WEEHOO!

During the summer holidays we made a day trip to Ashbourne, which turned out to be quite disappointing, so we took ourselves off to nearby Carsington Water, where, once-upon-a-time, we had taken Big Brother and Big Sister cycling when they were very small. They rode in one of those tent-like trailers that attach to the seat-post of an adult’s bike.

Going back to Carsington, and down memory lane, made us think it might be fun to go cycling again. I was sure Freddie would enjoy it if he were able to participate somehow. An infant seat (the sort that sits on the frame) seemed the most practical thing under the circumstances, but the yong lady manning the cycle hire centre immediately scuppered that notion. Small as he is, she explained, Freddie is slightly too heavy for an infant seat, and they couldn’t legally hire one out to us. A trailer wasn’t really an option — it was very likely that he would try to unbuckle himself and climb out, especially sonce he wouldn’t be getting much out the experience stuck in a pod on his lonesome, especially since he wouldn’t be getting much out of the experience stuck in a pod on his lonesome, with no one to explain what was happening and why. He might get distressed.

She suggested a tag-a-long, but Freddie has never ridden a bike yet, and I doubted that he would be able to balance himself safely on the seat, and again, might try to get off — especially if he felt unsafe.

It had been a nice idea, but clearly cycling with Freddie was not goint tobe possible, not yet. Another disappointment in an already downbeat day. But just as we were turning to leave, the girl said: ‘Wait a minute. We do have a Weehoo, if that would be suitable. It’s out at the moment, though; we’ve only got one of them’.

She described the Weehoo to us, and it sounded perfect, so we booked it for the following Saturday.

image

The Weehoo is a pedal bicycle trailer that attaches to the seat-post of an adult’s bike, like a conventional bike trailer, or a tag-a-long, but, unlike a tag-a-long, it has a supportive seat with a backrest and three-point harness, and handles to hold onto. It engages children in pedalling and follows precisely in the path of the tow cycle. It is adjustable for most children aged 2-9, and will accomodate kids from 38″ to 52″ tall, and weighing up to 75lbs.

imageimage

Now, this bl;og is not just about Down’s syndrome. It is about Down’s Syndrome and its effect on family life. Our lives do not revolve solely around the fact that Freddie has Down’s. “Normal” everyday life continues regardless, relentlessly. And “family life” is the sum total of the combined interactions of several disparate individuals who live in close physical, emotional and logistical proximity to one another. So, to tell you about that day I’m going to hand you over to my other blog Pink is the new Grey (pinkisthenewgrey.wordpress.com), which largely concerns itself with the trials and triumphs of being “a woman of a certain age”:

MENSTRUAL CYCLING.

image

Saturday 5th September

Today, for the first time in twenty-two years, I managed to impress the father of my children. I put it down to the Bodyform Effect.
We were planning to hire bicycles and go for a spin at Carsington Water, in Derbyshire. We did the same once, about fifteen years ago, when our older children were small. The memory of it shines out of the murky, cobwebbed cellar of my mind as a small beacon of post-parenthood fun, so I insisted we try it again with The Little One. We’d had to book in advance because we needed to make sure that the Weehoo would be available for him.
Of course it was a Bad Idea. I knew that. This would be only the second single occasion in the last thirty-five years that I had been anywhere near a bike, and now I’m pushing fifty.
And I was on my period (yes, I still have them). I woke up to find that Mother Nature had decided to foist herself on me a few days early, and the cupboard was still bare after her last visit. I’m usually happy to use supermarket own brands, but today’s emergency trip to the corner shop bought me the privilege of paying twice as much for half as many, because Bodyform is the only brand they stock.
But thank goodness for that. Because without Bodyform I would never have been able to just hop on that bike (after all these years) and cycle eight miles (yes, EIGHT MILES) round a lake, all whilst on the rag and lugging around fifty around fifty years worth of wrinkles, flab, and threadbare cartilage.

image
Honestly, I really did do that. Once I’d persuaded the boy in the cycle hire centre to give me the right size machine – it’s really no good insisting I have an adult’s bike because I am an adult when I’m only the same height as most 11/12 –year-old girls.
The upside of being a small, creaky cyclist on a small, squeaky bike if that there was no option but to fix the Weehoo to Daddy’s bigger, more expertly-handled cycle. I could hear The Little One putting him through his paces, urging him to slow down on the downhills, and go fast on the uphills. O.K – so I dismounted and pushed up the steepest hills (but I was far from the only one doing so). And in spite of that I think that Daddy was seriously impressed with how well I did (I was seriously impressed with myself. I would have considered just wobbling a few yards without falling off an achievement). Of course, he insisted that the reason he was so much more out of breath than me was because he had had to pedal twice the distance to make up for the fact that The Little One was pedalling backwards most of the way.
Afterwards we collapsed into the restaurant in a heap of slovenly parenting – giving the Little One my phone to play with while we downed half-a-pint of Pepsi each, followed by a large coffee. The Little One rejected his chicken fillet goujons on the grounds that he couldn’t possibly be expected to chew after all that exercise, but he happily sucked the fluffy innards out of his chips, after first dabbling them in bean juice.

Not bad, eh, for an old bird?
So, next time my doctor asks me: ‘do you still have periods, Mrs. F?’, instead of mourning the demise of the youth-and-femininity-defining question: ‘could you be pregnant?’, I will simply smile to myself and say: ‘yes, I do still cycle.’

image

Thank you for bearing with me through that long post.

#ICAN — GO ON A LAST MINUTE HOLIDAY.

Welcome to the home of the father of medicine -- but it's not where you might think ...

Welcome to the home of the father of medicine — but it’s not where you might think …

Mention Hippocrates (as in the Hippocratic Oath) and most people will immediately think of Ancient Athens. But he actually lived and worked on the island of Kos.

Not that this was uppermost in the minds of my brood (not even Big Sister who is studying Classics at school) when we booked a last-minute holiday there. We just wanted a cheap deal on a week in the sun.

 The Public Market, Kos Town. Obviously, they don't know how to do markets the proper, British, way here. Someone should tell them it's suopposed to be a dismal collection of sagging canvas stalls selling knocked-off tat out of plastic boxes (tut).

The Public Market, Kos Town.
Obviously, they don’t know how to do markets the proper, British, way here. Someone should tell them it’s supposed to be a dismal collection of sagging canvas stalls selling knocked-off tat out of plastic boxes (tut).

Then, a few days before we were due to fly, Kos hit the big time. Not as the home of the father of medicine, but because it found itself in the forefront of what is referred to as the ‘migrant crisis’ (I would argue with the term ‘migrant’; I think most of these people qualify as refugees). Anyway, my family, reluctant travellers at the best of times, now thought they had a cast-iron reason to object to going. Thank goodness we couldn’t get a refund.

On this tree-trunk you might just be able to make out a cunningly disguised bug. The Cicada is what gives the scenery of Greece it's distinctive soundtrack: a shimmering chirrup that echoes the heat-haze.

On this tree-trunk you might just be able to make out a cunningly disguised bug. The Cicada is what gives the scenery of Greece it’s distinctive soundtrack: a shimmering chirrup that echoes the heat-haze.

We had a great time, not least because on this occasion Big Brother was with us. The island was not overrun, as the media suggested. Yes, there were a large number of displaced people, but they were mainly concentrated in the immediate vicinity of the main Police Station and the Stadium, where they were waiting to be processed. There was no trouble while we were there; no one was accosted; there was no begging. Those with tents had tucked them in beside the railing along the sea front opposite; not on the beach, and not obstructing the footpath or cycle lane.

Pomegranates don't come from supermarkets here; they grow on trees. Who knew?

Pomegranates don’t come from supermarkets here; they grow on trees. Who knew?

I saw one lady sitting beside her tent busy with some sewing. It made me wonder what things I would choose to take with me if I had to flee for my life carrying just one bag. I’d only had to pack for a week’s leisure, yet we had more baggage with us than these poor souls.

Thanks to the experience gained on our earlier trip, we were better equipped this time. I only forgot one thing, but it turned out to be a biggy — the sunshade for the buggy. Oops. It was much hotter in Kos than it was in Menorca in May.

Freddie is often reluctant to try new foods. Luckily in a place catering for a wide variety of tourists it wasn't difficult to find familiar things that he would eat. One traditionally Greek thing that he did like, though, was yoghurt and honey, which they seem to serve everywhere. You can even get it in the little ice-cream shops, which was great for us, as Freddie doesn't 'do' ice-cream.

Freddie is often reluctant to try new foods. Luckily in a place catering for a wide variety of tourists it wasn’t difficult to find familiar things that he would eat. One traditionally Greek thing that he did like, though, was yoghurt and honey, which they seem to serve everywhere. You can even get it in the little ice-cream shops, which was great for us, as Freddie doesn’t ‘do’ ice-cream.

On the second day, Big Sister insisted on buying Freddie something she found in one of the local shops — a pack containing some Peppa Pig stickers, a hairbrush and a small swim ring. She and daddy took freddie down to the pool, ceremoniously threaded him into the swim ring and carried him into the water.

imageimageimageimage

Big Sister has had a lot of swimming lessons in her 15 years, and she proved adept at passing on the experience. She soon had him kicking his legs in the water (whilst holding onto the ring with his arms). From then on they spent most of each day in the pool together, with Big Sister never more than a couple of inches from Freddie’s side.

By the end of the week he was confident enough to turn tail and shuffle himself off to the opposite side of the pool whenever he saw me approaching with the sun cream.

Freddie and Big Sister attracted a lot of attention around the pool and a lot of comments were passed -- about how much she dotes on him, what a good time he was having with her. We were comlimented many times on what a patient and loving girl she is.

Freddie and Big Sister attracted a lot of attention around the pool and a lot of comments were passed — about how much she dotes on him, what a good time he was having with her. We were complimented many times on what a patient and loving girl she is.

Poor Freddie  – he’s so blonde that we even have to plaster sun screen in his hair, because he simply will not keep a hat on. I managed to get him to wear a bandana by telling him he’d have to sit in his buggy in the shade and not go in the pool if he didn’t. After twenty minutes he agreed, and he did keep it on for a while, but as soon as my attention was distracted he whipped it off because he is as stubborn as I am.

Our normally strict routines get rather 'relaxed' on holiday. Freddie really enjoyed being allowed to stay up late for the Greek Night, and got into the spirit of things.

Our normally strict routines get rather ‘relaxed’ on holiday. Freddie really enjoyed being allowed to stay up late for the Greek Night, and got into the spirit of things.

We had to pay extra for air-conditioning, but it was a must in our room — we daren’t leave doors or low-level windows open as freddie is an enthusiastic absconder.

Big Brother and Sister didn’t have air-con in their room. Neither of them has been anywhere that hot before, and although the heat didn’t seem to bother Big Sister, Big Brother didn’t like it at all. But he soon figured out the most common-sense ways to deal with it. He dragged his mattress out onto the balcony to sleep, and in the day he retreated to the shade, or even indoors during the hottest hours (where he did some of his pre-uni reading). Once it began to cool down again, he’d emerge, order himself a plate of hummus and pitta bread, and a large ice-cold beer (he is 18) and enjoy them at a table by the pool.

How much? We went self-catering, but I didn't actually do any 'catering' because eating out proved to be cheaper than buying food at the supermarket and preparing it ourselves.

How much? We went self-catering, but I didn’t actually do any ‘catering’ because eating out proved to be cheaper than buying food at the supermarket and preparing it ourselves.

We used the buggy more than usual for Freddie if we were going into town, as we didn’t want him getting exhausted or dehydrated walking in the heat. More often than not he had a little siestaunder the make-do shade of an umbrella that Big Sisterhad, for some reason best known to herself, decided to bring with her. I don’t pack for my older children, they have to do it for themselves. Credit where credit’s due — all the seemingly random items that the packed which I wouldn’t have turned out to be very useful.

all-in-all we had a lovely week, we kicked back and relaxed, and we learned a lot — not so much about the country we were visiting as about ourselves and each other.

image

RELIEF!

Whilst eating his tea Freddie suddenly jumped down from his seat. When I told him to sit back down he said ‘need a poo’, so Daddy took him to the toilet. He tried to get off after a few seconds, so I went and fetched a fold-up table and hsi favourite dinosaur book. The table has a handy crossbar that he can rest his feet on; my idea was that if we could get him to sit on the toilet for a while with his knees up like he was squatting, and just relax (hence the book), we might have some success.

Freddie didn’t quite like the idea at first and pushed the book away, but we persisted. After a little while he started to fuss again … but then he gave me a huge grin, a double thumbs up and said:

‘BIG POO! GOOD BOY!’

And, Oh my god, it was.

He perked up no end after that, and by the next day was back to using the toilet normally again, and staying dry. We’ve had one or two little soiling accidents – but I’m sure that’s just because now that the laxatives are working it’s making things a little difficult to hold in. But he seems so, so much better that I can only assume that we were right all along — that the ‘poo fumes’ were going to his head and making him naughty.

So, there you go. Always trust your gut instincts!

DIARY OF A MOOD (DAY 3).

Freddie is still refusing to use the toilet, and this morning he thumped me in the eye while I was helping him to put on his trousers.

My gut feeling (if you’ll excuse the pun) is still that constipation as at the root of his attitude. He is beginning to show physical signs of discomfort now, too. Following our doctor’s instructions we have increased the dose of laxatives, but with no result as yet.

So the name of the game today is to help him feel as warm, content and relaxed as possible, in the hope that this will be conducive to ‘productivity’.

imageimage

Big Sister made him a cup of warm, and very, very milky tea in his favourite mug. She gently warmed a bean bag too, and encouraged him to hold it on his tummy while she fed him the tea, cuddled up a nest on his bed watching a DVD.

And, dare I say it, waiting for s*** to happen.

DIARY OF A MOOD (DAY 2).

We are now entering day 2 of the Astonishingly Bad Mood.

The day began with a refusal to go to the toilet, and more scratching and hitting. Freddie coolly and deliberately poured his breakfast drink all over the table and floor. I put his food in front of him and then sat and quietly ate my own without making any attempt to feed him. Eventually he started to eat by himself and finished most of it (so I gave him a sticker). Today I am stepping back from any confrontation, no reacting, no shouting, just leaving him to settle down and realise he’s not going to get his own way.

He’s had several wetting accidents, but hasn’t produced anything on the toilet all day. I half expected his toilet training to go to pot while we were on holiday (but he was absolutely fine), not once we were settled back at home. Putting him on the toilet provokes a freah outbreak of clawing and smacking.

my hands and arms are beginning to look rather scabby.

my hands and arms are beginning to look rather scabby.

I’m trying to distract him with an impromptu craft session using a piece of card he found in a parcel that came for Big Brother. When he saw it, Freddie said ‘sun’ and held it up to the window, so we decided to make it into a bright yellow sun to put in his bedroom.

.imageimage

He’s definitely not himself.

DIARY OF A MOOD.

image

Today is shaping up to be one of those days when I do not wonder why I am exhausted by 9.00 am. I know why.

Freddie is in a bad mood. He is refusing to use the toilet or co operate with the routines of the day. The sleeve of my clean dressing gown is spotted with blood from the oozing holes he has clawed and pinched into my hands and forearms. I’m doing my best to ignore it, but when i don’t react he switches to hitting me on the head and face. Getting cross and shouting will only be counter-productive, and simply escalate the situation. The only thing I can do is to turn my head slightly so that he doesn’t catch my eyes, and go about the business of toileting, washing and dressing him as though nothing is going on; that way, in the long run, he will learn that this kind of behaviour acheives nothing.

Freddie dislikes transitions. Moving from one activity to another, getting dressed and undressed often provoke a minor bit of fuss. But why he is being so viciously obstreporous today I have no idea.

Is he still constipated? I thought we’d cleared that. Is it because Daddy has just gone back to work after two weeks off? Two weeks during which wse have travelled abroad, and had days out, late nights and long lie-ins, and generally followed a rather different pattern to the usual.

Perhaps time will tell. In the meantime what can I do other than carry on carrying on?