As we headed down the M62 on Saturday Morning I witnessed a rare occasion between my oldest 2 of love, friendship and harmony. It began with a sweet little voice saying “Let me help you Megan”, and was far from the usual battles, screeches, crying and fist fights we experience on journeys any longer than 10 minutes!

“Let me help you with your reading, your sums and your writing” he said, and she agreed! They giggled, praised and even had brief moments of silence whilst they concentrated on the “tricky” words and sums and it was one of those moments where family life just feels wonderful and the universe is in harmony. It’s a moment you look at and wonder why everyday isn’t this lovely? And why are these moment feel so brief and rare? It was an ordinary moment, something easily overlooked but one that made us smile to see them being the best of friends! It was an ordinary moment you imagine when you dream of your family and soon realise it is very rarely this normal!

Theses two go through phases (as most siblings do) of either being little nutters and the best of friends, or winding each other up and fighting – there is rarely a middle ground and both extremes send me mad! Then there is the fact that Ethan is a school year older than Megan, and Megan being at the younger end of hers, obviously isn’t anywhere near Ethan’s level of understanding and ability. Ethan knows this and has a tendency to pick on her, laugh at her and shout the words out before she has a chance to decode them in her reading book. It makes me sad and snappy, whilst he finds it hilarious, and whilst she gets mad and upset. It so annoying and revenge is always just around the corner from Megs!

I laughed when the school suggested I get him to help bring her on at home with her reading, writing and numbers, because I knew what a mean big brother he could be to her and I thought it would be counterproductive and end in tears…but Saturday proved to be quite the opposite, and even more amazing was that it came from Ethan as a desire to help his little sister, and Megan was so chuffed with what she was doing!

Our Saturday was far from the action packed day we had originally planned due to a family emergency, but it was a day of great importance/necessity and family time all the same. Whilst I can’t wait for a 7 seater again (for longer journeys especially), to give them a little more space (because the scraps they have are painful to listen to). Looking over my shoulder and seeing their cute little smiles, and being a witness to the love and bond between them in that moment was just beautiful.

It so often seems that its all about the he said, she said, and it drives us mad! I forget how good these too get a long the majority of the time and it is always a lovely and heart warming moment in life to be reminded of that and see your kids getting along. It is a beautiful moment to see them helping one another, laughing together and praising each other. It’s lovely as a parent to hear the sweet and mighty words of “Let me help you”…

The Ordinary Moments
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Just this morning Alice got up on all fours and properly started to crawl (Hooray!). She has been doing the bum shuffles, backwards worm, rolls and some commando stuff for some time now to get where she wants to, but I must say that I am super excited to see her crawling! Great timing too as tomorrow she will be 10 months old.

Here at 10 months I finally feel that I am used to her and relaxed with her. I guess what I mean is, that I have accepted she’s here to stay and with that it’s hard to imagine life without her here. It’s at that point with a baby where they seem like they’ve just always been in the family, even though its only been a few months, and you couldn’t imagine them not being one of yours. I have for so long being worried for one thing and another (that ultimately boils down to a fear of another loss), that to no longer look at her in disbelief feels lovely. She has slotted in wonderfully, is a light in all of our lives and a great daughter and sister.

I think with all of that, it has meant that it has been the easiest and most enjoyable with Alice, from the angle of parenting after loss. I have had a few low days, but these were down to things with SANDS, and that will always take me a day or so to feel right again because of the nature of the meetings.

Last week though she accompanied me on one of the speeches I did for SANDS sharing my story, it was good (and a comfort) to be able to have her with me. It felt so natural that she was there, and it was a great opportunity to have her do something with me about her other big sister “Poppy”. It obviously was a heavy day (reliving those memories are never easy), but Alice was calm and chilled and it was a rare moment I had to reflect on what their relationship might have been or will be, and how Alice is helping keep her sisters memory and legacy alive. I wonder daily what having a toddler and baby would be like again with their personalities, and I wonder how having a sick child with CHD would have been too day to day. Hearing Alice was healthy was wonderful, and is wonderful of course, but we loved Poppy with all of her ailments too and  were ready to go down that road. I know I would have adapted and become her expert for her, and sometimes even that makes me sad…that I didn’t get a chance to care for her medically as well as all of the caring that naturally comes as a mother. I think of that a lot when I meet Drs and health professionals at these things because we go beyond the Trisomy 18 diagnosis and talk about all of the other things she had too as a result. Of course initially it was one with out the other and for 12 weeks that is what we had in our minds as life with Poppy.

All of the medical stuff and of course her passing has meant that I have been rather paranoid with Alice when she gets sick, but this last month, when she had a good bought of Chicken pox (which she handled like a trouper), it didn’t bother me. I wasn’t panicked or worried, we just got on with it and it ended up being a relief to get that one out of the way in this first year.

Developmentally she has started pulling up on the furniture and taking the odd wobbly step sideways. She throws things and laughs, babbles lots, signs milk when you sign food and bawls her eyes out when dinner is finished. She has developed way more cheekiness, cute laughs and for some reason loves to wake every morning at 6am!!! She sleeps through which is fine, but 6am is a little too early. She also growls at us if we do something she doesn’t life, pants and slaps the tray on her highchair for more food and makes the most wonderful and hilarious noises.

We have a great routine, she is a great eater, loving especially satsumas, pitta bread, tomatoes, tuna, chicken, roast dinners, pasta and well pretty much everything!!! I love to hold and cuddle her and just have a feeling she is going to be funny like Megan when she grows up. I love spending my days with my little Rainbow girl and can’t believe how fast she is growing!

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9 Months after I had and lost Poppy, I remember feeling incredibly sad when we reached this milestone. It was so hard to step over the threshold of her suddenly being gone longer than she was alive, and I remember I struggled to wrap my head around that fact. Suddenly here we are at 9 months with Alice and to celebrate the normal excitement of her being out longer than she was in, somehow feels a little insensitive this time around! I am happy to let it pass like any other monthly milestone, fully aware that we are only 3 months from her first birthday!

We finally got her a cot yesterday, and so it only seemed fitting that she had a few shots taken in it here at the odd milestone that is 9 months.

She has come on leaps and bounds in the last 4 weeks; with 2 new teeth, some bum shuffles to get to stuff, mastering drinking from her bottle, and some recent pulling backwards across the floor. She is most definitely my latest developer but that’s totally fine with me…every milestone brings with it a flood of emotion, so the longer we take to get there the better!!

So yes as I say we finally have her a cot! She has needed one for a while (being end to end in her baby crib) and I finally bit the bullet and moved her up.Now she looks so teeny and cute in it, I love it! She’s still in our room until we move, which again is far longer than the others ever where, but all of these changes are just too major to handle at once. I also have anxiety in the back of my mind of all the risks, and so for peace of mind it just makes sense for her to stay put a few more weeks!

The last few days I have been combination feeding with the hope that today I would stop breastfeeding altogether! She seems to have really cut down on her milk intake altogether, with just one feed at bedtime and has been happy to have either expressed or formula in a bottle. I am incredibly proud of myself for making it to 9 months (my longest by double), and with the constant biting it was a deal breaker – her time on the boob is up!

At 9 months I want to remember how she eats like a gannet…shouts mama, baba and dada. Clutches her water bottle, and then how she loves to kick back with it in the pram.  I want to remember how excited she seemed when we visited Poppy’s grave with her last weekend, and spoke of her big sister (like she knew exactly who she was). And finally I want to remember how much she is like her other siblings – jolly, loving life and yet a stubborn little lady. She is a gentle and loving soul who continues to fill my days with joy!

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Whenever we travel the kids take a great interest in the local language. Even with our recent road trip to Scotland, they spent ages asking about what language they speak there, and this led to many chats (and impressions) on the difference between languages and accents. So far we have only gone as far as Germany, Spain and Italy, and thankfully in these countries I have managed to be able to teach them the odd conversational terms.

Languages are amazing, and I so wish I could grasp them better than I currently do (one day). But kids are little sponges and much more able to pick up a new language than we. On this subject I recently heard of a new initiative taking place at Heathrow airport this Easter weekend known as “Little linguists”, and with my kids fascination with languages, I thought it would be great to share.

Little Linguists – What’s it all about?

Basically they have teamed up with founder of Bilingualism Matters and Professor of Developmental Linguistics at Edinburgh University, Antonella Sorace, to help inspire children to learn new languages. And if you are one of the lucky 200,000 families expected to travel through the airport this weekend, then you and the kids will certainly be in for a treat, because Heathrow has created packs of Mr Adventure themed flashcards with various phrases in French, German and Mandarin, to help kids get to grips with a new language this Easter. The cards are available for families to download online or pick up for free at information desks across all terminals airside over the Easter holidays, and in my mind are brill.

As well as the cards, they also have experts around the airport to help kids practice their new linguistic skills! It all makes me wish we were going away this weekend, because its just a fab idea.

Whist we aren’t, we still managed to get our hands on a set of the cards and the kids have loved learning these foreign languages. It’s a fun Easter activity, and I think these cards and the “Mr Adventure” character are just a fantastic idea!

 French, German and Mandarin were identified by economic experts as the languages Britain’s children should learn for optimum success in ten years’ time, and so we decided to take the bull by the horns and jump in first with Mandarin!

Learning Mandarin:

Other than “ni hao” I learnt from a roomy from Hong Kong 10 years ago, I am completely clueless with mandarin. However it is the number one language spoken in the world and when asked what language they’d like to start with of course the kids chose mandarin!

We found the cards really easy to use, they only have 5 basic phrases on them but it’s a great start to being a little linguist and the kids did brilliantly at decoding the phrases. The bright colours were child friendly and certainly make language learning fun for kids. On one side is the word with translation, and on the other the word on it’s own to test them. There is also a card with ideas on how to teach them the new language so that it really sticks. We know we are going to have fun on car journey’s and future trips.

As well as the Little Linguists initiative, the airport has a number of family-friendly offers during the Easter holidays, including ‘kids eat free’ at restaurants, soft play areas and appearances by Mr Adventure himself. To learn more about Heathrow’s range of family friendly initiatives visit: http://www.heathrow.com/family.

If you are travelling this weekend then stay safe and have fun – get your kids excited with these language cards and who knows how fluent they will be in a few years. If not, why not download them like us and begin a new little linguist hobby – courtesy of Heathrow.

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