Monday 7 December 2015

Proud Parent

I am so incredibly proud of Missy today.

She's started piano lessons at school this term and today was the annual piano concert in front of the whole school and parents of the children playing. Missy has done really well in her lessons and I was sure that, if she overcame her nerves, then she'd be fine. This morning before school she was very nervous, understandly, so, for the first time, I gave her Rescue Remedy drops. I had some too.

Sat waiting, she looked cool as a cucumber. Of the 10 students, she was first to play and she played beautifully!  

A tear rolled down my cheek - I can't tell you how proud I am of her. I wanted to shout out to everyone there just how amazing she is, and why this was such as big thing for a little girl who often thinks she is not worth anything. 

Well done my gorgeous girl.

Thursday 3 December 2015

I'm a bit workshopped out

I'm a bit workshopped and conferenced out. I've been to four in as many weeks. First a workshop about empathy, then the AUK conference with Bryan Post, then a day with Dr Renee Marks (expert in trauma and dissociation) and last week an introduction to Non Violent Resistance (NVR).

Following all this, our home is a picture of loveliness, calm, respect, no tantrums, nothing being thrown and no answering back.  


HA! AS IF ............. !!!!

I'll be honest though. I do feel calmer in myself and am filled with more hope than I have done in a while.  

I've already blogged about AUK here, so I'll briefly talk about Dr Renee Marks and NVR.

Dr Renee Marks is the founder of Integrate Families, the National Centre of Trauma & Dissociation. I'd heard about Dr Marks from another adopter and was lucky enough to get a last minute ticket to sit amongst over 100 adopters, foster carers, SWs and other professionals to hear her talk about emotional regulation for children with complex trauma.  Her day was split into sections; talking about the brain and how trauma changes it, talking about emotional regulation in adults (put your oxygen mask on first), about trauma based behaviours in school and at home and finally she gave us some tools and techniques to promote emotional regulation in our children.

I came away feeling inspired.  Some of it I had heard  or read before but Dr Marks explains it all in such an uncomplicated way so there was definitely stuff I 'got' this time.  Like Bryan Post, she believes that parents/carers must take responsibility and it's up to us to use her tools several times daily to help our children.  In a relationship, the child can calm down.

Amongst the many 'aha' and 'ahh ok' moments I had, a question to her about Theraplay stuck out.  Whilst she is a supporter of Theraplay and indeed uses many of the techniques in her clinic, she felt there was a limit to using it as Theraplay cannot process trauma. Interesting.  

One technique that Dr Marks uses a lot is Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing (EMDR).  Apparently it's a therapy used a lot in helping to process all types of trauma, including secondary trauma.  I've just read a bit about it and I can see a few similarities to Emotional Freedom Technique (or Tapping as some people call it) which I used to do so I think I'll get tapping again and look further into EMDR too.

If you get the chance to hear Dr Marks talk, go for it.

So, NVR.  I'd heard about NVR from a non-adopter who found huge benefits for her family. Having researched it I felt it was appropriate for us although to be honest wasn't entirely sure what it entailed. Turns out we do a few of the techniques anyway, go us!  So the day, run by PAC UK was an introduction day; the full length course is 4 days long. However if you're considering it, I would say that I learnt a lot in just one day.

Very basically NVR is about having 'parental presence' and de-escalation without the need for shouting, yelling, pointing fingers, consequences etc.  Once again, the theme of building relationships and parents/carers taking responsibility was evident.

We got on to the subject of violence which for many is non-negotiable. The message was that we have to break the taboo and bring on board a support network of 3-4 people. These supporters will have different roles but all will know about the violence. It may be a teacher/key worker, a friend, a parent, a Brownie leader, a GP, SW, another adopter, whoever you feel you can trust and give you the required support. One may gently mention that they know about 'hitting mummy' and express their worry for mummy and child, wrapped in either side with positive comments. A shit-sandwich the trainer explained. Several parents questioned shame but the trainer said that it was important that the child knows violence will not be tolerated. Another supporter may be a friend who can come round fairly quickly and just be there for you (and child if they do like and trust this friend).  Friend just being there will help de-escalate the situation.   So one of my support group is going to be Missy's pastoral care worker and it turns out that Missy already tells her when she's hit me and they talk through it.  This is a positive step for Missy. 

I don't feel I need to go on the full course just yet and would highly recommend you attending if you find yourself shouting, yelling and exhausted. Ask your LA to pay as mine did.

Having read through all my course notes before writing this blog, I realise there was A LOT of useful content that came my way over the last few weeks, some of which I'd forgotten already.  I need to go through it, make some concise notes and details on what Daddy and I need to be doing each day to help Missy (and ourselves).  

In other news, Daddy and I got engaged.  Yay!  Only taken 10 years.    In more other news, I took Missy to her first pop concert last week (on a school night!) and she absolutely loved it (well, most of it)  Believe it or not she is a big Nik Kershaw fan.  

Tuesday 24 November 2015

Adoption UK Conference, Bryan Post and Love

Well it was nice while it lasted.  The hush I mean.

The last few weeks have been different.  Lots of back chat, lots of mimicking, rudeness and negative behaviour.

I'm trying (and sometimes failing) to stay calm, exhibit patience.  One morning last week I cried before we'd even left on the school run and then consoled myself in M&S with a large hot chocolate.

One thing Bryan Post talked about at the recent Adoption UK conference was that we should allow expression of attitudes.  If we suppress attitude then the child will show their feelings and if we suppress the feelings the child will exhibit bad behaviour.  So the phrase 'change your attitude' hasn't been uttered from my lips over the last couple of weeks although it's been on the tip of my tongue.  I've attempted to show empathy and wondering out aloud about Missy's feelings although it's usually meant with a very loud "BE QUIET!!".

Bryan Post, for those that don't know, is one of America's foremost experts in adoption, fostering and social work. He is an adoptee and an adopter.  I know some people find his approach too simple, he's been referred to as a 'maverick'.  I liked him, I found him very engaging, although I admit I don't always get how to use his techniques with Missy.  Below I'll mention some of the key points that he talked about at the conference.

The premise of his approach is that  love heals and it is very much down to the relationship between carer and child.  The thing we are healing I guess is 'stress'.  Repair of stress makes the difference and that's where love comes in.

"In times of stress, thinking becomes distorted and suppresses our short term memory" said Bryan.  He reminded us of this several times.  I know exactly how this feels as my short term memory is pants at the moment and I couldn't remember all the quote soon after he said it first.  This, then, is why my daughter can know her 3x table today but not tomorrow.  Something for the teachers to take on board.   In a stressed state, a child is merely surviving/reacting then as they calm they move into responding - although still not thinking.  Gradually as they calm more their brain begins to process and finally they move into the thriving/integration stage. Helping a child move from meltdown to engagement is a process that needs to be handled carefully and with love.  As stress is felt through all senses, when its high we need to calm the stress and step back.  Stop talking, stop eye contact and lower voice.   Feral cat comes to mind again.

"When you stress, you regress" he said.  Which means we ned to meet the child at their developmental age.

Bryan talked about oxytocin, which is often referred to as the love hormone or feel-good hormone. Hugging increases our levels of oxytocin as does giving birth and breast feeding!

A fear based mind doesn't think, it must reacts whereas a love based mind thinks.  So how we show up in any situation is important - not the child.  But we (parents and teachers) often react with actions that are based in fear - such as consequences, time out, yelling - but these just create more stress that cannot healt the brain and the relatiionship.  Interestingly, he said that for many children (without a trauma background) these type of actions do work because actually anytying will work for them.  But not for our children because their traumatised brains cannot handle it.

So the things we need to do to turn on oxytocin in times of stress are things such as time-in, containment, guidance, breathing, patience, affection and discipline.  Yes discipline.  The meaning of disclipline is actually to teach, it's not behaviour modification which is a fear-based action.

Much of what Bryan talked about requires a paradigm shift and quite a big one at that at times.  Daddy and I often find ourselves slipping back into the parenting styles we were brought up with rather than changing permanently to a therapeutic style of parenting.  We need to work on this a lot and listening to Bryan reminded me of this.  I've bitten my lip a few times over the last few weeks to come from a place of love, but it's descalated a potentially volatile situation quite quickly.  Bryan also talked about carers taking responsibility so we can teach responsibility rather than reactivity.  I've found that hard to do on a few occasions but again I have seen positive results.

Breathing conciously is what I've been doing a lot recently.  A technique Bryan showed, but one I've been doing for many years, is the 4, 7, 8 breathing.  If you are feeling stressed, simply breathe in deeply for a count of 4, hold for 7 and exhale for a count of 8.  I've used it recently when lying awake at night, when having an anxiety attack, when taking a moment to stop myself yelling, when trying to avoid a panic attack whilst having an MRI scan (have you ever been in one of those scanners?!) and managed to become calmer. Try it, it works.

Anyway, I hope this has given a brief flavour of the Adoption UK Conference.  If your situation and budget allows it, I highly recommended attending.  You also get to put faces to Twitter names - yes, these fellow tweeters really do exist, @MrsFamilyofFive, @GayAdoptionDad and @CocktailMamaUk to name a few.  Oh, and we got to go to a very lovely indian restaurant afterwards, just the two of us, AND had a long lie in the next day because Missy was staying over with my Mum. #WIN.

In other news, Daddy and I had another night out by ourselves recently (I know, two in one month!) as we were incredibly lucky to see Jeff Lynne's ELO at a very small venue in West London.  Absolutely brilliant!!  And better still, we have found a wonderful babysitter who has lots of experience working with children with special needs.  Hurrah!!

Thursday 29 October 2015

There's a kind of hush ....

There's a kind of hush, all over the world, sang The Carpenters.  Well, there's a kind of hush in our house at the moment.   There's a distinct lack of meltdowns and major tantrums, no screaming like a banshee, no horrible language, no hitting.  As rollercoasters go, we're in the dip.   We have a chance to take a breather.

It changed a few weeks back after what I affectionately like to call The Big Weekend.  Two events happened that weekend - Missy's birthday and Brownie Camp.

At first we decided that Missy would only attend Brownies during the Saturday daytime.  We felt a sleepover was too soon, particularly one that wasn't at a family members house.  Anyway, we had her birthday as an excuse and told her we had things planned, like grandma coming over.  But then her best friend joined Brownies and best friend was going for the whole shebang, for both nights. Missy begged me to let her stay over. So, we ummed and ahhed and digested and cogitated and decided that, if she really wanted to, Missy could go for one night.  Two nights just wouldn't work anyway, what with her birthday.  She was over the moon.

Then the build up started.  Missy had already been overly excited for her birthday since the beginning of the year.  I'm not joking. She's already talking about what she wants to do next year and who might come along!  Then the meltdowns started, about three weeks before the weekend.  Worry at bedtime, screaming at the top of her voice, meltdowns, trashing her room, anxiety to the nth degree, backchat, threats, hitting, biting, throwing things at me.  You know what, I can't even describe it.  I'm sure other adopters will get the picture.  Maybe think of a feral cat angry at being caged up.   We knew what the anxiety was about - birthday and her first sleepover without us there.  She cried that she wouldn't get a cuddle or hug from us at Camp, we knew she'd be worried about finding the toilets at night, worry about would we miss her.  She even asked if we would have a celebration party when she came home.  We tried our best to be therapeutic, talk about every scenario, talk about what we'd do when she came home.  I had a word with Brown Owl and ensured she was in the same dorm as her best friend.  I spoke to her keyworker and explained how anxious she was.  I apologised to neighbours for the hideous sounds coming from the house every day and, no, nobody was being strangled.  Bless, they were lovely, always are.

We started to think it was a BAD idea suggesting she could go for a night and we should have stuck by our first decision.  I felt guilty that we had put Missy in this position.  We should have just stayed with the original plan of her only going for the day. But we couldn't go back - any suggestion  of not going, of it being fine for her to decide to stay at home was ok by us, just made it worse and she'd be sobbing and begging to go.

So the Big Weekend arrived.  Naturally she couldn't sleep the night before her birthday, or the night before that, or that..  But she had a lovely day.  A quiet day on the whole, we just went out with one friend for tea.  The next day we had to be at Brownie Camp for 10am.  Missy was a little quieter than usual.  We knew she'd be ok during the day, it was just nighttime was the big worry.

We arrived at Camp - a place where the Brownies had been before so at least she knew the layout - and immediately saw her best friend.  We unpacked her stuff, gave her a massive hug, took a deep breath and left.  I kept my mobile phone close all day.

Daddy and I enjoyed a rare night out together, just local though, no more than 10 minutes away.  No calls from Brown Owl thankfully.

When we walked in next day to collect them, Brown Owl tapped me on the shoulder and told me she had been absolutely fine.  And indeed she had.  She LOVED it.  What a MASSIVE RELIEF.   I think the fact she'd missed her group's washing up duty had pleased her from the start.  She'd made lots of arty crafty stuff, ate lots of sweets, made new friends and gone to bed very late after watching Annie (yeah, I know, bet Brown Owl didn't think about that one - luckily Missy loves the film).  She can't wait to go next year for two nights and, you know what, all being well I think she'll be fine.

So since then, there have been no meltdowns, no violence, no piercing screams - just a calmer Missy*.  There are no eggshells to avoid.  Nothing is being thrown or broken.  It's a happier house to be in.

* Missy's 'calm' is of course not a usual 'calm', still a level of anxiety remains.

Friday 23 October 2015


The theme this week on The Adoption Social is smile. So on the way to school this morning I casually asked Missy what makes her smile. Missy told me she smiles a lot when:

- her best friend makes her laugh
- when Daddy tickles her
- when Mummy gives her a big hug

So I hugged her tightly and she beamed and she giggled.

We then walked the rest of the way into school singing:

When you're smilin', keep on smilin'
The whole world smiles with you
When you're laughin, keep on laughin'
The sun comes shinin' through.

Thursday 22 October 2015

Top 10 adoption books chosen by children

Coram, an adoption charity, have put together this National Adoption Week a wonderful list of the top 10 children's books chosen by adopted children.  Most of the books have an adoption theme, some have the theme of being different. The children, of many different ages, have picked books that they can most identify with.

It's a great idea, particularly as the list has been compiled by children, and not by adults who might include what they think should be included.

From Coram's list, we have the Nutmeg books, which I know Missy likes, although we haven't read it for a while. She also loves Charlie & Lola.  Interestingly, although Charlie & Lola are not adopted, the author, Lauren Child, is an adopter.

There's a couple of books on the list that I think I'll get for Missy which are 'The Most Precious Present in the World' by Becky Edwards and 'Morris and the Bundle of Worries' by Jill Seeney.

Interestingly, Missy's current book of choice that she picked from the library is called The Abandoned Kitten, about a family who look after kittens from the RSPCA, kind of foster parents to the cats.  Another favourite story of hers is Matilda by Roald Dahl in which Matilda's parents really don't care about her and in the end she is adopted by her teacher.  Missy also loves Paddington who ends up living with another family.

So what's your favourite adoption themed book to read with your children, or be read by them?  Do you use books to help your child understand their worries and anxieties related to adoption?

To find out more about the work of Coram, please go to

Monday 19 October 2015

National Adoption Week - 'Too Old at 4?'

It's National Adoption Week and the theme this year is finding home for older children aged four and upwards. Older children may be in siblings groups, having additional needs or from minority groups and there is currently a shortage of adopters coming forward.

This image, taken by Mary McCartnery, is being projected onto various buildings around England this week to promote National Adoption Week.

It seems crazy to think of a four year old as an older child but that's the way it is in adoption.  I didn't even realise that until after we were matched with Missy.   Many adopters would like a baby or toddler, for lots of reasons - experience having a baby even if the mother didn't give birth, maternal instincts, not missing out of 'firsts'.

For us, although we were approved for a child aged 0-5, I think we always swayed towards an older child and as soon as we saw the photos of Missy, we knew she was the child for us.  Government figures have shown that, sadly, older child can remain in care far longer than those under 4, a fact which makes me so sad when thinking about Missy in care.

Having not been removed from birth family until she was an older pre-schooler, she has vivid real life memories of the home she used to live in and what it was like at times.  I'm not saying babies and young toddlers won't but their memories will be further in their subconscious.  But in a way this has helped us when helping Missy with her anger and anxiety and understanding of why she was removed.

If you are thinking about adopting an older child and worried about missing out on firsts - don't worry! There are still loads of firsts, some for just the child, some for you as a whole family.  We still had the first tooth to come out, first advent calendar and Christmas stocking at Christmas, first time on a plane, first time she said "I love you" to us, first time she swam 5m and many many more.  Then there's a big one for all of us - first time she called someone Daddy.  There are really so many firsts.

Whether I would have had post-adoption depression if we'd adopted a baby, who knows, but having an older child who soon went to school meant I soon had the invaluable me-time that I needed.

Missy came to us having already had five years to form her values and beliefs and it has certainly not been easy at times - regular readers of this blog will know that for sure! - but we've had some wonderful times so far, lots of laughter and smiles with many more to come.

Monday 7 September 2015

Summer's out, school's back

So we had a pretty good summer, some great days out, a few play dates, a fab holiday abroad and a few nights camping, all sprinkled with a small dose of tantrums.  Much the same as last year really.

One thing I did notice with Missy, particularly on our holiday, was how young she can act at times. She went through a phrase of speaking much like a toddler, and seeing her play with friends in the pool, at times she seemed much younger than her 7 years.  On the last day, I had a very interesting chat with a lady around the pool who is a primary school teacher, the only person to whom I talked about adoption. She had noticed that Missy was always clocking what the other kids were doing, where they were, who they were talking to and at times how she would be exceptionally clingy with some children.  

I really like that Missy has a lot more confidence at her age than I did (I was very shy) and she is great at making friends, but this area of friendships does also appear to be one where Missy can stumble a little or make inappropriate choices. It's probably the main area that school pick up on so we'll see how she fairs in this new school year.

Talking of school, Missy has been back three days.  She wasn't too worried about going back, in fact she was really looking forward to it.  I really didn't see any sign of anxiety.  Her teacher is brand new and hadn't heard of attachment disorder (!) so I'm going to give her a week or so to settle down (Missy and teacher!) and then ask to meet with the teacher.  This afternoon the anxiety appeared after school when Missy had a huge meltdown and I found it hard to remain therapeutic.  As I type, four hours later, I'm still a little unsettled.
I'm not looking forward to the winter.  The pattern now is that winter brings with it more deregulation.

In other news, I had sedation last week for an endoscopy.  Wow!  If only I could have sedation every night. I was out like a light!

Sunday 5 July 2015

Another good week, meeting SWs and James Rhodes

I think on balance it's been a good week. Not too much negativity, worries or fears, lots of empathy, taking care and calm ....... and that's just me. So in keeping with my current run of positive posts, here's another one.

It was PE Day at school this week. KS1 don't compete in races, rather in groups they work their way around seven activities such as throwing, balancing, welly wanging and obstacles, collecting points as they go for their respective Houses. It was flippin' hot this week but the little ones manages so well whilst the parents sought out shade. Missy had a great time and shone in a couple of activities. 

Also this week she attended Brownies with lots of other local scouting and guiding packs for a special activity evening. She is loving Brownies, making friends which is great since no one else from her school goes (although her best friend will be going once she moves). Several of her friends go to Beavers instead, going up to Cubs imminently, but I felt Missy was better suited to Brownies.  She's going to be enrolled soon which is going to be emotional.

Another positive this week is a meeting I had with SS to assess our needs. I was glad to see one of the senior SWs was meeting with me - she is lovely and came to my rescue about a month after Missy came home. We discussed the highs and lows of the last year, often with me in tears. I was quite glad to cry actually because I often hold back on the tears when talking to people who really don't get it.  After taking copious notes, they are now going to consider what might be best for Missy/us - this may take a while as they have to go via managers but I'm hopeful for some good support seeing as CAMHS was, in turned out in the end, as useful as a chocolate teapot. Counselling for me may be an option in the first instance.  

During the meeting I explained my confidence had done a disappearing act. However I was also telling them about some of the good things that have happened over the last year and how delighted we were with Missy in many ways. Lovely SW said we were doing a fantastic job as parents and we weren't to forget it! I think sometimes we do forget how far in some areas Missy has come and we need to remember those things far more than we do.

Another positive comes from school. I've asked if they could use Pupil Premium Plus to pay for music lessons for Missy and HT said yes, no problem.  I love this school!

In other news, I went to see James Rhodes last week talk about his new book and play some amazing music on the piano.  James is a late 30-something concert pianist, going against the tide.  No tails for him, just jeans and trainers.  He's very funny, articulate, passionate.  He's a survivor of childhood rape by his PE Master when he was 6-9 years old.  His book is about his life then and since, his attempted suicide, being sectioned, rehab, his trauma, his passion for the piano.  His passion has kept him alive and his enthusiasm swept over me in waves so much.  He gets trauma.  He understands hypervigilience.  He disassociates.   He is awesome and his story is amazing.  I highly recommend his book - 'Instrumental'.

Tuesday 23 June 2015

Manners, confidence and iron levels

If there's one thing that Daddy and I seem to be winning in with Missy, it's teaching her good manners.  People often comment on how polite she is and, no, it's not just a compliance thing.  The lady who lives opposite has just crossed the road to me, whilst I was in the front garden, to say how polite and lovely she thought Missy was.  And the mother of Missy's new friend who lives down the road also commented on how delightful she is.   If only they knew what she can be like!  But to be fair to Missy and not take anything away from her, she does have and continues to learn good manners.  Hurrah!

Something else that Missy has that I certainly didn't have at her age is confidence.  She has lots of it and if I'd had had half of what she has now then I would have been a happier child.  I would have hated going to somewhere like a school holiday club, Brownies or gymnastics if at least one of my friends wasn't going.  I was so shy when I was little and not much changed as I got older.  I'm still shy at times and lack confidence in certain situations.  Missy, however, is  happy to talk to the neighbours, knock on her friends door, go to Brownies where currently no-one from her school goes.  She can get a little shy at first in new places but it doesn't last long - a minute or so - but she soon makes friends.  She is fully aware of stranger danger so I know she won't just talk to any random person.

I came across a song by Little Mix last week when looking up another song for Missy.  It's called Little Me and some of the lyrics are:-
Wish I knew back then
What I know now.
Wish I could somehow
Go back in time and maybe listen to my own advice.

I'd tell her to speak up, tell her to shout out,
Talk a bit louder, be a bit prouder,
Tell her she's beautiful, wonderful,
Everything she doesn't see.

(Know that right here, right now)

If I could speak to little me, I'd definitely use these words.

In other news, the GP has diagnosed iron deficiency anaemia.  Apparently most people have six months store of iron in their bodies.  I have none.  I said to the doc that I tried a 2 mile walk/run last week.  He said "I'm surprised you could run at all with those iron levels!".  Ahhhh, so that probably explains my complete lack of energy over the last few years and I'm not just being a lazy lump.  

Sunday 21 June 2015

The one and only Daddy

Missy's hand made card for Fathers' Day that brought a tear to my eye.

Dear Daddy,

I LOVE YOU so much because you are SPECIAL!!!

Daddy you are the best because you are the one and only Daddy I wanted in my life!!

Your Dearest Daughter

Friday 5 June 2015

The Best Bits

Next week The Adoption Social are holding a Twitter chat about #theBestBits as an antidote to last week's chat about child to parent violence.

Readers of my blog may be forgiven in thinking it's all negative in Missy world.  Whilst anger is never far away, I can assure you we do have some good moments.  When Missy's head is filled with anger, red mist, anxieties and worries I wonder how her brain can find space to learn. But she manages it.

So, our Best Bit recently was at the recent parents' evening where and Daddy and I were pleasantly surprised by the progress she has made and how happy her teacher is with her work. Her reading is very good, she loves to write and write and write, she's made huge leaps in her maths, she's now feeling confident enough to put up her hand to answer a question and her artwork is, as usual, to a high standard.  

Her progress started once she had settled in class, not worrying so much about who was coming in and out, who was sitting where and why wasn't so and so on the right chair, was talking to who, who had hurt themselves. Missy is hyper vigilant, she doesn't miss anything. Open the fridge slightly for two seconds and she'll immediately clock all the contents.  Watch Beat the Brain on BBC2 at 6.30pm and you'll do better to beat Missy on certain of the Observation rounds. But at least for now her hyper vigilance is not getting in the way of her school work.

Also at school Missy recently was awarded the weekly class merit for using her initiative and it seems that she has quite a lot of friends.  This week is SATS week and whilst her teacher has very much played them down, I did think Missy would struggle but, no, she was actually looking forward to doing the tests and has been quite chilled out about them.

So they are Missy's best bits for this week.  I'll post some more next week.

My best bits were when Steve Norman of Spandau Ballet followed me on Twitter and Martin Kemp retweeted one of my tweets.  I'm easily pleased.  <sigh>

Sunday 31 May 2015

I've started but I won't finish

This past week Missy has started a paper mâché thing (not entirely sure what it was meant to be), a crochet owl, a story, a necklace, a picture, several loom band charms and a computer out of a cereal box.  Last week she half made a robot out of boxes, started several crochet items, some drawings, more loom band charms.  She has several kits started and deconstructed.  She played on the trampoline for 15 minutes, she went on her scooter for 20 mins, she read a book for two minutes, she played with her Barbies for five minutes, she wanted to help me in the garden and managed three minutes before she got bored.  She finds it hard to play with her toys, she doesn't read books much.

There are so many projects started and not finished in this house.  I now ask people not to buy kits for her because she just takes out the pieces and they end up being half used for some other creation rather than the item itself.  Once she is back to school next Tuesday I shall spend the morning sorting out what is worth keeping.

Now, I don't suppose she's too unusual from most 7 year olds with a very short attention span.  She has no diagnosis of ADHD.  In fact the recent experience with CAMHS was over in a flash.  They see no mental or neurological issues at all with Missy and have referred us back to Post Adoption Support who I hope won't gloss over the "I want to kill yous" and the time last week when she tried to stab me with a fork.

I'm actually not too bothered that she wants to do lots of things (although give her a swimming pool in Greece and she'll be happy as larry for the whole day).  It's when she has decided its time to move on and then comes to me saying she is bored - it's then the fireworks start.  I suggest something - "NOOOOOOA". I suggest something else "Nooooooooooooooooo!!".  She asks me for five suggestions which I duly give.  She doesn't like any of them and her anger rises.  "I'm bored!" she yells at me.  I offer to play with her and suggest Lego or drawing but her need for control overtakes any joy that might arise from us playing together. She shouts at me to go away, that she wants to be alone.  I wonder out loud if anything is wrong. Nooooo, just go away!   Then she wants a hug, then she is rude, then she wants more suggestions of what to do.  I suggest things, she hates all of them and by now she is raging.  I try to stay therapeutic but it's hard.  She stomps off upstairs.   Five minutes later she will come down, much calmer, having decided on something to do, which wasn't one of my suggestions.  Hurrah!  This will keep her amused for 15-20 minutes, half an hour if I'm lucky, before she states again that she is bored and asks what she can do. Round and round we go.

It's been a long half term.  We had one lovely day out which I'll blog about separately but the rest has been tough.  I've already started to think how to fill the days of the long summer holidays.

In other news, she absolutely loved her newly decorated bedroom which I did whilst she and Daddy were visiting family.  So much for a restful two days by myself! Phew!  But the look on her face when she saw her room was priceless.

Saturday 9 May 2015

My heart can never get empty

From Missy to me and Daddy.

"I love you lots. My heart is filled with lots of love from you.

My heart can never get empty! xx "

Thursday 30 April 2015


Sorry blog for not visiting you for a month, it's very remiss of me.  To be honest, I've just felt, well, meh. Not depressed but just a feeling of 'can't be arsed'.  But I'm back now after a good morning - not only have Take That been confirmed for CarFest, a friend has offered me a ticket to see them in June and I had a lovely meeting with school, so feeling pretty chipper.

Yesterday I wasn't feeling so chipper.  I asked Missy to come over because her behaviour wasn't acceptable. "I don't want to look at your ugly face" she snarled.  Nice.  Then after school yesterday I was the 'most meanest horrible mummy" because I wouldn't take her to the park and then when I said no to some more food (because it was tea time very shortly) she kicked me twice and walked off. Lovely.

But then last Sunday we did have a chipper day because we were in London cheering on the marathon runners in the final few miles.  Missy loves it, screaming and shouting at them, getting high fives and handing out jelly babies.  She was smiling and giggling  on the train there and back and making other people smile with her infectious laughter. It was a good day.

Since I last blogged, we've had an appointment with CAMHS which went ok I think, although I did want to say out loud in a sarcastic tone "Duh! Really?" when the lady looked us triumphantly when Missy mentioned birth mum.  "There, that's it, it's all about her past!".  No shit.

Anyway, that comment aside, the lady at CAMHS seemed quite helpful and understanding and has already made us further appointments as part of the overall assessment.  I just hope some meaningful support comes of it.  The lady briefly mentioned art therapy but I've just found out that school can offer that anyway.  Missy meets once a week with a teacher who is also the pastoral care worker.  She's brilliant, I really love chatting to her, she afforded me over an hour today. She gets it.  I don't talk to the SENCO, I just talk to Missy's main teacher and the pastoral care worker.  They see a very different Missy on the whole, although interestingly some negative stuff  has been bubbling recently in the way of control and manipulation of friends.  I'm beginning to see more and more how Missy can't really cope in a group and it's her social skills that need some assistance.  Unsurprisingly, control is a big thing for Missy and we're still learning how to manage that at home.  I came away from school feeling much happier and supported.

Talking of support, the Government' Adoption Support Fund goes live tomorrow - £19m is being made available to help adoptive families.  There was a great piece on BBC Breakfast this morning with lovely Amanda Boorman from The Open Nest Charity and her daughter Jazz, plus the amazing Sally Donovan, author of No Matter What and The Unofficial Guide to Adopting (I'll add the Sally interview when I have a link).  The last I heard, albeit several weeks ago, was that our local authority knew very little about the fund and how it would be administered.  I really hope by now they've got their act in gear because I shall be ringing them soon, if not for Missy then for me.

In other news, I'm loving the horticulture course I'm on.  Being out in the fresh air, learning, talking to people about things other than children!  We're half way through and I'm thinking of signing up to another course that goes towards the overall diploma.   For Missy, I'm looking at Brownies as I think the social interaction will help a lot, the sense of responsibility doing the badges, the uniform she'll love to wear and the fun she'll have. I spoke with the Brown Owl of one pack, sadly too far from us, and they have a grand ol' time.

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.


Saturday 10 January 2015

Patterns, pocket money and pilates

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday 6 January 2015


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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