47/52 {countdown}

After a crazy week, it was lovely to escape to Stradbroke Island for a child-free weekend with five (out of six) of my siblings to celebrate my eldest brother’s 50th birthday. With almost 20 children between all seven of us, I’m sure you can imagine that we rarely have an uninterrupted conversation, so it was a pretty special event to get together for two nights. Although it felt a bit surreal not to have three children to attend to, I tried to make the most of the peace. In some ways, perhaps it’s the calm before the storm – Christmas is just around the corner and I know how much we will need to fit in before then.

With two weeks left of school and three weeks of kindy for us, the year is well and truly drawing to a close. We have Christmas concerts and carols and end-of-year celebrations all coming up and I know the next 31 days until Christmas Day are going to disappear. I am trying to keep my eye on what’s important and not spiral into a pre-Christmas frenzy. I am conscious that, amidst the joy and festivities, it can also be a difficult time of the year for some people. How are your Christmas preparations going? Are you feeling calm in your heart about the weeks ahead?

Peace does not mean to be in a place where there is no noise, trouble or hard work. It means to be in the midst of those things and still be calm in your heart.
– Unknown.

52-47-1sam: Two of the Prep classes led the assembly at school this week and you all looked so gorgeous with your (albeit slightly evil looking) reindeer faces. The Prep kids did a dance and then told the school community about all your achievements this year, proving you are now ready to “go go go” to Year One. I loved seeing your proud-as-punch face after you finished your speaking part and handed over the microphone to the next person in line. You all did such a great job.

52-47-5charlie: Are we ever too old for the joy of bubbles? You were so excited about the sleepover at Grandma’s this weekend, but equally excited to see Daddy and I return today. You know how to make a girl feel loved – always running and leaping into my arms as soon as you see me. I love feeling your arms around me and the happy giggle, knowing that we’re all together again.

52-47-9 nicholas: The moment after I took this photo, you moved the position of your hand and the water started squirting into your face, surprising you and making me laugh out loud. I love watching you experiment and play. Just like Charlie, you can easily keep yourself entertained with the simple things you find around you, exploring and investigating and working out how the world works.

Joining in the 52 Project at Practising Simplicity ~ a portrait of each of my boys every week in 2014.

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46/52 {nearly home}

Ben arrives home tomorrow after being away for 10 days. As we cruise into the finish line, I am exhausted but I feel like we’ve done okay, the little Loves and I. Quick tally on some vital stats over the past week-or-so of single-parenting:

Number of times Charlie has been asleep before 9pm: 2

Number of mornings Sam has slept in longer than 6am: 2

Number of nights Sam has slept in my bed: 5

Number of nights Mummy has enjoyed a sneaky wine: 10

Number of unscheduled hospital visits: 1

Chances of Daddy arriving home to a clean house: 0

But he will arrive to whole lotta love from his little family ;)

In the more challenging moments, I have mourned the absence of my partner-in-crime and his ability to swoop in when I particularly need practical support and emotional backup. While sometimes Ben and I might feel like ships in the night as we attend to the needs of small children and work commitments, it’s nice to have a special person to debrief with at the end of the day, to share the highs and lows with. And trying to do that via Skype isn’t quite the same, especially when fighting for screen time with three little people (especially Nicholas, who is a self-confessed screen hogger ;)

But I have found it an interesting experiment in parenting over the past 10 days and, in some ways, it’s been easier and more calm. I feel as though I’ve been more organised, more willing to ask for help from the village, more patient with the boys, less stressed about nutrition and more concerned about ease. I have tried to lower my voice, rather than raise it. I’ve focused on the basics, on what’s really important, and haven’t worried about the rest. I haven’t set unrealistic expectations. Of course, that’s got nothing to do with Ben, his absence or presence, and everything to do with me. And, it got me thinking, does it have to be hard? Why can’t I focus on the important stuff, have more realistic expectations and not be so hard on myself every day of the week, rather than just when Ben’s away? I haven’t come up with any particularly good answers, but it has given me food for thought.

PS. Thank you to all the friends and family in the village who have checked in to see how we are, or hung out with us, providing stellar company, food, the occasional glass of wine, other kids to distract mine, usually a pool and sometimes even Christmas craft. You are the greatest x

52-46-3nicholas: One of my favourite books when I was little was ‘Where Did the Baby Go?’  by Sheila Hayes. Oh, you’re still my baby, but I see those legs growing longer and that little face looking older, the way you attempt to put your own clothes on and keep up with those big brothers. I love your sense of humour and the ‘conversations’ we have. You are a delight, Nicholas Love.

52-46-7sam: You have stepped up as the man of the house while Daddy’s been away and you’ve been such a good helper. You are a beautiful soul, Sam Love. I love when we walk through school and I hear you call out and say hi to people by name as we pass, regardless of whether they are teachers or students in Prep or another grade. I love that you remember people’s names and make them feel special, and that people remember your name too.

52-46-2charlie: Your ability to make a game out of anything, to find delight in the ordinary, never fails to inspire me. You have made me giggle so many times this past week – my favourite was probably when we were playing on the ground and you pressed down hard on my chest and asked, “am I breaking your heart, Mum?” You appear tough as nails sometimes, but I know you are a sensitive bunny and I am trying harder to listen to what you’re really trying to tell me through your actions. You are a unique and beautiful character, Charlie Love.

Joining in the 52 Project at Practising Simplicity ~ a portrait of each of my boys every week in 2014.

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Taking Stock {november}

Nothing like a little list to take stock and remember where we’re at.

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Making : Christmas lists
Cooking : lamingtons from The Healthy Chef. Didn’t quite get to the chocolate and coconut bit.
Drinking : more lemon and ginger tea
Reading : Carry On Warrior, by Glennon Melton Doyle. So good.
Wanting : Charlie to go to bed, far earlier than he ever does
Playing : Uno
Deciding : where to take our work team for a Christmas gathering
Wishing : someone else would make the school lunches tonight
Enjoying : time on the daybed in our backyard
Waiting : for my Beloved to return safely from overseas
Liking : my clever sister’s newest venture, an e-mag especially for Thermomix cooking
Wondering : how often Sam will end up sleeping in my bed while Daddy’s away
Loving : hearing my spunky husband’s voice in his new podcast
Pondering : whether to read another book in the Outlander series
Considering : an 800km bike ride through Thailand. I know, ridiculous, but true.
Watching : Playschool
Hoping : one day my children will eat the wholesome dinners I lovingly create for them
Marvelling : at my littlest Love finding his feet, taking tentative steps
Needing : more time and more sleep
Smelling : doTerra essential oils
Wearing : nothing glamorous
Following : Claire Bowditch on Instagram. Girl crush.
Noticing : more Christmas beetles flying wildly through our kitchen at night
Knowing : Christmas is just around the corner
Thinking : too many things
Admiring : Ben’s green thumb in our thriving veggie patch
Sorting : Lego, colouring implements and little boys’ toys, constantly
Buying : fruit and vegies
Getting : back on the netball court
Bookmarking : gift ideas at LarkStore
Disliking : steroids
Opening : an article on lasting relationships
Giggling : at this clip. Actually, I laughed so hard I cried.
Feeling : strangely calm, but weary
Snacking : on roasted macadamias
Coveting : a 50mm lens for the Nikon. Or maybe a whole new camera ;)
Helping : draw Ben10 characters in Charlie’s books. Hidden talents.
Hearing : the Afternoon Acoustic playlist in Spotify
Looking : forward to welcoming my newest niece or nephew into the world soon

Thanks to Pip and Jodi for the inspiration. If you’d like to take stock and make your own list, you can copy a blank one over at Pip’s hangout Meet Me at Mike’s.

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45/52 {flying solo}

Daddalove is away overseas for the next week, so I am practising my skills of focusing only on what’s important and asking for help when required. I am thankful for the beautiful village around us, happy to step up and lend support when we need it.

I know many parents often fly solo, and I’m sure we’ll be fine for ten days. In fact, sometimes I’m far more efficient when Ben’s away, because I know I just have to be. Now I just have to remember not to stay up too late reading every night.

Thanks to everyone who shared their top tips for flying solo with me on the Mummalove Facebook page this week. I did notice there seemed to be a theme to the suggestions… many revolving around wine ;)

Have a beautiful week (and wish me luck) x

PS. Ooh, I forgot to tell you that I wrote a blog post for Tula Baby Carriers for Down syndrome awareness month, which you can find here. Thank you to Georgia at Documenting Delight for the beautiful photos, and to Tula for sharing the love in October x

52-45-4nicholas: Happiness is playing with big cousins. You are so lucky to have such a beautiful village around you and your brothers, and loved an afternoon being loved up by your extended family. After more than a week of being sick, you are still a little extra clingy and feisty at the moment, but I am thankful to see you looking much better and back to your good sleeping habits again (Hallelujah). While I’d like to think I’m usually grateful for your good health, I am even more so after the past week.

52-45-1charlie: This week, you spent one morning at your ‘new school’ for Prep orientation, and loved it, and every morning since, you have been asking when you’ll get to go back to school. It was nice to see you so happy and comfortable in a somewhat familiar, but new-to-you, environment. This week, you have a newfound love of Ben10 (and were very happy to inherit Sam’s old shirt), even though I don’t think you’ve ever seen the show, and you have been looking up pictures of Ben10 aliens so you can write stories about them. 

DSC_2791sam: Like many of your friends, you are getting tired (and a little ratty) as the school year draws to a close, but I can see that my Preppie is very ready to take that leap into Grade One. You are often keen to be among the big boys, doing what they are doing, and I think sometimes you forget you’re still only six. Maybe we forget how much you’ve had to grow up over the past year. Dad and I try to remember that the three of us are still learning when it comes to our biggest boy growing up, and pushing boundaries is important for all of us. As I overheard Daddy telling you this week, you are one of the most generous, wholehearted boys we know and we are so proud of you.

Joining in the 52 Project at Practising Simplicity ~ a portrait of each of my boys every week in 2014.

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44/52

52-44-1nicholas: My poor little poppet, you really haven’t been well the past few days and it’s very rare to see you sick. In true Nicholas style, though, you will still give someone a smile or a wave, even if you’re not feeling your best. You have been unsettled in your bed, so you’ve spent a fair portion of time asleep on top of me, and thus your mumma is feeling a tad weary (and snot-covered). Thankfully we had a quiet weekend, with plenty of time for cuddling, but I do hope you’re on the mend soon.

52-44-3charlie: A few times recently, I’ve looked over and seen a vision of you as a teenager, with your long hair and slightly ratbaggish nature ;) We had a Prep parents orientation meeting this week, in preparation for you to start school next year, and learned who your teacher will be. We also visited school to pick up your new bag and uniforms, and it was the first time I had seen you express some excitement about this adventure you’ll soon be starting. I’m not sure about you, but I’m pretty sure I’m not ready for you to be a Preppie yet. Slow down, Charlie bear.

52-44-4sam: You love any opportunity to spend time with your cousins, especially the big boys, so an afternoon of swimming and doing flips on the trampoline with them was pure heaven. A few weeks ago, you started doing weekly swimming lessons with your Prep class at a local pool, which you are loving. It has been over a year since you were in a public pool, as it was too much of a germ risk when you were going through intensive chemo treatment, so needless to say it’s been pretty exciting to get back into swimming.

Joining in the 52 Project at Practising Simplicity ~ a portrait of each of my boys every week in 2014.

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The Grand Finale

The Universe

Just over a month ago, I was entrusted with the most beautiful gifts – precious gems in the shape of stories from around the Down syndrome community.

Thank you Leticia, Jocelyn, Belinda, Kylie, Joelle, Peggy, Elisa, Lucy, Karlea, Ben, Sharnie, Rebecca, Lisa, Kerry, Diane and Kat for entrusting me with your words and photographs, and allowing me to share a piece of your heart in this space. It has been an honour. Thank you for being courageous enough to be vulnerable, for sharing your story with your whole heart.

And thank you to everyone who held out your hands to receive these precious stories in October, who soaked in these words and images and felt them in your heart.

As we conclude with the 31st of 31 posts in October today, I want to set you a challenge. Go back over the month of posts (there’s a list below with links) and choose one of your favourites, then do one of two things. Either write a comment below the post for the writer to find, or send that story out into the Universe by sharing it on social media (or perhaps simply send a link via an email to a friend). When you are writing the comment or sharing it with your friends, tell them what you learned from what you read, how it changed you or what it meant to you. If you have already written a comment or shared a story, thank you.

Leticia ~ Why Bother with Awareness

Jocelyn ~ Choosing Family: a mother’s reflection on having more children after her first baby was born with Down syndrome

Belinda ~ the Monday Meditation series: week 1, week 2, week 3 and week 4

Kylie ~ Country Parenting a Child with Down syndrome

Joelle ~ No Prenatal Diagnosis Can Predict This Kind of Happiness

Peggy ~ Advocating for Your Child in Hospital

Elisa ~ Lessons from Reuben: what my son has taught me about life, Down syndrome and myself

Karlea ~ Jahkai’s Rainbow {wordless Wednesday}

Lucy ~ Emily and Me: growing up with a sister who has Down syndrome

Ben ~ The View from Here: a Dad’s perspective on receiving a prenatal Down syndrome diagnosis

SharnieOsteopathic Treatment and Management of Children with Down syndrome

Rebecca ~ Ryan’s Surprises

Lisa ~ The Virtue of Stubborn

Kerry ~ Becoming a Forever Mum: loving my foster daughter with Down syndrome

Diane ~ A Tribute to Our Angel named Blake

Kat ~ What a Child with Down Syndrome Might Do

Annie ~ Apples and Oranges: comparing Leukaemia and Down syndrome

Loveisms

Two and a half.

Thank you for sharing in this storytelling journey through October, and for all you have taught me along the way. As is often the way, I have received far more than I could have imagined through being open to the magic and lessons of the stories shared.

~ Annie x

Have the courage to be imperfect, tell the story of who you are with your whole heart. Be willing to let go of who you think you should be in order to be who you are. Vulnerability is the core of shame and fear and our struggle for worthiness, but it appears that it’s also the birthplace of joy, of creativity, of belonging, of love. What makes you vulnerable makes you beautiful.

~ Brene Brown

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What a Child with Down Syndrome Might Do {guest post}

It seems hard to believe that Kat has been on the ‘Down syndrome scene’ for less than two years, with all she has achieved and all the people she has connected in that short time, whilst also holding down a full time job and being a single mum to two children. I am thankful to know this woman, filled with such passion and dedication and spunk. Thank you, Kat, for all you do and for sharing the Parker love here today. ~ Annie x

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There are no guarantees in life. Having a great love, following a true passion, having a child.. it’s all a gamble. You won’t always take the most worn and travelled path as you create your own life story.. and that’s okay. My son Parker has Down syndrome, and is two years old. In his short life, he has inspired many people to do many things, and created some beautiful memories for our whole family. It can be a scary place, the first moments (and days and years) after your child receives a diagnosis of any sort. I can’t tell you it will be easy. And I can’t gloss over the medical issues that can come with a child with additional needs – after all, he was on oxygen until he was a toddler and am grateful to no longer need it. But maybe I can show you a little of what else you have in store… the potential of what COULD be. Here’s what your child MIGHT do. He might show you how to stop and smell the flowers. Flowers He might breastfeed until he is 16 months old. Breastfeed He might become a model for a children’s boutique. Model He might go through your tissues like crazy. Tissues He might be rather bossy about telling you when he wants his nappy changed. Nappies He might become best friends with Geoff the oxygen delivery man, the mail man, the fruit box guy, the ambulance officers, the neighbours, or anyone else who chooses to regularly visit him and enjoys cuddles and an occasional poke in the face. Deliveryguy Your child might inspire someone to run a marathon just for him, on the other side of the world in America. RunforUS Or even in Europe. RunforEurope He might be the best thing that ever happened to his big sister or brother. “Mum, if I didn’t have Parker, I just.. I don’t even.” Sister You might find him hanging out on inner city store windows. Citywindows It might freak him out though. Freakout He might inspire 50 people to jump in a mug and snap a photo, to raise awareness for a Down syndrome morning tea day. Teacup He might get stuck into the presents BEFORE Christmas morning. christmas Your child might instantly make people feel a little better when they need it, just by being himself. feelbetter He might be really good at yoga. yoga He might go to daycare fulltime, and enjoy every second of it. daycare Your child might really really really love Taco Tuesday. taco Or he might be a spaghetti monster. spaghetti Your child might rather enjoy the odd picture being taken of himself and say ‘cheese’ a lot

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Your child might wow the therapists and sometimes just do his own thing. Instead of adhering to low expectations, he might set his OWN pace through life, like every other child. 9mos Your child might wake in the morning, and reach for you. And while you lay there wearing the most precious of jewels around your neck, his small chubby arms, you might decide this child is the best thing that ever happened to you. final Kat is a single mumma of two, a public servant, a passionate advocate in the disabilities community, and writes a blog to educate on what life is like raising her son Parker, who has Down syndrome. You can read articles by Kat on Mamamia, or follow Parker and Kat over at her blog, or in their Facebook community, Parker’s Place.