Archive | August 2015

Throwing away the rule book

In the last couple of weeks, Waxy has begun to struggle with the thought of returning to school and starting year 10, along with the fear of whether he can maintain the high standard his school have come to expect from him.

In an attempt to distract him for a few a days before returning, Bumble and I arranged to borrow my parents’ caravan for the bank holiday weekend and, as an added bonus, Nanny and Grandad Bee decided to join us for 24hrs, so we could celebrate their wedding anniversary and my upcoming birthday. The plan was perfect. 2 happy boys, 1 relaxed dog and 2 (semi) relaxed parents.

A completely predictable weekend, with no dramatic changes to the boys’ routine!

But! Our weekend did not start off as we had planned. Another guest was coming to the party and, while I adore her dearly and she is my only niece, her arrival and announcement that she wishes to spend the weekend with us, because her big brothers were being mean to her, has meant that we have had to throw out our ‘safe’, ‘predictable’ rule book and drive by the seat of our pants, hoping and praying that it didn’t blow up in our faces.

Waxy and Buzzbee are very set in their ways, as is my niece (she is daddy’s princess after all), so potentially we could have been ‘lighting the blue touch paper’ very early in the weekend – we got close a couple of times with Buzz and ‘Bossybee’, but she can wrap them both around her little finger so there was no need for the riot shields.

One of the biggest differences between the boys’ routine and Bossy’s, is that Waxy and Buzz are early to bed and early morning risers, whereas Bossy and her brothers go to bed when they are tired and wake up late in the morning.   Okay the mornings were not a problem. The boys are happy to relax and chill out in the caravan in the morning, until Bossy woke up, or I was brave enough to enter the ‘Bear’s cave’.

Night times on the other hand have been a little more challenging, and really this is the area where Bumble and I have had to throw away our rule book. While my parents were still staying with us, we all started out with the best intentions of letting Buzz and Bossy camp out in the same room with each other on the agreement that when we say it was time to settle to sleep, they would settle down – Haha! Who were we kidding? The little devils finally fell asleep at midnight and that wasn’t until all the adults had gone to bed and they both decided it would be more fun to camp in the lounge while Bumble and I were sleeping on the sofa bed. Just in case you are wondering. Waxy chose not to camp with them but he was not averse to attempting a not-so covert mission of winding his brother and cousin up, and last night wasn’t much better.

The only saving grace was Buzzbee is a creature of habit and more often than not once he is asleep, he will sleep for at least 8 hours, so both mornings he has in fact slept in like his cousin, just maybe not quite as late as she was. Beeswax on the other hand never sleeps in. Well he did once, after a wedding reception, a long, long time ago. But on the bright side he somehow managed to fall asleep despite the ‘Buzz and Bossy show’ going on around him.

The one thing that did put Beeswax’s nose out of joint was that he no longer had his little brother fighting to gain his attention. Now normally Waxy moans about how Buzzbee drives him mad always pestering him to play childish games. And Waxy loves to wind him up by refusing to play with him. But when Buzz has someone else to play with, Waxy misses the fun and to be honest he misses the control.

Another entry we wavered from our rule book this weekend is to keep Buzzbee away from wrestling in strange situations, like holidays. Buzzbee loves his WWE – he has almost as many wrestling figures as dinosaurs! OK, that’s a lie – he has about a tenth as many wrestling figures as he has dinosaurs, but that is still a lot! At home the wrestlers go for each other much like, er, dinosaurs would. So you can imagine how out of control his play can get on holiday. So no wrestlers on holiday! Except for one teeny weeny problem – the wrestling show at the caravan site. So not only did we have to bring some of his wrestling figures along, but there were real life wrestlers! Full sized! Very full and very sized! Don’t tell Bumble, but the photos of Buzz and Bossy with huge, muscular, freshly oiled wrestlers was more for my benefit than the children’s!

So I guess the moral of this weeks’ #WASO tale from me is….. Sometimes there are some advantages to throwing out the rulebook!

wrestling

What makes the perfect diet?

Recently my parents made a whistle stop trip up to visit before heading off on their week’s holiday and Buzz was, well…… let’s just say ‘the Whackadoodle express had left the station and was heading for Crazy Town at a rapid rate. During this visit my mum tried to help Buzz calm down (which usually works for a short while), but she wasn’t prepared for Buzzbee’s response to her question and my dad DID NOT in any certain terms fall about laughing at both Buzz’s response or the look on my mum’s face – Waxy on the other had was in complete hysterics and refusing to hide his amusement.

Nanny-bee: ’“Wow Buzzbee, you are super lively today.  What can nanny do to help you feel safer and slow down a little?”

Buzzbee:  “I don’t know. Maybe we should both go on a diet, Nanny!”

To an outsider, reading or even listening to this brief dialogue between Buzz and my mum, they could be forgiven for thinking Buzz was being cheeky to his nanny. However the type of ‘diet’ Buzz is talking about is in fact a ‘sensory diet’, more commonly known as ‘SMS time’ (save mummy’s sanity).

Buzz is almost permanently in an elevated state of hyper-arousal and it comes as no surprise to Bumble and I, that most people who know him or witness his ‘buzzing’ automatically assume that he has ADHD. Well!!! Certainly people who are only seeing the tip of a deeply submerged trauma iceberg.  Maybe he is! Maybe he is not! I believe the later of the two and only time will tell, what conclusion his paediatrician will come to about what is going on for Buzz, but there one thing we do know for certain, and that is….Buzzbee is extremely sensory and that alone poses challenges each day – okay! His sensory seeking needs pose LOTS of challenges each and almost every day, but over the years we have slowly adopted tricks and tools to support him and which have slowly fitted into our family routine to a point that it has become almost instinctive and more recently some of our extended family have also begun to use them themselves when with Buzz.

So what is our definition of a ‘sensory diet’ and what does Buzz’s ‘homemade’ one look like?

My parents found http://www.sensorysmart.com’s description the simplest to understand, so rather than reinvent the wheel and completely mess up the description. This is what they have to say – There are so many other fantastic sites that could are equally as good at describing it, I have just chosen this one as an example.

Just as your child needs food throughout the course of the day, his need for sensory input must also be met. A “sensory diet” (coined by OT Patricia Wilbarger) is a carefully designed, personalized activity plan that provides the sensory input a person needs to stay focused and organized throughout the day. Just as you may jiggle your knee or chew gum to stay awake or soak in a hot tub to unwind, children need to engage in stabilizing, focusing activities too. Infants, young children, teens, and adults with mild to severe sensory issues can all benefit from a personalized sensory diet.

Buzz’s sensory cookbook is constantly growing and we are almost daily adding new ‘homemade recipes’ that help give Buzzbee the sensory breaks/input that he needs.

Although the list of tricks we use to help Buzz relax is long. There a several ‘recipes’ that are used pretty much on a daily basis and are firm favourites with Buzz.

  • Bear hugs
  • Footbath/massager
  • Listening to music on his Mp3 player
  • Stretching/tug of wars with his resistance band
  • Playing with his sand pit or water tray
  • Dancing (street/hiphop)
  • Potion making in a warm bubble bath will light-changing floating toy
  • Sausage rolling in quilt or blanket (swaddling)
  • Drinking from different sports bottles or straws

And, so many more…… but, there are two favourites which, are polar opposite sensory stimulations for Buzzbee but have the ability to achieve the same end result – A calmer Buzzbee!

bouncybouncy

doughboy

This post is written as part of ‘The Adoption Social’s’ Weekly Adoption Shout Out #WASO

Catch them before they fall

This weeks’ The Adoption Social #WASO theme is “So far, we’ve”. I could probably think of 8 or 9 different angles to write from for this theme and maybe I could have blended them all together in a single post but anyone who has regularly read my posts will know I am not known for keeping it brief. You could probably start reading it at breakfast time and still be reading it when supper time comes around, going on past experience.

Instead, I am focusing on one angle that is very current and important to us.

Earlier in the week I tweeted…..

sweettweet

I had dropped both the boys off at their separate holiday club and forest school. Bumble had gone to work and for the first time in weeks, I had the house to myself. Yippeee!!!!

For 5 blissful hours, it was just Beedog and me, oh and a nice big slice of chocolate cake.

While I have to admit that by lunchtime I was starting to miss the noise and chaotic mayhem…….. I know what you are going to say “why on earth would you be missing that? Have you lost your mind?” The few short ‘child-free’ hours I had were most definitely needed and gave me some valuable breathing space to regroup after a tricky week before, and more importantly it is giving the boys the space they need from each other (or in Waxy’s case – space from the pressure of the intimacy of being part of a family).

To be fair, Buzz’s plan for the school holidays hadn’t changed. He was always going to be continuing with his regular forest school day throughout the holidays but as usual we had taken the opportunity to increase it by a day because they run daily holiday clubs during school holidays and the blend of new children with some of the regulars has been great for Buzz, as well as the relationship he has begun to build with the staff.

Now Waxy attending a holiday club was never originally in the immediate plan – lingering in the background – but never a direct plan of action. Now the he is 14, I have found we have come up against some tricky hurdles…

  1. Waxy is 14 years old and doesn’t want to be doing something ‘babyish’ (his words not mine).
  2. There are very few daily holiday club activities that are available to 14 years olds in our area and many of the ones that there are he, has either pooh-poohed our suggestions or they are just a REALLY BAD IDEA FOR HIM.
  3. A couple that we have thought were possible and had caught his attention were either cancelled due to lack of numbers or they suggested they may not have the right staff to support him – just to point out A) He only plays Bumble and I up and would have been a perfect attendee, B) Just because he attends a specialist school for children with emotional and behavioural difficulties does not automatically mean they need 1:1 support (that would be a bad idea for him anyway).
  4. Finally, understandably Waxy wants to be like the other teens in the village and do the stuff they do. The problem is… he wants it, but cannot cope with it and lacks the social skills and confidence to successfully achieve it – even with our support and encouragement.

And it is the final hurdle that in fact has been the catalyst for what had been up until recently a positive start to the school break with the boys.

We’ve come ‘so far’ with the boys in the last year in terms of their ability to spend time together without it falling to pieces and Waxy had made huge leaps in managing his discomfort and distrust of being part of a family and at the beginning of this years’ school holidays, he was almost always a joy to be around – something that I haven’t been able to say very often in the past couple of years.

Anyway, getting back to my point. Over the past 10 days or so, Bumble and I couldn’t help noticing that Waxy was slipping back into his old ways and his interaction and responses were rapidly becoming negative and volatile, and this change in mood in our opinion could be directly linked back to his attempts at independence around the village, which have not gone how he hoped they would, or he had pushed himself so far outside of his comfort zone that he couldn’t cope and his frustration was taking over.

if you fall

Watching the boys slowly unravelling with each other (Waxy particularly), my instincts were telling me that I needed to metaphorically ‘catch them before they fell’ or maybe it was just my own ‘secondary trauma’ speaking, but rather than allow Waxy to carry on the path he was on and just wait for him to completely self-destruct before trying to pick the pieces up, Bumble and I agreed that we needed to give Waxy a break from independence and insist that he attended a multi-sport/activity holiday club twice a week and to my surprise he agreed – although he claimed it was because he would rather do that than sit in a waiting room, playing on his phone while Buzzbee had his appointment and then afterwards “drag him off to adventure playground so Buzz can run off his nervous energy”.

And, guess what! He enjoyed his first week so much he has asked to attend 4 days next week. He says he is enjoying the structure, but after meeting the staff, and listening to him talk about a couple of them, I suspect there is a touch of teenage male hormones coming into play too – he is 14 after all – SO not ready for the relationship stage! And neither am I!

Backseat reflections

This is not the #WASO post I intended to post this week but for the moment my original post needs to be put on hold but in doing so, it started me thinking about another topic which keeps rearing it’s head lately.

How many times have you set of on a journey or trip to the local supermarket, and found yourself drawn into a conversation you are unprepared for with one or more backseat passengers, AKA your children“.

If you are anything like me, sometimes you are able to successfully navigate the conversation while still maintaining control over your vehicle and your own emotions, but then there are times when you are completely caught off guard and struggle to find the words you are looking for.

Of course there are also the times when your child(ren) knock your socks off with a fleeting moment of self-awareness.

backseatRecently Buzzbee did exactly this on a car journey home after collecting him from Forest school.

Buzz: “Mummy, do you know. I think I might be quite funny”

Me: “I think you are. You make me laugh all the time”

Buzz: “I didn’t mean that kind of funny.   I know I am ‘funny’ and can make pretty girls laugh but I meant, I am weird” (this was one of those moments when I was glad that I was driving and he was sat in the backseat and couldn’t see my heart sinking and tears pricking my eyes)

Once I regained composure, I returned to the conversation.

Me: “I am curious. Why do you think you are weird”?

Buzz: “Don’t worry mummy I don’t think it is a bad thing. I know I am different to other children. I mean I sometimes think of things differently to other kids my age”

Me: “You are definitely one of a kind Buzz and life is never dull with you around but I am wondering what has made you suddenly think you are funny”

Part of me was a tiny bit afraid to hear his answer but ‘in for a penny, in for a pound’

Buzz: “Nothing really. It is just some of the other boys wanted to dig holes today, climb lots of trees and talk about WWE wrestlers, and they were happy with just doing this and I liked doing it with them but when we were digging I was imagining what amazing treasures I may find or wondering if I will find a prehistoric fossil in the mud. I love climbing trees but I wanted more – treehouses, forts, and ways to get things from the ground into the trees. Oh and when my friends are talking about wrestlers it is not enough. I want to be the wrestler and sometimes I get too rough”

Phew!!! The conversation continued and I would like to think I managed to respond and support him while he reflected on his day – at least I believe I had and by the time we arrived home he was happy to hop out of the car and go on with his afternoon as if we had never had the conversation.

Many years ago during our preparation course, the course leader attempted to prepare us for the unexpected backseat narrative/questioning and while at the time I didn’t see it was of huge importance and had ‘rose tinted’ glasses on about how we would have ‘cosy chats’ and positive ‘bonding times’ on our car journeys and that there would be nothing to it – I would be a ‘normal parent’ but there is nothing normal about some of the conversations I have had with each of my boys at several points over the years, but each and every one of these are important and offer an window into their internal world.

Singing with pride

Life in the hive at the moment is less than rosy and while it has not been for the want of trying. I haven’t managed to write a coherent post for 3beesandahoney for a few weeks now. I could have probably written half a dozen, bitter or self-pitying #WASO posts, and I could have definitely written several ranting posts about schools and professionals and their repeated determination to treat me as the enemy but honestly I am depressed enough by it all as it is without winding myself even more by putting it down in black and white for all to see.

Maybe when I have regained my emotional resilience, I will feel ready to share the whole sorry and sordid tale but the time is not right and I would only depress everyone else instead.

Over the past few weeks I have cried enough tears to fill Lake Windermere twice over and by the end of this weekend I found myself once again crying.

But, this time they were tears of joy and pride!

Recently Buzzbee joined and youth musical theatre group and he has been attending on a weekly basis and Bumble and I (along with Bumble’s friends who run the group) have been watching Buzz’s confidence and self-esteem grow and grow. At first he was extremely nervous and shy (okay his is still shy at break times) but came alive as soon as the group started practising songs.

Over the weeks Buzz has become more and more animated and while it has made bedtimes interesting to say the least as he is taking almost 2 hours to come down of the ceiling and stop singing whatever song he has just learnt. He is coming home filled with joy and pride in himself and it is wonderful to see him able to acknowledge his achievement and accept the praise for a short period of time.

All the weekly rehearsals have been building up to the junior group joining the adult group for 3 concerts in aid of a local charity – a couple of weeks ago we had Buzzbee’s first ever concert. In fact it was the first time in at least 2 years that he has had the courage to stand up in front of a room full of people. That was until the first night.

singconcert

While it will come as no surprise to most people that Bumble and I were bubbling with pride, as was Waxy (not that he would openly admit that). No-one would question either the reasons behind the excessive amount of sheets of Kleenex used by my mum on the night she went to watch him in the concert. However, to our surprise, the enormity of Buzzbee’s bravery had moved a handful of past members of the theatre group who have known both boys since they were placed – I should add that 2 of these members are actually adoptive grandparents themselves and so really understand what this meant for him.

To anyone else attending the concerts we were like many of the other parents who had children in the show – but definitely not one of the ‘stage parent’ types. They will never know that journey Buzz has been on to get to this point.

Oh how I wish I could share the photos and video of our pint-sized son standing at the front of the hall, beaming, singing, and interacting with his peers. It is a sight I began to fear we may never see. I will be honest, as time has gone by home educating Buzzbee, we have witnessed a dramatic progress in his ability to absorb facts and verbal communicate his understanding of topics to Bumble and I, his ability to read and write independently has failed to progress and rather than my hope of closing the gap between his ability when we removed him from school and getting his basic literacy skills back in line with peers of his age. Instead as the years are going on we are witnessing the gap growing bigger and bigger despite the hard work and desire to learn that Buzzbee is constantly showing – thankfully this week after a meeting with his community paediatrician, we may finally have someone who wants to help and not label Buzz as just stubborn or try and write him off as unable to learn.

Going slightly off course but what I think I am trying to say is….. At a time when everything has felt like an uphill struggle and a fight, and every bump in the road has begun to feel like climbing a mountain. Witnessing Buzzbee step outside his comfort zone, succeed and then allowing himself to accept the praise and gushing without feel the need to sabotage, makes all the heartache worthwhile.