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.

Tuesday, 30 December 2014

A walk through 2014.

So 2014 nears its end and we ready ourselves for 2015. I've never really been one for New Years resolutions as I have never been able to keep them. I find that to be able to make a change in my life it has to be because I really want the change to happen. I gave up smoking when I fell pregnant with child 1 one April, I lost 2 stone in the 8 months leading up to a holiday with family and friends in Spain, I was determined to wear a bikini and not be mortified and I have attempted to make time for me since we knew that child 4 was an his way.

So today I have been thinking back over the last 12 months, smiling over the good times, thinking about how I could have handled the not so good and wondering what 2015 will bring. We have had lots of family gatherings, the usual celebrations of New Year, Easter and Christmas, there have been adoption orders, baptisms, First Holy Communions, Confirmations, 18th birthday parties, GCSE and AS results, acceptances to Uni and college. I have photos of trips to the beach, the zoo and the farm, days full of sunshine and picnics, rain and muddy puddles and cold winter walks followed by hot chocolate, topped with squirty cream and marshmallows. As well as child 4 moving from a cot to a bed, him coming to me crying when he hurt himself rather than just getting on with it and he now sometimes cuddles his doggy when he goes to bed. On the alternate side we have dealt with those who haven't understood our need to adopt or the fact that once child 4 moved in he became one of us, which of course has meant that some of our celebrations have been marred by disgruntled and intolerant behaviour, child 4 himself exhibits some aggressive and angry behaviour and we have asked the SenCo to come in and support at nursery, child 2 has struggled in school over the last 4 months but is coming out the other side now.  Over all though I would say the good far outweighs the bad. We have so far dealt with everything life, family and school have thrown at us and I think we are all the better and stronger for it. As a family unit we have become stronger, more loving and more tolerant. We are learning to leave behind baggage that weighs us down yet share the load of the stuff that is important to take on our journey, sometimes we have to unpack and repack, folding and sorting the important stuff in a different way to ensure that we can still carry it, sometimes we unpack, re-fold, re-sort and repack many times before we can move forward, often one step forward and two steps back.
                                     

I know we need to rethink some of our parenting Sally Donovan would say "the inner parent" and I agree with that sentiment, we need to remain strong, sticking to the path we traverse when facing those who just don't understand the need for therapeutic parenting, attempting to re-educate them where possible or by passing them when they are unable to be open minded but at the same time we have to willing to take an alternate fork, which usually looks like it has been much less travelled, forging a new way, stumbling over obstacles, no doubt occasionally getting whipped in the face by the overhanging brambles that we didn't see because we were watching our footing and not what was right in front of us.


Would any of us change anything? I think not.  So 2015 bring it on, we are hopefully ready for you and whatever you may bring and if we aren't so ready we will adapt.


Monday, 29 December 2014

A response to those that don't want to understand

As the year comes to a close I have been thinking about all that has happened, much of it has been amazing but occasionally there have been very difficult times and interestingly they haven't been caused by the children. So before I share my final thoughts to 2014 I wanted to share this.

Since we started our adoption journey we have come across those that just don't want to understand why we chose to adopt our fourth child. Fortunately there are not very many of these people yet I have found that they are very vocal and often angry or derogatory about our decision! As if they think that they have to prevent us from making a terrible mistake and that this gives them the right to vent their opinions as they see fit often without any thought as to how their words and actions affect us. So here is my response.

Dear Reader,

In response to your question "why would you want to do that?"

I don't really know, all I know is that we are not done yet, we have space for one more. Please trust us when we say that we know what we are doing. We have been on training after training courses, we have read all manner of books and research and we have had fortnightly one on one sessions with a professional, some one who is trained to check that we are ready and suitable to adopt a child.

We know that we already have three children and they are well rounded and happy, we know that we are asking a lot of them, to take on a sibling that comes from somewhere alien to their background. We have spoken to them, answered the questions they have asked and made sure that they have been in an environment where they are comfortable to discuss their concerns.

We do not take this journey lightly, we have learnt all about the worst case scenarios and know where to go should we need support, knowing that the support for post adoption is under staffed and lacking in finance. We know that there "will be trouble ahead" but we also know that we can handle it and do you know why? No? Well we do, we can handle it because we love him. We love our child 4 despite/in spite of his anger, his throwing and the disturbed nights, we love the cuddles, the laughter, tickles, story time, walks with the dog. We love the baking, dinner times and bath times. We love a house full of noise and chaos it makes us feel alive, part of a family, part of something really special.

You may not understand it or even worry about what we are doing and that is absolutely fine, all we ask is that you accept that we are capable of making our own decisions and we are very aware that we have to live with the consequences of those decisions. Bad advice is bad advice, negative comments are negative comments and constant questioning of our decision is not supportive and a waste of time and energy. It is your fears, your ignorance that make you so angry and frustrated with our choice. We have made our decision and because of it we may be exhausted and at times frustrated yet we are stronger, happier and more fulfilled than we ever were before. Would we change anything? NO NO NO! Why not? Because we fell in love and the changes we make to our lives are fine. Do you want to know why? Because we love him!!

Maybe we are a little mad, not very intelligent, selfish or foolish or maybe we are brave, good people or special, I don't really know and actually I don't really care all I know is that by opening our hearts, our arms and family to our little boy has given us back ten fold what ever we have put in. If you cannot see that or if you don't want to be part of it then sadly you are the ones missing out.


There may be trouble ahead,

But while there's moonlight and music and love and romance,
Let's face the music and dance.

Saturday, 27 December 2014

Medical history

1.45 am Boxing Day morning I call NHS Direct, child 4 is struggling to breathe. After answering the chap at the end of the lines questions, he asks me to hold the phone over child 4's face so that he can hear him. Then he tells me that he has called an ambulance and I need to put on all the lights at the front of the house so that they can see us easily. The paramedics arrive and check him over,  his blood sugars are ok, his temperature is fine (probably because of the calpol we gave him 2 hours ago) but his oxygen stats aren't good, so off they go with Mr L to the hospital - oxygen masks and blue flashing lights I am told later, they waited until they got to the bottom of the road so that I didn't panic as I was left home at 3am with child 1,2 & 3 to wait. 

Our problem as with many other adopted children is lack of medical information. Many adopters will have the red books that are given to children when they are born but that just gives known information, weight at birth, which immunisations they have had etc, it doesn't say that they've had chicken pox or that they are susceptible to chest infections. With the older three, I know their past, I've lived it with them. I know child 1 suffers with her throat, child 2 when little had a nasty chest infection and for years would always have croup when he caught a cold. Child 3 is rarely poorly, so if she has a temperature it means something nasty is on its way, her Achilles heel is stomach cramps caused be stress. But with child 4 I just don't know what to expect, despite him being with us for over a year we still haven't experienced enough to be sure of what effects him and so in the last 6 weeks we have had an ambulance take him to hospital twice. Firstly, he fitted, just febrile Convulsions but having never experienced them I have to say that they terrified me and now a severe chest infection that affected his breathing. Both times he has bounced back although this time it's a slow process and the giving of medication takes 3 of us. Yes I have tried all matters of bribery!!!! Of course even if we had had him from birth these events would have potentially still occurred but I think that we would have picked up early on the need to calpol to reduce or prevent the temperature quicker if we knew that when he was ill his temperature would spike, thus hopefully preventing the fits in the first place.

What we have learned over the last few weeks is to carry the calpol sachets around with us, in case of a high temperature and now we will watch his breathing like a hawk just in case he has a pre disposition to asthma. Never a dull moment here. 

Sunday, 14 December 2014

Gifts

Only 5 days until the end of term, not that I'm counting or anything! I think that December is by far the busiest month of the school year, it's packed full of carol singing, nativity plays, gym shows, Panto and Christmas Parties. Then, all of a sudden it stops, term finishes for the little ones at lunchtime on Friday and the older two at 3pm. There are no more after school activities, no more packed lunches to make and no more baking at 10pm.

Everything almost stops and all that is left is family and close friend events, the ones where you can just be. It doesn't matter if one or all the kids have a meltdown as everyone just takes it all in their stride which is perhaps why they don't.

The Christmas holiday is by far my most favourite, I have since childhood always loved the magic and now as I grow older I appreciate all the preparation, I love the buying and the wrapping of presents, decorating the tree and the house,  the making of mince pies, stir up Sunday and icing the Christmas cake and most of all I love  the fact that the excess of life kinda stops, leaving us with nothing but time to spend with those we love.

Christmas time is about family and close friends, we spend our days meeting up with those we love, eating together, walking the dogs, playing board games or cosying up in front of a roaring fire, eating chocolates and watching a family movie. These are the gifts of Christmas I want to hand down to my children not the gifts that cost money but the gifts that are worth so much more - time, love, laughter, and of course cheating and fighting over Pictionary!!


Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Rituals

I've been watching Dan Hughes over the past couple of weeks and today he was talking about rituals you know bedtime rituals, weekend rituals and holiday rituals. I've been thinking about rituals as the Christmas season is nearly upon us. We already have a few rituals, ones that I had as a child and that I have passed on, others new and evolving as each of our children made their appearances.

My mum has made each child for their first Christmas an advent calendar, which we fill with chocolates and gifts, nothing expensive - key rings, Christmas tissues etc, we attend the Christmas Eve service at our church and after spend a couple of hours at a friends home drinking mulled wine, eating party food and catching up with old friends. When we return home we hang our stockings and leave out a mince pie, a glass of milk and a carrot for Father Christmas and his reindeer. Christmas morning is us all snuggled up in the living room opening presents.

Last year we decided with two other families to arrange a lunch on the Sunday before Christmas, we host as we have the space and I make starter/snacks and the veg for the main meal, another family bring the main course and the other desserts. We pull crackers, play silly games and just have a wonderful time.  We are planning our next one for the 21st.

As child 4 has now been with us for 15 months I have been thinking about new rituals, ones triggered by his needs, so I have wrapped a few books, some old, yet not often read and 4 new ones. I saw the idea on Facebook, 24 books throughout December, finishing of course with The Night Before Christmas on Christmas Eve. I've not gone the whole hog as we have the fantastic calendars but I have wrapped a few for those days when it all becomes too much and we need a moment of quiet time, cuddled up on the sofa to ease away the chaos. And for Christmas Eve I have filled a box with new  pyjamas, a family DVD well the Indiana Jones Trilogy plus the last one and popcorn, I am hoping that this will provide peace for a couple of hours in the afternoon and a reason for the two youngest to happily wear their new onesies to church and onto the party so that they are already for bed on our return.

I don't know if Christmas will be difficult for our youngest, for the time being he seems to take all the  excitement in his stride. This year of course he is old enough to enjoy the excitement, to take part in the carolling, the baking, the house decorating and the meeting of Father Christmas. I guess we should enjoy the good times and worry about the not so good when they happen. After all certainly for us right now it really is a most wonderful time of the year.......


Thursday, 27 November 2014

Dear The Children's Minister

Dear Mr Timpson,

Initially I was going to thank you for your letter but as it was never actually sent to me I am not sure that I was supposed to receive it.  In fact I wonder exactly who the letter was for, maybe you could explain why a letter addressed Dear Adopter was never actually forwarded onto adopters. The cynic in me thinks it was written for those in your party, the adoption departments and the press and as I write this I think I can understand why you didn't write to us individually, that would mean huge numbers of responses from those of us actually living on the frontline of adoption, no doubt asking more questions or pointing out the flaws in the changes to the adoption process.


Recruitment and Matching
I am sure that fast tracking the adoption process for those who have already adopted will be of a huge benefit, but, I am truly concerned about the speeding up of the adoption process, meaning that potential adopters can be approved within 6 months. It takes 9 months for a baby to develop in the womb before they are born, giving their parents that 9 months to prepare themselves for a complete change to their lives. Inevitably those parents will be supported by family and friends many who can share support through their own experience yet in adoption you want parents to be ready to take on a child that will have been traumatised within 6 months and as there is no support or training provided by the adoption services for their families and social groups to help adapt to this huge change they can be of no "real" support - I have found that unless you are actually living it you really can't understand it. Many of our children need so much more than a loving and stable home. I have found that at best I have to be constantly pro-active in ensuring support for my son and know that at worst adopters have to fight for what their children need.



The statistics of adoption breakdowns from 2000 to 2011 show to be anywhere between 3% and 25% depending on what you read! but most studies show that the breakdowns tend to happen during the teenage years, what will those figures be between 2018 and 2028 when the 5000 children who have just been adopted reach their teenage years. Without a strong enough foundation of knowledge and expectation for potential adopters and if the right support is not in place once  children have been adopted I fear for the difficulties that could affect many families, leading to the heartbreak of a breakdown.

Adoption Support, Education and Health.
Wonderful, more support is to be put in place, the pupil premium to help support our children in school, free nursery places and access to therapeutic services, although we adopters are saving the government a small fortune not only on foster care, which costs them anywhere between £116 and £750 per child per week depending on the circumstances (that's in excess of £29 million based on £116 for the £5000 children adopted) but also on additional costs that these children could potentially create as they grow up, 40% of the under 21s on prison were in care as children.
http://www.thewhocarestrust.org.uk/pages/the-statistics.html

Please, please do not just throw money at this situation, what we need is for you to ask not only us as the adopters but also the adoptees what is it that they need and want. For me just as a start I want all staff in schools to have to take part in therapeutic training so that they understand how to handle our children, I want access to CAHMS to be immediate when required and for the families that need it to be able to have the support as often as necessary and I want as much post adoption training and support that I can get but to do it, it needs to be when my husband or parents can do the childcare so a week long course doesn't work, maybe one day a week or a Saturday, we have to think outside the box.

We must share the trauma of adoption as much as the joy so that society understands why our children have different needs and don't isolate or exclude us or them.

So Mr Timpson you have the power in your hands to actually make a difference, please interact with us not via a foolish letter but face to face find out what we need and spend the £19 million wisely.

Yours Sincerely

An Adopter

Here is the link to the Children's Minister Mr Timpson's Letter

http://www.adoptionmattersnw.org/2014/11/childrens-minister-edward-timpson-writes-an-open-letter-to-adopters/#









Saturday, 22 November 2014

Letters along the way

Birth parents and step siblings letters arrived this week. And for the first time I felt something new, something primal. The birth parents letters were for the first time articulate and told the story of how they were making progress, finding and keeping jobs building a life, all be it one with out their son.  When their previous letters arrived they were disjointed, short and for the some part full of rage and grief, selfishly I preferred this it gave me the higher ground, the morality that our child 4 needed to be removed from their care or lack of it and placed with us. It eased the guilt I will always feel.  It was a new and some what frightening experience to read a letter that made me question what child 4 would think when he read those letters at an age that he could understand them..

I don't know if it's just that I have fallen more in love with child 4 or that I am just seeing a new crossroads ahead but I was scared, angry and worried. Questions scurried around in my head "why was I taken away?"  "They sound nice" what would my life have been like if I stayed with them?"

I guess my feelings and thoughts are natural, I only want what is best for my children, I want them to be happy and loved and why wouldn't I worry about how child 4 is going to deal with his history and his future.  How am I going to know what questions he is going to ask and how am I going to answer them. I guess honesty, integrity and love is the way to go. He has to be the centre, my fears and feelings may have to sit on the back burner or be shared in a G&T boardroom meeting.




The road we walk is long, with bends, crossroads and uneven surfaces yet if we traverse it holding hands and sharing our experiences then we can negotiate whatever life throws at us together.


Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Which superhero?

Children in Need is nearly here and with it goes dressing up in school day. Fortunately or not child 3 has already completed her dressing up day today as a WW1 land girl to celebrate/commiserate 100 years since WW1. The whole school joined in, there were nurses, fighter pilots even one in his own cardboard box plane, a cardboard box tank, a trench rat, evacuees and many many more. The children could invite grandparents and aunts and uncles anyone who was alive during WW2. Of course they joined in, in their droves and took part in activities, making poppies, trenches out of lollipop sticks and clay, ID cards and writing poems. The day climaxed with the singing of those old war time favourites. "Keep the Home Fires Burning" "Pack up your troubles" and "It's a Long Way to Tipperary"

  Celebrating peace is always a good thing  but if we consider that only 11 out of 161 countries on the planet are not involved in some form of conflict at the moment I am not sure we have much to celebrate but I guess that's for another blog! 
http://www.visionofhumanity.org/#page/indexes/global-peace-index/2014


Back to dressing up, child 4 has just found the joys of the dressing up box and at the weekend he and his sister child 3 played for an hour dressing up as all sorts of super heroes, a shield on the back created a tortoise and scarves wound around the body became beautiful dresses befitting only a princess. Then they screamed and hurled themselves up and down the hallway with one arm reaching up to the sky "whoosh super B...... to the rescue".

Child 4 has to dress up as his favourite superhero on Friday along with £1 to donate to Children In Need. Have you ever noticed how many of our most well known superheroes were adopted?

http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Category:Superheroes_who_are_adopted

Superman, Spider-Man, Bat Girl, Hell Boy, Robin, Iron Man, Wolverine to name a few and so I have made child 4 his own special cape. A bright red piece of fleece decorated with a B and some stars, all because he is my little superhero and I really, really want him to understand that everyone no matter who they are or where they come from has the chance to be special maybe not flying through the air or swarming up a building special just special because of who they actually are. This is child 4's favourite song in pre school at the moment..... I hope he keeps the words close to his heart because he like his siblings are really special, well at least to me.

I am Special
(to the tune of "Frere Jacques")

I am special,

I am special,
Look at me,
You will see,
Someone very special,
Someone very special,
It is me,
It is me.









Saturday, 8 November 2014

Siblings

I have spent this week considering siblings, as that was the highlight of this years National Adoption Week. We didn't adopt siblings so I wondered if my thoughts could be included, then decided that of course they can, just because we haven't adopted all our children doesn't change how adoption has affected each and every member of our family.  Child 4 joined our noisy, rambunctious and happy household a year ago and we now have 2 girls of 15 and 8 and 2 boys of 13 and 3. Our home is now noisier, more chaotic and for the most part full of laughter, love and happiness. I am so, so very proud of our older three children they have followed us down the adoption journey road, even occasionally overtaking us at surprising moments to lead the way with a wisdom that belies their years. They have questioned and discussed our decisions, sharing their worries and moments of joy along the way with an honesty that is sometimes a little scary. Before child 4 joined us I set up support networks for everyone, I spoke to schools, friendship groups, trusted friends and supportive family members ensuring that when difficult times arise all four children could have time, support and anything necessary to their well being.

Some people forget that our child 4 has been adopted as he is so much part of the family and that is an amazing gift, however when times are difficult, which can be a lot of the time, he is the one that demands so much of our time and this can be detrimental to his older siblings. It is so different to have adopted, had I given birth to another baby there would have been the 9 months preparation then when the baby arrives they sleep a lot, they don't climb the walls or stair gates, they don't throw cutlery, books or trains, they don't hit, pull hair or bite and actually they are quite boring. We by-passed all that and went straight into manic toddler mode and so of course there is a knock on effect.

I picked up early on that child 3 was struggling, I guess that I was expecting it, after all she had been the baby for 8 years,so  her nose was understandably very bent out of joint, but actually she is thriving in school and our love bombing moments have definitely helped to keep our relationship strong. It's child 2 that seems to have slipped through the net. Maybe because he has just hit his teenage years,  maybe because he hasn't found his place yet, he isn't as secure in himself as the other children are, so I am left trying to manage what could be a sorry state of affairs instead of pre-empting an issue. Hopefully because I have laid the groundwork for asking for help, that help will be quick and forthcoming and we will be able to resolve his issues quickly and sensitively.

I could beat myself up for missing his worries and no doubt I will, but right now there is much work to be done repairing any damage that may have been done. At least he knows as I do that his foundations are strong and full of love.

Despite these hiccups along the way, adopting has been an amazing experience for us all, I cannot see anything that would change my mind on that, life is full of ups and downs regardless but adding another through adoption has truly shown us the power of love, resilience and laughter, lots and lots of laughter. And those things far outweigh the tears, tantrums and traumas.


Tuesday, 4 November 2014

National Adoption Week

Last night I came home from a discussion group that I attend about once a month. It was around 10.30pm and the house was quiet and peaceful. I shrugged off my coat, patted the dogs head and put the kettle on. My husband who was in the bath quietly called out and as I walked over to see what he wanted I was greeted by a bleary eyed child 4 with two storybooks tucked under his arm. I swept him up into my arms and carried him back to bed.
"Your bed mummy?" he murmured
"No sweetheart, I'm not in bed yet" I whispered back. I tucked him back into his bed and he held out his arms "pease stay". How could I refuse, crawling onto the bed next to him we lay nose to nose, his arms wrapped around my neck his hands entwined with my hair and I watched as his eyelids became heavy, his breathing evened out and deepened and then his arms became heavier and heavier. " I really love you mummy" he murmured

That's why adoption is so important to me.................


http://www.nationaladoptionweek.org.uk

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

A side trip to Waterstones

Last week after visiting the bank to open up child 4 a bank account he escaped my hand and disappeared into Waterstones, after those terrifying moments that any parent has because their child has gone missing - you know the fast shallow breathing, the palpitations in your heart, your eyes darting left, right, up, down, all around, the sweat gathering in your hair line and then all the creases of your body. I noticed that a narrow white wooden door between two bookshelves was open just a jar, nervously, praying quietly I opened it and there he was, grinning from ear to ear hiding at the back of the bloody window display!!! Once he was out and I had him in a much firmer grip I attempted to lift him into the buggy, admonishing him quite quietly because the store was busy, he then did the stiff as a board routine - those of you who have ever attempted to place a ralicrient child into a buggy, car seat or high chair will recognise this defence mechanism, there is no way to force their stiff bodies into a sitting position and strap them in, even with your knee in their chest! So we spent the next 15 minutes of him on the floor between my feet screaming that he was not going to get into his buggy and that I was a meanie whilst I pretended that he wasn't anything to do with me.

It took 15 minutes or 900 seconds before he decided to take charge and climb in the buggy himself, as if nothing had happened - it was a very long 900 seconds I can tell you............




Sunday, 19 October 2014

Anger management

Many adopted children struggle with anger, can you blame them they do not know stability,  supportive parents or unconditional love. Our child 4 struggles with anger, I have been reading Margot Sunderlands  The Science of Parenting and about the two types of tantrums children have, the distressed type of tantrum and the Little Nero type. Our little mans tend to be the distressed type and I am not sure if that is easier or not.

We have decided to try and pre-empt issues for the future so have asked his nursery for support. We now have a SenCo (special educational needs co-ordinator) coming in next month to assess him and then we along with the staff will put a plan in place to support him. The nursery staff are trying to see if they can find the triggers for his rages, so that they can help avoid them. At home we have systems in place for the times he loses his temper. At home he tends to be prone to tantrums when he is tired or hungry and he is often angrier when one of his siblings won't play with him. He reacts with violence I guess, hair pulling, biting, pinching and punching. He chases after them not willing to just let it go, he wants a fight and that makes it difficult. I have learnt to keep a close watch, close supervision of him after 4.30pm when they are all home. I try to use distraction where I can but sometimes I have to use the buggy. The buggy is my containment strategy when things are at there worst, he can be secured but still with me whilst I finish off dinner. It's not my preferred strategy but sometimes necessary. Bubbles and play doh are much better.

It's not all bad, most of the time life just ticks along. We are a family and dealing with all the issues that family life brings. Most days are good even fantastic but sometimes I watch our child 4 and I see the damage his early beginnings have done and I hope that we can give him what he needs to recover. But I guess all I can do is ensure we take all the support we are offered or that we can ask for and just enjoy a day at a time.........


Thursday, 9 October 2014

Dance in the rain and jump in puddles

Yesterday was our first sign of winter on its way, it was dark in the morning and even as it began to get light, the light was muted and drab and the rain hammered on the roof.

When we got to school to drop child 3 off, the sun broke through warming us. As the children filed into school they all gasped, calling out and pointing behind where we stood, as we turned we saw the  sky lit up with a beautiful rainbow.  A rainbow soon to disappear as the sun looked as if she were to stay.

At school pick up the rain once again made an appearance, starting slow but steadily becoming heavier and heavier. The little ones awaiting the older siblings including our child 4 ran out into the rain, standing with their tongues out or mouths open wide catching the raindrops. As more rain fell puddles began to appear, much to the children's delight and they all rushed off jumping and splashing in them, oblivious to how wet they were getting.



I stood wondering, when did we lose the joy the little ones exhibited so exuberantly. When did we stop catching the raindrops on our tongues, gasping in delight at the sight of a rainbow or just enjoying the moment of jumping in puddles? Whenever it was we should perhaps wipe a tear.


Sunday, 5 October 2014

I'm so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers

"I'm so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers." Anne of Green Gables

I've pretty much given up indoor activities for now, child 4 just wants to be outside. Every morning when his Dad puts the dog on his lead ready to take him out for his early walk, he collects his wellies and two tennis balls and stands expectantly by the front door. On the occasional wet day that Dad tries to sneak out without him tears and tantrums are sure to follow. I love this 20 minutes of peace, where I can sort the older 3 out, readying them for their school day - ensuring that child 1 actually eats some breakfast (teenage girls), child 2 has done his teeth not just looked at the toothbrush and child 3 is getting dressed not playing on her ipod.

We tend to walk child 3 to school, well I walk,the two youngest children scooter down and if child 4 isn't going to nursery we head back home for a drink, a spot of cake making and a quick tidy, hoover or hanging the washing on the line and then it is out again, we head out to the farm to visit the cows, the sheep, the horses and the tractors. It's fantastic up there at the moment there are two calves waiting to say hello in the barn and the tractors are always busy doing something, cutting back the hedgerows, harvesting some corn or preparing the fields for next years planting. The lane that takes us through the farm is edged with blackberry bushes laden with succulent berries waiting to be picked, if I remember a box we bring them home to make an apple and blackberry pie. The fields are so English, a patchwork of green that dips and lifts as far as the eye can see. Sometimes we head up in to the woods, exploring the undergrowth, hunting for monsters, owls and deer. More blackberries tempt us as do the occasional late wild raspberries. Weird and wonderful mushrooms encourage the hunt for fairies and other magical creatures. Of course there is the Secret Garden, a magical place that seems as if only we are the visitors. I let child 4 lead the way, he loves finding secret paths and steps that lead to adventures involving the climbing of trees, the wondering a of what animal lives in which hole, badgers, rabbits, foxes and moles are all present and the collecting of conkers and pine cones. I seem to always have a nature treasure or two in my pockets.

We rarely see other people, occasionally the farmer or a dog walker but that is it. It's just the two of us. Sometimes we wander quietly and we listen to the breeze whispering through the branches of trees whose leaves are now few and the ones left are hues of red, gold and amber. The leaves crunch under our feet reminding us to kick and jump in them.  Birds chatter incessantly above, occasionally we will hear the cry of a peregrine falcon or buzzard. If we are really quiet we can hear the crickets chirruping in the long grasses.

October is such a magical time, the end of summer a lead up to winter and the end of another year. Soon we will be lighting the fire, hunting out winter coats, scarves and gloves and thinking about Christmas. Just now though we only need our wellies and occasionally a sweater, the sun is still warm through the middle of the day and as the leaves change, and nature readies herself for the cold months to come we have so much to explore and there is nothing better than revisiting some of my favourite places through the eyes of a three year old.


Tuesday, 23 September 2014

A first but third birthday

Child 4 celebrated his third birthday recently, I don't know if you remember but the first time he met his new siblings was on his second birthday, so for us his birthday was always going to hold special meaning. We started the day with presents, something we kept low key last year as we didn't want him to associate presents and cakes with change. In reality a three year old doesn't need much especially one who has three siblings worth of toys stashed in the attic. Of course our farm loving little man needed a farm, his fantastic throwing arm loved the beanbags and the bubble monster chortled when he opened the bubble machine then there were the books, the cars, the real football and goal net and the tractor and trailer from friends, family and god parents.

After a breakfast of chocolate brioche, well it was a birthday, we let off the blue balloon just like his birth mum hopefully would. It was a beautiful September morning, the kind of end of Summer, beginning of Autumn morning that you read about in a book or a poem, we all piled into the garden high on our hill surrounded by a sea of mist which gradually disperses as the sun warms up, and eventually child 4 let go of his balloon and we watch it float above the laden apple tree, past the roofs of the neighbouring homes and then up heading for the clouds. Next year I will remember to buy two, one to let off and the other to keep.

Then off to mass, where the whole community wished him a happy birthday, home for a speedy lunch before the farm themed birthday party began. We filled the garden with farm style activities, a dozen bright pink balloons adorned with pig faces needing catching and returning to their "dog crate", the bean bag sheep needing to be herded into a hoop, treasure hidden in the bucket of corn, hunting for the chicken's missing kinder eggs and the planting of daffodils into pots to take home to get nurtured until spring. Then a party tea of pigs in blankets, cheese savouries masquerading as chicken feed, vegetable sticks planted in houmous, animal decorated cup cakes and the piece de resistance a pigs in mud birthday cake.

Once his little friends had headed home the after party began with the popping of fizz bottles not just a birthday celebration but an anniversary celebration, it's almost a year since we became a family of six. Would I change anything? Absolutely not!


Friday, 12 September 2014

Grieving but not for a bereavement

Woman's Hour this week had a discussion about fostering and the splitting up of sibling groups. Action for Children a charity that has being running for 145 years, supporting vulnerable and neglected children and young people in the UK had been invited in to discuss the findings from some research they collated in August 2014.

Taken from a Freedom of Information request by Action for Children to all local authorities in the UK between April 2013 and March 2014. The request, completed on Friday 15 August 2014, discovered that 11082 children from sibling groups were placed in local authority foster care and 3598 children had been separated from their siblings. (That's 36%) The response rate was 89%.


We first came across Action for children at one of our first adoption training sessions when a lovely lady who worked for them came in to discuss the importance of keeping up some form of contact with birth parents, the second time was when we met child 4's birth parents, the same lady joined them to support them through the meeting, helping them to ask and answer questions we had and to encourage them to accept that we were going to be child 4's parents.

Whilst I listened to the discussion, I was surprised, yet not, that so many children were split from their siblings, after all it is so very hard to find foster carers that can take on more than one child. It seems that children whom are removed by social services are expected to "just get on with it" yes there is counselling available via CAMHS, child and adolescent mental health services, within adoption there is the post adoption team  and for foster carers there is social services. All of this support though is over stretched,  understaffed and financially constantly short of money.  Children in foster care aren't in an environment where they are unconditionally loved as they would be by a loving family. They have their needs taken care of and they are no doubt loved, but I suspect that as a foster carer you have to hold back the emotional ties because the children you take care of are returned or moved on and to truly fall in love with your charge would lead to devastation when they left. Sometimes I think that we forget the grief those children must feel and that grief surely must be similar to that of children who lose a parent in an accident or through disease.

Not only do we remove children from their parents because they are not being cared for but then we split them up from their siblings, those children grieve for the loss of their parents and the loss of their brothers and sisters. They don't understand that it's for their own good or that they cannot be found a home with their brothers and sister because those homes just don't exist.

The system as it is seems to let down the children it is trying to save, but I don't have an alternative idea do you?

Sunday, 7 September 2014

Borneo

Child 1 came home a couple of weeks before the summer holidays to announce that she was going off to Borneo and that she was going to raise the £3400 needed to go.

So we parents dutifully attended the meeting at school ran by an outside agency that run expeditions to amazing places all over the world. They along with the children plan the trip of a lifetime, a three week trip to a far off, completely alien environment where the children get themselves involved in conservation or community projects, where they have the opportunity to explore the natural habitat and where they have the chance to lead their teams.

If I was 15/16 I would jump at the chance to travel to Borneo, our girl is hoping to work in an orang-u-tan sanctuary, to traverse the rainforest of Sarawak and climb Mount Kinabola but to do so she is ironing, cleaning and babysitting and her little group of friends are bag packing in the supermarkets and organising community events, so far they have held a cream tea, a cake stall and have a Halloween Fayre, more cake stalls and a black tie dinner event planned.

So far she is on track to hit her first payment and she is really, really working hard fundraising. But, it's not just been about the money, she has also found the community aspect fulfilling. The cream tea event was amazing, the world war 2 theme encouraged the older population of our parish to all come along and a great time was had by all, in fact we are thinking of an old fashioned 1950s style luncheon event for early next year, and not just to raise money the opportunity to encourage the multitude of generations to come together and to spend time together is probably more important than the fund raising and I am really pleased to say that our teenage girl got that.

I know that she will raise all the money she needs for this, hopefully first of a lifetime trip but along the way she is learning the value of people, money and time. She is showing a work ethic that is full of positivity and just as importantly she is spending time with people from different generations, different walks of life and different cultures and she is loving every minute of it.


 One very proud mum.


Sunday, 31 August 2014

A tough week.

To be expected I guess, but our return from holiday has opened a can of tantrumy worms for our youngest child. He has remembered how to throw, he has started biting, particularly child 2 and 3's bums - it's not funny he has left teeth marks! He has learnt to open all the stair gates except one, not that that has stopped him, he just wheels his buggy over and uses it as a ladder to climb over the gate.
He also refuses to go to bed and as he is now in a bed he can just climb out and make an escape.

What to do, we cannot shut him away in his room, shouting has no effect except to make things worse. He almost seems to enjoy the reaction he gets when he hurts someone.

I know from all the reading that I have done that this is all "normal" behaviour for many children in care but it doesn't mean that it is acceptable. I also know that much of what he is doing is "normal" toddler behaviour but it is just so excessive, everything is bigger, louder and harder.

We have to be able to adapt how we deal with him almost continuously. Constant supervision,well as  constant as possible, (I still have to feed everyone, do the washing and keep the bathrooms and kitchen clean enough to stop us from becoming ill) helps tremendously as I can pre-empt much of the physical stuff. Keeping him busy, involved and actively engaged is probably the best thing, although by the end of the day this can be exhausting and although I am desperate for adult company, motivating myself to find some is way down on my list of priorities plus the fact that he currently fights his bedtime routine means that it is too late to do anything by the time he has exhausted himself and fallen asleep.

It's back to school next week, which means a natural rhythm of routine builds and this will probably help. I think our child 4 needs routine and strong boundaries, of course routines have gone out of the window during the holidays and six weeks is a long time for a 2 year old. And a 44 year old!!

Being away means that at least I have returned home relaxed, calm and no longer exhausted, I hadn't realised how tired I must have been until we returned, I was working on auto pilot which isn't good enough when you have to be constantly pro-active and ready to anticipate what could happen next.

I sit here this morning with my morning cup of tea, off loading a little of my worries and fears and a call from the bathroom. Child 4 has used the potty! A celebration, cheers and claps from everyone. A little laughter and something normal helps to keep the worries away.



Wednesday, 27 August 2014

No Matter What

Whilst away I read Sally Donovan's No Matter What, her story so far of adoption. It's a story of grief rage, perseverance, love and hope. For me it was really good to be able to read so of what is happening in our family, to normalize some of my feelings. The two children that Sally adopted have been so much more damaged than our child 4, especially her eldest and she has been unable to keep up any letterbox contact with her children's birth parents because of this and the way the mum was writing her letters. Our circumstances are very different, yet in so many ways the same.

I found it odd, there was me stretched out on a sun bed, enjoying the Spanish sun, the children were splashing in the pool, the heavily heated air was punctuated with screams and laughter and I am reading about neglect, attachment disorder and so much sorrow. Although the book finishes on a happy note, the story is no where near complete and checking out Sally's blog shows that adoption is a lifelong promise, just like that of having children, but adopted children come with so many additional needs. I am sure I was a little pensive, thoughtful after reading it, I needed time to take on board the feelings it had triggered. The best bit, I realised was the fact that it validated, corroborated how I felt. When people say to me that child 4's behaviour is just normal toddler behaviour, they are in a way right, after all he is a toddler, however often these behaviours are bigger and angrier, they are exacerbated by his history and the way we deal with them has to always be through love, calm and acceptance. Therapeutic parenting is the way we work, and therapeutic parenting is what we teach all those who have any impact on our families life. Not that we always get it right, of course we get cross, frustrated and upset and that is when I go to bed saying tomorrow is a new day, let's start again.

One of the others read it and she found it fascinating, infuriating and made her ask so many questions, I think everyone who knows us should read it, all educators and all those involved in child care of any form should read it. In fact anyone who is considering adoption or knows someone who is should read it. It will open your eyes and your hearts it will provide you with the empathy to try and support these children and their families.


http://www.sallydonovan.net/2013/07/18/no-matter-what-from-diary-to-published-book/


Thursday, 21 August 2014

Lost

Travelling in a foreign country often means getting a little bit lost, or in our case quite a lot lost. Last time we were here it took us an hour to find our way out of Malaga airport and find the right road to the villa. Part of the problem is not being able to speak any Spanish then there is driving a different car on the other side of the road and not understanding how the road system works.

This time we flew out on the Friday night, we booked to stay into the Holiday inn overnight as we couldn't move into our villa until Saturday afternoon. Flying out a night earlier saved us nearly £1000 on our flights (there's a discussion for another day). As a party we flew together but of course had all hired cars from different car hire places, dependant on the type of car required. This meant that we would travel separately to the hotel. The Holiday Inn was chosen because of its proximity to the airport and when you looked on the map it looked very easy to find - 7 minutes from the airport. Yeah right!! After thirty minutes of driving I found the sat nav that was built into the car yippee, although we couldn't find the audio part we had to rely on my navigation of a sat nav system, we don't have one at home. Eventually, we pulled up on what looked like a piece of wasteland where the sat nav said that we had arrived at our destination - we had the Inn signage was not very good. We were not the only group in our party to have such difficulty.

I hate being lost, I find it stressful and scary, it's even worse when you are in foreign lands and you have little idea of the direction you need to travel. My husband doesn't handle it well either, which means that our journeys can be uncomfortable, sometimes filled with raised voices and vibes of anxiety. Not good for the children. One of the friends we are with told me that they never get lost they just take a wrong turn, turnaround and head back to where they came from to find the right road. I tried this when we accidentally took a turn to early on our way back from the Mercadona supermarket shop at the beginning of our holiday and ended up high in the olive trees. The children were concerned that we were lost and child 2 and 3 in particular became nervous and agitated ( we,their parents have to take responsibility for teaching them that.)  so instead of saying that we were lost we stopped and looked out behind us to see the view. It was amazing!  After looking our fill we turned around headed back to the junction and found our way back to the old mill that was to be our home for the next two weeks.


I have taken this to my heart, how we as parents react to difficult situations is what our children learn from. I want my children to strike out on their own, to explore their world and that means that occasionally they will lose their way. I want them to sometimes stop look back and enjoy the view, the moment, to make a memory and I want them to know that they can come back to where they have started from and try again.



Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Peace and war

Yesterday we had a long morning out, morning and lunch with NO children. One of the other couples we are holidaying with took us out to Alahambra. A beautiful Moorish palace that was taken over by Christianity and was the home to Charles V and his wife Isabella of Portugal. We wandered through the beautiful rooms and gardens, walking barefoot over cool marble, running fingers over the tiles that have been there for over 500 years. We gazed upon the intricate stucco-to arches that separate the rooms and wondered how the water that runs throughout is pumped up to then run back through. As the heat increased we followed the exit signs through the now modernised gardens to the Paradour hotel that was once a convent for lunch. We sat upon the shaded terrace with olives and ice cold water and beer and ate salad, pastille and loin of pork in the company of good friends. Not once did I hear the word mummy, I sat through the whole of my meal not having to pour any drinks but my own, not having to cut a meal up or take someone to the loo. Peace, civility and conversation.

We returned back to the villa, mid afternoon, to be told that the children had been really good company and no trouble at all.

Until this morning. Child 4 had a terrible night, instead of the waking and asking to come into our bed, we had crying and disturbed dreams, when he awoke this morning he was, well just angry. Particularly with me. When his daddy suggested a walk! he clung to me saying he didn't want to go but when his Dad a headed off to climb one of the olive tree laden hills he screamed for him, wailing that his daddy was lost.  He tantrumed angrily about anything and everything, his breakfast, his siblings, the DVD player, he became aggressive almost violent towards me, in fact his dad said he could hear him from the top of the hill he climbed.

His whole body language, facial expressions and mannerisms were full of rage all because we had left him with his siblings and some friends for 8 hours,

Emotional frailty, that has been me today.  Following the morning outburst I have felt on the back foot, this is the first time in public that he has behaved like this, I know exactly why he is angry it's because he doesn't feel safe, he was scared of being left behind. But that doesn't help when he is kicking off and you know that despite the support your friends offer, they quite probably don't get it. And even if they do you are scared they don't and you don't know how to explain or even share how you feel I'm case they offer platitudes such as oh it's normal terrible twos.


"Compared with many families, the future will be different for us. We will potentially always need support from experts in the adoption field, we will never be able to stand back from school, we will always be battling the misconception that children are robust and bounce back and what they can't remember won't affect them. We are always going to have to do that little bit extra." Sally Donovan

Friday, 15 August 2014

A little bit of letting go.

"For goodness sake, leave him with me, he will be fine and he has to learn that when you go, you always come back." Words of wisdom from my little sister. I avoid leaving child 4 with anyone except at nursery, not because I don't trust people but because I know that he is hard work and in truth I don't want him to worry. He does need to be with us but my sister is right he also has to learn that people come back, people keep their promises, people can love and be loved. He needs to experience what child 1,2 & 3 have all experienced, they know I will come home, they know that I will always be there to help them and they know that the love I have is unconditional as that is all they have ever experienced.

This holiday has really helped me with the letting go, just a little bit. I no longer hover or keep him close. Child 4 has the freedom to explore within the confines of our mill. He spends time with everyone chatting, investigating, especially the eating habits of ants - they are fascinating all the crumbs we drop tempt them out from their homes where they gather together to take their exciting, delicious finds home, child 4 has been so fascinated that yesterday he intentionally emptied the last crumbs from a crisp packet over the golf so he could watch what they did. Sorry got a bit sidetracked. Everyone here is so patient with him and obviously enjoy his company.  I have never been precious with my children, I have always understood and accepted that often someone else can help them achieve a success in something purely because they are not their parent, however with child 4 I have found this a little harder,  perhaps because he is still so new, one mum from the playground was very insightful, when I turned down her offer to have child 4 over to give me a break. She just laughed and said, well I guess I wouldn't let my six month old baby out of my sight.

Interestingly though I was surprised that when one of the other mums gradually introduced child 4 to the fun of the pool, he had refused to go in with me, there was no jealousy or concerns on my part, I was able to sit and watch him gradually become more confidant in the water, just a feeling of pride of watching my youngest son overcoming his fear and finding joy and laughter in this new experience. An experience of trust for both him and me.

It is so important for us parents to let our children go, they have to find their own way which means trying new things which inevitably means not necessarily achieving the desired results first time, just like learning to swim, which starts with paddling then using floats and armbands to striking out on your own. We cannot swim for them we can just teach them how to and if we can't we must find someone else who can. By letting them make their own choices, helping them to be brave enough to try, allowing them to make mistakes then helping them work out how to resolve those mistakes is the way we help them become the adults they can be. Child 4 and I are learning to let go a step at a time.



Monday, 11 August 2014

Me too

Child 4 struggles with changes to his routine, he likes to know that something's just stay them same. So when ever we have gone away he is an absolute nightmare at bedtimes. The first time I took the children away was for my nephews first holy communion in London. We stayed in a Travel Lodge and after a pizza dinner returned back to retire to our beds. Child 4 took a couple of hours to settle and then woke numerous times during the night, just to check, I think that we were still there. Then when we were in Devon last week he was just as bad at the bed and breakfast. The hardest part is the fact that we have family rooms so of course everyone has to stay awake listening to the yelling and crying or have their baby brother climbing from his travel cot and jumping on their beds like a little noisy "goblin"

He has never really liked going to bed and I have created my own version of the controlled crying that many parents use. As child 4 is adopted I avoid controlled crying, naughty steps and such like. The advice is to never make an adopted child feel any form of rejection, after all they have been rejected enough. However, all children need to learn that bedtime is bedtime and that some behaviours are unacceptable. I use the buggy as our version of the naughty step, sometimes child 4 has to be contained, and the buggy means that he can be contained but also stay with me. Bedtime is a little harder, I won't leave him to cry but once he is in bed I never get him out, I go in when he calls or cries, I cuddle him and talk quietly or read him a story but once he is in bed, he's in bed.
(It does make me laugh, you read all this stuff that says little ones stop a behaviour with two to three weeks if you are consistent, we are eleven months in and bedtime is still tough!!! Despite being consistent.)

Child 4 has never known real stability, he has always been moved on from one family environment to another and this is what I think causes him to behave this way, after all he can't tell us if he is scared that he is being sent some where else and he doesn't understand that he is now ours - forever. This unfortunately does not mean that it's is easier to deal with his behaviour, bedtimes for me are always the hardest part of parenting because by this time I am tired and frazzled.

I have been a little apprehensive about our Spain trip. We along with two other families have rented a beautiful old olive mill out in Spain, it's situated in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by dusty hills covered in lines of dark green olive trees. The mill is made up of 4 apartments, a huge shared kitchen, a barbecue courtyard, a dining area, playroom and of course a pool. The teenage contingent have taken over the pad at the far side of our complex, with the rest of us around the pool. Obviously I have been concerned, firstly because we are the only ones with a very little one, everyone else's children are 14 and over, little ones are usually very noisy!! Secondly because of  his not going to bed. On Friday, I was working before we headed off to the airport and child 4 spent the afternoon checking with his daddy that he was coming too. He was really worried that he would be left behind, no doubt because he was always sent to respite foster care when his foster families went on holiday. I understand the need for foster families to have some quality time with their own children but for the foster child that is a tough environment to grow in.

In reality it has so far been fantastic, we have thrown away the routine, letting child 4 sleep when he needs too. So he has napped late in the afternoon and bedtime has been later, he still doesn't want to go to bed but his reactions are not so excessive, with there being so many people around he has permanent entertainment , there is always someone to play with him, hold him or feed him. We have had no major tantrums, not much throwing and very little hitting. Perhaps this holiday will help him believe that he is ours forever.



Five find a treasure island

We met up with my sister, my parents and aunt down in North Devon this week. Which meant we were definitely in for an adventure.

My sister had rented a cottage that was just a stones throw away from the river so after lunch I walked all the children the two, very long miles down to Watersmeet for a cream tea.  I love the river  it's just packed full of exciting exploring for children to do, the older ones climb the rocks trying to follow the river by rock hopping rather than following the path where as child 4 is happy to collect sticks and rocks to throw into the water. The weather held out for us, the sun streaming through the canopy of branches, dancing across the water making it glitter and shine.

About halfway into our walk we came across an island sitting in the middle of a large pool, the river eased off from its white waters and became still and inviting. Irresistible to the children who launched themselves into the water to swim to the island, where games of survival and treasure hunting were played.

Fascinating to watch even the older teenagers taking part, forgetting briefly about being cool to just enjoy being young.




Thursday, 7 August 2014

And out of the egg popped a tiny but very hungry caterpillar

I love sunny days and picnics, I love climbing trees, paddling in a stream and rolling down hills. I love picnics with food and children sprawled over picnic blankets, I love it when the sun plays peek a boo with white fluffy clouds or sends its warm tendrils through the leaves of tall trees to where we lie and sit in the dappled shade of its branches. This summer is definitely a memory making one. We have had sunny day after sunny day, picnic after picnic. We have met up with friends, where the older children have played man hunt and the younger ones have hidden themselves in the leafy branches of the trees that cascade to the ground. An impromptu game of rounders using child 4's foam pink football and an empty juice bottle even had me running around the trees screaming with joy when I beat the fielders back to home.

We have watched dragonflies swoop and swirl in the heat, snails enjoy a slither in the early morning dew, spiders spinning their amazing webs and of course caterpillars of all shapes, sizes and colours. On Wednesday we played and picnicked and then visited a crafty spot for children where they made caterpillars out of milk bottle lids and pipe cleaners, Spiders from egg boxes and pipe cleaners and bouncy frogs out of concertina'd paper.  All the children have come out for the picnics, building sibling relationships out of the bickering, arguing, games and laughter. I am positive that when they are grown and they tell their children of what they did in the summer holidays they will remember these heady days of old fashioned sun and fun

Wednesday, 30 July 2014

What is an education

The other evening when driving home from work there was a report about a school in Somerset, Brymore School, the department of education has decided that the Btech in national diplomas taken in the subjects of horticulture and agriculture are not as difficult as "academic" GCSEs and therefore cannot be included in the results.  Please listen or read the report from The Guardian - fascinating.

http://www.theguardian.com/education/2014/jul/01/farm-schools-fear-for-exam-crop-gcse-changes


To me education means learning and teaching, not just learning about specific subject matter. We are all different and have different interests, life would be pretty boring if we were all the same. For the Department of Education to just determine subject matter in this way, to me seems fool hardy. Bankers and city workers may well have the potential to earn huge suns of money in the city but, we as a society need to eat, so surely agriculture and horticulture should be just as important.

Many children do not have the desire to sit at a table and learn they want to be outside exploring, learning through play and experience, in fact if you listen to Sir Ken Robinson on his TED talks you will be aware that many industries are struggling because they cannot find people with new ideas. He thinks that our education system stifles this creativity.

http://www.ted.com/talks/ken_robinson_how_to_escape_education_s_death_valley

I worry about the changes coming in, child 4 will be tested as he enters school in 2016 so that his progress can be measured by the time he reaches year 6, initially parents were going to be informed as to how their child performed, but due to widespread opposition this has fortunately been dropped. I think that during the first three years of school life our children should be given the opportunity to learn at their own pace through play and exploration not to be expected to sit, listen and complete a task. When I watch my children play, I see them touch, feel, listen and question. They learn by experience and have no fear in just testing things out, they are not interested in "failure" only in what happens. I can only hope that the department of education listens to teachers and changes how they expect our children to achieve, or that the next generation of education ministers can think outside the box a bit more .


Thursday, 24 July 2014

He's not adopted, he's ours.

Children are incredible, their way at looking at the world is something that we lose through age or experience. There's me who is often aware that child 4 is adopted and therefore may need understanding, compassion and a watchful eye. And then there are his older siblings who view him as their brother, he may be a pest, he may tantrum and he may need their compassion but for them that's just how it is. They have just accepted him as he is and love him regardless.

We have had a magical couple of days, the sun has shone and the skies are blue. It's the first week of the summer holidays and we have been to the local cathedral gardens and the secret garden, where the children have climbed trees, played pooh sticks, climbed hills and slid down them. They've created imaginary tree houses with slides, swings and secret passageways. We've played football and rounders ( using an empty water bottle and a pink foam football) and eaten lashings of picnic food.
We have returned home hot, exhausted and pink cheeked, just like the famous five did following their tremendous adventures. But it was today when child 3 and her friend were dawdling home with me, child 1 and child 4 trailing behind when I overheard child 3 say " oh, he's not adopted, he's ours"

I could have cried, well maybe I did, just a little tear - love and pride!!


Sunday, 20 July 2014

I hate having my photo taken

I am sure that many mums of my generation hate having their photos taken, after all we are no long the beautiful, young, fit and skinny women we were in our early twenties. I am now probably nearly a stone heavier, carrying laughter lines around my eyes, my brunette locks are now shot with silver and grey and my chin has multiplied.

Then I read this http://www.huffingtonpost.com/allison-tate/mom-pictures-with-kids_b_1926073.html
And I thought oh!

When I think of my mother, I am filled with nostalgia of my childhood, I remember balmy days of blue skies, walks in the woods, carpets of bluebells, knickerbocker glories, climbing hills, rock hopping across beaches and rivers. I can almost smell cakes baking, dinners roasting and strawberry jam bubbling, I can hear her whispering her pride or words of encouragement when I needed them.  I see her spending time with my children, making them laugh and making them feel loved.

I have a few photos of her through the years and when I look at them I don't notice her size, laughter lines or the grey hair. I smile because the photo brings back a memory, a memory of a holiday, a family event or just a time in my life where we were together.  I guess a as a child,  photos were taken on film and all of them had to be developed so the photos were kept. Nowadays with digital cameras and phones we can delete our photos with ease so those pictures which we mums have not avoided can be so easily deleted. If I avoid all those photo opportunities will my children remember our happy times, I am sure they will but a memory is a sepia version of reality, a photo can bring technicolor, it's something to touch, to keep. It helps tell a story to those around is. When my mum reaches the end of her time with us, (many, many years from now I hope) I will still have the photographs to remind me of so much that has happened throughout my life, I will be able to share them with my children and grandchildren, they tell the story of where we come from and may well tell us where we can go. But, if I avoid the camera am I denying them memories of colour? All because of  how I now view myself. If I ask my husband he will tell me that I am still, if not more beautiful than the day he married me.

From today, I will no longer avoid having my photo taken, I won't seek the camera out but if someone wishes to take a picture I will smile, laugh and enjoy the moment reminding myself that the picture isn't about me but about a memory.


Tuesday, 15 July 2014

The Very Hungry Caterpillar

By the light of the moon a little egg lay on a leaf. POP! Out crawled a very hungry caterpillar.

On our way home from dropping child 3 to school we met six little black, hairy caterpillars hurriedly crawling across the path from the overgrown field into the hedgerows. Child 4 was more than happy to watch as I picked one up and then let it crawl across my palm and over my fingers, he wasn't so excited when I asked him if he would like to hold one.

I love how little ones are so fascinated by mini beasts, child 2 as a toddler would lie down in the grass watching the ants, scurry about collecting their dinner and both child 2 and 3 were obsessed with wood lice. Today child 4 and I hunted for crickets in the grass, we could hear them chirping but couldn't find them and found beautiful cob webs hidden in the hedgerow, glistening in the sunlight waiting for a bug to be ensnared for the spiders supper.

The summer holidays are just around the corner and I am looking for activities to entertain them all - not easy with the age gaps, 15, 13, 8 and 2.  Based on today I think week one will be mini beast week, bedtime stories will be The Very Hungry caterpillar, The Bad Tempered Ladybird both by Eric Carle  and Three Hungry Spiders, we can go on a bug expedition to the Secret Garden where dragon flies swoop and swirl we can hunt for worms in the veg patch and find wood lice in our forest school space. Of course following the national trusts 50 things to do before you are 11&3/4s we must complete number 17 set up a snail race and 31 go on a bug hunt. Lunches can be themed with tomatoes made to look like ladybirds, spider cup cakes and roly poly snail sausage rolls, we can make butterfly paintings, you know when you paint one side of the paper then fold it over to make a matching imprint on the opposite side. Pinterest has a million ideas for bug and mini beast crafts if the weather is wet.

Just an impromptu meeting with a very hungry caterpillar has provided me with a weeks worth of exciting plans an ideas for the first week of our first week as a family of six summer holiday!!!!!



Sunday, 13 July 2014

It's not all a bed of roses.

Adoption, some say fantastic, some say why, some say don't!  All the adopters or would be adopters, that is people in the system preparing for adoption, that I have met have a story to tell about someone who makes their lives difficult, complicated or down right miserable.  It's quite incredible to think that in every family or friendship group that these adopters have, there is someone who seems to make it their mission to just interfere, talk about the reasons why adoption shouldn't happen as if they have some great understanding of how the process works or how adopting a child will have a negative impact on family life, when they have not attended a single class or read a single book about it.

We have met single parents and couples who are admired for adopting "you are so brave" " well done I couldn't do it" these adopters feel frustrated and angry after all often the reason that they have chosen adoption is purely selfish - it's the only way they can have a child!  This is not to say that they aren't brave or that they don't deserve our admiration, just that actually we should congratulate them on the arrival of their new child and then support them when they need it. Then there are those who have with difficulty or IVF had a baby but then decide that to adopt their second baby  is a better choice for them, they have to deal with people questioning why they would adopt when they have a child - for some, one isn't enough, for me I've kept going until we have four.  Some have family members worrying about the fact that there are no blood ties, that we don't know the histories of the children we bring into our homes, that think that because the adoptive mother hasn't actually given birth, that the relationship is different.  Then there are families like ours where some just don't get it, they worry about the impact adding another will have on the other children.

As adopters we complete courses, one to one sessions with social workers, we read all the books on the extensive reading list, by the time you have completed the course and managed to get through panel you are as ready as you can be! Your knowledge of adoption and it's ramifications are considerable, you will have considered a multitude of reasons to not adopt, after all to adopt today is about taking on children that have had to be removed from their birth parents, children who WILL have been traumatised. Not a single social worker that I have met has sugar coated this, if anything they harp on about the worst case scenarios all the time! which I know has put people off.  I know of those who have walked out during a course, or who cannot cope with the intrusive questioning in the one to one sessions or just can't go to panel.

The negative commentary from those, whom I am sure think they are questioning,  belittling or just being adversarial because they have our, the adopters, best interests at heart, need to stop, after all adopters are old enough and educated enough to make their own decisions and then have to live with the consequences. To have family or close friends question these decisions can be devastating. The children we adopt are our children, just as if we have given birth to them. Would anyone question a pregnancy or birth of a child? Take it from me I have given birth to three children and adopted one, I love them in exactly the same way, they are ALL mine, we are very very aware of the issues we may have in the future and we will deal with them as and when we need to. We have made our decision to adopt not on a whim but on careful consideration of all the facts that are known and even working on a worst case scenario we wouldn't change our minds.

No one said having children is easy and adopting is no different. To those out there questioning the decisions of those who adopt STOP, would you question someone's decision to have a baby?  Imagine the reactions of the pregnant mother if you did. To those who have adopted or are thinking of doing so, you are not alone in having to justify it or fight your corner, just remember the majority of your social circle want you to be happy and fulfilled and will support you, you have to hold the minority at arms length, accept their fears and move on. In life we tend to regret what we don't do rather than what we do!



Rant over!!!!!

Tuesday, 8 July 2014

Life balances

As a mother to four children, a wife and part-time bank manager balancing life is.....well complicated. Someone always wants a piece of me and it usually has to be right now.  This week alone child 3 has sports day, a choir event for the mayor and a drama show, child 2 has sports day and a drama show and child 1 has LAMDA exams, I am working, in a busy short staffed environment and there is still homework! ironing! shopping and dinners to be cooked.

Work/life balance is a debate often heard in communities and in the media but what about just balancing life in general. There are only 24 hours in a day and I need to sleep for 7 of them, this leaves 17 hours, child 4 is awake for 12/13 of those and he takes up quite a lot of  time just because he is two and therefore needs a fair amount of close supervision.

So how to split my time, well I aim to complete one job per day. I have to cook dinner and loading the washing machine is easy enough. I try to clear as I go. That is I don't leave the breakfast stuff until later, well unless world war 3 is taking place elsewhere in the house. The older 3 children are quite good at sorting themselves out, they can sort their own breakfasts, load the dishwasher and get themselves ready for school etc. I have found that if I just aim to complete one additional job, like hoovering or ironing I can feel that it is actually viable and I often get that one job done.

If my expectations of myself are too high, I am just setting myself up to fail and failure isn't good for the soul, it also doesn't set a good example to my children. They honestly don't care if the house is a little untidy or if child 4's fingerprints are all over the windows. They do like to have homemade cake in the cake tin so it's fortunate that child 4 loves baking. They also want to come home from school and share their news of the day, they want to eat dinner together as a family, especially if it's Taco Tuesday, lasagna or burger night. They want to have story time, movie night, a cuddle just time with mum and dad. Is that not why we had them all in the first place.

Here is a story I read once years ago, I tore it out of the magazine and it's still pinned, well read and tatty, on my notice board today, just to remind me about what is important in life

A philosophy professor stood before his class with some items on the table in front of him.
When the class began, wordlessly he picked up a very large and empty mayonnaise jar and proceeded to fill it with rocks, about 2" in diameter.He then asked the students if the jar was full. They agreed that it was.
So the professor then picked up a box of pebbles and poured them into the jar. He shook the jar lightly. The pebbles, of course, rolled into the open areas between the rocks.He then asked the students again if the jar was full. They agreed it was.
The professor picked up a box of sand and poured it into the jar. Of course, the sand filled up everything else.He then asked once more if the jar was full. The students responded with a unanimous "Yes."
"Now," said the professor, "I want you to recognize that this jar represents your life. The rocks are the important things - your family, your partner, your health, your children - things that if everything else was lost and only they remained, your life would still be full.
The pebbles are the other things that matter - like your job, your house, your car.
The sand is everything else. The small stuff." "If you put the sand into the jar first," he continued "there is no room for the pebbles or the rocks. The same goes for your life.If you spend all your time and energy on the small stuff, you will never have room for the things that are important to you. Pay attention to the things that are critical to your happiness. Play with your children. Take your partner out dancing. There will always be time to go to work, clean the house, give a dinner party and fix the disposal.Take care of the rocks first - the things that really matter. Set your priorities. The rest is just sand."

Thursday, 3 July 2014

Choices

Sometimes I can't say how I really feel, because I chose to adopt child 4 therefore it's my responsibility to cope. Although I have a wonderful support network I am aware that they don't always "get" where I am coming from. How can they, they haven't completed the training I have or live the sometimes very long days that I live.
I also think that we tend to hide away from the realities of the damage poor parents, the courts, social services - the system has on children in care. We tell ourselves that these children are better off fostered, adopted or in care and then avoid looking at what these children have suffered. If a child loses a parent to illness we view their loss in a very different way than we do those children removed from their parents. I don't think we should, both children have suffered a traumatic bereavement and we need to address the issues of bereavement just as much with children in care as those who have a parent that has died.

Now that child 4's speech is maturing, he is able to articulate his fears better, last week he became very upset at nursery saying "my mummy has forgotten me" yesterday he asked me when he was going home - we were sitting at the kitchen table, today he asked "are you my mummy?"  Sometimes he is just so angry, full of real rage, he doesn't like anyone taking something from him, he reacts by hitting and kicking.

I often don't really comment on his behaviour anymore as the general response is, well he's two or it's just terrible twos and so on. I know that some of the behaviour is normal two year old stuff but a lot isn't. A year ago he was moved from his long term foster carers into emergency care, the trauma of the event must be deep seated and could explain his unsettled behaviour at the moment. He has a lot to lose now, a family of siblings, grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins. He has a dog, a cat and chickens. He has lots and lots of little friends and adoring teenagers who play with him and take care of him. He attends a nursery he loves and has favourite places to visit - the farm, the beach and the secret garden.  It shouldn't really be any surprise that he over reacts when he doesn't get his own way he just must be so full of fear and anger that he doesn't know what to do.

As I write this I recognise the need to be able to share my fears even on the days or maybe more importantly on the days that I am not coping.  I need to sit and explain, educate those I rely on to where I am, what I think is happening. They don't need to do anything, probably just listen to me offer a shoulder and share a bottle of wine.