Monday, 26 March 2018

The meeting that changed everything

Three years ago today we attended a very important meeting. 

One that changed all our lives forever.

We dropped Brown Bear off at school and went to visit a family we had only met once before. 

I think we arrived early and waited outside until the agreed time. We knocked on the door and they opened the door to greet us. With a lot of nervousness we went to the room at the back of the house to see the special person we were meeting. We had seen photos of him so we knew what he looked like, but we hadn't spoken to him or seen him for real. I held back a bit as I didn't want to overwhelm him and I didn't know how he would react to us. He had seen photos of us too and when we came in he went over and picked up a small album and showed us. He recognised us from the family photo we had sent. He didn't say much - he had a dummy in his mouth so it would have been muffled anyway. He looked at us and smiled, then walked back to a place of safety and watched us. 
He was dressed like a little old man in a sweater vest - like the ones my dad wears. He stood in front of the TV screen - like my sister used to. He surveyed us from afar and made a decision about whether we were ok to approach or not - I'm told Hubbie was like that too. 

Hubbie was first to engage with him. He lay on the floor and played with toys until with tentative steps Blue Bear came over to join in. I sat back and watched. He was so tiny. So much more beautiful than the photos we had seen. Quiet, thoughful and shy. He kept going back to the comfort of his foster carer for a cuddle and reassurance that these people who had come were ok. Hubbie coaxed giggles and laughter from him and it was the most magical sound. 

We didn't stay long that first day. After around an hour we left to go home. All the way back we chattered away. There was so much to tell Brown Bear and he was excited to hear all about it. I made some notes immediately we got home as a friend had advised me to. I am so glad I listened as so much happens and it's difficult to remember the minor details, the order of events or even the emotions. 

Brown Bear wanted to know everything, but most importantly, "What is he like ?" and "When can I meet him ?" He knew he was going to meet him later in the week and was impatient for that time to come. It was so hard to sleep that first night. The excitement, the anticipation, the anxiety. What if he decides tomorrow he didn't like us after all ? Is it safe to get close to this little boy if there is any chance it might not work out ? 

In the end none of that mattered. I just knew from the minute I saw him that this was our baby boy. That he had to join our family. I finally fell asleep with the joyful memory of his giggles ringing in my ears. Hopefully, they would be in our own home before too long. 

Wednesday, 21 March 2018

Spring has sprung. No really it has. Honest.

It's Spring, but no one has told the weather this apparently. This week began with snow and then today it was so sunny that I hung my swimming kit on the outside washing line. Ok so it's frozen solid now, but that's hardly the point. On the drive down to Lewes to record my radio show the sun was shining and I almost didn't take my coat with me to the studio. Of course I did wear it - I'm not a penguin.

I've always said that my favourite seasons are Spring and Autumn. For me they demonstrate the most change and the most promise of what's to come. Let's be honest - for a lot of us this year hasn't exactly promised much so far. Spring has to come soon and with it the blossom, the sunshine and some warmth. When Brown Bear was a baby I used to pick blossom from the trees and hang it from the canopy of his buggy so he could look up and see it as went for a walk. I loved showing him the beauty of nature and now that the boys go to forest school I'm delighted that they have a love of the outdoors and an interest in wildlife. Blue Bear will often pick up acorns, chestnuts or leaves and pop them in his pocket to show his teacher at nursery. It does mean I have to check carefully before putting his clothes in the wash though.

The other member of our family who loves nature is Neo. When he came to live with us from Battersea Cats and Dogs home he had been indoors for weeks and was desperate to go outside. He always loved sunbathing and we'd often find him lying in the sunniest patch of garden and when we moved to this house he loved the garden and the flat roof next door where he would jump up and lie all day. Moving only to follow the sun or to get a drink of water. He doesn't spend as much time outdoors any more and today as the sun streamed into the back room he stretched out on his beanbag and enjoyed the warmth without enduring the chill in the air.

I've often said I'd like to come back in my next life as my cat and on a day like today that is certainly true.

Sunday, 18 March 2018

Hold on for one more day

You know in Austin Powers when he is horrified that he's lost his mojo ? Then he discovers it's been stolen from him and bottled. I hope that's what has happened to my blogging mojo. Since the start of this year I've been struggling to find the energy to put into writing so I've been absent. There have been a lot of things happening that have been difficult to process and I've promised to take better care of myself so instead of staying up late to write a blog post I make myself go to bed. Even if that means I'm then lying awake at least I'm lying down. I had no idea that grief can be so debilitating. It's exhausting. Practical nonsense has also stepped in and as I type there is a fan heater on in this room as it's more than two weeks since our boiler broke down and we have an ongoing issue with getting it fixed - well replaced actually. 

In the time I've been out of the loop there have been so many topics that have inspired potential blog posts and I've just not been able to write them. Things that I hope to get round to eventually, but for now they just circle in my head when I swim and I ponder what I might have written had I been capable. 

Me Too: There is so much to say about the outrage and indignation that has been unleashed by this movement. I deliberately haven't added my voice to this debate or used the phrase. Not because it hasn't happened to me - it has. I just didn't have the capacity to deal with all the feelings it would bring up. 

International Women's Day: I chose to spend my time on twitter this year adding my voice to the whole, 'hey why do women get a day all for themselves' issue. I was delighted to see that Richard Herring decided to use the platform he has on this day to raise a considerable sum of money for Refuge. Some good can come from misogyny I guess. 

Oxfam scandal: I worked in overseas aid for many years and have seen how unethical some areas of the industry can be. I'm not being cynical when I say I'm not at all surprised by this story. I am being realistic in that the power relationships that exist between those in need of aid and those providing it are already out of kilter. If you then add in the concept that aid workers are 'doing good' by even being there then you can go some way towards understanding how it happens so easily. 

I call BS: I remember the exact spot I was in when I heard about the shooting in Dunblane. It is deeply ingrained on my brain and to this day. Whenever there is a school shooting in the US and the same old tired cliches are trotted out it reminds me how incredibly sick I felt when I heard that it had happened in Britain. Except this time it is the children and young people who are speaking up for their own safety. I don't know if it will be any different this time, but I hope it is. 

These are just a few things I have been thinking about and just not been able to articulate on here. Staying out of the way of difficult topics hasn't protected me from them, but it has given me space to think. I'm spending time with my boys and making plans with Hubbie. Dedicating myself to the causes and people that matter. Training to run a half marathon for Macmillan and looking at haircuts that might suit when I cut all my hair off to raise money for their cancer services. Checking in with my lovely friend who is at the start of her journey with cancer treatment and with the widower of my friend who reached the end of hers. 

I don't know when I'll get my mojo back - I can't promise it will be soon. I hope to get back, so please bear with me until I get there. I'm mostly swimming, running and making radio shows - oh and watching Bridesmaids - a lot. 

If you want to sponsor me please find the link here:

Sunday, 11 March 2018

Sunday Night disco

I've written about Sunday night syndrome before. That feeling of dread you get as the weekend draws to a close and Monday morning gets closer. To be honest at the moment I'm not sure what day it even is most of the time. It makes no odds to me anyway.  I think a bit of music therapy is in order.

Free Fallin' - Tom Petty:

Let it be - The Beatles:

Where are we now ? - David Bowie:

Sunday, 4 March 2018

The incredible sulk - and other inherited characteristics

In recent months Blue Bear has developed the ability to throw sulks on an epic scale. He's fun and energetic, but he's also quick to take offence. Just this week I've been told he hates me, he's not my friend, he hates chicken, his brother and pretty much anything that has fallen foul of his temperament. It was during one of these monumental sulks - complete with not one, but two foot stamps - that I said "he gets that from you," to Hubbie. I wasn't thinking really, but one of the reasons we were considered a suitable match for him was because of his resemblance to Hubbie. That seems to extend to his personality as well as his looks.

This morning all the boys were in the back room playing a board game and I looked over. The similarity in their looks, behaviour and moods was quite startling. It's not often I consider what we've bequeathed to our children. This isn't even a nature vs nurture thing it's more that Brown Bear is nothing like me in some fundamental ways. He is brilliant at maths, is a gifted sportsman and is very sociable and popular. I take it personally that he isn't a keen reader as I have always loved books and reading. He just doesn't care for it. We do share a love of music and the arts though. I took him to the theatre last week which we've done since he was about 3 years old. He's had music in his life since before he was born and he's been able to hold a tune and recognise certain artists from an early age. I am a bit terrified that he's good at things I don't know much about. It's inevitable I guess as so much has changed since I was a child.

We took the boys to the cinema to watch Ferdinand - a movie about a bull who wants to defy the expectations of him as he would prefer not to be a fighter. At the end of the film I asked Blue Bear if he enjoyed it and he said he did. Hubbie told me that during the screening Blue had turned to him and said, "it's a sad movie Daddy." It is quite sad at times and I found I was moved by it so it's hardly surprising he would be too. It was amazing to me that not only did he empathise with the character, but he was also able to express the emotional respose he had to it. This is a new area for us with him and might go some way towards explaining why he's so aggressive and changeable at the moment. As he is becoming able to identify and name different emotions we can start to talk to him about how he came to be in this family. We have never made a secret of the fact that he hasn't always lived with us. It's important to us to do this in a way that is sensitive and thoughtful. 

I've noticed that if I give a treat to Blue Bear he will always ask for one for his brother. If I give something to Brown Bear he will take it and eat it. If I give them both something Brown will always ask if I have given him the bigger one or more of it. They are so different in some ways, but then I see Brown holding hands with Blue to help him walk on the ledge along a path. I'm also there when they have almighty rows and it's like negotiating between two superpowers with a low attention span. 

The more I spend time with these boys the more I see how they resemble me and Hubbie. More than anything they are like each other. I'm not sure I have the energy for this !