Monday, 22 September 2014

A Double MAD Night

*WARNING* This post contains countless clichés!

So apologies in advance for a post likely to be packed full of obvious statements but I just can't find the words to express my total shock at coming away from Friday night's 2014 MAD Blog Awards as the winner of not only the 'Best Writer' category but also 'Blog of the Year' too.

Before I bore you with the details I would like to give my heartfelt thanks to each and everyone of you that nominated and voted for The Future's Rosie – without your continued support the blog would simply be floating around looking a bit lost in cyberspace and I'd have probably given up as soon as I'd started back in 2012.

The finalists in all categories made up an extremely impressive list of talent from all aspects of the parent blogging spectrum. A mere 75 finalists were in attendance after over 250,000 nominations and votes!

The night started with a champagne reception which certainly helped settle any nerves. Feeling rather outnumbered by women I was relieved to see a fellow Dad blogger and had a great chat with Ricky AKA Skint Dad – A very inspirational story for anyone finding themselves struggling financially. I also enjoyed catching up with a few familiar faces from last years event before it was time to sit down and be wined and dined.

A big highlight for me came when the winner of 'Best New Blog' was announced as 'Don't be Sorry'. For those few of you that haven't heard of it yet, Don't be Sorry is a beautiful and honest blog written by Sarah Roberts about her son Oscar, who like Rosie, happens to have Down's syndrome. I felt a little sting in my eye as it was announce because I knew Sarah hadn't expected to win at all having just spoken to her, but I was also so proud to see another blog about Down's syndrome acknowledged and rewarded in the parent blogging community. Also representing us 'DS Bloggers' as an Outstanding Contributor was the remarkable Hayley from Downs Side Up – little by little we are becoming a voice that will hopefully play it's part in making a difference for the future of our little ones.

In truth I hadn't expected anything myself from the evening especially in light of the exceptional finalists I found myself amongst in my two categories. I thought I'd had my moment at last years event with 'Best New Blog' – even then I was convinced it was just a fluke. So when The Future's Rosie was announced as winner of The Watch Hut sponsored 'Best Writer' category I was genuinely shocked. Like the previous year I cannot remember what I said – being thrown into the limelight is my biggest nightmare, I am however, pretty confident it made very little sense! As the evening fell on the third anniversary of Rosie's heart surgery I felt it only right to dedicate the award to all those healthcare professionals who helped fix her tiny heart.

I was extremely touched by the kind words from the host of the evening 'Dr Ranj (of cBeebies and This Morning fame). As a major added bonus, The Watch Hut very generously gave me £500 towards a new watch too!

As I sat down again my heart was still racing and I texted my wife Karen, who was upstairs enjoying the comforts of the swanky Royal Garden Hotel. Then seemingly out of nowhere they announced TFR again – this time as the 2014 'Blog of the Year' sponsored by Parentdish. I'm racking my tiny and tired brain for better words to describe the shock but I'm going to have to settle for stunned and numb!

Needless to say I had a great night celebrating into the early hours. I was most impressed that Karen, Hayley and I found ourselves to be the last ones standing!

Thank you to Sally and all of the MADS team for a brilliant night and for making all the finalists feel so amazing.

I'd like to say a special thank you to my family and friends for being such a huge support, especially Karen and my three amazing kids. Obviously the biggest thanks goes to my little bundle of joy 'Budlington' who continues to teach and inspire me every single day.

Hayley from 'Downs Side Up' (left) and Sarah from 'Don't be Sorry'

Mrs Future's Rosie with Dr Ranj

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Budlington Begins Nursery

So, last Wednesday the day finally arrived for Rosie to begin nursery school. It's a day that, three years ago, we could only dream about as we were two weeks away from signing the medical forms that gave consent to the surgeons at Alder Hey to perform open heart surgery on Rosie. This mean't her heart would be stopped for approximately 45 mins during the 7 1/2 hour operation and she would be kept alive by machinery. I spend a lot of time thinking about that chapter in her life and it's always my first thought each time she achieves a big life moment. It was always so difficult to see beyond it at the time – it felt as if daring to do so would be tempting fate somehow. Anyway I digress...

So here we are almost three years on and Rosie is starting nursery at the same mainstream school her older brothers attend/attended.

I wanted to shout out to everyone, "LOOK! My baby's starting nursery today!"

The first drop off was really exciting. As we walked to the school, I was beaming with pride. I wanted to shout out to everyone, "LOOK! My baby's starting nursery today!" I just couldn't stop smiling. When we reached the gate, Rosie's one-to-one Lorraine was there to greet us. I could see the excitement in her face also and it made me feel all the more reassured that everything would be okay.

We've known Lorraine since the boys started at the school. She became a great support to us in the early days of finding out that we were having a baby with Down's syndrome (DS) as she herself had a beautiful son, Christopher, who also had DS. When it was announced to us that Lorraine would be Rosie's one-to-one Karen and I were both over the moon as we knew our Bud would be in the best possible hands.

As we arrived, the excitement in her teacher, Mrs Carr, was also plain to see and I became a bit overwhelmed by the work and effort that had clearly gone in by everyone to make the transition as smooth as possible. Flash cards were made of the different areas in the classroom as well as adjustments to play equipment to accommodate Rosie's petite size – many other ideas were also discussed for the coming days.

We all walked into the classroom but I stood back in the entrance area not wanting to over crowd Rosie. As I stood and watched Rosie sit down with Lorraine and Karen, I couldn't help but well-up with a whole heap of emotions being responsible. I was so proud of Rosie, so happy she was excited and so very grateful to the school for making her so welcome.

I left them all to it and Karen stayed with her for an hour to aid the transition. Rosie clearly had a lot of fun on her first day and was full of smiles when Karen returned to pick her up.

The next day we both stayed with her for about 10 minutes or so and when the time came to leave, Rosie just turned and said, "Bye bye" then carried on with her jigsaw. It really couldn't have gone any better and we both felt thrilled and proud as punch!

A short while later....

Karen was just about to sit down and enjoy her first real peaceful cup of tea in years when the phone rang. Yes, it was the nursery! Lorraine rang to say that Rosie had been crying out, "Mummy!" and getting a bit distressed – to be fair it was all going a little bit too perfectly!

It was agreed that picking her up early would be the best option before she started to associate Nursery with something stressful. We've also decided that staggering the settling in period over alternate mornings will allow Rosie time to adjust and get used to spending a few hours a day away from her Mummy.

So that is where we are up to right now. She clearly loves being there, which is great, but it's going to take a bit of time getting her fully accustomed to the change. The promising thing is that although she may struggle being away from Karen after an hour or so, she remains happy to go in each morning.

Tuesday, 2 September 2014

Flowering Bud

I apologise for beginning this post with an age old cliché but seriously, where does time actually go? Another couple of weeks (and more) have passed since I last wrote and suddenly I find everything happening at once. No sooner did the school holidays start and they've finished again!

Bud's eldest brother Harry started High School today which in itself has been a huge thing for our family but this blog is about Rosie so I'll not digress other than to say, Harry, I'm extremely proud of you son, you're growing to be a genuinely decent young man and the whole family are very proud of you for taking such a big step (which includes travelling by train!) so confidently.

So back to Rosie... well as I mentioned at the end of the last update she was to be a flower girl at our friends Nicola & Brian's wedding which she took to really well. Not only did she look absolutely gorgeous and cute beyond words but she behaved impeccably too. The day was wonderful and we were even treated at one stage to a bit of disco hand dancing from Rosie (see video below) – let me tell you this girl has rhythm, certainly more than I do anyway!

We met Nicola & Brian through our local support group, their son Daniel (who also has DS) is just a week younger than Rosie and has been through many of the same early challenges in life, including open heart surgery and the date of the wedding deliberately fell on the anniversary of his operation. We have met so many wonderful people through our group and it was an honour to be there to share such a special day together. As the night drew to a close there was still a bunch of us dancing into the early hours and it just so happened that the last ones standing were all members of our South Manchester Support group. It was quite a special moment and Nicola picked up on it immediately making a touching off the cuff speech acknowledging our friendships which have blossomed so quickly amongst us all.

The photo of us below (sadly not including everyone) dispels two important myths about Down's syndrome. Firstly not all babies with DS are born to older couples and secondly having a baby with special needs will not alienate you from friends and society or stop you having good times, if anything it will enrich your life and friendships further.

I can't believe it but the next post I write will be based around Rosie's first few days at Nursery which she starts tomorrow. Yes you read it right, tomorrow! Neither Karen and I can believe how far she has come and just how quickly this next big stage in her life has arrived. Rosie has began to slow down with her progress in recent weeks and we both feel that although 'letting her go' will be a huge upheaval emotionally (especially for Karen) it is definitely what she needs now in order to push on and encourage further development.

Happy from The Future's Rosie on Vimeo.

Thursday, 14 August 2014

Glastonbuddy 2014

Well we're now back from our Summer holidays and I thought it was about time I wrote a post, so here goes...

A week and half ago we packed up our car filling every single available space with camping equipment and headed off to Glastonbury – sadly a month or so too late for the festival!

We broke the long journey and stopped over at our dear friends, Ric and Claire's near Bromsgrove. Ever the perfect hosts and it was great to see their lovely son Ruben and Rosie playing so well together. Rosie certainly isn't shy when it comes to meeting children she doesn't see a lot of or indeed children she's never seen before, this will be a valuable tool for her to take through life and I hope she continues with this confidence.

So onto camping... remembering that Rosie is only three and we are still relatively new to having a child with DS I guess it's normal (or at least I hope it's normal) to wonder and perhaps worry a little about how you will be greeted to places. Greenacres Campsite near Glastonbury was our destination and we couldn't have been made to feel more welcome, we were treated with complete normality which is so important given that this was to be our home for the next week.

Duncan & Mary who run the fabulous family friendly campsite had a genuine interest in our whole family and that normality is totally priceless to us. Alice (9) their daughter (shown in the picture below) expressed a huge interest in Rosie and over the the week became our Bud's new best Buddy. Alice asked so many intelligent questions – so keen she was to educate herself and find out as much as possible about Rosie and what it's like having a child with Down's syndrome. She regularly took Rosie off to the play area encouraging her to get up on her feet. Alice is such a delightful young girl and we can't thank her enough for the moments of respite she gave Karen and I as she looked after our Bud. We will most certainly be back to camp at Greenacres in the near future and wouldn't hesitate in recommending it to any family.

Rosie was no trouble going to bed and took to camping really well, we had done a few short trips first so knew she'd be okay but it still surprises me just how adaptable she is to environment changes.

Breaking up the journey again on the way back home we treated the kids (and ourselves) to a two night stay at a luxury spa hotel in the Cotswolds. Rosie is being extra clingy and super demanding for Karen's attention at the moment and I was a little apprehensive as to how it would work in the environment of a hotel. Not always the most family friendly of places!

Rosie's constant need for attention coupled with shouting and sometimes screeching in public is becoming increasingly harder for me to deal with. As usual Karen just takes it all in her stride but myself well, I've been having a few wobbles again. I've been battling with that mistake parents of children with DS often make – 'Looking to the future'. I know it's counter-productive but I can't help it sometimes, rather annoyingly it's in my nature to be a little anxious. I keep thinking to myself is this Rosie from now on? Will this be our life, constantly worrying everyone's tutting or feeling sorry for us? I'm sure its just a phase but it consumes me at the moment.

Whilst getting ready for dinner I took the kids to the bar area giving Karen time to get ready without Rosie's constant need for her. For the first time in a long time I felt that wobble come over me as I struggled to contain her neediness, screaming and crying for Mummy. I took her outside held her and cried. I know all of this is contrary to the blog title but I've always promised to be honest and yes for a moment there I stood and wondered if I can cope. Life isn't always full of the Friday smiles, to be fair it mostly is, but equally there are moments that I struggle with.

That said when we sat down for dinner she behaved impeccably and enjoyed dipping her vegetables in a sauce for her starters, showing signs of OCD with the dinner plate! (see video) – swings and roundabouts as they say.

Tomorrow Rosie has her most important role so far where she is to be a flower girl at the wedding of our friends, Nicola and Brian. I can't wait to share some photo's of Rosie from the day.

Table manners from The Future's Rosie on Vimeo.

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Mencap Top Talent

Well I promised in my last post that I'd let you know how the talk went... It's been three weeks and I've just not managed to find the time for one reason or another. So I apologise for taking so long! Anyway I've just referred back to my notebook that I carry with me everywhere and here is what I wrote as soon as I got settled on the train:

"What a tremendous experience for me today. I have, for the first time in my life, addressed over 200 people in a public talk for the Mencap 'Top Talent' day in Birmingham. It really was a huge honour for me to be asked to talk from a Dad's perspective about life with Rosie and also a little about 'The Future's Rosie' blog. I also touched on my concerns of the negative way in which we were told the news that our baby has Down's syndrome and how steering conversations and cornering parents to terminate a pregnancy at the point of diagnosis can also have a lifelong mental effect on someone –one of torment and regret.

I was made to feel extremely welcome from the moment I arrived at the venue. Anyone who knows me well and has had to put up with me the past couple of months will know just how nervous I was about delivering this talk so a warm reception was just what I needed to calm my pre-talk nerves.

I have been truly overwhelmed by the positive messages and feedback from people in attendance and would like to thank Mencap for giving me this opportunity and helping me tackle a personal fear of mine. As I sat down afterwards I looked across the vast room then back at the stage and thought to myself, here is yet another moment in my life where I've been encouraged by Rosie to challenge myself. I would never have done this without her inspiration."

I had the pleasure of meeting and chatting with so many inspirational people from Mencap including their Chief Executive Jan Tregelles who I must thank for the picture below which was pinched from her twitter feed!

Tuesday, 24 June 2014

Little Miss Swiss

I think I've just broken my own record for the longest time between posts! During this time Rosie has been unwell with a chest and ear infection (for over two weeks). It's been a long time since she's been under the weather so she deserved to have a good run at it! I'm pleased to say she's much better now and as a result is moving on leaps and bounds – making up for that time lost nose blowing.  I've also been busy preparing and practicing for something I never thought I'd see myself doing in a million years... a public talk to 200 odd people for Mencap which takes place this Friday in Birmingham. I'm so far out of my comfort zone my legs are going to jelly just typing about it! I'll let you know how it goes (if it goes well of course!).

For those of you that have ever wondered where Rosie's surname comes from; it's of Swiss origin. I myself am dual national (well treble if you count England and Scotland as two!) and therefore Rosie is one quarter Swiss. The reason I mention this is that I wanted to share a video with you (below) of my Dad and Rosie enjoying a Swiss nursery rhyme together. Rosie seems to be embracing her Swiss roots well as I haven't a clue what they're singing about but she appears to have full understanding of what's going on!

What I love about this video is how Grandad just 'gets' Rosie, they always interact so well together regardless of which language they converse in! When she swipes for him (it's affection) near the end he doesn't even flinch.

Rosie has an amazing and unique bond with all of her grandparents and we feel very privileged that we have all of their support. It seems a bit silly saying that now – of course they all love Rosie to pieces but I have read a lot of bits and bobs around social media recently that have really made me appreciate just how lucky we are to have such genuine support from our parents.

Rosie also had her (now annual) Cardio check up last week which provided myself with a full on work-out trying to restrain her! It really isn't a traumatic experience in terms of pain, its exactly the same as having a scan when pregnant, same procedure, same machines just over the heart area. However Rosie has been through so much in her early days that she tends to get very distressed when any medical professional comes near her. Even a simple visit to the Doctor will end in a minor hysterical meltdown. As soon as the consultant had finished and we sat her upright she smiled and laughed, chatting away to him as if the previous five minutes of seeming torture hadn't even occurred!

I'm delighted to say that everything appears in order. After the last scan she appeared to have residual leakage from the valve but even that has cleared up so we came out feeling extremely happy and, as always, eternally grateful to the wonderful medical team that made all this possible.

Grandad Future's Rosie from The Future's Rosie on Vimeo.

Monday, 19 May 2014

What a team!

Well what can I say about yesterday?

I've tried thinking of suitable words; Proud, emotional, humbled, grateful, tearful... but nothing comes close to explaining how I really felt seeing everyone, runners of all abilities, in their green Running for Rosie & Friends 2014 T-Shirts, pushing themselves around the 10km Great Manchester course in blistering heat – all for South Manchester DS Support Group. Okay some may say "it wasn't THAT hot" or, "I've ran in hotter weather" however the problem lay with the fact the temperature had increased by at least 10 degrees to those everyone had been used to training in, so it was a big deal for the vast majority of people out on the course. The ambulances and constant flow of paramedics on bikes was all the evidence needed to prove that. It really was a titanic effort from 'Team Running for Rosie & Friends 2014' and the post run meet up and drinks in the sunshine were a very welcome reward!

The main achievement came when I realised we had smashed our initial fundraising target of £2500. At the time of writing this we are at a staggering £3180 and counting...! The donation page for this event is open for another 4 weeks so if you'd like to donate you can still do so by clicking this link:

Thank you so much to everyone who not only ran but to each and everyone of you who so generously donated to a cause so close to us, especially in these difficult financial times. Also a special thank you to Anytime After 9 Ltd for so kindly financing our brilliant T-Shirts!

In this instance I think photo's speak louder than words so I leave you with a selection of our images from the day which should hopefully illustrate the effort we went to as well as the fun we had!