Friday, 31 January 2014

Setback and a Sign!

I guess it was inevitable when you think about our journey thus far with Pip's adoption.  Our whole process has been about delays.  Our panel date was delayed; Pip's court report was delayed and now our adoption hearing has been delayed whilst the courts make another attempt to find his Birth Mother using a Tracing Order.  If Pip's Birth Mother cannot be traced after this then the judge will dispense of the need for her consent to the adoption.  Not that she will give her consent even if they do find her.

It's hopefully only a delay of 4-6 weeks.  I'm disappointed because, with less than a week to go before our hearing, I was finally starting to relax and feel excited that we would finally be a formal family.  No less than one hour after I posted exactly feeling this to my adoption group than I get an email from Pip's Social Worker giving me the news of the delay.  I feel like I should be jumping up and down, getting angry and shouting the odds, but I feel too tired and worn out really.  I'm also being pragmatic.  What good will jumping up and down actually do?  All it will achieve is me having even less energy than I currently do so why use my energy on a fruitless cause?  Actually I'd much rather the delay than Pip's Birth Mother potentially make a case in the future that not enough effort was made to find her and the risk that might pose to Pip's adoption.

Ironically there is another story tied up to this story that is another reason why I'm not getting too stressed about it all.  It's a story about a dress.

A few weeks ago, whilst shopping with a dear friend, I tried on two jumper dresses in
Monsoon.  They were both in the sale.  As is often the case for me when trying on dresses in Monsoon I loved them both.  I decided though that, in the spirit of saving money, I should only buy one so I chose the black and white striped dress to match my lovely new knee high black boots.  Once I got home though I kept thinking about the lovely brown dress and how lovely it would look with my other new pair of brown boots for Pip's Adoption Day in court.  About 10 days later these thoughts got the better of me and I returned to the shop to see if the dress was still there.  It wasn't.  I tried online but it was the same story. Sold out everywhere.

It clearly wasn't meant to be and I started to put my mind to thinking about what else I might wear to court.

After I got the news of the delay in Pip's court case my engagement ring snapped and I had to take the ring into the jewellers in our local town.  After dropping the ring off the thought came to me to pop into Monsoon and just see if there were any other dresses still in the sale in need of a new home.  As I was looking the dress I tried on caught my eye.  I remembered that they had the dress but not in my size but something made me slide my fingers along the rail to have a little look anyway.

I'm sure you know where this story is going........

There on the clothes rail was my dress, in my size.  I actually let out a little squeal of excitement and rushed to the changing room to try it on again.  It fitted beautifully and I knew it would be coming home with me.  I told the Sales Assistant how excited I was to find the dress and she said that they had literally that day had a delivery of the dresses from another shop.  Not only that but it was reduced by another £10 to a bargain at £20 (reduced from £60).  I almost skipped home.  Well I would have if I wasn't pushing a pushchair.

I took finding this dress as a sign.  A sign that I will wear my dress at Pip's Adoption Court Day and that it will be soon because it is a jumper dress and you can't wear a winter dress in the summer can you? 

And that is why I'm not worrying about it all at all.

Friday, 24 January 2014

One Fine Day....

Four years ago I was preparing to leave my professional life to adopt Katie.  My working life was where I was a trained counsellor who specialised in working with teenagers for an organisation called Connexions.  I worked in schools and colleges and offered one-to-one support for young people with multiple problems that impacted heavily on their education. I specialised particularly in Sexual Health and worked with teenage parents and I taught SRE in schools and colleges and was a Trainer for a Teenage Pregnancy Partnership; training adults to support young people in issues relating to their sexual health.  I loved my job but it was hard going at times.  I wanted to help my young people succeed in their lives but it was a challenging job because there weren't always the services available to help with emotional difficulties and I often had clients who had chaotic lifestyles and several who no longer wanted to live in this world.  Working with clients who feel chaotic led to very chaotic and responsive working.  The joy that I felt when I was able to help someone and watch them blossom in their lives was the best feeling though.  In the evenings I went to tap and Reiki and Mo-jive.  TCM and I went on holidays and to gigs and mostly out to eat.  We had a life of freedom but we wanted children more than anything else.

I took a year's adoption leave when I first left my job to adopt Katie.  I knew I didn't want to go back but we left our options open and decided to claim the higher rate of adoption pay.  Fortune smiled on me though because several months into my adoption leave the possibility of redundancy was offered.  I jumped at it and was not only able to keep my year's higher rate of adoption pay but also received redundancy pay.  For the first time in my life I did not have a job.  I was officially a Stay At Home Mum or SAHM. 

Before adopting Katie and Pip I remember watching the film Parenthood with Mary Steenburgen's character going against expectation and wanting to stay as a home parent because she was good at it. I have to thank the film for not only many jokes that I still recycle but for highlighting that all children and all parents are different and people can make different choices.  The film has pride of place in my DVD collection, mostly for the joke about the electric ear-cleaner!  A SAHM is still quite invisible in the eyes of the world however.  We are an underappreciated bunch within society.  Our skills are not recognised in the world of business.  We apparently sit around drinking lattes all day and are seen as letting the side down by many feminists.  Personally I feel true feminism is being able to choose what you want to do without boundaries - be that working in business; running the country; being a builder; driving a taxi or being a home parent.  Feminism to me is about choice.

So fast forward four years and here I am, a SAHM.  My world has changed beyond all recognition from my life before children although I suspect it's more busy than it was before and I certainly don't get paid holidays or sick pay!  I admit though that I occasionally miss feeling that the world "saw" me back then.  Now I am mostly "Katie's Mum" at school and I currently spend my days rushing to do the morning school run and then spending my day with a 15 month old baby who sleeps from 11am until nearly 2pm most days.  Once he's had his lunch it's time to collect Katie again from school; feed them tea; do some reading or play; get them bathed and into bed.  I have wonderful skills in chivvying children along I must say - are they transferable skills I wonder?  I have a brief chat with one or two of the mums en-route to school each way and that is often my adult interaction during the day until TCM comes home.  I have lots of housework that I can keep up with and I make my efforts there.  I try and do some yoga most days but I feel that my brain is under-utilised and I often feel quite unmotivated.  My social life has been incredibly restricted since adopting Pip.  I found that very hard in the early days but that is getting better as he gets more mobile and engaging.  I am so grateful to have my blog because it is a reminder that I am able to string sentences together and make some reasonable sense still.

When we adopted Katie we were out and about all the time.  She slept from 1pm until
3pm each day but we had the mornings to see people and there was still time in the afternoon to play.  We had lots of fun.  We went to the zoo; to soft play; we ran and chased each other; we did painting; we went to our local farm to feed the pigs and we chatted.  She could miss her nap and have a sleep in the car on big days out.  It's very different with Pip thus far because he is so much younger than Katie was when we adopted her.  Pip and I do go to soft play and we do go to the zoo but it's been a very different experience to this point.  He needs a full sleep every day (boy does that child need his sleep!) so we have to come back home.  I did get him to sleep in his buggy more during the summer but that's not practical during the winter.  We are currently quite tied to the house.  Because Pip is still not legally adopted TCM and I don't really get to go out together in the evening.  Our last evening out was this time last year!  Asking our CRB checked people to babysit isn't as easy as it might have seemed on paper as circumstances have changed.  I have felt let down though by some people who I thought would be my lifeline to the outside world but their children are grown up now and their lives are far too busy to even remember how isolated they might have felt with a young baby at home.  They've moved on from all that now and have adult lives, which is fair enough. Their houses are no longer baby proof so it feels stressful for us to visit with a mobile toddling baby who's into everything.  There is no real conversation able to take place under those circumstances because I'm just running after Pip trying to stop him breaking things.  It's not long now until our case goes to court so hopefully within a few weeks all that will start to change.  I've also been lucky to have a few wonderful friends in my life who offer so much support on the phone and who also take me away from it all once in a while!

I sound like I'm complaining.  I am and I'm not.  It's all been a big adjustment.  I wouldn't change the fact that we now have Pip for all the tea in China and I am totally in love with my son but it's been a very tough transition from one to two children, both emotionally and physically and mentally.  Bringing any new child into the family changes the balance in that family.  Katie has had a lot of adjustments to make, as have we all. I make more demands on TCM now than I did.  He often walks in from work to be thrust a milk cup or is asked to watch the children in the bath.  He more often than not walks in to the sounds of Katie shouting the odds at me over something.  It's often a more volatile environment than it was previously.  They don't call it the "witching hour" for nothing!  I said to Katie this morning though that I feel like we're coming through this introduction phase and things are feeling more balanced.  I feel like I'm coping more and taking things in my stride more and the children feel happier together.  The house is more messy than it used to be but I'm trying to live with that.  I'm more tired than I used to be but I'm adjusting to that.  It's now been 8 months and things finally feel more natural; there's more fluidity to our day.  Mamma is getting her mojo back!

It also helps that Pip is becoming great fun.  He's walking and trying so hard to find his words.  He is incredibly engaging and chats away in what I think might currently be Klingon.  We are starting to explore his world together and I think the summer will be great fun (except for the fact that we will be moving out of our house for about 6 months whilst we build an enormous extension - that will be an adventure of many proportions I think!).  I have some lovely friends that I see for a few hours each week.  I am getting out to my tap and Reiki groups and am treating myself to a painful remedial massage once a month so I do get to experience some life outside of the house and I know that it isn't forever.

One of our first Social Workers warned me about the impact of giving up work and becoming a SAHM.  She said I might find it tough to transition from working for so long to being at home all day.  Interestingly I didn't with Katie but I have with Pip.  I think there has been a lot tied up in our second adoption for me particularly.  I was always worried about being a mum to two children and whether I would cope.  I was raised by a mother who constantly told me that having two children was the worst thing she had ever done so you can understand my anxiety.  Actually, it's been totally fine.  I can cope just fine with two and am even starting to enjoy it more.  Katie and Pip and I had great fun playing "It" last night and it was lovely to play together.  I might not be perfect but I'm doing OK.  I'm learning to split myself in two but, looking at it positively, at least I might have a career in magic when I return to work!  The thing that hit me the most though was the awareness that I will experience so much more of Pip's life than I have of Katie's.  Seeing Pip as a baby has really brought home to me what I've missed of Katie at that age.  I think I blanked it out before but I've had to experience a period of mourning for what I missed with Katie.  They look so alike that I can almost picture Katie doing the things that Pip is currently doing and I want to have memories of her at that age but we don't have that.  It is what it is and all that but it is a loss that I'm learning to accept, albeit 4 years after we adopted her.  You just never know when these feelings will hit you.

So having said all that I'd better get back to my housework....or shall I do some yoga or have a latte before Pip wakes up? Hmmmm Yoga I think! The housework can wait......again!

Tuesday, 21 January 2014

Groundhog Day or It's NOT Fair......

It's been an emotional few days here in the Katie household. Emotional is an understatement really. And it's all because of these......

Elsa boots from Disney's "Frozen" film.

They're hideous to my mature eye but to a 6 year old. Katie they are a thing of total beauty and she has fallen in love.  She first met the object of her desire two days ago at a birthday party. A friend was wearing a pair. Katie rushed home desperate to have a pair so she and her friend "could be twins".  We looked online.....

Sold Out Everywhere!  Sold out on every Disney store. Sold out on EBay.

Katie was heartbroken. We could tell she was heartbroken by the weeping and wailing and screaming and shouting. It kinda gives it away.  We agreed I would contact Disney on Monday.

So I did.

I spoke to our local Disney store and also waited for ages on the telephone for a Disney cast member to answer the call at HQ. Both were very friendly and very helpful but ultimately had bad news. The boots are winter stock aimed at the Christmas market and they don't know if they're going to have any more stock in the future because the Spring stock is coming in.  Computer says No!

It's still the middle of the winter for goodness sakes! AND the film is still showing in the cinemas. Why's top the stock now? There's still money to be made.

You can imagine how well this went down with Katie. She doesn't really understand or doesn't want to.  I have to check online every day. She is devastated. She wants those boots and nothing is going to dissuade her. This is the first thing she has ever been this emotional about and wanted so much (although having said that I do remember a tantrum in Tesco one day over a toy dog) and I hate seeing her feel like this. Tonight she had a total meltdown over it all and went to bed sobbing.

I know that time will be a great healer and I'm sure that something else will come along that she wants but at the moment we're stuck in and emotional Groundhog Day.

Disney.....surely there is some magic you can pull for me? I do believe in magic! A size 12 or 13 please.....

Adoption and the Media Cloud

Several times over the past year I have either watched something on the television or read an article in the media that has queried the agenda of Social Services related to adoption.  It feels rare to see Social Workers portrayed in a positive light, which is a shame because most Social Workers are in the job because they want to help people.  I have worked with Social Workers both in my professional capacity when working as a Personal Adviser for the now demised Connexions Service and also as an adopter.  Some of my experiences have been frustrating because of issues around information sharing but most of my experiences have been positive.  We have had wonderful Social Workers for both of our adoptions, each bringing their own experiences and knowledge which we have benefited from greatly.

Over the past week I have watched two, very different programmes related to adoption and Social Workers.  These were a BBC Panorama programme entitled I Want My Child Back which focused on miscarriages of justice relating to child protection and Channel 4's Dispatches programme Finding Mum and Dad which reported on adoption parties and the specific journey of several children hoping to find their family forever.  Both programmes raised great emotion in me, for very different reasons.

The Panorama programme featured the stories of four Birth Parents whose babies had been removed for Child Protection reasons following multiple seemingly unexplained fractures discovered on the babies.  The babies were subsequently removed from the Birth Parents under Child Protection laws.  The programme highlighted the issue of Vitamin D deficiency and queried whether this was the cause of the fractures.  A congenital issue was discovered in one of the cases and the children were returned to their Birth Parent.  In the other cases the children remained in care and were subsequently adopted.   No further ongoing injuries were reported for these children once they were in care.  I will just state at this point that I am not going to give an opinion as to the guilt or innocence of these parents.  I have no idea and the programme certainly did not present all the facts.  I have no doubt that there was more to the cases than was presented in the programme.  It does seem clear from the programme that Vitamin D deficiency needs to be investigated with every admission into hospital of unexplained fractures in babies and young children.  It may well be that these four cases are all miscarriages of justice and my heart breaks for any parent in that situation.  The programme however alluded to 100s of cases that had come forward yet no evidence of this was provided of this. 

I was concerned however by several things within the programme, firstly how the programme was presented and the fact that the stories remained incomplete.  You cannot prove a case with an incomplete story.  What concerned me further was that MP John Hemming, Chairman of the Justice for Families Group, was advising parents to flee the country to prevent their babies from being taken into care because he believes that parents cannot receive a fair hearing in the family courts.  How can Mr Hemming know, beyond any reasonable doubt, that the people he is advising are innocent?  He could potentially be encouraging abusers to avoid the law.  Is that wise?

My other concern was the photographs of children used in the programme.  Some of these were images of children who have now been adopted.  I would query the right of Panorama under data protection laws to be able to use photographs of a child without the permission of the child's legal guardians.  I do not seek to be cruel to the Birth Parents in the programme but I would ask was the permission of the Adoptive Parents sought when putting images of their children on national television?  Has this programme effected the anonymity of those children? 

The "secrecy" of the courts was quoted over and over during the programme when the word "confidentiality" should have been used.  There are very good reasons why the courts have to have strict confidentiality, primarily to protect the children who are the true innocents in all of this.  I have no doubt that there are miscarriages of justice and I feel sad for each and every innocent parent whose child is removed from them but the vast majority of cases where unexplained multiple fractures are found on a small child are due to abuse.  Confidentiality is there to protect the identity of the children in these cases and yet I personally feel confidentiality was abused when Panorama showed photographs of children who are now adopted.  Where is the confidentiality for those children?

Conversely the Dispatches programme focused on the need to find homes for children who are harder to place and the use of Adoption Parties to enable Prospective Adopters to meet with children seeking families in a relaxed and fun environment.  The analogy that you wouldn't buy a sofa from DFS online without sitting on it first was used which I found slightly uncomfortable but would agree that it is a very strange scenario when you don't even see a picture of your child-to-be before you have theoretically agreed to the match. I understand that this is so you make a decision based on facts and not an emotional response to a child yet does that not then fly in the face of the theory behind adoption parties which are to elicit that response and connection between Prospective Adopter and the child? 

Adoption Parties are a new concept in the UK, although widely used in the USA.  I can see pros and cons of the concept and do worry about the children who attend the parties and do not find forever families as a result and remain in the care system. What is the emotional impact on those children? I wanted to hear anecdotes from people who attended these days in the USA about their experiences and outcomes and feelings.  Several children were featured in the programme.  It was heartbreaking to watch and I wanted to adopt them all, particularly the two boys, Daniel and Connor. 

There was a slight judgement on Adopters presented because Adopters apparently only want younger children or a boy and a girl, not two boys.  Sadly boys are harder to place than girls which is really sad to hear.  It would never have bothered me whether we were matched with a girl or a boy.  I said to TCM after watching the programme that during our first adoption our Social Workers accepted at face value our desire to adopt a younger child.  This wasn't really ever challenged.  Our decision was mostly based on the hearsay that adopting a younger child meant you were likely to have fewer difficulties, a fact reinforced during our Adoption Preparation Course.  I now know that that is not necessarily the case.  I think I would have liked to have had more information and experience regarding the older children and sibling groups when going through the process because I think we might have been more open to these concepts that we realised we might be.  I would certainly now urge any Prospective Adopters reading this blog to query this more and be open to a sibling group or adopting an older child.  I know other Adopters who have adopted older children and their placements are working really well.

It was wonderful to see positive presentation of both Foster Carers and Social
Workers within the programme.  The love, dedication and frustration of the situation of both for the children featured could not be questioned.  I also could not understand why the boys featured in the programme were not snapped up by the Prospective Adopters at the fun days and I wondered what the programme did not report about the children? Was it just their age and sex that was preclusive or was there more in their history that was the cause?  Here the programme could be found lacking in its reporting yet I recognise the need for confidentiality.  The viewer was left with a sense of outrage yet I know as an Adopter that a Permanence Report can make very uncomfortable reading and can leave more questions for the future than it answers. 

Both Panorama and Dispatches reported on big issues yet both, I feel, did not report the whole story.  An ambiance to ensure a specific emotion in the viewer was created in both programmes.  A sense of outrage at both scenarios remained for me, yet a feeling of incompleteness remained in both.  Both programmes had an agenda and this is my issue with the media.  Reporting of the facts without an agenda seems to be a thing of the past.  Is it not possible to just report on a story without manipulating an emotion from the viewer.  Why not just let the viewer make up their own mind about what they have seen without using soft music reminiscent of The X-Factor VTs? Let the facts speak for themselves and provide balance in the reporting.  There lies the difficulty though, it is not always possible to report on all the facts due to confidentiality.  I'm not questioning that confidentiality because that confidentiality protects my children also but it does leave the reporting rather incomplete and the question as to the motive behind the programme.

Personally I feel that reporters should tell the viewer that they are unable to report on the full facts due to confidentiality or other reasons so that the viewer understands this from the outset and accepts that there might be more to the story. 

As far as adoption is concerned I am glad that the media is helping to raise awareness and enable conversation but I would urge them the remember that these are real people and this is a very sensitive topic that deserves to be treated with the utmost respect.

Monday, 20 January 2014

On A Mission!

Anyone who has met Katie will tell you that she isn't the shy and retiring type.  She's a whirlwind; a force of nature; you definitely know she's about.  She has very selective hearing and thinks she can pretty much do whatever she wants.  Apparently she's "allowed" although we are still trying to work out who it giving her permission because it's certainly not myself or TCM!  She's utterly delightful most of the time but I've come to realise that this negative behaviour is her way of controlling her environment.

I've often said that Katie is in perpetual motion.  Sitting still isn't something that comes naturally to her.  She can be forgiven, after all she is only 6 years old.  She's just about getting to the point where she can sit and watch a film at the cinema without needing to get up to the toilet endlessly or sit and do some drawing.  To be honest though, when Katie is quiet you generally know she's up to something that she shouldn't be up to!

There are currently two issues that are causing stress in the Katie household.  Firstly there is Katie's need to be awake before 6am and secondly is her current need to steal things from my handbag and the cupboards so we're on a mission to try and address both these issues.  I could add lying constantly into this mission but I've realised that most 6 year olds confuse fact with fantasy and lying is a normal part of development at this point in her life.  I'm just saying to myself that she has a very big imagination at the current time.  That doesn't make it any less frustrating though particularly when she's claiming, often with convincing tears, that she hasn't stolen my lipstick.  You know.... the lipstick that I apparently dropped in her bedroom?

The early rising is an issue for TCM and I and started the autumn the clocks went back when she was just turning 3 years old.  We had a whole winter of 5am that year.  It's a bit better now but I think, at 6 years old, Katie is now old enough to amuse herself in her bedroom until a more socially acceptable time.  Katie doesn't feel that she can go that long without ensuring the rest of the house is awake however so we're experiencing a clash of the Titans.

We've tried various things over the past few years.  She's had a GroClock for the past 2 years.  The aim has been to get her to stay in her bed until the sun comes up.  More recently I added the digital feature onto the clock and said that Katie had to stay in her room and read or play quietly until the clock says Seven Zero Zero.  It doesn't help that our GroClock has developed a mind of its own and the sun comes up early most days but Katie still refuses to stay in her room.  We've tried letting her go downstairs to watch television, which is her preferred option, but she has been also putting that time to misuse and climbing onto the worktops to get at chewing gum stored high up in a cupboard or try and raid the sweetie tin. As this is a safety risk and Katie isn't willing to desist with this behaviour she is no longer allowed to go downstairs and watch television first thing in the morning.  We've tried letting her get into bed to snooze with us but she just kicks and annoys TCM and I until we both get cross and she is put back in her bedroom or all hell breaks loose.  I've been leaving her Hudl on her chest of drawers which helps a bit but that's currently confiscated (see below).  There is a bigger picture generally of Katie not wanting to do anything she is asked and using her behaviour to distract us from what she has been asked to do (or not to do) but we're choosing this battle because it impacts on the whole household and some bright spark once said "pick your battles".

I've now bought her a large digital clock/radio and the premise is not only does she stay in her bedroom until the clock says Seven Zero Zero but she has to wait until the radio starts to play as well (at 7am).  The theory being we're using an auditory prompt alongside the visual prompt.  Today was our first day of this.  Let's just say it didn't go particularly well.  She came in at 6am to say she was awake and could she go downstairs.  Errrr no!  She was sent back to her room to read quietly i.e. no singing until the alarm went off.  She managed about 15 minutes before she started singing and had to be asked to read quietly (she was reading Toy Story and felt that singing "You've got a friend in me" was a mandatory part of the book.  "You have to sing it Mummy" she claimed!).  She then kicked off and was back in again wanting to get into bed with us.....

"I only want a huggle Mummy!" Heartstrings being played like a harp of course!.

We were prepared for all this so she was walked back to her bedroom once again.  Several visits later she upped her game and started to scream ensuring Pip was awake.  Pip doesn't like being woken up suddenly so he was screaming as well and this has also scuppered my plans for today because he's now not slept when he was planned to.  We held firm though and Katie was back in her bedroom, albeit chased there after she started the screaming.  It was only about 10 minutes at that point until the alarm went off.

TCM and I have agreed we're going to dig in and keep going with this but we're prepared for at least the next week being very tough.  Katie does not give in easily.  On the plus side she's being very good at bedtime itself, which was an ongoing issue for a long time.  We usually find an incentive works well for about a week with Katie and often find if we can get her to do something for a week, it will stick (for a while at least) so there is a special drawing box on the shelf for her to earn.  She has to stay in bed 7 consecutive nights in a row to earn it though so it might be there for some time to come!

The stealing is becoming a major irritation.  I know she's only 6 and it will probably
pass but there is a bigger picture that she understands that you can't steal and get away with it.  She hasn't stolen from anyone or anywhere outside the house however so I'm hoping there is a self-imposed boundary although things do come home from school that apparently she has "swapped with another girl".  I'm never convinced about this so usually make her take the item back into school until we can clear it with their parent.  She currently has no scooter or Hudl for two days (one day doesn't seem to make any difference) after taking my new lipstick yesterday to see if that might focus her mind....and her fingers!  I worry about too much consequence parenting though so if anyone has any other ideas I'd be keen to hear them.

After months of this I will admit I've, somewhat childishly, taken her new lip glosses and hidden them to make a point. I've told her I've taken them but  apparently I'm not allowed to because "they belong her to and I mustn't take things that belong to other people".  *cough and a head shake and a roll of the eyes*  I told her I'm hoping she might understand how I feel when she takes mine.  I'm not holding my breath though and don't really want to fight fire with fire or have double standards.  Again if anyone has any clever parenting suggestions please leave them below. I would love to hear them.  I'll read them when I'm not bleary eyed from lack of sleep!

Friday, 10 January 2014

T'internet, Motherhood and Me..... or Did the Greeks Eat Pies?

 "Did the Greeks eat pies?" I typed into Google just before Christmas.  TCM and I were watching Atlantis.  Paul Addy as Hercules is hilarious and he loves eating pies.  "Did the Greeks really eat pies?" I wondered to myself.  I picked up my trusty IPad and asked the oracle that Google has become this very important question.

It occurred to me whilst typing this question that once upon a yesteryear (or "in olden
times" as Katie kindly calls my youth) I would have had to visit my local library to find out the answer to that question.  Finding the answer would have involved using the Dewey Decimal System and pouring over books until I found the page with the answer I was seeking.  I remember so well, because I'm so old of course, when Windows first took over from our old Dos based computers (I even learned to touch type on a proper typewriter, with a ribbon and lots of typos and everything!).  I held that first mouse in my hand and I was hooked.  I love the possibilities that the internet offers.  Little did I know that the internet or "t'internet" as my lovely Father-in-Law calls it would change the course of my life.

It was around 15 years ago that I watched a programme about infertility on Channel 4. Within that programme a website was mentioned. Fertilethoughts.

Fertilethoughts is a web-based support forum for everything related to pregnancy and birth, plus infertility and miscarriage.  I immediately fired up my old desktop computer and looked for the webpage.  Upon arrival I discovered a chatroom and tentatively entered.  Inside I met someone who is now one of my closest friends.  It's a long story but she actually only lived a few miles away from me at the time (although now she lives miles and miles away).  A group of us, who met in the chatroom that evening, met for several lunches and offered much support for each other. I speak to my friend pretty much every day and her friendship has been a mainstay of my life through the depths and the highs that has been our journey to parenthood.

Fertilethoughts, and the wonderful ladies who pulled up a chair and made it their home alongside me, gave me so much support at a time of great sadness in my life as I experienced miscarriage after miscarriage.  We shared our joys and our grief and we bonded over infertility.  I am still friends with many of the ladies I met there via Facebook.  We supported each other through our efforts to conceive and shared medical information and new treatments and probably drove all our medical professionals crazy with our demands for new medications and tests. There are many babies in this world because of the support and the information we shared with each other I can tell you.

As my journey towards biological parenthood reached its conclusion I was reunited, on Friends Reunited, with an old school friend who it transpired was an adoptive parent.  TCM and I had started on our path towards adoption at this point.  Do you ever think all this is fated?  I certainly do!  My friend introduced me to the Adoption and Fostering forum on Babyworld and there I met the most wonderful group of adopters who supported me throughout our adoption journey.  We have since evolved beyond the board and started up our own private group and have a massive meet up every year with all our array of children.  The A Team speak to each other via Facebook on a daily basis and share a bond that has now gone beyond just being adoptive parents.  If it wasn't for this group of women I might not have had the strength to get through our first adoption process.  They gave me the vision of where we were heading and the confidence to get there.  I met their adopted children and was able to hold those meetings firmly in my mind as we shared our lives with our Social Worker.  They held my hand as we experienced delays and the uncertainty of whether we would be approved.  They still hold my hand as we discuss issues we are facing and parenting methods we are using. 

All of this because of the Internet.  An invention by Sir Timothy John "Tim" Berners-Lee.  Did he know where his invention would take humankind I wonder?

As an adoptive parent we often discuss the dark side of the Internet.  The worries and risks of the tracing of birth parents with the click of a mouse for an unprepared teenager. How we prepare our children to know that we will support them through these emotions and endeavours as they grow up and need to know more about their history.  As well as being a gift from the Gods, Facebook is also potentially a gift from Beelzebub himself, especially for our often emotionally underdeveloped adopted children. There are also the worries about the easy accessibility to pornography and other images such as skinny celebrities and websites where eating disorders can be supported and even encouraged.  Social media can be the most amazing invention but can also be used to bully and vilify and tear lives apart.  Young minds are entering a world that seems to have no rules at ages where they are not emotionally equipped to deal with all that it has to offer.  My 9 year old nephew is currently bemoaning me since I put parental controls on his I-Pad that prevent him downloading games that are too old for him to play.  I have done the same for Katie rendering her currently unable to even access the Internet on her tablet.  At aged 6 I don't think there is anything she would Google just yet anyway.

I grew up in a world where we had 3 television channels and learning to read was just with books.  I have a long-standing passion for books as a result.  I have been able to support Katie's learning with those old fashioned book things but also with apps and TV programmes and games.  Information is coming at her young brain at a pace that my
older brain struggles to keep up with.  What impact will this have on our children's brains throughout their lives is a question I often ponder?  How will all this information impact on their imagination?  I am a big believer that children need to learn to be bored but nowadays there is no space or time to be bored in.  There is something to do at every second of the day.

When I decided to write this blog, it was primarily with a view to updating all my friends and family with the progress of our introductions with Katie.  Little did I know that nearly four years on I would still be writing this blog or how important to my life it would become.  This blog has accompanied me as I became a parent for the first time and has documented every step of our lives ever since.  Because of this blog I am now using Twitter and have met the most amazing and wonderful people who are also adopters and bloggers.  I have been to conferences and days out with other bloggers; some very kind people have even nominated me for a blogging award (I wasn't shortlisted but it was still so amazing to be nominated); I have been asked to review toys and other items and have written sponsored blog posts (of which this is one for Virgin Media).  I never thought I could consider myself a writer, yet here I am.  All because of the Internet.

As a mother generally I use the Internet on a daily basis.  When Katie had chicken pox a few years ago and Pip had croup recently I was able to look up their symptoms on the NHS Direct health checker for children. We use the BBC iplayer to watch TV  
programmes on the laptop if we're having a difficult dinner-time because Katie finds it very hard to sit still for any length of time.  When the school holidays are looming I look up things to do in our local area.  I can answer pretty much any question Katie wants to ask using the Internet.  I completed the application for Katie to start school using an on-line application form.  I have a very clever smartphone that I've linked all my email accounts and social media to so I can be in touch with everyone at any given moment of the day (unless I'm out of signal range of course). My phone also acts as my SatNav as I ferry the children about to various activities and fun things.  I found my two beautiful Maine Coon cats via the Internet.  I do the majority of my household, clothes and toys shopping on the Internet since becoming a mum and hate the idea of dragging my children around the shops with me.  I use Geektown to find out when all my favourite TV programmes are on (I don't get out much anymore now we're parents of course!).

Of course this does just beg the question "Are we better off for all of this access 24 hours a day?"  My brain rarely switches off and there is always an email to reply to or someone who is having a crisis on Facebook.  My world has become larger but I'm not always sure it's a good thing because it is difficult to keep up with a wide circle of "friends" on the Internet whilst being Mary Poppins at home.  I feel distracted a lot of the day and I'm not sure that's always good for me as a mum.  Do I give my children quality time if a text or comment on Facebook is pinging via my phone and interrupting our game?  I have trained myself not to run to my phone every time it pings and have utilised ringtones so I know who is phoning but I do use a fair amount of my day doing Internet-related things and I think I have one ear out for that pinging all day long.

All in all I will remain a WWW fan.  The Internet has had an amazing impact on my life.  Like my Gran (and Oscar Wilde) used to say "Everything in moderation".  I think the Internet is a phenomenal invention and I embrace it with my arms wide open but I aim to raise my children to be aware that there is also a life out there in Real Time where you interact with people face to face and use your verbal communication skills and have to be the person you really are.  The Internet should not replace human interaction but it can bring amazing people into your life as I can testify.  I hope I can equip my children to walk with a foot in both worlds and embrace all life has to offer and utilise the Internet for all the good things it can offer.

Oh...... in case you're wondering about those Greeks......the answer is here!

(Note to readers: this post contains a sponsored link)

Thursday, 2 January 2014

Coming to your Aid?

Anyone who inhabits the world of Facebook will know the adverts for apps pop up in your news feed all the time.  It gets quite annoying really.  However, I have been asked to review an app via Mumsnet that I would be delighted to pop up in my news feed. In fact my advice to the marketing team for this app would be to get it on Facebook to reach as many people as possible.

You're intrigued aren't you?

Do you want to know what app I'm talking about?

Don't worry, I'm not going to keep you in suspense.  The app I'm talking about is:

Baby and Child First Aid 

from the British Red Cross

This app is a basic first aid course for all the emergency situations that might arise in your home or whilst out and about.  It is incredibly easy to use and features an alphabetised index of the most common emergency situations; from allergic reactions and burns and broken bones to choking; croup; seizures; head injuries; poisoning; unconscious and not/breathing to vomiting and diarrhoea.

Each section has a short 15-20 second video clip that accompanies the written text and Q&As so you could easily refer to the app in an emergency.  There are 11 test sections so you can test your new knowledge (and gain badges!) and there is a toolkit where you can find the location of your nearest hospital and add your child's medical records with all the medical information on your children.  It's short and succinct and it does what it says on the tin so to speak.

I completed the whole app in less than an hour and feel reassured that I could now
respond with more confidence in an emergency situation.  I learned some new things, particularly about the first aid I might need for Pip who is still only 14 months old, and realised that some of my old medical knowledge might be a bit out of date.  I was always told to give someone milk to drink if they swallowed something poisonous but it's actually a massive no-no because it can break down the poison or tablets quicker than they might otherwise break down in the body.  Did you know that you should run a burn under cold water for 10 minutes?  I knew about the cold water but didn't know that you should run it over the burn for that long.  Pip has had croup recently and there is even a small section on croup and how to treat it.  Thankfully I had picked up lots of tips by the osmosis procedure of listening to all my friends over the years whilst we were waiting to have children and didn't panic when Pip was unwell.  I had tears though when watching the clip on choking.  Pip had a choking incident a few months ago and it scared the living daylights out of me.  I wish I had seen this app before that event occurred because I think I would have handled it all much better.  Just seeing the 20 second clip was enough for me to remember the panic I felt at the time.

All I can say is get this app on your tablet and phone.  You never know when you might need it and you could refer to it easily in an emergency.

I can't say anymore than that except.....

Good job British Red Cross!  

This is a great idea and a brilliant app!

P.S. A note to any adoption agencies reading this blog.  Tell your prospective adopters about this app.  When you are thrown in at the deep end as a new adopter (or any parent for that matter) having information like this in advance would be unbelievably beneficial.  Even better, fund first aid training for all prospective adopters so that we are armed with as much practical parenting knowledge as is possible!

Wednesday, 1 January 2014

Happy New Year 2014

I would like to thank everyone who has read and contributed to Life with Katie over the past year.  Thank you for coming back! I really appreciate your support.

Everyone in the Katie household has had a lovely Christmas. I won't lie and say it was perfect and that the children behaved themselves wonderfully.  My nose would be the size of our enormous Christmas tree if I did.  The change of routine and excitement is very difficult for Katie particularly and we had lots of difficult situations to navigate along the way.  It has felt like Meltdown City here and Christmas Day was a particular challenge (in oh so many ways that weren't all Katie related).  We've survived and we continue to learn every day though and I feel that we are managing our daily challenges better.  We've had some family time together though which has really made Christmas lovely.  Katie is loving her new Hudl tablet and her scooter and apparently I am the "best mum EVER" for taking her to see Frozen a few days ago.  I will say that we had the most perfect day together which was a lovely change after some of the challenges.  My daughter is wonderful and incredibly funny and it's a shame that sometimes this feels overshadowed by some of the challenges but I kiss her goodnight and wonder at how lovely she is and know that I love her with all my heart.

I think most of the excitement passed Pip by this year.  He's still too young. It took him days to open all his presents but he's loved having new toys to investigate.  His walking has strengthened and he is into absolutely everything!  He is a joy to behold! He's been poorly for the past 4 days with croup and I've hated seeing him so poorly.  He's on the mend now and he is sounding less like Darth Vader and coughing more productively.  He's currently sat opposite me attempting to demolish a piece of French stick and enjoying every mouthful, grinning cheekily at me when I ask him if it's nice.

Most of all I'm delighted to report that my depression has lifted and I am now feeling almost like my old self again.  I feel like I can breathe again and embrace all that 2014 has to offer.  I feel like I have learned some lessons over the past six weeks and will take notice of those lessons.  I have learned that I need to not listen to every sob story that comes my way and to say No to people some of the time. I've also learned to listen to my gut feelings.  I have been too distracted to listen this year and I have missed what it was telling me.  I'm aiming to listen more in the coming year.  I have learned that I can get depressed this time of year and still enjoy Christmas and know that it will end.

We are still waiting to become a legal family.  Our paperwork is now with the courts and we are awaiting a court date. I'm hoping that this will be tied up in January.  It would be so nice to move forwards now, sharing the same name and not having to carry my red book and letter of medical consent everywhere with me.

And as Leo climbs on me to give me a very soggy moggy cuddle (what is it with this rain?) and Pip starts to throw the remains of his lunch on the floor with a very cheeky grin and some very cute baby babble on his lips it just remains for me to wish everyone a Happy New Year and hope that, wherever you are in your adoption journey, 2014 will bring happiness to you.