If I could give you one gift it would be to see yourself through my eyes and then you would see how special you really are.

Sunday, 30 March 2014

The great outdoors

I was shocked to hear a story where a reception teacher had told a parent that although it was lovely that her 4 year old child loved to be outside, this child needed to learn to come inside and sit down so that he could be educated.

As of 2016 the government is talking about introducing testing our children at 4 years old. How can you test a 4 year old and why on earth would you want to. 4 year olds should be playing and exploring not sitting down at a desk to be tested.

Being a recent mum to a very active, out door loving little boy the thought of him being expected to sit quietly worries me hugely. His curious spirit is what makes him who he is and to squash that would be tragedy. I know that he will need to learn the benefits of learning, he will need to appreciate the sitting in a quiet space to read a book and he will have to learn how to sit exams but not at 4.

Our child 4 doesn't sit and doesn't do quiet. Even in his sleep he fidgets and wiggles around. What he does is follows a bumble bee on its hunt for nectar, chase seagulls, collects sticks to feed into drains, squelchs in muddy puddles and splashes through the rain. He knows to look for a rainbow when the sun shines through the rain, he hunts for the stars and the moon in the night sky. If we are out in the car he watches for cows, sheep and horses (see saws).

Knowing that I don't have the ability to home school and that his sociable nature means that he is probably more suited to learning with other children, school has to be the best option for him. So I will have to provide him with the learning outdoors stuff. We will have to allow him to explore and learn before school after school, at the weekends and during the holidays. We will have to carry out science experiments, build dens, set up sand and water tables.  Tying all these things into reading, writing and numeracy. Thank heavens for the internet, it can provide us with loads of inspirational activities to do outside.

Maybe, just maybe our education system will start to listen to all the research out there about how children learn in different ways and that they are all really different. Different is good, creative is good, exploration is good, academia is good. Not one of those abilities is better than another, they are just different. In today's age of Internet, social media and technology thinking outside of the box is a necessity. In fact Apple and Google are struggling to find people who have the imagination and creativity to think of new innovative ideas for technology.

Children can learn so much if we just leave them be, of course there are risks in this but I honestly feel the benefits will outweigh them. Let your children climb a tree, traverse a stream and create a mud slide research shows that children allowed to thrive in the outdoors, thrive in later life. After all we have one life and surely it's to be enjoyed.




Thursday, 20 March 2014

A heart full of love, A heart full of loss

Well yesterday was the final day of our "legal" adoption journey. Child 4 case went before the judge and he agreed to the adoption order. This means that we are legally his parents, we don't have to let social workers know what is happening, is he sleeping, eating and healthy. We don't need to speak about behaviour or settling in. We can sort out a passport. His surname is now ours so I can change it at the doctors, the nursery and the dentist. To all intents and purposes he is baby number 4.

Of course emotionally it won't be quite the same, he has two birth parents and all the family that goes with them, as well as the family he now belongs to. His history is different to his older siblings, when school ask for baby pictures or life stories so far his isn't going to be the same as the other children in his class. He will have to deal with these differences and we will have to help and support him.  He is bound to have questions, lots of questions, he is likely to be angry and saddened by his history but none of that will change how much we love him.

The joy that he has already brought us will carry us through some of those potential hard times ahead.   When I took the call from the social worker to confirm that the order had sailed through, my heart swelled and I wept tears of joy. Then I phoned to let his daddy know and then his brother and his sisters, Randad and his nanna, his aunts, great aunts and uncles, then all our close friends. I am sure that everyone went on to share the news, joyful news like that of new babies spreads like wild fire, everyone wanting to be part of it, to touch it, to share that moment of happiness. Real joy that costs nothing except in this case two people sit wondering where and how it all went wrong. Their joy of a baby boy was snatched away only a few weeks after he was born. Yes I know many will say that it was deserved, after all they proved to be unable to look after their baby and it was in his best interest to be found a new home with people could give him everything he needed. We met this couple and I saw just a young couple, immature and irresponsible. A girl who had had a tragedy of her own as she hit her teenage years, many years of loneliness and a desperate need to be loved. All these led to her marrying a boy who really cannot provide her with the love and support she needs. A boy who has never learnt to take responsibility for his actions and quite likely never will. He, I think will always pass the blame for his actions elsewhere. " I have a bad temper, I suffered ADHD as a child, the world is against me"  Somewhere our society let them down, whether it be parents, school or the community, their nature would have been the foundation of their behaviours but the nurture they did or did not receive will have exacerbated their situations. My empathy lies with child 4's birth mum her circumstances help explain why she is unable to take care of a child, not so sure I have that same empathy for birth dad though.  Regardless, these two fought to keep their baby they just couldn't or maybe wouldn't change their behaviours and lives for him and so they lost him. I know that I will never know how that feels or how I would get through the coming days if our lives were reversed.

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Five and a windy day

Have you ever noticed how children in particular are affected by windy days especially when in school or trapped in doors? Windy days make them wild and over excited, they are more likely to run around, scream and shout and be aggressive. But take them out, take them to somewhere, where they can run free and a windy day can become an exciting adventure.

At the weekend we took a trip to the beach, our first one this year. The skies were an azure blue with cotton wool clouds that sailed above us. You could almost see the North wind imagery of a huge cloud looking like an old man with huge puffed up cheeks blowing the clouds as hard as he could.

Following the storms over Christmas the beach has changed, the pebbles and stones have been lifted off the beach and scattered across the low green cliffs the seats have shrunk down as the rocks pile up around their legs. The power and noise of the wind and waves lifting the rocks must have been frighteningly tremendous. The pond that sits at the top of the beach is bigger and deeper now, the dog took huge delight in leaping in and paddling around. Whilst the boys skimmed flat stones counting how many times they tripped and skipped over the water. The tide was out and the landscape was cleaner cut without the boulders that used to litter around the rock pools. The wind was too strong and gusty for us to explore the rock pools like we usually do, but our walk was brisk and definitely cleared the winter cobwebs away. With our hoods up and sealed tightly around our ears to protect them from the cold biting wind, we slowly made our way to the iron stairs and the cliff top trail home. The cliffs seemed unchanged as if the waves had not made it up to batter them, it would seem that the waves only lifted the boulders and deposited them on the grass, leaving them for the sun and the elements once the tide had gone out. The wind kept us back from the edge and child 4 found it difficult to walk with the wind battering around him. His arms lifted up so as to be held in the safety of our arms.

We headed back to the cars for our picnic and hot drinks. Tuna, sweetcorn and mayo rolls, chilli and sardine sandwiches, red and green Pringles, flap jacks, doughnuts and Victoria jam sandwich all washed down with milky coffee or strong builders tea. A chance to escape the cold and enjoy the sun that poured through the windows, heating up the insides of the cars into mini micro climates.

After lunch we headed over the fields strolling towards the lighthouse that would have protected those old sailing ships from the rocks that awaited those who unknowingly sailed to close, ripping out their hulls, depositing their treasures along the coastline. We tried to lean back into the wind, to see if it was strong enough to hold us up, let us float and fly like a kite. The wind ripped through our hair and pushed us back and forth, causing screams of delight. Eventually the cold drove us back to the cars and we began the return journey home, all of us exhausted, pink cheeked and feeling content. Hoping for many more days celebrating the beautiful landscapes of the British countryside, picnics and memories being created.

Monday, 17 March 2014


I listened to a radio discussion on radio 3 this week about Asperger's syndrome and men by the time it had finished I wondered if we were doing men a disservice. According to the discussion some women felt that their husbands had to have a disorder if they weren't very good at mixing at a party, couldn't be empathetic or romantic. Firstly, if they didn't like their husbands as they were why marry them in the first place and secondly with disorders like Asperger's being  diagnosed more and more it made me wonder if in some cases the diagnosis is a way of just explaining the differences between men and women.

I am really anti labelling anyone, particularly children, with any type of disorder as I feel that it can either become a self-fulfilling prophecy or just be used to excuse behaviours that people don't like rather than try and deal with them. I am not a doctor or in anyway medically trained so would not argue that disorders such as ADHD, autism or Asperger's don't exist but I do feel that the minute a child does not quite fit into what society dictates as normal they have to be diagnosed with some sort of disorder.  ADHD for example is thought to be hereditary, as child 4's birth father thought that he suffered from it there is a possibility that our son will also suffer some of its symptoms, in fact if you read the NHS list of symptoms he already shows some,  but then so do a lot of toddlers, particularly curious and adventurous little boys. We have known since he first arrived that we will need to channel his exuberance into team sports, such as rugby, that forest school and scouting where he can learn to light fires and use knives and saws safely will be a must once he is old enough. He needs activities that keep him interested, but preferably out of trouble. He is one of those children that needs an eye kept on him otherwise his curiosity and exploration inevitably lead him into mischief.

The main symptoms are:
  • a short attention span
  • being easily distracted
  • making careless mistakes, for example in schoolwork 
  • appearing forgetful or losing things 
  • being unable to stick at tasks that are tedious or time consuming
  • being unable to listen to or carry out instructions
  • being unable to concentrate
  • constantly changing activity or task
  • having difficulty organising tasks


The main symptoms of hyperactivity are:
  • being unable to sit still, especially in calm or quiet surroundings
  • constantly fidgeting
  • being unable to settle to tasks
  • excessive physical movement
  • excessive talking


The main symptoms of impulsiveness are:
  • being unable to wait for a turn
  • acting without thinking
  • interrupting conversations
  • little or no sense of danger
I shared this with the family to which all of them could relate to any number of the symptoms, so this list caused a fair bit of hilarity. In all seriousness for those that do suffer severe ADHD life must be very difficult but perhaps we as society should learn to embrace them.

Thursday, 13 March 2014

A bit of nurture versus nature

To be honest I am not sure what I really believe when it comes to nurture versus nature. I can't quite see how one or the other can definitively be used to explain why some children grow up well rounded and others don't. It must be a mix of both.

Now that child 4 has settled in, I often consider the nature/nurture issue. All of our children are different in looks and personalities but until child 4 I have always known what they have been capable of in the behaviour department. I knew that they would stop at the road, that they would come back when called and would recognise the warning tone in my voice when they had pushed the boundaries too far. Child 4 is a completely different kettle of fish. Perhaps, with the older three I recognised either myself or my husband in them, so knew how to deal with behaviour I didn't approve of.  The concern with adoption is that you have to learn the nature of the child and they have to learn about you. Without understanding the nature how can you put the right type of nurture into place.

As you know our little man has found out/ worked out how to undo his car seatbelt , this has escalated this week. We have tried singing action songs to keep his hands away from the clasp - If You are Happy and You Know It, Incy Wincy Spider, Twinkle Twinkle and Heads, Shoulders, Knees and Toes - that works for a little while. Watching him in the mirror is unsafe driving but I catch myself doing it, ready to just call his name and remind him not to touch.  When he does undo his seatbelt and slips out of his seat with a chortle of laughter I stop the car as soon as it is safe to and in silence I will grab him, plop him back into the seat, belt him back in, get back into the drivers seat and head off.  On Wednesday I had to do this three times at the same set of traffic lights during the rush hour. The lights turned red three times!!  Today has been a little better, I only stopped once to re seatbelt him back in.

I have always worked on a six week turn around process with all the hiccups that we have had with the children I am just praying that this seatbelt one doesn't take that long.

Sunday, 9 March 2014

At last a day in the sun

We awoke to brilliant sunshine, well after the calls at 11.30pm, 1am, 2am 2.30am and 5am, darn that health visitor!!! Not that it is really her fault but since she visited our nights have been even more disturbed than before.  Anyway back to the sunshine, yippee the washing could go on the line and we could spend the day in the garden. After all the rain there are a billion jobs to be done. The veg patch needs turning over, ready for the broad beans, the raspberry canes are in desperate need of cutting back, as is the ivy that will soon be strangling our lilac tree, the children's house needs sweeping out, the chicken house needs a clear out and the climbing frame, slide and trampoline all need cleaning.

What did I do, well I did sweep out the house and introduced child 4 to a humungous family of wood lice that had moved in, my husband dug over the back bit of the veg patch, shut away in his own world by a pair of headphones and I did clear out the hen house. But the very best bit was watching child 3 and 4 play with the hose, fill the water table and blow bubbles. We had to make up more bubble mix (washing up liquid and water and a mental note to buy some glycerin this week as that helps to make fantastic bubbles)  They chased the chickens back into their run, tempting them with corn and rice, only for the dog to let them back out again. Child 3 taught child 4 terrifying gymnastic moves on the trampoline. The whole street must have heard the shrieks of laughter of our two youngest children. They spent the whole day frolicking as children should in the sunshine child 3 in her new bikini and child 4 in his nappy until it was bath time and gypsy toast for tea. (Our sweet version of French toast. Triangles of bread dipped in a mixture of egg and milk and fried until crispy brown on the outside then sprinkled with a healthy dose of sugar)

Both were off to bed early, exhausted, happy, carefree and pink cheeked - childhood as it should be!!

Thursday, 6 March 2014


We had a wonderful morning playing at the local playbarn, visiting the cows and making brownies. Then after lunch child 4 actually requested an afternoon nap, woohoo. I managed to make our lamb and chickpea patties for dinner and sort the washing before the looked after children's health visitor arrived to complete the 30 month health check on child 4. I was able to spend a good 30 minutes chatting to the lovely health visitor about one of my pride and joys and she was able to put my mind at rest about his antics. It wasn't long before he called for me, to let me know that he was awake and so I brought him out to meet our visitor and help him be weighed and measured. He was fine, a little shy perhaps, which is unusual for him I must say, but he is a curious little soul so seemed more than happy to stand on the scales watching the numbers increase and stand against a ruler for his height to be recorded. Not long after that the health visitor went away, more than happy with his progress.

We headed off to my mum and dads for a cup of tea before going to school to pick child 3 up from her sewing club. From the minute I loaded child 4 into the car he kept repeating "mummy coming?"  Or "go get child 3" even at my parents he wasn't his normal bouncy self, he crawled on my lap, drank his tea and continually asked "mummy coming?"  Or "go get child 3. " when my dad asked if he wanted the toys out ( just some cars and a teaset) he went into melt down, sobbing and asking to go home. Even when I nipped to the loo he hung on wanting to be with me.

For the rest of the afternoon and evening he was clingy, shouty and his behaviour was much to be desired. It took a while to settle him to bed, he wanted cuddles, singing, stories  just contact particularly from me. I rocked him, cuddled him, sang to him. Murmuring promises of always being there, always loving him and so on and so on. Eventually after more milk and more contact he rolled over and fell asleep.

I wish I knew what was going on in his head, did he think as he watched the strange lady fill in her paperwork and his red book that something was afoot, was he being moved again. He probably doesn't actually remember the moves from birth parents to foster carers to respite carers he certainly showed no recognition of anyone in the photos in his life story book that we received a couple of weeks ago, yet something bothered him and has really distressed him. We will of course ride this one out, it may mean a couple of disturbed nights, it may mean that his settling into nursery may be disrupted but we are his family and we will love him throughout each minor upset or major crisis.  Perhaps I should ban unknown visitors like the health visitor from coming to the house, maybe I should take child 4 to them, that way we arrive together and leave together. I don't know but I don't want him worrying and he is too young to understand what forever means yet, I really hope that it is something he will  learn by experience.

Wednesday, 5 March 2014

The devil and the deep blue sea

I pulled into the supermarket car park and turned around to say "we are here" to child 4 when I noticed that he wasn't strapped into his car seat. After a panicked moment I decided that I couldn't have clipped the safety harness in properly. That thought lasted until we got home and he wasn't strapped in. "Did you undo your seatbelt? " I asked "yes" child 4 responded. So just to be certain I plugged him back in "show me" which he of course did. My stomach dropped, my heart was in my throat, bugger, bugger, bugger what were our car journeys to be.

Once indoors I looked on the internet for car seat harness buckle covers but not only found some but also found an article from the AA about why "Houdini covers" shouldn't be used.  We have car seats to keep our children safe especially if we are involved in an accident. Should that happen a paramedic  or fireman may need to rescue our child quickly or what if as the driver you are disorientated and need to help your child out of the car.


So what to do, if I use a preventative measure on the clasp and am then involved in a nasty accident and our rescuers struggle to get child 4 out of his seat meaning that there is a delay in him receiving much  needed medical attention how would I feel, on the flip side if child 4 undoes his seatbelt whilst I am driving he could be injured in an accident or could actually cause an accident.

At the moment he is only undoing his seatbelt when we have reached our destination so may be I'll try ignoring it and if he undoes it whilst I am driving I will just have to stop and seatbelt him back in.

Monday, 3 March 2014

And so to gym

Well I have finally made it back into the gym, I have been going to Fitball and Zumba on and off since Christmas but not actually stepped on the dreaded treadmill ( I still use the emergency chain because I have visions of doing a Bridget Jones) or the vile cross trainer since child 4 joined us in September. Last week I knew it was time to return because my jeans were just beginning to feel a little tight. Everyone said that I should lose weight running around after a toddler but actually most of the time everything moves at a snail pace whilst he explores muddy puddles, piles of leaves or just playing with sticks. Don't get me wrong sometimes I do have to move fast, walking near roads or every time I sit in a coffee shop or an event involving one of the older children, but most of the time we go pretty slow, so not much in the way of burning calories. Of course having a toddler means that I comfort eat ALOT, the minute he goes down for his nap, which I think unfortunately on its way out, I reach for the chocolate or salt and vinegar crisps.

As an individual I am naturally lazy, I would prefer to curl up with a good book than head off to do any exercise but I know the exercise is good for me. It also makes me look at what I eat in a different light. It takes me 10 minutes on the evil cross trainer to burn 100 calories, so I know that when I reach for a bag of crisps I will weigh up my need for those crisps against having to spend 10 very long minutes stepping away. Three years ago we were heading off to Singapore and my delightful eldest daughter mentioned in the gentle way a that only a teenage could, that I could do with losing a few pounds if I was planning on wearing a bikini. She was right and so I headed off to join the gym. Over about nine months I lost a stone and a half , I have put about half a stone on in the last six months and am definitely not as fit as I was but I am hoping that I will be able to squeeze in a visit into the gym at least once a week.

Why oh why is to so easy to put the weight on and so so very hard to lose it?

I have to say though that doing the exercise not only helped me to lose weight it also made me feel healthier, more confident in how I looked and actually less stressed.  Those in the know push the benefits of exercising wherever and whenever they can and I honestly do get the benefits, it's just so hard to find a time that works for us as a family, after all any excuse not to go and I jump on it.