Monthly Archives: April 2014

Sleep is for wimps!

It was rather inevitable that at some point I would blog about sleep. As some will know in this house sleep is not our friend. Bunny wakes every 40 minutes to 2 hours and needs me to resettle her each time and Kitten usually wakes for the day at about 4am though it can be as early as 2am on a bad day. If my girls are awake I need to be awake too. I do try not to whine about how tired I am too much as I think people must get sick of me talking about it. And to be honest talking about it doesn’t solve anything so it seems a bit pointless. Well meaning people may make suggestions of ideas to try out but as we have exhausted every idea on the planet it seems this is simply something we have to accept until the girls feel less anxious and safer. On my last visit to CAMHS when I asked our key worker if she had thought of any other ideas (always worth another try – you have to admire my optimism) she shook her head, shrugged and very quickly changed the subject. That’ll be a ‘no’ then!

The upside of never getting any sleep is that I have lots of time in the night to mess about on my phone and look up lots of interesting facts about sleep and sleep deprivation. Many is the time I have googled ‘Is it possible to die from lack of sleep?’ The comforting answer is probably not. I am living proof that not only can you survive quite happily with a rather ridiculous amount of sleep but you can also hold down a job at the same time if you put your mind to it.

Of course it’s not only me being affected by lack of sleep. It has a big impact on my girls but in different ways. Bunny’s disrupted sleep is mostly caused by separation anxiety. When tired she either disassociates more or alternatively becomes more volatile and therefore more aggressive and ultimately violent towards me as her exhaustion increases. It feels like her tolerance for new or sensory stimulating experiences is much lower when she is tired sometimes provoking dramatic reactions.

With Kitten it is a vicious circle; her anxiety prevents her sleeping which leaves her exhausted and therefore more anxious which prevents her sleeping even more. She looks permanently shattered with huge bags and shadows under her eyes, but refuses to admit she is tired ever. To stay awake Kitten stims, which I don’t mind, or alternatively causes herself pain to keep herself going. In school the more tired she is the more she disrupts her class. I am still unable to make Kitten feel safe enough to sleep. For most people bed and sleep are places of comfort and safety. For my Kitten sleep is torment and frightening and to be avoided at all costs.

 

Rather tongue in cheek here are five ways that sleep deprivation could apparently kill me from an article I found one day when fiddling on the internet in the early hours:

1. I could die in a car crash I drive very carefully often with the window down especially on my commute

2. I could die at work – Unlikely for me unless it’s from a caffeine overdose!

3. I could become irritable, depressed and suicidal This isn’t me really. I don’t get depressed and I am pretty placid so becoming irritable is still a rarity for me.
4. I could gain weight So unlikely for me as to be laughable. This is never going to happen!

Finally…
5.I could develop diabetes mellitus I guess this is possible and it runs in my family…

…but I’m not going to lose any sleep worrying about it. Get it? See I’ve still got my sense of humour, sleep deprived or not!

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Why did she adopt?

I do wonder if when people look at me they think why on earth did she adopt? If I take a step back and read my blog and tweets I think they may appear negative, as though I take little pleasure in my life with Bunny and Kitten. I may seem self absorbed, more concerned with their impact on me rather than the children’s difficulties. Do I even deserve them? I can understand that. I dread to think what prospective adopters must think. I wonder if they think I don’t deserve my children.

I know why I adopted. As someone who will be single for the rest of my life, I really wanted a family, to be a mum, but I knew having birth children wasn’t an option. I work with children and young people from all kinds of backgrounds but I have spent much of my career supporting children who are in care. Sadly repeatedly I see children’s FC placements break down as they hit puberty and they either move to a children’s home or have to move area to access more specialist FC. And I have seen the spiral into chaos this can cause for those children. So I hoped that for at least one or two children I could change that outcome. And religiously, I believed it was something I was called to do; to be mum to a child or children who otherwise would have been in long term FC.

So that is why I adopted Bunny and Kitten. But perhaps the question isn’t why I adopted but should I have adopted? I thought I should. But perhaps I was wrong and many days I honestly don’t know the answer. I thought I was prepared. I read loads on attachment and developmental trauma, I had met up with adopters, I read the AUK boards regularly. I moved house – and town – and built a new support circle there. I saved money. I didn’t rush into it. I thought I was ready. I knew it was going to be tough. I thought I was well prepared before I even rang an agency.

But I have to reflect on where we are now and wonder if I was wrong. I put a lot of time and effort into trying to parent the girls in the way they need. Almost everything I do, I do with the girls’ needs in mind. Almost every waking moment is devoted to Bunny and Kitten. I never shout and rarely even raise my voice. And yet still everyday life is so hard for all 3 of us. Is that because the girls have ‘complex needs’ – or actually is it that I’m not doing a very good job? Because let’s be honest no-one thought they had complex needs before placement.

Would they have been better off elsewhere? Perhaps with two parents? Or perhaps someone else would parent them in a different and better way? Kitten finds it impossible to bond with me never mind attach to me. Is that because I am failing her in some way rather than because of her prior experiences. And the most honest thing I can say is that I find it almost impossible to bond with Kitten too. Her daily resentment, revulsion and rejection wear away my emotional connection with her until I can’t seem to find it anymore. Bunny seems to cope with things less as time goes on. And her relationship with me is hit and miss at best. Yesterday I told Bunny I loved her and she said ‘So?’ and spat in my face. Aren’t I supposed to be making things better not worse?  How did we get here? I don’t know. And don’t they deserve so much more?

So I couldn’t blame people for looking at me and wondering if I should have adopted. Or for thinking I am negative or whining. I take responsibility for that. But please remember that whilst it might seem like I am whinging or moaning, I am also trying my best every day without fail.

Please gentle with me.

Music is our refuge…

Music was my refuge. I could crawl into the space between the notes and curl my back to loneliness.” Maya Angelou

I’ve been prompted to write this after reading a post on Frogotter’s blog called While there’s Music which talked about the role of music in their family’s life. As I commented there, my girls and I love music and singing. We are constantly listening to the radio and singing or dancing along. At the weekend we play what the girls call ‘Mummy DJ’ where we take it in turns to choose songs to sing and dance to on Youtube. I have rather an eclectic taste in music and so you could catch my girls singing Cyndi Lauper one minute, then Pitbull followed by Jay Sean!

Music-Notation-Vector

For our family, music also gives the opportunity for us to communicate our feelings in a less scary way. Kitten hates it if I say I love her and Bunny is not much better but if I sing about loving them it becomes slightly more palatable. I often find myself yearning to be able to be more intimate with the girls – so this gives me an outlet to.

So here firstly is our current top 5 ‘I love you’ songs with a taster of the lyrics:

1. Christina Perri – A Thousand Years:

I have died every day waiting for you
Darling, don’t be afraid I have loved you
For a thousand years
I’ll love you for a thousand more…

2. Rascal Flatts – Bless the Broken Road:

Every long lost dream led me to where you are
Others who broke my heart they were like Northern stars
Pointing me on my way into your loving arms
This much I know is true
That God blessed the broken road
That led me straight to you

3. Ellie Golding – How long will I love you:

How long will I love you?
As long as stars are above you and longer, if I can.
How long will I need you?
As long as the seasons need to follow their plan.

4. Cyndi Lauper – True Colours:

I see your true colors
And that’s why I love you
So don’t be afraid to let them show
Your true colors
True colors are beautiful,
Like a rainbow

5. Jason Mraz – I won’t give up on us:

Well, I won’t give up on us
Even if the skies get rough
I’m giving you all my love
I’m still looking up
Our top 5 to dance to at the moment is a bit more lively!

1. Pharrell Williams – Happy

2. Pitbull – Echa Pa’lla

3. Clean Bandit – Rather Be

4. Metallica – Enter the Sandman

5. The Wanted – Glad You Came

And finally rather tongue in cheek  after a recent journey with my girls seemingly doing everything they could do to get me to crash the car these songs were mostly chosen by my friends on twitter. Here is my roadtrip play list:

1, Chris Rea – Road to Hell

2. Madness – Driving in my Car

3. Metallica – The Frayed Ends of Sanity

4. Fairground Attraction – Perfect

5. June Tabor – I want to Vanish

So what are your family songs? Any favourite ones to sing, dance or drive (or crash!) to? I’d love to hear about them!

 

 

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Party Princess

I’m feeling proud of my Bunny girl today. She had an invitation to a birthday party this afternoon.

Bunny doesn’t cope well in these types of situations. Loud music, flashing lights and lots of people all combine to overwhelm my littlest girl. The sensory overload is far too much for her, There’s a lack of structure – she doesn’t know what is going to happen next which makes her anxious. The social side is ‘interesting’ and she seems to struggle with the other children. The other tricky situation is the party food. Bunny strugggles with buffet food; all that delicious food sitting looking at her which she can’t have while there are party games, then a busy scramble at the tables to fill plates and the panic that she might not get enough, others might have more, they might run out of food etc, Bunny has told me before that looking at food and not being able to eat it makes her head and tummy hurt.

Anyway off we went to the party. I decided in advance that I would have very low expectations of our afternoon and anything she achieved would be a bonus. And we did it! I picked a seat at the furthest end of the hall to the food tables and also brought nibbles in my handbag to give her when needed. Happily at this party they weren’t giving out sweets as prizes so that relieved some stress too.

Bunny wore her ear defenders – good job as it was a very loud disco. She didn’t manage to dance or do any games with the other children but she found a balloon and happily played with that near me and away from everyone else for most of the party.

Party Princess_2

 

After eating she spent the rest of the party crawling round the floor in circles and in hindsight maybe we should have left then. I think that was her not too subtle signal that she had had enough,

But we have made another positive memory together and most importantly for me when I asked Bunny if she had enjoyed herself she said yes. And that’s good enough for me!

 

Warrior mum

I’m sure many of you have been watching 15000 Kids and Counting on Channel 4. If you’ve missed it you can catch up on it here. Last night’s programme followed the search for families for a 2 year old boy Tommy and for siblings Liam 3 and Lauren 7. It brought back many memories of being matched and then introductions with Kitten and Bunny. Before we were matched the placing authority were thinking of changing the plan for the girls to long term foster care as they were unable to find a family so Liam and Lauren’s story really resonated for me. I sat last night wondering what life would have been like for the girls if they hadn’t been matched with me. And I tweeted:

Twitter adoption

And I meant what I said. Things are hard and I often feel ground down by our daily lives, but it was a salient reminder that none of our lives would be better if we hadn’t become a family. I will try to remind myself of this on our hardest days – we are 3girlstogether for a reason!

I am hoping that this TV series is going to address some of the other issues to do with adoption. It was fantastic that Tommy, Liam and Lauren were adopted but of course that isn’t the end of the story. Many adopters will be faced with years of fighting to get the support their children need and deserve, I’m guessing this doesn’t such a palatable story for the televison audience but it is our reality.

I remember at prep group the SWs talking about the importance of our resilience as adopters. I thought at the time that I would need resilience to care for my children. And I do. But I never suspected how much my resilience would be called upon in dealing with the ‘system’. We fight for DLA, for adoption allowances when we aren’t able to work full time, we fight for therapeutic input – the right therapeutic input not just whatever our local Camhs specialises in, we fight for funding for therapy when Camhs falls short, we fight for respite, we fight for OT assessments, we fight for schools to understand our children’s complex needs and to support accordingly. The list goes on and on.

Sometimes as a single mum I feel like a tiny dot looking up at a huge mountain and knowing I have to climb it alone:

Alone

But then I turn for support to my parents and my dearest friends, to the adopters I have become friends with and to the people I have met on social media; on the FB groups for adopters, on Twitter and my blog. You all give me strength (and a kick up the backside when I need it) and I turn a Warrior Mum ready to take on the system and win.

warrior_angel___23_06_12_by_lucastorquato27-d5mlyi7

And that’s how I’m feeling right now – ready for the next fight,

3girlstogether FOREVER!

 

 

 

 

 

A little bit of heaven at the Thomas Centre

Last weekend we went on holiday to the most wonderful place. It’s called The Thomas Centre. It was the most relaxed 3 nights away we have had together as a family. It has 5* facilities – nothing unusual there – but it’s aimed at families or groups with autism, adhd, challenging behaviours or other complex needs. Right up our street then. And the most important thing is that it’s non-judgmental. Everyone is in the same boat so no fingers are pointed, no eyes are rolled.

We stayed in Andrew’s Lodge, a beautiful luxurious 2 bedroom detached bungalow. One of my favourite things about our stay was the patio at the back of the bungalow.

Patio              Lunch

It had wonderful open views and was quiet even with my pair out there playing. I had such a feeling of peace sitting there watching my girls bounce on the trampoline and play with bubbles. We were very lucky with the weather and even managed to have our lunch outside on Sunday. Not bad in March!

Kitten and Bunny loved everything about their stay. There was so much to do that we couldn’t do everything. They had great fun exploring the play area, the woods and the play barn!

IMG_0360   IMG_0369

Though perhaps our very favourite thing was the swimming pool. We had private use of the pool for an hour a day. As the girls can’t cope in normal busy swimming pools we never get the chance to go swimming together as a family. What a treat to get to swim twice over the weekend and to be able to relax and play happily on our own.

One memory I will take away with me is sitting with another mum in the play barn as her younger son and Bunny both had meltdowns at the same time. We sat together, not having to explain, united by our children’s behaviours and difficulties but not judged. As one of the owners, Richard, said to me, coming to The Thomas Centre means never having to say you are sorry.

As some of you know I have been having a pretty difficult time with both the girls. And I often feel anxious about our futures. But last weekend at The Thomas Centre I felt calm, I felt peaceful, I even felt a little bit of hope.

Worth every penny and we’ll be going back again soon God willing.