Introducing a mini-blogger with a maxi-future


Amelia’s World of Wonders – a mini-blogger with a maxi-future

As we welcome in the New Year we find ourselves thinking about the year ahead and the year that’s passed.

And I won’t lie, 2015 was a bit of a shocker. But at the end of it what we finally learned changed our outlook on life forever.

2015 felt like being inside a tornado at times, relentless and exhausting, confusing and incomprehensible. And when we finally got back on solid ground everything had changed, nothing looked the same.

But little did we know that out of all the wind and the rain would beam the strongest ray of light, one that would show us the way with more courage and determination than we could ever imagine. One that was just 13 years old.

You see our eldest daughter, known on here as The Redhead but who you will soon know as Amelia, was diagnosed with a condition we didn’t know existed until now.

After a couple of years of what you might call ‘general mummy-worrying’ about her constant headaches, comparably short stature and subtle change of appearance, I’d convinced myself that when she was finally called for a brain scan nothing would be found to be wrong. We’d go home with the familiar ‘oh she’s just a teen, they all develop differently’ message and we’d carry on as before.

But not this time. This time was different.

All of a sudden everyone started moving more quickly, issuing more tests, talking to each other, taking an interest.

And the outcome? A diagnosis of Empty Sella Syndrome and Hypopituitarism. Which in the most simple terms means our first baby can no longer grow or develop naturally, and hasn’t been doing so for a couple of years.

So she will be supported, tested and treated for the rest of her life to make sure she gets all the hormones she needs to be able to do all the same things as any other girl her age.

Why am I talking about this here? Well, of course there have been tears, fears, anxiety and questions for us all. But once our gorgeous girl understood what was wrong, and what it meant, she taught us the biggest lessons in strength and resilience.

Instead of hiding away she decided it was time to step up. Time to show that she could cope. Time to use her experience to help others. And time to get her worried mum to do the same.

The Redhead has always been very creative, she has an amazing eye for design and loves to write. She follows all the cool bloggers (ehem, not counting myself in that group sadly) and has dreamed of blogging herself one day. And so she is.

No one can tell Amelia’s personal story quite like her, so please head over to Amelia’sWorldofWonders and show her some support as she shares her story so that she can help others to feel strong and positive when faced with such a personal challenge. And along with sharing her growing challenge she has a lot of fun with all the things a teen girl loves, make-up, shopping etc etc.

And as for us? Well we just feel so lucky.

Lucky to have an NHS system that has promised to look after our daughter and give her all the medical support she needs for the rest of her life.

Lucky to have our beautiful youngest daughter who has shown understanding, sensitivity and compassion beyond her 10 years. And who has made her sister and us laugh and smile at every possible opportunity.

Lucky to have a child who when faced with adversity has the mindset to find the positives, to look for the silver-lining, to tell us how lucky she is to be so well looked cared for.

And lucky to have each other. Because at the end of the day, at the end of the week, at the end of the year, Nothing. Else. Matters. The health and happiness of your family and loved ones is everything.

So as we start 2016 this is my toast: To our children, to their health and happiness, and to every ounce of happiness they give us along the way.

Donna xxx

Hello…the work is done, now it’s time for some fun!

Donna O'Toole, The Communications Director, Digital games, Siri, Mad Libs,

In the immortal words of Adele – “Hello from the other side…”

I’m sorry I’ve been away from this blog for a little while – I’ve been building another!

Nuts? Probably. But there is a reason…

I jumped on board a runaway train and have been hurtling full speed into a tunnel of website building, social media developing, personal branding and company creating – and I have now finally reached the light and emerged on the other side as The Communications Director and it’s time to get back to business.

Business for me is all about language and communication, it’s a massive passion in my life, you might have noticed me talk about when I finally took the plunge and headed off to Uni to study English Language – I knew then I had picked the right path.

But my love for linguistics is also a big part of my personal life (this is not all about work guys I promise), after all, we all talk and write all the time don’t we….and I like nothing more than to spend time ‘communicating’ with my hubby and daughters.

Well this week we had a lot of fun ‘communicating’ and it was all down to a little app called Mad Libs (this is not a sponsored post btw – this is a very real recommendation).

Now, I’m not one of those people who thinks there should be an educational opportunity in every single ‘game’ kids play – I actually think that fun is fun, and learning is learning, and the two can be combined or separated at will. We can all generally learn something fairly useful from the fun experiences we have in life without them always having to be about playing chess or scrabble (goodness knows some of my best life-lessons have come out of some of the most fun I’ve had) and sometimes the stuff that’s meant to teach us actually turns us off if not delivered in the right way.

I also think digital games, apps and innovations are fabulous for kids’ imaginations, communication and creativity – if used interactively, collaboratively and usefully they can inspire all sorts of mind-blowing fabulousness. Even good old Siri, Apple’s ‘natural language assistant’ achieves a lot of laughs in our house, especially when proposed marriage to, which may sound mighty silly, but if I told you that proposing marriage to Siri was actually teaching my kids about the possibilities and limitations of computational linguistics would you think differently?

This week The Redhead said she had a game we should all play, and after an hour full of lots of giggles and with my ever-present love of language always lurking, I wanted to share why I think this particular game is a tween parent’s dream, and a communication lover’s friend.

So Mad Libs is an app, and the basic premise is to ‘fill the gaps’ with your own words – except you cant see the story, so you have no idea what gaps you are filling -all you have to go on is a title. The outcome is a silly story, full of nonsense that uses your words to create a story that has been built around a programmed theme.

What really struck me though was how this game translated across all ages and linguistic abilities, and was really engaging for both the tweens and us oldies.

The Redhead and The Blonde took it in turns to be the compere, directing us to add a noun, verb, adjective or adverb in turns (this is not a test of how well you can label words – unless you want it to be – just have a dictionary to hand if you need inspiration) then at the end all the words were put together within a story framework and the compere got to read it out.

Now that doesn’t really sound hilarious does it, but remember we were playing this with tweens – so when your noun is a body part or your verb is a rather slapstick action, the final story is hilarious for the nominated tween to read out loud! One of our final stories involved a lonely giraffe with long stretchy boobies and a rather windy habit – natch!

The game also helped the girls to differentiate between and remember their verbs, adjectives etc, so there was definitely a huge educational value without them realising it, but that really wasn’t the best thing – the best thing was to be having a big giggle as a family over what silly nonsense stories we could create by the end, and who would be brave enough to read out such naughtiness.

In fact, this game crossed the age divide so well that at the end the Hubby said, ‘make sure you get that app before we next have friends for dinner – it could get VERY funny!’

Brilliant fun you clever Mad Libs people – well done, we needed another table-game and this is a winner.

Have a go yourselves, pizza nights may never be quite the same!

Donna x

Redhead on the blog – A teen beauty post from my daughter to yours!

pink fizz and ponytails, zoella, beauty for girls

Dear Reader,  Day one of the school holidays and The Redhead was already feeling creative – so what better idea than to let her loose on the blog! Please enjoy her guest post, which she planned and wrote by herself, styled and edited the photos and found the links – think I’ve found myself a beauty editor […]

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Sometimes, enough is enough


Sometimes I am pathetic. It’s true. Sometimes I am utterly pathetic, because when there is something ‘bad’ going on in the world, sometimes I shut my eyes and I choose to switch off. Sometimes, I switch off the telly because it upsets me to see the devastating effects of a natural disaster in all its technicolour high-definition […]

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3 Christening Gifts for a Little Princess

Princess Charlotte Christening, Royal Christening

Just like all fairytale Princesses, it’s only right that Princess Charlotte should be bestowed with three magical Christening gifts that will help her find her happy ever after. Dear Princess Charlotte, On behalf of all of your Fairy Blogmothers I grant you: The Gift of Honesty: Always tell the truth dear child because I promise you, nothing is ever […]

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8 Steps to the Perfect Picnic Sausage Rolls

Perfect Picnic Sausage Rolls, Jamie Oliver Sausage Rolls

These sausage rolls are the easiest picnic solution for feeding the family

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What is blogging anyway?

britmumslive, britmums bloggers, parent bloggers

If language is power, digital communication is a rocketship, launching our words into space in a vehicle so fast and furious that only the emojis can keep up.

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The First Supper – An incredible story from the NCT

NCT Supper Club, national childbirth trust

In 2002 our lives changed forever. Our first baby was due in November and without family living nearby, and a bit of a rocky start to pregnancy, I was acutely aware that as bumbling new parents we would need some ‘baby friends’ for support. I’d heard that The NCT was the place to be but to be honest […]

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The 7 Secrets to Surviving University for Mature Students

Thinking of going back to university? Over the age of 30? Read my 7 secrets to surviving university to avoid making the same mistakes I did as a 31 year old Fresher and make the most of your time as a mature student: 1. Choose your course carefully: Why do you want to go to […]

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Don’t give up on your dreams, it’s never too late!

Sussex university, mature student, starting uni, fresher

It was never my destiny to go to University, or so I thought when I was growing up. Like many of my friends, my parents hadn’t been to uni so there was no natural progression to follow, and some unexpected twists and turns in life meant that by the grand old age of 16 I was […]

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