R.I.P. Stephen Sutton

Earlier this week, in the early hours of Wednesday morning, Stephen passed away. But this was not just any Stephen, it was Stephen Sutton of stephensstory.co.uk

If you live in the UK, you most likely would have heard about Stephen in the last year. Stephen was diagnosed with an incurable, terminal cancer when he was just 15 years old. But rather than sit back and feel defeated by life, he drafted a “bucket list” of everything he wanted to achieve while he was still alive. Some of them included, raising £10,000 for cancer research, go to a football match at Wembley Stadium, skydive, go busking, get a tattoo, write a book, etc. You can view the full list here.

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Not only did Stephen raise £10,000 but as word of his bucket list and his story spread, he raised £3,869,311.97 The aim of his website was to spread positivity and motivation. “I may have cancer, but cancer doesn’t have me!” was what he lived by.

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He was exceptional student who refused to let cancer beat him and control him. He grabbed life with open arms and truly “lived” the rest of his life.

It got me thinking about the life I lead and what I want to achieve. Also what I’d like to be remembered for when I no longer exist as Natasha. Stephen will always be remembered for his genuine desire to help people and sharing his positivity even when enduring such pain and suffering. I think that’s a pretty great way to be remembered and although he’s no longer here, his story will live on.

What would you like to be remembered for?

Grab a tissue box….

It’s Saturday night which only means one thing…Britain’s got talent!! Unfortunately I missed last weeks because I was putting S to bed and our Sky Plus Box didn’t record it. I know, I know #firstworldproblems

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Anyway, Sky box all fixed, I sat down with my dinner and a glass of wine to watch the show. And I was not disappointed. The show ended with the most amazing performance by two young boys, Charlie (15) and Leondre (13). You can watch them here.

Grab a tissue box because you will cry!! I don’t know if it was the way the kid rapped, his lyrics or the fact that I’m a mom but I balled. It was one of the most moving auditions I’ve ever watched and even if they don’t go on to win, I hope their song/rap is used on an anti-bullying campaign!

And the best bit…the entire audience started chanting “Push the gold” and yes, you bet, good ol’ Simon pushed it. It was truly amazing, to see the boys reaction and the pure joy as they jumped up and down and hugged each other on stage. I can’t wait to watch them in the semi-finals and see what they have for us. Fingers crossed I get those tickets I applied for!!

Happy Saturday!! 🙂

Things to do in London at Christmas Time

I was recently asked for some advice on things to do in London over Christmas for a couple and their 10’ish year old son. So here’s my list of the best things to do if you’re visiting London during Christmas.

1. Shopping – If you’re staying in town, you’ll have Oxford Street and Regents Street but if it’s too cold (they are coming from Hong Kong) then I’d suggest you head to Westfield. It’s not far, a few stops on the Central Line to Shepards Bush (from Bond Street) and you’re there. It’s a huge mall with all the high street outlets as well as high end fashion stores. Another shopping haven is Bicester Village. It’s in Oxford (there’s a direct bus from Marble Arch) and it takes alittle over an hour. It’s a designer shopping outlet (open air). You can get some pretty good deals there.
2. The lights on Oxford Street and Regents are usually amazing. Debenhams has undergone a total makeover and will be opening in November so I think their lights will be pretty spectacular. The windows in Selfridges (Oxford Street), Harvey Nicks and Harrods (Knightsbridge) are usually really good. You have to see Harrods at night, it’s lit up (all year round) and looks like a Golden Palace. Selfridges also have a huge Christmas shop in the basement.
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3. The great outdoors – Hyde Park have a winter wonderland. I’ve never been but have heard it is AMAZING so looking forward to getting back to London and heading there. They have an ice rink at Somerset House which is at Aldwych (you can catch the No. 13 bus from Baker Street going South). Diagonally across the road from there you can go up to Covent Garden and they turn the whole piazza into a Winter Haven with a 60ft tall tree!!
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4. Touritsy things to do – There’s Madame Tussauds, the Dungeons, the houses of parliament and the Tower of London (their son likes history). You can do the big red bus tour which also includes a river cruise. The commentary on that is really good and you learn so much about the city in such a short time. I’m just not sure how comfortable it’ll be riding on an open top bus in December though! There’s the London Eye which includes a 4D show at the end which is good. The Eye ride itself is okay. It takes 26 minutes to go around. Worth it if it’s a good day. The Harry Potter tour which is located at Watford is worth it for fans of the infamous Wizard. The British Museum (Tottenham Court Road), the National History Museum, the V&A (South Kensington), the Transport Museum (Covent Garden): they are all free to visit and well worth it.
5. Stuff for Kids – I only have one word…Hamleys! On Regents Street, it’s a must see for any child visiting London.
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6. The West End – Plays and Musicals: Although I’ve never seen a show on Broadway, people say the West End is a lot better. Maybe I’m biased Winking face I’ve heard the Book of Mormons is really good and 1 Man 2 Guvnors is very very funny. I intend on seeing both when I am back. I saw Wicked last year which was amazing. Mamma Mia (great to sing along to), The Lion King (the story was okay but worth watching it just for the sets and to see how they create the animals, etc), Phantom of the Opera (pretty dark but one of my favourites). My Fair Lady, Legally Blonde, Sister Act – they were all good. Ghost has been out for a couple of years now and I heard that is good too (it’s on my list!). If you like history then you may enjoy Les Miserables (based on the French revolution). Again I’ve heard fantastic reviews from some people and not so great reviews from others. There is a box office on Argyll Street (Opposite Niketown at Oxford Circus, beside Warehouse, the women’s clothing store). It’s called Stargreen Box Office. You can get great deals on theatre tickets there. I’d suggest you call them on the day, ask them for tickets for the same day and collect before the show. Good tickets for the top shows can be around £40+. Matinee shows are usually more reasonable and most theatres have matinee shows on Wednesdays and Saturdays.
7. Afternoon Tea – You’re in London, darling, how can you not have Afternoon Tea?! Personally I love good ol’ fashioned Richoux on St. Johns Wood High Street (they have other branches as well) but for a little something extra special, I’ve heard great things about Afternoon Tea at The Ritz and The Wolseley.
More than anything, being in London at Christmas is magical. It can be really cold but if you wrap up you won’t feel it so much. There’s heating on in all the stores and anywhere indoors so it’s only really while you’re outdoors that you’ll feel it. All the shops play Christmas songs, everyone’s in a really good mood as they shop and get ready for Christmas. I’m sure you’ll have a lovely time!
Let me know if there’s anything I’m missing!
The List

Inspiring Mama Series: Rosemarie Siggins

Rosemarie Siggins (nee Homan) was born with ‘Sacral Agenesis’, a rare condition which left her with severely deformed legs and feet pointing in an outward direction. At the age of 2, with insight from doctors and other specialists, her parents decided to amputate the lower half of her body. By the time she was 3, Rose had learnt to walk on her hands and soon after started using a skateboard to get around.

Her passion for cars led her to be a mechanic and her dad went so far as to adapt the pedals of her car so she could drive and have the freedom to get around. She got her first car (a 1974 Chevy Camaro with a 350 engine) when she was only sixteen. In 1997 she met Dave Siggins who worked at an auto parts store and they got married in 1999.

Many born with this condition end up spending their lives in a wheelchair, going through a number of surgeries and never having kids. But this inspiring mama was different. She fell pregnant and going against most doctors advice, she had two beautiful children, Luke and Shelby.

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NM: Rose, it’s an honour to feature you on the inspiring mama’s series. Life hasn’t always been easy but you have overcome pretty much every obstacle thrown at you. What motivates you?

RS: Thank you for the kind invitation. Life is hard for all sorts of people. I was just given this life so overcoming obstacles has become second nature. My upbringing has always been my motivation. My mom would never allow me to give up.  She would always tell me find away.

NM: I am of the belief that a parent’s attitude plays a great role in the attitude of their child. How did your parent’s attitude when you were younger encourage you and make a difference to your life?

RS: As I mentioned in the question above, my parents especially my mom played a vital role in my positive outlook on life. My parents supported me in whatever I wanted to do. They gave my the confidence I needed. I raise both my children the same way. I encourage them not to give up when something is hard.

NM: Tell me about your experiences having Luke & Shelby.

RS: Having Luke was easy. Compared to Shelby. With Luke, the doctors were concerned about complications with the pregnancy. For instance, since I am small and don’t have a lot of room inside me as a ‘normal female’ for the baby to grow. The doctors worried as the baby grew it would compromise my lungs and make breathing a challenge for me. Also, doctors worried about the baby not growing to a full size and it having health issues when the baby was born. For example, lung issues and mental challenges due to its small size. I was very lucky with my first pregnancy. None of those issues happened. I had Luke via classical style C-section at 35 weeks. We delivered early in case I experienced preterm labour.  He weighed 5lbs 8oz and 19 1/2 inches long. Normal size baby.

Seven years after having Luke I became pregnant with Shelby. Her birth was not as easy. Since my first pregnancy was without complications, the doctors kind of relaxed and so did I. About three months into my pregnancy, I started to experience vaginal bleeding more than usual. Doctors became worried that my uterus was tearing. After an ultrasound performed by the doctor, they could not figure out what was causing the bleeding. To be cautious, the doctor had me bedridden for the remainder of the pregnancy. A month later I experienced extreme pain in my abdomen. Once again I was rushed to the hospital, another ultra sound performed to see the baby was doing fine. Near the end of my second pregnancy, I started to have breathing issues. Doctors advised me to remain in the hospital for the next week as a precaution. I was glad that last week was the 35th week. Shelby weighed 4lbs 6oz and 17 inches long.

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NM: I read about your dream of your mom when you were recovering after having Shelby. Even when she wasn’t physically there for you, she was there for you. Not many are lucky enough to experience that. Can you tell my readers about that experience.

RS: I was very scared with my second pregnancy. It seemed all the fears doctors had were coming true. My mom was with me for my first pregnancy. Unfortunately, she passed away a few years after Luke was born. So, I no longer had her here to help calm me during the second pregnancy. I had a dream that felt so real. She came to me in the middle of the night when I was bedridden. She told me everything would be fine. She was watching over the baby from above. She said she would be in the operating room to make sure everything went smoothly. I felt better about what she said. I found the courage and faith to believe everything would be alright.

NM: Let’s talk about Dave Siggins. The man who has loved you for 14 years and stood (tall!) by your side through your pregnancies, losing your parents and still continues to do so. How has he changed your view of life?

RS: He has been my rock. Him believing in me and standing ‘tall’ by my side makes me know I can conquer anything.

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NM: Last but not least, your freedom board. My mission with this post is to help you raise money to design and build your freedom board. To date you have raised $5,530. Why is the freedom board so important to you (as opposed to a wheelchair) and what will it look like?

RS: I appreciate your generosity to help with raising funds for my Freedom Board. I am so thrilled you are creating a link allowing your readers to donate. The board is an invention of my husband. He felt since I have always rode a skateboard why stop now. So, the board will have an electric motor. The best way to kinda describe it would be the bottom of a Segway. I can sit on it and lean forward to go or lean to either side to turn. I have been raising funds for it since 2011. Every time I get so close, I do a price check on all the supplies and find out all the prices are higher. It seems like I can’t get ahead. But I am not giving up!

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Having half a body hasn’t stopped Rose from doing anything, I’m certain nothing will. Please click the link below and make a donation to make a difference.

https://apps.facebook.com/fundrazr/activity/94f89fa4c4704f229757eaa9abdb3c33

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yFNyZKYqi5E

Brilliant blog posts on HonestMum.com

Letting go of our fears, for our children’s sake

I was walking into the park yesterday (we’re making the most of the glorious London summer sunshine) when I heard some kids talking and laughing. I looked around but there was no one there. I saw a big green rectangle wheelie bin and thought “could they be hiding in there?” but then I looked up and realised the voices were coming from up a tree. And I smiled!! It was so nice and refreshing to see 2 children had climbed up a tree and were just hanging out. You don’t see it that often these days.

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If you were an 80s child you most likely played outdoors, came home when it got dark or in time for dinner and had minimal adult supervision. Statistically crime hasn’t changed that much. What has changed is the media’s reaction to crime. The over sensationalising of things that are happening out there. Don’t get me wrong, you’ve got to keep your kids safe but this fear based parenting, as I see it, hinders children’s independence and self confidence.

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It’s ironic that we grew up with so much independence ourselves and yet we wrap our children in cotton wool, constantly looking over their shoulders, making sure they are not getting hurt or bullied or even dirty in some cases!! And where does all this fear come from? Can we simply blame the media or are we creating it ourselves?

A few years ago I went to a Chinmaya camp in Hong Kong. The Swami’s aim was to help us let go of the fear we build up within ourselves. He let us know that before the end of the camp we’d be walking on burning hot coal. To say I was petrified is an understatement. He then spent the next two days “creating” fear in our minds. When it came to the task at hand, he had us all sit in a row (alphabetically). We weren’t allowed to talk to each other, look around at the people who came in having walked on the burning coal or skip our turn. As my name starts with the letter N I was about half way down the line. The 20 minutes I waited was agonising. I built up all this fear (and anger) inside me and when my name was called my feet turned to lead. I very slowly lifted myself up and walked out to the beach. I saw the girl who went before me hobbling (he also got his volunteers to pretend to help the person walking away so that the next person built more fear within themselves). As I approached the coal I started crying. I was terrified but he said I had no choice but to do it. I faced the red hot coal and in that moment I let go of my fears and just walked…twice! And I came out totally unscathed (there were confident people who got blisters because walking on burning coal is about keeping a steady mind – no fear but not overconfident either). I later questioned him about why he chose to do it this way rather than take an Anthony Robbins style approach of motivating us to do it and he reminded me that the whole point was to let go of our self created fears. He may have created the circumstance but we built the fear all by ourselves.

But let me not digress. The point of that story was to elaborate how we are the creators (and also destroyers) of our own fear. And we are, very often, projecting this fear onto our children. Admittedly I do it myself sometimes. We wrap our children in bubble wrap, protecting them from anything that can touch them or harm them. But I worry sometimes that we’re encouraging children to be dependent, to rely on someone to help them at all times, to be rescued. And they’ll grow up into adults who are unable to take care of themselves.

So as it’s the first of the month, I encourage you to spend September trying to let go. And see your child amaze you. Toddlers are so capable, if we just let them. Keep them safe, give them boundaries but let them be explorers, making mistakes and learning the ways of the world through their own eyes.

For some interesting reading on this topic, here are a few sites I came across:

http://www.rogerwaters.org/ed5.html

http://missingsecrettoparenting.com/guilty-fearbased-parenting

http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/lifelines/201101/tiger-mothers-and-the-case-fear-based-parenting

http://www.wired.com/geekmom/2012/03/fear-based-parenting-and-the-loss-of-simple-joys-with-our-children/