Archive | April, 2012

Silent Sunday

29 Apr


10 Confessions of an Imperfect Parent

27 Apr
  • Vocal exercises: I exercise my voice. Often. Erm…would we call it shouting? *rubs chin. Possibly, at times. I can go berserk over trivial twaddle. I always sweat the small stuff – a breach of one of the cardinal parenting mantras by all accounts. The kids stare in bewilderment, or just laugh at me.
  • Patience: Patience is an effort for me. It isn’t a God-given gift. It requires much thought and concentration. I’ve always been patient with dogs, birds, squirrels, and teeny weeny cutesy bunny wabbits, even other people’s children on occasion. BUT I have sod-all tolerance with my own kids at times. This has improved hugely since Pickle’s arrival. He is helping me to slowly perfect my imperfect patience.
  • Alcohol: Those of you who pop by my blog for a ‘brew’ and a biscuit now and then will know that I’m partial to a shot of Bacardi and a slurp of Rosey. But. In all fairness. Never in the same glass. So that’s good.
  • Profanity: I swear. Yes, as terrible as it is to disclose. It’s true, I have sworn in front of the children. Not out of habit of course, but out of sheer and utter crappy parental frustration. Never intentionally. And always with regret. I have never dropped a ‘feck’ or c-bomb in front of them. Yet! That’s what this blog is for. Put your fingers in your ears now.
  • Façade: I frequently feign interest in what my kids say to me. I flash the sideways glance that, in some kind of perverse way, makes them believe I am vaguely paying attention to the fact that a) Pickle has eaten his fifth bogey of the day, or that b) Gherkin nutmegged a player on the football pitch. I’m a girl for feck’s sake. How do I know what nutmegging is? And why do I remotely care? I don’t even know if I’ve conjugated the verb correctly in that context. How can it even BE a verb?
  • Covertness: I have been known to listen to one of the kids reading, whilst furtively texting with the other hand.
  • Ignorance: I have turned the radio up louder in an attempt to drown out the noise of the fierce and doubtless bloody battle taking place upstairs, rather than acknowledge it/deal with it/split it up.
  • Childishness: Recently, I cowered under a cloak of juvenile embarrassment, sniggering, when asked what a ‘vagina’ was by Gherkin. Of course, that would have been the perfect opportunity to bring out the books and have that all-important grown-up discussion. But let’s be honest, ‘vagina’ is a highly amusing word at the best of times. *sniggers more.
  • Overt falsehoods: I massage the truth, tell half-truths, prevaricate; all entiiiirely different from telling lies, you understand. There is nothing more galling to me than when the kids tell lies. My children NEVER get into trouble for speaking the truth *shuffles in seat. Since I have eyes in the back of my head, and spies everywhere, they dare not lie. If they do indulge in any whopper-flinging, they are fed mivvits for tea and made to sit on a cold wall, which WILL give them chincough!
  • Embarrassment: I am an embarrassment to my kids. I have been told twice, this very morning, to behave myself. I am not to quote any lines from He-Man and certainly not to draw my invisible sword in the playground, whilst dramatically proclaiming “By the power of Greyskull…”. It’s not big, it’s not clever and it just shows your age….apparently!

I confess: I am a thoroughly imperfect parent.



Itchy Scratchy

26 Apr

I started writing this blog a few days ago and since then things are back on the up. I was feeling a little frustrated and doing my usual over-scrutinizing of behaviours. I thought I would share the post with you anyway as it is a recurring issue we have, and I would be interested in your views.

The deeply clawed scratches that Pickle used to cut into his skin have started to appear again. Far more subtle than in the past, but still there are there.

This ‘ritual’ that Pickle has makes me feel far sadder than many of his other behaviours.

A silent implicit communication of his confused emotions. One that has no quick-fix remedy. One that requires patience and time ….and a non-analytical parent.

When Pickle was in foster care, all along the top of Krakatoa* (the part just above the ol’ derriere crack) was adorned with blood-imbued marks created by the talons of a small 3-year old boy. He had engraved his skin so profoundly that I genuinely believed, back then, that they would become a permanent part of his physical architecture.

I expressed my concern at the time and was told it was most likely due to mild eczema. I wasn’t convinced.

Anxiety was the main cause.

Over his initial months in our care, I observed him closely. I noted the vigorous intent with which he carved his emotional hieroglyphics. I logged the itchy-scratchy times and any notable triggers. I watched carefully how the cycle went around and around.

I vividly remember placing him on the thinking step after a particularly taxing bout of feral behaviour. Following a prolonged period of tantruming/screaming/stair-bashing/radiator-cover-kicking, we cuddled on the sofa and talked about what had happened.

Bearing in mind these were very early days and he wasn’t used to talking openly about his feelings. Nor, at that age, was he of sufficient emotional maturity to rationalise his behaviour. He still sat close to me; happy to be next to me. I talked, and as he listened he rolled up his sleeves and started to drag his nails across the area in the crack of his elbow. Over and over and over. I watched as the skin went from pink to red, and then redder still, as he grated away at the layers until blood tapped the surface. It was heart-breaking to witness.

I asked why he was doing it. Of course, he had no answer. He had no concept of what was behind this physical harm he was doing to himself.

He spent much of our recent holiday scratching the top of Krakatoa, and indeed other parts of his body, his chest in particular.

Back home. He settled into the comfortable humdrum routine and the itchy-scratchy cycle was broken….

Until I went away last weekend. What ensued was several days of fighting at school and home, insolent behaviour, boisterous outbursts, disrespectful attitude, and kicking and punching of walls. Of course that feeling of disappointment from us, his teacher and in himself has made him feel ‘bad’. Last night in bed, he was vehemently etching designs into Krakatoa again.

It wasn’t the time for discussion, so I left him with my Great Grannie Annie’s remedy of “rub spit on it”.  (Don’t look like that, it works!)

(*a far-too-visually provoking term for my liking. OH’s not mine)


17 Apr

Ahem…wow, woooow, WOW! What can I say?

*holds The Versatile Blogger Award up high in one hand, Bacardi glass in other.

I did have  a speech prepared but of course, I left in on the coffee table, then the dog ate it, just as Pickle was about to put it in the washing machine.

Honestly? I really didn’t think I would win. Wow WOW.

*wafts tears from eyes à la Gwynnie.

Firstly, let me thank my mum and dad for giving me life. Secondly, my manager…

Carried away? Who me? I’m just so nervous. Sorry, let me start again.

I would like to thank all those generous people who voted to bestow this prestigious accolade on me. That’ll be you then, Jen (Check out her fab recipes and reviews)

It shall of course be polished to within an inch of my life, and placed majestically on the back of my downstairs loo.

I am completely overwhelmed that Jen decided to give me this honour, and that at least one person has enjoyed reading the contents of my stuffed-up head.

I started rambling when I was a child. It came quite naturally and has just grown from there, really. I just decided to share these ramblings with you because, quite frankly, I was starting to eat my elbows. And well, you know that old adage: a rambling shared is a…..What is it again? Is that the saying? Did I just make that up?

Seriously now.

The notion behind The Versatile Blogger Award is that it: “is a great way to introduce different bloggers to each other and to promote quality blogs that awardees and their readers may not have discovered otherwise.”

There are conditions attached to accepting this award. So, as much as I hate to follow the rules, it is only polite to do so. And I am nothing, if polite. Erm. *scratches head. I mean, I am nothing, if NOT polite. It’s the nerves, I apologise.

The Very Important Rules:

  1. Thank the person who gave you this award.
  2. Include a link to their blog.
  3. Next, select 15 blogs/bloggers that you’ve recently discovered or follow regularly.
  4. Nominate those 15 bloggers for the Versatile Blogger Award.
  5. Finally, tell the person who nominated you 7 things about yourself.
  6. In the same post, include this set of rules.
  7. Inform each nominated blogger of their nomination by posting a comment on each of their blogs.

7 things you wish you didn’t know about me:

  1. I was born a man named Bob.OK, not really, but if I had have been a boy, I was going to be called Robert. So I’m putting pennies on it that, at some point, somebody somewhere would have called me Bob.
  2. My first dog was called Brandy. I think that could be where my fetish for alcoholic beverage names came from (aged 2).
  3. I took extra-curricular physics so I could fit in an extra option in my quest to be a vet. As you can tell from my bio, I made it. I’m very successful, with a special interest in equine dentistry. I just disguise it well.
  4.  I sing. Badly. At karaoke. But I think I’m blinkin’ great. That’s the power of Bacardi.
  5. I hold a Certificate in Orienteering. I do. Except when it was handed to me on a school trip to Bournemouth (aged 10), it read: Claire can read a map. Or something like that. I think somebody Tipp-exed ‘badly’ out. I never told anyone.
  6. I love Gloria Estefan. I rarely admit this, but I do. I think it’s the hair. I once had the very same hair. Except it was mine, not hers.
  7. I gained my Silver Duke of Edinburgh’s Award and achieved a Silver (summat) Award in skiing. Now you see why this award means so much to me. Third time lucky!

And the next set of nominees (winners) are: *drum roll

  1. Raising a Realist
  2. Like A Fiery Pussycat
  3. Working from Home
  4. BabberBlog
  5. They call me betty
  6. The Crumby Mummy
  7. Sally Donovan
  8. Adopt and keep Calm
  9. The Boys Behaviour
  10. Life with Katie
  11. The Musings of Me
  12. 400 Days til 40
  13. The Family of 5s Journey
  14. Stephanie Moon
  15. The Boy and Me

Bask in the glory peeps, but grubby mitts off my gleaming award!

Bacardi Breezer, Anyone?

15 Apr

Recently, we met up with an old friend and his family who adopted a gorgeous little squidgling of their own at the back end of last year. It’s the first time I’ve spoken to any other adoptive parents face-to-face and it was great to compare stories. We chatted about our experiences of going through the adoption process, and I started thinking back to how I felt at the very outset of this incredible journey….

Social workers are programmed (robotically, some say *winks at my social worker friends) to ask all kinds of invasive and delving questions. They poke and prod you, narrow their eyes as they scan you from head-to-toe. Through the adoption novice’s eyes, they may initially seem to bear an uncanny resemblance to a cross between the Childcatcher and Miss Trunchbull; wafting their Biros in front of you like long, thin sugary lollipops before slamming you into The Chokey, throwing their heads back with a muahahahaaaaa as they try to catch you out with their probing questions.

These were our preconceived thoughts.

However, the process – though intrusive – was by no means as scary as that. Or at least it wasn’t for us!

Our social worker was, in fact, a dream. She was polite and understanding, and I found the ‘show-off’ choc-chip shortbread biscuits worked a treat at eking out her inner softness.  Obviously, she wanted to know the ins and outs of a duck’s derrière when it came to our personal and professional lives.

The home study groped with long, gangly fingers into our extended family history, education, religious beliefs, parenting experience, and overall lifestyle, as well as ferreting out any past misdemeanours. Not that I had anything to hide of course *shines halo. Quite rightly so, we were thoroughly scrutinized.

Frozen to the settee by the icy, penetrating glare of the social worker’s expectant eyes, we fumbled around trying to find the right things to say or should I say the right things we thought she wanted to hear, whilst at the same time trying to give the least altruistic-sounding response possible.

SW: “So, if the adopted child with whom you were matched was called Beaujolais, Pinot or Bacardi Breezer, how would you feel? Would you want to change his/her name?

Me: *purses lips, snorts deep intake of air. “Of course not.  It is a fundamental part of the child’s identity and having been stripped of everything else that s/he has known, we feel it would be very remiss of us to then snatch away the remaining link to his/her heritage”. *glances at OH with a was-that-ok-was-that-the-right-answer kind of look.

Don’t get me wrong. I actually believe this wholeheartedly, but I also have to be honest and say… I really don’t like Pickle’s birth name. He has 2 beautiful, solid middle names and I did toy with the what-if-I-just-swapped- them-around idea in my head.

But at 3 years old, with his own very steely and established identity, and having been taken from two prior homes, we felt that we couldn’t suddenly tear him away from his foster placement and after 10 days say “Whey hey! Here we are. This is us. Complete strangers. Large quantities of bonkerness running through our veins of sanity. And oh, by the why, you’re no longer going to be known as Smirnoff!

Some families are advised to change an adopted child’s birth name for clear and understandable reasons relating to his/her background. For us, having been given – let’s be honest – Hobson’s choice, it did ultimately make sense not to take away that piece of Pickle’s jigsaw. (Still don’t like it though *stamps feet, sulks)

Would love to hear your thoughts and feelings on those initial meetings.

Silent Sunday

15 Apr

Dad’s Take

14 Apr

Let me introduce myself, I am the long suffering husband of my little “nest of vipers” as I affectionately call her, and I hope you will forgive me for this pathetic attempt at a blog.  I have banned the wife from reading it until I have finished and then and only then can she comment on my spelling, my lack of punctuation, my using too much punctuation, my lack of wit and having no structure whatsoever in my writing.

I made the schoolboy error while we were away on holiday of saying that I might do a blog, and since that point she has gone at least an hour without reminding me of it.  So here I am.  Which is a strange feeling for me because I don’t do facebook, twitter, kindles, ipods, ipads, texting, anything really to do with technology.  I’ll make it short and sweet then.

The wife is what I would call an analyst.  She analyses anything and everything, and then some, while I have the hide of a Rhino.  So in truth I am about as supportive to her in this regard as a broken jock strap.  So, on this day in my 41st year I am going to break with tradition and go against everything I know and offer an opinion on something.  This is what I think of my little “streak of piss”.

Pickle has improved massively over the last two years, in every conceivable way.  Gone is the spitting, biting, kicking, and major tantrums and going is his insecurity.  He is at his happiest at home and for me this is a massive compliment to us.  Well actually, not to us really, to her.  While I am out at work, she is doing the hard graft at home, being referee, mum, counsellor, security blanket, punch bag and general slave.  I have the easy job going to work for sure.  She criticises herself continually for being a bad mum, but this couldn’t be further from the truth.  She is the best thing that has ever happened to Pickle and you know what, Pickle knows that too.

See you in another forty years …..

Saturday is Caption Day

14 Apr

Jolly Routine

12 Apr

We have a family villa in Spain that Pickle has now been to 3 times. Each time his behaviour has, without doubt, improved.

The first time we boarded a plane as a foursome was just 4 months after he moved in with us. It was against the advice of social workers and how right they were. It was too soon to subject him to such a drastic change in routine, albeit a short-term one. It didn’t matter how much we explained that we would be returning home and that we would all stay together forever. The words ‘home’ and ‘forever’ meant nothing to him. How could they?

The days of that first holiday were at best filled with full-blown, shoe-lobbing tantrums. Door-kicking became the favourite sport along with long-distance, over-the-table spitting. The only blessing was that the inhabitants of the local Spanish village were quite obviously baffled by his intricate use of the English language. The empathetic smiles seem to translate universally, however. I found the aviator shades invaluable for avoiding eye contact, hiding embarrassment and masking the unavoidable watery eyeballs.

We’ve moved on leaps and bounds since then. Of course, his constant need for security is ever prevalent.

Once again, our jolly holiday in Spain – although jollier – was not as jolly as it could have been. Pickle was thrown backwards again with this latest change in his routine His inappropriate bravado and insolence bounced on the surface blanketing his fears and apprehension.

To those who loosely know Pickle, he is the bubbly, less-than-reticent cutie pie with eyelashes like palm fronds. His unconcealed affection, though ridiculously charming and lovable, is uncharacteristic of what you would expect from the average child/almost-stranger relationship. But to a child to whom strangers have always been introduced as ‘friends’ or ‘trusted adults’ (social workers, family finders, contact centre workers), his open friendliness could be considered somewhat understandable. Those who know him more intimately are aware that his terrified interior is in fact just playing out a rather brash, swaggering external role. It’s perplexing, testing and extremely wearisome.

Ashamedly, patience isn’t always the first thing to jump to the fore when his impertinent manners surface. I get frustrated, I over-analyse, I want to scream. In all honesty, I often do. Then I go away and kick myself for my lack of understanding and inability to see the feelings behind the behaviours. I berate myself for my reactions and my undeniable over-reactions.

Then I sigh, and start again.

We’re home. Routine is in full force and today Pickle’s first words were “Mummy, do you like being back home? I do.”

Then I sighed, and smiled.


Back to Blighty

11 Apr

Hola amigos! *waves frantically with one hand.

We’re back. Arrived home safely – in one physical piece at least – this afternoon. Home from our Jollies. Our Easter Jollies to jolly olé España. Did I say Jolly?

[“Jolly” post to follow when I’m less tired, less stressed, and I have had the Bacardi glass surgically removed from trembling, tightly clamped digits on other, non-waving hand.]

So, here we are, back in blinkin’ bleak and bitter ole Blighty. But not without the usual last-minute drama. A quick, pre-departure check of the pre-printed boarding cards – yes, the ones that I (that’s me) printed prior to our Jollies – revealed that one of our small cucumfers (Pickle’s delightful articulation of the word ‘cucumber’) didn’t exist on paper. The main form itself was beautifully printed with a rather introverted layout… AND with all Pickle’s personal details mysteriously absent. Our slightly bigger cucumfer existed in name only, nada más!!!

OK, so I didn’t check beforehand. I always check. It was my fault. I don’t know what happened. I JUST DIDN’T CHECK. I SHOULD’VE CHECKED, OK!

Long story short: Sped down autopista to Alicante airport; queued at info desk; brusquely sent to check-in queue; queued (surprisingly) in ludicrously boring, slowly-inching, erm, queue; Pickle delighted bystanders with his overtly visual and vocal rendition of We Will Rock You, melodiously hammered out on a row of stacking aluminium trolleys; kindly señorita pre-empted my imminent panic attack by smiling (with enviably white teeth) and quickly handing me 4 shiny, brand spankin’ new boarding passes, enabling both cucumfers to embark the big, flying, tin thingy.

And. Get this…they behaved surprisingly well. Very well, in fact. Throughout the entire flight. All of it. The whole thing. From start to finish.

A 9-day holiday and they finally settle down…on the 9th day.

Can’t wait until August. We’re going for 10 days!  *whoops loudly, almost spills Bacardi.

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