Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Digging in Deep.......

I mentioned in my previous post Preparing for Winter, TLC and Reflections that I was enjoying the current season and starting to feel a lot more with it again.  I found in my tap class last night that I was able to remember the routines with more clarity and I enjoyed the class again. When I took a break in May I was feeling so stressed and emotionally tired that it had started to feel like a chore and a challenge. I've even decided not to participate in any of the shows this year which saddens me because one of the performances is a charity performance dedicated to a lovely friend who died 3 years ago from breast cancer and the performance means a lot to me.  I have performed in this show for the past 2 years.  This year I'm going to help do the troupe's hair instead so I can feel I've done something to help.

The main difficulty in life at the moment is Katie's behaviour. She just seems so angry
at the moment and we feel like we are walking on egg shells the whole time. I'm not someone who will tip-toe round someone for fear of their temper but I am certainly picking my battles, of which there are currently plenty to choose from. What worries me most is the anger she expresses. It is explosive and it worries me tremendously. I do think much of her current behaviour is over-tiredness from starting back at school.  A good friend has made me stop and think that some of the weekend activities we are doing to help Katie feel that she is getting attention may actually be over-stimulating her and perhaps quieter weekends might be the way forward.  We're going to take this on board and do the best with can with this suggestion.  The mind jar isn't having the desired effect at the moment and this is something we need to use in quieter moments so Katie doesn't feel it is something being suggested to her because she is angry.  Much of her behaviour at home is really quite anti-social at the moment and I am feeling the building of a knot in my stomach when she is at home.  I'm trying hard not to lose my temper with her but I will admit that I'm finding that harder and harder, particularly when Katie steps up her behaviour. I'm trying to focus more on myself and calm down how I'm feeling so as not to shift all the focus on to Katie. Yoga definitely helps me feel a bit better on the inside and I do feel that the small amount of inner calmness gives me an extra 10 seconds or so to try and stop myself exploding. It's not always easy though.  Ideally I'd like a spa day....or weekend.....or week!  I'd like to feel that I'm breathing deep into myself and reaching those parts that other things cannot reach.

My friend who died told me that she helped herself feel better by making herself look better on the outside. When she lost her hair she attended a make-up course and learned how to draw her eyebrows back in and make her face look healthy. Everyday when I put my make-up on I think of her and remember that she said that if you look in the mirror and look healthy then you will feel healthy.  Because of this I am really careful about my facial care. I always wear a bit of make-up (I'm no diva I'm afraid so a bit of foundation; blusher; mascara and lippy is my limit in pretty much any situation). I do take my make-up off every night (and have done since I was 18 years old) and I've moisturised every single day and night for the same amount of time. That's quite an investment.

With everything going on I've found I've been looking a bit tired so have bought a new eye cream and am looking at what facial creams and cleansers might help my skin survive the winter. I've been made aware of a cleanser by Eve Lom at John Lewis that might be a splurge of luxurious indulgence

These little indulgences might seem frivolous but they are little things that help me get through the day and I need that help at the moment.  I do feel that I'm having to dig in deep to not be angry mum all day every day. I didn't know it was possible to feel the level of anger that I feel around Katie's behaviour.  The tantrums I can handle, it's the belligerence and rudeness and the inner need to understand and resolve the issues.  When she's asked to do something and she stands there and looks me squarely in the eye and says "NO" I can feel my blood boil and that knot in my stomach tighten even further.  When 15 minutes of the same stand-off is in motion I feel emotions that I didn't even know it was possible to feel.  This is all accompanied by some incredibly hyperactive and very silly behaviour such as slamming doors and generally making her presence and displeasure known.  It takes a tag team of TCM (Daddy) and I to get her into bed with minimal fuss. It all feels very dramatic in our house at the moment and I do rather like things to feel a lot calmer.

If anyone has some wonderful tips for managing this sort of behaviour please do post here or email me. I'd be delighted to hear anything that might be of use so that I can make my inner feel like my outer!

Thank you in advance....

This is a sponsored post.....

Preparing for Winter, TLC and Reflections

It's funny how this time of year makes you want to start nesting and getting things ready for the winter.  The sudden change from really warm to feeling quite chilly has made me think about preparing for winter.  I love Autumn. Spring and Autumn are my two favourite seasons.  I wilt in the Summer, and although this Summer has been totally glorious I felt very drained from all the heat.  With the change in temperature I feel like I'm finally coming out of the funk that I disappeared into when Pip arrived.  I'm slowly getting more organised with housework - the house is certainly tidier now that Katie has gone back to school which is a real blessing. I feel a bit more on top of really basic things like the washing and cleaning; there is still a way to go until I've done all the clearing out I'd like to do though and time is scarce with a crawling and almost toddling baby on the scene.

The adoption process is a strange one. It takes you into parts of yourself that you didn't realise were there both in positive and negative ways. It really is a rollercoaster of a ride and it takes an enormous amount of energy. I've had two conversations recently about the energy required for the adoption process.  Prior to meeting your new child for the first time there are a ridiculous amount of things to organise in a very short time. It can feel quite overwhelming.  You might wonder if it's normal to feel so stressed and tired and emotional and also emotionally flat. The build-up to introductions is a tough time for many adopters. There is the excitement of a possibly long-awaited child but there are also worries about the feelings you may (or not yet) have for your future child.  I don't think there is a right way or a wrong way to feel. I felt differently with both adoptions. With Katie I was more apprehensive prior to meeting her but I had no doubts from Matching Panel onwards but with Pip I worried more about the change in dynamic with Katie and I worried a lot about whether having an extra child would be right for her.  After an initial excitement of being matched and feeling lots of bonding, I felt quite flat for several weeks building up to meeting Pip. That feeling continued throughout our introductions and I felt a bit like a fish out of water. In hindsight I think it was just anxiety about everything that was getting in the way but at the time I was worried about whether this was all right.

If I'm honest, I've felt so tired since we first met Pip and his homecoming that I've not really felt particularly inspired to do very much at all. We've still not joined any baby groups, although that is about to change because I'm feeling more ready now.  I've not wanted to spend lots of time with other people. I've just wanted to be at home, finding out about my son.  People don't always realise how long it takes to build a bond with a child, as opposed to a newborn which is very gradual and very needs led. They may not realise how exhausted new adoptive parents are or wonder why they are so tired particularly if the child sleeps well. They may wonder why the new parents don't have time to do housework and may not understand that the reason is that it takes huge amounts of time and energy to build those bonds between parent and child. Hours upon hours of intensive bonding time is required usually through play. It's not forced though, it is very natural but your child takes up all of your time and energy and there is little time for other things. It is such an important time for everyone involved, parents and child. 

I suddenly became aware about a month ago of how much I love Pip. It was a gradual deepening of a bond between us throughout the past 4 months.  I noticed he started to cuddle me more and he's certainly demonstrating his attachment to me by not wanting me to be away from him.  Positive steps for both of us I think.  I find him fascinating and very funny. I am feeling more confident with him and his routine and feel ready to step outside the house and reintegrate myself again.

One of the things I'm currently enjoying with my nesting time is buying a few things for the winter.  We've been very lucky over the years and been given so many clothes for Katie, and now for Pip, that I don't often get to buy things for them myself.  I was delighted that Katie needed a new winter coat and Pip a hat and mittens so spent some wonderful time looking through the Next and Amazon websites yesterday.  I found a lovely hat at Next (pic opposite) which I think he will look adorable in and found Katie a lovely red coat.  I was also very impressed to find some mitten clips on the Amazon website which I'm hoping means I don't have to sew elastic onto everything this year!

But what about me I hear you ask? Well I'm in need of a bit of TLC as well.  I've put on a bit of weight this year (after the bout of anaemia and a bit of a dodgy leg that's preventing me from doing any high impact aerobics these days).  I did order myself a couple of cardigans and am about to book the massage therapist who used to visit me at home a while back (so much cheaper than going to the salon as well).  I'm getting more of a yoga routine going as well now and finally rejoined my tap class last night.  I could do with some new casual tops for the winter (let's face it I don't dress up these days) and might be tempted by some of the casual tops and hoodies at New Look which are within my budget.

Whatever I decide I know that I am definitely on the up.  All I need now is to find a way to manage Katie's behaviour and life couldn't get much better. I think I'll leave that bit for another post though......

This is a sponsored post.

Thursday, 12 September 2013

Pip's Development Check!

I haven't written much about Pip just lately. Katie has been hogging the limelight. Pip has been trundling along, doing his thing, just getting on with life.  When you're nearly 11 months old and crawling and walking around the furniture there is an amazing world of smell, and sound and texture to explore (and put in your mouth!).

Today Pip and I went to see the Health Visitor for his 9-12 month Developmental Check.

Now, visits to the Health Visitor haven't really been something I get excited about because there has been so much focus on Pip's weight over the past few months and I've felt quite considerable pressure to perform some miracle at Bootcamp! There are also usually lots of tiny breast-fed babies around which highlights my little man's weight all the more, not to mention the looks and comments from the other mums (mums do NOT stick together when competing with their babies believe me!).

I was quite looking forward to this one though because I was excited to show Pip off to someone who would be interested in the all the little things I watch him doing every day (let's face it no-one else is particularly interested and I have bugger all else to talk about because this is all I do all day - except for the housework that is...and Pip is a bit of a genius...) and also because I'm starting to feel more confident that we are getting his weight under control.

When we arrived at the surgery I had to run the usual gambit of people commenting on Pip's weight. Why do older people think they can just say the first thing that comes into their heads I wonder?

"I bet he's called Buster!" was the first comment from an older lady who did then go "We like to say he's bonny" was my reply. "Oh yes, bonny, that's good" says she.
on to chat cooingly to Pip and elicit lots of smiles from the little man who had no idea how rude she'd just been to him.

"Oooh he's a fatty!" said one rather outspoken very old gentleman who was at the surgery with his daughter and her husband to talk about whether he should give up his driving licence....(I'm sure you can guess what I was hoping the outcome of his visit was, although I suppose you could say that there isn't much wrong with his eyes....just his mouth!)

Anyway, the very lovely Health Visitor came to greet us and take us up to the rather large room with lots of toys for Pip to play with.  He was down and getting interested in the toy box in no time flat - earning himself lots of ticks on the sheet (Well done my boy!).  Pip showed off all his skills very nicely: pulling himself up to standing and crawling around everywhere; making lots of babbling sounds (which echoed around the room brilliantly, much to Pip's amusement); displaying his attachment to me etc etc. He was a little star!  The Health Visitor commented on how sociable he is and how much he studied all the toys that he played with and how interested in his environment he was.  He passed with flying colours! (I'm so glad I made sure he had a nap before the visit!)

 Then came the getting nudey bit, which Pip hates with a vengeance!  He hates being on
his back for nappy changes at the best of times.  She checked his hips and decided, after one tiny concern that the creases on the front of his legs were uneven, that his hips were all fine. Pip had been referred when younger for an Orthopaedic review due to a clicky hip but the HV felt that his mobility was excellent so no cause for concern - phew!  I now just need to check to make sure his testicles are descended (Oh my woolly word!)  I can imagine a whole blog post about that one!

Now for the scales.  I almost held my breath....... 11kg exactly.  Pip has hardly gained any weight since he's been with us, only 1kg in 13 weeks.

To give you an idea of the issue Pip weighed 3.2 kg at birth and followed the 50th centile until he was 6.5 kg at 19 weeks (91st centile) and then wasn't weighed again until we had him weighed at 32 weeks where he weighed 10kg (upper end of 91st centile). No-one seems to know how he put all the weight on, and it seems that will remain one of life's little mysteries (although I have a theory) but the good news is that I no longer need to take him to be weighed.  He is still on the 91st centile but it's steady and is slowly coming down and is almost on the line to move down to 75th centile (at one point he was nearly on the 98th centile) so there is no need for him to be weighed until he's 18 months old.

*does a little party dance*

All in all I'm delighted.  Pip now is the proud owner of 1.5 chins which is a dramatic reduction from the three he arrived with. He's even got a cute little tushie now!  He's growing well and steadily, although he didn't exactly lay very still for his height check and the HV thinks she might have got a slightly shorter result due to his displeasure!  He eats well, sleeps well, does pretty much everything well bless him and, most importantly of all, is attaching well.  He knows who his Mummy is and he knows that he wants me around and voices his displeasure when he can't see me.  What's not to be delighted about?

With a big smile and a huge deep breath of relief Pip and I came home with his little HomeStart book bag with some new books for us to read.  We enjoy our reading time so we'll enjoy singing "Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes" and I can re-embrace my inner Redcoat once again......

Tuesday, 10 September 2013

Mind Jars

I've made no secret of the fact that things have been a little stressed in the Katie household just lately. Stressed is probably an understatement.  It's been quite a few months (at least 6 months) now really that Katie has been struggling to manage her temper. This past weekend was really difficult and I'm keen to find ways to help Katie understand her emotions more and find ways to help her start of manage those feelings.

The first step though is for me to try and help her fathom out why she is reacting in this way. Anger is a by-product of other emotions but the big question is what is making Katie feel so angry?  Is it Pip's arrival? Is it frustration at not always being allowed to do the things she wants to do? Is she simply tired? She asks lots of questions about her birth family, is that bringing up all sorts of emotions that she doesn't know how to deal with? Is she worried about starting Year 1 and the change of classroom and also the children in that class? Is she reacting to my stress levels?

Is it all of the above?

Another change in recent months is the rise in her anxiety levels. She seems worried about all sorts of things that she wasn't worried about before. She is worried about eating too much and being sick (food has always been a major problem with Katie); she worries about doing new things for the first time and will seek lots of reassurance from Daddy and I as to whether we've done it before and how it was for us. She seems to be worried about everything.  Why?  Where has this all come from? Is this a developmental phase and she is becoming aware that the world isn't the safe place it has always been for her?

I felt that something practical was needed at home to help Katie calm down a little bit.  I also want to move about from negative consequence parenting such as "time-out", although this is quite tough in the heat of the moment.  I've realised how alike Katie and I are.  Neither of us like being told what to do so using "time-out" seems to fuel a situation rather than diffuse it.

I found some inspiration from a blog that I've recently discovered called Left-Brain Buddha. I am trying very hard to live my life more mindfully and I like the idea of parenting mindfully and also helping my children be more mindful. This is a bit of a challenge for me because I'm highly analytical and spend far too much time thinking about things that have happened rather than just being aware of the moment that I am currently living. One of the things I love about Reiki healing is that I stay in the moment when I'm healing. I remain very focused on what I am doing and what I am experiencing. It's one of the reasons I also love doing yoga.

Anyway, I digress.  Whilst reading Left-BrainBuddha I discovered a post called "Mind in a Jar" Mindfulness Practice for Our Little Buddhas and it was all about creating a mind jar using a jam jar, water and glitter. The jar represents our brains and the glitter and water all our thoughts and emotions.  When you are feeling angry or stressed you can shake the jar, breathe deeply and slowly and watch the glitter swirl about and slowly settle to the top and bottom of the jar, just as our feelings also settle back down. You can also use the jar to sit quietly when you want a few minutes peace and quiet.  The jar can be decorated with paint or stickers and is a great (and easy) arts and crafts exercise. Once complete the jar needs to be put somewhere easy to reach and be available at all times so your child can access it whenever they want to.

I showed Katie the post and we decided that we wanted to make our own Mind Jars so we bought lots of glitter from Asda and found some old jars.  We filled our jars with glitter and water and decorated the outside of the jar with lots of stickers.  Note: you don't actually need much glitter. We got carried away and used far too much and ended up having to make three jars!

Here is what we made:

Katie loves her jar (and I rather do mine as well).  She has used her several times already.  We have put them on the book case so we can access them whenever we need some calm time.  It will take a bit of time to get into the new practice and I'd like to think of a way we can use this technique on the move (I'm not taking a glass jar out in the car but we could probably replicate it with a plastic bottle). We took Katie's into school to show her new teacher, who was also very taken with the idea and is now thinking about making a class one, which I think is a marvelous idea. I have warned her though that she might get told off by the Head Teacher if she herself is shaking it all day long!  So a big thank you to Sarah Rudel Beach at Left Brain Buddha for sharing this idea on her blog.

I'm off to buy some more glitter because I'm feeling inspired to make single coloured Mind Jars.

Saturday, 7 September 2013

Tempers, Tantrums and no New Sparkly Shoes.....

Today definitely hasn't ended in the way I envisaged when I planned a treat day for Katie and I.

Sabotage is a word that perfectly sums up the day we have had.

Katie mentioned earlier in the week that she really wanted to see the new film "Monsters University". We had said we both wanted to see it but childcare logistics meant it wasn't feasible to arrange over the school holidays.  This weekend we had a weekend with nothing planned. Perfect timing I thought. I booked two premier seating tickets for Katie and I to go to the cinema in the big town near us and planned to go for a nice lunch and buy some stickers that she needed to decorate her homebook for school.  I also planned that we could get some new party shoes for Katie because she had outgrown her lovely sparkly silver pair that we bought for Auntie C's wedding last year.

I was really looking forward to having some girly time, just Katie and I.

Sounds like a lovely day doesn't it?

It does until you factor in a surprise reappearance of Bonkers Child!

We went to dance class in the morning.  Running late as usual but so far so good.  We came home and spent an hour or so at home just sorting a few bits out and chatting to our architect about the roof plans for our extension.  At 11:30am off we set.

Katie was excited about getting her stickers. We went to the nearby Staples and to Tesco Metro and got lots of lovely stickers. We found one of those A-frame Walkers for Pip's birthday present and the day was looking good.  It was looking good until we tried on party shoes.

It's getting to a point where I hate shoe shopping with Katie. We get the biggest temper tantrums known to mankind when shoe shopping.  Today's epic tantrum was because the size 11 shoes were too small and the size 12 shoes were too large.  The simple solution (in my mind that is) was to look in another shop, maybe one where they have half sizes, but no, Katie wanted those ones.

Meltdown alert!

It was a real wild animal meltdown as well.  Rage that contorted her face into almost unrecognisable features.  Thrashing and kicking and screaming!


I walked away to see if that would calm things down and met another mum who smiled knowingly at me and said:

"My child is doing the same thing over the other side of the shop.  I've left her with my mum"

We exchanged a few pleasantries about the delights of 4 and 5 year old girls and I returned to Katie to see if we could make any progress.

Apparently not!

She decided she wouldn't let me put her other sandal back on.  Eventually I picked up the sandal and walked away, sandal in hand, Katie eventually running after me, screaming.

I tried some labelling techniques......

"Katie I can see that you are feeling very angry and upset. That must feel horrible for you inside. Is there anything I can do to help?"

What I really wanted to say was...

"Stop behaving like a spoilt little brat" but I'm being therapeutic so I kept amazingly calm.  Brilliantly calm some of the observers might have said, particularly when Katie was hitting and kicking me.

Katie didn't want to calm down just yet it appeared so I walked away again.  Katie dive
bombed my leg and held on as I walked.  It was quite funny to come of the people walking past it seemed.  I found a chair and sat down and she launched herself at me for a screaming cuddle.

Eventually she calmed down.  It took a lot of "eventually".

I was in two minds at this point.  Shoe shopping was definitely now off the cards. No way am I buying anything after all that but we did have the rest of the day booked so what to do? Do I just say "To hell with the £20 the tickets cost and we just go home?" or do we soldier on and see if the day can be salvaged.

I went for option 2!  You'll see me comment later in this post that I'm not a total might be forgiven at this point for screaming at me via the computer that I'm a total idiot!

We went to an ASK restaurant near to the cinema. They have a great children's menu with things that Katie likes to eat.  She said she wanted Carbonara so I said we could eat in there.

She ate some of the breadsticks and crudites that came as a first course but when the Carbonara arrived she took one look at it, screwed up her face and said belligerently:

"What's that green stuff on the top?"

"It's a bit of flat leaf parsley Katie.  Same as Mummy uses when I cook this, your favourite dish, at home"

"I don't want it!"

She then ate two tiny pieces of bacon and refused to eat anymore citing that she felt sick.  She sat and deep breathed dramatically whilst I attempted to eat my Gluten-free Fiorentina pizza.  It was a nice pizza but it was very hard to enjoy it to be honest with all the dramatics going on.  We should have just gone to McDonalds.  We should have just gone home.

I decided Katie wasn't having dessert because she didn't eat her Carbonara and we were running late for the start of the programme by that point anyway so we had to rush off.  Katie then started asking if the film was going to be scary.  I wondered if she was anxious about going to the cinema. It's been a while since we'd been (and it will be a long while before we return I suspect). We talked about Monsters Inc, which is on our Sky planner and how this film was about Sully and Mike before they worked at Monsters Inc.  I reassured her that it wasn't scary inside the cinema and that she had been before.  We went inside and bought a drink (no popcorn today).  We went to the loo (I'm not a total novice - ok ok stop laughing) and found our seats.

It appears that the cinema must have been overrun by an infestation of ants because Katie certainly seemed to have lots of them in her pants throughout the entire film. They must have also played havoc with her bladder because the child that never usually goes to the toilet much during the day desperately needed to go halfway through the film and appeared to want to go again 30 minutes later, except the second time Mummy said no!  She climbed on her chair; she climbed on me; she looked around at everyone else in the cinema and commented on what everyone was doing and asked every 5 minutes "Is it nearly the end?"

I quite enjoyed the film myself. I'll probably enjoy it more when I get to see it properly though.

Mummy was feeling pretty pissed off by the end of the film.

We went home for tea.

She ate her tea nicely (so I'm told by Daddy - I escaped off to the shops with the excuse of needing my Lactofree milk and for a bottle of wine and some Guylian chocolates).  She was getting hyper again by about 5.30pm and Pip hadn't slept well whilst I was gone so Daddy and I decided an early bedtime was required and wondered whether today was too much to ask the first week back after the school holidays and maybe Katie was just too tired to manage it all? Maybe I should that thought about that when promising our lovely *cough* day out.

Bit by bit we watched Katie work herself up.  She was dramatic about getting in the bath because of a sore ankle. She annoyed Pip in the bath so I got him out and got him ready for bed. Whilst I was feeding him his night-time bottle Daddy came up to help get Katie out of the bath and then all hell broke loose.  Katie didn't want Daddy to get her out of the bath.  She kicked and screamed and spat at him and generally lost it big time.  From then on it's a bit of a blur. Katie stormed into Pip's room at one point where the cats were taking refuge and picked Willow up and threw her down on the floor.  I'm afraid I shouted at that point for her to get out of Pip's room.  I finished sorting Pip out and got him into bed. He takes all this in his stride.  In fact he made me chuckle because all the time he was drinking his milk he was waving his arm at the door as if to say "Night Night Katie" or maybe "Go away shouty and screamy one".

I then tagged teamed Daddy and took over. Katie was kicking off that she wasn't getting a story. I tried the labelling again, with more success this time and slowly she calmed down. Eventually she was calm enough to go down and say sorry to Daddy and we read a quick story and did our bedtime routine.
I wanted to say no to all of our usuals but felt that I would be cutting off my nose to spite my face if I did that.

Main objective: Get Her Into Bed and Asleep!

After one false start where she came back down again, she went to bed.

So Daddy and I are now trying to fathom out what went wrong today.  Was it just all too much after the start of school and Katie was over-tired from the week or was something else going on?  Did Katie want to sabotage a nice day or did she just get so upset over the shoes that she couldn't get over it all day? Probably a combination of all three I suspect.

All I know for sure now is that my evening involves Fahitas; a bottle of Prosecco and those Guylian chocolates and I'll see what tomorrow brings.

Maybe I might need some Migraleve as well.........

Friday, 6 September 2013

End of Holidays and Back to School

I overheard a snippet of a conversation between two mums from school this morning as I was stomping back home, the black cloud that was following me matched the ones spitting rain down on me and Pip as we walked. It was a snippet that lifted the black cloud instantly from my shoulders and put a little spring back in my step. This is what I heard:

"It gets to a point when you can't see any of the good anymore and you just hear yourself moaning all the time. It's just "Clean your teeth" or "Tidy your room". It just feels like you focus on the bad all the time"

I heard this conversation after a stressful morning which involved Katie systematically irritating everyone in the house for some reason known only to herself and we were late for school because Pip decided to do a poo in his nappy at 8:43am. I had virtually dragged an annoyingly slow-walking Katie by her hand to school and we arrived dead on 9am. Phew! I have not yet been so late that we've had to sign the late register. I felt irritable, sticky and grumpy as Pip and I left the school playground.

Hearing regular mums having this conversation isn't a revelation really. We know that we are not the only ones having a difficult time with our children.  We know we aren't the only broken record in the street, hearing our voices say the same things over and over again, but hearing that sort of conversation at the right moment, on the right day, can feel like a breath of fresh air on an otherwise rainy and muggy day.

I will confess that I am glad that the school holidays are over.  The holidays felt at least a week too long if I'm being honest.  We aren't a family that thrives on a lack of routine and "going with the flow" and I'm not someone who thrives on having no "me" time at all (my back almost seized up from lack of yoga). Katie's behaviour has regressed since Pip joined us so having free time for her means finding as many ways to get into trouble as is humanly possible.  I thought we had moved on from this behaviour.  We had a few blissful months earlier this year when she would sit quietly and draw, the need to find naughty things to do having left her mind in favour of finally learning how to occupy herself with her imagination.  Sadly the arrival of Pip has regressed this particular new found joy (on my part) back to her former "can't leave her alone for a second" method of self occupation.  Katie thrives on gaining attention, any attention will do.  At her worst she will spend her entire day just finding ways to annoy everyone.  It's like she's on a mission.  She gets a glint in her eye that means that the day will end in tears, for everyone.  She loves to annoy Pip and is testing her strength against him. He seems to cry very quickly if they are left alone together for even a short time so I have to watch them all the time.  Sometimes she will be really helpful and sweet.  She will go and get his toothbrush and put toothpaste on it without me even asking or she will give him a little cuddle and tell him she loves him but it can turn on a dime and, before you know it, she will be pushing him over.  Much of this is normal sibling stuff but it doesn't make it any easier to deal with and the intensity of the holidays left me with a knot in my stomach that was making me feel physically sick and making me feel like a very miserable Mummy.

This was our first holiday period as a family of four and the most time the children have spent together since Pip arrived.  Katie hasn't really had a lot of time with Pip because she's been at school since he arrived.  It's all a big adjustment and we are still very much in our early days stage.  We couldn't do our usual overseas holidays because Pip is not yet legally adopted and is unable to have a passport.  Daddy had some time off but it is difficult finding entertainment that suits a 10 month old baby and a 5 year old girl.  Pip is crawling and walking around the furniture. He is happy just spending the day doing that and he also needs his naps.  I would have liked to have spent more time at home but I find Katie easier to manage if we're out of the house and doing something energetic.  Katie can influence the mood of the house enormously both positively and negatively so it can feel like the walls are closing in on me if we're home all day and she is in what I call a "pickle belly" mood.  Pip, bless him, has to fit around what works best for the entire family. He's being rewarded this week though with a week totally at home with lots of crawling and exploring the house.

Don't get me wrong, we've had good times over the holidays.  We've had lots of days out with friends and been to country parks and had picnics; we've looked after my neighbours kittens (one of which will be joining us at the end of this month - yes I know, I know, I'm totally mad!); we've sloshed in wellies in the local lakes; we've had playdates; we've done the reading challenge at the local library; we've baked cakes; we've snuggled and watched films. It was a real juggle with the age gap though.  We've crammed a lot in but there has always been the start of an argument just sitting there, waiting for its moment to pounce. Like the mothers were saying, it's easy to lose sight of the good stuff and just focus on the negatives.

I booked Katie into a couple of camp days.  I wrote about her experience at gymnastics camp during the holidays and she also attended a street dance camp which she thoroughly enjoyed.  I have learned that I need to book her into activities for part of the holidays, for both our sanity. I love my daughter but we need time apart from each other. I need time to rebalance myself and access my calmer parenting techniques.  I found myself shouting far too many times over the holidays. I don't like shouting or feeling aggressive but, boy, does parenting bring that out in you.  As a result I spent most of the holidays feeling like a crap parent.  I don't really have many people in my life that I could access support from; things like some childcare time, so we have to pay for any time off and as the holidays progressed I started to feel overwhelmed and in need of some support.

As a result of all the angst I feel like I missed how Katie was feeling about starting Year 1. I noticed she stepped her challenging behaviour up a notch over the last week of the holidays. Sadly I was so hormonally challenged during that last week that I was focusing on just getting through the week. I missed that she was anxious, because children just don't come out and say "Hey Mum, I'm really worried about starting Year 1". No they get grumpy and stressy and drive you to the point of explosion.  They decide not to go to bed; they refuse to clean their teeth; they run away and hide every time you call them; they are rude and belligerent; they thump and kick and shout.  I'm obviously supposed to be able to read all the sub-text in this behaviour and think "Aaaaah she's worried about starting Year 1!".

The penny did finally drop after a big argument and Katie cried in my arms.  She was worried about being in a new class away from some of her friends (they've all been split up because they are little buggers pickles together) and she was worried about her wobbly tooth coming out at school.  It's all been OK though.  She has been to school for the past 4 days and come home smiling.  I've made sure she was with friends and sat at the table with paper and pencils etc to join in with the drawing. I've had a chat with her teacher and, as luck would have it, one of her friends lost a tooth yesterday at school so Katie is feeling a little less anxious about the whole tooth coming out at school thing.

I've had a lovely 4 days with just Pip.  He's been exploring the kitchen and I've been running behind him slowly Pip-proofing the space. I've also done yoga every day whilst he naps and I feel like I'm healing a bit. My head feels a little calmer. The migraine that developed last week is slowly diminishing.  I've got more patience again for the times when Katie is home and being challenging.  I feel like I'm giving her more quality time when we're together.  I feel like I'm regaining some perspective over everything and. just as the autumn is arriving and the country starts to prepare for its annual hibernation (or maybe an Indian Summer if the weather reports are to be believed), I feel like I am coming out of a self-imposed shell and am rebuilding myself.

And on that note I can hear my yoga mat calling me.......