Wednesday, 27 July 2016

Challenging Pip!

I was expecting Katie to be a challenge at the start of the holidays. I didn't need to dress up as Einstein for that one. She's been mouthy enough at the best of times so I was primed and ready for the transitional fall out as I wrote about in my recently in Transitions. What's taken me a bit by surprise is Pip's current regression and behaviour.

I'll be honest, Pip has always been my Ronseal child. He's relatively straight forward. He has his "stuff" and issues that we manoeuvre around and there were the issues of his weight and being a bit delayed in his speech etc but mostly he's quite an easy and sunny young man. Well he was. Not at the moment he's not. The balance has tipped to 70% grumpy and 30% his usual sunny self. I don't know whether it's tiredness; the transition to the big room at pre-school; the change in routine; the fact that he's 3 and a half; he's had some sort of hormone surge; he's a bit bored; he's copying Katie's behaviour; or, dare I even consider it, issues similar to Katie; or prehaps all of the above; but he's possessed by some sort of crazy demon at the moment. He's very regressed both in his speech and his behaviour. He's being very rude and hitting people; he won't listen to a single word being said to him unless it involves the word "sweets"; he's running off all the time and can't sit still for more than 5 minutes which is unusual for him, and won't follow any rules. He's like a cat on a hot tin roof and he's very hard work. 

I know boys can be physically hard work. He's a real live wire and I joke he's like a dog that needs walking twice a day. We're all a little stir crazy because of my sprained ankle although I've managed to get them to soft play and to the park to burn off some steam. It doesn't help that he wants to see what the builders are up to in the garden and doesn't understand how dangerous it can be if he doesn't play in the areas I've said they can play in. Katie doesn't listen either. I must have told them over 20 times to stay on the patio today. Katie with her 8 year old FASD non-listening ears and Pip with his 3 year old non-listening ears are being a mammoth challenge. I'm feeling ridiculously frustrated. I can't do anything in the house without checking every few minutes to see what they're up to. I'm trying to sell my Mother-in-Law's house and manage her finances and stay on top of the housework and build whilst stopping every few minutes to have a circular argument about staying away from the builders. I could scream with frustration and irritation. In fact I have been known to shriek and holler a few times (a day). The timing of the builders coming back couldn't have worked out worse really but we need the garden back in action so we can put up the trampoline and swings which will make life so much better. Well, it would but Pip is also disappearing whenever he can and doesn't reply when called so I'm not sure I could trust him in the garden currently. 
I'm mentally exhausted and feeling very tetchy. It's not how I want to be. I had a row with my sister in Asda the other day and stomped off and left her with a few choice words. I feel like I want to take no prisoners. I'm aware enough to know that my reaction is now probably exacerbating the children's behaviour but my stress now has friends and I'm really struggling with ignoring the head in a vice feeling   In a funny way I suspect the timing of my sprained ankle was to remind me I need to slow down a bit. I really do need to slow down but my response to the universe would be "Have you met my kids? The Chaos Kids? Would you like to babysit them so I can rest my ankle?"

I can't end in a low, it's not in my nature. It's good to remind myself of the positives and remember that nothing is forever. Time is always moving on and nothing stays static. My children are lovely. Katie is fantastic and beautiful and funny and full of crazy ideas and thoughts. Pip is like a wild horse who wants to gallop with the harras of horses, mane flying behind him. He's utterly delightful and so generous and loving. 

But boy are they hard work.....

Sunday, 24 July 2016

Not how you want to start the holidays.....


Sitting with my foot elevated and iced isn't how I anticipated to be spending today. We should have been off to see a story time with Paw Patrol today. We should be packing to go and visit Mrs Vander-Cave tomorrow for a few days but sadly I'm stuck with my leg in the air trying to ensure my ankle heals as quickly as possible. 

I'm wondering if the universe is trying to give me a message (although a massage would be more beneficial at the moment if I had my say in it). Am I not supposed to be on the roads? Am I supposed to be having an enforced rest? I can cope with the concept of protection but the universe clearly hasn't met my children if it thinks I can rest. I do believe that things happen for a reason though but sometimes the reason isn't immediately clear. 

So, what did I do I hear you wondering (I'm clearly telepathic)? Well, this is the penance for trying to have a family outing. To give the children a break from the heat yesterday after a challenging day with viewings at Nana's house, we decided to head off into the New Forest to a wonderful river spot in Brockenhurst. And wonderful it was. The children splashed in the river and Katie bravely dived into the chilly water to swim around the banks. Pip was in his element in the water and finding stones. He ran from bank to bank with a huge grin in his face. We planned to out to a favourite pub restaurant for some dinner on the way home. What a lovely treat!

Well it was until Pip decided not to come and get changed when he was called. I flip-flopped down a slight incline towards the river to collect him and suddenly the stones started to move under my feed (I did feel the earth move under my feet but the sky didn't tumble down!) and I slid down the slope and felt my ankle turn. I had long enough during the fall to hear my ankle crack and pop and for the thought that I'd broken my ankle to occur to me. 

A wave of sickness and pain washed over me. TCM and Katie rushed over to me. I managed to prevent my phone from sliding into the water with a nifty over arm throw to TCM before allowing the agony to engulf me. Being incredibly independent is not good at these times as TCM wanted to get me to stand up but I batted him away wanting to stay in the muddy puddle I'd landed in whilst I assessed what had happened and whether I thought I could stand up. I was also unsure how the heck I could get back up the stoney incline. 

I sat there for about 10 minutes wondering what to do; wiggling my toes and trying to flex my ankle. No bones were protruding so that was positive. Katie by this time was hitting full blown anxiety mode. Sadly this doesn't present itself as concern for anyone. She gets very aggressive so I was trying to reassure her that I was OK whilst wondering whether I needed an ambulance. 

Eventually the sickness ebbed and I felt able to attempt to stand and hobbled gingerly with the aid of TCM back to our picnic blanket. I tried to entertain the idea of still going out for dinner because I hate being a burden to anyone but acknowledged eventually it really wasn't a good idea. I could feel the pain travelling up my calf muscle like a tight band and just wanted to get home. TCM had to drive home which caused a fresh wave of panic for Katie because she knows I get motion sickness and she was beside herself with worry that I might be sick in the car. With a sing-song voice masking the pain I was in I did my best to reassure her that I could make it home in the car without being sick. Which I did - thankfully!

I spent the evening at home with ice (sadly not a slice as well) and a pile of cushions. I decided to assess how it was feeling before going to hospital. I suspect it's (just) a nasty sprain of my ligaments. Today the ankle is sore and stiff but it's not throbbing with pain and I'm hobbling about. I can't flex it backwards much yet so will give it another night and review my progress in the morning. All this goes against the advice of my friends on Facebook. Mrs Vander-Cave, TCM and myself are in agreement on holding off the X-Ray's this my sister was all for taking me to A&E and took some talking down.

I'm so hacked off that I can't drive up to see Mrs Vander-Cave-Cave tomorrow and am currently wondering how on this earth I can entertain the Bonkers Twins tomorrow with a dodgy ankle and the builders in. I'll worry about that one tomorrow I think and I'll give myself more Reiki and Arnica and ask Archangel Raphael for a miracle healing. 

I had such a great week planned as well.......

Sunday, 17 July 2016


have a headache. It's been going on for days now. My mind and body are exhausted. We are limping, slowly yet aggressively and hyperactively towards the end of term; the end of the school year. 

I feel a little let down if I'm honest. I flagged up to school in no uncertain terms how anxious Katie is about moving into Year 4. Her nails are all but bitten off. She's talking at 100mph. She's waking up every night. She's rude. She's volatile. She can't sit still. She's bouncing. She's not really wanting to eat. She's emotionally back to where we were this time last year. She's 2 again. The age she was when she moved to us. It's caught us a little on the back foot as things have been a lot better but today she had the biggest meltdown she's had since October last year.  She's scared. All her emotional buttons are being pressed. What have school done to help her? Nothing as far as I can tell. I've spoken with her teacher. I've met with the Head. Promises were made. I felt very positive that they understood how she was feeling; what was needed. Transition Day left Katie terrified because some well-meaning parents were joking in the playground about how strict her new teacher is. She didn't find it funny. She spent the day scared about what it meant that this teacher was strict. Would she shout? Would she get into trouble? Was she safe? I believe she barely spoke. Poor love. Mind you, you can imagine what she was like at home when she was letting all that stress go. I'm fearful that we'll end up in lockdown again come the start of the holidays on Wednesday. All I do know is I'm not seeing many of the 3 P's of Transitions in operation. I'll be doing a lot over the holidays I think. 

To add to her stress a variety of children were selected to go to a new trampolining centre on Friday. I can only imagine they were the children who have impressed at school this year. All Katie's best friends were chosen. Was Katie? No! She had to stay behind whilst all her friends went to have some fun. She was so upset. If school are hoping it will motivate her to do better next year by not going then they are mistaken. She hates being singled out so winning "Pupil of the Week" isn't on her list of things to achieve. She won it once and declared she'd never win it again. To be honest, she would be delighted to simply gain her pen licence. This is awarded when your writing is good enough in a pencil to be allowed to write in pen. Another way of shaming her I'm starting to think. She's been promised it for the past 6 months. Her friends have theirs. She just needed to get her lead-ins neater. I've told school that she has FASD and ADHD and finds it hard not to rush ahead with her work. Her writing suffers as a result. They know this yet no bloody pen licence. Every week her hopes have been crushed. She's so upset about it. The year has ended without her getting her licence. 

Katie had a good school report. She's meeting most of her targets. She gets a 2 effort for pretty much everything. Talks too much - did I mention she has FASD and ADHD so this is hardly the news headlines for the day?  She's apparently a kind and caring girl at school and has a lovely group of friends. I thought school were really understanding of her challenges though and, to be fair her teacher has been very in the ball for much of the year, until I spoke to one of the TA's on Friday. "Katie's totally fine at school!" She claimed. I took a deep breath and waded in to inform, yet again, that she's not really OK at school. She's stressed and overstimulated. She holds it in all day and then I watch it come off her like a haze of stress as she walks towards me in the playground. No she's not alright. She's holding her own and I'm so proud of her for that but the cost to us as a family for that kind and caring little girl as school is enormous at times. 

Life at home is pretty awful currently. It doesn't help that Pip is also anxious about moving into the Big Room at pre-school and has also regressed. He spends most of his time in the Big Room so there's no problem there really. I think it's just the change and the anxiety about that that's getting to him. He was pre-verbal when he moved to us so that's where he is much of the time currently. He's wetting and pooing himself and speaking like a baby at home (my children rarely ever show their behaviours at school). He's taking Katie's lead and arguing and being rude (it's amazing how he can use words to argue though); he's emotionally on another planet and is exhausted. He's waking up again as well and sneaking into our bed. 

I'm understanding of all the why's and wherefore's of both my children. I'm trying so hard to be the therapeutic parent but my nerves are frazzled now. I'm not feeling well a lot of the time and nor is TCM. We're sniping and frustrated with each other and our relationship really isn't great.  Neither of us really appreciates anything the other is doing. Everything is a monumental effort.  I'm trying to remind us both that we survived this last year. We will do so again. This too shall pass and all that. I've always erred on the side of optimism but even I'm finding it hard at the moment. I'm trying to sell my MIL's house and sort out her deferred payments (still) for her residential care. I'm trying to clear out her house which has been filled fill of stuff because my FIL was a bit of a hoarder and my MiL had Alzheimer's for a long while before we moved her to her care home. It's an awful job and half the time I don't know where to start. I feel like everything is piling on top of me and am struggling to breathe quite often. TCM can't really handle going back to his childhood home so I'm baring the brunt of it all. It has to be done but I'm getting to the point of total overload.

Perfect timing of course for my sister to tell me she needs me to do her tax return and child tax credits for the coming year. As my sister has many of the same issues as Katie you'll understand why she can't just do it herself. I can't see the wood for the trees sadly. As a result of all this I've made the sad decision to resign from my voluntary role with Adoption UK. Something has to give before I do. 

So I'm hanging in there for a few more days. 3 days until Katie breaks up for the holidays. 3 more days of being late as I cajole her out of the house. I think we all need a break and I hope the break is healing for us all. Heaven knows what I'll do if it's not. 

Monday, 11 July 2016

Confessions of a Summer Adoptive Parent.....

I'm approaching the end of term with a mixture of relief and anxiety.  Relief that the pain of getting Katie and Pip to school and pre-school on time; fully dressed; hair brushed; teeth brushed; lunches packed; homework ignored is about to come to an end for 6 weeks.  Anxiety for obvious reasons. I have to now entertain them for the holidays. If the past 6 weeks of pre-transition turmoil are anything to go by I have a holiday of a mouthy, whiny, shouty, anxious and controlling 8 year old and a currently regressed to pre-verbal, whiny, shouty 3 year old to look forward to.

6 weeks of them hitting each other; telling tales on each other; Pip trying to escape to our neighbours garden to see his water fountains; stealing from each other; bleating "MuuuuuuuuuuuuuuM" at me like angry, abandoned baby lambs; asking me constantly what we're going to do partly out of boredom and partly out of a need to control every moment of every day.  This time of year is particularly stressful with the school transitions coming up so controlling every minute detail of every single day is big time fun here at the moment.

I was a child who was happy with a good book.  I'd read everything I could get my hands on and was my happiest up a tree reading.  Of course I had a mother who couldn't understand why anyone would want to spend their time up a tree reading when there were walks in the forest or the dreaded bike rides to be had.  I would be delighted to have children who wanted to spend their time reading - even if a tree was required to set the scene perfectly and find it hard to understand my mother's disapproval of the undemanding child I was.  Sadly Katie gets bored with reading after about 5 minutes due to hyperactivity brought about by FASD and Pip can't read yet and much prefers being outside finding woodlice.  He does love being read to though so I'm hopeful for the future and maintaining a healthy dose of denial about the needs of my busy son. I do like the idea of a nice family film where we all sit quietly with popcorn and watch a whole film and I'm ever hopeful that that will happen on our sofa one day.

One thing I learned very early on was that being outside works better for my children.  The one blessing is that now Pip is older and very robust we can get out and about and burn off lots of energy. My ongoing fatigue does present a bit of a challenge meeting that objective some days so I have to try and be creative with my plans for the days when we're home due to needing some down time or when it's wet.

When I say "creative" don't be getting all misty eyed and thinking that means arts and crafts.  Those three words are like someone grating their fingers down a chalkboard to me.  I don't do arts and crafts as such, especially anything involving glitter glue.  Things like that are for school in my opinion.  I come out in hives at the mere mention of painting but I do have a few tricks up my sleeve for rainy days when we can't force ourselves on some poor friend who might be offering a play-date and a nice cup of tea.

I'll be honest.  I'm quite an introvert.  I need "me" time to just get through the day otherwise I turn into overwhelmed, shouty mama.  As a result the school holidays are tough on me.  I can't pretend to be something I'm not.  Finding things to keep the children preferably quiet but at least distracted from whining and trying to kill each other is of paramount importance so I can have a quiet cup of tea and a bit of a chat with another adult on social media.  So I will share with you my honest ways that I keep my children occupied.....


I know I should say I limit iPad time to 30 minute sessions. I don't let Katie and Pip play on their iPads all day long but they are fantastic to help re-regulate my children when it's all getting a bit too much. Unlike some children more is more when it comes to technology in our house.  The flickering lights and sounds help my children's brains calm down.  Their breathing slows and they can sit and settle and even relax a bit.  I do make sure there are some educational games on their iPads to make myself feel better but Katie mostly just watches Shopkins reveals on YouTube with the highly irritating Paul and Shannon and Pip likes watching Coldplay videos and this fantastically hilarious Aussie bloke who catches spiders.  iPads are fantastic inventions in my stressed mummy opinion and they do the job of stepping in as a substitute babysitter quite nicely at times just as the TV does. The children have these highly robust iPad covers that enable them to safely carry their tablet around with them.

One trick I have learned though is to install an app that turns off their iPads when I've decided their time is up. Too many arguments with Katie when I went to retrieve her iPad led me to find OurPact. Using this app I can set how long they have their iPads for and if necessary I can block their iPads with a tap of a button.  Best app ever in my opinion. It's stopped lots of arguments here because Katie accepts when it turns off - probably because I'm not hovering over her with my hand outstretched asking her to hand over her prized possession and pushing her non-compliancy buttons. iPads stop all the "Are we there yet?" in the car as well.

Sensory Play!

My tip for easy fun is to get down to the local pound shop; Home Bargains; and supermarket and stock up on shaving foam; pasta; rice; a few large buckets and some decorating paint brushes.  I admit you might have to clean up some mess but you will get some time to yourself with these activities so it's important to weigh up the time investment in clearing up vs the time you get to chill whilst the activity is going on.

Shaving Foam: Squirt loads of shaving foam in a large bowl or planting tray (maybe a bowl each if you have squabbling children) and let them play with it.  They will make up their own games. This is good for at least half an hour and it smells lovely. Put the kettle on and try to enjoy the sounds of the children having a great time rather than worrying about the clean up.  Unlike paint you can clean up shaving foam very easily and it doesn't leave any stains.  If you have a safe place for this activity you can even add some food colouring to the foam and let them make rainbows and other colourful creations.

Pasta and Rice: Using the bowls or planting tray (or play table if you have one) fill them up with the rice and pasta (uncooked of course).  Give the children some cups and jugs etc and let them play. This is a great activity when the children are in mid-argument.  It works like a charm for redirecting their energies.  Pip likes to eat the pasta and I try not to mind too much.  Yes there is more of a clean up with this one but the children love the sounds of pouring out the rice and pasta and the feel of it. If you really want to extend the activity then get out some paper or card and the dreaded glue and make some pasta pictures.  I can just about handle this! You can make coloured pasta or stick spaghetti into Play Doh!

Sensory Boxes: Before the holidays make up boxes (the size is entirely up to you) with lot of different things inside to fiddle with. Cotton wool; ribbons; bells; material that is furry or sparkly - you can use old scarves; buttons; stones; magnifying glasses; sticks - the choice is yours.  Don't overuse this activity but have it ready to whip out when tensions are running high and the children need to calm down a bit.  You can make it age appropriate for each child.  I rather liked the idea of the Rainy Day box that Charlie and Lola had with Marv in "It's Raining It's Boring" with lots of silly games to play as a team inside.

Water Painting: On a warmish day fill up some buckets of water. Give the children decorating paint brushes and take them to a brick wall outside.  The house wall or a garden wall will do just fine.  Get them to paint pictures with water.  It dries off nicely; no mess is left; it gives the children a little bit of exercise and helps burn off stress.  This activity probably works best with swimwear (or waterproofs) because the water is going to get thrown about.  Not one to do when you're just about to go out somewhere.

Play Doh and Lego! We rarely get bored with Play Doh and Lego. Both Katie and Pip will rub along fairly well playing either of these. I have a plastic children's table and chairs that I pop in front of the TV to extend their attention span for these activities as well and either join in or have a cuppa whilst supervising.  You can even run the pasta time into Play Doh time!

Bath Time: My best tip for a stressed parent is to run a deep bubbly bath and put the children in it. Obviously this works best for younger children. This is brilliant for when the children are tired and getting grumpy on a wet day.  You can do it at any time of the day and I've used it often when I'm close to losing my temper.  Run a bath.  Fill it with bubbles (or some of that coloured gunk stuff) and let them wash all that angst out of their little systems.  You could even fill the bath with shaving foam and let them play in the foam for a while.  Follow with a hot chocolate and a film and you can all calm down nicely.

Getting Outside!

We love being outside. Well. as you now know, I'd prefer to be up a tree with a book but I've found my children are much more chilled and manageable if we're busy outside somewhere where there are trees and preferably water and we're running or walking (they do the running!). Nature really does calm the troubled soul in our house. We have membership for our local gardens and often take a simple picnic and spend the day there. There is a lovely stream that the children can paddle in and some swings and a tree house.  There are also lots of lovely flowers and beautiful smells for me to enjoy plus a good walk to tire my little darlings out.  Pip will happily spend hours turning over the wood stumps in search of creepy, crawly, critters.

I like memberships of places that I enjoy as well.  We don't do theme parks because none of us like the rides but we do also have a membership for our local zoo.  It's a huge one so takes all day to wander around and there are parks to play in (for the children) and animals to watch (for me).  They have a sand park which the children will happily play in for at least an hour whilst I watch them with my cup of tea. On a warm day we will go to our local water park.  My children will play here until they are blue and I don't have to move a muscle to entertain them once we're there other than to wrap a towel around them occasionally and provide snacks.  We live near the New Forest and various beaches so we can get down to the sea and throw stones in the water or go for walks through the forest.  I've found places with water to keep Pip happy.  I pop the bikes in the car and take them to a nearby BMX track.  This is a treasured activity.

We go to country parks with friends and walk the children until they drop. I prefer doing these activities with friends personally because I do like to have a natter and generally the children will pair up and play together or run like wild horses all day long.  Trying to vary where we go to avoid complaints like "Not Again!" is important but I'm afraid I don't really pander to this and the children accept happily that we'll visit our membership places on several occasions. I'm not always the most organised or original person with planning everything to the Nth degree so we are fairly ad hoc which I know isn't always the best for my children but some days dawn differently than the plan from the night before and we do have to try and go with the flow a little bit.  Some days things go horribly wrong and we just don't make it out of the house in order to calm overstimulated minds.

For me, seeing as many friends as is humanly possible and trying to vary things as much as possible is my plan (and salvation) over the coming holidays. My sister and I are planning day trips out on the train for a bit of fun and adventure and maybe even take the car over to the Isle of Wight for a ferry trip and some beach fun. I'm busy booking dates in the diary with other friends and am looking forward to catching up with people.  We haven't got a holiday booked yet but might try and get away somewhere in the UK as a last minute plan.  We have some new kittens joining us in August so I rather suspect Katie and Pip will be all too happy to stay home and play with the kittens and have day trips out.

Here's a sneaky peek at our new furbabies Zala and Bay.  We've known them since the day we were born and have been helping to take care of them since their birth so they are very accustomed to spending time with the children.  They are now 6 weeks old and have spent several weekends at our house already with their mum when their other mummy human has gone away for the weekend.  The children are beside themselves with excitement for their moving in date!

Baby Bay - he loves to snuggle up in my arms and fall asleep!
Zala is amazing with Katie and is very calm and chilled!
So what are your sneaky cheats for the school holidays?  What do you do to get a few minutes peace?  What activities keep your children engaged and amused?  How do you manage keeping your children regulated?  Do share your top tips! I'd love to hear them!  They might just save my bacon as well!

This post is an entry for Britmums Confessions of a Summer Parent Challenge, sponsored by Anchor. See Britmums for more info about the challenge.....

Wednesday, 22 June 2016

Keeping abreast of the situation.....

A Mammogram!

Last Monday I had my first ever mammogram after being selected to take part in the early screening programme for ladies under 50. I've lost a friend to breast cancer and have several other friends going through treatment or are in remission so there was no way I was missing the appointment.

Actually ironically I nearly did miss the appointment altogether due to being sent two appointments and I actually did miss my first appointment and had to rebook. A hasty phone call and a new appointment later I set off to the Breast Screening Mobile Unit based in the car park of a local leisure centre. I wasn't overly worried about the appointment and I decided to share that I was going for the appointment on Facebook to encourage other women to go. 

The actual appointment itself was very quick, if rather weird. The little unit is well kitted out and as welcoming as a mobile unit can be. I had to whip off my bra and leave it in a small cubicle and was called into the screening room with a large X-Ray machine. I then had to remove my top half and hand my body over to the Radiologist to position me in four different positions and squish my boobs onto a plate/ledge whilst another plate came down on top of the breast and pressed down. Let's just say my breasticles have never been squashed in those positions before. I was secretly grateful I'm in a chemical menopause because pre-Prostrap injections I would have wept with pain from my hormone ridden booblets. The fourth X-Ray was the most uncomfortable for me and I will admit to closing my eyes and focusing on breathing slowly and counting until it was over to distract myself. 
And that was it. I popped my clothes back on and the Radiographer explained that if they needed to see me again I would receive a letter. She said that lots of ladies are recalled the first time and often there is nothing untoward to worry about so don't be alarmed if I received a letter. I walked back to my car wondering if that was just a spiel she gave to everyone or whether she'd seen something on my film. I did a quick check of my boobs at home to see if they felt OK. Everything felt the same as usual so I put the mammogram to the back of my mind.

It turned out I could only put it to the back of my mind for a few days because a letter from the Breast Screening arrived last Thursday with a recall appointment on  the following Wednesday (today).

A nervous wait followed. I did lots of research and then did very well at distracting myself and ignoring it all until last night when fear flooded in and the nerves caught up with me. Sleep didn't come easy last night as I worried whether my oestrogen patches were causing problems. I felt anxious and stressed this morning, made worse by never-ending arguments about going to school (that's a whole other post) and I kept a brave face on whilst doing the school run. 

I decided not to take anyone with me to support me,  I know that if there was bad news I would want to take it in myself and not feel I had to make anyone else feel better.  I decided to take my iPad with me to my appointment instead and try and write this blog post as the appointment was unfolding to share step by step what happened and how I was feeling. 

I'm very much a pragmatic person. I don't really sensationalise my life. If I have cancer then it's here and it's real and I will focus on what's next. If I get the all clear I will hug my life a little closer to myself kick start all the changes to my health and diet that I've been thinking about for far too long. 

The Hospital Tests! 

I arrived at the breast screening unit and I barely had time to retrieve my iPad from my bag when I was called into a room.  I met with a nurse who told me the mammogram highlighted something on my left breast that they wanted to investigate further. Blimey! That freaked me out.  It wasn't just because I forgot I shouldn't wear deodrant for the first mammogram then?  This was real!

I was whisked away to have more X-Rays and, whilst waiting for my turn, I had a wonderfully distracting chat about the beautiful colours on my t-shirt which led to topics of colours in the home and chakras; meditation and Angels with another Radiographer which really helped me relax and keep perspective as I waited in the waiting area.

I was then called into the X-Ray room.

I had 5 new X-Ray's taken of my left breast in some different and exciting positions from the previous mammogram. There were a few eye watering moments and some muttering about 50 Shades of Grey. The Radiographer really had to get up close and personal with the girls.  I tried to relax and told her to position me where she wanted me. It all felt a little surreal if I'm honest.  How was this happening to me? I was stood there naked on my top half with a plate squeezing down on my boobs trying not to worry about what they might actually find and thinking about my friends who have been in the same position and had bad news.

Within 10 minutes I was back in the waiting room where my attempts to write were overshadowed by a far more interesting conversation about the broken radio speaker, Led Zeplin, Paul Weller and BBC Radio 2's Pop Master quiz with a couple in the waiting room. I was very relieved that the waiting room was generally quiet though and I wasn't being forced to confront what might/could be in graphic form. I'm not sure I could have handled that. Too real! I watched a few people come and go and wondered what their story was and how their visit to the unit would end as I waited for the doctor to give me my results.

I did't have to wait for long as I was called to see a lovely lady doctor and nurse. Actually I do want to say that everyone at the unit was simply lovely.  They are fantastic people doing what must be a tough job at times.  They were gentle and caring and compassionate and easy to talk to. 

The doctor showed me my X-Rays and highlighted the area that had led me to be recalled. It was quite shocking because there in my left breast was a little white circle that looked very much like a lump. The doctor said that they felt that the cause was the fact that my breasts are asymmetric and the breast tissue was denser in the left breast.  To be totally sure all was as it should be she wanted to do an ultrasound of the breast.

My experience of ultrasounds is not good.  15 years of infertility taught me that one good ultrasound was generally followed by one that broke my heart so the butterflies in my stomach soared at this development.  After getting undressed again I lay quietly on the bed on my side with a pillow behind my back and my arm above my head whilst the doctor applied the cold gel and started to scan.  I tried watching the scan to see if I could see anything obvious but it all meant nothing to me.  She seemed to be scanning for ages and I started to get twitchy. When the doctor asked me if I was OK I explained about my infertility history and my experience of ultrasounds and that, in my experience, no good comes of ultrasounds.  The doctor was very caring and talked about what she was looking at. She then explained that she had found a cyst and felt happy that it was nothing more sinister but that she wanted to drain it with a needle to be sure.  She told me that cysts rarely ever cause cancer but they wanted to ensure that's all it was.

I don't have a problem with needles.  Again 15 years of infertility and injections have left me with little fear of the sharp, pointy things.  It was a long needle thought and it was very strange having the needle wiggling around inside my breast. It didn't really hurt but every so often a disembodied internal scratch reminded me where the needle was - a bit like having an itch you can't reach.  It probably took a few minutes before the doctor aspirated the cyst and confirmed that all was fine and it was just a cyst, doing what cysts do - in this case being collapsed! This was good news!

The relief washed over me as the doctor smiled and gave me the all clear.  She reminded me to keep checking the girls and making sure nothing changes. I really don't need reminding to do that after this experience believe me!  Before I left we had a lovely chat about adoption and friends the doctor has who also have adopted children and we chit chatted about life as an adopter.

I then floated home in a daze after thanking all the staff and had a cup of Earl Grey Tea and some gluten-free shortbread.  I'm going to be really cutting back on the sugar after today but I needed a good old British fix of tea and biscuits to help me ground again.

I still feel a little spaced out if I'm honest. I can't quite believe that this happened today.  I am so relieved to have the all clear but there is a little bit of me that's aware of how it could have all been very different and my heart just breaks for everyone for whom the news was very different.

I'm counting my blessings!

Monday, 20 June 2016

The Bee Hotel.....

During the recent half term Katie, Pip and I were invited to go to the Wyevale Garden Centre in Andover, Hampshire to join in with their Busy Bee week.  We had a choice of going to the Perfect Pollinator; Buzzing Bakery or Bee Hotel. In the Perfect Pollinator children planted a Cosmos Sonata (a buzzy bees favourite plant); make a bee cut out and decorate the pot. Buzzing Bakery involved making honey biscuits and decorating a bee cupcake. After much discussion about the potential merits of each session we decided to go along to make some Bee Hotels to put into our garden to offer an hibernation point once the building work has been completed and we have a garden again.

Each of the sessions was aimed at children of a variety of ages so at 3 and 8 Katie and Pip both were able to participate equally and at 20 minutes long it was the perfect length of time to interest our own 'busy bee' Pip and my little 'butterfly' Katie.  There was a colouring activity sheet to keep the children amused as the very entertaining staff set up for the session.  The staff were very friendly and welcoming but incredibly busy as each session flowed seamlessly into the next one and we were impressed with how well they managed the sessions in such a relatively short space of time with about 8-10 children per session and how organised they were.  The two ladies running the session were clearly enjoying themselves as well and were happy to pose for a picture.  Katie, Pip and I gave them a big thumbs up!

Making the Bee Hotel was really very simple and could easily be made at home (even for an "arts and crafts phobic" like my myself).  All that was required was a sturdy cardboard tube with 8 cigarelle-type tubes to fit inside; some straw to keep all the tubes inside and provide insulation; some string to make a tie to hang the hotel up in the garden and some colouring pens and decorations.....

First Katie and Pip decorated the outside of their hotels with colouring pens and stickers.  Katie named her hotel "Lovely Bee Hotel" and wrote that on the outside of the tube. Pip did some enthusiastic mark making that I'm sure any Impressionist artist would be impressed by......

Then we fed the string through the tube and tied the string into a knot so we could hang the hotels up in the garden (the children needed a little help with this bit).....

Next we put the 8 smaller tubes inside the large tube and filled it with lots of straw to keep the tubes snug inside and to provide much needed warmth and insulation for the tiny occupants .......

And that was all there was to it! Very simple yet effective.  We can hang them up in the garden for the bees and other small insects to snuggle into and keep warm and learn lots about our new friends as they come to stay.

After we'd finished our session we had a browse around the garden centre, bought a few gluten free cakes and goodies and collected the children's pre-ordered picnic bags from the restaurant.  This was the only part of the time we spent at the garden centre that was a little problematic for us because the queue at the restaurant was a little lengthy and very slow and my children don't really do standing still and not touching anything particularly well.  I had expected the picnics would be given out as part of the session but the sandwiches are actually made to order so we were directed towards the restaurant. I was feeling quite frazzled by the time we collected our picnics (and having to explain to the member of staff on the till about the pre-order) and I suspect I wouldn't bother ordering the picnics if we went along to another of their events.  I will be keeping a close eye on the Wyevale Garden Centre's events schedule though because the children thoroughly enjoyed making their hotels and the event length was perfect for children who don't cope well with concentrating for long periods of time.  The children came home proudly carrying their bee hotels and I could tell they could confidently do this activity again.

Making the Bee Hotels reminded us all of a song called The Stump Hotel which the children used to watch over and over again on YouTube and drove Daddy and I crazy.  It's the perfect ending for this blog post though. Maybe we could think about making our own Stump Hotel next?

Here is the main events listing page for the Wyevale Garden Centres if you want to find out more about forthcoming activities. There are Wyevale Garden Centres all over the country.

Thursday, 9 June 2016

A Fine Bromance.....

I'm writing about Pip again today, partly because he's taking up a lot of my thoughts and partly because I've decided to stay in denial about Katie's current behaviour at home (a blog post for another time).  Katie takes up a lot of my focus and I think Pip needs a little of my reflection today.

Have you ever had that realisation when you think you know and  understand someone and then it turns out that you've missed something that changes how you see them and what you think they need? Well I'd say that's where I am with Pip at the moment.

If you asked me to describe Pip I'd say he's a little whirlwind of energy and smiles and the usual Threenager tantrums and control.  Pip has always been an easy child to be around and to parent.  In many ways that is still the case.  We have concerns that he is copying Katie's less than pleasant behaviour and language.  This is a real worry.  I do feel that Pip has a greater capacity to understand consequences than Katie does however so I think with careful parents he will eventually understand that he cannot model himself on his sister.  That's a hard one though because he says to me "But Katie did that" and finds it hard to currently understand that Katie shouldn't be doing it either. Pip is generally quite gregarious.  He loves other children and has always played happily with all the children in our life.  I had no worries about him starting pre-school other than whether he might miss me.

Pip likes to be close to me.  He likes to know when I'm coming home if I'm out and will always rush up to give me lots of kisses and cuddles.  A lot of his reactions are age appropriate and it can be difficult not to shout "attachment issues" at everything adoption related.  I do think he's a soul who needs that reassurance that I'm around though although he's not particularly clingy at home and will happily seek reassurance from daddy and self amuse.  He is kind to everyone and lists all the people he loves.  He likes balance in his life and hates any discord. Because he makes friends easily I wasn't concerned about that aspect of pre-school but it turns out I was wrong.

Pip has a best friend whom he has known as long as he has been with us. We are very friendly with another family from school having met them when Katie was at pre-school with their daughter. They have a son who is 2 weeks older than Pip and the boys have seen each other daily at school and forged their own friendship since they were 7 months old. Now they are older his friend comes to play at our house and we go to play-dates at their house.  They both adore each other and are "best friends".  In case we forget this point they remind us daily of their bromance.  It's lovely to see the depth of feeling between them.

Both boys go to the same pre-school but currently his friend goes on four morning where Pip only goes on three.  This has given his friend the chance to play with other children on the day Pip isn't there. On the days they are there together they are (mostly) joined at the hip however sometimes his friend will play with other children.  It's natural. They may have something different they want to do.  Pip likes to find bugs and insects in the garden and will happily do this alone.  Pip however doesn't like his friend playing with anyone else and feels very unhappy if this happens.  This is impacting on him to the point of him not wanting to go to pre-school and has really taken me by surprise because Pip is so sunny and friendly and I just assumed he would play with a variety of the other children.  The depth of his attachment to his friend has shown me that he may grow up to be a man who makes one or two very close friends and holds them close.  Obviously I don't want him feeling sad a pre-school though so we spent some time talking together about how much he loves his friend but how sometimes they can play with other children to do different things. We talked about how many friends my social butterfly daughter has and how she can play with different people if there is an argument or if they just fancy playing a different game.  I asked Pip to think of the children in his class that he likes and who he might like to play with.  Armed with a little list we talked to his teacher about encouraging him to play with other children as well as his special friend and she is helping as well.  We've had some success with this but we have to reinforce this before each pre-school session to help him open up his mind to possibilities.  I follow this up with a chat with him after school to find out who he's played with and how he was feeling to help him hold onto positive feelings about the other children.

None of this is helped by the fact that Pip is growing at a rate of knots and is very tired a lot of the time. He's mostly dropped his daytime naps now and can't get to sleep if he snoozes during the day. This is a tough year as all parents know.  It generally takes a pre-schooler about a year to get used to dropping their naps and it is challenging when they become tired and emotional.  I'm trying to give Pip the odd long car drive to have a nap at least once a week to give him a boost but he's tired and grumpy. He's either running at 100mph or he's flat out on the floor having a 30 second rest. He's arguing about everything and doesn't really know what he wants from one minute to the next.  This impacts on his emotional responses to the issue of his friend playing with other children.  He tells me he is sad every time we walk up our hill to pre-school and it breaks my heart.  I know we have to keep plugging away at it and introduce other playmates to help him branch out a bit.  When he's away from pre-school he plays happily with any other child who is in the vicinity and particularly loves the older boys in the school playground so this is definitely linked to pre-school and probably the fact that I'm not there to help him when he's feeling sad.  Possibly one way forward might be for me to stay for a morning and just be there to help him.  I often stay for 15 minutes when I drop him off to make sure he's settled but he's asked a few times for me to stay.  It's so hard when I have a million things to do before collecting him each day but I do think it might be time well spent.

I'd be very interested to hear from other parents who have had this issue with their children and how they helped them overcome it and widen their circle of friends.  Do comment below with your stories and suggestions if you're able to. I would really appreciate it.