Friday, 31 January 2014

Dirty trousers

It's been a while since I've written properly and it's just because we've had so much on!

Mini seems to have settled really well into his new school. It's only been 3 weeks or so, but several other mums said it seems like he's been there forever as he's just so happy and calm. He knows his way around already, he seems to be liked by everyone in his class and will play with anyone. He's had a bit of teasing a few times mostly because he likes a different football team, but nothing he couldn't handle with a bit of support from us. He has jobs and responsibilities already, he started guitar lessons once a week, he's been to his first party, and...very importantly his trousers need washing every single day - only this time it's not through wetting, it's because they're covered in mud from him joining in and playing with the, hide and seek, it, star wars, or secret agents!

School itself is good. We're lucky that they employ a part time parent liaison/support worker and I've already had a meeting with her. The only thing we're still waiting on is a name next to his peg...such a small thing but Mini has noticed that his peg is different and we feel that the addition of a sticker with his name on will make him feel part of the class and properly settled.

We have been told that siblings get priority over catchment, and are hopeful that this means Dollop will get a place at the same school as she starts reception in September. And because of this, we've moved her to the pre-school next door to school. And because of the way they work they're able to offer her 2.5 full days, rather than 5 mornings. It seems quite soon for her to be doing full days, but it's good practise ready for school, it means I get full days at home with her too, and it means less school runs (which is good because I'm now having to drive to school, so the less of that the better). Dollop doesn't have bad table manners, but eating with her friends will help those improve too.

The NC and I have been busy too - we had a meal out without children last weekend which was strange, and I think will take us a while to get used to. But we've also booked tickets for a gig in a few weeks time, which will mean an over-nighter for the children at nanna and granddad's, and are looking forward to a night out.
We're also carrying on with our Attachment Focused Counselling, and I am also having my own individual counselling - only 8 or so sessions, but I think it will help me.

So that's us. There's lots more I could write about - the voices in Mini's head, the re-referral to CAMHS, the developing emotional maturity, how happy Mini is at Beavers, but we'll save all that for another day...

Monday, 20 January 2014

The Things We Do: Movie Monday

It's Monday. For me that means several things:
  1. It's the start of a new week, and with that comes a sense of 'right, let's start again, and try and improve on last week.'
  2. A new 'The Things We Do' linky has started on The Adoption Social.
  3. I'm likely to have trouble getting Mini to school as he re-adjusts back to the routine of getting up and out.
  4. It's Movie Monday.
Today I'm writing about the bottom 2, so I can link up with the second one!

I was going to write about how difficult it is to get Mini to school on Mondays, but actually that's not fair. Today is only his second Monday, and we've had no real issues (yet a very quiet "I don't want to go" today that passed quickly with the distraction of breakfast). Time will tell whether Mondays continue in this way, but I'm tentatively hopeful that this new school will provide less anxiety than the old one.

However, despite the positivity so far, I'm going to continue with something that we've done for a long time to help ease Mondays a little bit, because Mondays at the old school were awful. And that's where number 4 comes in. Movie Monday happens most weeks during term time and always during the holidays.

Sometimes I pick a movie I think they'll like. Sometimes I let the children choose (but they have to be in agreement). Sometimes I'll draw up a 'Now Showing' poster so they see it in the morning. There is nearly always popcorn involved, sometimes with hidden jelly sweets or mini marshmallows near the bottom, and often milkshakes or hot chocolate. Both Mini and Dollop know that every Monday they watch a film and it's time to be calm, after the stress of the day. And even if the morning is horrific, I can promise that we'll have movie time later and it's something to look forward to. Mini loves this time and particularly enjoys fantasy-type films where he can use his imagination and escape, but he's not fussy and has an amazing memory when it comes to the details he sees in films.

On other days we have other ways of coping (or not!), but Movie Monday is sacred and definitely does the job it's supposed your children like watching movies to chill out? What are your favourite family films to watch? Are there any films you have to avoid because of the subject matter?

Friday, 17 January 2014


About this time last year, I wrote about ‘Memories that were never made’. The post, if you haven’t read it, is all about the loss of my dad, but much more than just my loss, it’s about all the things my children have lost by not having him around. It is an honestly written post, and is very open about what happened and my feelings…it’s still there if you want to read it.

This year is the tenth anniversary of Dad’s death, and also the sixth anniversary of us first meeting Mini. And I still find it difficult to cope, no not cope with, but just get through this day. There is a perverse kind of guilt…that’s the best way I can describe what I feel. Let me explain…but please bear in mind that this post is self-indulgent of me because it’s not about Mini and his feelings, this is all me.

This should be a happy momentous day. A joyous occasion on which we should remember that first day of meeting our son. But I feel immense guilt at not being able to celebrate it in any way shape or form. Don’t get me wrong, we do semi-celebrate becoming a family, but on the day it became official. We remember and talk about the day we first met Mini, but I can’t let myself enjoy those memories because the sadness for my dad is overwhelming. Around this time of year it consumes me. Perhaps the season doesn’t help – it’s dark, cold, wet and miserable, and that reflects my mood absolutely to a T. So….guilt.

Guilty also because I so wish I could have helped my father. Guilty because I couldn’t stop him taking the steps he did. Guilty because I couldn’t make him want to stay, and that I should have tried harder to stop him. Guilty because of my feelings of ‘not enough’ (I talked about that in my last post on this subject)…yes I feel very guilty for feeling all of these things, because ultimately, it wasn’t and isn’t about me. It’s about my dad, and how he felt.

That’s quite a lot of guilt isn’t it? And I know that it probably doesn’t make a lot of sense, and if I think about it, then there is no need for me to feel this way. But I do feel this way.

On top of that I start to feel ashamed of feeling this way. And then I spiral down into a dark place where there is not only guilt and shame, but sadness, fear, loss, grief, dark thoughts, bad dreams, tears, despair, and often…hysterical sobbing.

Until I started writing this blog – 2 years ago – I didn’t realise just how much I missed my dad or just how much I still need to grieve. Do I though? Do I need to grieve, or is this how it will always be? How do you know when you’ve finished grieving? Does it move on to acceptance…ever? I thought I’d got there a few years ago but do you ever accept the loss of someone you love?

I wish, more than anything that Dad could have met my children, or at least known of our plans. He knew we were having trouble conceiving, but we didn’t decide until later that we wanted to adopt…he never knew about Mini. And then of course, he never knew that we did actually end up conceiving and having Dollop.

I don’t want to churn up and rewrite the same thing year after year, but that Dad’s death and meeting Mini are so intertwined in date and in my mind, I wonder if I’ll ever move on from these feelings?

These feelings overwhelm me. I’ve allowed some of them to spill out onto paper, thank you for reading them.

Thursday, 16 January 2014

How do you cope when your partner is away...

This week the NC had to go away over night with work. He doesn’t have to do this too often, and really one night isn’t much – the kids were no trouble, Mini had school so didn’t miss daddy too much anyway and Weezy came round to keep me company.
Within months of us getting together the NC and I were living together (albeit at his parent’s house), and until he took this job 10 months ago, the only night we’d ever spent apart was the night before our wedding. But since March, the NC has had to go away 3 or 4 times, and I’ve been away twice too for conferences. It’s been quite hard for me to adjust to this…the NC and I usually spend a lot of time together, we don’t have many separate interests and enjoy each other’s company.

I was feeling a bit down about it this week, so posted on my Facebook and I was a bit surprised to find that many of my friend’s husbands also work away, and in fact they work away A LOT! Like, much of the week. Credit to those mums (and those single mums who do it everyday), because it’s stressful having to be totally responsible for little people 24 hours a day with no-one there to share the duties, relax with and reflect with. And it can be lonely and isolating – adoptive parenting can be those things at the best of times.

A friend also commented that one day could be turned into an adventure, and it could be a whole lot worse. And she’s right it could be, he could be away most of the week like many other people have, and the children could act up the entire time…indeed her own circumstances mean her husband is away much of the time, and they’re like ships passing in the night with her own work commitments too.

To start with I felt silly for feeling upset – after all, some of my friends spend much of the week looking after their kids on their own and here I was moaning about one night.
But I got thinking -
for me…it’s not about how long he’s away for, or where he is, or how much travelling he does…

It’s about how I cope, and how the kids cope, and it’s about what you’re used to. Quite simply, I cope OK, the kids cope OK whilst he’s away, but the shit comes when he returns, we’re not used to it and never expected it. Indeed, when we were being approved we talked at length about evenings and agreed back then that the NC would do bedtime – it would be his time with Mini, and it quickly became part of our routine.

Last night – the NC’s first night back – was horrific and shows just how bad it can be. Mini punishes the NC for being away, and punishes us all for having to endure the change in routine (because he functions best when he has a high level of routine). Last night Mini was so angry with the NC, that he had an enormous meltdown. I won’t bore you with the details, but it took 90minutes just to get Mini changed and in (our) bed, and during those 90minutes the NC got hit repeatedly, Mini banged his head on the wall and we all got cross. It took some time after that to then get him completely calm and in his own bed and even then it wasn’t sleep via gentle slumber, but through exhaustion after the meltdown.

Given that the NC’s trips away are going to continue (and mine too, though less often), and possibly increase….I need some help. How do you all cope with it? Have you any tips for me? Do your children react as Mini does or are they used to it? Is it all they’ve ever known and do you think that makes it easier for them?

Monday, 13 January 2014

The things we do: freezer first aid

I wrote a long time ago about plasters and their healing powers. We still use plasters and their magical powers to help heal the smallest of cuts (even the invisible-to-parents ones), and this attention to 'hurts' is something that our Theraplay therapist strongly advocated as it's nurturing and caring, and helps the child learn that parents can be trusted to look after them. And doing this also means an opportunity to give our children reassuring touch - by rubbing in cream or applying a plaster.

Along with magic cream (we use a squirty tube of Johnson's lotion, our therapist uses E45) and plasters, I have another 'tool' that I keep at home that helps me help Mini and Dollop with their hurts...big and small.

Condiment sachets. Yes, the little sachets of ketchup or salad cream that you can acquire in certain establishments. The Mcpots of sauce are no good, it has to be the sachets because the idea is to freeze them and turn them into mini icepacks for bumps and bruises. And yes, I know you can buy Mr Bump and Peppa ice packs which are designed especially for this purpose, but somehow Mini managed to split all of those. With these inexpensive/free sachets they can be easily replaced (though he's not managed to split any of these ones).

It might sound silly to some, but having these in the freezer to pop on fingers squished in doors or stomped on, or stubbed toes is something that helps us instantly deal with the 'hurts' and therefore lets us be nurturing, caring and loving straight away, providing touch and helping us calm Mini or Dollop.

This is one of those little things we do....and so I'm linking up to 'The Things We Do' linky at The Adoption Social.
The Things We Do

Sunday, 12 January 2014

Sponsored post - Could you live without the internet?

The internet keeps me sane. Had you realised that?
This blog keeps me sane...well, not all the time, but I know it's always somewhere that I can share my feelings and worries.

For some adoptive parents the internet can be a scary place - there are so many social media sites now that we have to consider the identity risks to our children. Some sites have made it easier for our children to connect with their birth families - and whilst for some this is positive, for many this direct contact can be difficult and lead to unmanaged, unsafe relationships developing.

However, for many adoptive parents, the internet can provide support that is just non-existent in any other way. Anonymity helps with being able to share information that you wouldn't in a face to face situation; message boards and forums provide a place to meet other parents when you could be feeling very isolated at home; blogs and websites that share other's lives and stories can provide that feeling of community - knowing that someone else is going through the same as you. Then think about all the parenting websites and blogs and you know you can look for different approaches to try at home too.

Sarah (from The Puffin Diaries) and I set up The Adoption Social back in June last year to encourage the use of social media and online tools for support and we've been overwhelmed with the amount of support that our users give us and each other. We've met (virtually and in real life) many other adopters that we just couldn't have if the internet hadn't existed. Indeed, Sarah and I 'met' online through blogging and tweeting, and have since met in real life too.

In a much broader way, the internet has supported me through some parts of parenting that I've found difficult and where I've lacked confidence as a mum. Through various parenting sites I've learnt about different weaning methods, potty training and products to support me; I've researched parenting styles, buggies and baby slings; and I've even applied for both Mini and Dollop's school places online. Everyday I access my email, every week I do my grocery shop online, and I use it to connect with friends and family often.

Without the internet where would I be? Well, I can tell you that when my neighbour accidentally cut through the cables for our phone and broadband I was lost. Even with a mobile with a data allowance! Now, we've switched provider and it's not likely that those cables will get cut again...phew!
I really do believe the internet has an important role in my life, and that of many other mums so when I was approached to write this sponsored post, I was more than happy to. Especially as it's for Virgin Media's broadband service - our own service provider. And we've never had a problem at all with our 60mb super fast service.

Do you rely on the internet? Do you think you could live without it? I tried to imagine life without it now - and, well, I couldn't!

Meltdowns vs Panic Attacks

I'm a member of a few different Facebook groups for adoptive parents, and parents of children with attachment issues. I just saw a post where someone asked about medication for children who have panic attacks, and it made me wonder if I should look at Mini's meltdowns differently, and if I do that, will it help me have more empathy for him? I'm not suggesting I'll look into medication by the way...

At the moment, whilst I do understand some of the whys of Mini having these meltdowns, in the heat of the moment, when I'm trying to calm him, hold him, prevent him from hurting himself or others, it's pretty easy to just be frustrated and cross about them - and that's just me, of course he's feeling pretty shitty himself! As much as I try to remain calm, empathic, understanding and therapeutic, when it comes to the crunch, sometimes I do shout or get cross. I think most of the adoptive parents I'm in touch with do too, and we're all pretty good at beating ourselves up about it afterwards. No-one ever said therapeutic parenting was going to be easy.

But, in reality, when I sit back and reflect upon it all, he's not doing these things to intentionally hurt us, it's not personal and I know that.
When I say he has meltdowns, I think the easiest way to explain it is by saying it's a bit like a toddler tantrum but ramped up. Limbs flail, his body is thrown around the space, his head bobs in your direction, feet get stomped and fists fly, out comes a torrent of noise - insults, screams, cries, whines, rages, shouts, hisses, and strange animal noises that seem to come from deep within. Objects get thrown, hands fly to cover his face in shame, he'll run and hide or bury his head as far into the sofa as he can, comfort and physical touch are rejected, calming words are shouted over and make no difference.
Think about a toddler doing all this, but with the strength, weight and size of a 7 year old, who has a much more developed vocabulary, and doesn't tire as quickly as a toddler so can maintain this for several hours. This 7 year old has also worked out which buttons to press for a reaction, much better than a toddler. And this tantrum is not over you saying no to a biscuit (although sometimes it is!), often it's for a reason unknown to you or the 7 year old.

We have many ways to 'handle' these episodes, depending on the reason (if known) for it happening, sometimes with success and sometimes we have to just ride it out.

Mostly these happen because Mini is stressed about something - be it a birthday party (and the worries about being good, being in a different place, lots of people around, being able to find the toilet), or perhaps he's done something that he knows we won't like (and is worried he'll get told off, worried we'll reject him, worried we won't like him anymore), something new (where he won't know what's safe, won't know the people, won't know the rules or expectations). And sometimes Mini doesn't know what he's stressed about, but a feeling has been triggered within.
As adults when we have these worries, we can panic. If we have them often and lots at a time, they can cause us to have panic attacks. So it that what Mini's having then? I'm not suggesting they're all panic attacks, sometimes it's defiance, sometimes he doesn't like what he's been told or asked, sometimes it's normal 7 year old behaviour, but most of the time it's more than that.

These worries, and there are so many more that I haven't written about, take over Mini's life to an extent. We try to take them away or make them not exist in the first place. We have routines so Mini doesn't have to worry about things getting done or in what order. But still, he is hyper vigilant about things happening, and we see him physically flap when something's worrying him. We use that great book 'The huge bag of worries' and several Margot Sunderland books too, but still...

Anyway, what I think I'm trying to say is that a panic attack sounds like something I can identify with a lot more, and I think therefore that I can empathise with it a lot more too.  Hopefully thinking slightly differently will help me help Mini during these times. I hope I can accept that he feels panicky, without looking too hard at why he feels that way.

Monday, 6 January 2014

Greatest mum? Really?!

I'm crying. Tears, big fat ones, all salty, are tumbling over my cheeks. My son, has just said the most amazing thing to me and I'm feeling very emotional.

I made Mini cupcakes to take to school this week for his birthday. Lots of time and effort went into making them, and Mini's enjoyed watching and helping with each step. We had some spares, so each tucked into one after dinner tonight. Afterwards, Mini sidled over to me, sat on my lap, leaned up to my face and whispered in my ear...

"You're the greatest, bestest mum in the world...ever, thank you."

Love that boy big time.

P.S Don't think I really need to say it, but just in case. This is the first time Mini has EVER said anything like this to me, and actually meant it. He showed real emotion :-)

Sunday, 5 January 2014

Take me to the beach

There's a new linky on The Adoption Social starting tomorrow called The Things We Do. It's a place for bloggers to link up and share anything they do that makes a difference, helps their children, helps themselves, makes life a little bit more comfortable or easy. It can be little things, or big things, but by sharing what we do, perhaps someone else can find an idea to help them...

So I wanted to share this with you:

and it comes with a soundtrack too...
It's no secret, and many parents do this, but it's one of the things we do often when Mini's beginning to struggle - usually identified by increasing stroppy moments, crossness and a lack of patience towards everyone and everything or even in the throes of meltdown.

We head to the seaside. And I've blogged lots about our times at the seaside.
We make memories there, we nurture there.

Open space is good - but the park doesn't cut it. The park has a playground where there are too many things to choose from, and Mini gets frustrated when he can't go on something straight away.

The seaside is better, if we want to feel safe and cocooned we go onto one of the very quiet beach areas, protected each side by a big rocky groyne, green with fresh wet seaweed, with the high sea wall at the back providing a sheltered space to sit and picnic even when the wind is blowing, and the gentle lapping waves/crashing foamy surf at the foot of the beach (delete according to the weather!). Here the children can shout, run, splash, build sandcastles, rage, play, dig - whatever they want. And on a practical note, the car park and toilet is just a short walk away, but there are no arcades or amusements nearby - the pier is a good 20minute walk at least.

If we need space and freedom, then we could spend hours walking/scooting/running up and down the long long prom. Right from our deserted beach, past the beach huts, up past the arcades, past the little beachside café with the horrid chips but passable hot chocolate, past the pier, past the leisure centre and ice cream shop, past more beach huts, right down to the other quieter beach end where the kite enthusiasts hope to catch some good air.

Yes, the beach with it's fresh air and it's comforting smells, sights and sounds calms us all, even if it's just a temporary break until we come home and it all starts again.

The Things We Do