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.