Sunday, October 31, 2010

Happy Halloween!


And it really was a Happy Halloween! Antalya and Victoria LOVED it - they caught on to trick-or-treating like they had done it for years. It was so exciting for me to watch because this is the first holiday that Antalya has been old enough to really get into and understand what was going on. She did so good not getting scared by masks and weird costumes, and even on the way home we drove past some fireworks and she thought they were really exciting (a huge improvement over our 4th of July experience).

My good friend Linda hosted a great Halloween party for all of us, including decorating cookies, pizza for dinner, music and dancing, and then some good trick-or-treating fun. Here's the whole gang:

Hope your Halloween was as wonderful as ours was!

Saturday, October 30, 2010

"Mommy, Boat!"

Antalya has always loved to color, but lately I've noticed that she has become very focused when she makes her scribbles on paper. All that concentration finally paid off for her today. She was happily scribbling away at the desk when suddenly I heard, "Mommy, Boat!" I came running and sure enough, Antalya had done drawn a boat! She was so proud of herself, and I, likewise was beaming.

It's the little things like this that that make being a mom to a child with special needs such an amazing job. There is so much that is taken for granted when you have a normally developing child. It's such a blessing to take a step back from that and have the time to celebrate every little milestone that is accomplished.

I'll leave you with Antalya's "boat".

Thursday, October 28, 2010

The Wheels on the Bus

Antalya loves stopping at every bus stop we pass. It's always the same routine. She spots it from a hundreds yards away. Takes off running, shouting "train, train" (she confuses the train and the bus), climbs up onto the little bench and proceeds to wait. As soon as the bus comes, she hops down, says, "ya, train, ya, ok" and then tries to board the bus. At this point I always have to stop her and there are a few moments of tears and sadness until the bus pulls away, and then we continue on our way.

It's been awhile since my last attempt of taking the bus with the girls. That time wasn't pretty, but maybe now that everyone is six months older and wiser we could actually have a good time. Stay tuned, I'm going to plan a small bus excursion next week.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Fall Pics

It's been a very long last few days. The sum of lots of small things has left me feeling completely exhausted and very homesick. So this afternoon, after we all took a much needed nap I decided we needed to bag the whole potty training thing (we haven't had much success the last 48 hours anyway), throw a diaper on Antalya and head out the door with the camera to take some fall pictures. We had a great time. I wish the fall season would last a bit longer. Hope you enjoy the pics!





Tuesday, October 26, 2010

It's been a long night, followed by an equally long day. I'm gearing up for the chance that tonight will be another equally long night. So, that being said - it's late, I was planning on posting, but I must get to bed. So I'll leave you with this great article to read.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Potty Time with a Little Baked Goodness!

Today was a successful day! We had more success and accidents and Antalya seems very pleased with herself. In fact, when it was time for Victoria to go to sleep I asked Antalya if she was ready to take off her Elmo panties and put on a diaper and she said, "NO!" I hoping her enthusiasm sticks for awhile and by the end of the week we are still seeing some progress.

On a completely different note, I found this delicious recipe. I've been wanting to find some baked goodness that didn't require eggs for those times when I have the desire to bake, but forgot to buy eggs. So here it is:

Brownie Pudding Cake
3/4 cup all purpose flour
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/3 cup plus 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 cup milk
3 tablespoons butter, melted
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1 3/4 cups boiling water
powdered sugar, for serving

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 9 inch square baking dish or round souffle dish. Combine flour, granulated sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and 1/3 cup cocoa in medium bowl. Add milk, butter and vanilla, stir until just blended. Spoon the batter into the prepared dish.

Combine brown sugar and remaining 1/4 cup cocoa in small bowl. Sprinkle evenly over batter. Pour boiling water over entire mixture; do not stir.

Bake 35 to 38 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the top layer comes out clean. Cool at least 10 minutes. Sprinkle with powdered sugar before serving.

It turned out delicious - a gooey pudding layer on the bottom, topped with a delicious chocolate cake. Antalya doesn't like anything the consistency of pudding or yogurt so she took one bite, said, "yucky" and went off to play. Victoria on the other hand just about licked the bowl clean and threw a fit when I told her she couldn't have any more.

Speaking of Victoria, she is quite the little girl these days. It seems I rarely see her without at least one purse on her arm. She loves hats, necklaces, shoes, putting on make-up, and cuddling her doll when she goes to sleep. What a cutie!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Potty Training: Attempt 3: Day 1

Well, it's been just over a year since I posted this about our potty training attempts. I'd like to say that during this past year Antalya has mastered the idea of using the toilet, but that's not quite the case. In fact, shortly after our first attempt a year ago to get out of diapers, I admitted it wasn't time yet and we gave it a rest.

Six months later we gave it another try, but after four accidents in less than an hour on the first day, I decided that regardless of whether or not Antalya was ready, I was not ready! So I dropped it again.

Now, another six months have passed and I've decided it's time to give it my best shot. Antalya is off school all week, and except for a speech assessment and a birthday party we have absolutely no where to go and nothing better to do than stay home and watch movies, play with toys, sit on potties, and eat potty treats. So that's what we are going to do. One full week of all waking hours being diaper free hours. And at the end of the week, depending on how far we get I will decide to either continue (her teachers at school are very supportive and will help me on that end), or I'll put the potty training on hold again - probably until I Victoria is ready and I can do them both at the same time.

So how did today go? Not too bad. Five accidents, followed by one success! I think we are off to a good start :)

Saturday, October 23, 2010

What Puts a Smile on My Face

We've had a very long night followed by an equally long day. The girls and I are all sick. But despite how awful we are all feeling, Antalya (like always) has managed to keep a smile on my face. Here's just a few of the reasons why I think she is one of the cutest little kids on the planet.

Antalya loves to talk to herself. The times when she most enjoys it are when she finds herself in front of a mirror, and when she is falling asleep. Last night at 4 am, after tossing and turning all night and finally throwing up, I was holding her trying to help her fall back asleep. When she started talking to herself. It went like this:

"u-wite? u-wite?" (You alright? You alright?), "Ya. Ya, ok." Then she proceeded to count to ten twice, then was happy to fall back asleep.

Later in the day, she was playing with Victoria. Normally she always refers to Victoria as "baby". But yesterday when saying, "baby, baby" didn't work to get Victoria's attention she tried slowly and precisely to pronunciate "TriTri" (the nickname we have for Victoria). It came out sounding just like "Sushi! Sushi!"

Antalya LOVES to dance - even if there is no music to dance to. Here's a little video she took of herself (and, yes, she is a complete computer whiz - she pulled up this application from the hard drive memory, found the effect she wanted, and hit record).

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Autumn Walk

The weather has suddenly turned from a bit chilly, to downright cold just within the last few days. Last night we had our first freeze. Which made today's scheduled autumn walk with Antalya's class a very cold walk. The children were all bundled up as much as could be, but it was still COLD! But despite the cold, Victoria had a great time (she kept pace right along with the 3 and 4 yr olds, never tiring once), and Antalya enjoyed it all except the walk back. By then she was just too cold and too tired. But with lots of encouragement, coaxing, bribing, and pleading she made it back to school all on her own two feet. I was so proud of her. I think it was the longest she has ever walked at one time. Here's some pictures I snapped with my phone during our outing.

After a nice long nap for all of us I thought it would be fun to visit an indoor playplace that we haven't been to yet. Places like these are all over London and very popular during the cold, wet winter months when no one wants to be at the playground. I don't think there are very many equivalents in the states. This particular one was three levels high. They always include ball pits, lots of slides, mazes, and obstacles - all constructed of soft material, and surrounded by netting so the kids can tumble around all they want without getting hurt.

This is the view from the top level looking down.

Here's the girls having fun:

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

School Time

I always thought I would be a homeschooling mother. And then came Antalya. It's not that I don't love being with her or feel like I'm not up to the task. It's simply that, for whatever reason, Antalya is much more willing to be taught if I'm not around. When it's me and her, she insists on doing everything herself. Although I love this independent spirit she has, it also means, that she won't listen to a word I say, and definitely won't sit and watch while I demonstrate how something should be done.

That's why when I found out that nursery schools here in England start children five days a week at age three, I jumped for joy! We were fortunate to move into an area that has one of the best schools in the country, and one that has seen lots of children with Down syndrome. They have been amazing in helping Antalya fit right in with her normal developing peers and learn so many things that I just couldn't teach her at home.

I just returned from dropping Jason off at the tube station that is right next to Antalya's school. As I passed I was surprised to see Antalya's aid standing outside watching the cars pass. As I looked again I noticed a little hand holding hers and a little blond haired girl wearing her familiar pink jacket and boots. As I passed again, after dropping Jason off, The duo, along with another teacher and two other children were walking hand in hand towards the local cafe.

It's experiences like this that make me so happy we are here in England where Antalya is getting such a good start to her education. I don't know of any other preschool in the states that takes field trips with just three kids at a time to a local cafe to practice ordering food, proper etiquette, and paying for the food when all done.

I wish I had a picture to go along with this post of some of the things she is doing at school. But hopefully tomorrow I will have some good ones. I'm volunteering to help out on their annual autumn nature walk. It should be a great time.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010


My two little munchkins are as different as night and day. But being different has nothing to do with the fact that one has Down syndrome and one does not. They are different because one has blue eyes, curly hair, looks like her grandpa, loves to dance, prefers toasts, and gags at the sight of yogurt, while the other has brown eyes, straight hair, looks like her dad, loves dogs, prefers yogurt, and won't touch toast. But despite their differences there is a magical bond between these two.

Monday, October 18, 2010


When we found out Antalya had Down syndrome I felt like my whole world had suddenly changed and that my life would never be the same from that moment on. In many respects, that's true. My world did change. I became more aware of people with different abilities. I saw them everywhere I went. And every time I would meet someone with different abilities I would think of their mother and how much love she must feel for them.

And life most definitely hasn't been the same from that moment on. But that's not all to do with Down syndrome. You see, in that moment, when I found out that my unborn child would enter the world not only with health problems, but also with a life-long disability, I suddenly became a mother. Although I had been carrying my child inside me for nearly 8 months, I had never felt connected to her, until that moment. Suddenly she was all I could think about. I wondered what she would look like, what things she would enjoy doing, what parts of me did she inherit, what parts of her dad did she inherit. I prayed constantly for her - that she would be strong enough to survive the birth, the surgery, the recovery. I prayed that I would be strong enough to be her mommy, that I would love her for who she was, and that I could help her be all she could be.

Down syndrome seemed like such a huge part of my world for a long time. In fact, it's just recently that I have noticed a change in my thoughts. I no longer think about Down syndrome, and the implications the extra chromosome will have in Antalya's life. I no longer feel separated from other moms who only have typically developing children.

I don't know why it has taken my nearly four years to realize that being a mom to any child regardless of their abilities, or disabilities, is just like being a mom! We're all in the same boat. We all have moments where we feel like our heart is so full of love it might burst, and moments when we feel like we are going to loose it, moments of pure joy, and moments where we wish we could have just five minutes all to ourselves. But that's just part of the incredibly fulfilling, exhausting, trying, rewarding job title that we as mothers hold.

Sunday, October 17, 2010


Antalya may only be four, but she talks on the phone like a teenager. Several times a week she will ask me to call "papa" or "mama". I dial it for her, then she takes the phone and away she runs. She doesn't like me participating in the conversation at all, so she always leaves the room and seeks out some private area to have her conversations. Yesterday after she had been gone for 15 minutes I went to see what she was doing and this is what I found.

Friday, October 15, 2010

See and Learn

I have recently found a speech therapy group that is just what I have been hoping to find. It is a group of kids who all have Down syndrome. This is great news because when it comes to speech, children with Down syndrome all seem to need help in the same area - strengthening their oral muscles, and teaching their mouth to move correctly to make the necessary sounds to be understood. This is something that most the population takes for granted. I know I did until I have watched as Antalya has struggled for years to try and pronounce an "L" sound.

But along with their weaknesses they also some similar strengths - one of which is that they are very visual learners. The Down Syndrome Education International has developed the See and Learn program that taps into our children's visual learning style. It's aim is to improve speech through learning to read.

The DownsEd group is based out of the England and I have been hoping to have the opportunity to learn more about, and see in practice, how the program works. Well, the speech group we joined a month ago uses parts of the See and Learn program. And I can't tell you how excited about it I am! You can download and print most of the info from their website. I'm working on making a copy for us at home, and one to send to school with her. I'm hoping that if we are working on the same things at speech, at home, and reinforced a couple times at school that we will see some big improvements in the next few months. I'll keep you posted on how it goes.

While I'm on the topic of speech, tonight in the bath tub Antalya said to Victoria, "Baby, sit down. Baby, be quiet." It was the first time I have ever heard her say those phrases. I was all grins!

And now, because I know everyone loves pictures, I'll leave you with this one of my cuties from a week ago. The sun was shining, it was warm, and we ending up tromping through a mud pile. So, what else could we do, but take off sock and shoes and enjoy a popsicle!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

One More Birthday Post

Antalya's birthday has now come and gone. As we were walking home from school yesterday she stopped me and said, "Mommy, one more birthday!" It was so sweet - so we came home and I put candles in what remained of the Elmo cake and sang happy birthday to her again. She loved it!

So here's how my little Antalya's special day went.

She was very surprised and happy to find the play kitchen waiting for her when she woke up. She kept saying, "yeah. yeah. yeah." as she walked around checking it out. Once Victoria woke up they set to it cooking up some food.

Then it was off to school where all her teachers greeted her with "Happy Birthday" and Antalya couldn't wipe the grin off her face. It was an extra treat for me to be able to join her class for singing time. When class ended Antalya handed out raisins to all the children as they one by one came up and said "Happy Birthday Antalya". She was so cute - insisting that she give the child the box of raisins instead of them helping themselves to one out of the bowl.

Lunch consisted of her favorite - "cheesemeatmunch" which translated into a grilled ham and cheese sandwich. Then the girls went down for a nap as I furiously tried to recreate Elmo in frosting form before they woke up.
Our afternoon was filled with lots of cuddling, a trip to the store, and playing in the autumn leaves outside.

Then came the pizza, the candle blowing, and the cake eating.

And then before I knew it, the day had ended and I was tucking in the cutest, happiest, little 4 year old I have ever seen.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Birthday Celebrations

Antalya had a wonderful birthday. More to come, but for now, here are a couple videos. The first one is when all her classmates sang Happy Birthday to her, and then second is at home with her Elmo birthday cake.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010


Four years ago today my world forever changed when I held my own flesh and blood in my arms for the very first time.

Happy Birthday Antalya!

Monday, October 11, 2010

Four-Year Old Birthdays!

We've been busy preparing the house for a very special day tomorrow. My Antalya turns FOUR!!! Her new play kitchen is set up in the front room just waiting for her to wake up in the morning. I can already hear her yelling, "Yay!" when she sees it. The cake is baked and is just waiting for the Elmo frosting design that is coming to it tomorrow. The floor is scattered with balloons filled with popcorn kernels so when she shakes them they make some noise back at her. The Happy Birthday banner is in place. And my little angel is sleeping peacefully in bed getting all energized for the birthday celebrations soon to come.

I remember my 4th birthday. It was a Hello Kitty party. I remember playing pin the bow on Hello Kitty, little gift bags of Hello Kitty stickers, erasers, and pencils. I remember opening presents, and eating the cake. I felt so special the day I turned four. I hope tomorrow is a day that Antalya feels like a queen, and will be a day to remember 30 years from now.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Saturday, October 9, 2010

The Down Syndrome Creed

My face may be different
But my feelings the same
I laugh and I cry
And I take pride in my gains
I was sent here among you
To teach you to love
As God in the heavens
Looks down from above
To Him I'm no different
His love knows no bounds
It's those here among you
In cities and towns
That judge me by standards
That man has imparted
But this family I've chosen
Will help me get started
For I'm one of the children
So special and few
That came here to learn
The same lessons as you
That love is acceptance
It must come from the heart
We all have the same purpose
Though not the same start
The Lord gave me life
To live and embrace
And I'll do it as you do
But at my own pace

Friday, October 8, 2010


We have company! I love when people come visit us! One of the great things about playing hostess is the inevitable day trip (or two, or three). It seems everyone that comes to England always wants to visit Stonehenge. So today for the 5th time in just over a year I loaded the girls in the car and we visited the magical hanging rocks. No matter how often I visit the site it always leaves me with a feeling of awe.
Antalya decided the elements were just perfect to practice somersaults, so that's exactly what she did!
Victoria was happy to have someone her own size to pick on.
And I was just happy to be with this cute gal that I haven't seen for way too long!
Mariela and I go way back - seven years to be exact. I'm from the States. Mariela is from Argentina. We met in Chile. We were reunited in England. It was a good day!

Thursday, October 7, 2010

One of Antalya's most favorite things is music. She loves it! We've recently discovered this fun spot!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Princess Tea Party

Last Saturday Antalya was invited to her very first birthday party. A girl in her class was turning 4 and was celebrating with a princess tea party. I was so proud of Antalya. She had never experienced anything quite like it, and most the time didn't understand what was going on, but she tried so hard to go right along with the other girls.

The hardest part was that all the food, juice, and cakes were set out on the table from the moment we arrived, but we started with games, and other "non-eating" activities. Antalya just couldn't understand why no one was eating all the yummy stuff if it was right there. And she got so frustrated when I kept insisting she needed to wait.

But, overall it was a good experience. It was fun for me to see her interact with some of her classmates. I snapped this not very good picture of the group with my camera.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

31 for 21: Happiness is a Journey

October is Down Syndrome Awareness month. In the blogging world, that means many bloggers commit to blog everyday during the month to help raise awareness. It's called the 31 for 21 challenge (31 days for Trisomy 21 which is the medical name for Down syndrome). I've done this challenge in the past, and was looking forward to it this year. Although, just today I am realizing that October has already begun. So, I'm a little late, but looking forward to making this a blogging month (if nothing else, I'm sure my mom will love having something to read everyday)!

Grab This Button

I have recently found a speech therapy group that is just what I have been hoping to find. The only draw back is that it is down in the city. Which means I have two options of getting there.

Option A is a 15 minute walk, followed by a 30 minute ride on the metro, ending with another 15 minute walk. Doesn't sound too bad, right? Add to that the fact that I have two kids with me, both of which hate riding in the stroller, and a train similar to a can of sardines - so full of people trying to get to work in the morning that one can barely move, yet alone try to entertain toddlers.

Option B is a relaxing drive in traffic. Which would definitely win out over option A if it were for the fact that I would have to pay $13 congestion fee just to drive in the city, plus gas, plus parking fees which could easily run at least $15-$20, and that is only if I am able to find a parking space.

There must be a better way, right? Well, sort of. It is the coveted blue badge given to people with disabilities that waives the congestion fee to enter the city and grants free parking almost anywhere you want to park (including in no parking or restricted areas). Sounds to good to be true, don't you think?

Well, I've finally been convinced that we need to apply for one - if only for the sole reason of making Antalya's speech therapy a possibility. On the application it asks how far the applicant is able to walk and how long it takes to walk that distance. After thinking it over for a day, I estimated that Antalya could walk 500 meters and do it in 10 minutes. I was a bit surprised when Jason laughed at my answers and told me I was overly exaggerating.

So today on our walk home from school I decided to get a more accurate idea of the distance Antalya would walk. It was a walk just like all the rest, except this time I was looking at my watch and clocking the distance. I was a bit surprised at the results.

With all my typical coaxing, bribing, and pleading, Antalya walked 350 meters (.2 miles) in 20 minutes. That of course is not taking into account all the distance we covered back tracking and veering off course which would at least have doubled the distance, and all the dancing breaks that had to be taken once it was discovered that she could see her reflection in the sides of the cars we passed.

Although the time it takes to get anywhere with her frustrates me sometimes, I must add that it truly inspires me also. Antalya cannot be rushed because she lives completely in the moment. In fact she soaks up every moment of every day and feels more happiness in one individual moment than most people feel their entire day. She doesn't live for the future - it means absolutely nothing to her what is coming tomorrow, or next week, or next year - only that the moment she is in is a happy one. And so although everyone else may pass us by, it's alright, because it's just one of the many lessons Antalya is teaching me.

Happiness is a journey, not a destination.
Dance as though no one is watching you.
Love as though you have never been hurt before.
Sing as though no one can hear you.
Live as though heaven is on earth.
-- Father Alfred D'Souza