An open letter to our lovely bun

October is Down Syndrome awareness month, and this week it’s National Adoption week. With that in mind I wanted to write a blog in support of both.

Adopting our beautiful girl who has Down Syndrome is one of the best decisions we have ever made. Adoption was, and continues to be a challenging process (another blog to follow on this soon). It is both the best and the most difficult thing I’ve ever been through. But for us the joys have far outweighed the challenges and I hope this blog encourages more people to consider adopting, and especially adopting children with additional needs.

I also hope this reaches anyone who has had a prenatal diagnosis of Down Syndrome and is wondering what to do. I want you to see another side to the bleak picture of Down Syndrome that can be portrayed, and that in my experience is entirely untrue. Please also see the end of this blog for more information on some amazing parents of children with Down Syndrome who are loving life with their wonderful children. And please get in touch with me via social media if you want to chat further about any of the above (links at the end of this blog) 🙂

To our precious bun,

I wanted to write this letter to you while I still clearly remember all of the feelings I have about you in your early years; we can read it together when you’re older.

You have been in our lives for just over a year now – and what an incredible year it has been!

A few years ago, I believe God gave me a dream to be a mummy by adoption, rather than being a tummy mummy. I specifically wanted to be a mummy to a child who has Down Syndrome, like you do.

Having Down Syndrome means that you have an extra copy of chromosome 21 in every cell of your body. This is nothing to worry about at all – in fact we celebrate it as a wonderful part of your unique identity.

Down Syndrome was discovered by a man called John Langdon Down – what a shame he had such a dull and boring name as that certainly doesn’t reflect anything about your cheeky and sparkly personality.

Having Down Syndrome may mean it takes you a little bit longer to learn certain things – but there’s no rush – we have all the time in the world! We just want to enjoy every moment with you, and we get extra excited when you reach a new milestone. I sang ‘rollin’ on the river’ pretty much non stop for a week after you rolled for the first time (daddy was really pleased about that).

Me and daddy will do our best to help you discover what your gifts and talents are as you grow up, and to encourage you to do whatever you enjoy and are good at. I believe your life will have a huge impact on many people – you have already brought so much love, joy and fun into lots of people’s lives.

I remember before we met you, your social worker came round to meet us and check that we would be good parents for you (I was on my best behaviour for once). She showed us some pictures of you when you were first born – you melted my heart straight away. You were such a teeny and scrummy little girl! You just get more scrummy every day. I held you for the first time a week later – it was amazing! I couldn’t believe how blessed I was to hold such a perfect little creation. I have a heart shaped plaque on my wall that says “From the moment they placed you in my arms you snuggled right into my heart”. That is so true – and you can snuggle there forever.

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Your daddy used to run into your hospital ward to beat me there so he could have the first cuddle with you. He’d always forget to turn off your apnoea machine so the alarm would go off every time. (He needs reminding about these kind of things a lot – you can help me keep him in order). We loved spending a few weeks with you in hospital, and the lovely nurses showed us how to look after you well. You loved having a bath –I felt like such a smug mummy because you didn’t whinge like some of the other babies did, you just loved being in the water.

When they said you could come home with us we were so pleased. We got your bedroom ready – daddy even painted you a beautiful sparkly glitter wall! He is so smitten with you – he’s always coming home with cute little outfits for you! The other day he told me off for buying Smart Price Weetabix for your breakfast – he said “I want the best Weetabix for my bub.”! (It’s all the same to me when it’s mushed up – welcome to the brand wars in our house!).

The first night you came to live with us was a bit nerve wrecking – you slept beside me in your Moses basket and I think I woke up approx. every 7 minutes to check you were still breathing. We are very thankful that you are a good sleeper. Daddy has a plaque by his bed saying ‘Wake up and be Awesome’, but mummy needs a good 8 hours to ‘Wake up and be Average’ so please keep up the good snoozing work.

We are just so proud of you and love you so much. You truly are a delight – we couldn’t ask for a more wonderful daughter and we wouldn’t change you for the world. I love your cheeky chuckle and your eyes full of mischief. I love when you are in your Jumparoo and we have a dance party in the lounge and crank the music up loud. I love you snuggling into my chest as I sing you to sleep. I love that you find the variety of accents I can do amusing – I think my Irish one is your favourite so far. I love that you can be as quiet as a church mouse and then we get to a doctors waiting room and all of a sudden you start blowing the loudest raspberries I’ve ever heard.

I’m so excited to see you grow and develop – you have such a bright future ahead of you!

Always remember that you are loved, highly valued, chosen and treasured and we are so thankful to God for bringing you into our family. But don’t just take my word for it – I asked some of our friends and family to say how they feel about you too – enjoy reading what they have to say special one! (Don’t get too much of a big head though).

Love Always,

Mummy

xxx

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“My heart has never stopped melting from the moment I saw you when you were only 4.5 pounds and 10 days old. I knew you were God’s gift to us and what a gift He has blessed me and Mummy with.  You have brought so much joy and laughter to our world, we couldn’t imagine life without you now.  I’ll never get fed up of seeing your beaming smile as soon as you wake up in the morning (Mummy could take a leaf from your book) or all the kisses and cuddles when I give you some of my Terry’s chocolate orange. Your life is so precious and emulates perfection in every way. Love you lots. ” Daddy

“She is my first Great Grandchild and she is a joy – she makes me feel so happy. I am so happy to be her Great Gran.” Great Gran B

“A welcome and treasured addition to our family. Such a happy and contented little girl who is much loved by everyone.” Great Gran E

“You are adorable, your cheeky smile and your eyes full of fun melt my heart. Your Grandma loves you very much.” Grandma Wazza

“I love her sleeping on me and I really hope that through our cuddles she can feel how loved and special she is.” Grandpa Wazza

“She is so pretty and so beautiful. I look at her photo every morning and blow her a kiss and tell her I love her. I’m glad she loves my macaroni cheese recipe that her daddy now makes for her.” Grandma Barb

“We love your beautiful eyes, and the cheeky glances you share with your mum – we dread to think of the mischief you two are going to get up to – probably at your dad’s expense! We love you bubs! Auntie Sal & Uncle Kev

“I was smitten with our beautiful girl from the first cwtch” (that means cuddle for those not fluent in Welsh!) Grandma Wales

“She always brings a smile to my face no matter how I am feeling.” Grandpa Wales

“I love her because she is so pure and full of love and her smile is so contagious.” Big Sis Annaliese

“She always looks so happy and she has gorgeous eyes.” Auntie Em

“I love that she finds more joy than anyone I’ve ever met. She’s the cutest, most sassy, biggest personality wrapped up in the tiniest human.” Hanny G

“I love the way her smile lights up her face, which in turn lights up the whole room.” Helen

“Your eyes sparkle, you are a beautiful little girl. When you smile, you make me smile – thank you.” Deb

“I love how I often feel closer to God when I’ve seen you laugh, clap or scrunch up your face when you are engaging with the people around you. I’m so glad you are in my world.” Carl

“I love the way you wake up so happy after a sleep, reminding me how I can be ‘crabby’ in the mornings! You have THE best smile – so blessed to have you in my life little one.” Lisa

Recommended Reading

‘A Mother Like Alex: One Defiant Woman, 9 Special Children’ – by Bernard Clark

Recommended Organisations

Please take a few minutes to watch this beautiful video from the ‘Wouldn’t Change a Thing’ Down Syndrome awareness group – it’s fab!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TFQQJB-dsWo

We adopted through a great organisation called Adoption Matters – please check out their website if you are considering adoption – we highly recommend them!

http://www.adoptionmatters.org/

Home for Good are also a fantastic organisation to connect with – we linked up with Adoption Matters through one of their information evenings. They do so much great work including an enquiry line for any questions you have about adoption and fostering – check them out too!

https://www.homeforgood.org.uk/

Social Media Links

Facebook

https://www.facebook.com/abunfromanotheroven

Twitter

@anotheroven

Instagram

abunfromanotheroven

Next months blog – ‘Black Friday and Worrying Wednesday – the importance of your support network.’

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Cream Egg Confessions & Fondant Fancy Fails – My 30 day sugar free diary

‘How d’you eat yours?’ is the famous question posed to us every year by the creators of the ever-shrinking cream egg. Well a few years ago my answer to that question was ‘on the loo’. The reason for this was that I’d told my hubby ‘I’m being good’ and I was too proud to break my word in front of him, so I sneakily scoffed a cream egg whilst sat on the loo. In my defense it was just a ‘one oeuf’!

cadbury creme egg chocolate GIF

I remember when we were approaching the matching stage of our adoption journey, our social worker advised us to eat healthily to prepare ourselves for what was ahead. I didn’t realise at the time what great advice this was! I would strongly recommend this to anyone on a similar path – it is an emotionally and physically demanding journey and you need to look after yourself and be at your best. Get a healthy meal and excercise plan – but also plan in some treats along the way. I wish I’d done this sugar free challenge a while back. Parenting is a wonderful, but challenging task and I’m realising more and more how seriously what we eat affects our lives. I’ll never be a mizzo who orders lettuce and a glass of water in a restaurant – life is too short! But I want to take sensible steps to being in the best health possible.

Anyway, back to  cream egg-gate. I realised I had a bit of an issue with self control. So I changed my diet and got some discipline back. A few weeks back I could feel my self control was slipping again. I got this random craving for a fondant fancy – but then ended up woofing 4 of them in a row, which is about 400 calories in 5 seconds flat! A bit of what you fancy does you good….but four fondant fancies on the trot is pushing it! My sugar cravings kept increasing and I started hiding chocolate wrappers down the side of the couch. So I decided to do 30 days without sugar and keep a diary of how it went.

Motivation for 30 days without sugar

  • I wanted to gain control back over the sugar cravings – and get to the place where I could enjoy occasional treats but not daily chocolate scoffing.
  • I’d been feeling a bit lethargic and crabby and I was wondering if this is sugar related, or if It’s just my personality I need to work on! I wondered if it was true that sugar can have a significant impact on your mood.
  • Being a great mum to the bun is a big priority  – she loves me singing and dancing with her and I wanted to have and maintain energy to look after her really well and be a fun and caring mummy.
  • I wanted to lose a bit of weight – I’m 5:4 and a size 12 and I’m in the healthy range on the BMI scale. But I’ve got a small frame and I feel I carry too much weight in relation to that. I was happiest and I believe healthiest when I was a size 10 and wanted to try and get back to that.

So here’s my 30 day sugar free diary – I did this during August so referred to it as #AwfulAugust (positive vibes). I gave up processed sugar but still ate natural sugar in fruit.

The following is a true account of 30 sugar free (ish) days!

Day 1 in the sugar free house (read it in the voice of the Geordie who narrates big brother)

Did really well. Wasn’t too hard resisting anything sugary. But did not sleep well at all – normally sleep like a log.

Day 2

Woke up feeling ill. Dizzy, no energy, bad head and neck ache. Went out for a walk in the afternoon to get some air. Stumbled into my local tearoom. They had brownies fresh out of the oven – couldn’t resist. Since I’d blown it I bought a Toblerone from the Co-op. Ate all but 2 triangles. Glad to see they’ve removed the gaps between the pyramids.

one GIF

Day 3

Had 2 triangles of Toblerone for breakfast. Still feel rough – not sure if it’s a bug or if it was sugar withdrawals? Found a gone off Crunchie in the back of the cupboard – you know when the chocolate goes white – didn’t care and ate it. Dreamt I was in a cycle challenge and I got to the end and they had a big table of chocolate brownies for those who completed it. I shouted ‘AAAAARRRRGGGHHHHH’ in protest to eating sugar – and woke my hubby up with my dramatic brownie refusal. He then had to wake me up thinking I was having an awful nightmare.

Day 4 but now day 2 after 2 days worth of FAILURE

I’m seriously gonna do this now. A lovely colleague won a Cadbury’s flake but he’s being good so he kindly came to give it to me. Had to refuse it which I didn’t like as it was a kind gesture, but when you say ‘I’ve given up sugar’ people just accept it. If you say ‘I’m trying to be good’ people generally try and persuade you to be naughty.

Day 3

Did well today. Haven’t had a good night’s sleep since I started though.

Day 4

I’ve become an all night neighbourhood watch officer. I was still awake at 1.12am when someone decided that would be a reasonable hour to have a fridge freezer removed. Who does that?

tired time GIF by SLOTHILDA

Day 5

No sleep again. Stood gawping out the window at every noise I heard. My hubby said ‘you only have to hear a cat screech and you’re at the window with your binoculars’. It’s in my blood to be socially aware – my granddad used to sit shooting misbehaving squirrels with a catapult from his top flat window.

confused wile e coyote GIF by Looney Tunes

Day 6

Easy.

Day 7

Hadn’t told hubby about giving up sugar until today as I knew he’d try and make me crack. Had to tell him when he came out of the petrol station with a GIANT Galaxy bar. Put it straight in the glove compartment – out of sight out of mind.

Day 9

Had friends round for a meal. Thought this might be hard but we did a starter instead of a pudding so no problem. Would normally have a glass of wine but didn’t really miss it.

Day 12

Visited a local farm shop to stock up on fruit. Really enjoyed some fresh raspberries instead of chomping on the giant Galaxy bar that I’ve definitely forgotten all about.

Day 13

Stopped at ‘The Cupcakery’ and just had a latte. Earwigged on two ladies saying ‘women are all shapes and sizes – I need to be bigger as a skinny body couldn’t hold all this personality’. Confident!

Day 14

Ruined a colleague’s lunch by informing her that there were 8 tsps of sugar in her smoothie – that’s 2 tsps over the Recommended Daily Allowance in one teeny drink. May not have many friends by the end of this.

Day 17

Away in Ambleside for a few days. On the way we stumbled upon a lovely cheese café – brilliant alternative for sugar free weirdos!

wallace and gromit cheese GIF

Day 18

I was seduced by a giant alpini. Alpinis are my all time favourite chocolates and I’d never seen a giant one before. It literally winked at me and lured me into the shop.

Day 19

Not great today – mainly due to eating the treats left in the room – not because I wanted them, but because I’m like Ross from Friends when it comes to hotel freebies. Hence why I now have a month’s supply of posh tea bags, all in flavours I would never drink.

Day 21

Sat for a (supposedly) peaceful hour writing my blog overlooking a beautiful view from the hotel. Felt a tap on my shoulder and an old lady said ‘is that seat free?’ pointing to the comfy chair next to me. I didn’t mind her sitting there at all so said ‘yes, please sit down’, being the polite young lady that I am. She then plonked her husband down in said comfy chair. He pipes up and says; ‘But where are you going to sit dear?’ And what does she say??? ‘Oh don’t worry, I’ll just sit on the floor while this girl is busy writing her little diary.’

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The absolute cheek of some people. I vacated the area quickly and spent the rest of the evening chunnering to my hubby about it. Not amount of renditions of ‘Let it go’ could solve that one. Livid. But I didn’t even comfort myself with chocolate – I’m a changed woman.

Days 22-24

Easy.

Day 25

Ate 2 Rockys, a Penguin and approx. 20 Minstrels. Didn’t enjoy it, feel rubbish for doing it. Definately not still chunnering about the woman who manipulated me out of my seat.

Day 25-30

Easy

 

Results

  • Mentally I feel MUCH better. I’m surprised at the impact it’s made in this way. I feel clear headed, much sharper, less tired and more able to deal with stuff. My mood is much better.
  • Physically – I feel good! If I’m really honest I’m disappointed I’ve not seen more weight come off, especially with the amount of calories I’ve cut out. But I really do feel much better! Happier and healthier for sure.
  • The sugar cravings have largely gone. I’m back in control of what I’m eating which feels great. I’ve realised I don’t ‘need’ sugar and generally feel better without it..

Overall I’m surprised at the positive impact giving up sugar has had on me – I feel significantly better in many ways. I don’t want to go back to eating it every day. But I love cake and I want to enjoy the odd piece without stressing, and that’s what I fully intend to do – especially as it’s my birthday this weekend 🙂

Hope you enjoyed my sugar free findings,

Love Kate xx

Recommended Reading – Think and Eat Yourself Smart – Caroline Leaf

Website – This is a link to a great TED Talk about sugar – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lnvkNGc6YYM

Suggested Activity – Eat a cream egg on the loo obviously! Post a selfie in comments (don’t do that really please).

Suggested Activity 2– See if you can emotionally manipulate someone out of their comfy seat. (I’ll get over it soon I promise).

Next Months Blog – Black Friday and Terrible Thursday – the importance of your support network.

Social media links

Twitter – @anotheroven

Facebookhttps://www.facebook.com/abunfromanotheroven

Instagram – abunfromanotheroven

 

 

 

 

The One Shot Wonder – Special Times at Costa coffee

I am a coffee fan. My coffee of choice is the one shot latte – sometimes I even go for a fully caffeinated one. Check yourself before you wreck yourself.

My favourite coffee shop is Costa Coffee and if I was a barista there I’d definitely have coffee related nicknames for my regular punters. I myself would be ‘The one shot wonder’. The baristas who serve me would more likely call me ‘The one shot drain on electricity’ as I’m one of those annoying people who order one drink then sit blogging for two hours.

It may sound relaxing, but sitting in coffee shops for hours on end does carry some risks with it – especially when you have a rather clumsy husband like I do. There should be a risk assessment done before my hubby is allowed to enter anywhere that serves hot drinks. During a coffee date he once tipped an entire latte all over my lap – the pockets of my coat were filled with milky coffee. I was not best pleased latte me tell you!

coffee GIF

Another coffee calamity happened to me a couple of years ago when I was waiting to get a brew at a conference. A young man appeared next to me and draped his arm around the coffee machine. He then WIGGLED HIS EYEBROWS and said in a sultry tone; “What would we do without this heavenly elixir?” I replied in my finest non sultry Northern tone; “Err….I dunno…I’m ‘avin tea” and ran off to google what ‘elixir’ means. (I thought it may have been a new version of Alexa – like her younger brother or something?!)

eyebrow GIF

Not surprisingly, I tend to enjoy going to coffee shops alone these days!

A few months ago though, we had a family Costa trip. I could see that the manager was looking at our girl – he soon came over to make a fuss of her and said; “she’s special – like my brother.” He went on to tell us that his brother also has down syndrome, and told us all of the amazing things about him. It was lovely to hear him talk so positively and affectionately about his brother. When he used the word ‘special’ it was said with the most sincerity I think I’ve ever heard. So often the word ‘special’ is banded around and can even be a bit derogatory e.g. ‘is he/she special needs?’ (a terribly phrased question that makes me cross).

The definition of special is; ‘better, greater or otherwise different from what is usual.’ In terms of humans though, I would argue that there is no ‘usual’. We are all so unique which is wonderful – and also quite challenging at times! I believe every individual is special – a ‘one off’ with different strengths, quirks, struggles, gifts and vulnerabilities. All with purpose and something valuable to bring to life.

Before we adopted our girl I read up on the experiences of both birth and adoptive parents of children with down syndrome and other additional needs. What struck me the most was how many of them said they wouldn’t remove the down syndrome even if they could as it’s such an intrinsic part of their child’s identity. Removing it would make them an entirely different person.

To be honest, I wasn’t 100% sure I believed they meant this – until I met our daughter. Her extra chromosome is a vital part of the wonderful little person she is. I honestly wouldn’t want her to be any different.

I think I doubted those parents meant it as I wondered why they wouldn’t want to remove something that may well cause difficulty for their child. There are sadly people out there who do view people with additional needs as having less value than ‘usual’ people (which arguably isn’t even a thing). People with additional needs can struggle to have equal opportunities to get jobs, access services and have fulfilling social lives. But how sad that instead of wanting to change the injustice of this, we’d even consider removing a perceived weakness or difference if we could to make people fit into what is more usual.

This all sounds a bit doom and gloom, however I really believe that the tide is turning in this area. I have only had positive comments about our girl – how beautiful, funny and bright she is. I feel a great sense of hope and excitement for her future and she is surrounded by people who love and value her for the unique creation that she is. I would love for this to be a reality for everyone – that regardless of the level of health, wealth, intelligence or attractiveness, people are celebrated for the unique contribution they make.

In Ephesians 2:10 the Bible says that; “we are God’s Masterpiece.” Imagine how different things could be if we saw each person as a masterpiece. You could be forgiven for disputing the Bible on this point if you’d seen my recent passport photo. My husband creased up laughing when he saw it (rude) and my brother said I look like a serial killer.

scooby doo GIF

Some people confidently believe they are a masterpiece (I can totally imagine wiggly eyebrows man saying “I’m a masterpiece” into the mirror every morning whilst styling said eyebrows). I reckon most of us need help to believe that we are a unique and special masterpiece. Let’s do what we can to help each other see that.

I was really touched by Costa mans sincerity and his kind words about our daughter. My hope is that people will increasingly value and include those with additional needs – and recognise that they are equally as special as anyone else.

Our daughter will always be extra special to us. I make it my aim to let her know she has infinite value every day I share with her – which isn’t hard at all because it’s so true.

Love from ‘The one shot wonder’ xx

p.s. Elixir means ‘a magical or medicinal potion’ – credit to wiggly eyebrow man for a good word.

Recommended Reading

‘Adam – Gods beloved’ – Henri Nouwen – Henri shares his experiences of living with and supporting a young man called Adam who has profound and multiple learning difficulties – and highlights what he learned from Adam.

Website

Take this very scientific test to find out which coffee matches your personality!

https://www.buzzfeed.com/juliapugachevsky/what-kind-of-coffee-are-you?utm_term=.oq9Lr5x2w4#.cyPdJDny26

Suggested Activity

If I am ‘The one shot wonder’ – what does that make you? Come up with your own coffee related nickname. Post it here in comments, or on Facebook or Twitter and the one that makes me laugh the most will win a £10 Costa voucher – serious offer! Here’s some suggestions to get you going….

Two shots Tony

Carlpaccino (my friend Carl is rolling his eyes at this but loving it really if he’s honest)

Bitter bean Dean

No dairy Mary

Frothy Frank

Next months blog – ‘Cream Egg Confessions & Fondant Fancy Fails’ – My 30 day sugar free diary.

Social Media Links

Twitter – @anotheroven

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/abunfromanotheroven

Instagram – abunfromanotheroven

If you have an extra 5 minutes please take the time to read this poem called ‘You’re Special’. I’m not sure who wrote this, but it has really helped me and I hope it helps you too.

You’re Special

In all the world there is nobody like you.

Since the beginning of time, there has never been another person like you,

Nobody has your smile, your eyes, your hands, your hair.

Nobody owns your handwriting, your voice.

You’re special.

Nobody can paint your brushstrokes

Nobody has your taste for food or music or dance or art.

Nobody in the universe sees things as you do.

In all time there has never been anybody who laughs in exactly your way,

And what makes you laugh or cry or think

May cause a totally different response in another,

So…. You’re special

You are different from any other person who has ever lived in all history

You are the only one in the whole of creation

Who has your particular set of abilities

There is always someone who is better at one thing or another than you

But no one has your combination of talents and feelings.

Through all eternity, no one will ever walk, talk,

think, or do anything exactly like you.

You’re special.

You’re rare, and in all rarity there is an enormous value

And because of your great value

The need for you to imitate anybody else is absolutely unnecessary

You’re special…. And it’s no accident you are

Please realise God made you for a special purpose

He has a job for you to do as well as you can.

Out of the billions of applicants, only one is qualified.

Only one has the unique and right combination of what it takes,

And that one is you

 

 

12 months off – and no stretch marks! An honest reflection on a year off work.

My favourite response to me finishing work for adoption leave was from a colleague who said; “So you’ll get 12 months off – and no stretch marks!” Love it!

As I’ve reflected on this last year off work I think it falls into three sections, each lasting around 4 months. I’ve given each section its own title and theme song – coz that’s how I roll! I also share what I loved, loathed and learned during those months. Hope you enjoy!

  1. The Whirlwind Months

Theme song – ‘Dizzy’ by The Wonder Stuff & Vic Reeves.

I’m so dizzy my head is spinning…..’

We were in Wales on our way to a family wedding. I was sat in our car at the Premier Inn, wishing we’d booked to stay there instead of at the Travel Lodge down the road #dodgethelodge. My hubby had popped in to find his mum just as our social worker rang. She urgently needed to speak to us both together – I knew this would be a significant conversation. I rang my hubby a few times – no answer.

I think I resorted to the ‘question mark text’ – he knows that a lone ? means trouble. The question marks increase as my anger increases as follows:

? – I really need to speak to you and you aren’t responding.

?? – I’m really cheesed off now ring me back asap.

??? – Don’t bother ringing now, it’s shed and breakfast for you sunshine.

Anyway, he finally returned to the car after what felt like 7 gazillion years and we called her back. She told us that a new born baby girl with Down Syndrome needed a family – were we interested? Is the Pope a Catholic? Does Dolly Parton sleep on her back?!

A week later we met our beautiful girl. We had just seven days to prepare our hearts and home for a tiny new born baby. It was so surreal arriving at the hospital and being handed this tiny life. The love for her came instantly. We had to get to grips with nappy changes, bathing her, tube feeds, sterilisers and bottles – it was all new territory. If I’m totally honest I felt very underqualified, particularly with the lack of time we had to prepare.

 Loved – It was a long awaited dream fulfilled. I felt real joy in responding to what I believe was God’s call for us to provide a loving home for a very vulnerable child. She was the most precious gift.

Loathed – Feeling inadequate and incompetent. I had to Google everything – mainly in relation to bowel movements, so Google became ‘Poogle’. Living with the uncertainty of a foster to adopt placement was rough. Feeling such a bond and giving your all to a child, while knowing a change of heart could happen in birth parents at any minute was a very hard tension to live with.

Learned – That even though I felt inadequate to start with, I soon picked things up and was able to care for her needs. This was largely to do with how lovely and patient the nurses were with us – they never made us feel stupid and always encouraged us that we were doing a good job. There was also an amazing lady who volunteered to visit our girl to cuddle her every day before our placement was agreed. I learned that there are some amazingly kind people around for which I am very thankful. I also learned to take one day at a time and to trust God for peace in the middle of uncertainty.

  1. The Tumbleweed Months

Theme Song – ‘Mahna Mahna’ – The Muppet Show.

Mahna mahna do do do do do Mahna Mahna do do do do……’

Just like the song life felt very repetitive and a little bit irritating. Life on loop. Wash the bottles, change the nappies, feeding, bathing, singing, rocking…..

By this point I felt that a strong bond between the three of us was forming, and it looked much more likely that the adoption would be finalised. However, these few months felt like quite a lull. The excitement and nerves had worn off, I felt much more competent (not ‘Poogling’ as often). I also felt quite isolated and missed regular people contact and banter. My hubby would come home from work and I’d ask how his day was and he’d say ‘yeah, good.’ I NEED MORE THAN YEAH GOOD!

I probably should’ve made more effort to get out and about at this point, and I probably watched more seasons of Greys Anatomy than I’d like to admit (don’t you love Riggs more than Shepherd though?!).

On the extrovert/introvert scale I’m smack bang in the middle, but the introvert side of me definitely dominated these months. That’s not necessarily wrong (introverts are great and often undervalued in my opinion), but I think it’d have been healthier for me at this point if I’d made more of an effort to get out more and see more people.

Loved – She was sleeping through! A great bond was forming – we felt like a family. The adoption was progressing well and matching panel went really well. Oh, and Dr Riggs rocked up at Seattle Grace Hospital.

Loathed – Life felt a bit dull and boring – the repetition of tasks felt mundane. I missed regular people contact and became a bit of a hermit.

Learned – If you are more introverted you may have a tendency to pull back which at times is good and necessary, but sometimes you need to reach out and engage even if you don’t feel like it.

I also learned that faithfulness in the small, every day, mundane tasks is really important. In his brilliant book ‘Dream big, think small’ Jeff Manion quotes a French Priest called Francois Fenelon. He says: “Great acts of virtue are rare because they are seldom called for. To do small things that are right continually, without being noticed, is much more important…Faithfulness in the little things better proves your true love for God. It is the slow, plodding path rather than a passing fit of enthusiasm that matters.” A to the Men Francois!

  1. The Deckchair Months

Theme Song – ‘Lovin’ each Day’ – Ronan Keating (the wee Irish charmer!)

Lovin’ each day as if it’s the last…baby I want you right here next to me.’

These were the super chilled and happy months – helped by a trip to Lanzarote and some decent British weather too.

I have loved these last few months – being a mum is the best thing ever. It’s a joy to see our girl so happy and developing so well. She is a delight and makes every day wonderful. I felt like I got the right balance of getting out and seeing people and enjoying time at home just the two of us.

My husband loved the fact that I was sunbathing in the garden every time he got in from work so he could make out that’s all I do all day. Why do they never come back when you are hoovering?

I felt really content and like I’d really adjusted to being a full time mum….and now it’s almost time to go back to work! 

Loved – Tantastic weather! A good balance of extrovert/introvert time.

Loathed – My hubby always arriving home when my butt was planted on a deckchair.

Learned – Being content and satisfied with whatever stage of life you are in is so important. Make the most of every day and enjoy every ‘season’ of life.

What a crazy but wonderful year! I’m exhausted thinking about it – good job I’m reclining in my deckchair! Now where’s that G&T?? (please note the double question mark).

Love Kate x

Recommended Reading – Dream Big, Think Small – Jeff Manion.

Website – If you loved The Muppets Mahna Mahna you’ll love this too!

Suggested Activity – Whistle or sing ‘Mahna Mahna’ in public and try and infect someone else with this ‘ear worm’! You really do have the power to ruin someones day with this one!

Social Media links

Twitter – @anotheroven

Facebookhttps://www.facebook.com/abunfromanotheroven/

Instagram – abunfromanotheroven

Next Months blog – ‘The One Shot Wonder’ – Special Times at Costa Coffee

 

 

How to get through a time of waiting without having a face like a bulldog chewing a wasp

In some circumstances I’m really good at waiting. If I’m stuck in traffic, in the doctors’ surgery or in a queue I’m really chilled. Waiting in these scenarios doesn’t stress me out. This doesn’t include the time I rang the AA when I’d broken down and they put me on hold and played ‘Rescue Me’ on loop, which I thought was quite a bad taste song choice. To make matters worse my husband was hoping I’d have to wait an hour to get recovered as it meant we’d get £10 compensation which “we could spend on a take away.” Forget the car, he was headed straight for the marriage garage. (This only works if you pronounce garage the proper way like a Northerner would).

During the last few years I’ve realised that I’m pretty bad at waiting for the bigger things I’m hoping for. From start to finish we waited three years to adopt our daughter. For me, the waiting was the hardest part of the process.

We all have to wait for things – it could be a promotion, a new job, to have a family or to find someone special. Here is what I learnt during the last few years – I’ve done an acrostic of Waiting – because who doesn’t love a good old acrostic?!

Wallow – but only in moderation. If you’re anything like me, you may think there ain’t no party like a pity party. You’ll really need to guard against this during a waiting time. I remember having a full on meltdown about 18 months ago. My husband was away and I allowed myself too much time to think about the fact that the adoption had not happened yet. I’m talking about a full on tears, snot, heap on the floor style meltdown. If I could rewind to meltdown o’clock I’d give myself a slap round the chops followed by a cuppa, a (large) bag of Maltesers and reassurance that an amazing answer to prayer was not too far round the corner. But hindsight is a wonderful thing you don’t have when you are waiting for something.

The (wonderfully bonkers) ‘Sumo Guy’ gives some great advice on what he calls ‘hippo time’ – a short period of time to acknowledge that you feel sad/disappointed/frustrated. His three top tips within this are:

  1. Be careful who you talk to
  2. Be careful how many people you talk to
  3. Be careful how long your ‘hippo time’ lasts.

I’d really encourage you to read the full chapter on this – it’s referenced at the end of the blog.

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Active Waiting – do all that you can to get to your dream or goal. My dream was to adopt a child with Down Syndrome. So we took action – we found a great agency and started the process. I also got in touch with a fab local group who support children with Down Syndrome and their families – and I began volunteering with them. I met up with people who had adopted children with Down Syndrome to hear their advice and experiences.

I also prayed my socks off – sometimes that was all I could do, but I believe it made a real difference.

Be like these racing pigs – leaving behind the wallowing and hoofing it towards their dreams (or leggin’ it from the butcher?!) Don’t be disgruntled, go the whole hog, get crackling – be piggin’ assertive!

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Information – Get informed! Become an expert in whatever it is you are waiting for. Swot like it’s hot! I read as many books as I could find about adoption and Down Syndrome. Waiting can be a great time of preparation, learning and growing – make the most of it.

Thankfulness – There were times during my wait when I was so focused on what I didn’t yet have that I didn’t appreciate all of the wonderful things I did have. I’ve read a lot lately about being ‘present in the now’ – enjoying and appreciating all of the people and things in your life as it is right now. This year I started a ‘Jar of Joy’ (cheesy but true) where I write down things that happen that make me smile – then I can read them all at the end of the year. My inner Brit wanted to also do a ‘Mug of Moans’ but I resisted that urge!

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In his book about waiting, Wayne Stiles says; ‘Most of life is lived in the gaps between great moments…the mundane days remain an essential path to the great ones.’ Even in the mundane days when you dream is still not reached, there’s so much to be grateful for.

Interests – Get some hobbies for goodness sake! Don’t have too much time on your hands – especially if you are an over-thinker like me! Join a gym, learn a new skill, start a blog – keep busy. Whatever you are waiting for is likely to bring extra levels of responsibility to your life, so enjoy the freedom you have before change comes. (I’m just taking a minute to remember the wonder that was the ‘lie in.’)

No Nebbin’ in – This is a Northern expression meaning ‘don’t be nosey’. Social media can be a wonderful thing, but if you feel a lack in an area of your life you may be tempted to look at other peoples ‘living the dream’ posts and compare your life to theirs and become jealous/frustrated. And let’s be honest, we’ve all had a massive barney with our other half then took a smiley selfie and made out we are having a great day – what a load of tripe! I gave up Facebook for a few months and found this really helpful. You may not need to do that, but just be aware that comparison can be a real struggle during waiting times.

Generosity – I don’t necessarily mean money here, but be generous with your time, stuff, words, hugs and encouragement. Cheer others on and support them to reach their goals. Generosity helps to keep the focus off yourself and onto others.

During my wait I decided to sponsor a little boy with Down Syndrome through an amazing charity called ‘Shepherds Fields’ – a Chinese orphanage who look after children with disabilities. I committed to sponsoring him each month and praying for him. I was delighted to hear he’s recently been adopted and found his forever family! (And maybe even more delighted to cancel the direct debit – cut me some slack, the last 3 months of adoption leave are unpaid!)

I was encouraged by Isaiah 64:4, which says God ‘acts on behalf of those who wait for Him.’ Even when nowt seems to be happening I believe that God is up to stuff behind the scenes. In my experience, God’s best is worth waiting for – and in the meantime, spit that wasp out!

Love Kate xx (progressed to having a face like a camel eating sherbert)

Recommended Reading

SUMO – Paul McGee (The Sumo guy)

Waiting on God – What to Do When God Does Nothing – Wayne Stiles

Website

Shepherds Field Orphanage – http://www.chinaorphans.org

Suggested activity

Take 16 items through the 10 items or less check out and give the person behind you an opportunity to grow in patience 🙂

Next months blog – ‘12 Months off – and no stretch marks’ – an honest reflection on a year off work.

What I learnt from ‘The Woman with Exploding Butt Cheeks’ (TWWEBC)

*Disclaimer – The following blog is rated as PG as it may or may not include some ‘puns about buns’. If you think this is amusing, see if you can count the ‘cheeky references’ throughout (no repeaters). If you think this is distasteful then any cheeky references are entirely coincidental and just in your imagination.*

I’ve watched a fair bit of tripe on TV while I’ve been on adoption leave. One thing that sticks out in my mind (lol) was the interview on ‘This Morning’ with TWWEBC. She is a model who’s had a stack of plastic surgery – her latest being a 7 hour operation to have butt implants fitted/installed?! As a result, she’s not been able to sit down for three months and it may take two years for the pain in her backside to subside. She feels extremely anxious that the implants may explode at any moment. She has PTSD and is constantly worrying about how she looks.

In case you think I’m judging her I’ll share my own recent cheeky misdemeanour. I went into hospital for a minor op and was handed the standard issue gown. I thought I’d done the tabs up perfectly well by myself until the nurse came in and when I turned round said; “hmmm, I think I’d better help you as it’s supposed to actually cover your backside!” I’ve always said it’s a good thing when a sister’s got your back! With hindsight I may be oversharing here so I definitely won’t admit to almost putting the paper pants on my head mistaking them for a hat – which I later found out that lots of old and confused men do, putting their lugholes through the leg holes. Moving swiftly on…….

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Our culture and the media are constantly feeding us lies about what true booty, sorry, beauty is. If I’m honest I have to admit that I can be guilty of buying into the nonsense too. I’ve recently said about myself: “I wish I could lose another half of a stone,” “I look like my dad in a wig,” (soz dad). I think I’m a reasonably secure person, but if I’m not careful I can be sucked into the ‘Keeping up with the Kardashians’ style malarkey (as grateful as I am to them for making junk in the trunk a good thing). Don’t get me wrong – I love my Temple Spa skincare routine, I enjoy wearing make up, and with two weeks until our holiday I’ve written myself a ‘PLanzarote’ diet and fitness plan. (Genius, I know!)

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I believe in making the most of yourself.

I also believe we need to recognise a beauty that goes far deeper than our physical appearance.

Since we adopted our daughter I’ve become more aware of how harmful our ideas of physical perfection can be. Our daughter has Down Syndrome which means she has some physical features that are different to people without it. She has almond shaped eyes, a flatter nasal bridge and a larger tongue. These features don’t fit in with what our Western culture tells us is to be desired. But when I look at her I see pure beauty and perfection. She has a radiance about her – mischief sparkles in her big blue eyes. Her smile lights up a room. She has hypotonia which gives her flexibility skills and she easily gets her big toe into her mouth (hence the reason I will never go to baby yoga – they make you copy your babies moves – no chance).

I’m determined to talk about my body positively from now on and speak out the positive instead of the negative – especially now that little ears are listening. I want to focus on the amazing things my body can do like run (in theory), walk (to Costa for a latte and caramel shortbread), see, hear, hug, laugh and shake it at Zumba with the best of ‘em (back row – don’t want to show anyone up). I want my girl to have great self esteem, and I know that begins with what she learns from me and her daddy at home.

We will all get older, wrinklier, greyer and smellier (can I get a retweet?!) Physical beauty fades, but the beauty of our character far outlasts and outweighs good looks. If you think about the people in your life who you love and value the most, what qualities do they have? My list would include kindness, humour, honesty, bravery, compassion and positivity. These are truly beautiful attributes. We all want people like this around us, especially when times are tough. Those are the things that really matter – not how perfect someone’s face/figure/physique is.

Most of us struggle with some level of insecurity, but children who are adopted often have some serious identity issues. They may have been rejected by their birth parents, or have suffered abuse by those who should have loved and protected them. They need so much help to understand how valuable they are, and need people who will walk with them through a process of healing that may well take years. We need to get a grip of ourselves, resist cultural pressures and ensure we are secure in order to help them to navigate these difficulties effectively. All children, adopted or not, need to know their true value is in who they are and not what they look like. As their parents, carers, family and friends, we need to model this truth in our own lives.

I recently watched a great film called ‘Wonder’ about a boy called Auggie who has a facial disfigurement. He experiences bullying at school, but he perseveres and makes good friends who take the time to find out he is funny and clever. His Head Teacher Mr Tushman (snigger) says: “Auggie can’t change the way he looks. Maybe we can change the way we see.” Why not start to change the way you see – and celebrate the true and lasting beauty in yourself and others around you? Let’s ditch these ruddy nonsense apps and filters that airbrush skin, whiten teeth and attempt to take years off us. Be the real you!

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I learnt from TWWEBC that you can look like our cultural ideal of beauty, but it can be a right old pain in the backside – literally! When we focus on the outward, we will never be happy. I have learnt from my daughter that you don’t have to fit into cultural ideals of beauty to be an absolute chuffin’ stunner!

1 Sam 16:5 in the Bible says: “People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” Your heart is what really matters. Celebrate the unique creation you are – and those around you are too. Why not text a friend now and tell them what you think is beautiful about them?

Love Kate (celebrating the dad in a wig look – it’s so this season)

Xx

Next months blog – ‘How to go through a time of waiting without having a face like a bulldog chewing a wasp.’

(Puns about buns score – 8)

Related info

http://www.templespa/lisaseale

Psalm 139 – The Bible

Book recommendation – ‘A Different Beautiful’ – Courtney Westlake

Suggested activity – grab your hairbrush, get in front of your mirror and belt out ‘This is me’ from ‘The Greatest Showman’ (beard is optional, but encouraged!!)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ten things to say to adoptive parents that will make them want to punch you in the face

* Disclaimer – a bun from another oven does not condone violence of any kind, despite the shocking levels of tactlessness present in some people that make a knuckle buttie seem entirely acceptable.*

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We’ve all put our foot in it or asked unhelpful questions. In my younger days I used to love swanning into the pound shop and approaching the cashier with several items I had no intention of buying just so I could ask how much each thing cost. The bemused shop assistant would answer ‘everything’s a pound’ in a monotone voice while I giggled away not realising I was the 47th infuriating person who’d done that joke that day. I probably deserved a punch in the face.

Adoptive parents get asked a lot of unhelpful questions. I have been subject to all of the following questions or statements in response to me sharing the news that we were adopting. Underneath each one  is the response my sassy side wanted to give, followed by an explanation as to why it wasn’t the best thing for someone to say. If you read this and realise you said any of these, don’t worry your face is not on my dartboard….honest 😉

1. Have you not thought of IVF?

Have you not thought of engaging your brain before you speak?!

This was irritating because the assumption here is that you are only adopting because you are infertile and have exhausted all other options of having children the ‘proper way.’ For us adoption was plan A.

However, many adoptive parents have struggled with infertility and have perhaps been through years of heartache due to this. They may well have tried IVF and it hasn’t worked.

If someone is considering IVF there are so many issues involved, such as financial implications, the age and weight of people considering it, plus questions around ethics. If you want to bring up almost every hot potato in one go, by all means crack on with your IVF questions!

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2. You must be a Saint

I prefer Sister Theresa if you please my child, you may kiss my feet or at least put a pound in my ‘missions fund’….

This is normally said by people who have met me for the first time as no-one who’s spent more than 5 minutes with me actually thinks this! I saw an advert for adoption and fostering stating that it’s: ‘ordinary people doing extraordinary things.’ So true!

3. Is there summat wrong wi’yer? (For those not from the North of England this translates as ‘Is there something wrong with one’s physical constitution which means one cannot produce offspring?’)

Don’t beat around the bush will you – talk about subtle as a brick through a window!

This is a very blunt question to ask – even to a fellow Northerner! If someone hasn’t volunteered this kind of information to you, the chances are they don’t want to discuss their reproductive system wi’yer.

4. Kids don’t stay young and cute forever….

You are proof that kids don’t stay young and cute forever….

This was said because we wanted to adopt a child with Down Syndrome. It was suggested that babies with Down Syndrome may be cute, but can grow up to have serious challenges. I knew I was committed to loving a child forever, regardless of what their future challenges may be.

5. Oh – you aren’t her real mum?

Why don’t you pinch me and you’ll find out how real I am…..

If you mean the person who conceived, carried and birthed her then sadly, no that’s not me. But if you mean the person who cares for her needs, sings Meatloaf hits to her, and is committed to loving her forever then yes, that’s me. I cried once I’d had time to process this one because I do feel like her real mum and it’s hard when that’s questioned. It’s important to highlight here the permanence of adoption – once an order has gone through court you are legally recognised as their parent.

6. I know someone who prays for people who can’t get pregnant.

Why don’t you get them to pray about your personality then?

Again, we are beginning with the assumption that you are adopting only because you can’t get pregnant. I really value prayer, and if I was struggling to conceive I would ask people I know and trust to pray for me, and probably not your random mate as nice as they may be.

7. Are you sure you know what you are letting yourselves in for?

*bangs head against nearest wall*

Who really knows this until a child comes into their lives, whether that be by birth or adoption? Having children is challenging (I never knew I’d have to deal with nappies at 4.34am that put me off korma forever). Adoptive parents often have added challenges of raising children with additional needs, attachment disorders and other struggles due to a whole host of difficult circumstances their children have faced. But these children are so precious and need people who will step up to be the parents they so desperately need. If we’d thought of all the potential challenges our daughters Down Syndrome may present and then decided against it, we’d have missed out on having an amazing little girl in our lives. It’s wise to seriously consider the reality of the challenge of adoption, but also to be positive and full of hope for a better future for these children.

8. Adoption is easy – you’ve got a ready made baby and not had to do any of the hard work!

I knew all those body combat classes would come in useful at some point, lets start with a jab, jab hook…..

I went into motherhood in a strong place physically speaking. Our amazing social worker had advised us to eat well and exercise as she knew how demanding the matching stage can be. We thought she must’ve seen us as the Wayne and Waynetta slob type, and were relieved to find out she advises everyone in this way – phew! However, adoption is not an easy option! As well as the normal challenges of parenting there are the long periods of waiting, the uncertainty, the worries that go through your mind about whether the child will bond with you. There’s the anxiety about birth parents and if they’ll contest the adoption meaning you end up with a long court process. Our Christian faith helped immensely and we had a real peace during the process. Even so, it was a very challenging time.

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9. My cousins, aunties, grandads, sheeps owner of the corner shop down the road knew someone who adopted and then got pregnant the next week.

My cousins, aunties, granddads, sheeps owner of the corner shop down the road knew someone who died of boredom hearing this story so many times…..

Literally every other person you speak to knows someone who adopted and then fell pregnant. That’s great – but it’s like saying adopting is some magic way of falling pregnant in the end. Adoption is not a good deed you do in the hope of ending up preggers.

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10. You have adopted her? That explains how you lost your baby weight so quickly!

*snogs the person in the face* – no punch necessary!

Some suggestions of more helpful questions to ask adopters might be:

You are adopting – congratulations! Can I buy you a T-shirt with ‘not showing, still glowing on?’ (ok minus the T-shirt bit, unless you are asking me and then it’s a yes).

What made you want to adopt?

Tell me more about adoption – what is the process like?

Is there anything I can do to help?

What are the potential challenges of adopting a child with additional needs?

Anyway, I’m off up to the pound shop to do my usual routine for old times sake 😉

Sound as a pound,

Love Kate xx

P.S. Everything’s a pound

Next months blog – ‘What I learned from the woman with exploding butt cheeks.’ (yes, really)