Sunday, 18 January 2015

Food Anxiety

About a month or so after Missy came to us, we realised she had big issues with food. This blog post explains one epic tantrum and I also talked about in Food (not so) Glorious Food.  We knew there had probably been times when she wasn't fed by birth mum, or was fed at the wrong time of day. We knew she had been fed a lot of sweet stuff.  She was a little overweight when she came to us. But neither the FC or SW said anything about food being a constant feature in her mind, an anxiety that could cause major tantrums.

For quite a while food was a huge issue. Out of 10, it was a 9 at least.. But I'm happy to say that for now her anxiety has greatly reduced, probably 2 or 3 out of 10, on a bad day maybe a 4. I've mentioned in a few posts recently that this food anxiety has reduced and a couple of adopters have mailed me to ask how it was reduced as they have similar issues with their children.

So I thought I'd post the things we've done.  Of course, not all these points may work with your children and I think it could largely depend on the background to their food anxiety. 

1.  Meal times and snack times are the same times every day. Missy's thinking gradually changed from wondering if she'll be fed to knowing she will be fed.  She will still ask when snack time is if we're running late but she no longer constantly asks when she'll next be getting food.

2.  When she came home to us, she would eat her meal very quickly (strange because the FC had said she was very slow).  Calmly, we pointed out she was taking too large bites or eating too quickly. In fact we virtually had to teach her how to use a knife and fork properly and show her the right size mouthfuls to put on her fork.  We did this a lot and praised her when she got it right.

3.  She just didn't understand portion sizes at first and would get angry if we had more on our plates. We calmly explained at what seemed like every meal that we gave her the right size portion for a child. We explained we wouldn't be looking after correctly if we gave her too much to eat.  She gets it now. Only occasionally she'll question the portion size and we will matter of factly say "you have the right size portion for a 7 yr old", leave it at that and change the subject. 

4.  We'd wonder out aloud if her tummy was getting full. Was her tummy sending the right messages to her brain? "I bet your tummy is loving that food and is feeling full now".  At first Missy would of course say she wasn't full. One day we went out for breakfast at a canal side cafe where we all had fried breaky. Missy insisted she wasn't full and kept eating until she was almost green. Daddy had to take her outside. Now I'm not advocating you feed your child until they are sick but in Missy's case she then got what it was like to feel over-full.  Even now I sometimes say "I'm so full, I wonder if you are" or if she is struggling well say that she doesn't have to eat everything on her plate.  I'd say it took nearly two years before Missy really recognised she was full and left food on her plate. I cheered inwardly when she did this.

5. One of the reasons she would clear her plate was because she wanted a pudding.  I think at the FCs she had a pudding every day (plus other junk food).  Daddy and I don't often have a pudding after our meal plus we wanted to move her away from this addiction to sweet stuff.  We don't have puddings during the week, maybe a yoghurt at the most but will have a pudding with our weekend meals and when we go out.  She knows this now and understands.

6. Others eating around her when she isn't.  This still can cause a few issues but so much better than it was.  I remember one instance when a family member gave her breakfast, not realising this wasn't the right thing to do.  I knew it would cause a major tantrum when the rest of us sat down to breaky and it did.  The first Christmas here Daddy came home from work on Christmas Eve, exhausted, hadn't had lunch, and so sat down with a sandwich about 5pm.  Missy sat next to him and stared, he felt like she was burning holes in him.   One thing we started to do was give the the choice - you can either have your breakfast now, or wait and have it with us, or you can have your snack now or wait and have it with Daddy and me. Thankfully we can now eat most of the time in Missy's presence if she has already eaten and I think has just been a matter of time.

7.  Buffets.  For many of our children these can cause difficulties so we always put the food on the plate for Missy, usually a small bit of everything, rather than let her do it and pile it on.

8.  We find the positives in food.  For example, we watch cookery programmes together (she loves Jamie and Mary Berry), we bake a fair bit, we let her try things she may not have eaten before - Daddy and Missy play a little game whereby she shuts her eyes and has to guess what she's just eaten a teaspoon of (obvs not for everyone, a degree of trust needed here), it may be something new like capers or a sauce.  We  took her to a big food market in London where they give out lots of trys and she (we) loved it.  I've started doing a weekly menu planner and I get Missy to help with this.

I think that's all I can think of for now.  If I or Daddy think or anything else I'll add it in the comments.

Probably the main reason for her lessening anxiety is the predictability of food.  We also noticed on holiday last summer that her food anxiety didn't appear at all and put this down to her being so relaxed and having a great time.  She spent hours in the pool and didn't badger us for snack times, recognised she was full and made good choices about food. It was blissful.

By no means has the food issue disappeared.  Life still revolves around food.  She will remember events by what she had to eat and if she knows we are going out to eat then she will continually talk about it.  I wouldn't be surprised if, when she is at secondary school, and has greater access to food by herself, she may well have an eating disorder.  I'm quite sure she'll put on weight and/or become anorexic.  Harsh to think this way already but we have to be realistic.  Of course, she may well have no issue with food whatsoever, although being female I doubt this!   She even said herself yesterday when we were out, "do you remember when I squished your cake, that was silly, it's stupid to worry about food".  But at least, for now, she is moving in a positive direction.


Saturday, 10 January 2015

Patterns, pocket money and pilates

Back to school this week. I'm now seeing a distinct pattern with Missy when it comes to starting a new term.

The day before school starts she is erratic, acts like a baby, makes noises, wants lots of attention, tantrums and will say at bedtime she has a tummy ache.  It's not that she hates school because she actually quite likes it. She wanted to go back to school, she isn't a refuser. She was really looking forward to seeing her friends, particularly as we didn't have any play dates in the holidays.

In class for the first week or so I'm hearing that she is chatting a lot, not fully engaged and concentrating. After school she will be grumpy and cheeky and is my constant shadow. This appears to now be the pattern each term until she settles back into the routine.  I know some of it will be down to tiredness. She's well and truly ready for her bedtime by 7pm.  I'm well and truly ready for her bedtime by 7pm.  Some of it will be missing being at home and some will be simply the change of routine.  I've told her every morning as I leave her at school that I will be thinking about her and looking forward to when she comes home, so that we can play Lego/play hairdressers/ do some art/go to M&S Cafe.  I'm not sure if it works but I'll continue to say it anyway.  We also need to remember that at times she regresses.  We had a t-shirt incident earlier this week - we were both busy with something or other and she was screaming and shouting for us to take her t-shirt off so she could get ready for bed. Getting undressed is not a problem for Missy, but I guess for whatever reason that day it was and we didn't handle it well.  Since then if she needs help dressing or undressing then I've helped, which calms her down. Occasionally we really do have to think toddler.

We discussed pocket money with her for the first time today.  She has a few chores to do, including feeding the cats which is something she likes doing anyway and at the end of the week this can earn her £1 (I'm quite sure we'll give it to her anyway).  When we explained that after one month of pocket money she could buy her own hair ties (she'd buy up the whole of Claire's if she could), or after six months she could probably buy a new Build A Bear Workshop toy plus clothes, or several One Direction/Vamps CDs, her eyes lit up! Consequently she's very keen to help around the house this morning.  I'm not sure what the going rate is for pocket money these days but we're sticking at £1.  What do you give, if any?

In other news, I started Pilates this week and Daddy has started badminton again. Not sure if you're meant to ache this much two days afterwards but we do.  I'm hoping the Pilates will help my back and hip so I can then start running again.

Tuesday, 6 January 2015


I was lucky enough to attend a private screening of the new Reese Witherspoon film 'Wild' last night.  It's the true story of a young lady called Cheryl Strayed who, following her divorce and the death of her mother, was at rock bottom and  so decided to solo trek 1,100 miles along the the Pacific Crest Trail in the USA.  I really shouldn't have worn mascara as I cried for much of the movie because so much resonated with me.

Similar to Cheryl's life, sixteen years ago my marriage broke up and my Dad died and these events in my life led me to go backpacking around the world.  At the beginning of the film Cheryl says "What the f**ck have I done".  I said exactly the same words to myself as I left my mum behind in Heathrow and walked through passport control.  

There's another scene in the movie where Cheryl is being helped to lighten her heavy backpack and leave things behind that she really doesn't need.  I too left a trail of things behind in my first few weeks in Australia when I realised I really didnt need a wire mesh inside my backpack to stop people pinching things, or an extra flask, or several pairs of shoes (just my walking boots and sandals was all I needed).   Another scene shows her thinking about her mother and the soundtrack is "The Air That I Breathe" by The Hollies - one of my Dad's favourite songs.  I cried again.

I absolutely loved backpacking and it was just the tonic for me at the time.  It was my therapy.  Each time I met other backpackers we swapped stories as to where we had come from and why we were there.  No one judged me, I could absolutely be myself.  My confidence grew again and some of the dark clouds above my head disappeared.  I'm a fairly shy person but I as I figured I wouldn't get another chance to backpack around the world, I said 'yes' to every opportunity. I jumped out of a plane (twice), I did my PADI Rescue Diver certification in the waters under Sydney Harbour Bridge (don't rely on me to rescue you though), and I camped in the Bush. Like Cheryl in the film, I accepted a lift from a complete stranger in Fiji, and was duly offered lunch at their family restaurant. In Bali I stepped away from the tourist trail and found myself in the middle of a cremation ceremony on the beach where I was warmly invited to join in and partake in chicken noodle soup.  

If only I could go backpacking again, but I can't.  So instead what I will take from the movie is the quote "What if yes was the right answer instead of no".  Don't worry, I'm still #takingcare, but yes might mean accepting an offer of support or yes to a girly night out now and stop being a hermit. I've already said yes to coffee with a school mum today and came home with a smile.  In fact I nearly said no to the film tickets because I was offered them at such short notice and the screening was on a school night.  I'm so glad I said yes.  And I'm so glad that another adopter @iris7summer came with me because it's given us a lot of food for thought.

Straight after the film we heard from the CEO of The Wildnerness Foundation who take people on treks into the wilderness, ranging from one day to two weeks, from teenagers to CEOs, people wanting to experience the tranquility the wilderness offers and calm their minds to vulnerable people needing support and self development.  Jo, the CEO, talked in particuar about working with vulnerable children and how being in nature gave them a huge boost.  I've seen first hand with Missy how much she loves walks and being outside, even if she does protest before we go, and @iris7summer had also, last weekend, enjoyed a wonderful walk with her children which had a massively positive effect on her daughter.  I briefly explained to Jo that something along the lines of what she does might hugely benefit us and several adoptive families that we know and was there anything she offered and knew about.  Turns out there is and we are going to see what we can arrange. I'll keep you posted.

And if you ask me if I'd see the film again, then it's a yes.

Wednesday, 31 December 2014

Looking back on 2014 and ahead to 2015

I've just looked back at my blog post describing my aims for 2014. If I were a teacher I'd mark my year end report as 'Satisfactory but could try harder'.

Improve my health - I didn't, in fact it nosedived. I'll try much harder in 2015, particularly as I've joined a gym now. In fact I've already been to my first yoga class in ten years. I can confirm I am as flexible as a plank of wood.

Meet other adopters - I did pretty well here. At the Adoption UK conference and the inaugural Open Nest conference I met some of the lovely adopters and foster carers who I know from FB and Twitter. 

Get Daddy to read an adoption book - nope, although he did attend the AUK conference with me so that's ok.

Look on the bright side - I was pretty good for the first few months of the year but anxiety and mild depression seemed to overwhelm me over the last two or three months.

Make time for myself - done ok I reckon. With Missy at school I can do a fair bit during the day and I can now pop out for an hour or so at weekends to the gym without it bothering her. Plus the night away in York for the Open Nest conference went well.

Improve our therapeutic parenting skills - actually I think we've done alright here. Still got lots to learn, of course, but we learnt lots through the PAC programme, at the conferences and getting ideas through chatting with other adopters.

Despite my low moods of late (I'm sure SAD plays a part) on the whole 2014 has been ok. Daddy got a new job which meant he's home at weekends, Missy has done really well in school, we had a great time on holiday in Greece and at the music festival, Missy learnt to ride her bike, her food anxiety is decreasing, attachment is growing and I had great success with my kitchen garden.

So onto 2015.

I think my main aims are to:

Get fit and improve my health - mainly I want to get my hip sorted so I can start running again. I WILL do a 5k before the end of 2015.
Continue to add to our therapeutic parenting skills.
Play more - I don't think we play enough with Missy and I know from the PAC course that playing, even just 15 mins a day, tops up Missy's self esteem and attention deficit a lot. Must do more.
Increase my confidence - it's taken a hammering lately and needs a kick up the behind.
Learn how to use a sewing machine that's been stuck in the cupboard for a year!!

So that's it for this year. See you on the other side. I wish you a happy, healthy and calm New Year.


Monday, 29 December 2014

So that was Christmas

This year really felt like a family Christmas.  This year we could carry on with traditions that we started over the last two Christmasses which was fun. Missy was a lot more excited this year, counting down the days, talking about Santa, enjoying helping to decorate the tree. I don't know what age children begin to stop believing in Santa but Missy is still in full believe mode which is so lovely.

Of course the excitement was not without it negative side. More excitement meant more overwhelm, tears and tiredness in the few days before the big day, but on the whole Missy has been fine. She slept ok on Christmas Eve and only came into us at 6.45am, excited that Father Christmas had left a stocking. In this house, it's ok to leave a stocking in her room, although I can understand why many of our children cannot cope with this.

After breaky we headed to my mum for two nights. Christmas Day saw a few strops, cheekiness and tears - plus I didn't feel well, so not the best day ever but I can't complain really. Boxing Day at mum's was better and  included a visit from my cousin and two of her three grown up children, meaning new family members for Missy to meet. She was shy for ooooh two minutes and then felt completely comfortable with them - a little too comfortable on occasion, for Missy can be like a limpet sometimes and we have to prise her off people, which she hates - a reminder that we must continue to emphasise our role as primary carers.  Three words from my cousin that made my heart sing was "I get her".  I only learnt very recently that my amazing cousin had had a pretty shitty childhood and can understand some of Missy's issues and anxieties. Despite this, my lovely cousin has brought up three wonderful children. She is such a lovely genuine funny person with a real heart and it gives me great hope for Missy in the future.

The following day Missy met even more family members for the first time at a family lunch we had with my brother's family. There were eleven adults and four children. Missy was great and played so nicely with the other children, all younger than her. The adults had starters whilst the children had their main course, then the children had their puddings whilst we had our main courses followed by our puddings.  I'm quite sure that a year ago Missy would have got exceedingly grumpy over the fact we had three courses whereas she didn't.  As her food anxiety continues to decrease, on Saturday this meant she accepted the situation pretty well (although I noticed she was eyeing up Daddy's chips).  Instead, she played whilst we ate our puddings. I was really quite proud of her although we kept a little eye on her as she can, at times, begin to 'parent' other children.

Yesterday we had a lovely day, which mostly consisted of a very long 4 mile walk through the frost-covered woods near our house.  Slightly over midway is a pub so we stopped their for a quick refuel and then off we went again.  It was great to get out in the fresh air and sunshine on a perfect winter's day, the type of winter's day I absolutely love.

There have been times over Christmas when therapeutic parenting has got lost amongst the screwed up wrapping paper but I think we've all done really well on the whole (says me as Missy erupts upstairs, oh dear).  No, really, it's been a pretty good Christmas.  Some regression, some great humour, some hilarious moments and some loving times too.  I think as we move into 2015 we are on the up.

Now, where's my Baileys.

Friday, 19 December 2014

A Message From Santa

A couple of years ago I heard about Portable North Pole, whereby you can get a video message from Santa sent by email addressed to your child. The message can be personalised using your child's name and you have the option to include various phrases that mean something to your child eg Santa will say "I know you've been asked to work hard at school/practice on your bike/be nice to your sibling" and such like. You can also add a phrase so Santa shows he knows what was on your child's list. During the video Santa will also, via his elves, check if your child is on the naughty or nice list (I certainly hope parents put nice!).

Much as I wanted to, I didn't feel able to do it the last two years.  I wasn't sure what Missy would make of a Santa on a video knowing real stuff about her. He shows a huge book that says in it is everything he needs to know about her. I wasn't sure if it would be a trigger. I wasn't sure if her self esteem was up to it. Christmas can be a strong trigger for many adopted/looked after children and so I resisted the urge to do this. Our first two Christmasses with Missy have been fairly low key but we're learning what she can cope with, what she will love, enjoy and what won't overwhelm her.  

This Christmas I felt the time was right and it would be a fun thing to so.  I wasn't wrong. Missy loved it! Her face was a picture, if only I could share it with you. She genuinely believed it was a message from the real Santa (she realises some people dress up as him but still believes in the real deal).

The video really is lovely, great quality and does give you a sense that it really does come from the North Pole. The elves are there working hard and helping Santa too and the reindeers are gearing up for the big night. Of course, you don't just have to do it for a child - you could send it to your partner if you want and the adult option is quite a giggle.  There's also a video you can do on Christmas Eve so I'm looking forward to doing that one.

If you want to take a look at it, you can always set one up and watch it before deciding if your child should see it. I understand why it might not be right for many of our children but for Missy it worked and it will definitely become a tradition in this house.  The Classic video is 3 minutes long, or you can upgrade for a small cost to a video which is a little longer with some extra options.

If you'd like to have a look, go to To receive a 20% discount off digital products (not including in-app) then put in this code BLG20BKP.  

Friday, 12 December 2014

Feeling Christmassy but with a dose of anxiety thrown in

I am feeling a teeny bit Christmassy.  I think it's the Christmas Gingerbread Latte from M&S.   I'm certainly enjoying the run up to Christmas more this year than the past two years though it's been a stressful couple of weeks. Well, I say enjoying but that's probably a bit over the top.

I've been practising saying 'No'.  I do like lending a hand, especially where charity is concerned but at the moment charity needs to begin at home.  I remember Sally Donovan once writing "Step away from the PTA!".  I didn't take any notice I'm afraid, more because I felt doing something would help me feel useful, give me a sense of purpose.  It just made me feel stressed.

We had the school Christmas Fayre recently and my job was to coordinate getting raffle prizes.  I did pretty well but in the end had to pass it over to someone else as the stress was making me very anxious - I nearly burst into tears in Homebase!  I helped on the day and that was ok. Now the Christmas Fayre is over, I feel a bit better. Missy on the other the other hand was absolutely fine.  She's been rather overwhelmed the last two years but this year had a great time, even when she had to stay by my side whilst I had a manic 5 minutes on the cake stall until the person who was meant to be serving turned up.  She was very very tired in the evening but coped so much better this year.  In fact her stress levels have been a little lower recently - I wonder if its the homeopathic remedies she is taking?  She was brilliant in her school play and spoke up loud and clear.  She's been very understanding at home whilst the lounge and dining room has been in a right mess whilst we've been decorating.  The School Christmas panto brought up some anxieties - she's scared of the mean characters in it, obviously, but we've had some chats about it and I think she'll be ok, she'll be sitting next to her teacher who 'gets it'. 

Recently whilst we were painting, she spent some time, off her own back, deciding which toys she didn't want any more and wants to give them to charity so that "other children in need can have some toys".  Bless, she is really quite caring.  She then discussed what she'd like to do when she grows up.  She said she would be busy going to Africa to help children out there but, "oh my gosh" she just wouldn't have time to do her other jobs (being a vet, running a cafe and a nurse!).

My anxiety levels are pretty high at the moment. The slightest thing sends my heart raising and that sick feeling in my stomach to appear. I had to stop still in M&S yesterday and take some deep breaths. I'm not really sure why (secondary trauma has been mentioned to me a couple of times) because on the whole Missy's behaviour and emotions have been ok, school is good. Perhaps it's worrying about money (thanks HMRC for messing up!), perhaps it's a bad case of SAD this year, perhaps it's a mix of things. I'm looking at getting a SAD lamp again - it really helped the first time I had one and then I felt much better, started running (so was outside a lot dosing up on sunlight) and sold the lamp. But at the moment I can't run so I'm not outside much.  I've just joined the local gym (a lovely birthday prezzy for me) and am looking forward to a few hours a week down there.

Right, time for a cuppa, a mince pie and the next chapter in Sally Donovan's new book, then after school it's time to get a Christmas tree (got to be real, can't bring myself to get a plastic one).

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