Wednesday, 26 February 2014

#LeonardTheDog - Family Pet Therapy for Special Needs Children

 
I know what you're thinking, cute isn't he?!... but I can also hear you saying...

'A puppy, an SEN pre-teen and a toddler?? Are they mad??'

Wellllll, actually we are madder than whatever you have in your head and may as well be hatters, we have a pre-teen, a toddler, 2 cats, a tortoise and... YEP... now a puppy.

There is reason behind the madness and there always has been good reason behind our pet madness.

Meet the Baihoff Pets
Dave (age 7)
We got Dave the cat (rescued him in fact) to help Kyd (aged 5) with his speech and social ability and he is the quietest but the grumpiest out of the lot... Dave has been a rock in his (and my) life and he did his job, Kyd really came on with him there to help him. He also liked to be worn as a hat by Hoff when in bed... He was named by Kyd after Dave Grohl, the Foo Fighters front man and Kyd's favourite rock star.
Syd (age 5)
We got Syd the cat about 18mths later to keep Dave the cat company and because he needed a home and was very poorly and he is as crazy as Kyd so he fitted in well. The loudest most annoying cat of the two but he really is a cuddly monkey who thinks he's a parrot and sits on your shoulder... Syd was named after the Sloth from Ice Age.
Bruce (age 7mths)
Hoff bought me Bruce the tortoise as my wedding present last July and he came to live with us at the end of August. Yep, he bought me a tortoise and yep, Kyd named him Bruce... yep Bruce. Bruce was the size of an old 50p piece and he is doing and growing really well. He wasn't allowed to hibernate this winter as he was too little but we've bonded in the process.... Bruce was named because whilst pregnant Kyd wanted to name Rocky, Bruce. We agreed that the next pet would take on the name... a short while ago the penny dropped and I realised that he was called Bruce after Bruce Wayne aka Batman.
Leonard (age 9wks)
NOW... we have Leonard, named by Kyd after the character on The Big Bang Theory after negotions were had to get him to back down from Howard (the boy is obsessed). Leonard is the final piece of the Baihoff pet jigsaw, a chocolate brown Pointer/Weimaraner puppy, with amazing ears, who has an important job to play in our family...

Kyd's Best Friend.

For the special needs child, the dog can serve in a therapeutic manner by serving as a social facilitator; as a symbolic vehicle for the expression of emotionally laden topics; as a focus of attention and as agents of de-arousal; as an object of attachment; as a source of social support; and as a living instrument for learning new skills, ways of thinking and behaving.
–Can Animals Help Humans Heal?  University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine,
July 2004
 
Over the past 11 years I have looked into all sorts of therapy, pet therapy was always one that I believed in and after we got Dave the cat, I knew as he got older it would help more than ever if he had a dog, I'm sure Dave the cat would argue with me on that point.
 
Pets encourage children with special needs to practice rehabilitation and healthy activities, such as walking or running with the animal or even throwing objects for the animal to retrieve. Just playing with their dog daily can be more exercise than most children get living life without a pet and for me that was more than enough to encourage us to get Leonard.
 
For special needs children and their parents, fine motor skills are at upmost importance and these are developed by petting, grooming, or feeding their animal and the child is more likely to interact whether giving the animal verbal and physical commands or talking about their pets, past and present. All of these activities can help develop cognitive skills and communication and make a major difference in the child's comfort, progress and even recovery from medical conditions and surgery.
 
Independence
For me Kyd's independence is everything. As long as he can get on in life like me and you, I don't care if he can do algebra or can recite his times tables. I know that Kyd can go into a shop and buy what he needs by himself without me helping (although I'm stood at the door) THAT, makes me proud. I know that Kyd is happy to sit in a crowd of 20k football fans and be happy and part of that group without panicking and any need of my support THAT makes me proud. I know that Kyd will grow up to be as independent, if not more so, than Rocky despite his disability because he is a stubborn little bugger who strives on proving people wrong and getting perfection out of whatever he does, THAT makes me proud... It is the social aspects and friendships as he grows that worry me and research shows that a pet can open up confidence and doors in the world that you'd never have found without having them... THAT is what Leonard is here for, THAT is his job.
 
Weight Gain & Health
When a child with Down Syndrome hits puberty their metabolism has a habit, more often than not, of breaking and they gain weight, thick and fast. A good diet and regular exercise can help but their metabolism will fight them every step of the way. Often, habits gained in childhood can have a huge effect at this time and so gaining healthy habits before puberty can really help with what happens at  the next stage... easier said than done though.
 
The problem is, when they gain weight they put pressure on their health and their health is often ropey as it is. They are prone to diabetes, heart disease and all those other lovelies that we hear about so regularly in health articles and news.
 
If I can do anything to prevent this from happening, even if it is a slight help and even if that means getting a dog and training him at the same time as training a toddler.... I WILL!
 
Leonards Future...
Leonard the dog starts his puppy training classes next week. We have a specialist coming in to help us train him as best we can and Kyd will be involved in ALL of the training. Rocky however, will be taught by us how to behave around the dog and how to train him too as he is too young for the classes... although I reckon he could do with a few classes himself.
 
Leonard will have a great home here with us. He is already a much loved part of the family... even when we are cleaning up his poo.
 
Welcome to the family Leonard.
We Love You Already...
 
 



Thursday, 20 February 2014

You, Your Kids and Sheds

photo courtesy of Flikr.com
You would be forgiven for thinking a garden shed is just a place to store tools and random bric-a-brac, but there's actually so much more that this external space can be used for.

What's more, it's not just a hideout for men, it can be the ideal extension of your home, with something for the entire family - even the little ones can make use of the space with a little imagination.

Here are some ways to make your shed a place of fun for the all the family.


A play area for the kids

Space is of a premium inside many homes, meaning children often have little room in which to play, but turning your outdoor shed into a designated play area can easily solve this problem.

Depending on how creative you want to be, you can really make an impact with your converted playhouse. Paint the walls bright colours, or get really artistic and design a mural. Complete the look with soft furnishings such as bean bags and large cushions, so that the little ones have somewhere to relax and take a break.

Shelving units can form an easy way to store toys and books, as can a small partition behind which you can keep other items like garden tools.

An arts and craft room


Letting the children get creative seems like a great idea, until you have to tidy up after them! Having an outdoor space for arts and craft activities means you won't have to worry about a few splashes of paint on the floors or glue stuck to work surfaces.


The shed itself could also be included as part of an arty project, let the kids get involved with the decoration and painting of the walls. A simple log cabin can be a blank canvas for the little ones so they can redesign it into something much more colourful and personal.
a scene from Little Rascals (film) in their clubhouse.


When the children aren't using the space, big kids can take over for their own art projects. Sheds can provide the peace and quiet you need to get creative, while the surrounding scenery and natural lighting provide the perfect backdrop for a relaxing time painting and drawing.

Band practice space

If your children are musical and need a place to practice that won't disturb the rest of the family, in a shed is the ideal place.

They come in all different shapes and sizes, meaning most instruments can be easily accommodated. Sheds can also be soundproofed if your kids play noisy instruments like electric guitars or the drums - all you need is some empty egg cartons for a low-cost but effective solution.

Games room

Adults and children alike can have fun in a shed converted into a games room. For those not adverse to a spot of DIY, you could run an electricity cable into the cabin so that you can set up a viewing area, complete with TV, games console and DVDs.

If you prefer to get away from screens, then having a table and chairs provides the ideal set up for board games and puzzles. Invest in some folding furniture so it can easily be tidied away when not in use.


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Wednesday, 19 February 2014

Play time 'helps build confidence and social skills'

Much is written about how to improve youngsters' behaviour, and some experts suggest that setting rules and boundaries is the way to achieve it. Super Nanny Jo Frost became famous for her so-called Naughty Step approach, where a child is removed from a situation if they are not behaving in an appropriate manner. Another technique is to take away your young one's favourite possession for a limited time.

As a parent, you no doubt do these things in the hope of achieving a harmonious household in which you have a cooperative, happy and confident child.

Others suggest that this is better achieved by showering them with love. Psychologist Oliver James came up with a theory that parents should set aside quality time, where the children get to decide what to do, and during which you tell them how much you love them.

He wrote a book on the subject, entitled Love Bombing: Reset Your Child's Emotional Thermostat.

In an interview with the Guardian, Professor James admitted that the technique "seems to fly in the face of conventional wisdom", but was quick to explain that "the love bomb zone is separate from ordinary life. Outside the zone, you continue to set boundaries, consistently and firmly".

Whichever approach you take, building confidence seems to be vital to success. After all, self-assured kids are seldom unhappy. Far from it, they feel they have the tools to master problems, make friends and work through life, and are more likely to behave well because of it.


So, how to build self-esteem? The first step is to stop doing everything for them. Although this can certainly be tempting, particularly when you are in a rush, it is the wrong approach. Getting them to carry out tasks themselves - such as getting dressed - gives them a sense of achievement, and that gradually builds self-esteem.

It's not all about independence though. Children need to feel loved in order to flourish, and one of the best ways you can achieve this is to spend some quality time with them. Whether you do this following the love bombing technique, or just sit and play games with them, using the Naughty Step if things get out of hand, is up to you.

While setting aside play time and giving your child your undivided attention builds confidence, which should ultimately improve behaviour, it can also help them perform better at school.

In his book, The Power of Play, David Elkind makes the point that playing games "makes it easier for children to learn in a school setting, where they are interacting with adults and have the basic social skills that are the basis for formal learning".

Play, he said, teaches children "the ability to listen to an adult and to follow instructions, to start a task and bring it to completion on their own, and to work cooperatively with other children".

Djeco has a whole range of toys to suit different age ranges and abilities, which help develop key skills. Their craft kits, for instance, build concentration, boost fine motor skills, and give children a real sense of achievement when they see what they have made.

Make-believe toys, such as Djeco's tea set, kitchen or vet kit, help bolster a child's social skills. Whatever you choose, you get to spend time with your little one and enjoy seeing them flourish.

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Friday, 14 February 2014

An Un-Romantic Valentines Day

Today is Valentines day... *shrugs*

We don't really 'DO' Valentines Day.

Actually, we don't really 'DO' mushy, sweet, romantic tosh.... it just makes us feel awkward and uncomfortable, especially in public. Our wedding photos were the hardest thing in the world for us to do as we were just laughing at each other.

It doesn't mean we love each other any less than the hoards of people opening their cards and smelling their roses this morning, it just means we display it differently and EVERY DAY of our relationship... not just on the days we're told to.

It's the little things for us. The random acts of kindness that are WAY out of character and mean way more than an over priced bunch of flowers that'll die soon after re-mortgaging your house to buy them.... or to reverse it, the not that funny socks that you look like a tit in and the boxers saying 'Hunk' that you can only wear when out with her or your mates will beat you up verbally about it.

Don't get me wrong it is really nice to express your love for your someone special on a day set out by companies to guilt you into buying things to express your love... but you know damn well it is just so that she can put on her facebook all about how amazing you are and so that her mates comment on how amazing you are too and give you a huge pat on the back for being EPIC!

'ahhhh he's the best boyfriend in the world isn't he!' comments are always good on days like this, you may as well copy and paste it onto every females status just so you can help them congratulate their partners on blindly saying 'one of them please' in a shop.

It makes it so much more special when others comment on how lovely you are for doing what you're told to do doesn't it?!


Having a day like this makes you really think about what you're going to do to express your love, well actually, when the shops have ready made displays of 'just buy this and she will think you've tried really hard' do you really think that hard about what it is she'll be throwing in the bin next week because it is useless tat.... Leave the useless tat to the teens they love tat!

We did try though, we did think about trying to be 'normal' for a day.

Last night we did our weekly shop, we both tried to sneak off to buy a card without the other noticing, which we both failed to do as we caught each other at the till. The romance in it all was immense. Even the till bloke was laughing.

We then bought each other a scratch card to put in it... in front of each other, because we are cool.

We then got home and completely forgot to write the cheap and thoughtless cards from Morrisons and when we woke up this morning both laughed at how awful we are at this romance stuff.

I did however win £1 on my scratchcard and we shared a Quarter Pounder meal from the Maccy D's drive through on the way back from Kyd's check up with the surgeon... I don't usually share food. I even said that I would happily give him a pink Jelly Baby if I had any, now THAT is love!

I may even cook him something later.

Today is just another day... maybe you should save yourself some money and go out to dinner next week... If it is love, it can wait until then.


Wednesday, 12 February 2014

Positivity, Medicinal Gin and 'Life Limiting' Spinal Cord Cysts!

YESTERDAY
I was in a 'life is shit' mood, tears and self pity the lot. I had an appointment with my Neurologist that morning and he told me that the cyst on my spinal cord has probably grown and was the reason behind me not being able to feel half of my face at random times... but it was inoperable because of it's positioning and that I just had to deal with the pain, pins n needles & tremors, even though they were getting worse. There are meds though, except all the meds they can give me to help lower your blood pressure and as I have incredibly low blood pressure as it is... I can't take any of them (we tried that already I fainted on top of Rocky... not a good look). I have dealt with this for ages now and I have almost gotten used to it but just wanted a diagnosis so I could mentally deal with it. Weirdly, in a way, I was hoping he'd say 'YEP it is definitely MS, this is how you deal with it, these websites can help too, it'll be with you for life but we can deal with it because we know what it is'... but instead I am stuck with not really knowing what to do and dealing with it myself, whilst learning what I can and can't do, with no support network or information websites to hand. It says a lot when you would prefer it to be such a horrible illness such as MS, but it has gotten to that stage now that anything solid was better than nothing at all and in a way, I would have people to talk to about it at least and people would understand it more. Don't get me wrong though, I'm glad it isn't, I wouldn't want MS obviously, I have seen what it does and I wouldn't wish that on anyone, ever. I'm probably not making much sense, it is hard to explain the feeling of not knowing... I just wanted an answer so I could move to the next stage.

It was when he said the fact that it was the cyst causing it and I had to learn to deal with it and described it as 'LIFE LIMITING'... that is what freaked me out I think, that is quite a daunting prospect.

By the time I had gone to bed I had gotten my head around it a little bit more and was a lot calmer. I spoke to a friend online who actually has MS itself and he made me see a few things clearer. He said that there are lots of things I can do to help my symptoms that weren't medication based and that researching things is my answer to coping with the issues it causes. He had all the MS symptoms for 15 years before they finally diagnosed him and he learnt to deal with them and what triggers them before he'd even been diagnosed, so he understands where my head is with the 'what ifs' and 'what do I do's'. I realised that at least I can settle knowing what is causing it now... at least I can stop wandering about the 'what ifs' and focus on those 'what to do's', at least I know now what it is.

Plus the neurologist told me that I could help my tremors (shaky hands) by... *drum rolls*... drinking alcohol... *Cracks open the Gin* Good work, I can now quote Dot Cotton every time I have a drink 'Oh, go on then... for medicinal purposes only, of course' *chinks glass*

TODAY I have picked myself up, brushed myself off and researched (again) how to naturally help the symptoms of MS, as they are identical to mine so might help. I am positive that this won't get me down and be 'Life Limiting' and that I will beat it into submission and focusing on the fact that so many people have it so much worse and little ones like Elizabeth (Laura from Tired Mummy of Two's little girl) go through their young life fighting things like leukaemia, doing treatments that make her ill and tests that are so painful... and they just smile through it... what have I got to whine about, a bit of pain, a few pins n needles and numb patches?... pffft that is nothing to what she goes through daily. Then there is Kyd, 11 years of bowel pain and still laughs daily and never complains and Rocky, a huge ball of infection in his armpit for an entire year, that must have hurt, yet nothing but smiles... I really DON'T HAVE ANY EXCUSE TO WHINGE!

'There is always someone, somewhere, worse off than you.'

I say that all the time, on my down days I have to force myself to remember it though and when my issues flare up, I have to take a deep breath (an ibuprofen) and as I breathe out remember how bad it 'could' be and that I am lucky to be here at all. As they say, positive thinking is the key to happiness after all.... if that fails, I just make Rocky laugh and the world seems to melt back into a smile again... who can't smile at their own baby laughing... any baby in fact!
 
'All that we are is the result of what we have thought.'
- Buddha

Positive, Positive, Positive, Positive, Positive, Positive, Positive, Positive, Positive, POSITIVE THINKING MAKES FOR POSITIVE RESULTS!!

Saying that, Iam going to cover my back here... I may whinge about it sometimes, you know, on bad days, when positivity has gone to pot and life seems unfair for so many and I can't understand it... but then I think everyone deserves SOME down days and dips into self pity... if not just to appreciate the good times that bit more, eh?!

Monday, 10 February 2014

#DaysOut - The Sealife Adventure Park, Weymouth

Last weekend I went to Devon for a Hen Do and it just so happened to have been my birthday too, so when The Hoff braved the floods and weather to come and get the pretty hung over me, we decided to make the most of being in such a beautiful county.

We decided that due to having Merlin Annual Passes and being so near the Dorset Coast we should head to Weymouth and go to the Sealife Adventure Park and then to the beach for some Fish and Chips. It is one of 31 Merlin attractions in the UK and we have been meaning to get there and tick that box, for a while now. As a child I lived in a small town next to Scarborough (the destination of one of Merlin's other Sealife Centres) and I went to the Sealife Centre on a regular basis, so I was quite intrigued as to how this would measure up to all my memories.

Where is it?
The Sealife Adventure Park in Weymouth is situated on the seafront and is really easy to get to by car. As you'd expect from a holiday destination, the area is surrounded by parks and fun things to do for families, including the beach (obviously), Go Karting and family friendly cafe's and restaurants (not included in the ticket price).

Your ticket includes access to the Sealife Tower on the Weymouth Seafront which is about 30 minutes walk from the park but easily accessed by car (allow time for traffic and the one way system).

There's plenty of parking out the front of the park but it is Pay and Display system so don't forget to pay before you go in (*please note* if you have a Blue Badge you still need to Pay and Display in this area, as well as putting your badge out).

SEA LIFE centres are also located in Birmingham, Blackpool, Bray, Brighton, Great Yarmouth, London & Scarborough.

What is there to do?
The Sealife Centre is a fun filled, part indoor, part outdoor, attraction which is both educational and fun for all the family.

In our family we have both a Toddler and a Pre-Teen and we often find that attractions and days out are based on one age group or the other. In the Sealife Centre they cater for all ages... including us adults. They have things to learn about, places for toddlers to climb on and see into the tanks and even hands on experiences like stroking a star fish or holding a crab in the Claws Rockpool Adventure.

With over 1000 different species to look at, interact with and learn about you'll be mesmerised by species you didn't even know existed and learn more about everyone's favourites such as Penguins, Crocodiles, Sharks, Seals, Otters, Turtles and even the teeny tiny Clown Fish... aka Nemo.

You can journey beneath the ocean in the spectacular underwater tunnel too. Stroll through a 180 degree view of awe-inspiring sharks, colourful corals and majestic sea turtles.

In the summer months only:
There is a Slash Zone, so don't forget your swimsuits.
Adventure Island - a little area within the park with rides (rides included in the ticket price)
Crocodile Creek - a great ride for the adventurous types (rides included in ticket price)
Pirate Adventure Mini Golf - Mini Golf for all ages.

There are some amazing staff on hand to answer questions and teach you more about any of the species in the centre. They are all specialised in the job role and can tell you more facts than you could possibly take in in one day. From what the animals feed on to how many are left in the wild and how they reproduce, every tiny question you have they can tell you the answer, they're a bit like walking Wikipedia pages.

The staff are really engaging with the children and really drew them in with fun information that is suitable for their ages, even the mad toddler had their attention and learnt something new (I think). I was really pleased that even though it is the winter season and there weren't many visitors, the staff really took the time to speak to Kyd and play with Rocky, as we went around the centre. One member of staff, Georgia, really took the time to speak to Kyd and engage him, despite his communication problems (his lack of clear speech), she remembered his name and every time we bumped into her in the centre, she would take the time to speak to him about whatever we were looking at. As a parent of a child with special needs this was such a lovely thing to see. It is something you would expect at these places but often don't get and for us this really made our visit special.... that and I think Kyd fancied her a little *wink* (A huge thank you to Georgia and I hope she had a great birthday).

There are certain times of the day where you can watch the staff feed the animals whilst they talk you through what they're doing via loudspeaker. These can be really fun and informative for all ages and are a must see whilst you're in the centre. The most popular ones to watch are the Penguins and the Otters as they tend to put on a show for you whilst you're there. Get there early if you need seating though, as the areas are quite small and they tend to get vey busy at peak times.

They have a shop at the entrance/exit to the centre and there are lots of 'pocket money' priced things to buy, alongside the more expensive items that you'd expect at these places, making the shop more accessible for families... Don't forget that if you have Merlin Passes you get 20% off in the shop when you show it at the till.

Is there anywhere to eat there?
We went to the Adventurers Grill cafĂ© in the entrance before we started our journey through the park, as it was lunch time and Kyd could smell the food and so we couldn't put it off any longer. The prices were very reasonable and the selection of food to pick from was very good for an attraction like this. There were healthy and not so healthy options, for people with small or large appetites, as well as a children's menu too. We had the special, not on the menu on the website, which came with a selected freshly made sandwich, chips and a drink of your choice (*note* Hot Drinks is refillable during your meal). I was overwhelmed by how much was on the plate when it arrived, such a good portion size for the price.

Kyd had an adult portion so he could just share it with Rocky and the lovely lady behind the till realised this and gave him a set of Sealife Centre Top Trumps (they usually come with the children's option) for being a good brother, this really did make his day, he loves Top Trumps and the attention of the staff was again fantastic and she really engaged him before we had even started. I can not fault the staff at this attraction.

There is a little eatery called Crabby's in Adventure Island too, this is snack food and refreshment based and can be accessed in the summer months only.

Also areas around the park for you to eat pre packed food... but please use the bins provided, there is nothing worse than litter in these places.

*Don't forget you get 20% off with your Merlin Passes in the restaurants on site too, just wave them at the till.


When is it open?
The Sealife Adventure Park is open all year round but please note that at some parts of the year some of the attractions are closed, for obvious reasons the rides are not open in the winter.
 
 
Opening Times -
From 15/02/14 - 02/11/14 the centre is open from 10am - 5pm
(During the winter months the park is open 11am - 4pm)
 
  
How much is it?
£18 on the door (adult or child)
£13 online (adult or child)
under 3's FREE
Rainy Day Guarantee - If there's an hour or more of rain you can revisit for free. Read details.

Every ticket bought from the website (and all Merlin passes) also include entrance to the Sealife Tower on the seafront (check opening times whilst at the centre and allow 30mins to walk/getting around the one way traffic) for up to 2 weeks after you buy them (which is great if you're in Weymouth for a holiday or live nearby).

*TIP* check for vouchers online before you go to cut the cost down, the website have a pre-booking discount, so it pays to be organised, plus you jump the queues.

They do offer season tickets too which make it much cheaper for regular visitors and there are lots of offers you can find online for discounts on the price of the passes too, just google 'season ticket discount for Sealife Centre Weymouth' for the most up to date offers.

Annual Merlin Passes are another option, depending on how often you plan on visiting any of the 31 attractions across the country this can save you £100's in the first few visits. There are also discounts on these passes too at certain times of the year so make sure you keep your eye out for the offers on www.merlinannualpass.co.uk

Disabled Access and Baby Facilities
Both the Adventure Park and Tower are fully accessible for disabled guests.  They don't offer separate disabled tickets, but you are welcome to bring a helper/carer for free. You'll need to take documentary proof like a blue badge/DLA letter. If you use a wheelchair/mobility scooter please bear in mind that some areas of the Park are harder to navigate than others, but all areas are accessible.
They have toilets and baby changing areas throughout the Adventure Park just ask a member of staff for your nearest one. Both attractions are fully accessible for pushchairs, but you'll need to leave them outside of certain rides and attractions. Don't worry, this is clearly sign-posted and a limited number of spaces are available for this.
*Please Note* There are no toilets or changing facilities in the Sealife Tower

FINAL NOTE...
As a family we really enjoyed our day at Sealife Adventure Park in Weymouth, although I think to make the most of your ticket you should go in the summer months where everything is open and ready to go. The staff were probably amongst the best I have come across in any Merlin park so far and I really want to say a big well done to them, as I know sometimes this type of service can go unnoticed. Altogether, we learnt some new facts about some of our favourite species and had a really fun day as a family and that is exactly what we set out to do.


I was not paid or compensated for this review... I just liked the place and thought I'd write an honest review of it. Enjoy xxx
 

The #TeamHonkRelay hits Reading...

On Thursday this week I had the pleasure of being handed the famous, trending above the Winter Olympics and David Cameron, #TeamHonkRelay baton.

The baton has been handed from Blogger to Blogger from Lands End to Reading via loads of different places and from here it will go to Henley, Oxford and eventually it will go step by step, mile by mile, blogger to blogger, up the country to John O Groats, raising money for Sports Relief as it goes.


Why? I hear you cry.... WELL, let me tell you...
Rocky in Shed
As the nation gets in shape for the Sport Relief weekend, hundreds of bloggers known as Team Honk
will be taking part in a 3000 mile race in a bid to raise £20,000 for Sport Relief.

Team Honk kicked off their challenge on Sunday 12th January at Lands End, and the relay will see 38 teams pass the baton in a variety of fun and creative ways, finishing in John O Groats on Sunday 23rd March. By the end of the race over 200 participants are expected to have taken part and signed special ribbons on the Olympic themed baton.

Sport Relief takes place from Friday 21st to Sunday 23rd March and for the first time ever the public can run, swim or cycle in the brand new Sainsbury’s Sport Relief Games. For more information on how to join in the fun and games, raise cash and changes lives, go to sportrelief.com.

So what did we do on our leg of the relay...
Well, after the guys in Fleet hit the road on public transport, the long way round, the group from Wokingham cycled to Reading in the pouring rain dressed in brightly coloured 80's gear.

The weather was horrible and they were drenched, tired and hungry but luckily Shed (Merchants Place, Reading), had prepared them a lunch bag full of yummy baguettes and snacks to recuperate before they rushed back for the school run.

To top it off, whilst they were munching on their sandwiches, the lovely Tom from The Tom Show did his thing on a unicycle whilst wriggling himself through a tennis racket... no really, he can get through a tennis racket *shocked face* (watch the video here). He usually does this, in the dry and in places like
Covent Garden... not in a water logged Reading with a few drenched cyclists and the odd worker on their lunch break. I want to thank Tom for the effort he put in for us on such a cold and horrid day, when he could have been writing his book or practicing new tricks. The spirit of charity was defo keeping everyone going that day.

After the cyclists came and went we, Myself, Jada from Unique Young Mum and her friend Becka, dressed in wigs, tutu's, Sports Relief apron's and general craziness, had the task of doing a tour of Reading with the baton, taking pictures as we went.

The rain was a huge issue for us as it was freezing cold too and once wet it made it much worse, that and Rocky was refusing to keep his rain cover on so my cousin had to take over the childcare and get him in the warm and dry.

We did take respite in the Reading Museum for a short while during our trip as we had all hit the 'I can't feel my feet or hands... or body' stage and we needed to warm up a bit. We didn't stop whilst there though, we taught the baton all about the history of Reading... he listened carefully, obviously.

Doesn't sound very sporty though does it?...
We had the full team of crazies doing cycling, running and walking through the floods the next day and due to medical reasons, oh and the fact that Rocky may have broken my toe a few days before, I planned on doing something based in Reading that wasn't too complicated and luckily Jada, Unique Young Mum, had the same idea.

Shockingly, by the time we got round Reading, drenched and freezing cold, we'd actually done WAY more walking dressed in odd clothes, than we would have done running or going from town to town... which is sporty in itself isn't it?... yeah humour us and agree, because it was bloody hard work... go us!

My plan was to then join the rest of the team the next day at Shiplake College and cheer them on their way or join in if I could.... I couldn't though as Rocky was too poorly (see below) so I missed out on all the fun but they did an epic job and I'm proud to be a part of TeamHonk Reading.

How much has been raised so far?...
The staff and pupils at Shiplake College handed over a cheque for a whopping £300 whilst our team were there and I would just like to thank them for such an amazing effort and such a huge donation. Hats off to you all.

So far our team (Reading) have raised £930 (plus the £300 from Shiplake College which hasn't been added yet) and we are 5th in the leader board, only £14 below Oxford (without the Shiplake cheque) and not far behind Southampton either, who are placed 3rd.... the football fan in me makes me want to beat both of those teams just so that I can smugly grin at something, even if it's not in a football sense.

In total Team Honk has raised £15,573 so far which is 77% of our target and we are only part way through the relay. HOW AMAZING IS THAT!!!

A Huge Thank You to all who have donated so far.
If you would like to help Team Honk hit their target and support myself and Team Reading in beating the other areas please click on the link below and donate as much or as little as you like... every little helps and we would be truly grateful.
SPONSOR TEAM READING
So much love for Team Honk right now xxxx

My drama behind the organisation...
The thing is, before the floods hit us we'd organised a boat to take the baton up the Thames via Shiplake College and on to Henley with people canoeing behind us.... BUT mother nature had other ideas and due to parts of the river being closed due to flooding, we had to rethink it all.

Sadly, mid organisation, Kyd had his operation and I had to step down a little on the #TeamHonkRelay case, this made me sad but sometimes real life takes over. Even after the op, I was really disorganised and out of the picture for so long I had no idea where to start it up again. On top of that I had a technical issue with EVERYTHING I owned that is technology based, internet connection, phone playing up and then finally the sudden death of my old laptop (RIP lappy), obviously this didn't help my #TeamHonkRelay team mates and I felt like I was letting everyone down but it couldn't be helped. It seemed like something was trying to stop me from doing anything to help... where, to be honest, it was probably just circumstance but the drama queen in me was not impressed and so I was convinced life was against me.

Luckily there was a brilliant team of crazies in the area who got together and arranged so much more than I could have ever dreamed up, it was just during the time the baton was in Reading town that needed attention.

I couldn't have done it though without the last minute help of a friend of mine Zsuzsi Kingsnorth. Zsuzsi and her team at Zuloo Productions are behind the amazing Reading Fringe festival (Reading Fringe Festival 2014 will take place 16th to 20th July) and stepped in when I phoned her in an 'omg it's only a few days away and there's nothing sorted' panic. With her contacts and calmness, she managed to do all the technical stuff without my panic getting in the way. She is amazing, thank you so much!

But AGAIN, after breaking my toe (I think it's just a bad bruise to be fair), Rocky tried to stop me in
my tracks the night before by causing an emergency trip to the doctors with a burst, god knows what it is, misdiagnosed lump under his arm, which had been there over a year nicely in tact until that night... impeccable timing. It was all very scary and I'll explain in a post later what happened... just don't eat dinner whilst reading it! Amazingly, although it isn't over, he was given antibiotics and an appointment with his specialist (our 5th in a year) and it didn't stop us doing our thing for Team Honk in Reading Town, however his reaction to the antibiotics did stop us joining the rest of the team the next day but we were there in spirit... lets just hope it gets sorted soon and it causes no more pain and unrest for Rocky.

ANYWAY...

All was good in the end and there is still so much more to come from Team Honk throughout 2014 and I know that they will have something bigger and better up their sleeve for 2015's comic relief too.... which hopefully will have an easier path to it for me and mine, than this years events... I say that every year though so don't hold your breath!
Keep up to date with the events by following @TeamHonk & #TeamHonkRelay on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and G+
 
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