Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Isn't that a Pip?

Last week Pip turned 2! It was a fairly subdued day as we had lots of running around to do for Nana and the house build plus Katie had gymnastics (the joys of the being the second, younger child).  We made up for it though with a party at our local soft play area with lots of friends on Saturday.  He is only 2 so I don't think transferring birthday celebrations to another day would require any additional therapy for him.  He was perfectly delighted with his WOW Dexter the Digger which he has carried everywhere with him ever since he opened it.

I have spent a lot of time writing about Katie lately (she does rather make her presence known) so a birthday makes a good point in time to stop and take stock of where we are with Pip.  I received an email from Mumsnet all about my child being 2 and it made me stop and reflect and also giggle chuckle sigh smile wryly in parts as to the delights and challenges our little Piplet is bringing to our lives.

Pip had his 2 Year check last week and he sailed through all the challenges with one exception, he's not really speaking much yet.  He can thread a cotton reel; he can stack and line up his bricks; he can point to all the animals in his books; he can assist getting dressed; he can understand two word commands; he's incredibly dexterous (thank you Baby Led Weaning for that) and exploring his world very well.  He's an adorably bright and switched on little cookie but he's just not able to express that well yet (well not in ways that are socially acceptable that is but I'll come back to that one later on).  I'm not overly bothered by the lack of speech, other than his methods of expressing himself at times, although was slightly offended by one of Nana's Carer's who asked if he was "delayed" the other day.  Lots of children don't speak well at this age and I can hear the words coming.  He does have about 15 vaguely clear words I think (he should have at least 50 although the Mumsnet email said 200) and he's saying sentences in his baby babble so I know he is hearing and understanding perfectly fine.  He was born with a tongue-tie so that might be impacting slightly so I'm encouraging him to poke his tongue out (I'm sure that will bite me on the bum at a later stage) and we are practising his vowel sounds and every day he tries out new words, mostly with part of the word missing but massive points for effort.  He has started singing though which is hilarious, especially when he's joining in with Ed Sheeran's "Sing" in the car and shouts out "dah" at the points in the song when Ed says "Sing" or "Louder".  He also tries to copy the tune for the high bits of the song so I think we might have a little boy soprano in our midst's! He's got the tune to Twinkle, Twinkle or ABC down really well.

All in all I'm not overly worried.  Give him 6 months and I think he'll be hard to stop chattering.  One of the things I was delighted about was that his weight and height are now within a centile and a half of each other so there are no longer any causes for concern about his weight.  He is a very tall young man and he now has proper shaped legs and everything.  The Health Visitor commented on how broad he is and thinks that might be part of what makes him look bigger.  She noted that she hadn't seen a child that broad across the shoulders in a long while.  I think it's fair to say he's going to be a tall one.  We joke he'll be a rugby player!

Pip has been embracing the Terrible Two's since he was about 18 months. Toddlers start to develop their sense of self and can react very ummm aggressively assertively to anything they don't like.  By "anything" I really mean EVERYTHING! Pip has been learning all he needs to know about reacting aggressively from the Master aka Katie.  The email claimed that one in five toddlers have at least one tantrum a day.



OK at this point I'm literally rolling on the floor laughing hysterically.  Hysterically probably being the key word.

Try about 20+ tantrums a day.  Not everyday, but most days.

I kid you not.  He melts down over literally anything and everything.  You only have to say hello to him sometimes and you can get slapped and don't even breathe the words "nappy change" in his earshot or you might start to wonder if you've walked onto the set of The Omen.  Yes Pip is embracing the power of the bitch slap.  He slaps my face over pretty much anything that displeases him.  He'll also just slap my legs or anywhere else he can reach if opportunity presents.  I do wonder from time to time if he's just simply frustrated or whether there is something else going on there but currently I just think it's mostly frustration at not being able to communicate.  The hurt/angry look in his eyes when he slaps me is almost comical.  I've found if I just stare back at him we can turn it around into a joke.  He starts doing an exaggerated blinking and I copy it back and generally we start laughing.  Other times if it's in the right place I will just turn my back and walk away.  Mostly his little moments blow over quite quickly but I do find it tiring at times especially when I'm having a difficult day with Katie as well.  I feel like I'm constantly being slapped by one or the other of the children which really isn't very nice.  It's amazing how you become almost desensitised to it though.  One of his favourite tantrum specialities is to throw his dinner plate across the room.  This is a specific reaction to you helping him with his dinner i.e. there's a bit left he can't manage himself with his spoon.  He is really good with his spoon and fork but he is only two so there are times it's a bit tricky.  Heaven help you if you interfere!  If you're really quick you can reach him before he throws it but generally it's cleaning up time for me!

Conversely though he has also learned to kiss and cuddle and will sprint over to give me a massive hug if I pretend to cry.  I adore his snotty, soggy kisses and his snuggly warm little body.  I never thought I would actually say those words aloud.  I'm not overly fond of snot and used to recoil when children gave snotty kisses but with Katie and Pip it's never bothered me (it must be love!).  He's also incredibly mischievous and gives the most adorable smile when he's doing something he shouldn't.  He also says "Blue Bear" sweetly whenever he's in trouble (Blue Bear is his special toy). I'm wondering if someone has been explaining about safe words to him!  He is a very busy little man (even more so than Katie was) and he is in to everything.  He has to explore everything around him; touch everything; break everything.  He loves to watch me cook or wash up and has to be involved've guessed it.......he will melt down with that hurt "how very dare you" look in his eyes.  He plays well with other children and enjoys their company.  He's starting to get more territorial about toys so I watch carefully when he's playing with other children.

All in all he is a joy to have around.  From the moment he wakes up shouting "Mama" and then toddles in asking for the "Piepad" (he's a whizz on that thing - but before anyone tells me it will stunt his development in other areas please rest assured that we spend time doing other things to develop all his motor skills) until the moment his little (well very large size 7.5) feet are tucked under the covers at night I think he is a fab, adorable, squishy little fella.  I feel for him because he is being dragged from pillar to post whilst I sort things out with Nana.  He copes well but I feel guilty that he's not getting the fun and more importantly exercise he should be getting and I can see how frustrated he is in the buggy when we're visiting.  I'm hoping that things might improve once things settle with Nana more but that's not looking immediate.  I've agreed with TCM that he will go over to Nana's after work some days so that I can take Pip to toddler group and Bounceabout each week.  I'd like to spend more time with him just chilling and playing at home and I feel very unbalanced by all the running around.  That's probably an understatement but I'm trying to be more positive about all the stress for fear of losing my marbles totally.

I can't believe that Pip has now been with us for 17 months.  That feels inconceivable.  Where has the time gone?  One thing that saddens me is that our time has felt peppered with one issue after another and that has impacted on our time together.  I was unwell for quite a lot of that time due to the Vit D deficiency and my hormone problem plus all the stresses with Katie and, more recently, the house build and move.  I noted to TCM recently that I feel a little cheated that I've not been able to enjoy the benefit of my hormone suppression injections because we've been under so much stress.  I do feel grateful though that they've helped offset the stress a bit because without them I wouldn't be able to cope with everything going on currently.

One thing we are going to do is make use of the 2 Year Funding for adopted children and use the nursery provision for Pip a few sessions a week.  That will give him time for play and learning and I can visit Nana without feeling like it's at Pip's expense. I don't really want him to be without me around just yet but I think he will enjoy it.  He is very securely attached and not showing any signs at all of attachment difficulties but there is that adopters fear of rocking a secure boat too soon so I hope it all works out well.   I just want him to feel happy and secure and enjoy his little years.

Sunday, 12 October 2014

The Lion Sleeps Tonight!

I've been the first to say how stressful life currently is and that will be ongoing for the foreseeable future but there has been one mammoth turn about over the last two weeks at home and that is Katie's bedtime.

You will remember I lamented in my blog post A Stakeout and some Bad News about the lack of sleep my little one has been getting due to her refusal to go to bed. Tales of tantrums and aggression; of bedding and punches thrown at me; of an inability to regulate her emotions due to her extreme fatigue. All because she didn't want to go to bed. From March until September 2014 Katie rarely slept before 10-11pm each night. We shouted, we argued, we bribed, we ignored, we instigated consequences, we despaired, I cried. All to no avail.

But there is indeed news to report. And good news it is. My most recent campaign has finally born fruit and once more Katie sleeps.... *humming The Lion Sleeps Tonight with a little dance and a huge smile on my face*

I tell you, with everything that is currently going on this is like winning the lottery because the knock on effects of Katie sleeping are wonderful. A huge reduction in tantrums and quicker regulation of extreme emotions are the two biggest outcomes plus my loving little girl is making a slow comeback. She holds my hand and wants hugs again. I need those things, especially at the moment.

So how did this turnabout come about you might be asking?

Well it's all about the hook really isn't it? What does Katie want more than to get out of bed repeatedly every night? What is so important to her that it will over-ride her need to take no notice of my pleas to stay in her bed?

It was a T-shirt!

Yes you did hear me correctly. It was a T-Shirt. 

Not just any T-Shirt of course. This is a special one. This is one for her after school Musical Theatre Club. It is pink and, if that wasn't motivation enough, it will have her name inscribed on the back. 

Oh boy did she want that T-Shirt!

Oh boy did I want her to stay in bed!

So I told her she could have the pink T-Shirt with her name in the back if she could earn 7 consecutive tokens for going to bed and staying in bed. The rules were clear. She was not allowed out of bed after lights out. To help focus her attention I sat outside her bedroom door every night, on the floor, up until Pops died. She also had interim prizes of stickers for her Frozen sticker album which I posted into her post box each night. She can gain a maximum of four packets for amazing bedtime behaviour and this number diminishes depending on any minor or major silliness. We had two false starts where she got to Day 4 and floundered. We started again from Day 1 each time and on her third attempt she succeeded. 7 nights going to bed and staying in bed and going to sleep.

Interestingly, after Pops died it started to become untenable to sit outside her bedroom door because I had a funeral to plan and in between caring for Nana and rebuilding our house plus looking after the children I have very little time to do anything else so I needed to evenings to plan so one night I said to Katie that I was going downstairs to eat my dinner but I would come back up to her afterwards. I said she could read with her reading light on in the interim. When I returned, nearly an hour later she was asleep. It was 8.30pm! I almost fell over in shock! The next night I tried the same tactic. Same result. The next night the same thing happened again. Now I do this every night. We do stories and kisses and I leave her reading or completing her Key Stage 2 Phonics Book and every night she is asleep when I return. She falls asleep with her little battery operated clip-on Hello Kitty reading light still on. It clearly comforts her and enables her to feel safe. Who cares? It works! She sleeps! She's been asleep by 8.30pm for nearly 2 weeks now. The bags under her eyes are looking much smaller and she is starting to look much healthier again.  It is wonderful!

I tell you, if I were a dog, this is the best bone to be thrown! 6 months of bedtime hell and all it needed was a pink T-Shirt, some stickers and a night light.  I'm very proud of Katie for making the decision to participate as well and turn everything around. I couldn't have done this without her finally deciding that bed is an OK place to be.

Money well spent I say!

I'll leave you with this little gem..


Sunday, 5 October 2014

Waterbugs and Dragonflies

Down below the surface of a quiet pond lived a little colony of water bugs. They were a happy colony, living far away from the sun. For many months they were very busy, scurrying over the soft mud on the bottom of the pond. They did notice that every once in a while one of their colony seemed to lose interest in going about. Clinging to the stem of a pond lily it gradually moved out of sight and was seen no more.

"Look!" said one of the water bugs to another. "One of our colony is climbing up the lily stalk. Where do you think she is going?" 

Up, up, up it slowly went.  Even as they watched, the water bug disappeared from sight. Its friends waited and waited but it didn't return.

"That's funny!" said one water bug to another.
"Wasn't she happy here?" asked a second.
"Where do you suppose she went?" wondered a third.

No one had an answer. They were greatly puzzled. Finally one of the water bugs, a leader in the colony, gathered its friends together. "I have an idea. The next one of us who climbs up the lily stalk must promise to come back and tell us where he or she went and why."

"We promise", they said solemnly.

One spring day, not long after, the very water bug who had suggested the plan found himself climbing up the lily stalk. Up, up, up, he went. Before he knew what was happening, he had broken through the surface of the water and fallen onto the broad, green lily pad above.

When he awoke, he looked about with surprise. He couldn't believe what he saw. A startling change had come to his old body. His movement revealed four silver wings and a long tail. Even as he struggled, he felt an impulse to move his wings. The warmth of the sun soon dried the moisture from the new body. He moved his wings again and suddenly found himself up above the water. He had become a dragonfly!!

Swooping and dipping in great curves, he flew through the air. He felt exhilarated in the new atmosphere. 

By and by the new dragonfly lighted happily on a lily pad to rest. Then it was that he chanced to look below to the bottom of the pond. Why, he was right above his old friends, the water bugs! There they were scurrying around, just as he had been doing some time before.

The dragonfly remembered the promise: "The next one of us who climbs up the lily stalk will come back and tell where he or she went and why." Without thinking, the dragonfly darted down. Suddenly he hit the surface of the water and bounced away. Now that he was a dragonfly, he could no longer go into the water.

"I can't return!" he said in dismay. "At least, I tried. But I can't keep my promise. Even if I could go back, not one of the water bugs would know me in my new body. I guess I'll just have to wait until they become dragonflies too. Then they'll understand what has happened to me, and where I went."

And the dragonfly winged off happily into its wonderful new world of sun and air.......

From:"Waterbugs and Dragonflies : Explaining Death to Young Children" byDoris Stickney

I will be reading this at Pops' funeral and thought I would share it here for anyone who hasn't read it and wants a way of explaining death and the afterlife to either children or adults.

Saturday, 4 October 2014

Not Waving But Drowning.....

The world doesn't feel quite right if I don't write at least once a week. These last 17 days though since Pops died have gone by in a blur of emotions and stress and anxiety and guilt. One of the things I need more than anything is to sit down, on my own, and have a good cry. What worries me is the first time I might get to do that will be at the funeral.

I've never organised a funeral before. It's a really tough thing to do! And there is a lot to "do". Lots of decisions to make about things you just don't want to have to make decisions about and lots of second guessing what people might want and need at the service. I've had to choose flowers for everyone and try and make each arrangement personal to the giver, be it Nana or TCM or me and the children.  I'm disappointed by the lack of input from other immediate family members despite being asked to provide memories for the Eulogy. The tumbleweed has been very noticeable which makes me sad because there is much of Pop's life that will remain unacknowledged in the Eulogy. 

A funeral is definitely the strangest thing I've had to organise with some odd terminology that, if it were appropriate, I would want to giggle madly at. I can childishly barely contain myself at times when talking to our Funeral Director. He's a lovely man but he has that sort of calm and serious voice that people who work in areas of sensitivity have. I can do that voice when counselling so I hear it in other people. He also uses phrases that are designed not to offend but make me think of the Fast Show. He keeps referring to Pops as the "loved one" which I find amusing and slightly creepy in similar amounts.  There are decisions to be made about embalming and the curtains at the service. I think my need for humour is what is preventing me from falling apart though. It's definitely how I keep myself strong.

And I need to be strong at the moment. TCM needs to be able to rely on me but I am finding it hard to manage everything that is needed without dropping many of my marbles. I've organised the funeral pretty much single-handedly, other than chosing the music, which has been an emotional stress because I don't want anyone to feel I've taken over or to organise something that's not right for everyone. I've written before about Nana having Alzheimer's and Pops was her main carer so his passing leaves some big issues to resolve. Priorities such as care for Nana but also dealing with the fact that he left no Will and has therefore died intestate. Nana is unable to take over the financial responsibilities because she doesn't have the mental capacity so we will have to seek Power of Attorney. I have organised emergency Carers for Nana and a new care package is taking effect from Monday and have been trying to get over to her twice a day but it's proving impossible with Pip in tow. Nana's house isn't suitable for a crazy toddler and I have lots to organise when I get to her house as she's really unable to do much for herself. It's not fair on him to be strapped into the buggy sat in front of CBeebies all the time. I feel ridiculous amounts of guilt about Nana and her safety and I've had huge arguments with Social Services about this. 

Nana's Alzheimer's is progressing quite rapidly and her actions and behavior can be unpredictable. She understands her husband has died and is reacting appropriately with grief but her brain lacks the capacity to rationalise other things. She doesn't understand she has Alzheimer's and can't understand why the carers need to come in. She told me she is capable of "sorting herself out and can wash her face and hands and put her clothes on". Yes she can do that but feeding herself and putting the waste food in an appropriate place plus looking after the cats and the household affairs are beyond her now and she is unable to recognise that. She made a cup of tea by putting the tea bag in the kettle this week and we've just discovered her latest food hiding place...down the, now almost blocked, toilet.  She wants to stay at home long term and we'll help her do that for as long as possible but it's not really the right place for her. She's depressed and lonely and vulnerable, hence my guilt and worry. I totally understand her need to be in familiar surroundings and TCM and I worry a move could be permanently detrimental to her health but there's the safety issue to worry about and the progressiveness of her illness. Both routes lead to feelings of guilt and anxiety.  Nana doesn't want to attend the funeral which I understand.  How on earth can she go to an event where there are people she is supposed to know but is unable to remember?  How overwhelming at a time of grief might that be for her? She has been unable to participate in the arrangements although I did manage to help her think of some flowers for his arrangement.  I suspect I will have to write the card from her which makes me want to weep with overwhelming sadness.  How do I write what she would want to say if she were able?  Nana has no tangible memories of Pops other than the fact he was there and now he has died.  She was unable to remember how they met or what they used to do.  She has a few lingering memories of recent weeks probably but that's about it.  That is 48 years of his life unaccounted for other than TCM's memories, which is incredibly sad.  Those are her emotions and memories that have been eaten away by this horrible illness and even those few tangible memories will soon fade away possibly to the point when she doesn't remember him at all.  Can you imagine not remembering your husband, wife or partner or someone else you love?  I am unable to wrap my head around it all.

On top of all the funeral arrangements we are still full steam ahead with the house build. I joked that only I could speak to the Coroner on one phone call and then answer a call literally seconds later from the builders merchants about bricks. I'm trying to pop down to the house most days to check on the builders and progress but there are only so many hours in the day.

When at home Katie is obviously still her lovely challenging self and I have even less emotional and mental capacity to stay on top of it all although we appear to be having a modicum of success over bedtime....finally.  This is mostly because I've finally discovered something she really wants as an incentive. Katie wants a personalised t-shirt for her musical theatre after school club, as sold by her dance teacher. I've said I will buy it if, and only if, she gets 7 tokens from me for staying in bed at bedtime. They have to be consecutive tokens as well, so she has to go straight to bed and to sleep with no getting in and out of bed and no tantrums. I've been sitting outside her bedroom every night to keep an eye on the situation. So far she has managed 4 nights before it all goes wrong and we have to start again. She was even asleep by 8.44pm one evening, the earliest time since March. In the past it has generally taken her a week to form a new sleep habit and this is very much a work in progress still.  However, sitting outside her bedroom for an hour and a half each night is time I need to sort through paperwork and make plans with TCM so I feel quite stressed and frustrated about it all. I'm hoping some pressure will relieve after the funeral on Monday although I suspect it will just be one less thing to think about. 

One thing I'm finding really tough is the lack of practical and emotional support we have, which is really highlighted at a time of crisis like this.  Both Nana and Pops kept themselves to themselves so there aren't regular visitors to break up the loneliness for Nana.  I am unable to sustain seeing Nana every day long term but I'm anxious about her fragility and vulnerability. I've never been involved in organising carers before and have scare stories of thefts and mistreatment in my head. I'm going to have to trust that they will be kind to her. The manager seemed nice enough and reassuring but my instincts are all off at the moment so I'm not sure I even trust my own judgement. The lack of practical family support pushes my emotional buttons as well as my stress buttons. I'm stuck feeling like I need to put on my cape and Lycra shorts and take on the world but, coming off the back of my long term Vitamin D deficiency, I don't really have the energy or fitness to sustain that. Poor Pip isn't getting the exercise and stimulation he needs which concerns me. I'm trying to get them both down the park as much as possible for a run about but our routine is totally shot to pieces. TCM is trying to juggle work and the house build plus his own grief so I'm trying not to expect too much from him but I can't be a one woman band for the longer term. I'm already starting to feel grumpy and resentful and tired and fed up and tearful and quite angry and very, very selfish as a result. I've been lucky to ask some friends and a cousin to look after Pip during one or two key meetings for the funeral and another friend is looking after Pip during the funeral but that's just a few one off's. I need to wrap my head around the longer term because I've realized that life has now changed for the foreseeable future. I feel cheated really because I just want time to spend with the children we waited so long for and to invest time helping Katie with her difficulties at the current time. I also need some time for my own interests. Other family members may want to visit Nana but the difficulty is that she doesn't always remember people and she might not answer the door. I'm not going to give the key safe number to everyone because that is to keep Nana safe and the key is for the carers so it means I will have to be there to let people in and that's a) not practical and b) defeats the purpose of others checking up on her. 

I'm particularly angry with Pops at the moment for leaving everything in such a mess and that is over-riding the feelings of sadness and loss for the man who has been my lovely, surrogate father for 25 years. I am sad that he clearly had too much on his plate but I am angry that we offered help for many years and that I've been nagging him since February to help us with Power of Attorney so that we didn't end up in a mess if he died. So we've ended up with no Will and a beneficiary who doesn't have mental capacity to manage her affairs. It will take months to get through the Court of Protection and Nana has little money until that time which puts added financial pressure on us at a time when we're using all our money to rebuild our house and spending a fortune living in rented accommodation. His financial affairs will take a long time to sort out and we have so little time during the day to sit down and sort it all out once the day-to-day requirements of the children and Nana are taken care of. Due to Katie's bedtime antics we rarely eat dinner before 9pm which is making me feel physically uncomfortable in the mornings, not to mention playing even more havoc with my already expanding waistline. I'm also angry with myself for not coping effortlessly and for feeling whingy. 

On top of everything else there has been the dilemma of whether Katie attends the funeral or not. I've been to and for and every emotion in between thinking about it. Katie, quite simply, does. It have the emotional capacity to cope with the grief of others. She's only 6 and emotionally way younger than that. She laughs at me if she sees me crying so I'm not going to put her in a funeral situation. I think I am going to pick her up from school early to attend the Wake though and she will be the Chief Balloon Letter-Goer for the letting go of the balloons and messages. I'm trying to enable her to access and express her feelings about it all at a time when I don't even understand my own.

I recognise that things will evolve and change and find their pattern and that we are currently operating in a crisis situation that is highly charged with emotion. I am currently running at beyond capacity and just feeling overwhelmed, hopefully that will change with time. My phone literally does not stop ringing with calls from the Carers and the Builder or the Funeral Director. I'm beginning to hate my ringtone. It's all heightened by the fact that we're rebuilding our house and not living at home or feeling settled. Hopefully we'll be home in Feb/March 2015 to our wonderful new home. Currently though I need most of my energy to manage Nana, TCM, the house build, the finances, homework, violin practice, swimming, gymnastics, carers, Social Services and the children, with one hand held behind my back, and am worried about how all this added instability and upset to the routine will impact on the children. Katie is already presenting with very challenging behavior. Her anger and aggressiveness is something I am struggling to manage therapeutically at the current time. TCM is suffering from hypertension and is withdrawing emotionally and practically as he struggles to deal with the death of his father and workload pressures (and added high blood pressure) plus the worry of his mum. Pip is very much a typical emotional toddler, melting down and lashing out at everything he perceives is unjust or out of his control.  His routine is all over the place and he is tired and grumpy.  I feel the same as Pip a lot of the time if I'm honest. In fact I may just change my name to Sylvia Plath, without the dramatic ending though...more of a "Not Waving But Drowning" sort of concept. 

I churlishly don't think people/family understand, or care, how stressed I am.  I put on Facebook recently that I was a woman on the edge and people (mostly) just clicked "like".  Did they think I was joking? I'm not good at asking for help, in fact I find it ridiculously difficult, and the reality is I have no idea how people can help.  A few close friends have been wonderful in offering to have Pip for meetings and one lovely friend brought us some dinner one night which was so kind.  I just don't have enough time to sit down and work out how someone else can help though but I do know I feel very isolated and really, really upset that it seems that no-one seems to care and I feel doubly disappointed for my husband who deserves better.  I find myself comparing my situation with others and wonder why others seem awash with offers of help and public displays of affection and emotion yet here I sit wondering what on earth we've done to warrant this lack of support. 

I am so sad that people haven't shared of their memories of Pops despite being asked. He was a lovely, if incredibly private man, who kept himself to himself and often separate from others.  He didn't always make it easy for people to feel close to him but I know he cared a lot about us and the children.  He tried hard to be Nana's carer and I am beginning to realise how tough that was for him.  We tried to help him with that but he wouldn't accept any help.  We often joke that he was so private that we wouldn't be at all surprised to discover he's been working for MI5 all these years.  I suspect that people close to him found it difficult to connect with him at times and this is why they've not been forthcoming in sharing memories but I'm sad that we can't fully reflect his younger years at the funeral. 

For what it is worth though Pops, I loved you very much and I thank you for all your kindness over the years and will miss you and your experimental cooking.  I'll think of you every time I make cauliflower cheese at Christmas because I used to make it for you and I will hope that you are free from the pain you felt physically since your double lung transplant and the heart problems and cancer that eventually took you from us.  Sadly we didn't know about the latter illness and we wish you hadn't soldiered on stoically, not seeing the GP, so you might have had a diagnosis and possibly treatment.  Be at peace dear man and know that we will work our way through all the mess and take care of Nana for you.

So back to it all then......

Thursday, 18 September 2014

A Stakeout and some bad news....


There is very little to laugh about in the Katie household at the moment, well very little involving Katie that is. The fact that I've just written that makes me feel incredibly sad.  At the moment it just feels like a daily grind, plugging away at her increasingly aggressive behaviour; dodging the blows; side stepping the spits; leaping away from the kicking legs; ignoring the rudeness; having no evening to recover or to talk to TCM because Katie refuses to go to sleep; trying to feel the love within all the negativity and battling the ever increasing frustration and anger I am feeling as nothing seems to make a difference. 

As I type this I am sitting on a stakeout outside her bedroom again in an attempt to keep her in her bed and encourage sleep.

I ask myself "where has my delightfully happy girl gone?" Did she get lost when we were playing hide and seek? Where has my sense of humour gone? Are they keeping each other company; laughing away at our expense, tucked away in the tent or in the playhouse?

Just as I finally get my Vitamin D levels back on an even keel I'm exhausted again, except now it's mental exhaustion. I'm furiously repeating to myself over and over "It's a's a phase". But Katie hasn't slept properly since March and it's been 18 months since the aggression started.  She's awake until about 10pm every night yet she is put to bed at 7pm. She's up and down and generally looking for trouble. We have to lock our bedroom door and the bathroom door to stop her going in there and wreaking havoc on the hair gel or stealing things. She will do everything in her power to stay awake because she, quite simply, doesn't want to go to bed.

So here I sit.  

I sit with a sore bum and an aching back (because my back really ain't what it used to be), putting her back to bed repeatedly, reminding her it's bedtime. She's resisting with every part of her psyche. It's a battle of who is the most stubborn.

I am!

I am!

If I repeat it to myself enough times and express it differently it will (in the words of Jean Luc Picard) "make it so".

She's yet to realise that I am. She seems to be a very slow learner on this subject which is interesting because is bright; she's generally a quick study.

The Force is strong in this one. 


I've been giving her Bach Flower Remedy Nighttime drops and spray to help her settle.  I love Bach Flower Remedies but it seems even they aren't able to conquer a strong will.

She's keeping Pip awake and the cats just want to loiter with me which isn't helping.

I'm going on a training day in Non Violence Response in a few weeks time and I've been reading up on it and talking to a friend who has used the technique successfully.  I'm hoping it will help. I'm hoping it will help de-esculate things. I'm hoping my levels of intense anger and frustration will lessen.  Something has to work surely?

She's just got out of bed about 6 times.  I've put her back. 

I've knocked my orange juice over. I might email TCM to bring me up some wine or maybe I should have tea and doughnuts...isn't that what you're supposed to have on a stakeout?

She's forgotten that she is able to go to sleep.


TCM is telepathic and has brought me wine. No need to email. 

Creak, creak, creak goes her bed as she wiggles about.

Squish, squish, squish as she fiddles with some paper.

Thump, thump, thump as she gets out of bed again.

An announcement....she's claims she's going to sleep.

She's counting sheep....... VERY LOUDLY!

She yawns at 11 sheep!

I don't think that's going to work if I'm honest....

"Get into bed please"

"Get into bed please" I say as she appears yet again to see what I'm doing. 

I'm trying hard not to speak to her but she's a master at engagement. 

Believe it or not, sitting here makes things calmer than if I was downstairs. If I was downstairs she would follow every 5 seconds. Then it would get angry. I don't care what SuperNanny says, it's not possible to out someone back to bed 50 times every night over and over again and not get angry eventually. Katie wants me to get angry. This I know.

Sometimes I do get angry. Sometimes it all gets too much. I just want to go and eat some dinner but, instead, I'm sitting on the landing, feeling incredibly uncomfortable, anticipating her next move. 


It's all gone very, very, quiet.  Dare I hope that she's actually going to sleep? If she is then it will be the earliest she's gone to sleep in months. She needs to sleep. Badly. Sleep is the key to everything I suspect. She fell asleep watching Numtums in school last week. She thought it was funny. Oddly I didn't find it amusing. 

Sssshhhhhhh, I've shooooed TCM away from the stairs with an urgent, yet silent, wave of my hand.

I'm holding my breath......


I can hear a few minimal movements. She's definitely settling. A few creaks as she settles....


For the love of Pete!!!!

"Goodnight Katie"

She's the thumping and wriggling and chatting has started again.

"Snuggly, wuggly, buggly, cuddly" mutters Katie, just to remind herself she's awake and wants to stay awake.

That's what hope does to you. It gives you....well.....hope. I almost started to dream of creeping down the stairs and eating my dinner.


Here I sit. On the landing. With my numb bum and pins and needles forming in my legs. 

At least Pip is asleep. 

Now she's trying to engage with me again. 

You're yawning. Give it up and sleep kiddo! 


Pretty please?

I've just reminded her that I will be emailing her Head Teacher to let her know  about bedtime. I've been to see her Head Teacher and appraised her of the situation at home, thankfully she is incredibly supportive. No secrets happening here which Katie hates but is necessary to help her. She needs to see us all working together to help her. 

More yawning and a little sigh.

I'm reminded of a wonderful book my lovely friend bought me for Christmas. It's called "Go the F*** to Sleep!" It's brilliant. I wish I could read it to Katie but I'm sure you can guess why I can't. I highly recommend it as a read though. Maybe I could set the text to music and sing it to myself for a laugh?  If you've not read it.  Here's Samuel L Jackson reading it.....apologies for the language of course..


It's quiet in there again. More breath holding. Goodness I want to get up and stretch but I daren't move. 

A few bed creaks and then quiet.

I'm doing it again. I'm feeling that feeling of hope again. 

Creak, creak, creak goes the bed.

Chat, chat, chat to herself.

Thank heavens for my lovely friend who is messaging me on Facebook and keeping me company. We did this last Wednesday when I wanted to be watching the Great British Bake-off as well. It keeps me calm and sane(er)

Oh sorry I didn't tell you, this isn't the first time me and my numb bum have sat here. No Siree! We've been here before and will be again, and again, night after night, until a certain someone learns how to go to sleep again. That's love and commitment. I hope one day she'll understand that.


She's chatting to herself again. On the plus side I'm not being thumped or kicked I suppose. My numb bum is a small price to pay for no aggression.


I spoke too soon.

She claimed she needed the loo and a tantrum ensued. I refused to let her get up and repeatedly put her back to bed. I would have won. She didn't need to loo although I'm sure she would have squeezed one out to make a point but.....

TCM wasn't happy and decided to undermine me totally by letting her go. I've walked away furious as the situation is now out of control. All hell is now breaking loose upstairs.


I feel a big I told you so coming from me here as she is now throwing all her ploys at him. Screaming and shouting and generally carrying on.  This is a massive lesson in not being on the same page. 


I'm back upstairs to finish what I've started. I'm not a happy bunny though. Thankfully the tantrum did not wake Pip up.

A bit of dialogue. Telling me to shut up. 

Yeah yeah. Heard it all before kiddo....... 


It's 2 hours and 10 minutes since this started. I've still had no dinner. She's calmer and yawning and settling AGAIN!

An hour ago I was hoping to create a new sleep record now I just hope she'll go to sleep before I either die of hunger or lose the will to live. Yes maybe I'm exaggerating. I could cope with losing a few pounds. 

Whilst I'm sitting here I will just say that this blog post is to highlight what it's like with a child who refuses to sleep. I'm currently using what's known as the disappearing chair technique, except the chair hasn't yet disappeared because we haven't got passed the first hurdle. We will. It clearly will just take time. If this doesn't work then I don't know what else to do. Do we resort to drugs? I'm not sure I'm ready for that yet so we'll sit here night after night and see if we can bring about some change. 


She sleeps! I celebrate!

I will eat.....then I can sleep!

Except I didn't sleep because just after 10pm we received a call to say Pops (TCM's dad) had been rushed into hospital with heart failure. We knew it was serious when the paramedic phoned and told me his heart had stopped and he wasn't breathing for himself and suggested someone went to the hospital. TCM whizzed up there but sadly arrived too late and our lovely Pops had passed away. 


TCM is home from the hospital and trying to wrap his head around what has happened and what it all means. With Nana at home with Alzheimer's we have much to sort out. I suspect that will over-shadow the grieving for a while. We will need to work out when and how to tell Katie. With everything else going on this will be the icing on the cherry in the cake. With a knot of sadness and with anxiety in my stomach I finally turn the light out and try to find some sleep.

Thursday, 11 September 2014

Winter "Germies" with Boots!

I will write separately about our more personal experiences of being back at school but, for now, I'm writing along with Boots #backtoschool "Digit-ill" campaign on the serious subject of Germies!

Germs are really topical in our house at the moment because Katie has developed Emetophobia or the fear of being sick.  She is worried sick (pardon the pun) about being sick or seeing someone else (including the cats) be sick.  Before the end of year holidays she experienced a panic attack in school when another child was sick in class.  To be fair to her he was spectacularly sick and I think it might have challenged even iron-stomached old me to clean it up.  This was further compounded by a friend's child being sick during the holidays and we watched Katie's anxiety spiral out of control.  We seem to be reigning it back in again with lots of talk about germs and our bodies and the biology of being sick and how to reduce the risk of catching some of those nasty sicky germs in the first place.

Last year we got involved with the Boots Back to School campaign and we're delighted to do so again this year.  This year's theme is all about technology and how children are at risk of catching bugs and head lice from touching screens and standing in close proximity to each other whilst learning.  Katie was tasked with taking a "germie" of herself and I was tasked with painting her face to look like a scary germ.  Being artistically challenged I hope you will appreciate what a challenge this was for me.  I almost felt sick at the thought of being creative with face paints.

First of all though I would like to share some tips and information from Boots to help us poor parents who generally fear the dreaded head lice more than any other bug or insect.

Boots very kindly sent me a little package of goodies for getting involved in the campaign and I was interested to see that you can now buy an Electronic Lice Comb which might be a nice change from all those horrible chemicals.  I've had a Nitty Gritty comb sitting in the bathroom in case I ever noticed any movement in Katie's very long blonde hair but thankfully it's remained unemployed so far, which considering Katie has just started Year 2 is pretty good going.  I suspect she's benefited from my very tight French Plaits sprayed with lots of hair spray! I hope I haven't spoken too soon!

Children are using a lot more technology in the classroom nowadays.  Interactive white-boards and Ipads as well as keyboards and cameras are all regularly used and second nature to our little technological whizz-kids.  Children share pencils and other equipment and sneeze and drop bogies on classroom tables and chairs.  They rarely wash their hands when they use the toilet it would seem and they then fiddle with their faces and put their hands in their mouths and up their noses.  This makes the school classroom like a pleasure park for the average germ.  I once saw an experiment done in a classroom with a UV spray that highlighted all the places the children had touched and potentially picked up germs.  It was amazing to see how one germ could spread around an entire classroom.

The Top 5 Tips I would like to share for keeping those nits and other pesky germs at bay are:

Katie showing us her scary face!
1. Always encourage children to wash
their hands if they are using technology, especially afterwards;

2. Explain to children how germs get into their bodies i.e. through fingers in mouths and try and discourage them from fiddling with their faces.  This is easier said than done to be honest and I struggle not to fiddle!  It does make them more aware of how they can take better care of themselves though.

3. Wipe your touch screens and other technology with anti-bacterial wipes every so often.
4. If you have a girl with long hair always tie it back for school.  This is almost a religion in our household.  Katie gets to wear her hair down on the last day of term as a treat, whilst I keep my fingers tightly crossed that the little blighters don't take the opportunity to crawl in.

5. Spray hair (girls and boys) with Tea-Tree Oil.  You can buy shampoos and conditioners with it in as well but I'm a big fan of a few drops mixed in water and sprayed over the hair.  It might even prevent Kiss Chase if the smell is bad enough!

 I will just say though that I'm a big fan of letting children get mucky and don't try too hard to kill germs at home.  I give a spray with an anti-bacterial spray when cleaning but we have cats and they climb over everything and I will say that we are rarely ill in our house!

Here are some of Katie's other "Germie" pictures.  I did help her a little with these because of her attire but we did have great fun doing them.....
Katie's selfie "Germie"

  Katie showing some places she thinks the germs might hide........

Under her umbrella...

On the table......

Hiding in the bushes

What are your Top Tips for keeping children healthy over the winter? Take a minute and share your Top Tips for #bootsbacktoschool tips along with your "Germies" on Twitter using the hashtag above.

As always the views contained here are all my own.  Boots did kindly send me a lovely care package and I have shared their information but everything else is all me!