Monday, 23 November 2015


I was sorting through Ella's school book bag on Sunday evening, getting ready for the week ahead. In and amongst the parent governor nomination letter, her communication book and the many drawings she comes home with on a daily basis, I found this...


It's nowhere near legible and she has obviously had help to copy the letters but it is her first attempt and I love it. I love that she tried, I love that it's for me and I love the promises it signifies for the future. 

This evening we opened her birthday presents from her party at the weekend. My plan was to just do a few each night this week as last year she would only stay interested in opening presents 2 or 3 at a time and needed help getting the paper off. 

Well, my plan was busted as she wanted to open them all and didn't want help, thank you very much! 

With each lovely and thoughtful present that was opened came a card. And in some of those cards, her friends had written their own names in their own hand and I felt a moment of sadness that Ella can't do that yet. 

Can't do it. Yet. 

But her picture has pride of place on the fridge door, a reminder that she will get there in her own time. 


Wednesday, 21 October 2015

A Pink Umbrella

Today was wet! And we can't complain too much as the weather has been quite dry of late. But I guess it's that time of year when the days are just going to get darker, colder and wetter.

After I'd dropped Lucy at nursery, Ella and I drove back towards home to drop her at school. As we neared the local secondary school, we could see all the pupils making their way there in the rain. 

Ella: 'Umbrella mummy'
Me: 'Yes, lots of umbrellas today Ella because of the rain' 
Ella: 'I need that one'
Me: 'What? You'd like an umbrella?'
Ella: 'yes, pink one'
Me: 'you'd like a pink umbrella?'
Ella: 'I love that one!' (Which is her new favourite phrase).

Well how could I refuse? For a child that has never once asked me for anything, if a pink umbrella is what she wants then...

She loves it - wet days will be much more fun from now on!

Friday, 25 September 2015

Ready for the School run...

Ella's been in school for 3 weeks now. She has settled well, is participating activities and learning along side her peers. She loves her teacher, giving her a big hug as a greeting each morning. 

She knows where her peg is and is getting better at hanging up her coat by herself. She can put her book bag in the correct box with some help and can find the correct basket for her water bottle to go in, again with prompting. These are all things that she does every day so the repetition is good for helping her to consolidate these tasks in her long term memory. I am confident she will be doing these three tasks independently before long.

I quickly realised that I needed to be more organised in terms of school uniform (she comes out so grubby that I'm washing every item she wears almost every day!), what Ella needs to take with her each day and remembering to return any forms or letters that need signing.

This starting school malarkey has been as much of a learning curve for me as it has been for Ella! 

I began thinking about what I could do to help me be more organised and more able to get everyone out of the door at 8.30am every morning. And there's also the days that I don't take her to school when Ian/the nanny/granny takes her. My method of organisation has to work for whoever is doing the school drop off and on whatever day of the week that may be. 

I also realised that being organised is about Ella. Therefore, in the long term it should also be something that works on her level too and benefits her in terms of her independence and her confidence in doing things for herself. 

And then I remembered a post I had seen on Facebook, a mum of 7 kids who had bought a set of plastic drawers for each of her children, that sat in her hallway. 5 drawers in each set, one drawer for every day of the week. Socks and pants for everyday are a given but then there's PE kits on different days, after school activities and other variables to factor in (I'm feeling marginally inadequate at this point that I'm struggling to organise one child, let alone 7!).

So I stole the plastic drawers idea and added a twist to make it more tailored to Ella, the way she learns (visually) and by linking it to something already in place at school. 

Our drawers are coloured, a different coloured drawer for each day of the week. 

At Charnwood (Ella's preschool), they associated a different colour with the different days of the week. And seeing as Bianca (the SEN teacher) has moved from Charnwood to Ella's primary school, they have adopted the concept too, for familiarity and continuity...

I've always known that Friday was 'blue' day as Ella always says 'Friday, blue day, granny' because granny always collects her on a Friday. Her favourite day!

So here is what I've done with our drawers... 

So, apart from Tuesday's drawer being the wrong colour, they're actually pretty close to the correct colours for the days of the week. A printer, laminator, a pair of scissors and some glue later and the days of the week are now on each drawer front... 

There's space on top to put her water bottle and glasses (which she will not wear once she's finished school for the day). I've currently added a bulldog clip as a makeshift hook for her book bag but will change this to something more Ella friendly soon...

We will see how it works in practice next week but hopefully being able to put a clean polo shirt, socks and pull-up into each drawer as a starting point for the week ahead has to be better than nothing! I will report back and let you know how they are working and how Ella benefits from them over time.

Happy weekend everyone (especially all those fellow parents who do the school run, enjoy your 'days off'!) xx

Monday, 21 September 2015

Proud Moments - {September 2015}

There's a lovely little thing that happens every month in the 'Future of Downs' Facebook group. 

We celebrate our children's milestones and share what's made us proud. We do this on the 21st to represent the three copies of chromosome 21 present in Down's syndrome.And there's no such thing as an achievement too small. 
There's a whole lot of love and pride bursting from the members every month - and quite rightly! 
Proud moments happen everyday.  I'll be sharing ours on the 21st of each month. 

As this is September, it seems only fitting that this month's proud moment is school related! 

Ella is now in her 3rd week of reception. She bounced in that first afternoon two weeks ago, headed straight for the sand tray and hasn't looked back. One week of afternoons and one full week later and she is doing great. She seems to have settled really well and is getting the help she needs when she needs it. 

She goes in looking mostly presentable most mornings and comes out at 3.15pm covered in mud, paint, glue and general grub - all signs that she's had a great day! 

Very proud of how she has adjusted to being at school and how well she is doing...

Thursday, 3 September 2015

Starting school

On Monday, Ella's next adventure begins...  

The Education Health and Care Plan has been finalised, the school uniform bought and my head is fit to explode with equal measures of pride, worry and love.

My big girl is going to school. And I reckon she is going to be amazing.  

I have seen such a change in her over the last few weeks.  She is getting more independent at dressing herself, can do forward rolls, will wear her glasses without fuss for most of the day and has started storytelling/talking about things we have done. Her speech in general has become much clearer and she's using lots of new words and phrases. 

She is taller, more confident, more chatty and I can see she is very ready to start school.  

And she will be going to our local mainstream primary school. Something that seemed so uncertain and so far away almost 5 years ago when we were told Ella's diagnosis.

And the children starting this September will have such a different and enriched education. Along with Ella, there are also 6 other children with varying additional needs starting  at the school in reception this year.  The school has embraced this unprecedented challenge and have been very supportive and understanding of Ella's needs and our worries/concerns as her parents as I am sure they have with the other families too. They know our children have as much to teach as they do to learn.  I still have lots of worries about how they will meet each individual child's needs and how the support for each child will work in practice. It's just all new and unknown for us and seems so much more of jump than her previous move from nursery to pre-school. 
Ella's teacher at pre-school was brilliant. She knew, loved and nurtured every single child she taught no matter their abilities. She ensured that everything possible was done to allow each child to flourish and to start them on the path to reaching their potential.  When she came to me one afternoon before the end of Ella's last term at Charnwood to tell me she had a new job, I was shocked and sad to hear that she would be leaving.  That all changed when she explained that she had got a job as the Special Educational Needs teacher at the primary school Ella and several of the other children were moving to.  I can't tell you how much it means that she will be there with them all.  She knows them, knows their personalities, their temperaments and how they learn best.  She is a perfect advocate for them and Ella absolutely loves her. Without Bianca there, I know that this experience would be a lot more daunting.  

In so many ways I just want Ella to stay little. So I can keep her safe and protected and loved - always. I'm also very excited for her and full of anticipation and expectations. 

Reading, writing, maths may not be easy for her and may never come. But I know she will try her hardest with all the new challenges school will bring, like she has always done. 

The main goal is that she is happy in her new school - then anything is possible

Good luck Ella Bean xxx 

Monday, 24 August 2015

We Three Teds

'Three teds (Dotty the Cat, Olive the Lion and Frank the Monkey)  travelling the world visiting real families who want to share their lives - each is lucky to love a person with Down Syndrome'...

Our visit from Dotty the Cat coincided with a visit from some special friends…

Having Ella and her extra chromosome has always meant we have met some very special people that we wouldn’t otherwise have in our lives.  When Future of Down’s was first set up in 2011, there was no facebook page, just an online forum where parents and families could go to discuss anything and everything.  

It was during the first few weeks of being on the forum and reading posts that I came to read Rachel’s story.  And it was so very similar to mine.  Her daughter Florence was born six days before my daughter Ella.  Both had cardiac defects and feeding problems and both our girls were PEG fed.  I can’t tell you how wonderful it felt to have ‘met’ someone else who was going through what we were.

Fastforward to today and we have helped each other through uncertain times, surgeries, feeding issues and hospital admissions.  We send birthday presents and Christmas cards and the facebook message between us is 4 years old and could quite easily be turned into a novel! It’s been a running joke for a while that we would have to meet before our little ladies started school.  

So finally, this July (just 6 weeks before school starts) we managed it!

My mum bought us tickets to go and see ‘The tale of Mr Tumble’ in the Manchester International Festival as part of our Christmas present.  Rachel managed to get tickets not only for the same performance but also bagged the seats next to us.  She and Florence arrived at our house on the Satruday afternoon, stayed over and then we headed into Manchester on the tram to watch the Sunday morning performance.  

A thoroughly lovely weekend and so special to meet someone in the flesh after being friends for 4 years.  And lovely that we had a Ted to share it with too.

And Rachel, thank you for a lovely weekend and for all your words of encouragement and support over the last four years, lets not leave it so long til next time! Xxx

Sunday, 2 August 2015

Runner bean

Ella very much lives for the moment...

I love that about her, but it does bring with it certain challenges.  And this is in no way meant to be a negative post, just an honest one.

I am finding it increasingly difficult to go out with both the girls on my own.  Ella can be unpredictable, refuse to walk or just want to be carried - all of these scenarios are arduous due to her age and size and not at all easy when you've only got one pair of hands and a toddler in tow too.

When she does walk, it can also be difficult.  She will sit down if she's tired or sees something on the floor that's caught her eye that she wants to play with, or just because she wants to.  Or, she will just point blank refuse to move.  If she's run on ahead, all I see is every potential danger in the environment around us - she's really fast if she decides to change direction or go somewhere she shouldn't (and all with no warning).  A gap in the hedge along the path, steep edges, steps, streams/water in general, other people.  I just can't seem to switch off and enjoy a day out - I'm always on my guard anticipating all the possible dangers and at the moment just the mere thought of a day out can make me stressed and anxious.  I know it's going to be hard work. I feel I have to be her eyes and ears, anticipate the consequences of her actions, keep her safe and a lot of the time I end up being her legs too (my poor back!).

We've had one incident where we were sat outside a cafe with friends, on a busy street.  Ella was sat on her chair, drinking her hot chocolate and all of a sudden, in a split second got off her chair and ran. No warning, no hesitation.  Ian ran straight after her and luckily for whatever reason she ran down the pavement instead of straight into the road.  It's the 'what if's' that stay with me from that day, not what did happen.  She was ok but we had no idea how to tell her what she did was wrong and she couldn't tell us why she did it.

I still can't get over how quick she can be.  When she decides to change direction, run off the wrong way or back the way we've just come it all happens in a micro second and has several consequences.  I a) have to leave Lucy and ask her to stay put as I run after Ella (which thankfully, most of the time she does) b) we probably cover twice as much ground as we would have if Ella had stayed on track so c) running/walking further than necessary makes Ella tired, less likely to finish said walk and so ends up being carried or in the buggy meaning poor tired Lucy has to walk/go on the buggyboard.

And I am aware that I place a lot of responsibility on Lucy as a (just) 2 year old.  I see that her experience of days out are sometimes limited by her sister. Lucy sees me get cross/upset with Ella or a situation, she gets less attention if I'm on my own with them as Ella needs more or ends up relegated to the buggy so I know she is safe if I have to sort out Ella.  We also end up cutting days short as I end up physically and emotionally exhausted if Ella is being a monkey.

We recently went to visit Ian's work.  Both girls got dressed up in their flight suits, daddy in his and we ventured up onto the helipad of The Royal London Hospital to see the helicopter.  It was a sunny, clear but unfortunately very windy day and as soon as we were on the exposed helipad, Ella went into meltdown and kept asking to go home.  She didn't want to sit in the helicopter, be with daddy, speak to the firemen.  She was upset and didn't like it. She just didn't want to be there.  I had to retreat with her down the exit ramp while Lucy enjoyed sitting in the helicopter.  I couldn't settle her or calm her so we all went inside.  Once calmed down and with a snack I was talking to both girls - 'it was too much for you up there wasn't it Ella, you didn't like it did you?' at which point Lucy pipes up with a pouty face 'I liked it'.  She was very aware that we'd had to come in because of Ella and it was then that I realised she understands a lot more than we give her credit for.  She had a great time charming the firemen, being a helicopter pilot and I'm sure there would be a job for her in  a few years if she wanted one!  We both felt guilty for her, but I was happy she had got some time to enjoy the helicopter even if it was cut short.

For the rest of the time in London which included walking on busy pavements, standing patiently in a queue, a boat ride and negotiating the tube Ella was fantastic.  She listened, walked fairly well when she had to and was careful and safe on the stairs/escalators on the tube.  It also helped that Ian was there as physical and emotional help - it makes a huge difference.  I know Ella can walk well, follow instructions, you just never know when she will do it (and sod's law will dictate that she will be mostly well behaved when daddy/another adult is along to help)!

Don't get me wrong, the odd day out with both girls by myself I could probably manage.  But I'm tired - physically, mentally and emotionally.  Ian has been working away for a year now and finally comes home for good next week (yay!).  He's been home every 7-10 days on average and not home for long stretches very often.  I've had a year of being pretty much a single parent - I don't know how people do it full-time, you have my complete admiration.  The last year has taken a lot out of me.

The relief of getting to work (and on time) for every 7.30 am handover over the last year has been immense.  As someone in the room would say 'I'm tired this morning' I'd think you're tired?! I've been up since 5.30am, got two small children up, dressed and out of the house for 6.50am - I've done a days work already.  And then I'll work my shift, go home and do it all again before bedtime. And the same again tomorrow. I've felt like I've been on a roller coaster that you're not allowed to get off and that never stops.  My coping mechanisms have been stretched to their limits and my anxiety has gone into over drive - hence my over thinking every little thing and getting stressed so easily.  I can't say this past year has been much fun from my perspective but I know it has been worth it for Ian which I can live with  (I'm cashing in my year away from home when we have two hormonal teenage girls in the house ;-) ).  We now have the task of adjusting to life together again and giving the girls more predictability, routine and stability.  All needed, as Ella is due to start Primary school in a few weeks time.  The next chapter is about to begin.  Until then, I'm looking forward to my days with just Ella when Lucy is at nursery = days I can plan that I know she will enjoy and that I will manage too. Sorry for the long post, hope that explains some of my hesitation or declining of days out recently. Thank you to those who have helped me out on days out too xx

Photo credit ~ Laura Limer

 Happy summer everyone. More posts soon on the end of nursery, special friends and Mr Tumble xx

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