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, 22 May 2016

Friends and Prosecco

It has been a tough couple of weeks at the  Five Go On An Adventure Towers. Exams have been a common theme leading to a multitude of additional stressors. Child 2s mock GCSE results have been trickling in, none of which have been particularly good, probably because he didn't revise. In his disappointment in himself for letting himself, us and his teachers down he reverted back to his victim mentality saying that he was being bullied, needed to move schools and was threatening suicide. This led child 1 who is now in the middle of AS', so already pretty stressed herself, to melt down because child 2 was ruining her life, she had too much going on for her to put up with his tantrums. Child 3 of course had to jump the band wagon as she was doing year 5 mock SATs, so we had tears and tantrums from her too. Of course this unrest, angry noise, tears and tension meant that child 4 couldn't cope and he reverted back to his fight responses. He was continually on the offensive and I was called into the pre-school to discuss a new issue of biting and agression.
I found myself in a cycle of being on the defensive, dealing with each attention seeking behaviour after the event instead of pro-actively managing them before they blew up in our faces. It takes so much longer to deal with the fallout if you are on the back foot than it does if you notice the signs and can nip it in the bud.
Sometimes having 4 children, birth and adopted mean that I just miss the signs, I am so caught up dealing with one child that I miss the signs of one of the others going into melt down and so the cycle goes on.
My first priority had to be the suicide threats, even if they are not meant we have to follow through, just in case the child involved takes it further to ensure that someone takes note of their distress. School was my first port of call and I have to say that they were brilliant. They arranged a meeting between child 2 and the family support officer, who after talking to him let me know that he had no signs of any metal health issue and definitely wasn't suicidal, it was attention seeking so then she looked at what was causing that. There have been 2 boys causing our oldest son distress with low level name calling and aggravation, this has now been dealt with. A mentoring programme has been put in place with the new school chaplain who is a cool dude with cookies and hot chocolate to help with child 2's self esteem and they have also arranged time with a TA to help teach study skills and revision planning. At home we are supporting with additional tutoring in maths and English. We are also working on responsibility and less screen time. Child 2 takes absolutely no responsibility for his own actions, it is always someone else's fault and so we are continuing with our "robust" parenting. At the end of the day, he is the one who has to take his exams and he has to learn to live with the consequences of his actions. As parents we can only support and be there to help when needed.
The next priority was child 4 and his behaviour spiral, once again the pre-school stepped up they became more vigilant, watching for any issues that could cause child 4 to spiral, preventative mechanisms work brilliantly, distractions or watching for any child instigating difficult situations have resolved the biting and agression, at the nursery at least. Child 1 is still struggling, but she can accept responsibility for her behaviour even if it tends to be after the event, we have had lots of apologies and hugs and child 3, well after I explained to her that her mock SATs were just for her teacher to know what her pupils knew and didn't know and that it really didn't matter if she did badly in every single one, life calmed down. It's weeks like these that I am so grateful to my support network. Friends with birth children who have dealt with exam and revision concerns, friends with children from care who get the worries about attachment behaviours, education staff who have stepped up to support my children, sometimes going above and beyond and family who are just happy to listen and hug.  Without them life could be difficult and dark, instead the last few days have been filled with coffee, long walks, lunch out, pizza and prosecco, group messaging via what's app and lots of laughter. We have shared the trials and tribulations of parenting, growing up and growing older, all of us making life's load a little bit lighter.

Sunday, 8 May 2016

Desert Island Discs

On Tuesday I heard some of Radio 4's series "Soul Music" which was about one of my most favourite  Disney songs " Feed the Birds." A song that makes me well up every single time I hear it, I think it's the swell of the orchestra as Mary Poppins sings of the Saints and the Apostles smiling down on each person that spends just tuppence to feed the birds, that triggers some unexplained emotion in me. Julie Andrews of course sings it note perfect but I nearly sobbed when one of its creators Richard Sherman sang it, not quite in tune at a piano. This got me thinking about how music plays such an important part of our lives, a tune brings with it memories temporarily forgotten, back to the here and now, sometimes with such clarity that you are transported back to the moment that indelibly marked itself  on you. Another of my favourite Radio 4 shows is Desert Island Discs, I find it fascinating to hear celebrities speak about the 8 songs they would take to a desert island and why, it gives such a personal insight into them as individuals and can tell the listener a great deal about the type of person they are. 
Since starting our adoption journey I have been fascinated about how we are all shaped and marked by our experiences, even if we cannot articulate the memories we may have, so after two days of thoughts and difficult decision making here are my Desert Island Discs, I wonder what they say about me.
Secretly, I always wanted to be a little bit wild but was too scared. I was and probably still am a little in awe of Blondie and Wendy James of Transvision Vamp. Which to choose? It really had to be Blondie's Heart of Glass, the minute I hear the opening drum beat then the guitar overture, I know exactly which song it is and it takes me back to the time I was moving on from primary school. It takes me back to playing "he on the lines" handstands into bridges on the grassy slopes of the school field and hanging upside down on the bars of the climbing equipment. A time of innocent fun before the trials and trauma of secondary school life. 
When I was 11 years old my Dad picked me up as I walked home from school, he was buzzing with excitement and so was the whole house when I walked through the front door. We had our very first colour TV, not like today's at all, in fact my mum still laughs about how you couldn't see the tennis balls during the Wimbledon Tennis Championships. The first movie we watched that very afternoon was an Elvis Presley one, all I remember was the blue, blue sea and sky. I would guess that it was Blue Hawaii but couldn't promise. We must have watched every Elvis movie, my mum was a huge fan but my most favourite was King Creole, I used to dream of visiting New Orleans and explore the French style side streets and eat the crawfish. That opening scene in moody black and white with Elvis singing "Crawfish" from a wrought iron balcony a foil to the beautiful crawfish seller will   voice and in actual fact Perfect is not a favourite anymore, I prefer her more haunting melodies and lyrics, the one I attempt to sing along to, when it's just me and her is Comedy Waltz, it's my go to song when something has riled me, it's a looking for something funny or good when things aren't kinda song. One that plays in my life more often than I want, yet it makes me smile and helps me move on. It reminds me of my 18th birthday party a time that in many ways life was beginning, a time when the world was my oyster and I could be anything I wanted to be. Wow!
When I was 23 I bought my first house a small terraced ex-council house  Every Friday night my friend Jo came over with a bottle of wine, I would cook us dinner, we would drink the wine, pull on our jeans and cropped tops and with £15 tucked into our back pockets, keys in front left pocket and in my case a pack of 
silk cut in the other back pocket we would stroll the 20 minutes to La Mirage our local nightclub, if we got there before 10pm it was free so we would say hi to the bouncers and buy our first bottle of bud of the evening and would hit the dance floor, beer in one hand, cigarette in the other and then we would dance all night, leaving when the lights started to be turned on. I had an amazing group of girlfriends "the coven" who I holidayed with to Portugal, Corfu and Ayia Napa inCyprus and the song that transports me back to those days of being young, carefree, irresponsible and a little bit drunk is Degrees In Motion - Shine On. Oh the memories. It was at a pit stop in our local on the way to Mirage that I met an old primary school mate, little knowing at the time that he was going to be my husband. Scribbling my number on a strip torn off the top of my cigarette packet was to lead to romance and wedded bliss. We managed our wedding on a shoestring, money that our parents and my aunt gave us. We had a yellow rolls royce, something I had always dreamt of after watching the movie of the same name, a church wedding and the celebration after in the Town Hall. It was market day and the yellow rolls royce dropped us in amongst the flower stalls that were sited outside the entrance. What a stir we caused. The song We chose for our first song was "Make Someone Happy" by Jimmy Durante.
Whilst I was pregnant with our first three children, my husband, a bit of a music snob used to play his favourite tracks to introduce his offspring Ito "real" music, I had no taste you see. Child 1 loved Beck, child 2 Beastie Boys but child 3 showed no exciting moves in my bell you on matter what he played. It was when I, heavily pregnant took a 7 year old child 1 to watch Tchaikovsky's Sleeping Beauty that she finally showed some interest. I was secretly so pleased that one of my children had some old fashioned classical taste. My favourite Tchaikovsky ballet is Swan Lake, particularly the bit that Billy Elliot finished on. I wanted the film to continue into the ballet. There is something so magical about the ballet, you can lose yourself in the mythical world of the fight of good versus evil that always has a happy ending.
I'm Walking on Sunshine, whoa, I'm walking on sunshine whoa - Katrina and the Waves is a tune full of joy for me, it's a does what it says on the tin kinda song. Happy, go lucky and one to dance too.
This one must be one of my all time favourites, it's played at all the events I go to. Christmas Parties, Wedding's, 18th, 21st, 30th 40th etc etc. It just seems to tie in with so many celebrations and makes me wanna dance.
My last choice has to be Silent Night, every year we sing this at the Christmas Eve Vigil Service, it's at every Carol concert and as someone who insists on carols being played throughout advent, along side Phil Spectre, Now Christmas and Frank Sinatra's Christmas Album it is something I hear every year. A reminder of what Christmas is about. It for me slows the fast pace of Christmas down for just a few minutes bringing calm and gentleness to where we are. The story behind it is beautiful, in 1816 a Josef Mohr after seeing reanactment of the Nativity was sitting at the top of a hill over looking Oberndorf and he remembered a poem that he had written and he wanted it put to music but the organ in his church was not working so he asked Franz Gruber to put the words tomusic, Gruber  using a guitar and came up with the melody. A few weeks later a well known organ builder Karl Mauracher arrived in Oberndorf to fix the organ, Gruber tested the organ by playing Silent Night. Mauracher was so impressed that he took a copy back to his alpine Village where two well known families of singers heard it and included the new song into their Christmas season repertoire and now it is sung the world over.

So there we have it an insight in to the workings of my soul, I wonder what my children would chose and what sort of insight that would give me of them - something to consider perhaps a talking point on a long car journey maybe?

PS the book I would take would be L M Montomery's Anne of Green Gables, the whole collection if I could as its my most favourite and my luxury item a never ending bottle of ice cold prosecco.

Sunday, 1 May 2016

Tales of the Unexpected

I am rarely able to link my posts with the WASO theme, so this week I was really surprised that I could write about unexpected support.

Child 4 has been accepted into our local school and I have started planning for his school entrance plan. Oh but how to do this in a positive and constructive way. The older three have attended the school, child 3 will moving into year 6 in September and I am a school governor, so I am well known by the staff. I have always been pretty relaxed with the relationships I have had with the school and have been, for the most part, really happy with how my children have been educated and looked after during their time there.

However, I have always felt that the school have struggled with accepting that child 4 could potentially come with a interesting set of needs. I have lost count of the times when I have tried to talk to them their response has been, "he'll be fine" "he has you now everything will be ok" or "he is a very lucky boy" Everyone of these responses worry me as they all completely ignore the effect that his early life may have had on him. That some how we as a family have some magic wand to wave that will just make everything better.
So, I really don't want to alienate the staff by stomping in with a list of demands or make them feel that I don't trust them to be able to educate him.

With some persuasion I pushed the school into having attachment training, this started very gradually with the teacher and teaching assistants in class 1 first attending a course and then due to their raving about how good it was, a morning session was included in an inservice day for all the staff.
I was amazed and over the moon, when the head on the way back from an academies training session this week, asked about what I thought about the attachment training, I explained that for me it was a pretty basic course, just giving a flavour of attachment but didn't really give specific ways to help, she agreed and asked if I knew of anything else the staff could do. Well, of course I could and emailed her the next day with loads of information (some of which I know I had sent before, but hey sometimes slowly, slowly works)

Our school entrance planning meeting has been set for the first week after half term, the class teacher, the SenCo and child 4's key worker from the nursery will meet with us to discuss his needs. This is brilliant, the nursery are amazing with child 4, they are pro-active in how they avoid melt downs, they have picked up that there are a couple of boys in his peer group who instigate situations and sit back to watch the fall out. The staff now watch for this and deal directly with the instigator, child 4 is often completely unaware of this. The nursery staff don't want any stigma attached to child 4, so they intend coming armed with all their advice to ensure transition goes well and that the school are very aware of how to handle child 4 pro-actively.

Then, I read Al Coates' blog, the bit that really struck me was the reminder that adopted children have "motivated and articulate parents to advocate for them and support them throughout their school lives"* parents like myself who read up on everything to do with attachment, behaviour and all types of support. And not only that, everything that we share "is an opportunity to highlight good practice and broadcast it to new audiences"* which means that when we as adoptive parents share good behaviour support it can affect so many other children that don't have parents in their corner supporting them.
* * http://www.alcoates.co.uk/2016/04/behaviour-management-review.html

So my opening gambit is going to be that my gorgeous, spirited little boy is going to be joining the school and to ensure that he grows into the man he can be, he will need help with being scared, frustrated or out of his element. But, do you know what, he is going to be fine because we will help everyone to recognise the signs of struggling so that they can pro-actively support him, and on those days that being pro-active doesn't work we will just have some quiet calm down time and start again tomorrow.

Thanks to everyone who is there at the end of the phone, everyone who shares a gin and tonic or a bottle of prosecco with me, the head teacher who I think is beginning to get it and Al Coates for giving me the ok to go in to school to share my knowledge.