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, 15 December 2015

Peace



It is difficult times that  we live in, with such easy access to media and with the world becoming such a smaller place, the ability to share tragedies that happen all over the world is so much easier than when I was growing up. I remember those first harrowing pictures from Ethiopia in 1984 when Bob Geldolf started his campaign to "Feed the World" but that was just the beginning.

Now we see pictures of dead children washed up on European holiday beaches, we see the aftermath of mass shootings, we see the wreckage left behind after drones have bombed areas supposedly hiding terrorists. Young girls who have been abducted to be sold on as slabes and brides smile from school photos plastered over the front pages of our newspapers. And that is before we read about bush fires, land slides, flooding etc etc.

So what to say to our childen. Do we explain what is happening in our world or do we attempt to keep it away from them?

 Child 3 asked me where God was on the 13 November when the world was shouting about the Paris tragedies . Our Twitter feeds and Facebook feeds were full of comments and photographs. The news on radio an TV were describing, often graphically what had happened. And my 9 year old just could not understand why someone would want to hurt people out having a good time. Why did God not just stop it. This led onto so many more questions. Questions that I couldn't always answer as I sometimes ask where God is, has he washed his hands of us?

I guess that the story of Adam and Eve was where he gave humanity the power of choice, we choose how we behave and of course that means that we live with the consequences of those choices.



So I have taken to telling my children to look for God in those that help. The Muslim police man Ahmed who tried to help those attcked at Charlie Hebdo, the people helping the refugees in Greece, Hungary and Calais. The paramedics, the doctors and nurses, the teachers, the everyday person that gives money to UNICEF or children in Need. Those of us that buy goats and chickens from Oxfam instead of Christmas cards. The unassuming person on the Street who just steps in to help because they were there.

A simple small act of kindness goes a long way.

Blessed are the Peacemakers.


Hope

Advent for Christians is the preparing for the arrival of Jesus. Hope, peace, joy and love is what advent is all about.

From a world wide view, to a more local one of Europe and the U.K. Right down to what is happening within our homes, hope has become an integral part of how we live.

Our social worker dropped by this week to discuss the Theraplay session child 4 & I were Guinea pigs for. It was fascinating, if a little uncomfortable to watch myself on film, but child 4 loved it, when I showed him it later. The Theraplay team were particularly interested in child 4's avoidance of nurturing and his desire to be in control of the activities. So they have provided me with a list of activities that we can play as a family, as parent and child 4 and as 1 on 1 to help. Many of these we already sort of do but I am always up for new ideas and new games to play. I've photocopied it already so that I can share it with the pre-school and the school as there is loads that they can use too and not just for my little man.

It was lovely to see our social worker, we always got on well and she was telling me about some of the changes happening and explaining about the adoption fund given by the government this year. Her job has changed and she is much more involved in post adoption support now.

She told me about a young man she was working with, he was adopted as a baby. And yet his adoption was breaking down and he was currently in foster care because of his self destructive Behaviour. She had requested his PAR to look back into his past and have an understanding of his background. When she read about his birth mother she was struck by how similar their behaviours were. As a teenager she was in foster care and was being self destructive in exactly the same way as her son was now. How? Why? How much of teenage behaviour is genetic? This child was brought up by a loving couple from about a year old so where did he learn these self destructive baviours, you would have hoped that the nurture would have outweighed the nature. But attachment just doesn't work like that.

Our social worker asked me how could social services better prepare adopters for these types of outcomes, the courses we have to do tell us about the difficulties many adopted children have, there are often adoptive and foster parent speakers who talk of these difficulties and yet we carry on and adopt. I couldn't answer her, at the time of waiting for matching I didn't concentrate on the difficulties we may face once we had adopted I was worried that we wouldn't be suitable. Once child 4 arrived I was too busy settling in with new routines. I told her that I didn't think social services could prepare us better, I think they have to be able to support more once children have been adopted. Pre schools and schools need to be better educated in attachment to help our children.

I think HOPE is what adoption is all about, I think that the majority of adopters know it's not going to be easy but until you are actually living it you cannot understand how tough it is. I know that there are no guarantees that child 4 will make it through childhood and adolescence without any difficulties and being adopted means that life is a little weighted against him. I can only hope that we can hold his hand whilst he walks that path.


Sunday, 29 November 2015

Adoption choices.

Adoption has been a journey of choice for my husband and myself, one that is full of joy, sorrow, difficult moments, worry and a fair bit of laughter. For our children though it is not of their choice or of their making. I speak often of child 4 as he is the one that is adopted, certainly not his choice. That decision was made by social workers and a judge and I guess because his birth father wouldn't take responsibility for his own choices and actions and his birth mother couldn't.   But what of our three birth children, they didn't make the choice in adoption as a means of gaining a brother, they didn't have the knowledge that us parents had (which, in reality is just bare bones - I am pretty much self taught in the trials of tribulations of attachment, adoption training really only gives an outline, even if some of it is hard hitting.) Our birth children took on this little boy as their brother pretty much from day one. Young children and babies, I believe are very good at that, they pull you to them, they heal family divisions, they offer new beginnings. But that doesn't mean that it is easy.

Our eldest sometimes struggles with other people's perceptions, most in our immediate community are aware that child 4 is adopted and comments of "how lucky he is," surprise that we have contact with his birth family and that assumption in now that he is adopted everything is ok is difficult enough for me as an adult to manage, but for a teenager who wants to change the world it leads to anger and frustration. On top of that she has left school and gone on to college to study A' Levels and of course in the making of new friends and discussions in tutor time or class, adoption has come up. She is frequently asked if her parents divorced and her mum remarried because she has a brother 12 years her junior, when she has explained she is sometimes asked if her baby brother is a different race or if she is also adopted. The there are days when tutors/students make off-the-cuff remarks about society, children in care, birth parents etc and she doesn't know whether to comment or not. Her opinion is often sought if anyone knows that she is part of a family that have adopted, sometimes  she is listened too, other times she is totally dismissed as a New age hippy.

Child 2, has his own concerns, he finds it terribly hard to cope with his little brothers out going affable character as it means that he talks to complete strangers when we are out and about. This goes against everything he understands, firstly the "stranger danger" that child 2 learned early on, bypasses his younger brother and secondly for a teenage boy a member of the family who stops and talks to who ever will listen is an embarrassment. He understands why child 4 seeks acceptance and safety with other adults but it doesn't make it easy to live with.

Then, child 3 who was the baby of the family, has totally had her position usurped, not just by a dependent younger sibling but one that has the ability to hurt and torment, a sibling that does demand huge amounts of not only our attention but also that of those in the community.  How can we expect her to understand child 4's needs are different to hers and how we deal with those needs is different to how we would deal with her and yet often we do.

I am truly amazed by the resilience all our children show, not only that but they are so open minded about how we deal with every day life issues, they take so much in their stride, as a family humour, kindness, empathy and love have grown and grown, not saying that bickering, arguing even all out fighting is not a frequent occurrence. I've lost count of how many times I've heard "you love him more than me, you never have time for me, I want to be adopted by another family, it's only because he's adopted." However If I weigh those moments against the happy ones, the game playing, the puddle jumping, the scooting to school, the cuddles and the I love you's, those difficult moments are definitely out weighed by the joyous ones. Interestingly I think the children live in the moments of joy, the difficult times for them seem to fade away. Perhaps I should take a leaf from their book?


Sunday, 15 November 2015

The Naughty Boy

 One of my biggest worries is that child 4 will become "the naughty child" you know the child other children talk about in hushed whispers, the child that classmates gleefully share stories about because he has been in trouble again, the child that doesn't get invited to birthday parties or play dates. I worry that I will be stopped as I walk into the playground because the teacher or SENco needs to speak to me. I worry that parents will stop speaking when I walk up to a group of them chattering away.

I have seen a child like that before and have watched as he becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. He was a child that didn't sit still, that didn't cope with school boundaries. He became known as the naughty boy and other children wouldn't play with him so he became desperate to make them like him and when that didn't work he pretended that he didn't care - I honestly don't know which was worse but, either way he became ostracised and ended up moving schools.

Until this week we were doing ok, but now I'm not so sure, child number 4 is over excited, over anxious, agressive yet clingy just different. Why, I wonder, his behaviour points to anxiety but I can't quite work out why. It could be that Christmas is on its way. They children have been writing their Christmas lists, this weekend we baked the Christmas cakes and I have started the shopping. Maybe he knows that something is coming and maybe he can't cope.

If we are doing something out of routine he keeps on and on and on and on until it's has happened. It could just be visiting Grandad after lunch but he will from the moment he knows ask when we are going and he will incessantly keep asking until it is time to go.  I suggested putting a timer on so that when it buzzes he knew that it was time to go but that resulted in a complete melt down.

I have noticed that he is following his friends blindly, they are happy to set him up to get into trouble and he merrily follows their lead, not understanding that there are boundaries, a wonderful example of this was when one of his friends had taught him the phrase "f***ing awesome" our initial response was to just ignore it, but the two boys were having none of that and kept hunting me down just to shout it at me. So, I explained that it wasn't nice and that we don't say that in our house and the tone of their voices were not friendly. They both stopped and carried on their play until the play dough came out. Child 4 sat there saying it again, this time when I commented he looked me straight in the eye and said "I didn't say f***ing, I said bucking" after a stronger discussion and a banning of anything except awesome they boys didn't say it again. Interestingly child 4's friend knew what was happening and knew that he had over stepped a boundary, child 4 just didn't.  At a meeting discussing pupil premium money his pre school manager shared similar experiences, Fortunately the staff understood what was happening and are dealing with the child that instigates the behaviour as well as Child 4 for over-stepping the boundaries.

And so again we are rethinking old strategies and hunting out new ones. A visual week showing the activities with a picture of child 4 that can be moved from day to day to teach him about time and provide security. A much more watchful eye on what he is doing, with quick, efficient boundaries put into place to help him recognise that he is overstepping the line. Closer communication with pre school staff to ensure he doesn't become " the naughty boy." And where possible quiet times, calmer evenings and a stop on Christmas excitement until December. Where possible is the operative word as we are busy every weekend until the new year.

Wish me luck..........


Sunday, 25 October 2015

National Adoption Week 2015

I've shied away a bit from National Adoption Week (NAW) this year, other than those in the adoption "family" it seems that I am the only one who is aware of its existence. I know, I know I should probably be evangelising about it, sharing the information with as many as possible but I am tired.

My week started with a meeting of old friends, dinner out with girls (maybe not quite girls anymore) whom I have known since my teenage years, we haven't had the opportunity to all get together since before child 4 joined us. It was really fantastic to see them and catch up with their lives, but I felt disconnected my life has taken a completely different path and I worried that our paths couldn't converge anywhere. Because we haven't met up for such a long time they are completely unaware of the trials, tribulations and joyful events that have taken place - we do stay in contact but primarily via Facebook - the look at what I am doing in a humorous or positive way social site, or I guess if they read my blog. They have missed out on the journey my family and our close community have been travelling, they don't understand about trauma, attachment disorder, rage, pupil premium, letterbox contact or just a daily life that encompasses 4 children, adoption, sibling rivalry, teenage drama, work etc, etc. so of course my sharing of our life today potentially increased the gulf between us, I retreated to my professional demeanour the one I used when interviewing the school which of course probably made everything worse. They were only trying to help.


Half way through the week I heard staff at school talking about a little foster child who had joined the school, quite rightly they were putting lots of support in place for them, they talked of the need for stability and empathy for the situation. I am really pleased that everyone wants to help this foster child feel safe and secure, yet they don't offer child 4 the same respect - I believe that they truly view him as lucky and ok now because he is adopted, it is forgotten that he too was taken away from his birth parents by social services and that he was placed with more than one foster placement.

According to the Oxford Dictionary  
Foster means : Bring up (a child that is not one’s own by birth) and
Adopt means : Legally take (another’s child) and bring it up as one’s own. 
My definition is that adoption is hopefully permanent and saves the government thousands and thousands of pounds. Neither definition gives any inkling of the effect that these two words have on the children or families involved and neither one says that one is a sticking plaster and the other is a magic wand, yet I often feel that, that is how the general public interpret them.

Finally this weekend I heard things like "Really! Adopted children are entitled to pupil premium" "Some of those women keep having babies to claim more benefits" "do you now feel that he I  part of your family"


Unless people are directly involved they have very little idea of what it is like to be living with our care system, often they have buckets full of advice and ideas but, those pearls of wisdom are based on their knowledge of parenting, the people we mix with, for the most part, come from safe secure backgrounds, they have absolutely no comprehension of the experiences our children have survived. Just as they don't mean to be hurtful with what they say, if you haven't adopted how can you know that love for that child, well in our case, was immediate. In truth people only want to help they have no idea that more often than not their comments and parneting advice are completely inappropriate. To be honest I am not sure taht I was any better before we started  the ongoing education that is adoption.


For me NAW seems to be about what still needs to be done. This year the focus is on the over 4's, last year it was siblings, all these children are looking for forever families. Maybe NAW should be more about look at what we are doing and how we are doing it, where can support be found when needed, look at the success stories, the journeys families are traversing and look how far they have come. If we educate our society about trauma and attachmnent the support within our communities could be appropriate and amazing.


Adoption may be difficult, exhausting, frustrating and sometimes a nightmare but it's is also the best thing we have ever done.


I would do it all at in tomorrow!!











 

Sunday, 18 October 2015

A Street Kid named Defiant

We have been dealing with a fair bit of defiance at the moment. In the skateboard park child 4 scootered to the top of the highest ramp and refused to come down and in the playground he ran away screaming "just leave me here, I don't want to come home, I hate you" I am very aware that defiance in anomaly and common reaction when children don't want do what they are asked, adoption just adds an extra dollop of complication.

Defiance is a really hard behaviour to deal with generally but add the additional issues adopted children tend to bring into the mix and friends, family and the general public and we have a situation able to bring the most adept parents to their knees. At first I wasn't sure quite how to deal with it, without becoming the dreaded fish wife or the weak pathetic parent giving into her child's whims. So in the end I have decided to not worry about other people and I have just had to wait child 4 out and then put consequences in place to discourage him from behaving defiantly. So on the days we need to be home quick, we don't take the scooter and on the days I need to be the one in control of what happens in the playground, I have resorted to reins.

It is my struggle with child 4's defiance that has led me to think about defiance in general and then why I am so upset by it and I have come to the conclusion that in actual fact defiance in its own right and in the right circumstances can be a good thing.

So, perhaps I shouldn't be fighting against defiance, maybe I should investigate why child 4 resorts to defiance, possibly I should  nurture an understanding for why defiance is a good and necessary part of human behaviour. I wonder if defiance can be shaped into a means of challenging unjust behaviours, can defiance become strength and bravery in the face of adversity? Can defiance be articulate, quiet and peaceful?

Jesus, Nelson Mandela, Ghandi, Leonardo Da Vinci, Isaac Newton, Mother Teresa, Emily Pankhurst, Albert Einstein, Charles Darwin, Malcolm X, Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King, Dalai Lama and Aung San Suu Kyi are all people that stood up for what they believed in, in defiance of the status quo. Mother Teresa left her convent in India to live amongst the poor, Malcolm X, Martin Luther King and Rosa Parks stood against segregation fighting for civil rights in 1960's, Charles Darwin changed the world view on how life began, Mandela a political activist against apartheid, Jesus, Ghandi, the Dalai Lama stood for the poor and disenfranchised. So yes I think defiance can be for the good.

I just need to remain strong, brave, articulate and calm when I am dealing with it.


Sunday, 27 September 2015

Life Story

What does life story mean to you?

Life story books and journeys mean so much more to those involved in fostering and adoption. Every child that is adopted will arrive at their new family with a life story book or their social worker will be in the process of completing one. This is a book telling the child's life so far, where they were born, who their birth families are, who fostered them and then as in our case on the last page is a picture and description of the adoptive family. Child 4's book is a brightly coloured laminated A4 sized book, full of photos and basic information. It tells the history of his birth parents, other children they have, it has photos that the birth family wished to be included. It has a picture of the hospital he was born in along with his time and date of birth, giving birth weight and length. It explains where he lived when he left the hospital. More pages give an insight into his life in foster care and the two families who looked after him until his social worker found us. The middle of the book explains why he couldn't remain with his birth family and why he was placed for adoption. 

This book has sat on a shelf for two years, the older children, particularly child 3 have read it cover to cover absorbing the information and with it the sadness and loss that touches all of us involved. Child 4 hasn't really shown any interest, probably because he is too young yet, that was until his birthday when we showed him the photos of when he was a baby.

I have been meaning to follow up on his story, but didn't really know how, would each of our children want to create a book, should we have a family one, perhaps for each year. Then I was given the opportunity by CORAM to attend a Life Story Work workshop run by Joy Rees. I have to say I love adoption courses and workshops, they are packed full of useful information and maybe just as importantly other adopters who share their stories, the highs and the lows, making me at least feel normal even if just for a little while.

Joy Rees began her course explaining what should be in a life story book and what definitely shouldn't be. Understandably in this age of modern technology and social media the advice is to not include full names, dates of birth and definitely not addresses. This information would have been used much better if we had, had it before our children were placed but she also gave alternatives if our children had been with us for a while, such as road maps, That's for another day. Her idea was that the books centred on the child and his family, his adoptive family because that is who his family is. Of course the birth parents were mentioned, after all we all have birth parents and they are the roots of where we start but actually the here and now and what happens next is what is important. Our children need to know that they have a future and a happy, safe and secure one.  Here sample books are simple, brightly coloured, full of the relevant information, the child is the main character and his family, us are chapter 2 not the epilogue!

I find it fascinating how grown adults as myself sometimes just accept things as the way they are, we don't always question, because we don't look too hard at the information we are given we just assume that it's ok, trusting that the person who has completed the work firstly, knows what they are doing or secondly has been give the time and support to complete it correctly and to the best possible standard. We are sometimes too scared of being seen as difficult or too assertive, after all that maybe the way to ensure that we are never matched with a child if we question when we should. Sometimes, time and events over run us meaning that we miss things.

When I returned home I took child 4's book from the shelf and re read it, it has his birth parents, grandparents, extended family names in full, some with dates of birth. In the family tree it's has the parents home town listed and his paternal grandparents full addresses!! When you consider that child 4 was to be placed outside of the area he had been born because his parents and paternal grandparents were adamant that they would find him and bring him "home" allowing child 4 the information that would enable him to contact them so very easily (his birth mum is the first person to come up on Facebook when you search for her) I am amazed that not only the social work team did not pick up on this but that I didn't either. (I have read Bubble Wrapped Children and should have known better)  I have contacted our social worker to ask for advice, but don't have high expectations as child 4 has been with us for two years now and with the turn over of staff I don't even know if child 4's social worker is still around.
Don't misunderstand me, most social workers do their best but I know that for child 4's social worker ours was her first adoption and she had a massive work load, her attention had to have been taken by those children still at risk. child 4 was now safe with foster carers so would no longer be a priority in her mind. No one else noticed that information he could use as he grew up to find and contact his birth family was now readily available.

We his family will now rewrite his life story book, we will include all the information from his original one and keep the original one safe until he is 18. But I will follow Joy Rees ideas  making child 4 and his place within our family not his history or that of his birth family the centre of his book.
My life story books aim to reinforce the child's sense of belonging and security within the adoptive family before addressing their history and early trauma. The book brings the child back to a secure present and leaves them with a sense of a positive future.



http://thejoyoflifework.com


Friday, 25 September 2015

The Eye of the Beholder


Sometimes we can just get it wrong. There is no malicious intent but our pre conceived ideas and judgments mean that we misunderstand a situation or think that we know the reason for a Behaviour without actually asking.

Earlier this week after school drop off, child 4 was scootering in the skateboard park. 9am is a good time for him to use the equipment as the majority of the local teenagers are in school. Whilst I stood watching him, occasionally with my heart in my mouth as he navigated the highest and steepest slides  a chap from our parish was out walking his dog and stopped for a chat. He commented on how brave and confident our youngest child was and it was lovely to see that he wasn't clingy anymore.

Hmm my first confusion, child 4 has never, ever been clingy - nope he tends to be completely independent. He didn't even cry when he first joined us, we had to teach him that it was ok to ask for help if he hurt himself, kissing his hurts better and cuddling him when he did tumble. Very occasionally these days he will snuggle in or hold me in a death grip if he doesn't want to do something. 

This was followed up by tales of his daughter who had taught in an inner city primary school, where the school was full of children who were difficult to manage, there was a child who would sit in soiled underwear, no matter what the staff did, children who couldn't sit down at all, children who would intentionally cause trouble and all these children apparently had terrible parents just like child 4's birth parents and he was lucky to now be with us! I was so shocked that I couldn't comment, this man had already written off child 4's parents as well as all the parents in his daughters school as uneducated, likely drug or alcohol dependent and deserving of losing their children. It may well have been that child 4's parents were indeed unable to keep him safe, it may be that their parenting fell short of good enough parenting. But he doesn't know child 4's story or the story of his parents. I have learnt over the last 3 years that preconceived  judgements are the most damaging. People have their own stories to tell and without walking in their shoes we really can have no comprehension of what has happened to them or why their stories shape how they behave. I have compassion for my youngest child's birth mother, We met his parents before he moved in with us and the knowledge I left with filled me with sorrow, a young girl full of self doubt, attachment issues herself and no support network, a girl searching for a happy ending desperate to be loved but unable to see that she is looking in the wrong places. This meeting opened my eyes to the need for compassion and support for those not good enough parents, I make a conscious effort to not judge but it's certainly not easy especially when you are aware of the damage some birth parents cause their children.. Our adoption story so far has definitely not been the traumatic story that others have had so perhaps it's easier for me to be compassionate.

I guess I should wonder what about his history, education or fears made him so quick to judge these parents (and children) so harshly, why was he so interested in the behaviours and not the causes of those behaviours.

Interestingly later that day, a friend I was with said that she has kind of forgotten that child 4 is adopted, she remembered the other day that he was and that highlighted how he just was the baby of our family. That comment was the highlight of my week.


Thursday, 10 September 2015

Pro-active Parenting

The first day of school was an inset day for child 3 and 4. Well kind of as child 4 is at pre school, anyway whilst my two youngest enjoyed their last day of freedom I was in school with both my governor and adoptive parent hats on taking part in the attachment training I have been going on about for the last two years. Two county education psychologists had joined the teaching staff (including the TA's, NOT the lunchtime assistants unfortunately, but hey one mountain at a time) to talk about how the brain forms, attachment theory, and how difficult it is for children who have not made strong attachments to achieve in schools. I am sure that many parents like myself who have hoovered up as much knowledge as possible about why attachment issues occur and what we can do to help would find the training provided by council to be pretty basic but watching how the staff reacted was fascinating if not worrying.

The psychologists only had 3 hours and in that time they shared the basics about the brain using the famous comparative photo of the Romanian child brain and the healthy 3 year old brain,

 they explained attachment and the basics of attachment theory, introducing us to Heather Geddes, Mary Ainsworth, John Bowlby, Margot Sunderland and Daniel Hughes. But, It was the activities that filled me with hope and gratitude, I became aware that everyone around the room was beginning to "get it" 
We were put into small groups and were given cards explaining the hardships a child named Billie suffered, each was different, domestic abuse, neglect and so on. Each group then discussed how Billie would grow up thinking about herself, thinking about how her parents viewed her and the strategies she would use to cope and survive. Another exercise was a list of why is ........ Constantly turning around in class, always exploding during maths or spellings, in trouble in the playground or frequently telling lies and we had to match them with maybe because early loss especially of caregivers leaves children with difficulties distinguishing between fact and fantasy, danger comes from behind or he finds it hard to make mistakes or be wrong.  Every group were enthusiastic in involving themselves in each task, sharing ideas and really thinking about the children in their classes and perhaps how they could ease their days in school just by placing them at the back of the class or supporting them more in the playground. And when I said I had three hours of my hero Dan Hughes on DVD talking attachment that I was willing to LEND out if anyone wanted to watch, I was over the moon when two people asked to borrow it. 

I left not necessarily impressed with the training but with how the staff were so open to considering attachment issues and what they could do to help. It was worth every conversation, every meeting and every knock back.

Maybe child 4 is going to be ok when he gets into school. 😄

Sunday, 16 August 2015

On a positive note

I've not been about much, summer holidays, sibling rivalry, constant supervision requirements, BAAF, Kids Company etc, etc. sometimes it is so very easy to get caught up in the negative stuff and as I try to always write with a positive note I have for the last couple of weeks chosen not to write. What would I share, my angst about holidays, rain, no routine, pleasing everyone - no chance or perhaps I could think up some positive thoughts about the closure of BAAF and Kids Company - well I just haven't been in the mood.

At last though, it seems the sun has come out and I have been thinking about the joys of adoption and there are some honest. In fact there are loads.

We adopted because we, well I always wanted to, three children weren't enough, my husband is probably praying that four is!😜 in truth I love having a house full of noise, obviously I prefer laughter but sometimes noise is enough, I love dinner times despite the occasional drama and door slam, I love curling up with a child to cuddle and to watch a movie, share a story or even try and snooze. I love picnics, tree climbing, walking the dog, visits to the park, the woods and the beach. I love baking, making science and painting. I really, really love my kids.

We have been to a zoo, a farm, a safari. We have played in the woods and on the beach. We have picnicked in the sun and under a huge tree when it rained. We have made playdough, moon sand, a volcano and painted pictures.

 We have collected snails and spiders (some of which have escaped in the house aaaarrgh). We have met our neighbours new puppy and watched baby orangutan play with their keeper. We have watched weddings and met some Daleks. Child 1 returned home from her Borneo expedition safe, sound and full of excitement, she already has a job and is saving for her next trip. Child 2 has stepped into the breech she left when she was away. He is growing up. Child 3 is baking fairy cakes and making her own cups of tea, she has been loving her holiday gymnastic club and showing fantastic abilities. Child 4 has been enjoying life.

I must remember to read this post next time I am feeling low or struggling with the bickering, the throwing, the punching, biting and hair pulling. Because in reality life is good.








Sunday, 19 July 2015

Letterbox Connection

From day one I have been a massive advocate for contact, I believe in the importance of our children having some contact with their birth families. All children need to know their roots, what they choose to do with that information is for them to decide, although I pray that they will involve us, so that we can support them when the time comes.

At the very beginning of our adoption journey I thought that contact would be easy, just a couple of letters a year and child 4 would have a link to his roots. I didn't really think about the impact on me. For me, the writing of the letters was easy, I would write about child 4's favourite books, songs, TV programmes. I would share his achievements and milestones. I wrote about visits to the farm, his love of animals especially the ones we own. We would make pictures to share using his handprints and footprints so that they could see how he had grown. A chicken with a handprint for her crown, a dinosaur based on his hand prints. Child 4 would decorate the carefully hand written pages with crayon and I would feel like we had done a good job. But then we would wait for their response. The first couple of letters were full of anger, sorrow and loss and it was relatively easy for me to read them, the untidy, grammatically incorrect letters full of spelling mistakes, inappropriate language and confusion. those first letters supported the need for child 4 to be removed and then placed with us, in a way it gave me the higher ground on justifying the need for adoption. But, now the letters are more coherent, this couple are becoming more grounded and although in some ways I am pleased, I am not callous enough to want them to suffer more than they already have but, in all honesty I prefered those initial disconnected ramblings.

As child 4 grows, he will be able to read all these letters, I have copies of what we have sent and have kept all the responses, I feel that he would understand better that there was no choice but adoption when he reads those first letters but as he reads the later ones will he question why he was taken into care and then "placed" with us. In some ways I hope that they will stop responding or they will revert to anger and despondency.  I will continue to write but if they didn't write back or if their letters became full of Resentment I will once again take the higher ground.

I know I am being selfish, unjust and downright mean but he is now mine, I guess I don't really want to share him, although I really do understand that there is no choice, I have to take this on the chin, I kind of knew what we were getting into, I just had a rose tinted view of it. It is so important to put child 4's needs first, it is important for him to know that his birth parents love him and that he understands that they just couldn't keep him safe. But that doesn't stop me worrying. On one hand I worry that they may stop writing making him feel that they didn't care enough, on the other that they won't stop and he will ask why he had to be snatched away from them in the first place. I guess that I have just realised that no matter what he is the loser and I love him yet can't protect him from what has already happened I just have to hold his hand and be with him when the time comes for him to make sense of it all.




Thursday, 9 July 2015

Attachment Aware Schools

A couple of weeks ago I was fortunate enough to attend a conference held at Bath Spa University on Attachment and Trauma in Schools. the university along with Bath and North East Somerset County Council have been working together to create attachment aware schools. It was wonderful to listen to the speakers share their passion about the importance of attachment and how schools can help.

Having learnt about the importance of  attachment and how trauma in children affects their learning and emotional growth during our adoption preparation, I have gone on to actively seek out as much information as I can, reading books such as The Primal Wound, Bubble Wrapped Children and the Science of Parenting I have sought out media articles that highlight the new research investigating how trauma can have a huge impact on the develpoment of children in our society. I have attended therapeutic parenting courses run by followers of Dan Hughes and I have tried and tried to share that knowledge with those around me, particularily in school. I have found the lack of interest or desire in teachers to even give much more than a cursory glance my way disheartening. And I honestly believe that this is because I am viewed as "just" a mum, who is over protective of her youngest child. So I now back every theory I share with specific research to show that it's not me just talking rubbish.

Whilst on the conference I found that my basic background knowledge into trauma was far superior to the many teachers, school leaders and teacher assistants who attended. I have a better grasp of how the brain develops and why some children struggle in school. With the knowledge I also understand that for our traumatised children to achieve in school we need to change how we talk to them. I was shocked and saddened that all the research and knowledge that is only a few clicks away using the Internet is pretty much unknown by many of those who are working in our education system.

When I listened to those who have heard, who have understood, share their stories of success in helping children  in schools using therapeutic methods and emotion training I felt that the sun had come out but, it's not happening everywhere, this conference was shouting from the roof tops about "Play, Love, Acceptance,Curiosity and Empathy" it was showing that these new methods were changing lives. In Stoke On Trent an area full of children living in poverty, a council who have suffered huge financial cut backs have by using therapeutic methods reduced Behaviour incidents by 80%, violence in schools by 50% and have not permanently excluded a looked after child in the last 6 years. Absolutely EVERYONE who talked about attachment and supporting children with that as the central theme talked positively.

Tony Clifford shared a wonderful analogy. If a child comes into school with a nut allergy, every member of staff, including the lunch time staff will be trained in what to do in the event that the child comes into contact with nuts and parents will be asked not to send any nut related products in lunch boxes. Schools have the same responsibility to look after traumatised children, these children will be the runners and if they do go into flight mode nothing will keep them in a school setting, not fences or gates and if they can get out then they are at as much risk as the child with a nut allergy.

We need our schools to understand the importance in using new ways of educating children, they are not all the same and we HAVE to ensure that they feel safe before we can look at academia. The government are certainly aware that there are issues, which is why all looked after children are eligible to claim pupil premium and the new adoption fund has been released to support traumatised children should they need it. None of this will help our children achieve their potential if our educators don't understand trauma or worse don't realise that it exists. It still remains for the parents to educate them and I am finding that really really hard.


Monday, 22 June 2015

Child 1's tortoise analogy


Once upon a time a girl bought a tortoise for her mum, her mum didn't know how to look after a tortoise so she took it into work, a school where she was a science teacher and she asked if the school would take on the responsibility. The school said yes and for a couple of years they housed the tortoise, they gave her a name and they gave her lots of love and attention. But as she grew the school realised that they could not take care of her, they could not keep her safe, where she lived was not a good environment, during the holidays she was sent from pillar to post, passed from one carer to the next. Sometimes she was looked after well other times it was not so good. Many of those she came in to contact with did not know or understand the care that she required. The school recognised that they could no longer look after her so they hunted out a family that could take care of her. A family who learnt all about how to take care of a tortoise, a family that made a special place for her to live, a family that found out about tortoise groups and contacted people who knew how to take care of a tortoise so that they could keep her safe and looked after.

We are that family, we have taken on a 3 year old horsfield Tortoise called Marigold. We have build her a safe but fun outdoor enclosure and bought a large crate for indoors. We have read up how to take good care of her and have found a number of people who know how to look after her. We know what her favourite foods are, we have learnt how to bath her, we know how to keep her safe and we are all falling in love with her. She is quicker than you would expect, she tries to escape, she loves Kale and dandelions and she loves her bath, she is a right little character and she belongs to child 4.

Marigold is not to blame for her unsettled start in life and she has settled into our home very quickly, providing much entertainment for us all.

Maybe, just maybe understanding his very exciting pet and her history will help child 4 understand that he is lovable and deserving of a family that can look after him.


Saturday, 13 June 2015

#The best bits

For me there are three types of best bits, the bits that make my heart swell just because they are joyful, those that fill my eyes because they are just normal and I feel relief and those that make me appreciate life.

Having children is joyful. Feeding the duckerlings and the cyganets, chortling laughter when we jump in puddles, family days to the beach, the Secret Garden or the zoo. Splashing in the bath, bouncing on the trampoline, making cakes and cutting out biscuits are just to name a few.

Having three birth children has really highlighted the difference in some behaviours exhibited by adopted children, so when child 4 suddenly does something the older three always did naturally, well that's a best bit. - when child 4 first came every woman was called mummy until one day I became mummy and everyone else became Jan (our social workers name), the first time he cried because he hurt himself, at first he never cried, so, as a family we would always kiss his hurt better and give him a hug even though he made it very clear he didn't want us too. Now he sometimes cries when he hurts himself.  After months of asking when he was going home he told my mum and dad "this is where my home is" when they dropped him back to us.


As I finish this child 3 and 4 are asleep in their beds, child 1 is out at an end of exams party and child 2 is watching TV. The house is quiet and calm and I have an enormous cup of hot tea. Perfect, the best bit of almost every day.



Sunday, 31 May 2015

Making memories.

For Eva. I thought you may enjoy this one. I know that sometimes there is so, so much negativity surrounding adoption especially via Twitter, I guess that's because Twitter is where many of us go when life is tough, but it isn't always like that.

Watching the clouds drift lazily above the canopy of the rose pink blossom laden arms of the ancient gnarled tree beneath which I lie, their shapes and hues of white and grey lull me into a daydream, the sun caresses my face with his warmth as he peeks out reminding me that spring is slowly disappearing into summer. The wind murmurs to me, whispering of memories waiting to be made and my children are laughing and whooping in delight with their cousins as they play amongst the blossom heavy trees, climbing into their waiting branches to search their world for adventures,  clambouring up hillsides and sliding down dusty pathways and hiding amongst ever green bushes.

A famous five day out once again. We have been to the park, then off to find the soft downy grey cyganets and the yellow and brown fluffy duckerlings as child 4 calls them, then we stroll and dance into the magic of the  Secret Garden for a picnic. I lie here thinking nostalgically of Anne of Green Gables or rather her children playing in their Rainbow Valley, Walter would be making up stories while Jem would be playing the hero. The twins would be getting into scrapes, little brown boy Shirley would be hiding away and Rilla my Rilla would be desperately trying to keep up. The Merediths of course, would be close by sharing games and secrets. I sometimes think that my love for these stories is that I could disappear into them as a child, you hear of people saying how back in the day they would be off out after breakfast and not home until tea time. Exploring and playing in the sun from Spring until winter came, perhaps that was what I was looking for but the only way for it to happen was through the tales in a book.

And so I lie here today, wishing that, my children could live the life of the Blythe and Meredith children playing together, learning life lessons together, enjoying being outside with the sun on their faces, enjoying those moments in childhood without a care in the world. No trauma, no attachment issues, no social media. Just laughter and joy.

Then, I realise, in actual fact that is exactly what they are doing, maybe not with the independence of those children in my favourite books but still, I am lying here day dreaming I am not watching what the children are up to, it is very unlikely that I will know exactly unless someone is hurt. They are enjoying their own Rainbow Valley moment and perhaps I should just carry on enjoying my day dreaming, whilst I have the chance. I can dream, as I am sure Anne did, about what amazing adventures lie ahead for my children or I can worry about the tribulations that life brings. Instead I will doze quietly and enjoy the knowledge that they are making beautiful and happy memories today.




“Anne smiled and sighed. The seasons that seemed so long to Baby Rilla were beginning to pass all too quickly  for her. Another summer was ended, lighted out of life by the ageless gold of Lombardy torches. Soon...all too soon...the children of Ingleside would be children no longer. But they were still hers...hers to welcome when they came home at night...hers to fill life with wonder and delight...hers to love and cheer and scold...a little.” 
― L.M. MontgomeryAnne of Ingleside



Sunday, 24 May 2015

Violent, Aggressive, Naughty?????

Thanks to the Adoption Social there has been much talk about child to parent violence (CVP) this week. Although I had heard about it I haven't really come into real contact with it or probably even realised the exhausting effect it has on those affected by it.

I wouldn't say that we have experienced anything like the agression some families suffer. Our child 4 has occasional and sometimes not so occasional bursts of fury. He is 3 and has the strength when full of rage to throw a chair, even when tantruming he can aim his fork, cup of milk, toy car or trains at who he feels is the perpetrator of his anguish and hit them with it, usually slap bang in the middle of a forehead, leaving bruises and bumps. These rages have concerned me enough to contact our social worker to find out about training for restraining him, it won't be long and I won't be able to manage as I have been, because he will be too strong. She suggested to try wrapping him in a duvet for the short term as that will protect him and the restrainer for now and she would look into courses, they exist but there is a definite resistance about wanting parents to learn these methods. 

To me is seems that a lot of the issue about CVP seems to be a lack of understanding from the outside world and a not wanting to believe that it is happening by those who should know better. You only have to read the Twitter responses to programmes like My Violent Child and Born Naughty? to see so many people full of judgement about how a family deals with behaviour issues of their children. Parenting is never easy,but for those of us dealing with traumatised children it is even more complicated.

For us we started down this adoption road armed with books about attachment theory, knowledge learned at therapeutic parenting courses providing us with some expertise about why traumatised children behave the way they do, however there is a definite lack in exactly how to deal with those behaviours. Therapeutic parenting is definitely the way forward but most of us struggle with it and often have to stop and think about how to deal with a new behaviour in a therapeutic way as it is not natural. I doubt many of us were raised therapeutically so we are constantly thinking on our feet, not ideal when sometimes you feel like you are living in a war zone. There is no time to stop and think when a metal toy is flying through the air at you!

My understanding is, that so much of the care for traumatised children is still in its infancy, we have a much better understanding of why but there just hasn't been the research into what to do or what works. This means that when we look for support, firstly we have to find someone who believes us and then we do, we realise that that either the support doesn't exist, isn't available in our area or there is no funding.  It is so hard to talk about the behaviours in the first place so to have people not believe us or to offer us worthless advice or inappropriate comparisons to their child's behaviour means that often we hide away trying to deal with it on our own  and that helps no one least of the child that is the centre of the situation.

I have found that I have had to be massively proactive with ensuring support and understanding for child 4 and his siblings, so I follow fellow adopters, educational psychologists, adoption groups and similar support groups on Twitter (the place where every day someone tweets-have you seen/read/watched or tried this) I learned about The Yellow Kite and Louise Bomber, Braveheart Education and was introduced by Al Coates To WASO, The Adoption Social all via Twitter. I read as much as I can - Dan Hughes, Sally Donovan, Educating Ruby and Helen Bonnick. I involve myself in anything to do with attachment and am lucky enough to be attending the Attachment and Trauma Aware Schools Conference at Bath Spa University next month. 

The hardest thing I have to do though is talk about my concerns and talk about them without becoming emotional. I have to educate family, friends, schools and clubs and that is really hard, there are those I don't bother with but those who are willing to listen and at least believe the difficulties we face, I share what I can and I listen to their responses, sometimes they are right!!

Following all the discussions this week I will take on board, wade through, learn form all those who have experienced parenting adopted children and use that to parent my children, hopefully by learning from their successes and failures we will be able to help child 4 manage his anger better and so prevent escalations in the future. I will sign up for Theraplay - I am really lucky our adoption social worker is studying Theraplay and needs a "guinea pig" for her training and has asked if child 4 and I will take part. YES a free intro to Theraplay. A friend has found a yoga class specifically for adopted children and their parents to help with attachment and teach strategies to self regulate I am booked in for the next batch of sessions and another friend has emailed details about a local forest school for under 5's with tree climbing, tyre swings, fire pits and bread ovens. All perfect for child 4. Maybe, just maybe we can prevent our child reverting to survival mode when he is scared or anxious or maybe we will be able to provide strategies to help him contain his anger so that is doesn't escalate into a full blown, uncontrollable whirl wind. I don't know if all the pre-empting will help, what I do know is that there is a lot more support especially via social media now, more than ever before so I will always have someone to talk/tweet too. Which is much more than adopters before me. 

If anyone out there is struggling please ask for help, WASO -the adoption social have been collating stacks of support info it's all on their site. We are out there and we can at least be on the end of a Twitter feed.

Bravehearted Education

The Yellow Kite

The adoption social

Educating Ruby

Wednesday, 20 May 2015

The opposite to STANDARD.........

I have had many interesting conversations this week about SATs and GCSE's. Child 3 is currently sitting mock SAT exams, she is 9 and in year 4, she will not actually sit her SATs until 2017 and child 1 has just started her GCSEs. Both girls are coping with the exam pressures really well, just the occasional meltdown, the odd slamming door and a few tears.

It's conversations with the parents that has highlighted to me how pressurised some of our children can become. One mum asked me how my child 3 was coping, as her daughter had been collapsing in to tears every afternoon after school saying that she had failed and would be moved down. This little girl is in primary school, surely the sitting of mock SATs is just to prepare them for how exams work. I am sure that the results will be studied, after all Ofsted look at how children perform year on year now, pupils are expected to to make progress through two national curriculum levels between the end of KS1 and the end of KS2, so for example if you child achieved a 2A at KS1 they should achieve 4A at KS2. Child 3's SATs will indicate to her teacher if she is on track to achieve her expected progress or if additional support is required to help her during the interim. This will I am sure be fed back to me via parents evening or school reports. I hope that she is doing as well as expected but not all children learn in the same way and sometimes they just plateau.

As a parent I cannot change the education system, I could home school but do not believe that would be an ideal solution for my children and definitely not for myself. Of course voting during an election means that at least I can vote for a party that I believe have the best interests of my child at the heart of their education manifesto but there is, as the 7th May showed no guarantee that will mean the party I voted for would win.

So, what to do? Child 1 has a plan for her future, she wants to travel, work with children and tread the theatre boards. Her next step is to study Drama, Dance, History of Art and English of Literature at A level to do this she needs 5 GCSEs, maths, English and 3 others, as her love is drama and dance she will no doubt achieve the grades required. She doesn't need A* grades, C grades will ensure her of her place and so my aim is to support her take that place. I want her to just do her best, not to push her to achieve those A* grades that seem to be so sought after in schools today.  Our child 1 has always struggled academically, her strengths lie in the more creative subjects, she has always been streamed in the lower sets and we have not, even when she was achieving top of the class, pushed for an upward move. For her self esteem consistently achieving the top grades in her class was much better than moving up a set and then being middle of the pack or worse bottom of the class.

It seems that our education system is created to fulfil the needs of those academic children aiming for A*, by testing children we are highlighting success and failure - how will children and parents cope with that at 4 years old. Parents can easily be pushed into the adding extra support by using Kumon and tutors, feeling that they are letting their children down if they don't. Especially if teachers are pushing for academic success measured by standardised tests, these tests are how their performance is measured and managed so that is where teachers focus will lie. But how does that enable our children to be happy, after all if you asked the majority of parents what they wanted for their children, I don't believe that their answer would be "to be academically brilliant" I think that most like me want their children to be happy, well rounded, have friends and a partner and to be independent. Obviously passing exams can  help to find a job and working means financial independence, everything else is about who they are not what they have achieved by completing a standardised test.

Perhaps the clue is in the wording standardised - to cause (something)to conform to a standard. To make consistent, make uniform, to make comparable.


In truth I don't want a standardised child, I want an exceptional, unconventional, extraordinary, unorthodox and different child! Don't you??


Sunday, 3 May 2015

Together Forever

I have just read a post from Alex Chase's "Beyond the Picket Fence Dream" entitled Better Together and boy did it hit home.

http://www.beyondthepicketfencedream.com/2015/04/better-together.html

Two years ago I wrote a similar blog, which now sits in my draft list as it caused so much upset with a couple of individuals. We too were told by One of them that adoption would lead to the destruction of our family and the ruin of our three older children. Now, nearly two years in I can say that yes adoption did cause issues within our family but not quite what they expected.

For our family unit the addition of another child by means of adoption has changed the fabric of who we are, it is definitely not the easiest way to add a child, a sibling, grandchild or nephew but the saying sometimes the right path is not the easiest is very true and for us adoption is the right path. When I watch my children I see my four children together, a unit, yeah, they argue and fight, but they are also so much better for having to see and experience life as they never would have, but for adoption.

Those of us that live in stable families full of love and security will never experience and therefore not really understand the effects of neglect, poverty and abuse. As a family we have seen some of the fallout and with that comes compassion, understanding and love.

Everyone, who has come into contact with our child 4 has learnt a little about adoption and the need for understanding not only for the children that come from care but how we as a society could probably do more to help prevent children being removed in the first place. After all adoption is the last resort for birth families and it would be better for everyone if there was a safe and healthy way for all children to remain within their birth families.

For us yes adoption did lead to a family division but it has also led to family bonding and a bond so strong that I sometimes have to do a double take. The gains for us far, far outweigh any troubles.

And I like Alex can now accept that there is the odd person out there that sees our adoption as a foolish, selfish endeavour that risks our birth children's happiness, knowing that I see our life so differently.

 I am only sad that they are missing out on everything that we have gained.










Tuesday, 21 April 2015

Number 4 Den Building

When I was a child my mum was the school lollipop lady, so when she, my then baby brother and her lollipop stick headed out early, my younger sister, our friend Lou and I were left home alone for what I remember as hours but could only have been 20/30 minutes before we headed off to school ourselves. I don't think of this time with any fear, no what I remember was our back room with an old rickety wooden table that we turned upside down and would then sail off to exotic places, fighting pirates and watching out for sharks. It's funny how this memory sticks with me so clearly, another is of my mums friend Joy who lived on the outskirts of London with her two children, we would head off to visit for the day most holidays, I really remember the wet days where she would lay out an indoor picnic, once with indoor fireworks.

I suspect this is where my love of forest school comes. As a child I wasn't allowed to roam the fields that surrounded our village and certainly today we wouldn't let our children head off out at breakfast with a jam sandwich and bottle of juice not expecting to see them until dinner time. But, it didn't mean that I didn't dream of such things. How many of us would entertain imaginings of living in the woods or a cave for a few days like Julian, Dick, George, Anne and Timmy the dog did in my favourite famous five stories. Of course the sun would shine brightly, we could light a fire and would have fat sausages to put on sticks and cook over the embers followed by enormous marshmallows and there would be nothing to scare us when we curled up in our den made of flowers and ferns to sleep for the night.



Forest school somehow bridges a gap, it provides our sometimes cotton wool wrapped children with an opportunity to be out, at one with nature and for our children, I truly believe this is where they thrive and flourish. Our child 4 in particular is at his most content being outside, he doesn't do well caged up. Or maybe it's me that doesn't cope well, there are lots more reasons to avoid the no word indoors, come down from the window sill, play on the carpet, your crayons are for colouring on paper (not the walls), shower gel is for in the shower (not the living room floor and furniture). Can you run in the hall, it's dangerous in the kitchen. Outside he can run, twirl and whirl about, he can climb the apple tree, dig in the vegetable patch hunting for worms to feed the chickens ( child 3 calls him the worm murderer) or jump on the trampoline. He can shout and scream, singing and laughing letting the breeze carry his noise away. So we have cleared a patch at the end of the vegetable patch and covered it with bark, with branches cut from the apple tree we have edged it with a fence and planted sunflower seeds to grow to great heights in the summer and sweet pea seeds to scramble over the fence adding colour and sweet smells. Our neighbour was cutting down a huge bush so we took the branches and have built a den. The local mechanic let us take some old tyres from his workshop and we have filled them with gravel, sand, mud and water. Last week we held on to the baked bean and chopped tomato tins and painted them with red, yellow and blue enamel, strung them up on string so they now hang over the fence, clinking in the wind or being used to make music with a wooden stick. We added a bug house to the shed and, and  There is so much more to do, we are planning to spray a piece of wood with blackboard paint, build a fairy garden, make dream catchers using chicken feathers and other feather finds, paint stones with luminous paint and using old juice and milk bottles add a water wall.




Please sun keep shining, Pinterest fans please keep sharing your den ideas we are planning a year of outdoor imaginings, who wants to come and play????

https://www.50things.org.uk

http://www.theguardian.com/teacher-network/2015/apr/21/outdoor-learning-forest-school-revolution?CMP=share_btn_tw


Monday, 13 April 2015

Waiting for a rainbow

Once upon a time I loved the holidays it was a time to slow down to be together to have family time. There were no lunch boxes to be made, no early mornings and no after school clubs.  Nowadays it's different, I don't exactly dread them, I just don't feel quite the same way. No longer are they a time to slow down and unless the days are organised, family time can be disastrous.

When everything runs smoothly, life here is fantastic, the house is full of noisy laughter, imaginative games are played, computer games are shared and books are read. Outdoors they hunt bugs, build dens or practice acrobatics on the trampoline.

Unfortunately, more often than not the fun and games morph into sibling battles, the sharing becomes vying for attention, and the imaginitive games become bickering, slanging matches. All normal behaviour except that we have a traumatised child in our midst. A traumatised child who when ignored will do what ever it takes to reclaim his place as the centre of attention. This is usually violence of some sort, biting, hair pulling or throwing something.

So not only are we dealing with a baby of the family whose position has been usurped by a new and younger sibling but that new sibling comes with his own set issues. This means that when child 3 goes into melt down because she doesn't get her own way or because she thinks that our attention is taken by her younger brother there is a massive knock on effect with child 4. He just can't cope with temper tantrums, the shouting and screaming, the slamming of doors. He then spirals out of control, he hits out at those nearby, he shouts and screams and then attaches himself to one of us just in case we take him or leave him somewhere.

It is actually quite exhausting, I find that sometimes I have to take life an hour at a time, trying to plan ahead ready with a distraction to prevent the next battle breaking out.

Our Easter break peaks when we celebrate my Aunts 80th birthday, our tribe congregate at my parents, that is my sister and her 3 boys, my brother and his 2 children, our cousins including 2 more children and the 6 of us. After a fortnight of screaming, destruction of property, fighting, biting and bruises caused by flying cars I was to be perfectly honest full of trepidation. 11 children ranging from the traumatised 3 year old to the 21 year old uni student with every possible age in between in 1 house. Do you know what it was a fantastic celebration, the champagne and prosecco flowed, mum had created a treasure hunt, the older kids took all but our child 4 down to the field for a game of football. Everyone had a whale of a time with a few of us making it to the local family run pizzeria that evening. A very noisy crowd of us and yet  Child 4 took all the fun in his stride, maybe because he wasn't the centre of attention, maybe because he is beginning to feel that unconditional love vibe, the one that starts no matter what. Maybe because he feels like he belongs, my mum said the other week when they dropped him home he said "this is where my home is" as they drove up the road. A move forward as up until then he would ask where his home was even when curled up on the sofa in our arms.




None of this is to say we are at the end of our journey, I am sure that we will still stumble along the route but sometimes when we least expect it the sun breaks through the clouds, lifting our hearts. Showing us what life can be like.


Sunday, 5 April 2015

Chocolate!


 My most favourite chocolate recipe is a decadent chocolate mousse recipe that was originally stolen from Good Food Magazine many, many years ago and since then has been modified to fit numerous occasions. The base is two ingredients - chocolate and double cream and it can be served sprung from a round springform cake tin easy to be sliced or dished into small individual glasses

I've used it as a filling for birthday cakes adding strawberries or raspberries as a layer too. I've made three flavours layering them for a stunning dessert. Dark chocolate, topped with milk, finished with white chocolate and dusted with grated chocolate and raspberries. You can add your favourite alcohol, brandy, baileys or Tia Maria or a splash of orange juice, a spoonful of coffee granules or peppermint flavouring.

It can be made a couple of days before or freezes beautifully.

This weekend I've baked my mums recipe for chocolate cake doused it with cassis and topped it with billowy spoons of mousse and finished it with mini eggs, blueberries and raspberries.

All you need is
250gms chocolate
568 ml double cream

Soften chocolate in microwave, add 1/4 cream and melt together. Melt Slowly as chocolate burns really easily in the microwave.
Whip up the remaining cream until it looks like a really thick milkshake.
Fold in the chocolate.
Spoon into individual dishes or into a cling film lined spring form cake tin leave for at least a couple of hours to firm.

Perfectly delish chocolate decadence!!!!!






Thursday, 19 March 2015

The Feast of St Joseph.

Today is the Feast of St Joseph, for me a perfect patron for adoptive parents. In a time where to marry a young girl carrying a baby that was not yours was a brave if not fool hardy thing to do. That is exactly what he did and I believe that he went onto love Jesus as if he were his own, teaching him to become a carpenter no doubt as his father taught him. I am a woman of faith, I don't shout about, I am not really the evangelising type, I just try to live my faith -of course I keep my expectations low so that I don't fail on a daily basis.  I enjoy being part of our community and all the support it brings. But my faith doesn't define me, any more than me working part time, being a mother of 4 or being a wife.

However my faith must be part of why I wanted to adopt, for many adoption is the only way they can create a family but for some there is an altruistic reason. We can't necessarily explain why adoption is right for us and do we really need to?? On Sunday as part of the Mothers Day celebration Songs of Praise spoke to Home for Good a charity that aims to make adoption and fostering a significant part of the life and ministry of the Church in the UK. This charity is spreading the word through upto 15000 churches hoping that if just one family in each church adopted that would mean that all those in the system waiting for a "forever" family would have one. A fantastic aim. But the message that is often heard from people of faith is the saving of people. I do sometimes wonder that we are attempting to save these children and that is NOT a reason to adopt. What traumatised children need is security, boundaries and unconditional love not saving. I view God like a loving father, someone who unconditionally loves his children. Even on days that he is cross or disappointed love would still permeate everything that he stands for. But how does this work for children who have been taken into care, they have never received this unconditional love from a parent so how could they comprehend that, that is what God is about. It's possible that they see a wrathful or indifferent God so how can they rely on that to support them when they need help. This is really highlighted in the following paragraph from Donal Neary -  A Lenten Journey

Reflection : No Good News

Some young people knew only pain and meaninglessness. ‘God put me in this world to suffer’ one of them used to say to me regularly. That was the only reasonable explanation for his situation that he could come up with. How could I talk to him about God? Many of them didn’t want to believe in God. The message they got all the time from the society in which they lived, was that they were no good, useless, trouble, unwanted. After a while, a very short while, you come to believe it’s true what they say and think you are no good, useless, unwanted. So, if there is a God, then God too sees them as no good, useless, and unlovable. It’s bad enough to have to go through life being made to feel no good and unwanted, but to have to go through eternity being made to feel no good an unwanted was too much to bear. So the Good News for these young people was that there is no God.

When I read this I was shocked, my experience is so different than the children Donal Neary spoke of and understandably so. I have received unconditional love from my parents, how do we explain what unconditional love is to traumatised children, when they have never experienced it. Not only that but how can we expect them to trust us as adoptive parents when their own parents couldn't love them or take care of them. This is another reminder of how we must always think of the child's perspective and experience.

I really want child 4 to have the same positive experience with God as I have, I want him to be able to question his faith but always rely on it to help him when he needs it. I guess time and experience is what will help. We have a lifetime ahead of us and enough love and understanding within our family and our parish community to provide him with the continuity he needs. I guess I just have to trust in God.