Wednesday, 8 January 2020

Fighting for a EHCP and Mediation

EHCP Mediation experience

Shortly before schools finished for the summer holiday, our then SEN teacher was working hard towards gathering and submitting evidence for Leo's EHCP (Education Care Health Plan), you may recall that I actually attempted to do this for Leo myself back in 2017.

Back then I hit a stumbling block, I can only assume within the school as they said that at this point they could accommodate for Leo's SEN nee
ds within the current academic setting. I wasn't convinced but agreed for the time that I would let the decision ride. Flash forward 2 years and we are talking potential EHCP's again, only this time the school are suggesting that it may be beneficial.

Of course I backed the decision entirely, the evidence gathering began and was submitted just before the end of the Summer term. I didn't hold much hope of actually achieving the EHCP as I had heard that they were like gold dust, but I did hope that with Leo's Tourette Syndrome diagnosis we may have more of a chance of obtaining it. 

Summer flew by and we were soon back at school and ready to kick start Year 4, Leo's tics had really faded to nothing over the summer holiday, but with the academic year starting again we fell back to earth with a crash. 

A month later we had the letter that I had been anxiously awaiting, a letter sealing our EHCP fate. 

It had of course been denied. 

Another stumbling block, another no, another door shut in our faces. 

Another case of Leo being on the cusp, a seemingly typical child, beautifully behaved, but had SEN needs that were beyond your typical school child, not severe enough for a 'special' school, but a delay none the less.

As I sat there reading the letter that had been issued, I decided then and there that this wasn't the end of the fight. We would appeal, we would go to mediation and if needed tribunal. 

I had a meeting with Leo's new SEN teacher who is quite frankly amazing, luckily for us she really knows her stuff having been on both sides of the coin. She once worked for the local authority and met with families to decide why and how they should issue an EHCP, and she now works as a SEN teacher within our school academy. 

We formulated a plan, we met with the Local Authority who went through their decision, it became apparent that it was a lack of evidence that had resulted in our 'No'. We had 3 months from the date of the letter to go to mediation, they told us that we should leave it as long as we could in order to gather further evidence that could potentially provide a different outcome. 

We did just that, and a few days before the appeal process closed forever I sat and composed an email making sure that I included everyone I needed to within the email chain. To go through the mediation process we had to contact a mediator, I emailed the Two that were recommended on the letter, and quickly heard back from one of them.

Before I made a decision on who I would prefer to work with, I spoke with both of the mediators on a separate basis. I opted for a man named Charles, he was full of knowledge and came with a great reputation, he role would be to listen and essentially lead the mediation meeting, he would pose his own questions and give structure to the agenda. 

Charles said something on that very first phone call that really stayed with me 'Remember when you were at school and posed with a maths question? After all is said and done, the working out was always the most important part. If you got the working out wrong, the answer would be wrong'. Charles emphasised the importance of evidence, things like costed lesson plans, he stressed that schools were so busy teaching the kids, that their working out was often lacking, and the lack of evidence was often the reason for the negative outcome.

Wise words!

It was hard getting a date in the diary being so closed to Christmas, but we eventually nailed down as many of the required attendees as we could, and confirmed the date for Friday 13th December 2019.

We met at a local hotel in the library, I brought my Dad along for moral support as Luke was away with work. Charles the mediator was present along with our school SEN and a lady from the local authority.

I had prepared an A4 page of my own thoughts and feelings which was essentially a short over view of Leo's entire educational background. I spoke about how the initial concerns were raised at Leo's 2 and a half year check and how those concerns were then highlighted at Nursery level and followed him into his school life. 

Our SEN teacher then gave her evidence, Charles did his bit and within an hour the Local Authority had decided in our favour and granted Leo the EHCP that we had been fighting for. 

It was such a productive afternoon, and I am still in disbelief that we managed to change their minds and get something that will be so beneficial to Leo throughout the rest of his education.

I do wish that this had been granted years ago, I kick myself for backing down and not going with my gut, but we got to the finish line in the end. 

For Leo this now means that he will have his own funding within school to help him achieve his individual goals, it will stay with him until he is 18 and leaves school. It means that Leo can attend any school I feel is best for him, even if it is out of catchment. We apply and it's almost a give in that he will get in.

We should have our draft plan with us by the end of January, at this point I will have another meeting with Leo's SEN teacher and we will make sure the plan is what we need. I have been advised that even if amendments are needed to the over all plan, to accept it and make the changes at a later date so that at least the ball is rolling.

I finally feel like we have got somewhere, I have spent years banging my head against a brick wall with no real outcome, but finally I have made enough waves to ride all the way to the shore. 

It's so important to always keep fighting, to always stand your ground and not stop talking until you are listened to. 

Monday, 16 December 2019

Christmas Gift Inspiration for the Entire Family 2019

Father Christmas

Christmas 2019 is on the horizon, December has arrived and with it a fair few dusting's from Jack Frost himself. Which of course means that I have been hard at work on my Christmas gift feature for the upcoming festivities!

I decided this year to do it as one post, and we will be kicking things off with what I truly believe is the hardest category... The men in our lives of course!

For Him

Luke is a man who pretty much has everything, if he wants something he will usually just pick it up and that is the end of that. It often means I have to get creative in order to find the perfect gift that he doesn't already have. Last year it was organising a decade of photographs into 2 rather large photo albums!

This year I have already sorted his main present, but it's always nice to look at some stocking fillers to accompany the main gift!

Now that other half of mine has to stay rather impeccably preened, this is due to the nature of his job. This means that he has to shave on a daily basis, and he is often in a debate about the best way to go about keeping the stubble and facial hair at a minimum.

The Wahl Aqua Blade 20

You can never really go wrong treating your better half to a new facial trimmer, and the Wahl Aqua Blade 20 in 1 Multigroomer has been very much welcomed into Luke's grooming routine. This is what is known as a multigroomer, you can trim, shave and add the detail you desire thanks to the extreme precision blade. 

Luke was always using disposable razors before this and kept coming out in a rash, but since he has started using the Aqua Blade it has made a real difference to his skin (Especially around the neck). What is really fab is that this isn't just a facial groomer, it can be used for a hair cut or all of the body.

The Wahl Aqua Blade 20

The Wahl Aqua Blade 20 has a big thumbs up from Luke (and his sensitive skin) and retails at £99.99 - At the time of writing this it is on offer at £66.99 and comes with a lifetime blade warranty! 

I haven't got round to blogging about this yet, but back in June Luke actually decided to have a hair transplant! The hair is rally starting to grow now and it is fair to say that Luke is really pleased with the results. The hair line at the front has really come in, but it is still thinner on top towards the back (and he has spoken about potentially getting this area treated to). So I thought a nice stocking filler for this year would be the Nanogen Hair Fibres.

I know that Luke is not alone when it comes to worries about receding hairlines and thinner patches that come with age (and experience!). The hair fibres help the hair to look instantly thicker, and this is achieved in a very natural way. All you have to do is select the colour that reflects your hair and then follow the included instructions to get the best results.

It is pretty amazing what can be achieved with the hair fibres, Luke loves them (although only wears them when we are going out or for special occasions), I think he is a bit shocked at how well the coverage really is. Luke has the light Brown colouring and you can see the colour of his hair in the photos.

Nanogen Hair Fibres

Nanogen have a whole selection of supporting products from shampoos to hair serums. Nanogen Keratin Hair Fibres retail at £18.95 but are currently on sale at £13.27.

A nice little stocking idea comes in the form of Nad's and their Nose Wax Kit. A quick and easy way to remove those pesky nose hairs (also suitable for middle brow hair!). It's simple enough to use and is just a case of warming the wax in the microwave, loading the applicator with the wax, pulling your upper lip down and inserting the applicator inside the nose and letting the wax cool for around 60 seconds.

Nad's For Men Nose Wax Kit Retails at £13.25.

Nad's For Men Nose Wax Kit

For Her

I think that present buying in general is a lot harder than it used to be, if someone wants something then they usually get it for themselves as soon as that want/need arises. Luke has spent weeks asking me what I want for Christmas and my answer every time is nothing, of course this is not helping his gift quest one little bit...

You can never go wrong with gin and sweet treats though, that's just a fact. Cartwright & Butler have some absolutely gorgeous food gifts. There are hampers to suit every budget, biscuits from their pantry, teas, coffee, drinking chocolates and even wines and other spirits!

Darjeeling Infused Parlour Gin

Were big gin lovers in our house and we are always excited to try new and different gins, Cartwright and Butler have their Darjeeling Infused Parlour Gin. This gin is infused with Darjeeling tea leaves and blended with juniper, coriander, lemon and acacia honey along with a combination of delicate spices and botanicals.

We took the bottle over to my parents for dinner one evening and everyone agreed what a lovely refreshing taste this gin had. We paired it with a regular tonic and lots of ice!

The gin comes in a really well presented tin and would make a great gift for the gin lover in your family. Darjeeling Infused Parlour Gin is available to purchase from Cartwright and Butler and retails at £42.95.

Another great little gift in the wake of the current plastic climate would be Vaso Premium Glass Straws (especially for enjoying those Christmas tipples!).

As a family we have really made an effort in 2019 to reduce our plastic waste and this has meant that we no longer buy sandwich bags for Leo's lunchbox or anything that could become 'throw away plastic' - As an alternative to sandwich bags we put Leo's sandwiches in takeaway pots that we have kept and re-use.

We have never really bought plastic straws but it is always nice to have one, which is why the Glass Straws from Vaso are such a brilliant, environmentally friendly and sustainable idea!

The straws come in packs of 4 and in 3 different lengths so you can have 15cm straws for your shorter glasses and either 20cm or 23cm for your tall glasses.

No matter the size you choose each pack of Vaso Glass Straws each contain 4 straws, the prices range from £14.99 - £16.99.

Nad's Natural Sugar Wax

I have always been interested in giving waxing a go, but I have never had the time to go to the salon and get it done. so I have been a 30 year old wax virgin well into my 30th year! Although I can now say that I am a complete convert!

Nad's have a wonderful selection of products depending on what you want to achieve, I have been having a play with the Nad's Natural Sugar Wax over recent weeks (A real first for me!) This particular wax doesn't require heat as they simply warm with your body heat as you smooth it over your skin.

I wasn't sure what to expect in terms of the pain that people talk about when it comes to waxing, and I think I have probably built it up more in my head over the years, but it wasn't really that bad at all. It certainly wasn't enough to make me think 'I won't be doing that again!'. The results have lasted longer than shaving for sure, and I loved that it was so easy to wash off the wax with water when needed.

The kit comes with re-usable cotton strips that you can wash and use as many times as you wish, and also comes with 6 x applicators and of course the sugar wax.

A few other nice stocking filler ideas from Nad's could be the Brazilian & Bikini Wax or the Nad's Body Wax Strips!

For Kids

This year we have gone with the 'less is more' scheme for Leo, so that after Christmas we don't have to find homes for things that he will never play with or will sit gathering dust. Leo will be getting some really lovely book collections including the entire Harry Potter works, I am so excited to start reading these to him.

We have also treated Leo to some audio book collections, our favourite being the David Walliams audio cd's that have some of Leo's all time favourite stories on! This seemed like a no brainer to us as Leo can be kept awake at night with his Tourettes, so we thought it would be nice if he had a nice long audio cd to fall asleep to after I have tucked him in, read him a story and left him to sleep.

Leo's main present this year will be a brand shiny new bike, something that he has talked about wanting for a few months (and having seen how small his old bike is looking, it's high time we sorted one out for him!)

The Playmobil City Life Furnished School

If your stuck for main presents this Christmas and you have a child that loves imaginative play then you need look no further than Playmobil. Playmobil are one of my favourite brands, I even used to love and adore them when I too was a child. As the years have gone by, their collections have grown and it is wonderful to see.

The Playmobil City Life Furnished School is a really lovely set, it comes equipped with 3 teachers and 6 students. What's amazing about the Playmobil sets and the school is no exception, is all of the detail that they throw in, the students have school books and backpacks, desks and bikes to get to and froms school. There are classrooms all set up for the teachers to teach the children and there is even a digital clock that has a school bell and a working alarm clock!

The Playmobil City Life Furnished School

That's what I love about Playmobil though, the scenes stay the same but the child gets to make up a new game/story every time they play and even after all these years, Playmobil is a gift that just keeps on giving.

The Playmobil Furnished School retails at £99.99 and would make a fantastic main Christmas gift this festive season!

Disclaimer: The items featured within this gift series have been sent in exchange for our honest thoughts. All opinions shared are honest and my own.

Tuesday, 3 December 2019

Zippos Circus at Hyde Park's Winter Wonderland

Hyde Park's Winter Wonderland 2019

We have been saying for years how we would love to go along to Winter Wonderland in London's Hyde Park, it's about a 2 hour journey for us so unfortunately it fell at the lower end of our festive to do list. 

Until this year...

Zippos Circus very kindly invited Luke, Leo and myself along to watch their brand new Christmas Circus which is currently running at (You guessed it!) Hyde Park's Winter Wonderland! 

On Sunday 24th November we awoke early, wrapped up in our Winter's finest and hopped in the car. A few hours later we were tubing it right into the heart of our Capital City and making the stroll through the scenic Hyde Park.

I can't believe how many times I have been to London and never ever gone to Hyde Park, it's beautiful and I discovered the Squirrels for the first time in my 30 years of life! The squirrels are so tame they will eat out of your hand and even sit on your lap! I was in absolute disbelief and couldn't help myself from calling the world and all of the squirrels to sit on me!

Hyde Park Squirrels

After our walk through a golden Hyde Park we found ourselves at the Winter Wonderland entrance, this is where Leo started to get super excited as I apparently neglected to tell him about all of the rides. We made our way straight to the big top tent to meet the team at Zippos and decided to come back for the 1pm showing.

My advice to anyone going to Winter Wonderland this festive season is go in the morning as it is most quiet then (many people wait for evenings so that all the lights are on), we didn't have to wait in lines much at all until later on in the day which was just fantastic!

Hyde Park's Winter Wonderland Ice Slide

Hyde Park's Winter Wonderland Ice Slide

Leo decided that he wanted to go on the ice slide first, so we had a great time watching him zooming down the slopes, and his massive smile spoke volumes for how much he was loving his day. I insisted that we needed to go and see the Magical Ice Kingdom who this year have put on an incredible display of Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol.

Hyde Park's Winter Wonderland Magical Ice Kingdom 2019

It's a very chilly -10 within those walls, but the displays are absolutely fantastic. Leo soon changed his mind from 'Ice is just something you put in your drink', to one of awe and wonder. He couldn't quite believe the detail that had gone into making all of the ice sculptures! He especially loved the ice slide that was hidden away!

Hyde Park's Winter Wonderland Magical Ice Kingdom 2019

Hyde Park's Winter Wonderland Magical Ice Kingdom 2019

Hyde Park's Winter Wonderland Magical Ice Kingdom 2019

Hyde Park's Winter Wonderland Magical Ice Kingdom 2019

After all of the fun of the morning it was time to grab something quick to eat (yes of course in the shape of a Bratwurst sausage in a bun!) and make our way to wait for Zippos Circus to commence. 

The big top is kept super warm so you will be able to take off all your your Winter attire (trust me you will need to!), all of the audience found their seats and then we sat in anticipation for the ringmaster Paul Winston to kick things off.

Hyde Park's Winter Wonderland Zippos Christmas Circus 2019

Emillion the circus funnyman soon joined our ringmaster to get everyone involved and between them had the entire audience laughing. Leo thought Emillion was brilliant and especially loved when he started throwing beach balls into the crowd so they could bop it back and forth between acts.

Hyde Park's Winter Wonderland Zippos Christmas Circus 2019

We saw some absolutely stunning and wonderful acts, and we definitely had our breath taken away on more than one occasion.

I couldn't pick just one favourite act as they all were absolutely wonderful so instead here's what to expect to see when you visit.

There is New Revolution who come all the way from Cuba, they are a rollerskating duo that you have to see to believe, the speeds they get and the positions they undertake will leave your head in a spin!

27 year old Rosie Delarue takes on the upside down aerial walk high up in the Megadome Big Top. The Gemini Sisters work together to perform acrobatics in mid air!

Hyde Park's Winter Wonderland Zippos Christmas Circus 2019

We were all on the edge of our seats for Khametov's High Wire Troupe as they went across the tight rope - Make sure you don't close your eyes as one artist stands on her ballet points on her fellow artists head to cross the tight rope!

Hyde Park's Winter Wonderland Zippos Christmas Circus 2019

We were all blown away by Zippos Christmas Circus (and definitely want to go and see one of their other shows very soon!)  the acts were marvelous and we all left with a real sense of Christmas Spirit.

If you are heading to Winter Wonderland this year, definitely book up Zippos Christmas Circus ahead of your visit to avoid disappointment, everything gets very busy (especially the closer to Christmas we get!).

Zippos Christmas Circus at Hyde Park's Winter Wonderland runs until 5th January 2020. Tickets should be pre-booked to avoid disappointment.

Disclaimer: We were invited along to Hyde Park Winter's Wonderland and provided with complimentary circus tickets and ride passes. All thoughts and opinions are completely honest and my own. 

Sunday, 3 November 2019

Life After Miscarriage

My Missing Peace - 7 Week Remembrance Heart

It's coming up to 14 weeks since I miscarried, it's ironic how fast that time has gone in comparison to how slowly those 7 weeks of being pregnant ticked by. 

I would be coming up 22 weeks pregnant now, I would have a little bump. 

I would know if we were having another little boy, or a little girl.

We would be getting everything ready, buying baby clothes and planning the birth.

I would have had those first flutters, first kicks and everyone else would be able to feel the movements by now.

We would all be so excited.

We would be throwing names back and forth, maybe we would even know what we were going to call him or her. 

The reality is life is going on as normal. No body mentions the baby or what would be happening now. 

It's almost as though that part of my story never existed.

I feel like I am over the bitter side of things now, more or less anyway. 

In those first weeks I was incredibly bitter and angry, I most certainly did not want to be around pregnant ladies and their blossoming bellies. Admittedly though I can't help but scroll past pregnancy announcements on Facebook... I have spent longer staring at the images announcing babies due in the same month as what I would have been... But I haven't been able to bring myself to hit 'like'.

I was invited to my friends baby shower in September... But I really didn't want to go. I did stay away because I was quite honestly not ready for that.

I am feeling OK about everything now, but not a day goes by where I don't think about what happened and what should be happening now. 

I go over and over that night on July 30th in my head on a daily basis. I can see all the blood and I can smell it too, the smell of loss.

I can remember every detail, and it just goes round and round on replay in my mind.

Just before I had the miscarriage, I got into bed and sat up as if to get out of bed. I had a sharp pain that went up my tummy. It didn't last long, and I didn't think anything of it, one minute it was there.... And then it was gone. 

Around that same time, possibly even the same night... I had a dream. A dream where I was told that my baby had no heartbeat. I remember waking up feeling gutted and shrugging it off telling myself that it was just a dream, that I was being silly and everything was OK. 

I am absolutely certain that this was my body's way of telling me that my baby was already gone. 

It wasn't until after the viability scan though that I put the pieces together. I am a sucker for always looking on the bright side. 

Mentally and physically though I have recovered well. My first period came and went 6 weeks after the actual miscarriage, and was no different to how it was before I fell pregnant. People had told me how bad that very first period post miscarriage was, but for me everything went back to normal. Just like everyone around me.

Just like nothing had ever happened.

I have finally got back into my fitness, back to regular training and dog walks. This has definitely helped the endorphins flow and seeing the old Laura start to shine through has been just what I needed.

With all of the uncertainty surrounding our house move, I held on to our little baby. I didn't want to bury our little one at the house I was renting because I knew that I wouldn't be there forever. At that point I didn't want to bury the baby in a flower pot because I thought that very soon we would be in our forever home. A home where I would be able to make a big gesture and make everything super special.

If you have read my recent post though, you will know that our forever home is not possible right now. Which may lead you to wonder... What did I do with my baby after the miscarriage?

Well this may shock you, and I am still indifferent to have I feel about it. At this very moment in time, my baby and the gestational sac is in a plastic container in my freezer. 

This might sound strange, but honestly this was all I could think to do at that moment in time. I wasn't ready to party with the baby, I needed some time. 

Now I know that we won't be moving somewhere that I can bury the baby within the grounds under a special tree... I am drawn to the idea of a special indoor plant with a beautiful pot. I am aware that keeping my baby in the freezer is far from ideal, and I have felt such guilt over knowing how cold it is... All I need to do now if find the perfect plant and a pot fitting for our little one.

I should be buying a pram and blankets for our baby, but instead I am wondering what the most fitting tribute would be to tuck them up for eternity would be.

If you have any ideas of plants that have pretty flowers and come back every year, I am all ears, please leave your suggestions in the comments below.

I have also been looking at ways I can visually remember our baby, some people get tattoos or jewellery... But that wasn't for me. I recently discovered My Missing Peace - a company who make stunning remembrance items (and I have quite honestly never seen anything like this!).

I was drawn to the Remembrance Hearts, you can have these custom made. There are so many different colours, and you can choose a baby to add to the heart for the gestation you were when you lost the baby.

A lady in a Miscarriage Group I am a part of on Facebook had one bought for her by her other half, and I thought it was amazing. I managed to find the website and found an item that was actually in the sale (The company is based in Australia) so if you have them custom made it can take quite a while to receive it, so by choosing an item that was already made, it means I will have it quicker as it just needs to be sent.

I opted for the 7 Week Remembrance Heart in Galaxy, and cost me £48.00 including the delivery (It would have been more if I had opted to custom make my heart) but for me this is worth every single penny. 

I wanted and needed something that I could look at and visualise, I should be buying the world for my baby right now, but this is all I can do.

People have actually dared to ask me when I think I might have another baby (even when they know what happened in July), the reality is that it took 3 years for me to fall pregnant with Pop, and I am 30 now... So who knows if another baby in the future will even be a reality for me.

They say lightning doesn't strike twice, but I am terrified that it could.

Thursday, 31 October 2019

A Tourettes Update

7 months ago Leo was diagnosed with Tourettes Syndrome, this was off the back of a particular tic that came into the equation just before Easter last April.

The squeal tic as it has come to be known in our house likes to materialise during periods of high anxiety for Leo. God I hate writing that my little boy suffers from anxiety, it really is something that i wish I could take away from him and make all OK. Unfortunately all I can do is be there for him, listen to him, advocate for him and help him navigate where we go from here.

As with everything in life, there is no magic potion that just fixes all of our problems and insecurities, but oh how I wish that there was.

Tic wise we had been doing incredibly well, the squeal tic that has materialised in April had faded to nothing over the course of a few months. Leo doesn't take medication, it was something that we decided wasn't essential at this stage (and I hate the idea of side effects), this was off the back of the diagnosis appointment.

We were pretty much tic free all over summer (apart from the usual motor tics that we just consider normality), but with the end of summer and the return to school on the horizon.... Leo's squeal tic came back for round 2, and it was more persistent and aggressive than ever before.

Leo's anxiety is based around his school life, he worries about the work expected of him and finds it difficult which in turn makes his anxiety heighten.

It's a vicious circle.

The week before Leo returned to school, we went to purchase his new school shoes for the coming term ahead. Leo chose the ones he wanted and we went on our merry way. That night after I read Leo his story and tucked him up into bed.... the squeal tic materialised. 

As soon as I heard it my heart sank. I knew he was feeling anxious about starting year 4 and unlike you and I....Leo can't contain that anxiety (and I keep telling him to just let those tics out, but due to the nature of the tic he gets very self conscious about them and attempts to hold them in).

With the return to school getting the closer, this particular tic kept getting more persistent. The squeals were relentless and always worse at night. On that first day back at school I discussed it with his new teacher (and thankfully she was already very aware about the Tourettes diagnosis), and at the end of the day I caught up with her again to be told that she hadn't heard the squeal tic at all that day...

That afternoon and into the evening, the tics kept coming and coming. They kept coming until he finally succumb to sleep. Which was well after 10pm that night despite having a relaxing lavender bath, story and being in bed fro 7pm!

Those first few weeks at school were horrendous, the squeals were constant, louder then ever and just kept coming one after another.

It was made even worse because he was holding the tics in at school, so when he came home and was in his safe place, the tics rolled out of him like someone had shaken up a bottle of Pepsi and then took off the lid. 

It is now November and the squeal tic is still here, it's been here for over 12 weeks. It has been varying in intensity over the last few weeks, and I was optimistic that we might be seeing a decrease in the severity of this particular tic, but over the last few days it seems to be heightening again. 

Although if you were to compare it to those first few weeks at school where I would certainly say it was charting a 10, it is now currently at more of a 6.

We popped to our local Aldi last night and Leo was ticcing as he went around. Yes he had some funny looks (as did I) but nobody said anything, and if they had dared I don't really think I would have been able to hold back. 

I am so fiercely protective of my boy, they would not have liked the response if they had dared tell me to make him stop.

It's the shop my brother works at, and he had already explained to a number of the people that he works with that Leo has Tourettes, so that made life a little easier. 

We have finally had our appointment through for Leo's first Paediatric appointment since the diagnosis, which I am really glad has come through. I was worrying that we had slipped through the cracks as the lady we saw for the diagnosis has now retired, but thankfully the letter arrived and we see the new Dr on November 19th.

I am still not ready to talk about medication, because I know that as soon as we can get Leo's anxiety back to a more realistic level.... We may very well see the demise of the squeal tic again. I do worry about every holiday that comes around now, because I know that with the return of school will come a wave of anxiety that we will ride for months at a time. 

That may very well be the reason that the tic is escalating more than it was because half term is almost up...

I have recently treated Leo to a aroma diffuser in his room that diffuses aroma therapy oils, and upgraded his night light to a bubble lamp, I am hoping that these small additions help to relax him.

 Another change we have implemented is a later bed time...I have done this because when I put him to bed at 7pm (like we always have) because he ends up staying awake later ticcing. If he stays awake later he is usually less ticcy and goes to sleep faster... and I like to think that the anxiety is less so he gets a better nights sleep.

If I am honest it is all trial and error at the moment, all I can do is continue to educate people about Tourettes and help Leo navigate his path. 

I will update again once we have had this next appointment, but I would like to try and get Leo in for some CBT (Cognitive Behaviour Therapy) as I feel this will help him focus his attention and maybe help him combat his tics into other avenues.

Regardless of Leo's Tourettes and Tics, I am so proud of the little boy he has become. He has been dealt a difficult hand but it never stops him, he has some great friends and his compassion for other people is incredible. 

Leo is a true superstar and I know that this too shall pass. He will come out the other of this, and I will be there to help him with whatever comes his way next.

Monday, 28 October 2019

Leasehold Fleecehold

Leasehold Fleecehold

The last month has been a busy one to say the least, at the start of October I gave notice on the house I was renting. We were supposed to be buying our forever home, Luke, Leo and I, but unfortunately we cannot sell the flat Luke owns.

It's taken us a while to get to the cause of the issues we have experienced in selling Luke's property, 12 whole months in fact, but finally we have got to the bottom of the root cause, and unfortunately it has made Luke a prisoner in the flat he purchased, a flat that is currently un-mortgage-able and not even an attractive deal for a cash buyer..


The leasehold. 
(Or should I say Fleecehold!?)

We have had a number of people attempt to purchase this property over the course of a year, at least 4 first time buyers with a mortgage, and 1 cash buyer. (So I guess it's good that people do want to buy flats in the long run!)

All the buyers who hoped to obtain a mortgage crashed and burned. Their mortgage offer in principal was absolutely fine, but as soon as they got to the underwriters for an official offer, it was a big fat no.

The first 3 buyers didn't really shed a lot of light on why this was happening, and the estate agents didn't have a clue. We had found what was going to be our family home, and time was ticking. The chain had collapsed each time a buyer pulled out and I can only imagine how annoying this must have been for the person we were buying off.

We discovered that the banks would not lend due to the ground rent of the lease being more than 0.1% of the property value. As it stands the ground rent is £500 per year, and this doubles every 25 years.

This condition paired with the £500 annual ground rent is the root of all of our problems trying to sell, and we are not alone in this feat.

When the last mortgage offer fell off the table, we put the flat back on the market as a cash only purchase. This is of course meant that we were going to take a substantial hit on what would be offered, but we were at the point where we needed to cut our losses and get on with our lives.

We accepted a cash offer, and we had found a new property (a beautiful Victorian terrace with so much space!), and everything progressed beautifully. We were so excited to be making plans, and we could really see ourselves living our best lives in this house. 

Then the stumbling block... The cash buyer had been advised by their solicitor that they should not proceed with the sale.


The lease. 

They advised the buyer that the 25 year doubling clause of the lease was in fact toxic.  

The buyer got scared and subsequently backed out, which of course meant that we had to pull from our sale (again, after spending more money on searches and what not for a second property!). All the while we were running two properties with all of our possessions packed in readiness to move house.

It was then I realised that in order to move on with our lives we needed to consolidate and stop forking out money on a house and a flat. I handed in my notice and have not long handed the keys back. It's been a month of cleaning and sorting everything but we our finally at the other end of the move. 

The boxes are un-packed and there is finally light at the end of the long, dark lease tunnel. 

Luke has sought legal advice, and there is a solution to our problem, but it is going to cost us an arm and a leg. 

We can apply for a statutory lease extension, this will add 90 years to the the lease (I believe that there are still 112 years on the lease at this point anyway), but by doing this it will take the ground rent down to a peppercorn rent (something very affordable ££) which will in turn make it mortgage-able again, and the 25 year doubling won't be as daunting anymore. 

I mean if the ground rent was taken to £50 per year, in 25 years it would only be £100. 

Sounds great eh? To make this happen thought we need to employ a solicitor and we need to do this formally. If we were to go directly to the lease holder they could potentially do something to variate the lease terms... But it would in fact be an informal agreement that could make our situation worse. I have read of people accepting informal agreements where the ground rent is reduced... but the doubling clause goes from 25 years to 10 years... or even 5!

This of course means it looks attractive in the here and now, but very quickly can get out of control and will put you in even more of a negative position.

So the plan is this...

Luke called a meeting with the property management who in turn invited the other owners of the flats, they brought a long a solicitor who deals with leases and is very clued up on what must happen next. 

We will employ a solicitor to do all the leg work, get a quote from the leasehold on how much a statutory lease extension will cost , we will plough ahead (it could easily take 12 months), and could cost anything from £10k right up to 25k! We won't know until we get the official quote...

Ironically we will have to pay not only our legal fees.... But also the legal fees of the leaseholder. For the lease company this is a massive payday. They know that there comes a point where flats will become un-mortgageable, and that people will have to throw thousands of £ in their direction. 

It is wrong.

It's crazy that this can even exist in modern day Britain, it doesn't sound like it should be legal, or even a reality, but there our thousands of people trapped in their homes due to their lease holders keeping them prisoner, unable to sell. 

Luke has been advised to seek legal advice in regards to the solicitor who took him through the sale of the flat in 2016, because there was never any emphasis or warning on the leasehold.

It has been said that he should never have been given a mortgage on the property in the first place...

Now with all of the media attention on new builds and the leaseholds that have been attached to them, there is a lot more negativity and attention on leases, and the solicitors and lenders in turn are being much more wary.

That is great for the people browsing the housing market, but not so great for the people who want to move and get on with their lives.

2018 ended amazingly, we were newly engaged, buying a dream house and we even found out we were pregnant in early summer. A month later the pregnancy has ended, the house has fallen through and we cannot sell the flat.

Subsequently there is no wedding planning due to all available money being saved to sort out the lease.

2019 has been full of bumps in the road, but were still smiling and making the most of a not so great situation.

Let's hope 2020 is a better year.   

Thursday, 12 September 2019

The Schleich Stable Review

Schleich Farm World Horse Stable Review

I have fond childhood memories of playing imaginative games with my younger brother. We had a whole selection of Schleich animals and a plastic sheet that had an entire wildlife scene imprinted upon it. From grass land to desert, there was a place for the array of animals that we had collected over the years.

Those very animals (and even that particular play sheet) are still at my parents house for the next generation to enjoy. 

I have always loved Schleich as a brand, the attention to detail that goes into the each individual item is just incredible, and I love that they are still going strong in 2019 for Leo to enjoy too. 

We have a whole selection of Schleich Dinosaurs on display in his bedroom, he’s had them since he was a toddler and Leo was overjoyed when we were asked if we would like to review the Schleich Horse Stable.

Schleich Farm World Horse Stable Review

Schleich Farm World Horse Stable Review

Granted I was probably more excited about reliving my youth, and when it came to the un-boxing and set up of our shiny new stable, I did marvel and swoon over all of the wonderful details that were embellished into this beautiful set.

The Horse Stable had to be built before it could be played with, but the instructions were easy to follow illustrations that were all numbered accordingly. Before I got started with the construction, I emptied the pieces out of their wrappers and lay them all in front of me.

There are a lot of really lovely additions to this particular set, and along with the selection of farm animals (listed below), you also get farmers Paul and Laura. Paul is all ready to do all the practical work (there’s carrots and hay so feeding the animals is a must!) around the farm (there’s even a horse brush and bath so the horses can be preened and polished!), and Laura is positioned so that she can ride either Horse of her choosing (and yes there is an actual saddle that you can attach to the horses so Laura can sit down!).

It took me around 30 minutes to build the stable, I got a little perplexed when it got to putting the roof on. It was tricky in the sense that I needed to line the roof up with the allocated slots and slot it in until it clicked into place, at the same time I had to keep the support beams I had placed in line too. We got there eventually, but if I had got my head around the whole roofing situation sooner, it would have been an even quicker set up.

Schleich Farm World Horse Stable Review

Schleich Farm World Horse Stable Review

There are stickers included within the instructions that can be stuck over the horses stables (so you can name them if you choose), and even a sticker for the feed station which highlights different meals for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

My advice would be to build this before your present it to the children, as they are going to be super eager to play with it (so if it’s a present, maybe build it the night before).

The stable comprises 2 Horse boxes, which is great as You also get 2 Horses in this set, 1 Black Shire Stallion and 1 White Mare (The White Horse has a French braid in its Mane!), and you will even find a few other little surprise animals inside:

3 Ducklings
1 Mouse
1 Kitten

Schleich Farm World Horse Stable Review

Schleich Farm World Horse Stable Review

The Stable is a brilliant set and comes with so many little bits that you would expect to find in a real life stable, and of course with Schleich’s attention to detail, it’s not been missed here! 

There is fencing that you can attach to any of the doorways that the horse has access too, so your little ones could even leave the horse grazing in greener pastures (or whatever their imagination decides!). 

One point I really have to add into this review is this, it’s not been marketed for a boy, or a girl. It’s completely neutral, which is really great. There was no ‘this is for girls’ coming from Leo because there wasn’t a shade of pink on the box what-so ever. Instead they have opted for Yellow’s, Greens and Red’s (keeping in theme with the stable itself). 

Over all we were really impressed with the Schleich Horse Stable, it really didn’t disappoint. The only thing I wish is that it was around when I was Leo’s age! I did keep saying over and over again how much I would have adored this as a kid. 

Schleich Farm World Horse Stable Review

Schleich Farm World Horse Stable Review

I loved all things horse as a girl (I actually recall saying that I was never going to learn to drive, I was going to have a real horse and that would be my form of transport. My Mum maintains that I was born in the wrong era!).

The set retails at £79.99, which for us equates to a main birthday gift or Christmas present. If your little ones love animals and make believe play, then this Schleich set will be a sure winner.

The price really does reflect just how much detail has gone into everything that is included, and it’s something that we will treasure and preserve for future children.