July at Adoption: The Bear Facts

I feel as though I start every monthly round-up by saying “it’s been a busy month” but, well, it has! Perpetual busyness or not, here are the best bits of July…

Events:

The first week or so of the month passed by in a blur of rollers and paintbrushes. The builders paused for a week so that we could decorate before they laid the wooden floor. When I say “we”, I mean I, as obviously Grizzly was at work. When he wasn’t at work, he entertained the boys so that I could paint more. My Dad helped me some days which was a God-send. It was an intense 5 days and 6 evenings and a bigger job than we really anticipated but needs must. However I did enjoy doing something practical and I had fun listening to the radio and jiggling my way around the living room.

If you’re nosy (like me) and like seeing what other people’s houses are like, you can see the finished room and fruits of my labour at the bottom of this blog post.

The subsequent weeks mainly revolved around school – transition visits, assemblies etc. You can read about how we got on in End of Term and Achievement.

Before I knew it, term had ended and suddenly there were 6 long weeks stretching out ahead of me and 2 boisterous boys to keep entertained. It is terrifying how quickly time passes once your children are school-aged! Usually I like to plan what I’m going to do with the boys in the holidays. It is as though the plans are a comfort blanket for me and just having them might make it all a bit easier. However, between the renovations, Big Bear’s imminent birthday and our Adoption Celebration to plan, I just haven’t had any brain space to plan holiday outings. Consequently we are making it up as we go along and surviving one day at a time. “Winging it” I think is the technical term.

I’m not going to claim it has all been rainbows and butterflies (far from it) but this post is meant to be about all the good bits so I will save the challenges for a different post (I can feel one called Managing Boisterous Boys in the Holidays coming on…).

The lack of plans has meant that we have spent more time at home than we usually would. I have tried to dig deep to think of/organise wholesome activities to busy them with. I love to see the boys sitting still and engaged in a task that doesn’t involve an I Pad, but it’s something we rarely manage to achieve.

We spent a fun (for them: intense and organised with military precision for me) afternoon making biscuits. We used the cookie cutters and then when the biscuits were cool we decorated them. It took about an hour to clear up again, Little Bear ate pretty much a whole tube of icing and there was bickering over who was having which cookie cutter but they loved it and were very pleased with their creations.

We have also discovered special bubbles that you can hold and bounce on your hand if you wear the special purple gloves that come in the set. I wish I could post some photos as it’s very cool but both bears are very identifiable in them.

Another day, one of Big Bear’s friends came round with her mum for a play. They were off on their holidays so brought Big Bear an early birthday present. As he cannot in any way contain his birthday excitement, I let him open it. It was a box of Lego which he promptly opened and sat at the table to build with his friend. Little Bear, not wanting to be left out, climbed up to sit with them. Knowing that he wouldn’t manage to sit there long before wanting to interfere with the building, I was hit by inspiration – I was sure there was a box of Junior Lego in the cupboard which had been given as a present some time ago. We had put it away because at the time Little Bear wasn’t ready for it. I wasn’t too sure if he was now but sometimes it’s best to give him the opportunity anyway.

Miraculously 3 children sat calmly at the table playing with Lego on their own trays for half an hour or more. The instructions are quite clear in Junior Lego so I sat with Little Bear and showed him the pictures of the bricks he needed and asked him to find them. I was a little panicked to start with as he didn’t seem to be able to match the items to the pictures, not even selecting the right colour of brick. We persevered though and soon he was scanning the tray and selecting the correct pieces consistently. I did most of the building but he did have a go and managed to put some pieces in place, which boosted his confidence. I was very impressed that he managed to sit there throughout the whole build and he was very proud of the truck and digger that had appeared. Both bears doing Lego side by side without incident! Wonders never cease.

We have had a lovely trip to a new park with our friends for a play and a picnic and Grizzly and Little Bear have been really busy with a new construction project. They have decided to build a fort in the garden. There is no room whatsoever so they have built it above the chicken coup! I’m very impressed with it, especially how quickly it has gone up. I think Grizzly likes it more than the boys do (don’t tell him!) and keeps adding bits, like secret windows and spy holes. Little Bear is a natural at DIY so helping out with real tools is ecstasy for him.

Big Bear seems to have really grown up all of a sudden and has much more of an attention span for calmer activities. We have decided to do a little project each night, just for 10 minutes to half an hour. So far it’s going really well and we’re both enjoying thinking of different things to do. @NowWeAreSix has challenged me to do a picture blog at the end of the summer to share all of #bigbearsminiprojects and I plan to do just that.

Snapshots:

  • Seeing my little non-fruit –or-vegetable-eating bear picking and eating strawberries fresh from the bush in my parents garden
  • Big & Little Bear discovering a forgotten about whoopee cushion. Little Bear had clearly never experienced one before from the hysterical laughter that ensued.
  • Little Bear’s excitement at choosing a birthday present for Big Bear. Equally his excitement at helping wrap and hide it. He has no concept of keeping it secret so has told Big Bear several times what the present is and where he can find it!

Project Home Improvement:

It’s finished!! Yeay! It’s beautiful and I love it and the upheaval and hard work was all completely worth it.

There are a couple of things I hadn’t anticipated about open plan living though: although there are definitely positives about being able to keep my eye on the boys all the time, it is a double-edged sword as I can no longer pretend to cook and hide from them in the kitchen!! The constant noise can be a little over-stimulating. Also, Little Bear tends to run around more as the space is bigger. However, I am getting used to these things and just seeing my bright green fridge can do wonders for my mood. The other down side is that the rest of the house looks really shabby in comparison. Time to start phase 2 then! The plans are with the council as we speak so fingers crossed and more about that next time. For now, happy nosing:

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July at Adoption: The Bear Facts

End of Term

The last couple of weeks at school have been an emotional rollercoaster of transition visits, reports, final assemblies and goodbyes.

At Big Bear’s school, they have a transition week and a half. The year 6 children have their taster days at high school, allowing each of the other classes to move up to their next teacher and classroom prior to the summer holidays. This is the second year they have done it this way and I think it’s brilliant. It is particularly useful for children who get anxious and who would normally spend the last days of the summer break fretting and staying awake at night worrying about school (Big Bear). It means that classrooms are familiar, us parents know where to drop off and pick up, the children know where to put their coat and bag, which day they have PE etc. It means that transition is not tokenistic (a quick half day) but structured, organised and well-thought out. The children experience the entirety of their new timetable, not just a fraction of it.

Big Bear has made a very smooth and surprisingly easy transition to year 3 and seems very happy about everything. I, on the other hand, cannot believe that my baby is a junior already! He was however, very upset when he found out that one of his Year 2 teachers was leaving the school as she’s full of fun and has really “got” him. I’m sad too as it means she won’t teach Little Bear and I think she would have been great with him.

By moving all of the classes up early, the Reception class becomes empty. This allows the Reception teachers to do a really good transition for the new starters too. As Little Bear is starting school in September, he too has been taking part in the transition fun. This has been his timetable:

Friday: 2hr visit to Reception class with parents (Grizzly did it)

Tuesday: 2hr visit in the morning without parents; afternoon at Preschool

Wednesday: Preschool with visit from the Reception teacher & TA

Thursday: Visit to Reception class over lunch time and for the afternoon

Friday: Leaving assembly at Preschool then home visit from Reception staff

Unlike when Big Bear was small, Little Bear is VERY excited about starting school and cannot wait to join his brother at “big school”. Consequently I knew that I wouldn’t need to peel him crying from my legs and that he would just trot in without a backward glance. It was his behaviour whilst he was there that I was most concerned about. However, apart from whipping his friend around the face with his coat whilst waiting for his afternoon session and fiddling with a few things he shouldn’t, he generally did really well.

During the home visit (which I somehow conducted with the builders also in residence), I spoke with Little Bear’s teacher whilst Little Bear showed the TA his bedroom. Somehow he managed to disappear from her, leading her to think he had come downstairs when in fact he had hidden somewhere upstairs. That gave her a bit of a fright as he was there one second and gone the next. I’m hoping it has illustrated his escapologist tendencies nicely!

Overall, although the transition was thorough, I don’t feel as though the new teachers have seen the full extent of Little Bear’s behaviour. They haven’t experienced growling, aggression or any significant refusals to comply which I’m sure they will, once he’s fully settled. However, the fact that the transition has been really positive is brilliant and should mean that everyone involved is feeling fairly confident about September.

 

Little Bear’s leaving assembly was quite possibly the cutest thing I’ve ever seen. It was pretty entertaining watching the staff trying to shepherd 60 pre-schoolers on to a stage. One was dressed as an alien, a few were wearing bin bags (not too sure why), some had props. At one point, a girl on the front row lifted her tutu to scratch at her knickers. Little Bear was predictably the one who needed to sit right next to the teacher. He spent the first half waving at us, winking and blowing kisses and occasionally shouting out “that’s my dad. That’s my mum”. After a while we could see he was starting to get bored: he kept prodding his teacher and trying to get her to give him the microphone. Funnily enough she didn’t oblige. The staff had cleverly given him a big furry puppet to hold which distracted him a little.

It was lovely to see him stand up and join in with the others though. He joined in with some of the actions in songs and even did some Jolly Phonics actions and sounds which I wasn’t aware he knew. I was mainly just proud that he managed to sit through the whole thing and do roughly what he was meant to be doing; something he would certainly not have been able to do when he first started there. I realised how nurturing and constructive his time at preschool had been, how much I valued the staff there and how sad I was going to be that he was (we were) leaving them. There was a big lump in my throat and quite possibly some mistiness in my eyes. Ahem. I would need to collect myself before his last day.

The next end of term event was receiving Little Bear’s report (I already had Big Bear’s and wrote about it in Achievement). Overall it is very positive and focuses on what he can do and the progress that he’s made. It does mention a few times though that his performance on tasks is affected by his “listening and attention skills”, that he can “find it hard to concentrate”, that he “has his own agenda” and that he complies with adult direction “more frequently”(note, not ‘nearly all the time’ as he should). It is all true and I’m well aware of the issues but it can be disquieting nonetheless to read these things in black and white.

There is a lovely comment at the end that says how Little Bear likes to make other people happy and that his next teacher is really lucky to have him in her class. I know that the staff genuinely care about him and have become very fond of him during his time there. They have found it difficult that he is moving on to a different school and not continuing up to Reception in his current setting, with the rest of the preschool cohort. The reason he isn’t is because his preschool is in a different village from where we live. I could have sent him to our local preschool but I didn’t rate it for Big Bear and knew they wouldn’t be able to support Little Bear in the way he needed. I’m very happy that we chose to send him to a slightly further one and I do think that the school attached to it would continue to meet his needs well. However, practically it makes much more sense to send him to the school within walking distance that Big Bear already attends. Both boys will be happier if they go to the same setting too. Unfortunately that does mean leaving the connections we have made at Little Bear’s preschool.

On Wednesday we had to say goodbye. I came along at pick up time with a present and card for Little Bear’s keyworker, expecting a quick bye. I wasn’t expecting all of the staff to come out to wave him off and each cuddle him. Also (good job I was wearing my sunglasses) , I was really touched when they presented him with Chester, the Nursery cuddly rabbit who had been going home with the children for a night or two for them to take photos and record their adventures with and had been their buddy throughout preschool. Little Bear had brought him home fairly recently and had loved the responsibility of having him and taking him back. This time, the staff had tied a label to Chester and written a note asking Little Bear to keep him forever and to look after him for them. It was such a lovely and thoughtful thing for them to do and I felt they had really instinctively understood that it would help him with moving on; that Chester would be a tangible link between what had gone before and what was coming and that preschool wasn’t another abrupt and painful ending for him. It also showed me how much they cared about him and the fact that one of the teachers was teary too nearly tipped me over the edge. I very much intend to stay in touch with them though so I knew it wouldn’t really be the final goodbye.

chester

Just as we were walking off, Little Bear clutching Chester to his chest, the staff shouted after us to ask if Little Bear could say bye to his friend. Now, when Little Bear first started preschool he had literally zero interest in the other children, in fact he sometimes saw them as a threat. It is only in the last couple of months that he has started to interact and play with the others. Even more recently he has started to form a proper friendship with one specific boy, who he talks about at home and who his teachers say is a good pairing for him. The other boy is quite shy but tuned in to Little Bear’s speech and able to translate for him. The fact that he is helping seems to boost his confidence whilst the fact that a peer understands Little Bear and can play with him properly is a great boost for him. So of course I said “yes”, they can say goodbye. The little man in question came running out of the gate at full pelt, Little Bear ran towards him and they had a huge hug. This tipped the crying member of staff fully over the edge and gave me a prick of guilt.

I was fully aware of the growing friendship and had been umming and erring over whether or not to get a note to the boy’s mum to try to maintain it. I don’t know the lady in question at all and it felt like I was really putting myself out there by approaching her. I wasn’t entirely comfortable with it and could envisage all sorts of problems if we didn’t get on. So far I had taken the coward’s way out and done nothing, telling myself that he would make lots more friends and it wouldn’t matter. However, seeing them hug like that spurred me into action. I gave my name and number to a member of staff to pass on to his Mum. I don’t know if she will contact me (I don’t know whether I would if the roles were reversed) but at least I know that I have tried.

And there we were: school was finished. Just like that. I have no idea where the last school year has gone, time has never seemed to go this fast. Now we have 6 weeks of holidays to contend with… It is only day 2 and I’m already a little frazzled!

 

End of Term

Raising Boisterous Boys

When I was pregnant with Big Bear I just assumed I was having a girl. I don’t know why – I think I could imagine the fun I would have buying little outfits – so many pretty fabrics, so many beautiful combinations. Maybe I was envisioning a mini-me. Although if I’d have thought hard about that I would have realised that as a child I didn’t really entertain dresses and was more comfortable up to my waist in mud.

About 6 weeks before giving birth I woke in a panic. This wasn’t unusual, I was particularly panicked about giving birth somewhere strange and would often wake with thoughts such as “what if it happens in the car?” or “what if it’s on the kitchen floor?”. On this particular day, my panic had nothing to do with inappropriate locations; instead I had been hit by the realisation that it could actually be a boy. A boy!! What on earth would I do with a boy?

Looking back this was clearly the befuddled workings of a hormone flooded mind. How could it possibly have taken me 8 months to figure out that there is a 50/50 chance of having either gender? I was just so certain the baby would be a girl that I hadn’t even considered anything else. It was time to get thinking of a boy’s name. Just in case (because I still acted under the delusion that it was a girl).

It was a boy. Grizzly says he knew so all along but was probably a bit too scared of me to say so.

Having given birth I couldn’t have given a tiny rat’s backside what gender the baby was. I was just relieved he was healthy and seemed to have all the correct anatomy.

When we came to adopt, I was quite adamant that this time it WOULD be a girl. A girl wouldn’t provide the same competition with Big Bear I reasoned. A girl would have different toys so we wouldn’t have the same issues over sharing etc.

And I’d be able to buy pretty dresses.

It was a boy.

This time I had a choice in the matter. It was me who saw Little Bear’s profile first; it was me who shared it with Grizzly and Anne (Our Social Worker). I was very sure he was the right match. If a child seems as though they would fit right into your family clearly gender becomes irrelevant. And so I welcomed into my life a second boy.

Now, I must point out that not all boys are the same, just as not all girls like dressing up and playing with dolls. Apparently some boys are quite bookish and prefer quiet indoor games. Forgive me if I sound disbelieving, it’s just that my boys are quite possibly not from the same species as those boys. My boys (and in that I include my husband) are Boisterous Boys. I mean noisy (extremely), excitable, active, energetic get-bored-very-quickly boys.

When I hear the chant of BEAT-DOWN, BEAT-DOWN thundering around the house I know it’s time to take cover. This signifies the start of a mass wrestling “pile on” kind of situation. The volume will rise by 20 decibels, my posh cushions will be cast to the floor in a haphazard pile, made beds will be rapidly unmade. There will be a tangible shift in the atmosphere, as though the air itself is getting overexcited. I will know that it will end in tears or injury. Grizzly will be surprised when it does.

For a while I did exercise my matriarchal rights and banned beat-downs. Little Bear loved them but couldn’t cope with the adrenaline rush. The certainty of pushing him into over-stimulated territory made them untenable for me.

However, he generally can cope with the madness now and as wild a situations as it is, Grizzly does (sort of) manage it. The bears never oppose each other, always working as a team to “defeat” Grizzly. I just leave them to it and studiously turn down all offers to join in. Ditto Nerf Gun fights (it hurts) and water fights (its cold).

I always said I wouldn’t have any guns in the house, peace-loving as I am. However, all 3 boys are drawn to weapons and we have ended up with an extensive collection of guns, bow and arrows and swords. None of the bears want to hurt anybody, they just seem to like shooting and are fascinated by knights and soldiers. Big Bear had quite a major Army phase and went everywhere dressed in head to toe camouflage. We frequently had an army tent erected in the living room. In fact, he took his SAS Survival Guide to his Pre-school graduation (just to be prepared I’m guessing!).

Before we met Little Bear, we met with his Paediatrician and I have never heard anybody use the term “busy boy” so many times in one hour. We could have aced buzzword bingo.

The thing is that all 3 of my bears are ‘busy boys’. Not one of them can sit still for long. Grizzly somehow manages to work in an office but he has to get up to pace about every few minutes. Big Bear does well at school but gets into trouble due to his boisterousness and over-excitability. Little Bear seems to have interminable energy. They all need exercising regularly. If they are not playing football, they are canoeing. If they are not canoeing they are swimming. If they are not swimming they are on a bike ride. If not a bike then scaling across some sort of rope lattice suspended between two trees outside.

I have to admit that some of the time I feel a little left out. It’s mainly when the boys are embarking on a water based pursuit that I would hate.

I have made efforts to get involved in their other favoured activities though. I like a bike ride and can just about pass muster as a goalie. Some of our best family days have been when we’ve donned our wellies and headed off to a forest or country park. We build dens, explore, get muddy and make log bridges. The boys are suitably exercised, we all get some fresh air and I return to my younger tom-boy ways (just with really pretty wellies).

Even just walking down the street is turned into a gymnastic activity by Little Bear. He will hold my hand and the hand of anyone else that makes the error of walking beside him and do mid-air roly-polies (the child has abs of steel) or skid along on his heels. If we pass something climbable, it will be climbed. The inappropriate indoor climbing has mostly stopped but I do need to watch out for shop counters. As the cashier in M and S aptly observed, I could do with eyes in the back of my head.

Boisterous Boys also tend to be LOUD. People always know we have arrived and I generally wish we could be a bit more inconspicuous. It does come in useful sometimes though – my voice doesn’t carry at all but all 3 of my bears can yell without any effort and make the whole village hear if needs be. Occasionally that can be useful. Most of the time it isn’t and when we are eating outside and they are exchanging rude insults I do frequently wish they had an inbuilt “silent” button. Our poor neighbours!

I have to admit there are times (when I’m being roped into sword fighting practise or am crawling around with a child astride my back shooting at imaginary baddies) that I wish I had children who would sit still and be quiet for a while! Maybe draw a picture or colour in. I would have sat for ages as a child doing that and to be honest I would still enjoy it now. Or sit and read a book. I can remember reading my way around our local library until I felt as though the books had run out. I have made sure that both boys appreciate books but it tends to be a bedtime only thing at the moment – they are too busy (!) during the day.

It is times like these that I wonder if I need a girl in my life – a little calm, colouring-loving ally in a world outnumbered by Boisterous Boys. I know of course that girls can be just as noisy, wild and boisterous as boys, so it wouldn’t be the panacea I’m imagining, but a girl can dream.

Whenever I’ve had these thoughts, I’ve usually ended up in a situation with other parents talking about their children and the conversation will have drifted to ballet classes and the pressure to create the perfect bun. “Eugh”, I will think, “thank God I’ve got boys”.

And I am thankful (mostly) because the other thing about Boisterous Boys is that they are really good FUN. A big part of Grizzly’s appeal when we first got together was his ability to make me laugh like no one else and he still does to this day. Both of my smaller bears are budding comedians too and I can’t help but laugh when I find the smaller one running around sporting my bra on top of his t-shirt or the bigger one comes out with some clever witticism or other; or perfectly mimics someone’s accent. All 3 have a naughty glint in their eye which I find very endearing.

All 3 bears are tough (in their way) and completely unfazed by being dirty or seeing small decapitated creatures the cat has brought in or by picking up interesting looking insects with their bare hands. Equally there are no longer many things that faze me, used as I am to neighbours bringing the boys toads they have found or helping them to dig in the garden or forage on the beach.

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Not long ago we went for one of our muddy adventures with our friends and their girls. One got a smudge of mud on her hand and trousers and wanted to go home to change. It completely ruined her trip and she was quite upset about it. I realised that my mad outdoor life with the boys has become so second nature that I had forgotten it was even possible for people to become upset by mud. Perhaps a clean, book-loving girl would not fit quite so well into our family after all…

Having boys has also taught me things I never thought I would know. I have been subjected to A LOT of Star Wars. I know lots of ladies like it too but I just don’t get it. It’s not for me. Yet I know my Darth Vader from my Kylo Ren, my Emperor Palpatine from my Jabba the Hut. I can reel off names of sports cars and talk in depth about different types of Lego. I can identify a wide range of superheroes and quite possibly describe a back story or two. I now seem to be embarking on a crash course in all things football. Zlatan Ibrahimovic you say? Yes, I know the one. Having boys is mind-expanding it turns out.

As mad and noisy and full-on as my boys are, I completely adore them, just as they are. And there is nothing better in this world than a big snuggle with them (if they’ll stay still long enough).

I do occasionally still find myself wandering through the girl’s clothing section though…

 

Keep Calm and Carry On Linking Sunday
Raising Boisterous Boys

Achievement

This week Big Bear brought home his school report and SATS results and it has got me thinking about achievements: how do we measure them and what really matters anyway?

Big Bear has been well-stimulated since birth and has been fortunate in having a good start in life, unlike his brother, Little Bear, who has not. Big Bear has also been blessed with natural academic ability and despite being the youngest child in his class, has exceeded expectations in his year 2 SATS. I am extremely proud of him but it’s not because of the marks that he got.

It has taken a while for school to notice that Big Bear has these abilities. Naturally boisterous and with a fairly short attention span, his skills have been masked by his excitable behaviour. He has worked really hard this year to focus and to put all his efforts into tasks. Consequently he has found himself in the harder groups in class. His chronologically older peers seem to have been able to cope better with the expectations and pressures of being in these groups than he has. Although able to keep up with the work, I think Big Bear’s age shows in his immature resilience and sensitivity (though some of that is part of his personality). He takes criticism (even if intended in a constructive way) very personally and is easily wounded by it. In addition he is a reluctant, left-handed writer who constantly needs to improve his handwriting. Due to the issues with feeling criticism so keenly, constant comments about not being able to read his writing have not been received well.

Yet, despite all this, Big Bear has recently found within himself the desire to do his best and has tried really hard. He has finally achieved his potential and that is what I am proud of.

When I read his report however, the SATS results were nice (because they represented all of the above) but they were not the bit that made me well-up with pride. That was the bit which said he is a very kind and caring member of the class and is always the first to comfort others when they are upset. Now that IS an achievement: being a truly lovely human being. That is something which cannot be measured by standardised tests but which is so important in leading a happy and fulfilled life.

I would take loveliness over SATS results every time.

However, it would be wrong of me to suggest that academic achievements don’t matter because realistically they do. After all, exams/ grades/ certificates are the currency we trade in to get gainful employment as adults. Without them, options are limited. It is probably this thought that surfaces in my subconscious whenever I get an update on Big Bear’s educational progress and a few minutes later am hit by a semi-panic: how on earth will Little Bear cope at this juncture in 3 years’ time?

It is true, 3 years is a long time away and no doubt Little Bear will have made tons more progress by then, but as he still cannot count reliably to 3, will he really be able to do multiplication and division by then? Will it be realistic to expect him to identify a noun phrase or an adverb when he finds language processing and formulation so difficult at the moment?

Who knows? But I’m pretty sure that SATS are not going to be the right way to measure Little Bear’s achievements.

As far as I’m concerned, Little Bear is achieving every day. It is an achievement for him whenever he complies with an adult request, thereby ignoring his own agenda. It is an achievement if he can do it without growling or commenting or hitting. It is an achievement every time he learns a new word, makes a longer sentence or expresses a new concept. And, like his bigger brother, Little Bear tries really hard.

Living with Speech and Language Difficulties is really tiring because every interaction is fraught with challenge. What does that person mean? Can I make sense of it? How do I express my complex thoughts on the matter when I don’t have half of the words I need?

Faced with these challenges day in day out it would be easy to give up. But Little Bear doesn’t. In fact, he is now very chatty and will persevere over and over sometimes if I can’t quite work out what he means. Or he will think of another way to make me understand – a gesture or by getting an object.

Overcoming a communication difficulty is quite an achievement, but not the kind SATS can measure.

Also, like his bigger brother, Little Bear has a very kind side to him and can be very considerate and thoughtful.

A big part of the reason I was happy with Big Bear’s report was because he had tried hard to reach his potential. I don’t really know what Little Bear’s potential is, his development having become delayed through neglect, not by any innate cognitive difficulties. I do know that whatever he achieves academically will be despite this. He is showing some real early promise for practical tasks such as mending and figuring out how things work. He seems to instinctively know what to do with tools in a way that other children would not. He is also a good budding sportsman.

These achievements will not be measured by SATS.

I’m grateful that there are other options these days for young people – apprenticeships etc. where you CAN achieve using practical skills. However, from Big Bear’s experiences so far in the primary system, the curriculum at that stage seems focussed on Literacy and Numeracy and I’m not sure how many opportunities there are to achieve in different ways.

Whatever Little Bear’s potential, I hope he is happy at school and able to thrive there. I will be extremely proud of every achievement, no matter how big or small, as I am with Big Bear.

If I measure achievement by the parameters that I value – hard work, trying your best, being kind and considerate towards others – then both bears are already high-achievers in my book.

 

Achievement

June at Adoption: The Bear Facts

Events:

Well, looking back, it’s fair to say that June has been pretty full on. It seems ages ago already but right back at the start of the month both boys were on their half term holiday. I was feeling very brave on the first day and merrily trotted off with them both for a day out. Despite having a good reserve of resilience and having picked somewhere they would both like to go, the day was an unmitigated disaster. Little Bear has several full-blown, very public meltdowns. Big Bear coped well to start with but by the end had had more than his fill of his brother and announced with all the might of his sizeable lungs that he HATED him and refused to even sit with us for an ice cream. Needless to say my confidence about managing the rest of the holiday quickly dwindled.

However, thankfully, the stars got back into alignment and the rest of the break was lovely. I suspected things might be ok when I heard this conversation on the second morning:

Little Bear: I love you

Big Bear: I love you too

Little Bear: Shall I give you a cuddle?

Big Bear: Yeah

For once the weather was actually good and dare I say it, warm. It meant we could be outside a lot. We spent an uncharacteristically chilled out afternoon in the park – me and Grizzly’s Mum sitting under a tree while the boys played and made new friends; we had a family BBQ at my parent’s house; went to several more parks; had tea outside pretty much every day and even got the paddling pool out a few times. One day I came home from the supermarket to find both bears with their feet in the paddling pool with their “pet” toad swimming around their feet!

We also had a fab, if not slightly crazy trip to the zoo with my friend and her two boys. It’s pretty full on trying to keep 4 active boys safe at a very busy zoo (I have no idea how people manage to have more than 2 children! I’m quite amazed by it). It was shortly after the boy-falling-into-Gorilla-pit incident had taken place so although Little Bear touched several bins, spat in a pond, climbed into a sand trough meant for fossil hunting and nearly tipped a fence over, I was just glad that we managed to leave with all the children we had come with and nobody had got too hands on with the animals!

On the very last day of the holiday we drove out to a castle where they were re-enacting a siege from the 12th century. There were loads of people dressed in full knight regalia with real swords and shields etc. Both boys absolutely loved it and I’ve never seen Little Bear sit still for so long as he did when we watched the tournament. It was one of our favourite family days out yet.

We recently had another fun day out thanks to our village fete. Grizzly was the compere (without compare he likes to think) and was in his element, mic in hand, saying whatever he fancied. Big Bear helped him with setting up then hung out with his friends so Little Bear and I explored the stalls together. We enjoyed watching the procession, going on the bouncy castle and Little Bear was very excited to have a go with a real bow and arrow. And after a soggy, unpromising morning, the sun shone and it was glorious.

Little Bear and I have continued to enjoy our ‘mummy days’, recently trying a trip to an aquarium. Little Bear loved it and couldn’t quite believe we had seen real sharks.

I feel that Little Bear and I have managed to reach somewhat of an equilibrium where hanging out is generally pretty relaxed and fun (we still have our moments obviously). We were sitting in a café having lunch this week and I realised that in September I’m very much going to have a Little Bear shaped hole in my days. I’m going to miss my little buddy when he starts school.

Milestones

Little Bear has started swimming lessons. I thought Grizzly was bonkers when he suggested we ask for a trial session for him. Little Bear loves water but the problem (I thought) would be that he doesn’t like authority and generally tests boundaries very thoroughly whenever a new person is in charge. I didn’t imagine that they would accept him onto the programme after the trial, especially judging by the contempt he has shown towards his new teachers whenever we have bumped into them in the playground. However, sometimes it is very nice to be wrong. He was SO well behaved in the first session that they accepted him onto the programme even though they didn’t actually have any spaces left! He has been 3 times now and coped well each time. Little Bear is so proud to have joined his big brother, who is in the pool at the same time but in a harder class. I wonder if it is because he is so motivated to be there that he is managing to co-operate.

Little Bear has also been motivated enough to earn himself a big bed. I wrote all about it in Little Bear’s Big Bed

As I write this Big Bear is on his first school residential. He seems so little at 6 years! It is not so long ago that he would not have managed the trip without a good deal of anxiety beforehand and possibly changing his mind about going at the last minute. However, in the event, he has done brilliantly and bounced off with nary a backward glance. Little Bear has really missed him though, asking me every 20 minutes if we can pick him up yet!

A BIG adoption milestone took place this month too – we got The Adoption Order.

School Life:

Little Bear has continued to do well at Pre-school. His keyworker said the other day that he is making lots more friends and doing well with developing his interactions. What she actually meant was that he and his buddies are now teaming up to get into even more mischief. She also said that they are really noticing the progress with his language as he is now more argumentative and cheeky! Very much a double-edged sword!

I have had to e-mail and meet with Big Bear’s teacher as he was frequently coming home upset. I don’t think she realised how sensitive he is and that keeping him in or making him start his work again was knocking his confidence. Positively she seems to have really listened and taken on board that praise, encouragement and setting him little challenges will work much better. He came home the other day telling me she had said his work was “fantastic” and had made him Star of the Day – little things but they made a huge difference to him.

I always have a bit of a debate with myself over whether or not I should be contacting school but so far I’ve found it has helped things and these little changes reassure me that I have done the right thing this time.

Snapshots

  • Little Bear getting very upset at lunch time as he was misbehaving and we had followed through with a consequence. He was now very grumpy and refusing to eat. Without prompting Big Bear said “shall I feed you?” and made a fork aeroplane. Within seconds Little Bear was eating and laughing again. Sometimes I don’t know where Big Bear gets his emotional wisdom from.

Project Home Improvements:

Well, what was planned to be a 3 week fairly straight forward project is turning into something of a saga.

It all began one Saturday towards the end of May when our builder (who we know well and is lovely) appeared at our door with a bit of news. He was having some fairly significant symptoms from his longish term heart problem and needed a procedure to hopefully mend his stent. It was booked in and would mean delaying our work. It was only a day procedure and had a 10 day recovery period so would only lead to a couple of weeks delay for us. It couldn’t be helped and obviously we wanted him to be well so we lived in our bare living room a while longer. What really worried us though was that if the procedure didn’t work, maybe he wouldn’t be able to do the job at all…

The date for his appointment came and went and we didn’t hear anything. We took that as good news and worked towards the new date we had agreed with him. I was pretty shocked therefore, when he popped around a few days before starting work to measure up, that the procedure had not worked and he was now awaiting a quadruple heart bypass!!

Although he is adamant that he is ok to be working, I continue to be fairly perturbed by his health and this has been the most stressful aspect of the work to date. It wouldn’t be so bad if he seemed fine but he noticeably changes colour at points and one day I turned fully mother hen and sent him home.

One thing that has not helped his health is that the project itself has not exactly gone to plan either. The wall that we were having removed to create our open plan family room turned out not to be a stud wall at all (it sounded hollow) but did in fact have a structural role in supporting the floor joists above. Cue the unforeseen involvement of a structural engineer and a 12 foot steel lintel.

The room hasn’t ended up looking the same as we had imagined it either, so there have been various decisions to make and many an hour spent searching the internet for a specific light fitting or other and multiple trips to B and Q to find the right shade of paint (apparently I’m the only person that has brought a mug with them to colour match! In retrospect I see that they thought I was matching my whole room to one mug when actually the mug just happened to be the perfect shade of almost-mustard that I was looking for).

Considering the fact that we are all squashed into one tiny room with loads of furniture to do all our living and eating, we have very limited access to the rest of downstairs, everything (EVERYTHING) is covered in dust and there are several tradesmen in and out all day, so far it has been surprisingly ok.

On paper it should be a complete disaster for Little Bear: the environment is riddled with danger (Stanley knives, circular saws, you name it, it’s here) and the front door is permanently open (it is usually locked with the key out of reach due to Houdini tendencies). However, as long as I know exactly where Little Bear is and pretty much stay joined to his side, its fine. Thankfully he is not in any way unsettled by the huge changes and if anything he loves seeing what the men are up to. If I let him he would definitely volunteer for the role of builders apprentice. He has learned each of their names, knows which van goes with each person and also which equipment belongs to whom (I don’t).

At this point we are about 2 weeks in and I reckon we have about 3 more to go. Hopefully I might be able to share some photos of the finished project next month. I’m keeping everything crossed.

June at Adoption: The Bear Facts