Monday, 11 May 2015

SATs


Like many other parents in the UK SATs is the phase currently buzzing about like an unwanted wasp. An annoying entity that I would love to squash with a handy magazine, preferably my current copy of Psychologies!

So what are SATs?

SATs or Standard Assessment Tests are a delight put upon children (and their parents) in Years 2 (Key Stage 1), 6 (Key Stage 2) and 14 (Key Stage 3).  The purpose is to assess where your child is at in their learning at these points in their education.  In the early stages the tests cover knowledge in reading, writing and spelling and science and then a more lengthy list is tested in Key Stage 3 (think GCSE options). 

The children are graded as:


Level W - Working towards Level 1 - very weak
Level 1 Average for a typical 5 year old
Level 2 Average for a typical 7 year old
Level 3 Average for a typical 9 year old
Level 4 Average for a typical 11 year old
Level 5 Average for a typical 13 year old
Level 6 Average for a typical 14 year old
Level 7 Average for a typical 15 year old
Level 8 is only for Maths

Within each grading there is also an a, b, or c addition to grade within each level.

So what is the purpose of SATs (other than to make us sound more American?)

Well the original  purpose back in 1991 was to assess where children were in relation to their peers at a set point in time but over time it is a not so overly guarded secret that the results of these tests are used to place the school within the Schools League Tables which compares the performance of pupils, schools and LEAs.  In the area that we live in these results are immensely important. The house prices on one side of the street that is in the catchment for the "better" secondary school are ridiculously higher than their counterpart on the other side of the road. I live in an area where I've recently discovered parents actually pick and choose their pre-schools to make sure their child has the best start in their educational journey.  I chose Katie and Pip's pre-school on the basis that they liked being there and it would support them to become more independent from myself; the staff understood the needs of my children; the environment would aid their learning; a close friend tipped me off that she had trained most of the staff and that they were well trained; and mostly they would have fun.  It seems I have a lot to learn!

What do these tests really mean for children and their parents, and particularly for adopted children?

In one word?


Here is our experience of the Year 2 SATs thus far.......

Katie came home from school on the Thursday after the Easter holidays all of a dither and saying that her teacher had told them that they were doing their SATs tomorrow.  Really? Well l I knew it was their school sponsored walk the next day but I was confused as to how Katie was told about the SATs and me, as her parent, wasn't. I was also confused because I wasn't expecting them to start until mid-May.  I reassured Katie that there were no SATs the following day but of course she wanted to know more about what they were.  I explained briefly. However the following day she came home even more anxious about the SATs which included a note in her home-school book asking parents to ensure their child had a good night's sleep on Monday night plus a good breakfast on Tuesday morning (we don't ensure those things happen generally?) because our children were starting their SATs.

Katie didn't want to go to school on Monday morning because she thought they were starting then. She feigned an ear ache to try and avoid school. She was aggressive and rude and generally unpleasant.  I twigged what this was all about so reassured her again that there was nothing to worry about and that I would inform school that she was anxious. I told her that the SATs were a way to check how well her teachers were doing their job and it had nothing to do with how well she did in the test at all.  A comment I passed on to Katie's Head Teacher when I saw her that morning to pass on my annoyance that my child was so anxious about doing these tests. Tests that I don't actually agree with.  But Katie was worried.  She was worried about being stupid if she didn't know the answers.  She was worried about getting it wrong. She was worried because she didn't know what her day was going to look like once she entered her school gates.  Normally she knows what is going to happen at school. They have a timetable. She can get through the day with a recognisable semblance of self-regulation because she knows the routine.  Imagine that being taken away from you and not knowing what was going to happen. Katie's self esteem is fragile at the best of times so this is not an ideal situation. School are starting to recognise that even changing rooms can spark anxiety and hyper-stimulation in Katie so they were expecting a lot of her and it's interesting that they didn't raise this as a potential point of concern with us as Katie's parents.  Maybe they're not worried about her result. Maybe if she doesn't perform well they can just write her result off as being a LAC child. Maybe I'm doing them a disservice though and they feel Katie is capable of taking it all in her stride and performing well.  I would tend to argue with that though because Katie has morphed from a child who was a total delight over the Easter holidays to a disagreeable and aggressive child since being back at school.  You do the maths!



My instinct is that the children shouldn't be told about the SATs exams.  I don't see how it can help them, especially in Year 2 to know that they are being tested.  The assessment can generally be quite fun so there is no need for them to know or, indeed, worry about it.  That doesn't answer the issue of the disruption to the school routine though.  My nephew who is in Year 6 is also currently starting his SATs today and had a very sleepless night last night terrified that he is going to look stupid and all his friends will do better at the tests than him.

Why are these tests actually given then?  What is the real purpose? Even in Year 6 the tests do not really mean anything.  The results are not used by the Secondary Schools the children move to in Year 7. In fact the Secondary Schools generally like to do their own testing and streaming when the children start at the school so I can see no discernable reason to put the children through this stress other than to present statistical information to be used to cherry-pick which school your child goes to and for a moment of smugness in the playground or on Facebook, and a personal pat on the back for producing such a clever child, if your child performs particularly well.  What about all the children and their parents whose children end up not performing well? Could they run the risk of disengaging with education all together.  In the case of adopted children could the risk be that the disruption to their routine makes school become an unsafe place to be resulting in them becoming school refusals? I'm sure it's a real possibility.  The schools can assess how well a child is doing just as easily as part of day to day activities at school.
These tests do not highlight how good your child is at sports or if they are kind or caring or good in a crisis.  They do not show that you are adopted and might struggle with sitting these exams,; they do not show that you are a young carer and might not have time to do homework to aid your learning. They only show one side of your child.  How well they can perform in an exam.  An exam which is set in a specific way and generally supports a specific method of assimilating learning.  I am a great example of why these types of exams don't really highlight a person's capabilities.

I have quite a high IQ (and even passed a MENSA test) but I have problems with my memory storage and accessing facts. As a student who took O'Levels this proved a challenge because I could not access the information I needed to perform well in exams.  If I am assessed using coursework I will grade very  highly but I my results drop significantly in an exam situation where I have to recall facts. If I have a multiple choice scenario I will perform very well however because I can pick out the correct answer which jogs my memory recall.  O'Levels left me feeling that I was wasn't particularly intelligent despite showing an aptitude towards languages.  I did manage to gain sufficient passes to go onto college but my grades certainly did not reflect my ability.  When I went to university as an adult I did a degree that was coursework and assessment and performed very well.

My conclusion is that SATs should be abolished for the following reasons:

1. There is no reason I can see why Year 2 children need to be assessed above and beyond that done in the classroom. Ofsted monitors the school performance overall so this is unnecessary,

2. Year 6 pupils are assessed when they start Year 7 and the SATs results ignored so I'm at a loss to see a purpose for these students.

3. Year 10 pupils have just taken their options and settling into their chosen subjects,  They will be tested on their learning in these subjects when they take their GCSE's in Year 10 and 11.  Again I fail to see why you need to do SATs as well.

Come and join in.  What do you think? Can you throw me a bone and explain to me why these tests and exams are important or do you agree with my assessment?








Friday, 1 May 2015

If I Knew Then.....


Before I adopted Katie and Pip, and took some time out from working, I was a trained Counsellor who specialised in working with teenagers.  I took on a role working for a service called Connexions as a Personal Adviser because this was a new role that offered an exciting way of supporting and helping young people with multiple barriers to learning.  The role offered me a lot of personal and professional development and I also trained as a PSHE Teacher specialising in Sexual Health.  

I loved my job.  It was high pressure with the volume of workload and the responsibility for the lives of the young people we were supporting.  I set up projects supporting young parents and I delivered a lot of sessions in secondary schools and my linked college around sexual health and relationships.  I am proud that  I was able to help a great many young people through some unbearably difficult periods of their lives.

There are some cases that I think of with regret though.  There will always be some people that you are unable to achieve a positive outcome with.  That may be through a clash of personality with yourself and you're just not the right person for that particular young person.  It may be because the young person just isn't ready to move forward and needs a different type of support. I made many referrals to CAMHS over the years and there will always be young people that you tried everything for but it just didn't work out.  Over the past five years though my main regrets have been for the young people I worked with over a long period of time who were adopted.

I'm going to be very honest, because that is the point of writing this post.  I didn't really know anything about adoption back then, not like I know now.  I knew about attachment generally because I covered that in my counselling training but I didn't know about the trauma that our young people often have a part of their history.  If asked I may have assumed that the majority of children were given up for adoption, not due to Child Protection Orders.  I knew that my clients might think about their birth family or want to trace them - but I wasn't trained to think beyond that; to question fantasy or risk.  

My remit was to support the young person because we were a "client focused" organisation.  We signed confidentiality agreements with our clients.  I always encouraged my clients to talk to their parents about any support I was offering and would meet with parents as much as my clients would allow but the client was in control of that unless there was a clear Child Protection issue to address. That was tough on parents. The parents that I was given permission to work with by my clients would often say I was a translator for them.  The young person would explain to me what was going on in their world and in their emotions and I would explain that in ways that the parents could hear.  I think it was something that I was quite gifted at if I'm honest.  There are several clients though that I feel I let down badly through sheer lack of training and this is something that I still hear is happening through conversations with other adopters.  I can see why it happens but I do think it needs to be addressed. 

The clients I feel I let down specifically were two of my adopted clients.  Both clients had major difficulties that impacted on their ability to engage in education. I worked very hard to support them and their families. With these clients I supported issues around ADHD and paranoia, drug taking, running away from home; aggression and violence within the home from the young person; lying; stealing; truanting from school; unable to engage in school; school unable to support the young people effectively and resistant to my suggestions.  The list could be one written in books on trauma and attachment.  I didn't know about the link with adoption and trauma then though.  Both young people were adopted very young so, like many professionals. I didn't consider these issues as being the causal factor of the problems the young people were experiencing.  Instead I worked hard with the families to create behaviour contracts and ways to support the young person's learning.  I looked at the parenting model of the parents to try and ascertain whether there was a link with the behaviour of the young person.  I tried various methods of engaging with the young people. I met with weary and confused parents who seemed to have given up and I possibly judged them harshly for that.

Five years on, I would address these cases in a very different manner.  I have a much greater understanding of trauma and attachment in adoption. I see first hand the impact on my children of the choices their birth mother made whilst pregnant.  I would ask a lot more questions and I would question the confidentiality agreement with my managers in cases where I felt it was paramount that we worked closely with the adoptive parents. I worry about my daughter's experience of education and see the difficulties she is having already and the reaction from the teachers.  Whilst supportive I sense there is judgement towards us as parents because most of the behavioural difficulties are at home and not at school.  I see the behaviour models used in school with different eyes. I now see I could easily become the parent that I met during that period of my working life. What worries me most is that I am hearing the same, and much worse, from many adoptive parents.  They are worn down fighting the education system and fighting the judgements from professionals who aren't trained in trauma and attachment and make assumptions about the parenting these young people are receiving with no insight whatsoever that the difficulties are not of the adoptive parents making but are far deeper and much harder to access.

I want to send some advice out into the ether with this blog post so I would be grateful if readers could share this post with agencies they know who work with young people. My advice is this: 

1. Get some training on trauma and attachment, specifically Reactive Attachment Disorder.  Take this post to your bosses and explain to them that this is really important.  You can't possibly understand the world of an adopted young person by applying the normal rules of assessment.  Damage is done in the womb through drugs and alcohol, physical neglect and domestic violence and that brain damage can impact the whole of the young person's life. There can be a massive impact on the young person's ability to form healthy attachments because these issues weren't addressed when they were first placed in care and when subsequently adopted.  The young person may have been adopted as a baby but may still have had several Foster Carer placements prior to being adopted.  This is highly disruptive to the ability to form healthy attachments and there is a list as long as your arm as to how the young person will demonstrate their reaction to this. Learn about the different types of attachment and how they present clinically.

2. Listen to the adoptive parents.  Hospital Consultants have learnt that it's important to listen to the parents when diagnosing a child because the parent knows that child much better than anyone else. The same could be said of all parenting but I am specifically focusing here on adoption.  Listen to the history that the adoptive parents are telling you. Don't dismiss them as being overly protective or exaggerating their reality. Ask them about the young person's early life prior to adoption to help you understand the experience of the young person.

3. Don't assume that the young person is always telling you the truth.  They may not mean to lie to you and they may struggle to tell the truth after a lie due to their internal stress regulation.  Again the same could be said of many of the young people I worked with who had disrupted attachments for varying causes including divorce and domestic violence. I now see lying in a very different way since becoming an adoptive parent.  My daughter often believes the lies she is telling me. I've heard of terrifying allegations made against adoptive parents that are unsubstantiated. 

4. Young people who are adopted are possibly much younger emotionally than their chronological years so be aware that might be a possibility and assess for that. Don't assume they can engage in activities that someone else of their age might be able to do.  

5. Be aware that behaviours that only happen at home aren't necessarily because there is a problem at home.  The reality is that the young person probably feels safer to express themselves at home than in education or other settings.  

6. Be on the look out for how the young person is expressing their anxiety at school. Are they restless?  Do they struggle to concentrate in class?  Could this be due to hyper-vigilance? Are they on their own a lot? Do they cope with frequent room changes? 

7. Find out whether the young person is able to sustain friendships. If not then ask yourself why this is the case.

8. A feeling of shame is something that is triggered very easily in many adopted young people.  It's not something that is easily rectified by being giving positive feedback. It's embedded deep down within.  It can be triggered by doing well at something where a need to sabotage that success follows immediately because the achievement doesn't mirror the young person's internal dialogue.  You might see them destroy certificates or notice a negative behaviour change when they they achieved something.

This is just a list to get you started.  I wish I knew back then what I know now because I might not feel regretful about those clients that I could have supported differently despite doing everything I could do at that time.  I hope in writing this post that it might make a difference to other professionals and other young people somewhere.

A big thank you goes out to anyone who shares this post.




Monday, 20 April 2015

"Play" Dates: Mixing Up the Magic?

Britmums has linked in with Petit Filous to promote their new Magic Squares Desserts.  As part of the promotion there is a linky for bloggers to write their magic formulae for great playdates and playtime.  I read the email this morning and thought it sounded like fun (and it will be) but then I felt a burning in my stomach. The burning was quickly followed by my mind racing at 100 mph about the word "playdate".  So I'm afraid I'm going off on a tangent about playdates in general.

Over the past year or so I've slowly become more and more aware that parenting has become the new "Keeping up with the Joneses".  This is really evident in the area where I live.  I nickname it "Middle-Classdom". Parents are often falling over themselves to provide the most original parties and Boden seems to be the choice of childrens and parents clothes.  Children are over socialised and exhausted and I often joke that local toddlers are born playing the violin and creating works of art with their PlayDoh!  When you have a 2 year old child who simply wants to  race about at top speed, stopping only to quickly investigate something that has caught his eye knocking everything over in the process as I do, you quickly become used to the under the breath tutting and comments of "Oh he's very busy isn't he?"

"Yes he's 2! It's in the job description!"

Fear seems to be slowly creeping into parenting generally.  People follow parenting gurus with a religious fervor through fear of getting it wrong. Parenting is a tough business that is filled with as much guilt as it is fun. Pinterest is full of arty parents who spend their lives photographing their clever arty projects for their children whilst the rest of us realise the words "arts and crafts" fill them with more terror than sitting an exam.  School homework projects and Easter Bonnet Parades seem to say more about the creative abilities of the parents and not the child. I think the same is happening with playdates and it's really starting to make me feel angry. Parents are fearful that the children won't have had an amazing time if their time together isn't catered for to the nth degree.  There are web pages dedicated to creating the perfect playdate and detailing all the rules that need to be adhered to. I've fallen into this trap myself so I'm not blaming anyone but I am highlighting it and asking if it's necessary?

Back in my day (are you ready to go back to Titanic?) in the 70's we did this radical thing....we played with our friends.  We went to each others houses and played in bedrooms or gardens or garages or even out on the road (I'm not advocating that these days - obviously I'm writing about a time before cars took over the world!). A Sindy doll could keep us occupied for hours as could a rose and some water and a bottle (come on who else has made rose perfume?).  We got bored and we found things to do. I can imagine the looks on the faces of the parents back in those days if they were expected to entertain their children on these playdates.  For the parent that was the whole point of a playdate (we didn't call it that back then of course - we just played or called for each other!).  The parents could get on with something else whilst the children were playing. It never occurred to me to wonder what my mum was doing.  I could have cared less. I was with my friends.  We made friends. we broke friends, we learned how to repair friendships because we had the space to do those things.  We didn't go home over-stimulated.  We chilled together.  We weren't making pizza and candles as Katie did recently on a playdate.  I will note that she was very late home from that playdate because the parent "ran out of time".  I then had to battle a very over-tired and over-stimulated Katie into bed and she was even later to sleep due to the time it takes her to wind down her hyper-stimulation after a playdate.  I would have much preferred her to come home minus the candle but on time if I'm honest.  She didn't actually "play" with her friend at all.  She was sad because she didn't get to play in her bedroom.  Often for adopted children the act of going to someone else's house for a playdate is enough.  Anything else on top of that is just too much.  Our children are often emotionally rather much younger than their peers so might find a playdate that's too highly organised a bit too much of a challenge.


I'm going to suggest something radical for this linky.  My suggestion is this.  Let children actually play.  Let them make up their own games and invent what to do with their own time.  Believe me you will all be a little happier for it.  Why not make yourself a cup of tea and stick some fish fingers and chips in the oven and treat yourself to a little moment of calm.  Give them the yoghurt for pudding if you want to.  Be at the ready if an argument breaks out but remember it's important for your children to have arguments with their friends. They will become far more rounded human beings for this than learning how to make rice cakes or candles or anything requiring paint.  They will develop an imagination that doesn't require sticky backed plastic and glitter.  You won't spend the next 10 days cleaning up that glitter either.

That's what I'm going to do from now on.....in fact I'll let you into a little secret......I've been doing that for a little while now and the children have a great time. 

What do you think? Am I a lone wolf howling to myself in the wind or does anyone else agree with me?


 “This post is an entry for BritMums #MagicSquaresPlaydates Linky Challenge, sponsored by Petits Filous.” and linking to http://www.petitsfilous.co.uk/

Sunday, 15 March 2015

Not Born Under My Heart...

www.zazzle.com
Being denied the opportunity to become a biological mother is a challenge. It's one thing choosing to remain child free but another altogether when the body parts don't work together in some sort of musical harmony and the metronome beats out of time. As a society there is much made of the biology of being a biological parent. Men slap each other on the back and make exclamations using the words "super sperm" when announcing the pregnancy of their partner and women practically take ownership of each other's bumps. Infertile people are on the fringes of society; whispered about behind closed doors and averted eyes.

Not everyone who adopts comes from the infertile sector of society. I have friends who have chosen to adopt for other reasons with no desire to establish their fertility first. I took a long while to give up running on the conception treadmill. Not, I've come to realise, through a massive desire to be a biological parent, but because I was on a path to overcome a medical mystery. Until I realised that solving that mystery was no longer important I was unable to get off that treadmill. Once I did hang up my worn out trainers and clamber off with aching muscles and heart I realised that the place I was running to was a different destination to the one I had set out to arrive at. Not only that but it didn't matter to me and hadn't for a very long time. I didn't need to grow a child under my heart in order to grow a child in it. 

I won't lie. I would love to know how it feels to feel a baby kick inside you; to know how it feels to push that life from your body into the world. I would love to have a few moments to feel those sensations, just to know; to marvel at the wonder of the life inside me. I would love to be present at a birth; to share that moment of first breath and experience the awe that is new life. I don't need those experiences to be a mother though. Being a mother is both far less and far more complex than those experiences. Choosing to become a mother, or father, through adoption is also both a simple and complex choice. The biggest single anxiety for adoptive parents is being rejected by their child. How many parents choose to have a child knowing that fear yet going ahead anyway because the love they have to offer child far outweighs that fear? How many biological parents even have that fear on their radar? How many biological parents choose to have a child knowing that their child will be born or will experience early life changing trauma? How many parents will choose to have a child knowing that they will have to employ specialist parenting techniques or experience being assaulted on a daily basis as their child's fear and frustration takes hold of them? How many parents first meeting with their child will be quite as unusual as an adoptive parent's? The moment I met both my children though was as emotional and amazing and intense as any birth. 

Being an adoptive parent is an enormous privilege. It's not second best. It's not something to be whispered about behind closed doors. I am the luckiest mum in the world to be a parent to Katie and Pip. They are both the most amazing and incredible human beings. They have experienced so much at such a young age.  They fight and conquer so much more than the school curriculum so don't ever look upon them, or any other adopted child as being less than any biological child. The choices of another will determine how easily they can learn and will leave them with scars that most will not see or understand, but it's my job as their mum to try my best to understand and to help them understand and heal. There are days when the responsibility for that or the knowledge of the information contained in their permanence report becomes overwhelming; when parenting the fallout from all the emotions spilling out becomes too great; days when a good cry and a cup of tea and copious amounts of chocolate with a friend is more than a lifeline. But despite those days I do not ever question my choice to become a mum; their mum.

Becoming mummy to Katie and Pip is my greatest event in life. Their light shines bright enough to light up the heavens. Their bravery is limitless. I am proud to be their mummy. I am so very proud of my choice to be their mummy. Blood isn't thicker than water and there is so much more to being a parent than biology. If I could have given birth to any two children, I would choose these two children. But if I had given birth to them, they wouldn't be these specific two human beings so I don't seek to change anything of their biology because it's what makes them them. Yes I would choose to change some of their experiences, both in-utero and after birth but I've not been given the bigger picture. Their story is still being written. They have been created within a set of circumstances that will form a part of their gift to the world. Who knows what will drive them as they grow older; what changes they will bring to the world. And as their mother it is my privilege to guide them through however much of their lives I am a part of.  

That's quite an honour and one I sometimes forget in day to day life with the whole daily grind getting in the way so I'm glad I can use this moment to write these thoughts and feelings down to remind myself on this Mothers Day. I had my first Mothers Day during introductions with Katie which brought a real "meant to be" feeling to the process. I don't need a meteor shooting across the sky or a sparkly card to know that my children and I are in each other's lives for a reason. We were brought together by skilled Social Workers and some help from above and beyond and our fates are sealed tightly together.

For Mothers Day this year the adoption agency Coram are talking about mums who became mums through means other than birth and are sharing those experiences in the form of short films. I'm sharing one of those films here and on Twitter and the Life with Katie Facebook page to help celebrate all the mums (and dads) who are parents through adoption and to share the stories of others for whom adoption was the option they chose towards becoming a parent.  You can read their full thank you to adoptive mums "here" as they say:
“All these mums have transformed the lives of a child who was facing an uncertain life without anyone to give them the love and care they need. They have given them a safe place to grow and develop their own potential to love.
“Thank you to all our mums.”



To all the adoptive parents I know this day can be a tough day as well as a quietly special day.  It can be tough on our children as it brings up memories from their previous families or inner anxieties and guilt about their feelings towards their adoptive families.  It is a day loaded with emotion for birth families as well as adoptive families and we are always mindful of all the emotions the day can bring. For me, as I honour my own emotions for my children I say simply this.....


Not flesh of my flesh, 

Nor bone of my bone,
But nevertheless still my own.
Never forget for a single minute
You weren't born under my heart 
But in it.

Friday, 27 February 2015

Half Term!

I'm struggling with the right way to start this week's blog post and the words to present the dichotomy between the images I can share and my internal feelings and dialogue.  The external issues; interruptions; distractions and stressers are just too loud and distracting and my brain is screaming for some quiet time to just stop and sit comotose in front of a film or better still a day at a spa where I can be totally away from everything

The image of this gingerbread house was one from one of the first days of half term and it actually depicts how I'm feeling very well currently.  It looks pretty and there was some fun that went into creating it but it fell apart about 20 seconds after I took this picture. I could be philosophical at this point and note that the finished house was just one part of the process and the bigger picture would be these....






The reality though was there were too many sweets and insufficient icing to hold all the pieces together....
The finished gingerbread house!
The children enjoyed the making and the eating parts enormously though and the making part gave my lovely friend and I around 4 minutes to chat together without interruption.

 Half term isn't a time to crave peace and quiet though. Half term is a time when the children get a week off school (or 9 days in our case thanks to the joyous words INSET day!).  In our house we take time to transition from one routine into another so the reality is that just as the children are starting to settle down a bit, it's time to go back to school.  My brain gets strained to the point of fracture at the endless whingeing and whining and tale telling and destruction and mess and angst and anger that is the internal and external relentless dialogue of my two little beauties.  Half term obviously comes on top of everything else I've been writing about for the past 7 months or more. As I am writing this Katie is singing in my ear despite being asked to stop.  She's not actually singing I might add. Singing is nice and she has a lovely voice but she isn't using her lovely voice at the moment. She is making some high pitched grating sound with words that resemble Taylor Swift's Blank Space that is designed to get my attention. It's a practised skill of course that works wonderfully well if you're Katie although she is a bit of a negative attention junkie I think.

The only way I can handle half term in the house we are currently living in is to get out of the house. That would be great if it wasn't February and damp and cold.  Which sadist thought February half term was a good idea?  Clearly a teacher without children, who can snuggle up in front of a roaring fire with a book that you can read with actual brain cells for the week!  So the reality of being out of the house in February is mud and lots of cleaning up of the mud afterwards and don't even get me started on changing nappies when the littlest member of the household is up to his knees in mud and soggy jeans (and yes there is the fact that waterproofs would help but this week Pip has decided to grow out of his as you can see by his arms - an urgent purchase is on its way from Amazon as we speak!).
The children found a trampoline that was full of water!
Great fun but then the realisation that she was wet kicked in......
We spent some lovely time with friends old and new during half term week.  We met up with a new adopter who lives in our county and had a lovely time getting to know them a little.  I use the phrase "a little" with precision because Pip morphed into the Tasmanian Devil on that particular day and spent the day doing this.....
Pip legging it (again)!
I totally lost him twice the day we met our new friends.  The fear and stress for those moments was just horrendous.  Pip is a boy with his own mind, as do both of my children if I'm honest. He wanted to go and do something else and it was a literally blink and I'm gone scenario.  Thankfully it was a that day only scenario over the holidays and it hasn't been repeated since.

Katie and I managed a little bit of Mummy/Katie time whilst Pip was with his Childminder midweek and had a little bit of LoveBombing.  Thankfully Katie included a trip to Costa as well as her visit to Claire's Accessories in her choice for the afternoon after spending the morning clearing our garage out a little bit.
Katie is in love with Mango Fruit Coolers!
I had my customary Decaf-Soya Hazelnut Latte (although I think Katie chose better on this occasion)
Katie with her acquisition of a new makeup bag with fake nails inside and lip glosses inside
As is often the case there were highs and lows over the holiday. I enjoy getting out of the house with the children rather than staying in.  I'm not an arts and crafts sort of person. I'm already having palpitations at the thought of making Easter Bonnets and a model of The Titanic this term (although I've sourced a 3D puzzle to put together sssssshhhhh!).  The children enjoyed getting out and about and seeing friends.  We spent a particularly lovely day with Auntie C who almost won the award for Best Friend EVER by giving Katie lots of attention all day and completing Katie's diary for the class Bear who kindly came home with us for the half term.  I was busy trying to get Play Doh out of the printer whilst the writing up was going on!

Auntie C posing enthusiastically for the camera!
Cedar Bear driving the train!
Auntie C explaining the inner workings of turning circles!
It's been a short week this week due to the second INSET day but it's been nice to get back to our normal routine.  I think I need it as much as the children....... does chocolate prevent a nervous breakdown?


Thursday, 12 February 2015

#Thinking Slimmer Week 2 and a bit...


I could blame the fact that I'm ridiculously busy and utterly exhausted on the lack of Week 2 post about my Thinking Slimmer project but that would be lying.  I am busy and exhausted but I'm also hormonal and hormonal means HORMOANAL and a less than perfect relationship with food so I'm feeling quite low on the weight loss front.  In fact I've put on 2 of the pounds I lost - although I'm not entirely sure how; I only had one packet of biscuits after all and only 2 glasses of wine in a week.

The problem with PMDD is that it impacts very heavily on my body.  It impacts on how I see myself; how I feel about myself; how I react to things; my impulse control; my energy levels; my overall mood; and how my body processes the food it eats.

My PMDD is currently a shadow of its former self thanks to monthly Prostrap injections. Prostrap keeps me in a chemically induced menopause pending a hysterectomy at some point when I have a window where I can take some time out to factor in the recovery time. Shutting down my ovaries means that I react less severely to the changes of hormones during my monthly cycle. The minor wrinkle is that it's common for the injection effects to start to wear off before the next injection. Some months are better than others but I get a few bad days prior to my injection and for a few days afterwards whilst my body resettles again.  Oestrogen patches help but around injection time I feel generally all over the place and one of the major symptoms is that I feel exhausted and hungry all the time.  I had been doing really well with the impact of listening to my Slimpod but this past week has been a massive challenge as I crave carbohydrates and sugar.  On the plus side (and I am good at finding the plus side) I did put back a packet of biscuits onto the shelf in the supermarket and only bought the milk and bread I went in for.

I will admit that this past week I've just wanted to say to hell with it all. I've got too much on to be stressing over my weight as well.  But I want this for me.  I want to feel slimmer and healthier but more importantly I want to repackage my relationship with food once and for all.  I want to not feel fearful if I go out without a snack and to be able to handle feeling hungry without thinking I'm going to have a panic attack.  I won't bore you with all the reasons why these issues have evolved.  The most important thing is that I do know the origins just as I know why I have to eat everything on my plate irrespective of whether I'm full or not.  Sorting the psychology out is more important than any current weight loss because I'm in this for the long haul. I want to sort this out for the rest of my life and have the tools I need to do that.

So despite the fact that I've put on a few pounds this week and my jeans are feeling very snug again, I'm trying to see the bigger picture and understand what I'm really trying to achieve here and keep the faith that, in time, I will overcome the psychological issues that keep the weight on my body.  I asked myself many years ago what I had to gain from being overweight and I understand the answer. Periods of vulnerability have traditionally brought about a weight gain as I seek to protect myself. That is the stuff that I am working on and hopefully the weight loss will come about in time.  I'm making lots of healthy choices. I'm not drinking alcohol and am eating very little chocolate (interestingly I noticed a direct correlation between drinking a glass of wine and desperately craving chocolate - a great realisation to come to just prior to Valentines Day!)

So I will keep listening to Trevor; read some more of the healthy eating literature I've been sent; remember to write down my three daily changes which I've not been doing; and think about adding an additional listen in each day at my evening trigger time and see what week 3 brings............

Sunday, 8 February 2015

Reasons to be Cheerful?

I'm linking up with his week's #WASO topic of Reason's to be Cheerful because I thought it would be nice to look at some positives at a time in my life that is about as intense as anyone could imagine.

I'm struggling to start writing my positives because Ian Dury is now running through my mind. I love Ian Dury, he was the most amazing music creator and I was lucky to see him perform in Hyde Park supporting Paul Weller just prior to his death, but I could not stand, in fact I actually recoil from his song "Reasons to be Cheerful Part 3". Because it reminds me of my childhood abuser. He used to sing that song trying to be funny when I was a child. As I'm typing this my stomach is churning with sick, nervous knots and I'm starting to feel my face and hands start to tingle because I appear to be holding my breath. It never ceases to amaze me how physical my emotional reaction to him and that song can be. My memory is flashing full of images of that person in his blue dressing gown and I'm feeling physically sick at the image. Why am I sharing that? Well because it can highlight to adoptive parents just how infinite a reaction to an abusive situation can be. I've overcome much with counselling and time but there are some elements of my childhood that will never leave my physical and emotional memory and all it takes is a little innocent and seemingly positive trigger to bring it all flooding back. So if you're wondering why your child has suddenly disappeared into a fog and haze of emotional reaction and you can't reach them remember this and understand that it can be something as simple and innocent as a nice smell or funny song that can take a memory back into a dark and scary place. 

I'm going to plough on with this post because my counselling has supported me enough to be able to self regulate again after a trigger and as I deep breathe I can remind myself that what happened to me was a very long time ago. More of my life has been living in a safe environment than was ever in that situation.  I can be cheerful because I left those people behind a long time ago although the reside of "what if" sneaks in fairly regularly. Yes they sneak into my thoughts but they can no longer hurt me. I am safe. That is a massive reason to be cheerful. Safety cannot be rated highly enough. It's a fundamental human requirement for healthy development yet so many of our children did not receive that basic gift when they were in-utero or born into this world and the impact of that will probably blindside them at times through out their lives.

I'm now trying to refocus on what is going on in my bedroom where I'm currently writing in bed to
see my two little reasons to be cheerful. They are both playing with IPads and wearing cuter dressing gowns than that blue one that is threatening to sneak back into my vision. Katie is watching yet another Shopkins video on YouTube and mentally perfecting her American accent for when she records her own little videos. Shopkins are her current obsession, along with the Little Pet Shop and Squinkie toys that litter all the rooms in our house. Pip is watching a snail, I think, fall from the sky as watches Agnus and Cheryl.  Both love their iPads in the morning with a drink of milk and a "niknik" (Pip's word for the little picnics I make them in the morning). Their smiles and their love fill me with joy at unexpected moments each day. A spontaneous cuddle from Pip as he sprints over to me and wraps his little arms around my legs or a moment of peace as I stroke Katie's hair and she presses her head against my hand in acceptance of the moment of tenderness. Pip has just toddled over to feel my glass of "Jooooose" and tell me it is "colt" (cold) and ask for me to put "bear" onto his iPad (Little Charley Bear). He threw his arms up into the air and cheered "yeah" as I put an episode on for him. What better reasons to be cheerful could you ask for?  Keep it simple and you can't go wrong.

I'm delighted that currently both my children are going to bed nicely. I can't believe what we've been through on that front over the last year. I will never take an uneventful bedtime for granted again. I think I was losing my mind there for a wee while. I consumed a serious amount of alcohol and probably rearranged the shape of my backside for life after all those hours sat on the landing outside Katie's bedroom. At least there was a chair in Pip's room when TCM and I sat our vigils with him when he transferred from his cot into his big boy bed. The knock on impact of more sleep is that Katie is regulating her emotions a lot better nowadays. Tantrums are (mostly) shorter lived and she seems happier in herself at home, more relaxed and happier. 

Our house build is moving along in the right direction. There's a long way to go but it's taking shape and it was exciting ordering our new amazing kitchen recently. I think we might be able to make some of the obscene amount of cash the build has cost back by selling tickets to see the show kitchen when we move back home! I need to get back home. It's a massive daily need. I miss the security of my home. We've endured a lot of difficulty in this rented house that I cannot call home. We will move home before the house is finished I think just so we can try and resettle ourselves. The thought of getting home is a reason to be cheerful as is the wonderful builders we have who are creating our dream. We are blessed with our own Bob the Builder whose vision of the finished house is helping us feel secure in his Hagrid sized hands.

Katie has just snuggled up into my arm, her head laying against my shoulder. What bigger reason to be cheerful could you ask for? I have stopped writing to stroke her face and delight at the trust she has in me. Our relationship is complicated at times but the love we have between us is enormous. Pip, of course, has sensed some love in the room and my attention shifting to Katie and has ensured my attention is transferred back to him by stealing my glass of "joooose". He's very good at holding an open glass but there is a nervousness on my part as he holds it as I brace myself for what might happen next. Family life. The joy lies in those simple moments. Listening to Katie and Pip singing "That's How You Get The Girl" (or "Girl" as Pip calls it) by Taylor Swift. We love TS in our house and in the car. She doesn't ever go far from the CD player. Hearing Pip sing along in the car is a daily joy as is hearing his speech developing. 


This video isn't Taylor singing the song as she is yet to release a video (come on Taylor!!). 
But this is a lovely cover of it by Lauren Bonnell.

I have friends who bring joy into my life. I speak to my dear friend Mrs VanderCave daily and I think I can thank her for keeping me sane over the past 2 years particularly. We joked last night that if all else failed we would book beds next to each other in The Priory.  Other friends kept me sane on Facebook on those long hours sat outside Katie's bedroom. Seeing a little message from one special friend from The A Team ping up saying "Are you on the landing?" raised a smile through a very challenging period. Another local friend is quietly there in my life. She makes no fanfare about things and her presence is gentle and soothing. Our outings with the boys brighten up my life considerably these days and she has become a dear friend whom I love spending time with. Other friends have been in my life for many years and are there as a calming influence. Our long history offsetting the loss of the dream of my own birth family.  I have many reasons to be cheerful.

My stomach is still slightly knotted and I'm still feeling lightheaded but the feeling is starting to diminish as focusing on my writing and a little love and normality helps me re-regulate. Pip is now distracting me by (yet again) trying to understand where the Christmas lights have gone. "Blooooo ligh back Mama?" he asks me with deep intensity, his big blue eyes looking confused.  He desperately wants them back. We've kept some up on the patio doors to appease him a little but he doesn't understand why they've gone and asks every single day. I told him they'd be back again next Christmas and he punched the air and cheered.  11 months is a long time for a toddler to wait though, poor thing. I'm hoping the Easter Bunny might help move the situation along a bit. Watching the love developing between the children is a true blessing. Katie can be incredibly sweet with Pip and he utterly adores his sister. He's now kissing Katie and I in turn, sitting between us after launching himself over us excitedly as he heard the theme music to Lego Juniors that Katie plays.

What more do I need to be cheerful? I am truly blessed. 

I added this video after posting because this is what I was dancing to with the children straight afterwards
 and it was joyous!