Saturday, 30 March 2013

Changing Kinds of Play

Sometimes yes, it is like this.
Carnage. Utter chaos. Welcome to Chaotic Play.

Rather than one type of toy coming out of a box at a time, in some kind of systematic order, structured, secure, ordered, each toy played with and then put away before the next one comes out and play resumes and then tidy up time happens, once again systematic, ordered until complete, this is very different.

It can happen in an instant - with all her toys - that get taken out of their boxes and sometimes lobbed around the room - or several of her electronic musical toys all coming out at once - boom thwacka tum chee woo oo, a cacophony of noise that is not sweet to my ears, where she sits and rocks or spins and spins around or twists her body and shakes her head very fast.

PJ reverts to the familiar, the past chaos that she has known previously, to bring safety, security to her. Sometime she does it with a woo - hoo - look what I've created, look at all this mess, she says.... and seems to then pause and wait... for a reaction.

It seemed to happen more often when she first came to me and it reoccurs after professionals visit or we have had several new experiences or changes happen in quick succession.

I have spent months working with PJ on modelling on type of toy coming out and playing with her and helping her to choose which things to play with and when and sensing when we need to change to something different and then help her to tidy up, quickly and effectively and for it to be achievable and hopefully enjoyable too. It has moved along in leaps and bounds. I am not so phased by when all the toys or all the noisy toys come out now. I know it will be short lived and can now be firm and reset boundaries for one toy coming out at a time and help suggest another activity instead of all the noisy electronic over stimulating toys coming out. A story on my lap often works.

The other kind of play is hard to break the cycle of at times, I find. Again, I experienced it a lot when I first met PJ. Controlling Play.

This is the: No not like that, you can't do that, would you like this? Well, no, you can't have it. You go over here and I am over here and there you stay.
Again, it happened a lot when PJ first arrived and when she feels threatened by meeting and playing with new people, or after we have done something new or when professionals visit. All these things throw her and she is out of kilter and returns to her familiar controlling behaviours.
Parallel play would be fun as would joining in with a child initiated imaginative play session. Sometimes this is a fine line and at other times the line has been clearly crossed.

I tell her this controlling or bossy play isn't kind or fun to join in with, Again, I have worked hard these last few months on breaking into the controlling and isolating play and have made some headway. When it rears it's ugly head it is like battling in a headwind. The calm after is a refreshing change once the turning point comes. The moment when an idea is accepted and when 2 shared experiences intertwine. A connection is made and the barriers come down.

In the bigger picture of play, both of these kinds of change need to happen for PJ to both feel calm and for her to be able to socialise. Currently, in her Nursery setting she dominates and leads others in how she interacts with them and how they play.

Trust is the key for both calm and order to be reclaimed and restored in her life and for her future relationships to develop and grow.

To change these kinds of play for PJ I need to challenge them and re-route and re-programme her understanding and experience of trust, which has been a previously rocky foundation.

Play is the theme for this weeks Weekly Adoption Shout Out.

Wednesday, 27 March 2013

Non Contact Time - The Birthday

We recently celebrated a rather special birthday - one of PJ's siblings. She hasn't seen this sibling since last summer and it has been agreed that we would send cards and no presents for birthdays. PJ's siblings all live apart and some considerable distance apart, although direct contact is planned for us all to meet as siblings twice a year, but we have still yet to meet up since PJ was placed with me for adoption.
We made some lovely pictures, one which we cut up to fit a card and when I said to PJ that once all the glue was dry, we could write a special happy birthday message. She just beamed and said Oh can we Mummy, oh thank you - so precious a thing to say and yet such a sad thing to say - as of course I will help her in remembering and celebrating her sibling's birthdays, whenever she wants to.
Well the paintings took 3 days to dry, on account of the copious amount of glue and glitter that had been used on top of all the paint - but hey, we are still in the exploring with squeezing glue stage in development phase - the card made and she wrote in the card and shouted out word for word as she wrote in the card - I simply listened at the other end of the table and scribed on a separate piece of paper and dated it, so that sibling's new family could read it out and then it can be kept for years and years.
The remainder of the paintings were layered by PJ and folded up and wrapped as a present inside themselves. I tied them up with a ribbon and we sent them off with the card.
On the day of her siblings birthday, I suggested we send a text and we got one back thanking us for the card and pictures. I asked if PJ wanted a birthday cake so we could sing happy birthday, explaining as best I could that her sibling wouldn't be with us and they wouldn't eat the cake as they were with their new family now and so they would sing happy birthday and eat cake at their house  but we could sing happy birthday and eat cake at our house too, if she wanted to.
Yes. A caterpillar cake was requested.
So that is what we did.
We got a caterpillar cake and decorated it with sweets and candles.
Ta Da!
this, however was not just an ordinary caterpillar cake.
This was a deeply symbolic moment.
We lit candles and sang happy birthday together.
The candles were blown out and then it happened.
the moment, I hadn't anticipated.
PJ sat in silence and just beamed.
She sighed a happy and contented sigh and beamed with pride.
I don't know what exactly she was thinking deep in her heart at that moment... and it seemed rude to intrude and to ask but this was about her and her sibling.
Her sibling who was living hundreds of miles away and living with another new family.
This moment was between her and her thoughts and her heart.
it was a very precious moment.
Not sure if we will do this for every sibling or if we will do this every year - I plan on going with the flow.
This year, was very special indeed.

Happy Birthday!
with love from PJ

Monday, 25 March 2013

Keys - Preparation Group - April 2011

some of the key things I really found helpful from the Preparation Group Training Days , apart from the amazing WALL experience I loved meeting the other adopters who came to share their stories and to tell it how it is, with their adoption experiences.
First up we had a newly made family who talked about building their support network and how it worked in reality. This was helpful for me, as they were a same sex couple and I was able to ask them about how they built in some role models of the opposite sex into their children's lives. I was curious as I was embarking on adoption as a single female adopter, so having some good male role models around for my child was an important consideration. They talked openly about how some of the female role models had been really helpful practically and others in reality it hadn't worked so well for them. I guess the difference between being a friend for you as an adult and those friend's who are great with your children. It isn't always the same, or naturally flow. I found all this very helpful and reassuring that I am OK as a person, whole and complete and that I have a great support network of fabulous friends that I have built up over many years. The tried and tested. The ones that have survived along with me this far.
We then we met their children. Very cute. They rolled around the floor, in their look at me aren't I a great performer mode, lapping up the encouragement, the affirmation and the attention we all gave to them. All this was going on in the middle of the floor of the room as each child took it in turns to show their Introductions book - the book the adoptive parents made for each child before they met them. I loved the creativity in the scrapbook style photo albums and it brought it all to life, again for me. It got my creative juices going and I wanted to go home and start on my Introductions book - straightaway! (too bad the course was continuing to 4.30pm)
Here, in the Introduction book we were being shown, were photos showing the 2x Dads, their house, the park, the school, the doctors and some family photos with messages saying things like "we are excited to be seeing you soon". They also had brought in the cuddly toys they gave to each child - they had taken photos of these toys around the house - a bit like a hide and seek - and the toys had little voice recordings in them, so the Dads could each record their voices in the toys - and the children could then hear their voices before they met them - I simply just loved this idea - and definitely wanted to copy that idea.
The other significant and key for me from the Preparation Group Training Days was one of the Mum's who came to talk about her support network. She shared about how her family - on both hers and her husbands sides of the family had been very anti them adopting and had written to local authorities and adoption agencies expressing their concerns, negative feelings towards adoption and particularly their opinions on them adopting and the shame and negative infiltration adopting would bring on the wider family. This for me, was both interesting and encouraging. I had some family and friends who had expressed concerns and opinions around adoption and me adopting, which I had found hard to work through and worried might affect my ability to be accepted to adopt. I had carried this fear with me into the Preparation Group Training - The urban myth that said everyone has to be in agreement for you to be able to adopt. This woman talked about how she had a fabulous group of girl friends with whom she laughed, cried, drank coffee and wine with regularly and that she had shared stories of how things had gine well and not well at all with family members for her and her husband since they had now successfully adopted their child. She shared how, since their adoption, things have been tense with their families and that whilst some headway had been made, she needed to still be protective of their child, so that if things weren't going well, or if further let downs occured or if negative thigs were said, they removed themselves from the situation. She made it clear that the needs of their child came first and if the other grown up members of the family were not able to behave like grown ups and acceopt their child, then they as parents would behave like grown ups and put their child first and the other family members would miss out.
The most profoud comment she made was this: If any of you here today have friends or family who are not in complete support of your plans to adopt or who have negative opinions of adoption, I would encourage you to surround yourself with those family and friends who are supportive. Protect yourself, laugh with them, cry with them and think of yourself and use your friends like a cushion to comfort you. They are your support network. Forget about the others who are not supportive at this time. They may or may not come round but your friends who support you are and will be with you along the way.
Another urban myth shattered.
Wise advice.
A significant key to hold onto, right there.
A lifeline to grab hold of with both hands.
My support network have laughed and cried with me and the tea, coffe, cake, shared food, wine, their company and their freindship have been a strong tower of support.

Friday, 22 March 2013

Q and A - Preparation Group - April 2011

This is one of my reflections from Preparation Group Training for Adoption that I did with Families That Last, an Adoption Agency in April 2011 and this post is part of the growing community of Adopters writing as part of the Weekly Adoption Shout Out.

Question: What did I find most useful from Preparation Group ?
Answer: For me, by far the most useful thing from the Preparation Group Training days was gaining understanding of some of the needs because of the developmental and emotional gaps for the adopted child.
This was fantastic for me. I have studied child development through my teacher training and my youth work training - but this was distinctly different. The visual illustration of THE WALL - made with bricks like mega blocks - was soooo visual and impacting. The wall was built with each layer providing the foundations and the subsequent layers of the child developmental milestones. We used stickers to represent each of the key ages and areas: love, needs met, stimulation, safety, security, play, stability, calm, socialising, nursery, school etc etc etc....

Alongside these bricks we looked at some case studies of children who had been neglected, abused, hospitalised, moved from foster care setting to foster care setting etc etc etc prior to being placed for Adoption.

In each case study, as we identified the various key bricks that were either just not there for the child, or the brick was being placed on top of a missing brick or bricks - such as: neglect - no food, left alone, health appointments not kept, or school not attended, moving house regularly, suffering physical abuse, emotional abuse with high levels of domestic violence and police calls and arrests.... etc etc etc

In practical terms and against what was historically thought, it is not enough to just put in place the new brick according to the child's age - or have as the new and visibly seen wall - the glossy theory that says - oh they will be OK as they are adopted now... it's a new start, they have been with you a year.... but for a child who has had no play experience or socialisation, missed nursery and playgroups, had no toys... the foundations are not there - simply adding the brick of going to school - will cause the brick to balance on thin air - and then to crash down in through the gaps.
Thankfully what has be realised now is that it is not enough to paper over the cracks, like wallpapering over poor plasterwork - but the bricks in the very foundations need to be inbuilt, embedded into the core foundations and to then be built upon from the very core: to be welcomed into the world and not rejected, to cry and have your needs of food and comfort met, to be loved and to have basic trust to be what you are meant to be - a baby.

I found this so impacting, as I reflected on my life as being adopted and the various foundational bricks my parents did instinctively embed in my life and as I thought about the broken and dysfunctional families I have worked with and as I faced adopting a child of my own.

I often think of the brick wall and the foundations that I need to embed and how stability is crucial for the foundations and resilience to survive and to thrive.
For me as a child, I was so aggressive at nursery school that I was expelled and didn't start school until I was 5. I was miserable throughout infant school, feeling cold and isolated and feeling in a bubble. My Mum worked hard at teaching me empathy, particularly, so that I could begin to understand how others were feeling even when I was still being the toughie and not feeling that pain myself, at all. My parents helped me try and try again with things like riding a bike or a musical instrument. When I failed some exams and had to re-sit and my boyfriend dumped me, I was upset and heartbroken but had by then more resilience to bounce back. I worked hard to pass the exam to get to Uni - and realised that the boyfriend wasn't worth me anyway!

I was so impacted by this and on reflection of my life too, hope to embed and build in resilience to PJ so that when hard times come in her life in the future that her whole world will not crash around her, causing her to fall through the gaps and land in the rubble of the foundations. Rather, I will support and cushion her falls, I will be that scaffolding for her as new bricks are placed in the foundation stones that are missing. We will continue to pour drinks and explore messy food like spaghetti or custard and jelly until we are secure enough to stop and to move on developmentally.

I will be working hard to fill in so many gaps that are missing.
I have some lovely and colourful bricks.
Let's get building.

Thursday, 21 March 2013

Preparation Group - April 2011

A week after My Decision To Be Brave I walked into Preparation Group. 4 days, spread out over 2 weeks and I was both excited and feeling nervous. There was no doubt that a lot of my anxieties were based on a foundation that still rocks, that says I am being judged and will not be good enough.
Failure to Thrive and Fear of Rejection are at the very core of my being. Intertwinned, locked together for strength and reliability, they lie dormant at times.
Then the strike comes.
A battle from deep within rages with swords waging as they rear their ugly heads. A battle of the war of wills I face it head on when potential new relationships are formed, I still have a tendancy to look at people and categorise them as either friend or foe, depending on whether they smile at me or not. I also face these fears head on when I talk about my past and fear or over anticipate their reactions and hvae the fear of rejection again when I am at an interview for a job. Remembering the interview panel naked technique never works very well for me. I see them as naked with machine guns. Really. Not a pretty sight!
Over timewith lots of investment from others and with age and growth, I have grown in my own confidence in myself and a growing belief and assurance in who I am. My Identity. I have learned skills and gathered trusted tools that I use automatically to help the fall out lessen and for me to sometimes slay a few of my demons and lessen the noise of skeletons rattling or monsters with green turned out toes emerging from cupboards.
Of course, not all my trusted tools I use are the best but they are ones that I have used and relied on, at times, for a lifetime.
Laughter and humour and being the life and soul of the party can be a mask from behind which I hide and pretend that I am OK. Agression and being defensive, bolshy and brash are a wall or a garage door that closes and surrounds me, locking me in secure, preserving my heart in a fridge so that I feel no pain. No one can hurt me from within here. Shut down and lock down. On the outside I am prickly and push others away. A hedgehog is too cute. Prickly dinosaur, maybe.
The labels of Premature Birth, Rejected, Abandoned, Adopted, Single, Divorced, Childless, Hoping to adopt are what I wear like medals of war. The reality is I am more than a survivor.
In place of the question marks of survival, the question mark of aabandonment, has been the huge eraser that over time has gently and firmly removed and lessened their grip and their hold on my life.
In  place of failure to thrive is Life, thrive, survive.
In place of abandonment and rejection is love and welcome, acceptance, family, belonging.
Identity works hand in hand alongside the labels of premature birth, adopted, single, divorced.
They are part of who I am.
Rather than try and bury them, I embrace them.
I remember who I am. Me. I am fearfully and wonderfully made. I am my own person, whole and complete, with many skills and life experiences all attached like strings to my bow, arrayed beautifully like useful tools in my toolbox of life. Deep treasure within. I am outgoing, friendly, skilled, qualified, experienced and will use all these skills to my best advantage. And I want to adopt. And I have been invited here.
Preparation Group, here I come.
I walk through the door and confront my inner fears of being single versus all the others being in a couple and hold my head high, remembering the many triumphs that have formed and shaped me into the woman I am today.
I was the only single adopter in the group but some of the other couples were really friendly. The group work sessions and times for coffee and lunch together were good for networking. I remember thinking at the time that this was my equivalent opportunity to make friends with other prospective adopters like my friends who have attended antenatal classes. This is it.
It didnt quite work out though, the building of friendships, sadly. Some dropped out after the first 2 days of the preparation group and the second wave of the preparation group for the following 2 days was with a completely different set of people. Again, all couples, who seemed quiet and not terribly chatty throughout the whole 2 days.
I wasn't worried. I was growing in the confidence that I was going theough this adoption process on my own and finding my own 2 feet and standing firmly in the affirmation of myself.
I can do this and I am doing this.
I did really enjoiy the 4 days of preparation group.
I learned some keys and some answers to some of my questions. Hoorah!

Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Single Adoption Networking

I have begun to enjoy a little networking here in Blogland and hope that it will prove to be a great support for me - and maybe others might enjoy networking with me here at New Pyjamas. We all have a story to share and at times life, or the things life throws at us, can be overwhelming or stifling and even isolating. Breaking the isolation that adoption and being single can bring is both powerful and a necessary.  I have discovered  SANe  - Single Adopters Network - where Mumdrah has just started the opportunity by providing a platform for us to link up - so who knows where it may lead? For now, I am wanting to stay SANe and am grateful for the chance to see some other blogs from some other single adopters who have been there and done it. If you too are a single adopter - have a wee look at Mumdrah's link and look at some others blogs. I am wanting to learn and to strengthen my support network too.
 So,  I am in. Are you?
Join in and spread the word. Have a look at trhe other blogs who have already linked into this growing community of other single adopters.
Thanks Mumdrah - you are a star!                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             

Monday, 18 March 2013


Sometimes I have it.
Sometimes I seem to have lots of it.
Sometimes I don't have much patience.
At all.
Sometimes, my Patience runs out, disappears and I just go Raaaaaah!
It has happened a few times this last week.
A conflict of interest, a challenge, a wrong that needs righting, a No when a Yes was hoped for, a tantrum and I have struggled to S-T-R-E-T-C-H that extra little bit - and I have gone Raaaaaah!
I have removed myself from PJ momentarily, after realising that in that split second I have gone Raaaaaah!
Almost in tears and shaking and having raised my voice, on several occasions this week, I have gone Raaaah!
I have gone Raaaah this week, after:  the play dough was deliberately squidged repeatedly into the carpet,
Raaah! after the tantrum when the DVD was turned off at the right time but it was apparently not the one that had been chosen, despite it just being watched and seemingly enjoyed,
Raaah after  the screams and pleading and tears and begging on and off for an hour for movie night when it is not our movie night day,
Raaah after the many refusals and running off and around in the opposite direction giggling several times when it is time to get dressed, or the time we need to leave the house, or the time we need to go home, or the time we need to get into the car, or the time to get back in the buggy.
Raaah after the doll, the strawberry, the knife and fork and spoon have each been been thrown across the room at me this week.
Raaah after the bedtime routine has been sabotaged with control issues of wanting to do things a different way, and not the usual routine we have grown into these last few months.
Raaah when joining in appropriately at the various groups we attend has not gone to plan and after several attempts to re- join in I have picked up PJ and we have come home early.
Patience at times has disappeared, this week.
Then, after I have gone Raaaah! I have walked away, out of the room, gone downstairs, left PJ safely in her room for a few seconds, gone to the bathroom, taken a few deep breaths, tried to re-compose myself and tried to remember who is supposed to be the grown up in all this.
I have returned, somewhat calmer, often to a tearful and sorry PJ, where those breakthrough moments occur, a sorry and a hug is exchanged and we tidy up the mess and return to do whatever it was we were trying to do before the outburst, the meltdown and the Raaah has occurred.
I feel racked with guilt in these moments after the Raaah.
By contrast, friends say I am doing really well.
Friends with a partner say that when they have had enough, they simply hand over to their other half to take over for a while.
But there is just me and PJ.
We have had some lovely days this week, some magical moments where there is not even a shadow of the merest raaah. We have had moments when there has been patience in action and moments when kind friends from my support network have been around our lives and played with, eaten with us, and eased and helped reinforce the boundaries and friends who have been here in the evenings to share laughter and food.
Even so, Raaaah hasn't been pretty.
I desperately need it.
I don't like Raaah!
I like Patience.

Friday, 15 March 2013

Making Contact

We have contact with PJ's siblings planned soon. It will be my first contact with her siblings since PJ has been with me and it will be 9 months since PJ has seen one of her siblings and a year since she has seen the other one. The plan is for us all to meet up together one day twice a year.
That is the plan.
It has proved difficult already playing diaries to arrange meeting up.
I am anticipating that there might be a knock on effect after sibling contact for PJ as she readjusts to seeing them, as the realities of her siblings all living apart and a long far away from each other kicks in and as the aftermath of having sibling contact takes it's toll.
I have mixed feelings but will give it my best shot.
"It will be a bit like seeing your cousins twice a year, " I have been told.
 Except they are not cousins.
 They are siblings.
Siblings who have been uprooted and torn apart and re-grouped into new families as a result of all that has happened.
I will be there to pick up the pieces, of course. I will be there to help unravel and re-ravel. I will be there to have fun and to enjoy and to reminisce. I will be there to help PJ find her balance once again. I will be there through the possible unsettled nights and tears and tantrums and other behaviours that PJ might regress too after contact.
The regression may not happen.
PJ might love the day and take it as it comes and not have a reaction after contact.
It is all unknown.
My experience of contact has been through various work contexts where children have been unsettled just before contact and then on the day of contact and then after contact. They have questioned, processed and articulated very clearly their wishes and feelings and also reacted through their behaviours and emotions with the unspoken words with: anger, frustration, tears, aggression, withdrawing. I have journeyed with these children daily and supported and listened and tried to help them process and reconnect and re balance themselves.
I hope to use these skills if needed to be there for PJ.

Tuesday, 12 March 2013

Our First Mummy's Day

I didn't really know what to expect from Mother's Day - our first, together, for me and PJ. I am not sure what she remembers from previous years or if and how it was celebrated with her foster carers. I decided we would go for it and aim for it being a celebration but be prepared for it to go pear shaped. To go with the flow, was my mantra.
PJ had gone shopping for a card and a wee "surprise" gift, with the help of one of my great friends. She did a great job at supporting PJ with her selections for Christmas - so I thought we would give it a try and if PJ said no, then that would be fine. Selections and purchases made and the "we got a surprise for you Mummy", was squirrelled away with my friend to look after for this last week. PJ kept the details of the surprise to herself extremely well, I have to say and the week went by and I wondered what PJ was thinking.
She came home from Nursery with some seeds and had made 2 cards - I asked who the cards were for - they both said: to mummy - and I wondered if one might be for " birth mum"  but she said that one was for her!
As, I said, she kept the details of the surprise to herself, until Saturday morning, when my friend arrived with the wee gift and card for PJ to wrap and write the card.... I disappeared off, busy, around the house and then PJ appeared, saying: Mummy we have wrapped your egg cups as a surprise for you tomorrow, for Mummy's Day! Look, we have put them up here, for the morning! She was very excited.
6.40 am Sunday.
Mummy! Wake Up! Get up! It's time to open your surprise egg cups for Mummy's Day.
So, that's what we did.
I put the cards up in the front room and she beamed when I showed her.
We had a lovely day, church where she collected daffodils for me, time spent playing together, watching DVDs, a walk and lunch out in a local cafe.
Lots of smiles and hugs and words of affirmation from PJ.
She wore her favourite dress that she can twirl in.
It's red. She says it has sprinkles on.
Of, course, we had boiled eggs for tea.
With our new surprise egg cups.
Chosen by PJ.
For Mummy's Day.

Friday, 8 March 2013

New Memories Created - Slowly

This last week we have finally embarked on branching out a little, with journeys a little further afield. I had tried to listen to advice given on the preparation group training and not plan any long journeys in the car until now. No big journeys or long holidays for at least 6 months, they said. Now, I have a lot of friends and family, all spread around the nation - and into the nations - and I love to travel and to have friends to stay as well as to go and stay with them. It has felt like a life sentence at times, cabin fever, my wings clipped, to remain so local and true to the cause but the wait has been worth it. PJ came to me from out of my local authority area, so travelling long distances - several hours - each way for part of our introductions meant loooong days for her when she did some initial visits to my home. We planned introductions to do several day visits before we began the overnight stays. The reason being, she was young and transition and change and past trauma of being moved could trigger anxieties for her at a very vulnerable stage of a major upheaval being imminent : her moving from her stable environment with her foster carers to live  with me. The reason at Preparation group it is advised to take long journeys and holidays with caution, is it is too unsettling for them. Time and distance and new places can trigger fears of moving on again and wondering if we will ever go back to our home again that is, by all intents and purposes, still relatively new to them. We were told stories of families booking big holidays abroad in the first few months and then wondering why sleepless nights, unsettled behaviours and the children regress. Children who have travelled many hours to move to their new adoptive home might associate a long journey by car with returning to their foster placement again.
So, with all this in mind and gradually getting to know PJ, we have approached the idea of travelling and going away with care and given it time and preparation. When PJ first arrived, she would cry and become distressed and ask to go home when we got beyond our local park. I spent weeks driving the same pattern in the car to certain places, pointing out key landmarks on the way: the doctors, the postbox, a friends house, the park etc. as the weeks went by, PJ would audibly recite the route as we journeyed along it saying past the park, past the postbox where we post our letters, past our friends house where we go and play. It was like little connections, pieces of a jigsaw, falling into place. I hoped that this would breed a sense of security, the strange becoming familiar and help her orientation to a new place and give a firmer foundation for belonging.
Friends and family have visited us and have stayed overnight locally and I have gradually broadened our horizons with day trips of half hour car ride to an hour each way. I have picked places that have gradually increased our journeying time so we pass the previously visited places, to act as landmarks as we then ventured into new territory.
So, 6 months in, I had a plan. I planned a long day trip. We have met the people we went to for the day trip several times as they have come to see us and we skype and phone them regularly, which has helped, as well as photos of their home in PJ's Introduction book. Knowing that we had an overnight stay, looming, I also got her a little suitcase that I gave her the day before we did our day trip, that will be perfect for a few nights stay away once we get to that stage. We talked about going in the car early to get there for lunch and staying for tea and having a bath there and coming home in pyjamas to sleep in our own beds at home. She helped me pack her pyjamas and a towel and then added an interesting and rather eclectic mix of assorted "useful" items into the case as she saw fit! She then spent a lot of the day wheeling her new suitcase around and showing it off to friends. We had a truly fabulous day although, when we arrived some 2 hours later at our destination, just as I was turning off the car ignition she said: Mummy I want to go home! Knowing she says this often when we go anywhere, new or familiar, I uttered a few reassuring words and once we were out of the car, the adventure became quite magical. She loved the day and we had no wet pants, no tears, no regressive behaviours. She was my dream little girl!
This last week, we have done our first overnight stay with friends. Again, this was met with great excitement once I explained it all to her. She was a little hesitant about some of my plans but we got there in the end. She was unsure at visiting one of the places I mentioned, presumably fear of the unknown was kicking in, despite having previously met one of the friends we were meeting and seeing some photos of where we were going. We did go there but I introduced it as a place we would play, which seemed to settle some anxieties she had. It was actually the area where I grew up, so it will be a place that over the years we will visit often and she will hear stories over time of my memories and this place will grow up with her and hopefully help her connectedness develop. It was lovely to run around with her in some of the places I had run as a child and show her a few places I have begun to tell stories of. Then we went to the friends we were staying overnight with. I had taken her own duvet but of course she didn't want to use it! She took several hours to settle down to sleep - and woke up early saying: Mummy, let's not just stay for one sleep, let's stay for lots of sleeps! 5 sleeps.
it was great to hear and hopefully this has paved the way for many more journeys and adventures and holidays to come.
I can't wait!

Wednesday, 6 March 2013


Oh, to be a well from which our children and young people can drink! I read this article from The Teenage Whisperer about groups - fabulous and timely, with my thoughts focused on my seminar planning, on the importance in understanding the 1. In the article she talks about understanding the young people we are working with, so that they then can in turn flourish - we act as the well, the resource, from which they can drink. I loved the analogy.

The power of a leader or a teacher or support worker to make or break inclusion for a young person or a child - will they feel happy and safe and secure to stay and to join in or will they shut down in fear and flight mode and withdraw or will they go into fight mode and kick off? We, as parents, teachers, children and youth workers, support workers have the power to be that catalyst for change - to make the difference to the successful inclusion for the more vulnerable members of our groups. The power to make the difference between included or exclusion, to belong or to be lost. I encourage us all as parents, leaders, teachers to continue to listen, to gain insight by looking for the clues, to go with the hunches that can then help bring a child or a young person on the fringe, gather them in, along with all our skills and tools to include and support them so they can then lower their heightened anxiety, the flight or fight desire lessened and allow safety and belonging and team and family to take hold. Knowing welcome, acceptance and love is the foundation for the opportunity for a child or a young person to begin to grow and flourish. It's the "I get you", "I will listen, I am here", "I believe in you, I will give you a chance."

Many times, with PJ, I find myself saying audibly to her in her moments of distress: "It's OK, I am right here" It is usually followed by a hug and then, once calm we deal with the saying sorry for the hitting and the picking of the thrown toys. We then talk about what had led to this moment - perhaps that I had asked her to do something that she didn't want to do. In the early months, when PJ first came to me and still at key times now like change in routine or new situations, she becomes so quickly distressed, the rage, the heightened anxiety, flight and fear and fight had taken such a strong hold on her - there was no point in giving a warning or talking about a consequence at that point - If one was given, she would simply fail and have a consequence, which would just be unfair and there would be little value in doing it. If she was at school or in a children's club and they moved her name down for example as part of their "behaviour system", she would be oblivious. Her name could be moved down several times, yellow cards or red cards could be shown of given and she would probably throw them back, screaming. A warning of a consequence at this moment would be fruitless. she could be asked to leave your fabulous children's club or youth programme and threatened with not being able to come back the next week and these would be just empty threats. You may carry them out, of course, but she ain't hearing you. She is on the edge of a deep, dark chasm and needs a lifeline. On the brink, I gather her in. Often into my arms, in those moments. I hope, that by understanding her, by recognising that "in that moment" she is unable to de-escalate, she lacks the skills to calm herself down, she ain't hearing me talk to her, she is focused entirely on fight - she is hitting and kicking and throwing. I sometimes distance myself, very briefly, so I don't get hit again, make sure she is safe and stay close by and start the calming process. I hold and soothe, reassure, comfort until the meltdown subsides.
She is not abandoned, she is not alone, I am right there and will be there with her gently leading and calming her through this.

I want more of it.
I want others, those working with my child to understand.
She wants and needs and desperately yearns to be understood.
It's just that the heart cry often comes out as opting out, disengaging, refusing, challenging, pushing away.

Tuesday, 5 March 2013

World Book Day Idea!

I have been reading so many tales of woe with the lead up to World Book Day, I thought I would share with you a "here's one I made earlier" world book day costume idea - and all you need is a load of brown paper and tape!

The book? The Paper Bag Princess!
For those of you who are not sure what World book day is, let me enlighten you a little:

Imagine choosing a favourite character from a book and then making a costume to dress up in for a day to celebrate and encourage a love of  books with numerous children.
We had Anne Frank, Harry Potter, Woody, Spiderman, Batman, Harrison Ford, Fairies, Alice in Wonderland, Princesses, Dr. Doolittle, Pirates, Snowmen, Handa from Handa's Surprise, Cruella, Little Red Riding Hood, Mr.Bond and a Granny to name but a few!

I chose to dress up as "The Paper Bag Princess" a character from the story book by Robert N. Munsch with fabulous line drawn illustrations by Michael Martchenko.

If you don't know this fun children's story then I will unravel the plot to you...

This is no ordinary dragon and princess tale but rather this has a fiery fun twist in the dragons tail! This feisty princess has her home destroyed by the dragon and she has nothing to wear to try and meet her prince. She makes a dress from a paper bag and tricks the dragon to show off his fiery prowess by setting fire to anything and everything on their way to find the prince. When the prince and princess meet, the dragon has no fire left! Does she marry the prince though? What does the prince think to his creative and resourceful and sassy princess? Do they live happily ever after?
Well of course, that would spoil the ending if I told you!
You will, of course, have to read the story to find out.
Look here for ideas of where to buy and see the front cover!

Anyway, back to my World Book Day:
I made my costume from brown paper on Wednesday evening. The cat "Smudge" kept skidding excitedly on the rolled out brown paper and diving into it and chewing edges.
He, at least, thought it was great!

I made my "dress" as a simple skirt and top 2 piece. I did a simple top with straps and tied loops with twine to tie it around me in the morning. I made a simple skirt in two pieces. I folded the main part of the skirt into zig zags or pleats and then taped them inside a large folded over panel piece for the belt.
 I made a few more loops with twine to simply tie it on in the morning.
It was a bit crinkly and during the day the twine kept snapping away from the paper -so tape was never far away from me!
I wore a simple wire headband fit for a princess and carried along my dragon for the day. Perfect paper bag Princess!
Some thought I was Hiawatha or Pocahontas but one said they thought I was just a bag!
At least they didn't call me "old".

Happy World Book Day!

Monday, 4 March 2013

Challenging Perceptions

I have had the amazing privilege of writing a short introduction to myself and my blog over at Anya's brilliant and welcoming blog for us Older Single Ladies who also happen to be a Mum. She blog's at Older Single Mum and her heart is to challenge some of the perceptions of single Mums - or should I say - the misconceptions of single parenting often portrayed by the media. She does this very well and also invites others to share their stories too. She contacted me and invited me to write something - so I did - you can read it here. As part of her own funny stories she also has many other inspiring ladies who have shared their Single Mum Stories - shattering a few more pre-conceived ideas. So, take a look at Older Single Mum and read more brilliant Older Single Mum's Stories. Thank you Anya. I am honoured to finally be an Older Single Mum - and especially to feature on your blog. It is great to have a growing network of other bloggers and to break yet more isolation that being single - and older - and a mum, can often bring. If you have found me through reading her blog, welcome and please say Hi!
This week I will be leading a seminar for child and youth workers on the theme of Inclusion and the provision for children and young people with Special Needs or Additional Needs within the clubs or programmes or activities they run. My heart will be to challenge a few perceptions and to encourage them to think out of the box, beyond the label - as well as to provide a platform for us to learn together and gain a deeper understanding of what each individual need is as well as seeing them develop and grow - without them just attending our group. For a long while I have taught in these contexts that we need to look after the quiet ones - you know the ones who will stand when everyone else is standing, the one who follows the others and site quietly during any sessions run - but they aren't actually getting the maximum they could from the programme. They need 1:1 support too, probably, at times. The answer equally for the ones quickly labelled as a "handful" or "naughty" or "awkward", is not to exclude them or ban them for the next week. They need boundaries, yes, but they also need an engaging programme and the opportunity to succeed - school may well not fit for them easily, and their home life may or may not be great - but lets do the best we can as leaders for them - and lead them - and not leave them behind or write them off once again as failures. So, yes, I hope to challenge a few perceptions - and misconceptions.
If I look at a few labels or statements spoken - that lead to perceptions that are held over my own life:
- premature - illegitimate ( as my medical records read) 
- not recommended for adoption ( as my adoptive paperwork reads)
- fostered, adopted,
- excluded from  nursery, miserable at infant school and most of primary school,
- known as awkward, feisty, loud, a challenge, daydreamer, strong willed, fat, clumsy, as a child.
- Divorced, single older Mum.
I am thankful to those children, my peers, who dared to persist in befriending me, the classmates who heard me singing in assembly when I was 12 and who encouraged me to sing in the choir as they thought I had a nice voice.
I am thankful to those youth leaders and one or 2 teachers that I particularly, remember who seemed to believe in me and who invested in my life. Those who within my community nurtured and who dared to think out of the box and give me a chance to succeed.
I am thankful to my parents who dared to take me on, welcoming me into their family and to adopt me and to raise me as their daughter, despite what my adoptive paperwork said and against the professionals advice. They loved me, relentlessly taught me and re-taught me, believed in me and shaped me into the person I am today.
Where would I be if some perceptions weren't challenged?
I am up for challenging some perceptions this week.
Are you?

Friday, 1 March 2013

#One Week - Winter 5

"The rewards come each time we see that a difference has been
made for just one child. That child whose life is turned around might just be the ‘yeast’ that over time, activates regeneration in a family, a community, a region, a country, the world.”
Christina Noble

I just love this quote, that I discovered earlier this week.
The wonder of a child and the potential in the investment of one.

As I invest in PJ as her New Mummy, her future potential is unknown. I want to make a difference in her life. The possibilities are endless and already there is no doubt that I, and others who have invested in her young life so far have already made a difference. The responsibility  that goes with that investment and her potential is huge. At times it is overwhelming and the awareness of the power I have as I parent PJ is both exciting and daunting. Terrifying, perhaps. I try not to worry about her future -  how will she be at school, will she struggle, make friends or need 1:1 support and if she needs it will she get that support so she can flourish and not flounder? Then I wonder/worry about these things: what will she become, will she have a job, will she live independently, will she be happy, will she grow a deeper understanding of why and how I became her Mum, will she re-discover her birth family....
The list could be endless.
The worry could overtake.
The fear of the unknown, the unanswered could stifle.

For now, I choose to still my thoughts and allow the investment I will make into PJ's life to begin to take shape. I am daily digging deep and burying dome rich treasures, building in resilience, pouring in love, believing in her, being there for her. I am daily shoring in some of the gaps in her little life: through play, conversation, the nurturing, social skills, developing emotional skills and awareness, caring for her and doing my best to provide for her, learning all the time, one day at a time and discovering new ways and new things about her all the time.

The opportunity that is now within my sphere of influence, since all the changes in circumstances, the events that have occurred that have caused the trauma, hurt, changes and loss. The fate or destiny with all of it's twists and turns has led me towards adoption and to adopt PJ. The springboard from where we both leap.

I hope that as I share my life with her, each day investing in the life of one, that I am making a difference. Being that catalyst for change that I desire to be. The one child where a difference is made. Her, my daughter, PJ. My role: to parent, nurture, love, encourage, steer, shape, mould and to release into adulthood when the time is right. My hope as her little life continues to form and take shape that she will flourish and grow. I hope that she will be like yeast and grow to be a little feisty world changer, to be the best she can be, to rub shoulders with others and help to form and shape them, to lead others on new and exciting adventures, to embrace life and to fly. Who knows? The possibilities are almost endless.

For now, it is Winter.
All is still, many things being invested are dug deep, buried, growing roots that will run deep and strong. Everything seems to be lifeless, emotions at times seem dead and yet everything lies dormant - and yet, we know, that there is life flowing underground, brewing up a storm, desperate to burst through the ground and to appear. A creation yet to be revealed, like yeast doing it's thing, is the child within.
We, above ground continue to water and feed you with love,  we cherish, nurture, encourage, care for you....
This list too, is endless.
We wait, with bated breath, for Spring.