Monday, 21 July 2014

The world is full of decent people!

Hello everyone,

I have just come home from a day of Sign2Music Teddy Bears Picnics and decided to write a post. I was shocked to realise that it has been over a year since I last wrote a blog post! I think I might need to write another few posts about the events of the past year, but for this post I will focus on a life lesson I learned while preparing for Saturday's Sign2Music Teddy Bears Picnics. Contrary to public opinion, the world is actually full of decent, caring and helpful people!

Like a lot of people, I use social media, watch the news occasionally, read newspapers and chat to friends, colleagues and acquaintances. There is so much negativity out there and stories showing just how much human beings can hurt each other, that sometimes make you begin to doubt the innate goodness of humankind. It's a subtle thing, there is no sudden realisation that people aren't as caring as you thought they were, but gradually as you see more and more evidence of the selfishness of humankind you just expect less from people and start to accept that perhaps everyone is essentially selfish.

If anyone reading this knows me well, they will realise that I am a perfectionist and a little bit of a control freak. I have been planning Teddy Bears Picnics for 19th July in Ballynahinch and Newcastle since June. I planned these for weeks beforehand, because I wanted them to be a memorable and enjoyable experience for everyone. I decided I wanted to give the children party bags, with personalised bubbles and teddy bear themed snacks. I ordered 50 plain white party bags off ebay. 2 days before the party I was finishing off the party bags and realised I seemed to have a lot of stuff left over. I counted the party bags and realised I had only been sent 40. It was 11.30pm on Thursday night and the parties were on Saturday. It was too late to contact the ebay seller as, even if they were posted the following day, the bags would not arrive until Saturday, which would be too late!

I scratched my head quietly pondered what to do next. OK, truth is my pondering was not very quiet, more like flipping my lid and running about the room like a headless chicken, shouting about how the party was going to be ruined and the children disappointed! As a long shot, I posted on Facebook to see if anyone knew where I could get these bags at short notice, not expecting much. I got replies immediately from 3 people who had 10 bags they were willing to give me, 2 of these people I know well as they attend my classes, the third I know of as he has an electrical shop not far from me. Dr Electric sent me a message to say he had 10 bags that could pick up that night if I wanted them. By this stage it was almost midnight, but he met me at his house and gave me the bags I needed. He didn't ask for money. He didn't ask for anything. All he was doing was helping out a practical stranger. I was moved by this act of kindness from someone I had never met before.

After our teddy bears picnic, we have a cuppa and snacks for the adults and snacks for the children. I had mentioned to Lily, my child minder, that I was finding it difficult to find biscuits or buns that are nut free. I am not a great cook, but my daughters and I made some buns and bought some nut free food. The night before the party Lily arrived at my house unexpectedly with big tray with a selection of shortbread and cookies, all nut free. Another act of kindness and selflessness.

The parties went really well and we had such a fun day. Every child left with a party bag and we had more than enough yummy goodies for our tea afterwards.

I want to take the opportunity to thank all those who came to my Sign2Music Teddy Bears Picnics in Newcastle and Ballynahinch and helped make them so enjoyable. Particular thanks to Dr Electric and Lily for their selfless acts, that not only helped make the events happen, but restored my faith in the human nature!

Deirdre :)

Monday, 1 April 2013

Signing Sandy makes his TV debut!

I have just opened an e-mail to confirm what I have been hoping would materialise for months. Sign2Music recently filmed a television pilot episode featuring Signing Sandy and Deirdre. This pilot was presented to a group who loved it and it will be shown to N Ireland audiences at the end of the year. If favourably received, we will be asked to make our first TV series!

Woohoo!! I will let you know when the first episode is airing. Hope you all tune in!

Monday, 25 February 2013

Quality matters!

Most of you know that Sign2Music have won a number of Awards, some voted for by parents and others selected by experts. We are very proud of these Awards as they reflect the emphasis we place on providing a quality service.
I have been thinking recently about how little most people know about how much is involved in preparing for our sessions. Of course we do not simply throw props in a bag and 'wing it'! No, of course we are always well prepared, so we can ensure our sessions are as good as they could possibly be!

In the early days of setting up Sign2Music sleep was an unknown phenomenon to me. I was so committed to developing quality programmes and, being such a perfectionist, spent every available hour researching and preparing. I still work long hours and commit 110% to everything I do.

I spent most of tonight (about 5 hours) getting ready for a 45 min class in a nursery tomorrow. I am covering a topic I haven't done before, so even before tonight I have been researching the topic, writing new songs and speaking to the amazing friends I have who share their ideas with me. Setting up a new playlist and searching for backing tracks alone took up a number of hours. I then had to print out and laminate the resources I need for the topic. Then I had to pack my back with all the props needed and pack the car.

It is not unusual for me to spend this time preparing for a session. Even though I have got my preparation time reduced significantly, the night before my classes is still reserved for getting ready for my classes, checking song lists, packing the bag, preparing snacks and refreshments, etc. I have that many bags that even packing the car takes a while! When it comes to nursery training, teacher training or presentations at conferences, preparation time can be much much longer.

You may wonder if I spend too much time preparing because I am rubbish at what I do or wonder at my business sense. However, the reason I, and the other Sign2Music teachers, spend so much time ensuring we are well prepared is because the end result actually matters to us!

Sign2Music has a strong value base. We have a set of core values. One of our key values is Quality. Our values state:

" We are committed to delivering quality programmes that we can be proud of. We genuinely care about the views of service users think and will endeavour to gain their views about our services. We carefully select our teachers to ensure that only those with appropriate skills, experience and values join us."

So if you are wondering why Sign2Music differs from a lot of other children's programmes and why our programmes are value for money, this is why. We really care about what you think. We really want our programmes to make a difference and we really want our teachers to be the best!

Quality really does matter in Sign2Music!

Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Being a parent - The most important job in the world!

In a blog written in Nov 2011 I shared my views on the importance of bonding and attachment. This post was entitled love is the answer. Interestingly a year later I came across this great article. It highlights so clearly how HUGELY important relationships and connections in the first two years of life are in shaping a baby's brain development and ultimately their future.

Babies are born already connected and are able to imitate facial expressions from birth. This discovery was made in the 1970s and has caused significant discussion among developmental psychologists. This video shows a 10 minute old baby imitating daddy:
The most signifcant period of brain cell development is in the first 2 years of life. It is shocking how important and potentially far reaching our behaviour is in our child's early years. In exteme cases of neglect / lack of love a baby's brain is wired for crime, violence, unemployment and substance misuse. This information can worry a lot of parents who have experienced post natal depression, domestic violence or other circumstances that meant they were not able to connect with their baby as much as they would have liked. I know I worry about Cara being in SCBU, which meant I was unable to have physical contact with her for those crucial first days. Of course I do not think that this lack of contact will directly result in her becoming a mass murderer, but I do think it is detrimental which is why I signed with her and have showered her with as much love as I have in me!
I have always said being a parent is the most important job in the world. How great a responsibility is it to know that you can potentially wire your children for love, success and happiness, as you are shaping and moulding the world's future! Hopefully this information will make those night feeds less frustrating, the screaming less sore on the ears, the messy house easier to cope with!

Saturday, 15 September 2012

Gifts in My Life

Daddy & I on my wedding day
As many of you may know I have recently lost my beloved daddy after a short but courageous battle with lung cancer. He lived 3 short months during which he suffered terribly and passed away on 7 July 2012.

Since daddy died I have reflected a lot on our relationship, the gifts he has given me and his influence on my life. He was a colourful character who knew everyone, would talk the leg off a stool and smoked like a train! He was also the kindest, most loving person I have ever met. He gave so much to others and changed and influenced the lives of many. I am very proud and lucky to be his daughter!

Daddy has always been so proud of me for establishing Sign2Music and watched with pride as it blossomed. Initially a sceptic, he was a strong advocate of the benefits of the joys of signing, having seen it first hand with Cara and later with my nephews. I think the Seven Thirty Show got it's biggest viewing figures ever the night Sign2Music featured. He phoned everyone he knew (a LOT of people!) to tell them to watch it! He asked all his friends and family to vote for Sign2Music in 2011 and 2012 What's On 4 Little Ones Awards and I am sure those votes helped us reach the final in both years. The first thing I did after collecting my Award for Best Use of Social Media and Online Technologies in the Down Council Beyond business Awards was to send him a text. He was so proud, even though at that stage he was in terrible pain.

When I reflect on the gifts my daddy has given me I keep coming back to one! He always loved me unconditionally and exuded love in his life, helping and touching so many people. Like him I always follow my heart. Of course this had led to some very poor decisions in my life but it is because I follow my heart that Sign2Music is now in existence!

When I decided to try baby signing with Cara I had no idea what a life changing decision it would be. It was obvious to me when I first read about it that it was something special. I read every book I could get my hands on and trawled the internet for hours and hours on end. It was such an amazing experience that touched and ignited something in me. My heart screamed at me that I had to share it! It is fair to say that Sign2Music is my labour of love and the product of much blood, sweat and tears!

In the past 5 years my passion and love for Sign2Music has grown and grown as I see more and more evidence of how powerful it is. Like everyone I have moments of doubt. I wonder if am are doing the right thing, getting the work-life balance right. I am not a natural 'business woman', so these moments usually occur when I have to deal with something difficult or the dreaded admin / finances have to be tackled. However, the wonderful feedback I get from parents, carers, teachers, etc. is what fuels my passion and reassures me to keep following my heart.

There have been so many ups and downs the past few months while daddy was ill. So many times I went into a class with a heavy heart, but always left smiling from ear to ear. When I was feeling most low there was always fab news about one of the children doing their first sign or having a signing explosion. I heard wonderful stories shared by parents and had the most gorgeous smiles and hugs from the little ones. How could anyone feel sad for long while doing such a beautiful job?

Many of you reading this have been the most wonderful comfort to me in the past few months and have got me through some tough times without realising it. I have met some wonderful people through Sign2Music and many of you have become valued friends.

I want to take this opportunity to say how I appreciate all the gifts I have been given in my life: A wonderful father who loved and inspired me; A great family who encourage me; And last but not least..... Sign2Music and all of you who support me to continue to do something I love so much!

Deirdre x

Monday, 3 September 2012

Beyond End Of Summer BBQ A Networking Sizzler

Beyond End Of Summer BBQ A Networking Sizzler | Down News

This article in the Down News summarises a fun networking evening faciliated by the Beyond Programme. I was very priviledged to be asked to be one of the speakers at the event. I was a tiny bit nervous before the event as I knew I would be speaking in front of some well respected business owners and local councillors. I had also decided to take a risk and add an element of fun to the presentation by showing all present how to sign 'Old McDonald had a Farm'. It could have gone down like a lead balloon. Luckily everyone joined in and we had a bit of fun!

For those who have not heard of Beyond, it provides great networking opportunities and business support for small businesses in the Down Council area. Through Beyond I have been able to connect with some great local businesses. I have been able to avail of affordable business support, including much needed advice on accounts and access to a mentor for IT support. I also entered and reached the final in 3 categories of the Beyond Business Awards 2012. I am very proud to be the winner in the Best Use of Social Media and Online Technologies category. The Awards ceremony back in May was marvellous!

It was only sitting down to prepare the presentation that made me realise how much support I have actually gained from Beyond in the past year. I truly appreciate this support and would encourage anyone who has a small business to check out Beyond for great advice and support.

Thursday, 7 June 2012

The Blossom Method is finally available!

Today is the day so many people have been waiting for. It's the official day of publication of 'The Blossom Method', by Vivien Sabel, published by Random House. I truly believe this groundbreaking book will be hugely influential in the field of parenting and childcare forever and I for one am hugely excited about what's to come! The book outlines a simple way of using non-verbal cues to understand what your baby is telling you FROM BIRTH! I have had the priviledge of reading the book already as I attended the launch party on 29 May. One of my observations was that The Blossom Method is not complicated but a very simple, beautiful and natural communication and bonding experience. So simple that parents and carers have been watching babies using their tongue and body to communicate for years, but we haven't understood it's significance!!

The reason Vivien and her daughter Blossom were the ones to make these discoveries are to do with Vivien's life experiences and history. She is the daughter of a non-signing deaf mother. Vivien and her mother have no problems communicating at all, they use non-verbal cues to do so. This has made Vivien totally in tune with the body language of others. I know this as we have 'skyped' a few times and she was able to tell when my facial expressions and body language have not been congruent with my utterances. She had me totally sussed from the moment we 'met'!

When Vivien had her daughter Blossom, she was able to tell by her tongue, lips, body and smell when she was hungry, tired and even sick. It was so natural to her that she assumed everyone else was doing it too. When she discovered they weren't she just knew she had stumbled upon something amazing that she just had to share with the world and the seeds of The Blossom Method were sown!

I have got to know Vivien well over the past few months and she has become a very treasured friend. When she asked me to be a speaker at the launch of The Blossom Method in the Hotel Du Vin in Harrogate on 29th May I knew I had to be there! It was a fabulous evening. Not only did I get to meet Vivien and some of the amazing people I have met or got to know better on twitter (affectionately known as my #twitmates) but I got to hear what others said and to share my views on The Blossom Method.
With the lovely Blossom
Vivien and Blossom
Me speaking at the event while Vivien signs

Yummy cupcakes!
I explained to everyone that one of the main reasons I started Sign2Music was that I was impressed how signing with my daughter Cara not only helped support communication and reduce frustration but also supported attunement and connectedness in our relationship and ultimately enhanced our bond. I have seen the consequences of poor attachment in my job and follow the current research that shows how poor attachment contributes to lack of empathy, propensity to violence, mental health and addictions. The Blossom Method was like music to my ears. I have been looking for something that can enhance very early communication before the benefits of signing really kick in. I believe The Blossom Method is this 'something'! Vivien explains in her book how to move from using The Blossom Method techniques to baby signing and it is a very natural and beautiful progression.

I know there are a lot of people wanting to know exactly what The Blossom Method 'techniques' are. All I can say is, if you have a young baby or are pregnant please buy this book. If you have a friend or family member that does, forget about buying babygros as a gift, buy them this book. They will truly thank you for it. It is a little gem!
Sharon Trotter (TIPS Ltd), Moi,
Vivien, Vicki
Vicki Gilbert (Babies Can Sign/ Tinysigners),
Moi, Vivien Sabel, Heather Avul (Tinytalk Leicester)