pink and purple balloons and bunting, the gathering of so many friends who were there to support Jennie and David, remember Tilda and raise money for the Lullaby Trust.

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The careful planning, the attention to detail.  Questions for the children to answer on the walk, provided by twinkl.

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Wonderful live music, stars and bubbles.

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And after the walk, so many exciting things for the children to see and do.

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The Zu3D animation stand was the biggest hit.  More on that later…

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Hook-a-duck, a lucky dip and lots and lots of fantastic toys to play with.

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So many people to talk to, a beautiful montage of photos of Tilda to watch, pink and purple star cakes to be eaten (and delicious pumpkin soup, and crepes with chocolate sauce!)

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The children were having such a brilliant time, and were so engaged in what they were doing, that we even got to drink whole cups of coffee without them going cold.

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A storytelling session in a beautifully decorated pink and purple tent held the attention of our older children very well, while Tiddler had some more playtime with daddy – it would have been very hard to tear him away from the toys.

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Later on we went back outside for the welly throwing competitions and some time on the playground equipment.

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And finally, back inside and everyone gathered together for the prize giving and speeches.  Owl was thrilled to win a Kurio tablet – what an amazing prize!  Time for some more music, and a story read to the children by Jennie, a peaceful end to a lovely day.

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As it began to get dark, we said our goodbyes and set off with sparklers, and a bunch of balloons weighed down with pink and purple wooden stars.  The sparklers lasted a moment, the balloons a week, but the stars are in our playroom to stay.

To Jennie, David and everyone who worked so hard to organise such a perfect day, thank you.

We will always remember Matilda Mae xx


A Night of Hope – World Vision and Halloween

Halloween is not my favourite time of year.  I’m not keen on trick or treating, neither doing it nor being on the receiving end – I keep the lights off at the front of the house once it is dark, and just hope no-one rings the bell.  Until I had children, it was fairly easy to avoid the whole thing, but I can’t do that now.  I prefer to focus on Autumn and Harvest, and not dwell too much on the scary stuff, though I am okay with the children exploring it if it is their own idea.  So our Halloween activities tend to be a mishmash of things with a lot of different influences.

I will write a post later with more about what we have been up to, and some photos.  It has involved potions in cauldrons, Halloween toast, dressing up, some traditional Halloween games and eating sweets and chocolate!  Now the older three children are at church, at the Rainbow Party – an alternative celebration for Halloween, so I don’t think they are missing out on the fun.

Given my ambivalence towards Halloween, I was really glad to hear that this year, World Vision want to turn a night of fear into a night of hope, and very happy to support their campaign.  This is what they have to say about it:

“Our children enjoy the frights of Halloween one night a year, but for many children around the world there are real things to be afraid of. World Vision is fighting to make the world a safer place for young people vulnerable to child marriage, malnutrition, dirty water and more. Read more about how we helped Sylvia from Uganda escape child marriage at fifteen on our campaign page.”

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World Vision are asking people to carve a heart in a pumpkin as a sign of hope, and if you send them a picture you will be included in their night of hope gallery.  Everyone who downloads their Night of Hope pack will be entered into a competition to win a cookery class with Lesley Waters and a free night’s accommodation worth £300.  Obviously it would have been good if I had told you this before Halloween, but you might be able to sneak an entry in if you are quick!

We have an eclectic mix of pumpkin decorating styles going on in our house.  Knowing that the poor neglected pumpkins growing in our garden were rather small, I bought a medium sized one to add to them.  Daddy then bought an enormous one which the children couldn’t even lift!  I have carved hearts and stars into the one I bought, and some more stars in the best of our home-grown bunch.  Owl asked for a pumpkin with the word Jesus carved on it, and luckily daddy was able to do that just before he left for work – I’m impressed, as it looked rather tricky to do.  Rabbit really wanted one with a face on so I used one of our little ones for that.  We still have a couple left so I might do some more tomorrow.

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The reason the face is a different colour is that we used a small electric “candle” which we were given by a friend yesterday.  The ones with the real candles in look a bit more atmospheric, but I wasn’t sure about putting one in such a tiny pumpkin where the flame would be very close to the edge.

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Then Jesus again spoke to them, saying, “I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life” (John 8:12)

I’m pleased with how our random collection of pumpkins have turned out, and it feels good to be a small part of a campaign to improve the lives of many children around the world.  Closer to home, I am thinking of a beautiful little girl who should be with her mummy and daddy this Halloween – instead we will be gathering in Reading on Saturday to remember her on the day that she has been dead for as long as she was alive.  And as always I am also remembering a very special little boy who should be with his family too.  I can never light a candle without thinking of these two little people, so Freddie and Matilda Mae, the hearts and stars are for you and your families tonight xxxx

Making a difference #MMskydive


Yesterday was a very emotional day.  After months of planning and preparation, nine very brave people jumped from a plane in memory of Matilda Mae and to raise money for the Lullaby Trust.  I was honoured to be able to be there to support them as part of the ground crew.

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I travelled to the airfield with Monika (Mumonthebrink) and family, and when we got there it was time for the team to register.  Dadonthebrink was a late addition to the team as he gallantly stepped up when Monika was unable to do the skydive (this time!) for medical reasons.  Monika, I know you were disappointed but things happen for a reason, and it felt right that there was a dad on the team because dads are affected by SIDS too.

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After the team were registered they had to wait what I think must have felt like a rather long time before doing the skydive.  There was a training session part way through the morning, but there was also plenty of time to take lots of team photos.

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Time for a haircut too – the team are very creative in finding ways to raise money for the Lullaby Trust!

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There was time to chat, to offer hugs and reassurance and of course to tweet and retweet too.  It was wonderful to see #MMskydive trending for almost the whole day as many people showed there support even though they were unable to be there in person.

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And then the first three divers were called.  When they were suited up, there were hugs and photos and then they set off for the plane.

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While the first three were up in the air, the second group were called.  There were more photos and hugs, and bubbles for baby Tilda.  It was good to see the lovely Susanne smiling through the nerves as she was able to focus on why she was doing this crazy thing.  We all wish that we were there for some other reason, but there was so much love in that brief moment.

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And then, after about 15 minutes in the plane, the first group of divers emerged through the clouds.  I can’t really find the words to describe it.  It was incredible.  Partly because of the courage it took to do it.  And partly because it was a really beautiful sight.  But most of all because of the reason for the skydive.  Love. Friendship. Support.  It comes in many forms.  There are quieter ways to show it, all just as valuable.  But this was powerful.  And unforgettable.

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And then, as the first three returned and the second group took to the skies, the final three were ready to go.

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The second group came through the clouds and it was amazing, beautiful and emotional all over again.  And then the third group appeared and it was all of those things – and also very funny as there was a lot of excited shouting and waving from Michelle who loved it so much that she wanted to do it all over again!

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When all the team were safely down, there were pink bubbles, cakes and a last chance to talk before we all went our separate ways.

Jennie, we all want to make a difference.  And I think that we all struggle that with knowing that in the way that matters most we can’t.  We all wish we could turn back time but we can’t.  But we will continue to do what we can to support you and the Lullaby Trust.  And we will always remember baby Tilda.

Team Matilda Mae you are amazing.  Over £6000 raised from the skydive, and the total is still going up.  I know it’s not the end, and there are lots more creative fundraising ideas in the pipeline.  There’s no stopping you – now you have jumped out of a plane you can do anything!  Love is powerful.  Friendship is powerful.  Be proud of yourselves x



Sky Dive for Matilda Mae

This will have to be a quick post because I should be leaving for Oxford in just over an hour.  Before then I have to hang up washing, iron the clothes I want to wear, pack my bag, attempt to tidy the house while four children follow me around messing it up again, deal with any potty accidents that may arise and supervise children who want to do some painting for our summer display. And that’s the scaled-down version of the list, and doesn’t include the numerous things I’m sure I have forgotten.

Anyway, the point of all this is that tomorrow morning nine brave people will be JUMPING OUT OF A PLANE and I will be there to support them, as ground crew because I am not brave at all.  Well, I did manage to remove a fairly big spider from the house yesterday, but it’s not really in the same league…

The nine crazy  brave people who are jumping tomorrow are doing it to raise money for the Lullaby Trust in memory of Matilda Mae.  If you can, please sponsor them.  You can also help by sharing this post or the links within it, and if you are on twitter please tweet and retweet like crazy tomorrow morning to get #MMskydive trending.  Thank you!

Big IF in Hyde Park

On Saturday, I went to London for the Big IF event in Hyde Park.  I travelled up with my friend from church (who is also the children’s piano teacher) and another friend of hers.  I really enjoyed the opportunity to have uninterrupted conversation with adults and so the train journey was quite relaxing.  We took the tube to Lancaster Gate and walked through the park.  It was a lovely walk on a beautiful sunny afternoon, and we saw a heron, some rabbits, swans and cygnets, geese, ducks and coots.  I really must take the children there sometime, they would love it.

I was surprised that there were no signs about the Big IF at the entrance to the park and no stewards.  There were so many people in the park who must have known nothing about it, which was quite a missed opportunity I’m sure.  We did find our way there though, and walked through an area with food stalls and children’s activities before making our way to the front where the stage and screens were.  I happened to meet a friend from a local home education group and she joined us for part of the afternoon, which was a good opportunity to catch up and chat.  We were sitting in the blazing sunshine all afternoon and I was very aware that if I’d had the children with me we couldn’t have got close enough to hear anything as there was no shade anywhere near the stage.  I exchanged texts with another friend (Jax) who had come with children and had to retreat to a tent at the entrance, so was unable to hear the talks.  There must have been many parents in this situation.  I did manage to catch up with her on my way out which was lovely.

So I know I was lucky to hear most of it, though we had to leave before the end.  I heard Bill Gates, Danny Boyle and Satish Kumar, among others, and it was very inspiring.  I did a bit of live tweeting, though it was tricky as lots of people were presumably doing the same, and some of my tweets failed to send.  With hindsight a notebook and pencil might have been better for keeping a record.  The most memorable part for me was Satish Kumar talking about the importance of farmers, especially women.  He was eloquent on the subject of why we should pay bankers less and pay farmers more.  “Is it more important to fiddle with figures than grow real food?”

The message of the day was clear.  There is no need for hunger in the world.  As Bill Gates said, “You are the activist generation.  Tell leaders that a world where two million children a year die of hunger is unnacceptable.”  Maybe thinking of the problem in such a huge scale is hard to comprehend.  So think of one of those children.  A child dying for no reason.  Think of his mother.  Think of her father.  Think of the irreparable damage done to their world.  It’s happening to two million families every year, and it doesn’t need to happen.  You can do something about it.

Find out about the IF campaign here.


Big IF London

Nearly one billion people go to bed hungry every night and two million children die from malnutrition every year.  All over the world, and even in the UK, people are struggling to feed their families.

Over 170 charities have joined together to form the IF campaign, calling for the G8 to take action on World Hunger.  “The world produces enough food for everyone, but not everyone has enough food. We can change this in 2013. IF we act together, we can make this year the beginning of the end for global hunger.”

The IF campaign is calling on world leaders to act on four big issues:

  • AID : Enough Food For Everyone IF we give enough aid to stop children dying from hunger and help the poorest families feed themselves
  • TAX : Enough Food For Everyone IF governments stop big companies dodging tax in poor countries
  • LAND : Enough Food For Everyone IF we stop poor farmers being forced off their land and grow crops to feed people, not fuel cars
  • TRANSPARENCY : Enough Food For Everyone IF governments and big companies are honest and open about their actions that stop people getting enough food

Together, we can make IF happen.  The more people who get involved, the more pressure there will be on world leaders to tackle global hunger.

Tomorrow, as world leaders meet in London, the Big IF London event will be taking place in Hyde Park from 2 – 5pm.  You can find out more about it here.