Monday, 26 August 2013

Back To School - Review

It's that time of year again, everyone is thinking of going back to school. We have a bit of a predicament this year as we still don't have a school for the girls to go to. I am forever hopeful that things will come together once we have moved house and I've been to see the schools myself. I already know that there will be places for Star and the Little Man has lots of nurseries to choose from. I just need to find a place for Boo but that hopefully won't take long (fingers tightly crossed)

I've normally got everything I need for the return to school by now but as things are so different this year I was so grateful to receive a whole parcel of back to school stuff from The West Orchards shopping center in Coventry.

West Orchards opened in Coventry City Center in 1991 and has over 40 retail outlets which offer a wide choice of both major high street names and independent outlets. They boast a food court with over 700 seats, and a big car park. They are open 7 days a week and are perfect for your one stop shopping experience.

For my back to school items I received a lovely pack of two kilt skirts from Debenhams. They are a great bargain at just £8 for the pack and fit Boo, aged 6 yrs, perfectly.

The blouses were a pack of two short sleeved from Marks and Spencers, at just £4 also a bargain.

Here is Boo, looking very nice. The clothes were a great fit and she was very happy with them. The skirts have adjustable waistbands too.



Star received a selection of bramble wood stationary from WH Smith. She recieved a Bramble Wood  Pencil Case (£8.99) which is filled with coloured pencils, felt tip pens, pen, pencil, ruler, rubber and pencil sharpener. She also received a Bramble Wood A4 Project Book (£4.79) and a Bramble Wood 12 part organiser (£5.59) A lovely design that she will be happy to use for her school projects.



Finally, the Little Man received a lovely Angry Birds lunch box (£6.99) and a matching aluminium sports bottle (£3.99) also from WH Smith.



So whatever you need for your back to school shopping it's always a bonus if you can get it all under one roof, with easy parking all the necessary facilities and even a wide range of places to grab some lunch.




Saturday, 24 August 2013

This is My Child, This is My Star

I am writing this post for the Mumsnet #Thisismychild campaign to raise awareness about the issues facing parents whose children have special needs, and myths about disabilities.

This is my child, This is Star.


It is her eighth birthday today and here she is stuffing her face with pizza. We had considered a birthday party for her but with her birthday being in the summer holidays she rarely gets anyone turn up anyway. We did send out invitations but only one friend replied. So we treated her to pizza and ice-cream at Pizza Hut and then a trip to the Build a Bear shop for a brand new bear. She said it was her best birthday ever.

I say that she doesn't have children turn up on her birthday because it's in the middle of the school holidays and that is probably true, but also probably true is that she doesn't really have friends. She finds it difficult to relate to her peers, she is immature and lacks social understanding. This is because last year she was diagnosed with high functioning autism. She can talk and walk and do most things other children can but she also does things that children her age don't do, like flap and spin, talk about things no-one really understands, makes noises, and almost always has something in her mouth, in the picture above it's pizza but usually it's her fingers or her clothing, or even her toes if she's lying down watching tv!

 She doesn't like flashing lights and cannot bear strong smells or some textures

She doesn't sleep properly, she gets upset at changes to routine, she has poor bowel control and finds it difficult to empathise with others. 

Sometimes she refuses to speak to people.

Sometimes you can't shut her up.

I don't know what the future holds for Star but she does have an older brother with similar symptoms and I know life hasn't been easy for him or me. At eight she is entering the realm of her peers realising she is different, if they haven't already.

As well as the autism Star also has Hypermobility Syndrome which means her joints are very flexible and cause her pain. She has suffered with joint pain since she was born, only we didn't know what it was at first. At one point the doctors thought it might be juvenile arthritis, but then she was diagnosed with hypermobility, and because of the pain hypermobility syndrome. She is now waiting to see if she has type three of the syndrome which is the genetic form. She has a lot of pointers so I think that she possible does have it. This could have further complications for her future.

Recently Star managed to damage her neck. One of the discs has rotated causing her neck to bend to one side. She was admitted to hospital but they had trouble finding a suitable cure at first but now we are going with a neck brace and regular physiotherapy. It could take months to be corrected. It could happen again in any of her joints.

Star is an amazing little girl, she is very rarely naughty, doesn't like making a mess and is able to occupy herself for long periods. She is very loving, although the cuddles and kisses have to be initiated by her, they do come sometimes. She is also very bright and can read and write with no problems and has a great imagination. She has a very logical way of thinking which can be both useful and a hindrance depending on the situation. 

She has a very special relationship with all her siblings (apart from the Little Man, who she has difficulty with probably because he is so young) She can be a bit bossy with Boo, her slightly younger sister, but they have a friendship that will see them through life. 






Friday, 23 August 2013

Ozeri Kitchen Scales Review

The very day my own kitchen scales gave up on me and started telling me the most enormous fibs of how much I was putting in their little bowl, I received an e-mail asking me if I'd like to review some gorgeous new kitchen scales.
Maybe it's because I like baking cakes, but I have to say, receiving these scales was incredibly exciting.
The Epicurean Digital Scales by Ozeri arrived well packaged and included their own batteries so I was ready to go as soon as I opened them. When you turn them on they say HI

They are incredibly easy to use. One button switches from grams to ounces, the other turns them on and resets them to zero, Tare. This is particularly useful when measuring things in the same bowl.
I did a little example to show you. First I put on the bowl and set the scales to zero, then I added and apple to see how much it weighed. Then I pressed tare to reset to zero and added a banana, so although you have the bowl, the apple and the banana, you can see accurately how much only the banana weighs.


So if you are making a cake, for instance, you can put in your butter, tare the scales and accurately add your sugar. Then when mixed with the eggs you can put them back on, tare the weight to zero and add your flour. This means just one bowl to weigh everything accurately = less washing up for you.

My first task with these scales was to bake a rainbow cake for my daughter's birthday. This means seven bowls of different coloured cake mix which all needs to be weighed out. The scales did the job lovely.



Before I've always bought scales that come with their own weighing bowl, I didn't realise how useful it would be to weigh my ingredients in whatever container I chose. The large glass disc on these scales is great for weighing solid items, but if you need a container or bowl you can use anything you choose which is easiest for you as this collage shows.



I really love these scales, they are so good looking they would look great in any kitchen. They are not huge so easy to tuck away, although I think I'll prefer to leave them on show than hide them. I love the shape and reflective surface and the glass plate is easy to remove for washing. 
They are really accurate and so easy to use, they way in oz and grams which is shown on a large LED display screen. The tare button is great for giving you the net weight of any ingredient added. The scales will tell you if you try to use them on an uneven surface which would affect their accuracy.
They switch off after two minutes of not being used to save on battery power.


At the time of writing this review you can buy these scales on Amazon for £19.95 which is a 50% discount on their normal retail price.

I received the Epicurean Digital Scales for the purpose of this review. All thoughts and opinions are my own, as is the cake, but I'm willing to share ;)

Monday, 19 August 2013

Making Animations with Hue Animation Studio

We were thrilled to be able to review the Hue Animation Studio and have a go at making our very own animations.


I have never made an animated film before and was a little worried that it might all be a little too technical, but Hue Animation Studio is designed for kids and it really is pretty easy to use.

Inside the box you get a a flexible HD camera and pod, a usb cable an installation disc (although you can install the software online pretty easily) a user guide, and a pack of coloured modelling clay. The cameras are available in six different colours, ours is green.



The software is easy to use. An older child would be able to figure it all out by themselves, I had to help my littlies with the oldest being just 7 years. She was able to work out the filming process but needed a little help with the editing. I'm sure she'll get used to it though.

The camera can be posed at many angles to get the desired view and you can adjust the focus on the lense. You need to take a number of pictures moving your object very slightly between each one (or more) depending on how fast you want them to move. The editing software allows you to adjust the timing between each frames, move frames, repeat frames and many more adjustments. You can also add music or record  over your animation and there is room for two tracks of audio. These can also be edited to match up to your animation.



I was really impressed with the amount of editing the software allows you to do, and it's really not difficult.

Here is the girls first attempt using the modelling clay. They wanted to go for a beach story and made all the figures themselves. I think it's pretty good for a first attempt.






The girls then decided to use their toy animals to make this next animation. At first they were not sure what to do and it is advisable to work out a story board before you begin. When they had finished their work reminded me of a certain dance so I chose the music which I think fits.





Once your animation is ready you can upload it to YouTube with one simple click. Then you can share it with your friends and family, or even on your blog :)

We are already working on our next animation, the girls think it's great fun and are learning a lot about how animation works.

You can find Hue Animation on Facebook and Twitter too.

We were given a copy of Hue Animation Studio for the purpose of this review, all thoughts and opinions are my own.

Thursday, 15 August 2013

Star and the Broken Neck

Star is hypermobile, she was diagnosed almost two years ago when we were having the pain in her knees investigated. We didn't really understand the full implications, or that there were several types of hypermobility. We have now been promised that she will have a full diagnosis of the type of hypermobility she does have and I'll post more about that when we learn more ourselves.

Almost two weeks ago Star woke up with a stiff neck. I thought it would pass, but it lasted all weekend. On the Monday morning I took her to the GP who didn't really know what was wrong. On Tuesday we went out for the day and her pain just got worse, by mid afternoon it was so bad I took her straight to Accident and Emergency. She was diagnosed with Torticollis and given some muscle relaxant to help. She was due back for a review two days later and because of a blood rash that had appeared she was taken for CT scan of her brain. It came back clear. We were told she would be back in for an MRI scan the next day which was Friday. Then we got a call to say they didn't think Star would cope with an MRI and would have a further CT scan on her neck on the following Monday.

Monday arrived and we spent five hours at the hospital, two and half waiting for the scan and two and a half waiting for the results. Only we didn't get the results because they hadn't been marked as urgent and we waited all that time only to be told they would call us the next day.

They didn't call us. I called them twice, only to be told they didn't have the results yet.

I took her back to the hospital the next morning and she was seen by a neurosurgeon who admitted her. Because of her hypermobility the joint in her neck had rotated and was misplaced, or dislocated. She was immediately fitted with a neck brace. This made her feel a little better and she was finally able to swallow properly. Up until this point, thirteen days in total, my little girl had been in agony and had been unable to eat or drink properly. If only she had been fitted with a collar on her first visit.

This morning we were told that she was going to be put on traction to try and pull her neck back into position. We waited all day, but I guess they will be doing it tomorrow now. I just hope and pray that they can fix her and will do it soon. I really can't bear to see her suffering any longer. It's her birthday next week and she really doesn't want to spend it in hospital.

Here is my little girl trying to enjoy her day while in pain.


This is her today, in her hospital bed but still smiling because she's been treated to two lovely new cuddly toys.



I'm praying hard for my little girl.

Update: 20th August. 
diagnosis:  rotary subluxation of mid atlanto occipital joint.
The consultant has decided against traction despite the hospital spending three days locating a traction bed for Star. It is a relief though, I'm sure she would have hated it. Next step is a further CT scan on Thursday to see if the Diazepam along with the collar and physio has made any difference. To date I can't see any improvement, but I figure a scan is the only way to see what is actually going on. Depending on the results the consultant will then decide on a further course of treatment. There has been talk of manipulation but I'm still undecided on how I feel about that. It's not something I'd like to happen and I've heard that it's not very successful. It may be possible for a complete recovery by using the collar alone, but it could be a long drawn out method. It's all pretty stressful. We have Star home at the moment until her scan. Sometimes she is ok, sometimes she's in pain, we are trying to keep in control of the pain and doing regular physio (which she hates, but if she stiffens up it will only make it worse) I'm scared that something is going to happen to her, a fall could be very dangerous and Star is incredibly clumsy. I just want to wrap her in cotton wool.


Sunday, 11 August 2013

The Little Man Turns Three

I'm a bit late with this as we are having a tough time at the moment with Star who is very poorly. I'll blog more about that when I am able. In the meantime, I'd like to dedicate this post to my Little Man who turned 3 years old last Friday.

Three years ago I went into hospital at 7am at exactly 40 weeks pregnant. My Little Man was born at 9.50am by elective c-section. He was feet first breach and my placenta was dangerously close to my cervix. So my last baby was to come into the world this way and give me a completely new experience of birth.

I knew he was a boy, I'd found out at my scan. We were really excited as the other two littlies were girls, so although my first born was a boy, this was Daddy's first son.

He gave us a very worrying first two years as he was really slow to develop, preferring to spend his days lying on his back with no attempts to get around. He didn't walk until he was nearly two years old and his speech was delayed too. Then suddenly, at around two and a half years he began catching up at an alarming rate. Now, you cannot tell he was behind, he runs, jumps, climbs, chats, counts, sings and recognises numbers and colours. In fact he's pretty bright for a three year old. He's completely toilet trained, both day and night (although he still wears night-time nappy pants, he rarely wets them)

He loves Peppa Pig and Team Omizoomi, music of all kinds and the see saw in our garden. He had a Toddlebike which he still loves but is fast growing out of so I bought him a balance bike for his birthday.

He still doesn't sleep through the night, but then I've had that with all my children so far so I know it will happen eventually (Soon I hope)

He is a loving, happy little man who is generous with his kisses and cuddles and will often tell me he loves me. He's also a little monster who can't be left alone for two minutes without causing a catastrophe. Give him a pen and he'll draw all over himself and he loves putting things 'away' either in the bin or the loo!

He loves playing with his big sister Boo and will join in role playing games willingly and cleverly.

He loves singing and dancing.

He is my Little Man who won't be so little for much longer, but he'll always be my baby. A complete surprise as we thought our family was finished, but so welcome.

For his birthday we couldn't do much because of his poorly sister (the original plan was to go to the sea-side) but he did have a birthday tea and I made him a Peppa Pig car cake.



On Saturday he had a little friend over to play and he was overjoyed in the many times we sang Happy Birthday to him. Today the congregation at church sang Happy Birthday to him and he positively beamed. So he may not have had a party or anything special, but I'm sure he's had a nice birthday weekend. He's happy anyway.

Here he is, Happy Birthday Little Man, love you loads xxx



I'd love you to link up with any special celebrations or cakes, please check out my party linky.


linking up with The Oliver's Madhouse Magic Moments Linky




Friday, 9 August 2013

A Day of Julia Donaldson part two - Room on the Broom

We went to visit A Squash and a Squeeze exhibition at Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, which is a celebration of the work of Julia Donaldson. You can read all about our day here.

After the exhibition we also went to see the play of Room on The Broom at Birmingham Town Hall.

Before the performance of Room on the Broom

As always we were not disappointed, the show was very entertaining. With four actors throughout and a few puppets the story was really brought to life in front of our eyes, mostly funny it was also a little scary. The littlies were a little scared at first by the witch but that soon passed as she was so nice and kind. When the dragon turned up they were not scared at all!

The interaction with the audience is always fun and the littlies love joining in whether it's clapping, singing or even spell casting! The songs were fun and had the littlies bobbing along. 

How the cat purred and how the witch 
grinned,
As they sat on their broomstick and flew through the
wind. 

The witch is on a quest to defeat a dragon but on the way manages to lose her hat, her wand and her bow, but she finds a daft dog, a friendly frog and beautiful bird. Sadly the broom can't carry them all and breaks and the witch ends up facing the dragon alone......or is she?

image courtesy of Town Hall Birmingham

For the purpose of this review we were given tickets to see Room on the Broom at Birmingham Town Hall which is showing until 11th August, then touring the country until the end of the year.
Please also see my review of A Squash and a Squeeze.



All thoughts and opinions are my own.



A Day Of Julia Donaldson part one- A Squash and a Squeeze

We were invited to view a lovely Julia Donaldson exhibition, A Squash and a Squeeze at Gas Hall at Birmingham museum and Art Gallery. Followed by a viewing of Room On The Broom at Birmingham Town Hall.

We had a wonderful day. We arrived at the exhibition nice and early and were first in which was nice because it soon became quite crowded. We spent two hours walking around and interacting with all the exhibits. All our Julia Donaldson favourites were there including the Gruffalo, Tiddler, Cave Baby and A Squash and a Squeeze to name a few.

In the central room there was a big tree to play in and a wonderful stage for the children to act out their own stories. There were lots of dressing up costumes and the girls really loved it there. I think I may have a couple of thespians on my hands. The Little Man was less interested in dressing up but did enjoy playing in with the music box, although I don't think he was supposed to pull all the buttons out, eek! (luckily, they easily pushed back in again, no damage done, phew! Little Monster)

The littlies loved the Squash and a Squeeze houses. One was empty except for a little furniture, the other was full of animals just like in the story. Star loved the cow on the table.


Another favourite, What the Lady Bird Heard. In this colourful corner there were lots of puzzles and toys.


Everyone loves the Gruffalo, although I have to admit it took my littlies a while to actually pick up the courage to go and stroke the huge Gruffalo, and I didn't get a photo of them with it because by the time they had grown used to it, it was constantly surrounded by other children. The Gruffalo corner was the biggest display with all the animals from the stories and a wonderful shadow area as you can see here demonstrated by Star. The Little Man loved the touchy-feely Gruffalo parts on the wall as well.


The Cave Baby corner was really popular too, the big boulders are made of polystyrene and the children could move them around to make their own caves. The big wall showed cave paintings appear as if by magic. 


Here the littlies are having lots of fun walking around the huge Superworm on the floor.


The Smartest Giant in Town is one of my favourite stories. The littlies had the opportunity to get creative with pictures and puzzles and then hang them on the wall.


The littlies loved riding on the whale from The Whale and the Snail.


There were dressing up costumes everywhere, meet a princess and Zog the dragon.


Then of course they had to do a little acting on the stage.


I'll leave you with a photo of the tree!



The Squash and a Squeeze exhibition can be seen at Birmingham Museum Gas Hall until 3rd November 2013.
We were given tickets to the event for the purpose of this review. We were also given tickets to see Room on the Broom at Birmingham Town Hall and you can read my review here.
All thoughts and opinions (and littlies) are my own.









Friday, 2 August 2013

Update on the School Situation

You may remember a little while back that I was thinking about new schools for my children as we are soon moving house. Well, after contacting the schools I found that they were all pretty much full up! So I went further afield, something I didn't really want to do as it would involve public transport, but again, it was difficult to find places. Ironically, the closest school does have places for Star and the Little Man but not Boo, so it looks like it will be my first choice. As far as Boo is concerned, none of the eleven schools I have tried so far have places for her. By law she will be provided with a place which could possibly be a couple of bus journey's away, and a different school to her siblings.

Another spanner in the works is the fact that come September the LEA are changing things so that the schools themselves handle all applicants for school places. This means things could be even more difficult as they will be thinking about their schools not about the child. It could be a lot more difficult to get places.

After speaking to someone at Schools and Admissions I have been advised to submit my application forms to them so they can get them over to the schools before September and we will be on the waiting list. The problem is, I have until 20th August to do this with proof of my new address. Just to complicate things even more, we've just heard that the contractors will not be handing over the house until the 2nd of September. This is the third date we've been given so far so it could even be later.

So, what do I do?

I will submit my forms with my new address and if they require proof try and delay them. Hopefully, it won't be an immediate request and we might just be in the house in time.

I'm going to put both girls down for the nearest schools and hope that we will be near the top of the list for Boo as we are very close to the schools and her sibling will be there (hopefully)

I will choose the other school that had a place for Star and then pick the next nearest which had no places at all. Then I guess it will be a complete lottery if we get any places at all.

If it comes down to applying for schools in September then I will have the backing of the girl's current/previous headmaster who has offered to speak to the schools on my behalf.

So, while most parents are out buying new uniforms for their children to go back to school I'm feeling lost. I don't even have a school for my girls and everything seems all down to chance. As a person who likes order and control in my life it's driving me insane.

Home schooling as been suggested to me and to be honest I'd love to give it a try, but I don't have the backing of the family. The Dad will not even hear of it and Eldest Daughter thinks it would be a big mistake. I know from experience that home schooling is not easy, so without the family backing me I don't think it's an option.

At present my biggest nightmare would be having to accept a school place miles away. I don't mind walking if it's near enough but I've tried every school in walking distance without any luck. On my current budget I'm not even sure I could afford the bus fare.

Actually that is not my biggest nightmare, that would be having the girls in different schools miles apart, and then the Little Man in a different nursery.

The whole situation is currently a nightmare and I just want to wake up and know what is going to happen in September.
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