Many of my favourite moments are when my children are playing together...it really warms my heart. This is Mini and Dollop mixing potions in the gaps between the roots of this tree. Really imaginative play which has taken Mini a while to get into and develop :-)
It's no secret that Mini's most often used way of expressing his anxieties is through his wetting.
Recently, things have been a little better and the daily wetting we had at school earlier in the year has diminished somewhat. Having said that, it was only Friday that his PE kit was sent home for washing as the staff were concerned it was getting wet.
But things are a bit better, and even the daily, or should I say nightly bed-wetting is slowing down a bit too. My entire house doesn't currently smell of pee from drying mattresses, or heaps of wet sheets awaiting a turn in my washing machine (pretty much limited to the children's bedroom, with the occasional waft across the landing). And more importantly, Mini is not suffering from 'nappy' rash from laying on a sopping wet bed. This is positive of course.
However, I still have enormous amounts of washing to do. Mini is still wetting sometimes and we're like a lot of other youngish families, we have lots of washing! I've just come home from a one-night stay away (to go to Britmums Live!), and although the NC put a load on whilst I was away (thank you thoughtful husband!), the washing basket is still absolutely chockablock full, and that's without the towels which need a wash tomorrow, and of course the bed sheets that need stripping in a few days too.
How does it happen? I do at least one load of washing every day, most days there are two. *Note to self - consider a larger capacity washing machine next time coz 7kg just don't cut it!*
But anyway, why am I writing about wet sheets and washing machines, particularly when things are a little better? Because sometimes Mini wets himself on and off ALL DAY. Sometimes Dollop still has accidents. Sometimes I can't be therapeutic when Mini presents his wet pants to me, or when I find them stuffed inside another item of clothing, hidden at the bottom of a rapidly developing toxic waste site aka the washing basket. Sometimes the sheer amount of washing gets me down. And sometimes all I can smell...all day....is pee.
Today, Mini has wet himself twice. Once, deliberately. And whatever the reason, of which there could be several, I know that now I have to go and put a load on, and the smell of urine will get up my nose for the rest of the evening. The rest of the load (because I can't afford to just do a load with two pairs of trousers and two pairs of pants in) will have a slight whiff after washing because even a double serving of Surf and a healthy dose of Comfort Tropical can't shift this particular Eau de toilet (and yes, that is how I meant to spell it!).
Last week Mini had his first ever 'straight-after-school' playdate. He's had a few playdates before, but in school holidays when a child has been dropped off here, or we've picked them up, and they've been with children whose mums I'm friends with. You might remember I talked about one he had in a half term holiday here, and my nervousness about it.
This time it was different. I was approached on a Friday in the playground by mum of Blofeld, who asked if Mini wanted to go round to play after school one day. I was shocked...not because Mini doesn't have friends, but this was a) the first time Blofeld's mum had spoken to me, despite our kids being in the same class for 2 years and our husbands commuting together and b) the first time Mini had such an invite.
So I've been nervous...really nervous about how he'd do. I'm sure that most mums get nervous the first time their child goes off to someone's house...especially when you don't know the parents all that well? And of course, Blofeld and his family don't know that Mini is adopted...why would they? (I've only shared that with a few close mummy friends) But I briefly mentioned that he suffers with anxiety. Turns out...so does Blofeld! I was especially concerned that Mini would be wet either during the day, or once he got to his friends, so made sure he had spare clothes in his book bag, just in case, and we kept talk about it to a minimum over the weekend, without making a fuss.
Mini's been struggling with bedtimes and sleep A LOT recently, so I wasn't surprised when he couldn't sleep the night before the day of his playdate, but I was surprised when he confided that he was worried about recognising Blofeld's mum in the playground. But I reassured him that I'd make sure his teacher directed him to the right person, and suggested that he and Blofeld came out together. Go Mini for voluntarily sharing a worry...big step!
In the end, it all went swimmingly, and Mini appears to have a bit of a friendly crush on Blofeld - Blofeld is allowed to swear (oh really?!), Blofeld has got 2 dogs, 2 rabbits, chickens, cats and fish, Blofeld has a telly and an x-box in his room, Blofeld said that I was allowed to play with his toy guns, Blofeld and me played this, Blofeld and me played that... Blofeld is currently the best thing since sliced bread!
So, in the end, my nerves weren't needed, neither were Mini's. His spare clothes weren't needed either. Not only was this a first for Mini, but one for me too - of letting go a little bit and letting my boy do something new, something that he enjoyed. It really feels like a positive step and I'm looking forward to returning the playdate favour...
If you're not a blogger, I'll forgive you for looking away now because this post might not mean much to you...
On Friday and Saturday this week I'm going to be at Britmums Live! A conference for parent bloggers. I wrote a teensy bit about it here, and Amanda Boorman from The Open Nest (who is supporting my attendance) shared her story. The lovely folks at Britmums are running this linky so attendees can get to know each other a little better before we all get there. So here's me...
Hair: I'm not sure yet - usually brown, blonde last night, currently pinkish red... but curly/frizzy.
Is this your first blogging conference? Yes
Are you attending both days? Yep!
What are you most looking forward to at BritMums Live 2013?
Meeting other bloggers - real life people!
What are you wearing?
Something comfy, probably a grey, pink and white spotted top, with black bottoms on the Friday. Something similar on Saturday.
What do you hope to gain from BritMums Live 2013?
Skills to improve The Boy's Behaviour and develop The Adoption Social. And faces to put with the names and blogs!
Tell us one thing about you that not everyone knows
I've waitressed on and off from the age of 13, and can silver serve. I worked for a very posh establishment that catered for lots of well-known people.
I remember seeing Trunki's in shops before I even had kids and loving the look of them. So when I was approached to review one, on behalf of Littlewoods for my kids I was thrilled! Probably more thrilled than the waiting, willing children who would be testing it out!
The Trunki is available in a large number of colours and designs, with several different characters too, but I selected a Gruffalo Trunki as we are all huge fans in this house. And it's just as gorgeous as it looks online, there's no mistaking the purple-prickled creature here!
Mini's a bit on the big side to be riding on it now, not that his size has stopped him trying, but Dollop, my lovely little Dollop who often gets pushed to the wayside because of Mini's larger than life character and additional needs, well, we can barely get her off the thing, and she's not all that willing to share it either!
If you haven't seen or heard of Trunki's...well, where have you been? They are amazingly sturdy, brightly coloured, fun looking children's suitcases on wheels, but the best bit (for 3 year old Dollop at least) is that it's also the perfect size and shape for her to ride on. The Gruffalo's horns make perfect little handles for her, and the wheels spin easily. So far, she's tested it inside on laminate flooring, in the yard on concrete, and in the garden on grass and it's happy on all those surfaces. There's been the odd bump when she's gone too fast, but it hasn't tipped and we've not had any falls yet either.
It also has an elasticated pocket inside, and straps - or Teddy Bear seatbelts - in there too, so is perfect for keeping all her treasures safe, and it has lockable catches preventing Mini from getting too close to Dollop's precious things.
There are short webbing handles on the top, but there is a longer strap that can be attached too so the Trunki can be pulled along.
So far really it's only been used as a ride-on, with a few odd toys inside, but later in the year as we go on our FIRST EVER FAMILY HOLIDAY!!!! (can you tell I'm excited, well, and stressed in equal measure) and we'll be sure to use the Trunki as Dollop's luggage. To buy a Trunki of your own, why not shop with Littlewoods?
Disclaimer: I have not received payment for this review, however I was sent the product for free, and am allowed to keep it (which is just as well because I don't think Dollop would give it up!).
I'm very excited to be attending Britmums Live! this year, and can't wait to learn more so I can develop both The Boy's Behaviour and our new site (launching tomorrow 14 June) The Adoption Social.
However, I wouldn't be going at all, if The Open Nest hadn't stepped in and agreed to support me financially to attend. So big thank you to Amanda at The Open Nest...here Amanda writes about how this developing charity began, and how it will continue...
I decided to adopt as a single woman following an amicable divorce and a surge in powerful hormones that insisted I became a mum.
Jazz arrived thirteen years ago in a five year olds flurry and our lives changed forever.
She had experienced a very traumatic start in life and the effects of this were not successfully relayed to me during the adoption preparation procedure. At first I was just run off my feet imagining the whirlwind would calm down over time.
Quite quickly and having lost my job and an exciting MA offer, I realised I needed to have a rethink.
Over the first few years I had witnessed government bodies and charities discussing, funding and creating set narratives around adoption and adoption support. In reality it remained a fact that many families, including my own were shocked by the issues they faced after adoption, often with no meaningful support.
After my daughter had failed to gain understanding within the education system between the ages of five and eight, I made a big, and some said crazy decision.
I decided to sell my house, my only secure asset, and take on the long term tenancy of a deserted unmodernised farm house and twenty acres in the wilds of The North York Moors.
Nestled on a valley side in the woods, the house meant we would begin a new life where Jazz could avoid the overstimulation and often torturous rejection that trying to fit into the mainstream was causing. I have to admit it was a gut reaction on my part at the time but we have never looked back.
Being unemployed with a child out of school was not an easy situation at all and along with some brave friends I came up with a creative solution to the financial and social isolation problems we faced.
We opened a vintage caravan campsite "La Rosa" at a time when "glamping" was unheard of. Using what was left of my life savings we bought caravans on Ebay and kitted them out from flea markets and car boots. It caused quite a stir in the rural farming neighbourhood but we eventually got our planning permission. Our quirky story and business captured the imagination of many journalists and before long we had a stream of happy customers who returned time after time due to the peaceful natural surroundings and the warm welcome we provided.
Running the business with us gave Jazz an "alternative" education and enabled her to socialise with the guests and their children in a controlled but flexible and calm environment. Being beside me every day enabled her to work on our attachment and even on a bad day her rage caused minimal damage if directed into the physical outdoors.
When the neighbouring farmhouse along the lane came up for rent it meant that we could also offer a family life to Jazz's brother who came to live with us under a therapeutic fostering scheme. He went from being in an institutional children's home in Manchester to being chief woodsman and recycler for La Rosa by the age of thirteen.
Many years have passed and many stories of hope and despair are contained within them. Jazz and her brother have transitioned, painfully at times, into adulthood and due to our customers loyalty La Rosa has grown to include a quirky but much loved hotel in our nearest town Whitby.
We feel we have survived against the odds and as a group eventually felt we could perhaps use our assets and experience to support others, using our creative and practical approach to some of the issues faced by adoptive families.
We all sat down one day and talked about what we would have liked as a response to our problems over the years. What would have helped? What would have avoided some of the heartache? The list didn't seem to be that complicated and I realised that the thing that stands in the way of much support is the lack of understanding of trauma from social workers, teachers and other families. This coupled with lack of funding and resources mean assessments and meetings are in abundance but proactive support does not necessarily follow.
We made the decision that money would not be the issue that got in the way of access to our support services and that all our support would be free to adoptive families. We would not rely on commissioning bodies to create access routes to our help. We also decided that we would wish to sponsor and fund other adoption support ventures. To work with others to create a strong user led force.
The Open Nest idea was created at our kitchen table over a snowy winter and informed wisely by our now grown up children.
We have been forming the charity in public over the last six months so that we can interact and work with others who share our vision and hope for positive change.
By becoming involved in social media, tweeting and blogging, we have met inspirational and supportive people who have taught us a lot both personally and professionally. Our intention of creating an "open" nest to hatch ideas and plans is slowly but surely bearing fruit.
We plan to fully launch The Open Nest as a user led adoption support charity in November. It will be born during National Adoption Week and at an exhibition of thought provoking artworks from adoptees and adopters.
Like many adoptive families we feel positive about our experiences despite the extremely challenging nature of them. We love our funny made up family and feel immense pride in our ability to ultimately see the good or comical side of life even in times of great adversity.
We also feel great warmth and respect towards others in the adoptive community who give their time and energy not only to their children but also to help others along the journey. We look forward greatly to communicating and working alongside them into the future.
For more about The Open Nest, check out their website www.theopennest.co.uk, they're also on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/TheOpenNest and you can tweet them too @TheOpenNest
On 14th June www.theadoptionsocial.com will launch. This exciting new blog will encourage and support those involved in adoption, with an emphasis on the use of social media to find others in similar situations.
The Adoption Social has been developed by two adoptive parent bloggers who met via their blogs and Twitter, and developed a supportive friendship. Sarah from The Puffin Diaries and Vicki from The Boy’s Behaviour had both been using various social media and found not only each other but a small, yet rapidly growing community of other adoptive parents, and this has developed to include adoptees, adoption organisations, professionals and prospective adoptive parents.
Having already developed the successful blog link-up* ‘The Weekly Adoption Shout Out’ (or #WASO as it’s known on Twitter), Vicki and Sarah recognised just how important social media such as blogs, Facebook, Twitter, online forums and message boards can be, especially when your family circumstances can make you feel isolated, or the difference in your family set-up can be a barrier to finding people to confide in.
With the world wide web being international and round the clock, there is always someone ‘there’ whether that’s on Twitter or an online forum, and when times are tough sometimes just knowing there are others out there is enough. Not only that, these platforms provide a space for ranting, sharing, asking for advice, nodding in agreement, learning, educating and just feeling a little less alone.
The Adoption Social will bring together information about these platforms, encourage the use of them, and will gather people from different areas into one space. As well as becoming the home for the already successful ‘The Weekly Adoption Shout Out’, The Adoption Social will feature:
Memory Box – Each Monday, bloggers are invited to share and celebrate great moments by adding their blogs to this week-long linky. This could be good parenting achievements, fab things your children do, good memories and could be text, poetry or photos.
Blogless Blogging – This section provides a space for anonymous posts from bloggers who don’t feel able to post on their own sites, one-off guest posts or those wishing to try their hand at blogging. Just send us an email with the text you want to share.
Me & My Blog/My Twitter Life - Regular posts from others already using social media; sharing tips, advice and experience.
Adoption Social Connections – Weekly posts on how to get started on Twitter, blogging, setting up a Facebook page, even using Instagram.
A Problem Shared – A spot where people can put forward a particular problem or issue, and others can comment or share experiences and advice.
In time the site will also launch twitter parties, include reviews of books, programmes and films, and hold a diary of events that might be of interest.
The Adoption Social will be as supportive as it’s users, and so we welcome anyone involved in adoption to submit posts for the above sections. As The Weekly Adoption Shout Out and Memory Box are linkys, all you have to do is write on your own blog and link up on The Adoption Social. For all other sections, we invite you to send us your text (preferably with an image) and we’ll add your post to the site.
Vicki, who writes The Boy’s Behaviour and is co-founder of The Adoption Social says “As an adoptive parent myself, I’ve found blogging has helped me find others in the same position as our family. There have been times when we’ve had to pretty much lock down and work on healing and repairing our family, but that’s isolating, and so Twitter and Blogging have been my lifelines to the outside world. We’re not experts, but we know what’s helped us. ”
“For me The Adoption Social is about providing support for those living within adoption, through creating social media connections. I’ve found that support myself and I want to share it with others who maybe feel sometimes that they are very much alone. We aim to reach out to these people and by sharing experiences and understanding we hope to create a social media community that can truly help.“ Added Sarah, from The Puffin Diaries, the other founder of The Adoption Social.
Support for the new initiative, particularly by some local authorities, has been overwhelming, and it is hoped that other local authorities, voluntary agencies, adoption charities and support organisations will continue to disseminate information through their networks.
If you require any further information or if you’re interested in contributing to The Adoption Social, then please contact Vicki and Sarah at firstname.lastname@example.org or via www.facebook.com/theadoptionsocial. You can message us on Twitter too @AdoptionSocial
*link-up/linky A list of blogs, usually on a theme of some sort (in this case adoption), all gathered in one place. Bloggers add their own blog addresses to the link-up, and are usually expected to visit some of the other blogs on the list and comment if appropriate.
Last week I was chatting with Mini and the NC about what theme I could set for the Weekly Adoption Shout Out. The NC stayed fairly quiet, but Mini piped up with 'Disney', then 'play'. I explained that Disney might not be appropriate - then again *thinks about the number of Disney movies that feature loss* and that we've had play before.
"OK, what about when mummies and daddies go shopping for things"
"How is that about children, and mummies and daddies doing their mummy and daddying jobs?" I asked. (He knew that the theme had to be about parenting/adoption/adopted people somehow).
"Well you know, it's like when mummies and daddies go shopping for food and there's loads of it, then babies come along and there's not so much food for everyone", he innocently replies.
The NC and I exchanged glances.
"Do you mean like when you were little we had lots of food, then Dollop came along and there wasn't as much food anymore?" I enquired. Too eager to wonder, I went straight in with gentle questioning!
Shit! Really, I mean did he really feel like this?! Yes, we tightened our belts when Dollop was born, because it coincided with the NC being made redundant, and his new salary being lower and his travel costs higher, but Mini has never gone without. Even during the toughest of the tough times, there has always been food (although admittedly once it came from my mum sending a Tesco delivery our way). I gently talked about how it must have been really tough if he thought there wasn't as much food, and it might have made him feel a bit cross with Dollop if he thought there was less food because she had been born. He confirmed that yes, he did feel cross with Dollop, and did think it was her fault.
I explained that there would ALWAYS be food, enough food for him and Dollop to have 3 meals and 2 snacks every single day. And I also explained that we didn't have as much money, but that was because Daddy's job had changed, not because Dollop had been born. And actually, things are much better now because Daddy's job has changed again...for the better.
He seemed to be fine with this, and he went off to bed happily, but OH. MY. GOD. This is such a massive thing that Mini has never shared with us before, and explains some of his ambivalence towards Dollop. He's never had food issues (that we've known of), he's always been well fed, was weaned on proper home cooked food, and has been a pretty good eater. Tonight, after all the crap of Bank Holiday weekend, this is such a breakthrough for Mini to openly talk about something that has bothered him. Not only that, I was gently able to ease a little more out of him without upsetting him. That means as much as it's a breakthrough for him to share his thoughts, it was a breakthrough for me because I gave him a space in which he felt comfortable enough to share. So yay both of us!
So there you go. This week's Weekly Adoption Shout Out theme is all because of that conversation. I'm looking forward to reading more posts about food too!
So this is the very last week that the Weekly Adoption Shout Out will appear at The Puffin Diaries and The Boys Behaviour. We have both loved hosting it on our own sites but are also so excited about its new home The Adoption Social. We are very busy working away for the sites launch next Friday 14th June with The Weekly Adoption Shout Out as our first main item on the site.
However, this week will also no doubt make for lots of interesting reads as we tackle the topic of “Food”, inspired by Mini at The Boys Behaviour. Lots of you have seemed to be enthusiastic to write about this theme so it is obviously one that has provoked lots of thought at times. If you haven’t written about the theme please still link up with your posts from the week, all adoption related posts are welcome. If you have ideas for topics you would like covered please contact Vicki or Sarah on Twitter or a comment on our blogs.
As usual, this linky is live on The Boy's Behaviour and The Puffin Diaries, but you only need to add it once. Please do support others on the list by visiting their posts and leaving a comment, all bloggers love a little feedback. You can also tweet your favourites, using the hashtag #WASO.
Oh my gosh. What a day, and we're only just about half way through it!
I'm sure you're all wondering how Mini is after his poorliness during half term? Well, antibiotics are almost all gone, and other than the eczema, he is fine. We even had a pretty much enjoyable weekend, with just a couple of manageable 'moments'.
So back to today.
The NC and I were woken at 5am by the sound of breaking glass. Rushing to the window we were expecting to see a person perhaps by the shed, maybe by the back door. Instead we saw our neighbour's 3 hens rushing through a glass pane of the old greenhouse that is attached to their coop and run. The NC pulled on some clothes and ran downstairs. (We have a bit of a soft spot for these 3 girls, having recently spent a week looking after them...and after doing so, we're considering getting our own hens too.)
As the NC rushed down stairs I peeked around the curtains to see a large ginger cat at the garden end of our shared alleyway....with an enormous white chicken in it's mouth, shaking and shaking until the bird went limp. I shouted down to the NC to hurry, but it was too late. The chicken had been killed.
We think the cat had jumped/climbed into the run, and spooked the chickens (who for the first time ever hadn't been put away for the night), causing them to run headfirst through glass in an attempt to escape. I'm sorry to all you cat lovers out there, but this furthers my belief that cats are evil. (Can you tell I prefer dogs? More than that, I'm scared of cats!).
In the absence of our neighbour who was at work, the NC bless him, moved the body, cleared up the broken glass, secured the greenhouse, and cleared up the vast mess (phew!) that had been made. He also coaxed the remaining girls back down to the run, although we discovered that one of them had a large cut across her body and under her wing. (She's been to the vet and she's OK).
Of course the children both love the chickens too, and enjoy sneaking down and feeding them a few raisins. So when I woke Mini, I had to tell him what had happened. It was a good opportunity to explain a little more about death to him - and I answered his questions about heaven, and where the body was...If the body is in the garden, how can the chicken be in heaven mummy? He didn't seem upset, and in fact got very defensive when I told Dollop that some people were upset, assuming I'd meant him. I told him that our neighbour had been crying, and that Daddy and I were upset after what we'd seen. He replied that he didn't know grown-ups cried. (Now this isn't quite true, as I have cried in front of him but...)
All this coincided with Mini declaring he didn't want to go to school today. Although he's been anxious before, he's never point blank refused school. With baby steps and little milestones I got him to school, then inside and had a word with his teacher; so far she's not called me so everything must be OK. But I wonder if there's a bit of upset/grief tied in with the usual anxieties around school. I can imagine he's worrying about what else will have gone whilst he's at school, and what will/won't be here when he gets home.
I'm preparing myself for a 'not-so-easy' afternoon after school. But I'm hoping that some playtime outside and some nurturing (by way of surprise milkshakes and doughnuts for snacks) will help ease things for him, and of course as many cuddles as it takes!