Shopkins Real Littles Vending Machine

The world of collectable toys are huge with kids at the moment and my gang are no exception, they love the element of a surprise toy and LOVE to fill my house with little bits of toys EVERYWHERE. So as I am a glutton for punishment and I love to stand on these little toys I, of course, said yes when I was offered the chance for them to take a look at the Shopkins Real Littles Vending Machine.

real little shopkins vending machine pack
Shopkins Real Littles are now in a vending machine, you can find and collect mini packs and Shopkins that are real brands from the supermarket. You can stock the shelves with some of your favourite brands from the freezer department & confectionary aisles. Open up the iconic new vending style package and discover 8 Real Littles Mini Packs and 8 Shopkins. You can see 12 on display in the vending machine and there are 4 surprises hidden inside that make your collection of 16. You will find popsicles, ice cream snacks, crisps, ready meals, frozen meals, slushies and more! Look out for Limited Edition Shiver Shopkins and the Special Edition Slush Puppie in the pack and with over 40 to collect your kiddos are definitely going to be asking for more!
opening the blind bags
So the best bit for my gang is finding out what the surprise toys in the pack are, so Spud got straight to it opening the 4 blind bags we got in the bottom of the vending machine box. We got 2 Shopkins and 2 of the boxes that the Shopkins belong to. He loved the vending machine style of the box, it reminds him of his holidays and the vending machine he was obsessed with in the hotel LOL
I was quite impressed with how well made and how detailed the packaging is and  I liked the fact that it wasn't just little rubber toys. All of the 8 Shopkins match up to the packing and actually fit inside!! Parent bonus points for me as it's less for me to have to tidy away or step in when they leave it all lying around and refuse to pick it up.
The Shopkins themselves are colourful and eye-catching and they are a welcome addition to our already bulging collection of Shopkins. The kids definitely prefer these ones though as they come with the corresponding boxes.
My kiddos love to go through their haul and mark them off on the collector guide and see what they have compared to what they need. This range is particularly extensive thanks to the different categories breakfast, dessert, snacks and then your subsections ice cream, crisps, frozen meals and slushies, the whole of the supermarket is available.
We have loved having a look at these new season 14 Shopkins and they fit in great with our current collection. That's what I love about Shopkins they won't lose interest as new ones are being brought out for their haul. Available to buy in Smyths Toys, Amazon and other good toy shops with prices starting from £11.99.
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A - Z Of Autism - B Is For....

So if you read last weeks A is For then you will know what all of this is about, if not here is a little recap. I'm a Mum of 3 autistic children and way back 13 years ago when my eldest was diagnosed I really struggled to find real-life info about autism. So here we have the A to Z of autism, I'm not a Doctor or health care professionals, these are just some words on what autism means for us. Each fortnight is the next letter of the alphabet, do head over and check out A (highlighted above) and let's get on with B!


My boys are so clumsy and seriously lack balance and coordination, Neither have been diagnosed nor tested but I strongly suspect that they have dyspraxia, it's often a sideline diagnosis for some on the spectrum. Dj is going to be tested for it after Christmas, they struggle with buttons, zip, hopping, kicking a ball and riding a bike etc. 

Another balance for me is to do with life personally, I have 3 kiddos on the spectrum and they all have such different needs, trying to balance these needs is sometimes a struggle. I have one who stims loudly accompanying one who likes silence! Its a balancing act and one that occasionally tips over. I am extremely lucky that our house has been adapted to allow all 4 of the children to have their own room, this is so important in allowing balance and harmony in our household, everyone needs their own space.


You will often hear autism is more prevalent in boys and I think I have to agree. I know so many more boys then I do girls on the spectrum, but for me, I think its because girls present differently to boys. I know my girl certainly did, I have 1 child who goes to a specialist school and it is very boy heavy lol. 


This is broad covering word, ASD children have many types of behaviours and the list is quite substantial if I list all of my 3 kiddos behaviours!! We have found with some behaviours that we have to discourage them and provide an alternative. I will go into this more as we go through the alphabet on specific behaviours.


There is much debate on whether autism is there from birth, it is noticed around the 18-month mark as the left and right side of the brain merge over the central cortex of the brain. It's something that many people will argue for and against. I actually took part in a study with my none autistic child when he was a baby a the Birbeck University in London. This consisted of us watching a video with him and his reaction being filmed. Some videos were of facial expressions, cartoons, tv programmes and just shapes on a screen. I was recorded interacting with him, reading with him and playing games. We went 3 times in total between the ages of 6 and 24 months.

For me, I believe it is around from birth, especially if I compare my 3 ASD children to my non-ASD child. L was a very serious baby, he didn't enjoy being tickled, always had to be swaddled, startled at the slightest noise and was quite a grumpy baby in general. He was happiest at home in his own surroundings.


I have had my fair share of battles and I'm not one to moan, but it's so unfair that you have to battle for every little thing my ASD kiddos need. I think it is very much a postcode/area lottery as I know many places in the country are so much better equipped. But everything in my area is waiting lists, ticking boxes, having to prove your need. I have just won my latest and hopefully last battle for a few years. I have been battling for an EHCP for DJ for the last 4 years and I finally got one last week! More on that in an upcoming blog post.

Can you relate to any of my B's? Would there be any that you would add to the list, see you in a fortnight for C

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A-Z Of Autism - A is For....

As promised here is the first in a fortnightly posting of the A to Z of Autism, as a Mum of 3 children on the spectrum, I found it hard to find real information when my littles were diagnosed. The internet is a raft of scary info, some not always correct or just set up to scare you. I wrote on a blog a few years ago and the A-Z of autism posts were extremely popular. So now that blog has long gone I decided it was time to reprise the series and start again. It worth me pointing out I am not a doctor or health professional, this is just me as a Mum telling you some of the things I have experienced. So let's go, some posts may be short as there won't be many words!! 


Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a condition that affects social interaction, communication, interests and behaviour. In children with ASD, the symptoms are present before three years of age, although a diagnosis can sometimes be made after the age of three. I have 2 children diagnosed with classic autism.


Asperger syndrome is a form of autism, which is a lifelong disability that affects how a person makes sense of the world, processes information and relates to other people. Autism is often described as a 'spectrum disorder' because the condition affects people in many different ways and to varying degrees. I have 1 child with a diagnosis of Asperger's.


This can come hand in hand for some people with autism, 1 of my boys suffers particularly badly with anxiety and it's all-consuming for him and affects all aspects of his life. We try to keep a handle on his anxiety by watching for his triggers. The last thing we need is an anxiety attack as these lead to massive meltdowns. Anxiety can affect an autistic person physically and psychologically, the main triggers for anxiety for us is sensory processing, school expectations and social interactions. We try to limit these as much as possible to prevent an anxiety attack, but life is unavoidable and we cant always prevent it.


I have always been careful to encourage my children to partake in the real world. I am mindful to not push them too much to do things they find uncomfortable. I did this as I didn't want them to refuse to go outside in the real world. Several people of the spectrum develop agoraphobia as the idea of going outside is too much for them to bear, so staying inside where they feel safe is the better option. I learnt very quickly about this after my firstborn was diagnosed. If he didn't like a situation, for example, the supermarket I just wouldn't take him again as I didn't want to distress him. This made doing everyday tasks very difficult. So for my other children, I slowly introduced more things that made them uncomfortable in small doses, the results are that they are happy to go to most places now.


I have a lot of experience with aggression from my 3 and this can be triggered by all kinds of things. Frustration, temper tantrums, anger, upset the list is endless. This is obviously something we try to avoid but sometimes sits inevitable that the pot will boil over. The boys tend to be shouters if they are angry/aggressive, they are very rarely hands-on and push or shove or break things if they are angry. My daughter, on the other hand, is a whirlwind, she will hit, bite, spit, scream at the top of her lungs and break anything she can get her hands on, She has been know to turn her room upside down when in a rage and she's still only 12. As I said we try to avoid these incidents. we live in a mostly autistic household so we run things with military precision for ease.


Some people presume when someone has autism they lack ability, this is seldom true. My tribe have bags of ability in all different areas of their life. Their ability astounds me, Miss S has an amazing memory and can recall things I have no recollection of! This does have a downside though LOL, never tell her something that you aren't going to follow through on!! Mr L has a fantastic ability for drawing, although he doesn't share it with the world.

Do you have any experiment with autism? Do you have any A's to add into the mix? If you like to look of this series make sure you give us a follow on social media to keep up to date with our new posts. The next post will be up in 2 weeks and will be obviously B is For.....

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The A-Z of Autism

a to z of autism
When my first child was diagnosed with autism 13 years ago the first thing I did was searched the internet for answers. I wanted to know what kind of life he would have, how autism would affect him, would he be happy, the internet is a varied place and I found little of use. Way back when I wrote over on my old blog I wrote a series called The A-Z Of Autism, each month was a letter of the alphabet and a list of words associated with that letter, for example, A is for Anxiety, I then gave a brief description of how that word meant to us as an autism family. 

It was 5 years ago when I wrote the last so I am sure there will be plenty of new words! There is a new letter each fortnight, so the entire alphabet will take a year to complete. I hope it will become a useful resource for newly diagnosed looking for answers, parents who have been diagnosed for a while and looking for familiarity, a resource for all. 

So before we begin lets starts with what is autism? If you google it will tell you: Autism is a complex, lifelong developmental disability that appears during childhood. It impacts social skills, communication skills and emotional skills. 

Children with autism often present with restricted, rigid and even obsessive behaviours. These can be surrounding their activities or interests. You may find they have an obsessive attachment to a specific object, these can be unusual also, such as a teaspoon as one of my 3 became attached too. They may also have repetitive body movements such as hand flapping, rocking or kicking. The important thing to remember is this list is not exhaustive, and if you have met one person with autism, you have met just one person with autism, as they are all so wonderfully different. In our house, we have 1 adult and 3 children on the spectrum and they all have their own unique quirks!

For us we noticed early on with L that he was different, he hated to be tickled, was a serious child yet also wise beyond his years! He started nursery at 18 months and it became obvious he was different, the diagnosis process was started and he got his diagnosis aged 3. Our 2nd to be diagnosed was Pops, she was developing well and was way ahead of her milestones. Just after her 1st birthday, it appeared someone shut a switch off and she went backwards overnight, she stopped speaking, walking and sleeping! I recognised some traits similar to her brother and informed my health visitor. She brushed me off and told me I was being neurotic and looking for something that wasn't there. She refused to refer us as she was only 2. I ended up taking Pops along to one of L's CAHM's appointments, L's Doctor immediately saw what I did and Pops was diagnosed within 5 months. For Dj he struggled all the way through primary, my advice is to get the help aligned while they are young if you can. Both L and Pops were diagnosed before school, once in school, it all comes about money and paperwork. Dj never settled in school, found friendships difficult, had little attention span and ended up being presumed to have ADHD. We went through the CAHM's process and he was diagnosed with Aspergers when he was 9.

I suppose my above ramble is a little off-piste in regards to the A-Z of autism, but it helps a little with our story. I suppose what I want to say is you know YOUR child and if you think something is wrong go with it.

Every 2nd Monday I will post an A-Z of Autism post and hopefully it will help you understand a little about the wonderful world of autism.
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Life After Lock Down

I'll be honest, its been a while, its been since June in fact!! Lockdown hit us hard as a family. School is a massive part of our family routine with 3 of the children being autistic, so having school moved from the equation had a huge impact. In all honestly, the last thing I felt like doing is writing for the blog, besides I didn't have time too!! Who knew homeschooling was all-consuming, I take my hat off to all you homeschoolers, I know I wouldn't be able to do it full time. If you saw my previous post Business As Usual you will know that communication from 1 of the children's school left a lot to be desired! Spud is very much looking forward to going back to school and seeing his classmates. 

As a family, we are really looking forward to getting back to some new kind of normal in September. Its 10 days till the kiddos go back and I am more than ready and so are they. I know a lot of people are apprehensive about the kiddies going back, but it is just what we all need. Dave has worked all the way through lockdown so we are going to be no more at risk of catching it than we were before. He works for a supermarket chain, so we have had no escape from the potential threat of COVID-19.

I can't say I have been out much since lockdown was enforced and then relaxed slightly. I still get my food shop delivered to our home, only go out if I really need to. I find it strange going out and having to wear a mask! Benefits of mask-wearing it hides my double chin that seems to have gone bigger during lockdown!! Another problem to solve when the kids return to school, LOL famous last words!! I find the whole mask situation frustrating, I wear mine for protection but so many others don't and don't even get me started on those who wear them hanging off their ears or around their chins!! If you are going to wear it, wear it!

Myself and Dave were supposed to go to Majorca on August 17th to celebrate my birthday and have our annual 5-day respite from caring for the kids. Although our flights with both Easyjet and Ryanair were still operational, we couldn't go. Just 2 weeks before we were due to go the rules changed and it meant we would have to quarantine for 14 days on return, not a problem for me, but Dave wouldn't have been able to take 14 days off work. In the end we went away for 3 nights to Blackpool, which was an eye-opener! I just couldn't get my head around some of the rules in place. For instance, Coral Island does track and trace, take your temperature and insist you wear a mask, but once inside virtually no one was wearing a mask, there was zero social distancing and I didn't once see anyone cleaning the machines! To be fair to them they were the only arcade on the seafront enforcing any of these rules. The others had signs but absolutely nobody enforcing them at all. We gave them a wide birth after the first visit. 

I was really impressed with the Blackpool Tower Circus set up. You have to wear masks throughout apart from when you are eating and drinking. The queuing system included the 2-metre distancing. Once inside you are shown to your seats, the row behind and in front of you is empty and there are 3 empty chairs between you and any other family on your row. It felt really safe and comfortable. I absolutely love the circus and I did notice some difference to the show, no singing and no in audience participation. But we still really enjoyed the show and will be back again with the children in the autumn. 

We also visited Weatherspoons, they are doing track and trace, face coverings arent required at all which I found strange. All other food and drink places we visited required masks unless you were seated. They were quite strict on you being seated though and I noticed a few people with children struggling to keep them contained to their table. They prefer you to use the app for ordering, but do have a bar service available if you don't use the app. Our bed and breakfast was excellent also, our room was cleaned and sealed prior to our arrival and we were given a table number for breakfast. If we needed anything we just had to let them know and they left it outside of our room door for us. We had a great break, a little odd compared to our usual visits but it's now a new norm I guess that we will all get used to.

It's just 10 days till the kids go back to school, L has his college enrollment telephone call tomorrow, he will be doing 70% of his course online and 30% in small groups for the time being. He is really looking forward to starting and experiencing a college environment. I will do an update post on the kiddos schooling in a few weeks and cover the measures that are currently in place to keep them COVID safe. 

Stay Safe Mandy

Fathers Day Gift Guide 2020

fathers day gift guide
With Fathers Day being just around the corner I thought it was time to get the gift guide published. This guide contains some items you can pick up with your weekly shop for essentials and some items that are available to purchase online and will be here in time for the day. The perfect mix for the current situation as the world slowly starts getting back into some kind of normal routine.
sugru tech kit
For the techy Dad, whether he’s a tech nerd, a crafting wizard or a master hacker - he’ll be blown away by the 101 ways in which Sugru can be used to fix and improve pretty much anything around the house. Once described as ‘play-dough for adults’ this is what DIY should be - easy and fun. A high tech mouldable glue that sticks to most materials and turns into a strong flexible rubber overnight, Sugru is used by dads in over 175 countries. Each Sugru kit comes with four single use packs of Sugru, a dinky storage tin and a booklet with step by step guides for over 15 inspirational DIY projects. Normally priced at £11.99, grab yours between 8th and 21st June to enjoy a 20% discount exclusively at
zippo hand heater
For the always busy Dad, the Zippo Heatbank 9s, rrp £34.99 is a portable charger for any USB device that also doubles up as a rechargeable hand warmer. With 9 hours-worth of battery life, it’s perfect for taking with you on any hikes to ensure you stay connected or even along to a socially distant picnic, to hook up a set of portable speakers to. It charges USB compatible devices including; mobile phones, Mp3 players, tablets, cameras, etc. Dual sided heat up to 120°F / 50°C operating temperature with  6 heat settings for adjustable and comfortable warmth.
taylors pop art
For the arty Dad how about having one of his favourite pictures reimagined in a funky way? Taylors digital portraits over on Etsy offer this fab service. If you send her any photo she will be able to create a custom portrait for you! It comes as a PDF download only, if you want a physical print please visit her shop for other options! With the high-quality digital PDF, you will be able to make your own prints in any size, use them for cards, save the dates, invitations, and Christmas cards. She can also help you choose which size and paper quality are best when you decide to print it! Prices from just £6.17.
panda cove sunglasses
For the sporty Dad, or just if he need some new sunnies for this glorious weather we've had, check out these fab sunglasses Cove Sunglasses from Panda Optics, rrp £54. The Cove polarised sunglasses are a wide frame lifestyle design with the two options colour options, orange or black. With their unique C-Hinge technology, the metal C shape tension in the hinges keeps your arms responsive and rigid for 5x longer than regular hinges. They offer 100% UV protection and have fully polarised lenses with a blue mirrored effect. The frame is lightweight thermoplastic material with enhanced durability and flexibility, which makes the frames particularly comfortable around ears. They are very cool looking and I know Dave will love them. He rides his bike to work and always struggles with the glare off the road so these will be ideal for him.
For the new Dad! Sudocrem have just launched their new Personalised My Little Sudocrem portal online at . You choose the name, design, even a gift box and Sudocrem will do the rest. From the makers of Britain’s favourite nappy cream, Dad’s Little Sudocrem, rrp £5.99 can be used for a variety of things. Whether it’s to soothe dry patches of skin, an annoying spot, shaving irritation, or even dry hands from too much hand sanitiser! Whatever the need is, this little pot of soothing magic cream, made especially for dads, is practical and personal.
STABILO art supplies
For the arty Dad you cant go wrong with some supplies from STABILO a name we are all familiar with. The woody 3 in 1, rrp £14.47 are ideal for drawing on window. Why not write a loving Fathers day message on his window. The pen 68 are in some bright funky colours and what I love is that the fibre tips don't dry out for the inevitable time the kiddos get hold of your pens and leave the lids scattered everywhere!! The pencil crayons go on like pencil and dry like a watercolour, the effect is beautiful. All 3 items are available from the STABILO shop along with all your other arty supplies.
Teeth whitening kit
For the Dad who likes to do a bit of manscaping and cares about the way he looks how about the teeth whitening kits from Man Behind the Mirror? 
The Teeth Whitening Kit, £49.95 includes a bespoke mouth guard and tray, LED emitting activation light, and a month’s supply of our highly effective Teeth Whitening Gel. To maintain your whitened smile, they recommend you subscribe to receive new Gel Refill Kit each month whihc is just £14.95. You can see results after just 10 minutes use with the highly effective gel and UV light.

I still have a few items on the way so I will add them as they arrive! I hope this has provided some gift inspiration for you.
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Whats New Scoob?

Can you believe that Scooby Doo has been gracing our screens for 50 years!! It's a show I remember watching with my siblings, then my own children. Its been amazing seeing the change in the animation for the cartoon version, then watching the actual film version with the kids. This year the Scooby Doo franchise is back with a brand new animated movie launched in America, it's heading to the UK too, I'll let you know as soon as there is a date. To support that movie Character Options has launched a fab new Scooby Doo toy line!
scooby doo toys
The line up has 6 different items available for your avid Scoob fan and they are all at really great prices. We have been sent 2 of these to take a look at, the Mystery Machine and the action figure multi-pack. Also in the range is the Scoob twin pack of action figures, Scoob Mystery Mansion, Plush Scoob figures and the awesome super-stretch Scoob which I know Cody would love!
scooby doo mystrey machine
The Scoob Mystery Machine retails at just £20 which is a great price for a toy that starts as a functional vehicle and opens out into a cool playset. It has all the markings of the mystery machine and has space for up to 6 figures to sit in the vehicle. The mystery machine comes with a poseable Shaggy figure because there is no Scoob without his sidekick is there? The roof of the mystery machine is packed full of equipment to help the gang on their mystery solving missions. The vehicle has moving wheels so can be easily pushed around for some imaginative play. I like that you can fit all 6 of your action figures in the vehicle, it is well made of sturdy plastic and there are no loose parts. The vehicle is suitable from ages 3 and up, so perfect for your younger Scoob fans in the family.
mystery machine side view
mystery machine front view
To accompany the mystery machine and enhance our play opportunity we were also sent the Scoob action figure multi pack rrp £10! Again a great price, I bet you can't show me another 6 piece action figure pack for just £10. In the box, you get  Super Scooby Doo, Shaggy, Blue Falcon, Dick Dastardly, Black Rotten and Dusty Rotten. All the figures are fully poseable and look the same as they do in the movie. All of the figures are a great size, no loose pieces, so suitable for ages 3+
scooby doo action figures
Our chief tester for these toys was, of course, Spud, he likes Scooby Doo and testing toys is every kid favourite past time. He got to work straight away putting them to the test and telling me what he thought. I was impressed the packaging was very limited on plastic, always a good sign, just 1 piece of plastic on each package, the rest of the packaging was all recyclable. Another parenting win is that none of the toys required batteries.
playing with scooby doo
The sides of the mystery machine all open out to make a playset for your action figures, this enables some imaginative play opportunities. Spud loves to make up his own little stores and scenarios with the actor figures. True to form Scoobs and Shaggy are trying to solve a spooky mystery.
mystery machine play
There is as I said above room inside the mystery machine for all your action figures, this is great for storage options, there is nothing worse than pulling out a playset and there are pieces missing. I encouraged Spud to put the action figures inside before he finished playing and the vehicle can be stored in his toy box with his figures safely inside.
toy play
The mystery machine and action figure set got the thumbs up from Spud, he has just turned 9 and he didn't find the playset and figures too small to play with. He enjoyed playing with them and is definitely interested in the rest of the range, handy to know for birthdays! He is eagerly awaiting the release date fo the new animation in the UK, I will be sure to pop on here and let you know the date when we get it.
Thanks For Reading
Mandy & Cody

Business As Usual

Life In a Lockdown Logo
We have been plodding on since our last post and we have fallen into a comfortable routine for our home life. The promise of a blog a week flew out of the window the day after I published the last post......LOL, The kiddos are mostly happy with the routine as it isn't heavily work focused and involves lots of free time for them to just be kids. 

My youngest school have finally after weeks set up some kind of work schedule and he now has to complete an online lesson everyday and submit it by 3pm. He has also had a few class video calls, so it was nice for him to see some of his friends. 

After half term Pops went back in school for her 3 hours per day, I think that even of her school opens fully we will stick to the 3-hour sessions as they seem to fit her well for the moment. Dj is attending school 1 morning per week to assist him with his English work, I have struggled to get him to complete his English as its one of the few lessons where resources are given online and he needs to write the answers, after not writing for 10 weeks he was reluctant. He is due to start his new school in September and right now should be having transition visits there, this obviously isn't happening and we don't currently know whats going on with that. The good news for Dj is that all the paperwork for Dj's EHCP is finally in and we are hoping for a good outcome in place for his new school come September. Spud's school are due to reopen next week for the year 6 kids, he is adamant should his year be able to go back to school that he wants to do so. I don't really have an argument for him not to go back as 2 of his siblings are back in school on some sort of basis. There has been a whole lot of argument about whether it is safe for the kids to go back to school or not. For us Dave has been in working all through lockdown, so we are already at risk of possible infection, so the kiddos being at school makes no difference. The schools have put in some really sensible measures to ensure the kids are safe in school, so the likely hood is we have more chance of catching corona from Dave being at work than we do with the kids being back at school.

I think what people want to remember is we are all parents and responsible for making decisions for our own children, what's right for one family might not be right for the next, so berating people on social media when they post pics of their excited children heading back to school after over 2 months is just mean! Do what's right for you and mind your business as to what others are doing for their own family. From speaking to my close family and friends is a complete 50/50 split on whether they are sending their kiddos back.

Since we last spoke I have finally finished the kitchen, I'm not totally in love with it as the wallpaper is a little too dark for my liking, BUT its up and its better than the bare walls that have been there since December!! My next job is the decorate the new hallway that was created when the boys big bedroom was divided into 2 rooms. I also want to redo Skye's room but want to wait until after shes had her operation because I want to get her a new bed too.

We had a lovely weekend and finally after over 2 months, thanks to the easing of the lockdown I was able to see my beautiful Niece and Nephew! We had a lovely gathering in our garden and the sun shone for us! It was so lovely to see them, their Mum and Dad too obviously. Have any of you been able to see relatives after the lockdown easing? My Mum was shielding for 12 weeks due to her many health complaints, we actually had to break her shielding 3 weeks before the end of her 12 due to her having a little accident. I say little, but she tripped over and managed to break 2 of her fingers pretty badly and dislocated (to the point of the bone sticking out) her middle fingers. She required surgery for pins to try and fix them, sadly for her due to Corona she had to have it done under local anaesthetic rather than a general, she's a trooper though and she she hopefully is right as rain in a few weeks.

I think that's enough rambling from me, I have a Fathers Day gift guide to go and write and if I don't start now I will be up late into the night writing it! Trying to get anything done during the day is a no go at the moment!

Take Care, Stay Safe

Life In A Lockdown

Life In Lockdown Header Image
My last post was on March 29th! It was our Easter gift guide, the news was slowly filling with details of Covid-19 and it was becoming a global crisis. Just a week later it would be labelled a global pandemic that would change the way we all live for a while. To be honest, when I first heard about Covid-19 I wasn't too concerned, I am more of a worry about it when it happens kinda girl. But as I wrote about on Autism, Health Anxiety and Covid-19 this wasn't the case for my oldest boy. He really struggled with the whole concept of it and going into school was causing him massive anxiety, the schools closing was honestly the best thing for him. We self-isolated for 14 days on March 16th as Spud had a cough and a sore throat, I didn't for a minute think it was Covid, but due to government guidelines, we all had to stay home for 14 days! Then just as our isolation was drawing to a close the nationwide lockdown was announced. 

We are now in our 8th week of being home and boy has it been eventful! Dave works as a section leader for a supermarket, so is still going out to work days a week. He was at home with us for a while we isolated, but then had to go back to work, his sore have a good system in place for limiting customers in-store but him being out 5 days a week does make me a bit more paranoid about him bring it home with him! He's under strict instructions to put his clothing straight in the washer and head straight for the shower when he gets home. The kids run away from him saying "ewww getaway you'll give us corona" it's a little bit of light relief for them in these confusing times.  

The kids have all been dealing with lockdown differently... For 3 of the children who have autism, they were given the option of still going to school during lockdown due to their special needs. I declined this right off the bat, as the absolute safest place for them to be was is at home.
L has been happy as a pig in poo since lockdown was announced. He had major anxiety about being in school, going outside, the possibility of catching it and the thoughts were all-consuming, so lockdown has given him a massive peace of mind, His GCSEs were cancelled, prom cancelled and he won't get his last day in year 11! But for a boy with autism, these were all things that he wasn't looking forward to anyway, so it has been a massive favour for him.
Dj, he has been my problem child! He is a reluctant learner at the best of times, we are in the middle of getting his EHCP sorted so it wasn't the best time for school to close. He has daily tasks set by the school to complete online and getting him to do them has been interesting, if there is an excuse he finds it. The online stuff he is willing and able to do, but when it comes to having to actually write anything its a NO. I have had regular chats with school and going back to school on a part-time timetable is an option, so we are seeing how he goes. So far the threat of him going back to school seems to have some weight and he is doing some bits. Just yesterday I got his education psychologist report through the door to read through and its soo good. It really outlines his issues and the type of support he will need going forward in his new school, so I am really hopeful for his future. L and Dj both attend the same school and the support for their school has been excellent. We get a phone call every few days to check on them, regular work is set for them and if we need anything we can still call them up and get it sorted.
Pops, ohhh Pops, she has not coped with this whole situation at all, her daily routine is so very important to her and school is a major part of that routine, She attends a specialist school and has an EHCP in place so right off the bat she was offered some hours at school each week. As I said above we initially tuned these down as at home is the safest place for her to be. I naively didn't realise how much of a big part school played in keeping her mental health and anxiety in check. During the school holidays, there is an end in sight and we use visuals to show her when she's going back. Obviously, with this situation, I haven't been able to give her that, we don't know when it will end and this has made life incredibly difficult. She's always been a bit of a self-harmer when anxious and cross, she tends to bite herself. The first few weeks she was fine but as time went on her biting became more frequent. We had regular contact with her school, they call every few days to check on not just her well being but also ours. Pop's behaviour and self-harm were really reaching crisis point, she is a bit of a screamer and all the noise she was making was also setting the boys sensory processing off! We had a chat with her school and she is now back in school for 3 hours per day. This has helped her anxiety and self-harm lots, she is so much calmer as is the whole house! Sadly her colostomy operation which should have been March 31st was cancelled! So we are just waiting for a new date for her.
Spud, our only none autistic child has been loving life in lockdown. I have been really disappointed with his school! It was only last week that they actually set the kids with some work to do. The previous 5 weeks there was no work set, no work packs sent home and not one phone call to check on his well being. I was quite surprised by this as every other school in the local area has sent work packs home or set work online. He had nothing for 5 weeks. Fortunately for us he is very bright so he's been fine and we've used our own initiative and set him to work ourselves. He's getting a bit bored now and missing his friends. I have moved him up a level on the work, all the work set by the school he is completing in 5 minutes and getting all the questions right. So I have been sourcing harder work for him myself. I think our of the 4 he is the one most excited to get back to school.

For us adults its been combining a mix of Dave going to work, household chores, homeschooling 4 kids of different stages. I've also been decorating the kitchen which I have been doing for weeks and STILL not finished. The weather has been great so we have been in the garden lots. I am wondering now what the Prime Ministers is going to announce tonight the details of the 5 step restriction lifting are going to be. My Mum is on the extremely vulnerable list and has to do the 12-week shielding, the time is up on June 1st and she is missing the grandbabies lots. The has them over at her house for the night a few times a week and she's missing the company. Shes got herself into a nice little routine though and I go drop her supplies off once a week for her. I am an Asda delivery pass customer so I have a pre-booked slot, so luckily haven't been affected by the lack of delivery slots available as mine is pre-booked for every Monday. There has been some debate on who should be able to use the delivery slots and that they should be for the extremely venerable completely. I am on the fence with this as although not extremely vulnerable myself I use home delivery as I have 3 autistic children so shopping myself is difficult. I also get my Mums shopping and my neighbours/best friends shopping on my slot (she's pregnant and on the risk list so has to social distance) so its provided very useful that I can get 3 peoples shopping. In the first few weeks, it was difficult as there was very little stocks and the 3 items restriction was in place. Its eased up a little now and some items there is no limit on and the out of stock items are slowly coming back. 
We have settled into a bit of a routine now and everything seems calm, you can never speak too soon in our house though!! I want to get back to blogging regularly and have set myself a goal of 1 personal post a week to get me going! So all being well I will see you next Sunday!
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Easter Gift Guide 2020

With Easter just around the corner, I have some fab gift ideas for all this Easter! It's not just about the chocolate eggs anymore, I have been gifted some fab items from several brands to be featured. Just click the highlighted section after each product for a direct link to buy the item.
First up is the Lamby Dreamimals DayDream key charm, rrp £8.95. The keychain comes in three super cute designs that will put a smile on your children's face. Choose between Lamby, Sharkie and Pinkie . The keychain comes with our dream cards to encourage your child to write down or draw their dreams and wishes. Super soft and gentle. Ideal as a little toy pillow for cuddling and snuggling and take anywhere you go. All Dreamimals are made of high-quality stuffed plush made from 100% all-natural cotton
The gift pup letterbox hampers, rrp £19.99 are the perfect gift with the added convenience of being able to fit through the letterbox! No more 'Sorry we missed you' cards, or your recipient having to re-arrange delivery for a package they weren't expecting. This hamper is packed to the brim with delicious chocolate to brighten up anyone day. Included is a gift card which can be personalised with a short message. Press 'personalise this gift' to add your message to the lucky recipient. The perfect gift for your receivers who don't live locally.
Treasure X Alien Ooze Eggs have landed and they are about to hatch! Break open the hard outer shell to discover a squishy alien egg inside! Squeeze to hatch and watch it explode! Inside, covered in alien ooze is a collectable mini alien. Search through the ooze to discover an alien treasure. Will you find a real gem treasure inside? These strange little aliens love sucking up their ooze through their mouth and nose. Squeeze the sides of the alien and watch them slurp it up and spit it out! Can you collect all 12 ooze sucking aliens? Available at Smyths Toys Superstore priced at only £4.99 they are the perfect alternative to an Easter egg.
I have a fab selection from Creative Nature and they are perfect for my nephew who has allergies. These are all vegan, gluten, dairy, nut and wheat-free. The brownie mix retails are £5.49 and available in Tesco. The gnawbles (my personal favourite) are available from wholefoods. They are so like one of my favourite chocolates that its hard to tell the difference, I love the hazelnut flavoured ones! The bars are available from larger Sainsburys stores and my nephew really enjoyed the orange cacao bars. I think these are a fab Easter option for those people that you may struggle to buy for with allergies.
Now the middle aisle at Aldi is one of my absolute favourite places to visit and the new playroom and slumber party range. It has everything from wooden rocking boats to play tents to entertain the kids. The Toy Story and Frozen bouncy balls are light up flashing balls and loads of fun. The perfect little gift for fans of the movies and only £1.49.
These stickers books are fab and a great idea for keeping the kids busy on Easter Sunday when on the chocolate come down. These are only £1.49 each! Whether they want to stick them in their pictures or make collages you can't go wrong for the price at all. We were sent the animal and dinosaur sticker books, check in your local store to see what's available.
Now, how adorable is this!!!! Its soft, cuddly and a sleeping bag with a teddys head for a pillow attached. As soon as we took it out of the box Mr C demanded it went into his room. It's super soft and the zip down the side makes it easy peasy to get in and out of. Perfect for when he has friends sleeping over, or family are visiting and pinch his bed! I think this is super cute and is available for only £19.99.
Pretend cleaning has reached new heights with this stylish Henry branded cleaning trolley from Casdon. This Deluxe Henry Cleaning Trolley is supplied with a hand held vacuum that has working suction! Also included is a Henry Mop & Bucket, long handle brush, dustpan and brush, simulated detergent bottle, simulated spray bottle and paper debris container. Pretend cleaning has never been so realistic! Also available in Hetty pink. This is a fab set for encouraging role play and priced around £29. Its really well made and took me minutes to build, always a positive in my books. Great gift for your mini cleaners.
It’s true what they say, a  party without cake is just a meeting, and OGGS® is launching the first vegan celebration cake in UK supermarkets. Already known for having a sweet reputation, OGGS has created a chocolate Celebration Cake to be shared no matter who you are; from birthdays to Bar/Bat Mitsvah’s or the local village fate this cake was designed to bring people together in those moments with a slice for everyone. Like the rest of the OGGS range every element of the cake, including the edible stars and glitter sprinkled over the top, is vegan friendly, with the sponge itself made using OGGS patented Aquafaba, an all-plant liquid egg substitute. The OGGS mission is to create plant-based alternatives to everyday foods, that taste as delicious as you’ve always known them, whilst doing their best to positively change the future of the planet, animals and people, with every little bite. Available in Waitrose priced at just £8.
How cute is this Easter chocolate pizza from Gourmet Chocolate Pizza? Featuring handmade white chocolate bunnies, along with candy coated chocolate mini eggs, milk chocolate curls and Spring coloured rainbow drops, Available in 2 sizes, 7 inches for £11.75 or 10 inches for £16.50. You can smell the chocolatey goodness as soon as you remove the plastic film. I'm going to struggle to save this for the kiddies for Easter!!
How fab are these indoor toys from Wicked Vision, ideal for our current isolation situation! Jump like a pro with the new Wicked Mega Jump, £7.99. Whether you're a complete beginner or an advanced level jump roper, super smooth rotation is key, that's why Mega Jump has high quality ball-bearing axles for super silky smooth spins. Of course, the rope first needs to be the correct length for the jumper so we've made it super easy to adjust the length to suit each person, thanks to our specially designed rope release mechanism. Just take of the cap, remove the clip and cut the rope to size, it's that simple! The best indoor boomerang in the world! The Indoor Booma, £6 is made of soft, safe foam, so it won't cause any damage. This isn't just any foam though, it's our specially engineered 'memorang' foam, which can be 'tuned' for different flight paths. The Kick, £8 is tipped to be the biggest playground craze of the year! Fusing elements of badminton and street football, the aim is to keep UKick off the ground for as long as you can. Use your hands or feet, play alone or with friends.
Everyone loves Haribo don't they and with prices starting from just £1 they suit everyone's budget. The HARIBO Bunny ‘n’ Friends gift box makes a perfect Easter gift, containing cute bunny, sheep and chick shaped sweets all wrapped up in a bunny-shaped gift box. HARIBO Chick ‘n’ Mix is a cute gift box filled with TangfastChicks, Starmix’s favourite Fried Egg, Jelly Bunnies and Spring Time Friends – tweet, tweet!
Now, who loves cake? What about cake delivery? bakerdays offer cake delivered straight to your door no matter what the occasion.  They have several easter cake designs to choose from and a range of sizes. Obviously, the letterbox cake, rrp £14.99 is a great idea for people who are in isolation currently as it fits through the letterbox. They serve 2 to 4 people and are available in a traditional sponge, chocolate chip, lemon drizzle, fruit and even a vegan sponge. Cake by post what better way to say you're thinking of someone.
Thanks For Reading

School Leavers 2020

My final year 11 school picture
I remember being in school and being desperate to leave, that was 22 years ago and I've spent some of the past 22 years wishing I was back in school. I don't think you realise how simplistic life is when you are in school, it's only when you leave and have to adult you think wow it was so much easier in school.

I fondly remember my last weeks in high school it was filled with anticipation of the future, sadness at leaving friends and excitement of what's to come. We had our final assembly, final school trip (Alton Towers), prize giving assembly, the final day when everyone signed your shirt, sitting our GCSE exams and finally going to pick up our exam results in August and seeing your friends that one last time before college.

Ready for his next chapter
Life is all about firsts and lasts, I remember L's first day at school, he was newly diagnosed as autistic and we knew the education journey would be fraught. But we were still excited as it was a first. He was incredibly supported through primary and successfully transitioned into high school. He started year 11 in September so this school year has been all about his lasts. It's not been the easiest of years so far and yesterday's news was the final piece of the puzzle.

Yesterday so many year 11's school journey was cut short and they will miss out on all those lasts. They won't sit their GCSE's, won't get to pick up their GCSE results, won't have the fear or nervousness of sitting their final exam. They were all told yesterday that they won't be sitting any exams and that it was their final day of Year 11! I know most us thought this would be the case with the current situation, but I think to some it was still a massive shock. I saw so many social media posts from shocked and upset parents and kids, It wasn't just our year 11's either it is pretty much the same for the year 6's leaving for high school and missing their SATs. 

I feel so bad for all those kids who have crammed for their exams, wrote revision notes, been going to booster sessions after school. Have worked so hard all this time for such a sad premature end to their efforts. For L the early end of school has come as a relief, he isn't too academic, struggled a lot for the past few years and was counting down the days till the end. He is in a minority feeling this way, but for him, the end is a relief, his anxiety is so much better all ready.

I don't think this has ever happened before so I am sure this is something all those year 11's will be able to recount to their grandchildren one day. The tear of 2020 when exams and school were cancelled and we all had to stay home!!
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Autism, Health Anxiety & Covid-19

We have had an awful week with the eldest boy and its been building for the last week and a half. The media frenzy surrounding coronavirus isn't boding well for L's health anxiety and he's really struggling. There is literally no escaping info on Corona and he's hearing it everywhere even in school. They have a poster on the office doors with health advice relating to it. It's on social media, the news, the papers and the radio. Aside from social media, L doesn't bother with the latter on the list but since this, all surfaced he is instantly checking for updates. The news bulletin about covid-19 being named as a pandemic has peaked his anxiety even further.

The news of events being cancelled places closing and travel suspended makes it all-consuming for him. I have tried all different approaches to calm his anxiety but so far have failed to reassure him in any way. He's on the peak of an epic meltdown, I can feel it coming and it is the midst of exam season which isn't helping. 

The news that most other countries seem to be being proactive in preventing the spread and ours isn't is bothering him. I can't answer this question for him sadly. I honestly think an imposed school closure would do him the world of good at the moment and calm his anxiety, he's so worried about being outside!

For someone like me who isn't autistic, I can't say this whole thing has overly worried me. I am concerned for my children's mental health and how it's affected them, but I can honestly say I am not at all concerned about catching the coronavirus in the slightest. According to the governments latest info, we fall in the high-risk category and suggest we should social distance ourselves.

As of yesterday, we are all at home, aside from Dave who works in retail and has to go into work. This will continue until he is told otherwise. Our plan is to stay home unless we need to go out, I had to go out yesterday as I was at Pop's scheduled stoma nurse appointment. So far her surgery is still to go ahead on the 31st, I'm keeping my fingers crossed this remains. 

I have a weekly delivery slot booked for my food shop, but these crazy panic buyers are clearing the shelves. This weeks shop and 8 substitutes and 5 unavailable items. I had an email today to say all items are limited to just 3 of each item. I totally get it, but when you have autistic kids who only eat certain foods it's a bit of a pain. I refuse to go out and panic buy and put people worse of than myself in a situation where they cant get their essentials. We will be doing our usual weekly shop and going out early to pick up the bits that aren't available online.

My boy's high school have loaded lots of online work onto the school homework system, so they have plenty to keep them busy. My younger son's school don't have the resources to be printing off workbooks like some other schools have so have issued a list of handy online resources. 

My personal advice through all of this is only to take advice from real government and NHS websites. There are so many fake news reports our there, even the media are making false reports now, its ridiculous and damaging to peoples mental health. Do what YOU think is best for YOUR family.
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