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.