Monday, 27 May 2013

Neighbours, Everybody Needs Good Neighbours....

Another song to start today's blog entry.... Maybe that should be my theme for the next year's series of entries, I've been looking for something...

Of course, I could also have used 'History Repeating' by the great Dame that is Shirley Bassey but that might have been too obvious, or not obvious enough.... 

As you know, we moved house in September of last year, out of our beautiful Georgian townhouse (beautiful but not very kid friendly... Apart from the ghosts who were far too kid friendly... Oooo, there's another story there, remind me to tell you later)  into a far more family friendly property which overlooks a river, is near to the park and the school but which has a comparatively small garden, hence football is banned and all budding young soccer players have to make the two minute walk to the park... Of course most children don't want to walk anywhere no matter how close so balls have already gone awry after being kicked in the garden.

What is strange though is that our new neighbours are carbon copies of our old ones. To our left we have an elderly couple who live for their garden, exactly the same as our previous neighbours and, like the previous couple, they are lovely and indulge the children. On the other side we have a younger couple with no kids who are barely at home, I assume they both work late, and consequently their garden is left to its own devices. I think we are somewhere in the middle of the two, literally. I don't mind gardening but it doesn't rule my life.

Yesterday it was a lovely sunny day and the children were in the garden while Papa and their cousin who is staying with us, fired up the barbecue. Since we have had the slightest hint if summer the barbecue has been in constant use, Papa even suggested using it to bake a cake, I don't think that will taste too good but Papa wants to find out if charcoal is cheaper than electricity... 

As in our previous home TJ's version of weeding was to pull any offending weeds up and throw them over the fence, onto the elderly side not the young side who probably wouldn't even notice. I told him off and the two children and I sat down to make paper aeroplanes. Great fun. I was called upstairs and went to see what Papa needed. In the time it took me to get up the stairs and onto the balcony all of the paper aeroplanes had been lost and were to be seen poking out of next doors miniature trees and shrubs where my two had been lobbing them over the fence. Another telling off, then we went out for a walk to get rid of some energy and also to prevent TJ from putting his head into the barbecue to see 'if there was fire yet!'

On our return the kids rushed in from the garden to show me the most amazing aeroplane made out of paper, it really was a work of origami. "Wow," I said, "The neighbours must be back in and you have to say sorry and thank you now." "Why do I have to say thank you?" Asked TJ. "For the paper plane," I told him. He looked at me disparagingly and said, "But the plane came from the tooth fairy, I know because I saw him!" (Our tooth fairy is called Frank and TJ is expecting him any day now, hence we have had many 'sightings').... So I duly went over to thank the neighbours who were very nice about everything and asked if the children liked the plane they had made for them.

We had our barbecue and the young couple from next door had theirs. They  had friends over and were all sitting and chatting on their balcony, not offensive at all... Well, not to us.... TJ on the other hand finished his food and then said, very loudly, "Well, I would have enjoyed that if the people next door weren't quite so noisy!" Cue a sudden silence from everyone next door and much  hushing and 'TJ, you can't say that." from me....

Our neighbours went in soon after that and haven't spoken to us since.... They shall probably start throwing their weeds into our garden next....

Friday, 24 May 2013

Leaving on a Jet Plane...

I'm loving the song analogies this week... a bit... ok, it's a pretty poor link...

Last night the boys asked if we could go and live in Singapore. KC wants to see his Godfather - whom he adores, cousin Marcus is coming to stay tomorrow, whom both boys adore, and TJ wants to join the Arsenal soccer school, of which there are three in Singapore.

This of course led onto the question of why we left Singapore in the first place.

Obviously, we explained that is we hadn't have left then we wouldn't have been able to adopt the two of them and they would never have met us, but that didn't seem enough - so we went on to chat about how they were only babies when Papa and I returned to the UK and how we wanted to come back and Papa had been offered a great job and I had decided I wanted to try something new.

"You were an actor" KC said, "But you only ever wanted to be an actor." KC currently wants to be an actor - or a vet, or join the army, maybe all three. "Ah yes," I said knowingly, "But an actors life is short lived and anyway, I wanted to come back for a while". Obviously the full story was a bit more complex and we did question whether coming back would be a good idea - although at that time becoming a family wasn't particularly high on our agenda..

We eventually decided that it would be silly not to come back. My career was in the wane in Singapore, the last press articles had referred to me as being the worst thing at British Fashion Week, where I was only the host. Apparently, according to the fashion press, my clothes were so tight that you could see every roll of fat and it was just horrific – in my defense, I had turned up in a suit and the designers wanted me to wear their own stuff, fine if you are a tiny Asian chap, which I am not. I don’t believe I’m fat by any means but a white guy wearing the equivalent of European kids clothes is not going to look good. 

However, being the consummate professional (and because they said they wouldn’t pay me if I didn’t do it) I went on stage and introduced the beautiful models wearing the stunning clothes using my best Judith Chalmers type accent but wearing a tiny outfit and looking not unlike ‘Daffyd, the only gay in the village’ from ‘Little Britain’. I knew how bad I looked and had tried to hide behind the lectern, but that was just a piece of transparent plastic which probably acted as a magnifying glass.

Worse still the day after I had to attend a luncheon with the British High Commission to look at the hosting schedule for the IMF meeting that was to happen later that year. When I walked into the restaurant everyone hurriedly put away the newspapers and started talking nervously about other things. “It’s ok,” I said, “I’ve seen the article” (it was hard not to as it was a full front page colour shot of me in the offending outfit with large red arrows pointing to my rolls of fat, or ‘fats’ as they were referred to, under the headline of ‘The Lowlight of Fashion Week” I was standing next to the 'Highlight', some skinny bitch from the Ukraine I think – she wasn’t even British!) There was a sigh of relief around the table, “Thanks goodness,” the High Commissioner said, “We were worried how we could broach it.” “Don’t worry,” I replied, “ I’ll wear a suit for Gordon Brown” and everyone laughed – inside though I died a little.

So leaving Singapore wasn’t that tough a decision to make.

Going back would be just as tough.... but at least TJ could take his Arsenal kit....

Thursday, 23 May 2013

The Arsenal Cavalier

"I've got fleas - they're multiplying and I'm losing control...."

So sang Lea this morning whilst getting ready for school - I didn't want to correct her as she was showing me the dance she had made up to go along with her favourite song from the musical Grease. It consisted of her scratching under his arms and jumping around like a monkey. I thought it was fairly creative so let her get on with it (such a tomboy!). TJ was suitably impressed giving Lea an 8 out of 10 - believe me, anything above a 5 is good from that little critic! (I did get a 10 for fish fingers once - but that's another story!)

We are coming now to the half term break and both boys are getting excited. Today it is dress up day for TJ and, for once, I remembered. But I couldn't recall what the theme was, I knew it had something to do with their recent trip to Dover castle - TJ's favourite part of the trip was running up the stairs from the dungeons to the top - "What about the rest of the castle?" I asked him. "I don't remember that," he replied, "But I was a really fast runner up the stairs."So much for an educational day out - they could have just as easily taken him to a local high rise and asked him to run to the top and back again - he would have remembered just as much. Although, to be fair, I did get a picture of him from school today sitting on a throne dressed as a King, so he must have stopped running at some point.

Anyway, back to dressing up day. "Do you remember what the teacher said?" I asked TJ. As anyone with small children knows asking them to remember anything is like pulling teeth. "I think I can wear my Arsenal kit," came the reply. "really?" I asked, "Its a sports dress up day is it?"TJ thought just a few seconds too long before saying, "Yes, yes, it's a sports dress up day." Warning signals had gone off. A, he had paused to think and B, there was a mention of Arsenal. TJ has had his Arsenal and football privileges suspended for urinating over another child... when I say urinating he didn't just wee on the other boy's shoe or leg, no, my son sprayed the child from head to foot completely drenching him... the reason? TJ told the other child he wanted to wee on the floor and the other child said he would 'tell on' TJ if he did that - so TJ wee'd on him instead. Great. I was back in school and spent about 20 minutes apologising to the teachers, the boy and his Mum whilst glaring at TJ.

Needless to say this week TJ has been on a tight leash - literally! He has to earn back his football club and kit - and it does seem to have done the trick. Normal rewards and consequences (stickers or the naughty step) just don't work with TJ, so in a way I am secretly pleased that we have finally found something that he really cares about.

So the Arsenal kit was not an option. I quickly gave school a call, yes it was dress up day and the theme was 'Castles!' That made sense and we had bought TJ a Cavalier suit a little while ago. "Its too small." He cried as we tried it on, "And the hat's too big. Can't I wear my Arsenal kit.""They didn't have football kits in the old days, I said, "They wore stuff like this." "But I hate it!" he cried again. "This is supposed to be fun!!!" I yelled at him, "Now get dressed and have fun!"

"Can I take my sword then?" he asked once we had calmed down, "No, school said no swords." I replied. "How can I have fun without a sword!" he yelled at me... this was not going to be an easy morning.

Eventually, we all toddled off to school, TJ clutching his dressing up clothes for after lunch and Lea led the way practising her song to show her teacher. I hope the teacher likes the song and I pray that TJ keeps his clothes on....

Monday, 20 May 2013

Beyond IDAHO

.. Firstly I can't believe how successful that last blog post was - I can only thank people for their support in sharing it and for taking the time to write back. There were some truly lovely messages - especially via the facebook page. (I know it can be difficult commenting on here - hence the facebook link).

I think what has surprised me most about the success of our story is simply because that is all it is, our story. I don't want to change the world just let people know that being a multi cultural gay family can really work. We have the same ups and downs as anybody else, although sometimes with more dramatic results I guess and some of our 'issues' have to be handled differently but we just get on with life.

This was always intended to be a light hearted take on our lives and I hope I have kept it that way (excusing the occasional rant - but that's parenting!). I just hope I have kept it honest...

This weekend was an interesting one, our youngest son TJ has had to grounded again. his time for misdemeanors in school. Not only is our youngest now telling the teachers what he wants to do and refusing to do anything that he doesn't want to but he has also taken his anger out on other children in his class - I won't go into details but he is pretty lucky not to have been suspended... I have done my utmost to remain calm when school called me in for the third time on Friday... I take my hats off to his teachers for their ongoing patience. The upshot was that TJ didn't get to go to the movies with Papa on Saturday (their weekly Papa/son time) he got to stay at home with me and together we made 'I'm sorry' cupcakes for his teachers at school. To be honest, I think he had quite a good time - he got to crack the eggs and measure the ingredients and, most importantly, whilst we were baking we had time to chat. To talk about how he was angry all the time but he didn't know why. He wasn't angry with me or Papa - just everybody else... and especially school because they told him what to do... and especially the Sprog... which took me by surprise... Their bond is usually the strongest, but this is a week that has seen TJ in constant trouble and Sprog doing really well in school.

I suppose much of his anger towards those who tell him what to do must stem back to his time in care, the fact that he had no control over where he went or where he lived. As he settles he is now hitting back at the system,  of course, he doesn't know he is doing this, but he is trying, I think,to show that he can have some control over his own life. Unfortunately, that doesn't play out too well in a school setting.

Someone did talk to me about home schooling. Apparently a lot of adopted children benefit greatly from the removal of the constraints of school. I can see that argument, especially at the moment, but I also fear that he would then miss out on the social side of school and also, in my opinion, he has to come to terms with the idea of rules...

My only other reason for removing him from school would be discrimination... He is a child with attachment issues, additional needs, living in a 'modern' family... But I think that is a long way off....

Now back to answering emails from the Facebook page... I hope to see you there!

Friday, 17 May 2013

IDAHO and School...

TJ has been coming home from school this week concerned that other children were telling him that being gay is a bad thing. He is fairly open about most things and was quite happy to tell me that other boys had said that there was a 'gay' toilet in school and that TJ must be gay because he used it (I've no idea where this toilet is - but school can be a funny place), he then went on to say that people use the term gay in a derogatory sense in school (obviously he didn't use those exact words) but he did tell me that certain friends say that things are 'gay' when they mean they are rubbish...'That's so gay... etc'. Obviously, this is quite a common use of the word in today's youth speak but for TJ, at this current time in his life, it has different connotations. As he is coming to terms with acknowledging that his Dad's are gay and that there are gay people in his world to suddenly hear negative views must be very confusing for him.

I remember a couple of years ago I was asked to speak to our local council about bullying in primary schools - they were obsessed with cyber bullying and how to tackle that. When I brought up homophobic bullying in schools I was simply told, "That doesn't really happen in primary schools - its just a bit of banter at that age." and the conversation was moved on...

Well, as more and more gay parents send their children to state schools then schools have to recognise that the 'harmless banter' is incredibly hurtful and confusing to many of our children, especially as they become more aware of differences in family life.

TJ has been telling his friends that the reason he doesn't have a mum is because she is in prison for doing a variety of horrid things, one of which is smoking. I know this because his little friends told me and at that age they are obsessed with families that are different - be it a same sex family or a single parent family. At this stage my main concern for TJ is that he has gone from being confident about his family to lying about his background - this may also explain some of his recent 'acting out' in school.

The Sprog is getting more aware - someone said to me that children shouldn't be learning about this type of thing at such an early age, but on the flip side it is also said that if a child is old enough to ask then they are old enough to be told the truth - all be it in a child friendly way. So it was back to the book 'Let's Talk About Where Babies Come From' which covers a great range of families and how they are created. (In the USA its called 'It's Amazing') an excellent book that he can understand and which I think TJ can be introduced to now.

Interestingly today is IDAHO (International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia) and this morning I used the opportunity to broach the subject of homophobia with the children - how it was not ok to discriminate against anyone. The Sprog said, 'You mean like when people say that being gay is bad?""that's right," I replied at which point, to my horror, TJ said, "Gay... eeeeurgh! Gay is horrid!"

Wow! I had to stop, the Sprog stared at TJ with his mouth open. "You can't say that," he said, Daddy and Papa are gay, that makes them sad."

"Are they?" TJ asked and he looked at me questioningly. "Yes, we are," I replied. "What's gay?" asked TJ. "It's where two men or two ladies love each other," the Sprog told him, "It also means happy." he added. "Oh," TJ said, "I thought being gay meant being dead." He wouldn't be drawn any further on the conversation but I wonder if other kids have said 'Your Dads are gay' and he has assumed they mean dead, which again could explain some of his recent behaviours. Of course, I may be over thinking it... (that happens a lot!). But one thing is certain, homophobia and homophobic comments start at a very early age - and it needs to be discussed openly and honestly at both home and at school - after all we wouldn't allow racism at home or in school and this is exactly the same.

I sat with both boys and we talked about TJ's Godfather, who is very involved with the Pink Dot movement in Singapore and I explained that unlike England, in Singapore it is still not allowed for two men to love each other. The Sprog looked horrified, "but then Uncle wont be able to find someone he loves and get married," he said. "Well, Uncle is in love but no, he can't get married in Singapore," I told him, The Sprog ran and got his pink dot cushion that Uncle had given him, "So this means that men should be able to love each other?" he asked. "Yes, that's right," I said. "Then why doesn't Uncle come to live with us? That way he can be happy with his love." The Sprog said.

I wanted to point out that the very reason that Papa and I had come back as because we wanted to have a family and as the laws changed in the UK so it seemed the right time, Papa then got offered a job and we came. I didn't add that in Singapore our four years together were not recognised so Papa nearly had his partnership visa revoked - luckily we had friends in the British High Commission who were able to help us get together all the correct documents but it did mean that Papa and I rushed our civil partnership through in 6 weeks in order to ensure his visa was correct. To be honest his work visa would have come through in time for him to start his new career but if he lost his job then he would have had to have gone back so it was better to get a partnership visa. Once full gay marriage is approved we will have a proper ceremony as so many of our friends and family missed out on our rushed Civil Ceremony. But back to the kitchen.....

TJ was listening intently to it all... "Let me get this straight," he said in his serious grown up voice, "Being gay means two men that love each other, two ladies that love each other or being happy?" "Pretty much," I said. "So is the Candyman gay?" he asked.

The Candyman had just come on the radio - as it does every Friday on Radio 2.

I was a bit stunned... "I don't think Sammy Davis Junior was gay,"I told him. "I meant its a happy song," he said disparagingly, "and you said that gay also means happy."

"Yes, yes, this is a very gay song," I said. The Sprog looked at me, "So are you saying its good or bad?" (obviously we had gone full circle back to gay being a derogatory term). "What do you think?" I asked him.

"Its a good thing!" he replied smiling. And the three of us danced around the kitchen to 'The Candyman" - How gay is that?

In the meantime I shall keep an eye on developments in school for both kidss... and I will definitely let TJ stay up for Eurovision this weekend!

Thursday, 16 May 2013

The Napoleon Complex....

This seems to be something our youngest son is currently suffering from.

As regular readers will know TJ has a condition known as Noonan's syndrome - in his case it primarily effects his size, so although he is 7 he is roughly the size of a 4 year old - which means that he can get away with an awful lot. Being little and cute and having the ability to turn on the tears at the drop of a hat certainly has its advantages!

I have been called into the school three times this week - last week, you may recall, my youngest was holding his teachers to ransom - he would only do the test required if he was allowed to build a castle out of boxes afterwards. Well, we had a long chat with him about respecting teachers and that he didn't make rules in school etc. I also spoke to his therapist who pointed out that it was much more about control - that as our youngest was now becoming more settled so he was trying to control the areas of his life that he felt he could - most children tend to do this through food, refusing to eat etc, TJ does it through bargaining and getting people (parents as well) to coax him into doing what they want - usually by bargaining with him and eventually giving him precisely what he wanted in the first place.

Control is a big thing for many children, but for those who have come through the care system and who have suffered severe abuse it takes on a different aspect. In their birth families they had no control of the horrors that were going on around them and often happening to them, in the care system they had no control as to where they went, who they lived with or for how long, they were always ready to be moved on. So now TJ is more settled he is trying to exert his own form of control. Last year he did it through self harming and now that we have worked our way through that he is doing it through will power - or the Napoleon Complex as we have knick named it, the need for this little man to control all those around him.

So in order to ensure that both the teachers and we as parents are using the same techniques I went into school and had a chat with the teacher. We put into place a 'smiley' face scheme. The aim is to ensure that he gets a smiley face at the end of each day - providing he does this he can go to his beloved football club as usual. Any misdemeanours and there will be no football that week. It sounds harsh but as TJ also has the ability to disassociate and can completely cut himself off from the outside world, particularly if its something that he doesn't like (again this is a defence mechanism learned whilst with his birth family) However, recently he has made some progress and now the only thing that really matters to him is football - if you took away anything else he wouldn't care - and the usual discipline tactics very rarely have any effect on him, he doesn't want reward stickers, he switches off of you shout at him... all he cares about is playing football. So, rather than simply rewarding good behaviour we now have to put into place consequences for poor behaviour. Let's hope this has an effect.... although I have just been told that he will probably score quite low on his recent SATS tests... I'm not that concerned about the actual test itself, personally I think its ridiculous that 7 year olds have to undergo test conditions... I am concerned that he simply refused to do many of them, especially the ones he didn't like... He simply sat there and told the teachers that he wouldn't be doing it and that was that. He didn't relent at one point and tried to get the teacher to let him 'only do half the test', luckily the teacher was having none of that and hence I was called in. So consequences have to be metered out I'm afraid... great...

This then leads us onto the area of parenting that I hate - that of being the 'bad guy'. TJ has already told me that he is looking forward to my death in order that he can then 'do what he likes'. I was prepared to be told the usual kid things; "I hate you," "I wish you were dead" etc at some point... but to be told by your youngest son that he is looking forward to your demise in such a calm and calculated manner puts the fear of God in me... But I shall still have to go ahead and cancel football club for him for this week - I have to stand by the threat and carry it through - or I will simply be giving him back the control he so desperately wants.... sometimes parenting seems so cruel...

On a more positive note both boys were with me yesterday when our new mattress was delivered. The delivery man was joking with them and then said, 'Who is this mattress for, you boys or your Mummy and Daddy?" To which Lea quickly replied, "We don't have a Mummy we have two Dads, and we are very lucky." The man looked at me and said, "Well, that told me didn't it?" he then smiled and said, That's one very bright little girl you have there." The children then raced up the stairs to show the men where to put the mattress.....

So we must be doing something right....

Monday, 13 May 2013

I did it....

... yes, I did.

I now hold the dubious title of being the first to swear at the children... I'm not proud of the fact and I have been feeling guilty all morning. It didn't help when I called Papa to tell him of my terrible transgression and he laughed, "I thought it would be me who was the first to use an expletive," he said triumphantly, "I can't believe it was you! Well, that's your 'Dad of the Year' award out the window now!" and he howled at his own little joke...

What caused this dreadful misdemeanour?

Well, this morning was the standard Monday morning ready for school day. Except that over the weekend Papa and I had been putting up shelves and a bookcase as well as preparing the garden for a delivery of garden furniture today so our normal weekend routine had been thrown slightly. Usually on a Sunday I get everything ready for school - book bags, sports kits, shoes cleaned etc, on well prepared days I even get the packed lunches ready and in the fridge.

That didn't happen and it's a mistake I won't make again.

This morning we were suddenly in a major rush - TJ was shouting for his football boots, Lea was complaining that she didn't want cheese sandwiches, she wanted jam. "Ok',' I said, "I'll make you jam sandwiches!' So I got the jam out of the fridge (lovely Pear and Ginger - which Lea loved at the wedding, so I bought 4 jars!), Lea took one look at it and said, 'Not that jam, jam is supposed to be red not green." I was now trying to wash a dirty football boot in the sink whilst making a jam sandwich with apparently the wrong sort of jam - she didn't want lovely farm made jam that was her favourite until that very moment - no she wanted supermarket 'everyday' sugar filled rubbish. Well, tough, as I didn't have any.

TJ then decided that he wanted toast for breakfast - after I had already prepared the cereal he requested when he got up. Again, tough - they had to eat what was in front of them.

I got the lunches packed and ready and poured the children their juices, Lea likes only apple and TJ only likes red juice - it doesn't matter what type as long as it is red (Arsenal red!)

School uniforms next. I raced upstairs and sorted out the school uniforms before collecting book bags and homework.

The kids were screaming at each other - I have no idea what the squabble was about - jam probably, but by now my head was beginning to pound and I need a coffee. I don't allow myself coffee until after the kids have gone to school and I can sit down. I was getting more and more agitated as for the third time I told the kids to sit down and eat properly.

Then the phone wrang, it was the school. TJ is to be called before the headteacher today - for refusing to sit his test paper. Thats a blog in itself so I'll do that later... its a good one! Anyway, the school told me that I wouldn't need to come in they would deal with my youngest themselves.

TJ heard this and said to Lea, "That's good news, Daddy doesn't have to come in," TJ now thinks he has got away with his behaviour - just you wait young man!

Anyway, the upshot was that in this frenzy TJ gave Lea a push, Lea knocked her apple juice all over the floor that I had just mopped yesterday evening, time froze and I just erupted... "What the f***!" I shouted... Lea burst into tears and went to her room while TJ sat there with his mouth open revealing the cornflakes that were waiting to be chewed. I stood there feeling incredibly guilty - so I covered it up as all parents do when they feel they are in the wrong... I shouted louder and made sure the kids knew that my losing my temper was in fact their fault. They went to their rooms and got changed - although I knew they were discussing my transgression (or maybe that was my paranoia).

So we went off to school and to be honest as soon as we got near the gate the children saw their friends, gave me a quick kiss goodbye, and rushed off to get on with their school life. Hopefully they won't remember the events of this morning by lunchtime... hopefully...

Wednesday, 8 May 2013

Divide and Conquer...

So this is an area where adopted children are said to excel - they experience it from very early on in their lives and soon become used to power struggles and maintaining their own safety - its a kind of defence mechanism I guess.

If the parents are busy fighting each other then they wont be taking their anger out on the kids... its awful to think that comes as an inbuilt device for so many in the care system.

Unfortunately, our youngest is king of this and it is now continuing in school - yesterday I was told that he practically held his teacher's to ransom - he was not going to do his test unless they allowed him to rebuild his castle - and he was adamant - he even held his ground until the teachers gave in. Whilst a part of me admires that grit and  can't resist  a smile at imagining him bargaining with his teachers - there is another part that worries about his distinct lack of concern for anyone in authority. Again, when you have been in care you are pretty much invincible- everything you say is listened to and given weight - particularly when it is aimed at adults - after all, unlike birth children, everyone who comes into contact with these children is paid to do a role and is therefore scrutinised constantly. Our eldest is now using his therapy as means of dividing Papa and myself-  or attempting to. He reports things to his therapist expecting there to be action when Papa or I don't behave as he wants us to - ie. we tell him off, apparently shouting is a big 'no no'. His therapist and I are now discussing whether this is now a good time to put his therapy on hold for a while - in order for him to have to trust us and not the professionals.

I sat him down this morning, shortly after the two kids threw apple juice over each other and informed them that they would be shouted at if they behaved so badly - and that if shouting was so upsetting then maybe they should try being good and nobody would have to shout... I must admit I was at my wits end with them both! (I'm pretty sure that is not in the 'good parenting guide')

Papa and I had a big chat last night - mainly about parenting and how it has changed our lives - not always for the good. I hate to admit it but there are times when we think that our lives would have been so much easier without all this hassle. We sat down and tried to remember why we wanted to do this - I can honestly say we couldn't but we knew we were committed to these children and somehow we had to ensure that they didn't play us against each other - as they are doing...

Its obvious that KC sees me as the soft touch - but I have seen him at his lowest, I've picked him up off the floor when it all got too much and sat with him as he sobbed about his past.  I can relate to him as he is so open with his feelings - now... it took me a long time to get him there but now he needs to move on and (I hate to say it ) but grow up.

TJ on the other hand is tiny - due to a condition - and as such plays his size off against any form of discipline - he can turn the tears on at the drop of a hat, but the tears don't mean anything. He is very withdrawn and does respond to Papa, I think because they are both more reserved and I have to be careful not to push TJ away - but again, we have a tendency to treat him as a baby and heap so many expectations on our older child....  we cannot play favourites although I'm sure the children know which one of us favours which child....

Parenting is hard and, I'm not looking for sympathy - just sharing, adopting can be a nightmare!!!!!!

Friday, 3 May 2013

May Day... A Royal Story...

So its officially the May Day bank holiday weekend and the children were watching Maypole dancing on a kids TV programme last night.

"Why are they doing that?" TJ asked. "Well, its to celebrate the beginning of Summer," I replied. "Do they have a barbecue?" asked TJ. "I think they probably have one afterwards if its nice weather," I told him. The Sprog said, "Did you do things like that when you were little, Daddy?"

The kids are obsessed with the idea of myself and Papa as children at the moment, they say its a sign of recovery from trauma when children start to settle enough to think about their own future and are able to put their past behind them, so we are doing all we can to encourage this interest, showing pictures of us as boys, getting the children to talk to their Grandparents etc. So I carried on, "When I was little we lived in a village and every year we used to have a big party when the whole village would come together and there would be stalls and a parade and parties afterwards - it was lots of fun." (admittedly it does sound like the beginning of a particularly gory episode of 'Midsomer Murders' but it also sums up the village atmosphere.)

"Do you have any photos?" TJ asked. "I think Granny has," I replied, "We can ask her to show us next time we see her." Again this brought back memories of my Dad's endless 'slide shows' where we would all sit huddled in a darkened living room with the screen set against the wall and my Dad leaning over the projector and us laughing when he put the pictures in upside down - which I now appreciate he probably did deliberately in order to break the monotony of seeing yet another beautiful picture of a tree in Snowdonia..."

Then I suddenly remembered one particular Village Day and wondered how on earth I was going to explain this one to my kids...

It was 1977, Silver Jubilee year, and our street were putting together a float that was to show a re-enactment of the coronation using the children who lived on the street. Our street was unusual in that there was a lot of boys living there and only one girl who was old enough to sit on the back of the lorry and be paraded through the streets of the village. So the boys were all press ganged into being soldiers, courtiers etc. I, being the same age as the young lady, was to be Prince Philip and accompany my Queen.... All ok so far.

Then the week before the big day we heard that the young lady playing the queen was to be crowned as the Village May Queen and would therefore have to leave our float in order to sit in her own 'carriage' to her crowning ceremony as Rose Queen which was always at the end of the parade.

There was an emergency 'street' meeting. The families all got together in our living room and my Dad's home made wine was shared out - to be honest this was probably the cause of all the problems - my Dad's home made elderflower was extremely popular but also lethal, my aunt once commented that you could run a car off the fumes alone - and then proceeded to drink a bottle and have to be carried home. So everyone was debating what to do... "Should we change our float's theme?" - no it was too late, "Should we cancel the float this year?" - this was met with cries from the kids, we always knew we would have a great time and who wouldn't want to ride on the back of a lorry through the village (kids TV was pretty dull then and riding on the back of a lorry was an annual highlight!). So what were we to do?....

Then my Mother spoke.... As I recall it, it still replays in slow motion, "My son will do it." The other parents and kids looked at her, "What do you mean?" another parent asked, "He is already playing Prince Philip."

Now the world around me froze as my Mum said, "No, he can be the Queen - he wont mind - he loves dressing up." she then turned to me and I felt the eyes of everyone in the street bearing down on me, eagerly pleading with me to agree to this abomination... I was only 8 after all... "Come on dear, " my Mum went on, "If you don't do it then you'll be letting everyone down and we'll have to cancel the float."

Time stood still.

"Ok," I whispered.

There was another silence whilst this sank in. Then the room seemed to breathe a sigh of relief and everyone relaxed and now drank Dad's wine with celebratory gusto... everyone except my Dad who was now very quiet...

So the big day came - my Mum did my hair - she put an horrendous brown wig on me and I was fully robed in an exact scaled down copy of the Queen's coronation gown, the crown itself kept falling off, so my younger brother was given the task of standing in front of me holding the crown on a gilt cushion (which was actually from our front room). I got up onto the float and sat on my throne, another lady was teaching me how to wave like a royal as a mocked up orb and sceptre were thrust into my hands. The rest of my courtiers and entourage got up on to the float - all the boys from my street who were by now beside themselves laughing and my brother took pride of place in front of me wearing the biggest grin I have ever seen.

My Dad, came up and whispered in my ear, "It's alright," he said, "No-one will recognise you and it will all be over soon - I'll take your jeans and t-shirt to the school and you can change straight after."

I breathed a sigh of relief, I just had to get through the village and pretend to be a girl - no-one would know it was me.

We pulled out of the street and my Dad was right - no-one recognised me, I heard a few people ask who I was and someone even said, "That's a pretty girl - she should've been Rose Queen." I was pretty pleased by that and even my brother was getting tired of grinning at me. Then we rounded a corner and I saw my family all standing together, Dad had obviously been too embarrassed to tell the extended family of my acting debut as my Aunt (who had probably already been on the elderflower wine) suddenly shouted out, "Bloody Hell, that's your son!" she turned to my parents, "It is isn't it?" and then the worst thing in the world happened as she turned to the float and in front of a huge crowd of kids from my school started waving and shouting, "Oy, love, look over here - I need a nice picture of you..." she turned to the assembled crowd, "That's my nephew that is - but doesn't he make a pretty girl!"

By now I wanted the float to speed off and drive over a cliff but it didn't - it pulled into the school field accompanied by a horde of school kids shouting my name, laughing and waving at me. Great...

Dad got me off the float and took me up to the school toilets where I could get changed, although unfortunately the 1970's make up seemed to be etched into my skin and no amount of scrubbing with school hand soap would shift it. So now I was in jeans and a t shirt and full regal make up.

"Never mind,' said Dad, "You did your bit and it will all be forgotten soon. Let's go and have some fun - your Mum's buying the ice creams!"

No sooner had he said that when the Head master stood up to give the winning floats their prizes - there was a lot of competition between the different streets and organisations to get this award. "The winner for this silver jubilee carnival is.. the scouts tropical beach getaway." I breathed a sigh of relief as the scout leader went and collected the prize. "But a special commendation and a jubilee special prize goes to the Children's Coronation," I froze as he carried on, "Can her majesty the Queen come up here and collect the prize." I was pushed up to the front - but by now I was back in my own clothes and any remaining doubts there may have been about who was playing the Queen were now dispelled - everyone in the whole village now knew it was me.

I went up and collected the award and turned to the crowd and to a huge round of applause gave a regal curtsey... then I went and ate ice cream and had a fun afternoon.

Looking back I have to apologise to the real Rose Queen (you know who you are) as I think I upstaged her that day and what should have been a lovely childhood memory for her was destroyed by my reveal as the first drag queen our village knew - publicly anyway... I also think I had a prettier gown...

Now I have to explain those slides to my kids...

Thursday, 2 May 2013


So one week after the wedding and we are all back to normal now. We have finally stopped saying; "This time last week we...."

Papa and I decided to throw ourself into decorating our new home and getting it ready for the summer. We had selected the wallpaper for the dining room and the living room a while ago and decided that now was the time to do it!

Papa is amazing at things like this - his DIY skills are brilliant - mine are rubbish but what I lack in talent I make up for in enthusiasm (to coin a phrase) - Oddly enough on our way back from the wedding we were listening to the Paddington stories on audio cd (read by Stephen Fry - excellent). One of the stories, which TJ thought was hilarious, was the one where Paddington decides to 'help' the Brown's by wallpapering his own room with disastrous results. I'm not sure if that was what put the idea into my head but by the end of the journey we were all geared up to spend the weekend up to our furry little ears in wallpaper and paste.

The living room was a joy to do - we covered everything and I was in charge of pasting - it was a good idea to cover everything as I am a little splash happy with paste and ended up with more of it on me than on the walls. But Papa has a great eye and my Habitat lined paper was up and it looked vertical - Papa had used a spirit level to ensure everything was in line....

We then moved to the dining room and I had selected a 1950's style paper which matches our white washed wooden floors. All good - there was a slight gap in the paper - due to a bend in the wall apparently (or thats what Papa said), but we can hide that behind our pictures - so again all good. We had a roll of paper left and half a bucket of paste. 'Right," I said, "Let's go back to the store and we can get a couple of rolls of paper and do the wall behind our bed."A brilliant idea!

So we went back but the paper I had chosen had sold out! I decide that was good thing as we didn't want the same paper as everyone else, so Papa chose a beautiful silver/grey paper with a wave in it. Fantastic! We bought two rolls and knew we could get them up before the kids bath time.

We raced upstairs and covered everything and then got started. It was as we put up the first roll that Papa realised it was silk and being a silk paper it moved... a lot... and having a wave in it it needed lining up... and that meant a lot more work and a lot of wasted paper. Our quick job ended up taking over 3 hours - the children were in the bath and I was running up and downstairs sorting them out whilst also helping Papa who was stuck up a ladder matching paper. Suddenly Papa gave out an anguished cry. I raced back into the room. "We don't have enough paper!" he cried. Sure enough there were two small gaps at the bottom of the wall which were unpapered. The shop was now closed and I didn't really want to spend that amount of money to cover two small gaps. I suggested that we just piece it together with some of the scraps - after all that area was behind the bed and no-one would see it. "But I'll know its there!" cried Papa.

I told him the story of my own Dad who papered the living room when I was a child. It was only when we moved house that we realised he hadn't bothered to paper behind the furniture and when we took that furniture out you could see great big gaps where it had been. This seemed to placate him and he went ahead to patch the bottom of the wall.

Panic over - wallpapering done - furniture put back... and no-one will be any the wiser. Unless they have read this blog of course!!!!!!!!!

Wednesday, 1 May 2013

The Wedding - the aftermath

So the next day we all awoke at various times - although Papa and I didn't get much sleep as our beautifully furnished room was so darn hot... We were up till the small hours desperately trying to work out how the thermostat on the radiator worked. It was one of those new electric heaters and we were flummoxed!

We woke up and I drew the curtains and there, just behind them was a small switch with the word 'heater' above it and the words 'on' and 'off' above and below it... great.

Then there was a banging at the door, The Sprog needed the toilet. "Can't you use the one in your room?" I asked. 'Granny is in the shower,' came the reply. The Sprog and Granny were sharing the room next door and TJ was on a put-you-up bed in our room. "Come on in," I said and The Sprog went into our bathroom, commenting that our room was very hot as he walked through.

Then there was another knock. This time it was my sister who seemed to be wearing someone else's clothes - I know that as I had seen the very same clothes on the Best Man the morning before at breakfast.. my mind was racing, it was all turning into a 'Bold and the Beautiful" type of wedding where the bride had decided at the last minute to rush off with the Best Man... although that wasn't likely - and there were two Best Men, which would have just added to the confusion.

"Have you got my suitcase?" she asked, "I left it in the hall at Mum's for it to be brought here." (If you recall I was helping the cab drivers loads all the clothes and cases and packs for the bridesmaids and their entourage on the big day itself.) "I think I took everything," I said. My sister looked crest fallen. "Then I don't have anything to wear,"she said, "Everything is in that bag."

I decided to see what we could do - after breakfast of course!

So after a lovely communal breakfast of sausages and eggs and all the trimmings form the estate itself I made the journey back to my Mum's house for the fourth time in 3 days. At least this time we had the keys. We also took Mum with us in case the case had been lost and then my sister could borrow some clothes. So 25 minutes later we arrived and there was my sister's case by the front door. We went back again, stopping off at the local farm shop to get supplies for that evening's dinner and the next morning's breakfast. Two hours later we got back to the cottages again. Papa had taken the children out on a nature walk and was playing frisbee with them, everyone else had gone out on a three mile hike - except my Nan who was happily reading her Kindle in the living room of our cottage.

I got in the door and decided that I wanted to go out with the kids and Papa - it really felt like I had barely seen them all weekend, so off we went on the walk again - only this time the kids could show me where we had to go. They had a great time exploring and finding 'dens' down by the lakeside. Sometimes we forget how beautiful the UK can be - then it started to rain and we remembered why we don't holiday here... but the kids didn't care and just carried on playing. Papa on the other hand grumbled about the British weather and went inside to make Nan a cup of tea.

By now the others were arriving back and we all sat down to a hearty meal of chilli, bread, carrots and wedding cake (which everyone seemed to enjoy - one lady who told me she knew 'a lot about cake' said it was honestly the best wedding cake she had ever had - I beamed! I asked the groom's mother who this lady was, was she a culinary expert? a top notch patissierre? "She goes to a lot of weddings and eats a lot of cake" came the reply - but I didn't care, I will take the compliment!) - all was washed down with the champagne from my car, the driving had all been worth it - fantastic! We then spent an hour or so playing family games - although pretty soon everyone started drifting off to their beds.

The next morning we all had a final breakfast and then said our goodbyes, I took the chief bridesmaid, or I suppose she was the Matron of honour as she is married, and her husband and new born baby to the local railway station before Papa and I loaded the kids back into our car and we headed off back down the motorway after what had been a fantastic and memorable weekend!

Wedding - Part 5 - Partyyyyyy!

So after all the debacle of the keys, the cake and the speeches we were finally able to relax - at least I was!

I started as I meant to go on and cracked open a bottle of red!

The children were brilliant - they both danced until their legs fell off. TJ, who is normally the more reserved of the two, was holding court on the dance floor - he was spinning and doing cartwheels and the splits in full - thank goodness his trousers went with him... TJ has hyper mobility and can do amazing things with his body. I remember once when we were at a local shopping mall and TJ suddenly slipped and went into the full splits - sideways! I rushed over to check he was ok and a lady grabbed my arm and said, "Did you know he could do that?" I replied that I did to which she said with a startled expression, "That's not normal for a boy - I think my husband has just fainted!"I looked over and her husband had indeed gone a strange colour...... It always amazes me that people are so happy to tell you exactly what they think about your children. I just smiled, picked TJ up and went on with our shopping.

But the wedding reception was in full swing. TJ and his cousin discovered the Nintendo DS - so we lost both of them for a while. I make no secret that I am not a fan of hand held computer games - but the boys seemed to be having a great time and at least they were playing together.

It was all going really well - a fantastic atmosphere. Then I was summoned by my Aunt (who has a habit of summoning people) "Nan wants to go back to her room, we need a wheelchair," came the order (I would say request but to be honest....) As I was obviously now part of the staff I went off to find the organisers - who I had met the previous day when we were assembling the cake. They were brilliant and a large gentlemen led me around the back where we explored the storerooms to find the wheelchair. We duly found it, dusted it off and after we assembled it got it back to the venue to take Nan down the drive to the cottages where we were all spending the weekend.

My aunt took over and loaded my Nan into the chair - Nan was not too happy about the experience but having been on the sherry herself was soon to admit that she was probably better off being wheeled back to her room (which thankfully was on the ground floor of our cottage). We took Nan down the ramp - but didn't realise that between the ramp and the drive there was a patch of grass - of course the front wheels caught on the grass and the chair came to an abrupt halt... it was sheer luck that Nan didn't fly out of the chair - she wasn't happy. "If you keep this up I shall walk!!!!" she threatened. I thought about that but realised that the threat was real - if we walked Nan down the drive, which was about 200 yards, then it would be at least half an hour before we could get back to the party, so my Aunt and I agreed to push the chair together. Unfortunately, my Aunt had also been on the same sherry as my Nan and as I tried to push I noticed that we were veering to the right, back onto the grass verge. "Watch where you are going!" screamed Nan as a tree loomed before us. "Yes, watch it!" shouted my Aunt who then slipped, grabbed hold of my arm and erupted into peals of laughter. "Maybe you should hold onto my arm and not the chair?" I suggested. "I think thats a good idea," said my Aunt and so I valiantly pushed the chair down the hill whilst supporting my aunt who was now singing away - she has a lovely voice, so it wasn't all bad, although I'm not sure if Nan appreciated it, she as more concerned about the flight of steps that led down to the cottage door - "Don't worry Nan," I said "We'll take the driveway that the cars use - no steps there.." "Can we just get home," she said, "My feet are killing me!"The irony of that comment escaped her I think....

We got Nan into her room and made sure she was comfortable in bed before I helped my Aunt back up the hill and back to the party. I wont mention my Aunt nipping to the loo and coming out with her dress tucked into her knickers.... although she and my Nan found it hilarious - I on the other hand was now in a state of shock... "This better not end up in your blog!" my Aunt giggled... "Urm.. ok," I lied....

As I got back The Sprog came up and said, "Daddy, I'm tired now, its past my bedtime."  One of the things that The Sprog needs is constancy - he doesn't like her routine to be interrupted - even at a party. That is quite common for adopted children, so the therapist says, where they have been brought up in chaotic homes in their early years they crave order and routine and become a little unsure if that is broken in anyway - consequently whilst a lot of adopted children can cope with school they find holidays very difficult and that's when there can be behaviour issues. This is very apparent in  - TJ was a baby when he came into care so it doesn't effect him as badly - anyway, at that point TJ was jumping on a table and beatboxing with my younger, much cooler cousins. Papa came to the rescue and took The Sprog to his room, which was above Nan. Nan was by now in bed reading her book so she agreed to listen out for The Sprog and call us if there were any problems - although as my Nan has pretty poor eyesight I did have visions of her shouting into the TV remote control thinking it was a mobile phone but as it was, all was well.

TJ went back to the dance floor. I went to join him - he pushed me away, "No, you're not as cool as them." he pointed out my younger cousins. Great, my 7 year old was already ashamed of me... but not to worry - I can now officially Dad dance!!!!!!! So I gave him something to be really ashamed of as my two very beautiful (and by now very merry) female cousins and I danced whilst doing Girls Aloud and Lady Gaga routines - Britney Spears and Will-I-Am had nothing on us... Once TJ realised we were just all there to have fun he was soon forgot his embarrassment and we all danced together until the small hours...

A brilliant ending to an amazing day....