Tuesday, 22 November 2011

It's oh so quiet......until....

Well, as predicted, not much is going on here at the moment.  We're just coming down from all the birthday and family day excitement and waiting for a call or a letter letting us know what is going to happen next on the adoption front.  I've been writing so much lately that I'm missing having a solid topic to write about. I'm now writing on a lovely new laptop, after our old one was murdered by a virus.  Why do people created viruses?  All that creative talent put to such negative use.  Our old laptop is currently being mended or, should I say, rebuilt?

Other than that all that has been going on really is Katie is getting very good at being 4!  She has definitely become a pre-schooler with bags of attitude since her birthday. We've been seeing lots of temper tantrums and shouting and stomping off.  I have been watching BBC1's World's Strictest Parents for some tips. Sorry Supernanny but I need something tougher! Ok I'm only joking but it is interesting how children morph from one phase into the next.  Sometimes they even like to overlap their phases, just to test you!  I have found myself pushed to limits that I never even knew I had since becoming a parent.  It's not just because Katie is adopted. It's just because she is a child and is constantly pushing boundaries to see what will happen.  Picking those battles and enforcing those boundaries is a real challenge.   

I am interested in the temper tantrums Katie is experiencing.  She didn't seem to go through the Terrible Two's phase and was remarkably well behaved at that age.  I do wonder whether she has been delayed in this due to her changing families at this point in her life.  Maybe she didn't feel able to express herself in this way because she was unsure of her boundaries.  Thankfully she isn't melting down at every opportunity at the moment but she is having some pretty spectacular emotions, usually linked to the word "no"!  It is hard to watch her grabbling with such enormous emotions and anger. It must be quite scary for her and she usually needs a big hug afterwards.  Her other new thing is constantly saying "I'm not your friend anymore".  This got her into trouble yesterday when she said this to her best friend and he thumped her on the back because he was so upset with her for saying it.  She's been saying to me "I'm not your daughter anymore" as well.  I know this is a phase that all children go through, but I do wonder if it's harder for an adoptive parent to hear those words?  I know she doesn't mean it, and my response is usually "Well I still love you", but I will be honest and say I get a little knot in my stomach when I hear her say it.  I am also aware that Katie has been spending time with Grandma (her old Foster Carer) and we are preparing for some of the children there to be adopted and it must really bring home to her that some children get new Mummies and Daddies.  How many birth children who are living with their birth families even have a concept of this?  It must be unsettling.  She also likes calling me a "Poo-head" at every opportunity but I'm ignoring that one.

We have made big progress with Katie's bedtime routine.  It has been a hard battle to win (dare I say win?).  Katie loves Squinkies so she now gets a Squinky every night she goes to bed nicely and stays in bed until the sun comes up on her Groclock.  I am mercilessly firm on this and it seems to be working.  I've managed to now set the clock for the sun to come on at 6.30am so this is huge winter progress (I couldn't go back to another winter of 5.30am wake ups).  

Katie is extremely bright and we are noticing that when she is bored or unoccupied she will put her energy into, shall we say, less favourable pursuits.  This has resulted in Katie and her best friend throwing water and toilet paper (and using the toilet brushes) around the pre-school toilets.  This has happened a number of times at school.  I do feel for the teachers!  At home she is likely to start annoying the cat or drawing on the furniture.  School have noticed that most transgressions take place after 11:30am, when Katie has played all the games etc on offer for the day.  They are now engaging her in a specific helping activity at that time of day to prevent her getting bored.  This seems to be working.  We've had a very positive week at school this week and, if I get the all clear at hometime today, Katie will be rewarded with a new Little Pet Shop toy for her collection.  If I'm honest, I think she is ready to start full-time big school.  She currently only goes to pre-school three mornings a week and I've considered whether to increase this but I feel I've missed out on two years of her life already and once she starts school full-time I will get so little time with her.  I want to enjoy this last year before she starts school so I'm getting my thinking cap on for new activities for us to do together.  I am also trying to help her live with the feeling of being bored and learning how to find more accceptable things to do when she feels that way.  Her imagination is starting to fire up now and she is playing with her Squinkies and Little Pet Shop toys.  She is starting to make up games with them.  She loves playing "babies" with Milky the Bunny and Joey the Dog and her other toys.  It's just that little minx that takes over when she's finished the game that we need to work on.

I don't think we're going to get bored waiting for the Social Worker to get in touch!

Friday, 11 November 2011

Forever Family Day

Today is a very special day in our house.  It coincides with Remembrance Day, which is quite relevant.  Today is our Forever Family Day.  A year ago today a Judge said that Katie was legally part of our family.  It was such a wonderful and emotional day.  

We started the day at a SeaLife Centre and had great fun looking at all the fish and turtles and had a mission to find Nemo and Dory.  Katie came home with a toy Nemo and a matching necklace and bracelet with Dory on.

We then went to the courts where the ceremony was being held.  It took us ages to find the right way in because we had to go in through the back door of the courts.  It was raining and we were running around trying to work out where to go.  Thankfully we bumped into our Social Workers who showed us the way.  We went up to the Judge's Chambers for the ceremony and then into the court room for photographs.  Katie was initially quite intimidated by the Judges in their wigs and refused to share a lift with one Judge.  Our Judge took her wig off and let us all have a try!  One of the Judge's ushers was so emotional and happy for us, he set me off crying.  Our Social Workers both came along for the ceremony.  I could barely keep the tears away.  Katie was so grown up and loved being the centre of all the attention.  It was so wonderful.  Katie was given a scroll of her new birth certificate and a Teddy for the local football team (sadly not one we support!!). 

After the ceremony we went to a nearby retail centre and had a lovely lunch at a restaurant called Giraffe.  Katie loved every single moment of her day.  I don't think she really understood it all though.  We have since spoken about our special day with the Judge and she says she remembers it. She does have a phenomenal memory and has memories from when she was about one years old, so I can believe it.

We were planning to go out for a meal to celebrate at teatime today but we have now decided to postpone our plans until tomorrow.  Katie had an extremely emotional day visiting Grandma yesterday and was emotional and overtired when we got home.  It took me such a long time to soothe her enough to sleep and she was worried that I was going to leave her.  She then woke up from a bad dream about 3am and again at 4am and ended up snuggling in bed with us until it was time to get up.  She will be far too tired to go out today and will need to go to bed early, bless her.  We have decided that we will go out tomorrow instead. 

We have some friends of a friend visiting us tomorrow morning to talk about their adoption plans so it will be a special adoption-based day tomorrow and I think it will be nice to go out for lunch afterwards. I was thinking that maybe we head back down to the restaurant where we had lunch last year.  It's a bit of a drive but it might be a nice thing to do, however when I talked to Katie about it she said she wanted to go to the restaurant where you could have all the crunchy bits!  Funnily enough this is the Harvester restaurant we went on the day our case went to court to adopt Katie.  The adoptive parents don't attend that hearing because the birth parents can chose to attend.  The day we celebrate as our family day came a month later and is the official celebration day.  So the Harvester it is!!

Happy Anniversary to our family!

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Home Visits

Phew!!  We have just had our initial home visit to start the adoption process again.  What a more relaxed meeting it was this time, compared to our last time.  The Social Worker was really lovely and gave a clear picture without being overly negative.  She said that we would have to be restrictive of the age range we could adopt, due to Katie's age, so we would have to apply for the 18months to 3 years age range.  Katie would be 5 by the time her sibling came home.  She said that that might delay us a little due to being restrictive but she felt happy with our interview and would be recommending that we are put forward for training.  There is a backlog for training anyway in our local area so we might have to wait until March/April 2012.  That isn't really a problem for us and is pretty much what I expected to hear.  She described the needs of some of the children coming forward for placement at the moment and that was helpful to give us a clearer picture.  We gave her a guided tour of the house (thank heavens for the whirlwind cleaning yesterday!) and she liked everything.  She particularly loved Leo, our Maine Coon, who was very friendly and particularly liked the product she had in her hair.  I need to work with him on boundaries I think.  He's quite imposing, especially when he puts his paws on your shoulders!

So am feeling very positive about where we're headed next.  We've been told to expect a wait of around 3 weeks to hear the outcome because the Social Worker is part-time and has two other assessments to write up.  The local Childrens Services team has been recently reorganised and it sounds like people in the team have a lot of additional work whilst all the changes are being implemented.  I hope Mr Cameron is aware that his big statements around speeding up the adoption process will have a huge impact on some very hardworking and, already stressed, individuals.  We can wait three weeks for a decision.  It's the least we can do for such a lovely Social Worker!

One thing that was interesting was we had a discussion about the figures currently being quoted in the media about the lack of adoptions compared to the huge number of children in the care system.  The Social Worker said that a huge majority of the children currently in the care system will be returned to their birth families.  The same applies for the numbers of babies placed for adoption.  We already knew that very few children are relinquished, which means that every effort has to be made to try and make the birth placement work.  Children are often in and out of care whilst this is attempted (not always to their benefit).  I do wonder what the real figures are i.e. children approved for adoption in the care system.  How many of those are adopted and how many waiting?

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Birthday Celebrations!

What an amazing weekend Katie has had!  Three days of birthday celebrations and tons of presents.  More than our Queen!! The little lady is high on it all.  I think it will take her the rest of the week to come down again from all the fun and attention and we are seeing some very stroppy behaviour at the moment, bless her.  She must be exhausted.  I know I am!!  I was in bed asleep by 9.30pm on Sunday night!  Everyone is now full of cold and sneezing all over the place.  

Day 1 of the Celebrations: Her birthday party on Saturday was brilliant and all the children had a wonderful time.  The Childrens Entertainer we had hired did an amazing job and I would definitely use him again.  Several of the mums at pres-school have commented this morning on how good it all was.  We round around like the preverbial madpeople on Saturday, blowing up balloons, organising food, decorating the hall etc.  Everything went exactly to plan.  Katie's face when she magicked a real live rabbit with the Entertainer was a total picture.  She couldn't believe it!  We then went home to open all her party presents.  She was so lucky and received some wonderful presents.  She was so delighted with everything. 

Day 2 of the Celebrations: On Sunday we had a small afternoon tea party at home with some close friends and family, with lots of cakes and some party games.  The children played beautifully together, barely an argument between them.  One of my friend's daughters drew the most gorgeous card for Katie during the party.  It brought all the female adults to tears because it said how lucky she was to have such wonderful parents.  We have decided to keep this for the social workers!!  Bless her, she even created additional copies in case we needed them.  She has asked if she can be a referee and speak to the social worker when the time comes so she can tell them the same thing.  How amazing is that?

Milky the Bunny
Day 3 of the Celebrations: Yesterday we went to visit Nana and Pops and then we took Katie out for lunch at Frankie and Bennys followed by The Lion King movie.  Katie hadn't seen the film before and really enjoyed the film.  She looked so cute in her 3D glasses and she sat as still as it is possible for a very active 4 year old to sit.  I can't believe my little girl is 4 years old already.  She has grown so much over the past 18 months.  I decorated the hallway of our house with loads of photographs of Katie, from the day we first met her, up to the current time.  Seeing the changes the past 18 months have brought are phenomenal to see.  She was a toddler when she first came home and now she is looking so grown up and so gorgeous.  She is going to melt and break a few hearts when she grows up, of that I have no doubt.


Joey the Puppy
Katie is currently hiking around everywhere with her two prized birthday possessions, Milky the Bunny and Joey the Puppy.  They are full sized so it is hilarious to see her carrying both of them around at the same time.  She has gone to pre-school today with Milky to show her teacher and is planning to take Joey in tomorrow.  Mike has made her a kennel to keep in her bedroom for Joey and he sleeps very nicely in there each night.  Both of the new additions have been very well behaved indeed!

I did lots of cake baking for Sundays tea party and was very pleased with all my gluten-free cakes and brownies.  I am enjoying baking again but need to expand the repertoire of gluten-free cakes.  It's taken a bit of creativity and lots of mistakes but I'm getting there.  I do need to work on my presentation though.  I've never been an arty person, in the sense of decorating cakes etc and I really need to practice more.  Trouble is, I end up eating all the cakes and that is not doing my expanding waistline any cook whatsoever!  I am starting a diet today to get myself back to the trim size 12 I was last summer.  It's only about 9lbs to get myself back there but those pounds have sneaked on very slowly so I have bought lots of soup today and have a very healthy food week planned.  It's helped some by the fact that I choked (quite badly I might add) on a chunk of chocolate on Saturday night.  Mike had to give my back a good bash to get it back up again.  I haven't touched any chocolate since.  I can't face it.  My migraine specialist will be delighted as he has asked me to try and stop eating chocolate (I take absolutely no notice of him whatsoever as my diet is already so restricted and I refuse to cut anything out of it! He might get his way after all).

Today I am going to attempt to clean the house ready for our initial home visit tomorrow to start the process for our second adoption.  I remember the first time we did this I cleaned the house from top to bottom.  The house was totally immaculate and sparkled like a new pin.  Nowadays I'm happy if the house is hygenic enough to not make anyone ill and is relatively tidy.  I think we will be presenting a very different picture of ourselves this time round. The funny thing is I feel so much more relaxed about the process.  I suspect that is partly because I'm now a mum.  I have achieved that coveted position that I spent so many years trying to achieve. That overwhelming pressure I felt last time to prove that I could be a mum has dissipated but also because I don't have the time or the energy to invest in that level of cleaning anymore.  What's the point?  It is a mess again within 5 minutes anyway.  Our house is now a family home, full of love (and lots of toys) and it feels amazing. I wouldn't change it for the world (except at that time of the month when I cease to have a rational response to a messy house!) 

Roll on tomorrow, the start of our second chapter!

Friday, 4 November 2011

National Adoption Week

This week has been an interesting, and quite emotional week.  It's been National Adoption Week in the UK.  The media has been full of information, news and stories about the failings of the adoption system and some of the wonderful outcomes that can be achieved.  Questions are being asked within government as to how the process can be streamlined and speeded up, whilst maintaining the quality of the assessment process.  I do feel that the process took far too long when we adopted Katie, as highlighted in The Tonight Programme last night but I also feel that adopters do need to be prepared for some of the difficulties that they may face in the future.  All children grow and change and experience varying emotions throughout their lives.  It isn't just about being prepared for a child who has a disability or has suffered trauma; it's also about being prepared for the questions your child will have about their birth family; how they will feel about being adopted and how they react to the emotions they feel about this.  How you, as an adopter, will feel about writing contact letters or having contact visits or conversations about birth family.  These are all unknowns and you can't possibly know how you will feel until those moments occur.  There needs to be a balance in the adoption system that can approve and match adopters as swiftly as possible yet ensuring that they are prepared for what may lie ahead.  This may mean more post-adoption support.  This will required funding.

More funding generally is required for the already financially stretched Childrens Services teams across the country.   I welcome the news that the adoption process will be speeded up but I do have concerns as to how this will be achieved.  When similar targets were introduced to the NHS it led to huge amounts of additional work for already stretched NHS staff.  Hospitals were named and shamed for poor waiting lists.  Was there additional funding introduced to support the new targets?  Of course not!  I worry that the same will happen with Childrens Services.  I have counselled Social Workers in the past and seen the stress that they are working under.  Adding to that stress won't make for a better system unfortunately. It will lead to more Social Workers taking long term sick leave.  More Social Workers are required to deliver this new speedier adoption system.  Where is the money going to come from to enable this I wonder?

One of the piece of news I welcomed yesterday was the report that adopted children will now be given admissions priority in school, the same as Looked After Children (Adoption UK Statement on changes to Admissions Policies for Adopted Children).  It will be interesting to see if there is anything included on Katie's admissions forms when I complete them in the next few days.

Katie tends to ask questions about her birth family as we're walking through a busy shopping centre; hardly an appropriate moment for a conversation.  Katie has asked me several times why she needed a new mummy and this has been my reply to her. "Your "tummy mummy" did a wonderful job of growing you in her tummy and made you beautiful but sometimes mummies aren't very good at helping children grow up big and strong once they've been born and you needed a new mummy and daddy to help you grow up".  She accepts this answer and it seems to help her understand.  I know there are more questions to come, some that will be harder to answer.  She has asked if she can see her "tummy mummy" and we have said that this is something that we will organise for her when she is older.  For the moment, she seems very well adjusted and is in no doubt of our love for her.  She returns that love one hundred fold and I hope with all my heart that that never changes.  I will never make her choose between me and her first mummy or her birth father.  Our door will be open to support any relationship she may want with her birth parents.  What I do hope though is that the adoption system will be there to support us through that process when the time comes.  I will do whatever I can to help Katie grow into a happy and emotionally stable young lady but I am not so naive to think that that won't be emotionally taxing on us at times and that we might need a little help.

Thursday, 3 November 2011

Getting Ready to Party!! Birthdays and Gotcha Days!!

Katie is going to be 4 in the next week so we are preparing for her birthday party on Saturday.  She is having a joint party with one of her best friends, who is 4 two days after her.  Excitement is building in our house at the moment.  Presents are being hidden (not very well as Katie found one of them! Rookie error!).  We have booked an entertainer (and paid extra for his musical trousers - one for the mums perhaps?) and he is doing pretty much everything, bar the food.  How great is that?  Katie can't wait for it to be her birthday.  She is going to be like the Queen though because we are having a party for the children on Saturday and then a house party on Sunday for our adult friends (plus children of course) and then her birthday is actually on Monday so Mummy, Daddy and Katie are going out for the day.  She wants to have lunch in a restaurant so we will be going out.  Only to the local Harvester (anyone who has seen our darling daughter's manners will understand why it's nowhere posher) but she will love it.  She'll order fish and chips as she always does and will eat with gusto!  Three days of celebrations. 

Next week also brings a very special day for us.  Friday will be our year anniversary since we became a legal family.  Our Family Day!  I can't believe where the time has gone.  I was looking at the pictures from our day at the court with the judge.  Katie looks so little.  It was such an emotional day.  A year on she is so grown up and growing more and more beautiful by the day.  We are starting to have our little family traditions.  At bedtime we make hearts with our hands and say "I love you to the moon and stars and Costa and back".  I also want to start a tradition for the Family Day but can't really decide what to do.  We went to the Sea-Life Centre on the day last year so maybe it will be an annual visit to the Centre followed by lunch at Giraffe!!  One thing that I am putting together is a charm bracelet and we will add a new charm each year.  Something that will represent that year in her life so that when she is 18 she will have a bracelet full of memories. 

So much to do so I'd better get on with it all instead of sitting here writing about it!!

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Spring Forward, Fall Back

Last weekend the clocks went back in the UK.  This officially marks the end of summertime and the start of winter.  I believe the aim in adjusting the time is to ensure that the school children could go to school and return home during the daytime hours.  Last year, once the clocks went back, Katie started to wake up at 5.30am and this continued for most of the winter months.  I am a fairly early riser but a winter of 5:30am wake ups really took its toll on me.  Katie's circadian rhythm is pretty strong I suspect.  This year, bouyed by the fact that when we went to Spain recently we kept Katie on UK time and she slept until a sensible time, I've tried to offset the change in time by putting her to bed at 8pm instead of her usual 7pm.  Has it worked?  In a word, No!  She is currently waking up really early. On the plus side we've had a 5am; a 5:15am and today a 5:30am so maybe by the end of the winter she might be sleeping in until 7am!  I don't think I'll continue putting her to bed at 8pm though.  She is so tired and crabby and argumentative that I'm hoping that if I put her to bed at 7pm and she sleeps until 5:30pm that is, at least, one extra hour and hopefully a little more cheer will return to our house.  As for me, well I'm putting myself to bed earlier as well to try and ensure I get sufficient sleep (and, who knows, maybe I'll have a little more cheer as well!).

If anyone has any sensible suggestions for helping a child adjust to the seasonal time adjustment I would love to hear them!

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

The Gift of Life

The Gift of Life

I didn't give you the gift of life,
But in my heart I know.
The love I feel is deep and real,
... As if it had been so.

For us to have each other
Is like a dream come true!
No, I didn't give you
The gift of life,
Life gave me the gift of you.