A lasting legacy

Every November, a homeless person starts camping out in our subway station. I think the MTA lets him stay there because he brings along his dustpan and brush and keeps the place clean. He’s also quiet (apart from his small battery-powered radio that he sometimes plays) and pleasant.

On Tuesday we took him food. Nothing special, we just cooked a little extra pasta. And was extremely grateful. So last night we did the same again. Except last night it was raining, and the place he sleeps (halfway down the steps) often gets wet when it rains so he wasn’t there. We left the food for someone else huddled up under blankets trying to keep dry on the church steps.  Tonight we’ll probably do the same. And again tomorrow. And the next day. As often as we can we’ll cook a little extra and give it to someone who needs it. Because there is always someone who needs it.

Merry Christmas everyone. See you again next year.


How does Karma work exactly?

Does Karma work if you are deliberately extra nice because you want something in return? I doubt it. But today I didn’t want to chance it. My almost four-month-old was having his second and hopefully last kidney surgery at New York Presbyterian, and I needed all the good vibes I could get.


So the rude taxi driver who took us to the hospital got an overly large tip. The nurses and admin staff in the office got chocolates. I smiled at EVERYONE. Even the grumpy nurse who kept tutting as my child screamed the ward down after coming round from the anaesthetic.

The surgery went well and we’re all home now. So maybe it does work. But just in case, I popped out this evening with a hot meal for the homeless guy who spends most nights in my local subway station. He was more hungry than grateful – shoving a forkful in his mouth before muttering thank you through a mouthful of pasta. I didn’t mind. In fact his enjoyment showed his gratitude more than his words.

I’m grateful too. For a positive outcome after a few tough months.



Overly ambitious

Today I had to go to Macy’s. In Herald Square. With a baby. FOUR days before Christmas.

Well I say had to. More like chose to. You see, even though I am pretty committed to non-toy gifts this year, my kiddo only just wrote his letter to Santa. And he asked for a snoopy (just like the one he’d seen when we went to visit Santa at Macy’s). I know he shouldn’t really get everything he’s asked for, but he’s only asked for four things (Up two from last year!) And Snoopy’s one of them. And I really, really want him to believe in the magic of Santa.

So, as soon as the babysitter arrived I jumped on the subway and headed for the busiest store in town.

It was hot. It was crowded. The queue for the elevators snaked around the store. It was, just like this advent challenge, overly ambitious.

Luckily I managed to get the Snoopy. I also have a few days left to rectify my poor advent of good things performance this year.

Here are a few things I want to do before Christmas:

Take a meal to someone who needs it.

Leave cards for people who deserve them (mail guys and gals, fire fighters, janitors etc).

Bake treats for my neighbours.

Leave anonymous gifts for children in the building.

Let’s see how I do.

Food for thought

I saw a statistic that shocked me the other day. One in five New Yorkers rely on charities for food. One in five. In one of the wealthiest cities in the world.

One of the things I did last year that brought deep satisfaction was giving food to our local food bank. I did pledge to do this throughout the year but have to admit that I failed miserably, only managing to do it when there was a City Harvest collection at school.

So tonight I sorted out food for the church food pantry. They are always so grateful. And it’s so busy, even though it’s just a few short blocks away from expensive restaurants and even more expensive high rise apartment buildings.

And this year I will make sure I do it more often. Food for life, not just for Christmas.

If you can, please consider donating food to your local food bank or soup kitchen. I know they’ll appreciate it.


Real life and a few tears

After a day spent catching up on good things yesterday, today was spent catching up on real life. Sorting closets, buying final presents, wrapping paper, writing cards. Yes it’s all party party party here in NYC;)

Luckily I had chance to do a quick, but definitely worth it good thing when buying wrapping paper. There was a chance to add a donation to St Jude’s at the till.

St Jude’s helps kids with cancer. Their strap line? ‘Please give to help kids live.’ As a mum it got me. As a copywriter it floored me. Who could say no to that?

Later, I saw this – 28 pictures that prove 2015 wasn’t a completely terrible year – and it had me in tears. (Good tears!) It also made me think I need to up my game!


Catching up

Ok so two days have passed and amidst head-exploding school zoning meetings and visits to Macy’s Santaland I just have. Not. Had. A. Minute.

My lovely sister in law sent me a heartbreaking story recently which you have probably seen flying around on Facebook – basically about how children’s hospital wards tend to get plenty of gifts from corporates and individuals at Christmas time but the children’s mental health wards got nothing.

It’s so shocking. So to make up for my lacklustre performance of late I sent three gifts (one each for the two days I’ve missed and one for today). I sent them to Little Woodhouse Hall in the city I tend to call home, Leeds. If you want to do the same the address is:

Little Woodhouse Hall
18 Clarendon Road

I used Amazon uk. It was just easier. Because with two snotty kiddos and a very messy apartment, today is another one of Those Days.

The value of giving

I’ve been thinking a lot about generosity lately. It’s a value I want my sons to have. I also know the best way to give them that is to model the behaviour myself.

I love the messages that come out of this post. The superhero who made the bad guys dinner because they were stealing food (and therefore must be hungry) melted my heart. It reminds me of the time I was trying to explain to my son why the guy we were walking past was homeless.

Him: Mummy why is that man sleeping there?

Me: Well he isn’t as lucky as us. He doesn’t have a bed of a home to live in.

Him: Shall we find him a house mummy?

Me: He needs money for a house and he doesn’t have any.

Him: Why can’t we just give him some of our money mummy?

Good point kiddo. Good point.

Reading up on generosity I found some startling facts and figures, like the fact that research shows it’s actually better to donate directly to the poor. This Ted video  has some interesting ideas on direct giving if you’re interested.

Today I gave some money to a homeless family who had spent the night in the subway. I gave the small amount of cash I had on me. It wasn’t a lot, but it was enough to buy the mom and her four daughters breakfast. Unfortunately the three year year old was at school and the three month old was more interested in chewing his fingers to see me modelling the behaviour. Oh well, maybe advent of good things should become year of good things… Actually let me think about that!

(Almost) a tree-mendous day

imageThe efforts with the cantankerous three year old worked a little yesterday, not so much today. There were meltdowns over clothes, shoes, breakfast, TV… The list goes on. So we did the only thing that works on days like this. We got outside.

It’s giving him a personality transplant. We got about three steps out of the building and he was like a different child.

Luckily we’re just one block away from Central Park. He was angling for the playground but I knew that running around in nature is so much better for him (and all 3 year olds), so we found sticks went on secret ‘hiding missions’ behind trees and bushes and had running races around the lake. It’s like having our own 800-acre garden. And we’re thankful for it. So today  for my one good thing I made our annual donation to the park. I’ve already mentioned that it’s been an expensive year this year, but for keeping me and my child sane, the park deserves my support.

Back home we were all feeling much better so our attention turned to trees of a different kind. The Salvation Army Christmas playlist was on, the decorations were out. Only thing missing was the mince pies!

Ant tips? What gets your LO’s out of a grump?


A kind act closer to home

imageFor the past few months I have had an inwardly smugness about me. All those people who warned me about jealousy over the baby. Ha. Not my wonderful son. No way. He’s been amazing with his little brother. And then…

The last few days he’s been having a hard time. We’ve had Legos launched across the room and more shouting and yelling than we usually have in a few months. Luckily (?!) he’s taking it out on me and not his little bro, so I am thankful for that!

The thing is, he’s not happy. And that means none of us are happy.

Cue plenty of pinterest reseach, and questions to other parents… What can I do?

These scientifically-proven happiness tips for kids are great. 

Give them enough free play, (tick) praise their efforts not the outcome, (tick) and model happiness yourself.  (Erm…)

I love the great way they explain this:

...you know how when you’re on a plane and the flight attendants tell you to put your own oxygen mask on first so that you’re capable to taking care of your children? Same thing applies to happiness. 

So I’m planning on being kinder to myself. Booking that massage I’ve had a voucher for for the past six months, going out with the girls for wine, getting an early night when I can. For today though I really needed to focus on him.

On the advice of a good friend today’s act of kindness has been some quality one-on-one time with mama. Does it count? I don’t know. Who makes the rules? All I know is it will make my son happier and he’ll be nicer to the people around him. It’s a ripple effect.

So this morning we left daddy, the dog and baby brother in the park and went on an adventure to the East side. We discovered a new playground, had a breakfast picnic in a make believe house, pushed his favourite toy on the swings, went on a stick hunt and much more. Then when we got home I got down on the floor and played Lego leaving dad to take care of the baby.

Got two kiddos? Any advice on keeping the jealousy at bay and keeping them both happy?  And what helps keep you sane and your cup full (you can’t put from an empty one)?