Saturday, 8 August 2015

Bye bye BAAF...

Well that was a shock wasn't it? Last Friday, just over a week ago, it was announced that BAAF - the British Association of Adoption and Fostering was closing, immediately. Here's the statement from the BAAF Chief Executive.

Through The Adoption Social I often see press releases, sometimes we get direct emails from adoption organisations asking us to share their news, but this news didn't arrive this way. I happened to see a tweet mid-afternoon on Friday and immediately got in touch with Sarah (from The Puffin Diaries, and my partner in crime on The Adoption Social) to see if she'd heard.

After sharing the link to the announcement on The Adoption Social's Facebook page, I soon started to see others sharing and retweeting it, all with the same level of shock. I don't have much direct experience with BAAF myself, but my timelines on Twitter and Facebook are full of surprise, I even saw a thread on Mumsnet about it!

Now, of course it's sad. Having been made redundant myself, I feel for those poor staff members who will be left without a job. But here's how I see it (based on the very limited information that's been put out there):

Most of the core services will be operated by Coram instead now. So, service users/adopters/professionals/adoptees should not lose out. It might work well for all of us too? Fresh eyes on those services might mean some of them change and improve.

Adoption Link - love them or loathe them - already run other services that fill in the gaps of the now Coram/CoramBAAF run services.

This leaves space for newer, forward thinking organisations. As one of the main players in the adoption support (and I use that term loosely) world, you really needed BAAF onside to get heard or taken seriously, but with their 'traditional' views, communication methods and services, this was always going to be difficult for new/alternative/activist/small/modern organisations. Perhaps the tide is turning?

Now is the time to look further to have your support needs met. You know, Adoption UK and BAAF are not the only adoption organisations that exist (or existed) - yes, there's Adoption Link and the First4Adoption website, there's Coram, Barnardo's and After Adoption. There's also The Open Nest, The Adoption Social, The Potato Group, individual adoptive parents, We Are Family, the new Single Adopters Network, The Yellow Kite, Post Adoption Centre, TACT, Family Futures and many more local organisations too. They might even be better placed to help you with your needs!

My concern however is that if BAAF can't sustain itself, then can these other organisations? What is the wider implication of BAAF closing it's doors?

And whilst Coram does a good job of supporting families in England, what of those in Ireland,  and Wales who will be losing out? (Scotland are being looked after as some services transfer to a Scottish organisation).
And how can Coram - even if the legal part is strictly speaking a separate entity - effectively and independently run the reviewing mechanism that they are taking on?

What are your thoughts? If you have a blog, then you can write a post and link up to The Adoption Social here. If you don't then please leave your comments below, or contact me and I might be able to offer you a guest spot here on The Boy's Behaviour.

Actual support is on it's way...

As you can probably tell from my lack of writing, life these days is pretty - dare I say it - normal.

Mini is happy at school, and happy that it's the school holidays. He's spending his days playing Clash of Clans, watching TV, bouncing on the trampoline, playing in the garden, drawing, on a trampoline course, at nanny and granddad's, baking with me and building dens. We've not had *too* many whines of boredom, though there's been a fair bit of bickering with Dollop. Can't have it all I guess.

The NC and I are still having sessions with a counsellor. Following a course of attachment focussed counselling, during which Mini attended *some* appointments, the NC and I also had our own individual counselling sessions, and after they wouldn't renew funding for more sessions for Mini to attend, we were given a package of 6 follow-up sessions, to be used one a month. We have one more left.

But as a whole things are fine. Which is why we approached post adoption support back in April. I know that our life is a rollercoaster. Some days are good, some days are bad. Equally some months - even years are good, some bad. And whilst we're in a good spot, we know it won't last. That's not me being negative about the future, just realistic. In April, when the adoption support fund launched, we contacted post adoption support and asked for an assessment, with a view to asking for some NVR training to prepare ourselves for the future. Why April? Well, as it's not been confirmed how or when the big adoption support fund pot will be refilled, we felt we needed to act straight away to be guaranteed any help or support.

As it happens, due to reorganisation of the team, we've had to wait until yesterday before that assessment! That's given me 4 months to get riled up, cross about the wait, worried that we wouldn't get money, concerned it would run out etc etc. So imagine my surprise when we were offered - without any hint of hesitation or questioning - a UNISAFE course.
Not only that, but a KEEP space (usually aimed at foster carers and kinship carers, but there are a couple of spaces for adoptive parents in this next local round), which hopefully the NC will be able to go to. This is a long-term support group, with sharing and learning from each other. It comes in a few age groups, and once Mini is older, we 'graduate' to the next group up to continue appropriate support and learning.

AND, we've finally got a definite yes to the life story work that we've been pushing for. Our previous social worker signed us off, case closed before he bothered to arrange this. But after a recent approach for a new letterbox agreement, we really feel that proper professional life story work will be useful in helping Mini decide whether he wants to begin, and continue this letterbox agreement with a sibling.

I'm still in shock. I really thought we'd have to fight and push for what we feel we need. But this time, we went in knowing what support we want, and I was much more confident. We've done the parenting courses, we've had the counselling, we've done theraplay, we've changed our parenting to suit our children, we understand why we see the behaviours we do, we now need to move forward and prepare ourselves for future possible challenges.

So the only thing we have to wait on is a sensory assessment. Mini's sensory needs aren't horrific, but he does react to certain sounds and noises, and he needs firm physical touch - just some of the things that he's a bit sensitive about. Our GP hasn't been helpful, so we've asked PAS for one. However, they're not sure yet if the ASF will fund assessments as it's not a therapeutic issue. (Bizarrely though, I understand the ASF will fund sensory integration therapy - just not the assessment to see if it's needed!)

So that's us...or at least the beginning of our next chapter in the world of adoption support.

In other news...
Dollop had a playdate at her 'boyfriend's' house this week, so I had a day with Mini - a mummy/Mini date if you like. We mooched around town, treated ourselves in CaffĂ© Nero, picked lots of soft fruit at the farm, played in the garden, harvested more fruit from our greengage tree, shopped for new bedding and chilled together.

Mini keeps thinking about vegetarianism, and we now have no meat left in our freezer, just some salmon and fish fingers which I know Mini and Dollop will eat up.

I learnt how to do a lovely hair style of Dollop this morning (something that I'm not usually so good at), with the help of YouTube. Here's what I watched, this family do some fantastic hair styles and are well worth subscribing to...


Friday, 24 July 2015

Inside Out - a review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, 13 July 2015

A calmness is descending

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

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

Is this how 'normal' households live?

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, 10 June 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

But...

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

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

Friday, 5 June 2015

Homework: should he? shouldn't he?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, 25 May 2015

Sharing experiences of CPV

CPV or Child to Parent Violence has been the focus of a week long theme on The Adoption Social. It's one of those subjects that isn't easy to talk about; a sore point - because who really wants to admit that their child hits them?

I've always been open about the violence that goes on in our home, I've written about it here before, on my Facebook page, and I think most of our friends and family know that the NC and I are on the receiving end of physical violence occasionally (though they might not know to what extent).
My personal view is that it's nothing to be ashamed of, it isn't my fault and I can't expect help and support unless I speak about it. But that doesn't make it any easier to deal with.

Other people find it harder to speak about, and I understand their reticence - will they be judged? Why should they speak out? What support can they expect? And to be honest, is there really anything that can be done? And I know that in those moments, those raw moments of anger, fear, shame, embarrassment, shock, even hate, that CPV is impossible to talk about, or even think about. In those moments, all I've been able to do is exist. Sometimes it takes an hour or two, others several days to be able to think about an incident, make any vague sort of sense out of it, and move on. And that's just me, let alone Mini and all that he's feeling or felt during it all. He's still too young to be able to reflect on it after.

The newly launched Adoption Support Fund is there to access and perhaps it could pay for courses in non-violent resistance techniques, or DDP, or even private companies who can support and teach techniques to both children and their parents. But with doubts over how long the ASF will last, with no confirmed sources of funding after this initial wave runs out, relying on the ASF to provide continual and professional parenting development could be dangerous and short-sighted. And in these early days, it appears to be hard to access anyway with some adoptive parents reporting difficulties in receiving that initial assessment, a postcode lottery some might say. In fact, our own local authority has so far taken 4 weeks to tell us that they are unable to offer us the (statutory) assessment at the moment because of restructuring within the department. Well what a bloody brilliant time to restructure?! Not very well planned hey? So we don't know when we'll be able to move forward or how long it will take. And of course, there's the uncertainty over whether funding will be forthcoming, so we have to think about saving for private therapy/training rather than moving to a bigger house where we can improve safety and space.

So why should adoptive parents speak up about their CPV experiences?
Well, as The Adoption Social's work this week proves, speaking up means others can (even if virtually) support you, empathise with you, share techniques with you. Our Twitter chat this week attracted a fair few participants, and many more lurkers watching the conversation and we know it made people feel less alone. People who had intended to just watch felt compelled to join in, and even those who had CPV issues going on right there and then, still came and said their piece when they could.

There are perhaps some issues around language, and some express discomfort over this. However, discussing CPV is fairly new and whilst we all figure out how to talk about it, it will take time for language and terminology to be defined and refined, and re-refined. But that is, again, another reason to talk about it, let's make it part of normal adoption support type conversation, let's figure out how we want to speak about it and present that to Government, post adoption support teams, social workers and those that support us. Let us tell them what happens, and open up the conversations.

If we all speak up, they can't not listen. They can't disbelieve in it.

Thursday, 16 April 2015

After-school activities

The school the children are at now, well, for a start is smaller. It's in a village, it's got a PTA/HSA, the staff are approachable (for the most part), and it's just so much nicer than Mini's old school. I was friendly with a couple of mums at old school, but at new school we have our own facebook group to chat in, we've had several meet-ups in the school holidays and regularly meet for coffee. It's closer to my expectations of being mum of a school age child.

We really feel part of the school community, and at Dollop approaches her final term of Reception, I'm not filled with worry and dread about her moving up, and I'm hopeful that the current Year 4 teacher - a man - will remain in Year 4 so Mini will experience a male teacher...and helpful that he idolises Mr B already.

So this week, tomorrow in fact, both children will be attending a movie night after school tomorrow. It's something that the HSA regularly organise, and for a nominal sum the children can watch a movie with their friends, have a drink and a snack, and us parents get an extra hour and a half to ourselves before having the pick the kids up.

I'm telling you all this, not to give hints on fundraising for your own child's school (although, it does seem to be a good earner for our HSA), but to show you how far Mini has come since moving school. Apart from the fact that old school never did anything extra or fun like this, he just never would have felt comfortable being there beyond school hours. And honestly, I wouldn't have felt comfortable leaving him there after school hours.

I often look back and can't really see how things have changed all that much. The challenges are see there - less frequently but more violently, but it's the little things like this that really do show how things have moved on for us as a family.

Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Diet changes and noodle soup

As some of you might have recently noticed from my Instagram, Twitter and Facebook feeds, I've changed my diet. At the start of this year, I became suspicious about whether I might be becoming intolerant to milk/dairy. So about 2 months ago now, I cut out all milk products completely. After a bit of trial and error for a month or so before that, I discovered that cow's milk products were a definite a no-no, but I was able tolerate goats milk, and also sheeps milk products.

Within weeks, the weight started to slip off, and the horrific stomach problems almost completely stopped. However, I still continued to have a few aches, wind and upset stomach, so after checking through my food diary I realised that wheat or gluten might also be a problem. So, I completely stopped my intake of those too. Again, a bit more trial and error suggests that it's wheat, rather than gluten that's the problem, although I'm having a very low gluten diet anyways.

So, now I've been about 2months milk-free (that's milk, butter, cream, whey and lactose), and about 1 month wheat/gluten free and haven't felt this good for a long time. I'm now a stone lighter and have realised that the bloating feeling that I've had for years wasn't normal and has now gone.

It's not easy I'll tell you but it's making me more adventurous, and since discovering Ella Woodward's 'Deliciously Ella' book and blog, raw food is proving a great basis for my diet.

Last night, after a long busy day, I needed to put together a quick dinner, and I want to share with you a meal that was filling, fresh, healthy, vegan, wheat, gluten and dairy free! And yes, it still tasted good!

Noodle Soup - totally delicious, plenty for 2 (plus seconds) and containing 4 portions of vegetable too:

Stir two vegetable stock pots into 1.2litres of boiling water in a large saucepan.
Throw in 6 sliced mushrooms, and let come to the boil again.
Add in about 10 baby corns, each chopped in half, and half a head of broccoli, divided into small florets. Also add 1/3 pack of King Soba Sweet Potato and Buckwheat Noodles.
Boil for 4-5 minutes, then add in about 12-14 mange tout, each cut in half.
Boil for a further 2 minutes, then serve.
A photo posted by the boy's behaviour (@boysbehaviour) on

Simples. Took ten minutes maximum and even the husband was left feeling full :-) If you try it, let me know what you think?

Monday, 23 March 2015

Highs and lows

We live our lives in extremes. Every aspect of parenting a child who has suffered trauma is in the extreme.

We deal with extreme behaviour as extreme emotions and extreme reactions affect our children. We
have to manage our own extreme emotions - guilt, love, wonder, shock, fear, grief, awe, amazement and so on, extremely quickly as we have to be prepared and available, emotionally and physically when our children need us to be - sometimes on extremely short notice.

This week I've struggled to flip between emotionally available mum and shocked fearful mum as quickly as Mini has managed to flip between frightened, angry 8 year old waving a knife at my face and cuddly, affectionate little boy who loves his mummy. And I've wanted to run away and deal with my feelings before being mummy again. But I couldn't.

It takes time to recognise our own emotions and come to terms with not only what we've experienced but how well we've managed to regulate our children and make them feel safe again. And that's OK.

I talked with another adoptive mum today and she feels the same, and that made me feel normal and better and relieved. If you recognise yourself here, then I hope you too feel reassured - you're not on your own x

Friday, 6 March 2015

Employing circus skills

We had some bad news this week. My 91 year old Nan had a fall and broke her hip. This resulted in (obviously) a hospital trip, and there she remains having undergone surgery to have her hip pinned (phew, not a replacement...she's been battling against knee replacements for years!), and is now recovering from the surgery, but also struggling with kidney problems. I'm worried, really worried about her :-(

We're off to visit her tonight, without children, who are off to the NC's parents after school today, and will be staying overnight. As much as they both want to see their Great-Nan, we don't think it's appropriate, and it's an hour's drive away, and visiting hours are quite late, and we don't even know if children are allowed on the ward.

Mini is struggling with this, and we're grateful he's been able to tell us. He wants to visit, but he's worried about seeing all the other poorly people so he's glad he's not coming. He wants to have a sleepover at his Nanna and Grandad's, but he's going to miss us. He wants to take lots of things, but if he takes too much then it will mean (to him) he'll be staying there a long time. He wants to stay a while and have fun, but he wants to be sure he's coming home again and that we're not leaving him there.
Phew - that's quite a lot of worries and thoughts isn't it...especially for an 8 year old little head to think about.

So whilst the children are at school, I'm packing enough things to keep them occupied, but not too much...enough spares in case of anxiety induced accidents, but not too many to cause excess anxiety about staying too long.

A balancing act if ever there was one...

Tuesday, 3 March 2015

New boots

Dollop is a girly girl. She loves princesses, pink stuff, fairies, hearts and flowers. She has long hair (I recently had to plead with her to get it trimmed) which she loves having plaited and prettified with sparkly plastic bits and pieces. She adores Frozen, and loves Elsa and Anna.

So, when we went to pick out new wellies recently, she was very pleased to find Frozen wellies. I, however, was less enthralled by the white fake fur around the top, and the prospect of keeping them vaguely snow like. In the absence of any others in her size, we sighed with disappointment but agreed to look in another shop on another day.
As we carried on around the supermarket clothing section, we stumbled upon some more wellies that she liked, I liked and were much more practical than the silly pale 'girly' ones. These were 'Minion Boots!' from the movie Despicable Me. They were even in her size and when she tried them on they were a perfect fit.

There were a few strange looks from passers-by, and Mini pipes up "But they're BOYS wellies!".

Dollop was horrified, the thought of boys wellies was almost too much for her. (I can't blame her to be honest - I have to touch Mini's wellies and they're pretty stinky!)

I'm pretty disappointed that the store didn't have these Minion boots in both boys and girls clothing sections. After all, most of the girls I know enjoy Despicable Me as much as the boys. And I know a fair few boys that enjoy watching (and singing along to) Frozen, although I get that fluffy sparkly wellies might not float their boat so much. It's pretty much the first time I've encountered this kind of gender stereotyping as an issue because so far I've had a typical boy's boy and a very typical girly girl, but it's something that I'm going to look out more for now. And hopefully my children won't feel the need to conform anymore.

We immediately put Mini straight - these boots are as much for girls as boys. We put Dollop straight too - and reassured her that anyone can wear whatever boots they like (as long as they fit OK). And ended up buying the boots. She wears them well.

Sunday, 1 March 2015

Confidence...taken it's time!

He's been here 7 years now, and it's only now that we finally feel like we're getting to know the real Mini.

The last 7 years have been full of ups and downs, and even though we've celebrated the ups, the downs have always kind of overtaken...even when we've tried really really hard to just enjoy the good bits. Perhaps it's because of my depression? Or perhaps it's because the trauma takes over? Or maybe it's because we're now experienced in the ways of Mini and know that the good times never last that long? I suspect it's because even the best of the best times don't make up for all the really challenging, frustrating, violent and scary times, even when we really want them to; when we tell everyone else they do; when we tell ourselves they do.

But now, what's happened? We are going through the longest good period we've EVER had.
Is it really because one day he was 7, then he was 8? Is 8 some kind of magic number? Or is it because all the counselling we've been having really has helped? I'm not sure it's changed our views or opinions, or our parenting, but I think it's somehow made us more assured in what we're doing. Our counsellor reminds us that we're doing great; she picks out all the good bits and all the positivity and gives us the credit for it instead of continually blaming us for all the bad bits, which is what we've done to ourselves, and what some professionals have implied.

And, along with my magic happy pills (OK, so they're not magic, and I still have a way to go but...), I'm feeling better about life generally, and more confident in my parenting skills.

So these days, we're enjoying the happy go lucky Mini, the one who is confident enough to go to football camp in half term by himself, the one who is helping his sister learn her phonics, the Mini that loves sitting down with us and watching music videos on TV, the boy that has learnt many of the moves to All About The Bass, and is desperate to learn how to do the splits (just like in the video mum!). He giggles at our jokes, and takes the mickey out of us. He grins and covers his eyes when the NC and I kiss (err...that's DISGUSTING, you're my PARENTS!). He loves to help cook, and even helps with the washing up. Yeah, so he still likes to run around naked and wiggle his bum at us, and toilet humour is still very funny to Mini, but to be fair, the NC and I both giggle at rude words and squelchy noises too!

We have days where things don't go Mini's way, and he stomps his feet, but we can manage that now. And I'm now in the place where I know my children well enough to know if their behaviour is normal, or a sign of unease, anxiety or other uncomfortable feeling, despite what other people say, and despite their attempts to brush it all off.

It's taken a long time, but I think we've finally become confident parents, and we're being the best parents we can be to Mini and Dollop.

Sunday, 22 February 2015

How far have we come?

A year ago we were struggling. We were seeing a counsellor regularly - both the NC and I had individual sessions, and we had joint sessions (sometimes including Mini too).

Mini had moved schools not long before and although he was settling well there, it wasn't having the huge impact at home that we wanted.

Spelling test day was awful, and Mini went from bouncing downstairs all enthusiastic, to argumentative, slow and in denial about going to school. He dreaded that day of the week.

The NC was having to go away infrequently for work - something that had never happened before. On the day of, or following his return he'd be met by an angry little boy, intent on punishing his father for creating these feelings of loss within.

Just over a year ago, I was washing Mini's school trousers every day through either wetting or soiling AND his bedsheets every night, as he endured horrific nightmares, and felt anxious about school everyday.

Last year, like every year I would dread half term. I'd make charts, and games and plan to make sure we had things arranged (even if it was just movies or resting) to help me feel more in control.

I was falling down a big black hole of despair. Further into depression than ever before, with the black dog constantly by my side, or -as it often felt- sitting on my head, weighing me down and clouding my judgement.

It wasn't all bad though...A year ago, Mini called me the best mum ever for making his some cool cupcakes to take into school on his birthday (and first day).


So let's have a look at just how far we've come...

We've finished our sessions with our counsellor. We could benefit from more individual sessions, but we're coping without. We're now in the middle of a package of monthly sessions to catch up and keep in touch, but last time we finished early as we had nothing to discuss with her...things are going THAT well.

Mini is much more comfortable now at school. It's like he's always been there and he loves his teachers - yes, even though we've got another job share set! He likes going to school. He likes playing footie with his mates. He loves football club each week. He is part of the class.

Spelling test day is no longer feared. In fact, I don't even know when spelling test day is anymore!

The NC hasn't been away too much this year, but the most recent episode - this week in fact, was completely different. On his return, I'd let Mini stay up a little later to make sure he saw daddy before he went to bed (well, it is half term), and instead of being an angry, red faced person, he was kind and cuddly and just pleased to have his dad home.

Mini's trousers have been much better since moving schools - and although he has the odd accident, and went through a soiling period too, I'm not washing daily through wetting, but from muddy knees instead.
I rarely have to wash his bed sheets, and have to remember to change them weekly like everyone else's!
I did not dread half term! Even though the NC was away for a couple of days. I was rested before it started, happy to spend time with the children and not at all daunted about entertaining them.

I'm now on anti-depressants. And happy about it. It took time and several attempts to find the right one for me, but I'm feeling better little by little. I know it's going to be a long journey, but I'm confident in my ability to recognise my own depressive signs, and confident that I have an approachable GP.

And I'm pleased to report that Mini still thinks I'm the best mum ever. Even more so for allowing him to have a guinea pig, creating a guinea pig cake for his birthday and letting him get Minecraft.

So that's how far we've come. I'm in the right place to recognise progress, and hope that we continue to make more.

Sunday, 8 February 2015

Sharing

Do you ever make things to eat that you're pretty sure the children won't like? And that's OK, because actually you don't want to share it?

Yes well. Today I made flapjack, a dairy free flapjack from my new favourite recipe book 'Deliciously Ella' by Ella Woodward. It's made with nut butter, and I used peanut butter purposely because no-one else in my house likes it. I'm finding it pretty tough this cows milk free diet, especially as we have lots of things in the house at the moment that I can't eat, so how great would it be to have something that only I like?

Except, it turns out that when it's in this flapjack EVERYONE likes peanut butter! Yes, that means EVERYONE likes the flapjack.

Guess I'll have to share then. *sulks*

Monday, 2 February 2015

Recipe time: Vietnamese style veg and noodles

In my last post I mentioned that one of the things that is bringing Mini and I closer at the moment is our shared love of cooking. I also mentioned that he's becoming more adventurous, and want to share a recipe with you that 6 months ago I would never have cooked as a family meal because I know it would have been rejected...not only does Mini now eat it, but he can make it too. (And the bonus is that it's vegetarian and milk-free for me!)


Vietnamese Style Veg and Noodles

1 red chilli, roughly chopped
1 stalk of lemongrass, finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 tbsp. soy sauce
2 limes, juiced and zested
2 tbsp. sesame oil
1 tbsp. olive oil
2 packs of mange tout/baby corn
1 red pepper, sliced
Wholewheat noodles - enough for 3/4 people.
2 tbsp. fresh chopped coriander (optional)

Using a pestle and mortar, grind the chilli, lemongrass and garlic to a thick paste. Add the soy sauce, lime juice, lime zest and half the sesame oil, mix together.

Heat the rest of the sesame oil, along with the olive oil in a wok or large pan and stir fry the vegetables for about 8 minutes, until just cooked through.

Cook the noodles as per the instructions, then add to the vegetables, along with the chilli mixture.

Continue to stir fry for another minute or two until the sauce is heated through, then serve. Add a little chopped coriander if you like.

Make it different:
If your kids won't eat it with chilli in, then just serve them the noodles and veg, adding the chilli mix after you've dished theirs up.
Last time we made this, I added a few salted peanuts to mine for extra crunch.


Adapted from a recipe found in Tesco magazine, January 2015.

What's working at the moment

Things have been so up and down recently, and I'm still struggling with problems with my wrist, so typing isn't always easy but here I am...

Mini had a new teacher at the start of the year - his previous teacher for this year was covering maternity leave, so in fact the new teacher is returning after having a baby. Mini however, hadn't met her before so was - understandably - anxious. She's only come back 4 days a week, so he has another teacher too. Yes...another job share class. His third set of job share teachers since he started school.
Now, regular readers will know that previously Mini has struggled with multiple teachers, however, we're really pleased that he seems happy with his new teachers and is coming home more enthused than ever about education.
Today he's (well, Dollop too actually) had a visiting theatre company in school and has talked lots about it since coming home. And he got his homework book out and is working on his maths as I type - without us asking/prompting him, and 3 days before it's due in!

The down days are still there. Since his birthday at the beginning of the year, Mini has been hard work at times but we're finding strategies to help...

Fun!
We're definitely having lots more of it. Mini's maturing and his sense of humour is developing. He is hilarious and he gets our jokes...most of the time. We can take the mickey out of each other and he is much less sensitive than ever before.
I can't drive and although it makes me feel pretty useless - I can't even do the school run, I am finding that I'm much less stressed. Less stress means I can enjoy myself more.

Cooking
I've written about cooking before, and shared a few recipes too. Mini is really getting into cooking, loves being in the kitchen and is more adventurous with his meals too. We've recently made all sorts of dishes as I'm coming to terms with a milk-free diet. Mini is relishing this and becoming thoughtful about what mummy can and can't have. We've bought some new recipe books and I've caught him poring over them deciding what looks good.

Guinea PigsWe had some new, unexpected recent additions. So we currently have a litter of guinea pigs and their mum in a large cage in our living room. Mini is so caring - he helps feed them, clean them out and loves giving them cuddles. He is gentle with them and talks to them in a beautiful sing song voice that makes my heart melt.
I know that things change and we have to have new tools to use all the time, but for now, I'm really pleased and feeling much more confident in my parenting, knowing what works.

Oh, and I'm super proud to say that last week, Mini got 'Star of the Week' for his class - and for especially good listening and helping his classmates *grins*.

Thursday, 22 January 2015

A new kind of grief

This week, we published a post on The Adoption Social from a lady whose dad walked out on her mum very close to her starting introductions with her second child. It really resonated with me, not because my circumstances are similar - they're not, but it so happens that this week is the anniversary of my dad leaving.

11 years. That's how long it's been since I saw my father. But not because he walked out, because he died. Because he couldn't cope, and he took his own life.

I've been feeling especially sad about it this year, probably because we made the decision to not renew Dad's 'plot' at the crematorium - his memorial plant and plaque. I've been wondering whether it was the right decision; whether we should have scraped together the several hundred pounds to keep it. Common sense tells me it's the right time to walk away and stop visiting. My heart tells me I'm not quite ready to end my twice yearly visits to the peaceful gardens of remembrance and I feel conflicted.

This inner conflict has brought a new kind of grief with it too. No longer do I spend evenings sobbing hysterically in the arms of my husband. But instead I have gentle tears and lip quivering whenever I think of all that my Dad has missed. Now, as I write this, little plops of salty water are slowly, silently crawling down my cheeks and landing on the keyboard...

Dollop calls him her good ghost. She's really brave and never worries about naughty ghosts and witches and ghouls and baddies, because she knows her good ghost will scare them away. It comforts me to know that even though they never met, Dollop trusts her granddad to look out for her.

I'm trying really hard to focus on positive things at the moment, and although we will remember Dad on his 'Angel Day', I'll try also to remember with happiness, that it's also the anniversary of the day we met Mini, we have a litter of 3 day old guinea pigs to cuddle and enjoy, it's nearly the weekend, and we've reached 101 weeks of #WASO - so many things to celebrate, that's where I need to put my head.


Saturday, 17 January 2015

Firsts

We drove up and down the main street of a quaint rural village - in the end, we had to stop at the little post office for directions...despite this, we still arrived early.
As we walked in the door, there was a strange feeling of trepidation mixed with excitement, nervousness and suspense. We walked past the kitchen, where Mini was just finishing a late lunch, but I daren't look too soon, not wanting to see him until I could take it all in properly.

We waited in the sitting room, and soon after, Mini's social worker unceremoniously plonked him on my lap - my first cuddle with him. That day, we had lots of firsts with Mini - the first book read together, the first play together and that week, even more - the first nappy change, the first bath, the first bottle, first trip to the park, and many, many more. They were our firsts though, not his.

Experiencing his firsts were important to me - we missed so many of Mini's in that first year of his life. I revelled in the ones that we experienced with him...lucky enough to have his first steps, first proper word, first wee in the toilet. And then later - first day at nursery, then school and so on. We took photos and mentally logged so many firsts, that in fact, we probably created unnecessary ones...so keen to establish ourselves as the keepers of the important moments.


First baby tooth to go...
As time as passed, we've experienced so many firsts that their importance has faded a little. Of course we still celebrate them with him, in fact recently he learnt to tie his shoelaces and there were congratulations a-plenty. But, there's not the desperate need to record them in the same way as we used to. I think that's down to me - I don't need those experiences to feel like his mum anymore; I just am.
So it seems that those first hundred firsts were the ones that helped me feel like Mini's mum. It gave me a connection to him, and strengthened my own feelings. Now, I can just enjoy them with him (although the recent first nose bleed was not necessarily cause to celebrate!) and look forward, like any other parent, to creating more opportunities for Mini to experience new things, fun times and memory-making events.

I'm linking up to #WASO on The Adoption Social, the theme this week is The First Hundred.