The Building Work is Finished!

Here’s the thing: I can’t think about sensible, important things all the time. It’s tiring. I don’t watch the News because it’s frankly terrifying, though these days you can’t really escape international acts of terror or crazy world leaders or snap elections even if you try. I usually focus my brain space on important things happening closer to home: my family, the children’s education, any adoption-related issues we are having etc. But even then it can be hard work analysing and cogitating and wondering all the time. If I’m honest, and at the risk of sounding shallow, sometimes I just want to think about making things look nice…

I love colour and pattern and genuinely believe that if I wear things and surround myself with things that I enjoy the look of, I will feel happier. It’s not a vanity thing; it’s a creativity thing I think, especially as I’m not bothered what other people think of my choices. As long as me and the other Bears like it we’re all good. I think that thinking of outfits and decorating choices is probably actually a form of self-care for me.

This week has been a bit topsy-turvy as everyone has been feeling poorly and my brain just fancies a bit of making-things-look-nice self-care, so what better time to share the pictures of our FINALLY completed building work?

We have been working on the house pretty much constantly since last summer. You can read about the first phase of building, when we cut a bit off our L-shaped living room and knocked the kitchen wall down to make an open plan family room here: July at Adoption: The Bear Facts. This work left us with a brilliant family friendly living/ dining/ kitchen space at the back of the house. It also left us with a weird miniscule room at the front of the house that wasn’t in any way practical or useable. It was mainly used for storing bits of furniture and tons of boxes of books. We applied for planning permission to extend out the front of the house to fill in the space between the tiny front room and our porch which used to jut further out.

Building work on the second phase started in October/November and has really only just been fully completed. Although the work to make the family room was more major and affected our living areas more, it only took 6 weeks from the beginning to being completely done and it was fairly stress free. The second phase has in comparison felt like it has taken FOREVER and been a marathon. Towards the end of the project, I was feeling quite stressed and wrote about it in Juggling. It is therefore a massive relief that we are done.

For those of you out there who also love looking at stuff here is what it looks like now:

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The tiny front room has become a second living room and office area. All the books are out of their boxes and happily residing on shelves. I am VERY excited that I now have an ‘office’ (what I actually mean by that is ‘a place to keep my extensive stationery collection’!). I also love having more shelves that I can display my collections on and fiddle with and make look nice. So far I have mainly only managed to LOOK at my office and definitely need more time to be in it, working.

As part of the work we also decided to fill in our open porch. This has made our hall bigger and meant we had to re-decorate it. I was pleased about that because we could finally get rid of the tester patches I had painted all over the place in a fit of foolhardiness several years ago. Everywhere is now quite grey but is very much brightened up by our new mustard front door.

We used the space from the porch to create a cupboard. That sounds ridiculously dull but it has changed my life because we no longer walk straight into a wall draped with hundreds of coats and there is no need for shoes to be scattered ALL over the house. I did also paint the cupboard fuchsia pink and put yellow hooks up so it is a very happy cupboard.

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 The last few weeks have involved a huge spring clean and sort out while we have been trying to move everything back around the house again from the places we had been temporarily storing it in. I am still striving for whole-house order and tidiness but I’m not sure it will ever be achieved in a house full of boys. Apart from that, there is one last job to be done. We need a new carpet for the stairs… Obviously I have set my heart on a bright patterned one to lift the grey walls and it sadly doesn’t seem to exist. Well, it does, in the form of the most expensive carpet in the shop that unfortunately does not have any redeeming features such as being impervious to dirt. If anyone knows where to get a manmade pink spotty carpet that will not break the bank I will love you forever*.

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*By the way I totally realise that this is a “first world problem” and that there are far more important things that I should probably be concerning myself with, but it would look fabulous.

 

 

The Building Work is Finished!

A Grown-up Weekend Away

I can’t honestly remember the last time Grizzly and I went away for a night without children. Certainly not once in the 17 months Little Bear has been with us and I think we had only been away a handful of times before that. Grizzly is away fairly frequently with work (though I’m not sure that really counts) and I have had one night away for a friend’s wedding reception.

The main reason we haven’t been away before now is because asking the grandparents to have our boys feels like a big ask. We know they don’t mind but we also know how much energy is required to look after them and keep them entertained. Little Bear’s behaviour can be unpredictable and if he’s having a bad day he can be really challenging to manage. Also, Little Bear tends to test the boundaries more with the grandparents so there is every likelihood that his behaviour could escalate when he is with them. Having never been away we also didn’t know how he would cope without us being there and whether that in itself might cause some issues.

However, recently I’ve been craving a night off. I have friends who do it all the time and I was getting a bit envious of the peace and quiet and lie-in they would be having. I find first thing in the morning the most challenging part of the day with the boys. I’m not a morning person and ideally need 5 minutes to lie in bed quietly before I get up and face the world. However, Little Bear always wakes me before my alarm and always with incessant chatter. He begins work on trying to get me out of bed immediately and if that doesn’t work makes other insistent demands such as asking me to get something or make something speak. I try all the tricks to get him to entertain himself for a few minutes or just lie quietly with me but I know that in reality he will keep this up, without pausing for breath, until I get up and feed him. Though I love him dearly the thought of one day off, one morning without the incessant chatter, was becoming increasingly appealing.

My birthday is in January and I made my wish to Grizzly that all I really wanted was 1 night off. Grizzly didn’t mention anything until a couple of weeks ago when he let slip that he had booked a hotel and started to make arrangements for the boys and that we would be away on the day of my birthday.

It was difficult to know what the best arrangements for the Bears would be. We plumped for splitting them up – Grizzly’s Mum would have Little Bear and my parents would have Big Bear. Big Bear would have a sleepover and Little Bear could stay at home where everything is more familiar. This should lessen the load for the grandparents though I was worried that Little Bear might be very unsettled by being away from us and from Big Bear. I felt he might pine for Big Bear but nobody lives far from anybody else so the grandparents could bring them back together if needs be.

I was also concerned that the boys might be upset that I was choosing to spend my birthday away from them. With that in mind we decided that we wouldn’t stay out long on the Sunday and would come back in time to have a bit of a party afternoon together.

My plan for the week leading up to the Big Weekend was to make the most of getting ready. I wanted to spend time trying on outfits, getting my nails done, having long pampering shower etc. It sounded idyllic and I’m sure it would have been had things gone to plan.

The week started ok. Both boys returned to school after the holidays and though I had a cold and felt under the weather I spent a productive day ticking things off my to-do list. On Tuesday I lost my temper with Little Bear before school as we were in a rush and he wouldn’t co-operate. I then went to meet a friend and the 5 minute journey took me 50 minutes. When I got home I attempted to wrangle with our intermittent internet connection to do an online shop when the phone rang. It was school. Big Bear had been sick could I come and get him?

As soon as I saw him I knew there was nothing wrong with him (daft look on his face) but it was the Head sending him home and as we went out the door he reminded me of the 48 hour rule. Bloody brilliant. I’m totally down with the rule but not when your child scoffs all their meals and is clearly fine.

On Wednesday I had to clear the front room ready for the builders. Later on, Big Bear and I walked the long way round to pick Little Bear up from school. The cat decided to follow us. At the furthest point from home she decided to stop following us. Figuring that her cat skills would lead her home we eventually carried on to school. What ensued was a missing cat situation and several hours of increasing concern, especially as the weather was awful. Grizzly and Big Bear finally found her much later, exactly where we had last seen her: clearly she has no cat skills at all.

On Thursday the shower broke.

What on earth was going on?! Would we even get away for the weekend at this rate? There certainly wasn’t going to be much pampering or trying on of clothes.

By the time I had packed for myself and Big Bear, got his football things ready and organised Little Bear for the party he was going to, made lunch for a friend and dinner for my brother, I was wondering how I would sustain enough energy for the weekend.

Saturday morning began badly because Big Bear’s football match was cancelled which apparently meant his weekend was ruined before it had even begun.

We were finally organised and child free by about 11 am on Saturday. I have to say that it was brilliant. We couldn’t really believe we were actually out together, on our own and we could do anything we wanted. We definitely made the most of it, including staying out past midnight. That last statement shows how little I get out!! I won’t bore you with the details, have a photo montage instead:

I loved every single second of it. I don’t think you realise how much you need some grown up time until you get it. I missed the boys though and enjoyed picking them some little treats and looked forward to seeing them in the afternoon.

Big Bear had been absolutely fine all weekend but his greeting to me was “the weekend has been awful!” He was fairly miserable all afternoon and unusually prickly with his brother. Little Bear had coped really well and behaved well too. Seeing us again seemed to unlock something though and he seemed a little overwhelmed. He was clingy and emotional for the rest of the day.

It wasn’t exactly the party atmosphere we had planned! I think perhaps that had been the wrong plan and maybe they just needed some closeness and 1:1 time with us.

Their reaction reminded me why we needed a break in the first place. We adore them but parenting is hard core and requires a significant commitment of physical, emotional and psychological energy. I don’t think I’ll wait another 2 years for a night off. Now, where’s my diary…

 

A Grown-up Weekend Away

Resilience

Amongst adopters it is a well-known fact that Adoptive Parenting or Therapeutic Parenting requires a truck load of resilience. You need to be at the peak of your game, have a full quota of patience and the ability to dig deep to overcome whatever challenges might be thrown at you on any given day. I would argue that any parenting requires resilience, but adopted charges do tend to need the supercharged version.

It is unfortunate therefore, that, being human and in this case a woman, I cannot maintain this level of resilience. It’s my hormones’ fault. There are certain days within my monthly cycle that I am a little less than serene. For ‘less than serene’ read ‘completely ragey’. Think furious before you’ve even got up. Think highly irritable to the point of being annoyed by your husband’s breathing. Think too hot, too achey, too hungry. Think totally uncomfortable for no obvious reason and mega grumpy. Think extremely short-tempered and pretty much devoid of resilience. This is how I feel when alone so interacting with others in a civilised manner is pretty difficult. It’s an actual affliction and very much not my usual character.

The way forward on such days is to take things as easy as possible – let Little Bear run off steam in the park, let him play on the Ipad more than I really think is appropriate, let him watch a lot of TV, or even better, let somebody else look after him. And make sure I eat plenty.

However, a BIG problem arises if I’m having an aforementioned bad day, I’m on parenting duty and Little Bear is experiencing poor resilience too….

Little Bear had generally low resilience when we first met him. If he couldn’t do a task IMMEDIATELY he became furious and would not try again. I can remember trying to engage him with Duplo but because he couldn’t get the man to sit in the bus in the first second of trying, the Duplo was kicked/ thrown and that was the end of that. Over time, his general level of resilience has developed though and he can now persevere pretty well with toys and tasks such as dressing. However, a bit like me, the stars need to be in alignment and various factors need to be in place for Little Bear to have his full quota of resilience:

  • He needs to have had a good 12 hours sleep
  • He needs to have eaten well. A hungry bear is a grumpy bear, a full of sugar bear is a wild bear
  • He needs to have had his daily movement. A constipated bear is also a grumpy bear.
  • He needs to have had enough exercise and sensory input, without having been tipped into over-stimulated territory
  • He needs to be feeling well and not under the weather.

Too great a variance in any of these factors = poor resilience. Mostly we know him well enough now that we can tweak things for him to keep everything at an optimum level. However, sometimes circumstances are out of our control.

One day last week, Little Bear just could not get to sleep. The reason became apparent when, at 8pm, a good hour after he should have been asleep, he needed a poo (I’m sorry for the oversharing but you know people poo. And they have monthly cycles). Evidently the change to bowel routine affected his ability to get to sleep afterwards and it was far too late for him when he did eventually settle.

The next morning I woke having one of THOSE days and over-tired, over hungry and bowel all to pot, Little Bear was too. DISASTER.

Evidently, because he was feeling rubbish, Little Bear upped the ante with his behaviour, forgot how to listen and didn’t do anything he was told. In my delicate state I had no patience whatsoever and was quick to rebuke, slow to employ therapeutic strategies and lost my temper several times (something which I can usually go weeks without doing). Little Bear had very low resilience and could not cope with being told off (especially in a shouty way) so his behaviour spiralled.

Somehow we made it to the end of the day without me causing him any physical harm and although when I tried to repair the situation at bedtime by stroking his head, he told me to “get off” I was mainly just relieved that the day was finally over.

Later on, I washed my hair, put on fresh pyjamas, made a cup of tea, watched house programmes and ate an elicit Yorkie (I usually try to avoid sugar to improve the hormone situation but desperate times call for chocolate) and thankfully began to feel more like my usual self.

Resilience is paramount in everything running smoothly. That’s why Self Care is so crucial to us and developing our children’s resilience is such an important part of preparing them for real life. Parenting with resilience at a low ebb is painful, unpleasant and guilt-inducing. I don’t recommend it.

Thankfully I am lucky to have a fabulous husband and support network who will unquestioningly give me a break if I ask. I am also thankful that days such as these are few and far between and getting fewer as I become more experienced at remaining calm no matter what – this is definitely a skill and one that can be honed with practise. But you do need a full quota of resilience behind you. And we need to allow ourselves the acceptance that there will be days when we get it wrong, when our parenting is less than good enough, when we do shout and do not act Nurtured Heart at all. We are human. And tomorrow is another day.

Resilience