Monday, 18 August 2014

Squib's 3rd Birthday: A toddler tea party!

Howdy folks.

Those of you who read this blog regularly will know that Squib's birthday was ages ago but I wanted to share what we did for her party as it went really well and she had such a great time as did all the grown ups and kiddies (I think!)

We were lucky enough to have Granny and Grandad around helping with washing up and serving so I actually managed to enjoy it - I KNOW, I surprised myself there!

So Mumsnet folk said don't serve anything healthy and don't cater for the adults.  I ignored them.  To me it seems a bit rude to have adults there at lunch time and not feed them.  So we made hundreds of sandwiches, scones, sausage rolls and mini meringues and they all went down a treat!

I've included a photo summary and will give details of what we did:

I think 2/3 year olds are better with an unstructured party so we had three main things going on and they could pick and choose.  And Squib got a trampoline for her birthday which provided entertainment too.

Cake stand decorating:
I bought some super thick card and googled a cake stand template and made cupcake stands for the children to decorate with stickers, pens and glitter glue.  This was more popular with some than others but was fun!

Messy play:
This was all done in our new builders' tray.  I made three lots of play dough - chocolate (add cocoa), ginger (add ginger) and vanilla and oat (add vanilla and oats) all made to The Imagination Tree's wonderful no cook recipe.  We had coloured rice in sprinkles pots, rolling pins, silicone cake cases, a piping bag sealed up and filled with shaving foam, candles, foam shapes, plastic knives, doilies, a flour shaker.  It was great!  They had a brilliant time.  Some of them enjoyed making pretend cakes and biscuits and some of them just got stuck in but they all seemed to enjoy it.  We also had a water tray with herbal tea bags, a tea pot and cups, but this was less popular.

Tea room:
I set up a pretend play tea room with real mini biscuits (mini party rings and oreos), a new tea set which was Emma Bridgewater like our one at home, flowers on the table and real water and sugar cubes and aprons to wear.  Squib dived straight in here as soon as she woke up and was very excited!

We did do a pass the parcel at Squib's request but to be honest I don't think the kids really get it at that age!

Cake sandwiches (a special request from Squib!) which were maderia cake bread with fondant ham and cheese and buttercream butter.
Fairy bread - bread buttered and covered with sprinkles
Crudites and dips
Mini meringues
Mini sandwiches
Tea bag biscuits
And the cake was the shape of a tea pot.  Squib was really confused when I brought it out as she didn't realise it was a cake! I bought these hemisphere moulds from Lakeland and made the handle and spout with florists' wire with marshmallows threaded on and then iced.

Party bags:
I made biscuits from salt dough and then stamped the children's names on and coloured the stamping in with a Sharpie.  I then stuck velcro on with UHU so that they could separate and change the fillings.
Then we found some made a cake for a bird (bird seed and a silicone cupcake mould) in The Works and put those in as the main gift.
I think it had some chocolate buttons and a balloon as well.

All the children played happily, and there was plenty to munch.  It was such a good day!  It's making me smile to remember it.  Hope it gives some of you some ideas! :)

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Long time no see....change is afoot!

Hello folks,

Sorry it's been a while.  Blogging just isn't a priority at the moment, although I'd like to turn that round again as it doesn't take long and it's been really great to be able to share and document our journey.

So, massive massive change is just a few weeks away.  Squib will start preschool 4 days per week and I'm going back to work.  Admittedly I will only be teaching 6 hours, but that's over 4 days so it will feel like a lot more, especially with parents' meetings, reports and planning.  It's the start of a new era and I'm pretty scared.  I'm mostly scared because I've never worn so many hats before or juggled so many plates.  And it's not like I'm juggling crappy plastic plates, they are all pretty important, delicate ones!  I've been a full time teacher, wife, daughter and friend before, but I've never been a teacher, mummy, wife, daughter and friend and that feels like rather a lot.  I shouldn't moan as I'm lucky enough to be working part time and I'm not moaning!  I'm quite excited to be able to put my professional hat back on and maybe spend a small part of the day without play dough under my finger nails and paint on my clothes.  But I don't think work is going to feel quite the same.

We spent a long time choosing Squib's pre-school and we are really happy with it.  It's small and nurturing and feeds in to her primary school.  I think if I wasn't sending her to pre-school for her own benefit I would be struggling a lot more with leaving her.  I don't feel guilty about it as it's the first, necessary step on her journey into schooling in this country.  We don't want to home school her as she loves other kids and loves routines and rituals....I suspect that once she's got the hang of it she's going to really love pre-school and school.  I hope so anyway.

Squib has grown so much lately, both physically and emotionally.  She's hit above 98th centile for both height and weight and she's just full of strength and vitality.  Whether she's tearing about on her scooter or riding her bike round the kitchen, she's full of mischief and fun.  Every day she makes me laugh and gives me something to feel proud of!  She's recently started doing very theatrical little bows whenever anyone congratulates her which is very funny!  When I look back at photographs from a year ago I just can't believe my eyes.  She oozes a cheeky confidence and at the moment, is just so happy.  She's managing to negotiate relationships with other children which is so wonderful to watch.  I love watching her and her little friends communicating and playing together.

They say pride comes before a fall.  And I am really proud of her, but with all her outrageous scamping she has had more than her fair share of falls so I'm not too worried!  She's always covered in bruises but her paediatrician told us that it's a good thing as it shows she's out there and having fun!

I've been so privileged over the past year and a half.  Its coming up to the date when we formally adopted her.  I think we will go out for dinner and maybe buy some new clothes for Bob the monkey (we adopted him on the same day) as I want Squib to get a sense that these milestones are special to us, that they are meaningful and important, that she is important.

We left Squib with my parents at the weekend so we could go shopping.... we have never done such a thing before!  And she was chipper as anything...perfectly happy to wave us off, and very cheerful to see us again.  Brilliant!  I wasn't even worried!  My mum is an ex-teacher child whisperer type, but even without her special talents, I feel like these attachments we worried about so much and which were so fragile, are now pretty strong.  With the court date anniversary comes the time when Squib will have been with us longer than she was without us, and that's a special thing.  I've been going on about her life like a cake for a long time, about how big the slice was that she was with'll be pretty awesome when we get to the point where our life with Squib becomes the biggest slice!

And when I start to worry about going back to work I just have to zoom out and look at the broader picture of my life.  And that's what blogging does for me...why did I leave it so long?!  I'm so bloody lucky!  I have a wife who loves me, a family who supports me, a fantastic bunch of friends, a lovely home in a wonderful place and a seriously awesome kid!  Ah, the clarity of seeing things like that in black and white is just so refreshing!

I'll try not to leave it so long next time!


Saturday, 26 April 2014

The surprising things that happened when I became a parent...

I've been musing this for a while.  I wonder how many of you will relate to it.

  • My Mum hunger knows no bounds.  I can eat and eat, but then I never sit down which leads me to...
  • My socks wear out ridiculously quickly.  I have resorted to digging out my old brown suede Birkenstocks (seriously bad lesbian stereotype shoes) to wear around the house
  • My slight gay shyness has worn off.  I am now ridiculously matter of fact about pretty much everything, leading to such gems of conversation from Squib as:
    • Grandad:  Is that a toothbrush in that little bag?
    • Squib: No Grandad, it's a tampon
    • Grandad: Oh...I see
    • Squib: Yes, Grandad, you can put it up your girly bits*
    • Grandad: Oh, erm...oh
    • Sqiub: Oh no, you not got girly bits, you got a penis..
    • Grandad: Er...yes...yes I have
* I should explain here that the girly bits thing isn't out of prudishness it's just a collective term for all the bits!
  • I have a muscle on my arm which I must have omitted to learn about at medical school but it's now so large it actually makes me feel a little bit queasy
  • My eco conscience is now constantly conflicted.  We live a constant quandary of whether we should buy free range chicken or put the money in the bank.  Whether we should use ecover or use a washing liquid which actually removes stains.  Whether we should actually carry a small bag with a flannel in it to avoid the use of baby wipes (we don't do that...a step too far in my book)
  • My need for pyjama wearing is bordering on extreme.  If I'm not in my pyjamas before 8pm I start getting twitchy
  • If I can have a conversation with a friend the whole way through without it being broken up into about 7 chapters I view it as a triumph
  • I didn't realise Squib would pick up my habit of singing everything quite so quickly.  Now if I sing her a question, she sings me a response
  • I worry more now about seeming old.  My grey hairs started to bother me....I've hit the bottle
  • I don't want our lounge to be a tidy, minimalist space.  I want our house to be cheerful and full of toys and pictures.  Our once blank walls are now filled with paintings and photos.  There's something symbolic about that I'm sure
  • I never realised quite how much I would enjoy planning her birthday parties.  I mean I am IN MY ELEMENT!  Watch this space for all the details of Squib's gorgeous birthday tea party
  • I am even more likely to talk to random old people.  I want Squib's sense of social responsibility to grow.  I am overlooking stranger danger for the time being....I love that she will engage with those around her and care about others.  I bought a man who didn't have any change a cup of tea the other day and I'm not sure I would have done that pre-Squib.  I also seem to give money to every charity box and busker...such is the toddler desire to put coins into small holes
  • I can occupy my time planning snacks and amusements for Squib on an aeroplane...I will post all my ideas at a later date!
  • I actually quite enjoy Peppa Pig...sometimes it's quite funny!
  • Same goes for slides and climbing'll be quite sad when Squib grows out of going to the park!
  • I went through a phase in the early days of using two in one shampoo and conditioner.  I soon learned my lesson as the minute or two saved resulted in hours of horror from frizz.  I won't be going back to those dark days!
  • Shopping used to be such a fun activity.  Shopping with a toddler is just hell.  Shopping without a toddler now is always quite like a frenzied binge
  • Who knew that I would ever really advocate cooking tray bakes over cup cakes?!
  • And of all our parenting discussions and wonderings when it comes to boundaries I generally stick with these simple guidelines...if it doesn't
    • hurt anyone
    • damage anything
    • cause danger
          then it's OK!  Although this can be difficult when I'm tired or she's tired or Mama's tired!

  • I also try to keep in the back of my mind that my job is about supporting my family and providing a safe space full of love for Squib to grow and learn and be the person she can be

That's it.  Although I may add to and evolve this post slightly!

Saturday, 22 March 2014

Life story work.


I must get back to blogging regularly as my brain is becoming rather like the overflowing basket I keep on top of the filing cabinet of "things to be filed."  I do find writing is an excellent way to organise my thoughts and make sense of them.  I've been doing 100happydays over on Twitter (@twomumstwokids) but have lacked the time, energy or inclination to sit down and write for a little while.  Let's see if I can get back into it again.

We have Squib's life story book now.  It's a bit rubbish.  Which makes me sad.  20 months of her life, in a bit of a rubbish folder, with typos and naff clip art and fun facts.  I'm sure it took her social worker a long time....but there was still obviously cut and paste in there (wrong names.)  I don't cut and paste when I'm writing chemistry reports which in the grand scheme of things are relatively unimportant, and so I do think it's a bit much to cut and paste from other kids' life story books.  If we didn't care (which we do) then this would be the only glimpse of Squib's life before us, and frankly, it's not good enough.  I'll stop moaning in a minute.  The main thing which bugs me (I did my PGCE dissertation on differentiation) is the fact that it's all written in a stupid, hard to read font, and has loads of full pages of text.  Squib just flicks through to get to the naff clip art.... But Birth Mum gave us over 100 photos and we passed them on to SS so they could put them in there....but they couldn't be bothered!  Why would you have a rubbish shutter stock (no offence shutter stock) image of a pregnant belly, when you could include the genuine article?  Because you can't be bothered to look for it I suppose.

Sorry.  Now I will stop moaning!  So I'm rewriting!  I'm rewriting with less text, more pictures and just generally using my teaching know how to try and make it as engaging as possible.  Squib already knows the name of her birth mother and father.  She knows that sperm comes out of a man (!) and will happily regale the story of her conception to anyone who will listen.  Which is nice!  For her, at the moment, it's just her story.  But I was going through the life story book with her and heavily abrading it, and got to the part about why she and her siblings were taken into care, and that's when it got harder.  For a long time now, I have been dropping into our day to day existence, little chats about what Mummys and Mamas should do.  They need to keep you safe....They need to keep you clean, and give you somewhere to sleep and healthy things to eat focusing on the positives of what parents should be.  And then if she asked, I would say something like "because BM couldn't keep you safe" but the life story book hits you with the facts of the matter and it's pretty hard to process and understand without judgement.  At 2 1/2 - 3 she knows that there is good behaviour and there is "not good behaviour!" She's learning to understand that for some people this varies.  Some parents let their kids walk on people's walls, some people don't...and that's OK!  She likes to police her friend's behaviour so I have to say "Squib...whose job is it to tell Fred to wash his hands? Is it your job?  Or is it Fred's Mummy's job?!"  But how can she understand that these people who hurt other people aren't necessarily bad people.  It just whooshes so far beyond her understanding that there's no way to really explain it.  I don't want to demonise her birth family, or make her feel ashamed or scared of where she was born.  So what I have been saying so far is that sometimes grown ups make mistakes and do unkind things, and that means that they couldn't provide a safe place for Squib to grow up.  But I know that she'll be asking for more detail.  Why?  Why?  Why???   And then the last time I spoke to her about it, she said "but Mummy, that's really sad" and I said to her "yes, it is really sad.  It's OK to feel sad.  It makes Mummy feel sad too." And then later that day I had to have a little cry to myself.  It would be so easy to just shut it all away in a cupboard somewhere and keep living our pretty little life pretending that none of it had ever happened.  It would just be so easy.  But the trouble with that is much like the overflowing basket on top of the filing cabinet...I can shut the door but it will still be there.  I just feel so sad for her that she has this story attached to her which is so bloody sad.

I hope that's not too much of a ramble.  I was hoping that the life story book would help.  But it's just made things more confusing as there's a phenomenal volume of information which has to be abridged by me when I read it to her.

I'm going to finish with some positives!  Phew, you all say....that was a bit heavy!  Squib is now absolutely massive.  She's taller than many 4 year olds we know and she's not 3 yet.  She's whoomphed her way up to the 98th centile for height and weight, so much so that we've had to buy a new buggy as she's exceeded the weight limit for hers.  When I was at medical school they said that when kids are in a forever home, they quite literally grow.  I never would have believed it could be so extreme.  She's tall and muscly and healthy and vibrant.  It's just such a powerful indication of how physical and emotional health are so inextricably linked.  And she's starting ballet lessons, and pre-school soon, and our little 9-5 life as Mummy and Squib will be over soon.  And on one hand I'm really looking forward to having a bit of time being teacher me, or blogger me, or just simply me.  And on the other hand I'm really proud to see how far she's come and how confident and grown up she is, and how wonderful is that she can do it on her own.  And on my third (!) hand, I'm going to miss this extra special year and a half which I've been so privileged to have with Squib.  But I think the other two hands outweigh the slightly wimpy third hand, so that's OK.  Every time I slightly mourn the loss of her being small and cute, I think about how awesome she is, and how much more awesome there will be to come as she grows and develops and soaks up all she can from the world around her.

Right...time to stop!

I will aim for a shorter blog next time.

Take care everyone xx

Friday, 7 February 2014

1 year of WASO...time for more reflection!

Today me and my small but perfectly formed family are enjoying a classic middle class mini break at Center Parcs.  Everyone has been blogging like mad in the spirit of "one year of WASO, hurrah!" And it seemed rude not to contribute! Well done to Sarah and Vicki for starting such a great thing. Both Laura and I find The Adoption Social really useful and I'm sure Squiblet will when she's a bit older.  Thank you both for all your hard work!

My blogging regularity has become rather constipated lately.  I guess I am rather an IBS blogger in that sometimes I splurge out words in a rather unpleasantly chaotic fashion and then I dry up!  I'm hoping that when Squiblet starts pre school I will feel like I have the time to blog again. I'm not great at typing and writing in the evening on account of my dodgy eyes.  It's 20.07...I'd better be quick before all the words start blurring into one and who knows what I'll end up publishing!

As you know, if you have been following our journey, this year has been huge for us. Squiblet is no longer a small, pale thing who's interests include anything which isn't found in a living room.  She's a dude.  She's got pizazz and a confidence which I just hope she will hold on it for her whole life because I know that I lost mine for periods of my life and life is just so much more fun when you love it and live it and are interested in everything!

I'll give you some classic Squiblet episodes from the last few weeks...

We walked past the fishmonger on the way home and Squiblet marched in.  We didn't need any fish.
"hello, Man! Please I have a look your fish?" Says a cheery 2 1/2 year old Squibs
"Will you get your step for me please?"
So the jolly fishmonger (who must be in his twenties) politely obeyed and proceeded to show Squiblet his wares.  We left with a bag of haddock, even though Squibs wanted monkfish (the girl will go far.)

This morning while I was still in bed:
"Mummy, something really slimy under the table, come and see!"
It was a dead frog which had been brought in by one of our cats.  Squib went and found Rosie the cat and said:
"Thank you Rosie but we like our frogs in the summer going ribbett ribbett ribbett not!"

She's great! She's expressive and funny and has a wicked sense of humour.  She's also huge (98th centile)...we were told when I did my degree that kids grow when they are loved.  She has whoomphed her way up the centile charts in quite an extraordinary fashion.  She's just over 2 1/2 and is taller than loads of 3-4 year olds we know.  I think that's why she seems so quirky because she has the vocabulary, height and confidence of a 4 year old without the social know how! I just think it's wonderful and I think stranger danger can wait as currently there's no opportunity for strangers to present dangers. If she smiles at someone and they don't smile back she looks at me soberly and says "that lady not smile at me Mummy, she a bit grumpy today...maybe she a bit <hungry> <cold> <sad>"

And what of us?  What of Mummy and Mama, Jemma and Laura as was.  Well we are good! Now is not a good time to ask as we both have a really hideous sinusitis which we are struggling on with.  As a couple, we feel like the time is right now for us to spend a bit more time together.  But equally we love spending time just the three of us.  There's a real ease to the way we all coexist at the moment. Squibs learned to use the potty a couple of weeks ago and it's boosted her confidence. She just chats the whole time, and will amuse herself more easily, which is great as I think having more time for solo play is helping her develop her sense of self.  I love to listen to her nattering away to herself as she plays with her playmobil house.

Squiblet's social worker is coming next week with her life story book and we have read her later life letter. It made me cry, of course it did, but it is well read and makes sense, and now we know what to prepare her for as we tell and retell and embellish the story as she grows up and is ready for details.

So that's been our year! 20.23 and I'm signing out to spend some of that time with my wife I was just talking about.  Even if that quality time will probably involve sitting in bed and inhaling eucalyptus steam! I'm 30 now.  I'm not glamorous or special, I'm not extraordinary, but I can reflect on my 30 years and feel confident and happy that I'm where I want to be...and who knows what will happen in the next 30 years!

  • Love to all x

Friday, 10 January 2014

Happy New Year…1 year with Squiblet

It's almost not worth me apologising for my lack of posts as I seem to do it every time I post.  Naps are few and far between these days and I can never muster up the energy to write in the evenings.

It's a year tomorrow that Squiblet moved in.  That funny old day where we drove to her foster carer's, picked her up and never looked back.  It's made me reflective….I had a weep at rhyme time because she sang the whole of Hickory Dickory Dock and did all the actions.  If I met me, and heard me tell me that, I would think I was the world's biggest nob!  It's not the fact that she can do it, it's the fact that she DID do it!  This time last year this pale little thing was surgically attached to me the whole time, watching the proceedings with wide eyes and insisting I cradle her.  Now she leads the group.  It's staggering.  Likewise at swimming this week (at least my eyes were wet anyway) when she cried "I not need you, Mummy!" and sat on the steps of the swimming pool merrily pouring watering can after watering can of water over her head and giggling hysterically.  From the girl who, just a year ago, didn't even want to get in the bath.

And now she's cheeky and wilful and knows her own mind.  She used to let all the other children go first, now she will push them out of the way…and I know…that clearly must be managed, and she's getting there.  But really, it's something to celebrate.  She now knows how to grab the world with both hands and embrace it, live it, enjoy it, love it and not just let the world turn while she watches on.  She still is a people watcher, like me, that's obviously part of her personality, but now she interacts with the people she watches; "what you doing, Man?" "Where you going, lady?!" Are often shouted across the street - I'm leaving stranger danger until she's a bit older as she just brightens so many people's days!

Christmas was a beautiful day full of surprises and smiles.  Mama did all of the cooking (with Granny) which meant that Squiblet could be as clingy as she wanted to be (which I expected she might be as it was a busy, full on day) and I didn't have to do anything but pander to her.  The most stressful time to have a clingy child is when you are cooking and you have to choose between wailing child and burned food….so there was none of that!  I opened presents, supervised scooting and sat down at 1.30 where my dinner was presented to me!  Perfect.

And so life has settled into a wonderfully normal sort of family life.  And reflecting on the past year, I think most of the time I have managed to be the sort of Mummy I had hoped I would be.  The hardest part is when you are tired and other things are demanding your time, or when anybody is ill…and now I've accepted that at those times I won't be a salt dough making, play dough creating, nature walking super mum, but that that's OK…it's actually more than OK…it's important for Squiblet to understand that I am a human being!

And now that everything has settled down, what are we doing?!  Only moving house!  Luckily Topsy and Tim are moving house so Squiblet is down with moving (they are currently her idols!) We are moving to be closer to Mama's work (currently a 45 minute commute) which should make family life easier, and if we move now then Squiblet will start preschool in the feeder to her primary school, which will be nice.  So that's a bit nuts.  The estate agents have organised an open house rather than having sporadic viewings, and I've arranged with my neighbour to fill her spare room with all our junk, booked a cleaner and arranged it for a weekend we go away!  So that should be good!  Hopefully we will find somewhere we really love too.  We love our house…. :(  but I'm sure we can find somewhere we will love just as much…and there will be a swimming pool we can walk to, which is another upside!

I'm taking part in 100happydays ( over on twitter @twomumstwokids which has been really fun.

Hopefully it won't be too long until I blog again!

Happy new year!


Sunday, 15 December 2013

Secret santa! Guest post from Dear Daughter


We are taking part in The Adoption Social's Secret Santa and this blog post is my gift from Dear Daughter, our adoption journey


I like my traditions and Christmas is a big time for traditions.  Traditions shaped my childhood Christmas memories – advent calendar, making the Christmas cake, turkey, opening pressies in our PJs, small presents for the Christmas dinner table, seeing the crib in the local church, carol service, making mince pies and Christmas Log, watching Christmas Top of the Pops … and many more.   Of course, tradition can also be read as ‘routine’ and we know how much our adopted children love routine. 
I always have a warm feeling inside when I think of Christmas as a child and I’d love my daughter to have that same warm feeling when she grows up.  This is the second Christmas we’re celebrating together as a family, her second with an advent calendar and she loves opening it this year – last year I was definitely the most excited probably because she’d never had one before.  We’re making mince pies next week and we’ve started what hopefully will be a new tradition of each making one new decoration for the tree.  We’re collecting the tree this Sunday after the local family Christingle service (her first one) and will celebrate later in the day with a roast pork tenderloin.   Christmas Eve curry, in recent years, has become a new tradition for me and Daddy anyway and since our daughter has recently developed a liking for them, I foresee a new family tradition being set down.   
As time goes on, I hope we’ll develop new family traditions but also incorporate some more of our longstanding traditions too to help make Christmas fun and memorable.