Tuesday, 15 October 2013

Starting The Big School Rollercoaster Ride

We are nearing the end of the first half term of Big School and it has been a bumpy ride - not as bumpy as I thought it could have been. Yes, we have had some regression - some easier to cope with than others and others that have taken their emotional toll on us both.

PJ has a survival tool bag with several resources that she uses, when she is overwhelmed.
I have a growing therapeutic mummy bag which I use when she is overwhelmed.
Sometimes, though, we seem to have both thrown our toys out of our bags and are both just left somewhat overwhelmed.
Sometimes, the rolls of the roller coaster ride have caught me unawares and sent me twisting and turning and reeling.

At other times, I have helped to steer the roller coaster around and we have made great rolls and reached great heights and mastered the twists and turns with our arms held high, almost cheering along with great exhilaration and joy.
The first few weeks we had tears and screams of seemingly pure frustration, along with carefree and determined bouncing on and off furniture - the sofa - and the bed, some wet pants and some hitting and kicking along with some more possessive behaviour towards the cat.
PJ has also struggled with saying good bye to me in the mornings.
And she has struggled to say goodbye to me at night.
We have also had some fabulous triumphs, where regression has not been anywhere to where we regressed to last year when she first came to me and some regressive behaviours have not reared their heads at all.

School have begun to see some of these behaviours, but for the most part, she has been holding it together all day and then letting it all out at night and at the weekends.
Sometimes it ain't pretty.

I still find the aggressive hitting and kicking the hardest to cope with and to manage, calmly, successfully and consistently but each time it is lessening it's ferocity and the strength of it's grip is lessening in intensity and time.

The last few weekends calm has once again been restored to the sofa and she is once again sitting watching her beloved CBeebies, rather than bouncing on and off the sofa repeatedly.
The last week she is more settled in her sleep and we have once again begun closing the gap from 8.30pm - 9pm bouncing on and off the bed and hitting and kicking, to currently being calm and settled around 7pm - 7.30pm and sleep has returned from waking at 6.30am to now 7.30am.
We still have some way to go before we see calm of our night time routine to be once again restored as it was before we started Big School.
She is still really struggling and therefore reacting at the point when she knows I am about to go downstairs at night.

On the plus side, she has made friends, been to several whole class parties and coped really well, joined in a whole school assembly and recited the class poem really well.
On the plus side, she loves her school dinners and seems to be enjoying learning her letters and sounds and counting.
On the plus side, we have left on time everyday, dressed (almost always in socks and shoes too)  and most days we have even managed to brush our hair.
On the plus side, I have managed to leave her with the comfort of staff and her transitional toy, to arrive at work on time too.
On the plus side she beams when I pick her up and runs out to me from the classroom door, shouting Mummy and hugging me - sometimes, much louder than the other children greeting their Mummies.
The smile and hug is a winner.
Every time.

Tuesday, 24 September 2013

Imagine My Surprise

Imagine my surprise when  PJ came running out of the classroom at the end of her first week in big school ( Reception class) with a huge gold sticker on her chest and carrying a somewhat chewed but still intact, certificate!
She had been awarded this star award - for trying so hard at listening!
A Super Star indeed!
Very proud Mummy and delighted!
Well done PJ
( I really wasn't expecting it - especially not in her first full week of full days!)

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Messy Snow Joke Summer Fun

We have been continuing to have fun and develop PJ's sensory needs in our play activities - the latest fun we have had has been with shaving foam - ideas for summer snow can be found at growing a jeweled rose - we danced in it, squidged it, added food colouring and watched new colours transform it, we froze some and made summer snow and did the same - and then, before not too long, PJ added her favourite activity - pouring - more and more water until, finally, it was just watery liquid to be poured and poured.

Saturday, 14 September 2013

First Week at Big School

Fantastic start, so far!
Hooray for Big School!
We have got out the door, this last week on time and proudly wearing the uniform.
She has carried and cuddled her toy that has a special job, to remind her that mummy will be back soon and once, we have left this precious transitional toy, in school!
The teacher returned it, safely to us at tea time!
How lovely was that!
This last week we have stayed for school dinners and yes, there has been the evidence of what PJ has been eating firmly imprinted on the new school uniform top!
We have had a few meltdowns, a few tears and a few loud and ear piercing screams of frustration, I suspect, over this last week - but on the whole, it has all gone exceptionally well and better than any of us could have anticipated.
Transition and change is such a big thing and potential trigger for many behaviours, patterns and responses to rear their ugly heads once again - wet pants, clinging onto me, tears, bouncing on and off furniture and being restless and excitable and tired are all a small price to pay for the joy she seems to have for big school and the big smiles that greet me when she sees me when I pick her up at the end of the day!
So far we have done half days at big school.
Next week, she will do full days!
I haven't told her that bit yet.
Or, that she will be going to big school and then big, big school, for many years still to come.
Some things can wait.

Saturday, 7 September 2013

Preparing for Our First Day at Big School

Last year PJ talked about going to Big School, as she had had her pre-school boosters, so assumed that when she came to me that she would go straight to Big School but she has had another year of Nursery to do before she has actually started Big School.
And now, the time has come.
Big School Day.
Months of preparation, talking with professionals who have supported PJ and I this last year and lots of discussions with her new school.
I have purchased a million sets of school uniform, washed and labelled everything to within an inch of it's life and then a few weeks ago, we shopped for Big School shoes.
I booked an appointment - early in the day so the shop was quiet for a fitting - which really helped ease the experience for me and PJ and - probably - the assistant too!
For PJ, we have eased the idea of leaving Nursery and going to Big School.
PJ struggles with change and it is therefore likely she will regress with such a big move to school.
Indeed, after the 2nd visit to Big School, I noticed some signs of regression: disturbed sleep, tears, tantrums, wet pants.
I chatted with PJ lots and read books on starting school. We drove by her new school several times and stuck photos of her new school and her teachers in her special photo album.
I arranged with her class teacher, that we would continue sending in spare sets of clothes - just in case - and that she would bring in photos of PJ and I to help maintain a sense of connectedness. I spoke to her class teacher about PJ continuing to bring in her transitional object - who has a special job - to remind PJ that Mummy will be back soon.
The school had arranged for all the children to visit the school twice.
The Nursery also arranged for the small group of them all going to the same school to go and visit another time together.
I also then arranged for PJ and I to do a quiet walk through the school at the beginning of this week, before term started, just a few days before PJ was due to start school. This really helped, as we could see the playground, see her coat peg, remind her of where the toilets were, meet the teacher and teacher assistant again, see the gate where we would walk as we wouldn't be going through the main school reception area entrance on the first day of Big School - and this change could throw her - and we did all this in our new Big School uniform - as a practise - it all really helped pave the way for the big transition ahead.
Perhaps the most significant preparation has been the discussions around reassuring PJ. After the second visit to big school, I noticed a regression. I had a hunch and went with it - a nagging thought - what if PJ thinks that a move to big school also means a move to another new Mummy?
I said to PJ - You do realise that when you go to Big School, I will still be your Mummy, you are not going to another new Mummy. I am your Mummy now.
Oh, she said.
I fought back the tears and added: I will take you to big school and I will pick you up. You will still live here in our house with our cat, Smudge.
Oh, she said.
You see, just a short year ago, PJ had said goodbye to her Nursery and then had said goodbye to her foster carers and then come to live with me, her new Mummy. A short while later we started another new nursery.
Now, just a short year later, we talk about leaving Nursery and going to Big School.
PJ, had filled in the missing gaps and made the assumption that a more to big school must mean a move to a new mummy - after all, a year ago, it all meant just that.
This year, though, the move to Big School, is just that.
A move to Big School.
The preparation has been quite a process.
Ready or not, Our First Day at Big School has finally come.

It went really well.

Sunday, 1 September 2013

New Starts - Big School et al

This week marks the end of an era and the start of a new one.
PJ will have finished her first year with me - yes - a whole year since placement - and the end of her Nursery years - and the start of BIG SCHOOL.
School transition here we come!
I have mixed feelings - for her - how will she cope with yet another change - and how will she settle with big changes and challenges of going from a key worker ratio of 1 to 6 and into a class of 1 to 30 - and how will she progress or will she regress?
I have mixed feelings - for her teachers - how will they cope with her - how will they help her to settle, to reassure her and set good boundaries in place for her to feel secure and also to help her to rise to the challenge to learn and for her to learn well - how will they take on board all that has been said and written in preparation for her to transfer to big school about her background and complex needs and still see the vibrant and yet vulnerable child?
I have mixed feelings - how will I cope with losing her - a year at home with PJ has gone so fast and there is this sense that I am losing her, irrational I know, but it is there -how will I cope with going back to work as my adoption leave is coming to an end and I will be returning to work - how will I juggle our new and changing work life balance and still retain and maintain some fun and quality time at home with PJ and I together?
Anyone else have my rambling thoughts, worries and concerns with the start of going to big school or returning to work?

Friday, 30 August 2013

Safe Spaces #WASO

This is my safe space.
Sometimes I share it with friends.
Sometimes I share the baking and eating with PJ
Either way - cake is my sanctuary.
My safe space.

Sunday, 25 August 2013

Saying Sorry

Almost a year ago, when I was meeting PJ for the first time, I was told that PJ rarely said sorry. She would hurt others or break things and would never say sorry. We have worked on this a lot over this year and I guess my continuing to work on the empathy and embed the principle of saying sorry alongside PJ being a year older, has helped.
I often will help her say sorry, similar to how I help her clear up after a meltdown, or simply to tidy up - we do it together.
Sometimes, she has said sorry - often to the cat, Smudge, after his tail has been pulled, or I have seen her say sorry to others when she has accidentally bumped into them and she will now often say sorry spontaneously when she bumps into me - as can often happen as she is still not too spatially aware!
During the summer, we have frequented playgrounds and played with friends and family, so sometimes we have had plenty of opportunity to practise the art of being sorry, with a good degree of success.
These moments are great - other times, have been very funny, even if we have clearly missed the mark, dramatically.
Whilst with family, a cousin got hurt and I asked PJ to say sorry, once I had made sure both PJ and the cousin were OK and suggested to PJ that she might go and say sorry. I watched her sidle over to the other side of the room and watched... and waited...
For a moment, I thought she might clock her cousin, again, as she sometimes does to other children.
She seemed calm and they appeared to just be standing next to each other.
I asked PJ if she had said sorry and she shook her head.
I suggested that as he was near by, that now might be a good time.
There was a pause.
It seemed to last for ages.
Again, I said to PJ: are you ready to say sorry, yet?
Nearly, came the reply.
Most of the adults around the edge of the room, sniggering, as I desperately tried to hold back the laughter and to help my little girl make her peace with her cousin.
this week, we were at a local playground, where PJ was in a tunnel on a climbing frame. Another child had blocked her way through and I talked her out through the other way, successfully avoiding a confrontation. Phew.
A few minutes later, another child did the same, again.
Whether it was frustration or the timing of it happening to PJ again in the same tunnel, I am not sure but it quickly resulted in this other small being kicked in the head by PJ.
I saw it happening and tried to calm PJ quickly and help both the small child and PJ out of the tunnel. The small child, sobbing, was quickly rescued and taken away by her mother and I carried PJ out of the tunnel and began calmly telling her that we don't kick and that I was sorry she couldn't get through the tunnel and that we can' t kick and that she had done well to come with me and to be so calm but we can't hurt other people and that she was only little and was hurt, so we should go and see if she is OK together and say sorry.
PJ was looking a bit shy and so I said we would do this together and suggested that she could perhaps say sorry now?
She hung her head, briefly and then looked up and put her hand to her throat and said in a rather croaky voice:
Err no, I've lost my voice that says sorry.
Once again, I stoically turned to the still crying small child and her parent and said that I would say sorry for her and as I said sorry, I saw the mum had her head down and her shoulders were shaking.
she said it was the funniest comment she had ever heard!

Monday, 19 August 2013

The Purple Sparkly Shoes #MemoryBox

PJ loves her Purple Sparkly Shoes.
After all, we chose them together, when she had her last shoe fitting, along with another similar pair, that we got as a backup, spare pair.
Here they are:
Gorgeous, aren't they?
No wonder she chose them and loves them.
Purple and sparkles, who could ask for more in a shoe?

Anyway, I will sometimes give a limited choice to which pair of shoes might wear by asking: which shoes would you like to wear today, your dotty shoes or your purple sparkly ones?
Usually, the reply is: my Purple Sparkly ones.
Usually, it all goes OK.
Except on this day.
PJ wanted to wear her purple sparkly shoes and I couldn't find them.
I hunted high and low and looked everywhere.
She had to wear different shoes, her spotty ones.
She wasn't happy.
Lots of tears and protests.
With the other shoes successfully on, we went out for the day.
I asked her to have a real good look for the purple sparkly shoes with me, later, but we still didn't find them.
The next day, I asked her again if she knew where the sparkly purple shoes were.
Over the fence, came the reply.

Wednesday, 14 August 2013

Summer Holiday Royal Baby Reading

Thankfully, we love books in our house. Bedtime and let's wriggle and sit on the sofa for a little while time and we there is nothing quite like a little book to read.
PJ came with lots of books and she got some for Christmas and Birthday but I spotted two books and thought they would be perfect for the summer holidays, given our success with the news and the impact this tiny baby has had on our wee household!
We have read the Queens Knickers and it has become a loved book to share and I am delighted to say that we love this one too
Our fast becoming favourite one, though is this one. I like the helicopter bits by Wills and the party planning by Harry and Pippa, I have to say.
Have you read any good reads this summer?

Monday, 12 August 2013

Indoor Glamping Summer Holiday Weekend

Does anyone else love camping but hate the trauma of being wet and all that entails? You know the scenario - I have the memory of it firmly imprinted on my mind for a lifetime of camping experiences - you arrive and spend ages pitching your tent and then wake in the night cold and wet, or as once happened to me, you awake to a river seemingly running through your tent, or a storm comes while you are out for the day and your borrowed tent has almost collapsed and now has water on the inside that you have to bail out of all the water and then eventually sleep elsewhere, somewhat defeated. One time, I slept in my parents awning on their caravan but that blew away, so I ended up having to sleep in the caravan. I haven't had great experiences of camping, it has to be said.
Well, I like camping but the memories of getting wet and being miserable, almost outweigh the fun of being with friends, relaxing, turning your friends tent around for fun, beautiful countryside, taking life at a slower pace and singing and telling stories around a bbq and a campfire into the wee hours.....  and then the bit where you have to put everything away, wet, only to have to hang it out inside, at home again, to dry. For days. And then pack it all away. Again.
Only to repeat this, all over again, the following year!
So, now I have PJ and thought I ought to attempt re-new my friendship with camping again, as I haven't been camping for a couple of years - and have even tent my tent to some friends, in denial of going again. I have tossed and turned over it and decided that I couldn't pitch a tent myself. My tent is not easy to put up on your own. Especially with PJ, at the moment, she would try and help for a few minutes, I am sure and then probably run off with some poles and use them to fish with, in the nearest available puddle. I couldn't bear the thought of it all and the stress and the getting wet.... but maybe there was a fun way to do it - at least as a trial - and to stay dry?
Then I got inspired and my creative juices got going....
Indoor Glamping at home!
We both got new sleeping bags, which I found here, and I also got us a funky collapsible bucket and a scrunchy bucket each so we could each practise carrying water to do the washing up outside, just like real camping. the company delivered really fast too - so I had no excuses!

Then I built our indoor tent.
I used 3 x double sheets
2x indoor clothes dryers/airers.
battery LED pretty fairy lights.
I used 1 x sheet over each dryer/airer on each side, which helped cover the sides of our tent and seemed to help the tent top sheet over the top of the dryer/airer to not slip. This top sheet we folded up in top during the day and then hung it over the dryer/airer at night to give a darker effect.
I hung 2x small sets of funky butterfly indoor lights over the clothes airer.
Ta Da!

We used camping lanterns and torches at night.
I cooked on top of the oven as I don't have a camping stove, we used the bbq and ate outside and washed up in a bowl outside, just like real camping.
We even tried smores...

I have to say, the hardest part was the going to sleep part and after the first night we were both tired the next day and for me, the lounge floor seemed to be really uncomfortable. It wasn't as bad the second night!
It was really, really, enjoyable. And dry. Our tent was very easy to put up and to take down and we had our luxury item too - telly - as our special treat - and watched a DVD on the floor in our new sleeping bags at night - which made the settling down and going to sleep a little easier!
anyone else done some indoor glamping?
Or have an easy idea for pitching a tent single handed?
I'm thinking of trying a log pod/wigwam on a campsite.....

Friday, 9 August 2013

Summer Holidays Fun Days

We have been having fun dressing up as pirates at a local Fun Day!
A brilliantly run drop in day, with lots of activities to try and to join in with.
I didn't have to plan anything.
I just went with the flow.
We went with friends and had a picnic in the park.
And it was free.
And no tidying up to do.

Wednesday, 7 August 2013

Royal Garden for a Prince or a Princess

Pj loves gardening. Well, she loves digging, to be precise. We went to a local Gardening club and came home with this lovely wee garden that we made together!
It has a cardboard turret tower covered with foil, which is then decorated with a permanent marker pen.
We put soil in the base of the seed tray and then placed our tower into the garden.
We added some ivy for the princess ladder and another flowering plant in the garden.
We used gravel to make a gravel path and added some bark chips and some grass seed.
PJ loved the digging and adding the soil and needed a lot of persuasion to complete the rest.
It is fit for a Prince or a Princess.
Beware of the dragons, though!

Watch this space and I will try and post a photo of the garden as it grows!

Monday, 5 August 2013

#Memory Box - Happy Day

The phone rang - it was PJ's social worker 25 minutes after the court hearing for the Adoption Order Hearing was scheduled. Congratulations! they said, It is all done!
Who is it? PJ asked and then asked if they were coming. No, not today, I said but added that they called with some very special news.
Can you tell me?
Yes, I can tell you.
It is very exciting. Every one really does say yes. You really are PJ and you will be forever. I really am your Mummy and will be forever. I will always be your Mummy and you will always be with me now.
Wow. That's amazing, you say.
I love my beautiful name, you say.
When I am a grown up, I won't be PJ anymore. If I get married. Well, yes, you might change your name if you get married, yes, but I will always be your Mummy.
When I am grown up, I will live in a big house and you will come and stay for 6 sleeps and then go back home to your own bed.
We then choose some biscuits together to take to our toddler group to share.
Everyone will be so happy that I really am PJ.
Today is a happy day, you say.
When we get home, you run to stroke the cat, Smudge.
You sit next to him and tell him that we are family now.
Smudge just stares but stays, obligingly, perhaps a little in shock.
We are a family now.
A very happy family, indeed.

Thursday, 1 August 2013

Summer Holidays with the Family

We are embarking on the long Summer Holidays, our first together, with our belts fastened and buckles tied. I have decided that with the transition to Big School being imminent, that I would maintain a level of consistency with PJ and so she would still go to Nursery for her usual Nursery days for the few days a week that she goes, throughout the usual 5 week summer break.

My method for this madness is to not break the routine I have fought so hard to create throughout this year, particularly in the areas of getting dressed and getting out of the house and also the routine of being used to having some days without Mummy, as we are about to embark on another change for PJ - the transition from Nursery to Big School.
I have told her, alongside all the visits to Big School, that she will still be living with me when she goes to Big School, that she won't be going to another new family. Oh, she said. She had clearly, and sadly, associated the talk of going to Big school with the move from her previous nursery being with a move to a new Mummy.
We will have some special days out and I have the flexibility to swap a nursery day or to pull her out of a nursery Day if I wanted to, whilst still maintaining some sense of continuity, consistency, routine, the familiar in amongst the hype of change that the school summer holidays brings.
We have days out planned with friends and family and friends coming to stay and we are going to friends to stay for a few overnight stays. I have also planned an indoor camping night which she is very excited about, too!

This summer, our first summer holidays together is not a time to rock the boat!
Day trip with some family, on a boat that was pulled along by a horse along the canal. A great day trip - almost relaxing - added to with the merriment of PJ yelling over the side of the boat excitedly to her cousins that she could see sharks!

Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Time Out is having Time Out

I wrote a few weeks ago about my battle of emotions and wills and my understanding vs what everyone else does in parenting and what is expected and what works.
This is kind of my further thoughts and processing being poured out on the page, in a kind of part 2 post. Part 1 is here .
So, here are my continuing ramblings and continued understanding. Bear with me, I am on a learning curve, here.
My dilemma with Time Out as a strategy when we are in meltdown mode in our house is whether it really is the best strategy to use?
It clearly is effective for lots of normal children and parents and is readily promoted on TV and parenting courses - I have even seen Time Out chairs and Time Out steps being advertised!
here's the thing: is it best for me and for my adopted child? At my recent CAMHS appointment they had suggested that Time Out might not be the best strategy as it is just that - time out - and that the separation  might not be best for a child who needs attachment. I certainly don't wish to do further damage and I do not wish to do something just because but I do not wish to raise a spoilt child or one who doesn't learn right from wrong.
So, what is some more of the theory and what do I do?
PJ had come from a history of neglect and abuse and hadn't had the needed stimulus and attachment that a Mum would usually give in the early years, so her primal brain, her brain stem is on high alert, probably constantly. Her default button is set to fight flight and fear mode. Therefore the mid brain, the bits which control her self regulating parts of her brain are not yet developed. She is wired for self survival and when something startles her she goes off like a bottle of pop. Also, because of the lack of stimulus and soothing from a calm parent in those early years, she has yet to develop the parts of her brain to reason, understand cause and effect, the front brain. Therefore, when she goes into complete meltdown mode, her default, she goes off like a bottle of pop and she ain't hearing me if I say anything. There is no point telling her if you do or don't do this then, or telling her to stop... she is not able to reason - cause and affect isn't there, consequences have no impression and using words at her - or shouting, as has at times happened, doesn't work - in fact - it just makes it worse.
She seems to push me further and further away - until I end up leaving her alone.
Here is the pattern we have been in:
We start with the meltdown and I try the nearest available space.
She hits or kicks or throws form the crumpled heap I have just put her in.
I try the nearest step available - eg - stairs or patio step.
She continues to hit or kick or throw objects at me.
We go upstairs and she hits and kicks on the way.
I out her in the bedroom behind her stair gate and she continues.
I try and stay in the room but she shuffles on the floor to me and throws toys at me.
I leave, retreating, as she lobs toys at me from down the stairs.
Her emotions are high, her pain and shame is high and I have been raging, at times.
Then comes the breakthrough moment. A few seconds of distance, usually, by the time I have been to the loo or gone down stairs, all is calm and we hug and say sorry and carry on from where we left off.
It ain't pretty.
I don't like doing it.
I have been desperate to change things and to find some good, safe, workable, effective therapeutic solutions and to increase my understanding more.
The principle behind time out is this: to create separation between child and parent and therefore pain in the separation brings an association for the child with the action of what they have done and the response with the time out - the reasoning, the cause and effect - is developed for the child to then learn not to do the action in the first place, thus creating happy child and happy parent and the need  for a time out step is no more. Happy Days!
So, for an adopted child with developmental trauma disorder - they have experienced past trauma and pain of separation in the past from their parent through lack of care and their needs not being met.  They have experienced being startled and they weren't soothed by their parent and reassured that everything would be OK.
Added to this, their brain hasn't developed sufficiently yet, to understand reason and cause and effect and consequence.
Separation + pain + cause and effect = Time Out.
If this is so, why would I do this?
PJ doesn't need separation from me, she needs attachment.
PJ doesn't yet understand cause and effect, so why would I try and reason with her?
PJ feels pain of separation and feels shame and her emotions go off the scale in default fear flight fight response.
I am having Time Out from Time Out and instead I am going to have lots of Time In.
I am aiming to get in there as soon as I can with a hug, to calm and soothe.
If I need to distance myself to keep myself or her safe, then I will but I am going to stay as close as I can with the aim of calming and soothing her - I am aiming to re-wire her default button, I am being that regulator switch for her - just like she should have had in those early years - as with a tiny newborn, she is too young emotionally for controlled crying, so I won't leave her.
At night, when she cries for me, I go back to her. I don't leave her to cry.
I sit close by when I put her on a time out - my aim is to remove her from the situation - not to remove me from the situation.
CAMHS suggested I use cushions around her when she is arms and legs flailing and Adoption support from my Adoption Agency  suggested using a bean bag as this might help to ground her - I guess the same principle of using a baby blanket for a tiny baby - to create safety.

It definitely helps if I stay calm.
It means I then stay in control.
If I am calm and therefore in control it helps me not try and win but to help her become secure and safe.
If I get in there quick and remain calm and stay with her it usually calms things much quicker.
If I think toddler, it also helps, as emotionally she is still 18 months - 2 years and not 4.
I am still battling with the hitting and kicking scenario as this is the hardest as she hurts. Any advice out there?

My battle in my head is the old voices ingrained in my core being of upbringing of children doing as they are told, or about winning because you are the grown up, thoughts on discipline.....
It is interesting to learn that discipline comes from the word disciple. which means to teach, to follow.
It doesn't mean to punish.
This bring me much more freedom with this fresh understanding.
I am giving myself permission to think and behave differently.
for me, time out is now having time out.
We are going for time in.

PJ and I are about to go and choose together a bean bag and we will see if it helps with a little grounding and sensory awareness....

Tuesday, 30 July 2013

Storytelling Narratives: Our Story.

I have been reading this book book on story narratives and found it really helpful and inspiring. The principle is building in story into our lives to help children piece together their story and to re-build some of the broken pieces and bring healing through the powerful medium of story telling.

I have done some stories with PJ around the theme of when you were a tiny baby, I would have held you like this and we have role played with her baby dolls, feeding and done nappy changes and had hours of inter-mingling the feeding of dolls to regressing to feeding PJ too, with a piece by piece approach to re-building her understanding of love and care and meeting her needs as well as modelling how to care for others through play.

We have told and re-told the pieces of the jigsaw of how she came to be in foster care and how she then has come to me and she has loved telling and re-telling her story. This is her story and it is our story of how we found each other. She will soon have her Life Story Book as well, that will help add to these narratives, we are beginning to tell with a frequency and familiarity that they will be great traditional family stories.

PJ came to me with a story narrative that her social worker had given her about a family of bears who lived in the woods, where her social worker is the giraffe who was worried about the little bears and how they didn't have enough food and were sometimes frightened and how the giraffe took the little bears to live with some other animals who would be their foster carers while the giraffe searched all over the woods to find a new Mummy animal who would look after the bears forever and love them and care for them and to keep them safe.
This story was read to her during the transition of her being prepared to meet me for Introductions. The social worker had also used a family of animals to help
I have tried to tell this story, printed on the laminated sheets of paper with pictures but it has been flung across the room.
I have stuck to telling our story, together, for these last few months, without using the family of bears book, successfully until a few weeks ago.
I now have the set of animals passed on to me by PJ's social worker and we are beginning to use them with a renewed fascination. I am not using the laminated sheets at all and am just using the figures, which is working really well.

The Family of Bears in the woods.....
The Giraffe, who is the social worker who was in charge of all the babies and children in the woods...
the Giraffe was very worried about the little bears so she found other kind animals in the woods, foster carers, to take good care of little bear whilst she searched through all the woods for a new Mummy for little bear.

I now need to bring the bears family in the woods to it's conclusion with the introduction of what animal I will be?

I think this:
and of course, little bear and Mummy Elephant were very happy together and little bear had nice food and lots of fun with her new Mummy. And she was safe.

Do you do any story narratives with your children?

Monday, 29 July 2013

Royal Baby #Memory Box

I was, along with many in the nation and indeed the world, waiting with bated breath for the news of the birth of the new Royal baby last week. I couldn't help but to keep my ear to the ground and to listen for the announcement on the radio. The next day, I also couldn't resist the urge to turn the telly on every now and then in the hope for that first glimpse of  Kate and William and their new baby to leave the hospital. I remembered when Diana and Prince Charles had left with their tiny bundle, William, those years ago and how it had impacted me and so was delighted when I sat on the sofa with PJ and told her that we were about to see a new baby, who would one day be a king.
She sat still with interest and we waited and watched and then the moment came.
Is that the new baby Mummy?
Is the new baby king now?
No, not yet, this baby is tiny and has just been born, but one day this baby will be a king.
As the camera zoomed in on the baby wrapped up in a bundle and was held in his proud new Mummy and Daddy's arms, I said to her:
If you had been my tiny baby and if I had had you as a tiny baby, I would have held you like that in a tiny blanket and I would have held you all wrapped up nice and safe and all snug bug, just like that tiny baby that has just been born. You were born in hospital too and if I had had you I would have carried you out of hospital just like that baby. ( well minus all the zillion photographers!)
Yes, I would.
Can you carry me like that now?
She crawled onto my lap and lay in my arms.
I carried her in my arms upstairs, cradled in my arms, like a tiny baby.
The next day, she said:
Is the new baby a king now?

Tuesday, 16 July 2013

Big School Uniform #Memory Box

I've hunted high and hunted low and asked friends for advice and ... drum roll please - Ta Da!
I have found non scratchy tops and non scratchy skirts and pinafores for Big School Uniform.
Very pleased and impressed with my discovery and lovely purchases!
We have lots of sets - ready and waiting to be spare sets for the days when we are a little overwhelmed and don't quite make it to the bathroom in time.
We have spare sets for after muddy days, puddle jumping in the rain days, I've enjoyed all my lunch days, paint all over everything days, glue stick it all like it is your last glue stick days and spare sets for when I haven't caught up with all the washing and drying days.
Big School has a rather attractive school logo, which PJ has shown interest in, thankfully and we have talked about the school cardigans and the school sweatshirts and made our choice.
I wanted to try some of the big school uniform on before I iron in all the name labels and did this with PJ standing in front of big long mirror in the bathroom.
She obliged and was intrigued to try her new big school uniform on. As she twirled in the skirt and spun out of the bathroom, I asked her what she thought of her new Big School Uniform:
It's fabudiculus, Mum!
I just hope that I get some cooler evenings over the summer holidays to iron in all the labels and that the big school uniform is still just a bit too big in September!

Monday, 15 July 2013

Time Out and Time In

I am soooo looking forward to going on the Safe Base training soon. The Safe Base Training Programme will be for 4 days for me to attend - I have been using some of the Thera-Play games and activities since I first met PJ during our Introductions and a few have become firm favourites - and have to confess we have stuck with some of them and life keeps going relentlessly at times, so confess that I have not caught my breath enough to venture into many new activities.
Our attachment is growing and I have also really struggled at times and am wanting some more input to build on our attachment and help with managing behaviours and emotions when things seem to escalate really quickly.
I am convinced that the timing of the training days couldn't come at a better time for us - I am mostly struggling with control issues - we go to play a game or do playdough together and I get a no, no, no, not like that or you can't have that or not that way... you get the idea. I am left alone, bereft and frustrated to try and find a way in, to connect with and for PJ to become engaged with me and to stay engaged.  We have worked hard and played hard and we have some fruit but the desire to control still rears it's ugly head.
I am also really struggling with the meltdowns - the 0-60 seconds in a millisecond ones that sometimes I know what the trigger is and sometimes I am unaware of what has caused it but here it is, large as life, the fear monster blasts in and makes his loud and triumphant entry to centre stage.
I have been reading more on the brain development, flight and fright brain, emotional development and particularly developmental trauma disorder and am gradually increasing my knowledge base alongside my knowledge and understanding of PJ - she is now less like slippery soap for me - I can now usually anticipate what might be triggers for her - it is a learning process.
Sometimes I have gone Raaaaahh and had to leave the room for a brief moment in time to go for a wee or to count to ten and breath slowly to calm myself down and stop shaking before I return to try once again to intervene and soothe and to calm and restore balance to our lives.
The hitting and kicking is the hardest for me - the instant fight and flight mode - the arms and legs flail, she cries and screams and isn't hearing me at this point.
Time out strategies have been suggested by some friends, well meaning, along with the suggestion of giving her more consequences - which the more |I learn she will be unable to process for her development age. Time out had been used by her previous foster carers - but, whilst it does seem to break the cycle - I am not convinced that it is the best strategy and I hate doing it too. I want to get close and to soothe and to tell her that I love her and make it right - but when she physically instantly and instinctively hits and kicks - it really hurts.
Sometimes I have yelled NO - we don't hit in our family and said stop it to try and break the cycle  - but a couple of months ago she started answering back - and repeating what I said with a no you stop it. - It really wound me up - I panicked - thinking - she is 4 - what will it be like when she is 14 - I had better nip it in the bud - we quickly got into a head to head - like 2 stags with their antlers interlocked - and after a few seconds of discourse - neither of us were backing down.
I got more and more infuriated and she just seemed to continue shouting and hitting and kicking if I went near.
After a week or so, I began to realise that she just simply didn't get it - she wasn't being rude or argumentative - but for her, emotionally - she was not 4 going on 14 but actually 18 months - the no was almost as instinctive and reactive as the hitting was a reflex for her.
I decided to begin to use as few words as possible - this really helped prevent the head to head - and helped keep me calm - she wasn't bothered, it seemed, by the words being said - but it would became easier to deal with if I remained calm.
At this point I had still put her in her room, after several attempts to give a short distance - ie - just put her down on the ground in the nearest available space - and try and stay close by - and then gradually had to distance more and more until we reached the familiar previously used strategy of being put in her bedroom - just a few seconds - or sometimes I go back downstairs - and then back upstairs - at least I remain calm - but I still don't like doing time out.
At my recent CAMHS appointment they suggested that time out wasn't great as it creates a distance - out of sight out of mind - and feeds the I am unlovable, especially after I have just yelled NO and Stop It ! but they didn't really give me any other strategies - yet - other than distraction - make it a game - or put cushions around her to make her safe.
Distraction and diffusing the situation into a game works really well when she is mildly hitting and kicking - but she ain't hearing me at all when she has gone 0-60 seconds in less than a second....
I have yet to try the cushions around her - presumably along with telling her that I am wanting to keep her safe - and with the aim of getting back time in with her asap....
I have tried to get back to time in as soon as she is calm and we have simply just carried on from where we left off - eg - if the toys all got thrown just before the meltdown then we have picked up the toys after she is calm and then just carried on with what we should have gone on to do.
I am really hoping that SafeBase will help too.
Does anyone else have these issues and does anyone else have any tips?

Tuesday, 9 July 2013

The Shallow or Deep Water Challenge

The article in the Guardian on name choices for prospective adopters and name changes for the adopted is there for all to read. I have to say I am saddened with the findings (or are they just opinion?) that prospective adopters are shallow - particularly surrounding name choice versus child to adopt.
I am not that shallow just to reply with my opinion of the author of the article - although I do find it sad, that it seems as if someone with these thoughts/findings/opinions of prospective adopters is part of a panel approving prospective adopters... but that is not for me to judge....

As a prospective adopter from a background in education, I have taught many children and associations over the years have been made amongst colleagues between children taught and names to avoid when choosing names for your child, friends have said that when choosing names for their child that they couldn't name their child blah as they taught blah and would therefore always be reminded of blah, as if the name goes with the character.
Well, we have all seen the episode of Only Fools and Horses, haven't we, when Damien is born and the association of a name and character is right there!
So, perhaps , everyone who has the privilege of naming a child, or pre-judging a child with a name, is guilty.
Hyacinth Bucket, would be another classic comedy example, that once again, we can all relate to, can't we? Or would that be making us all shallow?

Anyway, back to the shallow waters.
Prospective adopters do not have the privilege of naming a child.
Prospective adopters inherit a name, which  for the purpose of the article, seems to cause prospective adopters to dismiss a child from their glossy profiles to be wanted for adoption.

My story, as a single prospective adopter is this.
I had become a member of Be My Parent, prior to being approved, so that I could begin to look at children on line, to get a feel for profiles to learn more about the complex needs and issues described. It was heart wrenching.
I wanted them all, single children and sibling groups.

I will be honest, some names are hilarious... Eileen Dover, Paige Turner, to name a few polite ones - and when you add in your own existing family groups or even your surname, some names could just sound, well, unfortunate or the butt of many a playground joke or just rude - but to dismiss then because of a name? I am not sure. Might need counselling, or might need to realistically change a name because of the lethal name combination.
Call me Irma Shallow.....

After I was approved as a prospective adopter, I attended an exchange day - with around 40 local authorities - all with an exhibition stand - each with 100's and 100's and 100's of faces and faces and faces displayed on boards with their profiles printed for all there to see - each one silently and simultaneously excruciatingly calling and shouting, leaping up and down like Donkey in Shrek: pick me, pick me!
I couldn't pick them all.
I was only approved for one child.
Just one.
Only one.

I came home from the exchange day with 60 profiles in my bag.
I had to look through them over the weekend and make a list of my top 10 possible profiles, before emailing my social worker with my top 4 - and she said she would follow up on 2 at a time.

I based my in initial top 10 from my agreed criteria that I had worked through with my social worker.
I plunged into deep waters to soul search and work out what kind of child I could parent.
I read and re-read through my 60 profiles that I just started with, before making my initial list.
I then spent hours reading and digesting a few 60 page chronology reports and complete child profiles on my initial possible profiles before I found the right child for me.

I didn't have a list of names that I had pre-conceived ideas for many years of naming my children in my dreams.
I didn't have a list of names that I would dismiss - well, perhaps the child with the same name as aunty so and so or your ex, could be complicated, or perhaps the Damien one would have haunted me for a while a la Only Fools and Horses style - but seriously, no - for me, the deep water challenge was never about the name - or the desire to change a name.

The challenge of choosing the right match for me was incredibly hard emotionally, for the guilt too, of the ones you have to simply say no to because you are approved for only one child. The hours too of looking through paperwork and deciding if you can realistically parent this child bore no resemblance to a name.

As an adopted person, my name was changed when I was adopted and it was hidden from me for many, many, years until I was brave enough to bring it out from the depths, when I filed for my adoption paperwork and actually, I have no attachment or belonging or identity to those original names but rather, for me a sense of completeness. Yes, they are a part of me. My connectedness, not hidden anymore. Names are part of our identity and belonging, yes. Our heritage too.

I am delighted to be giving my newly adopted daughter a middle name - which she loves too.
I have given it a lot of deep thought, too.

The challenge as a prospective adopter to parent an adopted child is to dive into deep and at times murky waters. It is never shallow.
I was never approved to be shallow.
And would never work as hard as I did over such a long tome, to be approved, to be simply shallow.

Please don't call me Shallow, or might just have to change my name.

Friday, 5 July 2013


Ahh, the chance to talk about our well loved cat, Smudge, for this weeks #WASO - The Weekly Adoption Shout Out - over at the Adoption Social. I love my cat - he is very gentle and loves to lie in the sun and be next to me on the sofa and he also loves being outdoors - and yes, he does hunt - and therefore brings me all sorts of treasures as presents for me. I have had him since he was a kitten and he has lived relatively peacefully with me for the last 3 years, being extremely tolerant of small children visiting, who have shrieked with delight at him, stroked him, and who have tweaked his whiskers when they can no longer contain their excitement - and he has sat obligingly, played hide and seek and peek a boo and jumped up high for his toys, with them all and loved it.

Then PJ arrived.

First came the visits and she shrieked with delight when she saw him and he sat next to her and let her stroke him. She had seen lots of photos of him in her Introductions book, so she was very excited to meet him. He just looked stunned. Before Introductions started, I had put a safety gate on her  bedroom door as recommended, and to follow the same pattern in the foster home. When Introductions started and I saw how PJ was in the foster home and the layout of the house, I realised that it would be a great idea to have another safety gate fitted onto my bedroom - to keep my room as my room - and therefore provide a bolt hole for the cat.
I am sooo glad that I did!

Smudge is a very tolerant cat - and she is very excitable and changeable little girl.
They say she will learn empathy.
I work on it with her but it is a s-l-o-w process with some days of her being very gentle and loving towards him and other days where she is not at all.
I watch them like a hawk.
I model how to stroke the cat gently and use a soft voice to call his name.
We talk about what he likes and doesn't like.
Come here my lovely sweet boy she says and goes to give him a hug.
Then, moments later she pulls his tail, yanks his fur and picks him up and lugs him around as he finally meows and even hisses, occasionally at her.
She takes no notice.
Mostly he just stays limply in her arms as he is carried around, with an expression which seems to say, if I lay still, it will be over quickly.
Don't worry she says, I will just take you to my Mummy. It's OK, she says, gently.
Then, as he finally squirms and makes a bolt for it, breaking free, she growls and hisses at him and says Raaaah, making her hands like claws in the air towards him.
Occasionally, she has been as quick as him and I have intervened as he is half in the house and half out of the cat flap, as she has grabbed him by the tail.
Other times he will lie down next to her as she strokes him, purring.
Sometimes, she has sung him lullabies, and played her guitar to him and he has lain next to her, pretending to be asleep.
Several times, she has read him her story books and he seems to listen, attentively.
She tries to engage him in her play activities.
Would you like a cup of tea she asks him?
would you like and ice cream?
And gives them to him. Here you are Smudge, she says.
I think he understands.

She talks about him at nursery as if he is her little brother and sometimes this is a love hate relationship.
Once, in the early days of beginning to go to Nursery, PJ was really struggling to get in the car in anticipation of going to Nursery. No, not Nursery, she screams and cries. After half an hour of screams and cries and failed attempts and soothing and getting in the car, PJ sat on the front door step and howled. In desperation, I called for the cat. He came from over the fence and she seemed to calm. I suggested we take him with us in the car and said that she would go in her car seat and he would go in his car seat (cat box) next to her.
She, mercifully, calmed considerably and I got her safely into her car seat and gathered up the cat into his cat box and put him in the car and there was a few moments of calm, with the occasional sobs as the tears subsided, gradually.
We were halfway along the road to nursery, when PJ announces that she doesn't like Smudge in our family.
Meow, replies Smudge, immediately and loudly.
They both went quiet and I supressed my giggles until I finally got back home after successfully getting PJ to Nursery.
Yes, their friendship and bond is growing.
She watches him jump over the fence and waves him off in the mornings saying have a nice day at cat school.
She thinks he is very cheeky when he comes home with a present of a bird or a worm or a mouse.
Especially, if it coincides with one of our birthdays.
He buys her presents for birthdays and Christmas and she thinks he goes with his backpack to the shops and wonders if he always remembers to pay.
Of course we made cake and sang happy birthday to him for his birthday and buy him a new toy or some Smudge treats.
It is early days, for them both.
He really doesn't settle down until evening, when she has gone to bed.
He just knows that then all is calm and all is quiet.
Then he sleeps in heavenly peace.

Monday, 1 July 2013

#Memory Box - Sunday Lunch

Roast!  you exclaim.
You love roast.
With Oxter Puddings. (that's Yorkshire puddings, to everyone else)
After grace you say tuck in.
We eat: roast dinner complete with roast potatoes, veg, Yorkshire puddings and gravy.
Sometimes, you pick the plate up and put the plate to your mouth to consume the gravy.
With loud slurps.
Delicious! you declare as you set the plate down and grin a big gravy eared grin.
Yesterday, I was rather glad you didn't lift the plate to your mouth to lick the gravy from your plate.
We had guests.
Friends. Our friends.
To be honest, I don't think they would have minded, even if you had lifted you plate to your mouth.
They are fabulous friends - you and I wrote the list together of who to invite.
When we did the list initially, we had one space left.
I asked you who else we should invite - you said in response, with no hesitation: scrappy the dog.
I have to admit, I was rather pleased that scrappy the dog's owner and I decided that scrappy the dog would be unable to attend for Sunday Roast and you and I invited someone else instead.

Saturday, 29 June 2013

Adoption Home Study Reflections - Summer 2011

After the affirming and fascinating 4 days of Preparation Group Training in April 2011, I began my home study preparation. I know that the home study assessment is changing with the upheaval of the adoption process, to have more emphasis on empowering the prospective adopters to drive this stage of the adoption process and hopefully make this part of the process faster - time will tell - but I hope that this post might be of some use to you, nonetheless.
I had 8 assessments home studies to complete, each week. They each followed a different theme - for example my own family history, previous and current relationships, work experiences, finances, my friends and support network, housing and local community, child and youth experiences and desire and approaches to parenting and potential adoption issues. I was given a page of questions for each of the topics to be covered each week and I then had to write my answers and email them across to my social worker each week a couple of days before our meeting up at home one evening after work each week.
It was hard work and thorough, as I spent most of my weekends on it and as you are reflecting quite deeply on your past and your values too it is also quite emotionally draining.
It took longer than 8 weeks as some weeks the sessions took more than one visit as they was so much to discuss and some weeks it was difficult to meet up each week with diaries or sickness or information gathering - writing down every place and worked and finding the right referees and building your support network map and your family tree - all took time.
all this ran alongside medicals, getting pets assessed by a vet, sorting out references, getting the house ready for all the health and safety checks and also building up a competency file - that filled an A4 file to capacity - the competency file took a while to complete as everything in it needed cross referencing to the competency they were looking for and the evidence - it was like doing a degree!
The biggest advice I can give is this - work hard, do as much as you can and be as honest and open as you can.
The urban myths are - the are out to get you - and they will dig and dig until they find something they don't like and then they will get up and leave.
The truth is, you need to work hard, be open and honest and a self aware as you can be and be committed to wanting to adopt. It is a learning curve for yourself too as you discover more about yourself and what makes you the person you are today and a chance to discover more about the kind of child you could - or could not - likely to parent as you face adoption.
I poured out my guts and heart and did as much soul searching and reflecting as I could and got others to help with all the practical things like fitting child locks!
My social worker and I started the first home study assessment in may 2011and had completed all the home study assessments by July 2011, leaving me the summer to get the room ready, the competency file completed and for my social worker to get all the references and all the paperwork completed and ready for approval panel.
We hoped to be ready for approval panel for September 2011.

Monday, 24 June 2013

School Transition Preparation

After 2 big school visits and an Information evening for parents, for the most part, that is the Introductions for PJ going to big school done.
The teacher will also make a visit to the various nurseries that this new reception year intake currently attend, if they attend one, to see the children in their current settings and there was an encouraged optional sign up sheet at the Information evening for parents to sign for a home visit by the class teacher or the teacher assistant to visit the children in their home setting during the afternoons of the first week of September.
Each child will have a buddy from year 6 in the school, who they will be linked to and they will get a postcard in the summer holidays to welcome them to their new big school.
Following the Information evening, parents are trying uniform on their children and making their selections and purchases and have the joys of naming everything with name labels within an inch of it's life to look forward to over the next few months - oh - and the trip to buy new school shoes to try and time perfectly with having the choice whilst not buying too soon that they feet are then too big for the shoes in September.

Bear with me, this will be my first experience at doing all of this, so wish me luck!

We have been given an All About Me book - presented to us parents at the parent Information evening which was complete with a photo of our children and named accordingly on the front cover and also an instant camera to take photos of what inspires us to share of our lives between now and the end of the summer holidays to take pictures of and for us to then compile it together on the pages to present it, complete, on the first day of big school in September.


This is all very exciting and for the normal, settled, secure child, this preparation for school is very good. Parents can talk about school and can help their child practise the getting dressed, fasten shoes, toilet themselves and wash their hands and use a tissue to wipe their own nose, alongside buying the new big school uniform and working on the All About Me book - and, for most children and families this will suffice.

Then there is PJ.
Where do we start with the All About Me book - and given that the book will be looked at in school by PJ, probably daily the teacher shared with all of us parents at the Information evening and is designed for themselves to have to share with peers, teachers, visitors etc. I suspect that this book will also be the springboard for their learning activities for the first term - the potential time bomb - for every adopted child - family, identity, life story, belonging, acceptance.

And then, there is PJ. There ain't no way we will be just turning up at school for the first day of big school, without some kind of further preparation for PJ or the school. Given that the centralised admissions team didn't pass on anything to the school, other than a name and a date of birth, I have already begun setting the ball in motion for as smooth a transition as is possible: hopefully it will all help us all.

So, I have met with the head, who is lovely and listened intently as I shared as best I could some of PJ's background, where we are at with the adoption process, her issues and challenges and some of the support and strategies we have in place so far.

I have arranged to meet her class teacher in a few weeks time - as all teacher's at this time are writing reports and have their current class to think of! I will try and outline some of the issues and strategies in greater detail for them to hopefully continue in the classroom to help maintain some consistency and parallels between home and school, so to ease the transition - if possible.

In addition to this, I am sending the school copies of the latest paperwork:
LAC review
nursery report
CAMHS referral and reports

What have I missed?

Sunday, 23 June 2013

The P.E. Bag #Memory Box

We just purchased the new P.E. bag for big school.
You know the style, the one with the drawstring that hangs on a peg.
In the olden days, when I was a child, my Mum made me one and threaded old dressing gown chord through it to hang. Then she chain stitched my name along the bottom in the same colour.
I had a brown bag with gold/mustard yellow chord and gold/mustard yellow letters, that lasted for years. Very retro. Vintage now, I think.
I hated it but hated sewing more and I needed a P.E. bag for my hockey kit, which I loved more.
So the brown and gold P.E. bag lived with me for many of my Primary school and of my secondary school days.
It seems that, in the modern days, you buy a P.E. bag with the school logo on.
Ta da!
I tried to big up the idea of a P.E. bag to PJ.
I talked about her needing this lovely bag to put her P.E. kit in.
I tried to explain that her P.E. kit would be worn when she did lots of running around times at big school.
I tried to explain that at big school when you all do running around times you get changed into shorts and t-shirt.
I tried to explain that at big school she would keep her shorts and t-shirt for running around times in her new P.E. bag.
We talked about the colours she would wear and she nodded in agreement that the new P.E. bag was, indeed,  rather lovely.
Yes, and Mummy? she said: Do we put PEAS in it?

2nd Big School Visit

The second Big School Visit this week went well. PJ was a bit more reluctant to go this time but her protests were short lived. She did ask me to stay with her and even when she sat down on the carpet with the other children, she squidged over and made a space for me and patted the floor next to her and said - here you go Mummy.
I declined the offer and went to get her well loved toy that we use to remind her that I will be back from her Nursery bag and handed it to her. She obligingly took it and hugged it and I left her looking a bit bewildered.
This visit was again with half of her new classmates - and was once again for just an hour.
I had arranged to meet briefly with the class teacher, afterwards, to set a date in our diaries next month to update the class teacher on PJ and her positives and her challenges.
She said as we sat with diaries open: I take it that she is very strong willed.
Tomorrow I meet with the head teacher to fill him in on some of PJ's background, issues, needs to help them as a school prepare for her arrival and hopefully help me prepare PJ more for school.
Any pointers for what might be useful to pass on to school or to ask for?
I've thought to ask for a photo of the head and the class teacher and to take one of the school so we can add it to her book to look through over the holidays but. any other ideas gratefully received

Friday, 21 June 2013

The Uniform Challenge is on.

As those of you who have read my blog before will be aware, PJ is preparing to go to Big School in September as she will be starting school and her Reception year.
She has already done a huge transition to move to be with me in this last year and then to start at a new Nursery for her and now she faces another transition: big school.
We are getting to grips, s-l-o-w-l-y, along with the idea of uniform.
PJ doesn't do clothes well.
She used to scream with every item of clothing change. Every time.
She is getting much better.
We have worked hard at lessening choices of clothes to wear.
I set out her clothes for the day and we change in the same place.
I used to layer her vest and t-shirt and sometimes a pinafore dress too, so that it could go over her head as a one-er, to ease the amount of times I was having to go over the head and in the arms of a distressed child.
It hasn't been easy without our battles.
At worst, for me, she lay screaming and crying in protest for 45 minutes as I sat next to her with a handful of clothes for the day. We ended up in just 2 items: pants and a pinafore dress.
We have worked hard at doing coat or hoody options and in the colder winter days have managed coat and hoody - and even, occasionally a hat and gloves as well.
We are now pretty good at socks and shoes, although sometimes we have to wait until we have reached our destination in the car or the buggy, before we do these!
She doesn't like jeans, or cardigans, or anything scratchy.
We have come a l-o-n-g way.
I have been worrying about the whole school uniform thing, to be honest.
I have narrowed down the clothes we wear on Nursery days to dress or skirt option, for this half term.
I have pre-rolled up bundles in a drawer, ready, complete with vest and pants, ready to go.
Skirt = skirt and t-shirt top.
dress option = pinafore style dress and a t-shirt.
She is doing well with this, idea although we are still wearing leggings too.
I console myself by reminding myself of how far we have come with the whole clothes wearing shebang and that we still have a few more months before we start big school and actually begin to wear the uniform.
This week, our 2nd visit to big school, we tried on the school uniform tops and sweatshirts and cardigans for size. Briefly but just about long enough to get an idea of preferences and size.
I think we will going for the cardigan option - a hoody without a hood, I said. She smiled. It's a winner. Phew.
A big relief, as she doesn't really like buttons or pockets either, but perhaps in the excitement, or in the bewilderment, she didn't notice.
I think we will stick to my hunch that the sweatshirts will be too much around the neck for PJ's liking.
I found to my complete delight some "knitted" t-shirt type material skirts and pinafores - the non scratchy material!
So now, as well as practising with getting dressed and with getting dressed as calmly and as quickly as we can and in the either skirt or dress options for nursery days, I am ordering PJ's school uniform.

Monday, 17 June 2013

Mud #Memory Box

Thick, oozy, scquelchy mud.
You love mud.
You saw a puddle at the weekend and jumped in.
Squelch squerch you called as you waded in.
The mud on the outskirts of the mud oozed over and into your doodle pumps.
The muddy puddle - possibly the only one in the park - was deep.
In you went.
Right in.
Up to your knees.
Even if you had worn your wellies, I don't think they would have helped.
Not in that muddy puddle, that's for sure.
You lay down in it and kicked your legs, shrieking with delight and joy.
It was on your nose and in your hair too.
On the squelchy and squirchy walk back up the hill towards home, we passed a family.
The Mum's mouth dropped wide open as she stared.
The Dad smiled and said: that looks like you had brilliant fun.
A lovely Muddy Day, you said.

Saturday, 15 June 2013

First Big School Visit

This week has seen us going to visit Big School for the first time together.
PJ has been so very, very, excited.
I can't believe that after all the preparation I have done in trying to find the right school for PJ and after the school admissions process, that the transition to big school is finally starting.
I began searching for schools as part of my competency file that I compiled ready for approval panel!
I can't believe that PJ, having gone through transition to Nursery since she came to me a few month as ago, now faces another transition: to Big School.
We keep talking about going to big school soon and I often tell PJ that in September we will be going to big school, hoping that as we go through the months of the year whilst chatting about where friends birthdays lie, that some semblance of time will take place for her.
I started talking about our first visit to big school the day before.
She stood on the bed the night before, on tippy toes with her arms out stretched above her head, saying: and in the morning I will be really, really big.
Being big for big school, sounds like a big plan to me, I thought.
In the morning, the first thing she called to me after she called out: Mummy, was - I am really big now, aren't I?
Then she paused for thought and added: but I'm still only a little girl, aren't I.
Yes, you are PJ.
You are big and brave, actually PJ.
In she walked, excitedly, to meet the teacher and sat down so well and sensibly with 15 other children, who would be her playmates for the next hour, and who will be part of her class in September.
The teacher looked on her list and asked PJ who she was, and then quietly added her "birth surname" -  I quickly and quietly interjected her new surname back to the teacher - as hopefully the adoption order will all be through by then, so it will be her legal name - the teacher asked if I wanted all her books to have that name on and I said yes - she has been using her new surname for everything except dentist and doctor since placement and gets distressed when she is called by her birth surname now.
I assumed that the teacher had made the connection and knew more.
But she didn't.
More on that later!
I had chatted with PJ about whether I would stay with her for the hour that she would be at big school, or whether I would leave her during this first visit. I told her the teacher would decide - rather than say that it would depend on whether she would cry or not!
As she sat with her peers, no one said a word.
Excuse me, excuse me, excuse me, said PJ to the teacher.
Can the Mummy's go now, please?
She meant me, particularly, I knew. Everyone else just thought she was being cute and was eager to get on and play!
We dutifully left our precious charges, at the teacher's dismissal and then all my fears kicked in.
Will she be OK without me?
Or will she become distressed or controlling?
Does the teacher know anything about her?
I went for a coffee armed with my mobile and returned at the given collection time.
Mummy, she said and beamed and ran to meet me.
Come and see my beautiful new room!
We went back in the classroom and had a quick look round together.
The teacher chatted to a few of us parents so I asked her if it would be easier for me to pass on to her PJ's PEP that is being written now, ready for our next LAC review.
Yes please, she said and I left, thinking, great. The system works.
Then at the Information evening for parents, the teacher came over to me and said she was sorry about not understanding what a PEP was but that she had done her research and wanted to start our conversation again. We shared a few brief sentences about me adopting PJ and agreed that after the next visit to Big School next week that the teacher and I will arrange to meet up again separately.
I asked if they had had any information passed on and they said that all they had were names and dates of birth.
So, we have a lot to catch up on!
I had assumed that the admissions team would have passed on all that was written as part of our school admission application... nope.
At least we have from now until the end of term to get up to speed with background, triggers, positives, areas of need.
One step at a time, for this process of transition to Big School to begin.
Deep breath...

Friday, 14 June 2013

The New Adoption Social

Have you seen The Adoption Social?
Check it out if you haven't already!
The new site for the growing blogging community of adopters hosting the Weekly Adoption Shout Out - or #WASO as you might know it if you tweet - has a new site for us all to join in with.
I am enjoying beginning to have a look around at it - it is looking great!
I can't wait to join in and get connected.
Adoption and parenting can be isolating - so it is great for breaking that isolation to be able to link up, read, write, learn and to gain some lovely new support and online friends - I have really valued their support and insight over these last few months since I began blogging - so thank you - and - if, like me, you value linking up with other like minded souls - link up with the adoption social
Go on, you know you want to!

Tuesday, 11 June 2013

Holiday Success

We had a fantastic holiday!
A roaring success by all accounts.
Sun, sand and sea.
We built sandcastles and paddled in the sea.
We watched the seagulls and the boats.
We ate ice cream and fish and chips.
We wrote postcards and brought some sticks of rock for friends and family.
We wrote in the sand and threw pebbles in the sea.
We played at our holiday home with our familiar toys we had selected together and miraculously crammed into the car.
The ups by far outweighed the downs.
PJ coped extremely well, for our first holiday together.
The few days of unsettled behaviours before and since returning and the few later nights of settling to sleep and the earlier mornings whilst on holiday fade into insignificance.
With all the excitement and unsettled times the holiday created, I did have to do a load of washing whilst we were away - and had to do it all again when we got home!
12 sets of pants and leggings = 2 days!
Memories created.
And the sun shone, gloriously.
It has been worth it.

Friday, 31 May 2013

The Holiday by the Sea

We are about to go off on holiday - our first one together - and we are both very, very, excited.
PJ has been desperate to see the sea - as she has memories of going on holiday with her foster carers previously, which she clearly loved, so the stakes are high.
I've tried not to feel the pressure of my perception of what children might have experienced with their foster carers and comparing it to what I might be able to do and afford but at times I have wondered if I will do it well enough. That aside, this is our chance to create new memories and for us to be family and hopefully set some traditions in place that will form our basis of our family holiday - and all that that means for us. There is no pre-requisite, so I should not pre-judge myself.
We have talked for months on and off about going on holiday and her memories of her holiday and I have re-affirmed that one day we will go on holiday but not yet.
I didn't want to go too far away as I didn't want to trigger the going back to where she has come from for PJ and I also have heard stories from adopters of the first holiday not being so great so don't want to travel to far if we need to come home - or for the holiday to be too long. We have only been away for a couple of one night stays away from home so far and only travelled for a couple of hours to reach our destination. With this in mind, I began to plan. I have studied the maps and worked out which beaches we can get to without driving for hours and hours and hours and hours and then have to travel forever again to get home. Success is my aim for this holiday experience, rather than a big holiday to the sun via a plane!
I found what I wanted and booked it.
I kept it quiet until we broke up for Nursery half term holidays break as it would have overwhelmed PJ and the excitement would have been too much, I fear.
The Nursery holidays arrived and I announced that we would go to the seaside for our holiday.
Big beaming smile and then the list of what we will do - dig in the sand, splash in the sea, build and sandcastle, eat ice cream, go for a donkey ride and eat fish and chips.
We have done a countdown from 5 sleeps to go and had a few wet pants and a little hitting the last few days, it has to be said -  but I have managed to pull in the reigns quickly and we have both hung in there, whilst counting down for our holiday by the sea. Then yesterday and today PJ has helped me select a few toys and favourite DVD's and books to take with us. She has done really well.
And now it is only 1 more sleep to go.
So, we have swimming costume, beach towel and bucket and spade packed and ready waiting by the door.
Little house by the sea, here we come.
We can't wait.
Some sun would be nice but right now we don't care.
Excitement has taken over.
In reality, I now need to pack my own clothes.
I hope everything fits in the car!

Tuesday, 28 May 2013

The Best of 3

What toy would you like to take with us today? I asked, as I pulled the scooter out from the cupboard, getting ready to go out.
Um, Zebra, my doll and my pastry brush, PJ called back, decisively.
Well Zebra is too big and won't fit in my bag, I'm afraid, I said and reminded her that is only one toy to choose to come with us.
So, think again, I said.
Baby doll or the pastry brush?
You choose.
I held them out, ceremoniously, one in each hand.
My pastry brush, PJ said, jumping for joy and reaching out for the pastry brush.
Pastry brush it is.
For the scooter ride to see the ducks.
You gotta love the heuristic play, haven't you!

Saturday, 25 May 2013

Precious Moments

This Weeks theme for the Adoption Shout Out #WASO is on Treasured Memories. For me, these are my precious moments to be treasured close to my heart - the things I have hoped and dreamed of and for and waited and waited for the fulfilment of being a Mum, a parent, of investing in and sharing life with another. A child. A daughter. Mine.
So, here are some of my firsts, my Precious Moments.
  1. Being told yes by panel chair for approval.
  2. Seeing the profile photo of PJ for the first time.
  3. Getting the phone call of a yes from meeting PJ social workers and family finders.
  4. Preparing for PJ: Introduction book, decorating room, buying buggy and car seat.
  5. Getting cards and encouragements from friends.
  6. Getting the yes recommendation from matching panel.
  7. being asked if I wanted to go and meet PJ for the first time after our Planning Meeting.
  8. PJ opening the door to me and saying I am her new Mummy and asking if I wanted to go in and play.
  9. First visit home.
  10. Making a big mess with glitter and paint and the cat joining in, sitting down on it.
  11. Holding hands and walking, skipping and jumping together.
  12. The Christmas Nativity Play, when PJ was dressed as an angel and called from the stage: Mummy I need you and I went to her.
  13. Being called Mummy rather than Mummy and a first name added on.
  14. PJ saying: Mummy, I love you all by herself.
  15. PJ rolling in mud and loving it.
  16. The train ride.
  17. PJ sitting on my lap watching a DVD
  18. PJ smiling when we play hide and seek.
  19. PJ dancing and twirling in the lounge.
  20. Dancing in the lounge with our umbrellas.
  21. Going down the slide at the soft play.
  22. Cooking Basghetti Gamanese (Spaghetti Bolognese) and being told it is Belicious, with a beaming face sat opposite me all covered in sauce, as the plate is held up empty like a trophy, in triumph.
  23. Going to a wedding and PJ singing Happy Wedding Day to you - and everyone joining in.
  24. Saying grace before a meal with friends and PJ thanking God for her New Mummy.
  25. Running Mother and Daughter race at Nursery Sports Day.
  26. Saying goodnight at bedtime and telling PJ I love her and PJ saying I love you too Mum.
  27. Hearing Mamma, is it morning and are we going to Nursery, today? first thing in the morning.
  28. Baking cakes and sharing the icing and sprinkles.
  29. Changing batteries for PJ on her electric guitar and getting a hug and a thanks Mum.
  30. Celebrating Birthdays, Christmas, Easter, Mother's Day, shared joy, together.
Sit back and listen to this - a blast from the past - in honour of those of us who have hoped and dreamed for our dreams to be fulfilled and wondered in the long process of the Journey towards adoption when the link from seeing a photo will become a reality. Enjoy this Precious Moments
I couldn't resist it - on sooo many levels - added to my thoughts are that in this particular video - where the audience all sit as if wooden, as if missing it completely. Some people just don't get adoption, or think that we can have precious and treasured moments and attachments, do they?

Monday, 20 May 2013

The Party Dress Code

We have had a few parties that we have been to these last few months with some of PJ's friends from Nursery. It has been lovely to see the beam on her face when I have shared the invitation with her, as she still can't read and the fun we have had choosing and geting a gift and card ready and then on the day told her that today is the day. Party day.
They have been in soft play type places with a chance to play and then food and then play again at the end before we go home.
With about 30 wee children from the Nursery.
My idea of hell.
And by the look and actions of PJ it has been her idea of hell too.
Party number one was within a few weeks of PJ arriving and it was with one of my friends children at one of these soft play areas, with friends she would later meet at Nursery, when she would start to go. She was still at the stage of really not wanting to wear socks at all - she doesn't wear socks, said her foster carer. I tried a little, aware that we would be fats approaching winter and the need for socks would happen but had mostly settled for shoes when we absolutely needed them - the choose your battles approach equals a win win.
We arrive. Excited and wearing an eclectic mix of clothes, jewellry, hat and handbag from her dressing up box and clip clop shoes. The news is broken to us that she would need to wear socks to go into the soft play area. I didn't even have a pair of socks with me!
A kind Mum went to her car and my friend and I tried telling PJ that she would need to wear socks.
She ran off into the soft play area, anyway, returning a few minutes later looking a bit sheepish and crestfallen. My friends husband had been trying to explain to her that she needed to wear socks.
She lay on the floor.
We showed her the pictures of the no bear feet and showed her the socks.
She ran off again and disappeared deep into the play area.
Again, she returned to us, sheepish, and it seemed that one of the staff and others had spoken to her and sent her out.
Socks worn.
Then the party food time came. A room set out with long tables with benches either side and all the children sat around and their parents was completely overwhelming for PJ.
Besides, when she is anxious, eating comes way down on the list.
Add the choice in her head of eat food with a room full of people or play, and play wins.
For several subsequent parties, PJ has struggled with sitting and staying in the room with the others for the food time. It has been too overwhelming for her.
I have found a quiet place on our own to sit with some food, instead and gradually at each party encouraged her to sit with the others a little more. It will take time but it is getting better each time we go.
As long as we keep being invited to parties...
You see, she can also hit others.
She is quite honest and comes to me, looking all sad and comes for a hug and then says: Mummy I pushed some children. They were in my way.
Sure enough, I hear the wails of said child as their parent seeks to comfort them and I reassure PJ that we can sort it out and say that we don't need to push but we can say excuse me for them to move out of the way, or wait for them to go first and then we can all play nicely. We then go together and say sorry to the child - and the parent - and play resumes.
Play resumes after PJ is calm and says sorry.
It is hit and miss - literally!
It all happens randomly and very quickly to the observer.
All playing nicely and then boom.
Sometimes I don't even see it and a parent comes to me and says: Just to let you know, your daughter has just hit my child.
Sometimes several children.
I am mortified.
Then I remember, I used to do the same.
Aggression and the hurting child. Push others away. Adoption and Aggression and random acts of spite can go hand in hand whilst the deep pain in our hearts have that searing pain until more healing comes. I used to hit and scratch and come home with blood pouring down my face from ballet class when I was 3, my Mum would say.
I need nerves of steel for this parenting at a party.
Sorry, I say and do my best to reassure the crying child and rescue PJ from the situation and do my best to try and resolve the situation and work on rebuilding relationships with both children and adults alike.
Some adults are more tricky than the children.
Sometimes I have more resilience myself to deal with it, than others.
I take a deep breath and clam and order is restored.
Armour is my new dress code.
Calm and confidence is my make up.
Sorry and grace is my perfume.
Peace, perseverance and patience are my sparkly and ridiculously high heeled shoes.
Other times my smile is knocked sideways and I wear my heart on my sleeve and want to cry.
I think nerves of steel need to be my new underwear. Forget magic pants.