Wednesday, 12 July 2017

A New Found Confidence

6 years old

Leo is now 6, and you can really see just how grown up he has become. I have found myself at a crossroads in terms of what I can share online, of course I will continue to share his journey, but when I post things now I have to sit back and consider if Leo would want me to share it, would what I write or the video I post embarrass him?

As with anything I think it is very important to be careful with what you do post online, you just need to read about the Dark Side of Mummy Blogging over on the Daily Mail to see why...

It's for this very reason that I unfortunately cannot share the video of Leo dancing like a champ to Despacito (but I will be saving it for his 18th Birthday!). In all the years of being Leo's Mother, I have never seen him move the way he does in that video, and I slyly managed to point the camera in his direction and get some rather beautiful footage, but I know that he would hate me to publish this, and it is for this very reason that I won't be.

That's something that has really progressed this year, and that is Leo's confidence. I have been amazed to watch him singing and dancing in his school assembly and then the Nativity play over the festive period, and that has just continued to blossom.

There was a point that Leo would have just stood there and not taken part, and that is what makes this video of Leo singing and dancing to Despacito so special. When I showed it to his Granny and Dad, neither of them could believe it, his Dad even rang me up from work to ask me how on earth I had captured such a display!

This confidence is pushing Leo to try new things all of the time, his swimming lessons are coming along beautifully, he's given Taekwondo a try and he even wants to get on a Football team and take part in football tournaments over the summer holiday. 

This year at school has been a changing point for Leo, and I genuinely believe that it is his fabulous teacher who has been the pivotal factor in this. She has been incredible, kind, firm and fair. She has focused on what Leo can do, and not what he can't. She has given him time, supported him , and been an incredibly positive factor in his life. 

In return I have seen Leo progress and start to enjoy learning. His reading is coming along all of the time and just last week he smashed a spelling test on the numbers One through to Five, and he only got 1 of those wrong. If you had seen how hard we practiced for this test, you would have witnessed how difficult Leo found it, you would have seen me writing in Leo's spelling book, that despite how hard we had tried, it had been a real struggle. 

So when his book came home again that night, I honestly didn't expect to find such positive news, but there it was. The practice had gone in, even if I didn't think it had. 

Leo is still delayed (whether it is classes as global development delay, I don't know), and the delay is about 12 months at this stage, but when the school report came out I couldn't help but beam with pride. Leo's teacher had wrote some absolutely lovely words, she spoke of how he was a credit to his Dad and I, how she has enjoyed teaching him and how he is always happy and well behaved. 

It is these qualities that I focus on, so even though he is not where all of the other children are, for me the absolute gold of that report is that Leo is a well liked, polite and happy little boy. I don't think his teacher will realise just how proud reading that report made me, and I cannot thank her enough for the time and patience she has had with Leo this year.

I will be sad to see Leo moving out of her class as I genuinely believe that it is because of her that Leo has made such good progress this year, and she was the perfect teacher for him, giving him everything he needed in the school environment. 

I know he will definitely miss her too.

I am excited to watch this confidence and desire to try new things develop, and I am so very much looking forward to the summer holiday's with my clever, little man.

Things to think about before committing to a puppy

Things to think about before getting a puppy

This time next month, I will have had Lux for an entire 12 months. 1 whole year.

Seriously though, what year it has been. 

Has it been easy?

Has it been hard?
In a word....YES.

Has it been stressful?

Has it been eye opening?
Hell yes.

Would I ever have another puppy?
Erm, no.

But has it been worth it?
Yes, it's been so worth it. It's been a complete eye opener, but the love little Lux conveys for his humans, and the bond that we all have with him has made everything else so worth it.

I am going to be sharing some of my personal highlights over this last year, but if they aren't enough to make you really consider 'is a puppy right for our family', then maybe these 10 points to consider before getting a puppy will help...

Although it was rather funny when Leo and Lux accidently went viral earlier this year. If you missed them, check Lux out over on the Daily Mail, and you may recognise them both from this video...

Puppies are hard work, they will push buttons you didn't even know you had. They will eat your shoes, socks, underwear (come to think of it there isn't much that they won't eat.), they will even eat your walls and make holes in your laminate flooring (Karndean Flooring is the way to go, forget about carpet...)

They will be excited, out of the box excited. You will meet people you didn't anticipate in meeting (mainly because the puppy has dragged you through the field and over the fence to get to them, Note: wear comfortable shoes). They will take things and run away just to get your attention (and then after you have done 10 laps of the garden, they will chew it up just to spite you). 

Things to think about before getting a puppy

In those early days (and then some) you can bet your bottom dollar that they will use your house as a toilet. All the puppy pads in the world cannot help you, they will just go wherever they feel like going... 

The puppy phase (which is still a thing at 13 months for us....) is hard. You will need wine, you will need thick skin and you will need patience. Lots and lots of patience. 

Granted Lux is getting better, it's taken time but with each week and month that passes, we are slowly and tentatively making progress. Although if you were to ask the poor man who had Lux for us while we were on holiday, he might tell you something completely different. He could not wait to give Lux back to us, and even attempted to bring him back a day early (while we were still out of the country!), but settled for the very first thing in the morning...(we are talking before 9am, and originally he wasn't due home until the afternoon!).

Things to think about before getting a puppy

When I describe Lux there are Two endearing terms I like to use. He is the original Asbo Pup and he is also the real life Marley, the naughtiest dog in the world. It's true, this puppy once tried to steal a mince pie from an unsuspecting elderly lady at a Christmas market in the Cotswolds, and it quite honestly seems like his actual goal in life is to humiliate/destroy me.

Let me count the ways Lux has put his life goal into action...

1. He cocked his leg on the coffee table when we went to visit the dog board for the first time...

2. He tried to dominate another dog's face....(need I say more?)

3. He did a number 2 as he walked  through town that was beyond picking up... It needed scrubbing. So guess who had to come back with hot water and a scrubber? Yes. Me,

4. We were walking up a hill through the nature reserve at the back of my parents house. Lux saw another dog, went back down the hill taking me with him. It was a case of hold on to the dog for dear life so that he doesn't run to the dog...Or smash my face into the tree. I opted to let go of the lead, leaving the man and the dog at the bottom of the slope in disbelief, he didn't believe that my family home was at the top of the hill and quite obviously thought I was dodgy...

5.  He once chewed my phone to the point that the screen was nothing but colorful lines... Yes I had to upgrade early.

6. One time I walked into the kitchen and found him in bed with £300 of cash... Thankfully I got in there before the shredding had commenced (Luke doesn't leave his wallet on the work surface anymore...)

7. He once pooped on Leo's pillow...

8. He once ate my sisters Biology coursework... The dog really did eat her homework.

9. He once ran away from Luke on a walk and decided to go swimming in the marsh... it took him an hour (and my help...) to get him back.

10. He made a hole in our laminate floor, so I taped down a mat (which he later ripped up and destroyed as I watched and protested over his pet cam). I walked around B&M Bargains like a mad lady shouting at her phone.... I haven't dared go back in since...

Still want a puppy?

How to use natural light to your advantage

How to use natural light to your advantage

I live in a new build home, and as of August we will have been here for a year. The time has really flown by and even now 11 months later, I haven't managed to get everything I wanted to get done, done since the move. In honesty it took me a long time to find my feet again after the move, and the boxes seemed to be never ending!

I have never really been very good at envisioning on where to put furniture and what not, so when we started to unload the moving truck I sort of just threw furniture where I thought it should go... Now I have been here a while I am starting to revisit the idea of where things should actually go...

There are some gorgeous houses on the development, my favourite is the 3 story town house. A girl can dream right? These houses are the type that I would love to be able to purchase one day, I have had a peak through the windows into the spacious rooms on the ground floor, and the kitchen's are just perfection, I recall just standing there planning where I would put all of my kitchen gadgets.

The master bedroom is on the third floor with it's own en-suite bathroom, a few years ago we looked at a similar house and I fell in love with that bedroom. They have the most gorgeous contemporary roof lanterns that allow all of the natural light to come pouring in, and it masks everything in a gorgeous golden glow.

How to use natural light to your advantage

My own bedroom doesn't have near enough as much natural light as I would like, boasting one double window and one small dungeon window which can be highly irritating, especially on really gloomy days when the natural light is scarce.

I have had to think of different ways in which I can make the most out of the natural light that does come into my home.

How to use natural light to your advantage

- Mirrors are my number one go to, they of course reflect the natural light your already getting, which in turn bounces it around your home. I have one wall in my lounge that really needs a large mirror on it, as this would then brighten up the whole room, while also making the room appear larger as it will reflect the opposite side of the room.

- Light colour scheme - You will notice that my home features a light colour selection, I choose to keep the walls rather plain and add texture and colour into the furnishings. By doing so the light colour scheme reflects the natural light.

- Hard floor - When I moved in I really wanted to have a hard floor on the ground floor, this was primarily because of the dog, but I knew that it would help me in my bid for natural light (this would have been great in the hallway). I think at some point this is something that I am going to have to action.

Over the last few days I have been playing around with where I want my furniture, I started in the living room and managed to make the room feel less cluttered, and now I am focusing my attention upstairs. I spoke recently about how I want to give Leo's room a complete overhaul, starting with his high rise bed (which makes the room feel quite dark), and as for my room, I just need to adjust where the mirror currently is and move my vanity table so that it sits directly in the natural lighting.

I will be sure to report back with how the finished looks come along...

Leave your top tips on making the most of natural light below!

How to Improve Your Flat Roof

How to Improve Your Flat Roof

Whether you like your flat roof or not, you may have never realised it's full potential before. If you have a flat roof then you have a rather fantastic opportunity, and that opportunity alluminium roof lanterns otherwise known as sky lights.

Installing roof lights have a fantastic range of benefits that you might not have thought of:

They are energy efficient 
Natural light cannot be beaten, and it's FREE, which means you can make the most of the daylight hours and use less energy. During the Winter months you can utilise the time that the light sticks around, but in the summer months imagine never having to turn the lights on!? 

They save money
This goes without saying, if you are not needing to use your energy as much... You will save money! 

They provide ventilation 
An electric venting skylight produces a “passive air conditioner.” when it is open Through the chimney or exhaust effect they create, the warm air is drawn up through the venting skylight, providing a cooling effect and fresh air throughout the house.

They provide privacy
The new build home I live in pretty much means very little privacy. Everyone's windows look out over other people's gardens, or look into other people's homes. Sky lights mean that you get that essential natural light while at the same time keeping your privacy intact. You can look straight up and see nothing but sky (this is also great in an evening too if you want to look up at the stars).

A sky light means that you don't look out and see people, and they can't look in and see you. 

They promote good health and make you feel happy
Nobody likes a dark dingy room, which is what makes sky lights so clever and sought after. They let all of the natural light in effortlessly and there are many health benefits that come from exposure to light. It promotes Vitamin D production that is absolutely vital for good bone and muscle health.

Not to mention that it helps us regulate our sleep cycles and strengthens our immune systems!

I have always loved sky lights myself, more for the aesthetics than the energy efficiency. I love the light that cascades into the room, and I love the idea of peering up at the night sky while I am in bed. They would also be amazing at night in the summer to allow the breeze to wash over you as you drift off to sleep.

If roof lanterns aren't your ideal solution, then maybe you like the sound of the CoeLux's Fake Skylight?

I would love to get sky lights installed in my bedroom, but I can't see this being an option for a few years at least, one day though this would be something that I would be over the moon about doing. 

Tuesday, 11 July 2017

Creating extra space in the family home

Creating extra space in the family home

Yesterday I decided that I was going to give the living room a bit of a shuffle round, I have spoken before about the set up I have in this particular room. It is where the family comes together to relax at the end of a busy day, and it is also my personal work space.

The large corner sofa that sits proudly in this area acts as a sort of room divider, it breaks up the area between work and play, which allows me to nestle my desk in the corner of the room so that I can have a professional space to get everything I need to get done, done.

Creating extra space in the family home

The only problem with this setup is that I miss out on the opportunity to have a proper dining area. The living room is a nice size, and it was made that way so that you can fit a dining table where my desk is situated. I had to make the decision to either have an office space, or a place where we can sit down as a family.

I needed the space for my work, but I also needed somewhere that we could sit down and enjoy a meal. I have got around this by having a breakfast bar in the kitchen, it only seats Two people at any one given time though, so although it provides a solution to a necessity for the most part, it would be so nice to have that little area where we could have a full size dining table and have everyone sit down together.

I come from a big family (you may have even seen us featured in the Guardian a few years ago!), we have always had that luxury of being able to sit down at the big family table to have a meal, and that is something that I do miss...

I have been thinking about solutions that could potentially provide a solution to this, and suddenly I found myself on Google looking up self build conservatories. I don't have a huge garden, but I would have enough room to put something like this in, which would in theory give me an additional room. A room big enough to become a eating area with a full size dining table.

I would lose out on my patio, but in the grand scheme of things I think this would be a lot better. It would give me the perfect excuse to overhaul the entire garden. If I was to go ahead with the conservatorie idea then I could pull up the entire lawn.

Creating extra space in the family home
Excuse the state of my windows, Lux (AKA the puppy) likes to put his muddy paws up them DAILY.

I haven't gone crazy, this is something that I have been pondering for a while. Having a dog means that I am constantly having to put down grass seed, because whenever he pees, he's destroying my lawn. I have even thought about astro turf, but I think the best option would be to pave the entire back garden, because this would work beautifully over the summer months when you want to get outside and have a BBQ.

No lawn to cut (which I cannot do right now because the lawn mower packed up over the weekend!), no more stressing about the dog burning the lawn, no more playing hunt the poop (which is especially fun when the lawn has grown considerably). 

I wouldn't really miss that small green space in the garden if I am honest, I love pretty flowers and plants, and it would make a lovely courtyard area with lots of potted plants. You could still get your green fix, even if the lawn isn't there anymore. 

What I would gain out of having an additional room far outweighs the sacrifice of the lawn, a conservatory, a place to sit down as a family and still being able to keep my office space would be rather amazing. 

It is certainly something that I am going to have to give some more thought, but the more I think about it...The more I am itching to make a start!

Friday, 7 July 2017

The ideal car for a dog?

good car for a dog

I have been thinking about getting a new car for a while now, and with the addition of our spotty dog Lux, the practicality of keeping a Mini Convertible seemed slim to none. Imagine if you will, one rather large Dalmatian, riding around in luxury on my leather seats, if you have ever driven a Mini yourself, you will appreciate that the back seats and front seats are almost one and the same, which for me meant that Lux would occasionally seize the opportunity to lay one massive kiss on my face (not ideal when A. it is completely unexpected, and B. you are trying your darndest to not crash....).

These realisations pretty much sealed my little Mini's fate, and it dawned on me that for the first time in my life I actually needed a 'grown up' car. My mind started pondering what that meant, I didn't want anything too big... But at the same time I needed the additional space, and that really only left me with an estate as an option. Along with the space factor, I wanted something that was economic and cheap to run, something that had little to no road tax (after the Mini crippled me at £305 a year!).

Mini Cooper S Convertible

That's when I discovered the Skoda Fabia Estate and found a rather good deal for one not to far from me. The Skoda is only a 1.2 engine (where as the Mini was a 1.6 Turbo Cooper S!), it cosrs absolutely nothing in road tax each year and I have discovered that a full tank is under £50 (and let me tell you that it can go for miles upon miles with its Diesel consumption!).

Along with the money saving aspects of this car, I have also gained the space I need for that rather hefty puppy of mine (no more face licks as I cruise along...). Lux is now confined to the boot of the car and kept there thanks to the dog guard I purchased.

I am currently in the process of dog proofing my entire car. I want to get a boot liner so that if we take Lux out for a walk and he get's filthy, it won't matter so much when we have to get him back in the car, and not to mention how much Lux sheds, Dalmatian dog hair is always falling out, and it can be rather difficult to clean up (it took me HOURS and a whole roll of sellotape to rid the Mini of dog hair...), so I am thinking of getting seat covers as well even though Lux won't be in the main part of the car (dog hair finds it's way EVERYWHERE).

I have found some great Pets At Home Discount Cards over on Voucher Slug that I am going to be making the most of, because it's going to cost me a pretty penny to kit the car out with everything that I need to Lux proof it.

Dalmatian Puppy

I may have lost a substantial amount of power with my car upgrade (I can tell you that picking it up and driving it around was a shock to the system when I was putting the pedal to the floor and only just managing to find the speed to overtake cars!), but I am really pleased with just how practical my little estate is, and it's just in time for Summer!

I cannot wait to pack the pup and Leo into the car and just taking a drive to the beach with them both. I want to try and find a dog friendly holiday within the UK over the Summer break, it will be so lovely to go away as an entire family (this of course includes Lux), make some memories and explore the treasures hidden within England.

Thursday, 6 July 2017

Young and Old Fun in

Video games have evolved drastically during the past few decades. When my husband and I were young, we played some of the first arcade games—you know, six-foot-tall gaming machines in actual arcades. Those seemingly ancient devices provided countless hours of fun. Then, at-home gaming consoles swept the market. Now, our children can play high-tech games on any PC, tablet, or mobile phone. is one of the newest free-to-play games, and my review is below.
International Competition is one of many .io titles that feature online multiplayer action. There is no one-player mode, so all gamers must be connected to the Web. Currently, there are over 15,000 people enjoying, so there’s no shortage of competition. Anyone can join the game within seconds, as no sign-up or registration is necessary. Thus, we don’t have to worry about our children sharing any personal information or linking social media accounts to the game.

No Graphic Violence
In, players compete to own the entire board. Each character looks like a blockheaded snake. Players slink across the board and capture pieces to grow their base. In lieu of weapons, snakes can “bite” each other’s tails to attack. is free of bloody violence, and it’s suitable for all ages. The graphics are bright, colorful, and kid-friendly.

Colors and Skins
Each player is assigned a random color at the beginning of their game. The color palette is very pleasing, featuring nice shades of red, blue, purple, green, and yellow. No two players look exactly alike, since each one has their own unique hue. These colors are also displayed in the leaderboard, so it’s easy to see who is winning. also includes unlockable skins. These designs are based on famous characters, such as Nyan Cat (an Internet meme), Freddy Fazbear (Five Nights at Freddy’s), and the Minions (Despicable Me). Each skin features a unique head and pattern for the character’s base. Younger children might favor these designs, since they add a fun flair to the game arena.
How to Win has a low barrier to entry. Absolutely anyone can join a game and compete instantly. Developing a winning strategy from scratch could take a while, so I offer a few tips to share with your children.

First, staying close to base is an excellent defensive strategy. No one can attack you within your base. Plus, you can fortify your base by adding one layer at a time. If you’re patient and don’t stray too far, you will be hard to beat.
Second, attack easy targets only. Some players get involved in scuffles that are simply impossible to win. If you only go after long enemy tails, you can knock out the competition rather easily.
Third, don’t focus on the leaderboard too much. If you take your eye off the board for just a second, you could become too vulnerable. Stick to the first two strategies, and you’ll top the leaderboard in due time.

Now that you know how to win, get involved in the family-friendly fun of!

Wednesday, 5 July 2017

Leo Turns SIX

Sixth Birthday Haul


It doesn't matter what you do, time is going to pass. 

Days, weeks, months and subsequently years too.

The reason I started blogging all of those years ago was to capture those fleeting moments in time, the kind that appear before your eyes if only for a split second, and then disappear as quickly as they surfaced. 

Over the last 6 years that is what I have done, I have shared our journey, Leo's story. If you are reading this then the chances are that you have seen Leo blossom into the beautiful boy he is today.  

On the 27th June 2017, Leo turned SIX years old, and in that 6 years, my baby boy has grown up. He has become kind, caring and thoughtful, and he has become someone that I am incredibly proud of. His wicked sense of humour never ceases to put a smile on my face, and his cheeky smile that beams out through his glassy blue eyes is enough to make anyones day.

So when Leo's birthday came around again, I wanted him to have a very special day. Leo didn't ask for a lot, in fact if you asked him he simply said he didn't know, but I already knew what the perfect gift would be.

Sixth Birthday

Leo loves computer games, if he has some spare time then there is nothing he loves more than getting lost in a Minecraft world or embarking on a race against Luigi in Mario Kart 8 on his Nintendo Wii U. That little console has served him well, but it has started to fail him over the last few months, so Daddy and I decided that the absolute perfect gift would be to treat him to the brand new Nintendo Switch.

It's no secret that I love preparing for Leo's birthday, and I get a real buzz out of seeing just how excited he is for the big day. This year he was counting down the sleeps from at least 17 days before... Everyday we had to tick off another sleep on the calendar, and then suddenly it was the eve of Leo's special day...

I always remember the 26th June with fondness, because it was on this day that I was in the early stages of labour (even if I didn't know it yet!), and I can remember the day like it was yesterday. It was a super hot day, and my ankles were so happy they decided to swell up to the size of balloons. It was a Sunday, a week before my due date and I was supposed to be heading into work the very next day...Obviously this didn't happen because that Leo was waiting around for nobody.

Leo's birthday eve is not spent pacing around the house in a bid to get comfortable (because you couldn't sit down) anymore, it is making sure everything is ready for the Birthday boy when he wakes up in the morning, making sure that he knows just how proud we are of him.

Sixth Birthday Haul 

Leo's big day falls on a school day so I decided to get up extra early and make sure that everything was ready for him when he came downstairs. Daddy and I had set the new Switch up the night before so that he could have a quick go before he had to head out of the door for school.

I sent him off to school with his brand new Minecraft Creeper Backpack from Noisy Sauce (so we had to promptly take everything out of his old school bag!), and of course with a big Birthday badge and armed with cupcakes for all of his school friends.

Minecraft Creeper Backpack from Noisy Sauce

After school we all went out for a Birthday dinner at Frankie and Benny's before we went back to Granny's to light his Minecraft Cake! 

Minecraft Birthday Cake

Minecraft Birthday Cake

I couldn't resist purchasing relighting candles for the cake this year (it's also the first year I cheated and didn't make the cake! *INSERT HORRIFIED LOOKS HERE*, and I couldn't help chuckling as each time Leo blew out the candles, they all relit again. Daddy was in charge of recording at this point, and apparently he neglected to hit *REC*, as when I came to edit this footage... it wasn't there!

I should probably mention here that Daddy also got Leo his very first motorbike. It's one of those small petrol ones, so now we need to purchase a helmet and other safety bits and find a suitable field for Luke to teach him how to ride. I expect this will come in a future blog/vlog.

For now though, he is a snippet of Leo's special day.

Wednesday, 28 June 2017

Unsure on what foods to eat during pregnancy? - Use this checklist to help you with your dieting plan

foods to eat during pregnancy?

It’s important for every woman to consider her diet closely during this precious time. It can be common for women to feel quite overwhelmed about which food they can and cannot eat during pregnancy.

Hartmann Direct, specialists in providing healthcare products, explores what types of food women should aim to consume whilst they are expecting to make up and healthy and balanced diet. Consider as many of the foods from this list as possible to ensure you get a great level of varied nutrition in your diet:

1. Starchy foods (carbs)

Starchy foods are an essential source of energy. Many also provide a mix of essential vitamins and fibre. They'll keep you filled with substance without being overly rich and packed with calorie overdoses. Ideal foods within this category include breads, potato, rice, pasta and oats. These foods should make up around 30% of your diet.

2. Fresh fruit and vegetables

Fruits and vegetable play a vital role in digestion as they contain fibre and almost all varieties are a fantastic source of vitamins. Get a good selection of different fruits and vegetables into your diet to help fight constipation and varying deficiencies.

3. Protein from meat and fish

You should aim to take in sensible amounts of protein daily from lean meats and eggs. Make sure you’ve removed excess natural fat and try not to use too much oil in the cooking process. It’s a good idea to have fish at least twice a week but avoid shark, swordfish or marlin. Salmon and mackerel are great examples of healthy oily fish that provide a good amount of omega 3, which is important for maintaining a healthy brain.

4. Calcium and dairy

Dairy products supply a great deal of calcium which is vital for bone growth and combating harmful deficiencies. Milk, cheese and yogurts make up the bulk of easily accessible calcium rich dairy foods. It's important not to overdo it as these foods are often very high in fat. If you are trying to refrain from eating dairy products, then it’s best to aim for alternatives that are calcium fortified and do not contain sweeteners.

5.  Have healthy snacks instead of sugary options

When hunger strikes, it can be very tempting to reach for convenient snacks that are filled with fats and sugars. Foods like biscuits, cakes, fizzy flavoured soft drinks and sweets like chocolate are all packed with high amounts of sugar. Not only is sugar bad for the condition of your teeth, sugary diets are a leading cause of weight gain and diabetes. Instead of sugary products you should try and incorporate healthier snacks into your day to day routine. Here are few ideas you can try:

       A bowl of salad with lean ham and a small amount of grated cheese.
       A plain bread or pita sandwich with tuna, salmon or chicken filling.
       Sticks of carrot, celery, or cucumber with hummus.
       Plain yoghurt with fresh or canned fruit. Keep an eye out for the sugar contents in canned fruit with cyrups. High sugar content should always be a concern.
       Apricots, figs, dates, and prunes make great alternatives to convenience sweets as they are easy to eat but are also packed with natural sugars and high levels of fibre.
       Soups made from vegetables or beans. Beans are a great substitute for meats in various meals, as they offer a great savory flavor, dense texture and are crammed with fibre.
       Porridge is a good breakfast that releases energy slowly and keeps you full for longer than sugary simple carb cereals. Mix porridge with fresh fruit and nuts to add sweetness and crunch.
       Tropical fruits like pineapple and mango are bursting with very strong sweetness. Have chunks of them on their own or add them to dishes instead of refined sugars. 
       Baked potatoes are very quick and easy to prepare in the microwave. They are very filling and pretty much go with anything. Have a baked potato instead of chips, crisps and other high fat options.

By getting a regular supply of the key food groups above you’ll be doing everything possible to ensure your pregnancy diet is well in line with optimum levels of health and nutrition.

This post was written by Hartmann Direct, experts in health care and incontinence solutions. If you think we’ve left anything out, please feel free to let us know in the comments below!

Top 10 ways to revamp your garden on a budget

revamp your garden on a budget

Not everyone can afford to spend a lot of money on their garden, but they may still want to make some improvements and freshen it up. Here are ten useful tips from Rattan Direct, specialists in natural garden and patio furniture. With a little inventiveness, startling changes can be made.
Plants can grow in all sorts of containers providing they are nourished and can drain properly. Being inventive means that what you use could become a focal point in the garden. Think about what you have lying around, teapots work well, even an old bicycle if it has a wicker basket. You can always paint them up brightly.

Why not spray paint various slabs using paper templates that are cheap to buy, or even use a doily. You will need to protect the tiles with sealer, and they may only last a year, but as they weather they will look interesting, You could also paint random slabs different colours to make a geometric pattern.
Removing a stump and its roots can be a time consuming and very difficult job. Why not just leave it there, and add a natural wood top or even clear tough glass. It would make an excellent garden table.
No garden is complete without a garden feature involving water. It does not have to be big or expensive. A black plastic bowl sunk into the ground, or two waterproof attractive pots, some tubing and a fish tank pump, plus some gravel around the edge, is all you need.
Raising a bed above the natural ground level always looks interesting. Using a few wood beams, you can fill the interior with small branches, and all the natural garden clear-out material.
Feeders for butterflies and hanging baskets for birds are easy to construct from natural materials. Make chimes from old painted keys or spoons. Put a couple of half hidden largish mirrors amongst the vegetation, they will add a fantasy effect to the overall impression. Cut some pallet boards down to small planks, and use them to form little pathways through connecting areas. Leave them settled on the soil not firmly fixed, it will make weeding easier.
Give a secret garden feel to your plot. Flexible metal rods are easy to find from any metal fabricator. Bend them to the required shape. Bed in quick growing plants, or buy well established climbing roses. Fake flowers are never a good feature.
Line your pathways with solar lights. They are now very affordable and self-generating, as long as you don’t live in the land of the midnight sun. Strings of fairy lights would work, but unless arranged creatively tend to look a bit cheap.
We may use our gardens to grow vegetables, or to raise wonderful flowers. It may be a place for the kids to play, or just somewhere to sit after a busy day. Give yourself a couple of spots were you feel the most relaxed and build some natural furniture out of what you can scrounge. There are some amazing designs built from old pallets, not only benches and tables, but even swinging beds. The rule is to try to make it as comfortable as possible; after all you may spend some time there.
There are plenty of very good gardeners for hire, but unless you cannot do it yourself, it will cost you. Rates per hour may not be high, and you may think they are reasonable, but it takes a long time, and then constant supervision to keep a garden maintained. It is one thing to have great plans, but quite another to put them into fruition. If you are fit and healthy and love being out there for long hours, then maybe it would not be impossible to make major changes. Otherwise consider how you could improve what you have, without a lot of labour. Large areas need larger plants to fill them. Think about Shade tolerant varieties. Ferns are good for cover and perennial seasonal groupings work well for the money.

This helpful information is provided by Rattan Direct, provider of garden furniture solutions. Our gardens are an important part of our personal environment. A pleasant garden can provide much joy and relaxation, even if sometimes it demands hard work.

Wednesday, 21 June 2017

The Umbrella Pathway Referral

EHCP and Umbrella Referral

This is something that has been a long time coming. 

The Umbrella Pathway Referral.

It's something that I feel that I have had to really fight for, really stamp my feet for and very almost throw my toys out of the pram for. 

Finally Leo is going to be seen and assessed by a team of people.

 They will be able to look at Leo's needs and they will be able to tell us if there is an official diagnosis for why Leo struggles academically. 

Before I go into this latest update, I wanted to re-cap on just how far we have come, the hurdles we have had to clear and the frustrations we have faced.

Below is the series of posts I have written about our journey over the years, I would give an account right here off the top of my head, but these posts say it all, and in a way that I don't think I could re-capture if I tried, because all of these posts were composed in the wake of events in real time, so the emotions and thoughts captured are completely raw.

EHCP and Umbrella Referral

What is The Umbrella Pathway Referral? 
The Umbrella Pathway Referral is a Neuro-developmental assessment that helps to assess, manage and care for children and young people who present signs for developmental delays and disorders. 

The pathway provides an entry point (the initial referral), an assessment process, a diagnostic process and management plans with support once a diagnosis has been provided at the end of the assessment process. 

The Umbrella team is made up of:
- Paediatricians 
- Clinical Psychologists
- Child Psychologists
- Educational Psychologists 
- Speech and Language Therapists 
- Occupational Therapists 
- Integrated Specalist Support Services 

How to Refer
 - GPs 
- Health Visitors
- School Nurses 
- Community Paediatricians 
- CAMHS Professionals 
-Speech and Language Therapists 
-Occupational Therapists 
-Local Authority Specialist Teachers (ISSS Service) 
-Educational Psychologists 

This is where it starts to get interesting, especially if you have read the above posts, because you will have seen how many times I talked about getting a pediatrician referral. The Health Visitor at Leo's 2 and a half year assessment put it off in the first instance. She failed to follow up, I was going to book a Doctor's appointment but the Health Visitor said she would re-visit with Leo (a year later than she was supposed to) and if a referral was needed, then she would do it. 

Guess what? 

She REFUSED to refer him.  

Since 2014 Leo has been under the care of Speech and Language (Right up to December 2016 when he was discharged), why didn't they make the referral? 

It seems that despite concerns from all over the board, the health visitors original report, nursery, school,  I have had to really push to get a referral.

EHCP and Umbrella Referral

A GP Umbrella Pathway Referral 
This brings me up to Friday 16th June when I pulled Leo from school and took him to the doctor's surgery, where I had booked an appointment with our GP. I gave a very brief overview of where we were at now and handed over the latest Educational Psychologist report along with the Learning Support Report I had received very recently.

I had seen my GP about Leo's development before, at that point I was told to give him time... and I did just that. I guess part me just hoped that it wouldn't actually come to the referral and Leo would catch up before it was essential. Yet here we were back in her office, and I had told myself that this time I would not be fobbed off. This time I was going to be walking out of that door with the referral in place.

The GP said that this referral should really come from the school, she said that it was a faffy process to go through at the surgery. Of course by now I couldn't care how faffy it was for anybody, I just wanted it done. 

So I posed the question 'but can you do it!?' To which she replied 'Yes, I can but it would be better coming from the school as they have more evidence and know Leo.'

In the next breath I asked her to do it, because the school had pointed me in the GP's direction, and again it felt like the book was being passed. No one wanted to be the person to refer Leo. Why it all has to be such a battle I will never know, why people want to keep seeing me banging my head against a brick wall is beyond me. 

I had come prepared with up to date evidence and had more PDF's  ready to go on my phone if they were needed. The doctor made a call and had a lady prepare the forms for me to sign. I went along to the waiting area and signed those forms there and then, I handed over the evidence I had brought along with me and the referral was made.

Both the GP and the lady who walked me through the application process commented on how lovely Leo was, how well behaved he is and told me that it was obviously not a behavioural issue, and that's precisely it. Leo is golden, his behaviour is impeccable and I cannot fault him, he's one of the most caring little people that I know (and that's not just because I am biased).

It was just the other month that I went along to a meeting in regards to the EHCP (Education, Health, Care Plan) process, Leo had come out in a rash on that day so I couldn't send him to school. Instead he came along with me to this meeting, where he sat patiently for 2 and a half hours (there might have been a number of biscuits and the use of my phone) while this meeting took place, and he was incredible. In fact everyone else in attendance said so.

The Umbrella Pathway Referral and the EHCP
I am hoping that this referral will go hand in hand with the EHCP application that is currently ongoing. I am hoping that the assessment within the Umbrella Referral will give us answers and enable me to cater more support to Leo and his education. 

The EHCP evidence will all be submitted in the Autumn Term (some point in September 2017). Leo will be a Year 2 by this point and the developmental gap widens yet again. I need all of this to happen so that I can set Leo up to succeed in wake of the health visitor setting him up to fail. 

The health visitor was supposed to be the pillar I could rely on, the pillar that Leo could rely on, but when she dropped like a domino she caused a ripple effect that has continued to fall until there was nothing left standing. 

No support, no guidance.

It was just the blind leading the blind.

Going through a similar experience?
The best advice I can give anyone who is in the position I was in, or continues to be in, is look at your options. If you aren't being provided with any support or you have no idea what the next step should be, this could be a good starting point:

- Speak to nursery/early learning environment about concerns. If your child is still under the care of the Health Visitor arrange a meeting between the nursery and HV so that they can liaise with each other and come up with the best strategy moving forward. 

- Don't be afraid to chase people - Keep phoning/emailing until you get the result you need.

- Speak with school SEN teacher about how they are catering to your child's needs and what they could be doing, mention an EHCP and see what they think.

- Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP) This involves a process of gathering information from the relevant people or agencies, including the views, interests and aspirations of the parents and child or young person. The needs assessment will help to determine whether additional provisions need to be made through an EHCP. These plans replace statements of SEN and Learning Difficulty Assessments (LDAs) for children and young people with the most complex needs, from birth up to the age 25. 

If like me this has never been recommended to you, you can apply for it yourself if you have copies of the evidence to demonstrate that it is necessary. You would need to notify the school of the application as they will need to collect and provide the additional evidence. 

You can find out more about your local EHCP offering by visiting your local Council Education Department for your area. If you put 'Council Education Department' into Google followed by where you live, you should be pointed to the right place, and the EHCP's usually fall under the SEN (Special Educational Need's) category. 

I will be doing a post all about EHCP's in the coming weeks.

- Push a Pediatrician Referral Through -  If you have concerns, or people involved in the education of your child are highlighting concerns, you can do this yourself. Book a doctor's appointment, go armed with all the evidence you can carry and insist that they make the referral.

I just wish I had stamped my feet a long time ago, I have always been afraid to nag or stand on anyone's toes, but the reality is that keeping on top of people and sometimes going over their heads is the only way to move forward. 

I will be sharing a post all about EHCP's in the coming weeks, and I will put as much information as I can to try and help you with your own applications. 

At the end of the day we just have to keep fighting the good fight, and provide our little people with everything they need so that they can achieve the very best of their abilities.