New laptop acquired

Ok… new laptop sourced, all setup to go. But, in the chaos of our life (and in the midst of having a broken laptop) I overlooked an assignment for my uni coursework… so that was essential – then that laptop developed a fault and had to go back, then my final assignment was due in, the same week that Caitlin revealed she was depressed (at 7 – devastating) and the boy had repeated meltdowns because he wasn’t getting enough attention.

So after coursework was handed in, I have taken a week to myself (by that I mean refusing to do any admin/paperwork etc.), and now am going to try and get back on top of things once again!

Life definitely feels like a constant game of chase right now. But I fully intend on not having to move again for a while so this chasing game will (hopefully) subside!

Hope everyone’s having a fab weekend xxx

4 years ago, I met my not so little babies…

This time 4 years ago, we were in our car on that fateful journey to meet our children for the first time ever! And what a rollercoaster it has been. 1 nursery, 2 schools and now settled on the unsupported and advised against option of home education (and it’s actually working). 3 different houses (and now home owners, thank you indecent landords). Assessments, diagnoses, tantrums meltdowns, laughter, giggles, tears (happy and sad), an awakening of how unsupported we are (friends & family and professional) and an opening of a door to new, supportive relationships and friendships (and a couple of charities local to us that have helped immensely).

I am walking the tightrope over the pit of complete burnout constantly, the safety platforms are few and far between. If I falter I could fall in, so I cant get tired (yet I’m exhausted), I cant sit down (I must keep walking, carefully poised and perfectly balanced). Its a lot of pressure to be burdened with, but I must endure. We have the support now to make this almost possible, but if we could have just accessed this 2 years earlier, I dare say I wouldn’t be in this position. I could be so much more to my children than I am. Much more patient. Much more tolerant. But alas. We did not. I am not. And we are here.

However, I must (and do) recognise I am not failing as a mum:
– My children feel safe with me.
– I know my children so well, and am so in tune, I can read what’s about to happen and I respond in accordance with that
– my children aren’t capable of everything yet. But they are significantly more capable than when they first arrived to me
– I fought for therapy, it took the best part of 3 years I won and now they have it. (And sleeping tablets for the boy, and a wheelchair for the girl – similar fights). And it is all helping them as I knew it would… vbecause they needed it
– they are both now capable of playing with, rather than alongside other children
– they are both now reading proficiently, and learning actual academic work (not just me saying a practical activity they are doing in terms of its academic language e.g. collecting hangers and explaining them as number bonds, now they use IXL – an online curriculum – as a means to learn properly)
– they are both mostly expressing their own individual likes, and being their own individual people (oh believe me, there are times it’s hard not to regret their independence when its aimed at you directly) and not constantly just “liking” something to please others
– they have both reduced anxiety enough for their sensory system to enable them to regulate enough for them to be capable of recognising some bodily needs (like toileting, hunger, thirst, temperature) – pretty basic needs they should have learned as a baby/toddler, but things they were deprived of learning
– they are starting to be able to trust I will come back when I leave. Its baby steps, I may get an hour away from them with no repercussion, nothing more just yet, I may not even get an hour. But it was nothing before, this is one of the biggest steps we can be making.

It is so hard to measure and track where how far they (and we as a family) have come with how slow the progress is, and how often we have to side step. But if I sat down and really thought about it I would see. And deep down I know it would be significant. Looking back, despite all of the rubbish and hard times (and major lack of sleep), the only thing I would really change (if I had the powers) is how quickly they get therapeutic intervention arranged and how much I stand up for what I felt was right (instead of being scared Social Services would try and take the children back off me). Our hard times have been lengthened, worsened, or even created by this. And we could have been so much further forward in their healing if we didn’t have to waste so much time fighting for support. But I have done my job… and that’s all that matters.

Final word from the two that have made this possible… “what is the best thing about living in this family?”

Logan: having a great roof over my head (when asked to elaborate) it’s a nice house, he has nice stuff, but it’s also safe.

Caitlyn: Being with Mumma and Dadda… because I love them so much.

Enjoying some self care

No one will quite understand this unless the are a SEND or LAC/post-LAC parent… but I’ve been a bit pong-y today. I’m now fresh out of an uninterrupted 10 minute shower, where I not only got to shave what could only be described as “manly” pits, but I also washed my hair, quite literally 3 times. 3. Why? Cause I liked the way the suds felt in my hair AND I had the time to… and I used a fresh towel to dry myself. A nice crisp clean one that no dirty hands had dare touch. And shortly I fully intend to thoroughly brush my teeth for 2 whole minutes, instead of the usual flick around, job done.

May seem disgusting or TMI to mention. May even seem so trivial and small, bordering unpostable, to some. But in reality to me, it’s pretty major. These simple things are often overlooked for primary caregivers of SEND or children in/from care. Unless you live it you don’t really see the sacrifices, not even as a parent of children who haven’t faced trauma, or don’t have SEND. So I thought I would post, to reassure those out there with compassion fatigue, approaching caregiver burn out, you aren’t alone, I stink and am too hairy most of the time too… and to take your moment when you can, to enjoy that 10 minutes if and when you can, to destink. You’re worth it.

Strained positvity…

On 3 hours sleep, I have had a tough day. I have deadlines to meet by tomorrow, that look like a lack of sleep again. However, rather than mark the day with a list of negatives, I am choosing to post my favourite moment of today to leave that as the history I record:


Today as the heavens opened and the rain poured down the tremendous sounds of thunder became apparent. I ran upstairs (where I had sent the children to play) and ignored the riotous scenes I was greeted with to declare to the children there was a thunder storm and asked if they’d like to come spotting with me. Aware that a waterproofs routine may cause us to miss out, and knowing how they like to be appropriately dressed in the rain, I took the initiative to invite them to the “viewing platform” (otherwise known as “Mumma’s desk” or more aptly described as the junk storage corner). The excitement of every flash and the anticipation of every rumble was an amazingly happy experience in the midst of such utter nonsense that I took a step back. I smiled. And I enjoyed!

PS I got my new replacement laptop… so watch this space…

I was doing so well…

Just to say. I was doing so well updating and catching up… but children + anxiety triggers + lack of sleep = emotional behaviour that needs urgent attention… in the process my laptop has ended up in 3 pieces!!! So, I will be back as soon as I get a replacement x

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.

Review: Sugar and Spice

On a weekend self care escape in Builth Wells, celebrating another mum friend’s birthday, we had found Sugar and Spice; by daytime a cafe, some evenings a bistro, in the nearby town of Llandridnod Wells. We messaged ahead of our trip to find out if the evening bistro would be running whilst we were there, it was, and happened to be running on the night of our arrival into Builth. Understanding we had a bit of a drive to get there, they were very flexible with our arrival time (allowing us a 30 minute arrival time slot rather than a arrive at this time type thing).

It was very easy to find the building, but due to an event in the town, parking wasn’t available immediately outside of the location. However a 2 minute walk away there is a car park, and all the surrounding streets have on street parking available. We managed to get a space within minutes of being in town centre and walked across to the bistro.

First impressions were that it looked like a small rustic cafe, which I suppose is how it should look, given that by day it functions as a cafe, but that wasn’t necessarily a bad thing. There was a large table booking and a couple sat separately, We were given the choice of anywhere else and chose to sit in the little cove by the window. It was cosy, but not in a cramped way by any means, it was cute and, paired with the low sounds of Bob Marley, gave the air of a relaxed and chilled intimate dining room. It was the perfect atmosphere to start off our weekend of relaxation.

Jess was so attentive and really tailored our experience. We built up such a great rapport with her with such minimal effort; she was interested in what we had to say, and keen to ensure our experience was nothing short of first class. Nothing was too much trouble, not even our indecisive (and overtired) brains. From the off she was on top of what we liked/disliked and guided us through what was best to choose for us and how she could make it different to meet our needs/preferences etc. So from the outset we knew we were getting our needs met. She even giggled with us when we mentioned we forgot our wine (it’s a bring your own and pay corkage kind of deal) so we ended up buying cordials instead.

The food. I mean. Where do I start? The menu and deal I suppose. The menu was 2 courses for £20, 3 for £25, and for an evening meal I don’t really consider that bad prices at all. Starter was not a hard choice for me at all. I saw the word “avocado” and I was sold. The dish was their take on a caprese salad; caprese for those who aren’t aware is a tri colour Italian salad normally consistent of mozzarella, tomato and basil seasoned with olive oil and salt, making up the colours of the Italian flag. However, instead of the basil representing the green in this salad, there was an avocado crush which was served on a bed of mozzarella topped with oven roasted on the vine tomatoes and some mixed leaves and bread on the side. It was delicious, the flavours were amazing. I said it then, so I will repeat it now… it took every ounce of energy I had to not lick the plate clean (although I was told no one would judge if I did hehe).

For main course there was some debate for the birthday girl, but for me there was none; I tend to go with the vegetarian or vegan dish on most menus, as meat and dairy affect my intolerance and stomach issues, plus they are usually exceedingly tasty. So I went with the Romano Pepper and birthday girl (who loves fish) went with the Catch of the Day which was sea bass. We both absolutely loved it. I can’t personally comment on the fish dish (I wouldn’t even try any as I hate dish) but I have to admit that it looked appealing. But the romano pepper. Wow. Just. Wow! It was bursting with flavour. It felt, along with the relaxed-go-happy atmosphere, like I was back in Santorini for a moment. It was a party in my mouth and it made my soul dance. Served with the cous cous, beans and tenderstem broccoli… I was in heaven. It’s like I had gone into a kitchen and made the choices myself (and I am quite particular about what I like to go together). I couldn’t offer advice on room for improvement to be honest because it was my kind of perfect.

Then it came time for pudding. The food, up to this point, had been so amazing. The menu choices for pudding were all so tempting. How were we supposed to choose? We expressed this and asked for help. Jess made the solution simple… it was to the effect of “don’t choose, I will make you a sharer board with a bit of everything”. How utterly perfect?

To break it down:
Home made honey ice cream – as someone who hates honey, for me to want to keep eating more than a small taster spoonful is amazing, but I did. BECAUSE IT WAS AMAZING!
Chocolate brownies – vegan and gluten free yet tasted so moist and so much like best chewy dairy brownies I’ve tasted that it was impossible to tell. They were divine.
Eton Mess – I mean. It’s meringue, strawberries and cream. What’s not to like? It was amazing. The meringue was just the perfect amount of crisp and chewy.
Lemon cake with orange curacao cream – so moist and flavoursome. I couldn’t stop eating it even when I was waaaaaaay past full.

I have no constructive criticism for them, except I could moan that they make me want to get super fat, but actually that says more about my complete lack of self control than their food. It was to die for. I would happily go back a million times over.

And to top it off, rapport and conversation that had built up through the evening led to the discover that they own a grocers just next door, La Vida Verde: promoting zero waste, buying local and plastic use reduction. The kind of ethics I love to hear about (we may have had a sneaky tour at the end of our meal). Thank you. We will be back.

Review: The Bush Inn

We were excited to go to The Bush Inn, a place that always has a picnic bench afternoon tea; such a fun concept must be a really fun place. And the fact that it’s so popular must mean that they are doing something well right? Well… in my opinion, not really. I mean. It looks the part, and the concept is fun and they change the table to match the season. But, for me, that’s where it ends.

I was wary after the phone call to book to be honest. I called and asked if they had availability for the date I was interested in, I was asked if I wanted afternoon or evening, I said afternoon would be preferable and was met with “well we only have availability at 5:45pm, so you have to come in the evening” I was a bit taken aback, and didn’t instantly respond. And was met with an exacerbated, “hello!”, but I swallowed what I felt was a complete lack of customer service and told them that we were coming for someone’s 30th birthday and continued with the booking none the less.

Upon arrival it was clear that the whole restaurant was booked out for these benches all night. And it all felt very crammed and very rushed. No sooner had we sat down, someone was out to check if we had any dietary needs and then bam! It was on the table. The atmosphere didn’t feel relaxed, it felt packed and crammed and like the night was all about cramming as many in for as maximum profit as possible.

This also came across in the food. We had the valentines bench which consisted of:
Savoury:
Fries – slightly on the dry side
Chicken Lollipop with sweet chilli sauce – again, slightly on the dry side as if it had been sat out under a heat lamp
Aberdeen Angus slider burger – the best thing on the picnic bench. Succulent and juicy, very tasty.
Mini Lasagne – it seemed as if they had been mass prepared and frozen (I could be wrong) but the moment I put my fork in it, it collapsed and it was very watery. I have only experienced this with frozen lasagne hence my conclusion but yes. It wasn’t very good.
Sweet:
Valentines Cheesecake in a shot glass – was quite bland. Not a great deal of flavour. Was a nice texture though.
Banoffee Pie in a shot glass – much like the cheesecake, very little flavour
Rolo Rocky Road – to be honest – I didn’t get around to eating this so I can’t comment
Belgian Brownie cake pop – fairly dry, but had a good flavour
Jammy Dodger Blondie – very bland, exceedingly stodgy (in a dry kind of way).
Mini bottle of pink lemonade – tasted very yummy.
Mini raspberry mojito – had a nice flavour, but I don’t think it could be classed as a mojito; it did have a sprig of mint in, but I couldn’t taste mint in the drink, only raspberry, and considering mint is an essential part of a mojito…

They didn’t skimp on quantity but in short, it felt like it was very much about the gimmick of the bench, that it was catered rather than freshly prepared, with mass production and low cost playing a higher priority that maximum quality and taste on the output and like we had to rush rather than relax and enjoy.

Also, given that, at the time of booking I made it clear that it was a 30th birthday, it was a little upsetting to see everyone around us have candles in their cakes, and none arrive to the birthday girl on our table. At £18 per person, I would say it’s over-priced. That you are paying purely for the gimmick. Definitely not great value for money. I would be hesitant to return.

Review: Wye Cottage – Penrheol Self Catering Barn Conversions

I booked to go here with another mum friend for a quiet weekend escape to celebrate a birthday (see here). We wanted a quiet place to relax, preferably without children, not too far from home with the luxury of an on site or nearby spa or a private hot tub. From the descriptions we could see (and the reviews) Wye Cottage at Penrheol seemed just the ticket. In a rural location just outside of the town of Builth Wells, complete with epic views of the countryside and hot tub it was perfect.

We had booked through Airbnb (as that’s where we found it) which was straightforward enough. Claire sent us a message with information on how to find the property, where to find the key on arrival etc. Claire’s instructions were very clear and (along with the post code being set in the Sat Nav) the property was very easy to find. On arrival, Claire came out and greeted us, gave us a quick tour, showed us how to use the hot tub and wished us well.

The accommodation was well laid out and equipped and very comfortable. Knowing it was 2 mums coming for a break, they had set the one twin up as a king room with the beds pushed together and an insert between the beds. All rooms were en suite accessible wet rooms (with seats and disability supports etc.) The spaces within the accommodation were bright and airy with modern decoration that tastefully incorporated the character features. A nice addition was the woodburner (complete with a basket of logs and some fire lighting equipment). It helped with the requirement to relax (I do love watching flames).

Some sachets of shower gel were available for use, there were plenty of towels and toilet rolls and there were extra blankets available. Some extra nice touches were the drawer full of DVDs and CDs below the TV, and the cupboard full of board games and books. In the kitchen, along with the house and hot tub rules (nothing too outrageous, just really respecting the property and neighbours), we found that we had been left freshly laid eggs, a bottle of soft drink and home made welsh cakes.

Outdoors, at the rear of the property, were amazing country views, a large garden with patio and hot tub complete patio furniture and a bbq and fire pit. At the bottom of the garden, behind some hedging is a gate leading to the children’s play area.

Wye Cottage was a brilliant place to stay. I wouldn’t hesitate to return here again, whether as a family, or as a grown up couple/group. Would highly recommend this place to other people. It is by no means a party cottage, but is most definitely a rural haven.

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!