TFI Friday

First week back at school and things are…. as well as can be expected. Boy has returned to his usual school disposition, well actually a bit worse. First day back on Tuesday went like a dream, he was ready for school in abut 30 minutes flat and was rewarded with a bit of TV time. Boy went in to school grinning (though adamant he was not happy about going back to school).

Four days in and… well it feels like we have gone backwards. Boy is back to how he was at the last school, screaming and screeching at the slightest thing, bad tempered as he comes out of school. However this time I am pretty sure  that it’s  just a struggle with moving to a new class and losing his beloved Y1 teacher (who I nicknamed Mr Jolly). All kids love a Mr Jolly, moving from that was going to be hard for any child never mind Boy.

Girl? Well I was sort of worried about her fitting in at her new school. Her ‘quirks’ were accepted by her old classmates as they had grown with her but what about new classmates, kids who would be with her all day every day? Will her quirks be more obvious to them? Will she stand out more? Luckily, Girl does make friends easily and she has really enjoyed her first few days at her new school. The fresh start and moving on from the negative experiences of her last school seems to have lifted her spirit and attitude towards school. Already Girl goes in happy and comes out full of stories. Of course we are only 3 days in and things could change… but I have a feeling that this Middle School environment will suit Girl as perfectly as I hoped it would when we made the massive decision to break from her old school, most of her old friends and everything she knew.

Both kids (and me) are tired tonight, getting back to routine is exhausting…especially with the 3 lunch dates I have enjoyed this week so without a doubt… TFI Friday 😉

A quick catch up….

july-2016-9In February I posted about some of the difficulties we have experienced in the last year or so and promised to blog more. Literally a few days after posting DH experienced pain in his chest and was diagnosed with Pleurisy. After a course of antibiotics which didn’t work and a follow up scan the consultants in the local hospital realised they had made a grave error and should have sent DH for more tests and not made assumptions. In fact it was the case that his previous cancer had spread and he had two cancer tumours on his right lung. Since this point DH  had two rounds of chemo before the school holidays and the tumours have consequently shrunk; he is now facing possible removal of the right lung providing that a PET scan shows that the cancer has not spread to any other areas. If that’s the case then DH faces management of the cancer rather than cure. It’s a difficult time again but the positive is that unlike last year we have managed to spend quality family time together over the holidays. The reduction in tumour size even meant that DH felt well enough to take the kids kayaking, an activity Boy now loves.

The kids are managing quite well. After much talk we felt that being open and honest with the kids was the best way forward though DH has struggled with this a little more. I think it was in a Macmillan literature where I read that the things that kids can imagine from hearing whispers is often far worse and more scary than the truth. Boy seems more clued up than Girl and asked very sensible (if scary) questions. Every now and again a penny drops with Girl, she has lost others to cancer but cannot reconcile that her daddy is seriously ill. The difficulty I suppose is that in some respects he is quite well and you wouldn’t guess that he has cancer, he didn’t even experience hair loss with his chemo though he did have other side effects which were short term and invisible.

Back to School Woes

School for us, like many adopters is a contentious issue. We have managed to get Boy within a really good mainstream school that is fully supportive of his needs but even the fact that he was enjoying his time there last school term and seemed to manage to make good friends is not putting him in the mood to go back, he’s ‘having too much fun’ apparently (his words not mine and I fear I may have made a rod for my own back by doing absolutely loads of great stuff with the kids this summer).

Girl is moving school. She has had a difficult time in her Primary school and we took the opportunity as she is approaching Year 5 to register her with a middle school that we heard good things about. She is excited about it but understandably apprehensive too as only one other person (luckily a good friend) from her previous school will be attending the middle school for various reasons but mostly because all her classmates will be staying within the primary setting until high school.

Now I am pretty sure that like everything else we will muddle through the next few weeks as we always do and come out smiling (or grimacing manically?) the other side. So my woe is this, small talk. I really love going to the shops, I get to do small talk with other adults (sad isn’t it?). However, I hate that they try to include my kids in the small talk and wish they would stop asking my kids if they are looking forward to going back to school as soon as August 1st rolls around. I hate that they try to make me complicit with a nod and a wink, ‘I bet mum’s looking forward to it’. My kids do not need to be reminded that their fun is coming to an end while I am buying frozen fish fingers. They do not need to start feeling anxious about school. They also do not need the idea putting in their head that mum’s life is better when they are not around however close to the truth that might be, exchange the word better with easier and it’s close, I can get jobs done but my kids don’t understand those little nuances, the nod, wink and laughter.

A reflective moment…

So from my last post you will understand what a tough year it has been but today had been one of those weird days when I have taken time to stand back and really reflect.

Girl injured her knee at soccer training last night and wow did she milk it, to the point we were on the verge of taking her to the minor injuries unit at the local hospital this morning but something was nagging at me. There was no swelling, no bruises, no bones sticking out of her leg but yet she could not put her foot on the floor, even for a second and the limping… well it was a more than a little hammy.


I questioned myself. Was I being unsympathetic? Was she actually on this occasion truly injured? Girl has a track record of exaggerating injuries and illnesses and I was suspicious. How do I work out when she is really injured?

I decided to tackle it in two ways, first of all I pointed out that she definitely wouldn’t be able to go swimming tonight if she could only hop around on one foot in such a manner. It is extremely dangerous to hop on a wet floor, she could slip and tumble, possibly even fall in the pool… My second approach was perhaps more risky in that I asked her to think about whether she would be wasting doctors time if there was actually nothing wrong. Indirectly I was saying ‘I don’t believe you’ and for a child with attachment issues maybe not a great move. She knew what I was saying. I left her with husband while I went shopping, half an hour later she had a miraculous recovery.

Now, I don’t dispute she had an injury albeit very minor but I stood back and thought why has she done this to this extent? It’s not something she has done for a long time. It dawned on me properly that in the last year she has been, quite frankly, amazing. There has been the odd moment of challenging behaviour but considering I have barely coped myself, how did she?

I took her to one side tonight and told her how amazing she is and why I thought that. There were tears. It was good I think. I am filled with love and pride for my resilient little girl and I made it clear that she doesn’t need to feign illness or injury to get a bit of extra attention, just blinking ask!!!

It’s Been A long Time….

Well, life as an adoptive mummy at the best of times is…ummmm eventful? Hard work? For a while I didn’t blog as I was just trying to get on with life and it was going ‘ok’. I started my Open University degree in Psychology and also a Photograhy Studio and then in 2015 our world came crashing down around us. I simply didn’t have the energy, head-space or time to give attention to this blog though I have thought often “I really must update the blog!”.

So what happened? It all started on Christmas Eve in 2014 when Adoptive Daddy(AD) had a hospital appointment because he hadn’t been well. Without getting too personal they wanted to perform a  minor procedure there and then but given the date they couldn’t because they were short-staffed. It was decided that further urgent investigation was also required but at a different hospital where AD had had surgery in the same area some 20 years previously. It was all very complicated, the original consultant had been struck off, AD’s notes had been lost, AD should have been having regular annual check-ups as he was high risk for Cancer but he had no idea of this. By the time the original hospital had accepted the referral back to them it was late February.

AD was examined by the new Consultant and admitted the very next day for urgent surgery as they suspected a kidney stone and blockage which could have caused kidney failure. A biopsy was taken as they didn’t find a kidney stone but a mass instead. A few weeks later AD was given the news that everyone dreads… cancer and a rare type too – this after having been told by the consultant when they discovered the mass that you couldn’t get cancer in that particular area.

Things got steadily worse. The hospital were un-supportive, no palliative care was offered- even at the time of diagnosis. AD was told and 5 minutes later was out of the consultant’s office. It is normal procedure for a palliative nurse to attend and offer counsel and advice, answer any immediate questions; we only found this out later. After a second consultation AD sought medical treatment elsewhere as we had no confidence, we were referred to a hospital in London who were very experienced in this area.

So, if that was not bad enough, around the same time I had been seeking medical help because of my periods, they were unmanageable and interfering with life, the PMT was having an impact on our family. One of the last solutions offered was a Mirena Coil and at the time of fitting the consultant spotted took a biopsy,to this day I don’t know whether she spotted something or whether it was routine. In the same week that AD was told he had cancer, I was told that I had pre-cancerous cells (not cancer but the pre-cancer of the type most likely to develop into cancer). I questioned why it had not been spotted in a recent smear and was told it would never have been spotted because it was in the uterus and not the cervix. It was recommended I have a hysterectomy. As an aside I would recommend that if your periods are unusual and have changed/worsened, go and see your GP. Had I just put up with the periods this would not have been found, I thank my lucky stars for that.

So, the course of action for AD’s cancer was major surgery, thankfully no chemo or radiotherapy was required. AD had to have a number of operations last year and once he has been in remission for 3 years more surgery will follow. During surgery AD had a number of lymph nodes removed and now has Lymphoedema which can be debilitating. This has a knock on effect of the sort of activities he can do with kids. Previously he was going on long bikes rides, building camps in the woods, we would go camping and for long walks, all of this is now more difficult not always absolutely impossible but definitely harder and thought has to be given to location and convenience. AD is in remission but life will never really be the same again. Consequently, AD had to close his business and as my studio was based in half of his business unit my new business had to close too, I still get quite emotional about that.

Every single school holiday last year one of us was hospitalised. My hysterectomy took place in the first week of the summer break so you can imagine the impact of that. Hospital for AD meant overnight hotel stays for me as the hospital was not local so the kids got shunted around from pillar to post. In the meantime our dog Harry died from heart failure, he had been poorly for a while and had gone into congestive heart failure on Christmas Day 2014. He made it a few weeks past his 10th birthday in May. We were in financial straits because of having to close both businesses and this took a long time to sort out. Hospital stays and travel was expensive and then there were the exasperating things like turbo went on my car (expensive), my 40th birthday weekend trip had to be cancelled, we did not take a proper holiday with the kids… all these things minor in relation to the illness all take a toll on emotional wellbeing.

And there was more… at the same time as all of this was going on Girl was seriously assaulted at school and Boy was having huge problems with school. His behaviour was difficult, the other kids knew that he was wound up easily so he was constantly picked on but because he was a difficult child little was done. He would come home every day from school stressed out, wound up and ready to lay in to his family. In October we eventually withdrew Boy from school totally and would have taken Girl out too but there were too many reasons not to, most of them positive such as the relationship with her teacher this year and friends.

In some ways home-schooling Boy was a good decision. It meant that we had a chance to be with Boy without the demands of Girl. In other ways it was very hard. Boy has difficulties responding to any requests so adding learning to the repertoire of things that were expected of him at home was stressful, his difficult behaviour not so much escalated as we were getting little respite from it that we would get while he was at school. Around the same time our old PASW got involved as we wanted help with negotiating with schools, we got a ticking off for not contacting her earlier. I pointed out that our problems were not actually adoption related to which she responded that everything we do is adoption related, if the family is stressed the adopted children are stressed and it’s her job to support us with that.

The very same day we pulled Boy from school we also had a working diagnosis for Autism. As with most adopted kids diagnosing the why’s and wherefore’s of why he behaves the way he does is not clear cut but the Psychologist conceded that a working diagnosis would be helpful for us accessing support for his behaviour.

The disruption to our lives this year has been unbelievable. We had to cope with emergency visits to A&E with complications, people visiting the house to sort out our financial affairs, hospice nurses, stabilising medications,  holiday cancellations, social worker visits, traumatic school meetings, being pestered from all sides about finding a school placement for Boy – (except from family who have been absolutely marvellous). I was adamant that Boy was not going back to school unless I was sure the setting was right for him.

The year is ending with AD needing more surgery this year…and I will be having surgery on my nerves too, I have a trapped nerve somewhere (more tests required) but yesterday after a hospital visit I discovered that as a consequence of nerve damage crucial muscle has wasted in my hand. I am hoping that the operation is sorted out quickly, I don’t want any more muscle to degenerate. Two of the things I love to do photography and crochet require use of both hands.

So, we have been through a considerably difficult year but I want to end on a positive note and tell you about the good stuff that has been happening. I got a distinction for my second year of study in my degree and this year the module revolves around the reason I started studying, attachment and child development. Some of the stuff I have learned has been fascinating and I will share with you in an informal manner. We got a new dog, a rescue Cavalier and this has been brilliant for the kids. Harry was always my dog in a way, he was here before we adopted the kids and they could take or leave him and vice-versa. Boy is now settled into a new school. We still have difficulties getting him out of the door for school but he likes his new teacher, he is making friends. The school is very small and so this means he gets more attention and it is more intimate than the massive primary school he was attending. The best thing of all is that dinner break is structured, they have a sports scheme and Boy likes to participate which means he is not getting into trouble and conflict with the other children. Girl… where do I start? We have less problems than we did. She is confident, she is happy and we are able to give her responsibilities. She still has some issues around executive functioning but in the grand scheme of things happiness is far more important.

Building Resilience

This weekend Girl went to her cousins for the weekend with her grandparents, I was a bit apprehensive about it, she hasn’t had a sleepover with her grandparents for ages because every time she had one she came home and bullied Boy so we put a stop to it.

Well, The Hubster’s mum and dad kept asking if they could take Girl with them to her cousin’s house for the weekend for a birthday celebration, it’s about 90 minutes drive away. Initially, after the other week’s behaviour I said she could only go if she was behaving herself in the run up. My thoughts were that it probably doesn’t pay to keep saying no to everything, she has to learn to cope with situations but it’s the not coping with it that made me apprehensive not whether she was behaving well enough,  Girl does need to be in the right head-space to cope, behaviour is an indication of where she is inside.

Now, I must add that before Christmas the cousins came this way and they all had a sleepover at Girl’s grandparents house. The next day Girl was inconsolable after they went and for a few days after she was snappy and irritable declaring it was because she was missing her cousins.

After much thought I decided to let her go this weekend because above everything else I thought it would be fun for her. Well it was fun by all accounts, they went to see The Lego Movie for her cousin’s Birthday but while they were on the way home the cousins mum commented on Facebook how quiet and well behaved she was and I just thought uh-oh. Quiet is a bad sign. I wasn’t at all surprised at well behaved, just like at school, Girl will behave perfectly appropriately where she is not feeling confident.

Well, they arrived home about 6pm last night, Girl was pale and also very tired from not sleeping well, after milk and toast we sent her to bed at her usual time of 7.15pm, I fought the urge to keep her up, school next day and she looked so tired. Suddenly she was inconsolable again, she said she was missing her cousin and I guess (though she would never say it) probably confused with missing us and the routine of home too.

More than anything I wish these things weren’t so difficult for her, as I guess as many adoptive parents do. It’s always a tough decision, I know she will enjoy herself to a certain extent but sending her somewhere she doesn’t feel confident, feels anxious, is it worth the heartache afterwards? Loss and separation is such a big part of our kid’s lives.  Also, I don’t want to be the mum who stopped her from doing and trying stuff, I think it’s a recipe for later resentment.

I think the key is that she might have been upset when she got home but it’s building resilience, she will feel more confident next time she goes and even more so the time after that. We straight away got back into normal routine, however hard that was for her to accept and we know the next few days she might feel a bit sad, fingers crossed that the sadness doesn’t escalate into bigger feelings that we know she feels.

A Family Divided

As a family we have always enjoyed going out, even before the kids I enjoyed going out with my husband; walks, seaside, museums, cities, we had a thirst to discover the world and new places. It’s becoming increasingly apparent though that one of our family hates going out with a passion, unless it’s soft play (urgh) or a theme park (expensive).

I don’t know how we fit this need for staying at home into our family life without dividing the family. Even when we weren’t going far we always enjoyed making the most of the local area, particularly Girl, she loves nothing more than a walk in the woods, den building, dam building, puddle sploshing, sledging, football and a picnic or cafe for lunch. There are local places that are firm favourites that she will visit again and again and again. Unfortunately all the places that Girl likes, Boy hates. To take Girl to these places we either all go together and listen to boy having tantrums and whinging about going home or just one of us takes her out or the alternative is that we leave Boy with grandparents. All of these options are unsatisfactory. Boy needs our time as much as Girl and I think it’s important to do things as a family.

Boy enjoying his scooterI am hoping that as Boy gets older there will be more room for negotiation but at the minute it feels that the older he gets the more adamant he is about the things he is willing  to do or not to. This morning I have tried taking him out with no pressure of Girl bossing him around, it’s a beautiful sunny day and Boy seemed to be enjoying himself with his scooter but after 10 minutes the tantrum arrived so we came home, I am just thankful that it was just him and me, it always breaks my heart to cut short a walk when Girl is with us, try as we might there is no cajoling Boy into enjoying himself outdoors and his mood spoils the mood for Girl even if we do stay.

Make and Mend

It’s International Day at Girl’s school today, this took me a bit by surprise this year. We have had an issue this school year with Girl not bringing letters home so we missed the newsletter with the date of International Day, then Tuesday of this week (nothing like a bit of notice) a text from the school ‘Your child’s class is Norway, don’t worry about dressing up as there will be activities’. I didn’t click it was International Day, something the kids ALWAYS dress up for, I just thought it was a school project. It was only when chatting to another mum on the playground yesterday morning I realised I needed to sort out an outfit. I could have followed the text and not worried about it but that would have put Girl in the position of ‘the one who’s mum didn’t bother’. Not on your nelly!

Our effort for International day

Our effort for International day

So after hunting for a Viking outfit during the day yesterday and coming up with nothing I took Girl to Hobby Craft. First we visited Asda for a white t-shirt as I had an idea and on walking in the door a woolly hat, scarf and glove set in Nordic design right in front of us and even better, in the sale! Perfect, it was like it was handed to me on a plate but it wasn’t enough. We bought the white t-shirt then proceeded to the haberdashery area in Hobby Craft. My little tomboy always struggles to hold in her inner girl in the haberdashery. We decided to make a flag for her t-shirt, I was thinking simple fabric paint, Girl had other ideas.  First Girl suggested I make the flag using marabou. Marabou, I ask you!!! That was a definite no from me, I would not have known where to start! We agreed on sparkly. So with ribbon, sequins and sparkly material we headed home.

Over the top for school? Maybe. I could have dressed her in red, white & blue as the teacher suggested but International Day is something we have always made a bit of effort for, as do most of the other children. Four hours later, the t-shirt was finished. This morning before I was even out of bed Girl came running up the stairs, wrapped up in her new woollies and wearing her t-shirt, grinning from ear-to-ear. Girl always appreciates somebody taking time and doing something special for her (as do we all).

It’s the making of the t-shirt that mended our relationship.

An uncertain future

I haven’t blogged for a while, life has been hectic, particularly since starting my degree course but last week I told myself, you WILL blog next week. What I didn’t intend or foresee was for my first blog post back to be a negative one.

When we adopted Girl one of the things that delayed her adoption was the fact that she faced an ‘uncertain future’. The social workers and panel seemed to like this phrase. It would very definitely describe the way that things are feeling at the moment.

We got through Christmas and Boxing Day, the kids were of course manic but we knew they would be and steeled ourselves for it. There were a few incidents before Christmas which were dealt with but Christmas Day itself was relaxed, we kept the day to ourselves, my parents came round for an hour in the morning but the rest of the day was our own, we have learned from experience how Christmas needs to be.

However, things started to change for the worse after Boxing Day, fighting, squabbling,wildness. Both kids in the house together is difficult, Boy has his own difficulties which we are dealing with at the moment. I found projects to entertain them, took them out but despite my best efforts Girl was on a downward spiral and it culminated on Sunday night with me taking the brunt of it, I was kicked, punched and bit for over an hour. I have bruises on my arms, legs and chest, scratches all over and a still have a stiff neck that I can only assume resulted from being punched in the face as the ache started about an hour after the episode. My Girl is strong.

I can deal with this, bruises heal. What I am struggling to deal with is what it means for Girl and us as a family. I know what the signals are, I did notice them but had faith that Girl would eventually open up to me as she often does nowadays and would not revisit her violent past. The thing that scares me is that she seemed fully in control, she wanted to hurt me and she knew how to. Each blow was dealt with precision, when I calmly told her to calm herself down and control her temper she coldly and calmy told ‘I am in control, I want hurt you, I hate you.’ This left me spiralling. Life has moved on for Girl, it’s like it never happened but I am still reeling even now on Wednesday morning.

I worry that our future is indeed very uncertain, that Girl is still capable of great harm that and she will never be in the position to trust us 100% and actually even more than that is that I think we will always be a target for her feelings. I know (hope) it’s not me that she hates, its how she feels that she hates but who else can she project that on to? Certainly not her friends or teacher because her attachment to them is uncertain, friends can walk away and not come back.

There are things that drive me mad, attachment-y stuff like treating the house with an element of disdain, lying, not looking after her belongings, never clearing away after herself, having  little thought for others in her actions, always wanting control over everything and doing the very bare minimum for anybody else, in summary her self-centred attachment disorder behaviour.

It makes me want to build a high wall around my heart to protect myself but if I build the wall I suppose I will never see the flowers either. (That was a cheesy end, eh?)

Control & Food

Food is a funny issue in our house, an issue experienced by many adoptive families. Boy uses the food as a tool for control but also has sensory issues around food so from one day to the next we cannot predict what he will eat, if anything. It’s something we are just getting on with and not making too much fuss of.

With Girl even now we still have the negotiations about what she is allowed to leave on her plate, usually she will want to leave roughly two forkfuls of food however much we put on the plate. Two forkfuls of food doesn’t sound like a lot but if we had put three forkfuls of food on her plate she would still negotiate to leave them so it’s not the amount she is leaving that’s the issue; it’s the desire to negotiate about leaving some.Granted it’s not every day but lately we have noticed a new pattern of ravenously hungry Girl.

The first time she was ravenous was at nanny’s  house, they were serving up SpagBol. Girl likes the spaghetti but has never been so keen on the meat, I usually leave it out and do a tomato and basil sauce instead but this time she ate serving after serving after serving. I was surprised, it was unusual. That is I was surprised until I got home and realised she had not eaten her lunch, she would have eaten anything. For lunch she had eaten some cheese spaghetti, a Frube and just barely a quarter of a sandwich and none of the fruit supplied so by the time she got to nanny’s house for tea she was ravenously hungry because on a day of PE a bit of cheese, a frube and quarter of a sandwich is not enough for a girl as active as Girl, the Girl who runs everywhere.

It’s a pattern that is starting to develop and grow. We have frequent occurrences of her not eating her lunch and being ravenous when she finishes school. When I ask why she has not eaten her sandwich she has ‘accidentally dropped it on the floor’. Girl is a messy eater, has dyspraxic tendencies but at home she has rarely dropped her sandwich on the floor, at school she seems to be doing it all the time. She always eats the sweet yoghurt and the cheese, more often lately she leaves the fruit and Girl loves fruit. She knows I have no control over what she does at school, that she can eat just the sugary yoghurt and the cheese and get away with it.

Our other routine is that every morning Girl has her cereal and then she likes to eat something else like a piece of toast or a crumpet. A routine she has had from foster care.  The last few mornings she hasn’t wanted the second item, this morning she ate two spoons of Shreddies then said she didn’t want anything else. She looks tired but I’m pretty sure she is not ill, I think there is something else going on that is making her go back to using food as control. I told her that I am worried that two spoons of shreddies is not enough, that food is her fuel to make her brain work and concentrate but I can’t force her to eat.

It sounds like not a lot to worry about but sometimes it’s the little things that are completely out of character  for a girl that likes routine and the familiar that give the biggest signals and since returning to school there have been a lot of these little signs of something being not quite right. I guess the best thing I can do is not make too much of an issue of it but I worry about her lack of concentration in class because of hunger when she is already struggling at school anyway.


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