Newsletters as a “home ed project”

Finding therapeutic parenting strategies that work is so imperative to life with adopted children, not least because they need to not feel like they are “bad” or “naughty”; you’ll likely find that most adopted children have at some point felt like they are inherently “bad” and that it’s their fault that they can’t live with their birth parents. And that certainly is the case in our house!

Logan in particular struggles to see the good in himself, I mean, Caitlin does struggle with it but she does have rational moments where she can see her try self. Logan is barely able to see anything good about himself at all. And if you can’t see the good in yourself, you surely cannot value the good of other people. And if you cannot value the good of other people, you cannot feel the love given to you and accept that good things happen to you at the hands of other people.

This causes us no end of battles, we do lots of positive things with Logan and Caitlin. And so we have (read “I”) have been thinking of ways to reiterate the positives with him. And as we don’t see the Grandparents often and the children love having pen pals, we decided to make it so that the children write a newsletter of the things they have been up to each month to the Grandparents.

They have to look through the photos of what they have been up to in a month, and then select their favourites and provide a caption for each one. The selection process really forces him to be faced with a concentrated whack of “Wow! Mumma sure has arranged a lot of fun stuff for us this month…” and it’s hoped that the reiteration if that message in his brain will allow him to remember that positives are occurring from outside sources. They then write a “paragraph” in the cover letter (literally a sentence or two) on the laptop so are getting familiar with the keyboard. And if we have done something special in the month (Halloween being the last one) we do a “special” on it together.

On top of this, the grandparents send the kids a challenge each month. It could be something academic (like a book review), something craft-based (making a dream catcher), something physical (going for a walk), something nature based (counting bugs/birds), research based (finding out who the Wombles are). Anything, in short.

And everyone wins. The kids get a lot of therapeutic feedback, and reminders of how good things are now. Despite the stress of actually getting the task done, I get a lot of positive back from the children and I inadvertently get to see how they are coming along (caption creativity, spelling, memor). And the Grandparents, who see us infrequently get some insight as to what we are up to.

Below are some examples of challenges they have had to get up to.

A weekend of Self Care

A friend announced that, for her 30th birthday, she had big plans. She too is a home ed mum of a SEN child and is very exhausted. She wanted to make it special, then with some new on her health her plans had to change, so I suggested “why don’t we go for a mum’s weekend of self care… a spa hotel or hot tub cottage, some nice food and a massive relax?” I did make it very clear I wasn’t expecting her to change plans, but more putting the offer on the table and making it available if she’d like to chose it. But by that time she had already been struggling with herself about what she could do and still have a special time. My plans appealed to her and she was again excited by the approach of her birthday.

When it came time to book (as in, we actually had the funds there to do it) we took a look around. Our specification was to book hotel or hot tub cottage – even glamping with a hot tub was a possibility, but whatever it was had to be close enough to get back promptly if we needed to as all of the children suffer with massive separation anxiety and can get extremely upset to the point of very bad consequences. After a long search we decided to go to Builth Wells and stay at Wye Cottage, Penrheol Self Catering Barn Conversions. You can read my review of that here. It’s a very rural hot tub tub cottage, with amazing views. Perfect to relax away from children.

Then we needed to make some decisions on food. We had been looking around and saw some places advertised. My mum friend really likes tapas, and an evening bistro popped up “Sugar and Spice” – it’s not strictly a tapas place, but they do have tapas nights. But the food looked awesome so we got ourselves booked there. You can read about our experience there just here.

We had also seen that, just outside of Hereford, there’s the picnic bench afternoon tea experience. This got the birthday girl very excited so, despite being an hour’s drive, we factored that into our weekend. You can read our experience of that here.

But ultimately we went to relax. And that’s what we did. In between the eating out, we chilled, in the hot tub, in our beds, in the living room watching films. It was extremely slow paced. And the most exciting thing… being able to toilet COMPLETELY alone. No interruptions. Amazing!

Self care is something that is prominent in conversations I have with people about parenting in general. But when it comes to SEN or adoption parenting it is so much more important. The expectations and pressures you are put under when a child has additional needs is tremendously strenuous. Being able to find moments to take care of yourself is the difference between being able to handle a situation and being completely depleted and incapable. Compassion fatigue is real and deeply impacting. So to be able to do something as major as a weekend away was fantastic!

Advent 2018

I know that it’s super late to be talking about what we got up to over advent, but as I have said in some previous posts, we haven’t had the best of Winters… not that Winter is easy for anyone, but anxiety is especially high in our house from approximately October through to mid January here. And then we had loads of things happen like flooded house, car accident, emergency vets, a 3 am trip to A&E… on top of building works, it’s been quite a time. And this blog is primarily for me to keep a track of what’s occurred so I need to go through it all… no matter how late!

As we do every year, we arranged a calendar which gives the children a bit more focus and reduces the anxiety somewhat (well… it doesn’t reduce it, but it makes each day more manageable). The calendar is presented differently each year – sometimes in a series of envelopes, sometimes in little glass bottles. And in each one is a little message that says what today’s theme is.

There are days and activities that occur annually: Letters to Santa on Day 1, putting up the decorations on the first Sunday, Christmas Eve box .The rest generally follows this pattern (unless the above falls on one of those days:
Monday: Charity day
Tuesday: Craft/Challenge
Wednesday: Christmas food
Thursday: small gift day (basically, something we would have given for Christmas but they can’t cope with much so we spread it out).
Friday: Family movie day
Weekends – family related activities (such as visiting Santa, baking Christmas goodies etc.)

This year, as they are loving the whole West Midlands Safari Park idea, we did the Santa Safari for their annual Santa visit. We got an early slot, so that the kids could beat the busy atmosphere – we won’t usually go somewhere like this on a weekend at a “normal” time of year, let alone a busy one. We got there a little early, and they were first in to see Santa. It was definitely well thought out; they had the normal safari park stuff (no theme park during Winter) so access to the safari drive through, access to the walk around bits and sea lion show etc. but with an area setup for Santa. The kids go went through these little sections to break up the queue; a “sleigh ride” to the North Pole, a walk through a little winter Wonderland to Santa’s little lodge, where they get a photo with Santa and then through to the workshop to choose their toy. The ticket also included a visit to get one of Mrs Claus’ cookies and a hot chocolate. The kids thought it was amazing. Because we have done the safari park and the bits around, we didn’t stick around for the festivities as they really cannot handle it, so we leave on a positive note before they get too overwhelmed and have a meltdown. They loved every second of it.

This year, we added a new event to our advent setup that we think we will continue to factor into our yearly plans; we arranged a Christmas coffee afternoon. You can read more about it in our Christmas and New Year 2018 post… but this meant that one of our days was spent baking in preparation.

Christmas and New Year 2018

A Christmas decision

Logan and Caitlin were very insistent that we have Christmas at home, which in some ways is great – it’s so expensive to go away and not be able to join in with anything for Christmas, due to the sheer volume of other people being about. However, being at home for Christmas has never been successful (we had had 3 Christmas days with the children before this one; the first two at home, the third at Bluestone). The only one successful in that time frame was the one spent at Bluestone. So we had to figure out what was different about being at Bluestone (aside from, you know, the obvious of being on holiday) that we could influence from the perspective of being at home. We came up with a couple:


People and expectations: In going away we had taken them away from family and friends and as a consequence lowered their social commitments and expectations. “Ok. We need to replicate that” we thought, so we arranged to have a Christmas Coffee afternoon – mid December. We would have our presents ready for everyone, if people wanted to exchange presents with us (which we discourage as the kids are easily overwhelmed, can’t let go of the stuf they have and don’t have room for more, and frankly, they don’t need presents, they need presence). We would bake a load of goodies and take them with us, setup mulled wine and mulled apple juice, and other drinks. People could just drop in and go off as they please, but we’d be there for like 4 hours. some activities for the kids and it’d all be great. So. That’s what we did.

Presents: Presents were spread out, family had given us presents before we left for Bluestone, we couldn’t take them with us, nor could we fit in ours from one another so we did that exchange before we went away. So Christmas Day was just presents from Santa only and was VERY low key. So we had to aim for that. So we arranged that any presents we had been given before Christmas would be opened prior to Christmas Eve. Then Christmas Eve we would exchange our household’s presents so that by bed time the only thing left would be Santa.

Christmas Eve

And actually – those two things were the only significant differences we could identify. So we did our Coffee afternoon, exchanged presents there. Then opened anything the children got there slowly over the course of the week that followed. We had a special early Christmas planned for Christmas Eve, whereby they’d wake up and get their usual Christmas Eve box (new PJs or an outfit, some new underwear and some hot chocolate ready for bed time routine). Then had a normal morning, followed by a special lunch and a treasure hunt (with picture maps) around our house to find presents that we had bought (and hid) for them – they would open each present in between the search meaning that they had time to run around looking for the next one reducing their anxiety and emotional behaviour. It really worked.

After exchanging presents, the children had a bit of free play time to burn off some energy and emotion. Then as they know I love Harry POtter and had bought me the Harry Potter Trivial Pursuit game, we play that and some other games until it was time to have PJs, get Santa’s treats ready and get up to bed. Every Christmas Eve we hide a new book under their pillows (a tradition we had arranged to hopefully have a little fun)… this year it was a tradition that was finally remembered by them and they were so excited to get through pre-bed time routine to get to their beds . Bed time went smoothly (with the exception of Caitlin feeling a little worried about someone coming into our house whilst she is sleeping… we reassured her that no one apart from us would be in the house. We reminded her that Mumma frequently does things like magic-ing things into a room and she has no idea how they are done, in a similar way her presents would be magic-ed into the living room but offered her the opporunity to sleep in Logan’s room on a mattress. This worked.

Christmas Day

Christmas Eve I had made it very clear to the kids, excitement trumps everything. So no time was too early to ask if it was time to get up on Christmas Day. They would either be told “no, not yet, a bit longer” or in most likelihood “hell yes!”. As I child I was always up at 4am persuading the youngest child in the house to go badger the grown ups to let us get up for Santa’s deliveries. And, anxiety was low enough. For the first year ever I didn’t give up at 8 and go and get them (already awake but too scared to say anything) up myself. They called up at 6am “Mumma, has Santa been?” my heart beated joy “Oh, um… I dunno, why don’t you go down and take a look?”

Santa had been, and he hadn’t left much of his treats on the plate…

The excited screams sounded their way up the staircase. I was worn out, but very VERY happy. I could have cried happy tears in fact “they are doing ‘normal’ kid stuff… what is this?”

The Logan and Caitlin don’t like anyone being left out so Bruce and I have to make each other a stocking and the children had won a stocking at a Christmas Fair so we “had” to fill it for the dog… of course.

The day was very low key, after opening presents, we pulled out the sofa bed and chilled watching the 1940’s version of A Christmas Carol. Then had some breakfast and mostly did a lot of nothing. It was perfect. And ate some glorious food in between. It was perfect. We pulled off a Christmas at home. We know what we need to do now.

New Year

Normally for New Year’s Eve, we have an evening all prepared, we put the clocks forward 3 hours so midnight arrives at 9pm (much more manageable in this house). But actually, some friends were going through a hard time. They came and stayed over. The kids all played together. The adults all played board games and laughed. The kids fell asleep early. We got no photos. It was just immensely fun. A welcome break in the midst of a very stressful time. We loved it.

Cogs ticking behind the scenes… still! :D

Hi guys,

I am seemingly absent, but I promise I am not. Things, once again, are rather complicated here. I mean, we had our normal winter chaos and anxiety and January is supposed to be our recovery time. But it has been relentless, I am unsure of what’s been disclosed previously, but fear I may once again not post if I don’t just write this now…. so this is a bit of what 2019 has had in store for us so far:

  • Renovation works (flooring, plumbing -repairs and additions – and landscaping)
  • Puppy seriously ill, suspected parvo but actually is likely he ate something he shouldn’t have. He is better now.
  • Caitlin (youngest child) getting rushed to A&E – Suspected meningitis – turns out it was 2 separate infections in her body causing a fever together and a bad reaction.
  • Our shower regurgitating toilet waste up through it (the person who sold this house had it as a doer upper… it appears they did the plumbing themselves with no understanding of gravity.
  • Bruce was involved in a minor traffic collision (new driver pulled out of junction, straight into the side of him – car written off she crashed into rear passenger door/wheel arch, he’s ok though and we have a new car
  • New car from previous point has stopped working (it’s under warranty and is in the garage being fixed, but it means we are down to one car, I am suffering with exhaustion and sciatica and having to either bit the bullet and carry a 87 year old in a toddler carrier, or push a wheelchair
  • A few family/friends are really suffering with health in some quite extreme ways at the moment: cancer, heart and lung problems, mobility issues that are causing serious disruption and upset

And that’s just a heavily summarised overview, with the more trivial things pulled out/overlooked. I have gotten myself way behind at uni (I was 8 weeks behind and have caught up to 4 weeks), but somehow managed to pull off some half decent essays and assignments (equivalent to 1st or 2:1).

But. And here’s the big but… As ever, I am determined to be on top of everything. I will get there. In the interim I am going to catch up with the blog reviews as I can (alongside my uni work of course). And then I will be on top of it all. The major stuff in the house will be mostly done and uni will break up for summer so. I will. I know I can. In the interim though, I have several drafts work in progress. Watch this space for more to follow.

I took some time for self care last night…

By that of course I mean, I put clean bedding on my bed and took a shower. You may think that these two things are simple enough to do, but actually (and this is going to sound really disgusting – but when you are in a high trauma time, you just don’t have time/energy for anything not entirely essential) I haven’t changed my bedding in 7 weeks. When I customised my bed and made sure I had a superking, I didn’t think about how much of a battle putting a superking duvet in a duvet cover would be… but alas, I fought my battle, and even though I needed a shower, I definitely was in dire need by the end of the battle. Plus, feeling clean and then getting into a clean bed is one of the most awesome feelings ever.

I then had a date with both children’s disability renewal forms. It’s that time again. I really hate the paperwork, it’s such a chore. And I really hate having to claim too! But no one else is supporting anything therapeutic for them besides the 10 sessions of intensive family therapy we get as a family through the Adoption Support Fund, so I need it to provide them with the support they need (groups/lessons to aid their physical development, passes and parking for admission to nature places where they can be mindful and feel at peace and educational resources as schools can’t accommodate them but home education is a “choice” so we get no other means of support). Whichever way I look at it, it’s money that we actually need, and it’s less than a placement at a specialist school so we have to, much to our dismay.

Anyhow, feeling clean and fresh, and sitting in a fresh bed was so happy and motivating, that one is now complete and the other is half way done. So bonus, I feel even happier as a heavy weight is lifting! 😀 YAY!

In the background

I am doing things in the background, I really am – there are several posts (well perhaps several hundred would be a more apt description). I don’t hide that the last few months of the year are always a strain in this household, but this year has brought its own unique challenges. We are coming out of the other side now, but doesn’t change the fact that I am worn to the core, 7 weeks behind at uni (I just scraped in an essay on time – 48 unfocused hours to do 4 weeks of work, write the essay and get it roughly proofed and referenced), in the middle of more major work at the house (this time landscaping and flooring), trying to home educate and now, train a puppy… yes a puppy. There will be a post about him appearing soon enough I am sure!

But I wanted to come online and post a quick “Happy New Year, we are in the background, we’re not in a fantastic place, but we aren’t entirely broken either…” message. Once I have sorted us out here, I will get on it. In the interim you may see posts sporadically coming in… I keep dreaming of this time that I will be able to have a regular scheduled place and time to sit and study and write my blogs. It will happen. It WILL! I swear it. IT WILL! Hehehehe.

 

The light never goes out…

… you know the one at the end of the tunnel. It’s still there, it’s just that the length of the pathway, the obstacles in my way and the stability of the road aren’t clear. And at the moment it feels very unstable and full of obstacles. Relentlessly so. I’m quite literally treading water with my energy, my body, my health. And I keep thinking “oooo, just gotta do x, y and z and then I can recover a little….” but then the list is scuppered by major dramas. Just to list a few to give an indication:

  • Major roof leak (on one section of the single-storey part of the house only)
  • Car drama – headlights stopped working, intermittently, couldn’t recreate scenario at the garage. Eventually got something sorted.
  • Logan’s sleep saga continues… although now we are back (begrudgingly) with Melatonin and this time we are actually seeing some more benefit than last time; it definitely hasn’t fixed the problem, but we are seeing more “good” nights (where there’s a more solid chunk of sleep).
  • Caitlin’s muscular issues have been fluctuating, and where we have had a more steady constant stream of physical activity, I am less able to predict what’s going to be too much (I am sure our super steep stairs do not help, some visitors actually get anxiety about coming down them).
  • Colds and Flu – I have SOOOOOOOOOOOO not been on top of our immunity routine. And although we have a very good diet, it just hasn’t been enough. Cue a series of colds, and what we think was the flu on the last batch.
  • Bank drama – 6 months after moving (5 months after no access to old house/address change) the bank decided to “accidentally” post some of our account details to an old address (I had been into the bank to change it personally as they wouldn’t do it over the phone/couldn’t online). So needless to say I am changing banks.
  • Therapy – each session seems to actually be leaving the kids feeling vulnerable afterwards and having an impact on behaviour for a week or two afterwards now. Which is good in some ways (it’s working, but it’s exhausting).
  • Uni – has started back up again, and I may have bitten off more than I can chew all things considered this year, but I’m the kind of person that makes things happen. I always have been.

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However, despite all the drama and exhaustion, we now have someone coming in to do the deeper clean of the bathroom, en suite and kitchen. And a volunteer from a wonderful charity called Home Start coming in to just give me a bit of human interaction once a week (and eventually we are hoping it’ll lead to respite for me, when the kids are able to trust her enough to listen to her whilst I am out of the room for long enough for me to just go read a bit, or soak a bit), and access to regular groups where the kids can just be themselves without me having to care.

AND on top of that, I actually got some me time. with a friend… a mini spa day (by mini I mean, no treatments just use of the facilities and a relax for a while). It was at the St Pierre Marriott Hotel and Country Club. I will not waste my time with a review – I will just say: we arrived to find staff talking about their desire to “get out of there” and travel and work cash in hand on the fly as they do, with little interest in us actually checking in/any queries. The facilities were tired and outdated. When we got in the jacuzzi, it was hard to relax for all the unregulated children running around screaming, and when they finally left I had a headache and couldn’t be bothered any longer. Got out to try and have lunch, and despite the bar being less than 25% seated, they told me food would be at least a 45 minute wait. Don’t even bother going. It wasn’t all to waste though, as I went by train so I got to enjoy listening to music on my MP3, whilst alternating between reading my Kindle and checking out the views!

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Regardless. I am here, plodding on, taking the obstacles as I come upon them. Some days life feels like it is moving forward. Some days it feels as if the weight of the world is against us (or rather me) and that I am fighting against it alone. But now it feels like we are balancing out a bit more, like the days moving forward are happening more. Still largely over shadowed by fighting and grief, but with a more constant presence of underlying peace and happiness.

 

A new page… and our summer so far

So, many reviews have been going up – I have been concentrating on getting those up to date – so it’s clear we are up and about, though still not back at full energy capacity. However, whilst the summer holidays are in full swing, we are making use of friends and family being out and about to actually see people. After all we have had so many months of stress, illness and mundane priorities. Time for some fun.

I think, from the reviews it’s clear what we have been up to on the trip-front, but at home things have been a little different too. We have been doing less sorting and more fun, family tasks, learning and getting more into a fuller routine. We found a cleaner to try and take some pressure off me… yay! I don’t need to clean our bathroom and en suite any more – that’s so much pressure removed, and strangely just the removal of those jobs has expanded my capability to get back on track enormously. Plus, after some more regrowth in the garden, we are slowly getting back on top of things.

 

That said, shortly after moving in, we found out that part of the roof (covering the part that’s connecting the main house to what was an out building) is not fit for purpose. It’s just glass that has been tar painted (and cracked) with plasterboard underneath. The longer we have been here, the more its weakness is displayed in terms of leaks – with each rain fall we find that we have new puddles inside, in the direct vicinity of electricals and their outlets. But thankfully, a roofer has been arranged, and we are on our way to having that fixed.

 

In the interim, we have been trying to have fun, trying to establish more of a routine and doing less menial tasks (such as sorting/emptiyng boxes, clothes etc.) and more fun tasks like baking we actually have an oven that can bake through without burning the outer! YES! And things such as crafts like sewing and also using the Spielgaben.

 

Which ultimately leads me to our new page. As we go about the daily challenges of family life and home education, we encounter various different bits of equipment, kit, objects etc. that we use. I decided that (when searching for these and coming up short on reviews for some) that I would start making reviews of the new bits we get. It is here.

That pretty much concludes our update for now. I summary, we are up and about ;things have been straggling in the house (and we need a new roof); we are doing crafts and bits; we have a new page.

New family members

NEW ARRIVALS.

You may think that it’s a bit dramatic to consider them new family members, but meh… we don’t care. The children have been begging for pets for ages, and knowing that we were told we weren’t allowed anything at our old house (not even fish) meant we hadn’t got any. Now though, have 2 Russian Dwarf Hamsters (one for each child).

They have been here for a little while now, and the children are very responsible for ensuring they are cared for and clean and fed. Logan wants a dog, Caitlin wants a cat… we lost our cat (Moozer) to the frost and ice 2 years ago. And they have been begging for a pet since. However, we have decided for now that this is the limit to fit our lifestyle.

So please meet our newest bundles of chaos:

Dynamite
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and

Fire

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