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).

Thursday 20 November 2014

Preparation is key

I've just re-read some of my blog posts from our first few months with Missy. It wasn't a good time. What really strikes me is just how little prepared we were to deal with her trauma and how little we really understood about attachment.

As a prospective adopter we had a two day training, we had regular visits from our SW during home study and we had some brief reading to do.  We were given a file of photocopied articles  and a particular book by Margot Sunderland was recommended. But that was it.  It wasn't insisted by anyone that we read a whole load of books and I don't think we even got a reading list. We didn't meet any adopters other than a chap who came to talk on our 2 day course.  No wonder we were so naive in the early days.  What I've learnt about attachment, trauma and being an adoptive parent has been since Missy came home and has come from reading other adopters blogs, meeting up with other adopters,  chatting and getting advice on Twitter and FB, and reading loads including Dan Hughes, Louise Bomber, Holly van Gulden, Bryan Post and Sally Donovan. We also had some excellent training from PAC earlier this year.

I don't know what the stage 1 and 2 training consists of now (it wasn't known as stage 1 and 2 when we did it).  I only hope prospective adopters do have a greater understanding of attachment and trauma than we did before their children come home. Via Twitter I gather that some prospective adopters have a three line whip as far as their reading list is concerned, whilst others do not. Some are talking about attachment and regulation, others are not. One friend is attending a training on PACE which I think is brill.  Once again, processes seem to vary hugely among LAs or even SWs. Of course, things can look very different in practice from how it's described in a book, but one hopes at least adopters will be more prepared than we were.

If we'd understood more back in the early days I don't think we'd have started Missy at school until after Christmas, we would have done a lot more nurturing and done more to help regulate Missy (and me).  Hopefully we would have had a better insight to her behaviour. I cringe when I read about going to her Christmas school play, just five weeks after placement.

In other news, I am being very prepared for Christmas for once.  I've nearly finished the present buying and written most of the cards! I think I deserve a Baileys later.

Monday 17 November 2014

Adoption UK Conference 2014

Last Saturday saw our first attendance at the Adoption UK Conference where Dr Bruce Perry was talking. Bruce Perry is an expert in child trauma and how this affects the brain and childhood development.

Having previously studied anatomy & physiology, I'm fascinated by how the body works especially the brain. I've also studied stress management in the past so had a brief idea how it affected the brain, but to see how trauma affects the child's brain is at a complete different level.

Throughout his time speaking, there were nods from parents who saw their child in his words.  If the lightbulb moments from us and everyone else in the room could have come to life, we could have kept the hotel lit for the rest of the day.

Here are some of the main points I took away from the conference:-

1.   The lower parts of the brain, responsible for breathing, heart rate etc, is actually where information is processed first.  But this 'dumber' part of the brain can't tell time.  It doesn't realise that the threat happened 20 years ago.  Tell that to others who think, oh, it was years ago they won't remember!

2.  Present experiences are filtered through past experience stored in the brain. The past experiences have formed a template.

3.  The child's template for their initial chaotic experience of parents/carers  might be "they don't look after me therefore I must look after myself" - hence why Daddy and I get shouted at when we offer assistance.   These templates can be altered positively over time but it will take long term, regular, predictable, consistent work.

4.  A child who has experienced trauma has a higher stress baseline.  Because their brains and bodies are subject to inconsistent, variable, unpredictable stress they become so sensitised and can get to the point where a small stress event, that previously might have resulted in a moderate reaction, might this time result in an extreme reaction. Hence why saying Good Morning often results in a growl, a scowl and an immediate stomp away from me.  Or why putting butter on toast resulted in a complete meltdown.

5.  Regulation or self-soothing.  If the child cannot self-soothe then it is the parents role to be the External Stress Responder.  But we can't regulate a child if we are not regulated ourselves.  In fact Dr Perry said if you take just one thing away from the conference it's that the most important thing is to take care of yourself, and not just once a week at the gym, every day we need to take care.  Regulate before you connect before you correct.

6.  Speaking to a child negatively results in their deregulation.

7.  To help regulate a child, stand back, speak calmly, be present, be parallel. Disengage if necessary.   The car is a great place for kids to feel regulated.  The rhythm of the engine and being parallel (or behind).  Let them control how they engage with you, let them control the timing and pacing of visiting a stressful experience.  Missy's words from the back seat make more sense now.

8.  Functioning of the brain is state dependent.  So perhaps last week in the classroom they can do maths. But this week, the child is not in the right state of mind, not in the higher thinking parts of the brain because for example, they feel a threat from someone walking into the classroom.  This week then, they can't do the work because they are operating from a state of fear from the lower parts of the brain and acting in a reactive manner.

9.  Dissociation.  We all know the 'fight or flight' response.  But a baby or toddler can't run away or put up a fight.  Think baby crying because it's hungry or needs nappy changing.  No one comes, or when they do they shout or hit, so brain says this isn't working and they shut down, they dissociate. It's an adaptive mechanism. Physiologically, the heart rate goes down, painkillers are sent out; basically the child is getting ready to be hurt.

10.  A child who dissociates internalises their feelings.  They might look like they are coping but inside they are in turmoil.  Sadly because they look like they are coping they often bypass mental health services.

11.  A child can also be a mix of hyper aroused/dissociative and could be labelled bipolar leading to a prescription of drugs which will not work.

12.  Labels such as ADHD, RAD etc may be unhelpful.  The child is probably actually 'delayed' due to earlier experiences of impoverished environment.  Also, if your child can regulate some of the time then a diagnosis of RAD is probably wrong.

There is so much more he spoke about and I highly recommend checking out Bruce Perry's Seven Slides Series on the Child Trauma Academy You Tube Channel.

So what can we do to help regulate?  I was comforted to hear that some of the things we have done are on the right lines.  Touch - so playing hairdressers is good.  Use rhythm  - music (listening to and making) dance around the living room, play pat-a-cake, go for a walk, trampoline.  Meditation (Missy and I both like using meditation). Decompression time for the child - it's OK for them to watch TV after school or play on a the DS.  It's their chance to zone out, be dissociative for a while after being hyper-aroused at school.  It's a good regulatory activity so don't use no TV as a consequence.  Sit next to them, in parallel, at the dining room table as it's less threatening.

Lots of take in, lots to reflect upon and put into practice or revisit.

Monday 10 November 2014

Words from the back seat

Missy talks A LOT, particularly when we're in the car.  Mostly it's asking me questions, pointing out things, remembering quite random things we've done singing A LOT, but every now and then she'll come out with something more serious, more poignant.  I wonder if it's because she has a captive audience but doesn't have to make eye contact?

A few days ago, on the way home from the shops, she was talking about this, that and the other, making up words to songs when she said suddenly:  "I don't hate old Susan*, well I do hate her for not looking after me but I sort of hate her half but also I do love her half too.  I love you more though because you look after me and keep me safe.  Is that ok?"

Well, I wasn't exactly prepared for such deep thinking as I drove up to the large roundabout, a large lorry getting a little to close for comfort, trying to keep us both safe.

"Of course it's ok".  I said.  Doh! That's not what I meant.

I didn't know what I meant really.  Of course it's ok that she loves me. Is it ok that she has these feelings towards her birth mum? These are her feelings and it's not for me to say how she should feel but I certainly don't want her to hate anyone, not least her birth mum.  She probably doesn't really understand the true meanings of hate and love yet anyway.  I formulated a few guiding words in my head, but by then Missy was several subjects ahead and her favourite single came on the radio to which she was singing along happily.  Well, I say singing - she doesn't always get the words right which can be quite amusing.  Anyway, by then the moment had gone. I was too slow. I mentally kicked myself.  As I was driving I couldn't really kick myself properly.

Back home when we were drawing together I casually reminded her of some artwork we'd done at Theraplay about emotions. She wasn't interested.  She was far more interested in the work in hand, but, interestingly, not telling me how to do my own piece as she would have done a year ago.

Do your children talk to you from the back seat?   Do they catch you unawares?  Do you revisit the subject later or wait for them to bring it up again?

*birth mum but obviously name has been changed.

Thursday 6 November 2014

Could you be a foster carer?

Whilst National Adoption Week seems, in the media at least, to be mostly about attracting new adopters, we mustn't forget those who are integral part of the adoption process and that's foster carers.  They do a wonderful job looking after children who are unable to live with their birth family, providing them with a safe haven and stability that they may never have known. Many of these children will go on to be adopted.

So, could you be a foster carer?   Below is an infographic I'm sharing on behalf of TACT which explains what it takes to be a great foster carer.

If you feel you have what it takes to be a foster carer and would like to find out more then please contact TACT on freephone 0808 250 9177 or register your interest via their website.

Wednesday 5 November 2014

New National Adoption Service in Wales

As part of National Adoption Week, I am delighted to have been asked to help highlight the new National Adoption Service for Wales that was launched today.

Speaking with many adopters either in person or via social media, it's obvious that agencies and local authorities all do things differently, very differently in some cases.  Actually, this even happens within my own local authority. Consistency is very lacking.  So I'm really interested to read about this new National Adoption Service in Wales which sees all Welsh local authorities (except Anglesey) and five adoption agencies working collaboratively to deliver this new service. The Welsh local authorities are being grouped together into five regions and these five regions will be working with BAAF, Adoption UK, After Adoption, Barnardo's Cymru and St David's Children's Society.

The regions will bring their resources, access to education and health together with the unique expertise and understanding of adoption from the five agencies.  Sounds promising.  Sounds like there will be much improved consistency.

There are currently 139 children on the Wales Adoption Register waiting to be matched.  Out of 58 adopters referred to the Register, only 22 are potentially available for these children as many are already being matched and no adopters are in a position to take a sibling group of over two children.

Hopefully the new National Adoption Service will successfully bring together the expertise required to improve the adoption process in Wales so that more children are matched, the right matches are made and the correct and timely support is given to adopters.  Now that I am post adoption order, I'm always interested to hear what support is available to adopters.  The National Adoption Service in Wales is promising to create a service that meets the "life long needs" for all those affected by adoption.  And it is life long, not just up to the Adoption Order being granted.

This does sound very promising for adoption in Wales and I wish them every success.

If you are in Wales and want more information about the National Adoption Service please visit

Tuesday 4 November 2014

Parent Consultation went well

We had Parents' Consultation at school yesterday.  Happy to say it went well.  Not just because Missy is doing well but also because her current teacher has shown to us she cares, she notices and she does something about it.  This is Missy's third year at the school now but the first time a teacher has noticed Missy likes routine and has taken time to settle down, the first time a teacher has really noticed Missy's anxiety and the first time a teacher has really taken time to help and support.  I wanted to cry (in a good way) when I heard what her teacher had to say.  Missy's year 1 teacher was also the SENCO yet barely picked up on anything that her current teacher has noticed in just 6 weeks.

When Missy is fully engaged in what she is doing because she is enjoying it so much, her anxieties disappear.  Her teacher has noticed this when she is writing and doing art.  Maths, however, is very different and a lesson in which Missy needs support.  She is so worried about getting things wrong, she thinks the teacher will be angry and she is very tentative about putting up her hand.  We're all trying to teach her that being wrong is ok, it's all part of learning and that she isn't going to told off or make anyone angry.  We don't know for sure but strongly suspect if things went wrong at birth mum's house, then Missy was blamed or made to feel stupid.

Missy sees another teacher once or twice a week who specialises in pastoral care.  She is super lovely and I wouldn't mind an hour with her myself.  Apparently Missy has done some outstanding work with her, some very honest work, and I've been invited in to see her so she can show me the work but also find out more about Missy's issues and how best she can help.

I think hearing the feedback from her teacher yesterday has helped Missy a little - she was singing "You're Happy and You Know It" very loudly this morning.

Monday 3 November 2014

Words of advice from Missy

Missy saw a brief piece on TV this morning about National Adoption Week. She thought one of the children looked a bit sad (she often mistakes a neutral look or one of concentration as a look of sadness).  I asked Missy what kind words she might say to the little girl.

"Don't worry, you will soon have a lovely new mummy and daddy. You might be a bit nervous and sad but you will be a lot happier".



Friday 31 October 2014

Three cheers for social media

Where would we be without the Internet? Me, I'd probably would have imploded right now into a sticky mess, having already developed a large lump on my head from too much wall banging.  I didn't put 'the Internet' on our Support Network spidagram when we did this for our home study - it didn't even occur to me to do so and I would probably would have been questioned if I had.  Little did I know that that the Internet would prove to be one of our best forms of support over the last couple of years.

I love social media. I'm not active on everything the internet has offer, preferring to stick with Facebook, Twitter, the odd foray into Instagram and, of course, blogging.  I started my blog as a way of keeping family and some friends updated with our adoption process and as a diary for us.  I then discovered other adopters on Twitter and started sharing my blog there too.  I'd been on Twitter for some time under my own name and business, amassing several thousand followers in the process, and knew how good it was for conversation and connected with like-minded individuals.  However, I need to keep my blog confidential and so set up another Twitter account.

Soon I found many other adopters and prospective adopters and over the last couple of years we have built quite a nice little community.  Some followers I have now met in 'real life' thanks to the recent Open Nest conference, some I know because they are local adopters to me and others I feel I know so much about even though we have never met and may indeed never meet!  What I love is that if I'm having a bad day I can tweet a comment and somewhere out there in Twitterland will be at least one adopter silently nodding their head as if to say 'yes, I understand'.  In Twitterland there are people who 'get it', who understand why I'm feeling the way I am or get why Missy might be behaving the way she is.  Likewise, it's great to support other adopters out there, many of whom are still on the journey to approval and matching. Twitter is also great and helping things go viral, like the Kids Company campaign 'See The Child'.  I bloody love Twitter.  If you are an adopter or prospective adopter reading this and not yet on Twitter, then join! Now!  Come and say hi.

Facebook is pretty good too.  I don't put too much info on my personal account but have a Facebook page linked to this blog, on which I post my blog udpates and also other adoption related news that I see.  Facebook also helps me keep up to date with other adoption bloggers and there's two great support groups too.  I don't always post on them but just reading some of the posts and knowing there are others experiencing the same issues is comforting.  Obviously it's not nice we experience these problems in our families but at least we aren't doing it alone.

And of course, I'm linking this blog post up with the Weekly Adoption Shout Out #WASO on The Adoption Social, a brilliant online resource for adopters and umbrella for adoption blogs.

Three cheers for social media and for all my lovely friends, real and virtual, on Twitter.

Wednesday 22 October 2014


In Missy's spellings homework last night was the word 'one'. 

She thought about 'one', her eyes lit up and said "I only have one mummy". 

Sunday 19 October 2014

The Open Nest Conference - Taking Care

I've just spent the weekend in gorgeous York, attending the first Open Nest conference entitled 'Taking Care'.  It's the first one the charity has held and hopefully there will be many more. Attended by mostly adopters, there were also adoptees, social workers and foster carers in attendance.

The Open Nest was founded by the inspirational and very lovely Amanda Boorman who adopted Jazz 15 years ago. It was Amanda who started the day off with her documentary about her life with Jazz, including video clips of Jazz over the years.  It's not all been rosy for them, and Amanda wasn't afraid to show that in her video. Thankfully there were tissues on the table because there were a lot of tears around the room. I cried. A lot.

Next to speak was Al Coates who writes at "The misadventures of an adoptive dad".  He talked about his life as an adopter and social worker, speaking with a mix of humour and seriousness. I think it's important us adopters use humour because without it we quite possibly would have imploded by now!

Fran Proctor is an adoptee and, in the form of an interview with Sally Donovan, she explained about her experiences as an adoptee, finding out the truth about her birth mum and her struggles to come to terms with her trauma. Again I cried. A coupe of things she said were lightbulb moments for me and will change the wording I use with Missy. I've also been considering future life story work with Missy and Fran's experience will be helpful to me in that regard.

Next up was Sally Donovan. I love her book "No Matter What". If you are haven't yet read this book and have an interest in adoption, whether a prospective adopter, adopter or professional, I urge you to get a copy. Sally's talked to us about taking care and what I was reminded was that I must not feel guilty if I need to take time out. The only way I can parent therapeutically is if I have the energy to do so. If that means an hour on the sofa rather than a hour cleaning then so be it.  Sally also made me feel much better about the dreaded school run and gave us some great tips for being an advocate for our children at school.

We also heard from We Are Family who are doing a fabulous job in London setting up parent support groups - something that is vital for adopters - and from Ella Harris who introduced the concept of Open Space events, a platform for brainstorming ideas and discussion.

Finally, Sarah and Vicki from The Adoption Social talked about how they came to form this wonderful resource for adopters, what they can offer and what the future holds. They do a wonderful job and have really brought the adoption community together under the adoption social roof.

By the end of the conference I was drained. So much to take in, all the while thinking of my daughter, her future and how to apply what I learnt.  I was grateful for the lovely calming 20 minute walk along the river to the YHA where I was staying, even if I did end up with blisters.

An hour later I was back out again, for dinner with @iris7summer before heading back to the hotel for the evening social. Now, I do like a bit of a boogie, particularly if 80s music is playing but tiredness and blisters conspired against me. I had to admit defeat by 9.30pm and return to the YHA and bed. 

This morning I was up earlier than expected and decided to make the most of my extra hour by having a look round York Minster. The last time I was in York was with my late Dad when we visited the Minster and climbed the tower. Being in the Minster brought a tear to my eye whilst I lit a candle for him, a candle conveniently near the organist who was practising for Matins. Dad loved the sound of church organs. I loved the sound of the bells that were ringing out across the city, such a joyous sound. 

I've been truly inspired by the conference.  I've learnt I need to take care more of myself, I've learnt that it's ok not to do the cleaning (phew!), I've learnt I need to take more care in how I parent therapeutically, I've learnt that I'm leading an 'epic life', I've learnt it's ok to say no to the PTA (I really need to practice this one). I laughed, I cried. I loved meeting people who up til now I only knew as a random twitter handle. I loved meeting people who 'get it'.

I, for one, cannot wait for next year's conference.  Take care.

Friday 17 October 2014

Reminding myself of the positives

I have to keep reminding myself how far we've come since Missy came home a couple of years ago.

One battle I've decided not to keep fighting is over hair.  I now allow Missy to do her own hair in the morning as long as it is tidy and appropriate for school.  Actually she does a really good french plait, better than I could do.  Now, this time last year if I'd asked her to do her hair again, or if she didn't like what I had done, there would have been a huge meltdown with screaming, crying, "I hate you", verbal and maybe physical abuse.  Earlier this week I asked her to do her hair again and whilst she had a strop and a huff, she immediately did her her again, beautifully.  

Other things also elicit a much calmer response from her than would have been the case a year ago.  A meltdown only lasts five minutes, 10 minutes tops and I can sit quietly near her until calm Missy is 'back in the room'.  

We no longer have to sit and plan the week ahead on her wall planner (in fact I might take it down) and she talks to me non-stop on the way home from school now instead of the stony silence or "don't talk to me" mood she used to be in.

Her reading and spelling is fantastic and she's becoming a lot less controlling, particularly when we are playing games.

We're doing ok and I need to keep reminding myself this.

Thursday 9 October 2014

Monkey Business

Well it's been a while since I've updated my blog. Sorry blog to have ignored you but I've been feeling quite 'meh' lately.

The summer holidays were great and the two weeks when Daddy was off were two of the best weeks we've had in the last two years, so we are planning on doing exactly the same next year. But then school started and Missy's anxiety ramped up. Her attitude changed, she refused to do things, was rude, same old, same old.

Usually the Autumn term for me is also a time for change and new things but this year I just haven't felt like that, I've just felt flat again. However, I've recently found out I'm seriously anaemic so that no doubt contributes to my lack of energy. I'm on iron tablets now. I've also found out that my cholesterol level is high - no surprise as my diet as been crap over the last couple of years and I haven't been able to run, plus it looks highly likely its genetic - so to help lower the levels I'm taking Co-enzyme Q10 which is also good for boosting energy levels. So, hopefully in a few months time my energy will be topped up and I'll be full steam ahead.

After a few weeks of being back at school, Missy came home with the class mascot. I didn't even realise they had one, I thought it was just Nursery, Reception and Year 1.  Now, obviously it was lovely for Missy to be recognised by the teacher for doing something well and therefore receiving the mascot, a monkey.  However, whilst in earlier classes she only had the mascot for a night or, if lucky, at the weekend, this year they get to keep the mascot for a whole week! Monkey went everywhere with her; in bed, swimming, a party. She got very attached to the monkey, too attached.  But I couldn't do anything, I couldn't tell her to take it back. I knew there would be fall out.

The night before she had to take the toy back in, she got very upset at the thought of having to part with monkey and the next morning she sobbed all the way too school. Even her friends in the playground couldn't cheer her up and she stuck by me whilst we waited for her teacher to open the classroom door.  When the door was opened, she walked in crying her eyes out.  One of the TAs asked what was wrong and Missy replied that she didn't want to give monkey back.  "Oh, don't be silly", said the TA dismissively.  I took a deep breath.   By this time Missy was sobbing uncontrollably.  Thankfully her teacher is empathetic. I don't how much she knows about attachment but she seemed to handle it fairly well, immediately seeing that Missy was upset and taking her aside.  I like her Year 2 teacher, she has time for me and has already put in place a couple of things to help Missy.

Three weeks later and Missy is still getting upset every now and then about not having monkey. She can't accept that it's only fair monkey is shared around the whole class, of course she can't.  All she can think about is the loss. I think I'll have to ask her teacher  not to give the monkey to Missy again, but recognise her in other ways that build her self-esteem.  No surprises what's top of her list from Santa. Do Toys R Us sell monkeys?

Saturday 30 August 2014

Camping and school holiday success!

Missy loves camping! Hurrah!

I honestly had worries about camping.  Our tent isn't big, although it is a 3 berth tent, and I had visions of Missy fidgeting and not being able to sleep, hating being in a sleeping bag, hating the toilets and hating the noise.

But it was a success!

She slept like a baby, snuggled right inside the sleeping bag, loved being in the tent, was  happy to use the toilets (although declined to use the showers as it would have meant going in by herself so thankfully I was armed with wet wipes).  There was loads to do to keep her happy and she happily played with our friends' children who were camped next to us which meant I could enjoy a cuppa sitting on my deckchair watching the world go by .  Missy slept in both mornings long after Daddy and I had got up (5.30am one morning, we couldn't sleep!), but I'm glad we got up then as we could get straight in the showers and enjoy a quiet morning brew watching the hot air balloons gently float into the distance.

I did wonder what we would do about the late nights because we certainly didn't want to go back to the tent in the evenings until the music had finished but Missy happily stayed up until crazy o'clock.  She loved dancing to the music on Daddy's shoulders.  We only had a couple of strops but nothing of much note.

There is so much more I want to write and photos to show but I really can't, not on the blog.  Once again, food wasn't much of an issue because Missy was enjoying herself and food wasn't on her mind.

We are definitely going camping again next year. We have decided to get a bigger tent though, with a living area, because if it had rained we really would have been stuffed.

I really can't believe how well the last few weeks have gone - far far better than I dared to hope.  In the ups and downs of adoption, we are most definitely on an up!  It's three days until school is back and, touch wood, Missy is fine and amazingly showing no anxiety.  Of course, all might change in the next day or two but so far so good.  I've actually enjoyed the summer holidays, albeit tiring with a child who still follows me around a lot, but I reckon we can safely say these school holidays have been a success.

Sunday 10 August 2014

Legoland and Missing Daddy

Last week whilst staying at my Mum's, we went to Legoland.  The forecast had been for rain but we decided to chance it anyway as it looked to be fine by mid morning.  Luckily we had no rain whatsoever although I think the forecast must have kept a few people away because the Park was by no means full, in fact we barely had to wait for some rides.

We arrived at 9.10am and headed straight for the queue for pre-paid tickets and within 15 minutes we were allowed through to the start of the Park.  Missy is actually fine in queues so there are no worries there. Having been last year, we knew to walk to the top of the hill where they hold you until the rest of the Park opens at 10am.  From there we could race down to the first ride, the Viking Splash.  We were one of the first on the Viking Splash and got VERY wet but soon dried off.  We then headed for the Dragon.

Now, when I took my niece to Legoland about 17 years ago, when it was a quarter of the size it is now, the Dragon was quite a tame ride.  So I told my Mum it was tame and there was nothing to worry about.  I told Missy it was a gentle ride, just a small rollercoaster for kiddies.   Erm.....oops!    After we'd gently meandered round the first part of the ride amongst all the Lego characters, we then started to climb and then ..........whoosh!!  Missy screamed, my Mum screamed.  My Mum was hanging on for dear life, Missy was laughing her head off.  She loved it, my Mum hated it and needed a sit down afterwards. Missy just wanted to go on again. So we did.

The rest of the day went swimmingly. We did so much and Missy went on lots of rides either with us or by herself.  I think me and Mum loved the underwater Atlantis ride amongst the shark, fishes and ray more than she did though.  Apart from the Dragon, her favourite was the 4D animation with the snow, water and fire effects.

This time she wasn't too fussed about the Duplo Valley splash park but I suspect it was more because she had ice-cream on her mind.

We left about 4pm, with only one other car exiting the same time as we did, so had no problems with queues.  My niece works in Windsor so we drove down to see her and had a refreshing drink.  Missy was beginning to get a little bit ratty in the car which is a sure sign of tiredness. But all in all a good day.

Hopefully next year Missy will have grown a little more so that she reaches the height for the rides at Thorpe Park as I think she will have grown out of a lot of the smaller Legoland rides.

We stayed at Mum's two nights and as Missy has now stayed there a handful of times, she is quite comfortable there and we find we don't have to take over as much stuff from home like her bedside light and pillowcase.  She must be feeling quite safe there as she's beginning to display more of her negative behaviours, so at last my Mum is starting to see what we've experienced over the last 22 months.

We both missed Daddy a lot although we did speak to him on the phone.  Missy loves drawing cards and pictures for people and last night back home was no exception.  She made a beautiful card for Daddy, on which she drew pictures of the lavender she had picked from the garden and so beautifully tied in a small bouquet.  She popped this under his pillow together with treasure from the garden (a stone over which she had painted with pink glitter).  So lovely.

Saturday 2 August 2014

Missing cats, trampolining and cartwheels

We've almost made it to the end of week 2 of the holidays and we're doing ok-ish.  Next week we're spending two nights at my Mum's and the following two and a half weeks Daddy is off work, hurrah!

The first week of the school holidays were a little fraught.  This happened to coincide with one of our cats going missing.  My twitter feed has had quite a few missing cats on it in the last week or so - I think the hot weather has possibly meant they've accidentally got shut in sheds or garages whilst looking for shade, or that they've just spent an awfully long time sleeping under the stars! Our cat was missing for 5 days.  Actually I'm wondering if our cat just wanted some peace and quiet - he doesn't like Missy people shouting.  

I tried to be as positive as possible but Daddy was getting quite stressed and Missy was also upset. Nevertheless, she decided she wanted to help look for him and we spent Monday morning walking around the fields and posting Lost flyers. Thankfully the cat returned and so did Missy's better behaviour.

This last week Missy had a two-day trampolining course at the local leisure centre.  At first Missy was rather anxious, although insisted I didn't stay. I stayed five minutes by which time all the other parents had gone and Missy was laughing and giggling with two new friends.  I then spent a lovely 90 minutes sitting on the cafe balcony, enjoying the sun, the peace and quiet, with a coffee and my book.  On returning to the hall, Missy was in full bounce, really enjoying herself and bouncing much higher than when I left.  The teacher came over and told me that she was certainly very capable but lacked confidence.  I suspect she also lacked listening skills too.

The rest of the day was lovely and calm in the Missy house.

Day 2 and Missy was much happier to go trampolining.  I was certainly looking forward to my 90 minutes of peace and quiet.   By the end of the course, Missy was doing some great bouncing and turning, landing on her bottom and bouncing back up again.  I would have loved to have got on myself, I do love a trampoline.

The rest of the day was lovely and calm in the Missy house.

Hmmm, see a pattern?  Maybe I should enrol Missy on a trampoline course. I've read a few reports from parents about how bouncing seems to help regulate their kids. It's also known that many kids who have a degree of sensory processing disorder have a strong need to move - all the time.  Bouncing therefore is ideal for them and also helps with their motor skills and proprioception.  Whilst Missy has never been diagnosed as such, it's highly likely from certain behaviours she exhibits that she has a degree of SPD and it was certainly talked about whilst we went through matching.

We've been watching quite a bit of the Commonwealth Games (I say quite a bit, the TV has actually been on most of the time because we love watching sport and it's only once every four years - the TV is otherwise off!).  Missy has loved the gymnastics and this morning was in her leotard pretending to be Claudia Fragapane, the amazing English 16 year old gold medallist.  Missy is always doing cartwheels or handstands - if we're out somewhwere and we walk over some grass she'll want to do a cartwheel.  We also love the swimming (I've been studying closely how they breathe because I am useless at doing front crawl and breathing properly), and the diving.  Once Missy can swim a bit better, we're going to take her for a diving lesson.

Talking of cartwheels, I'm being called into the garden to watch yet another demonstration.  Watching? Watching? Do you get this with your kids?  Them forever asking you to watch them doing things. I've lost count the number of cartwheels I've watched.

In other news, we're all getting excited about our holiday abroad - not too much anxiety shown yet - and Missy has today started to pack her Trunki (we don't go for 10 days).

Saturday 19 July 2014

Recharging the Self-Esteem Battery

I've been so proud of Missy over the last 7 days.  

She's taken part in a 3k fun run, ran faster than me and got some great cheers as she raced over the finish line.  
Fun Run Medal

She was promoted into the next class at her swimming lessons.  

And yesterday, to top off a great week, she was awarded a Headteacher's Award for "all round fantastic progress and a wonderful attitude to school".

Headteacher's Award Certificate

We celebrated last night with a BBQ and some pretend fizz (well, it was pretend for Missy). I've also bought her a loom band kit (I gave in).

For a while these events will boost her self-esteem, a recharge until the battery starts to run low again.  Her self-esteem has been at rock bottom over the last couple of weeks.  She thinks she isn't good enough (often seen with adopted children), she thinks she is disgusting and ugly.  To hear a beautiful, funny and talented six year old crying her eyes out saying these words is heartbreaking.  And when her self-esteem battery is running low then she has no energy for other functions, like problem solving.  When she talks in this manner, we are careful not to just say "No, you're not" because in her mind that shows we haven't listened.  We are gentle, we say it's so sad she feels that way, we wonder out loud as to why she feels that way, we validate her feelings, we explain how we feel about her and gently give her examples of why she is a superstar.  Gradually her frown turns the right way up, the self-esteem button has rebooted.

We had a lovely conversation in the car this morning about how it's always good to try your best, whatever that may be for her, because trying over and over brings results.  I told Missy that she ran well, swam well and got the Award because she has been the best person she can be. She agreed and told me it was good to practice something a lot "a bit like the lightbulb man, Mummy".  Yes, just like Thomas Eddison.  

She loves school and her progress in reading has been fantastic this year.  At the recent open evening she received lots of lovely praise from all the teachers, not just her Year 1 teacher.  She loves to be helpful and kind.  Some of it is down to being a tad too compliant and not wanting to do the wrong thing for fear of being shouted at. But a lot of it is because she is genuinely a lovely, polite little girl.  

So, the Award, in the form of a certificate, will be going on her wall alongside her other certificates from school, swimming and gymnastics, all visual evidence of what a superstar she is.

Thursday 10 July 2014

Top 10 Tips for Adopters Going on Holiday

Going on holiday is a big emotive subject for adopters and adoptees.  Whilst for some adoptive families, holidays are not an issue and thoroughly enjoyed, for some children it's so stressful that some families just never make it away from their house and don't even bother booking a holiday.  Yet a holiday is one thing we all need.

Will there be food?  Are you taking me with you?  Are we coming home?  Am I coming home with you? Will there be a bed for me to sleep on? Will the cats be ok?  Will we see them again?  Is where we are going horrible?  Are you sure it's a nice place?   These and many more questions may be asked by adopted children, and not necessarily out loud to their parents.

Consider a child who has been in foster care yet the foster carers go on holiday leaving the child to go into respite.  Bags are packed, flights are booked, yet the child isn't going with them.  Can you imagine how left out they feel?   And so when they go to live with their forever family, they may continue to think that it's only the adults that go on holiday and children don't go with them.

Here are my top 10 tips for making holiday time as anxiety-free and as stress-free as possible:-

1.    Prepare, prepare, prepare - preparation is key and needs to start as soon as possible after the holiday is booked no matter how far in advance you book it.  Show photos of where you are going, when, how and why and give as much detail about the place as you can.

2.   Talk about what you are ALL going to do once you arrive there.  For example, say how you are ALL going to have fun in the pool, or you are ALL going to enjoy playing on the beach or at the campsite.

3.   Talk about what you are ALL going to once you get home.  Your child may still believe they are not living with you forever so it's vital to reinforce this message.  Plan an activity for a few days after you get home that you can all look forward to and repeat this often before you go and whilst you are on holiday.

4.  If you are flying, talk about planes in the air flying over your house, wondering where they are going and what it might be like there.  Talk about the journey to the airport, check-in, boarding, on the plane, explain that the luggage doesn't stay with us but goes elsewhere on the plane to be collected at the other end, talk about the cabin crew, their safety briefing, the toilets, sitting altogether, the seatbelts that must be worn.  For our first flight with Missy we got a great lift-the-flap book called Busy Airport, that we read a lot before we went.  We've started reading it again too.  It really helped last year and she was fine with flying.

5.  Talk about food.  Food is high on the anxiety list for Missy, often a tantrum trigger, possibly wondering if she will actually be fed.  We are talking about breakfast, what we will do for lunch, where we might eat out in the evening. As much as possible, we will keep to the same eating times as at home. Missy and I cooked some Greek food earlier this week and we'll probably eat out at the local Greek before we go.

6.  Pack familiar things that remind them of home.  Most young children will pack their favourite toy anyway but in addition to toys, books and colouring we will also pack her pillowcase and put it on the bed when we get there, together with her Leaf and her Hello Kitty cushion, so that she has familiar smells around her.

7.  Kids clubs - probably not a good idea!

8.  Ensure you have all the necessary paperwork. If you're child is pre-adoption order, make sure you have all necessary paperwork and make sure your child goes through passport control with the parent who has the paperwork in their bag!   Even post adoption order it's worth taking some paperwork just in case as some countries will question any parent who has a different surname from that of their child whether birth or adopted (Missy has Daddy's surname as we aren't married...yet )

9.   Try to stick to routine.  Ok, you're on holiday so routine is going to change slightly and I know Missy will be going to bed a lot later, nevertheless we try to stick to a routine as much as possible - aim for meals at the same time, same time for bedtime, and limit the amount of activities you do.

10.  Relax.  You're on holiday, you're allowed to.  As much as you can, have a great time wherever you go.  If you're not relaxed your children will pick up on this.

I hope this list has given you some useful tips, particularly if you haven't been on a holiday before with your  child(ren).

If you have any other tips you'd like to share and that you've found helpful then I'd love to hear them.

Monday 7 July 2014

Phonics Test and Summer Reading Challenge

We're so proud of Missy.  She scored 34 out of 40 in her recent Phonics Test.  I'll admit that I didn't think she'd do that well because sometimes things go in one ear and out the other but it shows to us that she can apply herself when she really puts her mind to it.

Her reading and understanding has come on leaps and bounds this year and she has just gone up a level with her reading group.  Considering it unlikely she was read too a great deal or encouraged to look at books in her earlier years, I am so happy with where she is now.

We're going to sign up for the free Summer Reading Challenge at our local library and make a summer project out of it.

Any suggestions for books?  What does your 4-6 year old like to read?

I'm linking this post to #MemoryBox on The Adoption Social.

Thursday 3 July 2014

PAC - Enhancing Adoptive Parenting Programme

The past 10 weeks have seen a very positive change in our house.  We were very lucky to be part of a trial by PAC (Post Adoption Permanency Advice & Counselling) in which they took us through their Enhancing Adoptive Parenting training via Skpe.

PAC provides high quality support for all those affected by adoption, be they adopters, carers, adoptees, birth parents or professionals.

The training itself took place one evening a week for 90 minutes via Skype. Our trainer was Virginia, a very experienced child care worker of 40 years. The beauty of participating via Skype for us was that we didn't have to travel, we didn't have to find childcare, we didn't have to tidy the house up first, we got Missy to bed, had a quick tea and then settled at our dining room table with the iPad in front of us.  No travel time was wasted by our trainer either (which saves money for PAC). 

A week before the course started, I had a long conversation with Virginia about our situation, giving her some background to Missy, explaining our difficulties and Missy's anxieties and what we wanted to get from the course.  The main things we wanted were strategies to turn negative behaviour around, to not be walking on eggshells, to support and understand Missy better and to bring some calm to our house.

We had some reading after each session but not reams and reams, just a summary of what we had talked about. To ensure we put our learning into practice, we also had homework to do.

Week 1 was an introduction to the programme, particularly useful for Daddy as he hadn't been party to the earlier call and was just told that we were doing it! We talked about behaviours, what adoption means and how that can lead a child to reinvent themselves. We had to consider how we responded to Missy's behaviour and the impact that response had on her, plus we had to think about the factors that are important to understanding her behaviour.  It made us think. A lot.

Week 2  looked at the different types of attachment and the consequences of poor attachment. Our homework was to monitor Missy's behaviour and relate it to attachment.  Was she in survival mode? How did we react, did we take it personally?  (Yes, too much sometimes).

In week 3 Virginia helped us understand how we can use positive attention to change behaviour.  Missy thrives on attention at home, be in positive or negative.  What aspects of Missy's behaviour did we give attention too? Our homework showed we gave too much attention to negative behaviour.  We also considered our thoughts, feelings and behaviours and the impact this had on Missy.

At week 4 we started to look at strategies and practical ways to help us and Missy.  'Special play' is something you may have heard of through theraplay.  It's essentially child-led play, 15 minutes a day, joining in with Missy but not teaching or leading, just noticing, commentating and praising.  This type of play felt quite odd at first but it certainly had a positive effect.  It seems to top up Missy such that she is then able to focus on something else by herself and remain calm and regulated.  Missy doesn't always like to play (or indeed know how to in some instances) so we used the technique when doing things like baking or going on a walk.

Week 5 is all about verbal praise and reward, praising for appropriate behaviour and each time we see more of the behaviour we want eg asking nicely, putting toys away.  No sticker charts in this house though!  We learnt about a child's response to praise and reward and considered their behaviour in terms of their background. We don't tend to reward Missy with material things, that's not to say we don't buy her stuff, but a reward here might be a hug, a tickle or a big kiss.

By the end of week 5 we were beginning to see some positive changes.  Virginia was helping us consider why Missy acts out the way she does. Based on her experience working with children, she offered possibilities around the meaning of certain emotions and behaviours.  Did this experience (or lack of) in the past now show itself in her current behaviour?  Our understanding of how Missy's past may be affecting her now has massively increased.

The subject of week 6 was clear commands and boundaries.  I think it's fairly well known that children need boundaries but in practice it's not always that easy to put these in place, particularly when a child has a deep need for control and is used to behaving in a certain way.   We also found we needed to change our language. Not "Can you put your toys away" - that's a question, not a command. Instead say "Put your toys away".  Daddy and I have both checked each other with the way we've issued commands.  We also found we were giving too many commands, something that most parents do and even more so with children with higher needs.

Week 7 talked about ignoring!  This refers to ignoring their inappropriate responses eg whining, moaning, continuing to praise good behaviour. It's important though not to ignore the message behind the negative behaviour. I've found this technique really helps me stay calm.

For each week's homework, we also need to continue with the strategies we learnt in earlier weeks.  At first we forgot to do this as there is so much to put into practice, but like anything, the more you do something, the easier and better it gets.

In week 8 we looked at effective discipline, limit setting and how to use consequences.  A brilliant strategy that is very effective for us is using the 'if/then' rule eg if you don't clean your teeth then there will be no sweets.

Week 9 was about problem solving, helping children take responsibility and empowering them to resolve their own situations.  Missy often reverts to toddler-status when faced with a problem at home and so this is a big area on which we need to work but we've noticed some good responses.  School have also noticed that she is thinking about certain situations first before acting.

Finally, in week 10 we reviewed the previous 9 weeks and also looked additionally at an issue specific to Missy which is her anxiety around food.  We talked at length as to why there is this anxiety and what might have been the cause because we can't know for sure.  Virginia has given us some strategies and we are putting these into practice.

In conclusion, the 10 weeks have been brilliant!  The positive changes are very noticeable, one big one being the relationship between Missy and Daddy which is fantastic.  Daddy and I both feel much calmer and are no longer walking on eggshells. Missy responds to us much better and seems a lot less anxious about certain things.  It's certainly work in progress but what it means is that when it's all going pants up, Daddy and I have the strategies to help Missy work through her anger and frustration whilst we keep as calm as possible.  The things we've learnt don't always work and that's why it's great to have a toolbox of strategies.

I'm so glad it's been trialled over Skype because I'm not sure we could have committed to 10 weeks if we had to travel somewhere. This is an even greater factor for adopters who don't live within easy reach of London but who desperately need the support. Equally for our trainer, travel delays would have impacted on all of us.  I hope PAC can continue to offer the Skype programme.

I am beyond grateful for PAC choosing to work with us on this programme and I highly recommend this course to any adopters.

Here's a link to a PAC information leaflet about the training.

If you think this programme might be for you then give PAC a call and speak to your LA/adoption agency about possible funding.

Sunday 29 June 2014


The theme for this weeks #WASO is Forever so I asked Missy what forever meant. At first she didn't answer as she was in a contrary mood. However the next time I asked her her answer was a very loud "I'm going to live here forever, yeahhhhh!!".

I'm guessing her SW used the word forever quite a bit, referring to a forever family, because it was it was certainly part of her vocabulary when she came to us.  When she first started playing hairdressers and doing my hair on a daily basis, she'd pretend I was also a customer coming for a sleepover.  "Are you staying forever?" she'd ask. Or she (the pretend hairdresser) might be going on holiday and coming to stay with me. "Can I stay forever?" she'd ask.

We still play hairdressers but she no longer asks her customers if they are staying forever, or asks if she can stay with them forever.  Perhaps this is a sign it's sunk in that we really are her forever family.

Friday 27 June 2014

See the Child, Change the System - #3

Here's my final post this week linked to the Kids Company campaign, 'See the Child, Change the System'.

On this video one of Kid's Company outreach workers talks about the children he works with and the dreadful lives in which they grow up.

Please watch this video and I urge you to sign the petition at or text I SEE to 63000. Thank you.

Thursday 26 June 2014

See the Child, Change the System - #2

Here's another video from Kids Company that I want to share with you today.

Talking on the video is Professor Pasco Fearon from University College London and he's talking about the risk factors that affect children, including poverty, environment and parenting. He believes the right support for these children and indeed also for their parents is a major priority.

Please watch the video and I urge you to sign the petition at or text I SEE to 63000. Thank you.

Wednesday 25 June 2014

See the Child, Change the System

How many times has the Government initiated an inquiry following a death of a child known to social services?  Too many times is the answer.  Think Baby P, Victoria Climbie, Daniel Pelka and many others before them. At least 399 children have died since 2005 as a result of abuse or neglect!

Recommendations are made, people are blamed, a few practices are altered yet things haven't really changed.  Children are still suffering. A report out last Monday, by the Centre for Social Justice, found that child protection and mental health services were in crisis, with thousands of vulnerable children not getting the support they so desperately need.

Following this report, Kids Company, led by founder Camila Batmangelidgh, whom I had the pleasure of meeting at BritMums Live last Saturday, launched a campaign yesterday called 'See the Child, Change the System' to highlight this fundamental lack of support and call for major changes.  On Saturday Camila spoke of social services failing children on a 'catastrophic level', yet so many social workers feel they can't speak out for fear of reprisals.

Did you know that local authorities don't really know the true number of children at risk in their areas because to do so would mean they had a legal responsibility to help them?  There are so many more vulnerable children out there who need help - the NSPCC estimates that for every child granted a protection plan, another 8 are left unprotected.  That is a shocking figure.  Even to type those figures makes me angry. I know from hearing other adopters' experiences and a knowledge of what has since passed in my local authority that children have suffered terribly from a lack of support, a lack of care, a blind eye maybe, a lack of knowledge, an apathy, not our responsibility, a shift of blame.

Kids Company, through their campaign, want the public to sign a petition that calls for an independent task force to redesign the whole system.  This task force will devise a new in-depth child protection and social care model that will be trialled within a couple of local authorities and then rolled out nationally.

Something drastic needs to be done.

Please watch this video and show your support for these changes by signing the petition at or text I SEE to 63000.

Sunday 22 June 2014

My inspiring weekend at BritMums Live

I am inspired. I am invigorated. I am full of ideas. I am excited.  Why? Because I attended BritMums Live this weekend, a two day conference for the blogging community. This is good not only for my blogs but for my spirit in general.

As well as some wonderful keynote speakers, the days are split into lots of sessions with a variety of talks to attend on anything from podcasting to design, accounting to using your blog for change.  The latter session I attended on Saturday morning and, having already spent half an hour in tears, listening to Benjamin Brooks Dutton talk about Life As A Widower, I then spent another 40 minutes in tears listening to four speakers passionate about helping children. 

One of the speakers of whom I am a huge admirer was Camilla Batmangelidgh. Camila is the founder of Kids Company UK, a charity passionate about supporting vulnerable children in inner-city London. She's a larger than life figure, always dressed colourfully flamboyant.  I was a bit star struck when I was fortunate to speak with her afterwards. I told of of my blog and thanked her and her charity for the wonderful work they do and recounted the times when I worked in corporate when I arranged several volunteering days working with Kids Company.  A couple of the days involved painting murals on school buildings to bring some colour to the kids lives. We also painted a quiet room in one of the schools, with flowers and trees, whilst on another outing we helped organised art and cookery workshops. The people I worked for were privileged, most went to public school, they earnt a lot of money and lived in a bubble. I wanted to take them out that bubble and show them a different side of life. Half way through our volunteering days, a representative from Kids Company would explain what the charity was about and why these children needed their help. Some of  my colleagues were very moved; I honestly don't think they realised people lived like this in London, just a few miles from their bubbles. 

I was excited to hear Camila speak of a campaign to be launched next week called 'See The Child, Change The System' to bring about a change in children's services.  More about the campaign in a future blog.

Other highlights of BritMums Live included meeting Sarah from The Puffin Diaries and Vicki from The Boys Behaviour who together founded The Adoption Social. It's so lovely to meet people in real life, people who I 'know' well from SocialMedia Land.   The Adoption Social was up for a Brilliance in Blogging Award and although they didn't win, I think they should be extremely proud for being a Finalist. They have done an amazing job spreading the word about adoption.

I read a lot of adoption and fostering themed blogs but being at BritMums reminded me there are many other excellent blogs on other themes. I'm going to make time each week to get to know some of these other blogs and hopefully, in turn, I'll gain a few new readers who didn't previously know a great deal about adoption.

Another plus point from the weekend actually happened at home. I thought Missy may play up quite a lot with me not being there Friday and Saturday. I had talked to her about the weekend quite a bit, where I was going, what in was going, what time I'd be back so she was well prepared. I asked her to give me something of hers so I could think about her whilst at the event and she picked out a lovely photo of herself. I'm not a mum who has to give daddy a long list (or indeed any list at all), he's more than capable and it turns out they had a great time together. In fact I came home on Saturday to find they'd been strawberry and raspberry picking and had made two jars of strawberry jam! 

So, I now have a long to-do list filled with things to do for my blog and I can't wait to get going.  You'll find me at my desk tomorrow with a cup of tea and strawberry jam on toast.

Wednesday 18 June 2014

Relaxing and learning

I'm used to Missy complaining, shouting, having a tantrum. I rarely walk on eggshells anymore. Sometimes I know my response will illicit an ear piercing scream, a moan, a wail or a cry, but I'll say it anyway.

Sometimes though she amazes me with her response and I smile.

Tonight she asked for some more chilli houmous and I explained I'd finished it at lunchtime. "Oh" she said and moved on to the next question, asking if she could have some more of Daddy's Father's Day cake. I explained Daddy had finished it all last night. "Oh, ok" she replied.  No wail, no "it's not fair!", no crying. And this is food we're talking about here, her biggest trigger.

Thirty seconds later. "Mummy, see I didn't complain or cry when you said there wasn't any left".  "No Darling, well done for staying calm", I said.

"Yes, Mummy, it's so much more relaxing". And off she skipped with the cat.

She's learning. Little by little, small steps, but she's learning.

Tuesday 17 June 2014

I'm going to #BritMums Live 2014

For those of you going to BritMums Live this week, hopefully you'll be interested in this post.  For those not going you're probably not interested in the slightest.
But the reason I'm telling you is because this is a big deal for me.  Although I'll be commuting into London both days, I'll be away for a large part of those two days.  That's two days away from Missy.  I think she'll cope ok, but who knows. Often she hates me going out because she may well be thinking "will Mummy come home?" and I'll probably know all about it on Saturday morning. Hopefully I'll return home each day to find she's missed me but also had a fabulous time with Daddy.
It' also a big deal for me as I'm feeling very nervous. I haven't been to a big event like this in a couple of years and my confidence is very low at the moment.  I'm not the person I used to be but hopefully BritMums will help to restore some of that confidence.  
So, here's some stuff about me for those attending.
Name: Sezz or Sarah
Blog:  Dear Daughter
Twitter ID: @AdoptingSezz
Height: 5ft 4ish
Hair: Shoulder length brown hair.  Well, I think it will be brown.  I'm off to the hairdressers in an hour for a colour.
Eyes: Greeny brown with brown spots
Is this your first blogging conference?   Yes.
Are you attending both days?   Sure will be.
What are you most looking forward to at BritMums Live 2014?
Lots!  Just being out the house and doing something for different for starters.  Then there's all the lovely bloggers to meet, particularly adoption bloggers Sarah and Vicki.  

What are you wearing?
Not sure.  I attended a Personal Style Day last week and turns out I'm Natural Gamine!  So I need to find something that's neat, french chic-ish, and structured (think I need to go shopping). Oh and flat shoes, I don't do heels.
What do you hope to gain from BritMums Live 2014?
Obviously I'm hoping to pick up lots of tips to improve my blogging skills.  As well as this blog, I have another one too which is kinda linked to what I used to do for a job, and one which I hope might bring in some dosh.  I'm hoping to get some inspiration about design, content and working with sponsors, plus how to get my blogs actually read!  I also hope to give my confidence a boot in the behind and I'm hoping to gain a few more blogging friends. Finally I'm hoping to gain a really cool goody bag. I love a goody bag.  

I let you all know next week how I get on!
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