Sunday, 13 December 2015

A Long Journey Home.....

The first night.....

I'm sitting in Pip's bedroom on the first night back home waiting for him to go to sleep for the first time in his car bed. He's anxious but exhausted. I can hear his breathing regulate and deepen as sleep overtakes him and I reflect on the journey that has brought us here.

Even though we are living in a house that's still incomplete and there is dust everywhere irritating my asthmatic cough, I could feel the knot in my stomach loosen as I walked in through the front door. 

We're home. 

It's been an horrendous year. One I'd mostly like to allow time to quickly fade; to blot it out; to reflect on lessons learnt swiftly and acknowledge my own 18 month inner journey briefly. I learned a lot about emotional and financial stability and how they effect me. My marriage has been battered from all the stress of bereavement and house building. I've developed a lot of confidence in negotiating for materials and I hope those skills will help me move forward positively and more assertively in some of my relationships. I feel tremendous guilt that our decision to uproot and move the family, whilst we fulfilled our dream of renovating and extending our house, has impacted on the children's stability, especially Katie. Pip takes things in his stride far more than Katie does although is currently experiencing some pre-verbal regression after the move. For Katie the reappearance of the packing boxes wound her up like a ticking time bomb that speeds at triple time towards its ultimate conclusion. Even Jack Bauer would struggle to diffuse the bomb in time. She's wired constantly, speaking fast, whistling, singing constantly in a frenzied pitch. The only saving grace for Katie has been the introduction of melatonin at bedtime. It's impact has been nothing short of revolutionary, sending her to sleep within 45 minutes and returning the evenings to myself and TCM. 

I'm hoping that the mammoth increase in space will calm all our souls. I feel more peaceful even when walking through the dust and the shell of a kitchen the builders are currently installing. Now I have finally cleared, cleaned and handed back the keys on the rental house I can breathe a deep sigh of relief. Walking around the almost empty rooms I realised I felt no emotional connection to the house whatsoever. I spent the year disconnecting from a lot of painful feelings and somehow I've now got to feel a sense of reconnection to the world. We existed in that house. We did not live. It's hardly surprising we're all emotionally battered and bruised and are finding it hard to understand each other. 

Three days.......

It's now three days since we moved home. I have no internet so I'm writing blog posts whilst sitting in with Pip as he falls asleep each evening. Three days has definitely started to do something to us all. After two awful days with Katie and a bed wetting on the second night there has been a slight change in her behaviour this evening. She sat and played with some toys in the floor in her room, making up a storyline with her dolls house and some of Pip's WOW toys. They've both got WOW advent calendars as I just didn't have time to make mine this year. Although Katie is a little too old for the suggested age range for the calendar I had a sneaking suspicion that getting them both something similar might be a good idea this year. So far I think I might be right. To see her playing calmly and imaginatively was a little blessing and gave me a little bit of hope that this house might be working some magic on her as well.

A week and three days......

Pip has realised we're staying here now and is clingy and fractious and tired. He is enamoured with all the Christmas lights and we take a walk each evening to look at the local lights. He spends all day arguing about when it is time to see them which is hard as he reverts to a pre-verbal state for this. Lots of grunting and groaning and melting down on the spot. He's sleeping better though and actually slept through the night for the past two nights. He's generally an easy child and it's easy to miss his feelings. He's not right at the moment. Our routine has been interrupted and there are builders in the house constantly making our usual chill out time a challenge. He needs some quality time with me I think. My days are busy and it's hard to offer him that at the moment. I try and take him out of the house when I can to spend some time together but it won't be easy for the time being to really relax together.

Katie is doing really well, albeit still fairly confrontational. I had an unexpected heart felt apology for a transgression tonight which was a lovely surprise. She had an INSET day on Monday and we had a girly lunch and I bought her some new boots. She's chuffed to pieces with them and seems to be remembering that we can actually be loving towards each other.  It's a strong reminder that she needs time alone with me.

I need time alone with me too....

The children love having the builders around and rush around the house getting involved with everything. Pip helps the builders and is noticeably calmer when Katie isn't about but they are both sometimes dangerously hectic together. I find itvery stressful having the house in such chaos although it's still a more positive chaos than living in the rented house. The builders work until the children's normal bedtime which is resulting in later bedtimes and consequently more emotional children. Pip is taking longer to go to sleep and needs me close by. There is a sense of shifting and changing and progress and possibility however. It's early days though and I'm not expecting too much from the children. A house move plus the Christmas build up do not make good bed fellows. 

A good nights sleep keeps me happy..... 

We're home. Things can only get better, right?

Saturday, 12 December 2015

Regression X 2!

I'm sitting again in Pip's room waiting for him to sleep. This is currently my reflection time. If I'm honest I use this time to escape from the rest of the house for a while. If I'm brutally honest I don't mind when he takes half and hour to settle because it gives me time to quieten down and regain some equilibrium before settling Katie back down.

We're nearly two weeks back home and regression has reared its ugly head for both children. One regressed Katie is mindblowingly stressful. Add to that a Pip who's become pre-verbal a lot of the time and I'm feeling in shock. I'm almost pre-verbal from the stress of it all on top of the ongoing house build and builders and other trades people in the house all day long. 

I anticipated Katie would regress. At the moment Katie is like a hyper 2 year old with the attitude of a teenager. She speaks at breakneck speed often in baby talk; shouts all the time; is highly confrontational; whistles or sings when she's not talking; her muscles and limbs do not stop moving until she sleeps; she's highly controlling and non compliant with the odd bit of sweetness and gorgeousness thrown in. She threatened me with a pair of crutches she's been playing with today. They are now in the skip. It's a worry that she thinks it's ok to do that but she was in a hyper place where reason does not live at the time.  She's caught moluscum contagiosum and has patches of itchy spots over her shoulder and back and on her ankles. It's not pleasant for her and I'm concerned that other children will be mean to her. It can take up to 2 years to go. Her eczema has also developed on her elbow again so she has steroid cream and body cream to help it settle back down. Her whole system is clearly overloaded and I need to wrap my head around some Bach Flower Remedies to help her. I want to be a wonderful and supportive mum at this time of stress and distress for her but she makes it hard to be the mum I want to be. We are seeing the signs of the FASD so much more clearly now and trying hard to understand but there are times, I'm embarrassed to admit, when I find her behaviour so irritating and upsetting I want to scream like a toddler in frustration.

I don't know why but I didn't really anticipate Pip's regression. He moved easily to the other house and generally takes life in his stride but he's clearly not my happy Pip at the moment. He, too, is volatile and edgy and melting down in tantrums over anything and everything. He has moments of being normal Pip, full of love and cuddles and then suddenly the pre-verbal, baby-like screaming and sounds start. He's easier to reach and pull back though. I repeat his name until his reptilian brain lets his rational brain return. He responds to back rubbing and being asked to use his words; tickles and giggles can be used once he can hear me again. It's emotionally tiring though. I find it hard to engage my creative parenting brain when both children are bouncing off each other; to step back and see the bigger picture.

Both children have now said to me they don't want to be in this house and want to go back to the other house. I can understand it all. They've forgotten living here after so long away. They had settled in the other house and become used to the way of life there. We're in a much bigger house again now, a far cry from the tiny house we've been in. It's ironic because TCM and I are delighted to be back home, even with all the crazy. I'm honest enough to admit though that much of my own feelings and behaviour is similar to Katie begging the question who is mirroring who? I suspect, being the highly sensitive empath that I am, I'm mirroring her. I'm finding I'm speaking at breakneck speed and struggle to feel inwardly calm. I feel confrontational. I feel angry. I'm shouting at times. I'm almost at the end of my tether. I just want my house back. I've had enough. I'm struggling not to regress myself I think. Feeling overwhelmed will do that to a person I guess.

I know we will weather this. I know I can bring the children back up to reasonable ages again. I know time will pass and the memories of the other house (that I hated) will fade for us all and the joys of our new environment will embed themselves into all our psyches. We just need to form a holding pattern; keep to the routines and breathe and wait. I bravely told one of the mum's I trust at school about Katie's diagnosis. I feel I need someone to understand and I felt she did. It wasn't really a thought through decision though. It came on the back of another mum stopping me to say Katie had given her daughter (one of Katie's favourite friends) 6 Christmas cards. She was clearly bothered by it (the mum, not the child). What do you say? I just brushed it off and said Katie had found some cards and was sending them to her favourite friends. "It's just Katie being Katie" I said. It bothered me though. I was made to feel she was socially unacceptable. The mum was clearly uncomfortable although it's hardly the crime of the century. I joked that Katie wasn't stalking the other child but just being friendly and said to feel free to recycle the cards and left it at that. My fear though was whether this is where we start to see how Katie sees things differently and whether parents will think it's odd and distance themselves from us. I worry how Katie will feel if that happens. I worry that I'm just seeing trouble where trouble hasn't arrived. I felt confident the mum I spoke to would understand so I just blurted it all out. It's highlighted for me that I need to think carefully about my own fears. I'm a chameleon. I blend in. I've never been one for standing out too much.  I've been working hard on addressing this; understanding myself better and becoming more assertive; more able to stand my own ground. I will need to develop this fast if I'm going to help Katie. I've been thinking a lot about Bryan Post's theories of love and fear and can see how fear manipulates my responses far too much. 

Pip has now been asleep for about 15 minutes. I've let Katie have her iPad to calm her down. I'm going to brave taking it from her and settling her down. My aim is to get as many early nights under their belts this week to help them heal.

As for me, I'm back on steroids for my asthma which means 5 days of little sleep for me as I take the course. Perfect timing. I might find some Rescue Remedies for me as well as the children.....

Monday, 7 December 2015

A Long Awaited Appointment

Because the past few weeks have been so intensively busy I've not had time to write about our recent appointment for Katie with a paediatrician. For us it was an emotional outcome; one we expected but hard to hear nonetheless.....

My suspicions of Katie having Alcohol Related Neurodevelopmental Disorder, a branch of Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder were confirmed along with a diagnosis of ADHD. I'd really hoped to be wrong with my fears and it was a time I would have been happy to be proven wrong because the fear for her future outcomes is at the forefront of my mind. Once the dust of the house build and move has settled I think we might look at more testing to understand the impact and long term implications of Katie's learning and what support she will need. There's a part of me that wants to read more and understand as much as I can and then throw away the books and not feel held back by fears. For the time being we've decided not to tell Katie about the diagnosis other than to say the doctor is helping us understand why she can't sleep. We've talked about the wiring in her brain not producing the right hormone to help her sleep and she is delighted that the tablets help her sleep and make her feel normal potentially opening up the door to future sleep overs at Brownie camp and with friends (if my anxieties ever quieten down). We've decided against medication for the ADHD for the time being. Katie is coping well at school and is well supported in the classroom. Her restlessness and hyperactivity are noticed but she is making good progress and the school manage her well. 

My main worry is for friendships as she grows older and whether a gap of immaturity will become a hindrance. Having solid friendships is such an important base for future outcomes. Having friends who are caring and will take care of Katie and not lead her astray. Katie has a high level of non-compliance at home, will this seep into school life and beyond bringing problems for her? How can we help her?

Reading about FASD online provides good information but I need to hear more from young people with FASD to hear about their lives as young adults and the challenges they face and the successes they have. Do they live independently with success? Do they have positive friendships? Does their emotional vulnerability and naivity cause problems with friendships and being taken advantage of? Are they more likely to have difficulties where poor decision making gets them into trouble with the law? I have so many questions. I think a step forward will be to understand Katie's cognitive processing and IQ more fully to try and understand her unique strengths and challenges and try and understand where on the spectrum she sits and how we can help her develop her strengths and find coping mechanisms for the challenges she experiences. 

The stress of the house is over-riding my emotions on Katie's diagnosis somewhat currently. I feel I need some emotional space to reflect and maybe even have a really good cry. I know I feel angry that someone else's choices have impacted so heavily on Katie and will do so for the rest of her life. I've got to find somewhere to try to understand and unpack my feelings. I'm concerned about what that life will look like for Katie and for our family. She is very challenging at the present time and we need more training in how to parent her well to try and lessen the stress on our family life. Life is full of arguments and door slamming and swearing and oppositional bevahiour. It's unpleasant and reminds me of the family I grew up in. I escaped that life and most of my family as a result and I'm terrified of my home life continuing to be a war ground and how much that might escalate as Katie grows older and bigger. I want to be a good parent, not the overwhelmed shouty mummy I become after a day of endless oppositional behaviour. I need to find the love more but it's so hard currently. I'm reading Bryan Post and trying to understand how to step back and see the fear behind the behaviour and not just react to the behaviour. I'm not even sure how that works with someone whose brain reacts differently to scenarios. Is it just a fear response? Is it the wiring in the brain? Hopefully with extra support from Post Adoption and some time to settle back Into the nurturing environment of our soon to be lovely home we can find our feet again and create the life we all need. I hope we can fulfil that dream, I really do. 

If you've been effected by FASD and ARND and can share your experiences with me and answer some of my questions I'd love to hear them. 

Thank you.....

Sunday, 8 November 2015

Adoption Stories: Helen's Story.....

Today I'm handing the blog over to second time adopter Helen. As a second time adopter myself Helen and I have much in common and I share her happiness at being able to keep siblings together. Something I hope will benefit Katie and Pip throughout their lives....

For the reason why I've started this series of Adoption Stories please read the first post here

Helen's Story.....

What have you done in 2 and a half years - worked, travelled? 

Well me and my husband have been through the adoption process twice and 9 weeks into placement two life is pretty darn good. 

George was placed 2 and a half years ago at a young age of 9 months old. The little baby we had dreamt of was perfect - well no this isn't the case chaos descended in our lives; this child we should have known had come to stay forever and we didn't have a clue what made him tick. He was constantly poorly and never stopped crying and whinging. One good day led to three bad, I smiled and gritted my teeth and made the outside world believe we were happy. He cried when I left him he cried when I returned. The only good thing he did was sleep 12-13 hours a night. Soon 6 months passed  and I returned to work for 2 days a week. George spent half a day with grandma and half day in nursery and things seem to calm a bit. I've no idea what happened one day 9 months later but it was like a switch was turned on, George just changed into our little cute boy we dreamt of. Don't get me wrong we had wobbles but he turned a corner he started to enjoy us and us him. Life was great!

One year and six months in fab fab fab then the moment we thought would happen sooner happened - the call - for baby Ethel had arrived! Meetings stepped up foster to adopt was requested and denied as it deemed too risky that Ethel could be returned to family, courts opened and adjourned but finally 6 months later all stations go, panel hearings, intros and a speedy 7 day introductions and Ethel moved in. What a joy it is to have worked so hard and fought the great fight to keep these two children together side by side. George has struggled with his temper towards her with jealously but after an amazing two months and a few weeks the glue is drying and they stick together like true siblings, and this melts my heart that it's all paid off, we are parents again but our precious baby boy has kept a small part of his blood with him, for life, to keep forever something that's 'his'.

Adoption in reflection is very frustrating, you can't always see the answer but it's the most amazing feeling in the world that I've changed their lives, I've fought for them, I love and cuddle them and protect them and now they are mine to keep. 

(Names have been changed to protect identities)

Helen is 35 years old and her husband is 36. They've been together 17 years and married 8 years and live in an old dwelling in the countryside in Yorkshire.

If you would like to share your adoption story on Life with Katie be it as an adopter or if you yourself are adopted then do get in touch with me at


Friday, 30 October 2015

Adoption Stories.....

I recently shared a story on Facebook that had been posted on The Adoption Social.  It was an adoption story that moved me to tears due to the positivity about adoption that the writer had. That writer was a lady who had been adopted from Bangladesh.  Here's the link to the story.

On Facebook I noted how sad I was at being called a child stealer by someone who I thought was a friend and how much negativity and anger around adoption there is on the internet and social media at the current time and how much I need to hear some positive stories from adopted people.  I was delighted to have some lovely responses on Facebook and Twitter and even more delighted to be contacted by a lovely lady who wanted to share her positive story about being adopted. I do think we need to have a realistic understanding about adoption so we can best support our young people but equally we can't live in a constant state of anxiety about whether we are getting it right or not because we then risk not giving our children the gift they deserve more than anything else in the world, unconditional love; a love that is the same love as all children deserve; a love without being afraid of what the future may hold; a love that will support and stay with them throughout their lives and help them be all that they can be.  Love isn't always enough to overcome a traumatic start but it can support our children to learn to love themselves as well.

Without further ado, take a moment to read this wonderful story......

A Fantastic Upbringing......

So I am adopted... And I honestly couldn't think of anything better to happen to me. I have 2 fantastic parents who have given me more love than my "biological mother" could of. 

I have always known that I was adopted and I first was told when I was 2 years old. I know that may sound quite young to some people but my parents had always said that they wouldn't hide it from me, which I am so grateful for. It came about because I asked my mum if I came out of her tummy and she calmly replied " no you didn't because I have a poorly tummy" so at 2 years old I was happy with that response and just toddled off and carried on playing. 

The reason why my parents were so open about me being adopted is because my adoption was a little complicated. One of my adoptive parents is related to my birth mother. So this did make the adoption process harder for my parents as people were concerned about how I would react to find out that a certain member of my family is on actual fact my birth mother. 

I can't say it has affected me knowing my adoption was within the family as such, it has just thrown up some questions that only my birth mother can answer, but at nearly 28 I have made it this far without the answers so I don't think it will make a drastic change to my life now. 

I suppose in one respect I am so lucky because I still know one half of my blood family, which is amazing :) although it does mean sometimes I feel like the black sheep of the family at events because obviously this isn't something that was hidden from any of the family. Saying that though, I don't feel like I am missing out on anything and I have had a fantastic upbringing and I think they are truly amazing people for giving me the most precious gift that parents can give a child and that is love and time, which I have had in abundance!! 


My thanks to this lovely lady for sharing her story.  I had a few tears when I read it and felt a renewed sense of hope for my two little monkeys about how they might view being adopted

Do you have a positive story you would like to share? If so then I would love to hear from you at

Gem xx

Wednesday, 28 October 2015

Autumn Term....

I've been procrastinating when it comes to writing a blog post about us. It's easier to write about competitions and other stuff because at the moment I'm very much eyes down focussing on getting through the days until we can move home.  I realised though that it's half term and I've not really written about how the term has been going thus far.

It's a shame really that what was supposed to be an adventure has created so much stress that it has over-ridden everything else in our lives leaving neither myself or TCM functioning properly. Our bank put us under enormous stress with a series of blunders and misinformation leading us to move our mortgage to another bank. That move in turn created the most bizarre turn of events involving a surveyor we nicknamed The Duke of Wesleton which I will, one day, eventually write about on my house building blog. By the time our additional funds arrived both TCM and myself were almost at the point of rocking in a corner in a catatonic state after experiencing the worst period of financial stress we have ever known in our marriage. Thankfully we're back on track financially and building wise now but in the space of one day had to mentally shift gears from the depths of despair to utter frenzy as we push to move home in 5 weeks time.  If you've ever watched Grand Designs then you'll have a sense of what we're going through.  The stresses of decision making and sourcing materials under pressure have left me feeling jumpy and anxious and with a sense of dissociation from life in general.

It's been hard to want to think about anything else other than getting home but life bumbles along irrespective and Katie and Pip have both started new schools this term and both need my attention focused on them (as well as the building team) to help them settle: one in primary school and the other in pre-school. I can't actually believe they are both now on the education hamster wheel. The times breezes by far too quickly and change comes far too readily. 

I have to say I'm delighted at how much effort Katie's school have put into helping and supporting her. After my meeting with the Head Teacher which I wrote about in she met with the Year 3 teaching team to pass on the information I had given her. Katie's teacher shared this with me at a recent parents evening along with evidence of Katie's marked improvement in her work in class as the strategies in class were put into place. Simple strategies of the teacher staying near to Katie in class so she feels safe and chatting through the work verbally with her.  One-to-one maths lessons are really reaping rewards as Katie seems to be suddenly grasping some maths basics. Katie's teacher observed that Katie will find ways to stall starting new tasks with requests to sharpen a pencil or go to the toilet or wash her hands or have a drink. We discussed Katie's anxieties about failure and how she employs these tactics as a way of avoiding starting tasks when she feels unsure about her abilities. What was amazing was that it was Katie's teacher bringing those observations and understandings to me. She has stepped out of her comfort zone and joined Katie in her world and shown her willingness to accept the information I am giving her. She was able to keep the information in mind when Katie was rude about her and not overreact.  

Evidence of Katie's improved work came in the form of a Learner of the Week certificate and also with her project work being selected by her classmates to be displayed in the hall. Katie still gets up every morning and says she doesn't want to go to school but I'd say her anxiety about the new school is decreasing a little. There's still a way to go though. However evidence of Katie's fragile self esteem was also displayed on the day she she won the Learner of the Week award when she announced vehemently that she didn't want to win the award and would make sure she never won it again. I think she was partly embarrassed at being singled out but also I think that her negative inner dialogue about herself didn't match being praised for her work and behaviour. Let's just say we had a rough evening after that certificate came home. Conversely though she was delighted to have her home project voted as one of the best by her peers. Considering the project wasn't achieved without real home suffering I will admit I was also delighted. It seems that being one of the group of children singled out was easier to accept than being the only one under the spotlight. The evening after this award was unusually celebratory in comparison giving me some hope that we can overcome her negative feelings of succes.

At home Katie's rude and aggressive behaviour is still a challenge although her violent tantrums have significantly decreased compared to earlier in the year. This is a massive improvement and an enormous relief but the behaviour has been surpassed by rudeness and obstinance on a rarely ending loop. I'd say we're (mostly) managing this behaviour better although I feel I'm sometimes too heavy on the criticism and a little light on finding behaviour to praise. I'm working on this one trying to get a better balance but I think it's fair to say that I struggle by the end of the day to stay calm and measured and (dare I say?) therapeutic. On another plus the medication from the GP has really helped us re-establish a healthy sleep routine. Katie has even had a run of 11 hour sleeps which has been unheard of for much of the last year. She seems happier and more accepting of bedtime again now most of the time although there is generally 10 minutes of shenanigans the second her feet touch the duvet as she suddenly realises the moment to go to sleep has arrived and it occurs to her that it's time to fight it. I no longer have the patience at bedtime to play the game so there's generally very little engagement from me over the various ailments that suddenly seem to be so important at bedtime. I'm convinced Katie has a book of bedtime excuses under her pillow (if she doesn't then she should write one). I ask her which excuse number she's chosen each night (she's quite creative with them). I'm less creative with my response I'm afraid. It generally runs to the tune of "get back to bed or you have no iPad tomorrow". 4 years of bedtime stresses has left my creative juices very dry on the bedtime front.

We have an appointment with a paediatrician in early November to look at markers for FASD to see if this might be what is causing Katie many of her challenges. It does still feel like life is a daily battle but I'm also mindful of the fact that we are under so much stress as a family due to the house build that it would be unfair to lay all the blame at Katie's feet for her behaviour. Moving home will hopefully long term start to iron some of those issues out. As a family I hope it starts to iron out a lot of wrinkles if I'm honest. 

Pip is coming along in leaps and bounds. He utterly adores his pre-school and can't wait to be there every week. He's smiley and happy and generally quite easy (just not easy to keep up with). His 3rd birthday party was an absolute success (as was his Herbie birthday cake) and it was wonderful to see my little party animal having fun with his friends from the childminders and pre-school.  My fears about him leaving me to go into childcare were unfounded and he has improved in so many areas as a result of attending. Our main success has been in his speech which has rocketed over the past 6 months from only a few words to speaking in full sentences with a great degree of clarity and imagination. At his recent 3 year check he was signed off as being fully age appropriate in all areas. Considering he was 7 months behind in a lot of areas only 6 months ago this is brilliant. No, he's not potty trained yet but I'll let him over achieve in other areas and worry not about it. We'll get there on that one when I have the mental capacity to cope with it (and I'm not running back and forwards from a building site). What's interesting when comparing my children's behaviour and development is that generally I would trust Pip to make more sensible choices about good behaviour than Katie. Considering I am comparing a 3 year old with a nearly 8 year old that is very telling. My main concern though is that Pip copies Katie and she encourages him to misbehave and I'm left dealing with two children mocking me and refusing to do anything they are told. Katie can be totally fine and then a switch flicks and she almost turns into another child. She's utterly hyper, generally screaming and giggling manically and turning upside down doing head stands. I sometimes watch to see if her head will spin Omen style. There's no reaching her when she's like that. Pip thinks it's funny and copies her and I watch Katie include and encourage him to behave like her. I've been having to separate them for a period of time to try and regroup and regain some calm but (in the words of Hugh Grant in Four Weddings and a Funeral) it's not achieved without real suffering.

I've observed that Pip's capacity to retain and understand the outcomes of his behaviour far surpasses Katie's. Only recently after he spent a few minutes in time out for deliberately throwing fruit juice all over the table he was able to discuss what happened several hours later with me, something Katie is rarely able to do. This sort of thing makes me realise that I'm not over-exaggerating Katie's behavioural responses and comprehension of that behaviour. I think Pip takes far more ownership of his behaviour than Katie is able to. Thinking about that makes me incredibly sad for her and angry that someone else's choices have messed with the wiring in her brain and caused those challenges. 

I was looking forward to half term this week (notice the use of the past tense).  It started really well but then it nosedived after Tuesday. We had two lovely days with friends but Katie's overstimulation (I think) as a result resulted in very hyper and challenging behaviour for the rest of the week and weekend which sadly Pip started copying and becoming overstimulated by. There were moments over the weekend where the frustration at Katie bouncing about seemingly deliberately being hyper and rude where I've just wanted to turn tail and find a dark corner to hide in.  Thank heavens for school restarting that's all I can say. Despite being anxious about returning I did have a much happier daughter who came home from school today. I'll dream of it all being better at the Christmas break whilst knowing that, if I look back over blog posts from Christmas past, the excitement and build up of the festive season is often a bit too much to handle. Maybe Santa will bring us a happy and settled Christmas this year back in our lovely new home. I think we deserve it. 

Wednesday, 21 October 2015

National Adoption Week 2015: A Love Story!

This week is National Adoption Week #NAW15 and this year the focus is on looking for parents for the thousands of children over the age of 4 who are waiting to find a loving home and family.  Many adopters are anxious about adopting older children for a variety of reasons including fears of challenging behaviours and attachment.  In my own adoption community I know of several adopters of older children for whom adopting an older child or children has been an incredibly positive experience.  Like parenting any adopted child it's not a walk in the park but I don't necessarily feel they have had more issues than adopters I know who have adopted younger children.  In fact I think they have more of a heads up about what to expect.

With this topic in mind today I am handing the blog over to guest blogger Kathryn.  Kathryn and her husband, Martin adopted "James" when he was five and a half. Martin is in IT and Kathryn is a stay-at-home Mum. James is an aspiring footballer and mad about anything with wheels.  They live in Yorkshire with far too many animals and love being an adoptive family.  Here Kathryn shares their family story which I promise will put a smile on your face......

A Love Story.......

Ours is a love story really. When people ask me about adoption, that’s what I tell them.

It all began when we approached our adoption agency to explore becoming adoptive parents. I had feared that the process would be long-drawn out, intrusive and stressful, but instead we found it to be insightful and therapeutic. We received great training and support (and still do) and went to our adoption panel just before Christmas in 2013.

Because we wanted to adopt an older child and because we were open to parenting a boy with emotional and behavioural challenges, we didn’t have a long wait. We first saw our wonderful son’s smiling face on-line a month later and we became a family in the May.

In the months that we waited to meet him, put simply, we began to fall in love.

We were lucky to have more photos shared with us as well as a video and lots of detailed information passed on by his wonderful foster carers. When the day finally arrived to meet him for a brief after-school play, it felt more exciting and nerve-racking than any first date! But we were lucky in love and our son has always been generous in sharing his heart with us right from day one.

We are now 2 and a half years into being a family and for me and my husband it has been the most marvellous thing we could have done by far. We still spend far too much time gazing at him while he sleeps, spellbound and amazed that we get to be his parents!

Don’t misunderstand me there has been a fair share of tantrums, of sleepless nights, of tears shed and worries over school. And above and beyond this there are dark moments when I know that my love is simply not enough to heal his pain or to soothe his anxieties. That no matter how devoted my husband and I are to this amazing child, we have missed so many years with him that we can never get back. That every day there is living proof in how he behaves or interacts with others that he has been traumatised and is living in the wake of this.

But love is the glue. Even if it can’t glue everything back together, love is what binds the three of us. There are no ties of blood, no birth-right, but there is love. Right from the outset, we were determined that our son had a sense of permanence and acceptance. We wanted him to trust that we were a family forever and that no matter what we loved him. And as na├»ve as it sounds, we believe that he really did put his trust in love.

We are intensely proud of our little man and what he overcomes on a daily basis; he has worked as hard, as we have, at being a family. Adoption is a challenge every day. It is a markedly different way of being a family. But it is all the more special for it and every day we are thankful that we went looking for love and found it.

Would you like to be a guest blogger at Life with Katie? If you want to share your story then email me at

Gem xx

Thursday, 1 October 2015

The Fairy House

There are three little words that are guaranteed to put the fear of the universe into me.  No it's not the obvious three little words.  For me, the scariest words you can utter in my direction are.....

Arts and Crafts!

Even the typing of the words is almost sufficient to break me out in hives.  I can feel my stomach churning just thinking about it. 

If I'm honest I think it's because I'm not particularly creative or imaginative. I certainly don't get much time these days to let my imagination take over.  I can write, and even sew and bake but if you give me a blank piece of paper and some paint and some of those bobbly things that generally require glue, I'm running for cover.

So baring all that in mind I was excited to be contacted by Ocean Finance to ask if we wanted to take part in a competition they were running called Cardboard Dream Houses.  The children would be sent a cardboard house from Cardboard Toys for them to design their dream house.  So, being a good parent who doesn't want her children to grow up with palpitations at the thought of anything crafty and thinking about all the decorating we've been doing as part of our house build, I jumped on board and said "YES" and then found a brown paper bag to hyperventilate into,

A few days later the cardboard play house arrived looking very white and full of expectation promise. We quickly put the house together (Lack of creative powers aside, I am the Queen of Flat Pack!) and the children dived inside excitedly.  I asked Katie how she would like to decorate the house and she beamed at me and said "A fairy house please Mummy. With lots of glitter".

"Oh crikey......" I gulped inwardly...... (or words to that effect......) with a hopefully convincing brave smile on my face.

Day 1

We consulted our friend Google and gazed at images of toadstool houses in a mix of fascination and terror and hatched a plan that involved lots and lots of paint...... and glitter! Katie is all about the glitter!

First the roof....All toadstools have a spotty roof we decided so Katie and I drew lots of circles and painted the roof red.
Katie painting around the circles 
to edge them ready for 
painting the roof.
All edged and ready for painting
Then we painted the roof and painted the front door
and a little fairy (please forgive me for the quality of the fairy!)
So far so good.  The sun was shining, the day was warm and we had loads of fun (even me!).  Katie beamed from ear to ear the whole time and skipped about dripping paint everywhere.  Pip generally got in the way and just wanted to paint everything we didn't want him to paint.

Next we set to work on the walls.  The walls were originally going to be white but let's just say that Pip found the black paint so a change of plan was required.  We decided to create little window surrounds and paint three of the house walls green and the front of the house blue.

Katie painting the green side walls of the house.
The back of the house all painted.
We stopped once we'd painted three walls, the roof and the doors due to failing light (and tempers) and a tremendous desire to decontaminate Pip in the bath before he turned anything else on the decking green and red.

 Day 2

We were blessed with another gloriously sunny day so we moved the house back out into the garden and started painting the window frames.  Nana had come to visit for the afternoon and I thought helping with some decorating might be a good way for her to interact with the children.  Since she's developed Alzheimer's Disease these interactions have been very challenging because Nana finds the noise and chaotic nature of children quite difficult these days.  Nana thoroughly enjoyed being part of the team and did a sterling job with the glue and glitter.

 Then Katie, Nana, Pip and myself brushed glue all over the roof and Katie and Nana poured glitter all over the roof. I can't find a more eloquent way of describing this part of the process to be honest.  It was very hit and miss and lots of fun as the glitter swooshed up into the air covering us all with "fairy dust".
Nana and Pip gluing and scattering.
We tried to use as much of the cardboard box as possible.  We turned one section into a "grass carpet" for the inside of the house.  Points for excessive use of glitter for Katie!

Enough glitter?
A fairy glitter grass carpet!
We then had a moment of inspiration and had a great idea for the fireplace.....
Our Rainbow Inspired Fireplace!
Day 3

On our third day of creating our Fairy House we focused on decorating the outside of the house and adding blinds.  We got creative making cardboard flowers and leaves and found some unused wrapping paper to make the blinds. Unfortunately we were so busy being creative I forgot to photograph the work in hand...... was I enjoying myself too much?  No that can't be the case at all...... could it?
The wrapping paper we found in the cupboard and used for the blinds
The flowers.....
The blinds that Katie put up.
The flowers gabled around the front door!
Every house needs a name so Katie and I created a little house sign....

Day 4

Time to take the house outside again for some final pictures and let the fairies have a look.

Fairies enjoying the soft sofa!
Here you can see the rainbow fire and the blinds!
Pip exploring the house with his Ipad!
Both children inside the house playing!
We have lots more plans to complete the internal decorations but time is limited for this blog post because the competition closes soon.  I think we'll come back to this project time and time again though and continue to tweak the internals.

All in all this has been a great project.  We've had enormous fun painting the house and considering we're not the most artistic family in the world I think we did a pretty good job.  I will say this house is a lot more colourful than the rather more contemporary one we are building but I think this house will make a wonderful addition to the playroom once we're home again.

So did I need a brown paper bag to complete this project? Actually no I didn't! I did need a lot of poster paint and then bubble bath to wash off all the paint from the children but no palpitations were had in the making of this project after my initial panic.  It was lovely to involve Nana in the creation of the house and some lovely memories were made for the children in the process.  We might even feel a little bit more confident about school projects in the future (but don't expect too much!).

Thank you to Ocean Finance and Cardboard Toys for giving us the chance to join in the competition. We had a lot of fun and can definitely recommend the cardboard play houses for lots of fun!

As always all the words are my own and it's fairly clear we received a cardboard house for participating in this competition.

Friday, 25 September 2015

Adopting Together......

In my professional life I was a trained counsellor who specialised in working with teenagers who were disengaged in education and their families.  Little did I know the invaluable insights I would gain when I became a parent myself.  In my personal life I am an adopter who regular readers will know has had many challenges along the way.  The experience of Katie's often very challenging behaviour has resulted in me accessing my own counselling for Secondary Trauma and the stress upon TCM and myself as a couple has, and continues to be, enormous and damaging to our relationship.  

I was contacted recently by the Tavistock Centre in London regarding some specialised counselling they are offering couples who have adopted children.  This interested my counselling brain partly because it's wonderful that an agency is recognising that the relationships of the parents of adopted children can be challenged in very unique and specialised ways and also because I've always professionally been a fan of the work that the Tavistock Centre do.  I immediately offered to share the information about their programme called Adopting Together with everyone who reads this blog in case it is useful for readers in the London and surrounding areas.  The rest of this post has been written for me by the marketing team for the Tavistock........

Have you and your partner been arguing more since adopting?

Have the summer holidays exposed some cracks in your relationship?

Ever feel like you are ‘on your own’ and no one 
understands the pressures of being an adoptive parent?

Don’t let these concerns grow: 
There is no better time to seek support.

At The Tavistock Centre for Couple Relationships (TCCR) we are offering NEW, FREE, government funded support in a new service called: 

Adopting Together
Relationship Support for Adoptive Parents

This specialist service offers a safe space to reflect on how adoption has impacted on your couple relationship. It allows for better communication between couples where they can freely share the difficulties they are experiencing in order to improve the quality of their relationship.

Programme Head Julie Humphries says “Our innovative approach is unique as, unlike other Adopting Together parenting programmes it avoids the usual focus on mothers and parenting, instead looking at you as a couple. By helping your relationship, the aim is to improve life for you AND your children. Participation will help you strengthen your bond and allow you to concentrate on building or growing your family in a happy and harmonious way.”

The support is run in London and starts in September. Here is a brief Q&A for couples who are interested in attending

Who can receive the support?

The Adopting Together Service is open to all post-adoption parents and we welcome both heterosexual and same-sex couples.

What type of support is offered?

We offer two types of face to face therapy. Couples will be seen in either couples therapy or parent groups and work with our experienced therapists to get support to address some of the issues that are impacting on their relationship.

What are the Adopting Together Parents Groups?

One option A FREE group-based programme designed to support adoptive couples with their relationship and their parenting with the benefit of allowing you to share your experiences.

What’s involved if we join the Parents Groups?

You and your co-parent will meet with our expert group workers and they will be able to answer any further questions you might have and decide if the group is the right sort of help for you and your family.

You will then join a series of 16 weekly, 2 hour sessions with a small number of other adoptive couples who might be going through similar situations. The sessions give you the opportunity to improve your relationship, yourself and your parenting skills. There is a mixture of creative activities, video clips and discussions with the group leaders.

The group is a safe space to explore things that might be difficult and sad, as well as a space for lively discussion, fun and meeting other people who might be going through similar situations.

What is the Adopting Together Couple Therapy Service?

A FREE therapy service designed to support adoptive couples with their relationship and their parenting.

What is involved if we join the Couple Therapy Service?

You and your co-parent will meet with a specially trained therapist for up to 20 weekly 50-minute sessions. In these sessions you will get the chance to explore your relationship and any issues that may be concerning you.

What difference will it make?

TCCR has nearly 70 years’ worth of experience and is world leading in the field of couple therapy. Seeing a therapist has made a big difference to thousands of relationships, here are just some of the things our clients have said about what couple therapy did for them:

I was so worried about seeking help and I wonder why it took me so long”
It was a very professional service. I have got all I wanted form it.”
It has brought me and my partner closer together”


We are allocating free spaces now…

You can find out more or register for a consultation appointment by emailing or call: 0207 380 1950, then you may be offered one of two options, either Adopting Together Parents Groups or Adopting Together Couples Therapy.