Archive | October 2014

Taking Care of Feelings

This week in the Hive we have seen some monumentally big steps forward for Buzzbee and, even if they are only one offs or extremely rare occurrences, they are still achievements we can celebrate; and while we are talking about celebrating successes……This time last weekend ‘The Open Nest’ #takingcare conference had drawn to a close, and after a brief few hours several delegates had returned back to the very same hotel for a little dancing, chatting and, oh yes, a sneaky glass of wine (or equivalent alcoholic beverages) or two. Although I was sober as a judge, I will confess to being possibly one of the last to retire to my bed at a very respectable 3.30am….. I must add York is as magnificent in the early hours of the morning as it is in the daytime.

Ok a little about the conference……. I won’t go into it too much because there has been so many wonderful posts written for this and last weeks’ #WASO, which have already done a wonderful job of describing the day far better than I probably ever could have, but before I get onto the real reason for this post, I will do my best to describe briefly the highlights of the day – OK maybe the wrong words to use as every speaker and delegate who attended made the day a truly memorable and profound day.

After a brief welcome and short introduction about ‘The Open Nest’ charity from Amanda Boorman, we were then showed a short documentary about her life with her beautiful adopted daughter, Jazz. Before the conference had begun I had joked that it was the first conference that I had attended that, not only provided water and mints on the tables, but packs of tissues. By the end of the film there was hardly a dry eye in the room and well….the reasons for the tissues on the table had become very clear. I felt humbled to being given the opportunity to share such a personal journey with everyone, and the standing ovation at the end of the film was most definitely deserved.

I didn’t envy the speaker who had to follow this and Blogger/Adoptive parent/Social Worker Al Coates (Misadventures of an adoptive dad) admitted this himself, but he needn’t have worried. His wit and candour was a winning combination and I could have listened to him all day.

He was then followed by Fran Proctor (adoptee and mother) and with the help of Sally Donovan and a beautifully constructed Q&A format, she spoke about a teenager making a heart-breaking discovery of harrowing details about her birth family, how this impacted on her, and how she has now rebuilt her life – that id not to say that she hasn’t been left with emotional scars or has ‘locked her past away in a filing cabinet, never to be looked at again’ but I was in awe of her and her bravery in sharing her story.

It was then time for Sally Donovan herself to speak and, as with other times I have had the pleasure of hearing her speak, I was refreshed by the humour and candour of her first class presentation of practical self-care tips that she uses herself, followed by advice on how to speak with schools and navigate the minefield that is the education system – although I have a feeling I will still struggle with one of her tips…saying No has never been my strong point!

We were then treated to 2 more wonderful back to back presentations from first of all ‘We are family’ – a parent led support group, that has been set up in the London area by adoptive parents, who saw a need and filled the void (I think that was right but I am a little dozy when it comes to locations, so if I have this wrong I apologise now). This was then followed by a brain storming (Open Space) session facilitated by an actress/adoptive mum on topics that were of importance or interest to delegates – a long list was compiled which I believe Sally has taken away and intends to circulate at a later point.

That brings me to the lovely ladies, Vicki and Sarah, who are responsible for The Adoption Social and their vast knowledge of social media and how they met and came up with the idea for The Weekly Adoption Shout Out and later The Adoption Social site. There is a lot I could learn from these amazing ladies (as I could from many other adopters and Tweeties), and I don’t just mean when it comes to social media.

I tried to keep it brief – honestly I did!

Now back to the motivation behind this post – Buzzbee and his bravery this week.

I am sure that I have mentioned before that Buzzbee (and Beeswax for that fact) will go out of his way to make sure that he doesn’t allow people to know how he is really feeling – there is always leakage which, unless you have the empathy skills of a rock, you can pick up on the emotional cues that something is awry with him.  So with this in mind, it makes this weeks’ events just that little bit more exciting – OK maybe that is just Bumble and I, but as I am sure other adoptive parents know, things that many parents would take for granted and let go by unnoticed are events that we will treasure as micro samples of our children beginning to love and trust us without fear.

I won’t leave you in suspense anymore with my constant waffling. I have probably confused you all by now by starting with talking about the conference when I have openly said this post is really about Buzz and his successes, but quite honestly, the conference and my absence for the weekend is the catalyst to a sequence of events that have unfolded throughout this week.

For the last year Buzzbee has been practically with me 24/7 because of us needing to home educate him, so I would be lying if I said I wasn’t very anxious about how he would cope with a whole weekend without me, and during the week leading up to me going away, Buzzbee showed signs of regression and needed ‘mummy’ to be even closer than usual (and trust me he keeps me close most of the time anyway).   So his first achievement is not only did he manage to be away from me for so long but he allowed himself to enjoy himself as well and this is huge for him.  At this point I will mention that I think Bumble felt that he had climbed his own personal mountain by not only looking after the boys all weekend on his own, but also taking them away to my parents’ caravan for the weekend and surviving a Halloween Party in the company of my sister without me being there to act as referee – their relationship is a whole other story and one I might share sometime.

More than 48 hours after I left my three favourite men (Sorry Dad and the entire male cast of Strictly Come Dancing, that weekend my heart belonged to Bumble and my boys), I was greeted by Buzzbee leaping out of his dad’s car and leaping into my arms for the biggest hug he has ever given me, saying “I have really missed you and your hugs mummy”  (lump in throat moment), Beeswax in his unique teenage way greeted me with a ‘Welcome Home’ grunt but hey at least he acknowledged me, that is progress in itself.

If this had been the only progress I had seen this week I would have been happy but there is more…….

The day after the conference I needed to attend a meeting at Beeswax’s school with the Community Police Officer, members of staff and, although at first he had no idea it was happening, Beeswax was to join us too. For now I won’t say any more about this meeting, but because of this meeting I needed childcare for Buzzbee. Thankfully a wonderful adopter agreed to look after him for a few hours and, because her son attends Waxy’s school and he has spent time with me visiting her over the past few months, he feels relatively comfortable with her and agreed to go with her and her youngest son to a nearby indoor skate park. This is progress just on its own, as he has been very reluctant to go anywhere near a skate park after an accident more than a year ago, but to add on top of that spending the morning after I had returned once again away from me and in the words of our friend “being wonderful, despite being in an unfamiliar noisy environment”, so really I should count this as 2 reasons to celebrate.

But most definitely Buzzbee’s biggest step forward this week comes back to his reluctance in the past to trust people with his feelings and know what is going on in his head and heart.  Beeswax’s school week has been a short one this week and half-term started on Wednesday and in true sibling trauma bond fashion, Buzzbee’s excitement and anxiety about his big brothers’ return was being played out in many different ways and scenarios as the day drew closer – not helped by the fact that he was also trying to fight off a nasty cold and, on the day of Waxy’s return, a fever too. But no-one ever expected what played out over the next 24 hours would ever happen.

After the events that had played out at school at the beginning of the week, Beeswax had not had his best week at school, and this meant he did not come home in the best of moods and although I am sure it was not his intention to blank his little brother, Buzzbee interpreted his grunting and distance as rejection, which would usually result in a full blown meltdown ensuing either from Buzz or Waxy.

Later in the evening – bedtime to be exact, Buzz presented Bumble and I with 3 emotions cards which had Sad, Sleepy and Scared written on them, and which he has steadfastly refused to use for the entire 3 years we have had them, he then asked if he could have some paper and colouring pencils (volunteering to do some writing unaided – can you hear my squeals of delight from here).emotioncard
Anyway, without an explanation about why he needed the paper and pencils, he retired to his bedroom, only to return 30 minutes later with 2 pictures for Beeswax and telling Bumble that he wanted to tell Waxy how he felt that the love between them was broken and while Waxy’s heart was still whole, he enjoyed being mean to Buzz so Buzz’s heart was broken and he was sad that his big brother didn’t love him anymore. I don’t know about anyone else, but my eyes are welling up just as much now as when Buzzbee was explaining the picture.  He then presented Beeswax with one more picture of them hugging and simply told him that he wants his big brother to be like this with him again “like the old days”.  Sadly although Waxy did a wonderful job of making the right noises to appease Buzz, I don’t think he really understood what Buzz was trying to say – in the empathy and emotional acceptance department, Buzzbee has definitely overtaken his big brother.

DearWaxy

So while there may be some who read this and say “what is she talking about, Buzzbee is just growing up”, to Bumble and I these tiny (OK mammoth) steps are something that deserves to be celebrated!

 

 

The Weekly Adoption Shout Out

Almost guilt free self-care

This weeks #WASO theme is ‘Taking Care’ and I couldn’t think of a more appropriate theme to write about on the eve of the first The Open Nest conference.

One evening last week I had a lovely long chat with a wonderful and amazing lady who has not known me for an age, in fact I have only met her once and all our communication up until that point has been through Twitter, Email or this blog (Oops I forgot more recently Facebook).
I am sure this wonderful lady will not realise how much her words have resonated with me since our talk and has, along with reasons outside of my control, made me sit up and look at what I have been doing and how damaging that it is for me – you only have to see me hobbling about on my crutches to realise this.

Has my biggest coping tool turned into something destructive? Have I kept my ‘perky’ persona up for so long that it is now my default mode the moment I feel I am moving into a point of uncomfortable emotions and now people struggle to see through it – or at least they minimise situations if I have dared to be open with them? – completely my fault, I know!

Maybe I should have called this post ‘The madness of Honey’ because to be honest I wouldn’t blame anyone for believing I am loosing the plot at the moment.  Here am I going through yet another difficult time with Waxy but what am I doing?
I am more perky than usual – almost manic you could say, at times!
I know this is probably what I need to do at the moment or at least I believe that is what others need from me, but it isn’t helping matters because at a time when I quite honestly am questioning whether I can keep my family together for much longer or support Waxy in a way that means we are all safe, I also need to be completely honest with several people about the impact recent events has had on the household. The only problem with this is getting over the hurdle of being afraid of what might happen or is said if I do this – my own worst enemy, I know!

So what is with the perky persona?
Ok first of all, I have always and will probably always be someone who is far better at caring for others than she is at looking after herself, but to hear the words I heard from someone who I barely know (but who understands how much you need to put in for our children), to say that I needed to ‘stop what I was doing and slow down before I make myself ill’, hit me hard but in an oddly positive way.
Other than Bumble it has been a long time since anyone has noticed things are not as they seem and have been honest enough to tell me what I needed to hear, and while I must have seemed so rude to her when I struggled with her praise and found myself lost for an appropriate response because like my boys I find it very difficult to accept (but there is nothing new there, I always struggle with this).

So while I know that it is hard to break a habit of a life time, this weekend I am child and husband free, owing to the fact that I am heading north to ‘the open nest’ conference, and I am going to take this time to truly take care of myself and try and relax – so far so good, despite my train being late, I have managed to turn it into positives with some wonderful eye candy on the train (community police officers) who were more than accomodating helping me hobble off the train with my case and crutches and then back onto my connecting train but not before I managed to grab the biggest slice of chocolate cake I could find, and now I am lied here writing this post while snuggled under a cosy duvet, in a giant double (maybe king size) bed, after my first undisturbed bubble bath in…. heaven knows how long.

Still I am already missing my 3 gorgeous men and have rang a couple of times this evening to check on them all – hey! I can’t switch off completely.
After a wobbly, emotional start for Buzzbee when I left, he and Waxy are wrapping their dad around their little fingers and are having a ball already down at ‘Nanny and Grandad’s caravan’ and Buzz has gleefully told me has made a new friend already and can’t wait for the Halloween party tomorrow afternoon and for their cousins to join them too – Good Luck Bumble!

So while the boys will be having the time of their lives tomorrow (I hope), I am looking forward to tomorrow myself and all that it brings.

image

Pick a pet pet shop project

For a few weeks now, I have been thinking about writing a post about how we are getting along with home educating Buzzbee, but between creating creative ways of helping him learn, in a way which is going to boost his self-esteem and confidence, and also trying to keep up with the unending housework, attend post adoption and school meetings, be a mother/wife/daughter ………. I have not really had the chance, until this weekend, to really sit down and piece together the work he had done during his most recently completed project on ‘Pets’

I have probably written this before, but very quickly after removing Buzz from mainstream education, I learnt that Buzzbee is not the kind of child who can sit at a desk and work through workbooks or worksheets – I can get him to sit for short periods of time writing or completing maths questions, but if I want results from Buzzbee, I have to be more hands-on with his learning, and using projects to do this is providing positive results and is allowing to cover as many of the National Curriculum subjects as possible.

Working independently or reading and writing is a challenge for Buzzbee and one that he would, given half a chance, avoid, but with a compromise of mummy writing down what he wants to say and then he copies it out in his own handwriting, he really enjoyed designing and writing his own ‘Pet owners guide book’ featuring not only how to care for his favourite four-legged canine, Beedog, and our resident felines, but our neighbours’ Guinea pigs have also made a guest appearance. In the pursuit of trying to encourage his literacy skills, I am finding that I need several tricks up my sleeves, but one discovery I have made is that Buzz finds too many words on one page overwhelming and so I have one very important piece of stationary that has turned a stressful exercise into one of relative fun and therapeutic  benefit – ‘post it’ notes.  I can write a sensible amount on a sheet then stick it to the page I want him to write on and then once he is finished he simply can remove it from the page and do what he wants with it (often this means him trying to toss them into the bin and Beedog intercepting his attempts)

pet owners guide

Buzz’s projects tend to develop a pattern of their own and is always driven from whatever has popped into Buzz’s head that morning – and trust me his curious mind is never short of questions and, as I have said before, no two days are ever the same and often the original plan for the day goes out the window when something else catches Buzz’s attention. One example of this is a day that I had set out earmarking the day as a sneaky history of pets lesson, rapidly turning into a lengthy discussion and research about artists and their painting styles. By the end of the day Buzzbee had become a wacky artist and produced his own ‘Pup – Casso’ and ‘Kitty cat’ pop art canvas masterpieces.

wacky art

Another day it will be obvious from the moment Buzz has woken up that today would be a tricky day and creative thinking would be needed to make sure he felt at the end of the day that he had succeeded in one way or another – he particularly enjoyed trawling through Pinterest researching handmade pet toys and treats and then making them (sadly the dog ate all the treats before I could take a photo but it is safe to say there were no complaints from her either for the treats or her handmade crinkly toy).

pettoy

The original inspiration for Buzz’s ‘pet project’ came from his curiosity about who had pets and how they took care of their own pets. He started off creating a questionnaire and including all the burning questions he had and then with my help he bravely shared his questionnaire on my Facebook page and to his delight received more than 20 responses including the children of The boys behaviour  (Mini and Dollop) , and The puffin diaries (Stig and Tink).  When I say Buzzbee was delighted maybe a better description was that he was amazed and taken aback by the generosity of people he didn’t know, who were prepared not only to take the time to answer his questions but to send him supportive messages along with it.  For a child who is mistrustful of pretty much all adults (Yes, even his dad and I) to suddenly experience and comment on the kindness of people he has never met, is a huge step for him. I cannot describe the feelings that overwhelm you when you hear your mistrustful son saying “Why did so many grownups want to help me by answering my questions? Maybe not ALL adults are as mean as I thought and don’t think I am a naughty little boy”.

Once the responses stopped coming in, Buzzbee and I began collating the information, and putting the answers into tables, which at some point turned into windows on a house and a roof (one window for each question/answer).

petplan

This then opened the door (apologies for the unintentional pun) to expanding his project using first maths and later creative thinking and 3D design with the help of Minecraft.

Buzzbee decided that using the information he had about the different variety of pets that people have owned and how many pets were in each group, he wanted to design his own ‘pet shop’. First we agreed that he needed to work out how much space he wanted to give to each pet and then work out how much space each group of animal’s enclosure would need – he chose a scale of 10 squares for each pet. As he was designing his pet shop, Buzzbee used his research and knowledge of pets to decide where each enclosure had to be – i.e. cats not placed near the birds, or dogs near the cats.

And as a reward for all his hard work (or so he thinks) Buzzbee was given a ‘free day’ and allowed time on Minecraft to make his ‘Pick a pet. Pet shop’ complete with inventive substitutions for a handful of the pets

  • Fish were replaced by Squids
  • The Bearded dragon was replace by a Spider
  • Rabbits have been replaced by Silver fish
  • And can you guess what the Guinea pigs have been replaced with? Yes that is right they are now just Pigs

pickapetpetshop

While some who read this #WASO post will just see a post about Buzzbee’s home education journey, for me (and Bumble) this post is not so much about what he has been learning, but about his journey in gaining confidence in his ability to learn, which is something he lost whilst in main-stream education.

 

 

Making a ‘Spectacle’ (of myself)

Buzzbee (and Beeswax, really) are getting very accustomed to the fact that most weekends I try to put aside a small amount of ‘mum’ time to attempt to write some kind of post and Buzz has begun to ask on a Friday what the latest The Adoption Social #WASO theme is to be.

Beeswax is mainly indifferent to the posts but is very aware that I write them and sometimes his curiosity does get the better of him – this week being one of those times and his response left me wondering whether I wanted to playfully throttle him or hug and kiss him, because whichever way I look at it, a huge step had been made by him.

So what am I talking about? Well, quite simply. He asked about the #WASO theme, I told him that it was ‘Poetry’ and with the tone and expression only a teenager can pull off, his response was “Please tell me you aren’t going to write about the blasted ‘cake man’s’ poem!”

Once I had stopped laughing and regained my composure, I am afraid I became a little playful with him and pretended that I didn’t understand what poem he was talking about – in all honesty this was possibly the first time no-one has had to prompt him about something that is important to me and my heart was bursting with joy.

Irritated he responded with “You know what I am talking about! The one written by the man who wrote ‘Jungle book’. The Mr Kipling guy”, “You are always going on about that silly ‘IF’ poem your teacher made you all learn by heart.”

OK maybe I have used the poem a little more than I have realised but it has such special memories for me of a truly wonderful man who went above and beyond his role as a teacher to make each of his pupils feel that they mattered and were important to all around them – personally for me, not only did he support and encourage me throughout my days at school but, for years to come after, he was still there pushing me that little bit further – we would write regularly and it broke my heart when he died only days before I had arranged to visit him with Bumble to surprise him with the news of our engagement.

However, before my conversation with Waxy, I had intended on writing a completely different post. One which, while there would have been reference to ‘poetry and verse’, the post I planned to write was about Buzzbee and his SPECtacular (apologise for the pun) new perspective on learning. It hadn’t occurred to me that I may be writing about positive steps forward for both boys.

OK, so when it comes to Buzzbee’s big news. What am I talking about? Recently I tweeted.

tweet1

When Buzzbee was told by the optician that he would need glasses for close up work and that he would like him to have another test that may help understand a little more about how he sees words on the page, his immediate response was “So I am not thick or stupid, I just have problems with my eyes”. Forget almost bringing me to tears with his reply, I couldn’t help but notice that the big burly optician had begun to well up also. Buzz was so excited by the news, he broadcasted it at full volume to everyone waiting including Beeswax and then did his ‘happy dance’ (the optician commented that he is the only child he has ever met that has done a ‘happy dance’ because he NEEDS glasses – obviously he has forgotten the mammoth meltdown he had the last time he had an eye appointment because he DIDN’T need glasses).

It was agreed after the first appointment that it was their opinion that he was finding difficulty focusing on words in some situations and was showing significant signs of having Scotopic Sensitivities and would in their opinion benefit from colour tinting being added to his glasses (we have tried the sheets in the past and he couldn’t tolerate the fussiness of them). Fast forward a few weeks and after 3 separate Colorimetry testing appointments, and several silent ‘mummy teary moments’ while they found the correct colour for him – the kind of moments when you hear your child’s voice, who has been struggling for so long with learning, go from a monotone “ok, ok, a bit better” to “That is SO much better, I can see the words perfectly” (Oh bugger, here I go again!).

This week we have collected his glasses and WOW what a difference there is in my little boy – now I am not saying this will fix his anxiety around reading (in fact the optician’s advice was to push for the Ed Psych to reconsider her decision not to assess him).

OK going to stop gushing and tie this post back to the #WASO theme. Despite Buzzbee finding reading very stressful, he does love books and will ‘interpret’ them in his own way and is extremely good at memorising books that have been read to him. He is particularly fond of stories that have a rhythm and their verses rhyme – Julia Donaldson and her stories are a particular favourite with Buzz. One of his favourite books that he likes Bumble to read to him is ‘Zog’ by Julia Donaldson (Bumble loves dragons so usually there is no arguments from him when the request comes from Buzzbee).

zog

At the beginning of this weekend Buzzbee requested that I read it to him before bedtime and, while I knew I may well be pushing my luck, I suggested he tried wearing his glasses and reading to me instead. After a fleeting moment of panic and a reassurance that I wasn’t expecting him to read the whole book to me, he agreed to ‘give it a go’ and once again the room was filled with the wonderful sound of his excited voice when he commented that ‘the words look so much cooler. I am not stupid anymore, I am learning to read’ (I am not daft enough not to have realised that possibly a majority of the words he read at that point were already memorised verses, but the boost that his new glasses are giving to his self-esteem fills me with confidence that he will one day be really reading all the words himself and with moderate ease).

For the first time in a long time, not only am I confident that Buzz will catch up with his peers after missing out on so much while his then school claimed he was ‘unteachable’, but Buzz is beginning to believe in himself also.

I will leave this post with Buzzbee’s favourite line in his book “he zigzagged through the blue”, which is incidentally, if you hadn’t already guessed, the colour of his new glasses also.

zog1