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.

Thursday, 27 February 2014


Guess what came in the post today?
Details of our adoption court hearing, 3 weeks and if all goes to plan child 4 will legally be ours. Of course I excitedly rang my husband and then my parents but as I started to text out to the rest of the family and friends, I remembered child 4's birth parents who will have also received a copy of the same adoption court hearing information in the post today. Whilst my family and I are cautiously celebrating, looking forward to future of spending time together, playing, laughing, teaching, reading and loving, I can't help but think about what the birth family are feeling, fear, loss, devastation, failure and heartbreak. They are being supported by a charity group who will offer advice and emotional support for as long as they need it.

We are advised not to attend this court hearing as child 4's birth parents could be there. They have the right to contest the adoption order if they want too. This is highly unlikely, although they have stated that they don't want their son to be adopted, social services have a placement order which overrides their desires. It has been agreed by social services and the courts that the birth parents are unable to care for this little boy and that it would be in his best interests to be adopted into a family who can provide him with what he needs.  Even if the birth parents did contest they would have to demonstrate to the court that the concerns that led to their child's removal have abated and they would have to prove how they could now provide a secure and loving home for their son.  There are no guarantees and we won't know the outcome until after the order has been passed through the court. We just have to trust in the system and have faith that everything will be okay.

Once the order has been agreed, we will be invited to a celebration court date where we as a whole family will attend the court to hear the order, meet the judge, with a bit of luck the children will have an opportunity to wear the wig and bang the gavel. We will then all head out for lunch and champagne to celebrate.

My message to child 4's birth parents is "We feel honoured to be entrusted with our new son and we promise to love him, unconditionally forever. We will share his past with him and not exaggerate or trivialise it. We will tell him of your love but inability to care for him in the way he needed, we will share the letters you send and we will write to you sharing the stories of his childhood and adolescence and we will support his choices for the future"

Growing up is tough

It is hard being in school when you feel isolated, yet so many children suffer isolation because they don't have the opportunity to or just have yet to meet like minded people. Children have to have the chance to try lots of different things to find what it is that they enjoy and sometimes as parents we have to encourage them to attempt new activities. This doesn't guarantee long lasting friendships but will certainly help to protect self esteem and build confidence in meeting new people through out their lives.

I have been a little concerned about one of my children and his isolation. But after catching up with a couple of friends the other evening realised that he is not alone. The children of my friends come across as lovely well rounded individuals, achieving their potential in school and any of the extra curricular stuff that they do, yet they have or are having similar problems.

When I think back to my teenage years, I didn't fit in at school in fact didn't really like it but I was lucky enough to meet up with like minded people through a swimming club. We were a crowd of boys and girls who grew up together, traversing our way through those adolescent dramas until I guess we outgrew each other. Now in the age of social media it is really easy to stay in contact even with people who live on the other side of the world and I still have contact with many of this group of people who played such an important role in the moulding of my personality.

Looking back I may not have enjoyed my school days per se, although there were some good times and my time in the sixth form definitely was the best two years of my school life, I made it through relatively unscathed and I suspect it helped to create the person I am today. Nowadays I will always smile and welcome anyone who is new in the playground, work or church. As I know lots of those in our community I would never leave someone out on the sidelines I still remember that "billy no mates feeling" quite clearly and will always endeavour to ensure that I would never knowingly leave someone else  in my vicinity feeling like that.

Thinking of life like that means that I should have faith in my children and their future, at some point they will meet those who are to be life long friends but they will also meet many people who will be friends for a short time and those people are just as important because we as a society learn by trial and error, for each friendship mishap or decline if we take away all the good memories or learn about how to behave in different circumstances surely that will help us to become better, friendlier  and more tolerant people.

Sunday, 23 February 2014

My responsibility is.....

Have been struggling a bit this weekend and after listening to catch up on radio 4's Woman's Hour about anxiety have decided I need to put my house or rather my mind in order.

After lunch today I took the dog out for his walk all by myself. As I am a fair weather dog walker, gardener etc I try to avoid being outside in the wet and cold and with the weather being so crap lately the lovely husband has been on dog walking duty. What a star.  This afternoon was dry, cloudy and windy and whilst walking the cold blustery wind blew away my cobwebs and worries and the peace and quiet ogave me time to just be, to take stock and find new paths to follow in an attempt to make my life easier.

This is the first time this week that I've had time just to myself , half term has meant that the children have wanted me on tap all week, usually whilst child 4 sleeps they are all at school so I have an hour or so to regroup and re-organise my day, re prioritising what needs to be done. This week I haven't had that time, the minute number 4 is in bed I am required for something else. By the weekend the house was a mess, the ironing overflowing, and still child 1 needs help preparing for her French speaking exam, child 2 hasn't even started his history project (I did set him timetable for completing it 3 weeks ago, in hindsight I should have made him set it and write it down, that way he would have been more likely to actually work to it) and child 3 has to finish her space story and solar system for school.  I am very aware that, certainly the two eldest children at 15 and 13 years old should be able to sort themselves out but that doesn't stop me wanting to help them to do the best they can. Also once something has been discussed and set, like child 2's project timetable I seem to just forget and move on with the next thing that needs sorting out.  Not the best parenting I guess but in a way the children have to learn to take responsibility for their own homework, bedrooms and lives. In addition to all that I am going into work tomorrow morning for another keep in touch session, I know that one of the girls has very excitingly handed in her notice and is leaving for pastures new in a couple of weeks, which of course is leaving my already short staffed team even more short handed and I can feel the pressure to return a little earlier than intended creeping up on me. However for the moment my family does have to come first. Child 4 isn't fully settled into nursery yet and having had a week off for half term could potentially struggle on his return. Child 1 has drama competitions coming up and I would like to have the opportunity to watch her compete, without worrying about working. Another concern is how I will manage to work, look after the house, take care of the children and all the millions of things us mums have to do with the reducing time that I have.

Over a late lunch, I couldn't even have lunch ready by one today, it was almost two I talked to everyone about how I was feeling. I talked about, how after I empty the wash basket someone will decide to clear all the dirty washing off their floor and fill the basket back up, the trail of destruction they all leave everywhere they go, shoes, coats, toys and empty crisp packets and cups just left where they are finished with. I explained how on my return to work I will have less time to pick up and clean and actually I shouldn't have to, they are with the exception of child 4 more than capable of picking up after themselves.

My time out with the dog gave me the opportunity to think through new ways of ensuring that new routines can be set and adhered too. A teenager will show empathy whilst I talk of my concerns but then they are off  doing their own thing and forget to put the dirty washing in the wash basket and put their old coffee cups in the dishwasher, I need to teach them to do these things and this in turn will lead to consequences in not co operating. An amazing example is the "can I have your phones, IPods etc until your bedrooms are tidy please"  the bedrooms are tidied immediately.  Dirty washing being hoarded in bedrooms will lead to them sorting, loading and drying the washing at a weekend, not putting cups etc in the dishwasher will lead to washing up after dinner, items left lying around will be kept in a special bag ready to be retrieved once a chore out of the chore box is completed. Part of parenting is to teach our children to take responsibility for themselves after all in the real world there are consequences for all our actions and we have to take responsibility for them.
I am starting today by taking responsibility for my needs and building a routine that will work to help me keep my sanity

Friday, 21 February 2014

Half term

This half term has been a contradiction of so many things, it's been lovely to be all together the children are playing together, chasing, running, jumping and screaming, yet sometimes being all together is tough, what with the bickering and fighting. It's been fantastic to not have to be out of the house at 8.30 am for the school run, too not have to make lunch boxes or have to head out in the rain for school pick up but the lack of routine has definitely affected child 4's behaviour. He has reverted back to his throwing things. The week of course has flown by and I will miss having them all around next week, I have been able to have a cup of tea in relative peace in the kitchen whilest they have played in the living room.

Child 1 has been revising for the beginnings of GCSEs and is in panto so she has been busy doing her own thing. The rest of us have made a solar system. Child 3 has been really interested in the planets so after a trip to the local pound shop to purchase balls, tissue paper and glue we set about making the planets. The three younger children had a marvellous time cutting the paper into strips and then sticking and moulding the tissue paper to make each planet. Child 3 had to write a story for her homework this week, base under the sea and so she has based hers on creatures living in a dried up sea on Mars and how they travel to Neptune looking for a new home. She intends to take the solar system in along with her story.

Child 4's social worker called in this week, intentionally wanting to see all the children together. I think that she went away happy. To me our home is just like that of anyone I know, noisy, untidy, chaotic but full of laughter and love. Child 4 has certainly settled in amazingly well. He seems to have attached to us as his family. The social worker was pleased that he misses me and becomes a little distressed when left at nursery, not that anyone wants him upset but the fact that he wants me is really really good.  The children have all accepted each other as part of the family and I have seen some really good examples of  of that acceptance this week. They love spending time together and hate spending time together just like a family should.

Tuesday, 18 February 2014

He's my brother

Child 1 had her final rehearsal for panto tonight and as it was a short one and the husband was out watching the football child 4 came along for the ride. As usual he charmed everyone and had a lovely time exploring the stage, the props and joining in the singing and dancing. On the way home child 1 said that one of the cast had said how alike she and her brother looked. I asked if she had explained that he was adopted and she said no. She went onto explain that she didn't feel the need to tell anyone about child 4 being adopted and actually she didn't want to because it changed how people viewed the relationship between her and her brother. People didn't need to know he was adopted,  child 4 was her brother and that was just the way it should be.

Proud mum x

Saturday, 15 February 2014

A miracle of motherhood

Nothing could have prepared me for child 4's absolute acceptance of me as his mummy. I had in a way hardened my heart, built a wall around my feelings, knowing that he has a mummy and I am the "stand in" because she is unable to take care of him. Yet over the last few weeks little things have started to happen and the wall is crumbling..........

As I am to return to work next month we have started to settle him to our local nursery, the first couple of sessions he ran in happy as Larry just wanting to play, on day 3 though I had a call at 10.30am could I come and get him as he was asking for me and becoming distressed. Every time he saw someone on the CCTV that covered the gate he would ask "is that my mummy?"
(He is settling in though. We are just taking it a day at a time, a session at a time and gradually lengthening the stay, very much led by what he can manage.)

At home he wants to be with me, doing whatever I am doing, which of course can be a hindrance, but more often than not is a pleasure. Then, the other day when I put him down for his afternoon nap he called me back wanting a kiss before he slept. He comes to find me when he has hurt himself and whenever we sit to watch TV he climbs into my lap to snuggle. He holds up his arms demanding a hug or a cuggle.

Now when we are out, he introduces me to other people as his mummy, he used just charm and chat to anyone, completely ignoring me, now I am his opening chat up line.
If he loses sight of me he will ask "where is my mummy?" Invariably I am watching him and can scoop him up before he feels lost.

But the icing on the cake was a couple of nights ago when reading his favourite book of the moment "I Like it When" he pointed to the adult penguin and said "mummy" and pointed to the baby penguin and said his name.
I felt honoured, privileged that in the eyes of this little boy I am his "mummy" not a stand in, I am the real thing. There may well be another mummy out there thinking of him and do you know what I can live with that, after all if I can love 4 children why can't child 4 love 2 mummy's?

Wednesday, 12 February 2014

Rainy days and Wednesdays

Another day of pouring rain, another day of being stuck inside with a two year old for company. Oh what to do??

I decided to bring a little bit of spring into the house, so hunting out an old egg box, some paper  and some bright yellow paint (I have learnt that if I  want something to be a specific colour only put out that colour) we set up child 4's little table and set about making daffodils. All was going so well until I nipped out to the loo when child 4 must have decided that the living room needed brightening up too and I returned to find beautiful yellow swirls of paint decorating the wall.
I am not really sure if it was the painting or the clearing up that he enjoyed the best.

Then we headed for the kitchen for a snack and a drink before making playdough. Our first attempt was a sticky, gloppy mess because I forgot to add the salt. The next attempt was perfect and we made some beautiful vintage red and blue playdough. There is so much you can do with playdough, cut out shapes with cookie cutters, make cats, snails and spiders, you can roll sausages and squish shapes. Child 4 only makes balls, lots and lots of balls which he then flattens and makes into balls again.

Eventually being indoors drove us outside and we dressed in waterproofs and wellies and went puddle jumping, river wading and rain dancing.

Tuesday, 11 February 2014

Internet Safety Day

Today is the 11th worldwide Internet Safety Day

  "Let's create a better internet together"

Schools, radio, TV and social media have been discussing the importance of being safe on the internet and how we can protect our children from the hidden dangers a computer and it's technology can introduce into our lives.
I am sure that most responsible parents have the safety filters already loaded on the computers within their homes, but this is not enough to protect our children when so many of them have smart phones, IPods, tablets and laptops and of course they probably understand how to use them better than we do. 
Our children will probably make many of the same mistakes that we made whilest growing up, after all a teenager is still a teenager, the hormone changes are the same, the interest in fashion, music and sex will for all intents and purpose be the same, however in today's age of technology, gossip spreads quicker, where we used to talk about those youngsters having sex, getting drunk, sharing a "jazz mag" or just being rebellious in huddles in the loos or corners of the playground, this information is now available to all via social websites, photographic evidence can be spread from one corner of the world to another just by a few clicks of a button and pornography can be found and viewed with relative ease. 

I have previously talked about the research done regarding the teenage brain "Why are we not enough" October 9 2013.  We need to remember that our teenagers tend to use the back part of their brains the most, that's the bit that focuses on pleasure and reward, interestingly brain image research carried out by Powell showed that the reward had to be medium to large, for any brain activity to show, if the rewards were small the brain often did not show any activity on image scans at all. The front part, the prefrontal cortex which is where they think about cause and effect or the consequences of their actions is still maturing, in fact this part of the brain doesn't reach it's optimum until early 20's. 

Let's put teenage brains in contact with social media, that is they are in front of a screen and not a live person and we expect them to behave as a fully mature adult - what a foolish expectation, of course they are going to make mistakes. Often it is not the mistake that is the biggest problem but how they deal with that mistake. Who do they go to for help and support or do they try and deal with it themselves, alone because they are embarrassed.

All this is happening whilst they are figuring out who they are, where do they fit in. Imagine trying to work through this when you are adopted. These questions can become much more complex when they cannot link their identity biologically to their adoptive parents. What if they like to be outside exploring, playing rugby or enjoy heavy metal music when their home environment is full of dancers, jazz and book worms. Then when they look at their birth parents and they see drug addiction, alcoholism, neglect and domestic abuse. The confusion potentially could be so damaging and this could be lived through social media.

Today as I listened to radio 4 - Woman's Hour, You and Yours and Radio 1 5.45pm news report on Internet safety we all seem to focus on protecting our children, I agree wholeheartedly that we must protect our children but just as importantly we must educate them to be able to protect themselves. We are at a disadvantage as we have not experienced teenage life with technology so maybe we need to provide them with the tools to be safe and the support when they get it wrong.

Friday, 7 February 2014

What is a kiss?

There is a famous story of a baby whom upon hearing all the grand plans his mother has for him, flies out of the window away to Kensington Gardens, where he hides and amuses the fairies. Eventually, he misses his mother but when he returns home he finds his bedroom window shut and a new baby boy in his crib and so with a broken heart he returns to the gardens and collects up all the other lost boys. We can only assume that Tinkerbell was one of the fairies that he amused as she showed him the way to Neverland. Thus starting one of the most famous stories about abandoned children.  Peter isn't enticed back into a family home until the novel Peter Pan and Wendy when he watches the Darling family, Wendy in particular through a bedroom window. He manages to lose his shadow and from there every child and every child that grew up knows the adventure that is Peter Pan.

When Peter Pan asked Wendy what a kiss was she gave him a thimble and he gave an acorn in return.    Peter having been in Neverland since he was tiny had forgotten what a kiss was and Wendy, who had offered him the kiss didn't want to hurt his feelings or pride when she realised that he didn't know what a kiss was, hence the thimble.

Whilst children are in foster care they are not allowed to share their foster carers bed, bath etc. intimate parent, child interaction is not really encouraged, possibly to help avoid a traumatic separation later, for older children it could be because of abuse and of course rules are always in place  to protect all parties within the foster home. However once children are adopted close human interaction, hugs, cuddles and gentle touch is advised and encouraged. These children understandably don't understand what this interaction is for or why we do it.

When child 4 arrived he never looked for physical interaction, even when he fell over he didn't cry or look for someone to make his hurts better. We spend so much time encouraging him to take comfort in someone's arms, when we watch TV we sit him on our laps, we carry and cuddle him, we bring him into our bed for his morning bottle, we bath him with child 3, we share touchy feely nursery rhymes, we tickle and play fight on the floor. And it is now paying off. He holds his arms up, a lot asking for a hug, when asked he kisses sorry and goodnight. But today was amazing, after I put him down for his afternoon nap, he called me back to his cot because HE wanted a kiss, a real kiss not a thimble or an acorn, a kiss. X

Thursday, 6 February 2014

Education, schmeducation

Our education system is in the press a lot at the moment, Michael Gove is talking about about changing so many things. He wants children in some form of structured education from the age of 2, he is pushing the academy system out to as many schools as possible, he wants there to be no difference between a private or state school, he is looking at the curriculum, he wants more rigorous testing, entrance exams and wishes to extend the school day and shorten school holidays.

Free nursery care is already available for children in care or for parents on benefits from the age of two because there are concerns about their social and academic skills. It is hoped that providing a form of structured play will help these children to have a strong start in education. This is going to be rolled out for all children soon, not for the best interests of the children but to encourage mothers back into the workplace.
Academies whilest good for some schools, especially the secondary sector is not what is necessarily the best option for all schools. Rural primary schools will probably not benefit at all.
I am sure that those parents who pay substantial amounts of money for their children's education will no longer feel the need to if state schools can offer the same and not cost anything, however I am not sure how the state system that has far less money to spend on each child than the private sector will be able to achieve this demand.
More rigorous testing and entrance exams will not help any children except those that fall into the criteria of the testing, we are all very different, bringing different talents and gifts to life, not all of them have to be about algebra.

After listening to You and Yours on radio 4 earlier this week about holidaying during term time, I can't see how a narrow view on extending school hours and reducing holiday time will help our children.

Why is it necessary to change so much and is this what our society should be striving for.  For me, I want change but it needs to be evolving with our world not stagnating. My children won't thrive in an education that expects them all to be the same. They need to be able to try new and different things, learn about everything not just Pi, Shakespeare and the Periodic table. They need to find and hone their own gifts and talents, they need to spend really good, quality time with their family and their community, enjoying the art of giving time, playing games, learning respect and loving those around them.

In the possible future education system my children will spend their mornings in nursery instead of going on walks with me, baking with me, doing arty crafty stuff with me or building marble runs with me. They will then have their type of education, based on entrance exams at a young age, when they were still in the explore and experience stage of life not the ready to sit and write stage, a narrower curriculum potentially means losing the more arty, creative subjects, forcing the imaginative, inspirational and creative children to fit into classes where they cannot achieve their potential. Longer school days will mean less opportunities to attend after school activities where the creative could have an opportunity to thrive and shorter holidays will make it all the harder for all those working parents to take time off during holiday time to spend time with their children.

What will our society in reality become?

Monday, 3 February 2014

Have faith in your dreams.

I know, I know I keep on and on about our children having the trust and courage to follow their dreams and that is why I love watching them on the stage. It was child 2 and 3's drama showcase on Saturday. Child 2 was in Harry Potter the musical, harmonised with his peers " Fix You" and strutted his stuff in a white gangster suit through a prohibition style rendition of "That Man" And child 3 stole the show, for me at least as one of the orphans in "Annie"

I sometimes think that I am in the minority of parents in that I honestly want my children to find a career that makes them happy, I know that lots of parents say they want their children to be happy but how many of those same parents encourage their children to follow academic routes through education instead of allowing them choice. I know some children have no desire what so ever to study creative subjects like drama, dance, art or music, interestingly no one comments about that other than to say "clever children" but, I am sure many children would love to let their creativity out only to be told that those are fluffy subjects, that won't help you with a career or choose one as your easy exam.

How many of us view salary as the marker of success??

For me if I could have found that career, the one I knew I really wanted I hope that I would have been brave enough to follow that dream......... Do you know what? Sitting here typing that I think what did I / do I want to do and do you know what for me it was motherhood, hmm not exciting to some, not career minded enough to others. After all there is no salary, no kudos, no company car or pension or health benefits just huge payments in love!

Saturday, 1 February 2014

The merits of a merit certificate

My two girls came home from school yesterday each clutching certificates in their hands. Child 1 has achieved her level 1 in sports leadership. This is through JSLA, Junior Sports Leadership achievement and is earned by over 14s visiting local primary schools introducing sports and physical activities with the children, giving them the opportunity to show and learn leadership skills, volunteering and developing interpersonal skills for later life. Child 3 had received a merit award at school for her version  of Fantastic Mr Fox. She used funny adjectives, good verbs, adverbs and grammar.

Both of them were really proud, desperate to show off their achievements to me.  In fact child 3 wanted to share the joy of receiving a merit certificate so made us one.

This form of rewarding accomplishment ties in with my idea of positive parenting, it focuses on what the children can do.

 I am currently reading Fingerpainting in Psych Class by Jay Morgen which is all about "conscious parenting"

Conscious Parenting is not a set of rules for parents to follow, but a set of beliefs about what children need to develop and thrive. 

She has provided me with some fascinating insights into the way we bring up our children. In one of the early chapters she talks of her experiences in dealing with "difficult"teenagers whilest working in a treatment centre. She was what they call working the floor, she was there to supervise and implement good behaviours. The school aimed to work at a 3 to 1 ratio, that is 3 positive comments to every negative one. Sounds easy, but these children were not like mine they were all out of control and Jay was so busy preventing the children from killing each other that she found it almost impossible to find behaviour that she could positively quote on. After working there for about three weeks she gave up on looking for 100% positive behaviour, instead looked for anything remotely positive and would jump on it. The children began too realise that she was watching them and instead of focussing on the bad she talked about what they were attempting to do well, slowly the children's behaviour improved.  Transforming this into our parenting can only be good for our children, if they see themselves as worthy individuals they will become worthy individuals. This in turn links I n with my theory on labelling, our children become what we label them, so if we constantly tell them they are naughty. bad, rude,  rubbish, stupid and so on that is what they become on the flip side if we tell them they are good, intelligent, funny, loved them this is what they will become.

The other morning my husband and I tried to only use postive language and I was surprised as to how often we slipped into speaking negatively to our children (- try it, it's not as easy as you would think.) Yet for the majority of the time our children are fantastic. We seem to focus on the small percentage of time that they misbehave instead of the abundance of  good behaviour that is part of every day life.   Putting this into a working adults perspective is this not like our boss / line manager  at annual review time focussing on the one or two things we have fallen short on rather than the many things we have been successful at.  Yes we need to be aware when things go wrong, we have to learn how to put them right but we should also celebrate all the situations  that we did it right.