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.

Wednesday, 30 July 2014

What is an education

The other evening when driving home from work there was a report about a school in Somerset, Brymore School, the department of education has decided that the Btech in national diplomas taken in the subjects of horticulture and agriculture are not as difficult as "academic" GCSEs and therefore cannot be included in the results.  Please listen or read the report from The Guardian - fascinating.


To me education means learning and teaching, not just learning about specific subject matter. We are all different and have different interests, life would be pretty boring if we were all the same. For the Department of Education to just determine subject matter in this way, to me seems fool hardy. Bankers and city workers may well have the potential to earn huge suns of money in the city but, we as a society need to eat, so surely agriculture and horticulture should be just as important.

Many children do not have the desire to sit at a table and learn they want to be outside exploring, learning through play and experience, in fact if you listen to Sir Ken Robinson on his TED talks you will be aware that many industries are struggling because they cannot find people with new ideas. He thinks that our education system stifles this creativity.


I worry about the changes coming in, child 4 will be tested as he enters school in 2016 so that his progress can be measured by the time he reaches year 6, initially parents were going to be informed as to how their child performed, but due to widespread opposition this has fortunately been dropped. I think that during the first three years of school life our children should be given the opportunity to learn at their own pace through play and exploration not to be expected to sit, listen and complete a task. When I watch my children play, I see them touch, feel, listen and question. They learn by experience and have no fear in just testing things out, they are not interested in "failure" only in what happens. I can only hope that the department of education listens to teachers and changes how they expect our children to achieve, or that the next generation of education ministers can think outside the box a bit more .

Thursday, 24 July 2014

He's not adopted, he's ours.

Children are incredible, their way at looking at the world is something that we lose through age or experience. There's me who is often aware that child 4 is adopted and therefore may need understanding, compassion and a watchful eye. And then there are his older siblings who view him as their brother, he may be a pest, he may tantrum and he may need their compassion but for them that's just how it is. They have just accepted him as he is and love him regardless.

We have had a magical couple of days, the sun has shone and the skies are blue. It's the first week of the summer holidays and we have been to the local cathedral gardens and the secret garden, where the children have climbed trees, played pooh sticks, climbed hills and slid down them. They've created imaginary tree houses with slides, swings and secret passageways. We've played football and rounders ( using an empty water bottle and a pink foam football) and eaten lashings of picnic food.
We have returned home hot, exhausted and pink cheeked, just like the famous five did following their tremendous adventures. But it was today when child 3 and her friend were dawdling home with me, child 1 and child 4 trailing behind when I overheard child 3 say " oh, he's not adopted, he's ours"

I could have cried, well maybe I did, just a little tear - love and pride!!

Sunday, 20 July 2014

I hate having my photo taken

I am sure that many mums of my generation hate having their photos taken, after all we are no long the beautiful, young, fit and skinny women we were in our early twenties. I am now probably nearly a stone heavier, carrying laughter lines around my eyes, my brunette locks are now shot with silver and grey and my chin has multiplied.

Then I read this http://www.huffingtonpost.com/allison-tate/mom-pictures-with-kids_b_1926073.html
And I thought oh!

When I think of my mother, I am filled with nostalgia of my childhood, I remember balmy days of blue skies, walks in the woods, carpets of bluebells, knickerbocker glories, climbing hills, rock hopping across beaches and rivers. I can almost smell cakes baking, dinners roasting and strawberry jam bubbling, I can hear her whispering her pride or words of encouragement when I needed them.  I see her spending time with my children, making them laugh and making them feel loved.

I have a few photos of her through the years and when I look at them I don't notice her size, laughter lines or the grey hair. I smile because the photo brings back a memory, a memory of a holiday, a family event or just a time in my life where we were together.  I guess a as a child,  photos were taken on film and all of them had to be developed so the photos were kept. Nowadays with digital cameras and phones we can delete our photos with ease so those pictures which we mums have not avoided can be so easily deleted. If I avoid all those photo opportunities will my children remember our happy times, I am sure they will but a memory is a sepia version of reality, a photo can bring technicolor, it's something to touch, to keep. It helps tell a story to those around is. When my mum reaches the end of her time with us, (many, many years from now I hope) I will still have the photographs to remind me of so much that has happened throughout my life, I will be able to share them with my children and grandchildren, they tell the story of where we come from and may well tell us where we can go. But, if I avoid the camera am I denying them memories of colour? All because of  how I now view myself. If I ask my husband he will tell me that I am still, if not more beautiful than the day he married me.

From today, I will no longer avoid having my photo taken, I won't seek the camera out but if someone wishes to take a picture I will smile, laugh and enjoy the moment reminding myself that the picture isn't about me but about a memory.

Tuesday, 15 July 2014

The Very Hungry Caterpillar

By the light of the moon a little egg lay on a leaf. POP! Out crawled a very hungry caterpillar.

On our way home from dropping child 3 to school we met six little black, hairy caterpillars hurriedly crawling across the path from the overgrown field into the hedgerows. Child 4 was more than happy to watch as I picked one up and then let it crawl across my palm and over my fingers, he wasn't so excited when I asked him if he would like to hold one.

I love how little ones are so fascinated by mini beasts, child 2 as a toddler would lie down in the grass watching the ants, scurry about collecting their dinner and both child 2 and 3 were obsessed with wood lice. Today child 4 and I hunted for crickets in the grass, we could hear them chirping but couldn't find them and found beautiful cob webs hidden in the hedgerow, glistening in the sunlight waiting for a bug to be ensnared for the spiders supper.

The summer holidays are just around the corner and I am looking for activities to entertain them all - not easy with the age gaps, 15, 13, 8 and 2.  Based on today I think week one will be mini beast week, bedtime stories will be The Very Hungry caterpillar, The Bad Tempered Ladybird both by Eric Carle  and Three Hungry Spiders, we can go on a bug expedition to the Secret Garden where dragon flies swoop and swirl we can hunt for worms in the veg patch and find wood lice in our forest school space. Of course following the national trusts 50 things to do before you are 11&3/4s we must complete number 17 set up a snail race and 31 go on a bug hunt. Lunches can be themed with tomatoes made to look like ladybirds, spider cup cakes and roly poly snail sausage rolls, we can make butterfly paintings, you know when you paint one side of the paper then fold it over to make a matching imprint on the opposite side. Pinterest has a million ideas for bug and mini beast crafts if the weather is wet.

Just an impromptu meeting with a very hungry caterpillar has provided me with a weeks worth of exciting plans an ideas for the first week of our first week as a family of six summer holiday!!!!!

Sunday, 13 July 2014

It's not all a bed of roses.

Adoption, some say fantastic, some say why, some say don't!  All the adopters or would be adopters, that is people in the system preparing for adoption, that I have met have a story to tell about someone who makes their lives difficult, complicated or down right miserable.  It's quite incredible to think that in every family or friendship group that these adopters have, there is someone who seems to make it their mission to just interfere, talk about the reasons why adoption shouldn't happen as if they have some great understanding of how the process works or how adopting a child will have a negative impact on family life, when they have not attended a single class or read a single book about it.

We have met single parents and couples who are admired for adopting "you are so brave" " well done I couldn't do it" these adopters feel frustrated and angry after all often the reason that they have chosen adoption is purely selfish - it's the only way they can have a child!  This is not to say that they aren't brave or that they don't deserve our admiration, just that actually we should congratulate them on the arrival of their new child and then support them when they need it. Then there are those who have with difficulty or IVF had a baby but then decide that to adopt their second baby  is a better choice for them, they have to deal with people questioning why they would adopt when they have a child - for some, one isn't enough, for me I've kept going until we have four.  Some have family members worrying about the fact that there are no blood ties, that we don't know the histories of the children we bring into our homes, that think that because the adoptive mother hasn't actually given birth, that the relationship is different.  Then there are families like ours where some just don't get it, they worry about the impact adding another will have on the other children.

As adopters we complete courses, one to one sessions with social workers, we read all the books on the extensive reading list, by the time you have completed the course and managed to get through panel you are as ready as you can be! Your knowledge of adoption and it's ramifications are considerable, you will have considered a multitude of reasons to not adopt, after all to adopt today is about taking on children that have had to be removed from their birth parents, children who WILL have been traumatised. Not a single social worker that I have met has sugar coated this, if anything they harp on about the worst case scenarios all the time! which I know has put people off.  I know of those who have walked out during a course, or who cannot cope with the intrusive questioning in the one to one sessions or just can't go to panel.

The negative commentary from those, whom I am sure think they are questioning,  belittling or just being adversarial because they have our, the adopters, best interests at heart, need to stop, after all adopters are old enough and educated enough to make their own decisions and then have to live with the consequences. To have family or close friends question these decisions can be devastating. The children we adopt are our children, just as if we have given birth to them. Would anyone question a pregnancy or birth of a child? Take it from me I have given birth to three children and adopted one, I love them in exactly the same way, they are ALL mine, we are very very aware of the issues we may have in the future and we will deal with them as and when we need to. We have made our decision to adopt not on a whim but on careful consideration of all the facts that are known and even working on a worst case scenario we wouldn't change our minds.

No one said having children is easy and adopting is no different. To those out there questioning the decisions of those who adopt STOP, would you question someone's decision to have a baby?  Imagine the reactions of the pregnant mother if you did. To those who have adopted or are thinking of doing so, you are not alone in having to justify it or fight your corner, just remember the majority of your social circle want you to be happy and fulfilled and will support you, you have to hold the minority at arms length, accept their fears and move on. In life we tend to regret what we don't do rather than what we do!

Rant over!!!!!

Tuesday, 8 July 2014

Life balances

As a mother to four children, a wife and part-time bank manager balancing life is.....well complicated. Someone always wants a piece of me and it usually has to be right now.  This week alone child 3 has sports day, a choir event for the mayor and a drama show, child 2 has sports day and a drama show and child 1 has LAMDA exams, I am working, in a busy short staffed environment and there is still homework! ironing! shopping and dinners to be cooked.

Work/life balance is a debate often heard in communities and in the media but what about just balancing life in general. There are only 24 hours in a day and I need to sleep for 7 of them, this leaves 17 hours, child 4 is awake for 12/13 of those and he takes up quite a lot of  time just because he is two and therefore needs a fair amount of close supervision.

So how to split my time, well I aim to complete one job per day. I have to cook dinner and loading the washing machine is easy enough. I try to clear as I go. That is I don't leave the breakfast stuff until later, well unless world war 3 is taking place elsewhere in the house. The older 3 children are quite good at sorting themselves out, they can sort their own breakfasts, load the dishwasher and get themselves ready for school etc. I have found that if I just aim to complete one additional job, like hoovering or ironing I can feel that it is actually viable and I often get that one job done.

If my expectations of myself are too high, I am just setting myself up to fail and failure isn't good for the soul, it also doesn't set a good example to my children. They honestly don't care if the house is a little untidy or if child 4's fingerprints are all over the windows. They do like to have homemade cake in the cake tin so it's fortunate that child 4 loves baking. They also want to come home from school and share their news of the day, they want to eat dinner together as a family, especially if it's Taco Tuesday, lasagna or burger night. They want to have story time, movie night, a cuddle just time with mum and dad. Is that not why we had them all in the first place.

Here is a story I read once years ago, I tore it out of the magazine and it's still pinned, well read and tatty, on my notice board today, just to remind me about what is important in life

A philosophy professor stood before his class with some items on the table in front of him.
When the class began, wordlessly he picked up a very large and empty mayonnaise jar and proceeded to fill it with rocks, about 2" in diameter.He then asked the students if the jar was full. They agreed that it was.
So the professor then picked up a box of pebbles and poured them into the jar. He shook the jar lightly. The pebbles, of course, rolled into the open areas between the rocks.He then asked the students again if the jar was full. They agreed it was.
The professor picked up a box of sand and poured it into the jar. Of course, the sand filled up everything else.He then asked once more if the jar was full. The students responded with a unanimous "Yes."
"Now," said the professor, "I want you to recognize that this jar represents your life. The rocks are the important things - your family, your partner, your health, your children - things that if everything else was lost and only they remained, your life would still be full.
The pebbles are the other things that matter - like your job, your house, your car.
The sand is everything else. The small stuff." "If you put the sand into the jar first," he continued "there is no room for the pebbles or the rocks. The same goes for your life.If you spend all your time and energy on the small stuff, you will never have room for the things that are important to you. Pay attention to the things that are critical to your happiness. Play with your children. Take your partner out dancing. There will always be time to go to work, clean the house, give a dinner party and fix the disposal.Take care of the rocks first - the things that really matter. Set your priorities. The rest is just sand."

Thursday, 3 July 2014


Sometimes I can't say how I really feel, because I chose to adopt child 4 therefore it's my responsibility to cope. Although I have a wonderful support network I am aware that they don't always "get" where I am coming from. How can they, they haven't completed the training I have or live the sometimes very long days that I live.
I also think that we tend to hide away from the realities of the damage poor parents, the courts, social services - the system has on children in care. We tell ourselves that these children are better off fostered, adopted or in care and then avoid looking at what these children have suffered. If a child loses a parent to illness we view their loss in a very different way than we do those children removed from their parents. I don't think we should, both children have suffered a traumatic bereavement and we need to address the issues of bereavement just as much with children in care as those who have a parent that has died.

Now that child 4's speech is maturing, he is able to articulate his fears better, last week he became very upset at nursery saying "my mummy has forgotten me" yesterday he asked me when he was going home - we were sitting at the kitchen table, today he asked "are you my mummy?"  Sometimes he is just so angry, full of real rage, he doesn't like anyone taking something from him, he reacts by hitting and kicking.

I often don't really comment on his behaviour anymore as the general response is, well he's two or it's just terrible twos and so on. I know that some of the behaviour is normal two year old stuff but a lot isn't. A year ago he was moved from his long term foster carers into emergency care, the trauma of the event must be deep seated and could explain his unsettled behaviour at the moment. He has a lot to lose now, a family of siblings, grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins. He has a dog, a cat and chickens. He has lots and lots of little friends and adoring teenagers who play with him and take care of him. He attends a nursery he loves and has favourite places to visit - the farm, the beach and the secret garden.  It shouldn't really be any surprise that he over reacts when he doesn't get his own way he just must be so full of fear and anger that he doesn't know what to do.

As I write this I recognise the need to be able to share my fears even on the days or maybe more importantly on the days that I am not coping.  I need to sit and explain, educate those I rely on to where I am, what I think is happening. They don't need to do anything, probably just listen to me offer a shoulder and share a bottle of wine.