December at Adoption: The Bear Facts

December is quickly drawing to a close which can only mean one thing. It is round up time! Here all the best bits of the past month with the three Bears.

Events:

It’s a good job I keep notes over the month to help me write this post otherwise I would definitely forget about the things that happened right back at the start. It seems an age ago but the first events of the month were our craft fayres. My friend A and I accidentally agreed to run a stall at 2 craft fayres to sell our homemade Christmas tree decorations. I say “accidentally” because all I actually signed up for was a cup of tea and some grown up colouring in!

One of the events was an all-day thing at a high school and the other an evening event at the boy’s school. Despite being rubbish at the mental arithmetic part of things and being slightly stressed that at 37 weeks pregnant, A might give birth behind the stall, it was loads of fun. Between Facebook and our stalls we ended up making and selling about 600 decorations in the end. I was ready to have a break from making them but actually I’m starting to miss it a bit now and A and I did work very well together so you never know whether we might try to make our little business a bit more all year round in 2017… Plus, I did get a pyrography pen for Christmas…

Another positive aspect of the fayres was that Big Bear was really interested in helping me make the decorations. After panicking that he was going to use up our wood supply and that a 7 year old’s decoration is obviously not quite as polished as one made by a grown-up, I decided the best way forward was to let him set up a sister business. He made his own decorations in his own signature style (which I would describe as Avant-garde!) that he then sold from a corner of our table. He had his own float and managed his own sales. He spent most of the evening walking around selling from a tray and he was brilliant at it. He made about £22 which I think he should be extremely proud of. At one point I’m sure he was selling more than we were!

The following week, we ended up going out for tea after school with my parents. It is not something we would usually do as it’s quite challenging for Little Bear to behave himself at that time of day and in a place where you have to be relatively quiet and sit on a chair but he managed brilliantly. We have noticed a big improvement in his ability to engage with table-top activities and to spend a bit of time focusing on them. He is getting quite into drawing and trying to write which is the main way we keep him busy in restaurants etc. at the moment.

As term drew to a close there were quite a few school events to attend. Both Bears went on a whole school trip to the theatre which seemed to go without incident (?!), Little Bear performed in his Nativity and there was a Mince Pie Afternoon at which each class came in and sang a song, as well as there being performances from the different music groups.

The Nativity wasn’t a total success. At the performance that Grizzly and I and his Mum attended, Little Bear started off being quite entertaining with his dancing and off-beat singing but by the end my heart was in my mouth wondering what he was going to do. Half-way through the look came over his face which means “I am grumpy. I am looking for trouble. I could do literally anything now”. I saw him take a piece of paper from the TA’s hand. On the stage he squared up to a couple of children and I really thought he was going to hit them. He put his foot up on a bench to prevent the Angels from getting up on to it as they were supposed to. He started poking Mary in the head.

He didn’t do anything really naughty but he was just simmering on the cusp of it and it made for nerve-wracking viewing. When I reflected on it afterwards, I remembered that he hadn’t coped well before school either. Maybe it was a bad day? I also felt that the performance wasn’t very inclusive for him. All he had to do was stand there (for 45 minutes) which is pretty boring. The songs were far too wordy and fast for him, though he was trying to join in, and there weren’t even any actions for him to do. I decided that taking him back to school later on for the 5pm performance was probably one step too far. What if he actually followed through on the behaviour? I didn’t want him to go down in history as the child who knocked Joseph out.

However, the reason I include this tale here, in my post full of positives, is that when I suggested not bringing him back to his teacher, she said he had been really well-behaved the rest of the day and in the practises and she felt he could do it. In a very uncharacteristic moment I decided that as long as I couldn’t see what he got up to it was worth the risk (!) and kindly sent him along with my parents.

In the end, he did ok. I don’t think he was perfectly behaved but he survived it without major incident and it did mean that my parents got to see him performing. He was praised by everyone and he didn’t feel as though he had missed out by staying at home. Overall, I will take that as a win.

The Mince Pie afternoon was a far lovelier affair. Big Bear usually hates anything that involves singing what he describes as “boring songs” to an audience but he must have liked the one his class sang and looked very chipper throughout. Reception class came out last of all, with their noses painted red. They looked exceptionally cute and Little Bear proceeded to completely melt my heart by dancing from foot to foot throughout and singing very loudly a beat after everyone else (it’s not his fault, he can’t process the language any faster). At the end he shouted “that’s my mum” and blew me kisses. Just gorgeous.

On the 17th December, A’s baby arrived safely. I’m always happy to hear when a friend has had a baby but as this was a Rainbow Baby (A’s first baby, Lucas, came far too early and sadly left us far too soon) it was extremely good news. I don’t think I’ve ever known someone was in labour before but I did this time and it was incredibly nerve-wracking. The baby’s safe arrival has been a huge relief and one of the best things that have happened all year. We are both absolutely made up for them. We got to meet the gorgeous lady herself when she was 4 days old. Weighing in at 5lb 8oz she is absolutely teeny but completely perfect.

Over the last couple of years it has become traditional for our family to meet up with 2 other families and go on the Santa Train together. It’s a traditional steam train that is all decorated and the staff dress up as elves and are all extremely jolly. Santa goes down the train giving out presents; you eat mince pies and go on a little journey. A band comes on board and everybody sings Christmas carols. It marks the official start of the Christmas season. We had a lovely time as we usually do and Little Bear coped exceptionally well.

We also had a very successful trip to get our Christmas tree. I mention it because we have never had a successful trip previously. One year the process was very quick but the tree had a distinctive cow poo smell; another year the woman selling the tree was very rude to us; another year we queued to see Santa for nearly an hour and a half and Big Bear was furious to find out after the agonising wait that he wasn’t actually giving any presents!!! This year we ditched all attempts at going anywhere fancy and just went to our local garden centre. It was perfect. We chose a tree, looked at the decorations and had a hot chocolate. Big Bear chose a giant reindeer and Little Bear a dancing Santa which had them both in hysterics. The needles may have fallen off the tree prematurely but I honestly don’t really care. My friend tells me you need to water them with lemonade so hopefully that’ll be us sorted next year!

I loved the fact that the boys had made all the decorations and that was definitely the best thing about the tree for me.

 

Christmas:

Big Bear ended up staying at home on Christmas Eve and helped with preparing for Wigilia which was lovely.

I don’t want to sound like I’m bragging but we had a bloody brilliant time over Christmas. The whole family stayed, everybody mucked in, I didn’t bother getting stressed about any of it, the children loved their presents and it seemed to be over in a flash. Everybody spontaneously stayed a second night. ‘Twas all good in the ‘hood.

Since then the Bears have played well with their new toys. Grizzly re-lived his youth by sourcing a game he used to have called Super Cup Football for Big Bear. That seems to have gone down well and there have been some very competitive matches. Little Bear is very happy with his Transformers, a remote control monster truck he has randomly named “Fat Fella” (no idea how he came up with that) and his Playmobil boat for in the bath. I also got both Bears a box full of craft activities each. They have both chosen to do a few things from them already which has been nice to see. We got Little Bear some giant Hama beads which he coped really well with and managed to complete his dinosaur with a bit of encouragement to stay on task:

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Big Bear has coloured some sun catchers and been busy with his beads too:

 

Yesterday we had a trip to the zoo with some friends. It was cold but clear and sunny and some of the animals were very friendly. Both boys came to nose to nose with a tiger (through some glass) which doesn’t happen every day. We also enjoyed watching a mummy orang-utan and her baby climbing up to the top of their enclosure to feed. I could have watched them all day.

Grizzly is off work until next Wednesday so we are planning more family time and meeting with other friends over the next couple of days. Things are so much more settled than this time last year and I am feeling very lucky.

Operation Home Improvement

Our extension is currently half-built. It has walls, most of a roof and holes where the windows will be. Thankfully all the work so far has been outside and I’m still quite in denial that as soon as January rolls around it is probably going to start encroaching inwards.

I have been busy measuring and ordering various things. A fairly major item is our new front door. It is going to be custom sprayed mustard on the inside and outside much to the consternation of the man selling it to me. He keeps saying things like “but EVERYBODY has it white on the inside” or “I have never sold a yellow door in my career”. I know, I say, but trust me, it will look beautiful.

The builder also thinks I’m bananas as apparently he hasn’t fitted the glass we have ordered for beside the front door since 1978. Despite his protestations we are also going for an internal round window, which, again, he thinks is old fashioned. Retro, I say. Vintage. Trust me.

 

December at Adoption: The Bear Facts

Christmas Traditions

When I think about childhood Christmases the main thing I usually remember is Christmas Eve. It has always been a big deal in our family as we have Polish heritage and follow the Polish tradition of Wigilia.

Unlike most of our friends who put their tree up early in December, my parents’ tree never went up until Christmas Eve. I was usually in charge of decorating it whilst my Mum and brother, when he was old enough, set to in the kitchen. They would be preparing a feast of 12 dishes that we would all sit down to in the early evening. I believe it’s 12 to represent both the months of the year and the 12 disciples.

It was like a cooking marathon, beginning after breakfast and continuing all day, getting more intense as the time went on.

After I had finished the tree, I would set the table and then chop veg or arrange food on platters. I was mainly in charge of making things look nice including turning tomatoes into lily-flowers as decoration (it was the late 80’s/ early 90’s after all!).

We would normally have guests arriving to join us and stress levels would rise as the time grew nearer and dishes remained incomplete. My mum would be heard counting and re-counting the dishes, getting a different figure every time and gradually getting more heated and European. My Dad would usually disappear to “wrap presents” (hide from everyone shouting at each other in the now hot and cluttered kitchen).

I can remember the feeling of anticipation and excitement that bubbled in my tummy as we all took turns to man the pans while the others changed into smart clothes. There was a real sense of occasion.

Weirdly, the guests were always Grizzly, his Mum and his Gran as our Mums were friends long before we were a couple. It’s nice to think that the Wigilia tradition is just as much a part of his life as it is mine.

It is also part of the tradition to set an extra place, in case somebody calls unexpectedly and is in need of food. Nobody ever has called but I can remember the mystery of wondering if they would and concocting far-fetched tales of whom it might be and what events may possibly have led them to our door.

When the food is ready, a wafer called Opłatek is given out (it’s like the ‘bread’ in church). Everybody has a bit and goes to each person in the room in turn. You swap a piece of your Opłatek for a piece of theirs, eat it and wish one another a Happy Christmas (or Wesołych Świąt if you can manage to say it), often with a kiss on both cheeks. Finally you get to sit down and dig into the feast. The tradition is for a meat-free meal (it’s a day of abstinence) so it is mainly fish dishes.

Afterwards, feeling full and sleepy, we’d move to the living room and chat or play games. Thoughts would turn to Christmas Day and if we were really lucky we might be able to open one present.

All these years on we continue to celebrate Wigilia, though things have changed a bit. We put our tree up a few weeks before Christmas now and even my parents put theirs up a bit earlier than Christmas Eve. I am slightly regretting our keenness this year though as our tree is barely holding up, with the merest nudge sending pine needles cascading all over the floor. It will be a Christmas Miracle if it survives until the Big Day!

This year, Wigilia will be at our house so that the Bears can join in but still get to bed at a reasonable hour and the party can carry on downstairs. I’m not quite so into the cooking until you drop approach and we have managed to persuade my mum over the years to make it easier by sharing the task and cooking simpler recipes. This year she and I will do 6 dishes each, some fish, some veggie.

My Dad, Grizzly and the Bears will probably go out somewhere while we cook. I’ve realised in writing this that so far I haven’t involved them much with preparing for Wigilia and maybe I need to find ways of making the tradition more interesting for them. I have chosen a colour-in table cloth this year though, in the hope that it will entice them to sit at the table a bit longer!

The guests are pretty much the same as ever though it is a bit much for Grizzly’s gran now and she will join us for Christmas lunch instead. My brother’s girlfriend will be joining us too. This year everybody is going to sleep over. It is going to be a squash with 5 extra people and no doubt a bit mad but that’s all part of the Christmas fun. I think. Isn’t it? I’ll tell you afterwards…

Last year on the lead up to Christmas I was very much in survival mode. We were about 4 months into the adoption and everything was feeling very difficult. I think I fulfilled the minimum requirements of Christmas but not with much festive cheer. I do remember wondering what Little Bear had experienced before though. What traditions did his birth family or foster carers have? I had no idea and felt a bit unsettled by it. I had enough resolve in me to want to start a new tradition for Little Bear. I very much wanted him to become a part of our long-standing traditions but at the same time I wanted there to be something that had begun with him, something that he wouldn’t be excluded from if we started reminiscing about Christmases past.

I know a lot of people who get new pyjamas on Christmas Eve and I decided to steal that tradition for us. I liked the idea of there being something for the boys to unwrap after our big meal, which, let’s face it, is more for the grown-ups and also, surely anything that makes them keener to go to bed had to be a good idea?!

I knew which pyjamas to get for Little Bear as soon as I saw them. They were Gruffalo ones, with stripy legs and best of all, they came with a pair of matching slipper socks. That sounds a little odd but after several months we had finally figured out that Little Bear liked to wear socks in bed, the longer and woollier the better. Yes, you would have thought that somebody would have told us that but alas they had not.

I also chose a little cuddly animal for each Bear and put them in a gift box with their pyjamas. Little Bear absolutely loved his jammies and the little cat was probably his favourite Christmas gift, even though it was tiny. I loved seeing his face when he opened them and I’m excited for this year’s gifts too. Instead of another cuddly toy (Big Bear in particular has hundreds) I’ve got Christmas PJ’s and jumpers for their Build-a-Bear bears. Ok, the new tradition might be a teeny bit for me as well: accessorising small cuddly animals? Err yes please.

A year and 4 months into our adoption, I’m pleased to say that despite the world’s longest school term (which only ended today) and quite a lot of germs, my resilience is much better and my festive spirit is back. I’m not so worried about the chaos and an inevitable meltdown or 3. We’ll just roll with it and possibly lie down in a darkened room afterwards.

Whatever you are getting up to, I hope it’s happy and calm (ish). Merry Christmas, Wesołych Świąt, lots of love from all The Bears xxx

 

 

Christmas Traditions

October at Adoption: The Bear Facts

Here are all the best bits of the past month with the Bears:

Events:

I find that there aren’t that many events to report on during the school term as we tend not to get up to much after school, so it’s just the weekends. The first couple in the month seemed to be taking up with getting jobs done and maybe a trip to the park. A fortnight ago we had noticed a bit of a decline in Little Bear’s behaviour during the school week so decided to keep things easier for him over the weekend. We ditched the usual Saturday morning swimming lesson and cancelled an early evening party that he was supposed to be going to. We didn’t know the family who had invited him at all and given his behaviour at the time, it didn’t seem like a risk worth taking. Now that we were free from the confines of our commitments we decided that a family trip somewhere might just be what we all needed. It felt like ages since we had been anywhere different and I for one was excited at the prospect of just escaping for a while and having some quality time with my Bears.

We ended up driving out to Monkey Forest at Trentham Gardens. It’s quite far from us so we have never been before. It was great. The sun was shining, the leaves were beautiful. We ate pie and mash for lunch, had a little mooch in the shops then went for a walk around the forest where the monkeys are free to roam about. The Bears loved it, especially when the little ones jumped all spread-eagled from the bushes and the big ones chased each other, vying for a scrap. The boys rested in the car on the journey back and to, watching their DVDS and hubby and I were able to chat. The following day we took the bikes to the park and had some more family time. It felt like the perfect autumn weekend. Don’t tell anyone but I’d be up for ditching the commitments a bit more often…

Milestones:

We seem to have had a few firsts this month. Little Bear appeared in his first ever school assembly. It was a whole school one for Harvest but his class stood up and performed a song they had learned. It is very difficult for Little Bear to learn a song because there are usually a lot of words, they are not always clear because they are sung and the pace is often too fast for him. Other parents talked about their little one driving them mad singing the song repeatedly at home but we didn’t have any of that because he couldn’t. I had no real idea how he would be in an assembly because it involves a lot of sitting still and let’s face it, can be quite boring. However, he was a little star and I felt really proud watching him. Although he obviously hadn’t learned all the words, he joined in with the ones he knew and had made a sterling effort to learn the actions. His little face looked so proud and happy about performing and he was so animated in his gestures and dancing. He looked a lot happier to be there than some of his classmates and I couldn’t help thinking he was one of the best performers, despite the lack of being able to sing the song. Don’t worry I know that I’m a little biased.

Little Bear also had his first friend over to play. It wasn’t planned, his friend lives on the same road and playing outside led to a spontaneous invitation in. Apart from an over excited ending, most of the event went really well. Little Bear shared his toys and the two boys interacted really nicely, which bodes well for future play dates and shows us how grown up and sensible he is becoming.

Although the grandparents have picked Little Bear up from school before, they have never taken him out anywhere at that point, always bringing him home and looking after him here. He gets very tired which can lead to challenges with managing his behaviour so we tend to keep after school very low key to make things as easy as possible for him. However, my parents have been away quite a bit recently and wanted to get some quality time with each Bear whilst they were back. We decided to try them picking him up, taking him to their house, having a play and some tea then coming home and thankfully, it went really well. I don’t think we are quite ready for after school activities or clubs yet but it is a step in the right direction.

Talking of after school activities, Big Bear has had a first this month too. He decided he wanted to join a football club. He has been going to training after school for a while but they don’t play matches and he wants to be “a proper footballer” We had some anxieties about this because Big Bear is by no means heading for the premier league and we have found that some parents/ clubs take the whole thing very seriously. One child we know “plays” for a local club but spends the whole time on the subs bench. We didn’t want that for Big Bear because it’s demoralising and takes the fun out of it. He’s only 7, it’s great that he’s in to sport, but neither of us wanted it to be confidence sapping or a negative environment for him to be in. Grizzly did his research and we finally found a club that still had spaces and seemed good on paper. Big Bear has been twice now for training and he loves it. Grizzly is really pleased with the set up – the coaches are strict but fair and won’t accept any name-calling or unsportsmanlike behaviour (which unfortunately does seem to be quite widely accepted in children’s football) and they give each child the same amount of time on the pitch during matches, irrespective of skill level.

Big Bear is SO happy that he’s a signed up member of a team and can’t wait to get his kit. He also cannot wait to play in a match and for Little Bear to come and watch him.

Last weekend, we were invited to another party that would involve keeping Little Bear out late and up past his bedtime. This time it was a good friend who had invited us and the party was at her house. I knew that she would understand if things went awry or if we needed to leave early so it seemed a good event at which to try the staying out late thing. It was a fancy dress Halloween party with fireworks. Little Bear went in full dragon outfit with detachable tail and wings (obviously) and loved the whole thing. He was good as gold and despite me getting him ready for bed at their house he was wide awake all the way home as being out in the dark was just too novel and exciting. I don’t think I’d keep him out late often but it’s good to know that he can cope with it now, if the circumstances are right.

School:

Apart from a small blip for about a week, school has continued to go well. We had Little Bear’s parents evening just before term ended and it was a very positive conversation. They have seen fairly significant progress even within the 8 weeks he has been in school. He is doing really well with learning his phonics and his counting is coming along too. He finally mastered counting to 4 in the right order a couple of weeks ago and in this past week he has started getting to 10, pretty automatically. It is amazing how quickly his skills can progress, once all the right foundations are in place. He is already showing interest in what comes after 10.

A huge relief for me has been Little Bear’s behaviour in school and the fact that he has straight away accepted the teacher’s authority. Apparently he is largely co-operative and doesn’t even growl at them! Of course there are still things to be worked on: at the moment things like understanding physical boundaries/ not invading other’s space; not reacting by pushing/hitting/poking; and of course educational targets. However, all I can ask is that we are moving in the right direction and that I feel able to have frank discussions with school and that we are able to work effectively together. So far, I feel all of those things are in place.

It has been a long term for both Bears and they were both more than ready for half term when they finally finished last Friday. More about that next time…

Me, myself and I:

Last month I talked about filling my spare time and getting lots of house jobs done. This month things seem to have slipped a little on the home front because I have agreed to a few too many other things…

My friend, A, and I have been having fairly regular meet ups because she is currently off sick due to pregnancy complications. We decided to do some crafting, mainly for fun but also because it is therapeutic for her. When we were going through the adoption process, she gave birth to the gorgeous Lucas. Very sadly he arrived too soon, at 23 weeks gestation and though he put up a good fight, he only lived for 18 days. As I was off then too, we spent quite a bit of time together and made memory stones for friends and family with Lucas’ name on. The creative task was therapeutic for A and she went on to make Christmas decorations later in the year (I was kind of busy with Little Bear by then).

This year, she suggested we do some Christmas decorations together, over a cup of tea. What started out as a bit of a hobby to help pass the time and get her from one week to the next of her very stressful rainbow pregnancy, has well, grown out of all proportion. Over 200 orders later (generated from one Facebook post) and somehow having agreed to do 2 craft fayres, we both have Christmas decorations coming out of our ears!!

I also went a little blogging crazy during National Adoption Week and wrote a post for each day. I think it must have been first timer’s enthusiasm getting the better of me!

I also finally agreed to have some patterns shaved into the shaved part of my hair by a lady I met in the playground! It sounds foolhardy but it looked much better than it sounds (especially given that I’m not a teenage boy) and my new hairdresser is lovely. There are not many people who would shave patterns into a near strangers head without ever having done it before and without a plan of what it was going to look like. I liked her straight away.

I would sum up my actions in October by saying that I just kept agreeing to things but I’ve found that saying ‘yes’ can lead to some fun and fulfilling places. After years of automatically saying ‘no’, I think I might prefer ‘yes’.

Big Bear’s Mini Projects:

We’re still trucking as and when we can. We (I) have decided that we are going to home make all our Christmas decorations this year so that is mainly what we have been doing for our projects. Big Bear is very taken with the idea of the ones I’m making with A and has made some good attempts at helping me. He has also created some of his own. Here is some of our collection so far:

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I still cannot figure why it keeps putting the image sideways when it’s stored the right way up!! I apologise that you’re having to crick your neck!!

Project Home Improvements:

Nothing was happening and now everything seems to be happening. Isn’t that always the way? We seem to have a builder organised (though he has now been to our neighbour’s house twice in error and I have fears he will extend the wrong property). We don’t really understand what we’re doing with Building Regs but we think we’ve sorted that out (who knows?!) and we’ve had to move a load of big plants from the front garden to the back and cut a raised bed in half (harder than it sounds, it’s made of railway sleepers) to make space for the building work which could be happening imminently. I suspect I will get home one day soon and someone will be digging up my front garden. It is a good job we are used to chaos.

October at Adoption: The Bear Facts