Saturday, 30 June 2012

Conquering the Tunnel

Standing so well
What a great first day of the school holidays. I have a husband who isn't feeling the greatest, one child vomiting and another one with a sore throat. The vomiting one has been placed in quarantine; nothing worse with a family our size than bugs spreading to everyone. I just went to the shop to stock up on rubber gloves, disinfectant and antibacterial spray. Over the years I've become an expert on limiting the vomiting to just one person, so fingers crossed it will be the same this time. Did I mention I also bought a bottle of wine? That's all for me; I figure I will deserve a glass by the time today is over!

Despite not feeling well, Nathan really wanted to take Felix to his swimming lesson this morning. It's the last one for three weeks, so he had been looking forward to it. Nathan's plan for today was to conquer the tunnel (a rolled up foam mat on top of the water the children have to crawl through). Felix usually starts backing up the second his head is inside it and it's definitely his least favourite activity at swimming lessons. When the time came today for the dreaded tunnel, Nathan made sure he put him as far as he could inside of it. He quickly went around to the other end of the tunnel and held out his arms to Felix. He was very apprehensive, but moved towards Nathan until he was out the other side.... Success!!

video
Felix is so good at communicating what he wants these days. As well as signing and pointing, he has discovered a new way to make sure we understand him. If he is sitting with us up on our bed, he will sometimes point to our bedside table and grunt at us. If we think we know what he wants, we will pass that item to him. If we get it wrong, he will reach up with his hand and turn our face back towards the bedside table as if to say, "Wrong thing. Try again!" This continues until we pass him the thing he has been asking for.

We try hard to be in tune with Felix's attempts at speech. We spend a lot of time with him talking and signing and reading books, so we have lots of opportunities to listen to him. I love the 'Ahhhh' sounds he makes when he puts some food into my mouth and the 'U' sound he makes when he wants 'Up'. He has a definite sound for his brother, Isaiah, and a 'Oo-oo' sound when the dog's bark. His pig sound is definitely one of my favourites!

'I'm with the bald guy!'
We've been so proud of Felix with his standing lately. The length of time he can stand on his own is getting longer and longer. He can even twist his upper body or clap his hands at the same time sometimes now. I am amazed that he can stand up on our bed and stay balanced. The bed is very spongy and would be a lot more difficult for him to stand on, but he does it regularly. It's probably good for his core strength too.

I washed his Happy Strap a few weeks ago and when it was dry I put it somewhere out of the way and completely forgot to put it on him. Initially, he retained the correct positioning with his legs really well, but just in the last few days (he's probably had it off for 4 weeks), we have noticed that when he is sitting looking at a book or playing with a toy, his legs are extending out very wide which is definitely what we don't want as it can cause hip problems in the future. I made sure I put his strap back on him today and chastised myself for being slack with it. It's definitely helped Felix with his leg positioning and I will be making absolutely sure that I put it on him every day from now on.

Thursday, 28 June 2012

In the Mundane

This is the face I wake up
to every morning :)
Felix is such a little groover! He loves listening to the Wiggles on his little CD player. He will often crawl over to it and point to get someone to turn it on for him. He does a few actions to some of the songs which is so cute, but yesterday he was extra adorable.....

Felix had climbed onto the coffee table in the middle of the lounge room and was doing his favourite actions to one of the songs he loves. Isaiah and I sat there with our mouths hanging open when the next song came on and watched him in awe. Felix started making up his own actions but the coolest thing is, he actually repeated a sequence of four different actions four times!! He tapped his thumbs together a few times, then bounced up and down on his bottom followed by twisting at his waist side to side. He finished by putting his hands over his ears and shaking his head from side to side. When he finished, he started all over again, remembering to do it exactly the same again. It made me so excited and I could picture him another couple of years older, dancing around the room. I can't wait!

Let loose in the toy aisle
Today was another one of those 'stop and smell the roses' type moments. I had some time to kill before I had to go and pick up the boys from school, so I decided to go over to the shops and look at the toy sale. Felix enjoys looking at all the colours and watching the people shopping so I knew he would be quite happy to sit in his pram and look around. There weren't many people there today so I decided to take Felix out of the pram and let him crawl around near the toys. He was so excited as we sat and pushed buttons on the toys which made lights flash and music play. Once he'd looked at one toy for a while, he crawled on to the next one. We 'talked' to each other as we looked at different toys; there were animal toys and different vehicles. We made the noises and did the signs we know. Felix did a lot of very excited pointing too.

When we were leaving the shops I saw a dog tied up outside, so we went over to have a look. Felix was interested until he saw a bus drive past slowly and he was transfixed by it, so I talked to him about the bus as  we watched it go past. After that, a taxi pulled up next to us, so we had a look at that for a while too. I probably looked hilarious squatting down next to Felix, pointing and talking about all the things we could see but since having Felix it just seems like such a normal thing to do. I love stopping to hold him up so he can touch the leaves on a tree; or showing him the different fruit in the supermarket. I'm constantly talking to him when we're at home even if he's playing next to me while I clean. I really believe communication is so important for any child, and even more so for children with Down Syndrome.

He drank nearly all of that smoothie!!
It's days like today that I really cherish. It seems like Felix and I don't have to do super exciting activities to really connect with each other and share special moments. It's all about turning the mundane into something interesting and using his curiosity to create a learning experience. I love every second with him!

Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Lots of Therapy

Felix doing his big eyes
Felix has had a very busy day today. It all started at 4.20am when he woke up because his 8 week old nephew was crying. Thankfully it's the only time it's ever happened and I have my fingers crossed that it won't become a regular thing. I went and picked Felix up out of his cot and brought him into our room. Nathan was laying there with his eyes closed and immediately Felix signed "Daddy, asleep". He then proceeded to climb on Daddy and press his face against his. Needless to say, Daddy wasn't asleep anymore!

I was feeling a little bleary eyed when Felix was due to start his therapy at 9am. His Occupational  Therapist, Speech Pathologist and Physio all came to our house to work with Felix this morning. I find it so much easier having them here than going up to the hospital because Felix seems to 'perform' better in his own environment where he's comfortable. However, this morning Felix took a little while to adjust to them being here. He was a little bit shy. I don't know if it's because he was a bit tired or because there was an extra person at the house (usually only the OT and Speech girls come).

I put my hat on by myself
Eventually he warmed up and started showing off. He cruised around the furniture at full speed to impress the Physio and showed her some of his climbing. He did some signing and did well at putting some puzzles pieces in the right spots (at least close to the right spot). They were all really happy with his progress and believe him to be pretty much exactly where he should be.

Children with Down Syndrome have such a large spectrum of what is considered 'normal' for their development. It is a much wider range than it is for 'typical' kids, so some children with Down Syndrome may walk at 12 months and others at 4 years old; but anything in between is still considered the normal range. We are lucky that Felix seems to have quite a good balance between gross and fine motor skills (probably slightly better at fine motor I think). Hopefully he will continue along the same path as he gets older.

After all the Therapists left this morning, Felix and I quickly jumped in the car and headed over to the Kindergym for the last session this term. Felix was a little bit more subdued this morning and didn't wander too far from me, but I think all the stimulation of the morning had worn him out a bit. I bounced him up and down on a giant inflatable tyre and then threw him up in the air. He giggled his head off and wanted me to keep doing it until my arms were so sore I could barely lift him anymore. We sang 'Row, row, row the boat' again this morning. I remembered to put my hands over his ears for when the kids screamed when they saw the crocodile. Unfortunately I moved them away too quickly as one little girl decided to shriek extra loudly when the song had finished. Felix threw his head into my lap and buried it there for a few seconds.

I love it when Daddy is home from work :)
I'm pleased to say that toilet training is still going incredibly well. Felix has already picked up the sign for 'toilet' which is pretty impressive considering I only started doing it a couple of days ago. He is happy to do number ones and number two's on the toilet. When he's done, he holds his arms up to be lifted off and then reaches over to flush. He's so fascinated with the toilet that he's discovered it's a bit of fun to pick up different things and throw them into the water in the toilet and watch them floating there. I have to keep remembering to put the lock on the door to keep him out!


Monday, 25 June 2012

No Clowns Please

Just a little bit clever!
Felix enjoyed the last Special Needs Playgroup session for the term this morning. He is often a bit tired because it overlaps a bit with his sleep time, but this morning he was extra cheery. He sat on his chair for the welcome song and stuck the little photo of himself up on the board when it was his turn. He laughed while I helped him do the actions to the songs and clapped excitedly. It was beautiful to watch him enjoying it so much.

I put a little train set together on the mat for Felix to play with and he sat for ages pushing the train around the track with just one finger. I've started teaching him the sign for 'train' and always make lots of 'toot toot' sounds to go along with it. While he was busy playing with the train I found a Jack-in-a-box and brought it over to him. He hadn't seen it before, so he lifted up the lid and nearly jumped out of his skin. He was not impressed at all. He pushed it away as fast as he could and then scooted backwards to get away from it. He obviously shares his Daddy's dislike for clowns!

We are yet to conquer the tunnel
Ages ago at Special Needs Playgroup, I tried to get Felix to hold a baby doll. Mel was pregnant with Noah and I thought it might be a good idea to introduce dolls to him. He was petrified of it and couldn't get away from it quick enough, so my great idea was unsuccessful. This morning, however, he was playing in the home corner and saw a baby doll sitting in a high chair. He pulled himself up to stand next to the high chair and gently touched the doll on its head with one finger. He was very cautious, but his curiosity got the better of him and he leaned in close to study the doll's face. It was a bit of a breakthrough!

Yay! I'm a big boy!
After inspecting the doll for a while, Felix moved on to the painting easel. He patiently waited for me to put his smock on and then started painting. He picked up the brush in his right hand because it was closer but straight away swapped it to his left. He does that all the time now. Anything we put in his right hand, he moves to his left. It makes signing interesting because we show him right handed but he does it left handed. Felix stood at the easel for ages happily painting away. Every now and again I gave him a different colour brush until he had created a beautiful painting. Another one for our wall.

Today is day 3 of putting Felix on the potty. He is still doing so well. He did a wee every single time we put him on there today. Nathan was a bit unsure of the whole toilet training thing but tonight when I was out, he got brave and put him on the potty and Felix did a wee for him too. It almost seems too good to be true that toilet training is going so well. Hopefully Felix will continue to keep doing well and who knows? The end of nappies may be in sight!!

Sunday, 24 June 2012

Number Two!

Yummy Vegemite!
I am SO overwhelmingly proud of my little man today! Yesterday he did a couple of wees on the potty which I thought was extraordinarily amazing, but today I sat him on there and he did a number two!!! I told him to 'push with his tummy' and I made a couple of grunting noises (like he makes when he's filling his nappy). He giggled and then pushed and grunted for a second or two and there it was!! I couldn't believe my eyes! What a clever boy!

It made me so proud of all of the kids I know with Down Syndrome who continually smash stereotypes. I marvel at them all. I watched a video recently of one of my friend's little boys who is about the same age as Felix. There is a new playground near his house which he can climb like a champion. When he gets to the top  he throws himself head-first down a twisty slide. I know a lot of 'typical' kids the same age who would be too scared to even try to do that! He is amazing to watch! (Way to go, Liam x x x)

Blue cupcakes....Mmmmm!
These kids are so bright and so capable. Yes, they will struggle in certain areas and not pick things up as quickly as other children sometimes, but the things they can do, they can do incredibly well. If a person with Down Syndrome becomes obsessed with the 'Lord of the Rings' movies, they will probably not only be able to tell you all the characters names, but also the actors. They will know who wrote the musical score and details about where it was filmed. People with Down Syndrome will amaze you if you give them a chance.

Felix had another party to go to today. This time it was at Hungry Jacks (Burger King). He doesn't usually get given take away food so he made the most of it. He was the only child at the party who ate his entire Happy Meal and then wolfed down a cupcake with electric blue icing. It's a wonder he didn't have a sugar rush!

It was good to catch up with some of the girls I used to go to Playgroup with. They were keen to know what Felix had been up to and he had smiles for them all. What I love the most about the girls is that they always treat Felix exactly the same as all the other kids. They never talk down to him or in simplified language (which some people have done). They asked which meal he wanted to eat and what he would like to drink, instead of looking at me quizzically and asking if kids with Down Syndrome are able to eat (again, another past experience).  They invited him to join in the games and play with their children. I can't thank them enough for their inclusion and acceptance of Felix.   Thanks girls x x x


Saturday, 23 June 2012

Potty Time

Signing "Sleep"
Nathan and I weren't able to go in the pool with Felix today because we just got new tattoos that are still healing. Lucky for Felix, he had one brother prepared to get up bright and early on a freezing cold Saturday morning to go swimming with him. Joel (17) saved the day, pulled on his board shorts and happily jumped in the water with Felix for his lesson.

Felix looked so relaxed today. He laughed and splashed with his hands and even kicked his legs a little bit. Joel showed him how to blow bubbles in the water. Felix tried to copy him and blew raspberries with his mouth every time Joel blew bubbles with his. Hopefully Felix's love for mimicking others will have him blowing bubbles in the water soon. He's certainly not too far away from doing it.

Swimming with his big brother
When we got home from swimming, I thought I would put Felix on the new potty seat I have just bought for him. I figured that we may as well try and get him used to the seat for when we start making a concerted effort to potty train him in Summer. Half of me thought he might be frightened of sitting on it.

Being always full of surprises, Felix sat there for about 10 seconds and then did a wee!! I couldn't believe it! I know it was a 'fluke', but I was still very impressed and clapped my hands and told Felix how clever he was. Before I put him to bed tonight I thought I would put him on there again and I couldn't believe it; he did it again! It was so exciting! I have noticed that when I get him undressed to go in the bath he will sometimes start to wee, and sometimes other times at nappy changes too. I figure that if we try and put him on the potty at those times and he wees there instead, he might start to make the correlation between the two. The funniest thing is that he has done a wee on the potty earlier than all of our other 'typical' boys.

After a quick one hour nap after swimming lessons this morning, I had to wake Felix up to take him to his buddy, Gemma's, 2nd birthday party at the kindergym. I rarely ever wake him up, but it was lovely to have him super snuggly and cuddling up to me while he was still sleepy. His cheeks were all rosy and adorable!

Minnie Mouse is terrifying!
Felix had a great time. He had smiles for everyone as he crawled around and explored. He got to play some games and eat lots of party food; including a cupcake which he devoured in no time. He has his Daddy's sweet tooth I think. He was very spoilt and got the biggest party bag when he left with lots of yummy treats, balloons and some fun things to play with. He sat on the floor when we got home and pulled everything out and decided that he still had room in his belly for some teddy biscuits.

One of the funniest things at the party was when I tried to get Felix to sit next to a giant, inflatable Mickey and Minnie Mouse. He was fine until they started to sway in the breeze and then he was petrified. He climbed up on my shoulder and screamed. I probably shouldn't say it was funny, but the dirty look he gave Minnie Mouse just before he started to cry was hilarious!


Friday, 22 June 2012

The Joy of Reading

Am I cute or what?
I've always thought reading is very important for children's development. It encourages imagination; it increases knowledge, and let's face it, the world really is your oyster if you can read. All of our kids are avid readers and even before they could read the words themselves they loved story time and looking through picture books. Before Felix was even born we bought a couple of books to read to him as soon as he was in our arms. We knew that reading would be a vital part of his development.

Kids with Down Syndrome very often have a particular subject they are very interested in. For example, they may be fascinated with the human body and how it works. They will be able to tell you intricate details about organs and muscles and tell you what the different body parts are called. Reading, for someone with Down Syndrome, is a pathway to so much knowledge.

We were singing, "Bear's now asleep...
Sh! Sh! Sh!"
I've been reading a new book on Down Syndrome and read something really interesting today. The author said that if a child with Down Syndrome starts school already being able to read, the teachers at the school will then set the bar so much higher for that child because they will see tangibly how much that child is capable of learning. She mentioned the shock people often showed that her son (with Down Syndrome) could read when he started school. She mentions stories of even non-verbal children with Down Syndrome who can read really well by the time they go to school. It's definitely food for thought. I hope Felix continues to enjoy reading books and hopefully we will have some success with him learning to read too.

We've been having fun learning some more signs with the books we bought. Felix has attempted some new ones while we've been reading them. He can sign 'car' and 'monkey' consistently now when I ask him. It's amazing how quickly he remembers them. This afternoon, Noah was looking very sleepy and his eyelids were getting heavier and heavier. Felix reached out to him and started signing, 'sleep'. How gorgeous!! His favourite sign at the moment is 'eat'. When we get him up in the mornings, the first thing he signs is 'Daddy' followed by 'eat' and then he points towards the door as if to say, "Kitchen is that way...off you go!" He may not be able to speak verbally, but he certainly gets his message across.

Do I have something between my teeth?
I think one of the most important things we can do with our children who have Down Syndrome, is to have high standards for them. If we think they won't be able to do something then they probably won't. If we think they can do something, then they probably will. Set realistic goals and expect that your child will have success. If you, as a parent, are not going to expect great things for your child then how can you expect Teachers, Physios and Speech Pathologists to expect great things? People with Down Syndrome are capable of SO much. They just need the opportunity and encouragement to show us!

Thursday, 21 June 2012

Felix and Jacob

Standing all by himself!
Felix's little buddy, Jacob, came over to play this afternoon. I should probably say 'big buddy' because Felix looks tiny next to him even though Jacob is 4 months younger. Jacob's Mum, Rachel, and I were marvelling today at how different our boys are to each other. Both have Down Syndrome and yet their short journey through life so far has seen them do very different things at different times, just like other children.

Smiley boy, Jacob.
Jacob was born with a heart condition requiring surgery when he was a tiny baby (very common in babies with Down Syndrome), whereas Felix's heart was fine when he had a scan just after birth. Jacob is a big, solid boy who is above average for his height and weight even for a 'typical' baby. Felix is much more like the average baby with Down Syndrome with his height and weight way below average. Felix has been mobile since he was about 10 months old and Jacob is just started to inch himself around now. Sometimes babies who have required surgery, and have had other medical issues, take a little while to get the strength up to crawl. Jacob learnt to point at things, like baby games on his Mum's phone, long before Felix did; but Felix clapped at about 7 months old and Jacob is still learning.

It's beautiful to watch them learn and experience things together. Felix watches Jacob and tries to do the things he can do and Jacob does the same with Felix. They are just like any other children who learn from each other at their own pace. When they have successes it's fantastic. If they are unable to do something yet, that's OK too; they will surprise us with that another time and when they do there will be lots of celebrating!

Bekah reading one of the sign language
books to Felix
Nathan is nearing the end of his holidays. It's been great to have him home. Felix is going to find it really hard not having Daddy home every day. He stopped three times at Kindergym yesterday and signed 'Daddy' because Nathan wasn't there with us. Even at home, if Nathan is in another room, Felix will ask me where he is or go looking for him himself. He is Nathan's little shadow. I think we might have to keep very busy next week so he doesn't miss him too much.

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

We love Wednesdays

Making a few phone calls...
It was Kindergym day again today. I have to say it has become one of my favourite days of the week and I think Felix would agree with me. He just loves climbing over everything now and needs very little help maneuvering up and down; with persistence he gets it nearly every time. Today we jumped on the trampoline together. He thought it was so much fun and laughed so hard. It makes my day to hear that laugh and to see the smile it brings to so many other people's faces. At the beginning of the session I had to fill in a registration form. There was a question there which asked, "Does your child have a disability?" The lady who runs the Kindergym laughed and said, "I'd tick 'No'! There's nothing disabled about Felix!"

Chillin on Daddy's bike
The only issue I had with Felix this morning was at 'song time' at Kindergym. For the most part it was wonderful. Felix joined in with the singing and dancing more than he ever has before. They even sang 'twinkle, twinkle' which was mesmerising for Felix. A whole room full of adults and children singing his favourite song and doing the actions. He was in song heaven! The problem came at the end of the song 'Row, row, row your boat' when they sang the line '....if you see the crocodile, don't forget to scream!' All the kids squealed at the top of their lungs and Felix dove into my lap. Poor little guy; his ears really can't handle high pitched sounds. One of the joys of having Down Syndrome and tiny little ear canals. The good news is that he bounced back well and when they sang the song a second time, I quickly put my hands over his ears when the kids screamed. His eyes still went wide open, but he didn't get upset.

Kindergym makes Felix so hungry. He eats non-stop after we get home. Tonight when he ate dinner, he used his fork so well. He was eating egg noodles which can be quite slippery, but he managed to put some on his fork and ate the whole bowl full and then signed "Eat" and pointed to the microwave. He wanted us to reheat more; a compliment to Daddy's cooking! He ended up having three servings. One thing I have noticed about Felix is that he loves any food which is high in carbohydrates; rice, noodles, bread and potatoes are his absolute favourite. He likes fruit as well which is good, but vegetables can be a bit tricky. I've discovered that if we cook something like fried rice and grate or chop vegetables up in tiny pieces and add them to the rice, he will eat the whole lot; we just have to be a bit sneaky about it.

Playing with his cousin
I was so excited today to receive some sign language books I had ordered from www.handscantalk.com.au They are even better than I thought they would be. They are picture books on different topics. I bought Animals, Objects, Food, Emotions/Feelings & Opposites (1)   On each page there is a photo of, for example, an apple, and above the photo is an illustration of how to sign the word 'apple'. Now when we read to Felix we don't have to quickly run to the computer to look up a word we don't know. It is right there in front of us. I'm particularly excited about the 'Emotions' one because we haven't learnt any of those yet. One of the biggest reasons why we wanted Felix to learn to sign was to be able to tell us how he is feeling so learning how to express those is going to be invaluable to both him and us. Hopefully we'll all pick them up quickly.

Note: The books I bought are Auslan (Australian Sign Language). If you live outside of Australia, you may have to contact your local Deaf Association to see if they have something similar.

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Felix fun & some of Ryan's firsts

Snuggles with his
Auntie x x x
It's been a busy few days. We have enjoyed having our daughter, Bekah, visit us and also had a surprise visit from Nathan's sister and her partner, and our niece. We haven't seen them in months so it was great to catch up. Felix had just woken up when his Auntie arrived. He is usually very clingy to us when he's still a bit sleepy, but he held out his arms to her and snuggled against her and cuddled for ages. It was an extra special treat for her and she loved every minute of it. He knows how to make the special people in our lives feel good!

Felix had us laughing our heads off yesterday. He pulled a tissue out of the box, held it to his nose and then made a massive snorting noise! It was hilarious. I have no idea where he got that from. I don't think anyone in the family blows their nose quite that loudly but he's obviously heard it from somewhere. Such a funny kid! Today, I blew a raspberry on the palm of Felix's hand. He laughed and laughed, then he put the palm of his hand to his own mouth and did what I had just done; blew a huge raspberry. He's such a quick learner!

My new Felix tattoo
with a DS butterfly
Today, Nathan, Felix and I drove to a town 3 hours away from home to get a couple of new tattoos. Felix travels so well in the car which is a good thing considering we live in the country. He enjoyed some time by himself with Daddy while I got my tattoo done, and then some time with me when Nate got his done. There is a little shop right near the tattoo place where parents can have coffee and the kids can play. Felix loved it. There was even another little boy there named Felix. What are the chances of that?

I had been planning my tattoo for quite a while. Of course, I had to get a Felix the Cat but I also wanted something to represent Down Syndrome in some way. I thought of the Down Syndrome butterfly, but wanted something a bit more simple. I ended up choosing a basic butterfly to match with Felix the Cat and got a little bit of blue and yellow around it (the colours of Down Syndrome awareness). I'm very happy with it, and Felix thought it was great too :)

Caught with his hand
in Mummy's
purse!
An update on Ryan...
Recently I blogged about a precious little boy, the same age as Felix, who doesn't have long to live. His Mum has made a 'Bucket List' of 'firsts' to experience with Ryan before he passes away. I just wanted to share some of the things Ryan's Mum has already been able to cross of her list.
- He got his first (rub on) tattoo
- He held a puppy (brought into his hospital room)
- He had his first beer (rootbeer) on his 21 month birthday!
- He did his first painting
The most recent 'first' was extra cool. He 'drove' his first (pedal) car along the hospital hallway which was fun, but the best bit is that he actually got 'pulled over' by a real Police Officer and given his first speeding ticket!! This was all organised by a friend of the family. How awesome that people are pulling together to give Ryan and his family some really precious memories together.


Sunday, 17 June 2012

A Visitor

I CAN put Daddy's beanie on!
Our beautiful daughter, Bekah (19), arrived today to stay for a few days. We haven't seen her for nearly 2 months because she lives and works so far away, so it's great to have her here. Felix was really happy to see her; it was like he only saw her yesterday. He showed her lots of his new tricks, including standing up without pulling himself up on anything. He stood for quite a long time and Bekah just assumed that it's something he does all the time when, in fact, he still only does it occasionally. He obviously wanted to impress her.

One thing Bekah has always done with Felix is sing to him. Right from when he was a newborn, she would walk around the house with him in her arms singing songs to him. It used to drive us crazy sometimes hearing the same song over and over; but he loved it. Today she started singing the song she has always sung to him and his face said it all. He was in awe. His sister was home and he was loving it!

I CAN make monkey noises like the
monkey on my pajamas!
Bekah and I bathed Felix tonight and had so much fun. He was playing with the bubbles and had a little bubble beard and a bubble hat. I asked if he could put some bubbles on my face, so he scooped some up and gave me a bubble beard to match his. He thought it was the funniest thing and giggled his head off. When I lifted him out of the bath, I held him up to the mirror so he could see all the bubbles he had piled up on top of his head. He's quite a fan of looking at himself in the mirror, so he was very impressed with seeing his bubbly reflection.

Whenever our older kids visit, they always marvel at what Felix CAN DO. They notice all the new things he has learnt since they last saw him. They never ask, "Is he doing this yet?" or "When do you think he will be doing that?" They take time to just sit with him and observe him as he plays and interacts with them and notice what he has learnt all on their own. Bekah actually squealed out loud when she saw Felix sign "Eat" today when I asked him if he was hungry. She's in for a shock over the next few days as he shows her even more of what he can do.




Saturday, 16 June 2012

Yay for Earplugs!

Super Felix
I've been wondering whether or not to continue with Felix's swimming lessons again next term or not. I mean, he's only little and how much will he really learn?  I've also been really concerned about his ears after he ended up with 2 ear infections after only his second swimming lesson. We've been having no success with him keeping his earplugs and headband on and I have really been worried about his health.

All of my worries were put to rest this morning. When we were still at home, I thought I'd try and put Felix's earplugs and headband on again. I fully expected him to pull the headband straight off like he always does, but he was fine with it. In fact, he kept playing on the floor until I took it off him again. When we arrived at the pool, he was really excited to be there. Before the lesson started, I put his earplugs in his ears and then put the headband on. He acted like he hadn't even noticed. It was fantastic.

Fun with Daddy
Watching Felix in the pool with Nathan this morning was great. I noticed in his last lesson that Felix had become a bit more confident in the pool. He had still been hesitant to lay on his back, and was totally against playing the game that involved sitting on a pool noodle; but he had definitely made some progress. This morning Nathan's goal was to "Conquer the pool noodle" (his words).

It was like something just 'clicked' with Felix this morning and everything was fun. He enthusiastically joined in with every activity and oozed confidence. Not only was he happy to sit on the pool noodle, but he had a huge smile as Nathan pushed him through the water and the teacher sang the 'Motor boat song'. He held onto the little kick board as Nathan held him on his back (instead of pushing it away and scrambling to turn himself onto his front). He happily chased after a little rubber duck in the water, and laughed when Nathan poured water from a cup over his head.  He even filled up a cup himself and tried to tip it over Nathan's head.

Using the kick board
on his back
Previous weeks, we have lifted Felix onto the edge of the pool, but this morning he lifted up his leg and, with only a little help, managed to pull himself up onto the side of the pool by himself.

Are we going to continue to take Felix to swimming lessons next term? Absolutely! Am I worried about his ears? Not any more. It was such a relief to watch him go the entire lesson without even touching his headband once. When I took it off after the class, the area around his ears was completely dry. I know it doesn't necessarily mean he will never get sick from something he picks up at the pool, but at least it minimises the risk. I don't want to wrap him up in cotton wool his whole life and have him miss out on doing things he enjoys, so I'm super happy right now!
Climbing out by himself

I've still had people asking where we got his earplugs/headband from. This is the website www.littlegrommets.com       We had them within days of ordering them so I definitely recommend them.

Friday, 15 June 2012

Funny Boy

This is the book he pulled off the shelf.
Look out ladies!
Felix is so funny with his signing. There are some signs I have been using for months and months and Felix still hasn't started to use them yet. There are others which I have only shown him a few times and he has already picked them up. I love it. It's like a complete surprise every time he starts using a new one because I never know what it's going to be.

Yesterday, Felix was sitting up in our bed with us and we were playing with him. He stopped and looked up, listening as a motorbike rode past our house out in the scrub. Immediately he signed 'motorbike'. I was a little bit dumbfounded because I only taught him how to sign it a few days ago when he was sitting on Nathan's bike and having some photos taken. I couldn't believe he knew just from the sound, that it was a motorbike. Wow!

I LOVE being an Uncle!



Sometimes Felix signs something to me and I'm not 100% sure what he's trying to tell me. Being only 20 months old, his fingers and hands are still learning how to make really precise movements. For example, to say the word 'naughty' (in Auslan sign language), you tap the fingers of your right hand over the back of the wrist of your left hand twice as if you are scolding someone. Felix hasn't quite got the hang of which way up his hands have to be yet, so instead he will clap his hands twice. It is the same with the word 'cat'. You stroke the back of your left hand with your right in an upward motion. Felix strokes the palm of his hand instead of the back of it. He is so patient with us. He repeats the sign over and over (and sometimes helps us by pointing to what he wants) until we work out what he's saying. Once we know the word he's saying, the sign makes perfect sense. Sometimes I think we learn much slower than he does.

You're a little bit scary, Noah
Late this afternoon, our little Grandson, Noah, was wide awake and full of smiles so I got a few photos of him and Felix together. I tried to sit Noah on Felix's lap but he's still a little bit wary of him, which is pretty adorable really. As soon as Noah was lowered onto his lap, Felix pushed him away. He was happy to sit next to him, though, and touch him and rub him on the head which was gorgeous. Felix held Noah's little hand and studied his fingers. There were lots of  "Ahhhh" sounds as he gently stroked him. He's an awesome little Uncle!

The absolute highlight of today for me was when Felix looked at me and said "Mum". Not Mum-um-um like baby babble; it was a definite "Mum" with an emphasis on the last 'M'. Over the course of the day, we asked him, "Felix, can you say Mum?" He would look at me and say, "Um, um, um," Trying really hard, until he finally said, "Mmmmmm, Mum"      Didn't think it was possible for him to melt my heart any more x x x
This is the Auslan
sign for 'Cat'
This is the sign for
'Naughty'



Thursday, 14 June 2012

Reminiscing

28 weeks gestation and his
little life was in question
Watching Felix play today I couldn't help but be amazed at how far he has come over the past 20 months.

We spent weeks and weeks reading books and information on the internet while waiting for Felix to be born. I was aware that breastfeeding might be a problem so I asked the Down Syndrome Society to send me information so it might go more smoothly. We prepared ourselves for possible health issues common in babies with Down Syndrome, but also the possibility of severe disability (or even death) from his hydrocephalus (fluid on the brain). We read up on Early Intervention and Physio we could do at home so we could start immediately. We even looked into what car we would need to buy if he was going to require a wheelchair due to the damage caused by the fluid. It's a wonder our brains didn't go into overload!

With his little feeding tube
And then he was born, and it was beautiful. There wasn't the anxiety we had felt during the pregnancy because for a baby with Down Syndrome, he was incredibly healthy. The hydrocephalus didn't appear to have done any damage either. Apart from being tube fed for a few days while he developed the strength to be able to breastfeed, things went perfectly and much to our amazement, we were discharged on day four.

From then on, Felix has gone from strength to strength. There were Physio appointments and hearing tests; visits to the Paediatrician and Occupational therapy and Speech Pathology (yes, even a newborn has speech therapy). There were people calling to let us know about this service and that service which would be beneficial for him. Sometimes it got tiring for us, but Felix coped with everything beautifully.

Hearing test
From the time he was about 4 weeks old, I would look into his little face as he stared back with so much awareness, and wonder when we would catch a glimpse of his first smile. We had to wait twice as long as the other kids, but it was so worth the wait.... a smile which lit up his eyes as well. It was perfect.

He showed us his determination for the first time when, at 11 months old, he started what can only be described as 'freestyle' crawling. He would move his arms like you would if you were swimming freestyle and he would push with his legs until he wormed himself forward an inch at a time to reach whatever it was he wanted. Shortly after his first birthday, he learned to sit up on his own for the first time.

Using the touch screen
We have had to learn patience, but it hasn't been a chore. It has actually been therapeutic for us to realise that savouring every moment is the only way to live! I know I've talked about enjoying the small things before, but I can't emphasise enough how important it is. Having Felix has made us better parents to our other kids. Instead of telling them to hurry up because we need to cook dinner or do something else, we really enjoy listening to them more and paying attention to the interactions they have with us and each other. Felix's birth has changed so much and I can honestly say I have never felt happier or more content with our whole family.

Today Nathan and I stopped what we were doing and quietly watched Felix while he was sitting on the floor looking at some of his books. We bought him some touch-and-feel books to encourage his sensory play and he was really studying them. He turned each page carefully and with great concentration rubbed his fingers over the different textures on each page before he turned to the next one. Occasionally he would sign something to himself in relation to the picture he was looking at. I could have watched him all day. Later he sat for quite a while drawing with his finger on my touch-screen phone (An Android App called 'Toddler Lock'). He drew for a while and when he had enough of that picture, he cleared the screen by sliding his finger from the top to the bottom and then started again. I can't believe how quickly he learns how to do some things. He really is an incredible little person.

I really wanted to share this photo. I found it yesterday when I was looking through some old Felix pics. This is Felix with a friend's daughter who also has Down Syndrome. The way she held Felix and looked at him was so heart warming. Felix looked at her as if to say, "You're just like me"    If Felix grows up to be even half as gorgeous as this beautiful little girl, I will be extremely happy. She is delightful and so uninhibited...a real joy!




Wednesday, 13 June 2012

In Love...

Sitting on Daddy's bike
I feel so in love today. In love with my husband; in love with all 7 of our big kids; and in love with our little man, Felix. Looking at my family today I marvelled at so many things. I watched our 17 and 15 year old sons helping each other with their Maths homework, and our 14 and 12 year old sons rolling around the floor playing with Felix. Nathan and I enjoyed getting up at 2am in the morning to go and cook a BBQ for our eldest son, Daniel, and his workmates while they were on night shift; and I'm so looking forward to seeing both of our beautiful girls over the next month. I love watching our family relate to each other. Every day brings some hilarious conversations and lots of laughs. Some days there's bickering and tears; but despite it all I love how we all need each other and would do anything for each other. Our eldest daughter, Amy, often jokes that our family would make a good reality show because there really is never a dull moment.

So handsome
This morning Nathan got to come with Felix and I to Kindergym for the first time. I don't know if it was because Daddy was there or not, but he was showing off. He did not stop all morning. He climbed up things and in things and he lowered himself down perfectly from high things. He even did a somersault down a soft padded slope and then tried to do it again. He looked as proud as punch as he gave his Daddy the tour of the Kindergym. We were both amazed at how much his coordination has developed even over the past couple of weeks and he is getting so much more confident trying new things. He's not just sticking with what he's comfortable doing anymore.

I was speaking to a Mum at the Kindergym this morning. She has 2 young children and knows that we have a large family. She asked me if I ever compared our kids milestones to each others and got anxious if one didn't do things as quickly as the others. I told her that with such a big family you learn very quickly that children are all complete individuals and will never do things exactly the same as another child. Amy and Aaron walked at 9 months old and yet Joshua was nearly 16 months old. Was I worried? No. He got it eventually. I told her that one of the beautiful things about Felix having Down Syndrome is that I can just sit back and relax and enjoy his milestones as they come. I can't compare him to other 'typical' kids, so it's just a matter of waiting and seeing what he will surprise us with next!  It really is such a unique and wonderful experience.
Climbing on Thomas the Tank Engine
at the shops

We've shared some fun little experiences with Felix over the last couple of days. This afternoon Felix wanted to touch his 6 week old nephew, Noah. I leaned him towards Noah and he accidentally patted him right on his face instead of his head. Noah didn't care and beamed Felix one of his biggest smiles. Felix thought Noah smiling at him was the best thing and couldn't wipe the grin off of his face. It was such a perfect moment. This morning one of our dogs kept barking and I had already yelled at him to stop a couple of times. Felix looked at the dog outside the window then back at me with a serious face and signed, 'Dog, naughty!' Hahaha! It was so adorable. I then signed, 'Dog, barking' to him and he signed 'barking, naughty.' Such a clever little cookie.


Monday, 11 June 2012

The Dogs

Hold still Chaos!
It's a wonder we can get anything done with Felix around. We just want to play with him all the time. Nathan is on holidays at the moment and we spend half the day just having fun with him. Our American Staffy, Chaos, sleeps in our room at night time and Felix always likes to pat him and give him some cuddles in the morning. Chaos loves the smell of Felix's breath and we spend a lot of the time trying to stop him from 'kissing' Felix on the face. This morning we spent ages watching Felix play with Chaos. Felix was playing with his beads and decided to try and put them around Chaos's neck. His coordination is getting better and better all the time and it was so cute to see him trying to put the beads around a wriggling dog's neck. He persisted for a few minutes until he managed to get them over Chaos's big head. The look of satisfaction on his face when he got them on was priceless.

Success!!!
A bit later on we let our big Bull Mastiff, Atlas, come inside for a little while. Felix climbed up on the dog bed with him and tried to put one of my socks on his foot. Felix looks so tiny next to Atlas and because Atlas is still just a puppy he isn't always careful around Felix and can sometimes knock him over. Felix used to be a little bit wary of him but has become very brave lately and will try and climb on him. Even if he gets knocked over, he gets back up and starts climbing on him again. I'm glad he's not frightened and it's going to be beautiful to watch Felix grow up with the dogs. Animals have unconditional love and don't judge someone based on their looks, colour or abilities. I think they will all be great friends.

Putting a sock on
Atlas
Daniel (our 22 year old) and his girlfriend, Cate, came over for a visit this afternoon and brought coffee and cake. Felix loved not only having a captive audience to laugh at his antics, but thought the cake was pretty awesome as well. He frantically signed 'More, more, more' before he had even finished one mouthful. He wasn't too impressed when we told him he couldn't have any more and he reluctantly signed 'finished'.

Sharing the dog bed
Joel brought Noah into the room to meet Cate for the first time (she lives a long way from here). Cate was cuddling Noah and Felix worked out very quickly that he wasn't the centre of attention at that moment because everyone was looking at Noah. He was so cheeky, trying to get the attention back on himself by making funny noises and walking around the furniture and just generally showing off. Such a hilarious little boy! Eventually he made his way over to Cate and Noah and showed what a lovely Uncle he is by gently stroking Noah and patting him on the head. He's so precious.