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Tuesday, 23 July 2013

Yesterday, today and forever.

  So school is out. We've got 6 weeks of together time. Himself will be working of course except on Fridays when I work, so it will be mostly the three of us. I've been (mostly) looking forward to it. I find I get 'in touch' with the boys so much more in the holidays. On school days, even when they are at home, we are so busy busy that it is hard to be just us, and to relax together. We've been a bit OD'd on school recently, between us Himself and I had 6 meetings at school the other week, a lot of them to deal with small boy issues, and we get tired of it. Our boys are not a good fit in the school system, and it makes for problems.
The other good thing about the holidays (the biggy!) is no more school runs for 6 weeks. Yay!!! We can make our own timetable. And we are. 

Today so far: 
Lazing in Mum's bed with DS's - 1 hour.
Lazy breakfast - if Pup wants ham on toast for breakfast, so what?
Slobbing in front of the TV. Pup will do his PEP breathing exercises in a minute (when I chase him.)

Plans for the rest of the day:
Fill the paddling pool
Get very wet. Scream and run around a lot.
Do  whatever we feel like. Probably not a lot, as it is forecast to be the hottest day of the year. Wait for news of the royal baby.

Forever:
Six weeks is forever when you are six or nine.
The rest of the holiday may be a little more disciplined than today, but this is the first 'real' holiday day, so we do whatever we like. However for the rest of the hols we've got a list of 'to do's' on our kitchen whiteboard at last two feet long. It includes bowling, picnics, visits to the river, setting up our new table tennis set, museums,  zoos, legoland, visits to grandmas and other friends,  the sea sied (sic - from Tigs), cleaning the house (mum). There is no way we will manage half of it. We are also doing a couple of trips away. I think that forever may pass very quickly.

Oh and I forgot...

Yesterday:
We all went to 'History Live'. Run by English heritage it is a history re-enactors dream. There is  a massive field full of tents, some with displays, some with activities (some of us enjoyed the crossbow firing) Some with people from all periods in British history doing demos, making crafts or just lolling around.

There are big events including battle re-enactments (not too much gore), tournaments, a victorian showman. There was a merry go- round. Shops selling expensive desireable items. Medieval maidens queueing for burgers. Roman soldiers chatting to Victorian showmen.  A divebombing Spitfire. Himself and I both enjoy history and would love Pup and Tigs to catch the bug. They certainly seemed to get into it.

Monday, 8 July 2013

What's in a name?

One particular feature of adopted children; they don't usually come with the names you would have chosen for them.

In the case of my boys, one had a first name I quite like, and might have picked as a second name. The other had a first name I don't actively dislike but I would not have chosen. Both had second names and one of those I utterly detested.

We were advised from the begining that it was a bad idea to change their 'user' names. I get the point: they have enough changes going on around them already, to get used to a new name would be hopelessly confusing for them. Also a name is part of your identity, even toddlers (as mine were) need to keep a sense of their own 'self'. So we kept their user names. Anyway their names fitted - they were them. Changing those names would have felt like abuse, like trying to make them be someone they weren't. I have spoken to a mother that changed her childs name, for something very similar. Now that does make sense. Changing the spelling might have been sensible too - to make the boys less traceable by birth family for example. But we liked the spellings, so we stuck.

BUT names mean a lot to me. One very important part of having children for me was chosing appropriate names with meanings that fitted. So it was painful for me to accept their preexisting names. I had spent years dreaming about what I'd call my kids, now I was not just robbed of giving birth to them but of naming them too.

We compromised. We decided to give them a second name each from us, and we lost that perfectly awful name we couldn't stand. The new names had to work well with their first names and our surname too, so we had a lot of thinking to do. To me at least they had to be meaningful as well. They are, I feel they both express how we felt about the boys, and I hope that when they understand what their second names mean they will feel how loved and welcomed they were. 

Pup already choses to use his second name sometimes, although we don't encourage it, we don't discourage it either. It gives me a secret little boost to hear him call himself by the name we chose. But we've told him that he cannot change his name formally at least until he starts senior school. Then... we will have to think.

It is interesting that both have said at different times that they don't want their names abbreviated. I think that they both have a very strong sense of self. It seems funny to me that we rarely use nicknames for them. I come from a family where nicknames were always used. In contrast Himself's parents never abbreviated his name or his brothers'. He and I use abbreviations for each other. We do use endearments for the boys, 'sweetheart' is the commonest, although Pup rebels at that sometimes. We also have private names for them that we use behind their backs. But don't tell them that!

Monday, 1 July 2013

Not everyone will agree

Tigs: "Daddy, my hero my superhero!"  

  Pup: "Tigs, he's everybody's superhero!"

Whatever anyone else thinks of Himself, I think it's just nice that our boys appreciate their Dad!  And I tend to agree with them. He's a great Dad and will always go the extra mile for his boys.

Pup in action
Tigs in action

Monday, 24 June 2013

Sweet morning... sour morning

This morning

The boys got up without any nagging. Tigs only had to be reminded once to lay the table for breakfast (he does that job while Pup does his physio, which in the mornings is breathing exercises) Both finished breakfast in good time and didn't chatter. They did teeth, hair etc really quickly (Tigs only had to be reminded twice) Both packed their bags and got their scooters out without being asked. And Pup remembered  to relock the shed and the back door.
No-one shouted, no-one had a tantrum (not even me). The sad bit was that no-one remembered to say "well done" to the boys for doing so well. Must tell them tonight, and report to Daddy (in their hearing of course) how good they were. I must do that. It is so easy to take good behaviour for granted.

So the day had a great start.

THEN

When I got to school Tigs teacher Mrs M. caught me to update me on Tigs IEP - Individual Education Plan. An IEP or Individual Education Plan is a programme designed for children with special educational needs (SEN) to help them to get the most out of education. 

No-one has ever told me that Tigs has special needs. No-one. I didn't know he had an IEP. 

I did mention to Mrs M. that we should have been told. I was biting my lip very hard so I do not think she realised that I was absolutely fuming (although the steam exploding from my ears may have been a clue) I don't know where to start complaining. I am very aware that Tigs is not a good 'fit' in school.That his excess energy and poor concentration make him a difficult child to manage in a class of 30 kids. But that isn't his problem, it's theirs. I know he is behind in some areas. I do not think he is seriously behind. He is a child that will learn only on his terms and when he is ready, which makes teaching him a big challenge. He is also very ahead in some areas. When the SENCO was speaking to Himself the other day she told him that she had  visited Tigs class recently and heard him reading, and she was genuinely impressed at how good his reading level is, not just how well he read but also how much he understood.

Now I am trying to decide where to go, how to handle this situation. One problem is that the teachers were told to 'back off' from us a few months back, because I told school that I was struggling badly at home and couldn't cope with too many school problems. But it would have been a basic courtesy to send us a brief email to tell us that Tigs had an IEP. Maybe?

Mrs M expected me to sign off Tigs IEP on the spot. I refused. I asked her for a copy to take home. I'll  read it, and then...   we will see.
mischief

Saturday, 15 June 2013

Adoption Memories.


ONE
There was a message on our old answerphone, that I couldn't bring myself to delete. Until we replaced the phone about two years ago it stayed there. I think it's still stored in a box in our attic. It was from to me Himself, who had been rung at work by Pup's social worker It was a very simple message. "Skye just rung me - she said "It's Yes" !"
Yes to our status as parents. We'd been matched. Pup was ours. We had a little boy. It was the end of 3 years of waiting. The beginning of 3 months of frantic preparation, planning and introductions. The beginning of something very scary and very exciting.

TWO
There is a battered old envelope in Tigs memory box that I won't throw away. It's a record of an unexpected phone call from a social worker at 'Royston Vasey', the boys birth town. She told me that Pup's birth grandma wanted us told that his birth mum had just had a new baby boy. She had very few details, but she told me that the baby, named 'Tigs', was healthy (no CF!) and  had been taken straight into foster care. We hadn't even known Pups birth mum was pregnant. I  was in a total flap, and couldn't find anything to write on in a hurry except this envelope, I scribbled down Tigs name, birth date and weight. Then just I sat down and shook - with excitement  / fear / anticipation - I don't know what I was feeling, except maybe 'is this for us?' and how perfect it would be for Pup (and the rest of us) if it was....... 
The beginning of another chapter.




Monday, 10 June 2013

Hayfever

Pollen count 6 trillion parts per million tonight. Not had such a bad time since I was a teen.

Miserable, Whinge. Moan. I'll even go as far as to Grump.

Havn't even got the brainpower to worry about the kids, the mother, my nieces who are in mid exam season, our sad little poorly cat or even the News.

Saturday, 8 June 2013

Feeding

  Feeding is a great big raw painful area in our house. Pup and food do not go together and it has been a massive issue to us over the years he's been with us.

Pup was 20 month old when he came to us. He wasn't eating, apart from some starter baby food with no lumps. He had severe reflux, and could be sick at the drop of a hat. So he was surviving almost completely on infatrini, a milk designed for babies who fail to thrive. He had no appetite, his foster carers told us that as a baby he'd almost never cried - he never got hungry. They had struggled to get weight on him, and in their busy household the easiest way was milk. So each mealtime he had a bottle of milk followed by whatever he would eat.

  For the next two years feeding Pup became a nightmare for us. I dreaded all mealtimes. They often took over an hour I was frequently reduced to tears by the horrendous battles we had to get any sort of nutrition at all into Pup. I felt like a total failure as a mother - after all isn't feeding your kids a primary pat of the job? I was obsessional. I had plans to be such a good Mum, and when our little boy arrived I couldn't even feed him.

  Where do I start in describing his feeding problems? He didn't know how to eat. He didn't want to eat. He had missed a lot of developmental milestones concerned with feeding. he didn't know how to swallow more than tiny morsels. And he didn't care. He would keep food in his mouth like a hamster. I've seen a lump of banana stay in his mouth for over an hour, he could stuff his cheeks. He was also grieving his foster family and dealing with attachment stuff and insecurities that can make feeding a big issue in a healthy child. He had no interest in feeding himself; we were feeding him for months. 

  And he had Cystic Fibrosis. He had a body that was less efficient at digesting food, that struggled to gain weight. His calorie requirements were higher than other peoples. We kept taking him to clinics where the Doctors and dietitians would obsess about his weight and what he was eating. It didn't make for happiness. Threats of feeding tubes hung over us. We saw being tube fed as a failure. Also the Doctors would not recommend he get a tube unless he lost more weight - and he was (and still is) just about maintaining his weight enough. So, we could take the pressure off, let him eat or not eat as he liked, knowing he would lose weight... and get a gastric tube. But the risk was too great CFers can lose weight terrifyingly fast. And there is a very strong (and not well understood) link in CFers between being underweight and lung infections - which could be fatal to him. 

  We had dietitians, psychologists and speech therapists working with us to help him eat. But I don't think any of them really understood our problems in full. So many people tried to give us advice. Even close family found it hard to accept they way we pressured him into eating. So we felt really isolated. Friends would tell us to let him be. That no child ever starved himself to death (not true!) that we should let him eat what he liked (he didn't) let him graze (he didn't)  We could leave sweets and chocolates lying around the house and he'd not touch them. And he could get hysterical if we put too much pressure on him. And there was so much pressure on us that sometimes we did pass it on to him. 'Don't make a big issue of it' we were advised. But it was a massive issue. We couldn't hide that. We were so worried we were getting it wrong. We nagged. We still nag.

  Things gradually started to improve. Sloowwly. Painfully. He started hamstering less. I was dreading mealtimes less. And Tigs arrived. We suddenly had a child that wanted to eat, that enjoyed food! in fact Tigs seemed to comfort eat for the first couple of months until he got used to us. he was a role model in eating for Pup, and made us feel so much less focused on Pups issues. Even when Tigs came out with a nasty egg allergy it didn't phase us much, although it was a pain as scrambled egg was one of Pups few successes.

   And over the years things have got better. Pup will never be an enthusiastic eater. Even now he will turn down sweets. But he understands he has to eat and why, he tries, although he is still painfully slow. And we've had to make compromises. Tigs gets more crisps and unhealthy foods than are good for him (how could we give his brother all those fattening foods yet refuse them all to Tigs?) Pup still needs nutritional supplements and probably always will. But I no longer dread mealtimes, and I think Pup doesn't either. Maybe he still will need tube feeding one day. maybe we will all come to terms with that. As he gets older he is more resistant to nagging - which I hate doing anyway. He decides more and more for himself what he is going to eat. We have to learn acceptance. It is painful.

The Trip


A few pics from our holidays. My laptop must be having a good day, it's actually downloading photographs at the moment!


  For half term we went to North Wales, and camped by the sea. It was a bit cold for swimming even for us, although everyone paddled and had beach time. But despite the temperature being a little lower than we'd have liked it was good camping weather, it did rain, but only at night. We all love to lie in our sleeping bags and listen to the rain! I think that was the highlight of the trip for Tigs.
  
  One highlight was a visit to Caernarvon Castle, with some hairaising running up and down spiral staircases.  I get nervous on those narrow stairs, oddly, although I can climb a mountain, no problems!

  
 We also climbed Snowdon. We were very proud of the boys for managing this! Himself and I used to do a lot of hill walking bk, but we haven't liked to push the boys too much, we don't want to put them off walking, so we make sure holidays are 'mixed activity' with lots of stuff to enjoy. But we are so pleased that our boy with Cystic Fibrosis is capable of achieving so much. He did struggle a bit on the way up, but we said to each other that each step was stamping on CF. We did a lot of stamping. And the route down was longer, with a 2 mile trudge out down a track at the end. I thought both boys would find it a drag, but they were excellent (although we did have a 'who can complain most creatively about their achy legs' competition - which I won!)



The boys insisted on buying swords and entertained everyone in the castle with some hand to hand fighting!



Monday, 3 June 2013

Mixed feelings

  We are all at a cafe, and the waitress looks at Pup and says to me "Doesn't he look just like you!"  She didn't know he was adopted so it was totally spontaneous.

  I usually don't know how to react to that sort of comment. At the time I just smiled and said "Yes he does." - because there is a likeness, and it was a completely natural comment. It feels good that we look like family. But it isn't always so easy. Some people who know they are not our birth children seem to make comments like that to make us feel 'better' about the boys being adopted. It seems to be a classic response, a sort of denial of the situation 'Oh but they can't be adopted, they look just like you!' or even 'But they look like they are yours.'  Well, they are adopted, and they are ours and they would be ours if they were green with purple spots.

  We were camping this week, and the family in the next tent to us had a little boy who was of such different appearance to his parents that it was obvious he was adopted or fostered. That must be hard for him, and for them sometimes. But a tiny part of me was a bit jealous ,  at least people would understand why if he had problems. Maybe I want people to know the boys are adopted? No that's not right: I want people to know that they are 'different' they have issues; that when they are running riot as they often do, and maybe screaming the house down, they are not just being naughty, but they are expressing some deeply felt emotions. That they are damaged kids, kids who struggle dreadfully with boundaries; which can make their behaviour very 'interesting' at times. I want to do what some parents of kids with autism do and buy the T-shirt. But I think they would both hit the roof if I asked them to wear a shirt that said

'I'm not naughty I'm adopted' 

 or maybe

 'I'm not naughty, my birth mum screwed my head up'

Maybe not :) 


  We are getting more hardened these days to being thought 'bad' parents for either over disciplining or letting them run riot.  Friends and family 'make allowances'. I'm glad they do... mostly. I'm glad we have people who understand. But it seems so unfair all round. However, as  Pup and I tell each other at least once a week, life isn't fair. But it is fun. And it would have been fun to tell that waitress that Pup was adopted just to throw her, and see her embarrassed reaction. We didn't, it's Pups business not hers, and anyway she was doing no harm by her throwaway comment. Pup didn't react at all, that sort of thing still goes way over his head, surprisingly.

Thursday, 23 May 2013

Outrage

Sorry I cannot credit this picture, author unknown
I am outraged. About a hundred times a day about all sorts of things from the petty, like the package that arrives straitjacketed by sellotape and takes me ten minutes to open, to that dreadful killing in London yesterday.


I can get very outraged in sitations that affect, or have affected me or my family directly - issues about adoption, disablility, Cystic Fibrosis. Like the situation at school this week when my son was told he couldn't use the disabled loo (the school deny this, but it is about what he believes he was told) That one got sorted. Apparently he can use it. Or about big issues, eg situations where it seems obvious to me that the Government is being manipulated by large companies in to making very poor decisions. Can I / should I do anything about it?

Yes I should, but HOW? And where to start? In the case of the sellotape, with a pair of scissors obviously and maybe some feedback to the sender asking them to consider how someone with arthriticky fingers is supposed to get into their parcels. In the case of school a polite email did the trick.

In the case of the Woolwich killing, I'm sure I'm not alone in being left with a lot of angry feelings and nowhere to direct them I wasn't there to help, I am not sure whether the media going over it and over it again and again will help. I am happy to sign petitions, to stand up and be counted as opposing such evil; but how can I fight it? In this case I cannot yet give an answer. I want to act, but only in a positive way.

One of the Woolwich killers is on record as saying - with his hands covered in blood  -"We must fight them as they fight us. An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth."


I've got a quote on my wall that I found hilarious as a student, "An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth. A fair rapid and satisfying way to an eyeless toothless world"  Yes - when no-one can see or eat there will be no more killing. And there'll be perfect peace - eventually.

 There has to be a better answer than vengeance. Not just revenge taken by those men that attacked an innocent young man who was minding his own business, but the sort of vengeance that attacks a country because there may be terrorists lurking there. We all need to learn forgiveness. Forgiveness for real and imagined injury. And I want to act to help the injured, and I don't want to fight.  




Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Grumbles

My Laptop sucks. 

  It gets slower and slower, and the error messages duplicate each day. It is a fairly elderly machine and I think it now has a few ghosts in it. I'm not computer savvy enough to fix it.

  I can't download pictures onto my blogs any more. I did start a 365 blog with a picture for every day... but it went west as no pics would download. It gets worse every day, somedays it gets within a whisker of being chucked out of the window. I try not to scream at it when the kids are around - not too hard as I can't be concentrating on it with them here; but I can't scream at other times as the boycat gets really upset if I shout, and he comes to bite me and miaow indignantly.

  I'm not so bothered about being unable to load pics of the boys. The way this blog has evolved I've become less happy about posting recognisable photos of them anyway. In fact I went through and deleted quite a few recently. There is too much information about them on here these days, I don't want them too recognisable. I assume those deleted pictures are still up there in the sky somewhere in Cloudland, but at least they are not so easy to find. This was never meant to be an adoption blog, or just about the boys, it was just my way of letting off steam. It does bother me I can't post my other pics because I like taking photos and am vain enough to want to show them off sometimes. Oh well.
 I am supposed to be saving up for an iPad or similar new toy, but since I just spent all my birthday money on new camera equipment instead of saving it I can't really complain. It seems odd to me how many of our friends have nice new laptops etc and no money. We've just got no money; like most people these days. Austerity bites. Austerity seems to have lockjaw and very sharp teeth at the moment. We do OK, we eat we have decent clothes, more importantly we can afford books; I should just stop complaining.

Tuesday, 21 May 2013

The Mummy of Doom

That's me.

  Although eldest son decided this afternoon that his new name for me was maybe a little harsh, so I am now 'Kind Mummy of Doom'. It doesn't really have the same ring, does it?  
I am not sure what all of my duties are as Mummy of Doom  (to be abbreviated to MoD), but one of them seems to be running after small boys on scooters. I haven't a hope of catching them unless they let me, so it is quite a frustrating role. I suppose I ought to go onto eBay to see if I can get hold of a genuine Ring of Doom or a light sabre of some kind. I assume that the well dressed MoD should also wear black, which is not really my colour.

  On a more serious note, we have had some 'interesting' behaviour from Tigs this week, and my stress levels have gone up considerably. In the last day or two it has calmed down, and school report improved behaviour there, which is encouraging. However Tigs himself is not happy with school. He has said several times recently that he isn't going into school because he has learned everything he needs to know in Year 1, and that his teacher just teaches the same things over and over again.  Having heard a couple of other Year 1 boys reading yesterday I can understand the problem, it is the usual situation where the teacher is trying to get all the kids in the class up to the required level by the end of the year; and is concentrating on the slower learners. Tigs is pretty 'sharp' although he is not at all an academic type.Since his reading is well ahead, and his writing has recently come on massively I can understand why he may be bored. The work that is being sent home for him is so easy we aren't bothering with it. And we have another term to get through. I just hope he doesn't become totally disaffected with school.

Tuesday, 7 May 2013

After the fight

"Mummy."
"Yes, Pup?"
"Mummy when you shout at me like that, it feels like you don't want me."

Cue totally floored, anguished Mum,  scrabbling around trying to think of an answer that will put everything right.....

"You know I want you, we always want you, Pup." (pretty feeble and inadequate,  but what else to say?)
"Yes I know that Mummy. It just makes me feel like you don't want me." 

Cue 'sorries' and cuddles.

Oh. Boy.

I can't promise never to shout at him again, although I can promise to try. Truly we don't get so much shouting these days, but things can get very tense around here and sometimes Himself and I get to the very end of our rope... and fall off.

And I can lie awake all night wondering what damage I'm doing to these already damaged kids, and hoping that in the end the good will outweigh the bad, and that I can be a good enough mum... And I can be very grateful that my son feels able to say things like that to me.


Sunday, 5 May 2013

The best of times, the worst of times

 This weekend. How am I going to remember it?

The kids running and laughing in the glorious sunshine. Himself and Tigs tussling on the grass - who was laughing most?
Pup riding his horse independantly, me going to play badminton and swimming with a friend. 
Same friends have just given us their old (not that old!) wardrobe. I've wanted a big wardrobe for ages.
Gardening, eating al fresco. 
A picnic and a kite flying trip planned for tomorrow. 
Visiting 'Granny' (my Mum) and having a great time in the playground conveniently situated 2 minutes walk from her residential home.

Or Tigs having every single toy and book confiscated from his bedroom for what we feel was a very good reason. Don't worry, he has loads of toys and books downstairs, and he is going to earn the others back (or most of them!) He has already recovered 'Cat' his essential furry bedtime companion.
Or Pup getting in a terrible state this morning and being sick everywhere including my bed.
Both boys having so much trouble doing  even the smallest task without being reminded over and over and over.....
Me losing my temper big time with Pup (we have kissed and made up).
Big errors made by our surgery in prescribing Pups drugs, I am nearly reduced to tears weekly by the persistent mistakes they keep making with his prescriptions. Can I keep fighting them? I have to, but it is so wearing.
Worrying about my Mum, who is not in best health.
  
I took photos of the fun times, I always try and take pics of good moments, so the boys have their happiest memories reinforced. But some things we don't record, except maybe in my diary.

Every weekend, every day, is a roller coaster here. I suppose it is the same for all families, but sometimes for us the troughs seem so deep, and the peaks so rare. I'm tired deep down, so is Himself.  But we get by.

Saturday, 27 April 2013

Positives

  Pup went on his school trip, and he had a great time. All the feedback we are getting from his teachers is really positive, even the head teacher told me that she'd heard from the other teachers that he'd been really good. He even ate his meals without nagging. It was a real rite of passage for him. For a lot of the other kids as well probably, but with all Pups issues it seems even more significant. We are really proud of him.

 Tigs was great while Pup was away, calm (for him anyway!) and well behaved. I asked him if he missed Pup and he said "Just a little bit". I think he really enjoyed being an 'only' for a couple of days. Apparently he was well behaved at school too, which is pretty unusual!

Monday, 22 April 2013

It's no big deal - is it?

  It happens every week. Kids go away on school trips. They have fun, they learn a lot, they come home safely, full of all they've seen and done.

  But this is my kid, and he's gone away with school for 2 nights this week.

  He's got  a major chronic health condition, he has some sort of behavioural issue on the ADHD / autism spectrum that make him very hard work especially when in a new situation, when he is excited or nervous, or when he's away from parents. He is adopted, with all the subconscious insecurities that brings.

  He was excited, he was admitting that he was nervous, he was counting down the hours. He couldn't wait.

  And me? I'm petrified.

  I wanted him to go. I didn't want him to go. The teachers reassured me that all the parents are scared. They have had a big meeting with me about Pips special medical needs; they are confident. I trust them (mostly!) He has to be allowed to go, to be normal.

  I am going to be a jibbering wreck for three days. Pup is going to have a fantastic time. 

  Tigs? I'm not sure, he worries me. He is great company when Pups destabilising influence is out of the house, when he does not have to compete for attention. But he will miss Pup dreadfully. They are so close. OK, one minute they are screaming at each other, shoving, slapping etc, but the next minute I may hear Tigs say to Pup "I love you to the moon and back."  and the reply "I love you to Pluto and back." With lots of cuddles and play wrestling. At the weekend because Pup was nervous, he was on a knife edge and exploded at the drop of a hat. A tiny secret part of me, the part that is exhausted from handling boy traumas, is saying 'Phew, peace for a couple of days!'


  Last minute nerves caught up this morning. Pup was saying "I don't want to go, I'll miss you too much!" Tigs was saying "I don't want to go to school, I'm too poorly!"  He has suddenly developed a probably fatal case of man flu that I think is partly his way of coping with the situation and clawing back a bit of the attention. BUT I coaxed and cajoled them into getting ready, the school run and handover of medication etc went smoothly, Pup ran off happily with his class. However I was not the only worried Mummy, I saw several leaving the school in tears. The house feels unusually empty today.

Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Mum, what are black and white people?

  So Pup asked me during the sermon at church on Sunday evening.
And I do a silent 'yesss' in my head. So far he's had no idea that people are divided into 'black' and 'white' by most of the world. No awareness that people can be judged on their colour.

  Yes, he has to learn. Kids do need to know about evil, and I suspect that he will begin to learn very soon.

  I explained to him that people with dark brown skin are often called black, and people with pale skin are usually known as white. He thinks this is crazy - as do I. There are kids with all sorts of shades of skin at his school, and he doesn't differentiate between his friend with dark brown skin and tight curly hair, the boy in his class who is from China, the lad whose Dad is 'Asian' in appearance  and all the other kids with all 'white' genes. We are so lucky that these issues do not seem to have arisen at school.

  He hasn't a clue. Why is that important to me? It means that he is growing up with the early years of his life reasonably  untainted by racist ideas and ideologies, and I think that those first few years are when our deepest ideals are fixed. My parents were not racist, but I was a child in an era when racism was epidemic in the world. South Africa, the USA all had some very warped social attitudes. Even in the UK we used to hear very negative views expressed about people from other nations, and who looked 'different'; people were judged on their colour. I think it influenced me subconsciously, and it took me some years to overcome it completely.

  We never describe anyone as black or white in our house. If we get forms asking us our ethnic origin we don't say we are white. I have had to correct school when they've listed our boys as 'white British'. I know there are many people who are proud to describe themseves as black or white. I certainly agree that they should be proud of who they are - but I am sad that they feel that way about colour. Except in the general way that people are happy or unhappy with their hair colour, eye colour, that fact that they look (or don't look ) like Dad or Aunty Flo.

  I know we can't solve racism by what we are doing. I can only try to bring up my boys in a way that will encourage them to see all people as equal, and not pigeonhole people. Yes there do  have to be some pigeonholes (religion, nationality, country of birth.....)  But I can't see what skin colour has to do with it, unless you are a medic such as a plastic surgeon!

Maybe we are naive idealists. Maybe we don't live in the real world. Maybe we are incredibly lucky to live in a place where there are very few racial tensions and there is no need for us to 'take sides'. Where befriending someone with a different skin colour doesn't put us and them at risk. Where everyone can travel on the same bus. I'm just incredibly grateful. Even in this country there are places where  there is no peace between 'ethnic groups', there are people who would attack a boy because his skin is the 'wrong' colour.

Sunday, 14 April 2013

Busy weekend

  It started with friends arriving on Thursday evening. We've known them for years, and although sadly they live 400 miles away we do see them as often as possible. In many ways their journey has mirrored ours. We all met through a Christian walking club. They started dating a few months after we did, married six months after us, the guys were each others best men. Like us they lived in a small flat when they married and have moved house twice since then. More significantly, like us they have two adopted boys. They adopted after us, but their boys were older when they got them. The youngest is Pups age but the older is a teen. We'll call them the Celts. Daddy Celt used to live in our town, an they'd been invited to a local wedding, so were killing two birds with one stone by staying with us for a few days. So they arrived Thursday evening, and 3 excited small boys got to share a room. What they didn't get was a lot of sleep that first night.

  Friday I had to go to work while the others had a fun day out, joined by my sistet and her youngest teen. The oldest has gone abroad to see boyfriend. (that's a whole 'nother story) So I came home to a houseful; fortunately Himself had saved me some of the pizza (I don't get home until  after 7 or 8 on work evenings so they don't wait tea for me). We had ten staying over that night - bodies in every room.

  Saturday got really complicated. At 9 am 3 people went out. then 2 went out at 10am. At about 11am 3 (not the original 3) returned, 2 left to go home (sister and offspring), then 2 more came back at 11.30. 4 left for the wedding, then returned at 2pm. At 3pm 3 kids went to the shops for half an hour. After tea 4 went off to the evening wedding reception. Himself collected 2 of them at 9pm, the others returned at 11.30 pm. Meanwhile all had to be fed and provided with regular tea and coffee, and small boys placated. And lots of gossip caught up on. Is it any wonder my head (and the dishwasher) were spinning by the end of the day? At least we only had 8 sleeping over.

  Sunday morning all to church, then rush home to feed the Celts before their 400 drive home (all boys to school tomorrow). We were planning a peaceful restful afternoon and evening, but the Pup suddenly decided he wanted to go to the evening service at church because it was a baptismal / confirmation service. We thought he might change his mind, but he was keen, so I took him, to the first part at least. He was enthusiastic, and even danced in front of the Bishop (Bishops reaction not recorded) Sadly he was suffering with severe stomach ache which took the edge off it a bit. However he came home demanding to be baptised himself. We'll have to think long and hard about that one. He needs to understand  what he's doing and to be sure it's what he wants.

I'm tired. And we have the boys to get to school tomorrow. It's going to be a shock.

Tuesday, 9 April 2013

Success!

  I managed to get up, sneak downstairs and have breakfast in peace before the monsters boys were up this morning!! YES!!!!

(disclaimer: most mornings we do eat together)

Sunday, 7 April 2013

Sense and Sensibility

How can one child be so rational and sensible one minute, yet a complete and utter airhead the next?

How come he seems so intelligent about some things yet hasn't a clue about another thing that seems totally obvious to me?

How can he get so wound up and hyper that he cannot stay still, listen, see, or even apparently think straight?
 
How can he suddenly get so terribly distressed about apparent trivia?

How can he talk non-stop yet be physically incapable of listening to anyone?

  Pup. I do not get him sometimes.  Some of his behaviour is normal child stuff, and of course thare are parents who say to me "All kids do that." Yes, of course they do but if you are an adoptive parent you will know that adoptive kids often do do much the same things as normal kids - but much more so. I am sure that some of my problems with him are because he is a boy, and I have little aquaintance with small boys. I was one of two sisters, we did have boy cousins but didn't see them too often, I went to a girls school after the age of 11. So boys all seem a bit like aliens to me. But Tigs, however frustrating and wild he is, seems much easier to understand and talk to - most of the time at least.

  Some of it must be about me and how I relate to him. Some of it is about him. He is gorgeous; most people agree he's a delightful boy. He is incredibly affectionate (especially to me) forgiving, kind (except to his brother maybe!) But he has no controls, no lid, he boils over all the time. It makes him incredibly wearing to be around. He is also lost in his make-believe world a lot, and it can be hard to drag him back to reality. If you go for a walk with him you will usually find yourself in mid rolepay, walking with Cap'n Barnacle or some othe hero figure. That is hard and I have to ask him to be Pup sometimes as I get really tired of joining in the game (and I hate roleplay!) - or equally frustrating is trying to walk alongside him as he acts out his game; runs off, comes back, air fights the baddies......

  I would like to understand better how to help him live 'normally'. Not to conform to societies expectations just for the sake of it, I'd love him always to be himself. But to know and be able to fit in with the 'rules' when he needs to. We have always hoped that as he got older and more self conscious he would begin to try and conform. So far it hasn't happened. I am reluctant for him to have more treatment or therapy, (he has enough intervention in his life already!) but I feel that I need some help myself, just so I can help him better.

Wednesday, 3 April 2013

For the children

  In memory of thirteen year-old Duwayne, Jade ten, John, nine, Jack, eight, Jesse, six, and Jayden five, the Philpott children who all died from a fire started by their parents on 11 May 2012. The children were in bed, the fire is supposed to have been started in order to frame a previous girlfriend of their father with arson and recover his 4 other children by her.

Yesterday their mother and father (Duwaynes stepfather) were both found guilty of their manslaughter.

Question: how can anyone who did that to their own children ever live in peace again?


Monday, 1 April 2013

Relax

  Kids in bed, Himself and I relaxing tonight watching Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince. Somedays  we actually get to be normal. Today was a lazyish day, took the boys swimming, Himself did some gardening, I was meant to be finishing Pups jumper but never got round to it, so just pottered. Dull stuff for anyone else to read about, nice normality for us. Actually not our normal, but our ideal - if only we had days like this more often!  

  Pup had a massive meltdown on Saturday because Himself and I were joking with each other and Pup took it wrong and got really upset. He is still harking back to it. *guilt guilt*, and complaining that he can't understand. On the positive front, Pup managed to eat two and a half slices of bread and half a tin of tomato soup for lunch today, entirely voluntarily. That may not sound impressive for most nine year olds but for Pup it is stunning. Tigs has a cold and rotten cough, so his energy levels are lower than usual and he is being slightly less wearing than usual and also delightfully cuddly. 

  The cats are sleeping a lot, still in hibernate mode. However we have found several small bodies in the garden that must be ascribed to them (mice!) and a pile of feathers on the lawn that suggest a pigeon had a near miss on Friday. We've finished off the last of the hot cross buns that Himself and Tigs made us the other day - yum! Life isn't so bad.

Sunday, 31 March 2013

Breakdancing

Tigs. 

  Dancing with vigour and enthusiasm in church at the Easter service today, right at the front of the hall (we meet in a school). The boy is talented. I really have to sign him up for a modern dance class.

  I am so glad our church is tolerant and put up with all my boys weird behaviours. Like at the beginning of the service today. The leader stands up and says " Happy Easter!" to everyone; most of the congregation respond cheerfully, Pup shouts "Happy Easter!" at the top of his voice. Leader (a delightful lady who we know well) immediately replies "Good morning every one, good morning Pup!"

  I'm afraid they are a bit infamous. Not just in church. At school every teacher knows my boys, and I never have to introduce myself either. All the shopkeepers in town and our local shops recognise them. They are loud, the are active, they will tlk to anyone.Yes they are both extreme extroverts. As I am probably one of the worlds most extreme introverts I sometimes find this hard. I am one of those people who like to vanish into the background. Himself is not much different. At least it is only surrogate attention. But I spend a lot of my time trying to winkle them away from other people. Last weekend we were at a public event and they spent 5 minutes chatting up two of our local police. I was cringing, the coppers were laughing, the boys revelling in it, until Pup tried to grab a walkie talkie; and I hastened them away. Sometimes I know I am way too uptight about it. They talk to people in a way I'd never have dared to as a child (I wouldn't have said boo to a goose let alone tried to chat up a policemen) But sometimes I feel I am right to worry. They could get chatting to anyone. And Pup in particular is very trusting, while Tigs is still young enough to think that everyone is his friend. It's hard to know how much to worry. Pup goes into mens toilets on his own. He plays in front of our house unsupervised. He has started to go to school alone sometimes.

  How much freedom should they have? How much should I tell them about 'stranger danger'? How much should I let them express them selves, and make pests of themselves with our friends, with other children, to people we don't know, or just have a nodding acquaintance with? It worries me.

Saturday, 30 March 2013

Playing

What is play?

  I'd say that to us it's doing the things we like doing, not the jobs we have to do. I am sure that there are better definitions, but it is one the boys understand.

  I know some much more brilliant mums than me try and make anything their children do into games, so the actually enjoy cleaning their rooms etc. Maybe I am just bad at this or maybe my kids are too wise, but they are not kidded. Tidying, cleaning, helping lay and clear the table - all the stuff that they are expected to do daily - is not play. They are very clear about that. Some of it they like doing, especially Pup who loves to help people. Some they hate, especially Tigs who would rather go to the effort of stuffing his coat into a cupboard than hang it up on its peg.

  My kids do play. I've heard that a lot of adopted children find it hard, especially if they have a very negative history. That isn't true here.

  My boys play together. They play on their own. They play each and every moment of the day, given the chance. They love roleplay based on favourite TV characters. They love active sporty running jumping play. They love to ride anything with wheels. Quite often they are doing all of these at the same time. They play schools and they play 'babies'. Somedays they can both be persuaded to sit down and play a board game. Occasionally they will initiate a creative or art project.

  They play like two 6 year olds. They fight like two 6 year olds. I am hoping that Pup will develop as Tigs develops, so he isn't left behind. Certainly we have big competition between the two of them as to who is in charge. Pup likes to be the boss of every aspect of his life, and as the eldest he likes to run the show. But Tigs is fiercely competetive. Tigs is also stronger and faster. Pup recognises this (usually without resentment). I'm not getting too far here into questioning why Pup is ... as he is. He has a serious medical condition, he has some  emotional / mental / developmental issues, he is adopted. He is delayed in some areas, and this is one of them. It does affect him negatively. They came home indignant from school the other day. They'd been outside at lunchbreak playing some very physical wrestling type game, and a playground leader stopped them 'In case Pup hurt his little brother'. Both were furious.  ("I wasn't hurting him!"  "He wasn't hurting me!") It is actually a problem outside the family however, because Pup sees 6 year olds as his equals, and most 6 year olds see him as a big boy. He plays down to their level, and some of them find it very uncomfortable. Some of course love getting attention from an older child, and I find this sad as it reinforces his behaviour and makes him even less likely to play with his peers. He also gets hopelessly overexcited, so he overwhelms them.

  Pup is almost always being some character from film or TV. I have to call him back often. "Pup, I'd like to talk to you now, not Cap'n Barnacle." Or he is way too busy rescuing a sea cucumber or putting out a fire. 

 They use play guns, and do play karate; but that is not real. Tigs hates real violence of all kinds. We were attending a live passion play recently, and in the scenes where Jesus was whipped and crucified he was in floods of tears. It was realistic, but not gory. Yes there were a lot of other small children there, half of whom were looking at Tigs in amazement. Yes we had warned Tigs in advance what to expect, explained that it wasn't real and given him the chance to cop out. I also offered to take him out if he didn't want to be there, or to cuddle him so he didn't have to watch. He stayed and watched.

  Do I get involved? Not a lot. I have to step in when arguments get too vigorous or impinge on other people (or cats!) in the house. I'll join in the roleplay occasionally if they want me to. But when it goes wrong I'd rather let them sort out their own arguments. It's not as if one of them was dominant, so it is usually 'fair' if they sort out the disputes for themselves; and they need to develop their negotiating skills. And my philosophy with my kids is very much to let them make their own fun; especially as they get older. So when it is going right I'll just sit back and enjoy. I have memories of childhood when my sister and I had most fun with our games when Mum and Dad were not involved. Stories most kids tend to like reading are the onew where the kids do their own thing (with Mum and Dad safely hovering in the background, naturally!) I don't want to micro manage their lives, I'd like to produce two imaginative, self reliant people.

 Of course we do stuff together. We fly kites, we race, the boys rough and tumble with Dad. I admire their handiwork and help when asked. I make sure they have supplies of whatever they need, be it craft stuff or lego (both rarely used), or balls, toy cars, bikes, child sized garden tools.....

  But I am not their entertainer. I'm their Mum.

 

Easter

It's not about the bunny or the chocolate. Not for me anyway.

photography by Andy Teo @Photocillin www.facebook.com/photocillinuk or photocillin.500px.com     
  I hasten to add that there will doubtless be a lot of chocolate eating going on in our house tomorrow. After the Easter egg hunt in the garden and a glorious celebration of Jesus' resurrection at our church.

Thursday, 28 March 2013

Sooo tired

Tired of getting up exhausted every morning.
Tired of ... everything really.

  Tired of the cold. Tired of worrying about Pup, who is a little better following his course of IV antibiotics but he is still sooo tired. And I'm afraid to let him run about outside because I don't think that this cold is doing his lungs any good. His CF nurse is saying that she has had many more CF kids in hospital than usual this spring, probably because of the bitter weather. I'd like to take him somewhere warm for a week, so he can run around, get some sun on his back and warm clean air in his lungs. In fact can I load a bus with CFers and take them to some sunny  Mediteranean beach for a few days? But money is too tight (for all of us) so that's out of the question!

  I have to admit that our part of GB is getting off lightly. The weather in the north, especially Scotland, is truly awful, with people snowed in without power for days. With some loss of life. With farmers losing stock to the cold, all those tiny lambs probably dying as soon as they are born. I do find myself crying more about the animals than the people. Wrong priorites yes, but that is just my gut reaction, I'm thinking about how it must be to be born to cold and snow and know nothing else. Crops are not growing too. The images of snow that they are showing on the TV are beautiful, but that white stuff is deadly. Send sushine please!

  Some things are still growing despite the cold:

Not in our garden, although we have daffodils and a few brave tulips.

Thursday, 21 March 2013

Contact

   It sounds fairly easy. Write a letter about your adopted kids once or twice a year and send it to birth family. Maybe send photos. It is called 'letterbox contact'. The mail goes to the Social Services. Receive a letter in reply. In our case twice  a year to birth mum (BM, called in our house  'first mummy') and once a year to grandma ('nana') Birth Dads are not in the equation.

  We are overdue, again. Our letter was supposed to be sent in February. We know that birth Mum  looks forward to these letters and pictures, she calls the letterbox team regularly to find out if they are in. But we cannot seem to get them sent on time. In this case the delay is partly due to health issues, we've all been struggling and Pup isn't well. Partly also due to my feelings about BM being more negative recently, as we realise more and more how Pup has suffered. from his prenatal experiences.

   We are grateful to her for our 2 wonderful boys. We want her to know what they are achieving and how they are. We love to send her photos of the boys. But, boy, those letters are hard to write. And they get harder as the boys get older.
  • Things you cannot ever say: "You screwed my sons head up before he was born, you b****!"
  • Information you have to withhold. Where you live, schools,  when you are going away, when you are visiting foster carers. Careful what photos to send e.g. not pics of kids in school uniform with logos on them  or identifying pics of our home town. Information that could be added up to tell her where we live. "We visited Legoland, it is not far from us." "We went to the seaside / London / Bermuda for the day" (these are all hypothetical examples!)
  • Difficult / painful information. Pup is not so well, he is getting a lot of pain. We think he has foetal alcohol syndrome.  Other info about Pup's health. It is his body, it is personal. But also as his health fails, she should know something. How much should we tell her?. Tigs is really challenging at times- how to phrase this?.
  •  Stuff we don't want to talk about, stuff that is too personal. After all they are our kids.
  •  Too much info about birthdays, Christmas etc; so as not to rub it in that they have so much more now than she could give them.
So it comes down to how they are doing at school / swimming / clubs; to their favourite toys, TV programme, books, activities; their achievements - they have recently learnt to swim, ride a bike / hang glide / fly a jet...... All cheerily upbeat, with smiley photos. All true (well some of these examples may be slightly exaggerated!). But not a true picture.

   The boys are not yet interested in the letters she sends. However they are short loving letters, and usually positive, so I am glad we get them. In years to come it may be reassuring to them to read those letters and know that BM loved and missed them. It also will tell them a little bit about her as a real person, so make it harder for them to hang unrealistic fantasies on her. They like to take a quick look at the pictures she sends, including those of a younger sibling who she is still in close contact with. They sometimes ask questions about their adoption. But not often. It's not their life. It is peripheral to their real world. From her letters it is obvious that BM still sees them as 'her' children, and in one sense they are and always will be. But they are also mine. (there is the conflict!) But of course in reality they belong only to themselves.

The saddest bit to me is having to tell Pup that he can't meet his younger sibling. He doesn't really understand why. He doesn't think about it a lot, but when he sees the child's photo he asks each time if he can go and visit. I wonder whether I should suppress the photos, but they are mentioned in BMs letters, and I think it would be cheating Pup. 

And the boys? They have the final say in how much we tell. At the moment I just ask them what they'd like to say. 
"Pup, do you want to say anything to first mum?" 
"Tell her I'm sorry I had to leave you."   *gulp*  No Pup, I won't tell her that -  yet. But I will mostly tell her what you want me to, and if there is stuff you don't want me to tell that is fine. And if you want me to stop, that is fine too. 
They usually pick out what photos to send from a shortlist I suggest. Pup is a generous boy and would like to send her tons of stuff. He'd give away his last Rolo. Tigs is not really that bothered. I don't think BM has much reality for him yet.

Sunday, 17 March 2013

Nearly all home

  Himself brought Pup and me home yesterday morning. I then went down with a 24 hour vomitting bug, probably acquired at hospital, now nearly gone. Pup was exhausted and had a day festering in front of the TV, and is now bouncing back fast (apart from eating, which he has always seen as optional anyway).

 The weather surprised us this morning:


Heavy rain first thing turned to snow which settled very quickly, against all our expectations. We only hope this won't prevent Tigs coming back to us today.

  Doing Pups  IV antibiotics at home is not too stressful, unless you make a mistake like we did yesterday and have to end up doing one dose at 2am. We hadn't noticed the instructions that said to take them out of the fridge 4 hours before administration. Oops. Won't do that again!

Wednesday, 13 March 2013

We are a divided family

Tigs is with Himselfs parents.
Pup is in hospital.
I am at home, and Himself is staying with Pup for the day. This evening we swap over and I stay with Pup tonight and tomorrow.

  It feels very very strange. I am scared that Tigs will feel abandoned. That Pup will get totally spoilt. He is already starting to behave like a little King. We are already getting "Pick that up for me Mummy" when he drops a toy off his bed. Er no, Pup, there's nothing wrong with your legs! Obviously a little bit of spoiling goes with being in hospital. The new toys and comics to keep him busy, the waiting on him with drinks, loads of TV time, DS time, 1 to 1 attention from Mum or Dad etc. The nurses are lovely, as are the doctors, play therapists, teachers, physio, dietitican.... he is lapping up all the positive attention. He is also hating some of the less positive side of the experience.

Like last night. He needs a long line in his arm to give his antibiotics. On Monday they failed to get one in, becasue he was wriggling too much, so had to settle for a cannula (short line) That is a disaster for a fiddly wriggly boy like Pup, he'll pull  /  knock or wriggle it out in no time; so he had to have a proper line in. SO yesterday evening he was sedated again, and they tried. Yes they got the line in. But otherwise it was a disaster. The sedation made him restless uninhibited and drunk. Unable to listen to reassurances and comfort, and unable to control himself and lie still. Able to scream at the top of his voice. 

"Don't do it to me, don't hold me down, don't touch me, I don't want it!" 

Continuously for the 20 minutes they were putting the line in. And himself and I had to hold him. I would rather it was us holding him  than anyone else..... but I can still hear that scream. Now the sedative had an amnesiac effect - i.e. he probably won't consciously remember most of that. I hope. But I will, and Himself will, and all the other Mums and kids on the ward will. The doctor and nurses kept their cool, thankfully, and just got on with it as quickly as possible.

Child abuse.

I hate it.

But child abuse would be not giving him his antibiotics, letting his health deteriorate irreparably. Could he have had a general anaesthetic? Yes, but that is especially risky for him. Could we just replace short cannulas as they got bent / damaged / blocked? yes but to him that is just as traumatic.

And they had to put the line into his right wrist, and as he is right handed that is one of the worst possible places for him.

PS Tigs seems quite settled at Grandmas, and is eating for England (lots and lots of cake!) So I think he's well on the mend.