Friday, 28 March 2014

Puppy Mother's Day

Its a wierd title but it will soon become clear what I mean.

I have blogged about the boy's attitude to Mother's Day before - and this year they seem much 'cooler' about the whole thing - or so I thought...

As you know, we became the proud owners of a little puppy on Sunday and she has been absolutely fine. She tends to chew everything, but I think thats common for most puppies. Oddly enough, although we have had other dogs (and still have an older one) they have all come from rescue centres, so this is our first 'puppy experience' and its a definite learning curve!

When we went to pick her up I was concerned as to how the puppy would travel in the car, so had taken a box, lined with newspaper for the journey.

Of course, I had forgotten that my eldest son is practically an animal whisperer - they all love him - he sat in the car with the puppy on his lap and she went immediately to sleep and travelled like that all the way home.

Whilst we were coming home we discussed a name for the puppy. I was opting for Toffee - as she is caramel coloured, Papa wanted Daisy (no idea why - probably a Downton Abbey type thing - he always identifies with 'below stairs'), TJ wanted Maisie and KC suddenly said, "We should call her Gracie, after her mum."

I said that I didn't think that was a good idea, that puppies should have their own names.

To which he replied, "But we are taking her away from her mum - she might never see her again, surely she will want to remember her." I caught Papa's eye and we both knew this was one of those conversations - a rare moment where KC talks about his Mum.

The door had been opened, by him, we decided to let him walk through it.

"What do you mean?" I asked.

"Well," he said, "I can remember when TJ and were taken into care. TJ cried and cried but I didn't. I knew I had to be brave - the lady in the car said I had to be brave, just like the puppy. I didn't cry I just stared out of the window while the lady held TJ. I wish I could have slept like the puppy did. But I was very scared that I wouldn't see my Mummy again."

I was a bit shell shocked - this was massive. I had only ever heard KC talking like this once before when he was telling our best friend's son what it was like to be adopted and how scary it was to suddenly have to go to a new family. Here he was talking about the puppy but essentially telling us about himself.

TJ was indignant, "I didn't cry!" he said,.
"Yes you did," said KC, " you cried a lot - but you always cry a lot."

"Every time we went to a new foster carer TJ would cry and I would stare until we got there." They had an number of moves but luckily they were with their final foster carer for a long period of time, which allowed them to settle.

"I just want to call her Gracie so she can remember her Mum", KC went on, "It is Mother's Day this week after all."

Papa and I agreed that as it was the boys' dog then they both had to agree on a name. "I want to call her Gracie too," said TJ - so that was it. Gracie came home with us.

I didn't think Mother's Day was such a big issue this year but on Monday I got a call from KC's school - there had been a Mothers Day assembly and he was obviously distressed as each of the Year 6 children got up and said how amazing their mother's were. I asked KC about it later and he said, I was only crying because everytime they talked about their mum's I changed the word to Dad in my head and I thought of you - and that made me cry."

It made me cry a bit too...

Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Parent Evenings and Puppies

Its been a busy few days - as you will see,

Last week was parents evening for both boys. Both boys are doing so well - I nearly cried, one set of teachers did - but it was so comforting to know that by putting the boys into different schools we were in fact helping them to progress and move on from their past experiences.

TJ went first. He was concerned that his teacher would tell me the truth. And she did... He was doing really well. He had matured much more since his brother moved on to the other school. There were no more breakdowns or tantrums and, as such, his reading was almost at his chronological level and he was making such progress in his maths that he was actually ahead of where he was supposed to be. His English was another matter but that will come - he was so proud of himself.

On Friday it was KC's turn. I went out to his independent school and had an hour long chat with his teachers. The session opened with 'Well, he's certainly not Perfect Peter..." I must have looked downfallen as she quickly added "but his progress is nothing short of miraculous." He had settled, wasn't messing around and, despite his learning issues, was progressing. He talked about being adopted and living with Daddy and Papa - he even gave a short presentation to his class about his experiences - as the teacher told me she started to cry. "He is so happy to have you two," she said. That was it all three teachers were crying. I took them back to the matter in hand - his education. Of course, he's nowhere near the 'average' yet but he is on his way. They also pointed out that his future education was something we had to think about as KC, in their opinion, wouldn't be able to cope if we put him back into a class of 30 when the time comes. I had to break that news to Ppa over the weekend. He took it very well - considering...

I know we have been accused of creating a 'social experiment' with the two boys - but in reality our (and their) lives are so much easier and make much more sense. We didn't split them up (as was suggested by numerous social workers) but by enabling them to live their own lives independently but still come together as brothers afterwards, I think we have given them the space to grow.

Of course, we are lucky that we can (just about) afford to do this and hopefully, one day the boys will thank us for it.

So, as a treat we took the boys horse riding at the weekend - we have a great equine therapy stables a short drive away and the way the boys have interacted with the animals has been brilliant. TJ wasn't keen to ride, I think he needs to be reminded how it all works, but KC was off and away.

Afterwards we went to see the therapist's dog - who had a litter of puppies. One puppy leapt into KC's lap and then ran around chasing TJ. The boys were so happy. Of course there followed a 'Can we have the puppy?" pleading session. Papa said we needed to think about it - so they immediately turned their pester power onto me - after all I'm usually the one who gives in. But I had 'the look' off Papa so knew I had better agree with him.

Anyway, that whole evening was spent chatting to the boys about how it would be their dog, how I would have to look after our older dog (who I'm sure will be glad of the break) and that they would have to walk her and feed her and pick up her poop etc.

KC thought about it and said, "Well, it is a lot of responsibility, so I'm not sure - I'll have to think about it."

TJ just wanted a puppy.

Next morning KC came into our room and said, "I've thought about it and I think I'm ready for a puppy. But I want to help pay for it." He then offered Papa all of his 'ang pow' from Chinese New Year - he had about £50 left.

I nearly cried. But true to his word, Papa agreed and as of Sunday night we became the proud owners of a new cockerpoo, who the boys have named Gracie - after her mother (as its Mother's Day this week) but that's another post...

Thursday, 20 March 2014

Oh! What a Beautiful Morning...

It seems that my blogposts are often linked to a song or piece of music.

Perhaps it because so much tends to happen in the early hours, whilst breakfast is going on and the radio is on in the background. My boys both love routine and the radio gives that. The eldest knows when the 'children' come on the radio (Radio 2) that we have to go and catch the bus for his school and when the 8.30 news comes on, then the youngest knows that's the time we should be leaving for his more local school.

It was a tough decision to separate the boys schooling and to send them to different schools. When I shared that decision on a guest blogpost for BAAF I was called ruthless for trying to break the boys 'sibling bond' and had my first ever real homophobic abuse thrown at me.

But it's hard to write in a guest blog our reasonings behind it.

Once the boys had settled then we soon realised that their 'sbling bond' was a dysfunctional one-  meaning both boys relied on it but neither benefitted. One social worker simply said, "They should never have been placed together."

Of course, by now they had been placed together, they were our boys and we weren't going to give up on them, so, we fought and fought and eventually got both boys the access to therapy that they were promised but never given. That was invaluable - both for the children and for us.

Then once the older boy, KC, was due to be discharged from therapy the subject of his schooling was broached. Had we thought about separating the boys at school? They are only a year apart and at the local primary. KC was falling behind in his work, he is diagnosed dyslexic (not that that means anything in the state system - thank you Mr Gove) and was spending too much time worrying about his younger brother. TJ was, in turn, overly emotional, needing to know where his older brother was at all times and was also unable to function. He was placed on the autistic spectrum, although the therapists believe this is a result of his past trauma. We can only wait and see.

So Papa and I chatted with everyone who would listen, social workers, therapists, teachers and it was felt that KC would benefit from going to another small locally based school that specialises in dyslexic friendly learning. Great - except that it is private and not cheap. But we scrimp and save and got him there. TJ went into meltdown.

This was going to be hard.

TJ's school were incredibly understanding and put in place lots of help for him when he felt 'wobbly'. KC, on the other hand, settled into school quickly. It was as if the 'burden of parenthood' had been lifted from him. He didn't have to worry about his brother and now that we had identified his main learning difficuly he seemed to take it in his stride to try and overcome it. I had the realisation (I maybe wrong) that KC had simply stagnated - by which I mean he stopped his learning development at the point of his going into care. He was still functioning as a 4 year old both academically and emotionally but the new school could help him deal with that and could, as they put it, try to fill in the huge gaps in his learning as well as finding strategies to help him with his other difficulties.

Both boys are so brave.

For TJ he needed to know that I would be there for him, whenever he needed it. I finished working and stayed at home, on call. I started a little blog and began a psychology degree with the OU.

But whenever school called I went. and still do go. TJ had to realsie that when he needed help it would be me that came and not KC - he had to trust an adult. That was something he has never done - I still don't believe he fully trusts me or Papa - hopefully that will come.

Here we are nearly a year on and I suddenly realised how settled everything was - despite TJ's little meltdown last week. KC happily headed off to the school bus, suddenly gaining a new air of confidence and seeming very grown up. His school focusses on routine and KC loves that. Its very old fashioned in its ways but for KC it works. He is almost able to read independently. He is 9 now but a year ago and he wouldn't even have been able to differentiate the letters of the alphabet - so this is a big step. More improtantly when the brothers come home in the evening they share their day together - each telling the other about their new friends or things they have done.

TJ went into school this morning singing. Singing!

Oh What a Beautiful Morning, the Howard Keel classic, had been on the radio and I had sung along (I sing a lot) and on the way to school TJ was singing it too. As we neared the gate he turned to me and said, "Daddy, I can go in by myself." and for the first time ever he ran down the little path to the school gate while I stood back with the dog.

I now know how all those parents feel on the first day of school when children are 4. My youngest may be 8 - but today he took that first positive step to independence. A fellow parent said to me as I turned around, "Is he too embarrased to let you take him to school now?" I didn't want to say this is his first time going into school by himself, so I simply nodded and said, "Yes - don't you hate it when they get to that age."

As I walked home I suddenly felt really emotional. But finally I thought - the struggle of the past couple of years was actually beginning to pay off.

It really was a beautiful morning.

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Fantasy Fitter

Ok so today isn't directly about family life - well, maybe it is a little bit...

Today we have the builders in. We are having some work done on our house to correct some damage caused by the winter storms - we spent 4 days over Christmas with no power and leaking windows.

But finally today all was to be finished off and we were to have a couple of new carpets fitted to replace the damaged ones.

The builders came and had their tea and then set to work. Then the carpet fitter arrived.

I opened the front door and it was as if everything went into slow motion, he smiled and I melted. He was gorgeous! I couldn't help but think of the guy from the movie The Proposal with Sandra Bullock, I couldn't remember his name (I googled it later - Ryan Reynolds) but at that moment in time I didn't care. It was as if my whole life had suddenly turned into a diet coke ad - I wished it was bit hotter so the shirt would have to come off (his not mine) but it wasn't, so I toyed with the idea of turning up the thermostat to tropical proportions and seeing if that had any effect.

"Can I get you a cup of tea?" I stammered, suddenly feeling about 15 again.

"Just water," he replied. "Just water!" Maybe he wanted to throw it over himself and reveal his chest through the thin white t-shirt that clung to his masculine frame - well, if he didn't then I would quite happily trip and 'spill' it over him. Maybe I could help him dry off?

I came back to earth with a crash. The 'other' builder was asking for another cup of tea. I'd forgotten he was even there.

"I wish I was gay," the 'other' builder suddenly said. "I wouldn't then have to put up with women, they're all 'f***ing nutters!" I was a bit taken aback. He had obviously been scarred by someone - but right now I wasn't in the mood to be Dear Deirdre, I was in the mood to be whatever the carpet fitter wanted!

"I don't think that being gay changes that," I said, not sure where this conversation was going.

"No but if I was gay then I wouldn't have to put up with my b**** of an ex-wife. In fact, I'm quite willing to give being gay a go if it gets her out of my life!"

I was wondering if he was coming on to me - Now don't get me wrong, I don't think I'm God's gift to gay mankind or anything like that but this was definately taking an odd turn.

"Oh well," I reassured him, "I'm sure you'll find the right girl soon." And  made him his third cup of tea which he then drank whilst telling me all his troubles - I obviously was in the mood to be Dear Deirdre, I just hadn't realised it.

A little later I rushed upstairs to see if Ryan (I've decided that's his name) wanted more water. He didn't. I was rapidly turning into a seventies pastiche of the bored housewife - I would soon be donning mules and a frilly bed jacket to tempt him (images of Dick Emery sprang to mind - so I didn't).

"Thats all done," he said in his deep masculine tone - I was ready to sign any Fifty Shades type 'agreement' with him there and then. "You've got a lovely family," he nodded towards a picture of the four of us. (Bugger, why had I left that out) "Thanks," I muttered.

Then he left - carpets duly fitted. Although everytime I look at them there will be a wistful sigh.

Tonight is TJ's teacher meeting - so if that doesn't bring me back to reality with a bang, then I don't know what will. When I reminded him I was coming into school his reply was, "No Daddy, then she'll tell you what I'm really like!"


Monday, 17 March 2014

What a weekend...

Well its certainly been an eventful few days.

On Friday I was taken out for a lovely lunch by a literary agent - who has agreed to represent me and to help me work on the book version of this very blog. The book is finished but needs revision and its great to have another pair of eyes to evaluate things subjectively, as well as look after all the business side of things.

Its all very exciting but also a bit scary - Papa brought me straight back down to earth when I asked him if we could open the 'special' bottle of champagne we have reserved for 'special' occasions. "Wait until you actually have a publisher," he said wisely, "Then we can open it - until then we need to buy you a new monitor and clear out the study so you can actually use it as a... well, study." With all the building works we have going on the study has turned into a storage room and we could barely see the floor. So Saturday was spent clearing that room out.

But now I'm all set and ready to go! Let's see what happens on this leg of the journey.

Saturday was also the day that our youngest decided he would revert to bed wetting - except he didn't tell us. Instead he lay in his own wee - maybe through a sense of shame or maybe he simply didn't care, which was the vibe he was trying to give off. I have read that often children who have experienced neglect find comfort in a wet bed, the warmth and the smell can trigger off a sense of calm. Who knows? Either way we decided not to make a big deal of it and just treat it as one of life's accidents. We decided that - his older brother didn't. KC thought it was hilarious and took every opportunity to remind TJ of his urinary slip up.

So Saturday consisted of me trying to keep the peace between the boys which then resulted in a full on fight and the Skylanders game on the wii being destroyed. Of course, when Papa pulled them both up on it they both decided it was the others one's fault - which just made Papa incredibly angry and he stormed out declaring that the children have no respect for anything. He has a point but then there is also the idea that they have no respect because, well lets be honest, why should they? Monetary objects mean little to them and I lose track of the broken toys that are met with a shoulder shrug when I ask if they are upset that its gone. Sometimes I am guilty of just letting things go for a quiet life... maybe that needs a rethink.

So Sunday we went out with the boys Godparents for lunch and their children. It was lovely to hear the four children chatting away over their lunch, like old friends. Normality resumed.

Then KC reminded me that he needed an atlas for his homework. We had tried using the internet but it just wasn't going to work so at 5 minutes before Sunday closing KC and I excused ourselves from the lunchtable and ran up to the bookshop and purchased a junior atlas, much to the hilarity of the bookshop staff. Homework was completed on time....

Then this morning TJ got up to tell me that he hadn't wet his bed... hooray! But he had lost his tie and was far too ill to go to school - oh, and he hadn't done his maths homework - which needed to be handed in today!


This book will write itself!!!!!!

Thursday, 13 March 2014

Reality Check!

Its been a strange week so far - one of those weeks where very little seems to happen but you seem to be exhausted all the time.

It began at the weekend.

When did weekends become all about housework, washing and catching up on homework?  I didn't used to mind being exhausted on a Monday as I knew it was simply the result of a weekend of excess - probably spent out with friends in the pub - Monday was a day of recovery.

Nowadays I'm just grateful to get to Monday, to feel that the weekend is out of the way. The kids are back at school, hubby is back at work and I am left to clear up the mess and get the house sorted out ready for.. well, for the next weekend.

When did this become my life?

They didn't tell you about this in the adoption manuals... I don't recall any social worker ever saying "make sure you go out partying lots before the kids arrive because after that they will run your life."

Of course, the counter argument is that we have much more quality time together and its great fun watching the kids grow up and playing with them - except that sometimes it isn't. Sometimes they are just annoying - the constant whinging, the constant whining that 'I am bored' and 'why can't I watch TV" - and thats just Papa!

But last weekend poor TJ was poorly. On Saturday morning he simply didn't get out of bed. For TJ this is very unusual - normally he can get out of bed on a weekend at the crack of dawn - not so on schooldays where he has to be shoehorned out of his bed - but weekends he is up bright and early ready to take on the world. Except on Saturday he wasn't.

I went in and he told me his head hurt, he also didn't want breakfast and he just wanted to sleep - warning bells were screaming in my ears. I did the usual checks for serious illnesses and then administered that nectar of the god of ill children - Calpol.

He slept nearly the whole day. Then at 7pm he felt much better and couldn't sleep all night. Suddenly I had a jet lagged 8 year old who required entertaining...

By Sunday morning he was asleep and I was exhausted. But there was still stuff to be done. A roast dinner to make, washing to sort out and a house to clean... luckily both Papa and KC were going to help me - if help meant that they sat out of the way watching the rugby... which is what they did.

So at around 4pm I decided to take the dog for a walk by myself. We strolled by the river and watched the world go by. Then one of TJ's friends came rushing up with his family in tow. 'You're lucky," said the mum, 'having time to go for a walk - where are the boys?"

"I left them at home with Papa," I said, "They are watching the rugby."

The mum looked at me with shock. "You are letting your children watch TV on a beautiful day like this?" she exclaimed, "They should be outside getting some fresh air."

"Yes, they should," i replied, "But then they would be with me and I wouldn't have any peace and quiet."

I think she was a little offended as she and her brood rode off into the distance... not that I cared - for just a few minutes longer the dog and I sat and stared at the peaceful river before I had to return home to make supper...

I'm not really feeling sorry for myself- I love my life but every now and again I remember what it was like before kids - and sometimes it was pretty good!

Thursday, 6 March 2014

We're Giving Up What for Lent!!!!!!!?????

That was the response I got from both boys when I informed them last night that we wouldn't be having dessert at dinner as we were giving it up for Lent.

"Why", KC asked, "Why do we have to give anything up?"
"Because Jesus did," I replied.
"He gave up his desserts?" asked TJ incredulously.
"No, he gave up all food and went into the desert for 40days and nights," I said.
"So he didn't give up his dessert then?" TJ looked confused.
The penny dropped,
"Not dessert - he went into the desert, its an entirely different thing." I told him.

"So why do we have to give anything up?" said KC - he is rapidly sounding less like a 9 year old and more like Kevin the Teenager, Harry Enfield's comic character from the 80's (that ages me!)

"Well,' I said desperately trying to justify my sudden decision - which to be honest, was based purely on the fact that I haven't been shopping since we came home and I had been listening to Radio 4 about the perils of sugar in a child's diet - hence my snap decision to give up dessert for Lent. "Well, Jesus gave it up so he could be at one with God."

I felt my Sunday school teacher (and my Mum) might be pleased with this answer.

"Why didn't he just go to church?" came the reply, "Why did he give up everything and go into the dessert."

"Desert," I corrected him. "Because its in the Bible and we had pancakes yesterday which means Lent starts today.

"What's Lent," TJ asked.

"Its where we have to give up dessert because Daddy's too lazy to make anything," his brother told him.

"There's plenty of fruit," I said, luckily Abel and Cole had delivered as usual that week (I know its horribly middle class to use them but thank goodness we had or we would have all starved - which is probably more in line with the original meanings behind Lent)

"We don't want fruit!" they both cried in unison.

"Well, thats all there is." I told them in my 'kind but firm voice'.

KC looked at his brother, "Ive got a packet of sweets under my bed," he said, "Do you want to share them?"

"Yay," cried TJ," and the two of them skipped upstairs.

I don't know whether to be proud that they are sharing (for once) or annoyed because they have blatantly disregarded me... I guess I'll just pour a glass of red - I'm definately not giving that up for Lent!

An 'Inspirational Post' for LGBT Adoption and Fostering Week

When I was asked to contribute to the BAAF blogpost for LGBT Adoption and Fostering Week, I was also asked if I could make it ‘inspirational’ – “No problem,” I said, “If you need an inspirational piece about being a gay parent then I’m your man!”
Then I sat down to write. But as soon as I sat at the keyboard my youngest son, TJ, decided that now was a good time to tell me that he needed an alien costume for school – tomorrow! Of course, he hadn’t told me when school did, two weeks ago, and, of course, he had lost the letter telling panicked parents exactly what the plans for ‘Alien Day’ were.
So I did what any good parent would do – I got on Facebook and messaged other parents at the school to find out what I needed to do.
“It can be anything, a robot, an alien, an astronaut – the theme is space and you can either rent a costume or make one – but there was a big ‘no’ if you thought you could simply paint your child’s face green and send them in ‘normal clothes – the school wants authenticity!”
I thought that if any alien came to Earth then surely they would do as much as possible to blend in and I was half tempted to send TJ to school in uniform with a note explaining our point of view… Or was I just being lazy?
So we pulled out cardboard boxes and tin foil, paper glue and toilet roll tubes – I felt like I was finally becoming the Blue Peter presenter I had always dreamed of being.
Two hours later my happy little boy was dressed as a cardboard robot and we had had a great time making it together.
Now I had to go back to writing this piece whilst he walked around me shouting ‘exterminate’ and zapping the unsuspecting dog with his ‘laser gun’ (A toilet roll with a lolly stick as a handle).
I couldn’t help but smile at him and at the joy on his face.
And that was my inspiration for this piece.
Gay parenting is no different to parenting. You will experience the same highs, the same lows – yes, adopted children have many more issues but they also bring as much joy.
Don’t be afraid of being a parent. There will be curious stares at the school gate, particularly if, like us, you don’t live in London, there will be difficult conversations about why you are not married to a woman and asking if you and Papa are brothers. You will have all that and my advice is always to be honest, if they are old enough to ask then they are old enough to be told the truth.
But at the end of the day (a horrid cliché I know) it’s the actual having of a family that is the inspiration and I can only hope that by raising awareness of LGBT Adoption and Fostering that more children will be brought into safe, loving, homes where they can experience something that every child has a right to – a loving family.
I hope that’s inspirational enough!

Fisrt published on the BAAF Website :

Wednesday, 5 March 2014

... they don't see difference, they see family.

Well we are back from our trip to Singapore.

If anything this year was blissfully uneventful. The boys got to see their Grandparents and Papa's sister and her family. They attended an 'open day' at their cousins airforce base - he is serving his National Service, and the boys generated a lot of interest from their cousins crew mates, all of whom wanted to know how they were related. It's great that our boys simply accept their Singaporean Chinese family as their own - they don't see difference, they see family.

It seems that Singapore is beginning to get used to the idea of gay dads - or perhaps its just us. Where last year we fought off questions and argued about 'where the mother is?' with restaurant staff this year we had a complete stranger congratulating us on our beautiful family. This was lovely but after the chap had said it we kept bumping into him, even ended up standing next to him in a taxi line - which was suddenly very uncomfortable - afer all, how do you continue a conversation with a complelte stranger who has just commented on your family? There was a lot of nervous smiling and looking at the floor from everyone. Still, we gave him a wave as we drove off in our cab.

The air stewardesses were obviously curious. Previously we had always flown either British Airways or QANTAS - the stewardesses there cottoned on straight away about our family mix. This time we flew Singapore Airlines - and they didn't have a clue - or were too polite to ask. In the end one stewardess came over to Papa and asked him if he was travelleing with 'our party' as he seemed to be helping the little boy next to him a lot. Papa explained that they were his sons too and after that we were the subject of much gossip and air crew walking past regularly to get a look at us.

Not that the boys noticed. Wierdly, people still stop them in the street or by the pool to take pictures of them - Chinese tourists love our boys - Papa's sister suggested we begin charging for photos - we would make a fortune - I think she may have a point.

Maybe people do still stop and point at us, or we get comments - but maybe we simply don't notice anymore? The boys certainly weren't phased by anything.

One of the boys friends commented on having two dads. 'When men get married," she said, 'Its because they need someone to stay at home and look after the children.' All of her friends nodded at this wisdom.

Perhaps Singapore is indeed finally opening up to families like our own.