Thursday, 28 August 2014

A Lushious Treat!

Last week I was delighted to attend my first ever bloggers event courtesy of Lush in Southampton.  Now, rather like Marmite, people always have an opinion on Lush.  They either adore the smell that envelops you as you wander down the high street or they would rather cross the road finding the Lush-ious smells too heady and over powering.

I adore Lush, in fact I could spend the whole day just meditating in those gorgeous smells which remind me of my favourite incenses.  I sadly rarely get to indulge myself in a quiet 30 minute amble around the store getting my fix since adopting the children.  Katie would love the shop but would spend the entire time either harassing me to buy her lots of bath-bombs or would shove things under my nose to smell and Pip would either just scream to get out of his buggy or quite simply take great delight in rearranging the carefully stacked piles of goodies.  The experience with both children would rather negate the relaxation impact that the shop has on me.  Needless to say I was excited to be invited to attend this event and meet other local bloggers and to also be going solo....sans enfants! It's been an incredibly difficult holiday period which I will write about separately.  I will just say that a treat was very much anticipated and appreciated by me.

Upon arrival were greeted warmly by the staff running the event and offered a choice sparkly wine or a selection of sparkly fruit juices.  There was also an array of fruit and delicious cupcakes....I was in Seventh Heaven to see that there were gluten-free carrot cupcakes for me.  Glass of fizzy in hand I had some time to wander around the store, greeting some of the other guests who were mostly beauty and lifestyle bloggers and just taking in the ambiance of the event and wondering what we were going to be doing.

I chatted with Christine, one of the members of staff, and learned a lot about the ethics of Lush and the fact that their products are mostly all vegan.  I also learned about the Lush factory/kitchen based down in Poole and the interesting fact that there is a spa linked to it.  As you can imagine my mind is busy plotting how I can get me to that spa post haste!  I discovered that the team members in charge of concocting the amazing products which include skincare and makeup actually have to take exams.  Once they have passed those exams they can have their sticker on the products that they have been overseeing the production of. 

First off we all did an ice-breaker which involved us pairing up with another blogger and giving each other an arm massage with one of the solid massage bars.  I paired up with the lovely Catherine over at Beauty is in the Eye of the Beholder who is a massive Lush fan and who confidently chose the gorgeous smelling Each Peach (and Two's a Pear) massage bar for us to share.  She chose well and we bonded easily sharing our massages and information to nervously feed back to the group afterwards.

Next up we were put into groups to learn all about the Emotional Intelligence make-up range and also how to make face-masks.

The Emotional Intelligence experience is really good fun and based on colour therapy which is a subject very close to my Healer heart.  Colour therapy is based on the concept that colours have a big impact on how you feel and you can also enable and uplift your emotions by the colours you choose to wear.  Lush have created a range of make up colours that link with this concept using makeup.  Sitting comfortably on a chair next to the wheel, dry ice is poured onto the wheel to create a mystical ambiance.  Closing your eyes as the wheel is spun you take several deep breaths and relax.  Once the wheel stops you open your eyes and choose the first three colours that stand out the most to you.  The colours you choose highlight how you are feeling also also colours that would enhance your emotional well being.  I selected Feeling Secure; Strong; and Believe.  Interestingly, very interestingly considering everything that is going on at home at the moment, they all words that I deeply resonated with so there is definitely something in this.  At that moment in time I felt very strong and confident and I believe very much in myself and the journey that I am on.  I rather liked the lip colour that I chose for "Believe" and will be popping back to Lush soon to check that and the gorgeous eye liners out. What is really interesting about the products in this range is that you can wear them as eye or lip liners, the only difference is the brush used in the packaging.

After we had finished our Emotional Intelligence session we excitedly gathered around these inticing ingredients.....

We were going to learn how to make two Lush face-masks:

Catastrophe Cosmetic 

  and Cupcake

It was fascinating and I was riveted.  We sniffed, well we inhaled, and poked at every ingredient as it went into the bowl and discovered that the Cocoa Butter used in Cupcake comes from a peace community in Columbia whose residents choose not to be involved in the conflict and, as a result, are targeted by rebels.  Lush protect the residents and in return they are able to produce this lovely cocoa butter.  Where possible though Lush use local products and environmentally friendly packaging.  Catastrophe Cosmetic contains fresh blueberries as an antioxidant and rose for it's anti-inflammatory properties.  The result is, quite simply, cosmetic alchemy at it's finest.  Heaven Scent you might say!

For me, the event provided some much needed respite and I left with a spring in my step, carrying a bag full of gorgeous goodies including the two face masks we made and a Bubblegum lip scrub that Katie and I are fighting over, feeling the love of the local blogging community, many of whom I will be meeting up with in October.  Before we left though we had a group photograph outside which I share courtesy of Jessica over at Chique Unique Critique (that's me in the back row on the far right).

If you're not already following me on Facebook I have a lovely giveaway courtesy of Lush to give away to one lucky reader.  All you have to do is follow Life with Katie on Facebook and like and share this post.  I'll randomly draw one name out of a hat on 1st September at 5pm.

All that remains is for me to say a big THANK YOU to Lush in Southampton and to Rosie and all the staff for taking such lovely care of us all.  I had a Lushious Time!

Sunday, 17 August 2014

A Little Update


Sorry I've been a bit quiet just lately. The holidays have been very full on and quite tough and it's taken most of my time and energy just to keep things ticking over. Lots to blog about properly when I get the time. Things are settling a bit on the bedtime front. TCM and I are doing as much ignoring as is humanly possible and Katie is definitely getting to sleep a little earlier than she was (I think it must have been by 8.30pm tonight which is a holiday record thus far).

We set our butterflies free this week and I can't wait to share all the pictures of our butterfly growing experiment. We all enjoyed it immensely and letting them go was a beautiful moment. We've spent some time with the children's brother, Kip, and hope to see him and his family again this coming week. We've made way too many loom bands. We've met a new addition to the family and spent time with cousins so we've not been idle. It's just been delicate and, at times, plans have needed to be scaled down so as not to over-stimulate Katie too much. 

We're finding it hard living in our rented house. The lack of space is getting to us all. The constant distraction of the house-build is both interesting, emotional and frustrating because we've not had as much family time as I'd wanted. Still it will be worth it when the house is finished.  I can't wait to get home but it will be at least 6 months yet. 

We had a wonderful two day trip this week to meet up with some of our dear adopter friends from our online adoption group. It's always nice for us all to spend time together. Seeing the children just fall back into their friendships always brings a lump to all our throats and the adults just pick up from whatever conversation we were having online the previous day.  Pip had his first train ride and trip to the beach (seeing his delight really made me feel guilty that we've not taken him before). Katie was delighted to spend time with her friends again. So delighted in fact that I barely saw her. It was particularly wonderful to meet a dear friend who came all the way from Scotland to be with us. We've spoken online and on the phone and text but never met before. It was a joy to finally meet and for our children to hang out together. 

How are the holidays treating you all? Better than you hoped or worse? Can you believe there's only two weeks to go until school resumes? This makes me happy and sad in equal measure. Happy because I want some normal routine back for me, as well as the children, but sad because I'd hoped to do more these holidays but Katie's behaviour has made that difficult at times and our ongoing house build has kept TCM away from the family.  Katie is making progress though and we've seen a lot of improvement over the month so far.  We've already got school uniform and shoes sorted so, hopefully, we can enjoy the final bit of freedom. 

Friday, 8 August 2014

Who Needs Sleep?

I'd love to be writing this post saying that there has been a fundamental shift since I last wrote about bedtime but unfortunately I'm not.  That's not to say it's all doom and gloom because there have been some small shifts and we've managed some really nice daytime activities but the upshot is that Katie is still not getting enough sleep.

The start of the summer holidays has been pretty full on and I also wish I could be writing this post saying I'm enjoying the holidays thus far.  I wish I could write that the adjustment from school to being home was seamless and without drama and with lots of smiles and happiness and we're all skipping through the daisies singing "Tra la laaaa".  I wish I could write that I'm missing Katie intensely whilst she attends a week-long daily workshop all about Frozen this week. Just having one crazy bonkers child to manage this week is a blessing I am grabbing with both hands whilst simultaneously congratulating myself for knowing that I needed to book Katie into something for a week for my own sanity and probably hers.  I wish I could write that I felt like I was managing all the stresses of two crazy bonkers children and a house build and living in a very small house, but my nose would be twice the length of Pinocchio's if I did.

 It's all just a bit too full-on and everyone in the house is stressed.  TCM and I are stressed about Katie's behaviour whilst also managing the house move and the house build (yes I know we only have ourselves to blame!).  Poor wee Katie has been full of every emotion it's possible to fit into one small body.  Her behaviour is often aggressive and rude and her feelings seem to change like the wind - one minute fun and happy and then the next angry or very anxious.  Trying to keep up with what she is feeling and why is a full-time job let alone actually trying to help her with her emotions.

Pip in the meantime continues his X-Men morph from a quiet and calm baby into a totally off-the-chart hyper toddler.  He makes my brain hurt just watching his exploration of the world like a speeded up video clip, you know one of those nature programmes when they show 30 days in 30 seconds?  When I say he doesn't stop all day (except for the blessed nap time) I'm really not exaggerating, in fact I'm under-stating by a long way.  He's up and down and round and round and over and under and running everywhere in every direction at full speed.  I certainly can't keep up with him. He's funny with it, most of the time, well except the times that seem to be most of the day when he's melting down into full blown toddler tantrums, rather like Katie. You only have to breathe "Let's go and change your nappy" in his direction to be treated to a face-down drop to the floor with a piercing shriek! Changing his nappy requires a dummy and his blue bear before he'll even allow you to take his nappy off and even then it's questionable. He kicks and screams at the top of his lungs.  I can only imagine what my new neighbours are making of our little family at the moment.

I'm mentally exhausted! And that's just during the day.  Bedtime then looms.  As a friend pointed out we are now starting to anticipate bedtime from the moment we start dinner.  It's there waiting to pounce.  The feeling of dread as the battle commences again.  First the argument over staying up and the usual response that she isn't staying up until she starts to show she can go to bed nicely.  The the refusals to get into the bath or out of the bath and then into her PJs.  Then she is running away refusing the clean her teeth or brush her hair.  She's in our bedroom bouncing on the bed or running around naked.  Story-time is peppered with complaints that she wants to stay up. Then our entire evening is spent on edge listening to her padding up and down and getting in her bed and out of it again; going to the toilet...thump, thump, thump"  We sit there wondering what to do.  Shall we go up? Shall we ignore her?  We generally ignore her unless she comes downstairs or we suspect she's climbing onto the window ledge.  We are getting no down time because, by the time Katie falls asleep, it's generally around 10pm (and sometimes even 11pm) and not far off our bedtime. I'm now going to bed later and later just to get a bit of time before sleeping to wind down a bit.

For the first few days of the summer holidays I thought I would just lose it.  We ended up barely leaving the house because Katie's behaviour was just plain out of control.  TCM and I decided that we just needed to be home and deal with all the fall-outs in the safety of the house. Whilst stressful, this did help.  There was very little external stimulation.  Just me mostly and TCM occasionally and the children.  We made some loom bands and played a few games, erected a tent for Katie to use as her den and ate lots of ice-creams and lollies because it was just so darn hot and this house is like an oven - which really isn't helping the situation at all.  We sat in the tent when there was a blessed rain storm and watched the raindrops falling down the tent walls.  My instinct though was to stay home, to not add any external stimulus.  This helped a lot.  I did a bit of reading up on hyper-arousal and realised that Katie is responding externally and aggressively.  I realised I am also revisiting my own issues with hyper-arousal, but I withdraw.  My way of coping with aggression and violence and arguments is to withdraw.  That was my coping strategy of choice as child growing up in an aggressive household and it appears I'm still holding onto that way of dealing with the stress.  It's not helpful though because emotional withdrawal from Katie will probably only unsettle her more. I'm glad I realised it so I can work on that with my counsellor.

Bit by bit Katie started to unravel and calm down a bit and finally we were ready to go out again and met friends at Marwell which was wonderful but a trip to see The Lion King highlighted to me just how anxious Katie currently is and how difficult she is finding anything out of her normal experience. For two days prior to the theatre visit she worried whether she would like it and I started to get very nervous about taking her, particularly because the ticket prices were extortionate.  We watched clips of the show on You-Tube and talked about the animals.  On the actual day we set off nervously (Katie) and anxiously (Me).  We took it a step at a time.  By the time the lights went down she was doing pretty well and she even coped when the actors appeared literally right next to us in their costumes.  I excitedly talked to her about their costumes and how they were making themselves look like the animals and we guessed which animals they were.  She loved it!  She took it all in her stride so I was able to reflect with her about how worried she was but how much she enjoyed it.  This is an ongoing issue with Katie and one that we revisit constantly yet this overly anxious child was the first one to feed the exotic birds with their meal worms at Marwell showing no signs of fearfulness as she held the wriggly meal worms and threw them to the birds.

Once things settled sufficiently during the day we turned our attention to bedtime. First we tried, unsuccessfully, to a) lay with her and then b) let her play on her Hudl or read with no time restrictions and c) homoeopathic remedies with no positive outcome. Laying with her highlighted how twitchy she is at bedtime.  We were left with the realisation that Katie either couldn't or wouldn't settle herself, yet she was totally able to settle herself only 3 weeks before so we erred on the side of wouldn't due to the changes we have been experiencing.  Katie does have a history of bedtime difficulties when there is any change - even a change in wind direction is a good enough excuse! The bottom line was that Katie wanted to stay up and until she decided she was going to go to sleep there was very little we could do about it.

With this knowledge we then decided to be tough and bring in a big consequence for not staying in her room after stories and lights out (no point telling her to sleep because if she can't/won't then she can't but I wanted her to just stay in her room). No sweets or sugary foods or drinks the next day.  I told Katie I was concerned that she was reacting badly to sugar and we needed to see if that would help her.  After two days of no sweets or ice-cream or ice-lollies or nice drinks she finally went to bed nicely and was asleep by 9.30pm.  Now this is still way too late in my opinion but at  least these were bedtimes without dramas. She managed two more days of staying in her room before it all went pear shaped again.  The night of TCM's birthday was just awful.  Katie was laughing and running around manically like someone had spiked her drink.  Totally off her head!  TCM went upstairs to try and manage the situation because I just needed a time-out at that point before I lost my temper but it got worse and worse.  In the end I went upstairs and just watched it all unfolding and asked the universe to send me the right words to calm it all down. I just didn't know what to do short of picking her up (again) and putting her back in bed. The trouble with that approach is that everyone gets angry.  It solves nothing.  Then all of a sudden I heard myself saying......

"Aaaaaaah Daddy?  I've just realised what all this behaviour is about tonight.  It's your birthday and Katie wants to spoil your birthday again".

It was like the wind had suddenly dropped and the sails fell silent and unmoving.  Katie stopped in her tracks and said "I'll go to bed now". And that was that.  She went to bed.  I tucked her in and she went to sleep.

Talk about hitting the nail on the head!  Food for thought indeed and highlights that our instinct that Katie is making a choice about bedtime is probably right on the money. So the no-sugar penalty is back in force.  TCM had another awful bedtime last night whilst I went to Reiki.  Rome wasn't built in a day - we will keep plugging away at it and also keep naming the emotions and actions that we are seeing to help Katie recognise that we can see and understand what she is feeling and doing in response and hopefully enable her to understand that as well.  We are also working towards using more Non-Violent Responses and I'll be writing more about that soon.

One thing that has been really lovely has been our butterfly project and I will be writing about this over the next week or so..... that has been surprisingly healing for me as well as Katie.  Here's a sneaky peak.....

Just to finish, here is a song that is running around in my head that is rather apt. It's by one of my favourite bands the Barenaked Ladies....

Monday, 4 August 2014

Penguin Racer!

Because of the age gap between Katie and Pip they generally have different needs when it comes to toys.  I am always trying to find ways for them to play together though because I am keen to encourage their bond in shared play.  Katie is all about loom bands and drawing and writing letters at the moment which Pip finds hard to join in with (other than to eat the pens and the loom bands which pushes all my Mummy Health and Safety buttons!).  I was excited to be contacted by to ask if we wanted to review one of the toys on their Baby&Kids section.

Katie and I looked carefully to see if there was a toy or game that both she and Pip could play with and we settled on the Hawkins Bazaar Penguin Race game although we both found it difficult to ignore the lovely range of Jelly Cat toys they have on the site because we both love Jelly Cat!  They were a big distraction for us both.  I might have to sneak back onto the site and order myself one at some point when the children aren't looking!

Handpicked Collection has been set up with a fairly large panel of buyers who look out for great ideas for the home and outdoors as well as the children.  They even have food!  It's worth a look. I will definitely be checking the site out more thoroughly for some forthcoming birthday presents.  The panel include some well known names and have a lot of experience between them all.

Our Penguin Race game arrived within two days of ordering which is pretty speedy in my opinion and we eagerly opened the box to set it up.

It was really easy to set up the three tracks and they are cleverly numbered so, if you are a bit haphazard like us and have a tendency to lose instructions, you can easily put the track back together again minus said instructions.  You do need to provide a battery though.  Luckily we did have a "D" sized battery lurking in my trusty battery box (yes I was a Girl Guide!).

Battery in and we were up and running, much to the delight of both children. The penguins slide down the three slide/tracks and, at the bottom, bounce back up the steps to the top.  

That's pretty much it but it is a toy that both a 6 year old and 21 month old could both enjoy together. Katie and Pip actually did play quite nicely with it together. Pip, it has to be said, is transfixed by it.

I couldn't resist including this video footage of Pip playing with the game.  His delight at the game is contagious.  I will just add that we've not seen hide nor hair of the penguins since I filmed this so I will be going on a penguin hunt later on.  Pip does have a tendency to hide things in interesting places (a sort of toy version of Wherever I Lay My Hat) so I'm sure they will turn up somewhere unexpected.


As usual all the comments are mine and the children's.  We've not been coerced or offered Jellycat toys to persuade us to say nice things about Handpicked Collection.  I will just say a big Thank You to Handpicked Collection though for the game which has been a lovely treat for both children.

Friday, 18 July 2014


Bedtime is becoming a bit of a swear word in our house at the moment.  Trying to a) get Katie to bed and b) keeping her in bed once she is there. As bedtime approaches every evening I start to dread it.

This is an issue we've certainly traversed before, many times. With every change in Katie's life (except when she moved in with us interestingly) bedtime is effected.  This is the worst period we've ever had though because it's not just the getting out of bed that is the issue.  There is an underlying hyper-activeness and aggression at not getting her own way that is making the issue harder to manage this time around. The house move and the hot weather is exacerbating the situation as she struggles to settle and gets hotter and hotter.  She just seems to be buzzing. Totally unable to settle herself at all.  Trying to physically tire her out doesn't seem to make any difference neither does limiting sugary products.  It's like she's decided she is staying awake.  She's up and down like a yo-yo which then prevents her from settling and getting to sleep.  She regularly holds out until 10pm and it was nearly 11pm a few nights ago because I was out. In fact she is noticeabley worse on the evenings that I am out. As I'm typing this she is banging about upstairs, thumping up and down her cabin bed and has just appeared downstairs again and I'm starting to feel my stomach knot up in sheer frustration. 

When we go up to her room we are met with aggression and rudeness. She is experimenting with verbally threatening me with violence i.e. "if you don't give me my light back I'm going to pull your eyes out". My response was a simple stare. No words required. Eye to eye contact Iearned from many years of dealing with aggressive teens. It says "I'm not afraid of you".  Inside though I'm worrying if this means my child is heading towards becoming one of those teens and that terrifies me. I'm hoping that she's just testing. Her response to my stare was to say she didn't mean it. I hope she didn't.

I discussed this with my counsellor and she congratulated me for not doing the obvious thing that many parents would do and not go out.  To be honest at the moment, with how things are for me personally, I need that time out.  I need to be able to laugh and relax a bit.  I need a little time (without becoming a Beautiful South song) to try and rekindle the person that I used to be because the "me" inside feels tired and heavy.  It feels like I'm having to force internal calmness on a moment by moment basis so that I don't constantly blow my top  in sheer frustration at everything with Katie being a battle. I said in my last post "Moving House" that I feel shell-shocked.  I'm naturally a very peace-loving and positive person.  I generally see the good in most things and love to help and support other people.  At the moment I just want to disappear inside myself and seem to have nothing to give myself, let alone anyone else.  I'm burnt out, not depressed.

I'm not a sit back and let it happen sort of person so as well as continuing to go to my Reiki healing share I often attend talks at our local Holistic group.  We have been blessed with some incredibly inspirational speakers over the past few weeks and I was particularly inspired this week by a man called Ian Tucker.  His message is very simple and the same as many other spiritual authors.  He suggests approaching life from a place of love and the positive impact on the self that this will have.  I hear that message and really, really, really want to embrace it.  In fact I floated home and managed to maintain it, for nearly 24 hours, until I couldn't handle the relentlessness of my daughter for another moment.  I could feel that anger and frustration rising and feel like Phil Berquist in City Slickers.  Now, I don't personally hate anyone but the outburst that Phil has in the film feels like the turmoil going on inside me and I will honestly say I find it hard to like my daughter and hold onto a loving feeling when she is behaving this way because it feels like a personal attack. 

I think I understand why Katie is behaving the way that she is.  There is so much in her life that is out of her control so she has regressed to an emotional time in her life when she moved in with us.  Maybe there is healing from that time that needs to happen so that she can move forward again.  Maybe Pip joining us has rekindled all those feelings again.  Maybe moving house has exacerbated all of that. Maybe my current emotional distance as I manage my illness and Katie's behaviour is making Katie feel unsafe and has become a Catch 22 situation? It it also the summer term at school which is well known for being a time of general horrendousness.  The nights are light and warm so children aren't sleeping well. Katie has said she wants to come down and watch the programmes that TCM and I watch (Banshee? No way on this earth missy!).  So if she can't watch them then neither can we because we are spending all our evening putting her back to bed or are terrified she'll walk in on an unacceptable programme for her so we're not getting our wind-down time.  

There is a big change coming up as the children head into a new school year.  What will be expected of them? Why do they yet again have to leave what is familiar and safe?  Emotional rugs are being pulled from under children all over the country so much of Katie's behaviour might also be related to that. The difficulty as a parent is that you never really know.  I'm hoping that the summer holidays might bring some healing for us all.  I am going to hold on to the message that Ian Tucker gave and I do believe he's right.  I can see how overloaded I have become whilst dealing with a lot of emotional things.  I don't like feeling negative or seeing only problems. It's tiring and it's a waste of time.  I don't want to feel this way and I have nothing to gain from it.  Katie and I may well be on the same page with how we are feeling perhaps?

On so many levels I feel like I'm in a holding pattern, waiting.  Waiting for an essence of myself to return so that I can engage with life and my family in the way I want to.  Waiting for this phase with Katie to pass.  I know we will sort out the bedtime issue, we always have in the past.  I hope the summer holidays will help.  It's been a long term and we're all exhausted.  For Katie, being tired brings hyperactiveness not sleep. She's always been the same.  Thankfully she's sleeping in until about 7am so she's at least getting some sleep but she's emotionally on a knife edge, melting down in the manner of a two year old.  I'm waiting for my Vitamin D levels to rise so that hopefully I no longer feel so tired and in pain and I can be the parent and person that I know I am.  I look back to this time last year and feel that we have been emotionally up in the air since then.  I'm not dreading the summer holidays this year though so I can see that there are some shifts. Katie is often much better with Pip now and I can see moments of real love between them.  Pip utterly adores Katie and there are times when you can see she feels the same but there are also times when she looks at him with a look that contains enormous anger and I worry she wants to hurt him.  Now that Pip is more mobile I think the holidays will be easier.  Although it's taking it's toll currently I am coping/ticking over with Katie's behaviour and I think that she needs more time with me.  There's a part of me that feels like I don't want more time in a war zone but the therapeutic parent part of me suspects that we need to pull everything back to basics for a while and the holidays are a great opportunity to do just that.

From a parenting perspective we are trying to be consistent.  TCM and I have acknowledged that we are often not quite on the same page.  TCM definitely wears the "Good Cop" badge more than I do and we've agreed our boundaries over bedtime so as not to give a mixed message to Katie.  The routine of bathtime then bedtime is agreed and clear.  Coming down for a bit of TV is something that Katie cannot cope with because she gets too upset when it's bedtime.  We're both keeping tight boundaries over unacceptable behaviour and trying very, very, very, very hard to ignore a lot of the rude behaviour (I find this part incredibly difficult and is probably my biggest anger trigger!). We're letting her read until she's sleepy with her nightlight on because she'll just turn her bedroom light on or sit in the hallway. Short of locking her in her bedroom, which we will obviously not do, I'm at a loss to know what else to do. She used to go to bed and sleep beautifully after a story and kiss and cuddle and her musical dog. Now she is constantly looking for an argument. I just don't know what to do. Reward systems aren't working nor are penalties. I try to just ignore all the banging about and not give it any attention but that's often easier said than done.  I internally worry about Pip being disturbed but rarely let on to Katie that I am concerned so as not to give her more ammunition. She doesn't care about anything and that's even more sad to see. I can't imagine what is going on in her head.

I'm sure I'm not alone in these experiences. Please come and share your stories with me. How did/do you cope? What strategies do you use? 

Tuesday, 15 July 2014

Moving House!

I'm currently feeling a little shell shocked.  I'm struggling to articulate the feelings I have if I'm honest. Blasted is a good word.  Dazed is another one I could use.  The reason for this is the fact that we have moved house.

I'm quite a settled person, as is TCM.  We don't move house very often.  In fact we have only owned 2 houses in our 20 years of marriage.  Moving is quite a trauma for us - mostly because we have way too much stuff and partly because we like our home and have no plans to leave there.  But move we have because we are treating our home to a massive refurb and extension.  When it's finished it will be amazing. As with all building work, it's just the interim bit that is the problem.

Our rented house is very small compared to our home so it's all a bit of a squash and a squeeze which I am finding quite claustrophobic.  TCM commented it was a bit like being in a holiday home which, with the intense heat we are experiencing here in the south and the fact that this house is very hot, I am tempted to agree with.  I am really missing the coolness of our bungalow which, even in the hottest weather, stays very cool downstairs.

I was very worried about moving the children, with good cause it would appear because Katie is really unsettled.  To try and help them we visited the new house several times before we actually moved in so it felt familiar to the..  I tried to approach it a bit like our adoption introductions.  Pip appears to be coping very well with the move. He took about a week to settle but now seems quite happy and back to his usual cheerful self, if a little more hectic.  In fact he loves his new garden because the owners have kindly left the children with a play house and some garden toys.  Pip spends as much time as he can down there, tinkering with his toys and playing with his toy kitchen.  I've nervously let the cats, Willow and Leo, out and have already had to retrieve Leo from our neighbours house at 10pm when he got over the fence but couldn't get back due to being an enormous Maine Coon and only having one hip.  We then had to retrieve him again the following morning so I suspect it won't be the last we see of our neighbours garden! Thankfully they have been lovely about it all and I'll be baking my famous brownies as a thank you to them tomorrow.

My main concern is Katie.  She regressed quite significantly when Pip arrived last year and we were still working through all those feelings and I'm wondering if the move has also triggered a memory of the emotions she felt when she first moved to us as a toddler.  It seems likely.  She noted that the house doesn't smell like us and she's right.  It will take some time for our smell to embed in the house and that must feel very unsettling for her, I know it does for me.  She seems to be quite an angry little girl at the moment; argumentative and rude and prone to very baby-like tantrums and tears and lots of baby talk yet it's clear she really wants me around.  In fact she has started to reject TCM again, just as she did when she first arrived which is really tough on him because he just wants to help.  She had started to challenge bedtime again prior to our move but over the past 10 days this has worsened and she is taking several hours to settle and go to sleep.  This is putting extra pressure on me because Katie currently doesn't want TCM to put her to bed.  Being so over-tired is impacting on her ability to regulate her emotions.  On the day of the house move she kicked one of her best friends at school in what appears a totally unprovoked manner.  Thankfully her teacher is fully aware of the move and of the fact that she is adopted and handled the situation well.  I wasn't sure it warranted the Head Teacher phoning the parent of the other child though which made the situation more serious than it really was.  I was able to do damage control with the other child and her mum and all seems to be fine again now. We moved on the Friday so I gave her the Monday off school to spend with me and Pip. I was a bit worried she was just too stressed to go back into school and I'm glad I kept her home. She enjoyed ransacking my makeup bag and found a whole new use for my sultry grey eyeshadow!  It seemed to help her feel more settled and she's certainly been fine at school. Yesterday however Katie had a full blown panic attack at school after another child was violently sick in class. Katie has a bit of an anxiety around being sick at the best of times and I'm starting to feel concerned that this is becoming a real phobia. Her teacher calmed her down and managed her well it seems (it also gave her an excuse not to clean up the sick which, she confided in me, she really struggles with) but Katie was very pale and low yesterday afternoon and bedtime was even more of a challenge last night.  I suspect all the other emotions she is experiencing made the anxiety around the child being sick all the more intense.  A trip to Costa helped perk her up a little but she's definitely not herself.  She has said to me that she wants to go back to our other house to live. I agreed with her and said that I felt the same and I feel really guilty for putting this build on her.  The additional space will benefit us all though and Katie will have an amazing new bedroom that will meet her growing needs.  To be honest I think we need the summer holidays to begin so we can keep Katie's stress stimuli to a minimum and let her be with me as much as possible.  I'm hoping that will be healing for us both.

To try and help her with everything we are visiting our home after school everyday to see what has been happening there (or not as the current case is).  I park at the house and walk to school along our usual route so that Pip still gets the familiarity of seeing his favourite stream and the cat we say hello to every day and Katie is able to scoot back with her best friend as we have done for the past 2 years. We have been slowly bringing extra bits with us but we made sure we brought nearly everything that belonged to the children so that we could create as familiar a surrounding as possible in the new house. We've taken our neighbour's dog for a walk to spend a little time together.  One of the things that really helped her was the new series of Topsy and Tim returning on the Monday after we moved house. The first episode was all about the fact that Topsy and Tim had moved house. Seeing how excited they were about it all was useful for Katie, in fact she watched the episode three times in quite succession.  We've been talking about the adventure we are having and have been finding new ways to walk to our new house from school and the local park.  We have been pleased to meet other friends from school on the new walk to school and I am forcing myself to enjoy enjoying the longer walk to school.

We are also trying to remain as calm as possible, which isn't always easy and I feel like I fail at this on a daily basis.  Katie isn't a small girl, she is tall for her age and, although she is as skinny as a rake, she is strong.  When she lashes out it is a difficult experience for all involved and I find it hard to not react. I am trying very hard to ignore as much of the rudeness as possible but I will admit I find it difficult to accept being spoken to in the way that she often speaks to me.  I've bought her an Hello Kitty light to clip onto the side of her cabin bed so she can read in bed (and hopefully stay in bed). This has helped things a bit but she wants to come down and watch the TV programmes that TCM and I are watching so gets up constantly which obviously prevents her from sleeping.  I find it hard though to feel loving with someone who is constantly lashing out at me or being rude and feel like I have to pretend those feelings and act in a loving way in the hope that Katie will start to calm down and then it will feel more natural.  Internally I feel like a bomb about to explode though and am stress eating chocolate again. Luckily our wonderful SW has organised for some counselling for me with a specialist adoption counsellor so the timing is perfect to discuss all this with her.   The counsellor noted that Katie's regression has taken her back to the age she was when we adopted her.  Interestingly, when I mentioned that a 1, 2, 3 parenting approach was now working with her, my counsellor noted that she had probably moved forward to being about aged 3.  So some progress is being made and I can only hope that maintaining tight boundaries and helping her with her emotions will help her continue to move forward in age.

I have ordered Katie and Pip a butterfly garden so we can watch the changes that the caterpillars go through before becoming butterflies.  My aim is highlight that changes can be good but that sometimes you have to wait a while before you see how good it is.  I'm hoping this will also help with the transition to Year 2.  Thankfully, aside from the kick, Katie is doing well at school and meeting all her targets. She passed her Year 1 Phonics Tests very easily and is reading and writing ahead of her age. Her maths is about where she should be but needs some additional work.  This is mostly being hindered by something that has always been a difficulty for Katie.  As long as I have known Katie I have noticed that if she finds something difficult she will get very anxious and upset.  Her self-esteem is quite low and she will decide that she can't do it.  We have been helping with this over the past few years by introducing swimming and gymnastics so she can see her progress and start to learn that she can overcome difficulties and challenges.  I have also been trying to encourage her to think about how to solve small problems i.e. when Katie says to me "I don't have a pen" I ask her to think about the solution she needs and then rephrase her statement to ask me to help her solve the problem i.e. "Mummy do you know where I can find a pen?"  Her teacher has noted in her school report that this is an issue at school and that she needs to ask for help more.  Katie is more likely to head off to a friend for a chat than let the teacher know she is struggling so this is something we are trying to help her with via her homework.  This hasn't been helped by said teacher introducing work that I think is too difficult for the children, particularly when they arrive in the mornings.  Recently I took Katie into class in the morning to discover they were expected to complete a maths sheet about arrays.  It took us a few moments to sort out what she needed to do (whilst I was worried that I'd left Pip outside the classroom door and he would start getting fretful).  It then transpired that Katie really didn't know how to do the sheet and I could see she was getting anxious and I felt awful because I then had to leave because it was 9am.  I walked home feeling like the worst parent in the world.  I will be making an appointment to see her new teacher as soon as the new term starts to go over some of these issues.

Of course all of the above is not helped by the fact that I'm still struggling with my energy levels.  My body hurts in the joints and I struggle to walk to and from school.  I'm plugging away at it but I feel mentally distracted quite often because of the ongoing fatigue.  I had a chance conversation with another mum at swimming on Saturday and it transpired she had also had low Vitamin D levels and felt exactly the same as me.  We noted to each other, with our eyes swimming with tears, how much of a failure as a parent we felt because we didn't have the energy to be the parents we wanted to be.  That shared moment helped us both tremendously I think.

I will keep plugging away as I always do. I am so pleased that I have the opportunity to engage with the lovely counsellor.  I felt very strongly after my first session that she will help us all enormously.  I felt lighter and calmer after my first session after I unloaded a whole heap of emotions that had built up over the course of two adoptions.  I am looking forward to unpicking them all and emerging as my own personal butterfly from the cocoon that is currently restricting me.

So our building adventure has begun.  I am writing about that separately on a new blog called "Bricking It! The story of how 5,000 bricks made a home."  I am sure that this project will being all sorts of challenges both at the building site and at our temporary home.  I'm hoping that things will start to improve here.  It's early days yet and I know I'm not feeling settled yet so how can I expect Katie and Pip to feel settled.  I hope that it's not going to cause irreparable damage to Katie and hope that it will provide an opportunity for her to work through some of the emotions from her move to us and enable her to shed her cocoon as well.

Monday, 23 June 2014


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