Archive | March, 2012

Saturday Caption

31 Mar

Saturday Caption Day, guys.

Can you come up with a caption for this photo? Just a bit of fun, no prizes to be won!

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Feeee-Fi-Fo-Feckin’-Fum

30 Mar

Once upon a time Jack was supposed to sell a cow. Jack was supposed to show his mother a handful of mysterious, ‘magic’ beans. Jack was supposed to climb the ensuing beanstalk. Jack was supposed steal a golden egg laying hen. Jack was supposed to steal a sweetly-singing harp. Jack was supposed to run from a giant, lolloping…erm… giant. Jack was supposed to chop down the thick, strong, crepe paper beanstalk…..

But all was not well at the cottage, Jack walked to his mother’s house with his hands over his eyes, bumping into the small human-beans strewn on the foremost wooden bench. Jack managed to articulate two lines of perfect prose. The familiar faces of the crows eagerly grinned from across the neighbouring field. Waving, sticking thumbs up, and applauding with animated encouragement. Then the wind abruptly changed and so did Jack’s face. His lip rolled downwards, slowly unravelling until finally flopping with a heavy thump at the foot of a cow-caped child. Jack’s eyes began to melt. Big pools formed on his little podgy cheeks.

His method acting was impeccable. Award-winning, I’d say. The words ‘cow for sale’ must have stirred up in Jack such strong feelings of grief. The mere thought of bidding adieu to his bovine friend was obviously far too much…..

What? Not acting?

Pickle (aka Jack) sobbed. He really sobbed. Uncontrollably. The audience gazed on as he was taken backstage to regain his nerve.

His return was triumphant……triumphantly short-lived.

He snivelled into his snot-laced sleeves as the small human-beans sang ‘One Fine Cow’. He was led down from the beanstalk and onto a wooden bench, where he wallowed, chin on chest.

Pickle’s giant Bolshie bravado had paled at the sight of those familiar crow faces. His eagerness to impress had overwhelmed him. He had tried so hard. But Pickle “sometimes gets scared”. He felt he had “let us down”.

Somewhere deep inside I had a feeling this might happen. I hadn’t talked about the Spring Concert that morning. I knew if I had, Pickle would have plastered on his bubbly, boisterous facade; the one that everybody loves, the one that I know hides his true character. He had far from let us down. He had done a fantastic job, and so had his understudy and eventual successor…. *spits out bitter taste in mouth*.

After choking back my own tears and resisting the urge to hotfoot it onto the stage, trampling small cows and beans underfoot, I felt proud and slightly contented at the fact that he had shown this often elusive, vulnerable side. The rest of the afternoon was spent lifting his downtrodden spirits. He finally went to bed feeling, quite rightly, proud of his efforts.

Hollywood will just have to wait a little bit longer for our freshly peeled Pickle.

[NB: The earlier production was a slick effort…apparently – not counting the nose-picking….* scrapes venom from tongue*]

 

 

Bring out the Bunting!

25 Mar

Today we celebrate 2 years since Pickle’s moving in.

*Whoops loudly, jumps up and down, shakes booty uncontrollably, checks pulse.

I’m alive, we’re all alive. We’ve made it. We’ve reached yet another gawd damn milestone in our PAL (Post-Adoption Life) together.  Crack open the Rosey. Bring out the bunting. Throw those annoying stringy thingies.

Our perfect, semi-unruffled, slightly turbulent and badly disorganised home welcomed the arrival of a 3-year old burly beefcake exactly 2 years ago today. It’s been an adventure. A long arduous adventure. Has it been worth it? Abso-bloomin-lutely. Though if you’d have asked me last night, the answer would have been a firm and defiant NO!

Pickle’s behaviour yesterday was – let’s say – less than desirable. I admit to shedding a small tear as I held my head inside the oven, violently but silently slamming the door against it. Pickle was sitting on the ‘thinking step’ with all the quietness of a screaming banshee, shrieking the very worst of the worstest of worst words that he knows.

But hidden amongst his most vehemently screeched poetic gems was a teeny-weeny, negligible expression that made my eyeballs leak: “I don’t want this pretend mummy anymore”.

Pretend? Where did he get that from? How did he know? I’ve been getting away with pretending for almost 10 years now and not once, NOT ONCE have I been caught out. He’s a shrewd little so-n-so.

They’re words. Just words with little, if any, meaning attached to them……It hurt nonetheless. And, yes. I really did have eyeball-drip.

Any change, no matter how minor, in Pickle’s life can send him backwards and us straight to the bottom of Rosey’s bottle. This week’s illness has been no exception. His moods have fluctuated from calm kindness to waves of unpredictable rudeness. Next week sees the blissful arrival of the Easter holidays and a trip abroad. No doubt we will experience the same thing again, this time in the inescapable confines of an aeroplane cabin. It’s a game of constant surprises, feeling elation at the milestone mountains we’ve climbed and then confusion at what seems to have gone wrong (again).

Today has only just started. There will be a mini celebration in the form of a barbecue, with the olds and the even olders coming over for some Rosey and rambunctious rowdy raucousness.

As I type this in the sweltering sunshine, I am tied to a chair by a skipping rope. It’s not looking good, but it’s almost Rosey o’clock. I’ll keep you posted …..so long as my hands remain free.

Grumpdom

23 Mar

It’s a weird and wonderful place, filled with unexpected moments and irrational outbursts. The sky is often heavy with doom-ridden clouds. One slight prod and the sudden sharp discharge of thunder can be deafening enough to strike fear into the most fearless of fools.

We visit often. You should go there.  On second thoughts, unless you want to unite with me in a form of common lunacy, it may be better not to.

The looming storm over Grumpdom

After six gloriously sunny days of illness – an apparent but intended contradiction in terms – the boy is back in town!

There’s something endearing about a high temperature, a streaming nose, and being sprayed with a torrent of germs from a hacking cough. It tends to mean the Whirlwind is calm and serene, loving and cuddly.

But now the Hurricane is whipping up once more. Hurrah! He feels well again. Hurrah. “I’m better, Mummy”. Yay! I don’t have to pick dried snot off his cheeks. I no longer have to fill my pockets with crumpled, crusty tissues, the Calpol can go back and party with the rest of its remedial buddies in the medicine cabinet.  Everybody’s happy…right?

With the dropping of the temperature, comes the heaving of the tempest. The waves were calm until approximately 6.22am, when the Kraken rose from the murky depths of its once calm, cosy bed, sending ever-increasing ripples of impending ruin across the landing and down the stairs.

The tempo was set. The morning was going to require immense patience and a repeated, under-the-breath muttering of the Golden Mantra, “Step away from the child, stay out of the loop”. Slurps brew. Smiles inanely. “Step away from the child, stay out of the loop”.

The Kraken didn’t want to have breakfast. Not Cheerios or Weetabix. No, definitely not toast. I should make him some breakfast now. I should choose his breakfast for him. But not porridge. He didn’t want to get dressed. He didn’t want to go to school in his pyjamas either. In fact, he didn’t want to go to school at all. No, he definitely didn’t want to go school naked. And definitely not dressed. He didn’t want to brush his teeth. He didn’t care if his teeth fell out. He hates his teeth anyway. Throw them in the bin. He hates mummy. Mummy is mean. Throw mummy in the bin. She’s the worst Mummy in the world. He wants his ‘real’ Mummy (that’s always a killer). He hates everybody. Throw them alllllllll in the bin. He doesn’t want to live here anymore. It’s the worst place in the world. It’s a mean, nasty house.

Where is everybody? Why is nobody listening to him? (The neighbours probably are). Why is everybody ignoring him? Ok then, he will get dressed now. He’s lost his sticker and mummy might tell the teacher. And anyway, everybody is ignoring him and mummy looks like a complete buffoon singing and dancing around like that. Why is she doing that? Has mummy gone mad? Mummy?

*hands over tetchy tenant of Grumpdom to teacher with absurdly false grin on face.

Happy Friday! Chinchin!

It’s That Time Again

21 Mar

Once a year we send a letter to Pickle’s birth parents. It’s hard putting pen to paper under these circumstances. I dread it. I feel terrible saying that, but I genuinely dread it. It takes the consumption of 23 cups of tea and the resistance of a rather strong urge to take up smoking before my writer’s block dissipates. I wander aimlessly around the house trying to muster up the courage and inspiration. I deliberate for hours over the composition of this one-page, fiddly letter. I use the largest font I can get away with, so I can write less. I type draft upon draft. Writing things. Deleting things. Writing things. Deleting things. Over-analysing every single syllable of every single word.

The hardest part is suppressing the natural desire to openly gush about all the wonderful things that Pickle has achieved in his time with us. All the giant strides he has made to get to where he is now.

I want to be able to say that he has landed himself the starring role in this year’s Spring concert. He has to pretend to climb a beanstalk n’ everything! He’s going to be up on that stage, name in neon lights, audience fawning over his A list performance, hanging on to his every word….ahem. (I’m brimming with pride about this, as you can tell!).

I want to tell them all the humorous anecdotes he comes out with. I want to tell them how, at school ‘news time’, the other kids all roll their eyes when it’s his turn to speak, knowing that they’re going to have to sit, arms-folded-legs-crossed-fingers-on-lips, for however long it takes for Pickle to stumble over his long-winded, generally pointless stories. I want to tell them how stubborn and obstinate he is at times and how his dogged determination is the most infuriating, yet awe-inspiring, aspect of his character.

But the letter is short and superficial. I make sure I include such things he has learned; the alphabet, riding a bike without stabilisers, swimming without armbands. I tell them that he’s happy and healthy, that he’s polite and caring, that he’s developing and growing well.  It’s generally unemotional in style and expression, but I find it impossible not to get emotional when sitting in front of the computer screen. The unavoidable watery eyeballs and attractive dripping nose are there in their full glory.

It’s important to me that I write the letter as though I am Pickle’s birth mother reading it. I try to put myself in her shoes and imagine how she must be feeling as she reads my letter. I refrain from being too filled with excitement and motherly joy. I hate the thought that I may cause any more pain and upset than is already likely to be firmly in her heart. I try to be factual and informative, yet light-hearted and friendly. It’s essential that I respect her feelings as Pickle’s tummy mummy, and that both his birth parents know that we are looking after Pickle to the best of our abilities and loving him with all our hearts.

Whatever the circumstances that Pickle is no longer with his birth parents, I have them to thank for my gorgeous boy.

It’s that time again….here goes…

6 Reasons NOT to Adopt

20 Mar

Adoption isn’t for everyone. Time for the barefaced truth (of sorts)!:

You should NOT adopt:

  1. If you’re a house-proud clean freak who values walls, doors, radiator covers, windows, small terrified pets. Pickle once drew on my white-painted banisters with the puerile excuse of: ‘It was by accident’. It was one hell of a multi-coloured, Pablo-shaming, accident.
  2. If you have an aversion to all things mucky. Pickle eats mud. He loves being smeared from head to spade-sized foot in mud. He adores hog-rolling around in the mud, jumping in the deepest and muddiest of muddy puddles, preferably just as a random stranger is about to walk past. I won’t get into the recent Peppa Pig debate but, without doubt, that porcine swine needs to take a long hard look at her snout.
  3. If you don’t like surprises. Every day is a surprise in adoption. The surprises come in all shapes and sizes. Bruise-shaped. Tantrum-sized. Don’t believe for one minute that the miniature man-mountain bulldozing towards you has his arms open for a cuddle. Oh no, he’s going in for the kill.
  4. If you have low self-esteem. Any dribble of self-esteem you may have will be trampled on. Being told that I was dirty and disgusting was pretty hard to take, but the hard-hitting home-truth that my ‘dancing is rubbish’ tipped me over the edge. (see: How to Pickle a Pickle)
  5. You like everything to stay just where you put it. If you prefer your shoes on your feet or in the shoe cupboard, rather than in the dog’s bed or up trees then you’re…erm… barking up the wrong…erm… tree. Pickle has a shoe-fetish. He steals them right off your feet and hides them in the most obscure places. Any kind of foliage being the clandestine destination of choice.
  6. If you don’t like Lego. Lego is almightier than the Almighty. Lego is the cure-all. Lego knows no bounds. Lego is my hero. There should be a Lego law clearly stating the illegalities of not owning Lego. Sod Pets As Therapy. It’s Lego As Therapy. I’m rambling about Lego. I’m so in love with Lego (apart from Lego of the apparently self-propelling variety, then Lego is baaad!)……enough of the Lego.

The adoption process is long-winded. It is scary. It’s laborious. It’s invasive. It is full of the unknown and the unexpected. It will make your life much harder to start with. It isn’t for everyone. But… she who does not challenge herself, will never be able to build a Lego house. Now how unrewarding is that?

Laying the Foundations

19 Mar

We held off from legally adopting Pickle for almost a year after he moved in with us. Not because we were unsure of our situation – far from it – but because it was essential for his emotional development and stability to attend the same school as Gherkin. He had already started to form relationships with our friends’ children, who also attended the local school. We felt there was no other option. We had to get a guaranteed place for him there.

Under current legislation Looked After Children (LACs) are given priority in the school admissions system, but once that child leaves the care system they are treated much in the same way as every other child, provided there are no special needs requirements.

So, under this legislation is the government suggesting that when a judge stamps a form, signs a piece of paper, and gives the gift of a cuddly rat (yes, bizarrely it was a rat), an adopted child’s feelings of insecurity, uncertainty, anger, loss, grief, and the myriad of other emotions that lend meaning to his/her life all magically disappear? That the underlying wounds of the child’s harrowing past are suddenly healed with one gigantic, bureaucratic sticking plaster?

Well, I can tell you from first-hand experience that the answer is a big fat, resounding NO!  Thankfully I am not on my own in my thinking. In January 2013, thanks to the government’s overhaul of current adoption procedures, a  much-welcomed legislation will come into effect affording adopted children the same rights as Looked After Children in respect of their educational needs.

Fortunately and unashamedly, we worked the system and a nursery place became available for Pickle at the local school at the beginning of the Spring term, after he had been in our care for a year. He was 4 years old. He was champing at the bit to get out of the house and I too was anxious for him to socialise with other children and help this defiant little monkey understand that rules and discipline apply to everyone.

The first six years of a child’s life are imperative in terms of developing emotional attachments. Many adopted children have been starved of this basic need, having had constantly changing faces as their caregivers. It has been proven that interruptions in the bonding cycle in these informative years can create problems throughout a child’s life and have potential repercussions in adulthood.

As parents, we have to create a foundation for an emotionally and socially healthy life from the day our children are born. For an adopted child, who has perhaps learned anti-social or unacceptable behaviours, it is often the case that an adoptive parent has to completely strip back certain facets of the child’s personality and start afresh with a blank canvas, building up a spirit and resilience that will enable them to cope successfully with the adversities of their adult lives.

The teaching profession plays a huge role in supporting parents not only academically but also with regard to a child’s interpersonal and emotional growth. I had never quite realised just how crucial this role was until Pickle started school.

I was able to meet Pickle’s future teacher in advance of his first day. She’s a young woman bursting with enthusiasm for her obvious vocation in life. Long may it continue! I hope the pressures of the education system don’t take its toll on her innate passion.  Together, we discussed Pickle’s needs. We made plans. She listened to my concerns and she worked with me, I felt like she was ‘on my side’.  It was important that Pickle’s school routines were as consistent as possible with those at home, to create a feeling of continuity, safety and trust and to limit anxieties and help build self-control. She is extremely empathetic and understanding towards all the children in her class, not just Pickle.  I had already heard glowing reports from other parents, but I have been utterly astounded and amazed at how much she has helped Pickle grow in all aspects of his personality.  She created a safe haven for him in her classroom when he was at his most vulnerable. She has continued the attachment process beyond the walls of our home by focussing his environment on strengthening social interactions. Most importantly of all, she has been adamant that we should discuss issues together as a three. Always including Pickle, so that he understands that we constantly work together as a team. And that’s exactly how I feel.  We are a team. And without her guidance, support, encouragement, diligence and unfailing patience, our lives would have been so much harder.

Mothering Funday

18 Mar

6:11am:

“Mum, did you get me some bubble bath?

Pickle wakes me from a dead sleep.

“Erm, no babe, I forgot”. My usual skilful ability to successfully lie fails me at such an ungodly hour.  I cringe and await the inevitable scream, as he stomps off back to his room.

“You promised, you’re a rubbish mum. I hate you.”

Bollocks!

Silence.

6:15am:

“Happy Mother’s Day”, the words float gently across the landing. I smile.

6:33am:      

“Is it Mother’s Day?”, Gherkin crawls in bed next to me.

“Yes, it is.”

“Oh.” Gherkin rolls over, taking the majority of the duvet with him.

6:45am:

OH brings me an already much-needed brew in bed. Pickle decides to lie across me, horizontally, right on top of my distended bladder with an obstinate refusal to move. Instead he sings me a beautifully tuneful Mother’s Day song:

“I’m gonna kill you, I’m gonna kill you.” The sincerity of his words was very moving. I sleepily play the ‘bum drum’ in time to the beat.

Notwithstanding the ensuing trapped finger and weekly homework drama, the day has got better. I have since been ceremoniously presented with a beautiful handmade card, flowers and a ‘Super Mum’ wine glass from Pickle. My mum had tried to encourage him to buy me a ‘nice mug’, but apparently I “need wine glasses more”.

Gherkin has given me two books. Chosen by him because the “blurb was about kids n’ orphans n’ stuff” and he thought they were “my kind of read”. They do look interesting.

I’m now looking forward to an afternoon of football, washing and ironing…..oh and drinking plenty of rosé with my mum while Gherkin Ramsey lovingly cooks our dinner….

I will also spare several moments to think about Pickle’s birth mum today and silently thank her for the gift she has given me.

Happy Mothers’ Day, special ladies!

The World According to Gherkin

16 Mar

Gherkin was desperate to have a sibling. A brother to be exact. Though, when questioned by the social worker on whether he would prefer a sister or a brother, he glanced awkwardly over at me and surreptitiously mirrored the movements of my mouth, “I  r e a l l y  d o n ’ t  m i n d”. I smiled proudly, chest puffed out at my son’s mature diplomacy. Then he turned to her and added, “so long as he can play football”. Damn my foiled brainwashing tactics!

I knew he was excited at the prospect of becoming a big brother because he had announced it at ‘news time’ at school, before it was even supposed to be news!

However, the reality for Gherkin was understandably very different to the bosom-buddy ideal he had committed to his imagination. Pickle was aggressive by nature, both physically and verbally. He hadn’t learned how to play gently. He had no concept of quiet time. Belligerent behaviour had been actively encouraged in his past. It was all he knew. He spent his time tumbling around in a hamster wheel of chaotic speed and erratic aggression. And Gherkin was bearing the brunt of it.

Gherkin’s morning greeting was a habitual and unprovoked punch or knee in the stomach. My looped voice repeatedly chanting ‘flat, kind hands, please’ seemed to be having little effect. And added to the daily physical ambush that Gherkin was being subjected to, were our own adult-sized – and in hindsight unrealistic and exceptionally unfair – expectations of him.

We had learnt to follow the Supernanny Code of ‘ignoring the bad and praising the good’. We had learnt not to rise to Pickle’s antagonistic charms. Yet, somewhere along the way, we seemed to lose sight of the fact that we had another child in our midst. A child who was unable to think like us and react like us. Us. The so-called grown-ups.  How ridiculous this now sounds as I write it down. How could we have placed that level of demand on a then 8-year old boy? But we did. Even though there were plenty of times when we personally struggled to cope, we still found ourselves getting frustrated with Gherkin’s responses; not understanding why he simply couldn’t disregard Pickle’s hostile manners.

Looking back he has coped with it amazingly well, though not without kickbacks. He has and still is experiencing something that none of his friends has, and he is muddling through admirably. He has had nobody to share his experiences with, nobody of his own age to talk to throughout his ordeal. And yes, it has been an ordeal. What he has been through these past 2 years has been no doing of his own. It was more or less forced upon him.

He has presented some anxieties. Particularly towards me. He has also had friendship issues to deal with at school, possibly due to the fact that our once gentle pacifist has had to toughen up over the past couple of years. He’s become more aggressive himself, more argumentative, more assertive. He has had to puff his own chest out to be seen in the shadow of Pickle’s huge loveable character. But without envy or jealousy, he adores Pickle and Pickle adores him. They continue – as they will throughout the many years to come – to squabble and beat seven sorts out of each other, as all siblings do.

He’s done himself proud, he’s done Pickle proud, and he’s done us proud.

The Not-So-Joy of Grandparents

16 Mar

When you go on holiday and they break into your house just to vandalise your property!

 

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