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.