If I could give you one gift it would be to see yourself through my eyes and then you would see how special you really are.

Saturday, 31 August 2013

Our households version of a s'more

 Today my brother and his two children where visiting again before the summer holidays finish and the school term begins. They along with my parents and my Aunt came over for a barbecue. the requests were for sausages, burgers, chicken satay, no potato salad, pavlova and s'mores. My brother reckons that I put him off potato salad for life because I made him eat it every day whilst he lived with me for a few weeks after leaving university, so I made him some crispy, crunchy roast potatoes instead.

Child 2 begged to have s'mores. We had these at an American friends a few years back and the children loved them. She probably had the correct ingredients but I've adapted the recipe, if you could call it that, to ingredients easily found at any supermarket. You need chocolate digestive biscuits, marshmallows, foil and a cooling barbecue.

Place 2 biscuits next to each other on a square of foil place 1 or 2 marshmallows on top of one of the biscuits then put the other biscuit on top, chocolate side down. Wrap up tight in the foil and carefully place on the barbecue. Leave for a few minutes then unwrap and eat ( carefully because they are hot and very very sticky)

The children are able to assemble their own s'mores and with a little supervision they can place their little silver packages on the barbecue, after a quick bounce on the trampoline, they return for their hot parcels and very carefully open them up. Giggling and talking ten to the dozen, all excited about what they would find. And yes inside their parcels were melted gooey biscuits, oozing pink and white melting gloop that stuck to the foil in strings. The children savoured them only because they can't wolf them down and came into the conservatory where we sat to show us their sticky hands and mouths before imploring with those beseeching eyes for just one more!

Thursday, 29 August 2013

Every child matters

Children are supposed to be the centre of all the decisions made by social services, but, and isn't there always a but,  red tape, legalities and time seem to always get in the way.

In an ideal world a child who was being damaged by his birth family would be removed quickly and placed with a family willing to adopt him/her immediately. Unforeseen circumstances seem to always  hold things up and generally the one person left in limbo is the child.

At the moment adopters who have completed all the relevant courses and met up with their social worker fortnightly over a six month period have to be "interviewed" by an adoption panel and then ratified, then they have to be matched with a child in the system, that match has to be approved by a matching panel then ratified, before placement can start.

So what to do, well the government is looking at a system called foster to adopt which would mean that once an adult or adults had been ratified as adopters they could foster the child they would like to adopt whilst waiting for matching panel to approve and then ratify.

But, oh that word again, what about all those unforeseen circumstances, like those in our case. Social workers and foster carers are all human, this means that mistakes happen, priorities change, workloads can be huge and mismanaged. No-one is perfect, in fact life isn't perfect, we can't give up just because something is complicated.

I read a story a little while ago and I agree with its sentiments entirely.

One day a man was walking along the beach, when he noticed a child gently throwing something into the sea, when he caught up with the child he asked him what he was doing. 
" I'm throwing the starfish back into the sea, the sun is up and the tide is going out, they will die."  The child answered. "But, child, there are hundreds of starfish and miles of beach, what difference can you make?" After listening politely the child bent down to throw another starfish safely back into the sea. He turned and smiled saying "I made a difference to that one!"

A Fairy Door

Where could a tiny fairy door in a tree lead, I wonder? Maybe  if we ask child 3 she would be able to tell us of the magical lands that could be found just beyond our garden. I think that I should share the tales from The Enchanted Wood and The Magical Faraway Tree by Enid Blyton with her to add to her imaginings.

Last week we spent time painting doors in pink and silver paint adding door furniture, finding the perfect spot for a door amongst the gnarled roots of our apple tree. And there we have a perfect spot for daydreams and imaginings.

I have to admit that I stole this idea from the fairies that live up in the fairy woods a short drive from where we live. Following the winding path through the woods if you keep a careful lookout you will see in the foot of a tall tree  a little red door surrounded by magical treasures and at Christmas, tiny Christmas decorations appear overnight. Children often visit this little doorway brining more little treasures and sometimes swapping them with those left by the door.

Maybe we can find more suitable doorways, for our other doors in the twisty roots of the majestic trees that line our Secret Garden a short walk away.

I should just mention, that child 1 took her door to place against a skirting board or the wall at the side of her window, fairy imaginings are not just for the little ones.

Wednesday, 28 August 2013

Five meet the monkeys and more

Another beautiful day, a picnic and a carload of family heading off to have fun at a safari park. We have been so lucky with the weather this year and this had enabled us to spend huge amounts of time as a family, sometimes with extended family and sometimes with friends. To be out doing something in the fresh air (frequently pretty much cost free) has been amazing this year. People often say that as your children become teenagers they no longer want to spend time with their parents, this in some respects is definitely true however, if the teenagers are with you, once they've recovered from any grumps from being "forced" to come, they have the best of times too.

Today's trip appealed to all. we were able to feed the giraffes and the seal lions and could get up close enough to touch penguins, meerkats, lemurs, wallabies and snakes. There was something for everyone, we saw lions and tigers, wolves and elephants, hippos basking in the river enjoying the sun and gorillas playing in their enclosure. The favourite of course is the monkey drive thru, there are us parents praying that the monkeys leave our car alone and the children calling them, praying that they will all climb aboard our car. The screams of delight as a monkey swung up on the wing mirror and another slid down the rear window were worth the risk of any damage.  I think!

What was lovely about our trip was how often the children referred to the impending arrival of child 4. "When we come next time child 4 will sit on your lap driving the car, child 4 will love the boat, the train, the penguins, the play area." All three are ready for a brother, I am not foolish enough to believe that everything will be a garden of roses but generally for the whole day yesterday all three got along, teasing, playing and laughing together.

Tuesday, 27 August 2013

A relationship in a graveyard

"Mum I've found a relationship" said child 3 as we left a small charming cemetery through its beautiful wrought iron gates. Of course she meant that she had found a grave with the same surname as her so assumed they were related to her. When ever we pass a cemetery we are often tempted in to read the stones, and I know that we are not alone in this pastime. These places are usually situated on hills overlooking the area and are quiet, peaceful places full of green, flowers and birdsong, tempting passerby's in to wander through their aisles. I found that I am drawn to those of similar names to myself and people I know and the dates that they died. Curious about the types of lives they led, if they married and had children and grandchildren.

In this particular graveyard their were those that had died in the 1st and 2nd world wars and a family who had perished in a local flood all buried together, their ages ranging from 3 to 64. So sad that a whole family could have been wiped out in one night. Then there were all those with similar surnames to ours, could they be distant relations? What did they do?

This set me thinking to child 4 who will be joining us on these occasional forays, which names will pull at him, shoud we also look for gravestones with his birth surname on? For our children I suspect having another name to be on the lookout for will just add to the adventure and speculation of the possible exciting histories of our ancestors - (see the post Family Tree May 2013). As child 4 matures this casual acceptance of where he came from, will hopefully help promote his sense of identity, after all he will have been adopted, we cannot change that fact only help him to accept it as part of his history and to help him understand that it does not have to have a negative impact on his future!

It is important for children to have a record of significant people, places and events in their life. Every child needs to have a sense of identity and of their origins so they can understand the person they are. The life story book belongs to the child but is usually given to the adoptive parents or permanent foster carers, so they can share the information sensitively with the child, when age appropriate, as some information may be painful or difficult to understand. Some children may choose to refer to their life story book regularly; others less often, or hardly ever. Be My Parent

British study found that birth family contact: 1) promotes the child's ability to develop a healthy sense of identity; 2) reduces the child's feelings of rejection and abandonment; and 3) helps the child integrate with the adoptive family and provides permission to attach to them. Contact can also help the child to resolve any feelings of grief about the past with truth, rather than fantasy. And it allows the ongoing exchange of important medical information. When adoptive families consider all of these advantages, they often choose to help sustain their child's birth family connection  Lowe N, Murch M, Borkowski M, Weaver A, Beckford V with Thomas C, 1999. Supporting Adoption: Reframing the Approach. London, BAAF.

Monday, 26 August 2013

Number 28 - climb a huge hill

Yesterday we went on a massive adventure, 6 adults, 6 children and 3 dogs and 1 great big yellow sun!. It was like something out of one of those books of my childhood, we walked and explored the riverbank, paddling in the cool pools and climbing the rocks to see if you could make it across the rushing waters.  The dogs ran, explored and swam, rounding us up when required.
We picnicked in real style by the rocky beach. By picnic I mean, imagine you are living in a Famous Five novel but multiply it by 3 - the picnic blanket was the carpet base from a 6 man tent, and if it was a table the legs would have been creaking, as it was laden with, quiche, leek and potato pie, Parmesan chicken, chorizo spanish tortilla, sausage rolls, sausages, olives, dips, potato and Greek salad AND a moist spiced carrot cake , tart lime drizzle loaves beautifully baked in individual loaf cases and a  sponge cake topped in a decadent coconut topping, all home made with love.

After we ate, the children went off to the park to play and have a go at the stalls on the visiting fete and to climb the rocks to see if they could reach the sea whilest we grown ups sat with mugs of tea made from a KellyKettle, catching up on life. If you have never had the pleasure of a hot drink from a Kelly Kettle try it. We collected little sticks, well the children did from the riverbank and these made a little fire inside the kettle to heat up the water. AMAZING.
After a rest we decided to walk off our lunch by climbing a really really big hill. We had to work up an appetite for the fish and chips we had said we would eat on the beach later..........

When we were in Lynmouth a few weeks back we picked up the National Trusts 50 things to do before you are 11 3/4s https://www.50things.org.uk/ and one of them is to climb a huge hill. Yes it was tough (although the children managed to pretty much run up it, some of us grown ups had to take it slow and steady stopping to catch our breath) the views and the pride in making it to the top were worth every minute. I am quite proud to say that we have completed 42 of the 50 activities over the last few years with our children and probably will now try to accomplish the remaining 8, even if our older children are over 11.

There are loads of studies about the importance of allowing children to play outside and these type of days out give them so much freedom but with us adults still around if needed. Hopefully our children will grow up healthy, mentally and physically, they will enjoy learning how to do new things and not worry if it doesn't work the first time, learning perseverance, they will be able to experiment and build, learning about cause and effect, in exploring with others they learn the importance of team work and most of all they will have a love of the world that surrounds us and the friends and family they explore with.

Four of our group were teenagers and they had an amazing time too, in fact a picture I will keep in my heart is one of the 6 children sitting in a circle on a picnic blanket on the beach sharing fish n chips as the day began to close.

Saturday, 24 August 2013

My experience so far

Being so very aware how often adoption seems to appear in the press these days, I have been careful not too believe too much of what I read, deciding instead to find out about the process by experience. The government seems determined to speed up the adoption process surely a good thing especially when they talk about how few numbers of babies were adopted a couple of years ago. I am a huge supporter of this, as long, as it is the child that is placed at the centre of the decisions.

I am glad that it took us what will be 18 months from initial enquiry meeting to fingers crossed actual placement. I know that that sounds like a long time, but to adopt is a huge decision and for us involved a large family. If I decided to have a baby even with immediate conception I would still have 9 months to prepare ourselves. We needed the time to learn about why children are removed from their birth families and the impact this can have on their behaviours. We needed to prepare our children, extended family and friends. Then there is the house, the financials, leave from work and so on. Our social worker has been amazing, always available and always calm. She knows us really well, sometimes she s able to predict my reaction or fears to certain situations. She always knows what to say and is honest with her answers.  We have not been so lucky with child 4's social worker, she has not turned up to meetings, given incorrect or out of date info, finds it difficult to work to timescales (really really important) in the lead up to panel dates. She seems to have no understanding of the impact of her behaviour on us at all. But, this must be weighed up against the fact that she probably has a massive caseload which will definitely include children on the at risk register who are seriously at risk. Her priority will always be the children at risk, our child 4 although with foster carers and desperate for a forever family is not at immediate physical or worse risk. However the emotional issues created the longer any child is in care will impact their psychological developement as they become adults. Hence why so many studies indicate that children in care frequently end up with drug or alcohol dependencies, teenage pregnancy, in prison, uneducated, suffering mental health issues and so on.

I don't know how to resolve this, in probability the whole system requires a complete over haul and maybe asking actual adopters what they think would be a step in the right direction.

If this reform is rushed then there is the potential for adoptions to break down and can you imagine the impact on adopted children if their forever families could not keep them? I can't!

For me I really want to make a complaint or maybe, raise a concern would be better,about child 4's social worker but how will that affect our placement? We will have to have contact with her over the up and coming months whilst child 4 settles with us and until we formally adopt him. I wonder how many other adopters feel the same way and feel unable to voice their concerns because it may impact on their placements.

I guess I will go with the flow and maybe when child 4 is ours, then I will share my feelings with the relevant social services department in the hope that for someone else the process will be more organised.

Thursday, 22 August 2013

Bringing Baby Home

The plan for introducing child 4

2-4pm – Meet child 4 at the foster carers after the practical arrangements meeting and stay for 2 hours.  Child 4's social worker to be present at least initially.

Day 2
10am – 3pm – My husband and I spend time with child 4 at foster carers observing his routines including lunch and how he is put down for a nap.  We may take him to the nearby park with or without foster mum depending upon how child 4 feels.

Day 3
7.30am – 4pm – We spend time with child 4 at foster carers house observing breakfast routine and getting ready in the morning.  We will be involved in giving child 4 his lunch and assisting in putting him down for his nap.  We will have the opportunity to take him out for a walk to the park or a drive to a park/garden centre some time during the day.

Day 4
10am – 6pm  both of us and the children to spend the day at the foster  carers. We will be  more involved in child 4's care including bath time if possible.  We could take Him to the local park some time during the day.

Day 5
10am – 7pm - Foster mum to bring child 4 to our home and stay until he is settled.  We will help him to become used to us and his new  home.  Child 4 to have lunch, nap and tea at our house and the children will be involved throughout the day.  We will bath him and get him ready for bed before returning him to foster carers for bed time.

Day 6
AM – telephone review to see how everyone feels things are going.  The fostering support worker to ring The foster mum and report back to child 4's social worker.  Our social worker will catch up with us and report back t child 4's social worker
12 midday – We will collect child 4 from foster carer and take him back to our home. Nap, tea, bath etc undertaken by us before returning  him around 7pmish.  The children will be involved when they return from school.

Day 7
9am – 7pm – We will  collect child 4 and take him back to our home.  Attend to all his needs as before then return to foster carers, Again the children will see  child 4 and play and interact with him after school.

Day 8
Same as Tuesday although could return earlier, say 4pm so that The foster family can have a farewell tea.

Day 9
10am - We can bring him home!

How scared am I

Tuesday, 20 August 2013

What are we letting ourselves in for

We met up with more relations today, we are trying to see as many as possible before child 4 arrives just in case we have to disappear off the face of the earth for w few weeks. Fortunately, the weather held for us. Brilliant sunshine with occasional cloud cover. It was an interesting mix of children ranging from 2 to 17.  The teenage boys of 14, 16 and 17 were with us under sufferance, not that I blame them really, picnicking with the parents and two very small children (2 & 7) can't really be that enticing! Although not one of them complained they just got on with it.

For us though a day spent with a 2 year old was a definite eye opener as to what our life is soon to become. My very rose tinted memories of 2 year olds are cuddles, holding hands to wander down the road, explorations in the garden, stories, songs and tickles. I am right there are all of those things but there is also the tantrums, the running away, the refusing to hold hands,the exhaustion.

It was interesting to see how child 1,2 & 3 dealt with their 2 year old cousin, child 1 loved it, in fact she carried her cousin around quite a lot, child 2 spent his time making sure she didn't climb the steps to quickly or run into the road and child 3 was really glad that we weren't adopting her cousin because she wouldn't play with her or do as she was told. A little bit of the green monster I think.

By the time we got home all I wanted to do was collapse and drink a steaming hot cup of tea. As I sat with my steaming hot cup of tea the realisation struck me that our 2 year old will be coming home with us and will want his tea, his bath, his milk,a story and a cuddle before hopefully settling to sleep which is no doubt when I will finally have the opportunity to drink that steaming hot cup of tea!!!!

Sunday, 18 August 2013

Eat, Pray, Love

I’m just through with the guilt. So, here’s what we’re going to do: we’re going to finish this pizza, and tomorrow, we’re going to buy ourselves some bigger jeans. Elizabeth Gilbert. Eat, Pray, Love

After Friday's worrying news I spent yesterday wallowing a bit but after work decided to pull myself together and do what I always do when I am sad or worried. Look up comfort food, I sat with some of my old favourite cookbooks Fannie Flaggs The Original Whistle Stop Cafe Cook Book, Spooning with Rosie by Rosie Lovell, Cherry Cake and Ginger Beer by Jane Brocket and of course Nigella's How To Eat, hmm can you see the theme yet. So today I have pulled pork melting away in the slow cooker and pineapple upside down cake baking in the oven sending out aromas of spice, sweet and love through the house. In fact the menus for this week are all favourite comfort foods, Lasagna, Fish cakes, Sweetcorn fritters and curry. I feel better already just being surrounded by these favourite things.

"There’s a crack (or cracks) in everyone…that’s how the light of God gets in.” Elizabeth Gilbert

A trip to church  (it is Sunday after all) provides some solace. The occasional glimmer of sunshine lit up the stained glass window that overlooks the alter, beautiful. A sermon about faith and love lifted my spirits and coffee with the community to remind me of the wisdom in sometimes accepting that some things you cannot change, sometimes you just have to go with the flow and have a little faith.

“Do not apologize for crying. Without this emotion, we are only robots" Elizabeth Gilbert 

Being philosophical, it's shows how much we love this little boy already if we want him here with us now.

Saturday, 17 August 2013

A little crack in my heart

Due to unforeseen circumstances Child 4 has been placed in respite foster care, probably until he can come home with us.

I spoke to our social worker last night, "we could just go and get him and bring him home now" but of course the policies and procedures that dictate how placements are set mean that this cannot happen.

The government is changing the law so approved adopters can foster a child they hope to adopt before the legal process is complete.   But this is still in its trial period, the system is not running in our council, but our fantastic social worker is going to investigate the possibility of us being registered as emergency foster carers just in case we can work something out.

I know that rules and regulations are required and I am also very aware that when on one of our courses when the fostering to adopt scheme was first mentioned I was very cautious even quite cynical. I felt that although it definitely had potential, as prospective adopters I did not know if I could  put our family forward. Why? You ask, because foster care is very different to adoption. Children placed in foster care can be reunited with their birth parents if the birth parents can show a change in their behaviour or their circumstances. Which of course is exactly how it should be but  can  you imagine the heartbreak for the potential adopters?

Now of course, when that same scheme could possibly have meant that we could have stepped in as child 4's respite carers I would sign up now!

What I am finding so very hard about all this is that he's mine and he is in trouble and probably scared and confused and there is absolutely nothing that I can do.

If child 1,2 or 3 needed me to save them from where ever they were I would be on my way!

Thursday, 15 August 2013

Meet the Birth Parents, chapter 2

When we started our adoption journey, over a year ago now,we were asked if we would be willing to meet the birth parents of our adopted child. Initially my reaction was no way, but, after the process had been explained and I'd thought it through I felt that it would be a wonderful opportunity to gain some insight into where child 4 had come from and I also believe that it is really important for child 4 to know about his mums pregnancy, his birth, his heritage and what his parents were like growing up and if any of their traits, likes or dislikes have been passed to him.

We weren't sure if child 4's birth parents would meet with us and there is no guarantee that they will turn up to the meeting. Regardless a date has been set and questions ate being deliberated. For our security our social worker will take us to the meeting place and will remain with us throughout the meeting. The birth parents will be supported by a charity group who have been working with them since we were matched. Both sides will have the opportunity to ask questions (these will have been asked in advance and the answers prepared). The questions I hope to ask are, why did you choose his names, did you have cravings when you were pregnant, how long was your labour, who does he look like. What are your favourite colours, bands, books and movies. What did you like at school, were you sporty? They can ask us questions too and I honestly have no idea what they will ask but I will be honest in my answers. At the end of the meeting we will have a photo taken of the four of us and this will be put into child 4's life story book bringing together his two families.

I have found that birth parents are frequently demonised and this is so very sad and often unfair. I am not condoning any of their behaviours but often they are just people who have had a rough start in life, have no strong family support networks, are probably fairly uneducated, they may suffer mental health issues or they may well have been in care themselves so have no experience in how to raise their children. They do not understand that their child rearing behaviours are completely inappropriate so do not understand why their children have been removed, never to be returned.

Just imagine how you would feel if someone from the council said that you needed help with your parenting, then someone visited you frequently, questioning why you were doing something or not and then after a time they said that actually you couldn't look after your child so they were going to be taken away. I know that if someone took away my children I would hunt for them until I found them, it would break my heart. Why do people expect the birth parents of children in care to be any different. Empathy is one of the most important characteristics of human nature and I think it's a trait that we should rely on especially when dealing with people or situations we do not understand.

Wednesday, 14 August 2013

Inside the head of a 7 year old

Sometimes when something goes wrong a little piece of magic appears.

The speakers on our car stereo are not working (unless the back passenger door is open so not ideal when travelling) so I was dreading the six hour round trip to visit family yesterday. After charging up the IPad and child 3s portable DVD player we climbed aboard and headed off. By the time we reached the motorway child3 had fallen asleep, so her brother turned off Treasure Planet and dozed himself for a bit.

When child 3 awoke, she began to sing quietly to herself. After a while her words infiltrated my thoughts and made me smile. She was flying on an Egyptian magic carpet, the sky was blue and the sun was so bright she had to shade her eyes. She flew over swimming pools filled with hot chocolate and marshmallow floats. There were steam trains and lands filled with ponies, sweets and Macdonalds? There were dragons and princesses' and parties just for her, a new queen. Of course there were witches and monsters but they were all sent home by her silver armies.

Of course once she realised we were listening the song stopped and the "are we there yet? and I'm hungry" chorus started

Tuesday, 13 August 2013

Messing around on the river

“There’s nothing––absolutely nothing––half so much worth doing as messing about in boats.”  The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Graham

Or for me “There’s nothing––absolutely nothing––half so much worth doing as messing about on the river"

A grey morning but with blue skies and sunshine in our hearts, we loaded the car with a picnic, changes of clothes, waterproofs, the children and Dylan the Dog and headed south. We met up with my parents beside a cobbled cove in Minehead for bacon butties and hot tea and coffee from a flask, the grey clouds were floating away but there was still a cold snap in the air so we sat in the boot of the car just out of the wind with our hands wrapped around the steaming hot drinks in their little plastic cups. The children and dog of course were allowing the waves to chase them up the beach squealing with delight as they just escaped those puffs of icy cold foam. Then back into the cars for the final leg of our journey to meet up with my sister, two of her boys and friends. This final step is the climb up Porlock Hill across the amazing moors and down into Lynmouth. As we crossed the moors the sun came out highlighting the purples and greens of the stunning landscape, England at its best. The fields roll over until they reach the cliffs that tumble down to the blue blue sea and in the distance Wales shimmers in the sunlight. 

We parked up by the river Lyn and all pile out of the cars donning on our waterproofs as the cloudy weather front closes in. The odd shower won't be a problem as we will be protected by the canopy of trees that edge the river as we stroll towards Waters Meet. The children love it here as I did as a child. I spent many a summer holidaying in North Devon, not always remembered fondly I'll admit but the River and the nearby peaks of the Valley of the Rocks hold many memories of my childhood. 
All the children from the tinies to the hulking 17 year old love messing around by the river, they paddle, splash and rock jump, we always follow the riverside walk to a tea room, stopping to explore the many pools and coves on the way. The dogs run on ahead sniffing out exciting trails before returning to herd us altogether to keep us en route. 

We cross bridges, climb the trails, clambering over tree roots and ducking beneath the branches. The waters are either still and quiet in the pools or roaring over boulders and rocks carried down over the years. The sun comes out just as we arrive where the waters of two rivers meet in rushing waterfalls. The children stop for hot chocolate with lashings of cream before they once again play in the water, all of them getting wetter and wetter. We eventually head back to the beginning of our adventure for an amazing picnic, sitting under the canopy of branches, now to offer shade from the midday sun whilst the children mess around in the river again. When it is finally time to leave they all need their changes of clothes and wrapped up in blankets and towels they doze in the back of the cars dreaming I hope of adventures like those of Rat, Toad and Mole or Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn.

Sunday, 11 August 2013

Summertime and the living is easy

As we climbed the hill behind our house the surroundings became quieter and quieter, just the sounds of the children laughing and the wind dancing in the trees. We often walk the dog through the fields and woodlands behind our house, there is a quarry complete with nesting peregrine falcons that you often hear screeching and they can be seen soaring on the thermals looking out for their lunch. If we follow the path it leads you on a winding adventure through  a thicket of ancient trees, brambles and wild flowers, the sun flickers through the canopy of green, lighting up trails of magic encouraging us to look for evidence of fairies and other woodland creatures. The  age old trees provide perfect doorways and sanctuaries through their roots for all types of tiny mythical creatures. Of course we have never found any fairies and after fruitless searching we move onto to where the track leads us through rock that had been dynamited many years ago to provide a through way for lime to be transported to the kilns. Here the children can climb the lower rock faces and climbers often can be seen climbing and abseiling the towering cliff faces that we wander through following the path to where it forks, the right fork would take us through fields to the next village the left takes us homeward bound.

When the dancing wind lulled we could hear the grasshoppers chattering in the hedgerows, child 2 knelt down to hunt for them and found that if you sit quiet and still you can see where they are by watching the blades of grass move. We sat for ages watching these tiny creatures hop, skip and jump amongst the grasses. Until child 3 found crowds of cabbage white and red admiral butterflies feeding on a purple buddleja. She stood holding her hand out waiting for the to alight on her outstretched fingers for ages. Standing still and silent waiting patiently for just one to settle, once one had she would call in delight then wait again for the next one.

Eventually we started our homeward journey, enjoying the quiet and the magic of a summers afternoon, planning the fairy house and garden in the roots of our apple tree, watching out for more mini beasts in the hedgerows that edge the road home and recognising the friendship and love of family for those few moments before the bickering begins again.....

An apple a day

Yesterday we met up with a lovely paediatrician to gain an insight into child 4's general health. Child 4 is nearly two, he is achieving all his milestones as expected. He is, I am glad to say, nervous with strangers. One of my concerns has been that child 4's social worker and foster mum have been citing his willingness to hug strangers and his ease with the occasional respite carers as a good thing, where as I following all the training and reading about attachment disorders feel that those types of behaviours are a concern. So to hear the paediatrician say that he behaves warily with people he doesn't know put my mind at rest.

Although no one has a crystal ball it would seem the ony two possible concerns are of mental health and ADHD. Child 4's birth parents have a history of mental health issues and possibly suffer from ADHD. Both of these conditions can be hereditary however with birth parents they could be symptoms of upbringing, that nature versus nurture debate raises its head again.

Parenting is such an important aspect of our children's ability to grow into well rounded individuals, I know that some behaviours are dictated by nature but I truly believe that if we can offer the right type of nurturing for our children, keeping in mind that they are all very individual in their needs and  desires that we can help them to become the best that they can be. Naughty steps and reward charts don't work for all children, it's about asking for different advice and trying new ideas so that we can provide the right boundaries for our children to follow their own paths, learning from experience and facing consequences so that THEY can be the people they want to be. Pre-empting and preventative behaviours are so important in raising children. Just like the apple a day keeps the doctor away mentality can help with so many aspects of our parenting.

Good old Dr Seuss knew what he we talking about.......

Thursday, 8 August 2013

Chocolate Mousse

One of our favourite pudding recipes, don't you just love the word pudding, pud ding, pu dding, its just one of those words that makes me think of farmhouse kitchens, open fires or wood burners, jam bubbling on the stove top, fresh bread cooling on a rack on the window sill, homemade cakes and homelaid eggs, washing blowing on the washing line and lots and lots of children playing in the garden working up a huge appetite.

Whoa back to the recipe, one of our favourite PUDDING recipes is the easiest ever chocolate mousse. All you need is 250gm of chocolate, any type of chocolate so long as its good quality and 600ml of double cream. Break the chocolate into squares and place into a bowl along with a couple of tbsps of cream. Pop into the microwave for a minute, stir then microwave again (slowly and carefully as chocolate burns really easily in the microwave.) Pour the rest of the cream into a mixer and whip until thick like milkshake.  Pour the melted chocolate into the whipped cream, gently amalgamating the two until they are well mixed. Pour the chocolate mixture into a cling film lined spring form cake tin or little dishes. Leave to set in the fridge.
This recipe freezes beautifully and can be really easily adapted. I've made it in layers of dark, milk and white chocolate, added coffee to the melted chocolate before stirring into the cream, stirred raspberries into the mixture and so on use your imagination!

Our mousse along with the creme caramel I've made are sitting in the fridge ready to be shared at a barbecue tomorrow with my parents, my sister and her boys and my Aunt. Yummy.

Pictures to follow tomorrow when they are in their glory on glass serving stands

And here is some chocolate mousse spooned into mini pastry cases topped with a raspberry for a party we are off too.......

Wednesday, 7 August 2013

Sibling Rivalry

Oh joy of joys, six weeks of summer holidays with 3 children, which means six weeks of fun, laughter and bickering, arguing and stropping!!

With us adopting the favourite throw away comments shouted to gain a reaction are:

I wish you weren't my mum, I want to be adopted!
You don't belong in our family!
You are not my brother/sister you were adopted!

I guess it adds a bit of variety instead of the usual "I hate you" "you loser" or the favourite when they think I'm not in hearing distance is "shut up and go away you idiot!"

Up until recently my mantra has been "sibling rivalry is healthy it teaches children how to handle different situations, preparing them for adulthood." I still firmly believe that, but I am concerned about the  type of throw away comment that will be shouted across the dinner table when child 4 is older and able to stir up trouble. I think that all our children once in a while like to drop a verbal live grenade into the middle of the dinner table conversation just so they can sit back and watch the explosion and then the fall out. This fallout could potentially be a lot more volatile in the future. With comments like "you are adopted so aren't allowed......." Or "I was chosen so am better than you" could make our dinner table conversation quite interesting don't you think?

If I keep my mantra in mind at least the adoption will always be an open discussion and all the children in our family will have dealt with any prejudices or stupid remarks that they may come across during their lifetime in the safe environment that is our kitchen.

They will hopefully have learned the best way to deal with ignorance and bigotry, but more importantly they will have learned how to cooperate with others, be tolerant of different view points  and know how to work as a team. Negotiation, empathy, managing emotions of themselves and others, resilience, learning about consequences are all crucial parts of growing up and I will keep on telling myself that, when they are bickering they are learning important skills to be used later in life.......

Tuesday, 6 August 2013

Barefoot in the park

Picnic packed, spicy chicken wraps, crisps, red grapes and juice. I've not baked this week so promises of ice cream instead. We all climb aboard the car and head off into the sunshine.

Today we visited a conservation park, we saw zebras, Okapi, Eland, Lemurs and Cassowarys. In a huge meadow perfect for picnicking, playing, running and jumping there stands a tower and in its shadow child 2 and 3 had a go at archery, a perfect place for both of them to pretend to be mini Robin Hoods.

The best bit was the Barefoot Trail, we had to remove shoes and socks (obviously) and then walked over wooden poles, through pebbles, tyres filled with chopped rubber, sawdust, sand, hay and grass and a pool full of what smelt like zebra poo and finally sea glass. The kids loved it and went round the course so many times that I lost count. This type of activity is fantastic for all children but adopted children who potentially could suffer from a sensory disorder it's like magic. Some children who have spent time within the care system or with birth parents who do not know how to provide for them will have missed out on some really important sensory learning behaviours. They may not have been cuddled, sung too or played with. A child left in his/her cot or in front of the television all day will have missed out on so much.

Interestingly, a number of mums today could be heard telling their children to keep their shoes/wellies on as they might hurt themselves, child 1 commented that how sad it was that some of the children visiting today couldn't just enjoy themselves, explore and get dirty. I am sure that you know how I feel about grubby children and barefoot grubby children are the best. I have to say that I like being barefoot except when its cold. In fact I will always be one of the first to kick off her red glittery heels and dance barefoot at a party!

When was the last time you took off your shoes and walked barefoot, feeling the ground beneath your feet or splashed barefoot in a puddle of water? Give it a go, take off your shoes explore the world with nothing between you and the earth, feel that connection, be free, get your feet dirty and enjoy the feeling of the earth beneath your feet. Walking barefoot transports me back to my childhood, there is something nostalgic and exhilarating about feeling the world through the sensations under foot. Something all children should experience.

Sunday, 4 August 2013

Why do you believe that you can provide a home for this child?

Why do you believe that you can provide a home for this child?

This is a question we have been asked as part of  the Adopters’ contribution to the Adoption Placement Report. Wow what a question. We haven't even met child 4 yet. We've read his paperwork, seen photos and a DVD although they were from about six months ago.

How do we answer a question like this about a not quite two year old we have never met?  I know that we have a home environment ready to take on a child. We are parents already, although its hard remembering what two year olds are like, I find myself watching all toddlers when we are out trying to work out how old they are and I watch to see what sort of things they do.  Our home has passed the health and safety check so social services see our home as safe, clean and a good environment for a little one. We have completed huge amounts of training and read enough,books on adoption and child behaviour to fill a book case so we should a least be aware of the types of behaviours a new child may exhibit over a lifetime.

The children are excited, child 1 was looking at little boy pyjamas on Wednesday when we were out shopping, child 2 is  establishing his army, planning the training for child 4 to aid him in the "destruction of the curse of the evil sisters" and child 3 is talking about her baby brother all the time.

Why is this little boy so good a match for us. I think I knew from the day I first saw his picture, our social worker thinks he looks a little like my husband and I think she's right, it's in the eyes! The children took to his picture too, although I didn't show them that until after we had told them about him. 

Child 4 is like most toddlers, into cars and trains, loves being outside and bath time. He doesn't like being strapped into car seat or buggies, that sounds familiar. 

I guess there are no guarantees in life, but, we so want this to work. Our three birth children maybe a like in some ways but are so completely different in others. We are not rigid or inflexible we want our children to be the best that THEY can be. We want them to flourish, be independent and be happy with their lives, not living for us. They need to live their lives, making their own mistakes and learning from them as they grow. Life after all is about personal experience not living through or for some one else.  

My answer then is because we will love him for him, nurturing his natural abilities so he can flourish, helping him to deal with difficult situations and decisions, so that he can learn independence and inspire his self esteem so that he can be happy. 

Thursday, 1 August 2013

10 steps to supporting us

Stolen from our social worker and modified by me.

1. We are Mummy and Daddy to 4 children, they may not all necessarily match our DNA but we cuddle them when they are sad, kiss their hurts away, tell them off when they are naughty, read them bedtime stories and know their favourite things. Never ever use the adoption word when introducing us. We are REAL parents to them all, got it?
2. We will probably parent differently now, it's called therapeutic parenting. This means that we don't send our children to their rooms or use naughty steps. Adopted children have been rejected enough so we won't reject child 4 in any way. We will keep him close. IT WORKS for birth children too, ask child 2 and 3!
By the way if you disagree that's fine but I don't need to hear about it, I can however lend you a book explaining it.
3. We may not join in conversations about pregnancy and or birth etc, our child 4 did not grow in my tummy he grows in our hearts.
4. We may make quick and quiet escapes from parties, get togethers etc, please do not be offended. Adopted children don't always cope with large groups of noisy people so sometimes it's best to sneak away.
5. If we don't make that quick get away please keep in mind that a child who's had a traumatic start in life will respond in ways that worked for them before – This might mean screaming, running away, becoming aggressive. They're not just “being naughty”, so your help in trying to keep things low key will help.
6. I know child 4 is gorgeous and will probably hold his arms up for a cuddle, but to start with its imperative that he learns who his Mummy and Daddy are and the way to do this is to let us do all the cuddling until the attachment is secure.
7 All children do .........  Your children probably hit, bit and tantrumed, just maybe not all at the same time, or for months on end or at the age of 9. This is likely to be my life so a little sympathy would be good.
8. Sorry no photos, in case a friend of a friend of a friend recognises child 4  from facebook and knows his birth parents. Who will then know where he lives,what nursery or school that he goes too and who his adoptive family are. Not healthy.
9. We won't tell you anything or everything about his history it's not our story to tell. So trust us when we say that this is the way things are.
10. Your support is wanted and required, there will be those who can't cope so will avoid us and those who will interfere, which will probably be worse. Nothing can beat a shoulder to cry on, a cuppa, chocolate or a bottle of wine to share. So if you are up to the challenge find out a bit more about adoption or just keeping reading my blog. I will be grateful for all the help we can get!