Tuesday, 28 April 2015

How to co-parent effectively after a messy separation

When I separated from the children's dad, our lives were in a complete mess. The arguments between us both were so bad that I had to be protected by the police. I won't go into too much detail but I have never hated anyone as much as I did back then. However, I had these two beautiful innocent little boys to think about that still needed their dad. The battle to arrange how their dad was going to spend time with the boys was exhausting. I had to get friends and family to help with the change over at weekends because he wasn't allowed near my home. Four years later, we still struggle to talk on the phone without it turning into an unpleasant conversation but regardless of my feelings about the man, I have to put that behind me. He is the father of my children and we need to work together to raise them in a positive environment. Raising two children as separated parents isn't exactly the ideal situation I had imagined for my children when they were born, but it's happened and it is for the best. My boys deserve a healthy upbringing and they have been amazing at adjusting to this new arrangement. 

If you too are struggling to co-parent with an ex you despise, I thought it might be helpful to list five tips to help you manage the experience:

1. Lose all feelings of hate
If the breakup was an awful experience and you have an overwhelming feeling of hate towards your ex, try and keep your feelings to a minimum as best as you can. Hate causes stress and will make it harder for you to care for your children as you may become short tempered, lose sleep, and become ill more often. Do not be afraid to consider sitting in a room together with a third person such as a mediator to see if you can move your hate to a level of tolerance so that you can co-parent effectively. 

2. Communicate through texts/emails
I try to avoid talking to my ex on the phone as much as possible. When they are talking to him I tend to walk out of the room so I didn't have to hear his voice. However, we are co-parenting so we have to  discuss all matters regarding the children together. Texts and emails are perfect because not only does this prevent the children from overhearing things they don't need to hear, it takes the personality of the person out of the communication. Also I like the idea that texts can be saved as a sort of contract when a decision is made between you both to prevent arguments and broken promises occurring. 

3. Let go of having full control
Co-parenting with an ex is difficult because you have to let your ex make decisions on how the children should be raised even if their methods are different to yours. You may not approve of your ex's parenting style or what he or she does with the kids during their time together, but this is out of your control. While the children are away with their father, my anxiety is through the roof because I have no idea how the boys are being cared for/disciplined but I have learned that I really need to stop worrying and start making use of my time alone. 

4. Communication is key
Work hard to figure out a schedule that works for the two of you and print off a copy for you both to keep as a type of contract. If you need to make changes, don't be afraid to discuss your needs with your ex and be understanding of their needs in return. Children are not objects so avoid using them to hurt one another or complicate each other's lives. If you can make the changes then great! If not, then be clear and communicate that and if anything find a way to be helpful in making the adjustment easier for the both of you. I was guilty of using my children to get back at my ex in the first few months of our break up but I quickly saw how terrible my behaviour was and how it was affecting my children. I still feel guilty to this day. Also, even though I dislike my ex, I also saw that it is important to communicate the good things about him to my children. We often talk about the good times we shared when we were a complete family and also I want to hear their stories of the times they spend away with their dad. 

5.  See your ex through your children's eyes
You are most likely making your children the priority when it comes to co-parenting, but sometimes the mind can become clouded with negativity. Empathy is a great stress reducer, and it can really help to shift your negative views you feel towards your ex. Try to see your ex the way your children see him, a view that is positive and better than in reality. You can really learn from a child's innocence by watching how, even in the face of horrible behaviour, they still attach themselves to that person. 

Divorce/separation, no matter how common it has become, is stressful, unhappy and I wouldn't wish it on anybody. When kids are involved, it is up to the parents to figure out a way to communicate and to protect them from the adult issues that come from a messy separation. Every couple is different in how they deal with co-parenting so find what works best for you and stick to it. One final note, try to ensure you don't miss out on your child's childhood by worrying about your ex. Move on, forget the past, and try to tolerate each other for the sake of everyone's happiness.

Mums' Days

Monday, 27 April 2015

17/52: Avengers for the day

On Saturday we went to see the new Avengers movie, Age of Ultron. We thought it would be a fun idea to dress up for the occasion so Tom put on his Thor costume, Alfie dressed up as Hawk eye with his little bow and arrow, and I wore all black, persuading the children I was Black widow. Arriving at the cinema, the children understandably got a few looks and comments made about them. People loved that they dressed up to watch the film and now the boys want to do it again the next time a superhero film comes out in the cinemas. 

After the cinema, we took a walk around the waterfront in Plymouth. Even though it was pouring it down with rain, the boys had a great time protecting the city but I did have to tell them a few times that Thor and Hawk eye are not supposed to fight each other.

Linking up to Shutterflies for Living Arrows, a weekly portrait project.
Living Arrows

Sunday, 26 April 2015

My Sunday Photo: The Avengers

This weeks 'My sunday photo' was taken during a walk around the Plymouth waterfront. We had just been to see Avengers: Age of Ultron at the cinema and as you can see below, the boys really wanted to wear their Avengers costumes. Tom is Thor and Alfie is Hawk eye and they had so much fun being Avengers for the day. 


Thursday, 23 April 2015

Through my child's eyes #9

 Hello and welcome back to Through my child's eyes, the link up for mini photographers and artists. This week, I passed Alfie and Thomas a camera each and let them choose what they wanted to take a photo of. After a few minutes of running around outside, they ended up sitting indoors on the sofa, taking photos of each other. It was so sweet to watch. 

Last week we had 5 link ups which I was so happy to see. I have also had some fab comments on twitter from people who said they would love to start joining in, so fingers crossed we can get a few more link ups this week. I love hosting Through my child's eyes and I really enjoy reading all your entries, there are some talented kids out there. 

Last weeks fab entries

Glimmer of Hope: Photos for mommy. After taking photos of the things Merlinda's son liked the look of during a bike ride, he started to take photos for his mommy. He snapped away at places he thought his mum would love which was so sweet. 
LadyBug home & design: Castle acre priory, Norfolk. During an Easter Sunday trip to Castle Acre, Little lady bug took a sweet photo of her mum and baby brother before heading off to search for the Easter bunny. 
Working mummy & wife: Play-dough fun. W received a box of play dough for his second birthday and decided to create two amazing little aliens while recovering from chicken pox. They are fab and I especially love the hair style of the yellow one. 
Truly madly kids (Instagram): Family portrait. A lovely family photo taken by her daughter during a skiing trip. 
Not just another mum: Frog. Spud found a rather large frog while out walking around Chorlton water park. He managed to grab his mum's camera in time to take these fab set of photos. 

The linky
  • Please add my badge to your posts 
  • Link up your children's artwork or photos, with or without words is fine
  • It will run from Thursday 12am till Saturday
  • Can be old or new and as many as you like
  • When you add your link, please make sure they lead to your posts and not your blog's homepage. It may be difficult for me to find. 
  • Share your link up on twitter using #throughmychildeyes and tag me @gemma_stevens so I know to retweet and comment on your post. 
  • Try and comment on other posts in the link up. 
  • Feel free to link your Instagram photos too
  • Enjoy working together

I look forward to seeing the photos and artwork your children have created recently. Please help me make #throughmychildseyes a success by sharing the link up across your social media and by adding my badge to your posts.

Through my child's eyes

An InLinkz Link-up


Wednesday, 22 April 2015

29 things I have learned in 29 years

Following up from my bucket list for my 30's  post, I wanted to write a part two on what I have learned in my 29 years of life in the lead up to my 30th birthday next month. I always think about what I have experienced, accomplished and learnt over the years and I have put 29 of them in a list below. 

1. Growing up, it may have felt like your parents were ruining your life by not allowing you to get your own way. Now I realise they were doing their best. Be grateful for what your parents did for you, their rules helped you become the person you are today and will help you to guide your own children. 

2. Invest in memories, not stuff. Avoid temptation to spend on things you do not need, it is important to save for the future. 

3. Do not be afraid of therapy. Life is hard and you are going to hit rock bottom sometimes so it is important to seek help and talk to people. 

4. Do not compare yourself to others. My story/ path in life is unique and only I can control it. Live life to it's fullest and trust that everything will work out ok.

5. Keep your heart rate up. Working out everyday, even if it's only for ten minutes, really helps to make a difference in your mood and health.

6. Avoid making sudden decisions after a bad day. Give yourself a day or two before making important changes in your life.

7. No matter how old you are, you can still achieve your dreams. Never give up on what you want in life. 

8. Clean up your messes, apologise for your wrong doings, and sort out those problems. It is important to go to bed at night with a clear mind. 

9. Let it go, you can't change your past but you can shape your future. 

10. There will always be people that don't like me and I shouldn't attempt to change their minds. Only concentrate on those that love you. 

11. I am not the only person in the world that suffers from anxiety, fear and low confidence. I am not alone so seek support, its out there. 

12. Time doesn't always heal wounds, I have to take control of healing myself. 

13. Most people are more busy thinking about themselves than obsessing over you so stop being paranoid and lose that feeling that people are judging you.

14. It's usually never, ever as big a deal as we think it is.

15. Don't ever make someone feel insignificant or inadequate. Do not bully people or hold on to people's mistakes. You are not above anyone, be kind to those you serve you, look after you, and help you. 

16. Love as much as you can, with every single relationship who have, even if you keep getting hurt. Love is the best feeling and its rare to find. Do not base new relationships on your old ones, you might ruin your chance of finding the one. 

17. Be present. Don't live in the past, live each day, savour every moment, and give it your all. 

18. Read as much as you can. Concentrate on writing that inspires you, keeps you informed and takes you into a different world. Read for pleasure but also try to read something that challenges you. 

19. If it feels wrong, it probably is. Trust your instincts. 

20. Ask questions. People around you may know something that you don't so treat them like a teacher. Also don't be afraid to ask questions on dates, at a job interview or with new friends. Make people feel like you are interested in what they have to say. 

21. Appreciate and work hard at your job. Jobs are precious and there are some many unemployed people out there who would love to take your place. 

22. Appreciate what you have. There are lots of people in the world you have no running water, no roof over there heads, no food and no family/friends. 

23. Despite all your self convincing that it wont happen to you, yes you will develop winkles, grey hair and a slow metabolism. 

24. People are not mind readers. Don't be afraid to ask for something you need. 

25. Being a parent is hard, especially as a working single mum. Mummy guilt is a real thing but you are doing a good job, your children will appreciate you. 

26. Your kids will grow up fast, let them but treasure every day with them. You will never regret the time you spend with them. You will, however, regret the time you didn't spend with them. 

27. Get on the floor with your kids. They need the interaction with you. 

28. Life doesn't stop after having children. It might temporarily put a hold on a few things, but life only gets better with children. I find myself having more motivation, passion, purpose, and drive with everything I do. Everything I do is for my boys, there's no better feeling than that. 

29. You don't know it all, there is always more to learn. Here's to the next 30 years

Brilliant blog posts on HonestMum.com

Mums' Days


Monday, 20 April 2015

16/52: Portraits from our Saturday walk

On Saturday we decided to head out to our favourite place, Mount Edgcumbe country park in Cornwall for some exercise and fresh air. It is such a gorgeous place to visit and the boys especially love all the space to run and around and climb. 

We spent a good hour in the parks hidden garden which contains the old bath house, cork trees and gorgeous camellias. Saturday was extremely windy so we made good use of the shelter from the hedges which surround the garden. They also made a perfect sun trap so we loved laying on the grass and played a few games around the trees without the chill of the wind. 

After our relaxing time in the garden, we decided to hike up to the top of the park where ruins of an old folly sits on top of a hill, overlooking Plymouth. However, the wind was quite strong along the coastal path so the boys were not too keen and but they were excited when they finally reached the folly.

The Folly has gorgeous views of Drake's island, Plymouth sound, the breakwater and Embryo point. It is such a peaceful place to come to. The boys had lots of fun running up and down the steps pretending it was their castle and they had to save it from the dragons using their wands.

folly, ruins, history, landmark, plymouth, tourist, view, best, cremyll, devon, cornwall, walk, hike, castle, attraction, mount, edgcumbe

Although very windy, we had such a great day. We definitely deserved the ice cream we had on the way home after walking all those miles. 

Linking up to Shutterflies for Living Arrows 16/52
"You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth" Kahlil Gibran

Living Arrows

Sunday, 19 April 2015

My Sunday Photo: Magic

harry, potter, spells, magic, wingardium leviosa, levitating, plymouth, mount, edgcumbe, cornwall, photo, photography, parent, blog, blogger

"Wingardium Leviosa"


Friday, 17 April 2015

Five Fun Activities To Do With Boys

I feel blessed to have two amazing boys in my life who have become my best friends. They are loving, generous, intelligent and hilarious. Alfie and Tom get me through each day and I couldn't be more proud to call them my boys. However, they are growing up way to fast for my liking! I want to ensure they look back on their childhood, when the dreaded day comes when they leave the nest, and say "My childhood was full of amazing, happy memories". 

date, boys, parent, blogger, fun, activities, single, mom, mum, mother, boy, children, adventure, dinner, cooking, recipe,

I wanted to share a list of dates and bonding activities that we love to do together which I hope will provide you with a few ideas if you also have boys to entertain. 

1. An adventure day
In the morning, grab a notebook and write a plan together where to have an adventure. You can write a list of what you need to pack, where to go, draw up a map and you could even make up a fun game you could do such as bug spotting or animal tracking. Whilst at the chosen location, I think it is fun for the boys to learn a few survival skills. I tell them to gather wood for a 'pretend' camp fire and use that as a base to sit round and eat our picnics. You can also do a bit of map making/ reading too to fill up the day.

2. Geocaching
I have always thought that Geocaching was an American thing and that as I live in a small English town, there would be no boxes to find. When I downloaded the free version of the Geocaching app, I was shocked to find there was actually two green dots outside my home and a further ten to find in the surrounding streets. My boys love the thrill of a treasure hunt and they would especially love that you can trade little objects inside the containers. They get so excited and I can't wait to do this with them  at the weekend.

3. Get them to plan a menu and cook for you
My boys love cooking and want to help me with dinner every night. A fun activity to really entertain them is to set them loose with your cook book. You could get them to write down their favourite recipe,  write a shopping list of the ingredients they need, take them to the supermarket to pick them out, and with some help of course, allow them to prepare their chosen meal. You could go a little further with this by getting everyone in the family to dress up and pretend that they are attending a restaurant with the children as the chef/waiter. They will especially love collecting the bill from you at the end of the meal. 

4. Have a date at home
As a mum of boys you have to learn to love action movies and save your chick flicks for when they are asleep or at school. There is nothing more lovely though as cuddling up on the sofa with blankets  while watching a movie together, snacking on pizza and popcorn. We also enjoy playing a few playstation games together but just like most families that is only fun until someones gets upset about losing. 

5. Park date
Grab a football, a picnic, and some comfortable shoes to run around in. Get muddy with them, they will  enjoy the bonding time and enjoy seeing you being silly attempting to cross the monkey bars. Nothing beats being out in the fresh air and it's free. We have some of the best memories from our days in the local park.

What are your favourite activities to with your children?


Mums' Days

Thursday, 16 April 2015

Through My Child's Eyes #8

 Hello and welcome back to Through my child's eyes, the link up for mini photographers and artists. A big thank you to Georgina from My greatest adventure for linking up last week with her daughter's gorgeous photo of some flowers that are in her garden. Please go and check it out. 

This week, Alfie wanted to take a photo of our sunflowers that we are currently growing in our conservatory. The boys and I are having a competition who can grow the tallest one. Alfie is winning which of course he is so happy about. 

The linky
  • Please add my badge to your posts 
  • Link up your children's artwork or photos, with or without words is fine
  • It will run from Thursday 12am till Saturday
  • Can be old or new and as many as you like
  • When you add your link, please make sure they lead to your posts and not your blog's homepage. It may be difficult for me to find. 
  • Share your link up on twitter using #throughmychildeyes and tag me @gemma_stevens so I know to retweet and comment on your post. 
  • Try and comment on other posts in the link up. 
  • Feel free to link your Instagram photos too
  • Enjoy working together

photography, children, mini, photographer, link up, blogger, parent,

Now it's your turn. 
I look forward to seeing the photos and artwork your children have created recently. Please help me make #throughmychildseyes a success by sharing the link up across your social media and by adding my badge to your posts.

Through my child's eyes

An InLinkz Link-up


Tuesday, 14 April 2015

How I edit my photos using BeFunky *

This week I wanted to show you how I edit my blog photos using BeFunky. The majority of my photos are taken using my I phone 5 and not a top of the range camera as I currently cannot afford one.  However, I think my mobile photos come out fine but I use this amazing photo editing app to make them look more professional for my blog. There is a giveaway at the very bottom of this post if you would like scroll down to win a full subscription to BeFunky. 

BeFunky is a web and mobile photo editing app that has some extremely helpful tools to make photos stand out. It is easy to use and like most photo editing sites, has both free and paid features. As a blogger I found it necessary to use the paid subscription to ensure I make my photos as high quality as possible. The subscription is affordable so great if you have a small budget like me. 

I love using BeFunky because the app has an amazing palette of tools. The filters are perfect for the look I am trying to achieve for my blog and I love how it easy it is to crop and adjust the exposure of my photos. The image below gives you a good idea of some of the main options there are available.  

How to use BeFunky: 

Open the Befunky app or go to http://www.befunky.com and choose a photo to upload. 

The first thing I do before anything is crop my photos, especially if a stranger has walked into my shot or there is something unsightly like a bin spoiling the view. To crop, go to the edit tool in the left hand toolbar and click crop. 

In this photo I want to hide the family in the distance so it looks like the boys have the run of the beach to themselves. Here I just simply click and hold the edge of the square to adjust where I want the photo to be cropped. 

Once you are happy with where the selected cropping area is, simply click apply. 

After you have cropped your photo, BeFunky has a variety of enhancements and effects to make your photos pop. So many in fact that I normally spend half my time playing with the filters and textures. Firstly though, I want to adjust the exposure as I think the photo is a little bit too bright. To do this, click the edit tool on the left and select Exposure. 

Here you can play around with the brightness, contrast, highlights, shadows, and fill light. Again click Apply when you are happy with your photo. 

Next it is time to choose a filter. You find these by clicking the wand in the left hand toolbar. There are so many to choose from to make your photo either vintage, black and white, arty, grunge, or just simply pop. 

For my photo I chose Chromatic 2 and adjusted the fade bar until I was happy with how the filter looked. 

Once you are happy, click the tick next to the fade bar to apply. That is my photo ready to be posted. 

If you want to go further, Be funky also has lovely fonts, graphics, frames, overlays, and textures. Below is something I made for fun to show these. The text option has some of my favourite fonts which I often use to make a title picture for my blog posts or to watermark. I especially love Oscura. What I really like about this app is that if you make a mistake or you are unhappy with how the photo looks, there is an undo option at the top of the page (the anti clockwise arrow). This is perfect if you are a perfectionist like me.

Also, I really love these gorgeous spring edit examples as seen on the BeFunky home page which I really want to try making myself:

I hope you found this post helpful. BeFunky can be found online or Download here for your smartphone/tablet. The site offers both free and paid tools to improve your photos.

Next week I want to make a tutorial on how to make collages through Be funky which are especially great for weekly roundup posts. 

Lastly BeFunky have kindly offered one of my readers the chance to win a full free subscription to their site which allows you use all the tools to edit your photos. Please check out the Rafflecopter box below for ways you could win. 

Gem x

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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