Friday, 24 July 2015

Inside Out - a review

Well, we've just got home from seeing Inside Out at the cinema. It's the second day of our summer holidays and it's peeing down with rain, so we've used some tickets that Dollop won in a competition and had an afternoon of 'feelings'.

At least that's what I'd hoped for. Mini isn't usually affected by film themes like some adopted (and not adopted) children are, but I can sometimes use them as talking points with him after.
I'd also seen headlines about how this particular movie was helping children with autism talk about feelings. Mini isn't autistic, but given the similarities between autism and attachment, I was hopeful that this could help him verbalise some of his feelings as he's always struggled to talk about his emotions, and can't often read us and our feelings.
And not only had the children seen trailers for Inside Out and thought it looked funny, so had the NC and I. So a whole host of reasons to go.

It started off well enough, with the birth of the main character Riley and the emotion 'Joy' appearing in her head, pressing a button and effectively kick-starting the child's feelings and memories (although I suspect that's nothing like what happens for our children). Soon enough Anger, Sadness, Fear and Disgust appear too and play appropriate parts in Riley's life, using the controls in 'Headquarters' to respond to situations. Memories are formed then stored and key moments help develop certain parts of the personality. It actually seems like a really good way to describe what happens in the brain, and it was portrayed really well visually, I'll definitely be referring back to it when talking with the children about how they feel, and how their memories work.

I don't want to give away too many spoilers, but after moving house there is a scene in the movie where Riley's dad has to suddenly stop family time and go to work, and there are lines about him 'leaving us/abandoning us' which came from out of the blue and struck me as something that could upset some children.
Moving on, the story develops so that Joy and Sadness end up away from Headquarters and down in the long-term memory banks with the core memories. Without these core memories stored in Headquarters, Riley's personality begins to change; it felt like pretty much most of the movie was about Joy and Sadness trying to return to Headquarters to restore order with them getting knocked back an awful lot. I felt sad a lot throughout this movie, Dollop clung to me for dear life as she also felt sad and worried, although I think quite a lot of the detail went over her head. Mini remained seemingly unaffected throughout the whole thing.

As well as the story of the emotions doing their thing inside Riley's head, you get to see her actions too. Part of which include her stealing a credit card and attempting to run away and return to the city that they moved away from. Although the feelings kick in and she stops, they are still pretty strong themes that some of our children would struggle with.

Sitting here afterwards, I realise that there was no laughter from the audience until near the end - and that was from the parents after seeing the big 'PUBERTY' button appear on the Headquarters dashboard. And I would imagine that's pretty unusual for a children's movie?

Mini's asked if we can buy it when it comes out on DVD and he's giving it an 8 out of 10. Though he can't back that up with why it scored so highly, he did tell me his favourite character was Anger.
Dollop isn't too bothered and scored it 6 out of 10. She says she felt really worried for Riley and she thought something bad was going to happen to Joy who was her favourite character. These fearful feelings seem to cloud any good feelings she had about the movie, and I must admit, despite a happy ending*, I feel the same way.

*Yes, it's a happy ending, although it's Sadness that saves the day and that might be a bit confusing for some.

Monday, 13 July 2015

A calmness is descending

The kids are at school. They break up for the Summer next Wednesday and I'm approaching the summer holidays - as always - with a mixture of fear and happiness. Will I be able to keep them occupied for a whole 6 weeks? How many memory making opportunities can we squeeze in?

But this year is the first year, despite now having Dollop at school too, that I've not worried about end of term and therefore the transition between one school class and another. Mini is absolutely fine and happy about moving up to the next class. He's happy with the amount of transition work that he's done. He's happily brought home his new writing journal and completed the homework of decorating it and writing the first page too (even though he hates handwriting projects).
Dollop too is happy to be moving up to her next class, with her best friends and her boyfriends (!) although she's a bit worried about how shouty the teacher will be and I'm a bit apprehensive about the increasing amounts of homework for both children.

Is this how 'normal' households live?

Last week we had the children's school reports. They were both amazing. We can see how far Dollop has come socially, and her reading and writing skills seem to get better every week. She enjoys reading and I hope we can maintain that interest over the summer with library trips. Her school report confirms all of that, and talks of a few traits that were a little unexpected but are positive, and some that were expected that we can support her with.

But Mini's was on another level. It was so so different to his previous reports and talked of a child that I don't know very well! It talks of his ability to lead in a group but with sensitivity and consideration to the other group members; it talks of his confidence; it talks of the outstanding effort he puts into music and art projects. It talks of a young man who is settled, happy and meeting all his targets. Wow! We couldn't be prouder of Mini, and we're very pleased with the school too. He's not taking the praise too well, but a little present of new goalkeeping gloves kept a smile on his face.

It's not all easy all of the time. My nan is back in hospital and Mini has been rather wobbly about that. We're taking him to see her at the weekend, but we couldn't consider taking the children to the hospital, Mini just wouldn't cope with the small space of a private room, the sounds and smells, the wires and tubes. He doesn't know nan very well, but is clearly worried about her.
Mini still has wobbles over homework, but that's been scarce recently, so we're still enjoying this calm and peaceful time and just being a family.

Well done Mini and Dollop - we are so proud of all the effort and hard work you put in at school and proud of the lovely people that you are xx

Wednesday, 10 June 2015

Why we don't always talk about the good bits...

It's sometimes hard to think about the best bits, because when you're in the middle of a good period, everything is a 'best bit'. I guess I only really write when things are tough, because that's when I need support, or have something I want to get off my chest. And that's quite normal in all sorts of scenarios and situations, not just adoptive parenting.

You may have noticed that I've stopped blogging as much on The Boy's Behaviour and that is really for the reason above. Things have been going well, and I don't really feel the need to shout about it too much, I'm just getting on and enjoying a relatively calm family life, but also I'm having to work bloody hard to maintain that calm family life and so have less time to write than I used to.

I do know though that if you're considering adoption, or are in the early days of a placement, then reading blogs like mine can be scary and depressing. You want to hear about the good bits, the family times, and the reasons why you should continue with adoption. And equally, if you're in the middle of a shit time with your own adoptive family, then reading about good times *can* give encouragement. I have of course, written positive posts before. In the darkest times, recording those little moments of goodness did help, but I do want to try and share a few more of the best bits now we're starting to have more of them...and hopefully I can bank them, and they'll see us through some of the tougher times that come and go.

So this post is for #thebestbits week on The Adoption Social and I'll be linking up (like old times) to Memory Box.

Last week I took Mini to the theatre for a special Mummy/Mini date for his first ever musical - Joseph and His Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat to be precise.
He loves music, and I love Joseph, so when the opportunity came up to get tickets - good tickets at that - I jumped at it.
I was nervous I must admit, we were only a handful of rows from the front so it was going to be loud and I was concerned that it might be too much for him. He was nervous because he was sitting on an aisle seat and was worried people might knock him as they went past.

But...

We had a fantastic time. It wasn't the same as those times I saw it at the London Palladium as a child, but it was good nevertheless and Mini LOVED it. He has a great memory for song, and was singing them on the way home, and even whilst he brushed his teeth. (And that's another thing, he actually brushed his teeth without question or argument!).
His #bestbit? At the end, some of the cast came out into the audience and danced to the Joseph Megamix, and because Mini was sitting by the aisle, he got a high five from one of the brothers. He declared that he had the best seat in the house after that!

Next time he wants to take Daddy, and he's definitely up for more theatre shows with Mummy too.

Friday, 5 June 2015

Homework: should he? shouldn't he?

So we're back into the swings of things now with school. Mini is still getting on well, although homework still proves to be a struggle...

I get how he feels, I really do. He doesn't want to do his homework because there are other fun things to do at home. He worries about doing certain homework - usually handwriting projects because he is ashamed of his handwriting and worries it will be wrong/unreadable. Sometimes he gets so stressed out that it makes me stressed out and I have to walk away...usually before I get cross, but sometimes after which isn't helpful. The thing is - he's capable, and with a little support from us and from school, he can do it - and very well at that.

I *know* a lot of the time the shame thing is the biggest factor. He really does worry about his writing, not helped by his substitute teacher telling him that his writing was too big, then ridiculously tiny and she couldn't read it, rather than giving him some practical help like lined paper! (Why do they still give them plain paper to write on? Surely lines would help keep it neat and the right size?!).

The trouble is, he's also an 8 year old boy, and so we go back to that 'all children do that' thing. Typically 8 year old boys don't enjoy doing their homework. And, as I said before, I understand why he feels like that too and I know there is an element of that with Mini. But this is the line that the teacher understands, this is an explanation that makes her feel comfortable, this is what she sees in lots of the boys in her class, and all the classes she's taught before that. She admits that not all 8 year old boys are like this, but because it's typical behaviour, she sees that over and above any other explanation.
Which means the way it's dealt with is the way that she feels comfortable with too - firmness is the key. If he doesn't do it at home, he misses out on breaktime/lunchtime (the rest time he needs to chill and de-stress) to do it at school. Just like all the other 8 year old boys that don't do their homework.

I find it very frustrating. Part of me says 'sod it, we'll just allow him to avoid doing homework because it's so stressful for him' but the other part of me says, 'I don't want him missing out on vital de-stressing time during school, so he'd best get it done at home, even if meltdowns occur'. And undoubtedly, he does better at school if he's doing his homework at home to support his learning.

For now, we're being careful about the time of day that Mini does his homework - how full his tummy is when he does it, whether there are distractions etc, but I think next school year, this is going to have to be tackled with school, and we're going to have to find strategies that work.