Tuesday, 15 July 2014

Moving House!

I'm currently feeling a little shell shocked.  I'm struggling to articulate the feelings I have if I'm honest. Blasted is a good word.  Dazed is another one I could use.  The reason for this is the fact that we have moved house.

I'm quite a settled person, as is TCM.  We don't move house very often.  In fact we have only owned 2 houses in our 20 years of marriage.  Moving is quite a trauma for us - mostly because we have way too much stuff and partly because we like our home and have no plans to leave there.  But move we have because we are treating our home to a massive refurb and extension.  When it's finished it will be amazing. As with all building work, it's just the interim bit that is the problem.

Our rented house is very small compared to our home so it's all a bit of a squash and a squeeze which I am finding quite claustrophobic.  TCM commented it was a bit like being in a holiday home which, with the intense heat we are experiencing here in the south and the fact that this house is very hot, I am tempted to agree with.  I am really missing the coolness of our bungalow which, even in the hottest weather, stays very cool downstairs.

I was very worried about moving the children, with good cause it would appear because Katie is really unsettled.  To try and help them we visited the new house several times before we actually moved in so it felt familiar to the..  I tried to approach it a bit like our adoption introductions.  Pip appears to be coping very well with the move. He took about a week to settle but now seems quite happy and back to his usual cheerful self, if a little more hectic.  In fact he loves his new garden because the owners have kindly left the children with a play house and some garden toys.  Pip spends as much time as he can down there, tinkering with his toys and playing with his toy kitchen.  I've nervously let the cats, Willow and Leo, out and have already had to retrieve Leo from our neighbours house at 10pm when he got over the fence but couldn't get back due to being an enormous Maine Coon and only having one hip.  We then had to retrieve him again the following morning so I suspect it won't be the last we see of our neighbours garden! Thankfully they have been lovely about it all and I'll be baking my famous brownies as a thank you to them tomorrow.

My main concern is Katie.  She regressed quite significantly when Pip arrived last year and we were still working through all those feelings and I'm wondering if the move has also triggered a memory of the emotions she felt when she first moved to us as a toddler.  It seems likely.  She noted that the house doesn't smell like us and she's right.  It will take some time for our smell to embed in the house and that must feel very unsettling for her, I know it does for me.  She seems to be quite an angry little girl at the moment; argumentative and rude and prone to very baby-like tantrums and tears and lots of baby talk yet it's clear she really wants me around.  In fact she has started to reject TCM again, just as she did when she first arrived which is really tough on him because he just wants to help.  She had started to challenge bedtime again prior to our move but over the past 10 days this has worsened and she is taking several hours to settle and go to sleep.  This is putting extra pressure on me because Katie currently doesn't want TCM to put her to bed.  Being so over-tired is impacting on her ability to regulate her emotions.  On the day of the house move she kicked one of her best friends at school in what appears a totally unprovoked manner.  Thankfully her teacher is fully aware of the move and of the fact that she is adopted and handled the situation well.  I wasn't sure it warranted the Head Teacher phoning the parent of the other child though which made the situation more serious than it really was.  I was able to do damage control with the other child and her mum and all seems to be fine again now. We moved on the Friday so I gave her the Monday off school to spend with me and Pip. I was a bit worried she was just too stressed to go back into school and I'm glad I kept her home. She enjoyed ransacking my makeup bag and found a whole new use for my sultry grey eyeshadow!  It seemed to help her feel more settled and she's certainly been fine at school. Yesterday however Katie had a full blown panic attack at school after another child was violently sick in class. Katie has a bit of an anxiety around being sick at the best of times and I'm starting to feel concerned that this is becoming a real phobia. Her teacher calmed her down and managed her well it seems (it also gave her an excuse not to clean up the sick which, she confided in me, she really struggles with) but Katie was very pale and low yesterday afternoon and bedtime was even more of a challenge last night.  I suspect all the other emotions she is experiencing made the anxiety around the child being sick all the more intense.  A trip to Costa helped perk her up a little but she's definitely not herself.  She has said to me that she wants to go back to our other house to live. I agreed with her and said that I felt the same and I feel really guilty for putting this build on her.  The additional space will benefit us all though and Katie will have an amazing new bedroom that will meet her growing needs.  To be honest I think we need the summer holidays to begin so we can keep Katie's stress stimuli to a minimum and let her be with me as much as possible.  I'm hoping that will be healing for us both.

To try and help her with everything we are visiting our home after school everyday to see what has been happening there (or not as the current case is).  I park at the house and walk to school along our usual route so that Pip still gets the familiarity of seeing his favourite stream and the cat we say hello to every day and Katie is able to scoot back with her best friend as we have done for the past 2 years. We have been slowly bringing extra bits with us but we made sure we brought nearly everything that belonged to the children so that we could create as familiar a surrounding as possible in the new house. We've taken our neighbour's dog for a walk to spend a little time together.  One of the things that really helped her was the new series of Topsy and Tim returning on the Monday after we moved house. The first episode was all about the fact that Topsy and Tim had moved house. Seeing how excited they were about it all was useful for Katie, in fact she watched the episode three times in quite succession.  We've been talking about the adventure we are having and have been finding new ways to walk to our new house from school and the local park.  We have been pleased to meet other friends from school on the new walk to school and I am forcing myself to enjoy enjoying the longer walk to school.

We are also trying to remain as calm as possible, which isn't always easy and I feel like I fail at this on a daily basis.  Katie isn't a small girl, she is tall for her age and, although she is as skinny as a rake, she is strong.  When she lashes out it is a difficult experience for all involved and I find it hard to not react. I am trying very hard to ignore as much of the rudeness as possible but I will admit I find it difficult to accept being spoken to in the way that she often speaks to me.  I've bought her an Hello Kitty light to clip onto the side of her cabin bed so she can read in bed (and hopefully stay in bed). This has helped things a bit but she wants to come down and watch the TV programmes that TCM and I are watching so gets up constantly which obviously prevents her from sleeping.  I find it hard though to feel loving with someone who is constantly lashing out at me or being rude and feel like I have to pretend those feelings and act in a loving way in the hope that Katie will start to calm down and then it will feel more natural.  Internally I feel like a bomb about to explode though and am stress eating chocolate again. Luckily our wonderful SW has organised for some counselling for me with a specialist adoption counsellor so the timing is perfect to discuss all this with her.   The counsellor noted that Katie's regression has taken her back to the age she was when we adopted her.  Interestingly, when I mentioned that a 1, 2, 3 parenting approach was now working with her, my counsellor noted that she had probably moved forward to being about aged 3.  So some progress is being made and I can only hope that maintaining tight boundaries and helping her with her emotions will help her continue to move forward in age.

I have ordered Katie and Pip a butterfly garden so we can watch the changes that the caterpillars go through before becoming butterflies.  My aim is highlight that changes can be good but that sometimes you have to wait a while before you see how good it is.  I'm hoping this will also help with the transition to Year 2.  Thankfully, aside from the kick, Katie is doing well at school and meeting all her targets. She passed her Year 1 Phonics Tests very easily and is reading and writing ahead of her age. Her maths is about where she should be but needs some additional work.  This is mostly being hindered by something that has always been a difficulty for Katie.  As long as I have known Katie I have noticed that if she finds something difficult she will get very anxious and upset.  Her self-esteem is quite low and she will decide that she can't do it.  We have been helping with this over the past few years by introducing swimming and gymnastics so she can see her progress and start to learn that she can overcome difficulties and challenges.  I have also been trying to encourage her to think about how to solve small problems i.e. when Katie says to me "I don't have a pen" I ask her to think about the solution she needs and then rephrase her statement to ask me to help her solve the problem i.e. "Mummy do you know where I can find a pen?"  Her teacher has noted in her school report that this is an issue at school and that she needs to ask for help more.  Katie is more likely to head off to a friend for a chat than let the teacher know she is struggling so this is something we are trying to help her with via her homework.  This hasn't been helped by said teacher introducing work that I think is too difficult for the children, particularly when they arrive in the mornings.  Recently I took Katie into class in the morning to discover they were expected to complete a maths sheet about arrays.  It took us a few moments to sort out what she needed to do (whilst I was worried that I'd left Pip outside the classroom door and he would start getting fretful).  It then transpired that Katie really didn't know how to do the sheet and I could see she was getting anxious and I felt awful because I then had to leave because it was 9am.  I walked home feeling like the worst parent in the world.  I will be making an appointment to see her new teacher as soon as the new term starts to go over some of these issues.

Of course all of the above is not helped by the fact that I'm still struggling with my energy levels.  My body hurts in the joints and I struggle to walk to and from school.  I'm plugging away at it but I feel mentally distracted quite often because of the ongoing fatigue.  I had a chance conversation with another mum at swimming on Saturday and it transpired she had also had low Vitamin D levels and felt exactly the same as me.  We noted to each other, with our eyes swimming with tears, how much of a failure as a parent we felt because we didn't have the energy to be the parents we wanted to be.  That shared moment helped us both tremendously I think.

I will keep plugging away as I always do. I am so pleased that I have the opportunity to engage with the lovely counsellor.  I felt very strongly after my first session that she will help us all enormously.  I felt lighter and calmer after my first session after I unloaded a whole heap of emotions that had built up over the course of two adoptions.  I am looking forward to unpicking them all and emerging as my own personal butterfly from the cocoon that is currently restricting me.

So our building adventure has begun.  I am writing about that separately on a new blog called "Bricking It! The story of how 5,000 bricks made a home."  I am sure that this project will being all sorts of challenges both at the building site and at our temporary home.  I'm hoping that things will start to improve here.  It's early days yet and I know I'm not feeling settled yet so how can I expect Katie and Pip to feel settled.  I hope that it's not going to cause irreparable damage to Katie and hope that it will provide an opportunity for her to work through some of the emotions from her move to us and enable her to shed her cocoon as well.




5 comments:

  1. We moved house last summer and sometimes OB still asks to 'go home' - he means our old house. It didn't help that the house move came less than two weeks after moving his beloved NB on to an adoptive placement. It's hard for them and it takes a long, long time to settle again. Even though our new house is bigger, has a better more functional garden and lots of improvements on our old one, OB doesn't really care about all of that and still hankers after the 'old days'. It may be a long haul for you all but hopefully all the ways you are trying to help Katie cope will have their effect sooner rather than later.

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    1. I imagine that we hanker after a feeling when we want to go back to another point or place in time. I know that I am hankering after our other home at the moment. It's bigger and cooler and, as Katie pointed out, it smells like us. This house doesn't smell like us yet. Pip seems happy enough. He's probably the only one who is. The funny thing is we will never be going back to our home as it was because, when we return, it will have changed almost beyond recognition. I wonder how Katie will feel about that? The thing that has helped Katie the most was watching Topsy and Tim. She has watched the new "Moving House" episode over and over again and has decided it is fun and exciting to move house. I don't think that solves her underlying anxieties. She said this morning she doesn't want to leave Year 1 so I'm hoping our forthcoming butterfly garden will help us all cope with all this change a little bit better (me included!). xxx

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    3. I wonder if OB is hankering after a feeling that belonged to your old house i.e. NB being there? The move came so close after NB moved that he barely had just to adjust. I often think we hanker after a feeling rather than an actual place although the two are intrinsically linked.

      Katie has noted that this house doesn't smell like us, and she is right. It smells of another family. I might do some smudging with Katie over the next week or so and see if we can shift the presence of the other family.

      The thing that has helped the most so far has been watching the new episode of Topsy and Tim, when the move house. That has helped Katie see how much fun moving can be and it's helped me realise how stressed and controlling I have been about it all. Adjustments for us both it would seem xxx

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  2. Topsy and Tim can be very helpful in my experience. The kid I fostered spent a LOT of time reading Topsy and Tim and the New Baby while her mother was pregnant!

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