Wednesday, 18 December 2013

The Visitor

Twice a year a heaviness creeps into my heart and my limbs. It sneaks up on me quietly, with no fanfare heralding its arrival. It catches me unawares every time and it always takes me a while to recognise that it is there. For someone as self aware as me this surprises me. Once I realise it has joined me again a wave of recognition floods through my being like meeting an unwelcome friend from my past.

"Why are you here" I whisper to myself? 

"I wasn't expecting you". 

Its arrival does not appear to be lodged within my conscious thought. I don't look at the calendar and want to feel sad and yet it comes nonetheless; 2 weeks before my birthday and as December arrives the visitor sneaks in as well.

Generally I'm a positive and optimistic person. I consider myself a person of considerable strength. I have fought and overcome some pretty difficult experiences during my life and I stand tall and firm, a bit battered around the edges but fixed with a purpose for my life.

Every year as the grey envelopes me I ponder the reason it has arrived. My answer is the reason I am writing this here because I think it may resonate with other people and especially the parents of children who have experienced difficulties in their early lives and who may have a sudden change in their behaviour for no reason that seems clear.

I think my reactionary sadness is etched into the very fibre of my being, it is not cognitive. I consciously want to enjoy Christmas and birthdays. I want to feel excited not sad.  It is partly the result of a childhood where Christmas was a time of great stress in the household and birthdays could be complicated. I think I learned not to feel excited because there wasn't excitement around me. As an adult Christmas represents a happy family. I did not have a happy wider family and TCM and I were unable to start our own, much longed for, family so the lack of excitement and sadness continued to manifest. Now I think it is something that happens every year with subliminal triggering. I don't dread Christmas. I love decorating the tree and thinking about how to make the festive period fun for the children but I am literally going through the motions. The sense of being disconnected pervades. Being disconnected was how I coped as a child and, for some reason, that disconnectedness takes over for both those festivities. 

This year it has been particularly difficult which is really upsetting because I want to enjoy my son's first Christmas with us. Unfortunately the toxicity that was my formative life has invaded my present, awakening issues that I would like to consciously disconnect from and leaving me on the floor literally shaking with fear and anger. At another time of the year the impact of these events might well leave less of a footprint on my psyche but, at a time when I'm already using all my energy to be the person I want to be, there is little energy left over to fight a battle that I don't want to fight. Last time I fought this battle I brought the walls tumbling down and I want to react in a more adult and considered way should I decide to finish the fight once and for all. I'm actively choosing not to fight this fight at the current time. I have a young family that I fought hard to have and I'm not allowing my past to threaten again all that is good in my life. To resolve the issue it would involve police involvement and a crime to be reported. I may well report that crime but it will be when I'm ready. 

I consider myself to be a relatively well adjusted person, despite many things that could impact on that.  I have a deep spirituality that has helped me ensure I want to daily explore my possibilities as a spiritual being, yet I am effected by the depression that tugs at me twice a year. I try to experience it mindfully. I acknowledge it is there when it makes itself known but I do not dwell on it. I go about my day, doing what I do and I don't let it become all of me. I speak positively to myself and try to maintain a positive perspective. This too shall pass. I will breathe with the weight on my chest until it lightens again and I will forget about it and I will no doubt be surprised again when it reappears later in the year.

One thing I do need to do however is to learn to ask the people around me to be kind to me whilst I'm feeling low. I've always struggled to ask for help. "I'll do it myself" was my childhood catchphrase. My early experience was that there was always a price to pay if you asked for help. Generally most people wouldn't even know I'm feeling this way and I'm not really one for shouting it from the rooftops. It feels like most people are busy feeling excited about Christmas (if Facebook is anything to go by) and I'm not sure they would understand really. I feel a bit like Scrooge for even daring to admit that I struggle with Christmas. I have everything I yearned for. Why am I not jumping up and down with excitement?

Believe me, I would if I could ...... 

........and I really, really want to.

Sunday, 8 December 2013

The Audience

I was intrigued to read that Channel 4 were showing a programme called "The Audience". It is a documentary where 50 people aka "The Audience" answer a dilemma faced by another member of the public. They follow the person around their daily life; meet members of their family and friends; pose challenging questions and eventually reach a decision regarding the dilemma. The reason I was intrigued was because the dilemma was whether a 42 year old single lady, with a degenerative condition (Klippel-Feil syndrome, a rare degenerative disorder which restricts the movement of her neck) should adopt a child or not.

I will admit I was actually quite concerned about the programme and its subject matter. Would it be sensationalist? Would it be sensitively filmed? How would the herd of people following her around come to a "verdict"? Why would a person want to ask a random group of people whether they should adopt or not? Surely this is a decision you should be able to make yourself? 

My initial questions were the obvious ones. What was this lady's medical condition? How would her medical condition impact on her ability to parent an adopted child? How strong was her support network? 
 I was also interested to know who would advise on the specifics related to adoption during the programme. 

I actually found the programme very interesting and, mostly, sensitive if a little contrived. I found myself feeling enormously supportive of Jane Mason, the lady with the dilemma. In many ways the 50 members of the panel posed questions that an assessing Social Worker might ask. I felt that Jane must have felt very emotionally exposed, which was reminiscent of our adoption process. We only had one Social Worker to discuss all the emotive details with though, Jane was faced with 50 faces. I thought she was very brave to put herself through the process. As a person Jane has had to live her life with great strength and daily challenges due to her disability, qualities that will stand her in good stead when she is a parent. She appears to have a wonderful support network. People who care about her deeply and would help her practically and emotionally on a daily basis. That is so important for any parent but doubly so (I feel) for an adoptive parent.

The programme did leave me feeling that the panel did take their responsibility seriously and that they worked hard to overcome some initial judgements about Jane's disability and sexuality, although one panel member seemed a little too homophobic to me, adding fuel another stereotype in his wake. I felt annoyed that there was a lot of pressure in the questioning about Jane's decision to pursue adoption as a single adopter although eventually there appeared to be understanding that, at 42 years of age (the same age I was when we adopted Katie), sometimes you have to get on with achieving the things you want in life even if the circumstances aren't perfect. I was also left feeling frustrated that the panel's decision was based on their perception of raising a birth child. Not an adopted child. No advice from adoption experts appeared to be accessible or given. Whilst I felt that Jane would make an excellent adoptive parent with so many experiences and skills that would potentially help a child, I felt that she needs more information on the realities and practicalities of being an adoptive parent to make her decision properly. I hope that this support has been offered to her. It was invaluable for me during our adoption process. 

I will give credit to The Audience and Channel 4, and mostly to Jane Mason. This programme was far more sensitively portrayed than I anticipated and I wish Jane the very best in her pursuit to become an adoptive parent. Next time though Channel 4 can you give the panel and the person seeking a decision some access to proper professional insight to help them ruminate their decision with all the facts? 

Monday, 2 December 2013

Dream Toys

We love Disney in our house.  I love the movies, although I still say "films".  Ever since I wept at Bambi when I was 8 years old I have loved them.  I love the music and songs and can still sing all the words to the soundtrack from The Jungle Book. I love how the films represent the changing of cultural norms over time.  Hearing the stiff upper lip narration (not to mention the cigarettes) in The Aristocrats and 101 Dalmatians reflects a time long passed.  The modern films are able to showcase newer technology but Disney have always managed to maintain wonderful story telling.  Films such as The Lion King teach children about life and death and the importance of looking after our planet.  The Toy Story films are simply brilliant, mostly because one of the writers is one of my favourite writers and directors, Joss Whedon.

It won't come as a surprise to you to learn that currently Katie's favourite Disney character is Rapunzel.  We have various Rapunzel dolls.  A doll that sings "At last I've seen the light" (although she now has less hair after Katie radically cut part of it on Christmas Day two years ago! She probably can see the light far more easily these days!);  a head-sized Rapunzel that you can make up and do her hair;  and a general Rapunzel doll.  We have read the original Rapunzel story and the Disney version over and over.  Katie is desperate to have hair as long as Rapunzel, well she was until I showed her a video of the lady who actually has the longest hair in the world and we discovered how many health problems the weight of her hair gives her.  It places much illumination of the words in the song Rapunzel signs in Tangled "I brush and brush and brush and brush my hair, wondering when will my life begin?"

Katie was very excited that Disney have brought out a Rapunzel doll, as part of their Dream Toys collection, whose hair you can brush and it changes colour and was beside herself with excitement when this very doll arrived from Argos.  She's called Disney Princess Colour Magic Change Brush Rapunzel.

Mummy was ordered to get the doll out of the box as quickly as possible!  Actually this order was easier than I was expecting.  Usually the packaging is so sealed that you need military grade tools to access the toy but the external packaging was removed without even the need for scissors, which was a nice change.  Scissors were required to access the doll inside however, although I probably could have retrieved her without scissors if I had a spare half an hour and wanted to lose my nails.  With any toy the mission is to get the toy up and running as quickly as is humanly possible, preferably before your child internally combusts with excitement and frustration.  We almost managed this although we didn't read the instructions fully enough so delays were experienced.

This particular Rapunzel has a magic brush that changes parts of her hair from blonde to pink when you run the brush over it.  On first reading it appeared that you filled the brush with cold water.  We circumnavigated how to open the brush and fill it with water and rushed to brush Rapunzel's hair but nothing happened.  Not a trace of pink in sight.  I re-read the instructions and read (in the small print of course) that crushed ice works best in the brush.  We quickly refilled the brush with crushed ice (because we are lucky enough to have a fridge/freezer that makes it all quickly for us) and, Hey Presto, pink stripes appeared.  Katie was delighted and spent half an hour brushing her hair.  She then realised (without my knowledge I might add) that you can make her hair turn really pink if you run the hair under the cold tap.  I don't think this is what Disney had in mind for the toy though but kids will be kids and they do like to explore all the permutations that a toy has to offer.  Rapunzel has now had to dry off on the radiator on many occasions.  She seems to be holding up to it all though. 

Katie's verdict of Rapunzel?


Pip is far less discerning in his choice of toys at the moment.  Being 13 months old means trying to get into as many cupboards as possible and pulling everything out of the drawers rather than playing with the lovely toys that fill the playroom.  Pip was happy to receive from Argos a Fisher Price/Disney Baby Play Pals Bambi toy that accompanies his Disney musical train set. Obviously I had a hand in choosing the Bambi due to my love of the little fella.  This toy is aimed at young children aged 6 - 36 months.

I will say that Bambi was much harder to get out of the box than Rapunzel.  I'm not sure if the manufacturers have seen how easily my little monkey can get into things and were taking precautions but scissor support was required to access him. 

For children wanting a toy that's all singing and all dancing then this isn't the toy for them. I like these toys because they can grow with a young child.  A baby can enjoy holding the toy; feeling the texture and moving the legs about.  An older child can play with the train set and interact with the toys, supporting the development of creative play.  Pip is a bit in between these stages at the moment.  He did have a little play with Bambi and particularly enjoyed his current favourite game of flinging the toy as far as he could.  I think he might be a bowler when he grows up.  He can certainly fling his toys a considerable distance.  I will say that the toy has held up to lots of flinging about so is very durable.  I've also noticed Katie (and some of her friends) playing with Bambi and his friends as well and they are now mostly aged 6, suggesting that Bambi and his friends might be hanging about in our playroom for some years to come.

Pip's Verdict?

 If you want to find out more about the toys above then click here for the full list of the Christmas Dream Toys available at Argos. 

All the views contained in this review are mine, Katie and Pip's (as much as he is able to give a considered opinion at 13 months old).

Tuesday, 26 November 2013

A Chocolate Adventure

You know those days when the universe aligns itself to be as complicated and problematic and challenging as possible? Well that was the day that we were due to go to Cadbury World courtesy of

The day started early. Katie was excited so that means waking up at 5:45am. As is traditional for us we weren't quite ready to head off for our weekend away so there was a last minute panic.  Our plans were to drive to Cadbury World to meet my lovely friend Mrs VanderCave at Back of Beyond Baking in time for lunch at the Cadbury World Cafe.  I was looking forward to this because they advertise that they have gluten-free bread and soya milk.  Having my dietary needs taken care of is a rarity so I was keen to try it out.  Driving to The Midlands from our house in Hampshire was estimated to take 2.5 hours so we were all set to meet up for lunch at 1pm with a tour time of 2:50pm giving us time for lunch and time for Katie and Pip to play in the children's play park and maybe even see Santa in the newly opened Grotto.

Yeah well that didn't happen! *laughs manically*

Katie decided she was going to be as difficult and annoying as she could humanly be making packing the car and getting ready a real challenge. This culminated in her knocking a glass of strawberry milkshake all over the rug in the lounge. I am still trying to get the smell out of that rug!  All I will say is that I was stressed before we even left the house (and that is an understatement).

We were happily driving up the A34 when we see two signs that gave us sudden cause for concern.  A junction closure on the M40 and a sign saying the A34 was closed after the M4.  "Hmmm they can't be closing the whole road surely?" I muse to TCM. "It must just be a short diversion",

It wasn't.

The entire A34 north of the M4 was closed.  I've never known that to happen.  We were directed on a diversion around the M4 which I think must have been around 60 miles.  By the end of that diversion we were still only at Oxford.  Note to self - check the roads are actually open before setting off on an adventure! Off-roading wasn't part of the plan!

We weren't going to make it for lunch.  Phone calls were made.  Tempers were frayed.

The time, and the miles, ticked by accompanied by the ubiquitous chorus of "Are we there yet?".  Katie did her best to distract me every time I was trying to concentrate on the SatNav resulting in a few wrong turns which brought tears of frustration to my eyes as I concentrated on the road. We stopped for some sanity in the form of a Costa and a comfort break and then had to stop again for lunch in the services.  An M&S salad for me it was. Sadly services rarely cater for my dietary needs. 

We were getting closer to the M40 where Google kindly told us there was at least an hour and a half delay due to an RTA.  Now I don't ever complain about delays due to RTA's because a delay that has lasted all day means a serious accident and my thoughts go out to anyone involved in that accident on Saturday.  It did mean that getting to Cadbury World was starting to look unlikely though.  Being intrepid explorers (and not really knowing what else to do) we decided to push ahead, give it a go, and see if we could get there.

I phoned Cadbury World to see if they could move our tour slot.  This is where I am going to say some wonderful things about Cadbury World because their customer service rates amongst the best I have ever known.  They were so helpful. From phoning with my Superbreak voucher and booking the tickets - to sorting out our dilemma on the tour day - they were simply brilliant and very courteous and professional. They told us to just get to them and they would sort our tour time out.  They organised for Mrs VC and her family to go into other parts of the site whilst they were waiting for us.  They greeted us on arrival with a huge smile and swift and efficient organisation.  My experience of Cadbury World was that the original Cadbury Brothers ethos of taking care of a community of workers seems to still be very much in evidence and certainly shows in their customer service.

So I've given you a hint.  We did make it.  We made several wrong (and very stressful) turns en-route.  We did get stuck on the M40 but not for as long as predicted and the road was reopened whilst we were waiting in the traffic jam.  We made it to Cadbury World by 2:45pm.  It is very easy to find from the M42 and is fairly well signposted.

We parked in the overflow car park and whizzed to reception where Mrs VC and family were waiting for us and we were immediately sorted and ready to go on the tour, our first bars of chocolate in hand.

The tour is great. We all loved every minute of it.  The history of the cocoa bean and John Cadbury is wonderfully shared as you move through the different sections of the tour.  Modern technology is well utilised to bring the story of John Cadbury and the Cadbury brothers to life. You learn about their Quaker routes and vision for a community of workers who were well cared for as a work-force.

On the tour you see and hear and experience the journey of the simple cocoa bean as it slowly becomes the chocolate we all know and love.  A journey that involves three different factories in the UK.  Make sure you sit in the seats in the auditorium for this
bit. I had to stay on the sides with Pip, who was in his buggy so missed out on the fun in the seats.

You can see the chocolate factory where the chocolate is made and packaged and we saw a live demonstration showing how the huge chocolate footballs are made.  This is all washed down with lots of chocolate.  Look out for the warm melted chocolate which is ladled into cups and mixed with your choice of buttons or sweets for you to sample in the factory.  This was a particular favourite of Pip who vociferously voiced his anger when the warm chocolate ran out.  I'm still munching on the huge bag of Mis-Shapes that I bought in the shop!  I would just say that buggy users need to be aware that there is a part of the tour where you have to park up your buggy and carry any infants.  It wasn't for long but it did mean leaving our bags etc in the buggy parking area and carrying Pip (who isn't the lightest baby in the world).

The big attraction for Katie and Pip was the Cadabra-ride, which was quite reminiscent of being in EuroDisney. You sit in a car and ride around the exhibition depicting the journey of the bean and it's journey to become chocolate.  It's great fun.  Pip beamed excitedly through the whole ride whilst Katie and I jumped about in our seats trying to see everything.  We both wished the ride was longer and both wanted to go back on again. Unfortunately our late arrival meant that we were unable to.  We did enjoy seeing the mechanical Gorilla playing the drums though (do you remember the advert?).

 Once we had finished our tour and had an emotional (for Katie) trip through the shop it was time to pop into the cafe before it closed to get some sandwiches for the children.  We sadly didn't get time to visit Santa or his grotto. I was disappointed at this but Katie still hasn't joined Santa's fan club and didn't really want to visit anyway so she wasn't particularly bothered.   Nonetheless it was a lovely afternoon (well 3 hours) and we thoroughly enjoyed what we did see.  I would definitely go again but I will definitely be checking the roads are open before I set off next time!

We completed the rest of our weekend away in The Back of Beyond with Mrs VC and her family and I'll be sharing that story with you soon.

A big thank you to for the tickets for Cadbury World. Do check out their attraction packages if you're thinking of visiting Cadbury World or any of the other attractions they offer.

Friday, 22 November 2013

The Scan

When I was writing the sad tale of little Ed there was one experience that I left out because I wanted to write about it separately. It was the experience of being present at an ultrasound scan.

My experience of scans has been primarily disastrous to say the least. They are the calling card from 10 miscarriages. The carefully arranged facial expression of the sonographer as they deliver bad news. Being with Ed as he had an ultrasound opened the floodgates for this emotions. 

Other than out of curiosity and a sense of unfinished business to feel a baby kicking inside me and to see if i could handle childbirth,  I wouldn't want to bear a birth child now if you changed my name to Mary and introduced me to a guy called Gabriel who had wings. My two children complete me. But the experiences of a life trying to start a family are etched into the fibres of my being. They stay out of sight most of the time these days but they do not remain hidden. They pop up every so often and the memories flood in, like a wave surfing through my heart and mind before pulling back into the recesses of my day to day life. Such was that moment as Ed was having his scan. I watched his heart pumping and was momentarily lost back in time watching the heartbeat of my babies trying so hard to stay alive. 

The outcome for all was the same and, thus, my viewpoint of scans is that no good comes from a scan. 

Yes I am aware that this is not the experience for everyone. It might not always be my experience. But in this moment, I feel that I do not want to see another ultrasound scan as long as I live. 

Ed: The sad tale of a little kitten...

Last week the newest addition to the Katie household sadly passed away.  Ed, our gorgeous little Somali kitten.  Ed was less than 6 months old but we had known him since the day he was born. In fact, I chose him on the day that he was born and named him after Ed Sheeran, because of his colour.  I knew he was going to be mine.  He stood out because he was so cute.  He was the smallest and the one most in need of help finding a teat to suckle from.  The smallest he might have been but he was the first from the litter to do nearly everything.  He walked first; he opened his eyes first; his ears popped up first; he climbed out of the kitten box first.  He was a bundle of energy.  Full of life.  Exploring everything.  The kittens and their mother came to stay with us for about 10 days over the summer holidays whilst my neighbour went on holiday.  It was hard work having them to stay, and I would never romanticise having kittens ever again as a result but those kittens were adorable.  They would climb on me; eat my toes; snuggle up between my knees and play, play, play.  Ed was no different to his brothers and sister. He was just a bit more skinny.  He had lanky little legs and he was a bit smaller.

Ed moved in with us about 6 weeks ago.  Almost immediately we started to notice that he wasn't as boisterous as we would expect him to be.  He liked to snuggle up a lot.  He loved climbing onto our shoulders and sitting like a parrot.  He would go anywhere with us.  He slept very close to us at night, often under the covers.  He cried for cuddles all the time but he didn't want to play.  Initially we didn't worry.  He was going to be a small cat; his mother is tiny and Somali cats are incredibly affectionate and like to be close to their humans.  I carried him about in Pip's baby sling on occasion because he was following me about wanting to be cuddled.  He was also very hard to feed.  He didn't really want any of the food we were giving him and it became my mission to find some food that he would eat.  He lost weight and we started to get worried.  Eventually we discovered that he would eat freshly cooked chicken and fish on one of the children's plastic plates.  It was an enormous relief but I wasn't happy about him.  He stopped purring and he breathed so hard, like his whole body needed to help his lungs out so we took him to the vet.  Initially the vet diagnosed him with a heart murmur and asked to do an x-ray.  On the day we took him in for his x-ray it transpired the machine was broken so the vets did a scan and told us that there was something wrong with his heart, most likely a congenital heart defect, and we agreed to visit a specialist in the neighbouring county.  Our vets tabled the thought that we might need to consider putting Ed to sleep.  He was a very poorly little kitten.

On the day we saw the specialist we had about an hour and a half of hope.  He did a scan (a very expensive scan - thank heavens for pet insurance!). There was no heart murmur but there was fluid on his heart and lungs that needed to be drained.  The vet told me that he wouldn't be considering euthanasia at this point.  He noted that the image around the heart was very white and that indicated that there was something in the fluid but he would let me know after the surgery.  I felt ecstatic.  I couldn't  believe it.  I had gone to the vet totally anticipating having to make a decision there and then but it seemed that there was now hope. 

Then the phone rang.  It was the vet.  It wasn't good news.  The fluid around the heart and lungs was fibrous and full of protein.  He couldn't be 100% sure but he thought it was a condition called Feline Infectious Peritonitis or FIP.  It was a rare side effect of a common cat virus called the Coronavirus.  Due to his underdeveloped immune system the virus had mutated inside Ed and effected the walls of his internal organs and fluid was creeping in.  For the moment though, due to the surgery, Ed was full of life. He could breathe with ease.  We arranged for him to stay overnight in a heated incubator and for me to see a medicines specialist at 1pm the following day.  I then did a lot of reading up on FIP and knew that a decision was imminent. He had the wet condition which was always fatal.

I knew I was going to have to talk to Katie about what was going to happen.  I decided not to tell her about the virus but stick to the story that he had a heart murmur.  How can you explain the virus to a 6 year old?  She worries enough about her friends getting sick and being sick herself and I was concerned that she might worry more about why he died than the fact that he had died.  We had a very tearful chat at bedtime after she asked if Ed was going to die.  Actually she asked me if I was going to kill him!  I explained about euthanasia to her and about preventing his suffering.  I couldn't tell her when he was going to die though.  I didn't like leaving it so ambiguous but I didn't know myself.  She asked if she could see the body when he died and if she could help bury him.  I'd protected her from this when our other two cats died but I felt this time that she needed to be included as part of her healing process, so I agreed.  We held each other tight and cried hard together.

I phoned at 10am the next day and was told that Ed had had a good night and was full of beans.  I agonised for the rest of the day over what I was going to have to do when I arrived at the vets at 1pm.  I didn't want to bring him home to suffer but I couldn't euthanise a kitten who still had life in him.  I have a rule that the decision is made once the cat tells me, with their body language, when they've had enough.  It's hard to explain but you just know (and sadly I've had far too much practise over the past 20 years).

When I saw the medicines specialist she said that she had just seen Ed and he had deteriorated significantly and the illness had progressed.  I asked to see him.  He climbed into my arms and snuggled in. He then looked me deep in the eyes for the longest time and he purred.  I heard that beautiful purr for the first, and last time, in weeks but I knew what he was telling me.  It was time.  He was ready to go.  I nodded to the vet and said that the decision was made and could they put him to sleep.  We discussed the practicalities and we lay him on his special cushion and I gave him Reiki as he passed on.  I then had to hold it together to drive home.  Pip had been with me throughout all of this and I had to rush home to do the school run.

I brought Ed home and collected Katie from school. I waited until she asked where he was and I sat her down on my lap and explained it all to her.  She asked to see him so I put him on his cushion so she could give him a stroke.  She was very matter of fact about it all.  She told me she was glad Ed had died because it meant he wasn't suffering anymore.  She asked lots and lots of questions about what was going to happen.  We printed up some pictures and found a small shoe box.  Daddy came home and sorted out his grave and we had a little ceremony in the garden and said our goodbyes. Katie was quite funny really.  Our neighbour, the Cat Lady, came over.  Ed was the first born from her first ever breed of kittens.  Katie kept asking her if she was going to cry again.  She was fascinated by the whole process and how everyone was feeling.  Empathy is still a work in progress it would seem!

It is now a week later and I'm still feeling sad.  We are left with the added worry that our other cats have now come into contact with the Coronavirus and we need to see if they've been infected.  It doesn't help that Willow has had an allergic reaction to her collar and isn't very well. She has welts all over her neck and is on steroid cream.  I feel on tenterhooks.  I am watching them for signs of illness all the time.  We would have to be so unlucky for it to happen again though. Our vet said he hadn't seen a case of FIP in over 3 years and it's generally in cats under a year old so I'm trying to not worry about it.  They are a big part of our family though and very dear to us. The cats seem to be missing Ed though and have been pining.  I think we're all pining a bit.  Katie wants another kitten but we've said not yet. 

Katie and I have now had lots of chats about death and dying.  We have talked about what we think happens when you die.  I'm a Reiki healer and a bit psychic and have often experienced my other cats who have passed on.  I've told Katie to watch out for signs that he is around.  Feeling him brush against her legs when she's having a quiet moment.  This happens all the time in our house and there are no visible cats about.  I always say hello to who is visiting.  We think that we're more likely to feel a weight on our shoulder though when Ed is visiting. Katie is taking it all in her stride and doesn't seem to be overly upset.  She has moments when she says she is sad and we have a little cuddle but children are incredibly resilient it would seem.  More resilient than me that's for sure.

So goodbye little Ed.  You weren't around for very long but you reached into our hearts and left a gap in our lives and we will never forget you.

RIP Ed xxxx

Monday, 4 November 2013

National Adoption Week 2013

This week once again marks National Adoption Week organised by the British Association for Adoption and Fostering.  All over the country charities and local authorities will be hosting events aimed to encourage more people to consider adopting and fostering the thousands of children waiting for homes.

Last year I ran a series of personal stories from other adopters to highlight the different types of adopters and their children. If you are a new reader who hasn't seen them, or a regular reader who wants to re-read them, here are the links for you:

This year I will be focusing on sharing as many of the events that are publicised in the media as I can find via my Facebook page.  These links will also be tweeted via my Twitter page.

Many people think that they won't be able to adopt; that difficulties from the past may preclude them from being considered; that their gender, age, or sexual orientation might be a barrier.  This is not the case.  I am an older parent who has adopted both children over the age of 40 (me, not them!).  I know of adopters from all walks of life and from all income brackets and from a variety of different family set-ups.  If you think that you could make a difference to a child in need of a home then contact one of the following for more information about organisations in your local area that you can speak to:

You can also check out #NAW2013 on Twitter to see what everyone else is talking about.....

Why not see if Adoption is an Option for you?

Friday, 25 October 2013

There's A Kind of Hush....

A strange calm and pleasantness has wafted in through the windows and doors and is making its presence known in our house at the moment.  I hesitate to use the word "settle" because it's too early to even dare to think that it might last.   But what is the source of this calm?

Katie is behaving herself.

Not just behaving herself, she is almost sweetness personified at the moment.  She is listening and responding politely and seems calmer in herself.  After months and months of rudeness and tantrums and belligerence and temper tantrums it is a relief that is almost beyond words to have this respite.  Other than a 2 day blip around Pip's birthday when we experienced a massive regression we have had nearly 2 weeks of calm. It's like the breath of fresh air you feel in springtime; the smell of damp earth after a rain shower.  It's really rather lovely.  Katie is a joy to have around. She is drawing and writing a lot and is responsive to being asked to do things.  She is noticeably stopping herself from being rude and apologising when she is.

So what is behind this sudden change of mood?  I wish I knew for certain.  One thing I The Borg; parenting techniques work for a period of time until the child has assimilated the information then they alter their entire DNA so that that parenting technique is no longer effective and a new technique is required.  It could be
have learned is that children and parenting techniques are like
a combination of parenting techniques or, as my SW said, it could just be that Katie has decided to try behaving nicely for a change. 

There are a few contenders as to the change though:

1. Katie is quite simply feeling happier in herself. She is accepting that Pip is here to stay and is feeling more settled about life in general.  She is starting to play and interact with him more and is not pushing for as much attention, seemingly happier with the attention I am giving her.  A friend has been saying for a while that things would improve in Year 1.  Maybe she was right.

2. Katie has realised that nice things happen when her behaviour is nice e.g. her reward (nearly 2 weeks ago) for not having a single tantrum all day was to come and see a dance show with me.  This was a treat in itself (particularly after her recent behaviour) but it was also in the early evening so it meant she got to go to bed late.  She was beyond excited and still thinks I'm the coolest Mum EVER when she said  

"I can't believe you're letting me have ice-cream 
in the middle of the night!" 
(it was about 7.30pm at that point).  

In fact her behaviour has improved significantly since that day.

3. TCM and I are on the same page regarding managing her temper tantrums.  We have been watching The Three Day Nanny together and picking up techniques.  When Katie has a temper tantrum she is removed immediately to her bedroom where she is allowed to be angry and express her anger and can spend some time to calm herself down.  Once the tantrum has subsided she is able to come back down.  We do not have repercussions for the tantrum but Katie has to clear up any mess she has made as a result of her tantrum.  We have stuck to this religiously; carrying her up the stairs mid tantrum on several occasions (which isn't doing my back any favours I can tell you).  We've not had to do this in a week now though.  In fact her last tantrum *fingers crossed* was this time last week.  Having said that there are no repercussions I will just say that last week Katie was not allowed to go to gymnastics because she had about 6 tantrums after school. I was concerned she was really tired so said to her that she wouldn't be allowed to go to gymnastics if she didn't calm herself down.  She didn't think I would stick to my threat, but I did, which brought about another tantrum and an early night but she has been a lot better since. 

4. I am giving her lots of Reiki at bedtime. Not every bedtime, but quite a lot.  loves having Reiki.  In fact she told me, whilst stretching out luxuriously like a cat,

"Mummy, this is the life! This is better than ham sandwiches".  

So there you have it. Reiki is better than ham sandwiches!

5. We are writing on each other with our fingers at bedtime.  Every night I write her a message on her back and then have to tell her what I've written.  Sometimes I write that she "is the most beautiful girl in the world"; sometimes it's "thank you for behaving so nicely today, it has made me very happy".  It always incorporates the words "I love you".  She then writes me a message on my hand.  It's a lovely way to end the day and I like to think that the messages I write are sinking into her body and being absorbed.

6. Katie helped me open a package from Amazon which happened to be the book "Why can't my child behave?" by Amber Elliot.  She asked me what the book was so I told
her it was a book that was going to help me understand why she was behaving so angrily and teach me some new ways to help her with her behaviour.  Maybe she was worried that this book might teach me scary ways of making her behave so she's decided not to take the risk I might use it?

7. Katie won "Star Pupil" at dancing last Saturday.  This was something she didn't want to win (she said).  She has been practising her spins and finally managed to do them.  For a girl with difficulty with coordination this is a really big deal.  She didn't want the teacher to know this (I am wondering why this is I must say) in case she won Star Pupil.  I had a quiet word with the teacher before the class and explained that Katie had really been practising the spins but didn't want her to know that she could do them as she was feeling shy and asked her to orchestrate Katie doing the spins in class, rather than going off with the girl who helps the teacher for additional help.  Katie's teacher gave me a huge thumbs up when Katie did the spins in the class (nice and subtle!) and then awarded her with Star Pupil at the end of the class.  Katie was actually made up that she won but shy about telling Daddy.

8. Katie has been doing two individual programmes at school to help with her reading and also with her emotional development.  She really enjoys doing them and loves getting the rabbit out of the cupboard on a Monday to do Ginger Bear.  I wonder if this is having a positive knock-on effect?

So there are 8 contenders as to this current turn around.  I suspect that it's a combination of all 8 that is the source of the magic.  All I can say at the moment is that it is lovely having some respite.  The really nice thing is that because Katie is behaving more nicely, I am feeling calmer so therefore my parenting is calmer which brings about a calmer reaction in Katie.  It's all interlinked.

I think adoptive parents feel under enormous pressure when it comes to parenting techniques.  There are many differing views about how you should parent (aren't there always?) and I think generally adoptive parents feel a lot more anxiety about finding therapeutic techniques that will help their children behave well but also heal the damage that their child has experienced.  This is a big ask.  I think our aim has to be to enable our child to live in this world with the tools they need to heal themselves throughout their lives.  How our children feel and respond to their experiences will fluctuate throughout their lives. I know I'm still dealing with experiences from my own childhood many, many years on.  It isn't as easy to do as it is to say however.  So many of our children have experienced things that no-one should ever experience and their behaviour reflects those experiences and emotions.  There isn't often an easy fix so we seek out people who have developed ways of parenting specifically for children who need a different sort of parenting from your average parenting expert - that's not to say that we can't still find methods from more mainstream parenting manuals.  It's about finding what works for our children.

Having said all that, as I've highlighted above, sometimes we have no idea what works or what is working, or why a behaviour pattern has suddenly changed.  I do know that I'm going to enjoy our current calm and my wonderfully behaved daughter.

I'm going to enjoy every single minute of it and hum one of my favourite songs by The Carpenters......

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Birthday Boy!

I have to admit that I can't quite believe that Pip is now 1 years old.  Where have the past 5 months gone?  When he first came home being 1 was a marker that seemed so far in the distance and yet it has come and gone with the speed and fluidity that time seems to bring these days.  Being 1 means the end of formula milk and bottles and is the start of becoming a toddler.  Pip's face is starting to change now his teeth are coming through and his weight is streamlining. He almost doesn't resemble the boy we met five months ago. People are quite surprised when they see him.

We have had two celebrations for his birthday (as is often the case in our house). I seem to remember Katie having three last year!  On his actual birthday we were incredibly lucky that the teachers strike meant that Katie had the day off school so we were able to spend the day together.  We had a quiet morning at home eating croissants for breakfast; playing with his new toys and having a snooze and went to a big soft play area in the afternoon followed by dinner at our local Prezzo.  It was a lovely low-key morning in many ways although Katie felt quite bored by the lack of action (conversely lack of action is something that I find quite attractive these days!!).  Pip enjoyed playing with his new baby laptop and retro phone.  Katie has already pinched his pull-along dog however and I have a suspicion she has hidden it in her room! Both children enjoyed spending some time on their respective swings in the garden as Katie's present was a slip on baby swing for the Plum swing set we already have.

It wasn't quite the serene and fun day that the previous paragraph suggests however.  Katie regressed so far backwards on Pip's birthday that I was surprised she didn't want nappies and a bottle! she spent most of the day talking like a baby and generally being a bit of a pain and behaving very naughtily.  I totally understand the psychology but it doesn't make it any easier to manage at the time.  Pip was full of cold and pretty fed up by dinner time so between them it wasn't a pleasurable dinner (which was a shame because I'd been really looking forward to my yummy Fiorentino Gluten-Free Pizza!).  We did have a lovely time at soft play though. Pip particularly enjoyed the big slide and was even happy to crawl all the way up the steps to the top once he realised the big treat that awaited him there and enjoyed holding mine and Katie's hands as we slid down.  He also loved the ball pit, scaring the life out of me the first time when he crawled up the steps and dived headfirst into the pit as I was removing my boots.  He also really enjoyed following Katie around, who was attempting to play with the bigger children, chasing after her with a big smile on his little face.  My sister and nephew arrived for the last hour and Pip had great fun in the ball pit with his adored Auntie BB. 

The second part of Pip's birthday was on Saturday when we had a birthday party for him.  We tried to keep the party relatively small but our house seemed very full of children on the day.  We had one of those "organised chaos" parties that seemed crazy at the time but everyone really enjoyed themselves.  We played pass-the-parcel; musical bumps and statues; and pump the Pumpaloons and Katie helped Pip play his first ever birthday games.  I gave out so many sweets and chocolates to everyone that I am sure they are all still high as kites!  Pip's Foster Carer and her children came and joined in the celebrations.  Katie was delighted to see them, as was I, but Pip has now pretty much forgotten them really.  I think he was having a hint of deja-vu and trying to work out why they seemed familiar.  I really felt for his FC's daughter who was desperate for cuddles but Pip is quite clingy to Mummy these days and didn't want to go to anyone else for quite some time.  He did relax once the party was in full swing though and, like a good host, crawled his way around everyone for cuddles and playtime.  It was a lovely day and it was really lovely to be able to celebrate some firsts.  Firsts are something that adopters don't always get to have with their children and it's been lovely having lots of firsts with Pip.  First word (sort of), first tooth, first steps (still waiting for that one!), first birthday.  Those memories are so lovely to have and I treasure every single one.

One of the highlights for me (and my waistline) was the wonderful birthday cake made
by my fabulous friend.  Pip adores watching Mr Bloom so I asked her to make him a Mr Bloom cake.  I've only photographed the veggies here for the photo due to security but you can see how brilliant the cake was.....Pip and I are still polishing it off!

So my big boy is 1 now.  We have switched him fully to normal cow's milk and, due to TCM not listening to me properly on Sunday night and bringing a cup of bedtime milk instead of his bottle, the bottles have also sailed off into the distance, the steriliser has been packed away waiting to be sold.  I still get my night-night cuddles with the cup of milk though so my grief isn't too intense and I'm glad the decision was taken out of my hands because I was resisting ever so slightly.  I never got to feed Katie a bottle and I didn't ever realise how powerful it feels to feed a baby every night.  To snuggle them into your body and listen to the happy, slurpy, sounds they make when feeding.  To gaze into their eyes and feel the bond growing so intensely.  The slight whistle of the bottle as they suck furiously.  I will miss it, I won't lie but I have to let Pip move on to the next stage in his life.  I now have to concentrate on building up to taking the dummy away from him at bedtime.  I'll give him a week or two to get over the loss of the bottles though!

So Happy Birthday to my beautiful baby boy.  Your sunny smile has lit up my world and your presence in my life has brought so much happiness with it. Don't be in too much of a hurry to grow up though as I rather like where we are just at the moment, even the new temper tantrums when I'm changing your nappy or doing anything you don't want me to do.......

........have you been taking notes from your lovely sister I wonder?