Sunday, 28 February 2016

The Sleepover!

Talk about a day of two halves. How quickly celebration can turn into sorrow, sobbing and stress. All because of a sleepover.

I'll be honest, I'm not a huge fan of sleepovers. They are very trendy in our neck of the woods it seems. Every other child at school seems to be having a sleepover with this, that or the other person. That's how Katie tells it anyway. My concern is that the children are only 7 and 8 years old. I think they are too young to be staying in unknown circumstances at other people's house. Am I over protective in my thinking? 

Up until the introduction of melatonin in our lives any kind of sleepover was unthinkable for Katie. My sister had tried a few times resulting in two sleepless nights and one night that didn't even make it to bedtime before Katie came home. Katie was keen to try it again though so we agreed and after a very chilled afternoon baking cakes and pizza at our house she went home with my sister and my nephew. All went extremely well. Katie took her Melatonin tablet without a quibble and had a chilled evening although my sister noticed that she was sounding anxious. Bedtime was a little late for my liking, and involved a bit too much sugar, but it was relatively straightforward (although required my sister to,pretend to be asleep to stop Katie chatting to her) and I went to collect a very happy Katie in the morning. A huge step forward.

For us at home the sleepover gave us some much needed respite. We love Katie with all our hearts but you know when she's home, if you know what I mean? Life is tense, argumentative, loud and relentless. It was nice to wake up with a very relaxed Pip and just hang out in bed with our iPads without any stress or arguing. There is however no ying without a yang or a Jung.

Katie didn't want to leave Aunty BB's. Why would she? She was being fed sugar and not being asked to do anything. Of course that would be preferable to being at home. I was ready for this and knew the transiton would be a challenge. An offer of a play date at the coveted soft play in a nearby town arose for the afternoon with a friend and I hoped this would offset the transition nicely. It did, up until the end of the afternoon when I noticed Katie was being a little unkind to her friend. This isn't something I see very often and I was surprised because she gets along wonderfully with her friend. When I asked her to apologise she became very sullen and grumpy. 

In the car she started to become upset and said she was missing Aunty BB and her dog Sam, an adorable Larsa Apso. She relayed her favourite parts of the visit in an incredibly plaintive way increasing in dramatic licence as we drove home. At home I then comforted a sobbing Katie who was wailing wildly and requesting to return to Aunty BB's. 
Katie's expression of her emotions highlighted several factors about adoption and FASD. I don't actually think Katie was crying because she missed my sister per say. I think she felt sad at leaving but that triggered deeper feelings of all the losses in her life. Because of her FASD she became utterly fixated on this feeling and unable to move on from it. 

Understanding it doesn't make it any easier to handle when she gets into a fixated state however. By the time we'd eaten dinner, and she'd revisited her despair at the mention of a shower, she decided to throw in some antisocial behaviour as well. Cue some effing and jeffing and a refusal to have a shower followed a dramatic, Oscar winning, performance in the shower and a refusal to have her hair dried because "she needed a minute".

All of this whilst weeping and wailing dramatically.

You'll forgive me if I sound harsh. I'm really not. I'm the first person to care in any emotional crisis but I don't like being played. My over riding feeling during all this was that I was being played. Was that a projection? Was that my own cynicism? Was it all FASD? Or was it my beautiful daughter milking a situation that was upsetting for her? What I do know is that I didn't know how to handle the situation and I felt myself getting frustrated and angry. I was probably frustrated at my inability to manage the situation and I was already feeling a bit cross at my lovely hubby who I sensed wanted to watch the football more than help with the bedtime routine. I will admit that I maybe felt a little upset at such drama over my sister who isn't really there for me most of the time and some rejection that Katie wanted her more than me. After 10 minutes of trying to get Katie to let me dry her hair, with her wailing that she wanted Aunty BB, I walked away from her. I sent her to bed and said she could go to bed with wet hair if she wouldn't let me dry it. I also told her she wasn't staying at Aunty BB's house again if it was going to make her so upset. 

I might have had a bit of a petulant shout when saying all of that. 

I sat on my bed with my iPad feeling guilty and sad and angry and frustrated and upset with myself for not being a good enough mum or the mum Katie wanted and realised it was all a projection of Katie's feelings and I had walked slap, bang, right into it. 

I got up and tried again. A still weeping Katie asked me why she missed Aunty BB so much. I explained to her that she probably did feel sad after having a nice time at Aunty BB's because it was like a little holiday but after all the build up I felt that her sadness was more because she was remembering emotions from when she was little. I reminded her how much she used to cry when we'd seen her foster carer. She asked me if I feel sad when I say goodbye to Aunty BB. Ummmmmm no not really because I know I'll see her again. I explained to her the sort of feelings she was expressing were the intensity of feelings people usually had when someone had died so maybe her reactions were a little excessive. 

She then lay in my arms (still refusing to dry her hair) for about 20 mins slowly calming down. 

Eventually we got her dried and her teeth cleaned and into bed. A chapter of Winnie the Witch raised a smile and a request to go to sleep.

I walked away feeling utterly drained, the calmness of the morning's moments lost in a haze of various emotions. 

Hopefully, with practice, her response to the sleepover will become more tempered. 

The plan is to try again with my sister in a few weeks time but we the. have the issue of Brownie camp at the end of the month to work through. Katie desperately wanted to go to camp when it was announced and we agreed but the reality of 2 nights away is hitting home now and she is now very anxious and worried she'll miss me too much. I know that she would feel incredibly positive and confident if she could manage the trip. The planned activities sound amazing and I've said to her we can collect her early if she wants to just stay for one night. She's going with a Brownie leader who has known her since she was two years old and a friend from school so I know she's in good hands. Katie stresses herself out to the point of hysteria though. It's like you have to push her off the cliff so she can see for herself that she can fly. I want her to make the decision about camp for herself though so I suspect we have an interesting few weeks ahead of us.......

Friday, 26 February 2016

Is it out of date?

Living with a child with anxiety is hard on everyone.  Adults who suffer from phobias will tell you that their fear isn't always rational. They can intellectualise until the cows come home about why they shouldn't be scared of something but, the fact remains, they still are. Katie has several anxieties with no real justification that I can find: being sick and food being out of date.

The two fears are obviously linked.  She's never had food poisoning (that I'm aware of).  She's rarely sick (a point I remind her of constantly). The issue remains though she is terrified we are going to poison her and make her sick by giving her out of date food.  The fact that food being slightly out of date wouldn't necessarily be an issue is hard to explain to many adults.  Then you have the whole "best before" and "use by" issue to explain.  Don't even get me going on the anxiety about food that we've cooked and put back in the fridge to reheat, which doesn't have a sell by or use by or best before date on.  That will send Katie into a whole new world of panic - as I saw yesterday when I gave her pasta made with the sauce I made for pizza's a few days ago.

Where did this anxiety come from?  I'm fairly laissez faire about food.  I check dates and use common sense but I also use my nose and my eyes to assess if food is suitable for consumption.  We have an amazing new fridge that keeps food beautifully cold so most foods have at least a few additional days before they have to be eaten. For a very literal girl with ADHD and FASD and an anxiety issue this is a potential minefield.  I am teaching her how to tell if food is safe to eat but it's hard talking to someone wearing metaphorical ear defenders and eye blinkers.  Daddy is a little anxious about making sure food is cooked through and often asks me to check food and, come to think of it does get twitchy about cleaning work surfaces, so maybe this has fueled Katie's worries as well.  I'm of the ilk that a little dirt never hurt anyone.  I'm not saying I don't clean etc because I do clean regularly and am careful with toilets and work-surfaces but I do think houses these days are far too sanitary.  Try living in a building site with a constantly dusty and dirty floor and you have to live and let live and put those blinkers on ALOT!

Anxiety is common in adopted children. It's also very common with ADHD and FASD so she's got a triple whammy there (ergo so have we). It's hard not to feel frustrated with her when she needs to check the date on everything we cook.  It also doesn't help that she doesn't really confidently know her months of the year so I'm constantly having to go over this information when she's panicking that it says the 3rd on a packet and I have to explain (yet again) that it means the 3rd month i.e. March and not the 3rd day of the month which has already passed.

Most nights I still have to feel her belly to make sure it's not a "sicky tummy".  Thankfully she at least trusts my judgement on this. I have a quick prod and judge how tense and tight her tummy is.  Sometimes we do some deep breathing exercises to help relax her tummy but, as I point out to her every single time, she is rarely sick.  I have to hope and pray that my healing Reiki hands remain good at sensing if she is unwell (I am very good at doing that I must admit) and Katie is fascinated by my "magic hands".

I hope that, as she gets older and her ability to rationalise catches up with her chronological age a bit, this anxiety will start to diminish. She was (and still is) a fussy eater.  She doesn't like a lot of textures and tastes. I sometimes wonder if my children are a clear example of the difference between a baby weaned with purees and a baby weaned in a baby-led way.  Pip is still fabulous with eating his fruit and veg as a result being baby-led weaned. It's just a shame he still prefers to use his hands instead of a knife and fork but we'll forgive him that minor issue and hope we're not the parents getting the letter home because their child can't eat with the proper utensils.

Disgust is a sense we have with a good purpose.  It saves us from being poisoned.  Could it be that Katie is one of the people who is a super-taster?  Maybe her senses are over-developed and foods do taste different for her or maybe it is anxiety that is to blame.

All I know is that it makes food hard work instead of pleasurable.  I also note that she isn't quite as discriminatory with foods containing lots of sugar........

Now there's food for thought......

Thursday, 18 February 2016


had to go to the doctors last week to continue a conversation I started 6 months ago. I wasn't ready back then to take the step although I suspected it would be inevitable eventually. I hoped that getting home would being some magical cure and I might relax and be able to breathe again. The trouble with such fanciful notions is they only work if all the circumstances change. Which of course they haven't.

Don't get me wrong, it's wonderful to be home so our living arrangements have changed. I'm slowly settling back into the fabulous space that we now have to live in. From tonight I'll even be able to sleep back in a real bed after two and a half months on a sofa bed. With Pip making appearances in the tiny sofa bed, and its resulting lack of sleep and the squash and a squeeze, it's not surprising we're exhausted and feeling twinges in our backs and necks. Tonight I will be moving into my new bedroom though with a super kingsize bed and a new mattress. I can't wait!

Anyway, I digress with my excitement. Mattress aside there is a lot that hasn't changed though. I'm still trying to get on top of my mother-in-laws finances. The children are settling well now into their new/old home but their behaviour is very controlling, explosive and challenging and we're trying to wrap our heads around Katie's diagnosis. I spend my days with the builders in the house which has been pleasant at times when we put the world to rights over a cuppa but is mostly intrusive and distracting. Trying to make phone calls or concentrate with noise and dust is nigh on impossible and I'm having to take Pip out in the afternoons because he wants to get into everything the builders are doing. It's all in a good cause but it frazzles my already delicate nerves. Half term has been tough at times because I'm having to keep the children out of the house in not always pleasant weather. It's impossible to do any work with the children around and I'm falling behind with all my paperwork because I'm constantly interrupted with either the noise or things I'm needed to buy or have an opinion on. I'm so exhausted that by the time I've put the children to bed and had dinner I'm falling asleep on the sofa. 

From the moment I open my eyes in the mornings I'm on high alert listening for Katie (mostly) and Pip. I sometimes lay in bed not breathing so I can hear what she's doing. Has she got the cat in bed with her? Has she snuck downstairs to raid the cake cupboard? Is she watching TV? Where is she? Unless she has her iPad there's no telling what she'll get up to. It's been made worse this week because the change in routine seems to have put her on hyper alert as well and she's waking up at 5am and is bouncing off the walls like one of the Moon Balls the children currently love so much. 

When I realised I was permanently feeling angry and self absorbed about everything I made an appointment to see the doctor. After a very uncomfortable, almost tearful but brutally abrupt, phone conversation with the receptionist who wanted to know why I wanted an urgent same day appointment, I was able to see the doctor that morning. She was sympathetic when I said I needed some anti depressants to calm me down. I explained the crazy that is my life and how it is impacting on me. She asked me if I felt anxious. I said I didn't think I was but then proceeded to tell her I felt like a meerkat, constantly looking around fearful of what Katie was going to do next. She said I sounded very anxious. I suppose I am really. It's funny that I only focused on feeling angry and missed my anxiety.

So I'm back wading my way through the side effects of the tablets feeling cross that I'm back on them when there is so much that is great about my life. I'm not depressed as such but feeling so overwhelmed with everything I'm dealing with and expected to achieve that it's effecting my wellbeing significantly. On a plus though I'm feeling much calmer since starting the tablets in a drug induced, fuzzy, sort of way and am finding my sing sing voice easier to access. As well as prescribing the tablets the doctor also prescribed me a lunch break every day or a walk or some time to myself. After I stopped laughing at the ridiculousness of her suggestion I knew she was right. I have to try and put my own oxygen mask on. Easier said than done but I'm trying. I might even get my colouring book out.

I'll just tell the council who are chasing the deferred payments paperwork for my mother-in-law that I'm on a lunch break shall I? ........

Sunday, 14 February 2016

Nana's Birthday!
There are those days that come along that, if you only read the small print, you'd realise had recipe for disaster written all over them. Today was one of those days. Today was Nana's 74th Birthday.

If I'm honest, it's not just that it was Nana's birthday that was the problem. It was firstly the fact that Katie had a birthday party at a new trampolining park in the morning. A day or so before the party the birthday girl's mum offered to take Katie. I said I'd check with her as it was a new venue and I wasn't sure if she'd want me around. Katie decided she wanted to go with the birthday girl. She came home buzzing but happy. I probably should have picked up on the fact that "buzzing" doesn't just mean "I've had a great time".  It also means "It's taken every single ounce of effort for me to cope with the hyperstimulation I have from not only going to a high octane birthday party for someone else but also going on a new adventure without mum so there's going to be a fallout"  I might have noticed and reflected upon this but for the fact that our aunt and cousin knocked on the door with a card for Nana and I was distracted and anxious to get out of the door to collect Nana.

Ideally, it would have been nice to stop the day after the party and just chill but we'd planned to take Nana out. Nothing fancy, just tea and cake at a nice local garden centre. Pip loves this particular garden centre because they have fountains on display. I like it because they serve a lovely peony white tea. I'd planned that Daddy could take the children off for a walk and leave me with Nana if it all got too intense and the children needed to let off some steam. What could go wrong? I had covered all the bases.

Or so I thought.......

I hadn't planned on Katie not wanting to part with Nana's birthday present, Constance the Victorian Doll. 

I hadn't envisaged Katie having a mini meltdown at the nursing home over Constance.

Why would I? Katie had been involved in purchasing the doll.  The reason we bought the present was because Nana had taken a fancy to the two Victorian dolls I had recently given Katie. We decided that getting Nana a doll for her birthday would be the perfect gift. Because of her Alzheimer's Nana is now in a more childlike state and we had chosen Constance's curly hair specifically so Nana could fiddle with it.  I know she will get a lot of enjoyment from it which makes me happy and sad in equal measures because her Alzheimer's seems to be worsening all the time.

Katie loved Constance though.  When Nana opened her present Katie offered to unpack it. She then didn't want to give it back. Apparently she was "too attached to it". When we took the doll up to Nana's room before leaving for the garden centre I couldn't prise the doll from Katie's hands.  Then the tears started and the refusal to leave and the laying on the floor etc etc.

After a stressful 10 minutes or so we managed to get Katie into the car in the hopes that a change of scene might distract her from her misery.  We arrived at the garden centre with a, still sullen, Katie sulking in her car seat.  Daddy was sat in the back with her and she had avoided all his attempts to cheer her up, a silent tear rolling down her cheek.  She was not going to give up her misery without a fight. She was hanging in for the duration. When we arrived in the car park Nana said she needed the toilet so I took her and Pip to the toilets in the garden centre and left Daddy to mop up with Katie and meet us at the cafe.

I adopted my "sing sing" voice.  The one that shows everything is hunky dory even when the sky is raining down all manner of hell.

Maybe removing her audience would help her sort herself out?

"Come along Nana and Pip. Let's pop to the toilets and Daddy and Katie can join us in a minute,"

"sing sing"

"Oooh I'm looking forward to a lovely, yummy cake.  Are you Pip and Nana?"

"sing sing"

I knew I had to get Nana away though before she started giving Katie a hard time for her behaviour and also before she wet herself.  I was already slightly concerned about some little whiffs I was getting.
Eventually a very disgruntled and rude Katie masquerading as her alter ego, Verruca Salt, arrived at the cafe and we chose cakes.  Katie chose the biggest cake she could possibly find.  A huge Black Forest cream cake.  I knew she wouldn't eat it all but there are times to pick your arguments and I was looking forward to my peony white tea and wanted to get everyone sat down in the hopes that a sugar hit might bring out some sweetness and provide a much needed distraction.

The cake-fest didn't work although a happy Pip enjoyed finishing off Katie's cake as well as his Viennese Whirl.  Nana got increasingly grumpy with Verruca's behaviour (as did I).

"sing sing"

Next, determined to feel we'd at least tried to give Nana a nice experience for her birthday, we tried a walk around the garden centre so Pip and Nana could see the fountains. Once again Daddy was on Katie patrol and lagged behind with Katie moaning about what she wanted him to buy her. I maintained my overly cheerful "nothing to see here" voice, keeping Nana and Pip as happy as I humanly could whilst glaring at Daddy with a look that said "don't you dare given in and buy her anything" and wondering how long I could keep this fake happy demeanour up for. Looking at Daddy's very tired and wan looking face didn't help although Pip's delight at all things water certainly helped keep me going.

With a lot of ignoring of the demands for toys and presents from Verruca we decided to give up and take Nana back home.

Interestingly as soon as Nana had left the car a certain someone's mood lifted.  It was like she could let go of her attachment to her bad mood once the recipient of the coveted doll had left.  It was wasn't a perfect end to the day. Katie was overtired and tetchy for the rest of the evening. Her sicky tummy made a reappearance at bedtime and she woke several times in the night with a sore throat. I just managed to finally get her back to sleep when Pip woke up and came in with us.

So the obvious lessons learned are:

1) Don't schedule two events on one day?  How could I say no to the birthday party though? The invite for that arrived after our plans were made for Nana. Should I or TCM have taken Nana out on her own and left the children behind? Am I attaching our expectations for Nana's birthday onto a person who, due to her condition, wouldn't have known the difference if we'd taken her out on a different day?  Was I just feeling guilty at appearing to not care if we didn't take her out on her birthday?

2) Don't buy Nana a present that Katie is coveting? No that is unacceptable in my opinion. Nana and Katie are in a similar emotional place at the moment so the presents we buy Nana will reflect that. It's inevitable that Katie will like the presents but I don't think giving in to her demands will help anyone in the longer term.

3) Maybe just accept that sometimes these things happen and ride with it and deal with the fallout as it occurs?  There will have to be times when this is the option we have to choose.

Sadly this is why we often don't include Katie in birthday celebrations.

Friday, 5 February 2016

Life is a Roller Coaster....

I'm not sure what particular planetary alignment is going on or whether the solar flares are weaving some sort of magic spell but my children are on another planet at the moment. 

Actually I'm at the stage when I'm wishing I was on another planet. I keep thinking about the scene in the film "Parenthood" when Steve Martin is watching his son destroy the school play and feeling like he's on a roller coaster. I want to skip to the part when he lets go of all his expectations and anxieties and just laughs uproariously at his son's antics. 

Katie's behaviour bulldozes along the paths of "I don't care about anything"; "NO I'm not going to do a single thing you ask me to do"; If you do ask me to do anything I'll pretend I haven't heard you or I'll run away laughing manically (one of my personal favourites) and "I'm going to act like a 2 year old in all my emotional responses". The precise reasons for this have not been confirmed. I suspect there are some emotions simmering about her birth mum currently because she's looking in her memory box a lot.

I've tried asking her what's wrong but can a 2 year old really tell you what's wrong? I've tried wondering if she's missing her birth mum and wanting to talk about that. I've tried cuddles. I've tried yelling back "I don't care that you don't care" (not my finest hour but we were really late for school that particular morning). I've asked if everything is ok at school. Is she playing with her friends? Is she happy with her lessons? According to Katie everything is fine. Eventually, wondering if she just doesn't know why she's all over the place I told her that the doctor thought she had ADHD. Interestingly, after some initial anxiety, I'd say that chat has had the most impact and she seems calmer. Maybe on some level she knew that our visits to the paediatrician were more than just talking about her sleep. I'm not going to tell her about FASD until she's much older. The emotions linked to that are so complex that I think it might be too damaging for her. ADHD she's heard of. It's something tangible that we can openly use to explain her reactions and help her understand why she behaves the way she does and how her brain works. It's something almost outside of her that we can discuss without her carrying the burden of responsibility at such a young age.  The explanation of the physiological cause of it all is not really important currently and can wait. 

Pip is 3 and (to return to the film Parenthood again) he's good at it. He's in full "copy my sister" mode; practising a few swear words and walking around saying "butthole willy" and "penis" on a loop (thank you Katie for teaching him those) and refusing to do anything he's asked. He distracts himself from his willy obsession by either asking "why? why? why?" on a loop or throwing himself down in the floor at every opportunity shouting "That's not fair (or "ware" with his pronunciation) every time he experiences something unjust. The competition of fairness between Katie and Pip rages on during all waking hours. "She's had a biscuit. That's not fair!" "Yes but you had your biscuit before we collected Katie from school Pip" "Nooooooooo it's not fair" *falls on the floor crying*

You get the picture.

Pip's level of cheeky naughtiness is reaching fever pitch currently. He cannot stand still for a moment and is like a caged animal. He's on a curfew after the whole getting lost incident last week so has to hold my hand all the time. The phrase involving the words "lead" and "balloon" describes his response to this turn of events. He's slowly understanding though and the past two days has brought a willingness to comply on the hand holding front at least although, obviously, it's not fair. Two visits to the vets with Willow and Leo for their annual check ups has left Mummy with a very red face though as he buzzed about in an over-excited hyperstimulated fashion, touching everything in the consulting room and ignoring my pleas to stand still. A particular high point was when he took the key out of the consulting room door and threw it into the waiting room, much to the amusement of the people waiting. I retrieved the key and smiled brightly at the eyes of judgement staring at me and muttered about the fact that he was 3 and exceptionally good at it. Add this to him knocking over the yellow "Wet Floor" sign and tripping over the lady in front of me in the queue and you'll understand why I was glad to leave there. I'm sure I could hear the sound of that roller coaster following me. At home he vanishes constantly which with builders in the house isn't safe. I turn my back and he's gone and can generally be found flushing things down the toilet or tipping the contents of anything he finds on the floor or trying to run out the front door to find the builders. My brain hurts from second guessing what he might do next and the fear of what that thing might be.

Maybe I'll just let that roller coaster mow me down and be done with it. I'm trying to find it all funny, I really am but I think I any humour might be tinged with an edge of madness. If I go quiet for a while it might be because I'm rocking in a corner muttering "It's just a phase" in a manic attempt to reassure myself that this is all transient and before long they will have both moved on to a new phase.

I look forward to the next one.....