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.

Sunday, 29 December 2013

Ghost of Christmas yet to Come.

Not quite the image of the grim reaper as styled in Charles Dickens A Christmas Carol, but as I sit watching the flames flickering in the grate, finishing off the last of the mulled wine my own ghost of Christmas yet to come, leads me to dream of what I hope are our future Christmas' will be.

Now that number four has joined us the magic of Christmas is guaranteed for another 6 or even 10 years and beyond that I contentedly dream of my children grown into young adults with their friends in tow sitting around the extended dining table or curled on sofas in front of the fire or wood burner drinking mulled wine and cider, eating party food, cakes and chocolate. Playing silly party games, pulling crackers, singing and laughing and falling in love. With a 12 year age gap between the youngest and oldest I dream that as the last teenager is ready to leave, grandchildren will hopefully be appearing from his older siblings and so the magic starts all over again.

If my dreams come true we will have happy Christmas' year after year. Each year will change but I just know that our home will always be full of family and friends. Which means lots of home cooked food, hot drinks and fizz. Every room will be filled with Christmas cheer, tinsel, glitter, twinkling lights, music and laughter. There will be board games involving screaming, Pictionary and UNO no doubt firm favourites and silly parlour games like guess the celebrity or hum that tune. Then in the quiet times we will sit and watch old favourites on the telly, Die Hard, Star Wars and Indiana Jones eating our way through tins of chocolates and drinking copious cups of tea or mugs of hot chocolate.

Dreams these maybe but our number 4 has settled in like he has always been here. He has coped with all our visitors, all our visiting, the excitement of Father Christmas and the celebrations of the birth of Jesus. I know we may have difficulties ahead but based on this year, I am certain that Christmas will be full of love and laughter.

Friday, 27 December 2013

Happy Holidays

Christmas is the only holiday where we spend so much time with family and friends, somehow we find the time for lunch, early evening drinks and long walks with the dogs followed by mugs of steaming hot chocolate topped with swirls of whipped cream and marshmallows.

In the lead up to the holidays I find myself slowly working my way through the Christmas Radio Times looking for the family movies we can watch squeezed together on the sofa, a fire blazing in the grate, a tin of chocolates being passed from lap to lap and mulled wine and cider fill the grown up mugs, of course with DVDs and so much available on the TV now, our lives are not dictated by the schedulers like they were when I was a child. However, there is I think nothing better than settling in to watch Indiana Jones, 101 Dalmations even Die Hard and if there is a break for the adverts we can pop to the loo or refill our mugs.

This time is so important to reinforce the ties that bind families together, a board game, shared breakfasts, lunches and dinners, baking biscuits, mixing Rocky road and icing cakes. Walks over fields, times spent helping those less fortunate, singing and dancing, laughing and debating. Perfect.

Of course there has also been bickering, aggravation and irritation. Today I took child 4 out to give the other three some much needed time without toddler tantruming, this also helped my sanity as on his own, he is an angel. He has just learned how to open the other children's bedroom doors - oh dear!
But, there has also been train track building, holding hands, teaching of Christmas carols.

A first of many more holidays, a house full of my four children for years to come and hopefully in the future their children too.

Tuesday, 24 December 2013

'Twas the night before Christmas

Our first Christmas Eve as a family of six. Stockings are hung, carols have been sung, the First Christmas and 'Twas the Night before Christmas have been read and milk, mince pies and a carrot have been left out for Father Christmas. All is quiet throughout the house. This is my favourite moment of the whole Christmas season, the anticipation of what is to come.

The children have been bursting with excitement and are now tucked in their beds, all asleep no doubt dreaming of a little fat man dressed in red, riding in a sleigh pulled by reindeer.  How amazing is that, that belief in magic, children have this amazing ability to see the magic that surrounds them, the magic that we don't even notice. Mine know to look for a rainbow when the sun shines through a rainstorm, they know to look for signs of fairies in the woods and to believe I. Father Christmas no matter their age - after all if you don't believe in him how can he slip down the chimney to deliver presents. 

What a way to look at life, without rain there can't be a rainbow, without an imagination how can you dream big dreams and if you don't believe in magic how can anything magical ever happen.

Merry Christmas to one and all.

Thursday, 19 December 2013

We believe........

Yesterday was child 3's nativity dress rehearsal, she was a beautiful angel, you know dressed in a simple long white tunic, the bottom and the sleeves edged in tinsel. I love a nativity, it really reminds us of what Christmas is all about. After the performance, the Headteacher announced that there was a very special visitor, the children had to be very, very quiet and listen really hard. The whole hall fell silent, there was a tinkling sound and you could see the children take a deep breath, looking at each other their faces pink, their eyes wide and huge, was it? Could it be? Then another tinkling sound yes rippled around the room an all their heads turned to the doors, watching, waiting, expectant, all holding their breath. Father Christmas arrived!

The excitement in the school hall was so tangible, you could feel it. The gasp of delight then as the big man in red came in through the doors, the squeals of delight from everyone, regardless of their age. After his visit the children had a run around in the playground, all of them went hunting for a sleigh and reindeer, was it on the school field, on the roof or hiding in the car park. Of course. Father Christmas would have hidden his sleigh with Christmas magic otherwise the whole town would have been clamouring to come into school.

Believing is something we encourage in our family, if you don't believe then nothing will happen and this stands for virtually everything that may head our way now and in the future. "Everything will be alright in the end" is the mantra to be heard echoing through the rooms of our home.

This belief for me is the magic that surrounds our family, no matter what may happen, we can resolve it and move forward, life has a tendency of surprising us, those old adages of be careful what you wish for and sometimes you get what you need rather than what you want are very true. But, by believing that all will work out in the end is definitely the way forward, after all sometimes life can really surprise us with something wonderful. Perhaps we should travel our days being thankful for all we have, than for wanting what we don't.

Sunday, 15 December 2013

Almost peace.

At last, a whole day without child 3 shouting at me............
Since child 4 has arrived, well following the honeymoon period, it seems that in child 3's eyes at least I haven't been able to get anything right. Some days the shouting and shrieking, followed by stomping and slamming of doors seemed a constant. But, today I have just realised that we have not had any of those happen. If anything she has been a model child. She has not bothered her baby brother and if she is trying to "help" and I ask her not to she has happily obliged. Now is this because it's only 10 sleeps until Father Christmas visits or is it because the little green monster that has been sitting on her shoulder is beginning to fade away? I am hoping it's the disappearance of the monster myself and I pray that he does not make a return visit on Boxing Day, we shall see.

It's been a tough few weeks for child 3, for the last 7 years she has been the baby, everyone has spoiled her and of course there has always been someone around to give her some attention whenever she has needed it. The arrival of child 4 must have upset her life a lot, after all mummy was now being dictated to by a little man, every time anyone came to visit, it was to see child 4 and as he is so charming he has usurped her position of centre of attention. Tough going for an adult, talk about being a precocious 7 year old.

I think that we have passed the point of seeing the light at the end of the tunnel, we are now passing through, ready to feel the sun on our faces!

Thursday, 12 December 2013

Christmas is coming.......

We've had a lovely week so far, we've visted a reindeer parade, been to a carol concert in a cathedral (child 3 was singing) and have done more Christmas baking. The mince pies have been baked and frozen and the ruby red cranberry sauce is all jarred up ready for the big day.

It was child 3's carol concert in the cathedral, it was beautiful! the setting was perfect and the mix of choirs from different schools, all of different age groups were uplifting. It was an opportunity to stop and let the spirit of Christmas sweep over, reminding us that Christmas is not just about gifts and spending vast amounts of money.  The chair of the local council spoke from the pulpit about the 500 children currently in care in our county. Not all these children can or will be adopted, some will be in long term foster care as they are probably too old or too damaged to be adopted. We have one of these children and by next Spring he will be ours and no longer classed as a child in care. It makes me sad to think that there are more children just like our number 4 who will probably be safe this Christmas, but will they be off to visit Christmas events,  baking Christmas goodies possibly not and they certainly won't be with their families celebrating a time of family together.

 I listened to woman's hour earlier this week where people talked about Christmas and the family politics. As a family, certainly on my side we are so lucky that we don't have to worry, there have never been any demands as to how we spend Christmas, my brother and sister have families of their own and live a 3 hour drive away. It's easier for them to stay at home, although if they wanted to come we have the space and certainly the food to cater for them all. We get together through out the year and talk on the phone or we email or Facebook, now in the era of social media staying in touch is really really easy. As my parents and aunt are local they will come here, it's much easier than us traipsing with the children and presents to theirs and it's so much less stressful. So we will have a houseful, I just keep reminding myself that it's just a big roast dinner and I find that I don't worry any more. Mum usually helps out with a ham, some nibbles and some mince pies and my Aunt will bring some very nice wine.

Our child 4 will be spending his first Christmas with us his forever family, he will take part in Christmas Eve mass,  drinks with friends, he will help hang the stockings and put out the milk and mince pie for Father Christmas and a carrot for Rudolph, maybe scatter magical reindeer food in the front garden. We will keep an eye on NORAD's Santa watch via the internet and then a reading of the nativity story and 'Twas the night before Christmas" before being tucked up in bed. It will no doubt be an early morning, stocking gifts will be ripped open to a cacophony of excited voices shrieking with delight. Christmas music will fill the air as will the scent of toasted panettone and the turkey roasting away. The aroma of mulled cider will pervade each room as will the spices from the Christmas pudding. Corks will pop, door bells will ring. More gifts, toasts, crackers snapping. Lunch will be a noisy wonderful affair. Maybe followed by a noisy board game and a walk with the dog. More gifts, then for those, (the children usually) tea and then it's time to curl up in front of the fire with the Quality Street tin to watch Doctor Who.

A house full of noise, laughter, food, family and love. Perfect!

Sunday, 8 December 2013

Oh Christmas tree

It's the lead up to Christmas that is the best bit, I love the lighting of an advent candle each week, stir up Sunday, the baking and freezing of mince pies and the preserving cranberry sauce all ready for the 25th. Then there are carol concerts, nativity plays and Christmas parties all building the anticipation.

It's been a week of Christmas trees, we have done potato printing, made Christmas tree shaped cakes and been to purchase a tree. Child 3 was given the important duty of choosing the tree, the only prerogative was that it was taller than me. So she chose that saddest looking tree in the room, we tried to encourage her to choose one of the more bushy styles but no she wanted the one she wanted. On the way home in the car she explained her choice saying that the tree she had chosen looked so very sad and no one else would buy it, so it would be left all alone. Despite smiling at her gorgeous comments I was hoping that once the tree was decorated if would not look so very sad.

The decorating of the house has always been an important family event and I have many happy memories when I was young of decorating the Christmas tree and hanging plastic blow up trees and Father Christmas' in our living room and I hope that I am passing this on to my children. Each year I buy a new decoration for each child so that when they leave home they can take their decorations with them, taking a little piece of family with them. So today they unwrapped their collection of decorations and hung them on our sorrowful tree, as I entwined the hundreds of lights through the branches child 4 watched and the surprise and amazement on his face when I flicked the switch and the tiny lights flickered into life was truly magical, he then began to try and blow them out

Our home is full of homemade bunting trimmed in the shapes of Rudolph the reindeer, Christmas trees and Christmas stockings, fabric wreathes and a beautiful knitted nativity, all care of my amazing mum. Tiny droplets of lights edge the eaves of the front of our home, welcoming us even on the darkest and wettest of nights and a comical Rudolph head nods hello from his wreath on the front door. More twinkling lights fill the house and a roaring fire is often flaring away in the living room, the house smells of Christmas, the Christmas baking is in full flow, puddings, mince pies, cake and cookies. The children will stud oranges with cloves and mulled wine and cider will soon be  simmering permeating the house with is warm scent inviting everyone who knocks across the threshold.

Christmas is about family, friends, laughter and giving. We share so much over the coming weeks and  I think that it's the only holiday of the year where we spend time as a family, slowing our lives down to just being together, curling up in front of the fire watching a family movie with a tin of chocolates, playing a raucous board game or walking the dog over the fields returning home for hot chocolate, whippy cream and marshmallows. It truly is the most wonderful time of the year.

"Elf or Pictionary anyone?"

Friday, 6 December 2013

Being bullied

Bullying a tough issue to crack I think. Oh yes it is so easy to say that bullying is an unacceptable behaviour and all school have anti-bullying policies to ensure that all cases of bullying are dealt with quickly and appropriately but bullying  can be a slow, insidious behaviour that creeps up on its target. It gradually strips self esteem so at first the target doesn't necessarily recognise what is happening, by the time it becomes apparent those involved don't know how to break the cycle and either stop the bullying or who they should go to to ask for help.
The child being bullied sees themselves as a victim and so their behaviour becomes that of a victim and they gradually isolate themselves from all those around them, they become defensive or aggressive, which of course means that other children instinctively wish to avoid them, thus making the cycle self fulfilling, leaving the target feeling alone, disliked and even suicidal.

Much research about the victims of bullying show that those who are different say in size, weight or looks are more likely to be targets of bullies, just as the bullies themselves often have issues in the background often at home meaning that they need to be in control or the aggressor in different situations. This research also indicated that victims are more likely to suffer from depression or self harming and bullies are more likely to commit crimes or become abusive within their relationships as they grow into adulthood.

So how to help those involved, well as I am dealing with a child who is currently a target of bullying I have thought long and hard about the best way forward. Firstly, I need to be in a position where my child can speak openly and honestly about how they feel. Then by validating those feelings we can move onto how to resolve some of those issues, this bit I cannot do alone. This is where I need the school to support. Fortunately our school so far has been fantastic, they will deal with the issues of the bullies directly and hopefully quickly but they will also support our child in how to deal with situations that leave children open to bullying and will help our child to find and make new friends. This will mean the rebuilding of self esteem and having a safe place to be at break and lunchtimes with other children who don't fit into the cool kids gangs you know the gangs of boys out playing football or the perfect girl groups. We know exactly which groups of people I mean as we have all experienced them, when we were at secondary school. They will listen and help find solutions to the problems raised. It is imperative that children who have been the targets of bullies learn how to avoid those situations, they need to recognise their amazing qualities, realise that they are worthy of having friends and that it is ok to be themselves. Once that self belief has become a part of who they are then they will fly!!!!
(I hope)

Thursday, 5 December 2013

The court order

The court paperwork has now been completed, YIPPEE!!!! we had to wait 10 weeks from child 4's moving in date before we could apply to the court for the formalisation of the adoption. This should happen sometime early spring 2014.

Funnily enough child 4 is already one of our family, he has slotted in perfectly so much so that it feels like he has lived with us forever. We are of course keeping his first name but will be changing his middle name to that of my paternal grandfather, they share the same birthday, a perfect mix of his heritage and his future and of course will be given our surname. We already think of him as son number 2, the children call him their brother and my parents are with out any doubt his grandparents.

A court date will be set for a judge to decide if the formal adoption should go ahead, we will not attend the hearing, child 4's birth parents do have the right to attend and contest the adoption requesting that they have their son returned to their care, they would have to prove a complete change of lifestyle so it is unlikely to happen.  We will go to court for a celebration visit at a slightly later date. Apparently the judges really go to town on these occasions, I guess if you spend much of your time hearing how children are abused and neglected to finally be there when a child is placed with a family that can offer a child a home they deserve you would want to enjoy every moment too.

Tuesday, 3 December 2013

The lot of a social worker

Social services have been in the news ever such a lot lately and the media always portrays them in such a negative light. We only ever read about the terrible "mistakes" that are made, we never see the fantastic happy ending stories. Where families make it through their difficulties and keep their children, providing happy homes for them or like in our case where children are removed but placed in loving families where they can flourish.

It seems that social services are damned if they do remove a child and damned if the don't. Hindsight is a truly wonderful thing and I am sure that everyone has, with the benefit of hindsight wished that they had done something differently in their lives. I am also certain that we have all made mistakes in our jobs, it's just that our jobs probably don't involve the safety of children.

I am sure that some staff within social services do make mistakes or are not very good at their jobs but we shouldn't vilify a whole profession based on a minority. Our experience with social services has been on the most part very good, the social workers we have been in contact with have had the children's best interest at heart, they are working in a highly pressurised environment that is dictated by the law. Children can't just be removed, there are numerous reports to be completed before a court can make a decision about what should happen to them. This of course can be good and bad, good in that it protects the family as a whole but on the flip side it could mean that children remain in dangerous environments whilst paperwork is completed.

Interestingly, I caught Thought for the Day this morning, where Ann Atkins shared her thought provoking views about the removal of children from their families.


 We should always be reminded that it is not social services that should be responsible for the care of the children in our society, that is the role of parents, family and the community. Social services is there to step in when parents and families fail to take care of those within their care. When I think of how I am supported daily by my husband, parents, siblings, friends and community which enables me to provide, I hope, everything that my children need. It makes me wonder what support is in place for those who really need it. After all if child 4's parents had such an abundance of love and support he wouldn't be with us, would he?????