Wednesday, 27 July 2016

Challenging Pip!

I was expecting Katie to be a challenge at the start of the holidays. I didn't need to dress up as Einstein for that one. She's been mouthy enough at the best of times so I was primed and ready for the transitional fall out as I wrote about in my recently in Transitions. What's taken me a bit by surprise is Pip's current regression and behaviour.

I'll be honest, Pip has always been my Ronseal child. He's relatively straight forward. He has his "stuff" and issues that we manoeuvre around and there were the issues of his weight and being a bit delayed in his speech etc but mostly he's quite an easy and sunny young man. Well he was. Not at the moment he's not. The balance has tipped to 70% grumpy and 30% his usual sunny self. I don't know whether it's tiredness; the transition to the big room at pre-school; the change in routine; the fact that he's 3 and a half; he's had some sort of hormone surge; he's a bit bored; he's copying Katie's behaviour; or, dare I even consider it, issues similar to Katie; or prehaps all of the above; but he's possessed by some sort of crazy demon at the moment. He's very regressed both in his speech and his behaviour. He's being very rude and hitting people; he won't listen to a single word being said to him unless it involves the word "sweets"; he's running off all the time and can't sit still for more than 5 minutes which is unusual for him, and won't follow any rules. He's like a cat on a hot tin roof and he's very hard work. 

I know boys can be physically hard work. He's a real live wire and I joke he's like a dog that needs walking twice a day. We're all a little stir crazy because of my sprained ankle although I've managed to get them to soft play and to the park to burn off some steam. It doesn't help that he wants to see what the builders are up to in the garden and doesn't understand how dangerous it can be if he doesn't play in the areas I've said they can play in. Katie doesn't listen either. I must have told them over 20 times to stay on the patio today. Katie with her 8 year old FASD non-listening ears and Pip with his 3 year old non-listening ears are being a mammoth challenge. I'm feeling ridiculously frustrated. I can't do anything in the house without checking every few minutes to see what they're up to. I'm trying to sell my Mother-in-Law's house and manage her finances and stay on top of the housework and build whilst stopping every few minutes to have a circular argument about staying away from the builders. I could scream with frustration and irritation. In fact I have been known to shriek and holler a few times (a day). The timing of the builders coming back couldn't have worked out worse really but we need the garden back in action so we can put up the trampoline and swings which will make life so much better. Well, it would but Pip is also disappearing whenever he can and doesn't reply when called so I'm not sure I could trust him in the garden currently. 
I'm mentally exhausted and feeling very tetchy. It's not how I want to be. I had a row with my sister in Asda the other day and stomped off and left her with a few choice words. I feel like I want to take no prisoners. I'm aware enough to know that my reaction is now probably exacerbating the children's behaviour but my stress now has friends and I'm really struggling with ignoring the head in a vice feeling   In a funny way I suspect the timing of my sprained ankle was to remind me I need to slow down a bit. I really do need to slow down but my response to the universe would be "Have you met my kids? The Chaos Kids? Would you like to babysit them so I can rest my ankle?"

I can't end in a low, it's not in my nature. It's good to remind myself of the positives and remember that nothing is forever. Time is always moving on and nothing stays static. My children are lovely. Katie is fantastic and beautiful and funny and full of crazy ideas and thoughts. Pip is like a wild horse who wants to gallop with the harras of horses, mane flying behind him. He's utterly delightful and so generous and loving. 

But boy are they hard work.....

Sunday, 24 July 2016

Not how you want to start the holidays.....

O

Sitting with my foot elevated and iced isn't how I anticipated to be spending today. We should have been off to see a story time with Paw Patrol today. We should be packing to go and visit Mrs Vander-Cave tomorrow for a few days but sadly I'm stuck with my leg in the air trying to ensure my ankle heals as quickly as possible. 

I'm wondering if the universe is trying to give me a message (although a massage would be more beneficial at the moment if I had my say in it). Am I not supposed to be on the roads? Am I supposed to be having an enforced rest? I can cope with the concept of protection but the universe clearly hasn't met my children if it thinks I can rest. I do believe that things happen for a reason though but sometimes the reason isn't immediately clear. 

So, what did I do I hear you wondering (I'm clearly telepathic)? Well, this is the penance for trying to have a family outing. To give the children a break from the heat yesterday after a challenging day with viewings at Nana's house, we decided to head off into the New Forest to a wonderful river spot in Brockenhurst. And wonderful it was. The children splashed in the river and Katie bravely dived into the chilly water to swim around the banks. Pip was in his element in the water and finding stones. He ran from bank to bank with a huge grin in his face. We planned to out to a favourite pub restaurant for some dinner on the way home. What a lovely treat!

Well it was until Pip decided not to come and get changed when he was called. I flip-flopped down a slight incline towards the river to collect him and suddenly the stones started to move under my feed (I did feel the earth move under my feet but the sky didn't tumble down!) and I slid down the slope and felt my ankle turn. I had long enough during the fall to hear my ankle crack and pop and for the thought that I'd broken my ankle to occur to me. 

A wave of sickness and pain washed over me. TCM and Katie rushed over to me. I managed to prevent my phone from sliding into the water with a nifty over arm throw to TCM before allowing the agony to engulf me. Being incredibly independent is not good at these times as TCM wanted to get me to stand up but I batted him away wanting to stay in the muddy puddle I'd landed in whilst I assessed what had happened and whether I thought I could stand up. I was also unsure how the heck I could get back up the stoney incline. 

I sat there for about 10 minutes wondering what to do; wiggling my toes and trying to flex my ankle. No bones were protruding so that was positive. Katie by this time was hitting full blown anxiety mode. Sadly this doesn't present itself as concern for anyone. She gets very aggressive so I was trying to reassure her that I was OK whilst wondering whether I needed an ambulance. 

Eventually the sickness ebbed and I felt able to attempt to stand and hobbled gingerly with the aid of TCM back to our picnic blanket. I tried to entertain the idea of still going out for dinner because I hate being a burden to anyone but acknowledged eventually it really wasn't a good idea. I could feel the pain travelling up my calf muscle like a tight band and just wanted to get home. TCM had to drive home which caused a fresh wave of panic for Katie because she knows I get motion sickness and she was beside herself with worry that I might be sick in the car. With a sing-song voice masking the pain I was in I did my best to reassure her that I could make it home in the car without being sick. Which I did - thankfully!

I spent the evening at home with ice (sadly not a slice as well) and a pile of cushions. I decided to assess how it was feeling before going to hospital. I suspect it's (just) a nasty sprain of my ligaments. Today the ankle is sore and stiff but it's not throbbing with pain and I'm hobbling about. I can't flex it backwards much yet so will give it another night and review my progress in the morning. All this goes against the advice of my friends on Facebook. Mrs Vander-Cave, TCM and myself are in agreement on holding off the X-Ray's this my sister was all for taking me to A&E and took some talking down.

I'm so hacked off that I can't drive up to see Mrs Vander-Cave-Cave tomorrow and am currently wondering how on this earth I can entertain the Bonkers Twins tomorrow with a dodgy ankle and the builders in. I'll worry about that one tomorrow I think and I'll give myself more Reiki and Arnica and ask Archangel Raphael for a miracle healing. 

I had such a great week planned as well.......








Sunday, 17 July 2016

Transitions.....


have a headache. It's been going on for days now. My mind and body are exhausted. We are limping, slowly yet aggressively and hyperactively towards the end of term; the end of the school year. 

I feel a little let down if I'm honest. I flagged up to school in no uncertain terms how anxious Katie is about moving into Year 4. Her nails are all but bitten off. She's talking at 100mph. She's waking up every night. She's rude. She's volatile. She can't sit still. She's bouncing. She's not really wanting to eat. She's emotionally back to where we were this time last year. She's 2 again. The age she was when she moved to us. It's caught us a little on the back foot as things have been a lot better but today she had the biggest meltdown she's had since October last year.  She's scared. All her emotional buttons are being pressed. What have school done to help her? Nothing as far as I can tell. I've spoken with her teacher. I've met with the Head. Promises were made. I felt very positive that they understood how she was feeling; what was needed. Transition Day left Katie terrified because some well-meaning parents were joking in the playground about how strict her new teacher is. She didn't find it funny. She spent the day scared about what it meant that this teacher was strict. Would she shout? Would she get into trouble? Was she safe? I believe she barely spoke. Poor love. Mind you, you can imagine what she was like at home when she was letting all that stress go. I'm fearful that we'll end up in lockdown again come the start of the holidays on Wednesday. All I do know is I'm not seeing many of the 3 P's of Transitions in operation. I'll be doing a lot over the holidays I think. 

To add to her stress a variety of children were selected to go to a new trampolining centre on Friday. I can only imagine they were the children who have impressed at school this year. All Katie's best friends were chosen. Was Katie? No! She had to stay behind whilst all her friends went to have some fun. She was so upset. If school are hoping it will motivate her to do better next year by not going then they are mistaken. She hates being singled out so winning "Pupil of the Week" isn't on her list of things to achieve. She won it once and declared she'd never win it again. To be honest, she would be delighted to simply gain her pen licence. This is awarded when your writing is good enough in a pencil to be allowed to write in pen. Another way of shaming her I'm starting to think. She's been promised it for the past 6 months. Her friends have theirs. She just needed to get her lead-ins neater. I've told school that she has FASD and ADHD and finds it hard not to rush ahead with her work. Her writing suffers as a result. They know this yet no bloody pen licence. Every week her hopes have been crushed. She's so upset about it. The year has ended without her getting her licence. 

Katie had a good school report. She's meeting most of her targets. She gets a 2 effort for pretty much everything. Talks too much - did I mention she has FASD and ADHD so this is hardly the news headlines for the day?  She's apparently a kind and caring girl at school and has a lovely group of friends. I thought school were really understanding of her challenges though and, to be fair her teacher has been very in the ball for much of the year, until I spoke to one of the TA's on Friday. "Katie's totally fine at school!" She claimed. I took a deep breath and waded in to inform, yet again, that she's not really OK at school. She's stressed and overstimulated. She holds it in all day and then I watch it come off her like a haze of stress as she walks towards me in the playground. No she's not alright. She's holding her own and I'm so proud of her for that but the cost to us as a family for that kind and caring little girl as school is enormous at times. 

Life at home is pretty awful currently. It doesn't help that Pip is also anxious about moving into the Big Room at pre-school and has also regressed. He spends most of his time in the Big Room so there's no problem there really. I think it's just the change and the anxiety about that that's getting to him. He was pre-verbal when he moved to us so that's where he is much of the time currently. He's wetting and pooing himself and speaking like a baby at home (my children rarely ever show their behaviours at school). He's taking Katie's lead and arguing and being rude (it's amazing how he can use words to argue though); he's emotionally on another planet and is exhausted. He's waking up again as well and sneaking into our bed. 

I'm understanding of all the why's and wherefore's of both my children. I'm trying so hard to be the therapeutic parent but my nerves are frazzled now. I'm not feeling well a lot of the time and nor is TCM. We're sniping and frustrated with each other and our relationship really isn't great.  Neither of us really appreciates anything the other is doing. Everything is a monumental effort.  I'm trying to remind us both that we survived this last year. We will do so again. This too shall pass and all that. I've always erred on the side of optimism but even I'm finding it hard at the moment. I'm trying to sell my MIL's house and sort out her deferred payments (still) for her residential care. I'm trying to clear out her house which has been filled fill of stuff because my FIL was a bit of a hoarder and my MiL had Alzheimer's for a long while before we moved her to her care home. It's an awful job and half the time I don't know where to start. I feel like everything is piling on top of me and am struggling to breathe quite often. TCM can't really handle going back to his childhood home so I'm baring the brunt of it all. It has to be done but I'm getting to the point of total overload.

Perfect timing of course for my sister to tell me she needs me to do her tax return and child tax credits for the coming year. As my sister has many of the same issues as Katie you'll understand why she can't just do it herself. I can't see the wood for the trees sadly. As a result of all this I've made the sad decision to resign from my voluntary role with Adoption UK. Something has to give before I do. 

So I'm hanging in there for a few more days. 3 days until Katie breaks up for the holidays. 3 more days of being late as I cajole her out of the house. I think we all need a break and I hope the break is healing for us all. Heaven knows what I'll do if it's not. 




Monday, 11 July 2016

Confessions of a Summer Adoptive Parent.....


I'm approaching the end of term with a mixture of relief and anxiety.  Relief that the pain of getting Katie and Pip to school and pre-school on time; fully dressed; hair brushed; teeth brushed; lunches packed; homework ignored is about to come to an end for 6 weeks.  Anxiety for obvious reasons. I have to now entertain them for the holidays. If the past 6 weeks of pre-transition turmoil are anything to go by I have a holiday of a mouthy, whiny, shouty, anxious and controlling 8 year old and a currently regressed to pre-verbal, whiny, shouty 3 year old to look forward to.

6 weeks of them hitting each other; telling tales on each other; Pip trying to escape to our neighbours garden to see his water fountains; stealing from each other; bleating "MuuuuuuuuuuuuuuM" at me like angry, abandoned baby lambs; asking me constantly what we're going to do partly out of boredom and partly out of a need to control every moment of every day.  This time of year is particularly stressful with the school transitions coming up so controlling every minute detail of every single day is big time fun here at the moment.

I was a child who was happy with a good book.  I'd read everything I could get my hands on and was my happiest up a tree reading.  Of course I had a mother who couldn't understand why anyone would want to spend their time up a tree reading when there were walks in the forest or the dreaded bike rides to be had.  I would be delighted to have children who wanted to spend their time reading - even if a tree was required to set the scene perfectly and find it hard to understand my mother's disapproval of the undemanding child I was.  Sadly Katie gets bored with reading after about 5 minutes due to hyperactivity brought about by FASD and Pip can't read yet and much prefers being outside finding woodlice.  He does love being read to though so I'm hopeful for the future and maintaining a healthy dose of denial about the needs of my busy son. I do like the idea of a nice family film where we all sit quietly with popcorn and watch a whole film and I'm ever hopeful that that will happen on our sofa one day.

One thing I learned very early on was that being outside works better for my children.  The one blessing is that now Pip is older and very robust we can get out and about and burn off lots of energy. My ongoing fatigue does present a bit of a challenge meeting that objective some days so I have to try and be creative with my plans for the days when we're home due to needing some down time or when it's wet.

When I say "creative" don't be getting all misty eyed and thinking that means arts and crafts.  Those three words are like someone grating their fingers down a chalkboard to me.  I don't do arts and crafts as such, especially anything involving glitter glue.  Things like that are for school in my opinion.  I come out in hives at the mere mention of painting but I do have a few tricks up my sleeve for rainy days when we can't force ourselves on some poor friend who might be offering a play-date and a nice cup of tea.

I'll be honest.  I'm quite an introvert.  I need "me" time to just get through the day otherwise I turn into overwhelmed, shouty mama.  As a result the school holidays are tough on me.  I can't pretend to be something I'm not.  Finding things to keep the children preferably quiet but at least distracted from whining and trying to kill each other is of paramount importance so I can have a quiet cup of tea and a bit of a chat with another adult on social media.  So I will share with you my honest ways that I keep my children occupied.....

iPads!

I know I should say I limit iPad time to 30 minute sessions. I don't let Katie and Pip play on their iPads all day long but they are fantastic to help re-regulate my children when it's all getting a bit too much. Unlike some children more is more when it comes to technology in our house.  The flickering lights and sounds help my children's brains calm down.  Their breathing slows and they can sit and settle and even relax a bit.  I do make sure there are some educational games on their iPads to make myself feel better but Katie mostly just watches Shopkins reveals on YouTube with the highly irritating Paul and Shannon and Pip likes watching Coldplay videos and this fantastically hilarious Aussie bloke who catches spiders.  iPads are fantastic inventions in my stressed mummy opinion and they do the job of stepping in as a substitute babysitter quite nicely at times just as the TV does. The children have these highly robust iPad covers that enable them to safely carry their tablet around with them.

One trick I have learned though is to install an app that turns off their iPads when I've decided their time is up. Too many arguments with Katie when I went to retrieve her iPad led me to find OurPact. Using this app I can set how long they have their iPads for and if necessary I can block their iPads with a tap of a button.  Best app ever in my opinion. It's stopped lots of arguments here because Katie accepts when it turns off - probably because I'm not hovering over her with my hand outstretched asking her to hand over her prized possession and pushing her non-compliancy buttons. iPads stop all the "Are we there yet?" in the car as well.

Sensory Play!

My tip for easy fun is to get down to the local pound shop; Home Bargains; and supermarket and stock up on shaving foam; pasta; rice; a few large buckets and some decorating paint brushes.  I admit you might have to clean up some mess but you will get some time to yourself with these activities so it's important to weigh up the time investment in clearing up vs the time you get to chill whilst the activity is going on.

Shaving Foam: Squirt loads of shaving foam in a large bowl or planting tray (maybe a bowl each if you have squabbling children) and let them play with it.  They will make up their own games. This is good for at least half an hour and it smells lovely. Put the kettle on and try to enjoy the sounds of the children having a great time rather than worrying about the clean up.  Unlike paint you can clean up shaving foam very easily and it doesn't leave any stains.  If you have a safe place for this activity you can even add some food colouring to the foam and let them make rainbows and other colourful creations.

Pasta and Rice: Using the bowls or planting tray (or play table if you have one) fill them up with the rice and pasta (uncooked of course).  Give the children some cups and jugs etc and let them play. This is a great activity when the children are in mid-argument.  It works like a charm for redirecting their energies.  Pip likes to eat the pasta and I try not to mind too much.  Yes there is more of a clean up with this one but the children love the sounds of pouring out the rice and pasta and the feel of it. If you really want to extend the activity then get out some paper or card and the dreaded glue and make some pasta pictures.  I can just about handle this! You can make coloured pasta or stick spaghetti into Play Doh!

Sensory Boxes: Before the holidays make up boxes (the size is entirely up to you) with lot of different things inside to fiddle with. Cotton wool; ribbons; bells; material that is furry or sparkly - you can use old scarves; buttons; stones; magnifying glasses; sticks - the choice is yours.  Don't overuse this activity but have it ready to whip out when tensions are running high and the children need to calm down a bit.  You can make it age appropriate for each child.  I rather liked the idea of the Rainy Day box that Charlie and Lola had with Marv in "It's Raining It's Boring" with lots of silly games to play as a team inside.

Water Painting: On a warmish day fill up some buckets of water. Give the children decorating paint brushes and take them to a brick wall outside.  The house wall or a garden wall will do just fine.  Get them to paint pictures with water.  It dries off nicely; no mess is left; it gives the children a little bit of exercise and helps burn off stress.  This activity probably works best with swimwear (or waterproofs) because the water is going to get thrown about.  Not one to do when you're just about to go out somewhere.

Play Doh and Lego! We rarely get bored with Play Doh and Lego. Both Katie and Pip will rub along fairly well playing either of these. I have a plastic children's table and chairs that I pop in front of the TV to extend their attention span for these activities as well and either join in or have a cuppa whilst supervising.  You can even run the pasta time into Play Doh time!

Bath Time: My best tip for a stressed parent is to run a deep bubbly bath and put the children in it. Obviously this works best for younger children. This is brilliant for when the children are tired and getting grumpy on a wet day.  You can do it at any time of the day and I've used it often when I'm close to losing my temper.  Run a bath.  Fill it with bubbles (or some of that coloured gunk stuff) and let them wash all that angst out of their little systems.  You could even fill the bath with shaving foam and let them play in the foam for a while.  Follow with a hot chocolate and a film and you can all calm down nicely.

Getting Outside!

We love being outside. Well. as you now know, I'd prefer to be up a tree with a book but I've found my children are much more chilled and manageable if we're busy outside somewhere where there are trees and preferably water and we're running or walking (they do the running!). Nature really does calm the troubled soul in our house. We have membership for our local gardens and often take a simple picnic and spend the day there. There is a lovely stream that the children can paddle in and some swings and a tree house.  There are also lots of lovely flowers and beautiful smells for me to enjoy plus a good walk to tire my little darlings out.  Pip will happily spend hours turning over the wood stumps in search of creepy, crawly, critters.

I like memberships of places that I enjoy as well.  We don't do theme parks because none of us like the rides but we do also have a membership for our local zoo.  It's a huge one so takes all day to wander around and there are parks to play in (for the children) and animals to watch (for me).  They have a sand park which the children will happily play in for at least an hour whilst I watch them with my cup of tea. On a warm day we will go to our local water park.  My children will play here until they are blue and I don't have to move a muscle to entertain them once we're there other than to wrap a towel around them occasionally and provide snacks.  We live near the New Forest and various beaches so we can get down to the sea and throw stones in the water or go for walks through the forest.  I've found places with water to keep Pip happy.  I pop the bikes in the car and take them to a nearby BMX track.  This is a treasured activity.

We go to country parks with friends and walk the children until they drop. I prefer doing these activities with friends personally because I do like to have a natter and generally the children will pair up and play together or run like wild horses all day long.  Trying to vary where we go to avoid complaints like "Not Again!" is important but I'm afraid I don't really pander to this and the children accept happily that we'll visit our membership places on several occasions. I'm not always the most organised or original person with planning everything to the Nth degree so we are fairly ad hoc which I know isn't always the best for my children but some days dawn differently than the plan from the night before and we do have to try and go with the flow a little bit.  Some days things go horribly wrong and we just don't make it out of the house in order to calm overstimulated minds.

For me, seeing as many friends as is humanly possible and trying to vary things as much as possible is my plan (and salvation) over the coming holidays. My sister and I are planning day trips out on the train for a bit of fun and adventure and maybe even take the car over to the Isle of Wight for a ferry trip and some beach fun. I'm busy booking dates in the diary with other friends and am looking forward to catching up with people.  We haven't got a holiday booked yet but might try and get away somewhere in the UK as a last minute plan.  We have some new kittens joining us in August so I rather suspect Katie and Pip will be all too happy to stay home and play with the kittens and have day trips out.

Here's a sneaky peek at our new furbabies Zala and Bay.  We've known them since the day we were born and have been helping to take care of them since their birth so they are very accustomed to spending time with the children.  They are now 6 weeks old and have spent several weekends at our house already with their mum when their other mummy human has gone away for the weekend.  The children are beside themselves with excitement for their moving in date!

Baby Bay - he loves to snuggle up in my arms and fall asleep!
Zala is amazing with Katie and is very calm and chilled!
So what are your sneaky cheats for the school holidays?  What do you do to get a few minutes peace?  What activities keep your children engaged and amused?  How do you manage keeping your children regulated?  Do share your top tips! I'd love to hear them!  They might just save my bacon as well!

This post is an entry for Britmums Confessions of a Summer Parent Challenge, sponsored by Anchor. See Britmums for more info about the challenge.....