Sing and Sign teaches you the magic of communicating with your baby before speech

Having a baby opens up a whole new world of learning for both you and your pint-sized human. As a new mum, I’ve loved trying out lots of different classes, which have been both entertaining and educational for us both. The most recent class we’ve gone to is Sing and Sign Belfast. Sasha Felix started the classes 18 years ago with the help of Speech and Language experts for her daughter Francesca (now a successful singer). Little Francesca’s adorable childhood cuddly toy Jessie is now the mascot for the multi-award winning programme. Katherine, who teaches Sing and Sign, is a devoted mum-of-three and has been running classes herself for two years. Incredibly patient and gentle, she brought her son Oliver to classes when he was just eight months old and she jumped at the opportunity to become a Sing and Sign teacher. She told me that it was so exciting when little Oliver used his first sign – an aeroplane. “I saw the magic of him being able to communicate with me by spontaneously telling me what he could see and wanted me to know.” Babies use all kinds of signs and gestures as a natural way of learning to talk. Encouraging your baby with extra signs like ‘milk’, ‘more’, ‘change nappy’ or ‘tired’ will help your baby communicate – and hopefully save you both some tears! The benefits of signing are many – from helping to understand your baby’s needs, building confidence and self esteem and encouraging the development of speech. Sing and Sign teaches keyword signing (always¬†with the spoken word)¬†at the one-word level, which is appropriate to the age group. The signs are used widely by nurseries and schools across the UK.

Fluffy duck…

It was a freezing morning we set off to Cooke Hall on the Ormeau road it but so worth it. There were lots of mums with their adorable tots and it was great to see them interact with their babies using sign. Let’s face it, life would be so much easier if babies could tell you what they wanted. They cry a lot. It must be incredibly frustrating for tiny humans (and mums) for them only to be able to express themselves through crying and screaming. However, using very simple signs when speaking to your baby can help them let you know when they want more food, they’ve had enough, although the latter will probably never happen!

Katherine said that sounds like ‘vroom’, ‘choo-choo’ and ‘ding ding’ are especially beneficial, enabling your little one make associations between sounds and things, in this case, a motorbike, train and bike. It’s also important to teach baby to point and wave ‘bye-bye’. The sign for the week was ‘peek-a-boo’, which Sonny loves! There were lots of sing-along songs too, of course, and playing with instruments (Sonny commandeered a maraca) and cute soft toys. There was even a song with the lyric ‘don’t wipe your nose on the sofa’, which made me grin. Katherine says, “It’s not about being negative, it’s about learning the concept of no and “you have to stop”. She recommends using just one sign for a sentence. There are lots of other songs too like ‘Change Your Nappy’, ‘More to Drink, More to Eat’, and ‘Three Little Monkeys’. Don’t worry if you can’t sing, it’s all about taking part and it’s a great mood booster.

Sonny is almost eight months, becoming more animated by the day, he’s sitting upright without any help, bum shuffling, even attempting to crawl. His main form of communication is by screeching at the top of his lungs. He looked like he enjoyed interacting with the other babies, (lots of cute gummy grins) and hopefully not a sign of what’s to come – had his tiny chubby hand nonchalantly on the the leg of the lovely mummy beside me! Well, he certainly seems to enjoy female company.

Making full use of the toys at before the start of the class!

The feedback for the classes is really positive. On the Sing and Sign Facebook page, mums are full of praise and describe the classes as “wonderful”, “enjoyable” and “so rewarding”. I concur with all of these glowing adjectives. I’m already using signs for ‘milk’ and ‘tired’ for Sonny. He is a bit bemused by my hand signals at the moment but I’m going to keep it up and hopefully soon he’ll be able to communicate with me that way other rather than by opening his mouth as wide as it goes and screaming, while big droplets roll down his cheeks. It hurts my heart even writing that. I love that the sign for his name is the sun. I could also use the sign for ‘s’ but the sign for the sun is so much cuter. He really is a sunny boy.

There are sing and sign classes for babies six months and under which involve lots of eye contact and nursery rhymes. The classes are also suitable for babies and children with hearing difficulties. I couldn’t recommend them enough.

Sonny meets Jessie.

For more information and to book visit:

https://www.singandsign.co.uk/

The day I went back to school…

There is nothing more terrifying than a classroom full of bright-eyed, inquisitive kids. It’s amazing how life goes. I was asked be a speaker at St Patrick’s Primary & Nursery School, Mayobridge, as part of Safer Internet Day. As I’ve quite recently adopted the rather foolhardy approach of, ‘feel the fear and do it anyway’, I accepted with a “what the heck” attitude and then thought, “holy shit”. I’d interviewed the lovely teacher Mary,  who’d asked me to take part, a while back for Family Life, a supplement I work on. However, I didn’t recognise her until I met her at school. We were actually classmates at grammar school together. It’s crazy how small the world is. I took the train to Newry, my homestead, with Sonny. I read over my notes, distracted by a sweet young girl who kept asking her parents if cats, dogs and sheep liked water. “I want to be a sheep!” she cried. Even in my petrified state, I stifled a giggle. As a journalist by profession, I covered my bases, doing as much research as I could, but I wasn’t prepared for actually delivering a 45-minute talk. I freaked myself out about the class being bored, or them throwing paper planes at me – or worse. (I wouldn’t have blamed them). As I nervously approached the school, doing my best to at least look the part in my new check trousers and (thank you ASOS) and trusty white blouse with black bow, I actually felt weak at the knees. I don’t even think I was as nervous on my wedding day. I plastered on a smile and had a quick chat with Mary, while Sonny settled in in the staff room with mum and dad. I was led to the classroom and suddenly, I had 34 pairs of eyes on me, boys and girls all curious about how I was going to entertain them before they could make their escape. It was now or never. I spoke in as loud and as confident a voice as I could muster and started talking about the internet, social media, blogging and how you can have a positive impact online, sticking as close to my carefully worded script as I could.

First day at school… for Sonny

After a few minutes, I felt a bit more at ease. Luckily, the table closest to me was full of bright, interested faces, asking lots of questions. I had organised plenty of activities so I wouldn’t be talking at them and putting them to sleep (and it was the last talk before home-time). As with every classroom I expect, there were some bright sparks and cheeky monkeys. My task, ‘draw the internet’ got a few pretty amusing responses. The funniest was when I asked the different groups to compose a tweet. One, I can’t repeat, but I think I went scarlet. Another was, “My cat is as old as Donald Trump.” The classroom assistant did a brilliant job keeping the classroom under control (things were getting a bit rowdy at times), probably down to the fact that I’m too nice (or so I was told), they even got a stern talking to, but overall, I was glad that they were so full of questions. The 45 minutes flew by. In fact, I didn’t even cover everything I wanted to say. But, you could say I was saved by the bell at 3pm. I don’t know who was more relieved, them or me, but I was really proud of myself for throwing myself in the deep end. I wasn’t completely unequipped for such an event though, at school I did public speaking and did verse speaking at the feis. But, I’m definitely a bit rusty as I approach my 40th year. Still, I was delighted to be invited back for teaching practice! If I had to do things over, I think training to become a teaching would be an awesome job. I love the idea of moulding young minds.

Selfie! obvs…

I really glad I pushed myself to do the talk. I believe every situation opens doors, and if I can survive a classroom of children, I can survive just about any situation, right? Unless that situation is meeting Ryan Gosling or Henry Cavill and then I’m just going to melt into a huge puddle. But enough about fantasies, the biggest lesson I’ve learned is that if you take a leap, you’ll always feel better. Even if you land on your face.

You Got This…

As for Sonny, his favourite pastime is screeching at the top of his lungs, splattering food all over himself and the floor with his spoon and getting incredibly frustrated when he’s on his belly, flailing his arms and legs expecting to move. It’s pretty hilarious though. I can’t believe that one day, my little man will trotting off to school with his bag on his back. I know that will be incredibly hard for me as a mum, to see him begin his journey in this thing we call life. You can learn much from children though, and we should all take a more child-like approach to life… and never stop learning.

Snot, sneezes, sore limbs and winning a Pampers campaign!

I’ve lots to tell you. Top of the list, Sonny boy is seven months old. His bottom two front teeth have cut through and should make their much anticipated appearance soon. I want him to have his squishy, chubby cheeks forever though. On a lower note, Sonny and I have the cold. While he has no idea he what is going down with his bodily functions, my heart hurts when I see his eyes streaming, his little nose running with a consistant stream of snot and his little coughs that get him so confused. While he is improving, thankfully, I’m still feeling like I’ve been hit by a train. I’ve had asthma for 20 years and every now and then, it flares up, usually if I’m anxious or when I catch a cold. Having a young baby is exhausting but it’s even more so when you’re sub power. I really need to get juicing and drinking two litres of water every day. Yeah, right. Who am I kidding?

How is it possible to look this cute with this much drool?

Speaking of good intentions, me and a lovely friend I met at a pregnancy yoga class went to pram fit in Ormeau Park. Now, I thought this was a brisk walk around the park with our prams. How wrong was I? Squats, walking lunges and dead lifts. It started off with jogging with the prams, that was quite fun, but the rest was, well, gruelling and I wasn’t even giving it my all. I blame the fact that I hadn’t had breakfast, while my plucky friend was bouncing from one activity to another. It was great craic though, it was a beautiful, brisk, sunny day, my favourite. I must have been doing something right though, I was bloody sore for the next two days meaning I had to descend the stairs on my bum. Obviously, with Sonny, I just had to yelp my way down. No pain, no gain but I hate pain. I definitely want to do it again though, and I’ve also signed up to JogBelfast, I must be mad.

It’s definitely been another challenging week but there are still so many moments of pure joy to be savoured. Even if it’s been a crap day, there’s still much to be grateful for. When I stumble across a plastic toy in my bare feet for the umpteenth time, emitting its tinny din, hurl my vomit and food splattered clothes in the full to burst laundry basket at the end of the day, I know that I’m a mother, and even if all I’ve done is cuddle Sonny a little bit tighter and wipe his snotty nose, I know that’s a good day.

All is forgiven when I see this face…

#Thank YouMidwife

I was really thrilled to win a UK-wide campaign in association with Pampers. I had an amazing experience at the Ulster Hospital, giving birth to my beautiful boy. My Instagram post had an impact and I was delighted to be declared overall winner and was the very happy recipient of John Lewis vouchers, nice timing as I really need new cushions!

Welcome to the world Sonny boy

And finally…

I’m very excited to be road testing delicious Babease baby food. Stay tuned to see how Sonny gets on!

I am the captain of my ship…

Lots of love, Davina and Sonny xx

Do I love you Sonny boy? Oh baby, mountain deep and river high…

Or is that the other way around? I blame the broken sleep and general drained feeling. January is in full throttle, and so is my son. He’s galloping through milestones and becoming louder and louder by the day. It’s amazing… and bloody exhausting. He’s past the six month mark now and he’s sitting up like a pro and showing the very early stages of crawling. Each new stage brings fresh challenges. The early days were just about surviving while now, it’s about keeping up with his endless demands. He has boundless energy, and now that he’s eating, it’s more work… and washing. It’s still amazing to me that he can go through such an extreme range of emotions in about 10 seconds – from squealing in delight to inconsolable crying. I used to be the emotional one around here…

While he’s overall a really good and fun baby, he’s still a tiny person who can only express himself through crying. That sound, is still like a dagger through my heart. Especially the kind where he wails like you’ve taken away his favourite teddy, or rabbit in Sonny’s case. He’s also waking up in the wee hours to do body pops and throw his dummy out of his cot. He’s still in our bedroom. I’m nervous of putting such a little person into a big room, all by himself. I know modern technology caters for such situations but I like him to be close to me. To hear his shallow breathing, his little grunts, even his snores. To my right, I have my sound asleep husband, who could snooze through an earthquake and to my right, our baby, not sleeping like one. Oh, sidenote – that saying is rubbish.

While I’m getting more sleep, it’s still very broken, I usually see every hour, getting up to use the loo and peek in at Sonny. I’ve been having crazy dreams too, from the bizarre to the disturbed. I dreamt I was Meghan Markle’s bridesmaid and that the dress (a pink satin number – eugh) didn’t fit, it was quite a fun dream – though maybe I need stop to stop snacking on the Quality Street and the sweet remains of Christmas. Then, just last night, I was in some kind of horror movie, although that could have something to do with me watching Bird Box and Les Miserables. Watching anything scary or sad really stays with me and can shift my mood for days sometimes. But we all do stuff we shouldn’t, right?

Having a baby is like a landslide, you don’t recognise the new landscape it creates and you forget about what it looked like before. Every step is one into the unknown, you’ve only got your wits to rely on and no amount of equipment is going to do the job for you. And once you get your footing, another natural event occurs, thrusting you back into uneven terrain. But, as with every ascent, there is a reward at the end, in a rock climber’s case, a stunning panoramic view and in a parent’s case, a different human being. I love that I have the privilege of helping shape the life of a person. I know it’s the most important job I’ll ever do, it doesn’t pay but it’s the most rewarding.

Oh, almost forgot to mention, a tiny tooth is starting to cut through on the bottom. Where’s my helmet?

Morning hair pulls are just the best, and yes, I have no makeup on! He doesn’t judge me, yet.



We got you 2019!

Last year was amazing. I created life. I’m feeling the best I’ve ever felt despite sleepless nights and the challenges motherhood presents. As 2019 loads, here’s what I’m hoping for…

Mum’s the word!

I want to be the best mum I can be. I’m fairly new to this gig but so far have managed to keep a tiny human alive and thriving. I want to continue in that quest to raise a healthy and happy boy.

Have a little patience…

It’s a thing that is in short supply when you’re a mother, especially a new one. You find yourself with a shorter fuse thanks to lack of or broken sleep, the never-ending list of tasks, the annoying habits of your hubby etc. I want to be more patient in 2019.

Smile darn ya, smile!

It’s the prettiest thing you own. I catch myself in a perma-frown most of the time. It feels good to smile, to laugh. I studiously avoid people’s gaze when I’m out and about, unless I have a full face of makeup. But, smiling is contagious. You’ll brighten up someone’s day by exchanging a smile and maybe even your own. That said, I definitely smile more now that Sonny is around.

Eat cleaner, drink greener.

Most of us will make a resolution to eat better and cut down on the booze. I want to eat better, not just for me but so I’m fit and healthy for my son. I also need to cut back on the adult grape juice, for my liver and clarity of mind.

Money’s too tight to mention.

We’re all chasing more money, for the opportunities it affords. I need to be better with my finances. I’ve never been frugal and yet somehow I’ve ended up marrying a financial advisor! I’m an impulsive creature and can’t resist online shopping for clothes and accessories. That has been dramatically curbed now I have a baby and now, I’m buying outfits and accessories for him. Oh, a lotto win would be nice.

Be more organised

Hands up – I’m not blessed with organisational skills. That’s not to say I can’t get my shit together when I need to. I’ve adapted to becoming a mother and the challenges that presents. What I’m really struggling with now is keeping up with the housework. I grimace when I see the tower of dirty laundry every morning. I groan at the constant dishes, constant sterilising Sonny’s bottles and eating apparatus. Damn, it’s hard. But I know I just need to figure out a system in my head and I’ll be fine… any tips would be welcome!

Feel the fear but do it anyway.

I think you become more fearless as you grow older. You care much less about what people think and become more comfortable with who you are. I want to chase my dreams this year. I’m feeling strong, happy and focused. This is going to be my year.

What are your hopes and dreams for 2019? Let me know in the comments below.

A very happy and prosperous New Year from Sonny and me. 

Dx

Happy birthday to me!

I’m 39. How the heck did that happen? To celebrate, I will be slipping on my killer sparkly heels, wearing a knockout LBD and hitting the town to drink until the wee hours and roll home at whatever time I can get a taxi. Only kidding.

As a teenager, I thought 30 was ancient and here I am, almost four decades into my existence on planet Earth. It’s been the best and most challenging year of my life and one of two halves, the first six months I was growing a tiny human and spending my days dreaming about what he would look like, yearning to hold him. The second part was becoming a mother. The hardest and most rewarding job I’ll ever do.

I’ll spend the last year of my thirties trying to be the best mum I can be and attempting to check a few more things of the bucket list before I turn the big 4-0. Growing older is a strange thing. You don’t really notice your familiar face blinking back at you each day changing, bar the ever increasing fine lines around the eyes, the odd silver hair. Some days, I fizzle with energy, excited for the future and other days, I just feel old.

However, I have everything I wanted in my early thirties, a solid, dependable man who loves me, a nice home that I feel safe in, a beautiful son. Plus, I have a pretty incredible support network in the shape of my wonderful family and friends. I’m lucky and I really am grateful for it. I still have ambitions, I am still a woman with hopes and dreams and I’m always going to be chasing rainbows, that’s just who I am.

I might not be going clubbing this year, but my lovely hubby will be taking me out for a slap up birthday meal of steak and red wine. It’s the stuff of dreams. It doesn’t take much to make me happy, but I just said it. I’m happy. That’s the best birthday present I could ask for.


He’s not getting near my birthday cake!

Bite-size first aid for mini-sized humans

When you have a baby, every fibre of your being is geared towards protecting your precious little bundle. It’s a natural instinct, but sometimes you need a little help in knowing what to do in an emergency. It’s utterly terrifying to think you’ll ever need to use first aid, but it could save your child’s life.

Having come across Mini First Aid on Facebook, an invaluable resource for me as a writer, I immediately knew I wanted to do it. Now, while it would be beneficial for Sonny to know what to do if I trip myself up, or knock myself out on a door frame, (I’m incredibly clumsy), this course is about protecting your little one, obvs. There isn’t a certificate or qualification at the end, something far more valuable – knowledge, which is priceless.

If the face is red, raise the head. If the face is pale, raise the tail.

Let the learning commence!

Run by friendly and very knowledgeable coordinators Ruth and Jodie, the two-hour course was held at Whalley Fine Art Gallery on the Belmont Road. A small group of people, mothers, fathers and grandparents attended. The course comprised of a number of important topics including CPR, broken bones, burns, choking, head bumps, bleeding, febrile seizures and even spotting the signs of meningitis.

Be forceful if you know you’re right.

The course opened with listing the items you would have in a first aid kit at home and some of the contents may surprise you. Interestingly, a credit card is also ideal for removing bee stings. Who knew? CPR was next. It’s definitely not something you want to dwell on. But, if you your baby isn’t breathing, would you know what to do? Jodie used visual aids and did demonstrations. The floor was opened to anyone who wanted to try CPR on the baby and child manikins. I tried CPR on the baby manikin and it’s nothing like what you see on Casualty. There is a technique to it and I found it really beneficial to practice. There is also a well-known children’s song that you can do compressions to. Another section I found very helpful was dealing with choking. As I prepare to wean Sonny (he’s almost six months!), I’m terrified of this happening as babies can choke on pureed food too. At least now, I’ve a good grasp of what to do until professional help arrives.

Let’s face it, accidents happen. From boiling pots, hot straighteners, even hot running bath water, danger is everywhere. I was alarmed to be informed that a baby can be burned by tea after 20 minutes. One thing that was put impressed upon was that, even in an emergency, you should remain as calm as possible. You won’t be any good to anyone if you panic. Also, always, always trust your instincts and go with your gut. Be forceful if you know you’re right.

I was worried that Sonny would play up  during the course but thankfully, he entertained the group with regular burps, yawns and epic grunts. I should have been mortified but you have to see the funny side. I’d definitely recommend this course for new mums or for those who’d like a refresher in first aid. It would also make a thoughtful and potentially lifesaving Christmas gift! And don’t worry, children are quite resilient, so don’t be rushing off to wrap them in cotton wool, which incidentally should never be used on burns! 

Sonny keeping himself entertained.

For more information and to book, visit:

http://www.minifirstaid.co.uk/

https://www.facebook.com/minifirstaidbelfast/