Popsa – An app that creates a photo book in 5 minutes!

Before I had children, I had had an image in my mind of the type of Mum i’d be. The type that would make the large majority of meals from scratch. The type that would make sure their kids always looked immaculate (because dirt and bogies were just gross) and the type that would document every milestone and memory in a hard back photo album, that I could bring out in 14 years time and show Oscar, Alfie and Flo’s new girlfriends/boyfriends…. Because that’s a Mums prerogative right?

But then I became a Mum and all those ideas went out the window. The reality? I’m really rather average at cooking, my kids are bogie ridden and dirty most of the time and I don’t think I have a single photo album of any of them.

In fact i’m generally pretty rubbish at printing any photos out, let alone dedicate a whole album to their younger years.

So when Popsa got in touch and set me the challenge that i’d be able to create a photobok in just a few minutes… I kinda felt like I should probably give it a go.

Friends of mine, these are the friends I aspire to be like by the way, have told me they’ve spent many an evening, hunched over their laptops creating fabulous photo books of their baby’s first year for example. And don’t get me wrong, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with doing all that… I just know that I wouldn’t ever get round to it.

The thing with Popsa is, it literally is so straight forward and ridicuously quick.

You can download the app direct from the App Store (https://goo.gl/uvTnFU) and it’s available for both the iPhone and the iPad (and will be coming soon to Android)

The app itself is literally one of the easiest ones i’ve ever had to navigate. And if I can do it, it’s seriously fool proof. I’d decided before starting, that i’d really love to have a book that I could remember our last summer holiday by. I’d posted the photos in a Facebook album on my own private page but to have a hard copy that I could pick up and remember our time as a family together in Switzerland, I thought would be really lovely.

You start off by selecting the type of book you’d like to create. Popsa has various options, including different types (hard or soft back) and different sizes, then you instruct Popsa to access your photos either from your albums in your phone or via Facebook.

Next you select the photos you’d like to include, before giving your book a title. In this case we named ours “Holiday”. The photos then automatically get put into the book and although there are different layouts on each page, its up to you if you want to change where the photos go or change the formatting. You also get to choose your front cover which I think is a lovely touch.

If you’re then happy with the book, you pop in your payment details and you’re done

The hardback books typically takes 7-10 days to be produced but there are the soft back books that don’t take as much time. Once it’s landed on your doormat, you have it as a keepsake and/or to share with family and friends

If you’d like to see just how simple it is, take a little look at the video I put together here

At the moment Popsa are running a promotion where they’re giving any one of my followers a 50% Discount on up to 2 photo books until the end of 2017. All you need to do is put in the code – DONTBESORRY

It really is so super quick and easy to do. Why not give it a try?

Please Note this is a collaborative post.

“Be sure to taste your words before you spit them out” 

Yesterday a Tory MP tweeted – “Window Lickin’ Twitter Trolls out in force today”. This, from a well respected, intelligent woman who has a following on social media of around 30,000 people and who apparently felt it was appropriate to post this.

Shortly after the tweet went live, because of the backlash she had gotten from various members of the public (who were understandably up in arms about the fact that she had used such a phrase) she apologised and then subsequently deleted it. Her apology came however, after she tried to justify her use of language but as people continued to call her out on it, still claiming it to be unacceptable, she appeared to fail miserably. She said she wasn’t directly making reference to people with learning difficulties, simply that she was talking about trolls, but everyone knows, that the phrase “window lickers” is usually associated with people who have additional needs, hence the twitter rage

The thing is here, last week I was called out on something I said. Not in just one instance but TWO SEPARATE TIMES. The first was in relation to the blog post I’d written about adoption. A lady (very kindly I might add) let me know, that instead of saying

“A mother had decided to put their baby up for adoption”,

It’d frame it more positively, if i’d have said

“A mother chose adoption”.

She said, knowing how mindful I am about the use of language, she hoped I would understand. I of course went straight back in to my post and amended it to read the way she had suggested. I also apologised that it had never even occurred to me to phrase it that way and that i’d learnt something from her that day. I truly believe the lady in question understood there was no offence intended and we left it there.

The next exchange was slightly different. A few days ago I posted, what was meant to be a very light hearted, tongue in cheek post about the half term break. It opened with how I didn’t understand the Mums out there, who said things like

“I can’t wait for the school holidays to start”

Because in my mind (with three children under 5) I find the holidays really hard work. In response to those Mums I jokingly said, that I had wanted to say to them “ARE YOU MENTAL?”

And having gone back in to the post in question and noted that with almost 100 comments on it and 600 “likes, loves and LOL” emoticons, not one was negative. Seeing that not even one of them appeared cross with my use of language or if they did, no-one said anything. There was however, one lady, who again I might add, was so polite about it, who private messaged with the following…

“I enjoy your posts & your message is a really important one for so many families.

Please could you consider not using the word ‘mental’ in such a pejorative way?

You want to tackle stigma against Down syndrome & intellectual disabilities (Im 100% with you!) But your casual use of this language reinforces negative stereotypes about mental illness.

I’m a Psychiatrist & constantly working to tackle stigma. Stigma is such a big issue in people delaying seeking help. I find it interesting that so many of us that are so careful about stigma in so many spheres still use words like mental/crazy/psycho etc

You have a big following, the tone you set could make an impact. The language we use matters.

Thanks”

Making anyone angry or upset about my misuse of language is the last thing i’d want to. I apologised striaght away of course becasue I may be many things, but I hope disrespectful isn’t one…but much like the MP had done, I too tried to justify my actions. Having pressed send on my response back to her, I realised afterwards to her, I might have sounded flippant, like it was no big deal and I realised, I probably sounded like a prize idiot

I said something along the lines of…

It was a throw away comment. A figure of speech. That I’d meant nothing by it and that It was just a light hearted blog post, meant with no malice.

I’d thanked her for calling me out on it though because otherwise I would have never known and told her that I fully understood it to be bad use of language and that in the future I will obviously be more mindful…

… But on the flip side, there was a niggling voice inside my head, wondering if the world has gone just a little PC mad?

If I can’t say mental, incase I upset people who are or those who have lived or worked with someone who is? What should I say? Mad? Insane? I can’t say either of those can I?

I few paragraphs back, I just referred to myself as an idiot. Is that derogatory because back in the day, when people were referred to as the village idiot, they were usually those people who had learning difficulties?

If I say stupid, is that going to upset all those people in the world with a lower IQ?

But then it dawned on me. Perhaps I only get upset by people using Retard, F*&ktard, Special, Mong because it effects me personally. When people use these types of words, I feel offended because directly or indirectly they are talking about kids like Oscar. And that really hurts

I think the thing I’ve learnt from all this is that we all need to be more mindful of our choice of language. Something that might be a slip of the tongue to someone, might have a big impact on the next. I truly believe that this sort of thing should be taught in schools, educating our children and our children’s children about what’s acceptable and what’s not. When I was at school, we used to call each other “spaz”… It’s only occurred to me now that I had actually no idea what I was talking about, only that in using it, it was a put down. Racisim and Homophobia are hate crimes. Should the same be said for those people who use slurs against those with disabilities? And while I have apologised for the use of the word mental/crazy and genuinely meant no harm, am I just as bad as those people who write “window lickers?” I can’t get my head around it to be honest. On the one hand I think we all need to lighten up a bit but on the other, I know how hard it cuts when someone says something indirectly about Oscar. I know in future I am going to try and think before I speak (post on social media) because what we say and how we say it, is so very important

I actually think, had the Tory MP accepted responsibility and apologised, she might not have gotten so much stick. And it goes back to the title of this post, hopefully raising something for us all to remember – “Be sure to taste your words before you spit them out”

In the end we only regret the chances we didn’t take

It’s National Adoption Week here in the UK this week (16th – 22nd October) and as in previous years, the need to find families for some of the most vulnerable children, remains at the heart of event

There are many reasons why a mother might decide to choose adoption. But of all the reasons listed, the one closest to my heart, is when a woman finds out she is having or has had a baby with Down Syndrome and she no longer wants her baby. Perhaps she had found out at birth or perhaps she’d known prior and not wanted to have an abortion, but nevertheless, in both cases, because of the DS, these women, no longer want their child. When a woman chooses adoption, some people might say she isn’t making the choice to give up. Some believe it is an act of love to put a child’s needs ahead of their own desires and I do understand that to a point. But as a mother to three children myself, I can’t even imagine being put in that heart wrenching position. Is there really that little hope?

Something that has played on my mind for a long while now and something i’ve felt really passionate about writing about, are those babies. The babies who happen to have Down Syndrome that are born, aren’t wanted and are put into foster care, hoping ultimately, to be placed with an adoptive family.

You see, I am contacted via my blog and page, by women who have recently given birth to a baby with DS a lot. So many of them had post natal diagnosis’ and usually have had a big big shock. Mostly these women are going through a tough time but in the main, seem to get through it. But amongst those messages and of those women that contact me, I can’t tell you the number of them that have been told by their hospital, whether it be openly or off the record, that if they wanted to leave their baby there (e.g if they didn’t want him or her because of the news they’d just gotten), then that’d be ok. Whether that be by a consultant paediatrician, a midwife or perhaps even a nursing assistant, having a private word in hushed tones… these women have actively been told, that if they didn’t want to take their babies home with them, they could sort placing them in care.

Perhaps some of these women feel relieved as they think that that’s the only answer at that point in time? Or perhaps others might argue, if that’s the message the hospital/health care professionals are projecting (that it’s ok to leave your baby with them), no wonder there are babies placed on the adoption register, simply on the basis that they have Down Syndrome.

I don’t doubt that statistically the number of babies with DS placed with adoptive families, is fewer than recent years. I hope that with awareness being raised about what caring for a child with DS in this day and age means, would give both those expectant mothers with a prenatal diagnosis or the ones who find out at birth, hope, that life really will be ok.

It’s my understanding though, that the large majority of babies/children who are adopted can have underlying “issues” themselves. They may be suffering from neglect. The may have suffered abuse. Their mother may have even drank or taken drugs throughout her pregnancy and therefore they are at risk of having Foetal Alcohol Syndrome. The mother/father may have been mentally and emotionally unstable. From what i’m told, children aren’t in care because they come from intact families, with good standards of living and access to good health care and nutrition. Proposal for adoption by destitute, single mothers with poor prenatal care and inadequate diet, is sadly the most common reason why a child is available. The second most common is termination of parental rights, because of neglect and/or abuse. It’s been proven that lack of stimulation and consistent caregivers, poor nutrition, and physical/sexual abuse all interfere with normal development. These children fall behind in large and fine motor development, speech acquisition, and social skills. Many never find an individual with whom to complete attachment…. So with that in mind, can I ask why adopting a child with Down Syndrome would actually be so bad?

Yes, Oscar comes with his challenges but with a family behind him who love and care for him, he is genuinely thriving. Would a child with DS really be that awful?

Just recently I had a message via my blog from a lady called Jane. She wrote to tell me that she enjoyed the page because she found some of it relatable as she has a sister with DS, who they’d adopted, called Nicole. Knowing that I wanted to write this, I asked her if she’d mind sharing her experiences. Here’s what she had to say…

“When I was 5 years old, we decided to become a foster family. Mum and Dad felt that they had been so blessed having their three girls, that they wanted to help other children too. On in June 1985 we got a phone call to say that they had a 5 day old baby with Downs Syndrome that they would like us to foster. Her parents had said they were not sure if they would be able to cope with her additional needs or not and needed time to make that decision. Mum picked Nicole up from the hospital when she was just a week old. I remember her coming to pick me up from school that afternoon with Nicole and thinking that she’d brought one of my dolls to school. She was so tiny and very very cute.

Mum was a paediatric nurse and had worked with children with Down Syndrome before so she knew that the best thing for her, even at week old, was stimulation. With some help from social services we looked to find local support groups and we also talked to another family who had a child with DS, to ask about their experiences, both the good and the bad!! Nicole’s family came to visit her until she was 4 months old,when they decided definitively that they would put her up for adoption after all.

So she was put up for adoption through the usual channels but no one came to see her. Nobody appeared to want her. Social services were looking at putting her into an adoption service that deals specifically with children with particular needs. Mum and Dad discussed this with us and my sisters and I turned round and asked why someone else should have Nicole and not us. To us she was our sister so why should we let her go now?

And that was when we went down the route of adopting her. As a family we talked about it a lot and made sure we all felt happy with our decision. Some of our extended family were not very keen on us adopting Nicole (mostly the older generation) as they thought she would take Mum and Dad’s attention away from the rest of us. It took another 14 months for all the checks and legal stuff to be done but we ended up adopting her in the December of 1986. Social services were very helpful and very supportive. Nicole is now 32 and doing so well. She went to mainstream school, has a job, gets the bus to and from work every day on her own, does her own cooking and cleaning (with some help) and is a generally very happy person. She has been such a blessing to us and to our community. Yes, there have been struggles, a lot of frustrations and she does my head in sometimes but I wouldn’t change her for the world. The only thing I would change, is other peoples attitude towards her.

Jane”

I fully understand, there’s always going to be those people who feel they wouldn’t be able to cope with a child with Down Syndrome regardless of what I say. But if I have just one ask here, it’s that you listen to this plea…

To the married couple, same sex couple, single parent wanting more than anything to adopt a baby or child – Please please would you consider one who happens to have Down Syndrome?

I get that we all strive for perfect. I like you, did too. I wanted a ‘normal’ baby. I didn’t want ‘issues’ and I certainly didn’t want ‘different”. But now that I do… have my very own ‘different’ baby I mean  (well he’s 5 now but still my baby) i’m here to tell you that ‘different” is actually pretty frickin wonderful.

And all the while I believe that every unwanted child deserves to be adopted and I have the upmost respect and admiration for those who who choose to adopt, please remember that none of us know with any child, what we’re going to get. No child comes with a money back guarantee in that, if he or she does turn out to be different/have issues, we can’t just trade them in. So I ask you to think about it for a while. Do you research by reading up to date information on what it means to have a child with Down Syndrome today… in 2017… This would be your opportunity to show the world, that you wanted them for all that they are, in spite of their diagnosis. And although life won’t necessarily always be smooth sailing, I can say with more certainty than i’ve ever felt before, your child will teach you more about life and love than you could ever have hoped for. It will be brilliant. I promise.

Down Syndrome Awareness Baby Brain Apparel Leggings Giveaway

If you follow me on social media, you’ll know October is Down Syndrome Awareness Month. To celebrate our beautiful boys, Harps and I are teaming up to host a fabulous giveaway!

A little bit of background for you…

As some of you will know, I write the blog “Don’t Be Sorry” primarily all about my son Oscar, 5, who happens to have Down Syndrome. I originally started writing, as I found it cathartic to document my thoughts and feelings following Oscar’s postnatal diagnosis. And then one day, having decided to publish my words on my own private Facebook page, I received such an overwhelming response, I very quickly launched a website and public Facebook page. What started as just a handful of people following my journey with Oscar, has grown into a following of close to 30,000+. I regularly talks to “new” Mums and Dads online following the news that their babies have received the same diagnosis as Oscar which I hopes helps them when they may be feeling like the future’s looking bleak. I also give talks to medical professionals about the importance or language and terminology and just because you know, life’s not busy enough raising three kids and doing all of the above, I’m currently busy writing a book.

I got chatting to Harps online shortly after her second son Saajan was born and we quickly became firm friends. Saajan like Oscar, was diagnosed with Down Syndrome at birth and Harps has since said, that she feels I helped her, at what was a seemingly a very dark time. She also says following our blog and page has given her an insight into Saajan’s future and that she can now see, it looks to be a bright and happy one.

Harps originally started her blog, Baby Brain Memoirs back in 2014 as an outlet for her journey riding through post natal depression and the highs and lows of motherhood with her first son, Arjun. Since then, she gave birth to her second baby boy, Saajan, who like I said, happens to be rocking an extra chromosome! Since her husbands moving post on sharing the news about their precious little boy, she’s not blogged much as she still doesn’t feel ready but she’s sharing her journey through social media and has received an outpour of love for Saajy from her blog followers! Aside from his extra chromosome and a few extra physio appointments (which she sees as brilliant family time now!), she feels they’re living a pretty regular life. Arjun and Saajan have the most beautiful brotherly relationship but she’s sure soon enough there’ll be plenty of squabbling!

Harps started her spin off business, Baby Brain Apparel, in 2015. She makes handmade baby and toddler leggings and do a matching adult range too which includes leggings and lounge pants! She hand designed character tees which were inspired by the quirky antics of her toddler Arjun. Since having Saajan, Baby Brain Apparel has an even greater meaning for Harps and her family with it being uncertain when she will return to work. Although she’s still riding through the journey of having two tiny humans to keep alive alongside a Down Syndrome diagnosis(!), she has begun to focus her energy on raising awareness in hope for a brighter future for children like Saajan and Oscar. Part proceeds of all navy and yellow clouds sold at Baby Brain Apparel will be donated to The Down Syndrome Association.

To celebrate our beautiful children, Harps and I are giving one of our readers the chance to win a matching pair of adult and baby leggings in a choice of navy or yellow clouds!! Oscar and I have tried and tested them and they definitely pass the comfort test!

The competition is open worldwide however postage is covered for the UK only.

Competition closes at midnight on 17th October!

It’s super quick and easy, click on the link (“Enter the Giveaway”) below to enter!

Enter the Giveaway

Good Luck Everyone

Sarah xxx

 

Toy Box Tots

I don’t know about you but our playroom at home is full to the brim with toys. Dinosaurs, Lego, Pirate Ships, Paw Patrol figures, Cars and goodness knows how many Dollies… it always looks like there’s been a national disaster happen in there after Oscar, Alfie and Flo have got their hands on it all. And although they aren’t short on toys, when we go round to other peoples houses, or to any sort of playgroup/scheme, they always appear to have so much more fun playing with NEW toys.

So when Toy Box Tots offered us one of their Toy boxes to review, I jumped at the chance.

They have a selection of different boxes to choose from. Boxes for 12-18 month year olds, 18-24 month olds, 2-3 years and 4-5 year olds. They also have Corporate Box for Preschoolers. Each box is based on one of their favourite books and they include your very own copy of that book in the box, for you to keep forever.

The idea for Toy Box Tots came up when Caroline and Ceci (who’d become friends when their babies were in Neonatal Intensive Care together) were at a playgroup and realised that we were finally able to have half a conversation and actually drink a warm cup of coffee all because other children’s toys are so much more interesting than their own! So they came up with the concept… loaning out complete toy boxes for extended periods of time, to families who might fancy a change from the toys they have at home…. Or perhaps want a box delivered to an alternative location because they hadn’t toys available to them there (Grandparents houses, Holiday homes etc).

My daughter Flo and my gorgeous niece Sophie are two little girls who love to play together and I knew they’d be the ideal candidates to trial one of the boxes. We were given the 2-3 years box, based around the book and theme “The Lion Inside” and I can’t tell you how much they loved it. My sister read them the story to start with and then showed them all the toys they got to play with next. The moment they saw them all, their little faces lit up. The plane was a firm favourite with them both, as was the safari truck. They had to post the different animals into the holes of the truck, which was tricky at first but towards the end they’d just about grasped it. Sophie’s favourite appeared to be the puzzle. Every time she put the pieces in, it would make the sound of that particular animal e.g. If it was a Lion, it roared etc. She found this highly amusing.

Flo seemed to enjoy the blocks, making towers and knocking them down. Hours of fun!

The box also included a torch and a touch screen keypad as well as the cutest puppets which were a big hit.

Just to say, all the toys were really great quality and looked like they’d barely been used (very clean) so If you wanted to give this fab new business a go, you can either pay for a one off box or sign up to a monthly subscription (Prices on their website)

Toy Box Tots really do make things simple for you though. All you need to do is go to their Boxes page, click on the one you require and purchase. Once the order has been processed they will then call you to arrange delivery. As well as some amazing toys, you will also receive their newsletter which is full of exciting ideas and ways to use the toys in the box.

I think you’ll agree a fab concept that was definitely a big hit with the girls. Not sure how I’m going to break it to Flo that soon she’d going to have to part with her mouse puppet but maybe we’ll just have to sign up to the subscription and distract her with something else. Here’s hoping she doesn’t notice hey.

Thank You Toy Box Tots

It always seems impossible until it’s done…

So…. it’s just after 7pm. All three kids are in bed and almost asleep, after 7 whole weeks off for the summer holidays. Tomorrow, is a momentous day for us (and many many families like us across the land I should imagine), in that Oscar goes back to school (followed shortly after by Alfie and Flo, who are both off to preschool. Can I get a woop woop!!!)
I’d been a bit apprehensive at the start of the holidays. 7 weeks is a long old time to entertain three little peps AND keep sane myself… and I was worried, what with our kitchen and garden being out of action, that 7 weeks of it, may just send me over the edge
But we made it.
Yes there’s been tears. The pinnacle of which was about midway through the holidays, in a crowded park trying to get Alfie to sit down to a picnic, whilst Oscar made a break for it in search of a bouncy castle he’d spotted across the field. The tears? They were mostly mine😉
There’s been the odd tantrum or two. I’ve learnt that taking three small humans to anything that resembles a shop, will result in Oscar dropping to the floor, refusing to move and him and I having a stand off. Yep, if you saw me in Sainsbury’s Brookwood earlier today, I was the mum losing her s#%t!
There’s been parks. About 247 at last count. Yeah we’ve seen ALOT of parks. In fact I could probably go on that programme “You Bet”and if Matthew Kelly were to show me photographs of children’s playgrounds in Surrey and the surrounding areas, I’d recognise all of them and be sure to win a holiday to Lanzarote 😉
There have been some “Sparkly moments” though ❤️ (Sparkly moments are apparently the moments that make you feel all warm and fuzzy… thanks to the lovely reader who pointed out, that this is what she calls them). Like being on holiday as a family and watching the kids play with one another.That was pretty sparkly. Listening to them laugh together… that real belly laugh, when something cracks them up, is always the sparkliest of moments to me. Spending time with family and friends too. Oh and the sunshine (for the brief moments it was out in the UK) are definitely amongst the things i’ll remember this summer.
People tell me, as kids get older, they get easier but this summer I found, instead of having two on the loose (because Flo was still pretty tottery, walking around this time last summer) this year, I had them ALL charging off in hot pursuit of one another
But we did it. And the bonus? We actually had fun.
Perhaps next year, like everyone says, it will get easier?…or maybe they’ll just find ways to run rings around me in different ways? Who knows.
So to all the parents out there, sending their kids back to or off to school this week. Cheers (That was me raising a glass of the fizzy stuff). We only went and smashed it

Ignorance is always afraid of change

“What a bunch of selfish stupid people. What kind of life are those kids going to have? No chance of independance, no chance of holding jobs, no chance of normal life. Stuck on disability pension for the rest of their lives …. And I am REFUSING my taxes being spent to pay for the stupidity of their mothers …,” said the delightful Patrick Novak in response to the TV Show, “60 Minutes Australia” who covered a report on NIPT, the controversial test that, in their words, could eliminate Down syndrome.

I’ve stayed quiet on the subject mainly because the response the report got from some of their viewers, left me feeling utterly deflated and that this battle (the battle to get people to see that Down Syndrome is such a small part of Oscar and how we see him) is too hard a one to fight this time. But deciding that staying silent is not really my style and because I have this platform to say my piece, I decided better of it. So here goes…

Before I go on though, another of the comments I read-

“Wait till you still have to give your kid continence care when he’s 50 yrs old and your 85 year old hands find it too hard. Thats what happens to downs syndrome grown ups” was a quote from the equally articulate Lisa De Lace

“For those who want to keep the downs syndrome gene, its like keeping the rectal cancer gene alive” was another gem from her later on in the thread

And a particular favourite of mine, Sarah Marie Miles commented — “What a selfish decision to allow a child, whose quality of life will be no better than a dog, to live”

So here’s the thing.

My first thought was that these people (and believe me there were a lot more) don’t seem to possess a single brain cell between them all. “IndepenDANCE” Patrick? Really??! But that would be me being an arsehole and stooping to their derogatory level right?… So I try to rise above it.

Secondly, referencing the “I’m REFUSING my taxes being spent to pay for the stupidity of their mothers” (one of the most common arguments people seem to raise regarding the fact that someone with DS would cost the country a shed load of money over the years – Disability Living Allowance, Benefits, NHS bills etc etc. I find myself (and again I’m well aware I sound like a total arsehole here), hoping that at some point in their lives, they or perhaps someone close to them, will find themselves needing the NHS or benefits. The arsehole in me, finds myself hoping they’ll have a car crash, end up disabled and need the NHS really badly. Or get so addicted to crack cocaine that they won’t be able to work and will find themselves on benefits. And when I’m feeling like the worst arsehole of all, I find myself wishing, that they one day they might find themselves in a position where they’ll need it all, for the rest of their lives – DLA, the NHS, benefits, the lot… because – How do any of us know if any of us will be struck down with Dementia, Alzheimer’s, the big C tomorrow and need all that money we’ve paid in taxes over the years, and a whole load more? None of us know. And they better hope that karma doesn’t come and bite them on the butt hey.

Oh and by the way, i’m not likening DS to an illness. Just that people with DS are eligible for all of the above because of some of the challenges they face and because it helps them. Helping those who might need more than others is a good thing surely?

My main gripe here though is people are forming opinions without really knowing the facts. Without having met anyone like my Oscar and making a judgement on what they think his life is like or will be in the future…

Yes, having a child with DS comes with its challenges but because of early interventions and the fact that our kids are being born into families where they’re loved and valued (instead of being institutionalised like they once would have been), they’re thriving.

Yes, some children/adults with DS do better than others but in the same way, isn’t that true of those of us considered “typically developing”? Before I had kids I made a living prancing around a stage because, lets face it, some of us were never destined to be brain surgeons. We all have different IQ’s, different levels of intelligence right? We’re all different.

Has it really come to this though? Are the comments that these people left after watching the show, what they really think? Are there really such cold, heartless, narrow minded people in the world, who think it’s ok to say such things? I mean even if they think it? I guess the answer is yes.

Can anything be done to ever change their minds? Probably not.

For the record Australia, and all those other countries, including us here, so hell bent on eliminating Down Syndrome… I really don’t think we ever will. For there will always be those people who choose not to screen. They’ll also be other people like me, who won’t be offered the NIPT (Harmony Test) because in my pregnancy, I was considered Low “Risk” and wouldn’t have been deemed eligable. They wouldn’t have offered it to me because the screening they do, to work out who should have the test and who shouldn’t, isn’t worth the paper it’s written on. They get it wrong. Oh and even if you do have the NIPT and “get the all clear”… they sometimes get that wrong too. So yes, there may be fewer, but they’ll always be people with DS in the world

I would so love for these people commenting, to spend a day with us. To see Oscar for who he is and not just his diagnosis. For them to understand what a huge impact he has on so many people who have the privilege to be around him. A little boy whose life I value for everything he is and everything he has brought to us as a family. He’s not a burden. Far far from it. And if we are ruling someone out on the basis, that as his Mother, i’ll die before him and he’ll be left costing our government too much money, then I think it’s become an even sadder world than I already thought.

I may have said too much here and I may (definitely) have come across as an arsehole (I don’t really wish ill of anyone) but I can’t tell you how much hearing people talk this way about your child, hurts.

Should we?

Sometimes, when you have a child with additional needs, it’s really hard to know how to play it. And by that I mean, when someone acts a certain way towards your child, it’s hard to know whether to say something or just let it go. Confrontation is not usually my bag, but when that comes to Oscar, I seem to find it hard to remain silent.
Just this week Ashton Kutcher has shared an emotional video of a father of a little boy with Down Syndrome, who felt like he’d failed his son by not standing up to someone. That someone had said something derogatory about his child. The video is of him explaining how amazing his little boy is and how he wished he’d told the person who’d described Down Syndrome as an “illness” of “not knowing much”, that that wasn’t the case at all. The videos been around for a while but I’m guessing because Ashton has shared it, it’s getting even more publicity and shares which can only be a good thing. You can watch it here – https://www.facebook.com/Ashton/videos/10154552565877820/?hc_ref=ARRZhiNEBYJX6WMmQb_RUaW2FZXZxyQL00aI9SnEwMNGNYlBN9y-If_4nfkATEEIoRw&pnref=story
So yesterday, on a day out with his cousins, when Oscars soft scoop ice cream fell on the floor for a second time (and let’s remember, Oscar was acting a little more irrationally than usual due to his ear infection) and when he proceeded to chase Flo to get hers (which failed, as at two years old and wise to her big brothers love for HER ice creams, she wasn’t having any of it), in his frustration, he went over to the sign for ice creams and pushed it over.
In the same way, when we’d sat down for a picnic, because he wasn’t feeling much like eating, he wouldn’t sit with everyone else else and enjoy the spread (which is very unlike him because usually we can’t prize him away from a cocktail sausage and a chocolate swiss roll) he decided jumping on his scooter and taking off downhill in the direction of a river, was a much better idea and no amount of me shouting “Oscar STOP” would actually stop him. I then spent the majority of my lunchtime running after him and said scooter (which in flip flops downhill is not ideal) because, In short, he was on one.
So when he deliberately pushed over the ice cream sign and a lady who happened to be walking past, rolled her eyes and shook her head in disgust, it was difficult to know how to play it. She probably, from behind, didn’t even realise he had Down Syndrome (not that I condone his behaviour just because he does by the way), but if she had, would she have been more forgiving? Would she have understood that his destructive behaviour wasn’t because he was deliberately being naughty, more because he couldn’t find the words to tell Flo he’d wanted her ice cream because frustratingly he’d dropped two already.
Because I was obviously feeling a bit narky yesterday (who wouldn’t be after having to run up and down after a 5 year old on a scooter most of the morning) I shouted after her…
“You don’t have to shake your head at him”
It was quite possibly THE lamest come back in history. I’m pretty sure in hindsight I/we could think of so much more to say next time, but that was all I could come up with in the heat of the moment. She didn’t turn round even though I know she heard me. Her husband did and looked a bit bewildered but didn’t say anything. But it’s got me thinking again….
Yesterday I received a message from a lady who has a two year old little boy with DS. I will show you the message below but I wondered what you guys thought? Should we really care what other people think? Should we, if they’re not directly involved in our lives, even bother trying to educate? Is it worth the emotional stress and energy? Or do we owe it to our kids? Here’s her message…
Hi, my husband and I are also the proud owners of a little boy (2) who happens to have DS. I was just curious if you have had any experiences of over hearing people talking about your child and how you dealt with feelings and what you would have done.
We were out at the weekend with our son and two women walked past. One of the women said
“That boy isn’t normal”
Then the other woman said
“Yeah it’s that Down syndrome,definitely not normal”.
Before I knew it, I shouted over, walked up to the two women and said
“Excuse me but that’s my son your are taking about”
One of the ladies apologised however the other woman said
“Well he isn’t normal”
Feeling very frustrated and sad for the 2 women I walked away tears rolling down my face. What had my son done to them? He’s cute beautiful and our world.
I am 27 weeks pregnant with my second child and maybe hormones are taking over my life at the moment as I cry quite often, but it hurt so much. Yes my child is different but so is every child and afterall what is normal? My husband said, these people are not in our lives and we shouldn’t let them get to us but that’s easier said than done, as all I want is to protect my son from ignorant people like them. They clearly don’t understand Down Syndrome at all. Thanks for listening x”
One thing I do know, is that I love that she had the guts to say something to these woman. I love that it wasn’t about being confrontational or aggressive. Yes she was sticking up for her son but she was also in saying something, trying to educate them. I realise we’re never going to change everyone’s minds, we’re never going to convince everyone that just because someone’s different, it doesn’t make them less of a person but even if one of the women didn’t back down in her opinion, perhaps she went home and actually thought about what this mother had said. Perhaps she has never experienced different? I’m almost certain she’s never had the pleasure of knowing someone with DS… but I absolutely commend this mummy for speaking out and fully support anyone who has the want and will to try.

Never stop learning because life never stops teaching

First and Last day of Reception Class

 

There was a time, back in the day, when I would have cried at the drop of a hat. A rom com at the cinema would definitely have set me off. That TV programme Noel Edmonds presented on Christmas day (where deserving people got amazing presents) has been known to leave me a blubbering mess. And when Mark Kinghorn, my boyfriend when I was 14, dumped me for Laura Healey in Year 10… I mean devastated isn’t the word. I was distraught. (I’m pretty certain that neither of them follow this blog, but if they do, all is forgiven guys, promise). But yeah back then, emotional was my middle name. However, fast forward a good few years and I don’t know what it is… whether it’s growing up or having had children, but in a lot of ways I seem to have grown a thicker skin.
I guess having Oscar has made me that way. Big Girl Pants have most definitely been required on a number of occasions – his diagnosis, his heart surgery, his various other surgeries and of course, his first day at school. All of these have been monumental milestones that I know will be permenantly etched in my mind.
We’ve come a long way in a year and with Oscar’s first year at school almost completed, I thought I’d reflect back on how it has gone. For as tough as I thought I was, when Oscar started in reception class back in September, my anxiety levels and emotions were all over the place.
I remember taking Oscar to his first settling in session at school, round about this time last year and at first him being really subdued. I noted at the time that him being shy was actually a pretty good result, because let’s face it, all the while he was being quiet, he wasn’t causing havoc. But then of course, he got more confident and although he played brilliantly for the entire length of the session, in the final 5 minutes, he’d obviously had enough and went into destruction mode. MORTIFICATION! It was around about this time, I clearly remember coming home and declaring to Chris that “maybe we’d made the wrong decision” and “maybe mainstream school was going to be too much for him”… Of course, in usual Chris style, he told me to relax, didn’t pander to my melodramatics and told me to give our boy a chance.
The first term was all about adjustment. Oscar needed to settle into the routine and understand what was expected of him, but the school, his teachers and his LSAs equally needed to get to know him. He started off doing half days and did so up until the first half term. I remember going to pick him up each day and standing anxiously outside, worrying if he’d been good for them or if they were going to come out and tell me he’d been awful. They never did, for the record (the awful bit I mean). Of course there was the odd minor blip here and there, but the school were never anything but encouraging and supportive. I’m pretty sure though, that first term the school thought I was slightly imbalanced because any time we had a meeting or they’d say anything remotely positive, I’d be feeling so relieved, that I’d well up or cry. And the times they told me that there’d been little hiccups, I’d cry because I worried that this would mean they wouldn’t want him anymore. Yep… Mental!
So the first term came and went and we were happy with how settled Oscar seemed. He’d go into school every morning without looking back and I don’t think there’s been a single day when I’ve said to him, “Lets get ready for school” when he hasn’t shouted anything other than “yeaaaaah”.
But then January came and he had to go into hospital to have surgery on his ear. He’d been diagnosed with Chloesteatoma which meant he needed a 5.5 hour operation to remove a growth. A growth that had been eating away at his inner ear and affecting his ability to hear properly. Recovery meant that he needed almost three weeks off school but it wasn’t until after the operation we realised the huge impact this disease had been having on our little man. He had been waking every night prior to the operation up to 6 times a night (for the 6 months prior). I’d find him writhing around in his bed, unable to tell me what was wrong, yet as soon as he’d had the surgery, his nights, although on occasion he’ll still wake, have been so much more peaceful. This has had such a positive effect on his focus and attention and although he’s still a minx at times, his behaviour has certainly calmed down.
Which brings us to his final term. The term we feel he has made the most progress. Whether it be because he’s had the surgery and his ear isn’t causing him as much trouble or simply that he’s starting to understand what’s expected of him… By all accounts it’s been a great year.
Some of you will know we decided to ask the school/local authority if Oscar could repeat reception. It wasn’t because we or they were feeling he wouldn’t be able to cope in Year 1… more that he’s a summer born baby (July), his speech is still evolving, we’re still working on toileting and because he had a chunk of time off for his operation, recovery and follow up appointments. It wasn’t a decision we took lightly but we were thrilled when we had the go ahead and the support from the school. We have gone with our gut and although he’ll/we’ll be sad to say goodbye to his current class, we feel giving him an extra year to cement what he’s learnt thus far, can only benefit him in the long run.
And when I think back to all the worries I had back when he started. Whether he’d cope? Whether school would cope with him? I’ve realised that if both parties (us and the school) are on board with wanting to make it work, it will. I think communication has been key here too. We have had a communication book that’s come home every afternoon with him, it has a few lines about what he’s been doing that day. It might sound silly but it’s been so wonderful to read what he’s been up to and how he’s getting on. Of course there’s contact with the school on occasion but I’m really careful not to be that annoying SEN mum, constantly asking them questions or interfering. I have faith that they are doing everything they can for him.
I worried at first about how Oscar would fit in and whether he’d make friends. I’m not going to lie, I have felt sad at times over the last year watching how some of the other boys and girls interact with one another and wondering if Oscar will ever have the speech to be able to do this. You may have seen my post recently about the fact that more words are coming but it’s a slow process and I guess watching the other children together and how easily their friendships have formed, can hurt at times.
I took Oscar to a birthday party for one of his classmates this weekend though and the difference in his ability to interact with his peers and seeing how they did so with him, was just so heart-warming. At one point Oscar sat down on the floor and got upset. One of the little boys went over to him, crouched down right in front of him and had a little chat with him. I’ve no idea what he said but it was enough to make him stop crying. Another girl, who I know he shares a special bond with, spent most of the party holding his hand, sitting next to him, hugging him, helping him and dancing with him. It was just so lovely.
Friendships for me especially, were so important. Sure, the academic stuff is too but one of my biggest worries was that he wouldn’t make friends or that others would get fed up being around him. I needn’t have worried. Just yesterday as we were walking in to school, one of Oscar’s classmates came up beside us. And as we continued walking, his mum and I talking as we went, I looked down to see that this little boy had taken Oscar’s hand and walked the entire way in to school with him. They’d said hi to each other when they first held hands but other than that they didn’t say too much. What I loved about it was that there was no prompting from his mum, this little boy had just grabbed Ozzie’s hand because he’d wanted to. And even though there wasn’t much dialogue, every once in a while, they’d share a look and smile.
Oscar won’t be with those kids next year but he’ll still see them in the playground I’m sure. I have faith in him that he’ll be able to cope with the next step. He’ll meet new friends. He’ll carry on trying his best. And without doubt, I know he (and all his peers who happen to have DS too), will carry on smashing those misperceptions some of us had about Down Syndrome, out of the park.

Right up our “Little Street”…

Those of you who know me well, will know how much I loathe Soft Play. I can totally appreciate it serves a purpose and for a lot of Mums and Dads out there, they wouldn’t be without it but for me, it’s basically my idea of hell. In my mind, anywhere that involves me crawling around on my hands and knees, in close confined (sometimes smelly) places, shadowing my kids so they don’t get stuck/lost or man handle another kid (Oscar) is, lets face it, never gonna be top of my list to visit. (Sorry to all the soft play owners out there)

So when Alfie, Flo and I were invited to the relaunch of Little Street Frimley this morning (Oscar was at school), an alternative to smelly soft play, I was obviously thrilled none of the above was involved. Little Street opened their doors to local bloggers to see what we thought of their new and improved (and might I say beautifully redecorated) role play centre.

For those of you who have no idea what Little Street is, I should explain. Responding to children’s love of role play, they have created a realistic street, designed with little people in mind. Their play centre features a supermarket, construction site, theatre, beauty parlour, cafe and a newly launched veterinary surgery and air ambulance. Little Street is a scaled down version of a typical town I guess, inspiring children to explore life in the world around them.

We’ve been to Little Street a number of times over the years and it’s without question, always one of our first picks during school holidays. Not only because my three kids love it there, but for me, with the three of them being so small at the moment, I love that it’s a safe and secure environment where I don’t have to worry about them wandering off.

I genuinely think there’s so much to be said for that when you’re a Mum. I don’t think I really thought about it before but when you have two or more children, all of whom are of the age where you can’t really rely on them understanding the importance of safety, having somewhere like Little Street, is a godsend. It offers hour and a half play sessions, parties, school trips and more. You can find their session times and prices here

https://www.little-street.co.uk/time-prices/

In talking to the owners Hannah, Shay and Heidi this morning I loved listening to their story. After seeing that the idea was working abroad and realising there was a gap in the market here in the UK, they decided to plough their savings in to the venture. Initially they all had preschool children themselves so making a go of things at first was tough but now that all their kids are at school, they’ve been able to focus their energies on making it one of the most popular attractions amongst local families.

Their drive and ambition has certainly paid off and earlier this year they became a franchise, with NEW Little Streets popping up in West Byfleet and Maidstone, with others launching around the country in the foreseeable future

Little Street were also nominated in the Whatson4juniors awards last year, for the best activity for under-fives and best new activity

Little Street’s Hannah, Shay and Heidi say…

“As parents ourselves, what we love most about Little Street is the educational benefit. Through role play children expand their understanding of themselves and others, it helps them to develop language skills and discover leadership ability. By encouraging social interaction and problem solving it also enables children to gain confidence. Designed with input from Early Years Practitioners, we have also incorporated other learning opportunities for children throughout the play centre, including shapes, colours, numbers, puzzles and language”

I should also mention from an SEN point of view they have always welcomed Oscar with open arms. The staff are enagaing and friendly and if Oscar’s had one of his tasmanian devil moments (more so when he was little) and the contents of the shop have gone flying, their patience and understanding have not gone unnoticed. They have recently launched “quieter sessions” suitable for children with autism, hearing impairments and sensory processing difficulties, which of course is very close to my heart.

I would have always recommended Little Street before today but after seeing Alfie and Flo and all the other little ones there earlier, I cannot speak highly enough of the place. I think the pictures speak a thousand words in that they both had the best time. I didn’t come out a sweaty mess after manipulating my body into weird and wonderful positions to keep up with my 4, 3 and 1 year olds. I didn’t spend the whole time thinking “I can see Oscar but i’ve lost Alfie and Flo”… I was able to enjoy my coffee and cake in peace, chatting to other Mummy bloggers. Everyone’s a winner right.

Thanks for having us Little Street