Sunday, September 28, 2014

The Life Story Book

Finally, over 18 months since our adoption order was granted, the Life Story Book has arrived!

Ta Daaaa!!

It's quite the epic - a multi-page album with stickers, pictures, lots and lots of text, and an impressive display of clipart.

And on the second page it says:

It will explain why your birth mother and father were not able to look after you and why you are living with your forever mummy and daddy.

Sigh.

Your forever mummy and daddy.

Except OB doesn't live with his forever mummy and daddy. Just his forever mummy. I have a hard enough time with the "Why don't I have a daddy?" questions already, so the last thing I need is to have it wrong in this book.

And there are several more examples of references to 'forever parents' and 'forever mummy and daddy' throughout. A simple exercise in use of the delete button would have fixed it but, despite this tome being 18 months in the making, that was apparently a step too far.

That's not the only issue I have with the book. There are several problems with it, but I suppose it's only to be expected since all the social workers that actually dealt with our case have left, and the lady who eventually did this book met me for the first time when she gave it to me last week. She has never met OB and everything that's in there is based only on the paperwork, or reproduced from countless other books that have been done for other adopted children over time.

I know that there was a picture of birth dad, given to OB's original social worker by his birth grandma especially for inclusion in the book. It was the only picture I have ever seen of him - an old school photo - and I caught a fleeting glimpse of it before it was whisked away to be glued in. That was before we got our adoption order. I don't know what happened to it. Clearly it never made its way to the creator of the book as she described an exhaustive search for a photo, resulting in a poorly scanned, grainy reproduction of a photo from an old newspaper report. Birth dad looks about ten in it. I can hardly make out his features.

There's also a full page about OB's star sign. Any of the social workers that actually met me would have known not to bother putting that in there, but there it is in full colour.

It's not all bad. There is useful information about his birth and early months - stuff I didn't know like the time he was born, his birth weight - things a mother should know about her son. And the biographical information about birth mum and dad will be useful. And there are lots of good photos of birth mum and birth grandma. All that will be put to good use.

But I'm disappointed. Not so much by the quality of the book, but by the trouble it's taken to actually get hold of it, and the obfuscation surrounding it. Why did it take 18 months? Apparently, the person that was making it was 'really busy' and then 'off sick for ages'. It never ceases to amaze me how, in such a vital service as children's social care, there never seems to be any contingency for a person being off sick. Work just simply sits on their desk or in their cupboard where they left it and there never seems to be anybody who knows the first thing about it. I try to imagine what would happen if a teacher went off sick and all the pupils were just left to sit in an empty classroom until she returned!

As I was given it, I was told that it had been ready 'for ages' but there was a delay getting a manager to sign off on it. So easy to push the blame up the line. It was my manager's fault for not getting round to signing off on it. It was the government's fault for not giving us enough money. But there is information in that book that only came to light in the last couple of weeks when OB's birth grandma came into social services to do her letterbox letter. So it can't have been ready for that long can it?! In fact I'm pretty sure that the rather no-holds-barred email sent by my adoption social worker just before she left was the motivating factor for getting it done in the end. And still the Later Life Letter isn't ready. I have virtually no hope of ever seeing it.

Getting things like the Life Story Book done accurately and in a timely fashion might not seem so important in the grand scheme of things, but it is part of the promise to adopters made during our training and approval process. It is the first rung on the ladder of our post-adoption support. Failure to complete it properly and speedily calls into doubt all the other promises that were made to us. It gives the impression that once the adoption order is signed, the adoptive parents and their newly-made families fall way, way down the list of priorities.

OB's Life Story Book exhibits the sort of lack of care and attention to detail that I find replicated throughout this whole system at every level. I hear about massive case loads and busy, over-worked staff and I don't disbelieve it, but I would be more sympathetic if, for instance, any professional could complete a meeting only in the time strictly necessary to do so. The frantic pace of work theory stops holding water when social workers regularly make what could be a 20 minute meeting take upwards of an hour. At a recent LAC review, the three professionals who attended hung around in my living room for 15 minutes after their folders closed on the review, discussing office re-shuffles and the state of the local CAMHS service.

This was a review for which I received no paperwork in advance, and which was missing two people because nobody thought to invite them. The social worker that represented Baby Girl (hers was off sick!) knew absolutely nothing about her and didn't even have the file with her. The Health Visitor only managed to come because I had told her myself that it was happening - she didn't receive the invitation she should have had.

I don't know what I think about outsourcing elements of children's social care - of course, some of it is outsourced anyway to private adoption and fostering services - but I'm concerned that what we have now is neither efficient nor effective and I seriously doubt that there is anybody currently working within the system that has the vision and courage to make the changes necessary. Individual social workers will obviously rank on a scale from awesome to awful, as in any job, but it's the institutional problems that beset the system that should give most cause for concern. You can throw all the money in the world at an ineffective service and all you'll get is an ineffective service with swankier equipment and lovely new stationery.

In the meantime, we foster carers and adopters must get on the best we can with what we've got. I don't know what I'll do with this Life Story Book. Maybe I'll cannibalise it and make something better out of the constituent parts, or maybe I'll just leave it as it is and let it be an object lesson for OB about what happens when we don't pay attention to detail in our work! That's a home educator talking!



Friday, September 26, 2014

Spiced Cakes - A Belated Baking Update

I can't believe how long it is since I posted about my bake-by-bake journey through Mary Berry's Baking Bible. It was back in June when we arrived triumphantly (and with no little relief!) at the end of the fruit cake section and, since then, I've worked through the entire Spice Cake section. Plenty of baking - just not so much blogging!

We started back in June with a treacle trio - Parkin Cake, Classic Sticky Gingerbread and Iced Gingerbread with Stem Ginger. The best of these was the Classic Sticky Gingerbread which was very, very similar to the Jamaican Ginger Cake I've bought many times before. It was so moist and sticky and delicious, and such a hit with my guests and OB that I only just managed to get a snap of this last piece before OB chomped it up!


Then came a cake I was particularly looking forward to - Almond Spice Cake. I love all things almond and was thrilled to see that the recipe called for a yummy layer of marzipan or almond paste right through the middle of the cake. Sadly, even though the cake looked almost exactly the same as the photo in the book, it was pretty disappointing. This was entirely due to user error! I just couldn't get the topping to go right. Impatient as always I didn't wait until the sugar dissolved properly in the sugar/butter/cream mixture and the result was grainy and unpleasantly crunchy. A real shame. The cake itself was a little dry. I definitely want to give it another try, and next time I'll probably be a lot more generous than the recipe suggests with the almond paste!



Then came a ginger duo - Sticky Ginger and Orange Cake and Wholemeal Ginger Cake. Both were lovely and I baked one of them for the dedication party of my friends' daughter. It seemed to go down pretty well!

Next, Apple and Cinnamon Cake. Now, I'm not a massive fan of cinnamon. It's not that I don't like it, but to me it's such a strong taste that it can easily overpower everything else. I don't ever put it in my apple pie because I actually like the taste of apple, so I wasn't expecting to love this cake. I was pleasantly surprised. I served it, as suggested, warm from the oven and added dollops of mascapone with each slice. It was a triumph! And not too cinnamony either. When I tried it again the next day, the cinnamon taste was much stronger so I suppose it must have matured overnight. This would make a really special dessert - now if only I could cook a decent main course to go before it!



Today I have made the Cut and Come Again cake, which is basically a light fruit cake. I think it's the two teaspoons of ground mixed spice that earn it a place in the Spiced Cakes section. OB and I had a piece, still warm and crumbly from the oven, after tea. OB is definitely a fan of the fruit cake. Most of what I bake gets a cursory lick before being passed back to me, but I don't stand a chance if there's a fruit cake around!

Speaking of OB, I've been making a concerted effort to get him more involved in the baking recently. Not being a fan of mess and chaos, I've usually restricted him to some light stirring and one hand on the mixer, but today I let him measure out the flour and sugar, hold the mixer by himself and help with turning out into the tin. He was happy to do all that, but the highlight of the day was when I let him break the eggs all by himself - normally I don't even let him touch them! The mess wasn't so bad, and his enjoyment of the whole thing and proud ownership of the finished product was so lovely to see that it was definitely worth the risk.


There is one more bake in the Spiced Cake section but, since the Ginger Cream Roll is not really a cake so much as a load of ginger biscuits soaked in brandy and welded together with cream, I've decided to skip it.

Next . . . Chocolate Cakes! Bring it on!

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Apparently my son will not be a world-beating gymnast

When I was about nine, I started learning the recorder. It was a school thing. We all bought our own instruments and then were herded into a basement room inexplicably called "The Parish Room" and taught the recorder for half an hour each week in a mass group of 30 by some long-suffering teacher. I don't know how everyone else got on, but it worked for me.

Two years later, on starting secondary school, we were invited to take up 'grown up' instruments. I was offered clarinet or flute lessons. I chose clarinet because everybody else wanted flute. My parents found a local rent-to-buy scheme for my instrument and off we went. 18 months later, I took grade 3. Grades 4 and 5 came in the next couple of years after that and then, realising that I wanted to do music at university and needed grade 8, I skipped 6 and 7 and got my 8 in time to apply.

At some point I discovered that in order to study clarinet at university, I also needed to be at least grade 6 on the piano. I was going on 15 when I started piano lessons, but managed to get through grades 4, 5 and 6 in time to make the application.

I'm not a musical genius. I promise I'm not. Arriving at university and being surrounded by some serious talent quickly disabused me of any such idea. I had some aptitude, yes, and was keen to play and learn and did a lot in my own time just for pleasure, but I'm no Vanessa Mae, I can assure you.

My point is that I didn't really start until I was half-way through the juniors. And I started on recorder, a cheap and easily accessible instrument. Painful though it might have been to my parents' ears, it really was a great introduction. And I went on to make a career out of teaching music.

I didn't start swimming lessons until I was in the juniors either, and yet I can swim pretty well. My sister didn't start gymnastics until she was eleven - practically geriatric in gymnastics terms - and yet she went on to compete for her country and win national and international gold medals.

All this had changed by the time I started teaching. At some point the idea became fashionable that the earlier we start everything, the better. So they started giving seven-year-olds massive clarinets to play. I'd see them struggling to hold the, for them, heavy instruments, and trying to manage their embouchure through gappy teeth. And yet, when these children arrived at the secondary school where I taught, they'd often still be working towards grade 1 or 2. Three to four years of 'A Tune A Day Clarinet'. I wondered how they'd managed to have the fortitude to keep going! The truth is that many had dropped out from sheer boredom years earlier.

When I became a parent, I promised myself that I wouldn't jump on that bandwagon. The decision to pursue music, coming as it did when I was a tween, was entirely my own, supported by my parents, not imposed on me by them when I was too young to have my own opinion. I assured myself that I'd let my son's interests guide me.

Oh, but it's not that easy! Two years ago, I was looking for some activity that would support my then foster child, NB, to develop his strength, balance and co-ordination. Gymnastics seemed ideal. I looked around for a local gymnastics club that had classes for three-year-olds. Lots of them did, but it seemed that once they turned five, many clubs only offered training for girls. Eventually we found one, half an hour away, that offered classes for boys of all ages, and I enrolled NB and OB who was just turning two at the time.



The class was a parent-supported basic skills class - really a sort of enhanced soft play - designed for toddlers from two years. NB went for seven months before he moved on to adoption and it really helped him. OB completed the academic year and I decided to go back with him after the summer in the hopes that he would eventually graduate to the next class - a more serious pre-school class with no parental involvement.

The graduation never came. Although OB had been there a year, he was still considered too young. By this time he was getting bored with the repetitive nature of the weekly group and he started playing up, refusing to join in. This behaviour was a black mark against him - I was told that only children who follow instructions and listen to the teacher were able to move up to the next class which is in the proper gym with real equipment. I explained that he was happy to listen to the teacher - it was my presence that was messing things up. He listens to the teacher fine at swimming when I am far away on the sidelines. No dice.

Eventually, after several sessions where I simply gave up with OB's total refusal to participate and brought him home early, we stopped going. Some things I will make him do even if he doesn't want to - swimming for instance - but gymnastics is not one of those things.

After all, I reasoned, if he changes his mind later and wants to try again, we can always enrol on one of the classes for older children at a later date, right? Wrong. I was told that the only way to be guaranteed a place on one of the proper classes is to 'graduate' from one of the pre-school classes. Otherwise it's a minimum two years on the waiting list.

So, that's it then. OB is three years old and, unless I'm prepared to drag him unwillingly along to gymnastics every week and somehow magically overcome his total frustration with the baby activities, his gymnastics career is basically over.

It's not that I'm desperate for him to be the next Louis Smith. Gymnastics is neither here nor there. What bothers me is that, at the age of three, his options are already closing down. I would like to think that, as he gets older and his interests develop, he could join activities that he chooses, but is that realistic? Or will we find that, at seven, eight, nine years old, the door is closed to him because he didn't 'graduate from the pre-school class'?

I read an article recently that expressed concern that childhood is being eroded because parents are so worried that their four-year-olds are falling behind. I sympathise with those parents. I really don't want to be a pushy, helicopter parent, but the odds are stacked against me!

Monday, September 15, 2014

About Foster Carers

Statistically, foster carers are:

  • About as likely to be married (or in civil partnership) as the general population, but less likely to be co-habiting and more likely to be single
  • Likely to be over 40 (in one study, 65% were over 50) and part of an ageing population
  • Overwhelmingly likely to be White British (well over 90% in several studies)
  • Likely to claim a religious affiliation (over 70% in some studies)
  • Likely to be female
  • More likely to have no qualifications or be qualified to Level 2 (GCSE) (as many as 64% in one study, compared to 40% in general population)
  • Less likely to be educated to level 4 (Degree+) (approx 12-15%, compared to 38% in general population
  • Earning lower than the national average (total household earnings) and sometimes significantly lower
  • More likely than the general population to be in receipt of benefits such as income support
  • Likely to have previous work experience involving children


(All statistics and information taken from the report "The demographic characteristics of foster carers in the UK: Motivations, barriers and messages for recruitment and retention". See the full report here.)

The statistics build a picture of the average foster carer as being a middle-aged white woman, probably married, probably with older children who may well have left home (in at least 25% of cases). It's likely that their own parenting experiences were a few years ago, and we know how quickly the advice is changed and updated.

My own experience of training for foster carers is that only the most basic attachment theory is covered prior to approval. I have learned most of what I know from books. Further training is offered, but it's worth asking how accessible books/training are for people whose own education experience might have been quite limited in scope and took place over 30 years ago. I'm not saying that people whose formal education ended early are incapable of learning, or lack intelligence necessarily, but training needs to be accessible for people who are not used to academic settings for learning.

While foster carers are remunerated, research suggests that the household incomes of foster carers are likely to be at the lower end. In some studies, significant numbers reported household incomes of less that £15,000pa. Might this lead carers to take on more children than is perhaps advisable? I know of carers approved for four 0-5 year-olds (can be more with sibling groups). They run their homes with military precision - they have to.

I have heard and read many, many observations from adoptive parents who were surprised at some aspects of their child's foster carer, or the care they received from that carer. These were, on the whole, not unkind comments, but merely observations. I wonder if there is sometimes a mis-match between the expectations of adoptive parents, and the realities of the world of the foster carer?

Maybe there is, and maybe some if that is down to differences between the average adoptive parent and the average foster carer. I can't be sure because I can't find a similar, reliable document detailing the demographics of adoptive parents, but it would be interesting to compare. Has anybody come across one?

I think the way that foster carers are told to parent also plays a part. The document cited above points out that many, many foster carers carry on the role for a number of years. Just as in regular parenting, the advice in foster parenting changes, but, as far as I know, there are no refresher courses for foster carers. I have heard from long-serving foster carers and social workers that the old advice to foster carers was not to get too attached to the children as it would make it harder for them to move on. Current advice says the opposite, but are foster carers being kept up to date on the advice? And even if they are, how easy is it to change their ways, habits and parenting styles? This is before we even start on the updates in general parenting advice, which seem regular and sometimes contradictory.

We also have rules to follow that sometimes make a normal family life (my aim for all my children) hard to achieve. For instance, there is no cosy bedtime routine in the child's bedroom. This is not allowed. There are rules around bathtimes (I'm not supposed to towel-dry my children but instead put them in dressing gowns straight from the bath! Not so appropriate with a tiny baby!), appropriate dress, health and safety, babysitters and on and on. Not to mention the incessant intervention of social workers, and the requests from birth family which need to be adhered to (as far as is reasonable and safe) until the child is released for adoption. Baby Girl's formula was chosen for her by birth mum. It would not have been my choice.

Then there is the cost of recruiting, training, monitoring and equipping a foster carer, which must be significant. Social services do not like to lose their carers. They get upset when we adopt in case we stop fostering and they have to spend all that money again finding more new carers. I wonder if that is why some carers who might be considered less than impressive continue to care?

Finally, remember that foster carers often receive children direct from the situation of neglect and abuse. Two of mine have come direct from the hospital. All the longer term children have come with only the clothes they were wearing. If a child goes to adoption who only eats chicken nuggets, chips and beans, it might just be possible that it has taken the foster carer months to coax them to add the beans.

It makes me very, very sad to hear, as I have today, of foster carers whose approach to the children in their care does not seem to be all that it could be. The report I linked to above also found that remuneration is not a significant motivator for people to become foster carers. But maybe it is for some. I don't know. What I do know is that our most vulnerable children, at their most vulnerable moment, need the very best care that can be provided, and that adopters need foster carers to support them in making the transition as successful as possible. I hope the majority of foster carers live this out in their homes and their work.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Can of Worms

So, we have received our first reply to letterbox. It wasn't a surprise as my social worker had already given me the heads up that OB's paternal grandma had requested help with writing a letter, and I had written ours early so that she had something to work with as she wrote.

My social worker had also promised to sit down with grandma and get as much information as possible about OB's birth dad. Until now, all I have known about him was his name and that he has big feet. Oh, and a few choice morsels from his criminal record, but we'll gloss over that. Only one photo of him was offered up for OB's life story book - a classic school photo where he looks about 12. I caught a brief glance of it over 18 months ago before it was whisked away to be included in the book which I still haven't received. Apparently it is, at last, ready, so now I've got that to look forward to as well.

I saw the two emails from my social worker, one with pdf attachment of the letter, and the other with pdf attachment of her own handwritten notes from the meeting. Foolishly, I just opened them and read them.

Yeah. Should definitely have armed myself with a large glass of wine, or a giant bar of chocolate ... or maybe both.

Once I'd got my breath back, I read them again, more slowly, capturing details and nuances and lines between lines. I already knew enough about OB's birth mum to understand that hers is a complex story, layered with tragedy, loss and trauma of her own. Now I saw that birth dad's story is really more of the same.

Sometimes it is hard to manage the intense compassion I feel for OB's birth family. I genuinely believe that, although their care of OB was very negligent, the hand that they themselves had been dealt was so bad, so loaded against them, that at the time that OB came on the scene, there was simply no way that they could possibly have been able to parent him. So they have lost him. And he has lost them. More loss to add to an already bulky catalogue of loss.

It's not that I think that OB shouldn't have been removed. Birth dad only ever saw OB once as far as I know, so he certainly wasn't in a position to ensure his care and safety. Birth mum's behaviour put OB in serious danger on more than one occasion and, despite massive support from many professionals and myself, the attempt to return OB to her only resulted in more neglect, to his very great cost. With time could they have sorted themselves out? Maybe. But at what cost to OB?

No, it's not that I feel guilty that OB was removed and is now with me. I believe it was the right decision for him. But in some ways I feel that things would be so much easier for me if I could simply demonise his birth parents - imagine them as monsters with no redeeming feature and then sweep their memory aside. I can't do that. Not only is it not true, but it would not be right. So instead, I live with my complex emotions about birth mum and dad, people who, in my past life, I would have drawn close to, supported and fought for. Maybe the day will come when I will do that for them, and for OB. Who knows what the future holds.

But all of that is as nothing compared to my feelings about birth grandma. Reading the notes, and her letter, I was struck again and again by the helplessness of her situation. She didn't neglect OB - in fact she did everything she could to ensure the rehabilitation to birth mum would be a success, all for nothing. She did raise his birth dad, who is hardly a great advert I admit, but the same thing that broke him also broke her. Another life that barely holds on.

She keeps a photo I gave her, framed, on her living room wall. When her other grandchild, OB's half-sister, comes to visit at the weekends, she shows her the photo and explains to her about her half-brother. She laminated OB's drawing that I sent her last year and keeps it on the fridge with her grand-daughter's art work. She begged for another drawing. She is sorry. She has bad health or else she would have taken him herself. She hopes he has a good life.

When I finished reading, my gut reaction was to phone her, tell her to come over for a coffee and spend a little time with the son of her son. I didn't do that, and I won't. And all week I have been wondering why.

I think the answer is that it's a massive can of worms. It's the unknown. I can't see where it would lead and I don't like some of the possibilities. I'm not ready to share OB. That day will probably come but I'm not ready yet. OB doesn't even know about his birth grandma. I've talked to him about his adoption and his first parents, but I've held off from talking about extended family for fear it would just muddy the waters.

Birth grandma is on my mind this week, but I'm keeping the worms in their can.


Saturday, September 6, 2014

White Noise


"It's good that she's so young. At least she won't remember."



Baby Girl is very young. She was in danger and she was potentially harmed but she was removed before she was a week old. She has been in one, stable foster placement since that day. She will be moved on to a loving adoptive placement well before her first birthday. I sincerely hope that the fact that she's so young and she won't remember will help her to achieve the most positive outcomes possible from what has been a terrible start.

But I know that adoption does not erase the past. Baby Girl will carry her past with her into her future. In fact her past will become part of her whole adoptive family's future. However young the child, and however little they remember, there is no route into adoption that involves walking off happily into the sunset, leaving the past behind.

Although OB's background is not quite as straightforward (if you can use that word) as BG's, we deal with relatively few adoption and trauma-related issues in our daily life. Sometimes I will wonder about things he does or things he says, or certain behaviours or fears, but in almost every case I find myself reassured by watching his little friends that either he is pretty much normal, or all the children I know have issues!

We have conversations, of course; conversations about adoption, about his family set up, about whose tummy he was in. These are not quite the same conversations that birth children have with their parents, but investigating origins seems to be pretty normal for most kids. Most of what I encounter is what I expected.

It's the white noise that sometimes catches me unaware. The fact of OB's adoption and all that this entails seems to buzz along in the back of my head, mostly only subliminally noticed until something attracts my attention to it. Recently I've been noticing it a lot.

When I get a new foster child, I do a sweep on Facebook, looking for mutual friends of mutual friends and the like. It's not a very big town. Sometimes I think six degrees of separation is a massive exaggeration. I wish it was as many as six! For various reasons I've had to go back and re-do my sweep of BG's family in more detail. I discovered that OB's birth mum is Facebook friends with one of BG's relatives. Small world.

So while I was on there, I had a quick glance at birth mum's profile. Once I'd got over the uncomfortable feeling of seeing my son's face as her profile picture, I quickly saw that she has had another baby. So my son has another half-sibling that we know nothing about. I can't help wondering about this new little one and whether I'll get a phone call from social services some time in the future.

Only a couple of days after this, I had a phone call from the lovely social worker who handled OB's adoption. Paternal birth grandma has requested SS help in writing a letterbox letter. She would be visiting the social worker next week to work something out but, from what she said during the phone call, it doesn't seem as though she knows that I was OB's adopter. Do I want the social worker to tell her?

I was a bit surprised at this as I always assumed she knew. OB's birth mum knows that I adopted him and I supposed that somewhere along the line, paternal grandma, who I have met several times, would also have been told by somebody or other. Apparently not. I told the social worker to go ahead and tell her. I supervised several contacts with paternal grandma and, when it became clear that OB would be adopted, I remember her saying, through tears, that she wished he could just stay with me. I couldn't say anything at the time, but I hope that learning that this is exactly what happened will bring her some comfort.

The social worker felt that grandma would find it easier to write her letter if she had something to reply to, so asked me to do my letterbox early so that they could read it together. I had three days to write it and send it. Deadlines are good for me though, and at least it saved me another month of procrastinating and mithering about it.

The email I was later cc'd into that confirmed this arrangement also informed me that birth dad's latest girlfriend is expecting a baby, bringing the half-sib total up to at least three. If he decides to trace all of his birth family when he is older, it's going to be quite the journey!

Anyway, I processed the information, wrote the letter, filed knowledge away for the future, and tried to distract myself from the white noise again, hoping it would fade into the background once more. But it's not that easy. The white noise is loud and it is insistent. The sound of it makes me want to check Facebook over and over again, even though I know there's nothing new to see. It makes me want to phone social services and ask insistent questions about this new baby. It makes me look over my shoulder when we go to the swimming baths because our swimming lessons have been moved to a place near where OB's birth mum once lived. It makes me scan the crowd for faces I might recognise, in town, in the supermarket, at the park.

One day, if he chooses, OB will probably meet his birth mum. I think I'm about as fine with that as a person can be who is only talking theoretically. What I'm not fine with is this meeting taking place in the near future at the local soft play centre where she has come with her child and I have come with mine.

I met BG's prospective adopters recently. They are terribly excited, and thrilled to have been linked with such a wonderful child, who seems so uncomplicated, relative to many other children. They described themselves as "incredibly lucky". They are on cloud nine, waiting for their little one to come home. She's young, yes. She doesn't remember, yes. But she doesn't need to remember for it still to be real. I didn't need to mention the white noise. Anybody who has been through adoption prep already knows that, from the moment you open your door to your first set of social workers, it'll be buzzing along in the back of your mind for the rest of your days.


Friday, September 5, 2014

C is for ... Chester Zoo!


Oh, this has been a long time coming! First there was the A that wasn't really an A, and then there were the three Bs and now, finally, we reach C in our A-Z tour.

I've had this C in mind for a long time now, partly because I wanted to combine it with a visit to a dear friend. In the end, due to a rather pathetic technology fail, we only managed to spend half an hour with the friend, but it was a very nice cup of coffee and speed-catch-up nonetheless.

The zoo trip was great. We have been to Chester Zoo before, around 18 months ago and, amazingly, OB seemed to have some recollection of watching the penguins swim underwater through the glass wall. Sadly, the penguins wouldn't swim for us today, but he was happy enough with the elephants and the giraffes, so we got over our disappointment.

Everything is quite spaced out at Chester Zoo, so we had gone prepared with the double buggy for BG and my friend's daughter, as well as the buggy board to help OB as the day wore on and legs got tired. There was plenty of walking between areas - perhaps more than there needed to be due to my unusually questionable map-reading skills today! In the end though, OB's legs didn't need that much help and he really only went on the board for the novelty factor.

It wasn't a cheap day - £20 for my ticket and £16 for OB's - but we saved a bit by taking a picnic (all my friend's work!), avoiding the gift shop and only spending money on essential coffees. I was a bit disappointed to find that the monorail was extra. It wasn't much but still it helped to take our total spend for the day to well over £40, not including travel costs.

It was worth it though. This was the last hurrah of our summer holidays and OB was really excited about it beforehand, and thoroughly enjoyed his day. Even better, he was wonderfully well-behaved, kind to the babies, no running off, shouting, arguing or saying "No!" - just pleasant and great company. And he was still talking about the elephants when he went to bed.

And now for D - no ideas yet - suggestions welcome!