12/52 {hip hip hooray}

Such a busy week of birthdays, and now we have a big five year old and an almost-as-big three year old in our family.

To finish off the week, we spent World Down syndrome Day (21 March) with some great friends, sharing a rainy afternoon of live music at the local bowls club. Given I often credit Nicholas for wonderful people in our lives that we may not have met if it weren’t for our rockin’ kids, it seemed a perfect way to spend a Saturday evening.

Now to roll into the second last week of term, for soon the Easter holidays will be upon us.  An adventure at the beach is just around the corner. Hooray.

Mummalove 52-12-1nicholas: I love this photo of you. You were deliriously happy to be at Charlie’s birthday party, eating popcorn, emptying the water cooler and wandering around like you were the brother of the birthday boy. While your third birthday didn’t bring quite as much fanfare as Charlie’s fifth, we certainly did celebrate the three years we have been blessed with you in our lives.

Mummalove 52-12-2charlie: The birthday joy was palpable. While you too excited by the presents to worry too much about playing with all your friends, you were genuinely happy that your friends from Prep had come along to celebrate. In many ways, you shy away from attention, but you were certainly happy to remind us that you were the “birthday boy” well into the night. I’m pretty sure you wished that day of turning five could last forever.

Joining in the 52 Project at Practising Simplicity ~ a portrait of my youngest boys every week in 2015.

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11/52 {it starts with us}

Mummalove 52-11-2I’ve just had the pleasure of attending my first ever Down syndrome Education Conference for 2015, run by our state’s Down syndrome association, DSAQ. While the conference is largely aimed at teachers who support students with Down syndrome, it is also valuable for parents. The theme of this year’s event was “It starts with us”, and there were many professionals who presented, including a physiotherapist, speech pathologist, teachers, maths expert, and some young and accomplished adults who happen to have Down syndrome. I came away from the event feeling both challenged and inspired.

I’m sure each person who attended would have taken away different elements from the two conference days, but I wanted to share the things most memorable for me:

  • There were a few references to the research by John Hattie which closely links the teacher’s expectations of the student to the student’s outcome. While this makes perfect sense, it reinforced my belief that we have to continue having high expectations of Nicholas in his ability to succeed throughout life.
  • The importance of communication between parents, teachers and other school staff in the education of our child – what’s working, how can we adjust what we’re doing to help our child succeed, what can we supplement at home.
  • Reinforcement that the visual memory and reading ability of a child with Down syndrome are two big strengths, so we need to harness those by embarking on a whole-word approach to reading as young as possible. (Reading Our Way is the reading program for people with Down syndrome developed by DSAQ, but other options might be the Doman based How to Teach Your Baby to Read or BrillKids Little Reader).
  • While many symptoms and behaviours have historically been put down to “just because of Down syndrome”, it’s important to look at the physiological reasons behind why these might be happening and investigate the root cause, rather than dismiss. Is a particular behaviour due to lack of core strength, different way of processing sensory information, etc? How can we support that student better?
  • Sometimes we get hung up on the way things “should” be taught. Based on experiences with her daughter and subsequent research undertaken, Dr Rhonda Faragher gave a really interesting presentation on utilising slightly different methods and workarounds to allow students with Down syndrome achieve the same results as their typical peers.
  • There seemed to be a theme on building on the strengths of the student with Down syndrome, rather than ‘fixing’ them or making them adhere strictly to the methods of their typical peers.

We were very blessed to have quite a few teachers from our school in attendance, and the School Officer (teacher aide) in Charlie’s class actually won the Teacher Award for 2014, which was announced at the conference. Congratulations Miss Jodi! Jodi gave a wonderful presentation on the best ways she has learned to support her student with Down syndrome over the past few years.

Lisa Bridle gave a very memorable closing address, sharing experiences with her son Sean and their family’s pursuit of inclusive education and a rich and fulfilling life for him. She drew on the theme of “it starts with us” so beautifully, beginning with how important it is to “start with” seeing our child or our student as a person, rather than a diagnosis. We laughed and cried as she shared her passion, her strength, her highs and lows with us all. (If you haven’t already, please go and read Lisa’s guest post here on the blog last October on ‘The Virtue of Stubborn‘).

If you know of a teacher who would benefit from sharing knowledge and experiences with other teachers of students with Down syndrome, please encourage them to go to the Down syndrome Education conference in Brisbane next year, or perhaps there’s a similar one run in your local area. Based on the very positive feedback I heard from other attendees at the conference, I’m sure they will get so much out of it.

It really does start with us.

Mummalove 52-11-4nicholas: You were so happy to hang out in Rachel’s arms while we were at school watching Sam’s class lead the assembly. And then you climbed stairs, we played soccer, walked around and visited friends to fill in time before we could take those big boys home. You were very busy. You loved playing golf over at Grandma and Grandad’s later in the week. I wonder if you’ll follow in their footsteps and have a passion for golf.

 Mummalove 52-11-5charlie: Mirror mirror on the wall, who is the most magical of them all? In both the photographs I chose of you this week, you were in dressups, so it appears you still like doing that on occasion. On Monday afternoon, I was trying to be extra organised as I had limited time before the babysitter was coming and Daddy and I had to go out. Of course, this was the time you were very insistent that we needed to create a Box Troll costume for you. So the lunches for school the next day didn’t get made, but you were very happy with your costume and needed me to confirm that I would NEVER throw out that box we used to make it ;)

Joining in the 52 Project at Practising Simplicity ~ a portrait of my boys every week in 2015.

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10/52 {unexpected joys}

As soon as I booked the big boys into the 4.30pm and 5pm timeslots for swimming lessons, with few other openings to choose from, I regretted it. I anticipated the late afternoon, the rushed dinner, the overtired children (and mother) with dread and consoled myself with the thought that it was only one term.

But Tuesday afternoons have brought unexpected joys. We have left school and headed straight for the pool, enjoying afternoon tea under a shady tree and delighting in the cool water on unseasonably hot days. We have enjoyed playing together in all the “fun” pools before the boys have enthusiastically taken their turn having a lesson with the swimming coach. I have watched on proudly as Nicholas spends hours uses his newly-walking legs to wander around in the shallow water and climb ladders, bravely approaching the waterslides all by himself. We have scrambled away from the giant tipping bucket of water and splashed in the aquatic wonderland. Everyone’s faces light up when we spot Daddy, as he joins us unexpectedly after work and the whole event turns into a family affair. All this fun feels rather indulgent for a Tuesday.

Sometimes we overthink the hardness. Sometimes we should just embrace the fun.

Mummalove 52-10-3nicholas: So much joy in playing that game of catch with Daddy across the window in the cubby. Oh how I miss that face and those chubby little arms when I’m away from you. You’ve started saying “what?” whenever one of us calls your name. It’s not very clear, but you are so consistent that I know exactly what you’re saying and exactly who you’re copying off ;)

 Mummalove 52-10-4charlie: That grin that means you’re doing something you’re pretty sure you shouldn’t be. I wish I had your energy. You become passionately involved in whatever you start, regardless of the time of day… usually just before it’s time for bed. As I type, I can hear your little feet stomping across the floorboards upstairs, far too late. 

Joining in the 52 Project at Practising Simplicity ~ a portrait of my boys every week in 2015.

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9/52 {marching on}

March already. How did that happen?

It’s a birthday month for us, and pretty soon we will have a big five year old and three year old in our midst. I always seem to start thinking of the boys as their new age a few months beforehand though. Do you do that too? Sometimes I catch myself doing it and remember to hold on to “two” and “four” a little longer. That new number will tick over soon enough.

I can already feel myself getting a little tense watching the calendar for the next month fill up before my eyes. So I am making a few lists, trying to breathe and be in the moment. This free app has been helping our whole family be more mindful lately, thanks to my lovely friend Ali for introducing it to us. The big boys are loving their five minute meditation each night, helping us wind down into bedtime. My little night owl, Charlie, seems to find his second wind around bedtime, so I figure every little bit of mindfulness should help, right?

Mummalove 52-9-1 nicholas: Your explorations around the house led you to the bathroom, where you climbed in and enjoyed playing with toys in the empty bath. While you seem to have a pretty good sense of self-preservation and avoid anything too risky, you do love to explore. Today I found you on top of a cupboard, giggling mischievously as you tipped each item onto the floor. 

Mummalove 52-9-2charlie: Apart from being awake far too late every night and then hard to get moving in the morning, you are mostly delightful at the moment. I love seeing how well you seem to be settling in at school and how enthusiastic you are about letters, love hearing your caring voice as you ask Nicholas a question and seeing you run to give Sam a hug when he picks you up at the classroom door. I think I like you being almost-five.

Joining in the 52 Project at Practising Simplicity ~ a portrait of my boys every week in 2015.

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8/52 {celebrating}

It was so lovely to celebrate my Dad’s 80th birthday today with all our tribe, including my three members of “Grandad’s Fan Club”, with the t-shirts to prove it.

Happy birthday to the best Dad a girl could wish for. We love you x

52-8-1charlie: I wonder if you’ll remember celebrating your Grandad’s 80th birthday just like I remember how we celebrated my Grandma’s 80th. I wonder if you know just how loved and cherished you are, a member of Grandad’s Fan Club and part of this loud and crazy, wonderful tribe. 

52-8-2nicholas: Oh, it’s so good being able to walk and see the top of that food table now, isn’t it?! You were in your element today, playing with all your cousins and selecting your favourite snacks from the table. While I kept an eye on where you were, I didn’t need to worry about you. You were well nurtured by all your mother hens.

Joining in the 52 Project at Practising Simplicity ~ a portrait of my boys every week in 2015.

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7/52 {love}

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We’ve never been ones to give Valentine’s Day more than a passing nod, but I can’t imagine feeling more loved than I do by all four of these boys, on 14 February or any day. And, I’m never more in love with my husband than when I see how much he loves these three ragamuffins. He makes my heart sing.

With the invitation to celebrate a Valentine’s Day wedding at Mt Tamborine with some lovely friends, we took the opportunity to escape for two nights and enjoyed the peace that accompanies being sans children. Oh the tranquility. It was a fun weekend, a beautiful wedding celebration and a much needed break for two weary souls.

But I did love seeing those three little faces when we returned today.

52-7-3charlie: Before we’d even made it to the front gate after our weekend away, you had run up the stairs and leapt into my arms, wrapping your spindly arms and legs around me. I missed you too. Your enthusiasm for school and thirst for knowledge is making me so happy at the moment, and I loved watching you practise writing your name this afternoon. 

52-7-4 52-7-5nicholas: Whenever you see the camera, you tilt your head and say “cheese”, more than happy to pose and perform when you’re in the mood. In amidst all the real life and chaos, your presence is such a shining light in our lives. If you’re having a cuddle with me and Daddy or one of the boys walks past, you call them in for a group hug. You are the glue, and I just can’t imagine our family without you in it.

Joining in the 52 Project at Practising Simplicity ~ a portrait of my boys every week in 2015.

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6/52 {changing landscape}

DSC_3968Over the past month, the landscape of our family has shifted more noticeably. Our babies are growing up.

Nicholas moved from a cot into a ‘big boy bed’ just after Christmas, and more boxes of baby paraphernalia were packaged up and shared with the newest baby in our tribe. The shift into a bed was relatively pain-free for all of us, thankfully, although some mornings we hear “hello” through the door a little earlier than desirable and he often naps on the carpet beside the door during the day. But, you know, while it’s definitely more convenient having Nicholas contained in a cot (and not having to clean up the tornado after he plays with every last toy until he falls sleep!) I do love watching his surge in independence, knowing that he is now the master of his own bedroom.

Our baby started walking. He is in that in-between stage where he will still crawl if he feels like it’s a safer or faster mode of transport, but it’s lovely to see those little legs getting stronger and more confident each day. I still watch in awe.

As of last Friday, Nicholas now goes to daycare one day per week at the same centre the big boys went to. While I put his name down on the waiting list some time ago, in all honesty, I never actually intended to enrol him. But when I was contacted by the daycare centre about an available place, I realised it was me who wasn’t ready. I knew in my heart that my little social butterfly would love spending the day playing with other children and learning through their interactions.

Charlie started Prep, and we now have two boys at school. Charlie is so different to Sam and I did have moments of worrying whether he was truly ready, but I have to say that so far I am impressed with how well he has taken being a ‘big school boy’ in his stride. Oh sure, we’re still working on independence and some mornings he’d much prefer to play ninja turtles than get off to school, but we’re only in week three. Charlie has a beautiful teacher who I am sure will nurture his creative spirit beautifully and gently keep him in line.

My biggest boy was very ready for the move into Grade One. Sam was looking forward to finally being able to wear navy socks, rather than light blue Prep socks, but not so keen on the idea of the “heaps” of homework he had heard Grade One had in store. He has lost even more teeth and more are growing in the spaces, and he can tie his own shoelaces now. With his beautiful teacher to guide the way, I can’t wait to see all he achieves this year.

And, I, too have been venturing out of my comfort zone and have just returned to work alongside my beloved husband and the fabulous team at Grassroots IT. While my brain felt slightly weary after day one, I am looking forward to sinking my teeth into some projects and hopefully adding even more value to our business in 2015.

I remember when Sam was teeny and I somehow didn’t want him to get any older than 12 weeks because then I wouldn’t have a ‘newborn’ anymore. But, of course, he did keep growing and changing and I delighted in each new phase, new milestone, new development that I had the honour of witnessing as his mother.

I could dwell on the fact that my babies are growing up, and there is something very special about their ‘littleness’ which I will continue to cherish every day, but I know that there is also so much good yet to come.

Here’s to changing landscapes and new beginnings.

“And suddenly you just know it’s time to start something new and trust the magic of beginnings.” ~ Meister Eckhart

52-6-1charlie: So handsome with your new haircut and in your school uniform. I can hardly believe that you are a big school boy when it feels like just a moment ago I brought home my snuggly second baby. I am so proud of you and the beautiful boy you are growing into.

52-6-2nicholas: No longer a baby, you left the safety of my arms this week and, with backpack on, ventured into new territory at daycare. I know you will love playing with all the kids and learning new things. I’m sure that some lessons, like not spending all day turning on taps in the bathroom, may come harder than others. I hope that by getting to know you, the children, parents and carers you meet at daycare also learn a few things – just as I have over the past three years.

Joining in the 52 Project at Practising Simplicity ~ a portrait of my boys every week in 2015.

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