Monday, 30 March 2015

Rages and Crochet

Lately we've returned to the rollercoaster of rages and calmness and I've no idea what the triggers may be. One recent episode arose from me putting money in Missy's moneybox which had been lying around on her  bedroom floor.  As I was crouched down, she thumped me hard on the back and it bloody hurt.  The rage lasted 10 minutes then it was over, quickly as it started.  Another because, following a two minute fringe cut at the hairdressers, she wasn't offered a lollipop by the stylist as she often is.  Outside the salon her face had anger and disappointment written all over it. I empathised and showed her I understood why but her volume in the car was turned up max and continued back in the house.  I offered her something at home but it wasn't good enough and the rage lasted another 10 minutes before she was distracted by her crochet.

My Mum showed her how to crochet a few weekends ago, starting with a simple stitch and a chain.  By Sunday she had, all by herself (because I have no clue) knitted a small hat fit for a doll complete with bobble on top!  This week she wanted to crochet her own pin cushion in the shape of an apple. Up until yesterday morning she'd happily been crocheting an ever-expanding circle of red wool then I came back from the gym (#takingcare) and an apple shaped appeared before me.  She stuffed it and closed it up all by herself plus crocheted small green leaves on top.  I was pretty much speechless, gobsmacked.  This talent for crochet is one thing sure to keep her calm and engaged.  It also shows me she is able to think about things, find a solution and execute it - because believe me I'd have no idea how to have crocheted that apple, let alone the leaves and attach them.   We need to seriously nurture this talent and think how school can also use this creative strength.

Back in November the GP referred us to CAMHS after I talked to her about my anxiety and Missy's behaviour.  Two weeks ago the appointment came through and we are seeing them soon.  I've no idea what to expect at the first appointment and sometimes I think, when Missy is laughing, loving, singing Gold at the top of her voice in the car and doing her crochet, that I'm over-reacting, but after a lovely chat with a man from the NHS who phoned for the initial triage, I realised that, no, I am not.  He took Missy's behaviour very seriously and I wanted to give him a massive hug.  Just having the chat with this man helped.   So, we shall see what the appointment brings, if anything.  I read so much from others that CAMHS are as useful as a chocolate teapot but I'll reserve judgement until we've seen them.

I've had a break recently from the usual parenting books and have been reading autobiographies (the Kemps, who else! - the concert was brilliant by the way) but today I'm back on the parenting book "Why Can't My Child Behave" by Dr Amber Elliott.  I like this one because in so many ways it is describing Missy and I can relate to many of the case histories.  I ploughed through quite a lot this morning and have bookmarked many pages to highlight to Daddy later on.  This book in particular explains a lot of why a child might be behaving in this way which is so helpful in relation to their background - some things I understand but others ideas I hadn't considered as yet.  Daddy and I need to revisit some of the strategies we have learnt over the last couple of years and also put into practice some of the ideas from this book.  Unfortunately we've been guilty of using too much reward-punishment stuff lately.

In other news, physio is definitely helping my hip and I'm feeling quite excited at the thought of running again (I really want to a do a triathlon, though it probably doesn't help that I sold my bike). In the garden, the potatoes are in, the tomatoes are coming up and I've planned the seeds to be sown.

OK, back to the book and planning for the forthcoming Easter holidays.  Did someone mention chocolate?

Monday, 9 March 2015

Retreating to happier times

There is a lovely interview in today's Guardian with Clare Grogan who, for the younger readers, is most well known as the lead singer of 80s pop group Altered Images and star of the film 'Gregory's Girl'.  I'd read quite some time ago that she was an adopter and the article today talks about the books she has written for her adopted daughter.

There is a quote in the article which really resonated with me - "It was a really difficult time in my life, and I think I've always coped with difficult times by going back to happier periods.  I was in a phase when I just wanted to retreat, to be solitary and to reflect on better times."

The reason I like what Clare says is that I am doing just that right now, going back to happier times.  I love the 80s, I was a teenager with a perm, ribbon in my hair, blue eyeliner and a love for both John Taylor and Martin Kemp.  I saw both Duran and Spandau in concert - oh the joy and breathlessness of being 10ft away from John Taylor when I went to see them at Wembley Arena and finding ourselves in the second row from the front. Screeeeam! I still remember my old fan club membership number - 762273.

I'll be screeeeeaming again next week as I'm going to see Spandau Ballet at the O2 - I cannot bloody wait. Until next Tuesday arrives, I've been stalking following them on Twitter, checking out old Spandau videos and TV stuff on YouTube and listening to their music over and over in the car.  If you use YouTube, you'll know it gives you lots of other options and suggestions for things to watch, most of which have been other 80s acts - T'Pau, Culture Club (Victims is so under-rated), early U2, Adam & The Ants (I'll never forget our English teacher playing the part of Prince Charming in the school Christmas entertainment), more Duran, Dexys, Depeche Mode, Ultravox and the list goes on.  I've loved reminiscing and remembering good times in my life back then.  The Bluebells came up the other day and that reminded me of the day I went to the filming of Top of the Pops.  I can't remember who was number 1 but Frankie Goes to Hollywood were there, as was Neil with Hole in My Shoe and Echo & The Bunnymen.   In turn, that reminds of good times at school, sleepovers with school friends - in fact I tweeted one old school friend with a "Do you remember....!"  "Yes!" she replied.  And you know what, we're going to meet up at Easter. Can't wait!

When Steve Strange died a month ago, I played the Fade to Grey video on You Tube - my brother bought the single in 1980 and I played it endlessly.   Missy loved it too although thought he looked weird.  He did and that was the great thing about it!  I then started Googling the top 50s from between 1977 and 1987 and I reckon I knew almost every single mentioned and had a memory relating to that single.  Ahhhhh, those were the days.  Who remembers waiting for the charts to be announced at 12.45pm on a Tuesday lunchtime? We used to sneak a transistor radio into the loos at school just so we could listen and I think we screamed quite loudly when True reached no. 1.   Who couldn't wait for TOTP on a Thursday night?

Next time I'm at my Mum's I need to search out my Duran scrapbooks and my videos on Live Aid - I videoed the whole thing!  Luckily we still have a video player up in the loft so I'll be able to play them.

The point is .... going back to the 80s brings back very happy memories and that's a good thing.  Missy is up and down - a few rocky weeks, then a few calm weeks, then back to weeks of grumpiness, regression and attention (attachment)-seeking, then calmness again.  Currently we're in a rocky week. She's very Highly Strung (geddit?).  Seriously, I'm getting motion-sickness from this rollercoaster.  

But the reflection on these happy times (or is that Reflex-ion - only a few probably will get that!) is bringing a smile to my face and on the whole I've felt pretty good since the beginning of the year which, following, my high anxiety last Autumn is most welcome.

In other news, my Horticulture course is going well and I am loving being in the fresh air.  And I've already passed several assessments.  High five me!

Right, I think I need an 80s fix.  Cue YouTube.

Thursday, 26 February 2015

Achieving in Art #3

My daughter's latest artwork. She was inspired after watching the Fade to Grey video by Visage. Bloody brilliant I think!

Wednesday, 25 February 2015

Back to school (and not just for Missy)

Monday was back to school, but not just for Missy, for me too!  I'll explain more in a bit.

Half term was pretty good.  We spent some of it in Northumberland at Daddy's sister's wedding, a very small quite affair in a lovely hotel and Missy was bridesmaid.  She did a great job.  We had the usual issue of Missy being too clingy to anyone but me or Daddy, and occasionally we had to take some action so she was reminded who her parents are, but on the whole she was great. We had a six hour car journey to get there, same back, and it passed with no problems.  Amazing! We played a few games, I was in charge of the music (mostly Spandau and ELO, but that's fine because Missy is fast becoming an 80s music fan!), we had a couple of stops and then we were there.

Last week we also went to see Big Hero 6, the latest from Disney which won an Oscar at the weekend.  There is the subject of death when the main character's brother dies early on, and towards the end it is quite sad for a few minutes, but all ends well.  Missy cried at these two parts, but then so did I. Mind you, I cried at the blimmin' advert when Brian was in trouble at the breakers' yard!

So, onto last Monday.   We had a change in usual routine because Missy started at breakfast club, just on Mondays as I need to get to college.  I've started a course in Practical Horticulture - go me!  It's nice to do something very different and, whilst I like gardening, I don't really have much of a clue so the course will be sparking some of my brain cells that haven't been used in a while.  

As I took Missy into breakfast club, I could see she was nervous but as soon as she saw the food, she was fine.  Also, anxiety that was evident before half term reared its ugly head again.  An issue at school has really been upsetting her, so much that she wanted me to move schools.  I had a chat with the teacher yesterday, who was very grateful for brining it to her attention, and will do what she can to help.  This has seemed to settle Missy as she was relatively calm this morning before school.

Talking of nervous though, back to Monday and my heart was beating more than usual as I sat in my car in the the college car park, having arrived half an hour early.  At ten to nine I took a deep breath and went in.  I was comforted to see that almost everyone on the course was my age or older, and I'm not the only one who is very much an amateur.  At least now, I can buy gardening books instead of the usual parenting/child development/adoption related books which are my usual read.

So, back to school and all is looking good.

In other news, I've started physio to sort out my hip. Hopefully, in a few months time I'll be running again. Yaay!

Friday, 6 February 2015

Reasons to be Cheerful (One, Two Three)

The theme on The Adoption Social for the latest Weekly Adoption Shout Out #WASO is 'Reasons To Be Cheerful'. Now, those of a certain age will remember a song that's been going round my head all morning - "Reasons To Be Cheerful, One,Two,Three" by Ian Dury and the Blockheads. So, here are my three reasons to be cheerful.

1.  I've been going out in the evenings a bit more in the last few months, whilst Daddy has joined a badminton club and is out once a week.  And Missy is fine about it!  Hurrah!  Slowly we are getting our social life back.  When I shut the front door behind me, Daddy and Missy usually shout "Paaaartyyy" which always makes me smile.  So it seems that Missy now knows that when we go out, we come back.  I can't tell you how liberating this is. We always go in and see her no matter the time and give the sleeping princess a kiss. Hurrah!

2.  I was at a talk recently by Helen Oakwater, adopter and author of Bubble Wrapped Children. She urged us to find "an industrial strength babysitter" because it is so important to have have a social life. For couples it is important to be able to do things together and not just rely on the other to babysit. So, with that in mind, I contacted a lady who a friend had actually recommended well over a year ago. The lady runs a babysitting and nannying service and we met her last week. Missy was very comfortable with her and in fact she is coming round again soon just to play with Missy, which is all part of the service as she believes it's so important that the child feels happy and safe with a babysitter. We're also pleased that it's the lady herself who is going to be our sitter rather than one of her employees. This means Daddy and I can now have more than one or two nights out a year! In fact we already have a date booked. Double Hurrah!

3.  Missy has calmed down and as we go head towards half term, we have noticed she is having less meltdowns than the first three weeks of the year, which made it seem as if we had gone back in time one whole year. Her confidence at school also plummeted in those weeks and she was very hyper vigilant. Really not sure why but I think it was something more than just beginning of term nerves.  However, the last week/ten days have seen an improvement at school, she is doing some great work, including maths which is never her strong point and she is calmer at home. Missy also made us very proud last week because, for the first time ever, she swam 25m, the length of the pool, all by herself and then proceeded to do it three times more.  So, currently her self esteem pot is looking pretty full which is good news for all.  Triple hurrah!

So these are my reasons to be cheerful. What are your reasons right now?

Friday, 30 January 2015

What is normal?

On the whole, we understand Missy's ups and downs.

We know what she will find funny, what delights her, the games she likes to play and we're not bad at shifting her mood (Daddy is very good at this).  A typical day will include laughter, fun, rudeness, NOOOOO!!, slamming doors, games, kindness, anger, doing my hair, screaming, shouting, singing, hugging, frustration. Quite often hitting is included.  A normal week is made up of these typical days, the school routine, one or two chats with teacher, the weekend with maybe an outing or a walk, a request to eat out, a strop if we say not this week.  It's our normal. We can cope with it (mostly).  The definition of normal is 'the usual, typical or expected state'.  Yes, we have a 'normal' life.

In adoption-world, our normal is probably other people's normal.  Talking to SWs, paperwork, hitting heads against brick walls, therapeutic parenting.  But in a parallel universe this isn't normal, is it?  I mean, it's surely not normal for a 7 year old to scream that she'll "hit you, punch you and kill you". It's not really normal for a child to hit their mum several times a week, is it?  

Teacher was quite shocked to hear that Missy had said these things. Oh, it's quite normal in our house, I said. Teacher asked if I was getting support.  No, not at the moment (not professional anyway, of course I get great support from other adopters).  We can cope ok, I said. She looked concerned.  Of course it's not normal for a securely attached 7 year old to behave like this, is it?   I've heard from two friends lately that their 7 and 8 year olds (securely attached birth children) really do act like this.  Now this isn't just a case of "oh all children do that", they too have concerns and we have talked about what we all do to turn the situation around and what might be the triggers.  But for a moment I felt 'normal', I was having a normal conversation about our children.

With Missy, there is, however, the added anxiety of what has happened to birth mum.  Every now and then she'll get teary and worried that BM is by herself with no-one to look after her.  I try to calm her worries and anxieties as much as I can but in truth I can't answer many of her questions about the current state of BM.

This morning, Missy asked to go on the computer and look at something they've been doing in school.  Of course I know that the internet is a minefield and it's normal for any parent to have concerns but as I cleaned my teeth it suddenly occurred to me, with greater significance than before, that now Missy knows how to use Google we need to watch her like a hawk.  One Google of BM name and there will be fireworks!  I don't think it will occur to her just yet to do that but it will come.  We need to be prepared.   It's just that one step on from any parent's normal anxiety about the dangers of the internet.

We always need to be prepared. What is coming up that might worry Missy?  Is something happening at school?   Have we prepared her that someone she doesn't know is coming round to our house later in the week?  Have we talked to her about where we are staying and what we are eating when we go away in half term?   Have I mentioned I'm going out next Tuesday evening and that Daddy will most definitely be here to look after her?

It's all part of our 'normal' life.

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.

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