Wednesday, 22 June 2016

Keeping abreast of the situation.....

A Mammogram!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Hospital Tests! 

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

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

I was then called into the X-Ray room.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I'm counting my blessings!

Monday, 20 June 2016

The Bee Hotel.....

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, 9 June 2016

A Fine Bromance.....

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, 29 April 2016

A love affair....

I'm going to write one of those posts that Pip will probably disown me for when he's older but there are times when the need to write about an amusing time in his life overrides the regulatory button in the hopes that he will also find it amusing. I have to document it because it's currently such a big part of his life, and will be for many years to come I suspect! 

It's a love affair in fact that will probably last a lifetime. It's a topic of conversation that he is not getting bored of and I suspect will result in many very interesting chats in years to come. It's the fundamental difference between men and woman, and Pip has found his, in a big way.

I don't need to spell it out, do I?  

Any parent of a young boy will know precisely what I'm talking about and there's nothing like removing the nappies to invite lots of exploring. 

And explore he does for it seems there is much to explore. I have had to quietly back out of the bathroom on several occasions whilst he's in the bath playing with! 

Being an ex-sex ed teacher I'm not someone who shies away from any awkward conversation. I find this quite amusing, as does Pip. His gleeful face and cheeky grin and hilarious questions make it difficult not to find it funny. It's not so funny when nightime explorations mean his overnight nappy is rendered defunct though and we've had a few stern words about letting his little friend have some sleep as well. 

It also highlighted a slight concern which really prompted me to get on with potty training. Pip's explorations made us notice that Woody Woodpecker might be bleeding a little bit. Concerned about him maybe hurting the little fella a bit of research suggested it might be balanitis which is an infection that can develop from being in the same nappy for too long. This had become an issue when Pip started pre-school and was wearing still nappies. The staff are great at changing nappies but didn't always notice if a nappy was heavy with wee as opposed to being smelly. Smellies would be promptly changed but heavies often unnoticed and I realised Pip was coming home in the same nappy which is an excellent way of brewing up unwelcome infections in that warm and moist environment. Getting him in pants became a priority and things seem to have cleared up well now although Pip likes to do his unprompted daily check to ensure there is no bleeding. 

This burgeoning interest has made for some hilarious comments from the little man as he starts to look further afield at daddy and other children. It's hard to be private in a house with two children and we try not to make a big deal of our bodies. Pip is currently very excitedly wrapping his head around the concept that one day Mr Williki will be a grown up one like daddy's and was fascinated to discover his best friend's willy was black (much conversation ensued on that one about skin colour). It was hard not to find his glee infectious when he learned that he could take aim in the toilet or not to giggle at his attempts to use playing horsey on my leg as something a little more. It's also hard not to feel amused when every other word is "willy". He really is a young man obsessed. In response to Katie's rolling eyes at his refusal to get bored with the subject I informed her that Pip had now found a love that would last a lifetime. She thinks this is hilarious although I'm hoping this information can be handled sensitively by Little Miss Literal. 

At a time when being 3 and a half also means overuse of the word 'NO!"; refusing to do pretty much anything he's asked to do; and throwing himself on the ground every time we walk up the hill, it's fun to have a little light relief and see Pip enjoy a time in his life when his body is new and exciting, with no limitations or hang ups and to try and laugh at his attempts to be allowed to sleep in our bed by encouraging his friend to pop out of his nappy to wet his bed. He still hasn't grasped that there is a waterproof sheet on his bed and a large stock of bedsheets. He even thinks it's funny to joke about wetting the bed when we're sitting with him trying to get him to sleep. "I only joking Mummy" as a response to having his bedclothes checked - little rascal! 

My hope is that my children grow up feeling secure about their bodies and everything they can do. It's a tall order in a world that celebrates fake bodies and gives confusing messages about what people want. I hope that offering them an openness and ease when discussing their bodies that they can talk to me as they grow older. 

In the meantime I'm going to enjoy my daily giggles as my son takes his first steps into learning what it means to be a man. 

Saturday, 23 April 2016


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

Here is what Pip said next.....

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

Me: "Why's that honey?"

Pip: "Because I love you Mummy"

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

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

My cup runneth over...


Friday, 22 April 2016

A Difficult Decision...

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

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

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

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


or screamed at to...

"Shut your f***ing mouth!"

or being constantly told .....

"You're an Idiot!"

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

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

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

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

Our Paediatrician suggested trialing a low dose of Methylphenidate.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, 20 April 2016

Going Potty!

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

What is this big event of which I speak?

Potty Training of course!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My little boy is now a BIG BOY!!

Well done Pip!