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, 29 December 2016

Love

"Love is all you need" doesn't seem to work in the adoption field. Love is pretty much a given, surprisingly in a way. Who would have believed that you could meet a 2 year old and fall in love so very quickly. I didn't but have been proved wrong. 
Many adopters though will tell you that Love is not enough to help our children, some of whom have been so very damaged by their early start in life. Many children need support and help outside the family unit and the families need support and help to keep their lives on an even keel. I can only speak of my experience not of other peoples, every story is different. I often hear the comment "all children do that, oh he will be fine, he was so little when you adopted him so he won't remember the best one was I know all about adoption I've watched The Dumping Ground" yes honestly that is true!! Sometimes, I doubt myself, am I imagining things, am I over protective or making excuses. When we started school I know they pooh poohed my concerns, thinking I was an over protective parent, although to give them their due they have seen the light and are putting lots of support in place to help with child 4's agression and anger.



I like many over the last couple of days have read the Daily Mail Article "They open their homes to adopt – then find they’ve taken on youngsters who wreck their family." 

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-4069254/They-open-homes-adopt-ve-taken-youngsters-wreck-family-continue-BETRAY-loving-parents-asks-CAROL-SARLER.html

A coarse and frightening piece of journalism. One that shows little compassion for anyone involved in adoption be it the children, the adoptive families, the birth families, social services or adoption charities. A piece of work that could sadly put off potential adopters and scare adopters like myself who are not living the lives of these families but worry that our lives could change very quickly and we could find ourselves living in homes full of egg shells where one false move could cause family life to deteriorate  into crisis. It tells of the worst case scenarios within adoption, scenarios that are being shared more and more frequently. Not that it seems to change much. No one really wants to talk about adoption breakdowns or families in crisis, I guess because it calls the whole system into question. How many noticed that in the article Katya's birth mother was only a child herself, in care because her mother was in prison, a cycle of neglect that may have been started generations before. The only way to call a halt to the cycle is help and support. Help and support that is either slow in coming or not even in existence. There seems to be an issue with spending money, short sighted because in the long run it will save a fortune. Adoption breakdowns cost the state a fortune, lack  of support could mean that some children will remain wards of the state in the prison system or they end up requiring medical intervention due to homelessness, drug abuse or obesity,  In away it is good that the article has opened up a debate, but I suspect that it is a debate that only those actually involved will join, most of society will if they even read it,  feel briefly saddened or ignore it. I think that It is hard to actually believe that children can behave the way that the article portrays unless you are living it, it is easier to brush it off as "something all children do" than to consider the whys and wherefore as to why a child would behave in such a terrifying way, full of so much anger, fear and sorrow. Especially when you consider the lives of so many children around the world today. It is easy to think we can save a baby or a toddler when we see their sad faces plastered across the media/social media but where is that desire to save them when they have grown into angry, obnoxious and agressive teenagers? 
Love has to be bigger than that we have for our families, it has to encompass all those in society that need it. Imagine what could be achieved if their was more compassion if our tax money was collected properly and was spent on helping those who need it rather than on big salaries.

So I guess all I can do today is pray for those who really need help and that love along with pro-active parenting, training, a supportive school and community and a family that stand well and truly in our corner will be enough. 





Sunday, 18 December 2016

Peace

Peace on Earth is something to dream about, something to wish for, but, finding peace in my little spot on earth is something I may actually find.
Over the last few years I have been trying to find peace in what I have or to find peace in myself, tricky when you live in a busy household, when you are a working mum of four.

Sometimes I am sure that I have grasped this elusive wish and my world feels calmer, softer and warmer. I can be surrounded by the noise of family and friends and find that I am at peace, in fact it is often when I am surrounded by those I love that I am at peace. I don't have to act in a certain way, don't have to watch what I do or don't say and I don't have to worry about how I look.
I have I think, realised that peace cannot be found, we have to create it, we have to live it and in turn give it away wherever we can.



Now with a house full of children all dealing with growing up, finding their way, moving forwards. (Although at times we seem to take one step forward, two steps back.) it seems especially desirable to be able to give peace away. I wish peace of mind to my children, I wish for them to be fearless in their heading out into a world that doesn't care about where they came from, shows little interest in how life decisions, not necessarily made by them, impact on how they grow. I wish for them to be strong and believe in themselves, I wish for them to be compassionate towards others and I hope they recognise that sometimes you have to find the courage to walk away from people to find peace, sometimes you have to leave people to find their own way, because if you walk with them they take you somewhere that you don't want to go.




Sunday, 4 December 2016

Hope

Adoption is a funny old thing, it changes everything, your outlook on life, your relationship with acquaintances, friends, work and family it impacts on everything. How I manage my family, my emotions, my work/life balance. Along the way we have distanced ourselves from some but others have integrated themselves into our lives with ease offering all manner of support, some involving coffee others involving gin. We seem to have made lots of new friends, others like us, parents dealing with children who need something more, something different. Or just those who go with the flow. We, I think are lucky to be so established within our community that many although often dubious have given us the benefit of the doubt then, when realising that we only have our children's best interest at heart and know what we are talking about, work with us to ensure the best outcomes for our children.
Pro-activity is the key life plan. We pro-actively manage everything, holidays, weekends, starting school, beginning new clubs always assuming the worst and hoping for the best. We stop cycles of behaviour by talking, planning, returning to known ways that work or try new ones. We attend courses, read blogs, articles, books all about how to support all our children and ourselves through this mine field that we sometimes stroll through, other times we tip toe, silently and cautiously, sadly we occasionally misstep causing explosions and fallout.  
Outside influences can rock this, emotions triggered by others can cause a ripple effect, like that of a stone being tossed into smooth, calm pond. The ripple starts small but spreads quickly, effecting more of the pond surface, the ripples often increasing, becoming faster and more agressive until they peter out and once again the pond is smooth and calm again.

Advent always makes me think, it's a time to revisit the year and think about the coming new one. It's a time to think about the bad stuff and what can we do to avoid it, the not so good stuff and how we can change it but most importantly the things that have gone well. We have had a wonderful year really, a fantastic family holiday, amazing exam results, medals at gymnastics, a happy settling into school, children growing and changing, making us proud. Then we have those days of quiet, calm simplicity, the days full of sunshine and joy and the days of exciting, chaos. Those are my favourite memories and I am hoping that 2017 will be filled with days like those, days like those overcome all the days that aren't so good.


Sunday, 20 November 2016

Sweet fillings

I've been thinking about how to minimise our tricky behaviours especially after school and at the weekends. This has meant a backward step or two for me personally, a return back to those first days when I had to be on hand tso manage those late afternoon, early evening witching hours and at the weekends to be in a 24/7 supervisory mode. I am now ensuring that dinner is prepared before I do the school pick up, on work days I prepare stuff in the slow cooker or go for simple pasta bakes when I get up in the morning. Mornings are good, child 4 wakes early but is happy to potter, eat breakfast, watch a bit of CBeebies or play with some toys. Other days I make it whilst the children are in school. This seems to alleviate the agression after school as I am more available, I can cuddle up on the sofa with child 3 & 4 or we can play, read, paint or bake. The hair pulling, the throwing and the hitting have begun to disappate. At the weekends we have to be more structured as the days are long without school.
We have been having our neighbours children over for an hour or so most Saturday mornings the last few weeks and I have found that structuring their time has been the best way to manage them. We have made biscuits, on Halloween weekend we iced ginger bread men shaped biscuits into skeletons and on Firework night we made edible sparklers by dipping breadsticks firstly into melted chocolate then a variety of cake toppings, such as 100's and 1000's, glittery sugar and chocolate sugar strands.
I've extended this to cover much of the day through Saturday and Sunday, not just baking just more structure and it is working slowly. Yesterday went extremely well, especially as Mr L and child 2 had headed off to watch the football 3 hours away. We made Christmas shaped bird seed cakes, did a bit of shopping, made lunch, went to a party, went for a walk and played in the bath.

Today was a little trickier probably because after lunch with my parents we relaxed on the sofa to watch Babe, child 4 isn't quite ready for a 90 minute movie, he soon became restless and looked for ways to annoy his siblings, very successfully. Now he is asleep in bed and I am finishing off my blog before checking out Pinterest for new ideas for activities!!!!
This mornings creation - White chocolate cookies. We also made our Christmas Cakes.  Busy busy busy hands mean less chance of trouble maker hands.

Sunday, 6 November 2016

The end of the school honeymoon

This week meant a follow up meeting in school, to see how child 4 was settling in. Child 4 has settled in well, there are no concerns regarding his academic ability and he loves forest school and PE. However, he is hurting someone every single day. I was hoping that his agression and sometimes violent action remained within the home and I was saddened if not surprised that my hopes had not completely come to fruition.  In reality since half term we have been struggling with many difficult behaviours, it's quite exhausting, days that easily spill into anger, rage and fighting, evenings of clingy battles against sleep and a move from when safety was in sleep to a need from him to end up in our bed. A need to feel secure and loved despite or because of his behaviour earlier in the day.

The school are being amazing, they are planning to add yoga to help with his anger and a social behaviour learning scheme using stories in school, supported with stories at home with additional ELSA support in school, they will also look at an additional staff member to help support within the class as child 4 cannot cope without an adult presence, the minute he is left to his own devices especially in free flow play or playtime something will happen. Hopefully as his days become more structured he will feel more secure and his behaviour will calm down. He has build a strong and respectful relationship with his teacher to the degree that sometimes if he feels unable to cope he will find her and stay close to her until he feels safe again.

At home Mr L and I are going to do a Conscious Parenting course, I did one three years ago when child 4 arrived but of course he was 2 then, now at 5 things have changed and evolved and I could do with a reminder and some new ideas in managing some of the more difficult behaviours that seem to be exhibited more and more often.

All this left me a little despondent for a while, in so many ways we have made so much progress, then something reminds us that life is not plain sailing I am just so grateful that we have such a good relationship with the school and that they are willing to put huge amounts of support in place when it is required. Also with our post adoption team who have already found places on courses for us to attend, Mr L this month and me early next year.

I often wish that I had a magic wand and some magic spells to fix it all, but that I guess would be too easy.


Sunday, 30 October 2016

National Adoption Week, belated thoughts

National Adoption Week brings such a myriad of feelings, it reminds me at every mention on the news and social media that our last baby was adopted and with that comes the mixed feelings of adoption. 
Rightly adoption should be the last resort for children, where possible they should remain with their families however our society has made the decision that where a family cannot care for their children the children should be removed and placed in an environment where they can be cared for. 
I honestly don't know what is the best thing for these children so badly hurt by those they love. The decision is made by those with greater authority than I. I, like those who adopt are left to deal with the fallout big, small or indifferent. 
All the training, all the reading and if lucky the support does not really prepare us, any of us for the trials and tribulations of adoption. Our parenting becomes central to our whole way of life, if we get it wrong, which is often as we are human and evolution has taught us to react sometimes defensively other times aggressively especially when we are tired, confused or stressed. Our children seem to know exactly which buttons to press to get some form of reaction, not necessarily the one they were hoping for but once the roller coaster ride  has begun it can be really, really hard to put the brake on and preferably not when we are all hanging upside down. The fixing of these errors in judgement can be lengthy and saddening. 
Us adoptive parents all understand the need and benefits for PACE parenting, Daniel Hughes is a hero of mine, but the realities of constantly and consistently using therapeutic parenting are very very difficult. The expectation for us as parents is to always be calm, to be playful, to be able to wonder why something has happened, to accept it as the way that it is for the moment, to empathise with the child in question. We have to think like this when a car is being thrown at our face, whilst furniture is being pulled over, when one child is really really hurting a sibling, biting, hair pulling, slapping and kicking. In reality we react often in anger, despair or even desperation and then that often means that the situation spirals out of control, so we not only have to deal with a distraught child but also the pangs of guilt, knowing that we have made the situation worse.
I took a therapeutic parenting course not long after child 4 arrived and three years later need to go to the same course again, I need to be reminded of how to remain calm, how to be playful, how to consistently use I wonder. 
Some of this I am sure is because I am surrounded by families who have no idea about realities of adoption, who will say but all children do that, don't worry he will grow out of it or you should use the naughty step. It makes me question my worries and my parenting. Some time spent with other adopters is needed if only to make me feel that I am not alone, that we need to look at the positives. We have so many positives child 4 is loving school and he is loving rugby. He wants to cuddle up and says sorry when he has hurt someone. He sometimes recognises that he is getting angry or scared and will find his trusted adult to sit with. He has become such a part of the family that when life is calm we forget about adoption. I suspect that being back to school and normal routines life will settle down and I will once again just get on with things. That is until the next National Adoption Week 

  

Sunday, 16 October 2016

Love

Usually, when someone asks if I love child 4 like I love my three older children, I answer bluntly and to the point but this week it was different. The person who asked was careful with the way they asked the question and it wasn't a curiosity about my relationship with my children, it was an honest question, a question from her heart, she was asking if the love for an adopted child could be the same as that for a child you give birth too. She was asking because in probability the only way for her to have a child would be through adoption.

My answer was as quick as always, but, a little later it did make me stop and think. I could understand the concern, there is so much in the parenting world about pregnancy, mothers bonding and that desired mothers love. Interestingly, I didn't really like my first baby when she was born and when I, concerned by my lack of love for this beautiful, helpless baby told my mum of my fears her response was "well I didn't like you too much either"

As a new young mum, I did not speak of my worries with my new found post natal friends, fear of looking like a bad parent meant that I kept my worries to myself. I wonder how many other mothers feel the same as I. Many I suspect. As a society we worry so much about how things must look, about  how we should behave so that sometimes we miss what is right in front of us. Of course I struggled to love my baby in the way that magazines and today social media portrays, bouncing, perfectly dressed babies and mothers. No one seems to show the long hours of labour, the stitches, the blood loss, the agony of breast feeding, the exhaustion. It was no wonder that I wasn't overly fond of my first born. But, the mothering instinct kicked in, I fed her, changed her, talked to her and when she did sleep I sometimes watched over her, slightly awed by what my husband and I had created.

Those want to be parents, who can not chose the birth route must feel just as scared, but in a different way. I would not even try to guess their worries and concerns, how could I have any real idea. But, having been fortunate enough to have done both, birth and adoption I can say, unreservedly and wholeheartedly that the love I hold for my children is the same for each of them, they are four totally different characters with different  strengths and different flaws. As parents we have to adapt our parenting to fit with who they are to ensure we support them the best we can and yes I am more protective of child 4, his uncertain beginnings mean that his need for us is a little different, more demanding maybe. But the love is the same.



Wednesday, 28 September 2016

Singapore slings and sunshine

Wow, what a difference after a week of tantrums and more tantrums we returned to Singapore to contentment.
Considering that we travelled straight from Changi Airport to our Aunties house for a popiah party. Popiah are uufried spring rolls, rice wrappers spread with black sauce and chilli stuffed with a mix of bean sprout, cucumber and carrot, topped with prawns a slice of hard boiled egg and extra chilli. Everyone made their own, the art of course is in the rolling, too small and you don't get the flavour, too big and it falls apart at the first mouthful. 
The next day we met at China town, a stroll down Smith Street to shop for gifts to take home. Chop sticks, Chinese charms and choi sums. Tuesday brought our Forest Adventure, climbing through the trees, jumping into nets and zip wires. Split trousers and so much laughter. My brother flew in with his children, girlfriend and her children so we met up for a dim sum dinner, a beer and some Durien. Wednesday took us by bum boat to the beautiful island of Pulua  Ubin, where we hired bikes and explored the island spotting monkeys, lizards and snakes. 
Once fed and watered we played rounders on Changi beach. Thursday entailed an exploration of Little India, 
henna tattoos, murtabak and Prata then off to the famous East Coast Seafood restaurant for a celebratory birthday dinner. The whole family were there, mum, dad, my family, my sisters and my brothers families, my aunt with her family and some very good friends came along too. All our favourite foods appeared, soutong (tiny deep fried squid) chilli crab and the special sweet fried bread rolls that are served with them, lemon chicken, Kang Kong  (green veg and chilli) stuffed yam, egg fried rice, enormous prawns and so on. If you ever have the chance to go to Singapore this is one of the places you must eat and all the foods listed are the ones you must try. Every time we make it to Simgapore we eat here. It's noisy, chaotic and the food seems never ending but I have so many memories, the heat, the smell, the noise. 
The weekend arrived quickly and there was a party for mum, satay, barbecued prawns and chicken curry with Singapore slings to celebrate. Then a surprise, mums brother flew over from Australia. Perfect! 
All the children had an amazing time, we didn't stop, we were out every day and every night, we travelled on trains, buses, boats and taxi's. We ate until we couldn't move, we tried new foods, drank amazing juices. We saw the sights. It was wonderful. As to why the tantrums ceased, I don't really know. Maybe it's because we were surrounded by family!!!!


Wednesday, 31 August 2016

The Good, The Bad and The Opportunity.

If you had the opportunity to visit family in Singapore and the chance to add on a stop off in Siem Reap, Cambodia, you would jump at it wouldn't you. Well we did. And so far it has been amazing.
Singapore is a bustling hub of people, markets, high rise buildings and noise. We have visited before as we have family here and I have noticed a difference every time I have had the chance to visit since my first time Christmas 1981 when I was 11 years old.
Siem Reap reminded me of that old Singapore, old, colonial, exotic and mysterious. it is a really green lush country, well we were visiting at the tail end of the monsoon, which meant for turbulence on our flight and the occasional thunderstorm during our stay. We visited the main temples, Bayon, Ta Prohm (The Lara Croft Tomb Raider Temple) and Angkor  Wat and we walked along the Elephant Terrace rode an elephant and travelled in a Tuk Tuk and we shopped in the old night markets. We did take in a little of the Pub Street scene but found that we preferred the restaurants and markets on the outskirts.
There are loads of charities and NGO's supporting the poor, the land mine victims and the street children through the restaurant trade. We ate at Joe to Go, Sala Bai, Genevieves and the Blue Pumpkin all of whom help to educate those in need and enabling them to move out of the poverty trap. Each establishment asked for patience with their staff as many were illiterate so writing down an order or calculating the bill was complicated.
Our boutique hotel was charming and there were only 12 travellers staying at any one time, of whom we made up 6. So breakfast was a quiet affair and we were for the most part the only people in the swimming pool. The staff were amazing very taken with the blondes in our family group, in fact they took child 4's many tantrums in their stride.

Of course as to be expected child 4 struggled, we had spent 3 busy days in Singapore, adjusting to time differences, heat and a faster pace of life. A two hour flight to another country another set of hotel rooms and a new environment. We saw a huge escalation in tantrums, defiance and agression. Add supporting the other three children, who also struggled with his spiralling behaviour, at times it was beyond exhausting. For the most part the other guests ignored the difficult behaviours and would smile reassuringly, there was one chap that really wasn't impressed, it's funny isn't it how just one person makes it so very hard because they show their disapproval. I may say that I ignore them, but it really isn't that easy. However, I would say that the good bits outweighed the bad, child 4 spent some happy times exploring temple ruins, watching geckos, playing in the pool, learning Uno and eating noodles. As a family it was good to spend those days in Cambodia together, just us. Although our mornings were busy, the afternoons were spent by the pool and we had early dinners and were in bed by 10pm. It was good for the children to see a different world some of which is beautiful but some that helps them appreciate everything they have. Child 1 is studying the cold war in Asia at ALevel and for her and her dad to visit the Killing Fields Memorial will give her a fresher view on those terrible years in the 1970's.

We are now back in Singapore with the rest of my family, 18 of us have travelled to celebrate my mums 70th birthday. Hoping that as its all family, all together, child 4 will calm and we can enjoy the coming days.

Despite the need to remain patient and pro active I would do it all again in a heartbeat.

Monday, 22 August 2016

A holiday. Well the beginning

What a week, the lead up to our holiday has been tricky for child 4, the excitement of a big holiday and no pre-school routines have led to many tantrums. Much like the ones the older three had when they were two. The terrible twos at nearly five bring an interesting slant, child 4 is bigger and stronger so much hard to physically "restrain" and he is much more articulate with a what seems like a dictionary of rude words, only the occasional swear word but hearing I hate you, you big butt head screeched across a supermarket is pretty horrendous.
Child 4 is very lacking in patience so we kept the holiday plans, fairly low key until the week before, tricky with three older ones in the house, one of whom was awaiting her AS results. To my surprise child 4 knew his days of the week so on Sunday night we were able to count the day down to our holiday. Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. Once we had done this we could work out that it was 6 sleeps. This stopped the "when are we going" repeat, instead every morning he could announce to all who would listen that it was however many sleeps left until the holiday.
Eventually, results day came with a very happy child 1 and proud parents, then holiday mania could begin. I had to work Friday morning, so it was a quick change and out the door for the 3 hour drive to Heathrow. As we reached the M25 the Radio 1 3.30pm summer mix came on, opening with The Vengaboys, which was child1 and 2's favourite tune when they were toddlers. Well everyone in the car was singing and a dancing a perfect way to start our holiday. Everyone was happy and excited all in a good way.

All I had to hope for was a quiet 13 hour flight haha!


It's my wonderful Mum's 70th birthday and the whole family, Mum and Dad , our 6, my sister and her 3 and my brother his partner and their 4 are meeting in Singapore her birth place to celebrate. We are tagging in a visit to Siem Reap, Cambodia whilst over that way. A trip of a lifetime! 

Sunday, 14 August 2016

Blessings

I like many other adopted parents hear comments about how "lucky" our child/children are. We know that they aren't, any child being forcibly removed from their birth family is not lucky but it is so hard to get that point over. I guess it is much easier to ignore the reasons why children are adopted than to think about how sad, traumatic or just plain terrible our children's lives have been to end up in the position they have and through no fault of there own.

I have struggled with this lucky commentary, often saying that actually we are the lucky ones rather than debate whether or not child 4 is lucky.

 Luck means  success or failure apparently brought by chance rather than through one's own actions. I don't think that chance plays much of a part in the adoption process, everything seems to be discussed, procrastinated, carefully thought out and weighed up. We have frequent meetings with a social worker, courses to attend, reading to complete and panels to sit through - not much seems to be left to chance.

However, do I think that we are blessed? Yes, I do. We have been blessed with another member of the family and he is blessed with parents, siblings, extended family and a community whom love him very much. I definitely prefer to think of our adoption journey as one that attributes adoption to some one who cares rather than a random act of chance.

So from now when anyone says that child 4 is lucky I can whole heartedly respond with we are all blessed to have him in our family. Although I may need reminding on the days that he throws chairs at the window, draws all over the bedding with a red sharpie or wee's in the corner of the conservatory blowing the electrics.





Sunday, 7 August 2016

Five go on a picnic or two.

I honestly don't think that you can beat England in the sunshine. Warm sunny days make the perfect memories, like tales from your favourite books. We may not remember everything about the day, but we will always remember the feeling that the memory brings home.
I am hoping to add a whole host of happy, contented memories for the whole family this summer. 

Child 4 has finished nursery for good and will be starting school in September, my experience has been that once the children start school they begin to test their wings, they grow and flourish becoming day by day the adults they will eventually become. This is my last summer where he will still be my baby so the making of memories is as much for me as they are for him. 

With the weather being so gorgeous we have played in the Secret Garden . We met with friends some who had never visited the Secret Garden so child 4 loved introducing them to climbing trees as if they were pirate masts avoiding the very hungry sharks circling beneath, teaching them how to navigate the hills using tree roots as hand and foot holds to clamour to the top then slide down to the dried up stream beds below and then the exploration of the natural dens made by the undergrowth.  When there has been a crowd of them you can spot them or their shadows playing hide n seek amongst the tree tops on the paths that traverse the tops of the valley strolling, running or chasing single file, reminding me of the scene from Peter Pan when the boys play "Following the Leader"  Only returning to us mums on the picnic blanket when they were hungry or thirsty.

We have adventured to our local Palace gardens with a homemade picnic in tow, we have made pork,sage and onion sausage rolls, jammy tray bake, chocolate cake and cut up strawberries and pineapple. We have fed the swans with their 8 cygnets who are growing big and strong, their fluffy grey down now speckled with white feathers are preparing to fly the nest and look for mates and good nesting spots of their own. Settling under the boughs of an ancient tree that cast its shadow over the natural wells, we have enjoyed the dappled sunshine and the sounds of cool running water. Child 4 sat his toes dipped in the icy cold waters playing his version of pooh sticks for ages, he would lie on his tummy allowing the water to run over his hands, through his fingers , lifting and wiggling his fingers, watching the water drops fall, catching the sun in the drops like miniature rainbows. Other children joined him and he played and laughed with them until it was time to go and find an ice cream.


These are the memories I need to hold close, to remind me of the wonder of being 4, the joy of children playing together, the counter balance to the bickering and tantrums that take over on the days when the weather is wet and grey or the witching hours before bed when everyone is tired and irritable. The days when fight or flight is about fear and worry rather than aiming for the second star to the right or the taking on of Captain Hook.

Tuesday, 19 July 2016

Coming Home

I am preparing a big family lunch, a get together following the adventures our two eldest children have had. We have an enormous roast chicken, crispy golden skin hiding the succulent meat steaming below, home made sage, onion and sausage meat stuffing, a crunchy top and lusciously smooth beneath, Chipolatas, golden crispy yet fluffy roast potatoes, ginormous Yorkshire puddings with beautiful dips in to fill with gravy and broccoli, carrots and green beans as sides. Yesterday I made Favourite desserts,  summer pudding, using the raspberries growing in our garden and Nutella cheesecake, my mum is bringing my husband's favourite apple cake over with her. All this requested by child 2 as he has just returned from NYC. There has been lots of adventure in the Five Go On An Adventure household the last couple of weeks.

Child 1 has had an amazing week working with an anti slavery charity in London. She stayed with my brother in North London, travelling daily by tube from his home to her work experience placement, a huge adventure for a country girl. She has returned home, rather reluctantly, full of everything she has learned and the amazing people she has met. She was lucky enough to attend an event in Canary Wharf which was discussing a report created by Sisters of Change about slavery in the garment trade, which has probably changed her outlook about the clothes she will buy from now on. Child 1 is planning more work experience maybe with Amnesty International or Sisters for Change, she has returned home as a much more confident young lady, one who is willing to ask for an opportunity to do something, to not worry about rejection, to just go for it.

Child 2 left in the early hours last Sunday morning for his drama trip to New York City, a jolly really but one full of exciting places to see, World Trade Centre, Statue of Liberty, Times Square, cycling in Central Park, rememberance at Ground Zero, Wicked on Broadway and then all the amazing food, bagels, pancakes, burgers, Po Boys, hot dogs and ice cream. After an adventure first thing - arriving at the meeting point at 3am to find that the coach had not arrived. A car pool of parents saved the day driving the children the 200 miles to Heathrow to catch their plane. He has returned home exhausted but full of exciting tales of the places he visited, the food he ate and the people he saw.

I love these family get togethers, the ones where my children are at home and can share their adventures with their grandparents and aunt. This time though, I feel a little sorrow, nostalgia for the days when they were all little. You see as I peel the vegetables, I have just realised that my two eldest in particular child 1 are getting ready to fly the nest, child 1 is planning her gap year travels, following her A levels next year, to Europe, to visit all the galleries and museums she can during a month of inter railing then onto India, Far East Asia and beyond. She is visiting University's in London, Edinburgh and Sussex where she hopes to study history and politics. Soon she will be creating her own home and returning to us just to visit. Don't get me wrong, I know it's what should happen and I am beyond proud. Parenting is ensuring that our beloved children grow into the people they are meant to be. Adults full of compassion, love, a desire to learn and an ability to find contentment.  But ...............

Saturday, 2 July 2016

Where is the rainbow?

It's been raining again, the sun is just coming through the grey clouds, but the clouds are darker in the distance.

For the first time ever I am going to confession at my own violition. I am so very angry at so many people, some of whom I don't even know. I know that this rage is unhealthy and I know many will say that it is "bad form or sour grapes" but I don't think it is. I think that I have every right to be angry. I think that many people have been completely let down by those who made promises that they had absolutely no intention of keeping and for those of us that voted remain we are left bereft, angry, anxious and saddened by what is playing out in front of our eyes. I am hoping that confessing this anger and despair will help me to move forward and to find some peace so that I can look after my family.

My rage, I know stems from fear, funny you may say, an adoptive parent recognising the fight, flight, freeze responses in herself.

I am a first generation immigrant - something I have never even thought of, not until the EU Referendum. I have and still am really proud of my heritage but now that nagging fear of what may happen in the future makes me think of immigration, when I look at my birth children who have the beautiful characteristics of having a mixed heritage or when I look at myself in the mirror. I have always been jealous that my siblings have been blessed with the exotic eyes, colouring and hair of my mothers family where I take more from my British/Irish father (immigrant again) but now wonder if their lives will become more difficult because of it.

I am sure that many used this vote as a protest vote against austerity, complacency and corruption and yet our leaders are still not listening, they are too busy fighting among themselves or passing the baton of responsibility.

My fear is that as the protest vote hasn't given the people the outcome they hoped, for they will protest again, leading us into a society split by race, culture, sexuality, colour and class. I keep telling myself that our society nowadays is a wonderful melting pot of so many different people that hate will not win. But fear stops good people standing up or stepping in. I am wearing my safety pin and many of my friends do to, I hope that this is enough, that something so small will give us the courage to stand up should we need to.
https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/jul/01/britain-racism-safety-pins-brexit-migrants-xenophobic

I look out of the window hunting for the rainbow that should be here, a reminder that after the rain the sun will shine again but as yet I can't find it.



Sunday, 12 June 2016

Second Interview

So, on Tuesday I had child 4's entrance into school planning meeting. This meeting has been hanging over me the past couple of weeks. I've been really worried that the staff would think that I was some kind of loonie tune mother and that I would do more harm than good for my sons start into school.
So I wore smart clothes, had my folder full of information about attachment along with research examples to back my request and held my head high when I walked in.

The meeting was with child 4's teacher to be, the SenCo and two members of staff from his preschool, his key worker and the assistant manager.
Well, what a fantastic meeting. Everyone was so very supportive, the school have already put in place plans to help child 4 settle in. They are creating a sensory corner in the foundation stage classroom and in a small fenced off part of the playground for during play time and lunch times. Perfect for when child 4 is struggling with his emotions. They are going to ensure that he has a constant staff member to link with and build an attachment too.
His pre-school key worker is going to take child 4 around the school over the next couple of weeks to create a book of where his classroom is, where he will eat his lunch, where the toilets are and so on. All the children who will be moving to school in September will have the opportunity to have lunch in the school hall as a practice before they start. This will be huge as currently there are 16 children who have lunch together, in school it will be 75 children.  The plan is for them to have their own table, near the door for a quick escape if it's too noisy and too chaotic.
Everyone listened to my concerns and the pre schools advice in what behaviours to look out for and how best to manage them. No thinking chairs or reward charts. Distraction, frequent praise, instant and appropriate natural consequences if anything goes wrong with a heavy dose of oxytocin releasing   support. A real understanding that consequences can be given, whilst in the arms of the nearest care giver.
Obviously most of my concerns and therefore discussion was around misbehaviour, anger and the negative stuff, the pre school talked about so much positive stuff it made me feel proud of my little man.
With all this support and obvious love for him, he will have the best start in school I think I could have dreamed of.

I no longer worry or wake in the night worrying about how the school will manage his "red" moments, or that they will undo the good work we have been doing. The school will help him avoid those "red" moments and when they do happen they will help him calm down, help him make amends and help him learn to manage himself in the future. What more can I ask?

Now I can relax and we can just enjoy our last few weeks of this special time before our lives change and we turn the page on a new exciting chapter in our story.


Sunday, 5 June 2016

Walking in my shoes

There has been a lot about parenting in the news this week, the 4 year old boy who managed to get into the gorilla enclosure at Cincinnati Zoo and the young 7 year old whose parents left him in woods in Hokkaido Japan. It seems that much of society jump on the judge the parents social media debate.
We only know what the press deem important to share, we, the general public don't know all the facts that led to these two children ending up in a dangerous situations.
Last summer I lost child 4 in a zoo,  I found him happily playing on a climbing frame not far from where I was buying him and his siblings ice creams, he of course, completely oblivious to the gut searing panic that had smashed through me as I hunted for him amongst what felt like thousands of people, I was just buying ice creams, he was with me and then he wasn't.And I am sure that many of us have walked on when our children are tantruming, because they are too tired to walk or their legs don't work anymore. I often sit at the gate at the top of the field on the way home from school waiting for child 4 to give up waiting for me to walk back to him and piggy back him all the way home. It can take a very very long time, but heyho at least the sun is shining at the moment and I can catch up on Twitter and Facebook news whilst I wait.
I know that my examples are not quite what happened in the publicised cases but I can appreciate how easily a parent can take their eye off a young child or have those buttons pushed over and over again that you make a poor parenting choice. We are after all human and with that comes a number of frailties and unfortunately none of us can predict what our children will do day after day, talk about in the next few minutes.


It is this judgment of my parenting, that I have had ticking away at the back of my mind this week. Just before the holidays child 4 was involved in an incident, where a child was very rude to an adult. There were a small group of boys running around, letting off steam after pre-school, child 4 was one of them. One of child 4's little friends came running over to me, to tell me that my young son had been very rude to a mum on the playground and I should tell him off. I went off to find the mum involved to investigate exactly what had happened, to be told that it wasn't child 4 at all! After determining what had happened I headed off to collect him, when this same little boy came up to check that I was going to tell him off. When I explained that lying about some one was unkind and as he was my sons friend I thought it was sad that he wanted to get him in to trouble, he responded with he didn't care and laughed!!

I have always been scared that child 4 is going to be "that child" the one who is always in trouble, the one who is alienated by other parents and children, the one that doesn't get invited to birthday parties or after school teas. As a family we have worked so hard at ensuring that his behaviour doesn't spill out of control when we are out and about. But by doing this, by keeping him close, by pro-actively managing his anger, in a way we have created a mindset in some that he is a problem. He is being alienated because within this little "gang" the other boys are allowed to play in the forest school area unsupervised, it's too dangerous for child 4, there are big sticks, stones and rope all possible weapons if another child presses his buttons and all of this is out of sight of the playground and other adults. People are aware of him because we will remove him from the scene of an altercation that is building, regardless of whether he is actually involved, because he is likely to involve himself. Or we will call to him, to remind him that we are nearby making sure that he is ok.
I cannot change our parenting techniques as that will make things worse, if we are not watchful all manner of things can happen, I have removed big sticks being wielded as an axe or a sword, a threatening tennis racquet being raised to batter someone with, if I had not the child on the receiving end could have been really hurt, it doesn't matter that they were being mean or snatched a toy or pushed child 4 first.
I am sure that some people enjoy causing upset and anguish to others because they are unhappy with their lives or they are jealous of what someone else has, so I guess we need to surround ourselves with people who understand, who help, not who sit idly by judging others for what they do. This is obviously going to be a little tougher than we realised but with the right people with us, we will be ok. I hope that the families in the news this week are surrounded by people who love them and can help support them so that the right outcomes for them all are reached.

Sunday, 22 May 2016

Friends and Prosecco

It has been a tough couple of weeks at the  Five Go On An Adventure Towers. Exams have been a common theme leading to a multitude of additional stressors. Child 2s mock GCSE results have been trickling in, none of which have been particularly good, probably because he didn't revise. In his disappointment in himself for letting himself, us and his teachers down he reverted back to his victim mentality saying that he was being bullied, needed to move schools and was threatening suicide. This led child 1 who is now in the middle of AS', so already pretty stressed herself, to melt down because child 2 was ruining her life, she had too much going on for her to put up with his tantrums. Child 3 of course had to jump the band wagon as she was doing year 5 mock SATs, so we had tears and tantrums from her too. Of course this unrest, angry noise, tears and tension meant that child 4 couldn't cope and he reverted back to his fight responses. He was continually on the offensive and I was called into the pre-school to discuss a new issue of biting and agression.
I found myself in a cycle of being on the defensive, dealing with each attention seeking behaviour after the event instead of pro-actively managing them before they blew up in our faces. It takes so much longer to deal with the fallout if you are on the back foot than it does if you notice the signs and can nip it in the bud.
Sometimes having 4 children, birth and adopted mean that I just miss the signs, I am so caught up dealing with one child that I miss the signs of one of the others going into melt down and so the cycle goes on.
My first priority had to be the suicide threats, even if they are not meant we have to follow through, just in case the child involved takes it further to ensure that someone takes note of their distress. School was my first port of call and I have to say that they were brilliant. They arranged a meeting between child 2 and the family support officer, who after talking to him let me know that he had no signs of any metal health issue and definitely wasn't suicidal, it was attention seeking so then she looked at what was causing that. There have been 2 boys causing our oldest son distress with low level name calling and aggravation, this has now been dealt with. A mentoring programme has been put in place with the new school chaplain who is a cool dude with cookies and hot chocolate to help with child 2's self esteem and they have also arranged time with a TA to help teach study skills and revision planning. At home we are supporting with additional tutoring in maths and English. We are also working on responsibility and less screen time. Child 2 takes absolutely no responsibility for his own actions, it is always someone else's fault and so we are continuing with our "robust" parenting. At the end of the day, he is the one who has to take his exams and he has to learn to live with the consequences of his actions. As parents we can only support and be there to help when needed.
The next priority was child 4 and his behaviour spiral, once again the pre-school stepped up they became more vigilant, watching for any issues that could cause child 4 to spiral, preventative mechanisms work brilliantly, distractions or watching for any child instigating difficult situations have resolved the biting and agression, at the nursery at least. Child 1 is still struggling, but she can accept responsibility for her behaviour even if it tends to be after the event, we have had lots of apologies and hugs and child 3, well after I explained to her that her mock SATs were just for her teacher to know what her pupils knew and didn't know and that it really didn't matter if she did badly in every single one, life calmed down. It's weeks like these that I am so grateful to my support network. Friends with birth children who have dealt with exam and revision concerns, friends with children from care who get the worries about attachment behaviours, education staff who have stepped up to support my children, sometimes going above and beyond and family who are just happy to listen and hug.  Without them life could be difficult and dark, instead the last few days have been filled with coffee, long walks, lunch out, pizza and prosecco, group messaging via what's app and lots of laughter. We have shared the trials and tribulations of parenting, growing up and growing older, all of us making life's load a little bit lighter.


Sunday, 8 May 2016

Desert Island Discs

On Tuesday I heard some of Radio 4's series "Soul Music" which was about one of my most favourite  Disney songs " Feed the Birds." A song that makes me well up every single time I hear it, I think it's the swell of the orchestra as Mary Poppins sings of the Saints and the Apostles smiling down on each person that spends just tuppence to feed the birds, that triggers some unexplained emotion in me. Julie Andrews of course sings it note perfect but I nearly sobbed when one of its creators Richard Sherman sang it, not quite in tune at a piano. This got me thinking about how music plays such an important part of our lives, a tune brings with it memories temporarily forgotten, back to the here and now, sometimes with such clarity that you are transported back to the moment that indelibly marked itself  on you. Another of my favourite Radio 4 shows is Desert Island Discs, I find it fascinating to hear celebrities speak about the 8 songs they would take to a desert island and why, it gives such a personal insight into them as individuals and can tell the listener a great deal about the type of person they are. 
Since starting our adoption journey I have been fascinated about how we are all shaped and marked by our experiences, even if we cannot articulate the memories we may have, so after two days of thoughts and difficult decision making here are my Desert Island Discs, I wonder what they say about me.
Secretly, I always wanted to be a little bit wild but was too scared. I was and probably still am a little in awe of Blondie and Wendy James of Transvision Vamp. Which to choose? It really had to be Blondie's Heart of Glass, the minute I hear the opening drum beat then the guitar overture, I know exactly which song it is and it takes me back to the time I was moving on from primary school. It takes me back to playing "he on the lines" handstands into bridges on the grassy slopes of the school field and hanging upside down on the bars of the climbing equipment. A time of innocent fun before the trials and trauma of secondary school life. 
When I was 11 years old my Dad picked me up as I walked home from school, he was buzzing with excitement and so was the whole house when I walked through the front door. We had our very first colour TV, not like today's at all, in fact my mum still laughs about how you couldn't see the tennis balls during the Wimbledon Tennis Championships. The first movie we watched that very afternoon was an Elvis Presley one, all I remember was the blue, blue sea and sky. I would guess that it was Blue Hawaii but couldn't promise. We must have watched every Elvis movie, my mum was a huge fan but my most favourite was King Creole, I used to dream of visiting New Orleans and explore the French style side streets and eat the crawfish. That opening scene in moody black and white with Elvis singing "Crawfish" from a wrought iron balcony a foil to the beautiful crawfish seller will   voice and in actual fact Perfect is not a favourite anymore, I prefer her more haunting melodies and lyrics, the one I attempt to sing along to, when it's just me and her is Comedy Waltz, it's my go to song when something has riled me, it's a looking for something funny or good when things aren't kinda song. One that plays in my life more often than I want, yet it makes me smile and helps me move on. It reminds me of my 18th birthday party a time that in many ways life was beginning, a time when the world was my oyster and I could be anything I wanted to be. Wow!
When I was 23 I bought my first house a small terraced ex-council house  Every Friday night my friend Jo came over with a bottle of wine, I would cook us dinner, we would drink the wine, pull on our jeans and cropped tops and with £15 tucked into our back pockets, keys in front left pocket and in my case a pack of 
silk cut in the other back pocket we would stroll the 20 minutes to La Mirage our local nightclub, if we got there before 10pm it was free so we would say hi to the bouncers and buy our first bottle of bud of the evening and would hit the dance floor, beer in one hand, cigarette in the other and then we would dance all night, leaving when the lights started to be turned on. I had an amazing group of girlfriends "the coven" who I holidayed with to Portugal, Corfu and Ayia Napa inCyprus and the song that transports me back to those days of being young, carefree, irresponsible and a little bit drunk is Degrees In Motion - Shine On. Oh the memories. It was at a pit stop in our local on the way to Mirage that I met an old primary school mate, little knowing at the time that he was going to be my husband. Scribbling my number on a strip torn off the top of my cigarette packet was to lead to romance and wedded bliss. We managed our wedding on a shoestring, money that our parents and my aunt gave us. We had a yellow rolls royce, something I had always dreamt of after watching the movie of the same name, a church wedding and the celebration after in the Town Hall. It was market day and the yellow rolls royce dropped us in amongst the flower stalls that were sited outside the entrance. What a stir we caused. The song We chose for our first song was "Make Someone Happy" by Jimmy Durante.
Whilst I was pregnant with our first three children, my husband, a bit of a music snob used to play his favourite tracks to introduce his offspring Ito "real" music, I had no taste you see. Child 1 loved Beck, child 2 Beastie Boys but child 3 showed no exciting moves in my bell you on matter what he played. It was when I, heavily pregnant took a 7 year old child 1 to watch Tchaikovsky's Sleeping Beauty that she finally showed some interest. I was secretly so pleased that one of my children had some old fashioned classical taste. My favourite Tchaikovsky ballet is Swan Lake, particularly the bit that Billy Elliot finished on. I wanted the film to continue into the ballet. There is something so magical about the ballet, you can lose yourself in the mythical world of the fight of good versus evil that always has a happy ending.
I'm Walking on Sunshine, whoa, I'm walking on sunshine whoa - Katrina and the Waves is a tune full of joy for me, it's a does what it says on the tin kinda song. Happy, go lucky and one to dance too.
This one must be one of my all time favourites, it's played at all the events I go to. Christmas Parties, Wedding's, 18th, 21st, 30th 40th etc etc. It just seems to tie in with so many celebrations and makes me wanna dance.
My last choice has to be Silent Night, every year we sing this at the Christmas Eve Vigil Service, it's at every Carol concert and as someone who insists on carols being played throughout advent, along side Phil Spectre, Now Christmas and Frank Sinatra's Christmas Album it is something I hear every year. A reminder of what Christmas is about. It for me slows the fast pace of Christmas down for just a few minutes bringing calm and gentleness to where we are. The story behind it is beautiful, in 1816 a Josef Mohr after seeing reanactment of the Nativity was sitting at the top of a hill over looking Oberndorf and he remembered a poem that he had written and he wanted it put to music but the organ in his church was not working so he asked Franz Gruber to put the words tomusic, Gruber  using a guitar and came up with the melody. A few weeks later a well known organ builder Karl Mauracher arrived in Oberndorf to fix the organ, Gruber tested the organ by playing Silent Night. Mauracher was so impressed that he took a copy back to his alpine Village where two well known families of singers heard it and included the new song into their Christmas season repertoire and now it is sung the world over.

So there we have it an insight in to the workings of my soul, I wonder what my children would chose and what sort of insight that would give me of them - something to consider perhaps a talking point on a long car journey maybe?


PS the book I would take would be L M Montomery's Anne of Green Gables, the whole collection if I could as its my most favourite and my luxury item a never ending bottle of ice cold prosecco.


Sunday, 1 May 2016

Tales of the Unexpected

I am rarely able to link my posts with the WASO theme, so this week I was really surprised that I could write about unexpected support.
http://theadoptionsocial.com

Child 4 has been accepted into our local school and I have started planning for his school entrance plan. Oh but how to do this in a positive and constructive way. The older three have attended the school, child 3 will moving into year 6 in September and I am a school governor, so I am well known by the staff. I have always been pretty relaxed with the relationships I have had with the school and have been, for the most part, really happy with how my children have been educated and looked after during their time there.

However, I have always felt that the school have struggled with accepting that child 4 could potentially come with a interesting set of needs. I have lost count of the times when I have tried to talk to them their response has been, "he'll be fine" "he has you now everything will be ok" or "he is a very lucky boy" Everyone of these responses worry me as they all completely ignore the effect that his early life may have had on him. That some how we as a family have some magic wand to wave that will just make everything better.
So, I really don't want to alienate the staff by stomping in with a list of demands or make them feel that I don't trust them to be able to educate him.

With some persuasion I pushed the school into having attachment training, this started very gradually with the teacher and teaching assistants in class 1 first attending a course and then due to their raving about how good it was, a morning session was included in an inservice day for all the staff.
I was amazed and over the moon, when the head on the way back from an academies training session this week, asked about what I thought about the attachment training, I explained that for me it was a pretty basic course, just giving a flavour of attachment but didn't really give specific ways to help, she agreed and asked if I knew of anything else the staff could do. Well, of course I could and emailed her the next day with loads of information (some of which I know I had sent before, but hey sometimes slowly, slowly works)

Our school entrance planning meeting has been set for the first week after half term, the class teacher, the SenCo and child 4's key worker from the nursery will meet with us to discuss his needs. This is brilliant, the nursery are amazing with child 4, they are pro-active in how they avoid melt downs, they have picked up that there are a couple of boys in his peer group who instigate situations and sit back to watch the fall out. The staff now watch for this and deal directly with the instigator, child 4 is often completely unaware of this. The nursery staff don't want any stigma attached to child 4, so they intend coming armed with all their advice to ensure transition goes well and that the school are very aware of how to handle child 4 pro-actively.

Then, I read Al Coates' blog, the bit that really struck me was the reminder that adopted children have "motivated and articulate parents to advocate for them and support them throughout their school lives"* parents like myself who read up on everything to do with attachment, behaviour and all types of support. And not only that, everything that we share "is an opportunity to highlight good practice and broadcast it to new audiences"* which means that when we as adoptive parents share good behaviour support it can affect so many other children that don't have parents in their corner supporting them.
* * http://www.alcoates.co.uk/2016/04/behaviour-management-review.html

So my opening gambit is going to be that my gorgeous, spirited little boy is going to be joining the school and to ensure that he grows into the man he can be, he will need help with being scared, frustrated or out of his element. But, do you know what, he is going to be fine because we will help everyone to recognise the signs of struggling so that they can pro-actively support him, and on those days that being pro-active doesn't work we will just have some quiet calm down time and start again tomorrow.

Thanks to everyone who is there at the end of the phone, everyone who shares a gin and tonic or a bottle of prosecco with me, the head teacher who I think is beginning to get it and Al Coates for giving me the ok to go in to school to share my knowledge.

Wednesday, 20 April 2016

Contentment

We could hear the river before we saw it, the overflow from the surrounding hills and farmland were making the waters high and frothy, yet really really clear. As always we followed the path along the rivers edge towards Watersmeet where a tea rooms awaited us. We strolled leisurely along watching how the waters changed depending on the landscape. The fast flowing waters crashed against the rocks that have traversed the river over the years, displaced and worn down by the winter storms. These Rapids are interspersed by quiet pools of calm, where the children could paddle in the clear cold water and skim the smooth, flat stones found all along the waters edge. Sometimes the path led us up into the hills still following the meanders of the river just higher giving beautiful views and an opportunity for child 4 to throw the rocks that sit awaiting him, down into the depths, creating huge splashes. Occasionally he would change the trajectory and aim for the hillside opposite where we walked and would dance delightedly when one of his rocks bounced off the green and ricochet into the waters below.
It is these days that are my favourite, our "famous five" days out. Involving picnics of sardine and chilli sandwiches, homemade sausage rolls, grapes, home made flapjacks and cake, Pringles and squeezy yoghurts. Child 4 loves the whole thing from preparing the food, to loading the car to arriving somewhere new. He isn't even that fussed as to where we end up, in fact the more low key the place the less anxious he is. We spent a day at the zoo where he ran from enclosure to enclosure almost worried that he would miss out if he didn't see everything "right now." Once we had visited all the animals he was desperate to see, he calmed down and was happy to meander about. The trips out that were the most successful during the Easter holidays were the ones to the moat to visit and feed the swans and the ducks and then a stroll through the gardens and a play in the park. The other was an overnight with grandparents and cousins to Lynton and Lynmouth, child 4 spent the whole time there throwing sticks and stones into the river.  There was no anxiety, no demands and no tantrums just contentment.

Although it is lovely to spoil the children occasionally with a visit to a zoo or an adventure park, I have found that for child 4 in particular, choosing a place of natural beauty, the woods, a hill to climb, the beach or a river is a calmer, less stressful option.

We need this time, time to decompress, away from school,exams, work and the humdrum of life. Time to be together without the easy distractions of wifi and TV, time to walk together, talk together, just be together. The petty arguments decrease, the tantrums cease and we tolerate each other so much more. This is when I know our family is doing ok and I feel myself relax and just enjoy moments in the here and now, not worrying about what is yet to come. I am content!

So with this in mind I have started to hunt for more outdoor stuff to do. Pinterest helps with scavenger hunts and garden play. I have found a Forest School that we can join and learn from and we are going to take part in the Wildlife Trusts 30 Day Wild Campaign by completing 30 Random Acts of Wildness during June (maybe something for #taspic perhaps?)
http://action.wildlifetrusts.org/ea-action/action?ea.client.id=1823&ea.campaign.id=48499

Someone once told me that her mother had always told her when she wished to wish for contentment. What a wonderful gift, to be content and I believe that the natural beauty of the English countryside offers us that. Contentment.




Tuesday, 29 March 2016

"Tiger mum"

One of my biggest fears has been that I would turn into that parent, yeah you know the one.
The helicopter parent that doesn't allow her child the freedom to have a go at anything, for fear of them getting hurt
the authoritarian parent setting strict behaviour rules with no warmth or thought for how their child thinks and the permissive parent allowing her child to get away with misbehaviour.
I am feeling that the perception of me by others is the worst parts of all three.



In the last two weeks I have had a parent in the playground inform me that my child has just punched and bitten her child, I was watching the altercation between the boys, my son being the much smaller and younger one,  although I am very aware that he is a scrapper, more than capable of giving what he gets when he is pushed, and I know that there was definitely a bit of pushing and shoving but definitely no biting. When I highlighted this the other mothers response was "well, if I was his mother I would want to know"  I wanted to respond with yeah, well you're not, but seriously what is the point child 4 is already getting the reputation in the playground as "that" child by a small group of righteous parents.

When I needed to get him seen at the doctors surgery' following a referral from the 111service, as we couldn't get his temperature down below 39* (keep in mind the febrile convulsion he suffered only 8weeks ago) I was made to feel like I would be wasting the doctors time and that I was just being neurotic and then when we arrived to see the on-call doctor, we were left waiting for 40 mins in the waiting room, until child 4 started fitting on the waiting room floor. The on-call doctor didn't have a clue what to do and I have never been so glad to see a paramedic again in my life.
I know that some of child 4's peers parents think I worry too much, that I keep him too close, that I don't allow him to play unsupervised and out of my eye sight. But I am the one that has to calm him down when things don't go right, when someone is mean in the forest school area, my child doesn't just shove back he uses the huge stick in his hand for maximum retaliation. He has absolutely no fear, so although I let him climb the tree, I need to be sure he won't climb too high, get stuck and panic or just show off and fall. 
Yes I know that all boys do the things he does, but with him, emotionally everything is magnified or just ignored. If he falls over, he does not always cry or ask for help, perhaps he is being brave or perhaps he still believes that he has to deal with pain by himself. Some of his peers have already realised that they can wind him up like a little toy, pushing his buttons until he can't cope and he goes off on one like a whirling dervish, be it being really silly or really angry. The staff at the nursery have picked up on this and proactively watch for this happening, removing the instigators rather than child 4.

Fortunately, I have a couple of really, really good friends, the ones that push a bit when you need sorting out and following this latest hospital trip I needed a fair bit of sorting out. For us this is just the beginning, I have to get out the big guns, strap on the armour around my heart and mind, I need to ignore other parents, I have to learn to speak in a language the professionals understand, whether they be doctors, nurses or teachers. We are responsible for child 4 and we have to be in his corner fighting for him - metaphorically at least. So I have learnt words such as hypothalamus and pulse oximeter, I have dusted off the interview stuff that Sally Donavan helped with care of her book The Unofficial Guide to Adoption and I am preparing myself to be a different type of parent that I have always been.
Keeping in mind that I am being the type of parent that my children need me to be, a parent that walks with them on their journey, holding their hands when the road gets tough, allowing them to make mistakes, to take responsibility and preparing them for when it's is time to fly solo.  Well no one else is going to do it are they?


Saturday, 26 March 2016

An overnight bag

I am not a control freak, honest. But I do like to be some what in control.  So when child 4 has a febrile convulsion everything is completely out of my hands and I am powerless to do anything. In traumatic or difficult situations I find that if I have something practical to do I cope so much better.

We were back in an ambulance again this week, this time from the doctors surgery so I didn't have time to grab pjs, a nappy or a drink for child 4 or anything for myself. A hospital sleepover without a toothbrush yuck. 


The hospital staff were once again amazing but the children's ward just aren't set up for a lone parent on an overnighter. They only have enough food for the patient, but you can't leave young patients alone to pop to the cafe, hot drinks aren't allowed on the ward and children aren't allowed in the parents room where the tea and coffee is available. Nightmare. We arrived at the hospital about 7pm, no dinner and I finally got a drink in one of those white plastic disposable cups at 12.30am, I was lucky enough to get some toast at breakfast but nothing else until I got home about 4pm. Wow that cup of tea was heaven.


This time we were referred to a consultant about child 4's febrile convulsions, he was a lovely chap, putting both myself and baby boy at ease as he talked through what we needed to do. He explained that febrile convulsions are caused by the brain realising that the body is under attack from a virus or bacterial infection, the brain tells the body to get hot to burn off the infection but in child 4's case the part of the brain that deals with temperature control, the hypothalamus hasn't matured yet, so the body gets hotter and hotter, the brain can't cope and goes into melt down, which causes the fit. It is believed that the hypothalamus will mature by the time a child is 7 years old - 3 years to go. 

Unfortunately, there is very little we can do to prevent a fit, if child 4 has a temperature we must remove his clothing, give calpol or nurofen, feed him cold fluids or ice lollies and try a fan, however if he is going to have a fit, he will regardless of what we do. 
In child 4's case it isn't the fit that is an issue, 1 in 20 young children suffer febrile convulsions, it's the length of time that they continue for, 30 minutes on Tuesday. So, I have been given a bottle of midazolam so that I can help reduce the length of time the fit takes. We still have to let child 4 fit for 5 minutes before administering the medication but hopefully the midazolam will calm him down quickly once given. There will still be ambulance journeys and probably over night stays in hospital but at least we can do something rather than watch and wait.

On my mums advice, mums are great aren't they? I've made up an overnight bag full of cartons of juice, snacks, chocolate, pjs, nappies, wipes and a toothbrush so we are ready to roll next time. (I was tempted to pop in a can of gun and tonic but felt that might be frowned upon.) My job next week, is to speak to the hospital to see if I can donate a couple of screw top travel mugs so that us parents/guardians can have a much needed cuppa. 


Sunday, 13 March 2016

A Worry Tree

Child 3 struggles with emotions, especially anxiety and apprehension. She will meltdown when she doesn't understand her maths homework, she tantrums if she thinks that she is in trouble and when it's time for gymnastic competition well diva is an under statement. 
I have been managing these "moments" as I always have done, ignoring what I feel is irrelevant, talking thorough what I feel is relevant, allowing time to calm or cuddling and whispering. However, it very, very slowly, dawned on me that child 3 still wasn't managing her emotions so my usual wasn't enough. I had to find another way so after searching through anything that could help I found an interesting article about "The Worry Tree" 


It is a very simple idea:
  1. Get your child to draw a  tree and some leaves to attach to the tree. 
  2. Talk to your child about what is worrying them, and if they are old enough get them to write down their fears on one of the leaves. I asked child 3 to write down her worries, so the list began; what if mummy got ill and died, what would happen if mummy and daddy divorced, what would happen if her friends all hated her, World War III, gymnastic competitions or child 4's birth family finding him. 
  3. First ask if we can actually do anything about the worry. EG World War III, we cannot control that but we talked about the sad things happening around the world and talked about how we vote in our government here in England and that we need to trust that they will look after us, if we disagree with the government we can contact our MP, sign petitions and take part in demonstrations to share our concerns.  Mummy becoming ill, well at the moment I am as healthy as a horse but I can't promise that forever, worrying won't change that but I could promise that if I became ill, I would fight it and I would tell her everything she needed to know, if the worst happened and I did die, her daddy would still be here to look after her as would her Nanna and Grandad and child 1 and 2.  We could help with worries about gymnastic competitions. We talked about what exactly the worry was and then we talked about how we could deal with that. We talked about learning her routines, practising them. We talked about the worst case scenario, if she forgot her routine, if she fell on her face or everyone laughed at her. Then we talked about how to deal with each of those situations. 
Once we had dealt with each one, the leaves could fall to the ground.

I wasn't sure if child 3 had taken the idea on board, she became agitated as we worked through her list and eventually stomped off refusing to talk anymore. Interestingly though child 1 and 2 wanted to share their worries and they found the whole process fascinating and very helpful. In fact it gave me a real insight to their thoughts about today and their futures, opening lots of discussions about many subjects. It also gave me lots of food for thought as to how I could best support them, though that's probably for another blog.

Today, though to my delight, child 3 took part in an area schools tumbling competition, she was nervous but still completed her three routines. At the last meet she was extremely anxious, clingy and weepy. So there was a huge improvement and despite being a little disappointed in her placing (I was really proud of her) she had a great time and is healthily nervous about the next compete - next week!!! Was this due to our worry tree? I don't know but it was definitely worth an afternoons experiment as I think my three older children benefitted from that time to talk and share.