Saturday, 23 April 2016


Driving home in the car yesterday Pip and I had a conversation about whether he was having a bath or a shower that evening. I favoured a bath whilst he plumped for a shower. I had my reasons for wanting him to have a bath - mostly potty training and inadequate bum wiping ones - but I acquiesced to his desires and said he could have a shower.  

Here is what Pip said next.....

"Mummy, when we stop the car I'm going to give you a big kiss"

Me: "Why's that honey?"

Pip: "Because I love you Mummy"

Me: *teary eyed* "And I love you too sweety."

He not only gave me a cheek full of sloppy, bogey-laden kisses, but a soft, squidgy cuggle too.

My cup runneth over...


Friday, 22 April 2016

A Difficult Decision...

A few weeks ago we made the difficult decision to try Katie on Methylphenidate (Ritalin to you and me).  It wasn't a decision made lightly. It was more a decision made out of an ever increasing feeling of desperation as Katie's behaviour currently is becoming more and more hyperactive and aggressive at home.

I say "at home" because most of her really hyperactive and aggressive behaviour is saved for at home. I still see the look of puzzlement on her teacher's face as I talk about our challenges at home.  It's like we're talking about a very different child.  To some extent we are.  Katie does an amazing job of trying to contain her behaviour at school;be polite and helpful and to concentrate as best as she is able.  Her teacher does see some anxiety and some impulsiveness but thankfully not enough to be disruptive.  Katie is never aggressive at school and she even tidies up without arguing.  This begs the question about why she is aggressive at home.  Is it simply because she is letting off steam from school? Is it attachment linked? Is it something to do with our parenting skills? Does she simply feel relaxed enough at home to behave this way? Is she more stressed at home? Is she using her ADHD diagnosis as an excuse for bad behavior? She has taken to coming to me tearfully telling me how much she hates having ADHD and she can't help her behaviour. I'm afraid my response to her is that having ADHD isn't an excuse - it's an explanation but it is never an excuse.

One thing is clear - it's all very complex and is probably a combination of all of the potential reasons and we, as her parents, are left scratching our heads and wondering how best to manage her behaviour.

I drive myself crazy questioning and second guessing all my parenting techniques.  I'm fed up with hearing people tell me how strict they are with their children (usually when watching either of my children getting up to no good).  I feel like I'm very strict.  We have tight boundaries and clear expectations - it's just Katie chooses to ignore all of them.  Every day feels like a never-ending battle of wills.  Trying to negotiate and enforce boundaries when the response is to be told...


or screamed at to...

"Shut your f***ing mouth!"

or being constantly told .....

"You're an Idiot!"

The above all delivered dramatically whilst stomping in the opposite direction.

If I turn my back on Katie when she's with Pip you can guarantee he will be crying within less than 20 seconds telling me she's slapped him.

I've written before about Katie's behaviour in "Not All 8 Year Olds Do This" and feeling like a Meerkat; none of this is new but it is feeling very old.  I'm tired of trying to understand it all and holding my breath in anticipation.  It doesn't help that Pip is in full 3 year old mode; into everything; arguing about everything; also telling me to "shut my mouth" (thankfully minus the "F word" part); driving our builders crazy by putting nails down the drains; and refusing to walk or follow me or running off when he does actually get up. Thankfully Pip is still very able to amuse himself and is mostly cheeky rather than obnoxious and I feel confident that, for him, a lot of this will pass with maturity.

I decided to speak to our Paediatrician about it at our most recent hospital appointment.  I'm concerned about the long term implications on our home life and Katie's learning. I don't want to live in a war zone.  I'd like to feel I have a modicum of control at home (who am I kidding you ask yourselves?).  I'd like to feel like I have a plan - I am someone who needs a plan.  I'd like to not have to have a major DEFCON 1 meltdown every time I ask Katie to get dressed or eat her dinner or turn off the TV or pretty much anything and everything she is asked to do.

Our Paediatrician suggested trialing a low dose of Methylphenidate.

Methylphenidate is a central nervous psycho-stimulant (CNS). It can improve alertness and concentration and improve executive functioning in children with ADHD.  The hope being that it might improve her concentration at school and improve her relationships at home.  It's trial and error though.  Once concern is that the FASD element of her diagnosis will mean that Methylphenidate doesn't work for her and we may need to try a different medication.  Side effects could be an increase in her anxiety and a decrease in her appetite.  Because Katie is starting off on a 5mg dose it may simply not be strong enough to effect her functioning.  It's also a short acting version of the drug so most of the benefit will be at school.  It's a watch and see scenario.  I'll admit it felt very strange having to sign for a restricted medication and all the implications that has.

So far there appears to be no impact on her appetite.  If anything she appears more hungry and there has been no increase in her feeling sick or complaining of tummy aches or a noticeable increase in anxiety.  We've not seen a marked decrease in hyperactive behaviour.  If anything she is as bouncy and aggressive as ever she was and talking at 100mph.  We will just have to see how the 6 week trial progresses.

I have read that Mountain Dew can help calm down people with ADHD (as can coffee).  Let's just say that the impact on Katie of a quarter of a bottle wasn't for the feint hearted and we won't be trying it again.  I gave it to her on a drive to watch the Brighton Marathon recently and I thought she was going to implode at one point.  I didn't even know someone could talk that fast about anything that popped into her brain! This does make me wonder whether typical ADHD medications will be beneficial for her FASD brain. We will just have to watch and see.

I didn't want to take the medication route if I'm honest.  I'd prefer a more natural route.  I'd prefer using better parenting strategies but Katie's high level of oppositional behaviour is making this very hard. I know I shouldn't feel this way but I do feel a bit of a failure and it does make me second guess my parenting abilities.  We will still keep exploring natural alternatives and I'm open to suggestions. At least the Melatonin is still working well and Katie is getting plenty of sleep.

With natural remedies in mind I recently tried both Katie and Pip on concentrated cherry juice at bedtime to try and increase their natural Melatonin levels. Concentated cherry juice has one of the highest natural levels of melatonin so I was hoping this might be a great alternative to the tablets.  Initially Pip was happy to have his dose. It is very strong tasting and sour but he was quite cool about it until he realised that Katie didn't like hers. Now he won't take it either.  I take it though, and I will say I'm sleeping very well and waking little from taking it so it clearly does work.  It is a very strong flavour though which probably isn't overly palatable for children. I might experiment with mixing it with other juices to see if I can encourage the children to try again, maybe at dinner time.

One bit of control I've taken back is with the iPad after installing the Our Pact software on her tablet.  I've noticed that about 45 minutes of iPad time can really help regulate Katie but anything over an hour makes her aggressive.  Getting the iPad back from her is a massive challenge though.  The Our Pact app is great!  I can simply block her access to her iPad from my own iPad or iPhone.  I can grant her access for set periods of time.  This little app has taken away an enormous daily battle because I can do the deed remotely.  I don't have to ask her to turn the tablet off any more.  I don't have to stand there arguing with her whilst she screams and shouts for another 5 minutes.  For some reason she accepts that the iPad will just lock the screen at a set time and doesn't seem to relate it to me.  It also means that I can block her instantly if she is giving me a lot of lip.

The other thing I'm doing more of is walking away from Katie.  I'm ignoring the bleating yells of "Muuuuuuuuuum!" when she wants me.  I'm trying to walk away when I can see an issue escalating and when she runs away from me when I've asked her to go to cool down a bit.  I'm trying not to yell at her. I'm trying to ignore the swearing. I'm not always very good at doing all of this.  I find it hard to ignore the traditional parenting voice that tells me I shouldn't let her get away with talking to me like that or that I have to resolve or control a situation immediately. I'm up against a master of wind-up. Katie will keep taking things to the next level, waiting to see what is going to happen.  It's exhausting.  I find I don't always want to do nice things with her and I'll admit there are times when I just want to get her to bed or away from me as quickly as possible because my head literally hurts from the stress of the noise, the shouting, the constant chattering and the arguments. I'm ever optimistic though and always searching for what might help us. I do feel we need more parenting input and training though, not just the Theraplay games that we've been learning.  I need to feel more confident in laying down rules and how to deal with the fall-out.  Maybe I am dealing with it well and it's just that there is no answer.  It's not in my nature to accept that though so, maybe to my detriment or maybe to our benefit, I will keep searching and reading and asking questions.

One book I have found very helpful is Understanding ADHD in Girls by Kathleen Nadeau, Elle Littman and Patricia Quinn Nut. It's an American book so some of the references and resources sadly aren't ones available in the UK but the information about how ADHD presents in girls is really interesting and helpful.  I would like to see more parenting tips in it as I'm still trying to find some local parenting support.  The problem with parenting challenging children is no-one really ever admits to how bad it is or what parenting techniques they really use.  There's a lot of cloak and dagger and probably shame around parenting challenging children.  I suspect it's because the behaviour brings out the worst in us as parents.  We feel things we don't want to feel about our children and we can say things that we don't want to say or react in ways we don't want to admit we react in.  The fear of not being good enough or admitting we feel failures is enormous.  It feels like everyone else copes better than we do and has better strategies.  As an ingrained people pleaser I am finding having children with challenging behaviour that makes me stand out in public very emotionally hard.  I'm learning and I'm getting a thicker skin but I find the looks that other parents give me very hard to take at times and I now see that this pushes the buttons in me that need to show I'm managing the situation.  "Look at me - see I am in charge".  Sadly that isn't the case and I suspect life would be a lot easier if I could feel confident in what I am doing and say to hell with other people.  That might help me stay in tune with the kind, gentle and loving person that I really am.  I feel like a sheep in wolf's clothing currently because the fishwife that I can turn into really isn't who I am and it isn't who I want to be.

If anyone can tell me how to do that then please feel free to comment below and share your tips and I thank you in advance.....

Wednesday, 20 April 2016

Going Potty!

 It's a subject that raises lots of eye brows; anxiety; frustration; under the breath whispered disapproval and smug smiles.The build-up often requires months of preparation; book purchases; the stock piling of undergarments; watching the long term weather forecast looking for a spell of good weather; ensuring the washing machine is in tip top condition; sticker charts and sweeties (or beads if you have a sugar aversion) and the purchase of a suitable recepticle whilst your little lad or lady is wearing their L plates.

What is this big event of which I speak?

Potty Training of course!

Potty Training is the toddler right of passage as they leave behind the nappies that rather nicely protect their little tushies from tumbles and stumble (or dribble) towards the coveted title of "Big Boy or Girl".

Pirate Pete (Amazon)
After months of debating; wondering when I'd have some spare time to dedicate towards managing the big event; ignoring endless comments from my sister about why Pip was still wearing nappies; reading Pirate Pete; trying out wee's on the big boy toilet; talking about the big event and quite frankly waiting for some better weather Pip woke up on Good Friday with the news that from today he was going to be a Big Boy and ditch the daytime nappies.

I'll be honest and say that I've been very laid back about the whole potty training business.  I feel no sense of expectation about when the deed needed to be done.  I felt no need to compete for the title of Youngest Potty Trained Child in the World, nor had any sense of competition with anyone else's children.  Pip hadn't wanted to ditch the nappies at Christmas and quite clearly stated he still wanted to be a little boy!  So I approached the big day with a very realistic sense of what will be will be.  If he worked with the plan then that was brilliant.  If he wasn't feeling ready then we would just delay until the summer holidays.

So armed with lots of new elasticated waisted joggers and trousers and shorts; a ton of new boxer shorts; Katie's old potty; a new wall mounted urinal; a new portable potty; some Smarties and the first week of the Easter Holidays totally clear we turned our attention to mastering the potty.

I have to say my 3 and a half year old son was a total star!  He cottoned on very quickly to what was expected of him.  By Day 2 he accepted that the era of the daytime nappy was gone forever and turned his attention to getting as many wee's in his variety of potties as possible.  The urinal was a massive hit (literally as Pip loves aiming for the spinner at the back of the potty).  
New Frog Children Potty Toilet Training Kids Urinal for Boys
Of course we had accidents in those first few days.  The washing machine was on permanently and we used up a lot of kitchen roll and I remembered how much I hate emptying potties with poo in them (why does that seem even worse than grotty nappies?) but slowly and surely the accidents became fewer and fewer and the sense of pride and achievement in Pip's eyes and smile was clear for everyone to see.

On Day 3, which was Easter Sunday I told Pip I wasn't giving him Smarties for using the toilet because he had so much Easter chocolate to eat.  He was totally cool about it so we stopped Smartie rewards on that day and never looked back.  Motivated by High Fives and lots of praise Pip has been happy and going about his business.

On Day 4 I accidentally put him to bed without a nappy on. It was a total oversight and not planned and I didn't even realise until he asked to go to the toilet the next morning.  I was amazed - he had been totally dry all night! I was enormously relieved at this because he'd crept into our new bed during the night.  I would have been very unhappy to have the mattress christened so quickly! I then had the dilemma of having to consciously put him to bed minus the nappy the following night to see if it was a fluke.  I didn't feel confident to be honest and made preparations with a waterproof sheet on the bed.  I was right.  He wasn't ready and it had been a fluke but his overnight nappies are almost close to being ready and he is taking his nappy off to have his morning wee so I'm seriously impressed with him.

In the middle of the first week of the holidays Katie hurt her foot doing one handed cartwheels in the lounge so a trip to the Minor Injuries Clinic was required.  You can imagine how excited I was about taking a newly potty training boy for several hours wait there.  Armed with our new "My Carry Potty" we set off and my little man managed to get all his wee's in the right place, even asking to use the toilet in the waiting area.  Thankfully nothing was broken in Katie's foot so we were on our way home and dry again within 2 hours.

My Carry Potty (ebay)
Feeling more confident after that event we started going out and about. Pip was utterly amazing.  He had far fewer accidents than I carried spare clothing for.  We managed long days out with confidence, going out to country parks and play areas.  Pip started taking himself off to use the potty and the big boy toilet on his own.  He confidently mastered doing poo's with great maturity and is slowly starting to be able to hold his wee whilst we find a toilet or are driving in the car.

Pip has now gone back to Pre-School excited that he can use the urinal with all the other boys.  We've only had a few accidents at school which highlighted we perhaps needed a few additional pairs of trainers just to be on the safe side.  This was followed by a few days of him not quite getting to the toilet or potty on time.
 "I missed it" said Pip glumly.  We reassured him and told him how proud of him we were for how well he was doing and he was quickly back on track, taking control of his own bodily functions with great independence.  We do have a little issue of him wanting to flush the toilet before wiping himself and also putting far too much paper down the toilet just for fun but it's what I'd expect from a little lad.

Three weeks on he coped on a day out to watch the Brighton Marathon last weekend.  I put him in a pull up for the drive and the day (don't judge me) just for my own convenience really but told him that it was just there to protect him.  Bless him, he stayed dry for the whole day.  Not one single accident or wee in the pull up. Considering we had stayed overnight in a hotel and had a busy day I think that is a major achievement.  In fact I think I can now be so bold as to say I think he's cracked it!

My little boy is now a BIG BOY!!

Well done Pip!

Thursday, 14 April 2016

Yogaia-tastic! Finding my Zen again!

Once upon a time I was a pretty good at yoga. I did a workout every day. I felt happy with my body and what it could do. I felt it getting more and more supple every day. Before you get too excited I wasn't twisting my legs around my head (have you seen how short my arms and legs are?) but I could get my nose on my knees and my hands in the floor and do some moderately advanced poses which for someone with shortened tendons in her ankles and wrists was a major achievement and had the stamina to get through the tough Flow Yoga class that I loved. Yoga spoke to me on a deep level. I loved the feelings that arose during my daily practice, the inner calm, the sense of achievement as I mastered a new pose. I often became lost in the flow of movement with a look of total peace on my face (or so I was often told)

I did quite well at keeping up my practice when we adopted Katie. I went back to my class whilst she was at pre-school and adjusted my home practice to fit some time in each day.  Then anaemia struck. It took over a year before it was diagnosed, initially just putting it down to "New Mummy Fatigue". I found it harder to physically do my yoga and I was often falling asleep during the day and turned to sugary snacks to keep me going. I got out of the habit of my daily practice. Managing maybe half an hour a few times a week but as I slowly became more and more tired I did less and less. Eventually when we adopted Pip I stopped completely. I was too exhausted and lost in stress and the craziness of my life to do anything other than exist day to day.  Even with iron tablets I wasn't noticing a significant rise in my energy levels.

It took nearly two years to discover I also had a severe Vitamin D deficiency (a side effect I've discovered of being coeliac) and then chronic fatigue took hold. Some days I could barely walk to school let alone do any exercise. Add to that all the dramas with the house build; the death of my father-in-law; the care needs of my mother-in-law; and all the needs and stresses of the children and I had nothing left for anything except eating way too much chocolate and putting on too much weight.  I did the odd stretch or two and continued to do some meditation and Reiki and I missed my yoga but had no energy to do more than contemplate it.  In fact eventually I got to the point when any stretching left my muscle sore for days on end. 

Three years later I'm finally really on the mend. I am having more and more good days. Days where I feel energetic and can walk for several miles and can feel my mindset changing once again, yearning to get back to where I used to be. With the limitations of having been unwell I have to remember to try and pace myself otherwise I feel really shattered again for a week or so but things are on the up and I'm raring to go and embrace feeling well.

What amazing timing then when the possibility of reviewing the yoga app Yogaia presented itself (Thanks Mumsnet!). I don't feel ready to join a class locally but Yogaia is an interactive app that allows me to not only do pre-recorded classes at home at a time of my choosing but I can also take part in live classes in the comfort of my own home or even whilst travelling using my laptop, tablet or mobile phone. In fact, I was excited to discover, there are more than 100 yoga classes available each week 24 hours a day covering every level of yoga and a huge variety of different types of yoga from Iyengar and Hatha to Yin, Pregnancy Yoga, Barre Tone, Vinyasa Flow, Meditation and Pilates. There is even an instructor (Charlie) who has classes that celebrate the curvier body (one for me!) and instructor Rishin who shares some lovely words of wisdom that flow along with the instructions for the poses. You even have the option of turning on your web camera and interacting in real time with a yoga instructor if you want to. I might wait a while before I do that though as my confidence has dissipated a little at the moment but will be really beneficial to getting instructor feedback to start perfecting poses again. There are short 15 minute classes when you want a quick stretch and longer, deeper classes for when you've got more time and you have a variety of languages to choose from.

Here's what Yogaia have to say about their service:

“Yogaia is the world’s first and only interactive online yoga studio - 
a unique way of practicing yoga anytime, anywhere.  
Our mission is to bring wellbeing to all."

So what is my verdict? 

I'm very impressed! I've dusted off my yoga mat, ordered a new bolster, and am enjoying trying out the classes. I've barely scratched the surface of what is available on this app so far and have mostly been using the pre-recorded classes. There is so much choice and availability to explore and I'm looking forward to doing just that.  I have no excuses not to be a regular visitor with so many classes available. I'm taking it slowly and gently, mindful and accepting of what my very stiff body is now capable of (touching my toes isn't as easy as it once was!). This is made easy by the instructors giving options for different levels of ability. The classes are delivered in a friendly, relaxed and encouraging manner, in fact it's just like being in a real class, not at all like the very polished DVDs you can buy and I like this. You can put your own relaxing music on or practice in silence. You don't need props for all the classes either although alternative options are given when they are used. The instructors give lots of information about your body position during each pose which is really useful for beginners and also more experienced yoga enthusiasts looking to deepen their poses. I'm feeling really positive about really getting my yoga practice back on track in a way that will fit in with my life now and feeling keen to remind my body what it feels like to loosen those tight muscles.  I might even find where I left my Zen!

The Technology Bit....

The Yogaia App is available both from Google Play and the AppStore. You'll need either Android 4.0 or above on an Android smartphone or iOS 8 on an Iphone, Ipad or IPod).

I have tried the app out on my IPad which is using iOS 9.3.1 and my laptop. Unfortunately my old IPhone 4 doesn't support iOS 8 so I can't comment on this - roll on my upgrade!. The apps worked perfectly and the sound and picture quality are fabulous.  You can filter for which level you want and what type of class you are looking for i.e. relaxing; moderate or intense).  The app very kindly tells you how many classes you've attended (which is a real incentive) and you can download classes and also add them to your favourites.

Which one do you think you might add?

An added incentive from Yogaia if you're interested to try out the app.....

Om-azing news! 

Now you have an opportunity to test Yogaia - 14 days for free. Get on your yoga mat and join as many classes as you can during the free trial - no credit cards, no excuses, just great yoga. Redeem the trial code before April 25th 2016 at Yogia Detox

Time to detox? Join the Yogaia Home Retreat taking place April 23rd - 25th and you can win a yoga retreat in Morocco with your friend!

I am a member of the Mumsnet Bloggers Panel, a group of parent bloggers who have volunteered to review products, services, events and brands for Mumsnet. I have not paid for the product or to attend an event. I have editorial control and retain full editorial integrity.

Monday, 11 April 2016

What an AMAZING Magazine!

I don't know about you but anything that involves "official" learning in our house is something that generally requires hours of mental preparation (me) and a window of opportunity when Katie is relatively calm and receptive to the concept of sitting down to put pen to paper and engage her brain in something other than her IPad; whatever her current favourite programme on childrens TV is; or annoying the cats.  Katie loves magazines but generally chooses one of the girly magazines that is giving away a lip-balm or makeup (which eventually is confiscated because it is found smeared over the walls and furniture).  She will read the magazines and maybe even colour in a couple of pictures but the prize is the main reason for her choice.

I was intrigued, when the opportunity to review Amazing Magazine came our way, to see if she would enjoy reading something that wasn't a) pink and b) just about unicorns or c) whichever collectible is the toy du jour!

So what is the magazine? Well, Amazing Magazine is a beautifully presented and glossy 36 page monthly printed magazine that spans the National Curriculum for boys and girls aged 7+ with the aim of getting children to learn in a new and exciting way.  The issues combine academic subjects with interesting and creative topics that children will want to read using topics like Zombies and smelly feet, making things funny yet fact filled.  It isn't a flimsy magazine either and is printed on strong paper which could withstand a lot of picking up and reading and re-reading. Issues could be kept easily for younger children to also enjoy when the time comes.  They have recently taken on the ex-editor of Horrible Histories magazine and the writers from Simpsons and Beano comics so you can imagine how good the quality of writing is. The current price per copy at the time of publishing is £3.50 and £49 for a year's subscription.

So would Katie want to read it? That was the million dollar question. I had a few little reservations because the cover of the magazine is visually something that would probably initially appeal more to boys.  In fact Katie's first reaction was a disgusted "That's a boy magazine!".  I reassured her it was for girls and boys alike and she agreed to sit down and have a read with me.

And that's where her opinion changed.  Quite quickly she became quite engrossed (well as engrossed as a child with ADHD and FASD can become).  The magazine has lots of colour and imagery and pictures on each page.  Each little fact has a short, fun, blurb with it giving the information linked to the curriculum in a way that makes it interesting.  I enjoyed reading the magazines too.  It was nice to read something fun and educational together and not about magical puppies and kittens.  Lots of questions and conversation came out of reading the magazines together. For Katie it would need to still be a "together" activity I feel because she needs help to focus and not get distracted but she thoroughly enjoyed learning some new facts and the magazines found their way upstairs from the lounge without any help from me so that was very telling.  In fact even just reading a page at a time would be fine. These are magazines that are designed with kids in mind and are strong enough to withstand being picked up and down repeatedly.

All in all I was very impressed with the magazine and will be excited (and not needing hours of mental preparation time) to continue to read and learn together.

The team at Amazing Magazine are very kindly offering a copy of the next edition of the magazine to 10 readers of Life with Katie and a 10% discount off magazine subscriptions.  If you want to try to get your hands on a free copy of the magazine then enter the competition below on the Rafflecopter gadget.

UK and ROI entries only.

The competition starts at noon on Monday 11th April 2016 and closes at noon (GMT) on Wednesday 13th April 2016 and only entries received on or before that date can be included. The winners will be the first 10 people chosen randomly after the closing date and time.  If you want to benefit from the 10% special discount off subscriptions then type in WOW10 at the checkout to qualify.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Good Luck everyone!

As always the views included in this review are all my own.  I have received two copies of Amazing Magazine to review and a year's subscription to the magazine in return for providing my review.

Thursday, 31 March 2016

Guest Post: Not All 2 Year Olds...

It's often difficult to explain Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder , never mind how it effects a child. It's such a huge spectrum and unlike other spectrums, where you sit on it in terms of diagnosis, has little to do with severity but rather at what stage in pregnancy alcohol was consumed and if the effects are physical, emotional, behaviourally or most commonly a mixture. The simplest explanation I find is to say that my child, Annie, has brain damage. It's an uncomfortable thing to say but it's also true. (I'm still learning about the neurobiology of it)
I'm well aware when people see my bright, entertaining and lovable child and I talk about her special needs I sometimes sound (and feel!) like an impostor. When I explain her behaviours and challenges I know I am usually describing what most parents experience and it's hard to see how this isn't the same and how I'm not just a new parent freaking out (although I have been prone to do so on occasion). So I took this idea from a great blog I read earlier and thought I'd give it a go. My house is full of laughter and chaos. Currently as I type, Annie has made her own game from a plastic tomato and cup which is making us both laugh. (Although it's very rare she will play without my undivided attention) I never knew a 2 year old could have such personality and make me laugh so much. But it's always a constant balance of letting her have fun but trying to time how much stimulation she can handle because if I get it wrong and the day is done for. (Some days we have reached our limit before 8am and there is no redemption - just surviving). I spend a lot of time calculating and balancing our days and trying to figure out if what we do next will be the tipping point or do we have the strategies to manage. (If she wasn't such an extrovert it would be simpler.) Most of what I do is about planning, strategies, supervision and winging it! So here is my list about 2 year olds. Most parents will relate to some of this, but when you build it together like a jigsaw it becomes clear that my daughter isn't like most 2 year olds. 1. Not all 2 year olds have meltdowns that they pull chunks out their hair, bite their hand until it bleeds and bang their head against walls because they can't cope 2. Not all 2 year old hate transitioning from 1 place to another that it can take days to recover 3. Not all 2 year old are awake 3-4 times a night with medication because their brain isn't wired properly to sleep and the simplest noise or change in environment wakes them for hours. (4 hours of mooing 1 night last week, why mooing???) 4. Not all 2 year olds need routine so much that when you get their snack from a different place to usual they have a complete meltdown (see point 1) 5. Not all 2 year olds love falling so much they would rather throw themselves down the steps of the slide than go down it properly (sadly landing isn't as popular and the NHS is amazing!) 6. Not all 2 year olds will ask for food seconds after a meal or will fill their mouth until they choke or eat until they vomit 7. Not all 2 year olds will hurt themselves, then immediately do it again, and again... 8. Not all 2 year olds have such sensory needs that they put their hands round their neck and squeeze (panics me more than her!) or put their fingers down their throat until they vomit 9. Not all 2 year olds communicate through screaming or one word that could mean anything. (Thankfully she is now making progress with communication but is still very delayed as she is with most of her age appropriate skills.) 10. Not all 2 year olds can repeat the same word for 40 minutes. Not in a "I'm trying to annoy you way" but because they are so fixated on it that they cannot stop repeating it. 11. Not all 2 year olds have to take medication for their bowels because something has not formed correctly during pregnancy. 12. Not all 2 year olds need ear defenders to cope with day to day life -( not that she keeps them on) 13. Not all 2 year olds will eat cat food and polystyrene and pretty much anything they think might be food 14. Not all 2 year olds will get in a car with a stranger because they smiled at them without even a glance at their parent or leave a room because another stranger took her by the hand 15. Not all 2 year olds laugh and smile with everyone they meet then explode the second they are home because really they were being overstimulated but can't let it out until they are home and safe. 16. Not all 2 year olds have to be weighed and measured every few weeks to check their growth or are at risk of microencephaly or have dysmorphic facial features (although thankfully only recognisable to those looking for it) 17. Not all 2 year olds are unable to cope with simple noises like kettles boiling, brushes sweeping, chopping veg or hoovers 18. Not all 2 year olds have such poor special awareness and coordination that simple tasks like getting a spoon in your mouth or arms in your sleeves are so frustrating 19. Not all 2 year olds learn to speak and play by copying but cannot attach the meaning of the word to the object or grasp imaginative play 20. Not all 2 year olds can spend hours doing the same activity without once making eye contact or responding to her name because she is so focused. Yet another day cannot sit still for more than 10 seconds. My daughter is amazing. And the list is just a snapshot of how her life is different through no fault of her own. The good far outweighs the bad and she is flourishing. She is so much a part of me that I can't remember what I did before I had her. But every day is a mathematical battle of keeping her calm, and safe and happy without going too far and having her in a place where her brain cannot cope and she self destructs. FASD is complicated and hard but the successes are amazing. When she signed for the first time (reindeer) or put 2 words together (ducky juice) or finally let me brush her hair (sensory issue) without it becoming a battle of wills I'm so happy and proud because already she is overcoming her battles. But as a parent its sad to see how much harder her life is and how much more she has to cope with. She is a normal, mischievous, hilarious 2 year old on the surface. Underneath she is caring, and musical and lovely but battling against a world that her brain isn't designed for. I was warned to expect an uphill battle. That I was entering a world where other people wouldn't get it. That my child would either be seen as naughty and needing discipline or where I would be seen as a liar because the self destruction is saved for home where she feels safe. FASD isn't easy to explain and never will be. It's not all negative, although I think it often sounds like that. But it is a different kind of parenting. One where you learn to adjust your expectations and rejoice in the small things through the deepening levels of sleep deprivation.

Today's Guest Poster is Claire who is currently a full time parent to Annie, cat feeder and avid tea drinker. Professionally (although taking some time off to parent currently) she has spent her career working with vulnerable and disadvantaged teenagers; Particularly around sex, drugs and social injustice.

If you'd like to contribute a guest post about Adoption; FASD or ADHD to Life with Katie then do get in touch at

Friday, 25 March 2016

Not All 8 Year old Girls.....

I'm not the first person to write a post on this topic.  The content isn't particularly original. It's a topic that will strike into the heart and frustration of every parent with either an adopted child or one with special needs, or both in our case.

Firstly I still struggle with thinking that Katie has special needs. I'm really not reconciled with her diagnosis of FASD and ADHD yet. I accept the diagnosis academically but am still coming to terms with what it means practically. I suspect I will always be coming to terms with it in one way or another. It seems that every day a little piece sinks in a bit more. For me speaking to other people about what's going on for Katie and at home can help me wrap my head around things. Over the past week or so I have had several conversations with other parents about Katie. They were conversations that were both helpful and frustrating in equal measures though. 

Speaking to the parents of other 8 year old girls has given me some interesting insights. It seems that most 8 year old girls are mouthy, door slammy and generally disrespectful and dismissive of everything their parents say or ask them to do. This is reassuring. It's not just our house that has door protectors over the tops of the doors to prevent them being slammed shut. Other girls are needing deodorant highlighting that our little darlings are starting to go through some pre-puberty changes. That might also explain some of the high octane emotions flying around the rooms.

In many ways our house sounds like every other house with an 8 year old resident so I don't want to overplay the SEN card. In many ways Katie is a typical 8 year old. She has moved on from CBeebies and is now watching programmes like Sam and Cat; Liv and Maddie and Millie In-Between. She wants to be grown up and is soaking up the concepts of puberty in Disney Channel and Nick Jnr programmes. She has ideas of wearing fewer items of clothing to look cool and has a passion, bordering on desperation, for shoes with a heel. The difference is she doesn't always understand what she's watching or follow the storyline properly. She's only just starting to understand that the people in the TV programme are actors portraying a character and that it's not real. Having said that I'm sure a lot of the nuances of programmes I watched as a child went over my head as well. That's why I don't jump up and down about some of the lyrics of songs.  I still remember the day I finally understood what Frankie Goes to Hollywood meant when he sang "Relax".  I still sing the version "Relax, don't do it; when you want to suck a Chewit" so it's hardly surprising it took a while to sink in.

In our house though FASD and ADHD hyperactiveness; inattention; emotional frustration; anger; lack of comprehension; forgetfulness; non compliant and oppositional behaviour; rudeness and aggression add a layer onto these 8 year old normal reactions and behaviours that spiral the house and all its occupants into a fiery pit of frustration and desperation and leave me with a permanent knot of anxiety in my stomach. 

The problem is it's just so hard to explain how intense it can be living in our house. The worry that kicks in from the moment my daughter's eyes open; being constantly ready for battle; having to constantly be one step ahead to try and offset an argument; thinking up creative ways of encouraging calm and compliant behaviour; trying to work out which battles to fight and which to ignore and feeling constantly stressed and on edge; having to go back on anti-depressants to try and calm down the anxiety that makes me feel more Meerkat than human. No matter how I explain it the reaction from each person I've spoken to recently was the ubiquitous "that just sounds like normal 8 year old behaviour" and I'm left feeling frustrated and overly dramatic and even questioning if I'm either imagining the severity of our experiences and simply just a totally ineffectual parent. I agree there is much that is "typical" about Katie's behaviour but equally there is a lot that isn't.

This whole issue frustrates the hell out of me and I end up feeling isolated, stupid and questioning myself. So just for the record here is a little list of the things I don't think all 8 year olds do. Feel free to point out which ones you think I've got wrong because I'd love to be reassured:

1. Not all 8 year olds scream and shout and have endless toddler tantrums.

2. Not all 8 year olds totally ignore everything they are asked to do unless the word "sweets" is involved.

3. Not all 8 year olds have the need to control every aspect of life around them with argumentative and aggressive consequences.

4. Not all 8 year olds bounce around and fidget and fiddle whenever they sit down.

5. Not all 8 year old find it impossible to sit through a meal without getting up and down constantly. 

6. Not all 8 year olds find it impossible to follow more than one instruction at a time.

7. Not all 8 year olds need melatonin to enable them to sleep.

8. Not all 8 year old wash their hands until they are sore (most barely wash them at all).

9. Not all 8 year olds worry incessantly about being sick and the sell by dates of food.

10. Not all 8 year olds get fixated on a topic and ask questions endlessly (for days) on it.

11. Not all 8 year olds are incapable of organising themselves to do anything (except cartwheels).

12. Not all 8 year olds are anxious about starting new work at school because they haven't understood what to do and don't handle transitions very well. 

13. Not all 8 year olds require constant supervision to prevent them searching the cupboards or my handbag for sweets, cakes or lipsticks, despite being told not to do it. 

14. Not all 8 year old will lie about everything.

15. Not all 8 year olds will tell you confabulations where they've become confused about things that have happened or they've been told during their day and think it's happened to them.

16. Not all 8 year olds need a time warning before starting or stopping most things including having a bath or a meal. 

17. Not all 8 year olds will point blank refuse to do anything they've been asked to do. 

18. Not all 8 year olds forget the maths they have learned repeatedly, then remember it another day only to forget it again the next day. 

19. Not all 8 year olds get sensory overload and hyperstimulation from too many things happening in one day and too much going on around them including colours and sounds. 

20. Not all 8 year olds spit in your face when they are angry.

21. Not all 8 year olds punch and kick when they are angry.

22. Not all 8 year olds struggle to spend any time alone.

23. Not all 8 year olds struggle to amuse themselves or access their imagination.

24. Not all 8 year olds are born with a head that is too small. 

25. Not all 8 year olds have had their brain damaged by someone choosing to drink alcohol during their pregnancy. 

These are just a few of the things that my daughter does that other typical 8 year olds do not do. 

No, she is not just like any other typical 8 year old. Sadly I suspect she will never be a "typical" any age and I wish people could understand that. I wish people wouldn't smugly tell me that she's behaved well for them because I know that the effort she needed to use to behave so well means that she will have none left for when she is at home. I'm delighted she has behaved well but that isn't a reflection of our lives. 

It is really helpful for me to hear what other 8 year olds are doing but I wish people wouldn't dismiss what we're all going through as the same as everyone else. 

What are your experiences of 8 year old girls?  Thank you for sharing....