Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Happy Ever After

There's nothing headline that says things have changed or moved forward. No one tells you, you don't wake up but you do begin to notice. You start and end the day with a smile on your face, you look at the clock and feel pleased that its nearly 3pm. You go to the park and laugh, woop and clap because you can. You genuinely enjoy time just being a family. 

You start to know and understand what to expect, what's hungry related, tired related or something's-really-up-but-I-cant-bare-to-talk-about-it related. We've continued to pull the sad out of toes when we're feeling bad or mad. We've moved from biting, scratching, punching and spitting to"OK Mummy, you're just and idiot" this is real progress. 

No one has trashed a room, strangled a dog or beaten the crap out of a sibling for a full three weeks [makes contact with wood].

We've survived Mummy's birthday, a routine medical, spelling tests, a be-bright-be-seen mufty day and Harvest Festival. Complete with church, cans if beans, a coach, singing and a man in a dress! 

Everyday my love grows. Everyday the bond grows, everyday I learn something new but something else becomes more familiar which is equally as rewarding.

Tonight we read a book called Happy Ever After and I stopped to ask each of them what they're happy ever after looked like. One included Dalmatians and a pink car, another his soft warm bed, books and pizza and another 'everyone being together and being kind and happy'.

Little voices only tell what's true.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013


Talking to friends tonight it struck me just how overwhelmingly we've been supported by our local school. Coming to parenthood via adoption you have lots of expectations. When I thought about school I imagined the playground would be a friendly place but I might struggle to get the teachers to understand the complex needs of children who had experienced early neglect and trauma. How wrong could I be?

The playground is a ferocious place. The fact I have just appeared from nowhere (nowhere meaning absent from any earlier years groups, clubs or nurseries) but having admitted that 'no, I have not just moved to the area' makes me a bit of a unknown. I don't want to share the children's life story with every single person who asks, it's not my story to tell, it's theirs, so they can choose who and what they say. Because of this, the playgrounders can't place me so I might as well not exist oh and to them my children are probably a bit strange. They don't run to me when they spot me at the end of a school day, they sometimes say 'strange' things when we're getting into the car ("I've been thinking a lot about the bad house today"), they've bitten, kicked and punched me in front of astonished parents for no reason other than the fact that they've probably fretted all day about whether or not I would even turn up to pick them up (something they were used to in the past). 

Mine is the daughter who got invited to the party and was brave enough to go for ten minutes. Whose other daughter gets up from story time to make loud animal noises and put her hands in the sand pit (just wanting to soak up every sensory experience she can in this new wonderland that is a classroom having been so void of early stimulation). Whose son runs from the room every time a tap is turned on having been scolded due to poor supervision.

The fact is I honestly care less about what any of them think than I thought I would. What matters to me so much more is the overwhelming support of all of the teachers, dinner ladies, care takers, receptionists and head teaching staff. After a difficult education meeting where the reality of just how much our children had been let down by the education system was laid out in front of us, I received a call from the acting headmaster. He said he understood it had been a difficult meeting but that 'for the record' he thought 'we were doing a great job' and that we were 'greatly admired by him and his team'. He also said he understood 'just how enormous an undertaking it was' to take on 3 children and most importantly that he knew 'we'd have good days and days that were total shit'. He wanted me to know that 'no matter what, there'd always be someone at school to have a cup of tea with us if we needed to chat or just rant about a difficult sock morning or a spelling meltdown' so 'to know they were there' and 'just pop in anytime'.

That was the first time since we met the children that I felt fully supported by anyone aside from Mr W. Since this time we've worked together, the children have been unobtrusively and unknowingly assessed and we know where we are. It is grim reading, my 53 month old daughter scores 8-20 months in her ability to make and maintain friendships, but we finally have a start point. Somewhere from which to begin.

Tomorrow we meet to discuss the support and funds needed to make up some of the earlier mistakes. Temporary cover is in place to ensure that class teachers can attend and knowing they're there with me makes such a difference.

Last week the children all dealt with a big week at school admirably. I was so so so very proud. They all managed to sing their little hearts out at Harvest Festival and then eldest daughter sprinted across the playground in my direction at pick up on Friday clutching a certificate from said deputy/acting headmaster. It said simply, Headmasters Certificate awarded to xxx  xxx for 'never giving up'. Well if the ferocious playground Mums didn't think that me and the tiddlers were crazy enough already we all whooped and skipped out of the playground just to prove we are. Took all my strength not to high five the headmaster as we went past. Never imagined a school could give them so much. Feeling very lucky and grateful.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Wouldn't change a thing

Sometimes you get chatting to someone you don't know well and they ask a question without realising its depth or poignancy.

"So, any regrets?" She said.

I stalled for a moment and really thought hard.

"No, none"

And as I carried my little big girl from my bed to hers tonight, I reminded myself that both those words were true.

We've had nittastrophes, tittastrophes and all manner of other unexpected highs and lows, but we're family. 


We have a nit infestation. Oh Lord. Before today, I had no idea what chaos this would create.
I stupidly attempted a 3 head at once eradication tonight on my own. Shan't be attempting that again single handedly. Absolute hysteria ensued and to be honest it was all understandable.  The smell of the treatment spray was enough to tip them over the edge let alone the the 3x hair wash (treatment, plus shampoo, plus conditioner and three times comb). We've worked so hard on bath time over the past 16 weeks and I worry this is really going to put us back.
10+ towels, 1 sodden bathroom, 3 traumatised children, one of which is asleep in my bed not her own (what would SS say!) and plenty of dead nits = a much deserved glass bottle of wine.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Taking a moment

After an eventful morning which included a 4.30 start to the day, I was feeling a little pooped post school run. Before I attempted to put the house back together I took a stroll round the garden and found these two beauties. Made me happy and reminded me to take a moment. The world is a far better place if you do. Breathe.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Why oh why did I call it that . . .

Today I have been visited by two, yes two behavioural experts. I took advice never to turn down the offer of help hence the back to back. The first came through our health visitor who witnessed some show-stopping behaviour from the littlest one on a routine visit and immediately told me I could do with some help and made the referral. The second is the expert associated to our local authority who came on the request of our social worker who took the teary phone call two weeks ago as we fell into the pit that is now referred to as 'rock bottom'.

I was dubious to say the least but pleasantly surprised by the first who I connected with immediately. I expected it all to be star charts and other such nonsense which, as any adoptive parent knows, is as useful as a chocolate teapot. Instead I got really brilliant tips and hints some practical stuff (Stuart Little as an aid to prevent the daily attempts to massacre the family pets). She listened, didn't judge, smiled and nodded in all the right places and didn't seem to be spouting the same stuff to me that she does to all other parents. I was really impressed.

One of the difficult behaviours we discussed was the littlest ones' running. She does it at least once a week and she is literally gone! She calculates her moment, once when her brother had fallen down on a dog walk she made it the whole way home on her own, she is four. She picked up her bike on the way (we'd left it at the end of the lane where the fields start). Another when I was in a shop, she waited until I had my card in the machine to pay before making for the exit. Another time she left a park. On many occasions when picking up her brother and sister from school she will wait until I am mid how-was-your-day-hug already laden with lunchboxes, PE kit and book bags and then she will make for the gate. I try desperately hard not to shout like a mad woman but when her safety is compromised I have no choice.

A friend had suggested I got a wrist strap. Not to use but to have as a tool to remind her that she needed to stay close. I never expected to have to put it on, it was supposed to stay in my bag. The plan was simple, before going out to a potential flight spot (anywhere) I tell her that I have it with me and that if she goes out of sight it has to go on so that I can keep her safe. This to most 4 yr olds would be enough to keep them in sight, not wishing the embarrassment of a toddler taming device so I was really taken aback when she asked for it to go on immediately.

This was all well and good apart from the fact that I had inadvertently called the device 'The Strap' and told her if she went out of sight she'd have to 'have the strap on'. Yep, you guessed it, everywhere we go, she now says "Mummy, please may I have the strap on on?". Joy! Not only this but as soon as it is on she walks calmly, peacefully, big blue eyes looking up at me as passers by look at me with disdain probably cursing that dreadful mother who is physically restraining the perfectly well behaved tiddler, if only they knew.

There wasn't a magic answer to the flight dilemma today so we'll continue to strap ourselves together when we need to and hope that as she attaches to us over time, she'll feel less need to run. It's deep routed. At home, aged 2 she would finally get someones attention only when she fled, at speed out of the front door, you can't undue that in 13 weeks. I've spent so long pondering why and another answer could be that she is trying to recreate the huge adrenalin and cortisol rush that she so frequently felt at home in the early years and the calm that followed when she remained intact. Whatever it might be we'll keep trying to keep her safe, I'll keep up my own sprint training to keep up with her whilst trying to think of an alternative name for said piece of blue, durable material.

Friday, September 20, 2013

A picture is worth a thousand words

Someone once said that a picture is worth a thousand words. They weren't wrong. Yesterday we had a visit from the children's SW. It's been a struggle these last few weeks (understatement) and we're seven days on from rock bottom. The reason for the visit was our first education meeting at school. The news was mixed, behaviour was good and the teachers were all hugely supportive but it quickly became obvious that up until now they'd all been 'let down by the system' and 'not given the educational support they needed' needless to say our start point is children who are currently working to an ability of a child 2-3 years younger than themselves. The visit unsettled everyone and we ended the day with an in-car, back-seat punch up, tears, hurt and a series of "I don't want to live here anymore", "I want to go back home" and "I think you're mean" all things you know will be said but are hard to hear.

SW left a parting gift, recently completed life story books, a USB from birth Dad of photos that he thought we should have and some books from Mum.

After a tearful bedtime I ventured downstairs for my my appointment with 'stick'. Call me mental but I did dither for a minute wondering if birth Dad had put some ingenious location finding device in said USB, I overcame this momentary madness and downloaded the files.

What I saw was clear, a family that couldn't cope with family life. For the sake of anonymity I can't really say more other than how totally overcome I felt flicking through the images. These were pictures that had been voluntarily handed over and yet many showed the children looking distraught, dishevelled, malnourished, pale, drawn, scared and exhausted. There were toys and clean clothes in some but others just showed the utter depravity that these children endured. I wept for them and snuck upstairs just to check that they were warm in their beds. Little Man stirred when I went in but not like a normal child would, instead his immediate reaction to hearing something in the night is to sit bolt upright, rigid as if in defence. I laid him down (he was still asleep), told that I would always keep him safe and that I loved him. I meant it.

I have put the files onto another USB which is being put in a safe place at our neighbours house to avoid any unplanned un-coverings in the future. Maybe one day these images will be shown to the children, I can't imagine this day at the moment but I know it will come as we start to try and make sense of the 'why'.

The pictures might not be to hand but they are imprinted in my mind and I will hold them there to remind myself that every little step forward these little soldiers take is such phenomenal progress.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

"All About Me"

The littlest one had her first day at school yesterday. All went well.

She brought home a note in her book bag. "The first activity this term is entitled All About Me and will be a chance for your child to tell us all about themselves and their family. Please send them to school on Monday with a picture of them as a baby."

So simple for everyone else but so so hard for Mini M. I won't lie when I say I cried when I saw it. Seems so unfair for her to have to talk about this when she is only just beginning. We have one grainy baby photo, she is hardly visible and what you can see of her shows a pale, tiny baby with sad, scared eyes. Everyone else will have hundreds to choose from, Christmas, first birthday, with favourite teddies, parents, grandparents.

How is hers going to look next to all of the others? Off to speak to her Social Worker and hopefully find my magic wand.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Not me, not now

I can't tell you what a bombshell it was to discover a lump in my boob 7 weeks into placement. I went cold when I chanced upon it in the shower. Whatever am I going to do? I asked myself. "No, not me, not now". It was Saturday and the children, for once were not lingering at the doorway asking what I was doing. I was grateful for that. It gave me time to register, pull myself together and put the brave face on.

A call to the doctors on the Monday and an apppoinment on the Tues. Kit off, examination and a question mark. I was asked to return two weeks later at a different point in my cycle. It didn't change, it was still there, I could feel it even if they couldn't. Second doctor, this time an absolute clarity that yes, there's a lump and it should be checked out immediately. Leave doctors and head to Odds Farm with tiddlers, smiles, ice cream, rabbits, tractors and this massive cloud hanging over me.

Irrational Me: "What if it's cancer?
Rational Me: "It won't be, it can't be"
Irrational Me: "Will they take the children away?"
Rational Me: "Don't be silly, this couldn't happen, not now"

Give the NHS their dues, I got a call not three hours after leaving the GP's with an appointment the following week. It wasn't until I received the referral letter that the full extent of what was happening hit me. "Please allow three to four hours for your appointment which will include ultrasound, consultation and possible mammogram and biopsy"


Double f*ck who is going to look after the kids and what on earth am I going to tell whoever I ask, I can't tell them I am going to the Breast Cancer Clinic? I don't want to admit this is happening to myself, let alone anyone else (apart from hub)?

Found a babysitter, didn't sleep a wink turned up at clinic, had the ultrasound and saw a dark blob that was measured, silence.  Heart pounding I was willing the radiologist to tell me what she'd found. Gently and quietly she told me that she suspected that it was a cyst but the best way to confirm was to use a needle to try a draw out fluid. If no fluid came I would move onto biopsy. I willed that syringe to fill up and it did.

Thank you.

Never before have I wished an ultrasound to show me nothing. After 9 rounds of fertility treatment I couldn't help thinking that I'd packed my poor body so full of drugs that this was my comeuppance.

I was wrong. Lord knows why these things happen when they do, but I was one of the lucky ones.

I came home bruised and battered but happy.

Pain wasn't helped by little'est biting me smack on the spot where they'd inserted the needles while I was holding her during a tantrum but hey, you can't win them all. I haven't cried like that in front of them before but the pain was acute and seemed so unjust.  She registered that she'd really hurt me so I explained that Mummy had been to the doctors about her poorly boob but that it was better now but it hurt when she bit. It seemed to register, she apologised without prompting - a first.

Am going to bed grateful tonight but not before I have scoffed my celebratory Snickers.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Back to school

It's not by chance that I have just opened my laptop to start this blog to find a pop up on my calendar entitled "children's first day at school". I am ten weeks in to adopting three children, it's been a whirlwind, an adventure and a summer I certainly won't forget. Having packed two of the three off this morning (the other is at Super Gran's just so I could get through the school run unscathed) I am now sat in the paddling pool starting this blog. Here's what I have learnt:

1. NOTHING prepares you for adoption. You will be taken to breaking point and back. Everyone tells you this and you rightly nod your head and agree. Instead of worrying about it, make the most of your weeks and days leading up to introductions, have a lie in, drink a whole cup of tea, eat a chocolate bar in public view, read a book, have a bath in fact just enjoy being in the bathroom on your own.
2. It is ok to say "what have I done", you've just taken on some broken, confused little people.
3. You won't do everything as a family, some days you will pay your husband handsome sums just to get them all out of your hair for two hours. Equally, find somewhere to run to, dog walking before dawn and frequent trips to the gym have been the only thing holding my sanity together for much of the summer.
4. Soft play centres, Crocs, TV and DVD watching, all of the things you said you wouldn't do, you will. It makes life easier and this is now your sole aim in life.
5. Don't bother wrestling with them to get their shoes on before you get in the car, they'll have them off before you've got the engine started (see above ref Crocs).
6. They hear more than you think so watch what you say, little ears, especially little ears that have spent their early days listening for danger are very attuned.
7. Make friends with school. They are likely to know shit all about neglect, trauma, attachment, invest time upfront, far better than unpicking and apologising later.
8. Sod the recycling, ironing, weeding, that stuff can wait. In the words of the fantastic Sally Donovan "the most costly activity to this wonderful planet is procreation.  You’ve already done your bit. You have the carbon footprint of a vole."
9. Some of your friends will let you down, others will become your most close confidents, don't sweat the loss, celebrate the gain.
10. Lock the doors of rooms containing things you don't want broken
11, Nail varnish, expensive Clarins creams, put all of these things out of reach. They care little about the bleach and much more about drinking your Cowshed Lavendar bath soak.
12. Try your hardest to parent therapeutically and with empathy, it will pay in the long run. This is all well and done until they use a stone to draw a line down the side of your car so expect to lose it and walk away when you do rather than shout like a fish wife which is what you'll want to do.
13. They won't wish to walk the family dog, instead they may well kick/scratch/shout/strangle him. Allow them their time out too, they'll need it as much as you do.
13. People who hardly know you and who know even less about adoption, trauma, attachment and neglect will tell you to "chill out". It is perfectly acceptable to punch these people in the face (preferably out of sight of the children).
14. Most importantly, everyday, no matter how bad, something magic will happen. They'll say there first 'Muuuuuhhhhuuuuuum", they'll reach for your hand on a walk, you'll leave the supermarket with all three children and none of them will be in tears / injured,  they'll say thank you or smile, they'll play together for longer than 3 minutes, they'll laugh.

15. You'll realise over the time that you're not mad (well  maybe a little bit), you can do it (with help and support) and you are a cracking Mum.