Reasons To Be Cheerful

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Blocked up nose, constant sneezing and barbed wire in my throat gives me a desperate need to look on the bright side. Feeling terrible can make things seem worse and I’m determined not to let that happen, especially this time of year. So here I am, joining in with #R2BC for the first time. I also think this may be my New Year phase kicking in early - I want to get on and actually DO stuff next year. No more waiting for things to happen!

  • Although I feel terrible I know (hope) that this cold/flu will be gone soon and I’ll be able to enjoy Christmas day with my boys without sneezing all over their toys!

  • I’m terribly excited about Christmas Day. I can’t wait to see the boys open their presents and help them get their new toys out. I already want to play with their new toys and have to keep restraining myself from giving them new things before the big day. I think I may be more excited than they are about Santa visiting!
  • Christmas is a time when we all take time off - time off work, time off school. I’ll leave the cleaning for another day and enjoy our family time together. With the boys growing up fast I intend to make the most of it.
Most of all I am glad that we are all generally healthy and happy.



Ojos World
This is the Christmas one!! This one runs out next week.........on Christmas Day!!

The Christmas Nativity

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Well the closer we get to Christmas the more I am FREAKING OUT! I've got so much wrapping to do and only a little more than a week to do it. But anyway, I'm here to talk about my magic moment this week.

On Friday my little one took part in his very first Nativity. He had been picked to be InnKeeper 1 and even had a line. He thought it was fantastic and was insistent that me and his dad go and watch him on stage. 'Of course we'll be there.' I said, to which he replied 'yeh, so I can wave.' Don't you just love it?

Merry Christmas

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Morgan's Milieu | Merry Christmas: A christmas tree lit up with white lights
Our Christmas Tree


I pride myself on making Christmas magical for my children. After years of experiencing that magic I didn’t want it to disappear when I had my own children. Last year I wrote a post about it and this year I wanted to write one about how Christmas has changed over the years. I don’t mean how commercialised it is now, nor am I about to rant about how everyone wants to have the ‘best’ present. No, I’m going to talk about how Christmas has changed for me. 

As a child I only ever cared about what I got, which presents would be best and whether or not my sisters got more than me. I was a child and these were the kinds of things I thought about. Adolescence brought with it the terrible realisation that Santa didn’t buy all of my presents at all, my parents did, and the magic was gone. For years I didn’t enjoy Christmas, particularly in my late teens. 

Since meeting my other half and having children Christmas has become magical again. For the past few years I did still wonder what I would get, hoping that Santa would leave something particularly special under the tree for me but this year is different. It is the first year when there isn’t anything I want. Nothing - not even a new pair of shoes! Believe me I’ve tried to find something. I searched all of the shopping websites, spent hours on the computer but in the end I gave up. I already have everything I want and need and don’t see the point in searching for any more. I’ve grown up.


Typhoon Lagoon, Walt Disney World

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Typhoon Lagoon, Walt Disney World is a little smaller than Blizzard Beach but still manages to pack in lots to do. This is another water park so my tips for entrance are the same, arrive ready for swimming. Head into the hut, hire your towels (or take some with you) and locker and get into the water as fast as you can.

Typhoon Lagoon, Walt Disney World | Morgan's Milieu: A photo of the stranded boat at Typhoon Lagoon.
The view as you walk in - wow!

Some people may say there’s no need for another water park but I disagree, Disney have made them different enough that having one and not the other would seem weird. Typhoon Lagoon is famous for North America’s largest wave pool where you can experience six-foot swells and smaller bobbing waves at the Typhoon Lagoon Surf Pool

My experience at the Surf Pool is surprising. I have been to the pool and stayed by the shore or in the water up to my waist - this was a mistake. The waves are very strong and will knock you off your feet, you will then land on your bottom, scraping your skin on the sand-like floor. 

Blizzard Beach, Walt Disney World

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Blizzard Beach, Walt Disney World is one of two water parks in Walt Disney World. It has a wave pool, water slides, and a lazy river. There's fun for all the family and it happens to be the Hubby's favourite place in the world.


I would recommend arriving at Blizzard Beach with your swimsuit on, you'll be able to get changed quicker and beat the rush. You can hire a locker and a towel (unless you take one with you). and that way you don't need to worry about keeping your things safe.  


Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World - Part 2

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Given the weather this morning (dark and gloomy) I’m glad to be writing about Magic Kingdom again, it makes me remember the sun and smile. So onto Frontierland where, again, there’s lots to do.

Cinderella's Castle, first thing in the morning = not many people!

Frontierland is where you’ll find two more mountains, Splash Mountain and Thunder Mountain. 


Splash Mountain


A log flume with some entertainment before the plunge. This is one of my boys’ favourites at Magic Kingdom and every time we ventured to Frontierland my youngest asked to go on. Unfortunately Splash Mountain is one of the rides that gets busy and unless you arrive first thing in a morning you'll have to queue or already have your FastPass+ booked. 

Guests need to be 40” or 102cm to ride and just as a warning - you WILL get wet. 

I got wet every time I rode Splash Mountain, some of the times I wished I'd had a spare set of clothes!

Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World - Part 1

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Magic Kingdom is the park that has the biggest impact on people.

I remember the first time I went, I felt like crying as I looked down Main Street and saw Cinderella’s Castle. A young girl’s dream.

Admittedly I was 22 but the little girl in me couldn’t have been happier.

There is a spark in the air as you enter this park and there’s no surprise they called it Magic Kingdom, you really feel like anything is possible.


Not only are you surrounded by magic but you get to practice some yourself in Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom. How awesome is that?

Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom is an interactive adventure and using your MagicBand and magic spell cards (given to you at the introduction) Merlin teaches you how to cast spells in order to defend the Magic Kingdom against an army of Disney Villains.

To sign up for Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom enter the building to the left when you get into the park and tell a cast member that you’ve never played before. They will go through the rules and give you a short demonstration. Here you will be given your set of magic spell cards and once you’ve seen the demonstration you are free to go around the park, at your own pace, taking on Disney Villains. You can get a pack of free cards every day you visit Magic Kingdom and there are lots to collect.

Main Street U.S.A


Main Street U.S.A is where you’ll find a number of shops selling various things including Disney cooking sets, soft toys and yummy cakes and cookies.

Enter the shops to check out gifts to buy for people back home or, more importantly, get out of the sun as you make your way into, or out of, the park. All of the shops along each side of the street are connected so you can walk from one end of Main Street to the other without being outside, particularly useful on those very hot days.

Tomorrowland


Tomorrowland is the area we usually head for first, well at least this time we did.

Here you’ll find rides like Space Mountain, a roller-coaster in the dark. My eldest loves this ride and the little one was very disappointed that he wasn’t tall enough to ride. You have to be 44” or 112 cm to ride on Space Mountain, the hubby tried to get me to go on it but there was no way. A roller coaster is bad enough but one in the dark? I don’t think so!

Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin is a fantastic ride where you use laser-guns to shoot at targets. This ride is great for smaller kids, you get to help Buzz Lightyear defeat Zurg.

One of Disney’s oldest rides is Walt Disney’s Carousel of Progress and this one is great for that much needed rest. Sit in the moving theatre and travel through the 20th century watching how technology has improved the way we live. The theatre moves around on a track as you watch the years race by.

If you still need a rest then try out Tomorrowland Transit Authority PeopleMover, an “emission-free mass transit system of the future”. You get to see all around Tomorrowland including inside some of the rides, get a great view of Cinderella’s Castle, and have a sit down while doing it.

Tomorrowland Speedway is another ride your kids will love because they get to drive their very own car!

You have to be at least 54” or 137cm to ride alone but anyone above 32” or 81cm can ride with an adult. Help your kids race around the track in this awesome ride.

Stitch’s Great Escape! is not really a ride, more of an experience. After seeing the arrival of Stitch you move into a dark theatre and interact with the mischievous creature. This one could be a little scary for the smaller kids, there are loud noises and people tend to scream.

For great entertainment head over to Monsters Inc. Laugh Floor where Mike Wazowski entertains us with jokes and gets the audience involved too. You really need a sense of humour for this one! ;)

Food in Tomorrowland is pretty awesome too. At The Lunching Pad you’ll find hot dogs, pretzels and frozen Coca-Cola; ice cream, smoothies and sundaes can be found at Auntie Gravity’s Galactic Goodies and one of the best lunches we had on this holiday, a lobster roll, can be found at Tomorrowland Terrace Restaurant. This sandwich was really tasty and I would definitely recommend it.

Fantasyland


Peter Pan's Flight ride, Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World
Entrance to Peter Pan's Flight
Fantasyland is just great for the girls in your group. There are rides for the boys too such as Peter Pan’s Flight where you take a ride in a magical ship and watch Peter as he fights with Hook.

The Barnstormer is a junior roller coaster and anyone above 35” or 89cm can ride, it doesn’t last very long so even the younger ones, or people who don’t like coasters shouldn’t mind this ride.

In Under the Sea - Journey of The Little Mermaid you descend below the waves to watch the story of the Little Mermaid, with all the music and everything. Great ride.

Mickey’s PhilharMagic is definitely one to see, this 3-D musical movie is very entertaining and your kids will love it. Classic Disney characters attempt to put on a fantastic show but have some hitches along the way. This is also another good one for that much needed rest.

Magic Kingdom's newest coaster Seven Dwarfs Mine Train is brilliant. Race through a diamond mine and listen to the singing as you sway from side-to-side.

Fantasyland offers a wide range of food options including flatbreads, chicken breast nuggets and salads at Pinocchio Village Haus and cinnamon rolls, pork shanks and fruits at Gaston’s Tavern.

If you’d rather have a table service meal then try out Cinderella’s Royal Table where I’m sure the girls in your group will enjoy. Here you get to meet Disney princesses while enjoying a very tasty meal. For the less ‘girly’ option (if there’s any objections to Cinderella’s Royal Table) try out Be Our Guest Restaurant where you can enjoy steak, fish or pork meals while sitting inside the Beast's castle. There are 3 different seating areas, each offering it’s own entertainment and you are free to wander around all of the dining areas. When you have finished your meal you can go and meet the Beast and have a photograph taken, if you wish. We ate at Be Our Guest Restaurant and the desserts are awesome.

There’s still loads to cover at the Magic Kingdom but I think I’ll leave it there for now.

Disney's Hollywood Studios, Walt Disney World

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At Hollywood Studios, Walt Disney World, you get to see all kinds of entertainment. Rides and scenery and it’s all to do with movies. Throughout the summer there was a Monsters University scene carved into trees that you could stand in front of and have a photo taken. I’m not sure if it’s still there but it was awesome.

The view up Hollywood Boulevard

I’ll start with the rides and my boys’ favourite. The first is The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror where you take a haunting ride on an elevator. But this is no ordinary elevator. As you sit in your seat it takes you up to the top of the tower and everything goes dark. Suddenly the elevator drops to the ground.

The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror
The Tower of Terror rises and drops you over and over again in a random sequence and if you’re faint hearted I suggest you give this a miss. You’ll be screaming your head off as you plummet towards the ground, if you’re anything like me that is.

This is one of my worst fears and I HATE this ride but because I didn’t want my four-year-old to be afraid I went on it. Twice. I won’t be doing it again but for those who are brave enough it is a great thrill. Just as a side note my four-year-old went on this ride on every opportunity he had, he LOVED it.

To ride The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror you have to be at least 40” or 120cm.

The Rock ’n’ Roller Coaster Starring Aerosmith was my eldest’s favourite ride at Hollywood Studios. I have never been on this ride, roller coasters that go upside down are where I draw the line, but the Hubby and my eldest went on this ride almost as much as they went on the Tower of Terror.

From all the stories I’ve heard it is thrilling, you blast off in a stretch limousine and speed along the tracks as you listen to Aerosmith music. To ride on The Rock ’n’ Roller Coaster you have to be at least 48” or 122cm.

The Rock 'n' Roller Coaster
My favourite ride at Hollywood Studios is a little more tame and is great for the smaller (or less brave) people in the group. Toy Story Midway Mania! is a target practice ride starring all of your favourite characters from Toy Story. It spins as you try to aim and shoot things at targets and get the highest score you can.

Toy Story Midway Mania! is a 4D ride and almost everyone who rides loves it. As a consequence this ride gets SUPER busy, more than any other I’ve mentioned so far. In the six weeks that we were in Orlando we were only able to go on Toy Story Midway Mania! four times. Planning is required when wanting to go on this ride and if possible I suggest you make this your priority when visiting Hollywood Studios, if you don’t you may find a wait time of more than 120 minutes.

Toy Story Midway Mania! Entrance
Studio Backlot Tour is another great ride/tour which takes 35 minutes. Part of this tour takes place on a tram so you do get a rest but it is not for the full 35 minutes. You go behind the scenes to see how special effects in movies are made and sometimes you get to take part yourself. The Hubby tried to volunteer on a few occasions but didn’t get picked, if you’d like to get some great photos and have a fantastic time I think volunteering is a good way to go about it.

If you’re after a rest then I’d suggest The Great Movie Ride where you journey into some of Hollywood’s most famous films. The ride lasts 22 minutes and you’re sitting the whole time, you have entertainment while riding and get to have a break too, what could be better?

Inside The Great Movie Ride
Hollywood Studios offers two shows for your entertainment, both quite different from each other.

The first is Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular, you watch Indy and Marion as they perform amazing stunts and show you how they’re done. This show is 30 minutes long and you should pick up a Times Guide for showtimes. Unfortunately this show is sometimes cancelled due to inclement weather so watch out for this.

Indiana Jones Stunt Spectacular is a show that picks people from the crowd to take part in the show, including children. My two got picked and they thought it was amazing. They were given a line to start the show, got to go on stage, talk into the microphone and got a huge applause! This can happen to anyone, when you’re entering one of the cast members will simply ask if you’re children would like to help in the production. If they do they will be given a souvenir card to keep too.

The second show is Lights, Motors, Action! Extreme Stunt Show and is spectacular. You get to watch professional drivers perform breathtaking stunts in their cars and get to hear all the special effects secrets. A tip here is remember your camera, if you don’t you will regret it! The show is 38 minutes long and if you have people in your group that love cars I suggest you go and see it, they will love it.

Lights, Motors, Action! Extreme Stunt Show - A fantastic show not to be missed.
For the evenings Hollywood Studios gives us Fantasmic! a musical show with pyrotechnics, water projections and stunning fireworks which goes on every night at 9pm and 10.30pm.

The show gets very busy and if you don’t have priority tickets you will have to wait in the queue and hope you get in. The theatre has limited capacity and Disney’s advice is to get there early and keep your party together.

To get priority tickets you have to book a meal at The Hollywood Brown Derby and ask for a Fantasmic meal deal. If you do this you’ll be given your tickets when you’re sitting down to eat and then you’ll be able to go to the theatre at your specified time and have VIP seating. This means you won’t have to wait in line and your seats are reserved. The meal deal has limited availability so I suggest booking it early, this is what we did and I don’t think we would have got to see the show otherwise. Waiting in a large queue with a four-year-old that late is probably not a good idea, my little one was worn out just sitting watching the show!

Character meets and various other activities are available throughout the park and you should grab yourself a Park Map and Times Guide when entering.

Have you ever visited Hollywood Studios? Is there something that they've got rid of that you would like them to bring back? What would you look forward to most if you were visiting Walt Disney World?

Animal Kingdom, Walt Disney World

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As you can guess Animal Kingdom, Walt Disney World is all about the animals. You’ll find various different species in all kinds of locations at Animal Kingdom. 

The Tree of Life, Animal Kingdom, Walt Disney World
Walking into the Animal Kingdom is quite different to Epcot, for a start there’s lots more trees!

Once through the entrance you should pick up a park map and a times guide which they keep on stands just inside the entrance. There's two paths that take you into the park but don’t worry they both lead to the same place that has a wonderful view of the Tree of Life.

Lots of people linger there, taking photos and looking at the tree so you may find you’re slowed down a little here. If you’re wanting to take a photo of the Tree of Life later in the afternoon is better, there’s less people hanging around so less chance you’ll end up with a stranger in your photo!

Kilimanjaro Safaris is one of the first rides I wanted to mention. You take a very bumpy 22-minute ride in what looks like a large bus (see below) through the African Savannah. On this trip you’ll see giraffes, elephants, lions and lots more, including a wonderful view of their savannah.

The Kilimanjaro Safaris Truck
Be sure to have your camera ready, you can get some wonderful photos of these beautiful animals, but be warned - you’ll have to have a steady hand because the trip will not be steady! Kilimanjaro Safaris gets busy, not all the time but occasionally so I would recommend booking Fastpass+ for this one, especially if you have limited time.


Such a beautiful animal. It can be found on the Safari
Another place you can see some amazing animals is Pangani Forest Exploration Trail, a walk through a tropical forest. Gorillas, hippos and exotic birds are amongst the animals you’ll see and this is another great way to get some fantastic photos.

Pangani Forest Exploration Trail is a self-guided walking tour, you take it at your own pace and can spend as much time as you like viewing the animals. There isn’t a queue and I don’t know that we’ve ever had a problem viewing the animals, you may have to wait for the viewing area to clear a little but most people will let the little ones through so they can see the animals.

Maharaja Jungle Trek is another walking tour and this one is my personal favourite. You get to see bats, a Komodo Dragon and my favourite animal, the tiger. Sometimes the tigers come so close to the windows that you could almost touch them (if it weren’t for the really thick glass!). I love this walk and it will amaze the kids when they get to see animals they wouldn’t see at a zoo in the UK.


Like at Epcot, Disney have introduced new entertainment for the children. The kids get to be Wilderness Explorers, get given an information booklet filled with questions and details about animals and on their way around the park can collect badges (stickers).

Taking their books to marked places around the park they will be asked questions or given tasks and once completed they’ll be given the sticker for the corresponding task. There are 31 stickers to collect, but here’s a tip - don’t try and do it all in one day, you can always visit another day and continue your collecting.

There are two very different shows to see at Animal Kingdom and they both have showtimes throughout the day. Check out the times guide to find out when they start.

Festival of the Lion King is a 30 minute show with music from the film ‘The Lion King’, dancing and acrobatics. You even get to join in! This is a great show and gives you a half-hour sit down, believe me you’ll need it.

The second show is a MUST see.

Finding Nemo - The Musical kind of tells you what to expect from the name, that is if you have seen the movie. If not - shame on you! Anyway, I don’t want to spoil the surprise but this show is amazing and everyone should see it when visiting Animal Kingdom.

Isn't he amazing?
There are lots of other rides to check out too and a couple of our favourites were Kali River Rapids, a raft ride through rapids. This ride does get busy so Fastpass+ is a must, unless you’re arriving first thing and heading straight for it with no pauses for anything else.

You will get wet on this ride and may even get ABSOLUTELY SOAKED. It depends where you sit in the raft and who you’re riding with but if you don’t want to get wet I recommend you give this one a miss. I have to admit that I loved this ride, as did my kids. Getting soaked is quite refreshing in the Florida heat and keeps you cool for a while afterwards.

To ride on Kali River Rapids you have to be at least 38” or 97cm, my four year old loved this ride and every time we went to Animal Kingdom he wanted to go on it. 

Expedition Everest - from
across the lake.
Thrill seekers will enjoy Expedition Everest - Legend of the Forbidden Mountain, a roller-coaster that takes you on a wild ride through the middle of the mountain.

This is not one for the faint hearted, I’ve been on it once and I’ll never be riding again but if you like coasters you’ll like this.

Expedition Everest is my eldest son’s favourite ride, he’s nine and loves it. Anyone below 44” or 112cm cannot ride, my four-year-old was not happy about this at all and did a lot of complaining about not being able to go it!

Fear not though, there are smaller rides for the younger ones at Dinoland U.S.A where you’ll find the TriceraTop Spin, a friendly fly with the dinosaurs.






I could go on and on about the rides in this place, there are so many, but I won’t, the rest is up to you. Be aware that the majority of attractions at Animal Kingdom are outdoors and keeping yourself and your children hydrated throughout the day is important. If you’re looking for a great place to eat at the end of your day I recommend Rainforest Cafe, located just outside the entrance to Animal Kingdom. The kids will love being amongst the animals while they eat and the food is great.



Animal Kingdom doesn’t have a daily fireworks show for obvious reasons but instead they have Mickey’s Jammin’ Jungle Parade which goes through the park every day at 3.45pm. You’ll get to see Mickey Mouse and all his friends as they take their trip along the paths of the Animal Kingdom, be sure to watch your children’s faces - it is priceless.

Donald Duck - it will melt your heart.

With so much to do at this park I feel like I’m leaving too much out, like I said I could go on and on. Hope this helps you out if you’re planning on visiting Animal Kingdom, Walt Disney World.

Epcot, Walt Disney World

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Spaceship Earth from inside the park

Ok, here we go. My plan is to post at least once a week at the start of the week and I’ll go through all of the Disney parks first then move on to others.This series of posts will take a while to get through but hopefully when it’s finished you’ll have some useful information about the theme parks in Orlando. I’m going to start with our favourite park, Epcot. Epcot has been the park we’ve visited most the last three times we’ve been to Orlando and it continues to be our favourite. There is so much there for all the family, from the very youngest to the oldest and if I’m honest I don’t know if we would ever get bored of it. 

When you walk into Epcot the very first thing you’ll see is what looks like a huge golf ball (that’s it in the pic), this is Spaceship Earth. Spaceship Earth is a ride that takes you on a journey through time and is great when you need a little rest. The ride lasts for about 15 minutes and keeps the kids quiet because there’s lots to see and listen to. One of the best tips I can give at this point is don’t go straight into the queue, most people do and that makes it busy. If you wait until you’re on your way out later in the day the queue will be almost non-existent and you’ll be on the ride within about 5 minutes.

JAMMitors, Future World
Another good ride at Epcot is Ellen’s Energy Adventure and this one gives you a decent break, it’s 45 minutes long. You join Ellen DeGeneres on a journey learning about energy, my kids loved it because they got to see dinosaurs! Our two favourite rides are ones that get very busy, the queues can reach 120 minute waits, sometimes longer. The first is Soarin’ where you hand glide over California enjoying glorious views, it is truly breathtaking. This is a ride that younger children can go on but they do have to be 102cm or 40” tall, my four-year old said he liked it because he was flying. Our second favourite ride at Epcot is Test Track, which Disney just recently updated. On entering the queue you get to see lots of concept cars, look inside them and design your own. The height restrictions for this ride are the same as Soarin’ but this one is a little more intense. You take a ride in your own concept car and put it through it’s paces, it’s an exciting ride that my boys loved.

The Mega-Holiday

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Cinderella's Castle, Main Street, Magic Kingdom
The Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World

When I logged on last week and found out how long it had been since I wrote anything on here I couldn’t believe it. It seems that I was really struggling with my manuscript and couldn’t find the words. I remember it well actually, I was winding down for our holiday and preparing for the youngest starting school full time. Well that time has passed and I can’t wait to get back into this blogging lark!

Since the weather is awful I thought I’d start with a series of posts about our Mega-holiday and hopefully lift everyone’s spirits as the dark evenings roll in and the temperature drops. You see we spent the whole summer, six weeks, in Orlando, Florida. Well to be exact we were staying in Walt Disney World! It was such an amazing holiday and there is so much to tell you that I decided I would do it in several posts. Now, I’m no expert but me and the hubby have been there 6 times, some with just the kids, some with the in-laws too and once on our own (a few years ago now but it was amazing). This was the first time we’d spent so long over there and I have to say it was definitely the best holiday we have EVER had.

I’ll start by posting my first one on Monday so, my question for all of you is how much detail should I go into? I could list the rides and tell you what they’re about or I could just generally tell you about the parks. There’s so much there that even that would take a while! I will definitely tell you about things like Extra Magic Hours and Fastpasses which are useful things to know about before you go but how about other things?

Writerly Advice Required

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I’ve really been struggling these past few weeks to make any progress with my book. Every time I read a page I question what I’m doing. I know first drafts are supposed to be terrible, I’ve read it hundreds of times but when you’re staring at words, that you wrote, on the screen and they sound awful how do you continue to have faith in yourself? 

Being in a transition doesn’t help, my youngest boy is starting full-time school in September, we’re about to go on holiday and I’m trying to organise my ‘office’ so that I can have somewhere organised to work. With so much going on it’s hard to find that motivation and after reading my work I feel worse. I spend half my ‘writing time’ looking at email and social networks and the rest of the time I spend editing but at the moment all I feel like doing is hitting that delete button and starting again. I don’t know if this is par for the course or if I’m doing something wrong?

I read a few writer’s blogs and they all seem to be making great progress and I wonder if there’s something more I could be doing. Could I be reading more how-to books? Should I be letting people read my awful first drafts? Is keeping it all to myself the way to go? I have no idea about this stuff but I’m afraid to ask, I’m scared that someone will say “You should let someone read your work.” - What if they do and they tell me I’m a terrible writer? OMG! I can’t believe how much that terrifies me. I’m so scared of someone seeing my work that when the hubby comes into my office for a chat I hide my screen, I make sure he can’t see anything I’ve written. Am I crazy? I think my story is good but getting it readable might be really hard. What do I do?

Any advice from writers who’ve been through this stage or general writerly advice would be very welcome at this point. I really don’t know what to do with myself!

The Special Effect of Gaming

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The word ‘Gaming’ brings platforms like the iPad, Xbox and PlayStation to mind and games such as Call of Duty and Angry Birds. My house is filled with consoles and their games. The hubby has worked in the industry for years, my eldest is 8-going-on-16 and loves his games and my youngest is learning that if he pesters enough he can play games too. The hubby has been involved in making lots of games and I’ve watched them evolve from just an idea into a working playable game. It’s interesting to see ideas take shape and characters come to life before your eyes. ‘Gaming’ conjures images of teenagers sitting in front of a TV with a controller in hand and their eyes glued to the characters running around on screen. However, people with disabilities come up against many problems when trying to play games and that’s where Special Effect hopes to help.

Special Effect is a charity that aims to bring the fun of ‘Gaming’ to people with disabilities, helping them access and use mainstream games. Founded in 2007 because, as Dr Mick Donegan said, “parents of children with disabilities and people with disabilities themselves kept saying that they found it difficult or impossible to access mainstream video games and leisure technology”. In the six years since it’s inception Special Effect has helped children with cerebral palsy like ten-year-old Holly, who likes to beat her brother on the PlayStation, and wounded servicemen like Lloyd who lost both legs and some fingers on his right hand while serving in Afghanistan. Special Effect also has a database of useful information here and you can find their YouTube channel here.

On 23rd June 2013 Special Effect are holding an abseiling event at John Radcliffe Hospital, Oxford. You can register for the event here. A good friend of mine, Sionice-Louise Ross, is taking part (she’s much braver than me!) and she’d be grateful for sponsorship. Her JustGiving page can be found here or you can text ROPE76 and the amount to 70070, eg. ROPE76 £3 (sending it to 70070). Let’s help Special Effect raise money to bring the fun of gaming to more people.

This isn’t a sponsored post and I haven’t received payment for it, I just think Special Effect are doing something worth while and wanted to promote them. :)

Spare A Thought - Moore, Oklahoma

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UK weather varies but most of the time it feels like it’s raining. Even in the summer the thing most people remember is the rain and we complain about it. I know this because I’ve done my fair share of complaining over the last few weeks. I can’t wait for the sun to make an appearance and pray that it will stay around for a while. Us Brits are great at complaining, we’re experts. We complain when it’s rainy and want the sun to come out but when it arrives we moan about it being too hot - we’re never satisfied. 

Here’s the thing - we don’t get extreme weather. You know, like tornadoes.

Oklahoma gets tornadoes. Swirling vortexes of wind that pelt giant golf ball sized hail stones to the ground, have winds of over 200mph and leave complete destruction in their wake. When I was watching BBC News this morning and saw the report on the Oklahoma tornado I gasped. Houses destroyed, schools flattened. People missing and, so far, 24 confirmed dead and that includes seven children. Seeing that obliterated school made me want to cry, I can’t imagine what the parents are going through right now and my heart goes out to them. 

Being in the UK I have never seen a tornado, don’t think I’d want to. I haven’t experienced what a hurricane is like or what an earthquake is like. People in the US have to live with the risk of these things all the time and, when they happen, they pick up the pieces and rebuild. Next time you complain about the weather spare a thought for those that really have to suffer through it, those that have to face the loss of their home and sometimes the loss of someone they love. 

Today the weather is alright, it’s not sunny but it’s not raining either. The forecast for the weekend says it’s getting colder again and it’s going to rain but I’m trying not to complain too much. I think those in Oklahoma have a lot more to complain about. My best hopes and wishes go out to all the residents of Moore, Oklahoma. xx

End in Sight?

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For more than a year I’ve suffered with shortness of breath. Constantly. I’ve had blood tests, been for chest x-rays and had various medication. Eventually I was diagnosed with Asthma and have been working my way through all the different kinds of medication, all to no avail. I still feel like I did a year ago, I still can’t run upstairs and any change in the weather results in me feeling like I have an elephant sat on my chest!

Asthma is a chronic inflammatory lung disease and there are roughly 5.1 million sufferers in the UK. The most common symptoms are breathing difficulties, coughing and wheezing and these can be triggered by any number of things including hay fever, colds, flu, weather conditions and smoke or smoking. A good source of information is Asthma UK where they have pages full of helpful information about dealing with asthma.

I had Asthma back when I was a teenager but it didn’t last long and wasn’t very bad. The only medication I had was Ventolin and that was just in case I got out of breath at any time. I did okay as a kid, it didn’t really stop me from doing anything but these days it stops me from doing a lot of things. I have had a cough for roughly the same amount of time that I’ve had the shortness of breath. In the past year I’ve had lots of chest infections, had to have various rounds of steroid tablets and antibiotics and constantly have to think about what I’m doing or where I’m going, just in case I run into any triggers. I can’t run around in the garden with the kids, I can’t walk too far if it’s windy and I can’t spend all day cleaning the house like I used to. These days I have to do the cleaning in stages, taking breaks every 20 minutes or so to ensure that I don’t get too out of breath. If I go too far then I’m done for the day. I’m left with very little energy and struggling to breath for the rest of the day.

Salad Vs Chocolate

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The last time I wrote about my weight I’d just reached a new best ever and was really pleased. I couldn’t believe I’d done it and it felt fantastic to be able to get into my smallest clothes. Like many of you I’m sure, I keep a lot of different sizes in my wardrobe. My smallest was one pair of size 12 jeans (I have lots of these now and even need a 10 in some styles!) and my biggest was lots of size 18 things.

For years my weight has been up and down and I’ve never really found a good way of keeping it under control. It can be really disheartening when you think you’re doing everything you can and you’re still not losing weight or, in fact, gaining. Every time I’ve been on a weight loss ‘campaign’ I’ve struggled, it always seemed really hard to shift that baby fat, even years after having the baby! 

Well this time has been like magic. I’ve been unable to do exercise because of having bad asthma so I’ve had to resort to other ways of trying to lose the weight. Strangely it seems to have worked better than any other time! I’ve cut my portion sizes, I’ve cut down on the chocolate (but not cut out) and I’ve tried to be mindful of that evil that we call ‘bread’.  Every day I weigh myself first thing in a morning. Sometimes I lose more than a pound, sometimes I put on two but my general trend is down, still. I’ve been on this campaign for more than a year and in that time I’ve lost almost four and a half stone! 

Nagging From A Four Year Old

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When my eldest was four years old I thought life was easy, he went to school part time, played with toys when he was at home and hadn’t been introduced to computer games. He wasn’t aware of the internet or that he could go to classes like Taekwondo. In some ways I think this was a bad thing, he’s never been very good at making friends or talking to new people and eventually he did start going to Taekwondo classes. After a while he got bored and decided he didn’t want to do it anymore. He is a quiet boy who enjoys being inside sketching or colouring in, it’s just who he is (kind of like me).

My youngest has just turned four and is his brother’s opposite, he loves being outside and is full of energy from the moment he wakes up to the second he falls asleep. He was introduced to computer games when he was about one, I think. He watched his brother and his dad play games and when he was walking around and picking things up one of his favourite toys was the Xbox controller (and still is). He is much more outgoing than his older brother, has lots of friends and is already nagging me about doing things. For months now he’s been asking me about starting going to Taekwondo classes and yesterday he’d had enough, he refused to wait any longer (admittedly I’d been putting it off).

What We Were Afraid Of?

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Last night the hubby showed me an article on theregister.co.uk about everyone’s rights concerning photographs or pictures posted on the internet. You can find the article here and I promise, if you share photos on the internet, you will be shocked.

When I read the article it took me back a few years to when I was first introduced to Facebook. At the time I wasn’t so sure it was such a good idea, I mean putting all my details out there on the internet where anyone could see? I’ve said before that I’m a very private person so this was like a big red flag. Talking to the hubby I was assured that as long as I set my preferences for who I wanted to see my details everything would be ok. The one thing I didn’t want to do was share photos of my babies and have them end up all over the internet. Well the coalition’s new Act has just allowed that to happen, without my permission.

As you can see from my blog I don’t share photos of my children or the hubby, I just can’t bring myself to do it. I know that lots of other wonderful bloggers do and that’s their personal decision but for me I feel that I can’t expose my children to the world of the internet without their permission. If I asked them now they would think it was cool to have their pictures online but looking into the future I’m sure they don’t want to have prospective employers searching the internet and finding that embarrassing photo of them in the bath or with that silly lobster outfit on when they were young. They won’t want their friends to find photos of them looking cute as a baby. If it was me I would hate my parents for that. 

I Am Me - Morgan

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Yesterday I was chatting to Jaime of The Oliver's Madhouse on twitter and she told me about this linky by Rachel of Three Years and Home. Reading her post for this linky I realised I’m not on my own, even though it may feel like it sometimes.

With my youngest starting full-time school in September I often get asked what I’m going to do with all that time, am I going to get a part time job? will I go to full time work? The answer to all of these is no. No I’m not going to go back to work. There I said it. For some reason when talking to people I feel guilty for saying it, like I should be going to work because, well what else would I do? But, you know what? I like being at home, I like being there for the kids and I enjoy having quiet time for myself when they are at school so I’m not going to feel guilty about this anymore.

A Revelation

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My toast making facilities
I hate chores. The ones that we have to do every day as mothers, washing, ironing, all of it. If there’s one room that never (and I mean never) looks clean is the kitchen. No matter how hard I try it will stay looking clean and tidy for all of about 10 mins and that’s when I keep the children out and don’t make a cup of tea or coffee for at least that long. It’s the room I spend most of my time in yet I can’t keep it the way I want. Things always get in the way.

Well, on Saturday I spent all afternoon cleaning my kitchen. Yep, that’s right… all afternoon. When I was finished I was quite pleased with myself and decided to have a cup of tea. The funny thing is that now I’ve started to change my routine, instead of placing the tea bag in it’s bag holder and leaving it there I put it straight in the bin. When I’d finished with my spoon I put it straight in the dishwasher. At dinner time I made dinner and resigned myself to the fact that there was no way the kitchen would stay tidy but again my routine changed. While waiting for the kids fish fingers to cook I washed the pans and things and dried them and put them away! The kids ate their dinner and their plates could go straight into the dishwasher, just like my spoon earlier. When I looked at my kitchen once dinner was all finished with I was surprised to find it in the same state I’d left it. My counter tops were still sparkling, there were no dirty plates left on the side and no pots waiting to be washed. OMG!

Time for a Breakthrough

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Big boy bed
My baby's bed.

Potty training is one of those milestones that is both wonderful and gut wrenching at the same time. My youngest is has just turned 4 and he’s been going to the toilet, in the day, unaided for a while now. However night time hasn’t been such a great transition, I’ve been through tons of washing gel, I’ve changed bedding at 1 or 2am countless times and I’ve felt like this phase was never going to end. It’s such a slog to wake up at 2am with a crying child, having to calm them down, stay awake and change bedding all at the same time. 

With my eldest the transition seemed really easy, admittedly the mother-in-law did most of the work while I was on my honeymoon. We went away for a week and by the time we got back he was sorted. He didn’t even struggle very much with going to the toilet at night, it just sort of ‘clicked’. Like I said, the youngest has been struggling and I did wonder if he would still be like this when he started school full time. I had my magic moment last week when I woke up at about 2am and heard the little one getting out of bed. 

Fame... No Thanks.

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There are many writers we hear a lot about, J.K. Rowling with the Harry Potter series, Stephanie Meyer with the Twilight Saga and E L James with Fifty Shades of Grey are a few that spring to mind. Any young people wishing to be a writer might look at these people and dream of being just like them. I can’t judge the Harry Potter books or Fifty Shades of Grey as I haven’t read them but I did read the Twilight Saga and enjoyed it. I believe Stephanie Meyer is a talented writer and she captured that magic with her words. I do not like the films.

Any writer who manages to get a publishing deal, sell millions of books and land a film deal must be talented. They’ve captured something that the bigwigs think will sell and they’re willing to bet money on that. Most writers dream of the day they will be offered that film deal, or be approached by a publisher offering some fantastic deal turning them into a household name overnight. I am not one of those writers.

I don’t want to be like J.K. Rowling or Stephanie Meyer or EL James. In fact I don’t want to be like anyone else, I want to be me. However, there is one writer who I have admired for a very long time and if I could write half as well as him then I’ll consider myself a good writer. He wrote about scientific subjects and still managed to inject that magic into his words. When reading his books you are swept away, transported into the world he has created, even if it’s not a subject you expected to enjoy.

A New Best - WAHOO!

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Image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net
In August last year I wrote a blog post about trying to lose weight, I don’t think I mentioned my weight then but I was just over 12 stone. With the BMI thing that put me at very overweight but I was really pleased with myself because, at that time I’d lost about 35 pounds. A real achievement.

My magic moment came a few days ago when I stepped onto the dreaded scales. Every morning I hope I have lost more weight but some days I stay the same, some I lose and some I put on. I’ve been lingering around the same weight for a while, 11 stone, and my best ever weight was about 6 years ago when I reached 10st 13.5lb. 

I looked down at the scales and stepped on. Would this be the day? It seemed to take ages to settle but when it finally did I jumped off the scales and started dancing around the room like a crazy person. I’d done it, for the first time in my adult life I’d reached a new best weight. It was only half a pound but I was soooo pleased. I haven’t felt this good about myself in a long time and with the writing going well too I couldn’t be happier.

Yesterday I lost another pound and I’m now only two pounds away from not being overweight anymore. How awesome is that?! Most of the time it’s the kids that give me those magical moments but these last couple I’m keeping just for me. : )




It's Mother's Day

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Image courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net

Mother's Day is great, it's an opportunity to thank your mother for taking care of you for all those years and raising you to be the wonderful person you are today. For those of us who have young children it is the day when we get a rest, perhaps not all day but the kids will, at least, give you 10 minutes peace to drink that cup of tea while it’s still hot! I look forward to Mother's Day but there is a small part of me that hates it. 

My mother and I haven't spoken in about 4 years and before that contact with her was sporadic. When I was 16 years old she chose to send me out into the harsh reality of life without her guidance. I don't know what I did wrong and sometimes I still wonder. For a very long time I found it difficult to even think of her, I had such hatred and malice in my heart that every time I thought of her I wanted to cry. I could never understand what I'd done to deserve the abandonment and what hurt more is that my two sisters saw her all the time (and still do).

Since the divorce of my parents my mother has given me many reasons to dislike her but the worst thing was being ignored. When I had children I hoped that would change... it didn't. It took her two weeks to come and see my first child and that was the only time she saw him as a baby, she hasn't even met my youngest, who is nearly 4. In the end I couldn't allow her to hurt my children the way she hurt me and eventually (after being disappointed too often) I cut all ties with her. Being a mother myself I can’t imagine not seeing my grandchildren, come to think of it, I can't imagine not seeing my children ever! 

So when Mother's Day is coming around I get low, I wonder what life would be like if I had a mother who came to see me all the time and spoilt my children like grandparents often do. I imagine being able to turn to my mother when I need a night off and I wonder if I should call her. Then I remember all the heartache and slap myself for even thinking it.

When I was fourteen my father moved away and remarried and I had a 'stepmother' thrust upon me. Unfortunately, at the time, she faced the consequences of the hatred I felt for my mother. I blamed her for everything that was going wrong and refused to listen to her, I was mean and disrespectful. A typical teenager. She hadn't done anything wrong, she loved my father and married him. Yet through all of that she coped, she didn’t ask me to leave, she didn’t tell me I was awful, she stuck by me and my father, just like a loving wife and mother should. 

Image courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net
Years on and a mother myself, I look back and realise I will never be able to do enough to show her how sorry I am for those years, all I can do is thank her for being there. She was the constant, along with my father, that I needed. She put up with a lot from me and I'm sure at times she wanted to give up but I'm glad she didn't. That is the mark of a good mother. Going through all the rubbish times and seeing it through to the other side, where, if you're lucky, your children have children of their own and want you to spoil them. My father and stepmother live far away and I don’t get to see them as much as I’d like, only getting over in the school holidays, but I love that they are wonderful grandparents to my boys.

In my opinion, when you have children you are dedicating your life to take care of them. It is not a job that you can do for a while and then give up because it's 'hard’, you're a parent for life. I would never dream of turning my back on my children, I want them to know I will be there, always and when I'm a grandmother and doting on my grandchildren, just like my stepmother does, I'll be able to look back and be proud of the decisions I made.

Thank you Mandy, you’re the best replacement mum I could have hoped for and you’ve taught me what a good mother is. You’re the best xxx

Another Step in the Wrong Direction?

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Yesterday I saw this headline:

UK to send armoured vehicles to Syrian Opposition

The BBC have reported that William Hague, the foreign secretary, has said that the UK will be providing armoured vehicles and body armour to opposition forces in Syria to “help save lives”. Although he refused to rule out the possibility of military intervention in the future he did say “No Western government is advocating military intervention of Western nations into the conflict in Syria. The discussion is entirely focused on the degree of assistance that can and should be delivered to the opposition.”

I spent a bit of time finding out what the conflict was all about, I’ve heard a lot about it and I decided that I ought to know the details a bit better. The Syrian Civil War (commonly known as the Syrian uprising) began on 15th March 2011 with nationwide demonstrations as part of the wider protest movement known as Arab Spring. The wave of revolutionary protests have forced out rulers in Tunisia, Egypt and Yemen (to name a few) and civil uprisings have erupted in other countries too.

The Syrian conflict consists of those loyal to the Syrian Ba’ath Party government and those who want them out. Protesters have demanded the resignation of President Bashar al-Assad as well as the end to nearly five decades of Ba’ath Party rule. The army was deployed in April 2011 and ordered to open fire on demonstrators, I’m sure we can all remember hearing about it on the news at the time. The protests eventually evolved into an armed rebellion and became increasingly armed and organised and the Syrian government described the rebels as “armed terrorists and foreign mercenaries”. There have also been reports of the abduction and torture (both physical and psychological) of protesters and the latest figures say a million Syrians have fled the country to escape the conflict.

Mr Hague announced a £13m package of logistical and humanitarian support, the US pledged £40m in non-lethal assistance. This is what got me going…

US population is 313.9 million
UK population 62.6 million

US GDP 14.99 Trillion (USD)
UK GDP 2.432 Trillion (USD)

The US population is just over five times bigger than the UK, their GDP figure is just over six times bigger yet the assistance offered to Syria is just over three times bigger. I’m not trying to criticise the US, £40m is a lot of money but I do find it hard to understand why we have pledged far more than our fair share when our country is still struggling. People are losing their jobs, taxes are being increased and the national debt is increasing by nearly half a billion pounds per day but our leaders think it is a good idea to send more than our fair share over to Syria.

I agree that we need to help those that are suffering and I understand that that will take money and resources but the UK is five times smaller than the US and I believe our pledge ought to reflect that, after all the US are in recovery now and we are not. We can’t turn our backs on the problems in Syria but with our country still struggling to recover from the financial crisis I wonder how far our leaders are willing to go. How much money will they spend? How many troops will they send, if and when it comes to that? Will the UK recover? Will it ever get the chance?

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