Saturday, 29 November 2014

At this time of year #WASO

I love and loathe this time of year.

I'm a Christmas person - I love it. I take care and time choosing presents. I carefully plan how I'm going to wrap them all and make them look beautiful. The Christmas CDs and DVDs come out mid-November. Every year we go to a gorgeous Christmas tree farm to choose our tree, and we buy a new decoration each year too, it's tradition to go with Auntie H and Baby Whizz. I have the Christmas movie channel on A. LOT. I make my own mincemeat and Christmas cake. And I have fun planning our Elf on the Shelf activities.
I get so involved in it, and get warm fuzzies thinking about it all. And I'm going to make the most of it all whilst the children both still believe in Father Christmas.
 

But....

It's also that final term of the year.
The rapidly approaching end of term means disruption to routine at school. It means special assemblies, non-uniform days, arts and crafts instead of normal lessons, plays and nativities, church services, Christmas fayres and worrying about whether your friends will send you a card.


It's also that time when grown-ups (well-meaning ones of course) say things like 'You'd better behave else Santa won't come'. It's the time where so much pressure is applied to children to be good. It's the time when the stress and pressure becomes too great and regulation is hard to come by for some.

I hate seeing Mini so disregulated. I have him having to fight with himself to be 'good'. I hate having to explain to teachers that Mini struggles with the change and lack of routine, because it's met with 'But children should enjoy Christmas and all that comes with it'.

We're lucky in that Mini doesn't struggle with Christmas as such, and he loves shopping and wrapping and decorating and movie watching and tree choosing and elf mischief and planning for it all. He struggles with the routine changes at school more than anything.
So this year I shall snatch the festive moments that I can and enjoy those bits, but the rest of the time will be spent helping Mini relax, calm down, process things and feel safe.

Friday, 28 November 2014

Isaac and William do Movember

Today I'm delighted to bring you a guest post from Daisy and Peter, parents of two gorgeous little boys who have had a bit of a journey in their short lives.
You might wonder why I'm publishing this post on what is essentially an adoption blog and the reason is because both of my children were born before their due dates, my niece was born prematurely, and I know a number of adopted children were born early in many cases due to the poor antenatal care their mothers received. The right care and support for premature babies and their families is vital, so please take a moment to read the post, watch the video and check out the fun fundraising initiative that Daisy, Peter, Isaac and William have set up to help Bliss.
We are honoured to be able to write this guest post on such a wonderful blog.
Our boys were born at just over 28 weeks, and have had a rollercoaster of a journey through hospital. William was born at home with the help of a paramedic who arrived just in time (much to the relief of a very worried dad!). Isaac arrived an hour later in the ambulance on the way to hospital. They were born at around 3lbs, which although sounds very small, was a very good weight for their gestation.
What followed was them overcoming every hurdle that was thrown at them - from stomach infections and brain seizures, holes in the hearts to blood transfusions. They were so brave throughout it all, and every day we watched them getting bigger and stronger, until we eventually got to bring them home after 66 days in hospital. We made a video of their experience:


 
All the help and care both the boys and us received during their hospital stay has prompted us to try and raise as much money as we can for Bliss, the premature baby charity. For the whole of the month of Movember, the boys have been wearing a different style of moustache each day, and have gathered quite a following on Facebook. We are asking people to donate anything they can to this great cause.

www.facebook.com/isaacandwilliamdomovember
www.justgiving.com/isaacandwilliamdomovember

A huge thank you for taking the time to read this! Please share the links and help spread the word, and between us all, we really can help make a difference to babies lives.

And from me, a big thank you to Daisy for writing this piece. All of us at The Boy's Behaviour send you all love, and hope that perhaps one day we'll get to meet your beautiful boys.

Saturday, 1 November 2014

Why I love spending time online

This week's #WASO theme is 'Embracing Online Support' and we've also announced that The Adoption Social has been shortlisted for the 'Digital Champion Award' at BAAF's National Adoption Awards during National Adoption Week.

So guess what I'm writing about this week?!

I just really wanted to share all the reasons why I use online and digital support, and perhaps you might too...

  • I write this blog to share our journey, and hope to help and inspire people. I also get useful and supportive comments and emails via it.
  • It keeps me sane - I can tweet and blog about the serious to the silly, and it doesn't matter.
  • I have found a wealth of other people involved in adoption via Twitter. They all understand, and I know that a simple 'help, I'm having a bad day' will be met with support and empathy, without judgement even though I haven't met most of them.
  • Facebook enables me to share my blog with a wider audience, and share other titbits of
    information to my followers. 
  • I've learnt to be more concise - you have to be when Twitter limits to 140 characters!
  • Through blogging and tweeting I have found so many people, some of whom I'm proud to call my friends, and have developed amazing relationships with them. 
  •  Without social media I'd never have met my friend Sarah from The Puffin Diaries, and therefore the Weekly Adoption Shout Out and The Adoption Social wouldn't exist.
  • Through setting up The Adoption Social and tweeting, I met Amanda Boorman, who invited me to be a trustee for The Open Nest - what an amazing experience, and I'm very proud to be involved.
  • I'm no longer isolated. I can reach out and meet people who know what me and my family are going through. 
  • I've learnt lots - I can follow conferences without being there using #hashtags and can take part in Twitter chats and parties. 
  • I have found different websites to help me online like PicMonkey for editing images and Google drive for storing and sharing documents.
  • I've found recommendations for apps on my phone/tablet like Whatsapp - another way of connecting with people.
  • More websites are springing up, and I can now find them easier, these also support me and others in my circles.
  • I've been invited to guest post for other organisations and bloggers - I get a great sense of achievement through this, and validation too. 
  • I've had a poem published in a book, which I'd never have known about if it wasn't for Twitter. Again - another sense of achievement and validation.
  • My blog has been shortlisted for several awards (though I haven't won any yet), which gives me confidence and inspiration to continue writing. 
  • I've found a whole host of other bloggers - a brilliant, supportive community, where people are writing about their lives, so many similar to my own. They pick me up when I am down, they make me realise that my life could be worse, they make me laugh and cry. 
Without the internet, and especially twitter, facebook and blogging, I wouldn't have any of this.  Are there any cons? Yes, I've had a couple of trolls, but they're easily blocked, and I've found a new addiction which involves sitting on my bum for several hours a day.
But the things I now have, far outweigh those couple of cons. If you're in any doubt about stepping into the social media arena, then I hope this helps you see why it's so important to me.

Sunday, 26 October 2014

In the words of Stevie...



Heather Small I thank you for this amazing song. At the moment I'm feeling pretty proud of myself, of my friend Sarah, of the entire online community of adopters, adoptees and those working in adoption that I find myself a part of - many of whom I'm also proud to call my friends, and especially of my family. So today, there's not a lot left to say - just, be proud.

Sunday, 12 October 2014

Rediscovering old tools

Many parents speak of their toolboxes - a physical or metaphorical toolbox that is, full of useful tips and strategies.
Adoptive parents are no different, except perhaps that we need to have a mini version of that toolbox strapped on at all times! And some of the equipment might be a little...different.

Over the years we've adapted our tools and equipped our toolbox with many different things. Some work for a short time, others work for a long time, some we can swap around so they don't become ineffective. We also have some tools that didn't work at all, but we've kept to hand...just in case.

In fact, only this week, Mini himself has instigated the use of two such tools that didn't really take off before...

The Worry Eater
My mum bought Mini a Worry Eater - a little stuffed monster that has a zip up mouth, in which worries can be placed, without the need to talk to us. Mini liked the novelty of this for a few weeks, but then it just became another stuffed toy on his bed.
However, this week Mini's sought it out and used it several times. He knows that we read the worries he carefully, but not discretely pops in the mouth of the monster. This week, a big worry was put inside, and he sat around waiting-but-not-waiting for us to read it. We did, and managed to reassure him that although he was worried, now he'd shared it with us we could work on it together....he clearly was reassured because he triumphantly threw the paper into the fire.

Fleece blanket
During our time with Dave-the-therapist, we came to realise the importance of fleece blankets. Dave used them to cover the sofa in the therapy room, we used one to blanket-swing Mini in, there were theraplay games involving a big fleece and the softness and warmth provide a lovely, but not overwhelming sensory experience. So we bought a special Lego fleece for Mini. We explained that he could sit under it, wrap in it, hide under it, talk from behind it - whatever he wanted. Effectively we were giving our then 6 year old a safety blanket/portable den. It sat folded up in the living room for months.
Today, Mini asked for it. He was ashamed about something that had happened this morning, and wanted to just hide and feel safe. Through the blanket we could hug and talk, but without that scary eye contact.

So there are two of our tools that were useless a year ago, but even if only for this week, have proved their worth. Have you got anything that you use regularly, or things that have only worked once or twice?

Counselling and claiming

Well, we've come to the end of our attachment focused counselling. We've had 20 sessions, less than half actually included Mini.
It's such a shame we haven't got more sessions, because Mini was just starting to trust the therapist, and we were starting to explore some issues and actually feel like we were getting somewhere. The therapist was starting to make little in-roads into Mini's thoughts and feelings, and although it was  slow going, it felt very positive. Mini enjoyed the activities so much, that he was keen to take as long as possible over them, which is why progress was slow, but at least it was progress.

However, the therapist and I agree that further counselling would be useful, so we're requesting more funding for more sessions, and also for a six month package of support for me.

I've also had to fill in the renewal application for Mini's disability living allowance. It's hard going because you have to write about how much support is required on a bad day - this means you are required to focus on the negatives throughout the form-filling, and that's a pretty difficult thing to do. It's very draining, and checking it through makes for very depressing reading. However being in receipt of DLA allows us to support Mini, buys extra clothes and uniform (desperately needed because of the wetting and soiling) and also helps towards the petrol costs I now incur on the school run...previously we could walk to school but the very necessary and so far successful transfer to 'new school' is too far to walk.

In other news, my depression is winning the battle at the moment, but hopefully only because I'm weaning off of one type, and will shortly be starting a new type. The NC has bronchitis, and is feeling pretty shit too.
But I'm very much looking forward to going to Taking Care - the first conference from The Open Nest which takes place this coming weekend, and finally getting to meet so many of the people I've chatted and tweeted to online! If you're going to be there, make sure you find me and say hello.

Friday, 3 October 2014

Why I won't be shopping with Smyths Toy Store this Christmas

Yesterday the NC spotted something at Smyths Toys that he thought the kids would like for Christmas. So, we went to their website, and selected to 'Click and Collect' at our nearest store - about a half hour drive away.

Did you know that at Smyths, you have to pay, or at least enter your payment details before you can Click and Collect. You can't just reserve it and then pay in cash. As the NC went to enter card details, I stopped him and said "Select the PayPal option instead - I think I get nectar points when I use my PayPal account".
So he did, and off we went, taking a slow amble via Starbucks, towards the giant toy store, knowing that even though the order acknowledgement said "Don't go to your store until you have our email confirming it's ready", we'd also read that most orders were ready within 60 minutes on a working day.

We took our chances - within a few minutes we'd had an email from PayPal confirming that an order had been placed with Smyths and the money would be reserved (although not taken from my account until the item had been collected), and an hour and 15 minutes after placing our order we tentatively asked at the Smyths store if our order was ready.

"What order, they replied?". They hadn't received the order from Head Office yet. It was probably the 'fraud investigations' it has to go through - the assistant told us. "The email does state not to come until you receive confirmation, but it probably won't be long." We agreed to have a wander around the other shops and wait for the email.

Impatiently, the NC rang up Smyths Head Office, confused about the security systems and fraud processes, as after all, we'd had confirmation from PayPal about the money being reserved, where was our order and what else did they need to know?? After 18minutes on hold, he finally got through to someone who could see our order, but couldn't speed it up, couldn't do anything with it, and couldn't tell us anything - useful huh?

Then within 5 minutes another email from Smyths arrived - I perked up, woo hoo, this was what we'd been waiting for. But no, it was an email saying that the item was still in my basket and I hadn't checked out. What??!! What on earth was going on?

The NC, who'd had enough of waiting and like me, was confused by this latest email, marched over to the store and demanded to see a manager to find out what was going on.
"Well I'm afraid we have our fraud procedures to go through, it could still take some time..."
"What fraud procedures - you have confirmed the order, reserved payment, what else do you need to check?" I questioned. "Isn't Paypal guaranteed payment?"
"It's just our procedures, I can phone IT to see what's going on if you like?".

So he phoned up, and we were told that our order still hadn't gone through the fraud procedures.
Could still be hours!
Having had enough of waiting, and concerned that we weren't going to make it back home for the school run, I decided I wasn't that bothered and asked could they please cancel the order. I'd tried - as I have an online account - but there were no options for me to cancel or edit my order either through the Smyths website or with Paypal, which I think is pretty damn poor.

"Well we can't do it in store I'm afraid, it's with head office, I can try ringing but I'm not sure they can cancel the order." The manager feebly explains.
"What happens if they can't cancel it then?" I ask.
"Well, we just have to wait for the order to come through, then if you don't pick it up, it'll be cancelled and the money released back to your account...we just have to let it run it's course". Oh yeah, that's a great idea...NOT.

So he rang head office, and eventually got through, managed to cancel the order, and explained to me that it would take 2 days before the money would be released back to me. And within minutes of me walking out of the store I had the cancellation confirmation - an automated response that didn't actually address the issues or the cancellation reason.

So I'm still confused, and here are my issues and gripes:
I can place an order, but cannot cancel or edit it.
The money can be reserved immediately, but you cannot collect your item until 'fraud procedures' are completed.
No-one can explain what these 'fraud procedures' are.
Your money can be reserved instantly, but takes 2 days to release.
In any other retail transaction I have undertaken, I pay money, then collect an item. Not pay money, wait until 'fraud procedures' are completed, and then collect an item. Can you imagine that each time you order groceries through Tesco? Or hand in your slip at Argos? How will Santa manage in a few months time??
I'm 'known' to the company - I have an account after previously ordering with them, I'm on their marketing database and receive catalogues, why do I still need to go through further security checks to buy a flipping Hexbug set?!!!

Smyths what is going on? Why the long processes? What are the processes? Why can no-one explain them? Why can't I get my order once it's been paid for? Why can't I cancel my own order? Have you heard of customer service? I gave you multiple opportunities - in store, on the phone and by Twitter to respond and resolve the situation, but sadly ended up cancelling my order because of the lack of help.

And to finish it all, the manager did not apologise for the problems. And when I tweeted Smyths yesterday I got automated responses with a link to their contact us page. Again, very helpful.

So dear reader, apologies for this rant, but as a busy mum of two, who already deals with challenging behaviour at home, I don't want any more just to buy a toy. This is why I won't be shopping with Smyths this Christmas, and I suggest if you want decent customer service, efficient resolution to any issues, and don't want to feel like a criminal for placing an order - then you might consider where you shop.

Disclaimer: I have not been paid for this review by Smyths Toy Store. This is an honest review and reflects my own experiences.

Tuesday, 30 September 2014

I want my Daddy!

I've not felt like writing much recently.

I'm struggling with depression quite a lot at the moment. I don't think I've found the right medication yet, and the link worker I've been referred to is in demand, so it's a while before I can see him to arrange regular counselling.
I'm existing. I get up, I put my mask on, I get the kids to school. Sometimes I manage to wander around town, sometimes I do some housework. But mostly I sleep, and flit from Twitter to Facebook to The Adoption Social to Pinterest to my Kindle app and back again. I collect the kids from school, get home, and remove the mask - the me that I manage to present to the world, and become the me that I don't like very much right now.

But on a positive note, things have been a bit easier with Mini. We've had no major dramas, no major tantrums and school is going well...at least, it was all going well until last night...

The NC texted me at 5.30pm (his usual finishing time) to say he'd be late. It doesn't happen all that often, but he can usually give me a rough time he might be home. But not last night, he had no idea and he'd been told he couldn't leave until the issue was fixed.
So dinner came and went. The kids ate. Bedtime for Dollop came...in the absence of the NC, I put her to bed and we had lovely snuggles and she settled well.
Guinea pigs got fed, tidying up got done, and then Mini's bedtime came...with still no sign of daddy.

Eventually after a little upset and a lot of protest, I got him changed and up into bed. But...full of anxiety. Showing the progress we've made, Mini talked to me about how he was feeling -
"What if Daddy never comes back?"
"Why are his work being mean? I want him to come home."
"What if they keep him there forever?"
"I want my Daddy, I need to see him."
"I'm scared that Daddy will never come home...ever"
"But Daddy always puts me to bed."

And then he remembered that Daddy is also away tonight for work - 2 nights in a row that Mini wouldn't see his Daddy.

"Daddy doesn't love me does he, that's why he's not here?"
"I won't ever get to see my Daddy again."
"I don't like Daddy or you going away, I know you'll leave me."
"What will happen to me and Dollop if you and Daddy don't come back?"

It took some time to reassure and console him, and I was concerned that we'd have a wet bed. But luckily, Daddy was home when Mini woke for a toilet trip in the night, and so he was comforted and relieved to know he was home. All this, just by Daddy being home 3 hours late. It's great that he feels so connected to us, and makes me feel relieved that he really does want us - even if he often shows us the opposite, but it's awful that he's so insecure that he feels like this.

I must point out that I know that sometimes overtime is required - problems occur and my husband's skills are needed to fix those problems. I don't like him working late, but I accept that it has to happen sometimes. However, it just goes to show that something considered 'normal' can have a massive impact on a child like Mini. It's not about the NC ducking out of his responsibilities to his employer, it's not about me not being capable of looking after my child, it's about a child who has been abandoned before - several times, who is scared that it's going to happen again. And that breaks my heart, and really upset the NC too.

Friday, 19 September 2014

Getting back in the swing of it...

I can't believe the kids have been back at school for two weeks now.
The summer holidays were over so quickly, and for the first time ever I found myself wishing that we had an extra couple of weeks together. Our summer wasn't perfect - whose is? - but it was good. As usual I planned, and we stuck to it for the most part.

We had very few 'I'm bored' whines.
We had loads of days at the beach and the park.
We spent a lot of time in the garden and the children played well together.
We went away to La Rosa campsite and the kids coped brilliantly with the break.
We got lots more guinea pigs and Mini is loving them.
We did lots of crafts at home and spent proper quality time together.
We went fruit picking a LOT and Mini learnt to make jam.
We went to London for a day out and the man in Fortnum and Mason complimented the children on their behaviour.

It was just really relaxed and chilled. But by the end the children were starting to bicker and compete, so although I'd enjoyed having them at home, I knew they were ready to go back to school.
In fact, Dollop started school, and has settled brilliantly. She loves it, and even though her tummy hurt this morning, she was still desperate to go in. She's made friends and so have I.
And Mini has settled well too. He has been reluctant on many days, but we've made it there - on time too - and he's gone in and got on well. Mini tells me he's been placed in the top maths group - which makes me proud, but I'm prouder of the fact that he told me that he's worried about it in case it's too difficult.

So now I'm a stay at home mum, with 2 school children. I'm also suffering with depression and something called TJD. I am tired ALL the time. I'm taking some time to look after myself, and gently get back into the swing of school runs, blogging, housework, and all the other things that a mum has to do.
How are you managing? Have your children settled back into school routines OK?

Thursday, 14 August 2014

Kids crafts - T-shirt decorating

Last year we tie-dyed t-shirts, this year we've used fabric pens (and we're tie-dying again) - it's such an inexpensive activity that I hope we'll be able to do a variation on it each summer...

Why not give it a go?

You need:

Plain white cotton t-shirts (we use school PE t-shirts from the supermarket at just a couple of pounds per pack)
Fabric pens (my local craft shop sold these - about £5 a pack)
Newspaper/scrap paper

1. Lay the newspaper inside the t-shirt. This will prevent your design soaking through to the other side of the fabric.
2. Grab your pens and draw! Or even write a message or joke.
3. Follow the instructions for setting the ink - usually running an iron over it, perhaps with a tea towel.


I'm linking up to #SummerSandpit on The Adoption Social:
The Adoption Social

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Kids crafts - Chocolate truffle curls

Who doesn't love a chocolate truffle? We all do for sure.

The other day we nipped into Morrisons for a few bits and Mini said that he'd liked to make something for the NC and I - all on his own. After frantically thinking about something that he was old enough to do by himself, that I could actually eat (on soft foods only at the moment), I recalled watching Hope and Greenwood on Friday night making truffles, ah - perfect.
So we picked up a pot of cream, and a few bars of chocolate, and headed home (though on the proviso that I would help with the hob job of melting chocolate).

So here's Mini's recipe for Chocolate Truffle Curls




You need:

200g dark chocolate
3tbsp double cream
25g butter
Cocoa powder

1. Put a bowl on top of a saucepan of boiling water. Make sure it doesn't touch the water. Break the chocolate and put it in the bowl with the cream and butter.

2. Let it all melt together, stirring every now and again. Mummy says this is called gan-ash.

3. Once melted, let it cool, then put it in the fridge.  (At this point mummy put a few tablespoons of the mix into another little bowl to try a flavoured truffle)

4. Once it's hard, take it out of the fridge and let it get a bit warm - mummy said it took about 30mins.

5. It should be soft enough to use a little spoon to scrape thick curls of chocolate stuff, and drop them gently into some cocoa powder. Use a spoon to cover them in cocoa then carefully put them on a plate. Mummy said truffles are normally round but I don't like getting my hands too mucky so we didn't do that.

6. Keep them in the fridge and eat when you want!


Mum's note:
I reserved some of the ganache and added a pinch of seasalt, 2 capfuls of gin and some freshly squeezed lime juice. It set softer than Mini's gananche but was still enough to make very soft truffles (and they're gorgeous!).

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Kids crafts - Collages and Sticking

Who doesn't love a bit of sticking and gluing? My kids often want to get the coloured paper out, a pritt stick and some random slips of paper.

So this week, I got a few boxes of odds and ends out of the craft cupboard, some pots of glue and a pile of sugar paper. Sometimes I need to structure craft activities else Mini flounders a little, even at 7, his collages often end up very random and he doesn't seem to have much of a clue what he wants to create - unless I suggest a theme...but often some free play like this is just what Mini and Dollop need to let their creative juices flow...and just enjoy spreading the glue, sprinkling on the confetti, getting feathers stuck up their arms, and peeling the glue off their fingers after...

Linking up to #SummerSandpit on The Adoption Social:
The Adoption Social

Monday, 11 August 2014

Kids crafts - Seaside Hanging

As most of you know, we live not too far from the beach. We visit A LOT.
Our favourite part of the beach we go to, has some sand - certainly enough to dig and build sandcastles, but is also very stony, with lots of pebbles, a fair sprinkling of shells, and a little bit of sea glass hiding between the pebbles.

Another part of the beach is particularly good for driftwood, and we've collected plenty in our time. So much in fact that Mini and I upcycled a plain boring wooden framed mirror by gluing driftwood to the edges, it now sits in our living room and is admired by many. 

During our visits over the last few months I've been nagging the children to collect stones and shells with holes in - and they've dutifully dug, picked and discarded appropriate beach 'memorabilia'. (The good shells and stones made it into buckets, pockets and shoes, and in turn across the boot of the car, the washing machine and the shoe rack but nevermind!) The purpose of these holey stones was to make a hanging with some of the leftover driftwood, as a reminder of our beach trips and as a summer craft for both fun and encouraging fine motor skills and patience through threading. And I was pleased to see that Crafts on Sea has shared a very very similar craft on her guest post for this week's #SummerSandpit on The Adoption Social.

Here's what we made:


Mini's beach hanging
 

We love them - we have one hanging in the window, and one hanging halfway up the stairs and they're just so simple to make.

You need:
Stones/shells/small pieces of driftwood with holes in
A longish piece of driftwood
Some string/raffia or ribbon

1. Cut the raffia/ribbon about 2-3 times the length of your driftwood. Tie this on each end, with a double knot to secure.

2. Using different lengths of raffia/ribbon, tie on shells/stones/short driftwood - as many or as few as you like. We found that odd numbers looked best. Hang wherever you like!


Tips:
Oyster shells look really pretty and are often damaged with holes in.
If you struggle to find natural holes, you could always carefully drill holes in driftwood.
If you have a good twine then these could stand up to outdoor use as a windchime.


This took a good hour for the children to do, and they managed much of it themselves. They spent a great deal of time choosing which treasures they wanted to hang, and then the order they wanted them hung in. I'd love to see your photos if you make any....

I'm linking up to #SummerSandpit on The Adoption Social:
The Adoption Social

Sunday, 10 August 2014

Family days and best behaviour

Now we're in the swing of the holidays, and we've had a super busy week - a trip to Great Nan H on Tuesday, and a surprise (to us anyway) meet up with my uncle, aunt and cousin who've been on holiday. We went out for lunch in a strange (to the kids) town, in a pub that even I've never been to, but the kids were strangely relaxed with their Great Nan, and pleased to see my little cousin who is just a year older than Mini. They were angels ALL DAY! Nan gave them a surprise fiver each, and I made a surprise trip to a big toy shop on the way home, and so there were big smiles.
It was a long day, we hit heavy traffic on the way home, which made the usual hour's drive even longer, but both Mini and Dollop were so well behaved, and didn't complain a bit.

On Wednesday we had another busy day with Daddy who'd taken a couple of days off work. So first a game of ten pin bowling (Mini didn't win but he didn't tantrum either), then strawberry picking, out for lunch, onto a garden centre and pet store, and then into our local town for coffee and a bit of birthday present shopping. Several of those could have triggered a meltdown, but we only had one low point, and it blew over very quickly.

Thursday was a day out in London. We'd talked about where we were going to go, but on the drive down both children made it very clear that they'd rather go to the M&M Store than the Natural History Museum. And I really wanted them to visit Hamleys. So, a last minute change of plan meant Leicester Square, lunch off Covent Garden, up past Trafalgar Square, past the Trocadero, to Piccadilly Circus - a quick snap in front of Eros, then we headed up to Fortnum & Masons, over to Regents Street for Hamleys (the best toy shop ever! - Mini), and then through to Carnaby Street and a drink/cake break at Choccywoccydoodah.

We had some concerns about London, as it's only the second time we've taken the kids, but we went to some new places, and some that we saw last time, and I think because we walked around (rather than using the underground) the kids were more at home.
Mini had recognised - before we left home - that the tube worried him and asked for us to take the Rescue Remedy gummy stars, he asked for them just 3 times - just before we got on the tube into London, whilst we were on it, and then again on the tube back out of London. We were thrilled that he recognised this fear, talked to us about it, and came up with something that would help him.

We were a little apprehensive that Hamleys might overwhelm Mini (and little Dollop come to that) but they took it all in their stride and actually really enjoyed seeing all the demonstrations, looking round the different floors, trying out some of the toys and choosing something to bring home.

And we were complimented by the staff in Fortnum & Masons on our 'exceptionally well-behaved children' - you can imagine how thrilled the NC and I were to hear that. Biggest grin ever and lots of praise to the little people! Thank you to that man for making my day!

We had a day at home to rest, then headed out yesterday to visit my other grandmother - Great Nannie B. Again, we were surprised by my aunt and uncle also visiting, and the kids were very much at home, playing inside and out, kind, polite, pleasant and engaged really well with everyone - no hint of shyness, just comfortable ease.
We'd planned to come straight home, but the kids had been so well-behaved, we took them to nearby  Southend on Sea for chips and an icecream. In case you didn't know - the chips in Southend are the best, and Rossi's icecream is far superior to any other I've ever had.
And despite the long day, again we had brilliantly behaved children - calm, relaxed and just a pleasure to be around.

Of course, it couldn't have ever lasted and today has been hard work. Mini is definitely becoming more relaxed when we visit people and places - less of the worry about moving on, but it's still there a little, so we got a bit of pay back today. But, nothing that we couldn't handle therapeutically, and with a bit of one to one time. Today in fact, it's been Dollop who has been the hyper little whirlwind, tumbling around all over the show, needing attention, putting on dance shows and singing constantly!
I'm really pleased and proud of the children this last week. It's been tiring, it's been busy. In fact, my aunt commented that she doesn't know anyone else who does so much with their children - it's true, we keep busy, but it helps keep the meltdowns at bay; hopefully ensures Mini feels a sense of safety, togetherness, family and security; tires out the children so they sleep reasonably well (at least Dollop does), and it gives them new experiences. Isn't that what parenting is all about?

Sunday, 3 August 2014

The big dig

My kids LOVE being outdoors.

We have a very long garden, and they are as happy up the top with the bubble machine on as they are down the bottom on the trampoline.

However, I don't find my garden a particularly nice place:
We have missing fencing that needs replacing and we just can't afford to right now.
The only window that overlooks the garden is our bedroom - and that means I can't always see the kids outside.
Our seating/dining area is covered in rubbish that needs to go to the tip, but won't fit in our car.
The long flower bed that stretches halfway down the garden is full of weeds, that no matter how much I pull out, they are back within a few days, and my beautiful hostas have been well and truly nibbled by snails this year.
Our veg patch has been completely neglected since Dollop was born, and is now a cultivation site for bindweed and dandelions, and a pile of ash from our recent bonfires.

We do have good points about our garden too - It's super long and narrow, and that means there is enough space for an enormous outdoor run for the guinea pigs, a big trampoline for the kids, a reasonable shed, a roundybouty twirly washing line, a sand/water table, a good sized seating/dining area, and a fair size veg patch. Plus, plenty of room still for the kids to run, scoot and ride their bikes.
Almost all our fencing is 4 foot or lower, which means we get to chat with our neighbours in the gardens, and Mini gets to play football with the lad next door.

But the best thing about our garden is the greengage tree at the bottom. And today in fact I've been making jam with it's tender, juicy offerings.

Until this weekend, the greengage tree was neglected, the space beneath it left to go wild in the hope of encouraging wildlife into the garden, two old Christmas trees propped up, hoping to entice ladybirds and little beasties to nest - in truth, we've had a few snails that look pretty, and a whole host of spiders, but not the ladybirds, butterflies and moths that I would have liked, and because of the shade from the overhanging branches, none of the flowering plants that I've put in have survived.

But this weekend, Mini and I have had a brilliant time, cutting back branches, shaking off the ripe fruits, hacking back the long grass, digging down to pull big roots up, watching spiders, woodlice, earwigs and snails scuttling along (well, the snails were s-l-o-w-l-y sliding), and finding hidden treasure (broken pottery) in the soil.

When I first started thinking about a post on nature for Summer Sandpit, I had intended to write about some of the nature-based crafts we've done - the beach themed hanging or the cress and basil terracotta planters (and I might still share those too). But this outdoor time has been a really good time for Mini and I. I might be a little achy from all the digging, picking and cutting, but we've spent really good quality time together, laughed together and worked together at reclaiming a patch of land that we're planning to use together.

I've linked this post up with #SummerSandpit, why not link your own favourite nature activity too....

The Adoption Social

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

When I grow up...

It was when I was talking to Dollop in the car about what she wants to be when she grows up, that I realised just how much our children think of us, how much of a role model I am to my children.

And by that I mean more than just modelling good behaviour, or manners, or kindness. And more than helping them develop thoughts, opinions, dreams, aspirations and ideas.

"I don't want to be a ghost anymore, or a chef. I want to be a mummy. Just. Like. You."

And it made me realise that we must be doing something right if our children want to be just like us.

I do mean children by the way, not just Dollop. For as long as I can remember Mini has wanted to be a daddy....as well as a cowboy, building and fireman.

But until Dollop told me she wanted to be a mummy just like me, I hadn't thought about how much of a compliment it was that Mini wanted to be like the NC.

It is a challenge parenting my two, and I'm finding it even harder with the black dog by my side but I love my kids so much and I think it's proof they love us too.

Oh and I just want to tell you about the heart melting moment I had with Dollop yesterday when she stroked my face and told me her heart was full of flowers and her head full of hearts - all because she loves me. Love that girl.

Friday, 4 July 2014

GUEST POST- Natural health: Some ideas for adoptive families

Today I'm thrilled to bring you a post from Sezz who usually writes over at Dear Daughter: Our Adoption Journey. In this guest post Sezz shares information about natural health, and some therapies that I'm keen to try with Mini. And as a depression sufferer, I'll be looking into homeopathy now...

I am delighted to have been invited to write a guest post about natural health.  I’m a big fan of holistic therapies, also referred to as complementary therapies. Therapies look at the root cause of an illness, not just the symptoms.  Note the word ‘complementary’ – they complement traditional medicine and although some people use them exclusively, it’s important to get a diagnosis from a GP if you are unsure at all about any symptoms you or your child are showing.  Complementary therapists do not diagnose and nor should they ever claim to cure. 

Depression is one thing I see talked about a lot amongst adopters.  I’ve had levels of anxiety and depression over the years and through this last winter.  There was also a report out this week about the level of depression rising amongst children.  For me, homeopathy is a winner.  I first tried homeopathy 20 something years ago when I had chronic fatigue and then again 15 years when I first had depression.  It really does lift that dark cloud off my head. I don’t know how it works, but it does for me.  It’s perfectly safe for children too and very easy to administer, you can put a few drops of the remedy in their water bottle.  I recommend seeing a homeopath to get a remedy tailored for you rather than just picking one up at a health food store.

I’ve talked about meditation before, on my blog and also via the book review for Ladybird’s Remarkable Relaxation on The Adoption Social.  It’s something that definitely has a calming effect on me and my daughter.  She often asks for it just before bedtime and, bless her, she decided to do a meditation for me in the back garden last week. It was very relaxing.  You can find lots of YouTube videos with guided meditations on them but with Missy, whilst I’ve learnt to do meditations, she loves listening to a particular CD containing 15 minute meditations and she will listen to one after we’ve read her bedtime story.  It definitely helps her relax and sleep well. For me, although I’ve learnt to meditate, I also use an app called Headspace which will lead you through a 10 minute daily meditation. You can also find local classes and meditation groups.

Bowen Therapy is a fabulous therapy.  It’s still relatively unknown although it’s been around for years.  It’s a very light touch therapy that can be done through light clothing.  I’ve had treatments for back and shoulder pain and many therapists do see lots of physical ailments.  However, it also has great application for children.  There is a wonderful man called Howard Plummer who has done lots of research into Bowen and children, particularly with autism and cerebral palsy.  As the moves are short, it’s ideal for children who can’t lie or sit still for long.  I know of one little boy for whom Bowen just took the edge off his ADHD, so much so he could sit on the classroom carpet and remain calm, and another boy with autism whose balance improved considerably such that he could then learn more things in gymnastics like standing on one leg and hopping.   It’s also a tremendously relaxing treatment and I always come away very much lighter in my head.  A bonus is that many therapists won’t charge for children, or just ask for a donation.

Reflexology, the art of working pressure points on the feet to bring about a positive change in the body, is ideal for stress relief.  It’s not a massage, although the therapist may begin with a few massage strokes to get you relaxed.  If you are feeling stressed and need that all important ‘me-time’ then a reflexology session is ideal.  Additionally, if you have an ongoing issue then weekly treatments over a couple of months may well reduce the symptoms considerably.   As far as children are concerned, reflexology is perfectly safe even for babies.  There was some excellent research done by a Chartered Physiotherapist called Jenny Lee who carried out a 15 year research into effect of reflexology on children with asthma.  The effects on the children included improved sleep, relaxation and child/parent bonding.   Much has also been written about the positive effects of touch on the children in orphanages in Romania, all of whom have some degree of reactive attachment disorder.

The last therapy I want to mention in this post is EFT, Emotional Freedom Technique.  That’s a bit of a mouthful and most people will call it Tapping.  It’s a very simple therapy and one that you can learn for yourself or see a therapist if you need more support – think acupuncture but without the needles.  Negative emotions will create disturbances in the body’s energy systems, leading to physical and mental symptoms when the body is not at ease, ie it’s dis-eased.   Essentially, you tap using two fingers on a set of the body’s energy meridian points, whilst focussing on the negative emotion or anxiety, which helps to restore balance in the body.  There have been two very good pieces of research showing how the stress response is lessened when energy points are stimulated, and how levels of cortisol, the stress hormone, are reduced.   Obviously with our children, you wouldn’t go straight in at the root of the trauma; you start with the top layer of emotion, a bit like peeling the layers of onion away. Perhaps they are feeling  sad, worried or fearful and don’t necessarily understand why or are not ready to remember the trauma.   They might have a general feeling of sadness or perhaps a fear of a spelling test.  For children who have suffered trauma, the fear of the spelling test will be the tip of the iceberg and this is what you start to work away at first.  Adults, who have learnt to understand their feelings and can regulate, can go deeper into their emotions and feelings straight away when they start tapping.  For example, someone who suffers stress, anxiety and pain as a result of a car crash ten years ago could start to work on emotions relating to the car crash.  Equally, they may just want to work on that iceberg tip and that’s fine too. 

Whilst I can take my daughter through a tapping routine, she likes to follow videos by Brad Yates on You Tube.  He’s a worldwide expert in EFT and has three or four videos specifically for kids in which his daughter does the tapping and my daughter particularly likes to watch her.   At the moment we just do five minutes tapping on things like sadness or worry and whilst Missy can’t really measure how she feels, I can certainly see an instant switch in her demeanour to a more positive state once she’s tapped. 

I hope the above has introduced you to a few therapies that you could use for yourself or your children.
If you want to know more, then do drop Sezz a line at adoptiondiary@gmail.com

Friday, 27 June 2014

Forever for #WASO

"Something happens, and it stays happening and won't ever stop. Like us. Our family. Adoption."
- Mini

Thursday, 26 June 2014

Dad's having a tough time

The NC and I went to see our counsellor a while ago. It was our first joint session in a while. We talked about something quite difficult to our normal sessions...

Before we discovered our inability to conceive naturally, the NC and I had lighthearted discussions about what our future child would look like - curly like me? slim like him? And what skills they might have - musical like me? sporty like him?
Once we found out that we couldn't have children, we had to put aside those pictures and thoughts, and instead were given a tick list of attributes, abilities and disabilities to consider. Some we could cope with, some we felt we couldn't, some we needed guidance on, some we did a bit of research on, and in the end although we hadn't created a picture of our future child, we had established some things that we felt we would be able to deal with.
It sounds callous and heartless, because after all, if we had given birth, we would have coped with whatever illnesses or disabilities our child would have had, but this is the way it is in adoption - there is an element of choice, or at the very least elimination. But still, there is always an element of risk, more so than a birth child would bring because often family background is unknown, or chaotic circumstances have led to the removal of the child in the first place.

And now we find ourselves in a position where we are facing some of those things we ticked as 'couldn't cope with', or at least the NC is.

Connected to this is the frustration and anger that the NC feels towards Social Services and towards
himself. There are many things that weren't disclosed that could have affected our decision to adopt Mini. We'll never know, but for the NC those questions still linger, he's unable to move on and just accept what has been, and look forward.
And now, he feels trapped, unable to lead a 'normal' family life, because everything revolves around Mini. Even Dollop's birthday party was carefully thought about and booked to ensure that Mini would have a good time and would not disrupt everyone else, and he was the eldest there so could feel useful and important.

And of course there are thoughts about how our family and Mini are perceived. It's hard because, if we were parents to an obviously disabled child - physically disabled, a wheelchair user, or visually impaired, then people could see, would maybe understand, could accept the many doctors appointments and justified time off work. But with Mini, he doesn't have those obvious signs - he is emotionally disabled, but no-one can see that. And these appointments that we have - we'll they're with softies like therapists and counsellors - not *proper* medically trained people...aren't they?

Because of this, the NC feels under pressure at work, unjustified in taking time off when much needed, unable to commit to the same level as others - like not being able to travel overseas easily because we need some time to prepare Mini, not being able to cover the on-call shift at short notice, because that will mean having to change Mini's routine. Don't get me wrong, the NC has a great boss, and a lovely team but he can't help thinking that if they could just see Mini 'in action', they'd understand that bit more and realise that he's not just being bloody-minded by saying no to certain things - it's just that they have a massive impact on Mini and then in turn on the rest of us.

Way back, the NC correctly identified he'd struggle to cope with some of the things that Mini now displays, and now he's working really hard on trying to support Mini as best he possibly can, but with all that worry about work, he's not having the easiest time. I need to be emotionally available to the NC, but I'm not sure I can do that so well at the moment, so luckily we have Ada the counsellor, and for now she's helping us through.

We never expected this to be so hard, we'd engaged well in our home study and thought our heads, hearts and minds were ready to parent. But now, I really wish we'd done more to get our heads ready.

Tuesday, 24 June 2014

The Lost Children of Trauma: A short film by The Open Nest


There is a great post on The Adoption Social that brings you some announcements from The Open Nest, so I'm not going to repeat it all here. But this video, commissioned by The Open Nest, created by Marry Waterson, and with content from the online Twitter community, needs to be seen.

Sunday, 22 June 2014

Inspiring and awesome

Sarah from The Puffin Diaries and I have been at the Britmums Live blogging conference this weekend. It's a great couple of days full of keynote speakers, technical sessions on blogging, opportunities to meet brands, LOTS of meeting other bloggers/instagrammers/tweeters, and a fair bit of tea drinking (or wine for those who found the Lindeman Wines stand!).

Last year it was overwhelming. This year it was much more enjoyable and comfortable as we knew what to expect. I attended several sessions that were interesting and informative, a couple that were inspiring, but by far and away my favourite was a session called How to be an agent of change, and was run by Christine Mosler of Thinly Spread, Hayley Goleniowska from Downs Side Up, Lindsay Aitken from Lilies Are Like YouTuber and Camila Batmanghelidjh from Kids Company.

Wow.

It was so inspirational listening to these amazing women who have achieved so much. It just goes to show how powerful blogging and tweeting can be. There's not much to tell you here - just look at their sites to see what they've done, and what they support. For me this session was not about the 'how to's' of blogging, but made me feel more strongly about using social media for change, for the better and for support.

I'll leave you with a (rather dark) photograph of Sarah meeting and talking with Camila - a heroine of mine, I was too in awe to meet her, but feel so honoured to have listened to her speak.

Wednesday, 11 June 2014

She did it, no he did it...

We live in a terrace of houses. For every four houses there is a shared alleyway between the middle two. We're one of those middle two so it runs alongside our living room, and then is separated from our yard by fencing...which sadly we lost some of in the storms earlier this year. The children now love the free access they have to the alleyway where they play, skip, search for special stones, race and use their imaginations.

Of course it's gated at the front, by a pretty tall gate that Mini can just reach to open, and he knows not to. But there is a 18inch space above it, which it appears is the perfect size space to boot a football through.

Why am I giving you such a detailed explanation of my house and outside area? Just read that last bit again 'the perfect size space to boot a football through'.
Yes, because that's what has happened, several times now. The trouble with this is that we live on a main road, a very main, very busy road. So far it's only gone into the road once, and luckily when there was no traffic, so no accident caused.

We've talked about the risks and ramifications of this happening again. We've banned football playing in the alleyway, but yet again, the ball went over the front gate yesterday.

"Mummy, mummy, Dollop kicked my ball over the gate".

So I retrieved it from next door's empty driveway. Removed the balls from the children, and tried for answers. He was adamant she'd done it, she was adamant he'd done it. Horns locked, that was the end of outside play. I stayed calm, and today when they asked for balls, I said 'no'. No ball playing until tomorrow at least, and definitely not until someone owned up and told the truth.

"Is that the good thing mummy? Telling the truth?" Mini asks.
"Yes of course, the truth is always the best thing". 
"I'm sorry mummy, I did it. I kicked it over" he easily and quickly admits.

Now at this point, ever the typical four year old Dollop pipes up "See I told you mummy, I didn't do it, it was him like I said yesterday, he kicked the ball over the gate and then he came and told you and he said it was me and I told you it wasn't but you didn't believe me you just made us stop, but I told you all along and next time you should listen".

Dollop distracted with dandelion hunting duties for the guinea pigs, I took the time to hug Mini and explain that he must have felt really worried about getting into trouble if he'd blamed it on his sister. I explained that I know accidents happen and I also know that he wouldn't have kicked it over on purpose. We had more hugs, and he relaxed.
We even chatted about how Dollop must have felt when she'd been blamed and it wasn't really her fault. And I pushed it even further, to explain to I felt frustrated when he told lies.

So this really long post is a very round about way of saying that Mini owned up. He told the truth (albeit after 24 hours) because he realised the consequence was not having his ball to play with anymore. It's taken us a long time for Mini to understand consequences, but I believe his growing maturity, settled feelings at school, and the work we've done is really starting to positively influence Mini and how he manages situations, and us too.
And I know this isn't necessarily an adoption specific issue, most children try to dodge blame for fear of trouble (I know I did), however I do believe that Mini's attachment issues, coercive nature, and heightened anxiety levels make these 'normal' issues more challenging. It's typical behaviour, but with knobs, bells and whistles on!

Sunday, 8 June 2014

Love

Dollop's in bed. Mini is sitting with Dollop's guinea pig - Bo - having a cuddle on the sofa.

Jabbering away, as he does, Mini chatters about the guinea pigs - about April - his pig, and how much he loves them, and how cute baby guinea pigs would be. And then...

'I don't mean to hurt your feelings Bo, but I do love April more because she's my guinea pig'.

This is from a child who doesn't ever  appear to think about feelings, or how his words and actions affect other people. He just expressed care and concern for how Bo will feel, and expressed his love for April.


I'll remember this for a long time, as I'm reminded that Mini does think about feelings, he just struggles to express them most of the time.

Monday, 2 June 2014

A constant reminder?

Many of my adoptive parent friends and acquaintances report difficulties with their children when meeting new babies - whether that's family or friends, or even in passing.

For Mini we never noticed that - he met several children as babies - my God-daughter, her cousin, baby Whizz, friend's babies and of course Dollop. He's struggled with just one of those occasions, when he met our friend's new baby boy (who is actually 2 and a half now). But that was confusion about how this new little boy was connected to him, to us, and made a little more confusing by the NC being the Godfather of this new little boy - lets call him Pilot. After all, if you share the same father, does that make you brothers? Mini hadn't heard of the term 'Godfather' before so it was confusing, and we'd only recently been talking about Mini's birth sibling who had been adopted so there was lots of 'brother' talk going on.

Of course over the years, Mini has struggled with Dollop. Even on a daily basis now he has tantrums and meltdowns because he wants and needs the same things as she does, but is physically too big. Dollop particularly loves riding on the NC's shoulders, and although we do lark about and crawl around with the kids on our backs, it's not quite the same for Mini.
Dollop also likes being swung between our hands as we walk along, so does Mini, but he's too tall and too heavy for me to do it.

And there is the big one - the difference. He feels this acutely - thinks that she is somehow better in our eyes because she was born to us. He can't remember the things we did for him when he was young, and so he thinks she gets special treatment, and he thinks that's because we adopted him so he's not as special as her. It's really hard, and so amount of gentle or obvious reassuring seems to make any difference to Mini; he simply sees himself as less important and less lovable. We plough on though and try not to give either special treatment. We love them the same, we give them what they need when they need it - though sometimes that means they might not get the same thing as exactly the same time.

Because I've been there from the start with Dollop - right from even before she was born though I haven't missed anything. I've seen her firsts, I've met her needs, I've loved her forever.
With Mini, I missed so much. I didn't have the firsts, I didn't meet his needs, and well, loving him didn't come immediately; it took time. And, during that first year, he missed so much - yes he had a lovely foster carer, but he also had uncertainties, medical problems, lack of consistency, and deeper than that - he missed chances to emotionally and physically develop 'normally'.

Is he aware of that? Does he see that every time he looks at Dollop? We've thought all this time that he was jealous of her, jealous of the attention he sees us giving, and hyper-aware of the differences between them. But is it more than that? Does she make him think about all the things he missed as a baby? Does she remind him of all the things he didn't have?
Until Mini can talk about all of this without becoming angry and shutting down, all we can do is be curious and try to help them develop a good relationship as brother and sister.
But it feels like *everything* is so complex.

Thursday, 15 May 2014

Today I deserve cake!

I've been having counselling for a little while now - some attachment focused counselling initially for the NC and I (but we're bringing Mini in soon). And some individual sessions for me - all with the same counsellor which makes it easier all round. She has an overall view of family life and how it impacts on me, and she's starting to know how I tick, which helps her understand my reactions to the family stuff.

Today, I had a session on my own, and after a quick catch up with Ada about the week, we began talking about how Mini coped with Dollop's birthday yesterday. In fact, how Mini's coped with a number of parties - for Baby Whizz and Weezy's dad - Pops at the weekend, and then Dollop's birthday too. Or rather, as we usually do in my session, we reflected on what I'd done that enabled Mini to cope.
I still feel very uncomfortable doing this - not the reflection itself, but taking credit for how well that Mini managed the situations. However, this is Ada's role - to help me improve my own confidence in my parenting abilities because quite frankly that confidence is non-existent when it comes to Mini.

I find it particularly difficult to take the credit for the good days, without also taking the blame for the bad days. Several professionals have now confirmed to the NC and I that Mini's behaviour* is not our fault, that he is wired this way, that he'd be this challenging no matter who adopted him, that he has a coercive pattern, that he has suffered trauma, that his early life has had this massive impact on him which makes his reactions what they are.

However, it simply doesn't come naturally to me to accept praise for the good bits, without taking some of the blame for the less desirable bits. That feels a bit like saying 'I'm a perfect parent and I do everything right, all the crappy behaviour is because of the things his birth mother did' or 'When he's good he's my child, but when he's not he's hers...'. Both feel wrong, because despite his start in life, I don't blame his birth mother at all, she was inadequately supported and helped, and with more input perhaps this situation could have been avoided.

And of course not all the credit for Mini's 'good times' is down to me - it's down to Mini himself, his frame of mind, how good school's been that day, it's down to the NC, down to Dollop, sometimes circumstantial and sometimes - for all we know, down to which direction the wind is blowing and what phase the moon is in!

Anyway, back to today. Despite my discomfort (which Ada recognises, but pushes...naturally!), we did make headway, and I could see that some of the things that we'd done leading up to these birthdays and parties really have had a positive impact and have helped Mini cope with what he freely admits is usually difficult for him - having the spotlight on another member of the family.
And - those things were my idea, and my ideas worked! What's more, these things came naturally to me. I didn't have an epiphany; there were no new strategies to employ. When I reflected today with Ada's help, I can see that all I did was naturally respond to Mini's faint signs of unease. And what's more, because I have no recollection of those faint signs, perhaps this means I'm finally becoming more attuned to Mini and his needs.
And being able to identify those things that worked well, means I can use them again and again if I need to.

It's no secret that over the last little while I've been feeling really very rough. I'm no better now, but
these reflections have lifted me today, and whilst I have a long way to go - we all do, I feel justified in giving myself a pat on the back (and treating myself to a cuppa and a piece of cake!).

Sunday, 11 May 2014

A bank holiday picnic...

You'll know by now that the seaside is one of our favourite places to be - whatever our moods, the sea air, and the heaving crash or gentle roll of the waves can calm us, and provide respite from the stresses of life.
As well as heading there on the not so good days, we go there on the good days to make memories, have fun and relax, so when there was warm weather forecast for Bank Holiday Monday, where better to head? And what better to do there than picnic? There was no question this was to be our plan.

The NC would be in charge of handling the bucket and spade packing, the retrieval of the picnic hamper from the loft and the cool box from the shed. Oh yes, no plastic bags or rucksacks here, and if we were going all out with the hamper, then hey, why not go the whole hog and take the barbeque too?! So he was also in charge of packing the charcoal, barbeque and appropriate tools.

As it happens, I was also chosen to be a #MorrisonsMum, and so armed with a handful of vouchers (thanks Morrisons and Britmums), I headed to my nearest Morrisons (which handily is less than half a mile away) to buy not only our usual shopping, but a few extra bits for said barbeque.

So in went the lettuce, tomatoes and cucumber, a couple of packets of peppers, some Jersey Royals for a potato salad, some strawberries and a pineapple. Everywhere I looked were new little signs; 'I'm Cheaper' they boasted. Some lovely looking ready made mocktails - Mojito and Strawberry Dacquiri would provide liquid refreshment. In went the loo rolls and teabags, the cereal and the cheese. Then biscuits and frozen peas, cling film and washing up liquid.

Up and down the aisles, these little yellow pointers stuck out from the shelves letting you know where prices had been reduced...and many of them on things I actually buy anyway, so I know I'm going to be saving money.

I'm lucky in that I get to shop pretty early in the morning - I usually drop the kids off at school/nursery and go straight onto the supermarket, and so they're well stocked, and not too busy.
Shopping done I headed home, preparing to go back to Morrisons on Sunday morning to pick up some fish...like most of the supermarkets around here (and we have all of the major ones) Morrisons has it's different counters, and the fresh fish counter is always full, fresh and laid out nicely. But I didn't want to get it too soon...


Now food planning. Salad bought, fish planned, I needed something else, something celebratory, something different....


Stuffed Layer Loaf
A vegetarian loaf, filled with roasted peppers and onions, layered with homemade pesto and mozzarella
You need:
A round loaf (Morrisons do this lovely sesame seed cob)
6-8 bell peppers, deseeded, cut into large pieces
2 mozzarella balls, sliced
3tbs pesto (I used homemade wild garlic pesto, but any will do)
2 onions, cut into chunks.
A little olive oil

First, get your vegetables roasting, lay in a roasting tray, drizzle a little oil over then roast until tender.

Cut the top off the loaf, reserving for later. Scoop the bread out of the bottom part of the loaf, leaving a shell (but keep the bread you take out).

Spread pesto inside the loaf, then when the vegetables are cool enough to handle, layer them inside the shell, followed by a layer of mozzarella. Alternate until all veggies and mozzarella are used up.

If there is space left in the shell, then break up the bread you removed earlier and stuff back on top of the layers to fill the shell. Pop the lid back on.

Wrap tightly in several layers of cling film. Leave in the fridge overnight.

Et voila...on the morning of your barbeque, your loaf will be ready to slice into wedges.

All in all this should cut into 8 pieces. It works out at a little over 50p per portion which, for a celebratory loaf, filled with delicious veggies is pretty good. (Though I did already have the pesto and olive oil at home).

So on the Sunday we picked up our fish - salmon for the children and me, a stuff mackerel for the NC, and on the Monday with everything prepared and packed, we headed to the seaside. And of course, first things first - the barbeque was lit straight away...


Lunchtime - fish, salad, layer loaf, grilled corn, mango salsa. Mmm.
Then pudding - marshmallow, strawberry and pineapple kebabs on the cooling coals...
 
 
Oh, and of course playtime - jumping the waves, writing in the sand, sandcastle building, digging, and collecting precious shells and sea glass...
 
What a wonderful day - the sun shone, we all got a little bit browner, the kids enjoyed playing (only one tantrum and one stamping on sandcastles moment) and we had delicious food - thanks Morrisons, and Britmums too. If you want to find out more about Morrisons - you can just here.

Tuesday, 6 May 2014

A bad day

I'm having a bad day today. I woke up feeling sick, with a headache and awful ear/jaw/face ache that I've been having for 2 months now. Medication isn't working, so I have other appointments to attend now.
And I feel like my anti-depressants are no longer helping, especially since doubling the dose.
I know they're not a magic cure; and indeed the nickname 'Happy Pills' really isn't right, because - certainly in my case - they don't make me happy, they just take the edge off. But they're not even doing that at the moment, and in all honesty, life isn't too bad right now. I hate to think how I'll feel if we start facing the same challenges that we've had before. However, I'm in the hands of a professional, and she - the doctor - wants me to stay with them a little longer before we try something different.

So for now, I'm coping one day at a time, but on bad days, I really miss the edge-softening properties of those pills that had started to help and make me feel closer to being on top of things.

Those bad days, like today, thankfully aren't too frequent, but that just means that when they do hit, they hit harder.

I won't go in to the ins and outs of why it's been a bad day. Suffice to say that I'm grateful that the kids are in bed, I'm grateful that Papa Johns has a delivery service, and I'm glad that the NC can help me in the morning!

Sunday, 4 May 2014

A random act of kindness

Sometimes, it's just nice to surprise everyone isn't it?
So this week, my surprise and random act of kindness was this...
And it went down a treat!

Wednesday, 30 April 2014

Feeling 'inspired' - thank you

I received a very exciting email this afternoon - the lovely folks at Britmums wrote to tell me that um, I've uh, been... shortlisted for a BIB award. I know! I can't believe it either!
For those not in the know, BIB stands for Brilliance in Blogging, and these prestigious awards are run by Britmums - the UK's biggest parent blogger network, with the help of generous sponsors.

So I'm writing to say a big big thank you to everyone who nominated me for the 'Inspire' category, because it's down to you that I'm in the final 16!
I'm up against some tough competition, with some amazing blogs, several of whom inspire me. I know you've already done an amazing thing by nominating me, but if you do feel you could vote for me now I'm in the shortlist, I'd be really grateful. Here's a link - just note that you can only vote once. And whilst you're there, you might also like to vote for The Adoption Social too - as um, yes, we've been shortlisted over there too for the 'Social' category. I bloody know! It's amazing!

I'm so proud to have even been nominated, and very grateful to you all. To be shortlisted is fantastic, and my feet haven't touched the ground since finding out...and after feeling particularly sorry for myself this morning, it's lovely to have a grin plastered on my face...I'm hoping it'll last for a good few weeks yet.

So that's it, if you want to vote, you have until 16th May to do so. Click the link below to do it.
Hence forth the campaign to keep me grinning like a loon begins...

VOTE FOR ME BiB 2014 INSPIRE

Sunday, 27 April 2014

Mini is maturing

I haven't blogged so much recently. That's partly because for the last few weeks, things have actually been a little better, and I haven't felt the need to come and rant at you all about how challenging life is.

We've made a few little changes...

We now have guinea pigs. We'd thought some time ago about a dog, but we were all quite adamant we wanted a rescue dog. However Dollop's age is a problem and we just couldn't find a rescue dog (despite looking for months) that would be suitable for our family.

Dollop's empathy is developing, as we hear her talking to Bo about how hard it is to come out of the hutch for cuddles when she's been so comfortable inside, and how difficult it is when you're young and scared, her gentle reassurances are mature and heartwarming to hear.
So instead we have 2 baby guinea pigs. April is Mini's and Bo is Dollop's. We've had them for 3 weeks now and so far the novelty hasn't worn off. The children like helping to clean them out, love to handle them, and sit outside talking to them, listening to them 'wheek' and watching them popcorn around their hutch.
Mini's kindness and gentle touch are improving, as he sits outside the hutch talking to April, or runs around the garden seeking out the juiciest dandelion leaves. He loves the responsibility of filling up the water bottle each day, and cutting up fresh food for them.

We kept super busy over Easter. Instead of my normal timetabled spreadsheeted plan, I made a tick list of activities and stuck it on the backdoor. The rules were that we had to agree on what happened each day, and we didn't expect to tick everything off. The children and I chose one or more each day TOGETHER, instead of me planning it all. Except for a couple that were actual organised events, we chose according to the weather and what we all fancied. This worked well and gave both children a sense of achievement when we ticked something off. It could have gone wrong of course - there were opportunities for disagreements, disappointment if we failed to complete what we'd set out to do, but actually it didn't go wrong - phew! And it meant we got some things in - clothes shopping and haircuts - that they didn't really want to do, but wanted to get ticked off ;-) (In case you wondered, we
had 'Eat cake for dinner', 'Design your perfect bedroom', 'Do a photographic scavenger hunt', 'Make snack necklaces', 'Go to the theatre', 'See The Muppets' and much more!)

We've stopped stressing over bedtime. Routine is good for children - of course it is. Mini thrives on chaos, which in turn makes him more chaotic, so routine is vital in our house. But bedtime is a battle that we can't have anymore. Dollop goes to bed first - usually between 6.30 and 7pm. Most of the time Mini is in bed by 8pm, sometimes a bit later. Yes it's late for a 7 year old, yes is takes up some of the evening when the NC and I like to chill and relax. But ultimately Mini needs this time with us, and if we try to get him to bed earlier it turns into a screaming, stressed warzone around here, and ends up with him going up and down until 10pm, leaving him an overtired little wotsit the next day. Remember pick your battles, it's taken us a while to back down on this battle, but I'm glad we have.

We've spent loads of time together. That's with and without the NC - I'm really making more of an effort to just be with the kids, instead of tidying/cooking/cleaning etc. And we're making a point of going out or doing something together at the weekends - we're missing family again who we're not seeing as much off, but our own little family is benefitting from this strong togetherness.

Mini is maturing at a great rate in fact. He seems to be more secure at the moment, and is just enjoying being 7. He loves Beavers, he's developing an interest in football, he's had guitar lessons at school, he likes the freedom of playing in the garden, we can trust him to play in the garden (without decapitating the flowers, climbing on the shed, throwing stones at the neighbour's greenhouse or vaulting the fences), and with all of this comes increased affection for me, a more helpful child, and one who is more accepting of praise.

So that's where we are right now. It feels pretty good. I'm going to enjoy it as long as I can...