First Christmas as Four Shaws

We’ve had a brilliant Christmas. We spent the morning at home with just the children, opening presents, eating pancakes and the usual morning activities! We spent the afternoon at Jon’s parents, including lunch. Yummy! In the evening we went to my parents and that was a packed house of family, presents and more food!

It’s been a Christmas of ‘firsts’. This is Asa’s first Christmas in the world. Although he’s still so little and couldn’t physically open his own presents, we all still had a wonderful time!

This is the first Christmas where Emelia has had an understanding of what the celebrations are all about. We’ve read the Bible stories about the very first Christmas. It’s the first Christmas she has been able to open her own presents… a bit too quickly at times!

This has been our first Christmas in our new home. It’s hard to believe that it has been seven months since we packed up and moved, me being heavily pregnant. Ah memories! We love our new home, a place where our children will grow up and we’ll grow older!

I digress… I won’t write much more about our family Christmas – some memories can remain private. I’ll just leave you with a few snapshots of the past couple of days. We hope you all had a wonderful, blessed Christmas.

From, the 4 of us xxxx

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Christmas lunch at Nanny and Grandad Shaw’s!

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Asa, Emelia and two of their cousins, Cerys and Liam (he’s also my cousin!)

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Emelia trying out her new scooter at the park today.

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Emelia loves the park – she’s getting rather independant and she’s keen to try new things. Today, she’s been jumping and climbing!

Three Parties In Three Days!

We have had a very busy, party filled, past three days! Emelia and Asa have had two party invites. The first invite was to Emelia’s friend’s birthday on 20th December. Mia is now three years old, and she will be in the same school year as Emelia, hopefully in the same school! It was a great afternoon, filled with bouncy castles, party food, lots of happy sugar filled children and a beautiful rainbow cake made by Mia’s mummy, Keri! (Although, we’ve recently stopped Emelia’s naps in the day time as she was taking rather a long time to drift off… so when it was time to leave, it was a different story!). Asa got to hang out with his buddy Rog. I have a feeling they will be great friends as Asa grows up and understands how special his ‘Uncle Rog’ is. What is age between friends?

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Asa with his Uncle Rog! …Pass the parcel.

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On the bouncy castle…

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Asa looking adoringly at his buddy, Rog.

Thanks Mia (and parents), we all had a great time!

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Our second invite was to my Grandma and Grampy’s annual ‘Guy’ family get together. I love this family tradition. It has grown in the last eight years to include Jon, his parents, Emelia and now Asa, as well as my parents, two brothers (and one’s girlfriend) and my little niece Cerys. Sometimes my uncle and wife are there too – it’s a busy evening! It’s a good job that my grandparents had a large conservatory extension a number of years ago. My grandparents live in Llangybi, near Usk, so we don’t see them as much as we’d like to. This annual evening is an early Christmas, particularly for them.

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Emelia and her cousin, Cerys, enjoy spending time together.

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Asa and his Great Grandma.

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The men. Asa, with his dad, grandad, pops, great grandad and great grampy!

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Our third invite was to Doug and Joy’s children’s Christmas party, which was this afternoon. Emelia was invited last year, and this year, both our children were invited. I actually found it very moving, that these wonderful and generous people would open up their home to all the church children in primary school and younger…

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Asa and his buddies, Archie and Ethan, only 7 weeks apart in age. Our prayer is that these three boys will be great friends and encourage each other in school and church!

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Our friend Leon loves little Asa. Leon, you’re a legend – we know you’ll be keeping Asa entertained for years to come!

P1090694Can you guess who it is?

Each child and baby were bought a present. Emelia loved her doll from ‘Father Christmas’. Asa was the youngest there, and I had tears in my eyes when he sat on ‘Father Christmas’ lap, and we opened his present for him (toy links – perfect for his tiny hands!). To top it off, the children were also given a party bag filled with chocolate and smaller stocking filler toys. I can’t really explain why I found this part of the party so moving. I think it’s the fact that Asa is just seen as one of the children, ‘one of the gang’, totally and utterly unconditionally accepted by everyone in Bethesda. Loved. Cared for. Prayed for. This may possibly be the only public place he is accepted as just ‘one of the kids’, for who is he, where his Down’s syndrome isn’t that big a deal. I hope I’m wrong… But sometimes I hear stories of parents having to fight for inclusion of children with disabilities, whether physical or a learning disability, and that frightens me. Other strong, local parents are fighting and paving the way for those of us with younger children, and to them I am grateful.

Today however, Asa and Emelia have had fun hanging out with their friends from church. In fact, over the past three days, they have had nothing but fun (and sugar!!!!)! They have just been children. I think for children to just be children is probably the best gift of childhood. That, and knowing Jesus for themselves!

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Making Memories

17th December: A day of saltdough, Christmas decorations, glitter, friends and  cuddles – making memories!

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All ready to go in to the oven to harden – I’m glad I remembered to make the holes before baking!!! Emelia’s best buddy, Finley, came around later in the day to play and decorate the saltdough decorations.

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The finished decorations! Thanks for coming to play Fin – Emelia loves hanging out, making memories with you.

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The children, taking a well earned rest from their busy day of playing, crafts and chatting! Cuddles all around. Fin calls Asa “Baby Jesus” – how cute!
We’ve certainly made precious memories today!

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18th December: Another busy day! This time, a trip to our dentist, which is in the middle of Cardiff. Jon took the day off and we spent the afternoon at Winter Wonderland, making more precious memories!

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Mummy and Emelia, wrapped up warm to prepare for an afternoon of fun at Winter Wonderland!

P1090599 Emelia’s favourite ride!

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I thought Emelia would be a little bit afraid on this one… but oh no, she LOVED it! She is more adventurous than me!!

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It’s hard to know who is enjoying these rides more… What do you think?! :-)

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Asa slept through most of the fun this afternoon… Nevermind little man, one day you’ll be big enough for these rides, and you will squeal with delight just as much as
Emelia has done today.

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I love our family. xx

Asa’s First Christmas Party

Today was Asa’s first Christmas party at Scallywags, the parent and toddler group in our church. It was a bit of a mad rush, as always, to get out of the house early enough to make it worthwhile going! Wolfing down breakfast, we got ready. I packed Asa’s bowl, spoon and banana, huge change bag and Emelia’s bag, put Asa in to the car seat and huffed up the steps.

We got to Scallywags and Emelia was happy to eat her party food with the other children, while I remained in the ‘baby corner’ to give Asa his breakfast. On days like this where I need to be out of the house early (well, early for me!), I’m so thankful I can chuck a banana in to the change bag and feed Asa out and about! I’m very relieved he likes bananas!

It was while I was feeding Asa that I stopped to look at the other precious little lives in the baby corner – Asa’s school buddies probably. Two sets of twin boys and another little baby girl. This is the first time Asa has been awake and around other little babies, so I have never intentionally or otherwise compared him to another baby. I noticed these babies seemed much more physically developed than Asa, in terms of their gross motor skills. Yes, they are a few weeks older than Asa, and yes I know that all babies develop at different rates. Even amongst ‘typically developing’ babies there are massive variations. But in my heart I felt sad. I felt we were the ‘different’ ones in a room full of ‘normal’.

As tears started to sting my eyes, I had to look away. I kept trying to tell myself that it didn’t matter; that all babies are different and I tried to focus simply on feeding Asa his mashed banana. I felt my eyes wander every now and then and saw these little ones attempting to roll over, waving their chubby arms and legs, holding toys, babbling away in secret baby code. Then I looked at my beautiful baby boy who didn’t seem as strong… who isn’t anywhere near rolling over… who can’t yet hold a toy… who doesn’t have (yet) the usual baby babble… And my heart ached. Please don’t misunderstand; I am in no way jealous of these other mums. In fact, I probably couldn’t cope with twins, so hats off to them! I am blessed with two beautiful and healthy children. This is my frustration – I can’t really explain it in words. I just felt a bit heart-sad I suppose.

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Banana totally demolished by little Asa (followed by banana scented sick – eww; I hate reflux), we headed off to see ‘Father Christmas’ in the main hall. I put on Asa’s softband hearing aid, feeling rather conspicuous. We sang a few songs and then all the children went to get a small parcel from Father Christmas. Wonderful! Emelia was rather excited, running around with her usual boundless energy; Asa snuggled up on my lap, watching the comings-and-goings. I was talking to one of the kitchen volunteers and noticed someone across the hall pointing over in our direction and talking to her friend. I looked behind me and as I was against a wall, obviously there was no-one else there behind me… I was already feeling vulnerable and disheartened, so maybe this was more in my head than in reality, but I strongly felt this person was pointing at us – I couldn’t see who else it might have been. It could have been something as innocent as ‘cute baby’… or ‘I wonder what that baby has on his forehead’. Or it could have been something else. But you know what I’d prefer? I’d love people to come up and ask me if they have a question about Asa or Down’s syndrome. I’d happily answer questions about the softband, or hearing loss (not that I’m an expert!) or how I am doing or how Asa’s doing. I’d love not to be pointed at or talked about… I guess I understand though, to some extent…

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Today has been ‘one of those days’ I suppose, where my heart has been tugged as I realise again that yes, Asa is different. Right from when that extra copy of chromosome 21 was made, he was marked to be different. This is the way God has designed him, right from when sperm met egg. We are all different because of the impact of Asa in our life. We are blessed. We are busy. We are happy. We are stressed at times. But we are family. This is our life. It is a little bit different. But being different isn’t bad. It’s something to be celebrated – and I’ll get back to more positive blogging soon. This blog was never designed to be a ‘rose tinted’ version of DS, and for those of you who know me will know that I am usually a pretty honest person when it comes to sharing my life – the ups and the downs.

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Asa 22 weeks _Christmas Jumper
Asa’s new winter jumper! :-)