Friday, 10 March 2017

Billy and Andy’s Music Club – Saturday Sounds

We don’t make a huge fuss about our Willow having a diagnosis of ASD, we don’t really buy into labels, or putting people/children into boxes?  I’m not sure of it as a thing, well it is a thing, but I suppose our lad functions in a way that we can ignore and disregard the label.  Willow is Willow, a monster mostly, but he is the way he is, because he is the way he is, not because of autism or being autistic or having autism spectrum disorder.  First most he is Willow, he has yellow curly hair, thick black glasses, is full of fun, smiles a lot, and has an excitement about him which is physically contagious.   He 100% always lives in our world with us.

Anyhow his bigger sister has attended loads of clubs over the years, ballet, crafts, choir, gym, newspaper, the list is endless.  These have mostly ran after school.  It’s a long day for Willow at school and so far we haven’t signed him up for any after school clubs.    I was looking out for a weekend one for him though, I was tipped off to Saturday Sounds from another mum at School.

In the past I’ve avoided clubs that are aimed and targeted for kids with SEN.  This I think was a part of my own acceptance and learning curve post-diagnosis.  Will has been going weekly for ages, months and months.  Organisers, Billy and Andy are both talented musicians, I think they can pretty much play any instrument.  They strip it back for Saturday Sounds, they in gentle approach let the kids lead the group.  Billy and Andy, I can only guess have real insight and training into kids with communication issues.  Lots of people ignore Willow, or ask him questions through me, that winds me right up (I can jump into tigress looking out for her cub mode in 0-3 seconds).  Or worse still they ask him a question, ‘What School do you go to?', and then give him 2 seconds to answer, if they don’t get an answer, they fire more questions at him ‘Do you like School? What’s the name of your teacher? How old are you?’.    Willow is just answering the very first question, when the person has moved on, or they look to me for his responses!   Billy and Andy know how to communicate with children.  Each child that comes has a different communication level.  Billy and Andy get it, they are not uncomfortable about a little silence in delayed response, they are not awkward when a response might not even come about.   Respect.  They respect the children in the group, they give them time and space to express themselves.   Lots of adults in Willow’s life, (kind well-meaning people mostly), they don’t often convey this respect and willingness to listen to him.

We love Billy and Andy, it’s clear how much Willow himself gets out of the group.  Billy and Andy offer an outlet for kids via music; singing and playing instruments.  Some of the instruments are ingenious, they wired carrots up to the iPad the other day…. no idea… but it produced a daft sound that they could sing along too.

Saturday Sounds, five stars from me, one million from Willow. 

xx  Emma-Lou

Monday, 2 January 2017

New Year... Resolutions...

Happy New Year to all!  

Resolutions, well I'm clearly an expert on them, so much so I was called as an official expert on the telly this morning.  Actually, my strap line on BBC Breakfast was 'Emma-Louise Cullen, Blogger'.... well it's been quite a while, but to kowtow to the BBC's image of me.... here I am, Emma-Louise Cullen blogger! 

So resolutions, well usually I have a list, here is my list from 2016 (not exhaustive):  

  • to read a book a week 
  • to gym every other day 
  • to spend 30 minutes a day playing with each of my children 
  • cleanse, tone, moisturise
  • limit Facebook 
  • banish the biscuits 
  • limit coffee to one per day 
  • blow dry/style hair everyday 
  • all the time spending NO MONEY 

Well I kept to errr none of those, I did read more, but alas I didn't get to the grand total of 52!  I wonder looking back at this list; did I at the time feel guilty about not spending so much time with the kids.  This isn't a concern for me at the moment, actually after the Christmas holidays.... my 2017 resolution is to see less of them (just kidding, my children are darlings!).  As if I'd never have a biscuit ever again, I might as well be dead!  

Despite not ticking any of this off, 2016 was a good year for us, we had our share of worries and anxiety, but all in all it was a good year.  I'm grateful and thankful.  I don't like to buy into this 2016 year of doom. Yes, I mourned Prince and Victoria Wood; but I put this into perspective.  The decision to exit the EU, what a kick in the guts, then our new PM, another kick, and then beyond disbelief, Trump!  No words! 

In 2016, we organised our finances, we're not rich or that, but we pay less on gas/elec, I rang up Sky giving out and they gave us a cheap deal.  These and other small changes have made a difference, and we feel better about cash flow.  I attended a faith matters course at Church, and made the decision to get confirmed, this relationship with God is to be celebrated.  Our son, Willow continues to make us proud with his lovely ways, his progress at School and home makes our heart swell.  Miss Lizzy, well she is turning into a young lady at an alarming rate.  In Year 6, she's gearing up to high school, and it's apparent what a bright and kind girl she is.  [crowing over]  Mr C and I have had some sneaky days out, we even went on a city break, on a bloody plane, without our children.   My volunteering with my in-care lad is ace too, his feedback of me was "I was the nicest person he'd ever met" (ahhhh he'd never say that to my face).  We're all fit and well, and we can only give thanks for that.   

So, despite being crap at the resolutions, it's as well.  

This year, my resolutions (conclusive): 

  • Sleep more, early nights a plenty 
  • Worry less, not getting caught up in the small stuff 
  • Go to the Savoy Cinema monthly with Mr. C

After chatting to Emma Kennedy, you know my red sofa pal (she's really the expert), I realise I need to put things in place to help with my worry free existence.... I'm to start locking the children in cupboards.... Kidding, I'm thinking about mindfulness and fresh air, and most crucially making time for myself to calm, this might be going the gym, reading, seeing my friends more, spa days....  bugger.... I'm starting on a list for 2017! 

Happy New Year, xx Emma-Lou 
ELC on the Telly 

Monday, 26 September 2016

Reasons to Stay Alive by Matt Haig

I happened upon this by accident wandering through the TC;  Waterstones had a display stand by the door, I picked it up thinking 'Gosh that looks like a miserable read'. Somebody saw me eyeing it up and told me it was a must read, that it was a uplifting read about this chap coming through depression told with honest humour. 

I always take a personal in person recommendation; I haven't got the heart to trample on their enthusiasm.  Every decent book I've ever read I've pushed hard on all my friends!  One of the reasons I started my book club, was so I could lord it over my friends and loved ones with my reading list!  

From the off, reading this book, you completely 100% engage with the depression and panic of Matt Haig.  It weighs heavy on him, it's horrible and (worryingly) it came out of nowhere.  He was young, in a decent relationship, living it up in Ibiza, seemingly having the time of his life.  He doesn't report a troubled childhood, abuse, bullying.  Nothing of note, that you could link to this breakdown of his mental health. The other compelling thing about Matt's story, is his desire and will to get well.  He pushes hard, challenges his comfort zones.  Brilliantly he does get well (phew!).  

I've touched on it here on my blog, not massively, for a blogger, I'm private about some things.  In recent years, I have had problems with anxiety, mostly health anxiety.  It's much more than being a bit worried about my health, I have episodes of real panic where I truly believe I have some dreadful disease and that I might not make it to my holidays/Christmas/the weekend!  This panic is real and it's debilitating, having real inner turmoil 'Who will bath the kids if I'm not around' (Mr C has reassured me in the case of my demise he will shower/bathe the kids, but wouldn't commit to more than once fortnightly!). 

Read this book, if you've ever suffered depression, read this book if you know somebody suffering depression or panic/anxiety disorders.  Read this book simply for info.  Any person who reads this will take something away with them.  I've read this twice through, here are a few things that jumped out for me: 

  • If you are scared when there is nothing to be scared of your brain makes things up (p. 91). This would explain all my aches and pains that I internalise as symptoms of ill health. 
  • For anxiety, there aren't any sure fire cures to help calm or settle you. However, the simple practice of 'slowing down' will stop it in it's tracks (p. 193).  It's hard for your brain to run away with itself if you're sitting calmly breathing in (counting to five, making your tum inflate) and out (counting slowly to five).   This is not easy and it's a real skill but once mastered you can stop an episode in it's track before your brain is flooded into panic mode. 
  • Matt gives a list of hints to live well (p. 238), number 15 fits in well with my own personal Christian outlook.  BE KIND  Guessing he means to yourself as well as others.
  • Matt is a right book worm, his reading list is impressive, he is guilty of slipping in the odd book recommendation, he sold me Margaret Atwood's Wilderness Tips (a collection of short stories) (p, 138). 

This book is not preachy or judging, it's an account of what works for one person.  It helped me understand my own mental health and made me realise that mostly it does get better, there is always a light at the end of a tunnel. 

xx Emma-Lou 

Monday, 12 September 2016

doTERRA - Wellness Advocates - Serenity Storm - A review

Lovely Steph Ledigo (@LedigoPR) asked me along to a launch event last week for Serenity Storm Essentials (@Serenity_Storm_).  It was more like a mini workshop looking into essential oils and doTERRA.  Now as it goes I know a bit about essential oils.  My MIL swears by them, and has over the years made me up potions.  These were for driving test angst (actually that isn't a good advert for them, as it took me five goes to pass!) and other emotional type of worries.  In pregnancy, she cooked me up a remedy for hey fever and that worked as well as any antihistamine I ever took. In fact, I've never had hey fever since!  I wonder if the medicated stuff sort of suppressed my natural repellent to pollen and having a break taking alternative medicines helped build natural defences.  Anyhow, I don't claim any know how, or preach on. 

I arrived late (bloody M60) to Ashton's Village Hotel, so crept into a talk that had already started. About 8 seconds in, the only thing I could feel was the 100 mile an hour enthusiasm of Emma Pollitt!  She truly believes in her company, in essential oils, in alternative medicines, in doTERRA.  She is funny, personable and at times very moving in telling her doTERRA story.  I won't retell her story, she'd happily share it with you, without a doubt, it's changed her life and she wants to share it. It's of her own family experience of overcoming very physical health problems, using essential oils to tackle debilitating symptoms, and it is amazing.  But it's not my story and I'd feel uncomfortable talking about that side of alternative medicine.  What is very lovely about Emma, she does one million percent believe in this and she can back it all up with research paper after research paper (the ultimate PubMed Queen).  But her message is clear, she wants you yourself to research it, she doesn't want you to just take her word for it, she wants you to go away, have a think, get online and research alternatives to modern medicine.

From a therapeutic point, a lot can be said for the healing properties of essential oils. Anxiety, stress, depression, nervousness, problems with sleep, focus and concentration, hormonal tension, all these often debilitating stresses can make life pretty tough. essential oils CAN and DO help with these emotional problems, they bring about an inner calmness that allows natural healing to come into play.  I have a huge belief in essential oils for mood enhancement.

I know this from MIL, the oils you might buy on a market or Holland and Barrett, I'm not sure what they contain, but it's not a lot of essential oil, probably just enough to make them smell nice!  I always knew that you had to pay for decent products. doTERRA products aren't cheap (you can get them massively discounted if you sign up for wholesale membership).  But at the same time, they make massive claims that they will increase your wellness and improve your life, and honestly they can back up those claims.  

doTERRA can be a way of life, delving right into a toxic free existence, you could even give up using Fairly liquid, their range is full of alternatives. Or it could be the odd tweak to modern living, a little Oil every now and then to help with a headache, or a stressful life event.  

I'm a nervous driver, I drove this weekend to Nottingham, it's tricky on that Snake Pass! Before leaving, I used some doTERRA peppermint oil, the tiniest amount rubbed onto my wrists (a bottle would last forever), it defo calmed and focused me.  I used it again today at the start of my working day, again, I felt ready to make a good start. Plus it smells nice, and the act of putting it on creates a moment of mindfulness. 

I don't know how I'll continue with doTERRA,  but I look forward to researching and being more mindful of what's out there.  Lavender for sleep, and I wonder if they do anything for hangover.... the weekend in Notts is catching me up! 

xx Emma-Lou 

Thursday, 8 September 2016

#BadMa Back to School Guide

New academic year, new start, September it is, getting organised, making promises of never forgetting a permission slip, making a donation in time to the PTA, not having any late tickets.  Spending evenings packing school bags neatly by the door.... feeling smug as you pass the school office, they haven't got one on you, you're ahead with the milk money 

Not this year.... 

Thing is you can't keep it up, it's not real life, come October things begin to slip, the pleats aren't as sharp, the school bags left in the car overnight, ham sandwiches creep back in over couscous salad, half the lids missing from your Tupperware! 

Feelings of failure creeps in, #BadMa syndrome... screaming at your children "So help me God, if you haven't got your shoes on in 30 seconds....".

So yes, a new leaf being turned, but not as you think.  I'm starting September as I finished in July - badly organised!  The thing is, in my frantic late way, I keep it together (mostly), the children arrive everyday to school, they may have incorrect kit, with the application form for crafternoon a smidge after the deadline, but who cares, nobody is judging me.  Well I suspect the school secretary is, but I can sweet talk her, perhaps I should buy her a box of Roses at Christmas? 

I'm going to give myself a break, and drink wine. 

xx Emma-Lou 

Tuesday, 2 August 2016

BFG the bestest Film EVER

I got a freebie nectarcard swap for Vue cinema tickets, two tickets for 1000 points. I didn't notice these points climbing up with my shopping, so it did feel like a freebie. The cost of going to the cinema is pricey I think.  A real dear do for a family of four, it rings up at nearly forty dabs.  Anyhow, I didn't hand over any cash this time, so I'll get off my soap box. 

Cinema Pals 

Pick a Mix... now to re-mortgage the house...

The BFG is brilliant, one of the best adaptations of a children's book to make it to the big screen.  Wow, is all I can say, when he reached into grab Sophie with his giant hand, the whole cinema gasped!  I'd say don't stream this film, to appreciate all the effects, it has to be seen at the cinema!  

With every wave of his massive ears, I loved BFG more, his character and personality 100% nailed.   Sophie with her bossy strut, but lonely demeanour also portrayed as I saw her in the book. 

Worth noting, Lizzy hasn't read this one by Roald Dahl, I think I bigged it up too much when she was a smidge young for it, and turned her off!  Her not having read it, didn't matter a jot though, she loved it too. 

Lizzy's best bit:  When the Queen's corgi dogs had green windy farts (#obvs, she's ten!)

Best kids film of the year 5 massive stars! 

xx Emma-Lou

Wednesday, 27 July 2016


Mr C. took the reigns a bit this week.... bus rides, barbers, happy meals and Stan. Fantastic picture taken at the Manchester Museum.  

On a previous visit with Willow; he was most disappointed. I'd talked Stan the dinosaur up a bit.  He was only expecting an alive dinosaur, he goes "This dinosaur is dead", err well yeah... 

xx Emma-Lou