When Did She Grow Up?
Yes, she’s only two and a half but she seems so grown up all of a sudden.
Over the last few weeks, she's got steadier on her feet and she’s toddling around everywhere but it’s more than that.
At mealtimes, Ava is refusing to eat. Well not entirely but she will not eat anything if it is served on a plastic bowl or plate, she will only eat if it is served on a dinner plate like ours. We’re actually using a side plate but it’s at least the same type of plate. This girl knows her mind and she’s stubborn - no idea where she gets that from!! Now we’re on edge as she always had a tendency to chuck her plate on the floor to signify the end of her meal, fortunately, she has not done that so far with a ‘grown-up’ plate but we’re living in anticipation of replicating a greek wedding!
Ava is becoming so independent in many areas, we’re currently toilet training her; she’s been sitting on the potty and toilet since just before her first birthday and she’s managing really well so far. We got her a step so she can reach the sink herself, she loves to climb up and wash her hands after she’s been to the toilet. She also loves to take charge and clean her teeth. Obviously, we still give them a brush to make sure they’re clean but how grown up does she look standing on her step at the sink brushing her teeth?
My little baby, my last baby is growing up. I think I’m finding it harder to watch her grow up because I know she is the last.
Our babies are always our babies though, this morning, Maya asked me to brush her hair, she’s 11, I realised I couldn’t remember the last time I brushed her hair before she didn’t need me. I enjoyed that moment and it made me realise that I should treasure each time any of them needed me, as you never know when it’s the last!
Covid Lockdown 2020 (7th December 2020)
I had intended to write something during lockdown number 1 but, if I’m being honest life was just a little too crazy. Me and Andrew both working from home, were trying to homeschool Maya and Oscar and not only look after Ava but ensure her development didn’t fall behind. All of her medical and development appointments and groups were cancelled. Mum guilt crept in for all three of them.
One thing I took from that period was huge amounts of gratitude for still having work to do, we were fortunate but that still didn’t fix the issue of trying to fit it all in. Maya, who runs her own business (Unicorn Sparkles) was busy sewing, she started making headbands and scrub bags for the NHS, later she made and sold face masks. My little entrepreneur was in her element. She was also a huge help in looking after Ava, playing and signing with her, even doing physio or working on her phonics.
I think we all made changes to our lives during that period. I took the time to separate what I was running as one business and split it into two, soon to be three businesses. My blog moved to this new author page and rather than it being solely focused on Ava I decided to expand it to look at our whole family. The Snowdrop Story may still house a more Ava-related blog though at some point! As well as splitting out and separating the work I was doing I had to change the structure of my day to alleviate some of the mum guilt. Oscar needed support and encouragement with his school work, I spent the mornings when I didn’t have meetings, helping him get started with his school work and I would start work later in the day and continue working later. Towards the end of the summer, Oscar was starting to get emotional from spending so long away from school and his friends.
If I’m being completely honest, although it was a struggle I really did enjoy being in our safe little bubble away from the outside world. So much so that when Ava broke my Mac (I’ll come back to that!) that heading to the Metrocentre to get a replacement caused a mild anxiety attack that I had not expected. I realised at that point that I had to make sure that I did not get too far in not being able to leave the house without feeling safe. It probably wasn’t until the middle of September that I stopped feeling dirty if I left the house or touched anything. In reality everywhere else was probably a damn sight cleaner than our house having 2 adults, 3 children a dog and a cat cooped up with no cleaner coming probably wasn’t the cleanest environment!
And then there’s Ava. Well, lockdown 1.0 was the absolute making of her. She learnt to walk, started speaking more and more words and she is now able to communicate all of her needs via signing with some words thrown in for good measure. Developmentally she has come on leaps and bounds, she has such a cheeky personality and she’s very much finding herself.
When September came and it was time for the children to go back to school, it really concerned me. I knew they needed to go back for the social side but I also wanted to keep our family safe. Touch wood, so far we have all been ok.
It’s made me realise that yes we could shut ourselves away to protect from any nasties whether that’s virus, person or anything else, but could we really call that life? As long as we sensibly calculate our risks and chances and care for each other, we can still live our lives even if that does mean we are a little more cautious at the moment.
19 months old already! (27th December 2019)
This year was Ava’s second Christmas. She wasn’t really aware of what Christmas was but she loved all of the twinkly lights in the run-up and who doesn’t love a Christmas party … she had quite a few!
The last few weeks before Christmas saw Ava’s development come on leaps and bounds. She’s now 19 months and the milestones she hit this month have blown all other months out of the water.
She has started bottom shuffling (yey!!!), we gave up attempting to get her to crawl on the crawling track as she sat herself up at every opportunity (despite the chocolate mouse bribes waiting at various intervals along the track!) and slid her way to the bottom. It became a bit of a game for her and she certainly found it more amusing than we did after spending a good few hours one Sunday afternoon constructing the blooming thing.
We now have stair gates on the top of our stairs because, of course, they look fascinating to a little one on the go and it would only be a matter of time before the fearless little creature threw herself down them while we are running around the crazy place we call home. She’s also been trying to pull herself up to stand from sitting on the ground (she mastered it from sitting on her step a few months ago) but she can’t quite get her legs in the right position and I’m not sure she’s quite strong enough yet but I don't think we're far off. Each milestone seems like it’s a long time coming but, firstly, it’s quite interesting to see them broken down into the mini-milestones that we took for granted and did not see or consider with Maya and Oscar. Secondly, it makes each and every milestone achieved that much more special.
Ava is currently cutting her final baby teeth (with the exception of the very back molars I think - I can’t get to look that far back without risk of losing a finger!) I noticed yesterday that the final 3 (canines, possibly) all cutting together. Fortunately, Ava has never been troubled by any of her teeth coming through, which is an absolute blessing. She is a tough little cookie and nothing much phases her.
The biggest breakthrough we have had this month is with her signing. She started with ‘where’ and especially likes to use that sign either with a ‘woof, woof’ noise or while signing dog to ask where he has gone if she can’t see him. Another favourite of hers is ‘star’ when we sing Twinkle, Twinkle and the last few days she’s also added in her pointy finger for ‘what you are’. Ava will make some animal noises and makes sounds alongside her signs as well as signing stop, finished and more.
Ava has a wicked sense of humour and loves to show off her fake laugh as she has learned that it’s so infectious it makes other people laugh along with her. She is turning into such a happy little girl who loves to make others smile. She absolutely loves to pose for the camera at any opportunity. Her favourite toys this Christmas were her xylophone and glockenspiel (or more precisely the sticks that came with them, which she has only let go of to eat and sleep).
I absolutely love watching Ava grow and develop every single day, she brings so much joy to all of us and is a true inspiration. I really do feel like the luckiest mum, not just because of Ava but of all three of them; watching the bond between them grow is magical.
Where does the time go?! (6th November 2019)
I can’t believe it is nearly a year since my last blog post… where does the time go?!
I started to write a post around Ava’s first birthday but with all of the goings on, it got forgotten about. Here are some photos of her first birthday ... she loves cake!
I started another post on the anniversary of her heart surgery, but again, life got in the way. What a difference a year makes!
It’s Wednesday, I am just back from two very long days in Birmingham and preparing for 3 days in London over this weekend. Unusually, I have a quiet half an hour while Ava has gone for a nap and we are having a rare chilled-out day at home.
I am a busy mum of three and wife trying to run a home and a business simultaneously, which is a constant juggle. I have two days a week at home with Ava (as well as the weekends), those days are filled to the brim with activities that we both love doing. Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Fridays are normally my days given over to work and Mondays and Thursdays are our manic but fun filled days.
We have a baby swimming class where Ava has come on leaps and bounds and loves to play with the other babies and toddlers. She has started standing up on the steps and holding on to the rail, she also loves to play with the watering cans and rubber ducks (& fish!). When we first started going swimming, although Ava had great head control on dry land, it was tricky for her to keep her head out of the water while I moved her through the water on her tummy. One of the other grandmas had a solution! We got her an inflatable neck ring, which we used during lessons so I could support and move her lower body without worrying about her dunking herself! She’s now started to copy trying to blow bubbles in the water. Everyone in the group loves Ava and most of the other regular swimmers in the pool know who she is too. It is so much fun being able to spend this time with her and watch her grow.
We sometimes follow this with a trip to the local baby and toddler group where Ava loves to play.
In the afternoon I run a baby signing class using Makaton. It’s open to any and all families but we do have a few babies/ children who require support in their communication as there isn’t another group, focused on Makaton through songs and stories, like it in the area. This has been a great opportunity for me to do more signs with Ava in a fun environment with others and encourages signing to be more mainstream. We swiftly run from our signing class to Maya and Oscar’s school where I have been running an after-school class, again sharing Makaton signs, with a fab group of children from reception to year 6. The kids race to get to us first so they can have a cuddle with Ava and they have been amazing at picking up and remembering signs.
These are some of the babies and my big helpers for the day at our Halloween-themed class!
With all of Ava’s exposure to signing both at home and in these environments I was so pleased when she recent;y started copying some of the signs in context. So far we have seen ‘stop’ and ‘finished’ as well as waving. She has also started making sounds to indicate ‘more’ and ‘bye, bye’. There are probably others too that I have forgotten. I am so immensely proud of what Ava has achieved already.
Our portage sessions at home have now just moved to Thursday mornings so we squeeze that in before we head off to Kalma Baby. I appreciate that we are so fortunate to live in an area where portage is available. This should not be a postcode lottery as the first 2 years of a child’s life is vital in developing that early education and lays down the foundations for the rest of their lives. (Enough of my rant!)
Ava has been going to Kalma Baby for just over a year now. We started after her heart surgery once she’d had time to recover and heal. One of the advantages that Ava does have, having Down’s syndrome, is her flexibility. She absolutely smashes it at Kalma Baby every week! Also, the fact that she is super light means that I am able to throw her around doing flips and cartwheels far more easily! We quickly found out that Ava loves Lycra/blanket swinging. It’s a really calming activity that we also use at home sometimes (I wish I could fit in a blanket and be swung!), she also loves bouncing and rolling on the yoga ball and being thrown around to the energetic songs which tire me out! She shouts at me when they finish as she wants to do more!
On Thursdays, we have a picnic in the car before heading to our group portage session. Yet again, I am so grateful for this session; we get to meet other mums who have children with varying needs, learning difficulties and disabilities. It opens your eyes to a whole new world that prior to having Ava I didn’t know a whole lot about. I certainly had never heard of portage before. This is the group where Ava first signed ‘stop’. Having access to this group is something I am very grateful for.
I have put life into perspective a lot more effectively over the last 18 months. Having a child with Down’s syndrome is slightly different from having my other two children, but it’s certainly not something I would want to change. I’ve almost forgotten what life before Ava was like, you just get on with what’s best for your children, no matter who they are or what they need.
From my two ‘typical’ days with Ava, yes there is a proportion of it that we wouldn’t be doing if she didn’t have Down’s syndrome but I probably would have filled it with another activity as I like to be busy and would have found something different, which would help with her development in other ways (& would have cost more money)
Ava does take more of my time than Maya and Oscar did, in terms of attending medical appointments but that has already reduced significantly compared to when she was first born and in those first 4 months while we were waiting for her surgery. In comparison, I know of other parents who have ‘typically developing’ children who have health complications and are in and out of hospital far more than us. Equally, there are parents who have healthy children who only found out their children had learning difficulties down the line. There are also those families who had healthy and typically developing children until an unfortunate accident who have to learn a whole new life completely unexpectedly. All of these families are fortunate though as they still have their precious children.
YOU CANNOT PLAN FOR WHAT WILL HAPPEN IN LIFE FOR ANY CHILD.
Enjoy all of the fun times together, no matter how often or rare they may be or whatever form they come in.
I had to share this photo of Ava posing for the camera when we went out for a meal for my mum's birthday! It's a new fun party trick that she's learnt that cracks me up!