Letterbox Update

I last wrote about Letterbox back in September when I was trying to figure out how to send our first letter (see First Experience of Letterbox). At the time I was struggling to get hold of Little Bear’s Social Worker to get the information I needed. Nevertheless the letters were written and sent off.

After a week or so I e-mailed to check they had arrived safely. Getting a response was tricky as always and I e-mailed several more times before we got confirmation that they had been received by Social Services.

The next thing I wanted to ensure was that they actually found their way to Little Bear’s birth family. I could just imagine them knowing to expect a letter around September time and waiting with nervous anticipation each time the postman came. I didn’t trust the Social Worker in question to get the letter to them in a timely fashion and I felt strongly that it wasn’t fair. This would be Sian and Joseph’s (my blog name for Little Bear’s birth parents) first contact since Little Bear had been adopted and I felt it was an important one.

I have been nagging and nagging like a stubborn puppy for 7 months now without a response (other than an out of office or a promise of doing it next week). This is all I have wanted to know:

  • Had Little Bear’s birth parents and siblings received their letters?
  • What was the response?
  • Would we be getting a reply? If not, what support would Little Bear’s birth parents be getting?

Finally, after A LOT of perseverance on our part and that of our Social Worker, we have finally had a response. Sian and Joseph HAVE received their letter. I don’t know how they are or what impact the letter had on them. They have sent a birthday card to Little Bear though and in it they wrote a little note. It says they are sorry they haven’t written: they cannot find the words. I can understand that totally. At least they have attempted some communication with us even if just to explain that they can’t manage more. I am wondering what we could do to make it easier for them next time.

They also wrote that they are pleased Little Bear is loved as much as they love him. I felt when we got The Adoption Order and they went to court but didn’t contest it that Sian and Joseph were somehow giving us permission to be Little Bear’s parents. I feel this more strongly now. As weird as it may sound, it feels as though there is the start of a positive bond between us. We would still like to meet them if that ever becomes an option.

We have also received a letter from the long-term foster carers of some of Little Bear’s siblings. I suspect it was written several months ago, in direct reply to our letter but has been mysteriously buried somewhere on Little Bear’s Social Worker’s desk for quite some time. It is a nice letter and we can tell that the boys are well cared for and thriving in the placement which is reassuring. The Social Worker wasn’t able to give me an update on the other siblings so I have asked for one.

I find it quite tricky knowing how much I can ask and what sort of information they are allowed to share with us. It makes sense to me that we should know something, at least whether they are settled because we might need to know what has gone on for them if anything changes in the future. And, whether it makes sense or not, I do care about them and want to know that they are okay. I know we have never met them but as their brother is now our son, there is an undeniable link between us.

I also find the time delay in receiving everything difficult. It would feel very strange and conspicuous to present Little Bear with his birthday card several months after his birthday. He knows it isn’t his birthday now so receiving a card from his birth family would seem a lot more normal if it arrived at the same time as the rest of his birthday post.

I think on this occasion we will need to put the card and letters away in his box for when he’s older, not least because Sian and Joseph have signed the card “Mum and Dad” again. We have already spoken with his Social Worker about this and asked that they use their first names to be consistent with the Life Story Book and to minimise confusion. I don’t blame Sian and Joseph for this: I rather suspect the Social Worker has avoided speaking with them about it. I also suspect she generally avoids them and they won’t have had any support in coping with their grief or support in communicating with us. I do wonder how it would be if we could “cut out the middle man” but there are obvious difficulties with that.

It isn’t long now until this year’s official Letterbox season and like last year I’m feeling strangely keen to write. I am only hoping that this time it won’t result in another 7 months of pestering to make the right things happen. I thought we had agreed to writing once per year, not spending nigh on a year trying to organise it.

 

Letterbox Update

Brothers

Little Bear made me chuckle this week. He has Show and Tell at school every Thursday and this week when I asked him what he wanted to bring he said “Big Bear”. He had hatched a whole plan about how he was going to find Big Bear’s classroom and get him out to bring to show his friends. Something really tickled me about it and in the end we were so busy talking about the imaginary plan that Little Bear forgot to take anything at all. The underlying sentiment was very sweet though: Big Bear is one of Little Bear’s favourite things.

A few other things have happened recently that have got me reflecting on the boys’ relationship. I have talked before about our anxiety over whether getting a sibling would be a good thing for Big Bear. I have also talked about how excited Big Bear was about the prospect of getting a sibling in advance and how disastrous the start of their relationship was when it happened (See Getting brother or sister). It took a long time (months) for Big Bear to trust Little Bear and to stop fearing what he might do to him. It took even longer for him to start to see the upside of having him. That said I have felt for quite a long time now that they have developed a good relationship and have had an extremely positive effect on each other.

When I wrote about my Reflections on Adoption One Year In I talked about how well their relationship had developed and how nice it was to see them together. At that point I think I thought that we had reached a happy balance and this was probably the best their relationship would be. There weren’t any negative connotations associated with that thought; their relationship had already confounded our expectations and hopes. However, recently, I have noticed some changes.

Although the Bears got on very well, Big Bear had quite a lot of parameters that were non-negotiable in the relationship. These rules mainly related to his possessions. His bedroom door remains resolutely locked and Little Bear is not allowed to cross the threshold. In the playroom Big Bear’s toys and Little Bear’s toys are separate. They each have their own boxes and drawers and it has always been clear that Little Bear isn’t allowed to open any of Big Bear’s, let alone touch anything in there. If Big Bear was given a present, he would not allow Little Bear anywhere near it, let alone allow him to touch it or play with it.

That description makes it sound as though Big Bear was calling all the shots in the relationship and that we were standing by and not teaching him about sharing. Right back at the start of the process we tried hard to listen to Big Bear because we knew that there was a greater risk of an adoptive placement breaking down if there was a birth sibling involved. We had been told stories about birth children who had had to give up their beloved pet or share their room when they didn’t want to in order for an adoption to happen. We could see how things may have started badly for the birth child in those situations and we were really conscious of the need to keep Big Bear as happy and undisrupted as possible. His main concern had always been his stuff and we had made assurances to him that if he didn’t want his future sibling to touch his things then we wouldn’t let them. We felt it was essential that he knew we would listen to him and we would respect his feelings. We needed him to trust us and we needed to keep the lines of communication between us wide open.

It is also important to consider how Little Bear presented in all of this. When he first arrived he had absolutely no conception that some things were his and that other things belonged to other people. In fact he used to frequently go around picking things up saying “mine” when they clearly weren’t and at the foster carers house we saw him going into the other children’s bedrooms and sweeping their things onto the floor. He also had no idea of how to look after items, frequently lobbing things across the room or slamming them down. Had he have been able to get hold of Big Bear’s toys he would undoubtedly have broken them.

Little Bear was also somewhat of a dominant force. He definitely thought that he was in charge and tried to assert himself by telling people where they should sit and by demanding they did or didn’t do various things or by hurting Big Bear whenever our backs were turned. Had we have allowed this to continue I have no doubt that we would have reached a point where Big Bear was terrified of him and where Little Bear was unmanageable.

Given the fact that we needed Little Bear to assume his place as littlest in the family and to have respect for others and his environment and that we needed Big Bear to feel safe and secure in his own home, it made sense to uphold Big Bear’s rules about his possessions. It was going to do everyone a favour in the long run.

In practice, upholding the rules was difficult. To start with we didn’t have a lock on Big Bear’s door, we just kept it shut. The rule was supposed to be that the Bear’s would knock on each other’s doors and ask before entering. This failed immediately because Little Bear had no concept of rules and the closed door was somewhat of a challenge for him; it just made him want to get in more. Also, he was very opportunistic and before I realised that in order to provide him with the level of supervision he actually needed I would have to be glued to his side at ALL times, he managed to lull me into a false sense of security and shut himself very quietly inside Big Bear’s room. This was probably on about day 2 or 3 and needless to say it went down extremely badly with Big Bear and I felt terrible. It was after this incident that the lock was fitted, removing chance from the equation.

If we had have left Little Bear alone with the toy boxes he would certainly have opened and explored them. On some occasions, when he did manage to escape our watchful eyes, even for a few seconds, we would find him having scaled furniture to reach something he knew he shouldn’t have.

It wasn’t surprising that Big Bear was reluctant to bend his own rules. He didn’t feel Little Bear could be trusted and in reality, he couldn’t.

Last week we were sitting at the table having our dinner. I had let Big Bear spend some pocket money ordering one of those fancy pencil cases where you press a button and a container pops out. It had arrived on the day in question and Big Bear was super excited about it, fiddling with it while he ate. Little Bear was also interested in it and kept leaning across the table to get a better look. Big Bear dropped something on the floor and bent down to hunt for it. Little Bear immediately saw an opportunity to touch the pencil case while Big Bear wasn’t looking and his hand shot across the table, his pointy finger poised to jab a button. However, about a centimetre away from the button Little Bear stopped himself and withdrew his hand, looking at me sheepishly. “You were really tempted to press that, weren’t you?” I said. He nodded. “Well done for stopping yourself” I told him. Big Bear reappeared above the table. “Well done mate” he said, “here, press this” and proffered the tempting button.

That interaction summed up everything that has changed between the Bears. Little Bear has learned to respect other people’s possessions and to control his impulsivity. If I leave Big Bear’s door open (which I do every day while they’re at school to let it air), Little Bear tells me off and shuts the door. He never attempts to go in even though he must be really tempted. If he wants to play with one of Big Bear’s toys he always asks him and more often than not, Big Bear says yes now. We recently exchanged very belated Christmas presents with some of our friends. Big Bear got a particular toy that both of them really liked. I was amazed that Big Bear allowed Little Bear to play with it that day and to wander off with it out of his sight. Little Bear was careful not to lose any pieces and brought it back when Big Bear asked him to. Quite a few of the toys in the playroom also seem to have become universal. Big Bear knows how hard Little Bear is trying and is very good at encouraging him and rewarding his good behaviour by letting him have things without any need for an adult to prompt him to.

I’m surprised that 20 months in we are continuing to see these types of changes. I’m glad we didn’t force the toy issue because evidently this is the length of time they have needed to reach a happy compromise. We could have allowed Little Bear to rampage around touching whatever he wanted and we could have forced Big Bear to share all of his things but I think it has had a much more positive impact on their relationship, and in fact their wider life skills that we didn’t.

I have also noted recently that Big Bear seems to have stopped pretending that it is a nightmare having an adopted brother. The relationship seems a lot more straightforward now. Although Little Bear still attempts to boss his big brother around, Big Bear has found a very calm and friendly way of standing his ground. It is extremely rare that they fall out and even rarer that anything ends in violence.

I suspect that we have intervened far more in their budding relationship than you typically would between two birth siblings. I think the ‘normal’ way is to let them figure things out between themselves, even if that means the odd fisticuffs. However, we have put so much emphasis on the success of the adoption being related to the success of their relationship that we have felt it necessary to intervene and control things from the word go. We have had a zero tolerance policy on physical aggression so they don’t tend to engage in the pushing and pulling and scrapping that siblings usually do.

We can’t engineer everything though and you can’t force people to like each other if they don’t. The fact that they are so tuned in to each other and have so much fun together is all them. Becoming brothers hasn’t been easy for either of them and they have both worked tremendously hard at it. I suppose it should have been obvious that it would take a long time for their relationship to bed-down and for all the creases to be ironed out. I didn’t think it would take this long or that what seemed a perfectly good relationship at 12 months in could have become even better still 8 or so months later.

I wonder how things will change as time goes on? I hope they remain as close because it’s lovely to see, they are great friends and we are extremely proud of both them.

 

 

Brothers

Adoption by Big Bear

This week’s post is brought to you courtesy of 7 year old Big Bear. I asked him to write about what it’s like when you get an adopted brother. Here, in his own words, is what Big Bear had to say:

When I got Little Bear as a brother, I hated it. Mum and Dad were paying no attention to me. Little Bear was always saying shut up, stupid and idiot to me.

When I play football with Dad, Little Bear always picks the ball up and runs off with it. It is hard to have a little brother.

When they get to 4 they grow and are a lot nicer and more sensible. They keep you company. They do get good.

Then I asked Big Bear if he has any advice for other children who might be going through adopting a sibling. This is what he wrote:

If you get one, be nice and behave well then they will be nice like you. You need to train them to be like you and do stuff properly.

 

I think it’s interesting to hear Big Bear’s perspective. I wonder how his thoughts will change over time. I will try to remember to ask him the same questions next year and see how he feels about everything then. Maybe at that point I will be able to ask Little Bear what he thinks too.

Big Bear’s perception of the early days differs from ours: for one we felt we were bending over backwards to make sure everybody had all the attention they needed but Big Bear evidently felt the difference between getting all the attention and having to share it quite keenly. The first weeks are definitely a time when siblings need extra support.

I also think it’s interesting that Big Bear sees himself as having quite an influential role in shaping Little Bear’s behaviour. I think we have probably encouraged him to feel that being a big brother is an important job but I didn’t realise he approached it so earnestly. It is true though that he has never responded to aggression with aggression or to name calling with name calling. He has risen above it and shown Little Bear that there are other ways to behave. Little Bear absolutely adores his big brother and does look up to him now. He wouldn’t ever purposefully hurt him anymore and is often very upset if he does so by accident.

I definitely think that adoption is a family undertaking and everyone has a role to play in its success. Siblings often bear the brunt of the changes taking place and amidst the chaos we still need to give them the space they need to air their thoughts and concerns.

Well done Big Bear, you really are a fantastic big brother.

 

 

Adoption by Big Bear

Ways to support your child through adopting a sibling

Big Bear (our birth son) was 5 years old when we began the adoption process. How to involve him and ensure that the adoption would be a success from his point of view as well as ours was one of our main concerns. Here are some of the things we did that seemed to help:

  • We were very honest with Big Bear and kept him involved right from the start. We discussed adoption with him before we met with any Social Workers. I’m not sure it would have been a good idea to persevere with the plan if he had been very negative about it.
  • We explained in very simple terms what the next step was at each phase to give him some sense of time frames.
  • Big Bear did some preparation work with our social worker and we worked through the BAAF leaflet called “Adopting a brother or sister”. We also read other relevant books such as Nutmeg Gets Adopted but that one does have a lot of text. I think these sorts of things helped with giving Big Bear an idea of what adoption was and why a child might need to be adopted.
  • I found that raising some of the possible issues of having a sibling in real life situations made Big Bear think the most. For example if we had been playing with a child and their sibling and an issue had arisen over sharing or hitting or turn taking, I would talk about it with him afterwards. I might say “did you notice how Bob snatched that dinosaur from Jane? I think lots of brothers and sisters do that. I wonder how you’d feel if your brother or sister does that?”
  • We tried to talk about the things that worried Big Bear and take them seriously so that he knew he could talk to us about anything. His biggest concerns were generally about his ‘stuff’.
  • We tried to draw up some house rules that took his worries into consideration e.g. his precious things could be kept in his bedroom and he didn’t have to share them; the Bears would need to knock on each other’s doors and couldn’t go in unless the Bear in question had said yes; toys that were downstairs needed to be shared.
  • We were very careful about not telling Big Bear too much about the potential match until after matching panel, as we didn’t want him to become attached to somebody we might not end up being matched with. We made sure he was first to see any photos after panel.
  • We involved Big Bear in all the preparation for Little Bear arriving. He helped us make a DVD, he decorated the front of Little Bear’s photo book and we went to Build-a-Bear workshop where Big Bear chose and built a bear for his brother. We bought Big Bear a “congratulations on being a big brother” gift so that he didn’t feel he was missing out. Big Bear helped us get Little Bear’s bedroom ready and we made some little changes to his room too.
  • Once Little Bear was here it became obvious that our preparation of moving toys around and plans to knock before entering were not enough. Little Bear couldn’t be trusted at that point to stay out of Big Bear’s room. In fact he tried to get in there the second our backs were turned. Big Bear couldn’t settle himself as he was anxious about the little one getting in when he was out or in the middle of the night. Whilst we knew Little Bear probably wouldn’t do anything much if he got in there, we felt it was important we listened to Big Bear and did what we could to lessen his stress. We put a lock on his door. It was too high for Little Bear to reach and it opened from both sides so we knew it was safe. I think it’s quite an extreme measure but it was the best thing to do in the circumstances.
  • If I accidentally leave the door open now, Little Bear tells me off and shuts it for his brother J
  • Luckily Little Bear goes to bed early so each evening one or other of us has special time with Big Bear. We have found that to be vital in making Big Bear feel as though life hasn’t changed too much and giving him the space to speak to us about anything he might be worrying about.
  • Big Bear has only said something negative about the arrival of Little Bear a couple of times. We didn’t tell him off: we wanted him to know that he can speak to us honestly. We decided to handle it by upping his special time, with help from the grandparents and he seemed much happier after a week or so.
  • We have always worked hard to keep the rules the same for everybody e.g. no hitting. We are clear on what behaviours will result in consequences and what those consequences might be. I think it has helped both boys to see that we are fair and that they are both treated the same way if they do something they shouldn’t.
  • Equally, we have tried to engender kindness. If Little Bear and I were out while Big Bear was at school, I might encourage Little Bear to choose a little treat or gift for his brother and then one for himself for being kind. I would make sure that Little Bear gave the gift, not me.

After a very rocky start, the Bears now have a lovely relationship. They make each other laugh, they are affectionate, they look after each other (each is always ready to defend the other) and I can honestly say they very rarely fall out. The bedroom door remains resolutely locked though!

Ways to support your child through adopting a sibling

Why Support Adoption?

Seeing as though I am very much pro-adoption I am finding this mini-blog surprisingly difficult to write. I suppose I feel a bit uncomfortable with the persuasive element of trying to encourage others that a life choice I have made is something that they too should consider. I am not a fan of telling others what to do and I’m not somebody who thinks that everybody should adopt; it is certainly not for everybody. However, I do think that there are more people who could consider adopting.

I am well aware that adoption is extremely difficult for some families but I can really only talk about our experiences and why adoption has been such a positive thing for our family.

Our story shows that adoption need not only be seen as the last chance saloon for people who cannot extend their family any other way. Adoption is a possibility for anybody wishing to have children.

My husband, Grizzly, and I decided to conceive our first child then went on to decide to adopt our second.

The most common argument I hear against choosing adoption as the route to extending your family is people’s strong preference towards raising children who share their DNA. In our experience adoption transcends genetics.

I love my boys equally. Little Bear feels just as much mine as Big Bear. The Bears love each other and have a strong brotherly bond. They do not share any DNA and it doesn’t matter. Similar genetics are not required to create a loving, happy and stable family.

Whilst I acknowledge that adoption can be hard, challenging and full-on, I am very grateful that we chose to grow our family in the way that we did. Adoption has been life-enhancing for all 4 of us and our wider social circle.

The satisfaction I have gained from achieving a solid bond with Little Bear and supporting him to develop and thrive has been indescribable. I would do it again in a heartbeat.

I think if there was one thing I could say to people who might be considering adoption but are a little unsure, it would be that after the initial settling in period (which realistically can take a good while), having an adopted child feels really normal. It just feels like having a child.

Parenthood is parenthood at the end of the day: it doesn’t matter how we get there.

We absolutely should support adoption because there are children in our communities who need us to. Everybody deserves the chance to have a family. Adoption can change their lives and yours. We chose to adopt. Could you?

For more information, see:

http://www.adoptionmatters.org/

http://www.first4adoption.org.uk/

http://www.adoptionuk.org/

http://corambaaf.org.uk/

Why Support Adoption?

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

April at Adoption: The Bear Facts

Following on from @craftikitty’s theme of Moments to Treasure on the #waso in March, I decided that I enjoyed reflecting back on the past month so much that I would do it at the end of every month.

Overall, April has been fabulous. I think the comparatively fewer illnesses has helped (just one bout of Tonsillitis and one of Conjunctivitis!) and spring has sort of sprung, allowing us to be back out and about again.

In writing the following blog post, I have of course entirely omitted any bad bits or incidents, so don’t go thinking life with the Bears is like life with the Waltons! There has of course been the odd “situation” or two, not least Little Bear scribbling all over a pub seat with a felt pen; Little Bear somehow gravitating towards the only disabled person in a whole building and (accidentally) giving them a good whack with his lightsabre; Little Bear pelting a ball at Grizzly whilst he was driving…to name a few! But, as my Dad would say, that is all part of life’s rich tapestry.

So, without further ado, here is my roundup of all the best bits of April chez Adoption: The Bear Facts.

April saw the Easter Holidays (not that Easter was actually in the holiday but still). I was a little anxious about how it would go, especially how the boys would get on with one another without school to give them a break. It’s fair to say that my nerves were frayed at times – I don’t know what I was thinking of taking them both to the supermarket! However, the way the boys interacted with each other throughout the holiday surpassed my expectations.

Following the stressful Sainsbury’s trip, I took them home via the park in an attempt to restore myself as “fun mum” rather than “shouty mum”. I remembered taking them both to the same park last summer. Big Bear had done his best to distance himself from Little Bear and had played with some older children. Grizzly had randomly asked who would play who if we made a Bond film and Big Bear had replied that his brother could probably be in it but would get shot in the first scene! This pretty much sums up how things were at the time.

But on this occasion, the day of the stressful Sainsbury’s trip, neither boy sought out another playmate. They chose to play together and chose to play on the same equipment at the same time. I took loads of photos for Grizzly – all with a big green-coated figure and a smaller yellow-coated figure side by side, smiling and laughing and having fun. And to top it off, nobody suggested shooting anybody, which is always a bonus.

At home they bounced on the trampoline together. I stood watching as too much supervision is definitely preferable to not enough at our house, but I needn’t have worried. Although it was quite rough and tumble, I was heartened to see that the months have helped them to reach an unspoken consensus, with some mutually understood boundaries, so nobody was hurt and there was almost constant laughter.

When it was time to calm down a little, they sat side by side at the kitchen table and decorated gingerbread men. You could have been forgiven at that point for thinking it was The Waltons as they were incredibly polite and sharing with one another. The icing and sprinkles were passed backwards and forwards when requested and always with a please or thank you, with no prompting from me at all. Watching them was so pride inducing that I was probably getting close to “happy tears”. However, the cat then brought in a half-eaten blackbird and all hell broke loose!

April also saw our first holiday with Little Bear which, despite some initial blips, was a resounding success. You can read about it here: Our first post-placement holiday

Thanks to my parents braving taking Little Bear to the theatre for the first time (The Cat in the Hat, he loved it), I got a “mummy day” with Big Bear. He has become really aware of music recently so we had the sunroof open, tunes turned up loud and sang (really tunefully obviously!) at the tops of our voices all the way there. It was ace. Despite the fact that he knows the words to Justin Bieber’s Love Yourself better than I do, which makes me feel old, it was lovely to spend some quality time with him.

When the children returned to school, Little Bears hours at preschool increased a bit. He is now doing 2 mornings and a full day to help with the transition to school. We weren’t sure how the long day would go as he does still need a rest after lunch but first signs indicate he is coping well, which is great and assuages my concerns about September a little.

Little Bear’s new hours mean we can still have “mummy days” on Mondays and Fridays. Last Monday was a gorgeous sunny day. Little Bear and I packed a rucksack, donned our wellies and headed to our local country park. We had a lovely relaxed time, wandering where the fancy took us, hunting for bears and exploring. It was one of those rare trips that lives up to, if not surpasses the image you have in your mind’s eye of how the trip would ideally go. And above anything else, I really enjoyed hanging out with my little buddy (and I didn’t once wonder how long it was until bedtime).

This month we have also employed the first stage of Operation House Improvement. Grizzly and I had been flopping onto the sofa at the end of long and busy days, ready to relax but instead feeling edgy and a bit stressed because there was so much MESS. Now that we had 2 boys, there were just so many toys that even if we made a concerted effort to tidy up the living room, it still felt cluttered and overstimulating. The solution, we decided, was to transform our conservatory from an occasional dining room into an everyday playroom. A new carpet and a bit of furniture re-arranging later, it was done. It’s brilliant. I have no idea why I have been so anti-playroom up until this point. The boys can get out every single toy if they want to and at the end of the day I can just shut the door and relax without seeing a single one. Well, ok, the odd one does sneak into the living room but putting them back is nowhere near the mammoth task it was before.

Having a designated space just for playing seems to have improved the boys’ playing too and we have re-discovered long since discarded and forgotten about games and jigsaws etc. I love it. Phase 2 of Operation House Improvements coming soon…

As I write this, I have a warm and snuggly Little Bear in the nook of my arm, leaning his head against my chest, my cheek resting on his hair. My own little hot water bottle to snuggle whilst it snows outside. In April?! I wonder what May will bring..

 

 

April at Adoption: The Bear Facts