Sunday, 22 October 2017

Adoption Week: Making memories

We've been away for a week and in the first three days the boys slept at my parents' house then at the in-laws' house then in our holiday cottage. Even tonight they were really unsettled and wouldn't go to sleep until quite late. Blue Bear asked me for a "really long hug Mummy." We're very strict about bedtime and when Blue first came to live with us we introduced him to our routine which is a bath, warm milk and bedtime stories. It took a while for him to get used to this way of doing things and now he even takes himself upstairs some evenings declaring, "I tired, I go to sleep."

There is so much he's adapted to and so many things he deals with brilliantly. When he has a blip it catches us off guard. Being in a place he hasn't been to before, seeing a lot of new people or travelling somewhere new. All of these cause anxiety and we see a side of him that we almost don't recognise. Recently when we've been going out he is insistent that he hold an adult's hand the whole time. He clings on tightly and becomes agitated about being safe. This is the child who scooters to school at top speed and waits for no one. He has his own friends and a social circle both inside and outside school.  I forget that there are things he's not ok with and this week has been a stark reminder that familiarity is really important to him.

He's never stayed at my parents' house before and he was really excited about it. I rang in the evening to see if he was ok and then in the morning. He came to the phone - reluctantly - and said, "Not again !" It was adorable and cheeky, but a relief that he was ok. He's slept at Grandma's house quite a few times so that was fine. It was being in a different cottage from last time that really caused ructions. We try not to overwhelm Blue with too many new things and this is the same place we stayed in July. We couldn't stay in the same cottage and this time the boys were in bunk beds - which was always going to be a bit of a drama. However, visiting places we've been to before was a revelation. When we were in Polperro Brown Bear said, "We had crinkles for a snack when we were here last time," as we reached the top of the harbour. As the tide was out we went to the beach this time and the boys remembered that we couldn't last time due to a high tide. At the Eden Project the boys noticed that a bicycle they had ridden before was in a different place. At Lappa Valley they noticed the new swan shaped pedaloes.

Noticing and recording memories is something we take very seriously. There is a chunk of Blue Bear's past we weren't part of so since he's been with us we've taken photos and kept momentoes of everything. I show him photos of when he first came to us and we talk about what he was like when he was a baby. Just like I do with Brown Bear. We remind him that he brought Dog Bear with him when he came to live with us. We keep in touch with his foster family as they are the vital link between birth family and us. They also love him very much and seeing how he is doing in his forever family and with his brother makes them so happy and proud. We haven't talked about adoption with Blue Bear yet, as he is still very young. However, he is a bright boy and it is not something we intend to keep from him. On holiday this week I noticed that he goads his brother now. He still worships Brown Bear, thinks he's wonderful and wants to be just like him. However, he's also braver and will jump on him knowing it's going to get a reaction. It has been lovely to see how much fun he is. On long road trips he would chat to us at the front by pointing out the sheep, or the windmills he could see out of the window. This afternoon when we passed a field of pigs the boys spent about ten minutes oinking and laughing. I tried to point out Stonehenge as we passed it, but the pig impressions were far more fun.

That's what makes being a family for me. Stupid jokes and animal noises. I hope that the boys will remember family time in their own ways and look back with joy.

It's National Adoption Week: There are over 2000 children waiting to be adopted in England. 61% of these children waiting to be adopted are in sibling groups so it's vital to find families for some of the brothers and sisters who desperately need them.

Wednesday, 18 October 2017

Adoption Week: How TV gets adoption so very wrong

Whenever adoption is depicted on TV and in films I find myself becoming annoyed. Often it's a sideline story littered with inaccuracies and often just downright made up. Further down the line - if it's even referred to - there are no repercussions and it's all but forgotten that adotion ever took place. I've become agitated seeing Stella take in a looked after child without any assessment whatsoever and not so much as a visit from a social worker. Apparently all it takes is a phone call to say that he can stay with a random adult he once knew and it's done. Hollyoaks always used to leave me bemused as vulnerable young adults would wind up living with a family they had no connection with other than living in the same made up soap land. We are so used to seeing american imported TV shows that I suspect there are people who have an entirely erroneous idea of how adoption works over here. If you believed shows like Friends or Modern Family you'd be forgiven for thinking that adoption is like a shopping expedition. Monica and Chandler were interviewed by an agency - who they lied to by the way - and were chosen by the birth mother despite their lies. The day the twins are born they go and pick them up and bring them straight home. No assessment, no home visit, no paperwork, nothing. When Cam and Mitchell adopt Lily she is brought home and again we don't see any follow up at all. At the very least this is poor safeguarding for the children involved. 

I'm going to be honest with you about the reality of adoption. There is a lot of bureaucracy. I mean loads. We had so many visits from social workers that we amended our shopping list so she could have toast during our morning assessments and biscuits on afternoon visits. I developed a system of biscuit management. The simple biscuits for the regular meetings (ginger nuts, rich teas, digestives).  chunkier cookies for the really nice social workers (Waitrose oat and fruit ones) and chocolate biscuits if they were coming to give us good news (Foxes ones in a pack with foil on). At one point I honestly thought we'd never see the end of this process. You know how contestants on the Apprentice talk about proving themselves worthy ? Well that's how we felt. And when the idiots in the jungle undertake disgusting bushtucker trials I can empathise with the bad taste in their mouth in order to achieve a greater good. And let's be truthful it is for the greater good. If you're too lily-livered for the assessment process you just won't cut the mustard as an adopter. 

Another area where the media depiction of adotion veers wildly from reality is post adoption. We rarely see children struggle with a new setting. The sleepless nights, the anxiety, the fears and unknown monsters from their past that you didn't know about. Within weeks of being placed with us we learned that our boy was afraid of the dark when he freaked out in the theatre as the lights went down. We found out he wouldn't sleep on his own and had to reach through his cot to check I was next to him - all night. I realised that he would not be held if he didn't want to be and would make it very clear that he wasn't going to co-operate if anyone tried to impose on his personal space. The relationship between him and our older son was also far more fraught than I had anticipated. They both felt displaced and wanted me all to themselves. It was a constant battle to provide reassurance to both boys and they fought bitterly and cried and screamed and generally made me feel like the worst mother in the world for not being able to keep them both happy. One would push the other one out of the way then the other would hit back. At the lowest point I would close the door to the kitchen as soon as Hubbie got home so that I could just cry and be away from the pulling in two directions. No TV show depicts adoption breakdown. Or the possibility of it happening. 

Today I watched my boys running around chasing each other and play fighting. I saw Blue Bear's adoration of his older brother and Brown Bear's faux annoyance at his younger brother. He secretly loves being a role model and takes it very seriously that he can influence someone so impressionable. Blue Bear has developed an excellent skill of 'managing up' and flatters his brother's ego knowing he will have far more fun that way. I see his skills are so different and his personality is adorable. He feels safe with us and is clearly marking his place in the family with his sense of humour and stubborness. The jealously still rears it's head, but not so much any more. Hubbie worked away overnight a few weeks ago and I whispered to Brown Bear that when his brother had gone to sleep he could sleep in my bed just this once. He was delighted - he got to be my baby for one night. The other night Blue Bear woke up scared he called for me - he usually calls for Daddy. They both know that I am here for them and that I love them equally. It's taken time and hard work and is still a work in progress. 

Adoption is not the easy choice. It's not even the only choice. What it is though, is about the right adopters being matched with children who are waiting for a chance to live in a family. In some cases for the first time in their lives. I didn't learn about adoption from watching TV. I learned by living it. I am still learning. 

It's National Adoption Week: As in previous years, the need to find families for some of our most vulnerable children remains at the heart of this year’s event. There is now clear evidence that decisions for adoption and placement orders are on the rise. With this in mind, National Adoption Week 2017 is focused on the need to find the right adopters for sibling groups.

Monday, 16 October 2017

Adoption Week: Brothers, Sisters, Family.

During the assessment process for adoption we were told that sibling groups are harder to place than single children. It makes sense really. If you have no children to start with taking on 3 or 4 of them, possibly all different ages and stages and with differing needs can be a daunting prospect. I know that when we saw the profile for a group of three children including twins under two and a toddler sibling it felt like an impossible ask. The oldest child already presented with special needs and the younger ones had yet to be assessed. I wasn't sure I could manage so many children at once and I worried that if all of them had additional needs it would be a struggle to give them all the support they needed. 

Not all sibling groups can be placed together. We also saw a profile for a group of 4 children who had 4 other siblings. The 8 children ranged in age from 2 to 10 years old. The two groups of 4 were being fostered close to each other and were being kept in contact with each other. It was anticipated that they would continue to see each other post adoption and that they would remain in contact in the long term. The foster carers were actually related so it worked well. 

In yet another case there were sisters who were being fostered together and who were to be placed for adoption together. One was a white child, the other was dual heritage. Considering how adamant the social workers seemed to be that we had to be an exact match to the ethnicity of the children we wanted to be matched with I was interested to see how they would choose to match these girls with a forever family.

Yet another pair of brothers were living together in foster care and were still seeing their birth mother. The boys had different fathers and the second one was a stark reminder of the difficult relationship that he was born into. The mother did not want anything to do with him and it made him a very anxious child. 

We had made the decision to adopt two children because we knew that multiple children wait longer and that it is more difficult to place children as they grow older. It was our decision to offer a home to siblings, but it was the decision of the social workers to not choose us. I understand now that it was for the best. Our road to being parents was different from what we expected. It wasn't what we had planned for, but it was just right for us anyway. 

I hope those children all found forever families to care for them. That being in a group did not put off potential parents. If it's possible to have a great outcome I really want for those children to have had that. I know that when I look at my birth son and adopted son I see my children. My family. These boys are my life, my soul, my very heart. I hope that the children who did not come to us are loved as fiercely as my children are. 

It's National Adoption Week and this year the theme is sibling groups. There are still over 2000 children waiting to be adopted. 61% of these children are in sibling groups which is why this year the emphasis on helping to find forever families for some of the brothers and sisters who desperately need them.

Sunday, 15 October 2017

Adoption Week: What, again ?

Yes it's that time of year again when adoption agencies and organisations seek to publicise the importance of matching children who wait with families who can care for them in the long term. In case you have 'National week' fatigue please bear with me.

National adoption week is a reminder that there are still children who do not live with their birth families - for any number of reasons. That as a society we overlook children and young people who do not have security or long term prospects. It is also a way of educating people who have very little idea about what adoption is or what is involved. I have a personal dislike of inaccurate portrayal of looked after children in the media. Whether it's on an advert or a TV show or in a children's story I find it really difficult to tolerate the depiction of children are 'in care.'

Earlier this week I listened to a radio show presented by Lemn Sissay called Origin Stories. In it he talked about being in foster care and how he chose to see it as a superpower. Then he retold the Harry Potter story from the point of view of the Dursley's who 'fostered' Harry when his parents' died. It was a far more sympathetic portrayal than JK Rowling chose to depict. It also gave credance to the notion that just because a child has had a difficult past it doesn't mean their future has to follow the same negative pattern. The longer a child waits to be placed in long term care the harder they become to match with suitable carers. We were told that once a child is over 5 years old their 'appeal' to prospective adopters plummets. This is a person we're talking about here. A child who has already experienced loss and separation and trauma.

When we first approached local authorities to be assessed as potential adopters they just didn't want to know us. Hubbie and I are different ethnicities and they told us they wouldn't have children who matched our racial mix so it wasn't worth us being assessed. No, seriously they said that to us for real.  It beggars belief that this is even a concern, but hey I've got all week to tell you about that.

So,  I'm going to post about adoption this whole week. I have so much to say about this topic and I hope you will find it interesting. Maybe you could even share the posts if you can - that is the whole point of having a 'national adoption week' after all.


National Adoption Week 2017 will take place from the 16th to 22nd October. As in previous years, the need to find families for some of our most vulnerable children remains at the heart of this year’s event. National Adoption Week 2017 will focus on the need to find the right adopters for sibling groups.

Thursday, 12 October 2017

How many women have to speak before one is believed ?

The news that women in Hollywood are coming forward to disclose sexual abuse has uncovered a surprising variety of unreconstructed and frankly misogynistic attitudes. I've seen tweets attacking male film stars for not doing anything. Online comments directed at the wife and the women involved suggesting they knew what they were doing and were complicit. Heard interviews with 'insiders' who claim he was a bully, but they never saw anything like the alleged abuse. It's baffling how much talk there has been and now he's been fired from his own company, his wife is leaving him and he's apparently going into therapy.

There is so much to unpick here, but let me begin with the much discussed issue of who is to blame for this.

No, it is not he fault of all those 'insiders' who hid the truth

No, it isn't the fault of the actresses who didn't warn other women about him

No, it's not the fault of the studio executives who allegedly knew

No, it's not the fault of the actors who allowed it go on and helped cover it up

It is entirely the fault of the man who committed the acts. It is his blame alone. He did these things to women knowing he was able to get away with it. He chose to use and abuse women and to punish them if they tried to speak out against him. He knew what he was doing was abusing his position of power. That is why he targeted young women who were in a vulnerable situation knowing he could take away their careers.

You see when a man is a sexual predator he doesn't believe that he will get found out. It is unrelenting arrogance that a man who would do this then ensure that the woman knows she will not be believed. Not many men have the capacity to have an entire industry turn a blind eye, but remember that in this industry secrets are kept like in no other. Rock Hudson was only publically outed as gay when he died - everyone who worked with him knew, but it was not made public.

To blame everyone around him is to allow these repellant accusations to be dismissed as mere fantasy. I'm choosing my words carefully as he has not been charged with anything. We know by now that just because many women accuse a man of assault doesn't mean that he will face any consequences. The fear of not being believed keeps the cloak of silence firmly in place and even once there are others coming forward it might be years before anyone actually takes action.

Initially he apologised for any pain his actions may have caused - as if he'd merely inconvenienced someone rather than tricked, assaulted and humiliated them. Then he issued a denial, claiming that it was consensual sex and he had not been predatory in his behaviour. Now his wife has left him and he  has taken refuge in therapy where he can appear to be doing something while planning how to mitigate the damage to this career and reputation. Now he has claimed he is seeking help for a sex addiction. What about his addiction to abuse of power ? The deception he has perpetrated - repeatedly - and the humiliation he visited upon the women who have made allegations against him ? How about seeking help with the complete lack of capacity to accept personal responsibility for his own actions ? Making excuses will not change what has happened I find the abuser portraying himself as the victim unplatable at best.

Earlier this year we found out that someone we have known for over a decade was arrested and imprisoned for predatory sexual behaviour. It was such a shock and to be honest I still find it difficult to believe he was able to hide it and get away with it for as long as he did. A mutual friend found out and quite thoughtlessly asked if I genuinely had no idea. Surely I must have known something ? Well you should be proud of me for not punching his lights out, but instead I explained that if I had even an inkling of anything like that I would have done something about it. I am not a bystander. I do not allow wrongdoing past me. I challenge and report what I see and hear. Not everyone does, but I do. Had I any idea he was a sexual predator I would have confronted him and reported him. I did find him odd and often remarked on it, but put it down to my being a bit oversensitive. His partner was lovely so surely I was the one who had it wrong ? I could not have known what he was doing. He hid his actions and got away with them for many years. An abuser will do that.

The news items about this will be hard for anyone who has experienced sexual abuse to hear. I am struggling to keep my composure when I hear about his pathetic attempts to guilt women into having sex with him. Sitting and crying that a woman wouldn't sleep with him because he was fat - maybe it's because a woman has the right to say no. That being powerful and dominant in the industry in which that woman wants to work does not give you the right to take liberties with her. I veer between feeling revulsion and biting anger. The powerful women who have come forward to tell their stories can do so now because they are free of his tyranny. They have made a career and been successful - in some cases because of him - and can speak up. If only they had felt able to do so earlier because they would be believed and respected for speaking out.

Women involved in this are being treated with such shocking disregard and it shames us all. No one should feel they cannot report a sexual assault for fear of being treated with contempt, or threatened or because they will have their character called into question. This is not how we should treat people in a developed society.

Tuesday, 10 October 2017

World Mental Health Day 2017

Today is World Mental Health Day and it's taken me all day to decide to share the post below that I wrote a few months ago. I didn't post it back then as it didn't make sense to me why I'd share it. Now I see that it shows how all over the place I can get. The anxiety and depression I've lived with since childhood manifests in different ways. I can be fine for ages and get things done then I might go through what I'm experiencing at the moment which is a debilitating sense of failure and lack of motivation. Don't get me wrong I can still function. The boys get fed and picked up from school and the cat gets taken to the vet, but in between is a blur. I have to remind myself to eat food, make myself go for a swim and run otherwise I find my moods are too extreme. I lose my shit because someone hasn't put the bread back in the bread bin. I burst into tears in the car the other day because I heard Sam Smith's new single. It opened an old emotional wound at that moment and I couldn't stop myself. So that's why I'm sharing this now:

"You know that thing when someone asks, "how are you ?" and you say, "I'm fine." If you are British that's as far as it goes. Unless you reciprocate and ask how they are and you both nod in recognition that things are fine and move on to talking about tea or the weather or something equally important. My father in law is much more Eeyore like and when asked how he's doing will often reply, "Oh you know, hanging on by a slender thread." Now I just say, 'hanging in there Grandpa ?" to save him the trouble.

So the reason I've mentioned this is because at the moment when anyone asks how I am I'm struggling to reply convincingly. "I'm ok" is as far as I can manage and at least one of my friends has already questioned further. To be fair Jo has known me nearly 30 years so it takes some to get anything past her. A more honest summary of my state of mind right now might be, 'a bit like Brown Bear's room.' ie. untidy, messy, full of noise and scattered with random unrelated items. Frankly, I'm not doing well right now. Partly it's the long summer holiday - which I always find challenging. Mostly it's a lot of factors that are causing stress and anxiety in my life right now.

Blue Bear is joining his brother's school next week and he's very excited about it. I am too and have been trying to get back to work as both my boys will be in school during the day now. So far I've had nothing but rejection and it's really getting me down. Most of my working life I was blessed with the ability to get an interview for a job and often to get a job offer. Since becoming a Mum this skill seems to have completely vanished and I'm baffled. I was aware of the phenomenon of the 'motherhood penalty,' but I had no idea how insidious it really is. My confidence is completely shot and I find myself wondering if I'm doomed to a life of rearranging the furniture and sorting socks - which frankly could be a full time job in this house. I've got lots of lovely friends (and lovely Hubbie) supporting me with this and advising me on how to keep positive. It all helps - to a point - but each time I get a rejection it leaves me feeling despondant.

Taking on other people's stresses is something I have always done - not deliberately you understand. It's just that when someone close to me has something painful going on in their life I take it on emotionally as well. When one of my lovely friends was diagnosed with cancer I talked to her while she was undergoing treatment to help her process the emotions and practical things that were going on. We talked, we shared and we laughed. We celebrated her successful treatment by taking part in the Moonwalk three years ago. Then earlier this year she found out that she was ill again. It just seems so unfair. She is amazing and pragmatic and - at the risk of sounding like a terrible cliche - incredibly brave. I'm very lucky to know her.

When my loved ones are struggling it breaks my heart. It also breaks me physically, but it takes me ages to notice myself. I've been taking care of myself and eating well and running again so that helps. I'm not much fun to be around right now. On edge, shouty, quick to tears and completely unpredictable. I don't know what to do to make things better. I wish I could fix the things that are making me feel like this, but some things are just out of my hands."

So that's how it feels in the middle of it all. I'm not entirely sure why it happens or how to get past it, but I know it's a moment in time. Sometimes the moment goes on for a while. What I do know is that I can do this. However difficult it seems at the time I always get through it.

Saturday, 7 October 2017

Watching Strictly with my boy is fab-u-lous darling

Brown Bear has been singing a particular song recently - it's not one I know, but the constancy with which I've heard it has lodged it in my mind. Last weekend Hubbie said that one of the dances on Strictly had featured Brown Bear's song. I showed him the dance tonight and he loved it. Then he enjoyed watching the comments afterwards and before we knew it we'd watched all of last week's show. He enjoyed the scoring - he's a big fan of numbers - and particularly liked predicting what scores the judges would award.

Once we'd seen the 'D'Esposito dance' I asked him if he would come with me if I won tickets to watch the show live. He thought about it and replied, "Only if they do this song again. " It's probably just as well that it's unlikely I'll win any tickets.

Susan Calman appeared and he asked me why she was called Susie on the show and I explained that the song title was about Susie. Then he said,
"I know her - she's on Top Class."  When the shot panned across the audience I pointed out Susan's wife. Hubbie walked past and I said, she looks different from when we saw her.
"Did you see her in real life Mummy ?"
"Yes sweetie, she did a show in Croydon."
He looked pretty impressed.

When we saw Jonnie Peacock dancing I said Oti (Jonnie's partner) is Daddy's favourite dancer. Brown Bear asked about the blade Jonnie was wearing and I said,
"It's like the one that Jim wears at the swimming pool isn't it ?"
"No mummy his is different, this one is bigger and looks like a blade."
"Yes that's true, but they are both artificial legs or 'prosthetics'"
"He's dancing very fast."
"He's a runner and was in the paralympics. We took you to watch some of the events at the paralympics when you were a baby."

As I mentioned we watched more dances than I had intended and he was really getting into the show.
"Mummy are they married to each other ?"
He asked about each couple.
"No, they're just dance partners. Bruno and has a boyfriend and Craig does too. They're not married to each other."
"What language is Bruno speaking Mummy ?"
"He is speaking english, but it sounds different and when he gets excited he sounds even more italian."

Brown Bear was keen to skip straight to the scores, but I like hearing what the judges think of the dances. "Why is Craig horrible to everyone ?"
"Well he takes it seriously so he tells them when they get it wrong. He's being honest."
"He's not nice to them."
"When he likes the dance he does tell them, but he also offers some advice on what they can do better."
"I've seen Craig before."
"Yes we saw him in Peter Pan last year - he played Captain Hook."
"Oh did we ?"
"Yes, you met him after the show. You had your hook on your hand and he said how cute it looked."

So a new strictly fan has been created. He already asked me if he can watch the next one and as Hubbie is out tomorrow evening I've promised he can watch the results show with me. I might even wear sequins.

Wednesday, 4 October 2017

Music makes my world go around

You remember how last year was an unrelenting series of obituaries of people who were legends and each one was a bigger shocker than the last ? Ok so the big one was Bowie and he went in January, so that was pretty major right there. Well, as a radio presenter it meant I played music by a lot of artists who I may well have neglected for years and maybe even forgotten (apart from David B of course). 

This week as I prepared for my new radio show on Radio Lewes I heard on the Today programme that Tom Petty had died. My entire plan for the show changed immediately as I made a new playlist featuring songs by him and all the members of the Traveling Wilburys - the 'supergroup' he was part of with George Harrison, Roy Orbison, Jeff Lynne and Bob Dylan. If you haven't heard of them - well, shame on you - have a listen to their solo efforts. 

Tom Petty - Free Fallin'

Geroge Harrison - Got my mind set on you 

Roy Orbison - Oh Pretty Woman 

Jeff Lynne - Don't bring me down

Bob Dylan - Blowin' in the wind

I'll be live on Radio Lewes on Saturday morning with fellow presenter Ben and we'll be continuing the tribute to Tom Petty so do join me if you can: Radio Lewes

And when you're done take a listen to my latest show: Something for the weekend

Saturday, 30 September 2017

Lucky number seven.

My boy is seven today. The first grandchild and nephew in both our families. Seven years ago today I was taken in an ambulance to deliver this boy when it became clear that both he and I were in trouble.  Following a blissful and trouble free pregnancy with a much longed for baby at the last minute it started to go wrong. My husband was told he could lose us both. He never let on to me how bad it was. He stood next to me and held my hand as we joked and laughed - much easier to do when you've been given the drugs, me not him. When the boy finally arrived I told Hubbie to go with him to make sure he was ok and I would be fine. We had done the NCT practice run of this and knew how it would go when an emergency C section took place. The room full of people, the student doctor introducing themselves to us and our baby being taken away immediately for checks. We had agreed that Hubbie would stay with him while I was stitched up. Apparently the boy did a massive poo as soon as he was born. Well his sense of timing is impeccable. We spent the night in a recovery ward and Hubbie went home to sleep for the first time in almost three days. I held my son close and watched him all night. I still go into his room and watch him sleep every night.

Since that day I've experienced more anxiety than I've ever had in my life. I've felt more love than I knew was possible. I still find it amazing that I am someone's mum, never mind two boys. When we talked to Brown Bear about adoption and explained he was going to have a brother he took it in his stride. Until Blue Bear arrived and he had to share me with this little boy who Mummy held and cuddled and protected. They both fought for my attention and I expected this little boy to be the big brother before I taught him what that meant. He was feeling pushed out and I didn't realise. It was difficult. I felt like I was being torn in two and he felt like I didn't love him any more. In his head I only had space to love one boy and it wasn't him any more. 

I look at those boys now and the fierce fraternal bond they have. To anyone who doesn't know they were always brothers. Brown Bear is proud of his younger brother and Blue Bear looks up to his big brother and wants to be just like him. On his first day at school Brown Bear took Blue Bear's hand and walked him to the classroom. When Blue Bear came skipping out at the end of the day Brown Bear was there waiting to greet him with a smile and asked him how his day was. Ok so Brown is up with the lark and annoyingly chipper from the off (he always has been, it's exhausting !) and Blue was born a teenager and could sleep in until ten given the chance. By the end of a school day they are in entirely opposite moods and one wants to play while the other is happy to sit and relax. They are forming a great bond though. They other day as we were driving past a funfair they asked if we could go and Hubbie said no. Brown Bear turned to Blue Bear and said, "Don't worry when we live together we can go the fair whenever we like." I reminded him they live together now and Brown Bear said, "No when we're adults. When we're 45." 

The other night we went out together. Just me and Brown Bear. I am at a conference all day today - I left early and will be home late - and I wanted to do something special for his birthday. We went out for dinner and then to the theatre. He opened doors for me saying, "Ladies first" and held my hand as we walked from the car to the restaurant. He smiled at me in the theatre and asked if I was enjoying the show. When we came home he kissed me good night and said, "I love you more than you love me Mummy." I smiled and replied, "That's just not possible." 

Happy 7th Birthday Baby Boy xxxxxxx

Wednesday, 27 September 2017

Roald Dahl's fantastical characters make my boys happy readers

We have always read to our boys and they have had books from an early age. Even before they could hold books we would show them the pictures and read aloud to them. There are bookshelves in every room in our house and both boys take great pride in having their favourite books in their bedrooms. I was delighted when Brown Bear started to read and enjoy Roald Dahl stories. I always loved them when I was a child and they really have stood the test of time. 

I was delighted when I heard that McDonald's had launched another exclusive series of books featuring Roald Dahl's 'fantastical characters' as part of it's Happy Readers campaign. Each book is a story in itself and features characters that will be familiar including Matilda, the BFG and Charlie Bucket. Since the Happy Readers scheme launched in 2012 McDonald's have distributed more than 50 million books as part of Happy Meals and encouraged children to own and read books. 

A new book is available each week (beginning on 13th Sept) for five weeks and the collection features 8 books in total. My boys don't need any excuse to go to McDonald's and they are voracious readers. They love collecting these books and comparing which ones they have with friends. We are huge fans of Happy Readers in our family. 

Peter Andre has made a video about the reading promotion. Have a look and see why he thinks reading is so important:

Disclosure: This post has been prepared in collaboration with McDonald's and the Happy Readers campaign team. 

Saturday, 23 September 2017

My little boy blue

Blue Bear has started at Brown Bear's school. He is in the nursery and his brother is in year 2. He already knows some of his classmates who also have siblings in the school and the teachers are also familiar. On the first day the boys rode their scooters to school and parked them next to each other in the stand outside the school office. Brown Bear took his brother's hand and walked him to the nursery gate. Blue Bear walked off without even saying bye. It was about the best first day I could have imagined.

I can't believe that he's old enough for school already. That he walks in and hangs up his book bag on a peg with his name and photo on it. He can get a cup of water and knows where to put the dirty cups after having a drink. That he eats lunch at school - even if he never remembers what he ate - and is big enough to choose what he wants and to feed himself. At hometime he comes out and asks for his scooter and a snack and races his friend round the quad while we wait for his brother to come out of class.

My helpful little boy 

This little boy who was nervous, emotional, almost wordless and struggled to sleep has transformed before our eyes. Blue Bear is a teenager in tiny form. He is not an early riser so while Brown Bear is awake at dawn and wide awake and 'on' from the minute his eyes open Blue Bear is a "don't talk to me before I've had a black coffee" kind of guy. I often go in to wake him up and he rolls over and says he wants to stay in bed. After school Brown Bear is tired and winding down from his day and Blue Bear is just warming up and at maximum cheekiness. One of them wants to sit quietly and relax after school and the other is prodding his brother to elicit and reaction.

On the one day he doesn't go into school I take Blue Bear out to do fun things with me and the other day we invited his little friend to join us. Her mum said they couldn't do it that day, so I asked if she would like a face to face video chat instead. I can honestly say watching two 3 year olds video chatting is the cutest thing ever. They were just adorable and I found myself marvelling at his social and conversational skills. Later in the week the two of them were eating popcorn and watching a DVD together at our house and making small talk. He was so kind and thoughtful and when she left to go home he gave her a cuddle and thanked her mum for bringing her over. He did sit on her brother first though.

I watch my little boy these days and I see his personality emerging. Now he's coming out of the shadow of his big brother I see a funny, caring, clever boy. Ok I would say that - I am his mum after all. It warms my heart and makes me feel that we're getting something right.

I hope he feels the same way.

Tuesday, 19 September 2017

A few of my favourite things...

What you don't see in these photos of a beautiful sunny day on Brighton beach is all the children running around after our school class trip to the Sealife Centre.

On Open House weekend I was volunteering at Shirley Windwill. It's not a working mill any longer, but it's stunning and as you can see makes an impression against the Croydon skyline.

Eating breakfast is a rarity for me so I took a photo of it the other morning. It was delicious - what's rare is beautiful.

We have a weekend family ritual of having a special breakfast. Lately Blue Bear has been preparing tasty treats for us all.

Although he also enjoyed the pancakes I made at the weekend too.

Yoga before school is a wonderful thing - especially when the boys actually ask if they can do it.

The other day I spotted this lost Elmo on a wall in Lewes - I hope he found his way home to his loved ones.

Finally I am back in my happy place - a radio studio. So pleased to have joined the team at Radio Lewes

Monday, 11 September 2017

Tenderly: The Rosemary Clooney Musical

I've heard of Rosemary Clooney - who hasn't, she's George's auntie - but didn't know anything about her life until last week. The show Tenderly has finally come to the UK thanks to producer Joe Hodges working tirelessly for 2 years to bring it over. The show is intimate and features live musicians and cabaret style seating which adds to the atmosphere of the venue. There are only two actors - Katie Ray plays Rosemary and her voice is stunning. She plays the role with fragility and sassiness tinged with a deep seated need to be loved. Fed Zanni is breathtaking as the other 19 characters in the story and his ability to switch from playing Rosemary's mother to her psychiatrist is seemingly effortless. His singing is also extraordinary and the physicality required to make all the character changes would challenge anyone, but he takes it all in his stride.

The story travels from the inside of the treatment room in a facility where she has been committed to the stages on which she performed as a teen with her sister and later the big venues she shared with the likes of Bing Crosby and Frank Sinatra. We witness her trauma at being an eye witness to the assassination of Bobby Kennedy and the highs and lows of her life on the road performing. I had no idea how much heartache she suffered in her life and this show captures the sadness, the drug taking, the attempts by Sinatra to make her stop pill popping and the failed marriages and relationship dramas she experienced. I had always wondered how George Clooney and Miguel Ferrer could be cousins and this musical explained it to me. Tenderly features hit songs you will know and some original numbers that fit in beautifully with the production. 

After the show I spoke to Janet Yates Vogt who is one of the writers of the show and she explained that the Clooney estate approved the story and have been very supportive of the production. I really hope this show gets picked up for a tour or a west end run as it deserves to be seen. The songs are beautiful and the acting is flawless. By the time we see Rosemary's eventual reinvention as a jazz performer it is a relief after she has been through so much. No, George wasn't there on the night we went, but I guess being a father to new twins and being a Hollywood movie star keeps him pretty busy. You might get lucky if you go on another night. 

Tenderly: the Rosemary Clooney Musical is on until 23rd September at the New Wimbledon Theatre Studio. Do go and see it if you can. You won't regret it. 

You can buy tickets here

Wednesday, 6 September 2017

From boys to... not quite men, but working on it.

When I think about my parenting I'm not proud of myself - I think only of the times I have shouted at my kids, the arguments we've had, the seemingly never ending stream of, "don't do that," "no !" "stop it !" and "leave your brother alone." Then I catch sight of one of my boys. I saw Blue Bear putting on his shoes and thought, "when did he learn to do that ?" I forgot all the times I sat with him and put his shoes on or showed him how to put them on. This evening I went to see how Brown Bear was getting on with his homework and he asked me how to do the maths puzzles so I told him to look for the pattern and he said, "Ok, I've got it now." I came back a few minutes later and he was racing through them. He did indeed have it.

I've been cooking with the boys recently - Blue Bear and I made pastries and I said "let's brush them with milk," and he said, "I'll do it Mummy." I watched as he carefully and precisely brushed milk over them and could not believe this was my baby boy. Brown Bear is really keen to apply for junior bake off so I agreed to help him practise. He has spent a lot of time designing a showstopper cake, so I thought I'd get him started with a family favourite. We baked some banana bread and he followed the recipe from my notebook, measured the ingredients with me using digital scales, mixed the batter using an electric hand whisk and timed the cooking. He was very happy with the cake, but insisted that next time he bakes will do it all himself. I think he will too !

In the last few days the Guardian ran a piece by a man explaining how he feels that his work as a stay at home parent is undervalued compared with paid work outside the home. This was greeted with a national chorus of "well duh !" from women (and men). Way to go there Guardian, some epic mansplaining and complete disregard for what women have been saying for, oh I dunno, decades ? I feel devalued as a person because my worth in financial terms is non-existent. I can show you my children, my home, my writing, but I can't show you any pay for those 'jobs' and I don't have any references. The joint decision we made that I would take care of our children and Hubbie would work did not include an agreement to become invisible and irrelevant. So, yes, women's work is devalued and let's be honest parenting is still seen as 'women's work.'

On the toughest days I tell Hubbie that he should stay at home and I can go to work again. He can be the one who acts as referee, cook, butler, party planner, tutor, playmate and occasional furniture. I can be the one who gets to talk to adults, read my ipad on the train, make small talk with people in shops, take a phone call without being interrupted by a small child needing something urgently (a wooden train, a drink of water, the answer to why is the cat white ?). My friend Yasmin told me today she has the same conversation with her husband and then she said something that I've heard so many times before, but today I really felt it. "What we're doing is so important. This matters."

This morning we all went on the school run. The boys on their scooters, Hubbie on his bike and me on foot. It was Blue Bear's first day and Brown Bear was so proud to take his little brother to school. We took the obligatory photo before we left - not in front of the door though, I don't do that cliche - then made our way up the hill. As the boys scootered off into the woods Hubbie said to me, "Well done. You did it, you got them here." The boys parked their scooters next to each other outside the school office and Brown Bear held his brother's hand to walk him to the nursery gate. I swelled with pride - then took a deep sigh of relief.

Tonight as I put Brown Bear to bed he asked me to sit on his bed so he could read me a story called "I love my mummy because..." and looked at me after each page, "...she gives me hugs... she is beautiful... she holds my hand, etc." We hugged each other and I said, "I loved that story baby, thank you."

No, I don't get paid. There's no Christmas party, or secret Santa. My reward is seeing my boys grow up. To watch them become the amazing young men I know they will be. I can live with that.

Sunday, 3 September 2017

Fostering resentment makes this adopter furious

Fostering was under the media spotlight this last week following a salacious news item in the Times newspaper. The 'story' (for fiction is the kindest way to describe it) was factually incorrect, designed to create discord and more than anything it was inflammatory and racist. The row centres on a 'Christian child' being placed with 'Muslim foster carers.' The biggest cause of consternation being that the female carer wore a head covering and apparently the family spoke Arabic at home. I listened to a radio interview with the Mayor of the Tower Hamlets - the council involved in the story - and then with the journalist who reported the story. Neither gave a particularly good account of themselves or inspired confidence in the system of fostering and adoption or of news gathering.

I know both Tower Hamlets Council and the fostering and adoption system in this country pretty well. Hubbie worked at Tower Hamlets during our first adoption process and when we asked to be considered as potential adopters for a child in foster care with them. Initially they told us we weren't the correct racial match with him (even though they didn't know Baby R's exact ethnicity) then overnight they changed their matching policy to prevent us from adopting him because Hubbie worked for the local authority with which he was placed. It was really cynical and when I spoke to other couples of mixed race they reported similar treatment by local authorities seeking a 'perfect match' for the children waiting for permanent families.

Now, first up the concept of a perfect match is ridiculous, but more than anything the maths just doesn't work. The number of children waiting who have unspecified ethnicity or possibly muslim parentage is disproportionate to the number of muslim families waiting to adopt them. There are, however, muslim foster carers who take any and all children who need temporary placement for whatever reason. You see fostering and adoption are entirely different things and this was not discussed in the news item about this case. A child can be placed with any available and suitable carer and their ethnicity or religion is a lesser consideration than the safety and security of the child.

Blue Bear was removed from his birth family late at night and taken to his foster carers' home. He was their first foster child and they loved him like their own. They are a Muslim family and the women wear the hijab. The children they are currently fostering are of south east asian descent and have been with them for over a year. The family make food that the children like, they speak to them in English and the girls are very attached to their foster family. When we meet up it is clear to us that they are in the best place until a permanent solution can be found for them.

The Times news story does no one any favours. It will not encourage Muslim families to apply to adopt so as they will feel they are under additional scrutiny and their motives will be questioned. The children who have been placed in local authority care will wait even longer as approved foster carers who are capable of providing a home for them will have to prove they are not 'indoctrinating' the children in their care. I've talked - often and at length - about why placing children based on religion or ethnicity is flawed at best. This is just a new and ridiculous spin on an age old problem of society finding ways to demonise people who care for children in care. The children who are already below the radar and have often experienced loss, trauma and separation before they are placed with people trained and trusted to help them.

The question of payment came up on the radio interview. Yes foster carers do get paid. I know quite a few of them now and believe me they are not paid nearly enough for the work they do and the care the provide. These are the people who have to try and explain when birth parents don't show up for long planned meetings with their children. They are the ones who might have their homes trashed, their belongings stolen and even be physically harmed by the children in their care. They are there to pick up the pieces - sometimes literally - when things don't work out for the children and they are there to advocate for them. All the while they continue to keep the children safe and produce detailed reports for the local authority. They undergo training, aseessment and ongoing checks all the while they are looking after vulnerable children. When it is time to move the children on the foster carers are not consulted or involved in decision making. I know from personal experience that they know the children far better than a social worker who visits once a fortnight (if that).

If you detect that I sound angry then you're damn right. I am furious. This kind of irresponsible reporting and doctoring of photos to prove a non existent point does nothing to help children in foster care. It does even less to address the chronic shortage of foster carers in this country. The Muslim carers who looked after my boy before he came to us are the most precious link we have to his past. They took him in at the most traumatic time of his life and they stayed up and held him close when he screamed at night. They taught him how to play with toys and to make eye contact and to trust people. They helped this little boy to become the happy and loving child we met and adopted. The appearance of the mother and the food they ate or the language they spoke are completely irrelevant. It is because they fostered him that we are able to call Blue Bear our son.

Shame on anyone who believes that the religion of a foster carer has any bearing on their capacity to care for a vulnerable child.

Tuesday, 29 August 2017

Little Tiger book review: Monster daycare and Owls that won't go to sleep.

We love books in our family and have bookcases in every room in the house - yes every room. I take the boys to the library and they choose many books each time and so we keep adding to the ones we have - albeit temporarily.  Then there are the books I get sent to review. The best part of writing this blog is being introduced to fantastic new products or brands. Little Tiger is one of these and when I was asked if I wanted to receive books to review I jumped at the chance. After all Blue Bear loves picture books and these are just lovely.

Stomp School is a book about 'daycare for the raucous kids of the world's most famous city- stomping monsters.'

It's a wondefully interactive story book with pages that fold out to make tall towers and irregular shaped pages that add interest and engagement with the story in a fresh and clever way.

Like all kids his age Blue Bear is obsessed with monsters so the story is just up his street and with the added bonus of a familiar setting and the unpredictability of the monsters it's great fun.

Blue Bear is a big fan of owls so when this next one arrived in the post he was absolutely delighted. 10, 9, 8... Owls up late is a beautiful book.

As well as featuring some lovely illustrations of the owls there are cut outs that enage the young reader. In the process of counting the owls different ones appear through strategically cut out pages and captivated Blue Bear from the very first page.

This story is a great countdown to bedtime and has a cast of many woodland animals including foxes and mice and a grey cat. It is simple for a young child to follow and uses the characters to reinforce the skill of counting at the end.

I love this book and as it's in hardback format I hope it will last a long time. Blue Bear has read it every night since we received it and has become a firm favourite.

Disclosure: The lovely folks at Little Tiger sent us these beautiful books to review 

Friday, 25 August 2017

Jumping on a giant bed makes for #appykids

Jumping on the bed was never allowed when I was a kid and the same applies in my home now I'm a parent. So you can imagine when Virgin TV invited us to jump on a giant bed to celebrate the launch of their new kids app me and Blue Bear hot footed it over to Kings Cross for the ultimate in forbidden fun. I'll be honest when I let the kids watch TV or play games I feel guilty, like it's something I shouldn't do. However, during the school holidays the only way I can cope with them being around so much is by keeping a stock of programmes and films for the boys on the Virgin TV box. That way I can pop on something for them to watch - together or separately - while I make a meal or tidy up or occasionally I might even sit and watch with them. That's fine as far as it goes, but we're not at home all the time and during journeys by car or train it's more challenging to keep them occupied.

Brown Bear uses a tablet to play games on and Blue Bear watches films on DVD when we're on the move. The Virgin TV Kids app is an ad-free environment where children aged 3-7 can watch a range of cartoons and TV shows as well as playing games or accessing bookes in one place wherever they are. Once downloaded shows are available to watch offline for 30 days so you can upload them before going on holiday or for long journeys. This would have been really great on our long drives to and from Cornwall. They already love shows like Peppa Pig and Scooby Doo and Brown Bear is a big fan of games now so there is plenty for him to do too. 

Children can set up their own personalised profiles with an avatar and nickname and the app stores the last three programmes watched so that they can access their favourite shows every time they use it. In order to keep safe while online you can set up parental controls so that they don't wander onto sites you don't approve. When they are in the car this is invaluable as I can't always check what they are doing. With the app I would have the peace of mind to let them explore and use the app freely knowing they can't access unsuitable content. 

The Virgin Kids TV app is available to download from Google Play and the Apple App Store and if you are already a Virgin TV customer on the Fun or Full House bundles you can download and use the app for free. 

Oh and by the way, jumping on a giant bed is every bit as fun as you imagine it's going to be. We loved it ! 

Disclosure: The lovely folks at Virgin TV invited us to try out the giant bed at King's Cross Square and paid expenses. 

Wednesday, 23 August 2017

Lily O'Brien's new Desserts Collection (shh, don't tell the boys).

Considering the name of this blog you would be surprised how few offers I get to review chocolate. In fact almost none. So when I was asked if I'd like to try the new Lily O'Brien's Dessert Collection I pretty much leapt to the keys to say "Yes please !" I first tried Lily O'Brien's in Dublin when Hubbie and I went for a long weekend. We went to a posh cafe for coffee (tea in my case) and some luxury chocolates. I savoured mine and even left half of each for him to try. He polished his chocolates off and looked very sheepish when I offered him mine to try. I still mention it occasionally - no that's not fair. It's not occasionally, I mention it often. 

With Mother-in-law and my Mum having birthdays close together we often get the similar presents - they like the same things anyway. Fancy chocolates are a popular choice of gift from the boys and we sometimes buy Lily O'Brien's chocolates from Waitrose. The new range - launched this month - is inspired by popular and much loved dessert recipes including Banoffee Pie, Hazelnut Torte, Key Lime Pie and Creme Brulee. I loved the passion fruit posset, raspberry infusion and key lime - I'm pretty sure they count towards your five a day too. Ok maybe not so much. I'm not a hazelnut fan so Hubbie can have those, but as petit fours these would work really well. Each one is a big flavour hit in a scrumptious mouthful and if I'm being honest far too nice to share. I'm not sure they'd make it as far as being a gift as I'd end up eating them. 

I loved Lily O'Brien's chocolates before and this collection just makes me love them even more. I've already hidden these from my lot so I can enjoy them all by myself. It's not like Hubbie would have shared them wtih me anyway is it ? See I told you I mention it all the time. 

Disclosure: the lovely folks at Lily O'Brien's sent me these scrumptious luxury chocolates to review. 

Sunday, 20 August 2017

How popcorn helps me talk to my boys about adoption

A recent development that has been great is the realisation that Blue Bear loves watching movies. He will sit and concentrate with his brother and pay close attention to the plot and characters and this is helping me with managing the long days of the school holidays. In fact this week I've got Blue Bear at home and Brown Bear at sports camp so I'll be taking Blue to the cinema for a morning screening just him and me. It's something we haven't done before so I'm looking forward to seeing what he makes of it. I always take popcorn and drinks from home and if he's really hungry afterwards we can go for lunch. I might even ask our lovely neighbour Jill if she wants to join us. 

When we got home from a busy weekend this afternoon I asked the boys if they fancied watching a film while I got their dinner. Blue Bear has been staying with Grandma and Grandpa and Brown Bear has been with my parents this weekend. They've both missed each other, but immediately that they see each other they argue and bicker. Perfectly normal for brothers I guess, but exhausting for me and Hubbie who rarely get child free time and when we do it's all too short-lived. I popped on Stuart Little for them and sort of watched it myself - which I don't usually do - and it inspired this post. 

I've mentioned before how open we are about adoption in our family and we have always answered truthfully when Brown Bear asks questions about it. With Blue Bear starting school in September I am guessing he will start to ask questions and be curious too. I find that movies are a great shorthand for the emotional topics that are difficult to talk about. Here are the top ones that have helped me talk about adoption, fostering and different families. 

Inside Out: is obviously about emotions - what with them being the central characters. However, it's also about friendship, life changes and how out of control children can feel when adults make difficult decisions that they cannot influence. Each time Brown Bear has watched it we have talked about different emotions and how he feels about things. It has given us a common a language to address difficult feelings he experiences and it's given me an 'in' to talk to him about them. 

Paddington: was the first movie that we really identified as being explicitly about adoption. When Paddington first arrives from Peru he's alone, frightened and the Brown family know very little about him. When Blue Bear arrived with us it was very similar and we talked about how hard it must have been for him to understand our home and habits when he wasn't used to us. Brown Bear also recognised that being the new one in a family is difficult and we talked about how he must have felt when Blue Bear came into his home and shared his family. 

Stuart Little: We only watched this today, but the themes of not fitting in and being different were really interesting. We talked about how George finds it hard to accept his new brother and while the adoption is a little simple and easy for my liking, the relationship between the brothers is the bit that works well for me. I like that they work towards loving each other and that Stuart even wins over the family cat Snowbell (who looks a lot like Neo so that works for us too).

Star Wars: Ok bear with me here, because it's an out there concept, but the family at the centre of the 'proper' Star Wars movies is a scruffy Nerf Herder, a princess, a trainee jedi and a wookie. The family that is thrown together in adversity. Luke is raised by his aunt and uncle and doesn't find out who his real father is and when he does it's not what he was hoping for. It's a messy situation all round, but I think it's a great metaphor for the complicated nature of families and nature vs nurture. Not a conversation that I'm planning to have with Blue Bear at this point, but useful to have in the locker for later. 

Annie: The Albert Finney version is great fun and the new version has an interesting take on the story that includes social media and technology. Annie's search for her 'real parents' and the doggedness with which she pursues the tiny bits of information she has is heartbreaking. The determination to find out anything she can is something I am prepared for when Blue Bear is older. Whatever we can tell him we will, but there are gaps that we may never be able to fill for him. Miss Hannigan may not be the best advert for fostering, but the cameraderie of the girls in her 'care' is amazing. Oh and I like the dog. 

Despicable Me: While it's not the central storyline, the take away for me in the first movie was how adoption isn't always straightforward or wholly positive. Gru adopts the girls for his own selfish motives and when he thinks he has lost them forever he realises how much he has grown to love them. The girls accept the crazy life they are adopted into complete with minions and plans for world domination and in turn they bring something to Gru's life that he didn't know he needed. The really profound part of this for me is seeing his mother develop a loving relationship with the girls which she didn't have with her own son. There's adoption breakdown, a genuine family relationship and fluffy unicorns. Honestly, what's not to love ?  

So those are my top few movies that helped me talk about adoption with Brown Bear. I'm sure there will be others that will appeal to Blue Bear as he will have different questions and probably responses that I'm not prepared for yet. I'm not sure what he's going to make of Boss Baby this week though. 

Tuesday, 15 August 2017

My life on TV

I'm a big fan of TV and watch far too much of it - ever since childhood. I used to watch the show that told you to 'switch off your TV and do something less boring instead' and stayed put until something genuinely less interesting was on. I sat through a lot of rubbish TV. As a result I know a lot of theme songs from shows and it's a handy skill to have for pub quizzes. The other thing I have learned from watching a lot of TV is that it's not often that art imitates life. I don't watch reality TV a a rule because I live reality and when I'm relaxing I want escapism. Not for me the banality of the partially true lives of inhabitants of Essex or Chelsea. However, there have been a few TV shows that have accurately depicted situations that have happened to me in real life. It's a bit freaky when that happens.

Eastenders: Now it's not a happy chapter of my life so I don't really go back there much. As I was having lunch with friends a while back I spoke about not remembering much of it in detail and one of my friends said, "Well PTSD will do that," and she has a point. The only really awful bit I ever really elaborate on is the one that I saw enacted dramatically by Little Mo when she stood up to her abusive husband Trevor. No I didn't attack my ex with an iron, but I did take it with me when I left - which was vindictive because I absolutely don't iron. It was pure spite on my part. I'm not proud of it, but to be honest it wasn't the worst thing I could have done. So we argued about petty things like the dish drainer and a plug stack and the friend who had come with me told me to just leave them. As I went to leave she went outside to wait by the van we had borrowed for the day and as I went to leave my ex decided to have his say about me leaving. This 6'4" man towered over me and threatened me. And I stood there - all 5' nothing of me - and said, "If you're going to hit me just get on with it. I've got things to do." He visibly shrank at my lack of fear - he just didn't know what to do. I told him he was a coward and a bully and I wasn't scared of him any more. He called the police and they sent two female officers who checked I was ok and ignored him completely. I left. No drama, no-one was hit by a household implement and there was no doof doof music. Still I did feel a moment of triumph when I saw Little Mo having an almost identical confrontation with her husband. It was then I felt proud of myself for standing up to him and leaving.

Monica and Chandler: There is very little about Friends that resembles reality. The ridiculous way that Rachel goes from unemployable spoilt, rich girl to successful fashionista in a very short space of time. Phoebe surviving on the money she makes as a masseur and terrible busker is just not believable on any level. And never forget that the whole Ross and Rachel relationship would just not occur in real life. He's a selfish, boring, petty man who offers absolutely nothing and she's already rich and doesn't struggle to meet good looking (straight) men, despite working in fashion - I know that's entirely realistic isn't it ? Anyway, the area in which I do see a similarity to my life is when Monica and Chandler have difficulty conceiving. It's one of the rare serious moments when Chandler tells Monica the bad news and they are heartbroken. On they day that Hubbie came home from his appointment he referenced this scene to soften the blow a bit. It kind of did. It also ensured I went into Monica mode and chose not to accept that there was nothing we could do. The rest is pretty well documented on this blog so I won't repeat myself.

Gavin and Stacey: There is a lot to love about this show. The fact that the families are named after serial killers is a stroke of genius. We watched an episode the other day where Pete shows off a hat that his wife Dawn bought him that bears the legend, "Pete Sutcliff loves golf." Stacey's mum even comments on how unfortunate it is that she goes from being a West to being a Shipman. Honestly if you don't find this stuff funny why are you even here ? So the point is pretty similar to the last one in that Gavin and Stacey are told they won't be able to have children. In one exchange they agree they will keep trying for a while and if nothing happens they will stop and think about other options. Stacey says, "It's sad isn't it ?" and every time I watch that scene it makes me cry. Yes it is very sad. When we were told that we were 'unlikley' to conceive we both sat in the reception of the fertility clinic and cried. I don't know how long we stayed there for, but it felt like a long time. On a much happier note, when we did find out that I was pregnant Hubbie exclaimed, "My balls work !" Just like Gavin does when they find out that Stacey is pregnant. I only did one test though - I didn't pee on a shoebox full of them.

Outnumbered: I never understood why people liked this show until I became a parent. Even then it wasn't until we had two of them. Ok, we're not strictly outnumbered as there are two of them and two of us, but as is pretty clear the cat is on their side - or he has recruited them to be honorary cats which is far more likely. So the main reason this show resonates with me is because Brown Bear is the spitting image of Ben. It has been evident since his curly hair kicked in and my sister even pointed it out. I suspect that Blue Bear is like Karen in that he is more considered and serious. Now I watch it and sympathise with Pete and Sue and their incessant attempts to keep ahead of their brood.

Miss Rabbit: Well this one is a joke that occured to Hubbie when it became clear that the character of Miss Rabbit from Peppa Pig does every job. It came about after I spoke about all the different jobs that I've done and he started to call me Miss Rabbit. It's a good call actually even though I'm not a helicopter pilot or a volunteer fire officer, but I have worked in a library. Anyway, Miss Rabbit has a pretty good work ethic and that's no bad thing is it ?

Curb Your Enthusiasm: We've been rewatching this show in preparation for the new series in October. It pains me to admit it, but I am really much more sympathetic towards Larry than I should be. Despite his selfish tendencies I honestly think he's more misunderstood than anything. I know he can appear to be a sociopath, but there is definitely an element of him being in the wrong place at the wrong time and not thinking before he speaks. I can identify with that.