Saturday, 20 February 2010

Directions Hearing

Last week we had an appointment at the local Magistrates Court, to attend a Directions Hearing. I had googled what this was, and didn't really come up with much! Its apparently where the Legal Advisor goes through the application and supporting paperwork, and then decides if more reports are needed and if a Guardian ad Litem needs to be appointed. A Guardian ad Litem is a person independent of both us and our LA, who is charged with taking into account the child's best interests.

I was very nervous the night before the Hearing, and couldn't sleep and spent hours on the internet messing about instead of getting to bed. Obviously I was very tired the next morning, not great when I had to get Little Prince and Princess Lollipop ready without letting them get wound up!! I managed to get Little Prince ready, but Princess Lollipop had only had her breakfast and wasn't dressed by the time Mr Messy arrived back with LMS and American Boyfriend! They assured me they would be fine getting her dressed and to stop worrying - ha! Worrying is my job!!

I had a huge dilemma about what to wear - nothing smart fits!! And I only had one pair of almost smart shoes that I can get into!! I had bought a new top and smart trousers, but the trousers didn't fit and the top was too summery and not warm enough! In the end I wore the same outfit I had worn to Court in Ethiopia - brown patterned elastic waisted skirt (forgiving of the expanding tum!) and a top that was like a cream jumper over a blouse but all in one. Mr Messy wore black jeans and a black polo neck jumper, I would have preferred him to wear a shirt and tie, but I'll save that battle for the actual Adoption Hearing!!

Eventually we were both ready to go and we set off in Mr Messy's car. We had barely turned the corner in the village, and got to the point where the road gets very narrow and the only way for cars to pass each other is for one to go up on the pavement. Unfortunately we met a Mini driver who either didn't realise this or didn't want to risk their precious tyres bouncing up the kerb!! And with a resounding BANG both our wing mirrors were smashed off!! We stopped the car and Mr Messy went to talk to the other driver, I stayed in the car as there was a huge muddy puddle on my side of the car. The other driver was sobbing and insisting that it was all Mr Messy's fault, even though we couldn't tuck over any further as there was a wall there!! She also insisted that she had been up on the kerb out of the way, but that's not what we saw!! There was no point arguing as we didn't have time, we had to get to Court and as it would be our word against her's and her passenger's. So they both agreed to not go through our insurance and to pay to repair our own cars. I was shaking like a leaf, and not happy at the dramatic start to the day!!

We finally got back on our way and after ranting to Mr Messy in the car about Mini drivers I finally calmed down! Mr Messy had been worried about finding a car parking space near the Court, but we found one pretty easily and we were even early!! So Mr Messy had enough time to fit the housing cover back onto his broken wing mirror, and remove the smashed glass. It looks like we'll only have to replace the glass, making it a lot less expensive :-) Being a b*tch I hoped that the Mini driver wasn't having the same luck!!!

We walked over to the Court and were scanned and searched before entering. We then had to show our Notification of Directions Hearing document to the receptionist and just as we had finished our Social Worker arrived to show her Notification. We walked to the waiting room together and sat chatting while waiting to be invited in. Our Social Worker was as surprised as we were to be invited in on her own! Which set me off worrying again!!! About 10-15 minutes later we were also called in. The room was like an office conference room with a "round table" surrounded by chairs. The Legal Advisor was sat behind her computer at one side and we sat near to her.

Our Social Worker is to all intents and purposes retired and we are her last case. As such she has not renewed her Social Working credentials, which would mean attending 90 days training to get re-registered and cost her a fortune. Her registration runs out in mid-March, and she would LOVE to see our case through to the final Adoption. She had explained all this to the Legal Advisor who was very sympathetic and has therefore, said we can have a provisional date for the Adoption Hearing just before our Social Worker's registration runs out. However, the Court require one last report from CAFCASS (Children and Family Court Advisory Support Service) with their recommendation for the Adoption Hearing. The Legal Advisor warned us that CAFCASS is inundated with work and might not be able to complete their report in time for the date she had set for the Adoption Hearing. However, she did say our Social Worker had already written a very comprehensive report and due to that she felt that CAFCASS would only have to produce a very short report of 1-2 pages at the most. She has Directed them to have the report prepared by 4pm the day before the Adoption Hearing, but has also booked us a place at the following month's Adoption Hearing date, just in case. We have everything crossed that the report can be written in time and that we can adopt Princess Lollipop in early March, before our Social Worker's registation runs out.

On the way home from Court me and Mr Messy visited the local chocolatier's shop for a cake and coffee as a celebration of passing this penultimate hurdle. While we were there we chatted about our plans for a family celebration party once we have finally adopted Princess Lollipop. The choclatier also provides bespoke cakes and we are going to order one from him, we have to wait till next week when the lady who designs the cakes is back in work. I have a good idea of what I want - pastel colours including (but not exclusively) pink, sponge cake, and three odd shaped tiers - I'm really looking forward to actually ordering it :-) We also discussed when we could have this party, and due to the uncertainty around the dates we have plumped for mid/late April, avoiding the weekend of Drama Teen's 16th birthday! Mr Messy would also like to have a hog roast, and has asked LMS to see if this would be possible, especially as the party will be held indoors!!

In the afternoon Mr Messy and Drama Teen went to the next village to do a family lifestyle shoot. They were there to photograph the parents and their two young children, however Grandparents, Aunts and Uncles were also present! They were all shouting directions to the children, who got very confused and upset!! The shoot was apparently a nightmare, but the needed shots were taken and are now in post production!

Princess Lollipop's First Birthday

I'm not sure that Princess Lollipop had ANY idea what was going on at her birthday!! Although she did get quite excited and start screaming happily!! Mr Messy went out first thing to pick up LMS and American Boyfriend, as LMS said she couldn't miss the grand opening :-) Princess Lollipop had to be encouraged to open her presents as she wasn't really that interested. And Little Prince was very willing to help as much as he could lol. She got lots of noisy musical toys as she loves dancing to music :-) Grandma and Grandad got her a trampoline that we will put in the garden as soon as the garden is cleared and safe and the weather is warmer!! I'm sure she'll love it. The only problem will be trying to keep Little Prince off it, as he is way above the safe weight range for the trampoline and I don't want it broken by Mr Over Exhuberant!!!

Mid morning Drama Teen's Young Man arrived, ready for us all to go out for a celebratory meal. At the very last minute before leaving we dressed Princess Lollipop in her birthday dress from Monsoon, and she looked stunning :-) We even managed to get her to wear a matching headband wtih a large floppy flower attached, she wore it for about half an hour before she noticed it was there and there was no chance after that!! We were eating at our favourite American Style Restaurant, and Little Prince had been looking forward to the ribs ALL WEEK :-) He was slightly disappointed that they didn't serve root beer, but settled for a "posh drink." We hadn't explained "posh drinks" to American Boyfriend, who was jaw droppingly shocked to see a child drinking a cocktail lol. Don't worry "posh drinks" are non-alcoholic cocktails :-)

Little Prince enjoyed his ribs, his tummy enjoyed them, his face enjoyed them and so did his hands lol. It took two of us and loads of wipes to clean him up again!! Fantastic food for boys - tasty and messy!! Princess Lollipop shared a little of what we were having, but seemed to enjoy the bread rolls most. All apart from the birthday cake :-) She had no idea how to blow out her candles, but loved everyone singing to her :-)

We had had to go to the restaurant in two cars to fit us all in, and when we'd finished our meal we split up again. Mr Messy was driving three hours (one way!) to return some photographic samples he'd borrowed from a photographer friend!! He took LMS and American Boyfriend with him and I took Drama Teen, Young Man, Little Prince and Princess Lollipop home with me!! Not sure who was going to have the most tiring afternoon!!!

Last Couple of Weeks

In the last couple of weeks Princess Lollipop has come on in leaps and bounds! She gained two more teeth at the top, and has six in total now :-) And now they've arrived the constant dribbling has abated!! She has graduated to the big girl, forward facing car seat from the infant carrier type she had been using - it was getting impossible to fasten the straps round her or to carry the carrier once she was in it!!! She LOVES facing forward and chatters and sings while looking out the window. She has also celebrated her first birthday! I cannot believe that she is one ALREADY!!!! I'll do a seperate birthday post :-)

Little Prince has also had a week off school for half term, me and LMS took him to see "The Princess and the Frog." He found the scary bits a bit too scary, and the romatic bits a bit too yukky, but apart from that he seemed to enjoy himself. He got quite wild and hyper on the way home, probably because he'd been too excited to eat before we went out (lesson learnt - don't tell him first thing in the morning he's doing something exciting in the afternoon!!). He refused all offers of stopping somewhere to eat, demanding we visit the toy shop and buy him more toys (he'd only spent his birthday money the weekend before!). So we ended up just coming straight home and eventually persuaded him to eat something and he calmed down a little. I felt quite sad that a normal childhood activity could be so hard and stressful for both me and him :-( I was glad we went to see the film though, and was glad to see that when Princess Lollipop is old enough to notice a Princess who looks like her, she will hopefully identify with the hardworking Tiana :-) And the music was fabulous :-)

We have finally heard from the hospital about Little Prince's appointment with his second specialists. Unfortunately he won't be seen until mid April, but at least we now know when he will be seen and it makes me feel more positive that we have the possibility of help for Little Prince's behaviour on the horizon.

As Princess Lollipop has got more and more mobile and inquisitive we have been finding it difficult to keep her away from Little Prince's toys eg Lego. We can't put the Lego in his room as he isn't able to play there without supervision, so we had to come up with a way to allow him to still have his favourite toy, but to keep Princess Lollipop safe from choking! And thanks to a great idea from my lovely friend Whatshername's Mum, we bought a Baby Dan hexagonal play den (or baby prison as Little Prince called it!). We have used it as a three sided square behind one of the sofas in the lounge, so that it makes an enclosure for Little Prince to retreat to where he can have his Lego and other small toys out without having to worry about his baby sister getting hold of them. It has made the lounge a much more relaxing place, as we no longer have to leap up and grab Princess Lollipop everytime she made a break for freedom over the temporary barrier (upturned baby carrier car seats!)!!

Tuesday, 9 February 2010

My Last Few Months

Princess Lollipop's arrival ended an almost ten year quest to adopt two little girls from China!!! Our first application was stopped when (now ex!!) friends of ours totally trashed us when they were interviewed as one of our referees! We fought the decision to not allow us to continue our China adoption application, but despite support from all quarters were unsuccessful. We took time out to consider our options and decided we still wanted to grow our family, and that we still wanted to adopt. We approached our Local Authority and applied to adopt domestically from foster care. This is one of the best decisions we made as it eventually united us with our wonderful son Little Prince :- ) We knew we didn't want him to be the only adopted child in a family with two birth children, and we also didn't want him to be the only non-white member of a white family (although he currently looks white). So after much thought we decided to once again apply to adopt from China. We had many reasons for this some of which were: we wanted to adopt a non white child, and were worried that social workers would insist on only matching us to a child with a similar ethnicity to Little Prince if we applied domestically (which would probably take years as there don't seem to be children needing families with his ethnicity); due to Little Prince's competitive nature and insecurities we wanted him to stay as the our special only boy, and 95% of adoptions from China are girls; Little Prince was only 3 years old when we applied to adopt again, and due to our Local Authorities strict rules on no adopting out of birth order, and having around 2 year age gap, we were limiting ourselves to the most sought after children in UK domestic adoption; we felt that a child matching our desires in UK foster care would not have any difficulty finding a home, and we could even end up "competing" against other (younger, childless) families, and didn't think we would be chosen; we felt that a child growing up in a Chinese orphanage "needed" us more than a similar child needing adoption in the UK. So we duly went through the whole long winded UK process to apply to adopt internationally, and 19 months later our papers were Logged In at the CCAA offices in China. However, during that 19 months it had become apparent that adoptions from China had changed dramatically, from a 6 month ish wait for a referral after Log In when we first started, the wait time for a referral had sky rocketed and showed no sign of ever speeding up. There were fewer and fewer children being abandoned, more families adopting domestically within China, so less and less need for overseas prospective adopters. We did not want to have our lives held in a waiting limbo for what looked like it could extend to years, so we started looking at what else we could do. After considering all our options we decided to apply to adopt from Ethiopia, a very new, not well trodden path for UK adopters. It took a long time and a lot of stress to persuade our Local Authority to allow us to do this, but 12 months later our papers were sent to Ethiopia. Just over a week later we were referred our Princess Lollipop, and three months after that she joined our family forever :-) Once again the path we thought we wanted to travel (adoption from China) was not the path we ended up travelling, and I can't imagine not being where we are today, with the two precious children we adopted. Perhaps both our children needed to have a similar background story for their adoptions?? I have no idea, but I know Little Prince and Princess Lollipop are the perfect children for us and I couldn't imagine any others in their place.

All this waffling is to say that I had FINALLY got my long held hearts desire, two adopted children and a complete family of four children :-) So why have I spent the last few months feeling so down?? Princess Lollipop is an easy, delightful, loving child and so easy to love, and yet I still feel down??? She is the worst sleeper we have had out of the four children, and I don't think she has slept all night through without needing settling in the wee hours, for a whole week on the trot since she has been home. So perhaps the tiredness from constant disturbed sleep, on top of the demands of raising Little Prince has just got to me. I just can't seem to shake it off :-(

Since bringing home Princess Lollipop we have also had the added strss of Mr Messy not being able to find a suitable new contract. This has lead to financial pressures and money had been getting tighter and tighter and the situation more and more worrying. Unfortunately me and Mr Messy haven't been dealing with our worries together, and we need to find the energy to begin working together again. Which is almost impossible with the lack of sleep we are both getting, coupled with Mr Messy working long hours and driving four hours per day and me dealing with the the children and Little Prince's issues on my own during the day. After having four children, we know that a new arrival (birth or adopted) is a stressful time and that we will get through this and become stronger for it.

Well enough of all that, what else have I been up to?? I broke two bones in my foot and damaged my back at New Year, which was the worse time it could have happened!! Mr Messy started back at work, LMS moved out and I had to cope with it all while hobbling around!! Luckily I drive an automatic car (and injured my non driving foot) so I've been able to get Little Prince to school and nip to the shops etc. My back only twinges first thing in the morning (especially if Princess Lollipop has spent the night in our bed) and I can now wear my trainers tied loosely, instead of just being able to wear Crocs! So I'm slowly getting better :-)

I had a major falling out with Postlady over what started as a trivial issue and was blown up out of all proportion. Postlady stopped speaking to me, would run across the road rather than have us meet on the path and banned her daughter from playing with Little Prince outside school. This devestated Little Prince as he has always loved Postlady's daughter and values her friendship above all others :-( I really can't understand grown ups dragging children into an adult's argument, and this (and the original reason for the falling out) have really soured my opinion of Postlady. LMS's American Boyfriend met Postlady when he went out round the village photographing, and apparently she said she missed me and hadn't wanted the situation to go this far! Seeing as she was the one who was doing the avoiding and not speaking, I'm not sure how she didn't want it to go this far!! After getting this message I got in touch with Postlady and things initially seemed quite cordial. Little Prince's first request once he knew we were speaking again was to invite her daughter to come round to play, this is when things seemed to go awry again!! At first an evening was arranged, but then Postlady changed her mind and was too busy all week for them to play together. Then her daughter started saying things to Little Prince like "Your Mum is my Mum's last friend" and when Little Prince tried to invite her to play again she told him that "Mum says I can't go to your house until we are 10." These seem odd things for her to have come up with on her own, so I'm presuming Postlady still has some issues about me and/or Little Prince (and I know she has huge issues with Mr Messy). I've been very hurt by Postlady's behaviour, but even more so that she is hurting my little boy, to me that is unforgivable behaviour in an adult. I've talked to Little Prince and told him that I don't know why his friend's Mum won't let her come to play, but that her Mum is in charge of where his friend can and can't play and that we just have to accept that. I've been making a huge effort to invite other children round to play instead, its tiring and hard work, but its so worth it to show Little Prince that he has other fun friends even though he can only play with Postlady's daughter at school. I am so sorry that mine and Postlady's arguement has hurt Little Prince and wish there was something I could do to rectify the situation, but it would take effort from both me and Postlady and she doesn't seem to want to try and mend our friendship. I have decided that I have too much stress in my life to keep dealing with this drama and am trying to move on. I do feel very lonely as Postlady was the person I spent most time with, apart from my family. But just like Little Prince I do have other friends and need to spend time with them, instead of just relying on Postlady. So I am joining three other Mum friends on a trip to an Ethiopian/Carribean (!!!) restaurant after the next school holidays. I'm really looking forward to it as the restaurant has rave reviews and spending a hopefully relaxing and fun time with my friends :-)

The other major thing bothering me is my weight gain :-( I put on loads during our stressful battle with our Local Authority to change our application to Ethiopia and even more since our return home with Princess Lollipop :-( I've just been too tired to think properly about what I'm eating and have just been grabbing whatever is easiest, which is usually junk :-( I know my crappy diet isn't helping my mood, but don't have the energy to sort it out. Urgh!!!

Things haven't been totally bleak!! There have been goodtimes too, honest!! We (me, Mr Messy, Little Prince and Princess Lollipop) had a lovely few days break with another international adopter and her child. As her child is Chinese I was a little worried before we met up, wondering how I'd feel meeting her child, given that we haven't adopted from China twice now! Would I be upset, jealous, or what? I needn't have worried :-) Friend's child is absolutely delightful, but I must have really let go of my dream of a Chinese child of my own as I didn't find it hard at all and we had a LOT of fun :-) We'll have to do it again this year :-) We had another short break at a Youth Hostel with adopters of children with special needs. That was another fun break, especially as we didn't have to explain Little Prince's unusual behaviour and for once he didn't stand out as different :-) Another one that we'll have to repeat :-)

I'm hoping that my foot will be healed enough to take Little Prince and Princess Lollipop swimming in the school holidays and then once Little Prince is back in school to start attending a Baby swimming class with Princess Lollipop. My only worry about this is how it will affect her hair!! I am having real trouble keeping her hair in good condition and don't want to make it worse! But it will be a good opportunity to meet other Mums of children Princess Lollipop's age, even if I am the old fogey of the group lol!!

Little Prince's Last Few Months

Little Prince has adjusted to being a big brother wonderfully. He is kind, gentle, loving and playful with Princess Lollipop 99% of the time! And usually we can catch that 1% of not so very nice before he hurts her!! Princess Lollipop ADORES her big brother and I can see her following him into all sorts of mischief in the future, oh boy!! She squeaks and squeals when we pick him up from school, and spends the time waiting for him shouting "Brud Brud" (her way of saying brother lol) and he greets her with a hug and kiss (even when his school friends are watching - I can only have kisses if they aren't looking lol).

Although Little Prince seems to completely adore his new sister, he does seem affected by her arrival in other ways. He complains that no one ever plays with him (we do!!) and is quite jealous of the attention Princess Lollipop gets. At Christmas he wanted to open all of his own presents and hers too! He is very possessive of the things he has grown out of, and we have only been able to give Princess Lollipop his old toys that we had stored away in the attic. The ones (like board books) that have stayed on his bookshelves are still adamantly his! He also gets very upset at any perceived unfairness, if Daddy brings home something for me or one of the girls he will have a tantrum or cry as though his heart is breaking, even if he got something (and no one else did) the day before!

Little Prince's behavioural issues seem a lot more obvious and harder to deal with at the moment too. I'm not sure if he has got noticeably worse, or if I am so much more exhausted and don't deal with him as well?!? And this could all be exacerbated by the fact that he finds December hard to cope with - all the routines at school are out of whack, he gets worked up about the School Christmas Concert (he hates lots of people looking at him, he had a speaking part and coped very very well, I'm very proud of him) and he is completely over excited about Christmas on top of all of that! Then his birthday is in January and we send Letterbox contact letters to his birth family in February (and it will be Princess Lollipop's birthday) which always brings out a lot of questions and worries for him. Thinking about it, its such a lot for him to cope with its no wonder he has his "moments"!! Poor lad! His "moments" have included breaking the pull light switches in both the upstairs and downstairs bathrooms in one day!! The upstairs one was fairly simple to fix, but the downstairs one needs a whole new switch fitting, which means turning all the power off and with working long hours Mr Messy hasn't had chance to do it yet - so we are showering by candlelight!!! Before Christmas he found the tins of Roses and Quality Street chocolates I had stored on top of the wall cupboards and ate most of them! He poured loads of the expensive conditioner I have to use on Princess Lollipop's hair down the plughole! And has lost both his DS and his mini iPod, they must be in the house somewhere but I have NO CLUE where!!! Its not all negative, honest, he is still the loving, funny energetic little boy we adore, he's just harder work at the moment lol. He decided last term that he no longer needs to take his comfort blankie to school, and in the last few weeks has taken to leaving it in his bedroom throughout the day too :-) My little man is growing up :-)

Due to the intensification in Little Prince's behaviour I chased up his appointment with the ADHD/Externalising Behaviour Specialist just after Christmas. Unfortunately it seems that his original referral, sent in early October 2009 had not been received!! I then had to negotiate between the two specialist's secretaries to try and rectify the situation. It wasn't made any easier by the fact that one of them seemed more interested in making sure it wasn't her fault than trying to sort it out!! They eventually confirmed that Little Prince was now correctly logged into the system, but can give me no idea whatsoever of when he will be seen :-( We had been told by his referring paediatrician that he would probably be seen in Jan/Feb 2010, and the thought of getting help after Christmas is all that got me through the difficult month of December :-(

After taking the advice of the school nurse (like a health visitor but for school children) and GP on Little Prince's nocturnal enuerisis we started Little Prince on Desmopressin (a medication that mimics the hormone vasopressin that supresses urine production during the night). The medication worked for the first two nights and then didn't work again, despite switching from one form of the medication (desmomelts) to another (desmopressin tablets) and despite doubling the dosage to the highest dose. Little Prince is so motivated to be dry, but his body just isn't co-operating :-( He was so pleased and proud of his dry nights, and then so very very upset when he was wet again :-( The school nurse was upset for him too, she said he had so much going on for him that she was so hoping that this would solve one issue, and give him such a boost in self confidence too! After talking with her and the GP again, we agreed to give the medication a break and try again after Little Prince's 7th birthday. Little Prince took this to heart and on his 7th birthday insisted that he wasn't wearing the "Dry Nites pants" and would be dry - and he was :-) I've bought a couple of waterproof duvet covers and let him go for it! He has had more wet nights than dry and has started to wear the "Dry Nites pants" again, but this is REAL progress :-) And its showing him that his body is getting "growed up" enough to learn to be dry and he is thrilled :-) We are seeing the GP again next week to see if another course of desmopressin would help.

But looking on the bright side - he IS now in the Specialist's system and will be seen in due course :-) He CAN now manage a whole day at school without blankie and without melting down about it :-) He IS a fantastic big brother :-) He HAS spontaeneously started to be dry some nights :-) He HAS received two "Head Teacher's Awards" at school for wonderful behaviour and trying so hard with his work :-) He HAS achieved his 20m swimming certificate :-) And he is and always will be my special little man :-)

Monday, 8 February 2010

Drama Teen's Last Few Months

Well they've been "interesting" to say the least!! I can't say too much as she values her privacy, but we are working through the issues and seem to be coming out the other side happier :-)

A different issue has been Drama Teen's weight loss since we returned from Ethiopia. She was very slim to start with, not a spare ounce on her anywhere, but she got the same bug as her Dad (although a less virulent version that she recovered from much quicker than he did) and lost about half a stone or more. Which made her look almost skeletal!! Due to the other problems we've been having she has been upset and has only managed to gain a few pounds back. We've talked to one of LMS's friends who is training to be a personal trainer and nutritionist and she gave us some very helpful advice (THANK YOU SO MUCH E xxx). The bathroom scales are broken at the moment so we aren't sure if the new ideas are working, but I'm keeping my fingers crossed.

DRama Teen's Cleft Care Team have got a new member - a conservation dentist. And as her orthodontist felt she would benefit from his expertise she was referred to him. She had an initial consultation with him, and he outlined how he could improve the look of her teeth and the appointments to do the work were duly booked. I arranged for LMS and American Boyfriend to pick Little Prince up from school, as the appointment was mid afternoon and there was no way we would be back in time to pick him up. Me, Drama Teen and Princess Lollipop drove for over 2 hours to the appointment (her Cleft Care Team is based on the other side of the country) and then found that I had mixed up the times and we were an hour late!!! The dentist couldn't fit us in, and we had to come straight back home again. I was so upset and cross with myself. We have been attending appointments with this Team since Drama Teen was born, and driving 2 hours for all the appointments since we moved away from there 11 years ago! And I have NEVER done this before! I was mortified!! Drama Teen thought it was funny!!! Especially as I muttered and swore at myself for quite a lot of the drive home!!! The appointments have now been rebooked for next month and I will double, triple, quadruple check the times before we set off next time!!!!

We received Drama Teens Year 11 school report last week and she is doing FANTASTICALLY well :-) Me and her Dad are SO PROUD of her :-) Many of her teachers did point out that she could do even better if she included more detail in her answers (coursework and exams) and we hope that she heeds their advice and gets GCSE results that reflect her outstanding abilities :-) Well done Drama Teen xxxx

Friday, 5 February 2010

LMS's last few months

LMS has had a very eventful time recently!! We spent a week together as a family of six, after returning from Ethiopia, and then LMS went to work in Walt Disney World for the Summer as a Custodial Cast Member (Disney speak for cleaner!). She has wanted to work at Disney since we visited when she was 10 years old and chatted to an English girl working there - and now her dream was coming true :-) She would spend about three months working in Disney and then visit her American for 3 1/2 weeks before returning home. It was so hard to see her go after only seeing her for one week and it seems like it will be forever before I see her again :-(

LMS found the Custodial work very hard, especially in the Summer Florida heat! She fainted a couple of times when working outside, and after that was assigned solely to the indoor cleaning (the toilets!). One of LMS's aims in becoming a Cast Member was to give guests some of the magic we have always experienced when visiting Disney. She was able to do this for at quite a few families - one was a Mum trying to dry her toddler's wet shorts with hand towels in the toilets, LMS went to a nearby shop and purchased a new pair of shorts for the little girl, making her mother's day; another time she helped a lost teenager, staying with her and chatting to her until her family was found; another time when a young guest collapsed LMS ran to the front of the park to get a wheelchair for the youngster (she had tried radioing for one to be brought but it was taking too long). I am so proud of LMS for helping guests when she could :-)

After her stint at Disney LMS made her way to her American boyfriend's state to spend some time with him and his family. She was so looking forward to seeing him again and their relationship seems to be getting more and more serious. My baby is growing up!!!

Not long after returning from America again, it was time for LMS to return to University. I feel I haven't seen her very much at all :-( She had arranged to change her accomodation, and get a flat on her own instead of continuing to share with the group she has lived with for the past few years. This was so that American Boyfriend could come over and live with her for six months (the maximum he can visit the UK using the Visa Waiver programme) while they decide if they can make it as a couple!! However, due to Mr Messy not being able to find a viable new contract in time, we were unable to continue helping LMS with her University costs and she made the decision to suspend her year and come home. This was also due to the final year module she was studying (depression in the end stages of life!) that she hated and was depressing her, she has always wanted to be involved with working with children rather than senior citizens and found the course too hard going emotionally. It was fabulous to have her home with us, especially after not seeing her much at all in the previous months, however, it was upsetting that she had had to put off completing her degree.

After much discussion between LMS and American Boyfriend it was decided that LMS would visit him in the States for 6 months instead of him coming here. This meant that they could live in his house, his sister would move back in with their parents for the duration of LMS's visit and that he could carry on working at his job. LMS duly got all the documentation from American Boyfriend that she needed to apply for a Visa (UK visitors to the US can only stay for 3 months without a Visa) paid her fees and went to London to the American Embassy. Unfortunately, she was turned down!! Apparently Embassy officials are trained to assume that anyone young (with no financial/family ties to their home country) wanting to visit for that long is wanting to either work in the States illegally or is intending to stay and not return home. We found this out by researching after LMS was turned down! Although LMS has admitted even if we had found out beforehand she would have been too optimistic and excited about seeing American Boyfriend again to have done anything differently. She immediately applied for an ESTA Visa Waiver (the online version of that form you used to fill in on the plane) but was turned down for that too, obviously her name now has a black mark against it in the US Visa computer programme :-( This means that everytime she wishes to visit the United States she must visit the American Embassy (paying their fee of course) to apply for a Visa :-( As we regularly holiday in America, and she has a serious relationship with an American this was GUTTING for her :-(

LMS and American Boyfriend picked themselves up from this disappointment and tried to work out a solution. They were both still determined to spend 6 months together in one country or the other and their only option now seemed to be for American Boyfriend to come here to the UK. This was all arranged and he arrived just after Christmas, so that they could spend New Year together. They spent a few days staying over in the city near the airport, where they went to the Panto, visited family and spent time together.

LMS had taken out a lease on a small flat in the next village to us for them to live in together, and the lease started on 1st January. Unfortunately due to the unexpectedly bad snow and the fact that I broke two bones in my foot and damaged my back (falling down stairs - while stone cold sober!!), and continuing tight funds we were unable to arrange for the flat to be furnished until well into January. But careful shopping at second hand places, borrowing from very kind friends and hitting the sales we eventually got them moved into their first place together. Its very sweet and they seem very proud of it :-) They do seem to be having "teething troubles" getting used to living together and overcoming both cultural misunderstandings on both sides, and American Boyfriend's missing home comforts and feeling useless because he isn't allowed to work. But they are being very grown up (mostly!!) and working through their problems and seem to be getting on much better as the weeks go by.

LMS has had to get herself a job, and in our rural area she hasn't got much choice and has ended up as a casual worker for a firm of cleaners. She's in a catch 22 situation - to get a better job (even in a supermarket!) she needs a car, but to afford a car she needs a better job! Hopefully once Mr Messy gets established in his contrat we will be able to help them out more and maybe buy them a small runaround!

Their long term plan, currently, is for American Boyfriend to stay here until May, then return home and apply to come back to the UK on a Fiance Visa (which means they have 6 months to get married)! That is assuming that they get along well enough and don't kill each other before then lol. LMS isn't sure that she wants to finish her degree, but seems to be coming round to mine and her Dad's point of view - that she'd be daft to abandon it now when she is so close! Her new boss made a remark that seems to have persuaded her the most - that the boss wouldn't employ someone who had given up their degree after 2 years, as it would seem to show lack of commitment. She isn't totally convinced that she should go back, and the difficulties she is facing finding accomodation for if she does return isn't helping!! But me and her Dad feel it would be for the best and that the top class degree she is predicted to get would be a great help in getting future employment! She has also changed her mind about her career goals, initially she wanted to be a Child Psychologist, then she changed her mind and wanted to be an Early Years Teacher and now she has changed her mind again and wants to run a small hotel! Watch this space....

Anyway back to the long term plans - after getting married and finishing (fingers crossed!) her degree they would spend two years here so that American Boyfriend can gain British Citizenship. Then they would move to the States for the three years it would take LMS to gain American Citizenship. LMS is excited at the prospect of seeing more of America and it will help both of them decide where they would like to settle down.

Obviously I'm sad that they will be spending so long away from here, but I also acknowledge that this is their life and they have to walk their own path. I wish them all the very best and hope that spending the next few months together can help them decide if they want to spend the rest of their lives together. Its such a HUGE decision they have to make, in such a comparitively short time! And not only that, becoming a couple will mean that one or the other of them has to leave behind their country and family, unless of course they settle somewhere else completely! They seem so young too (although I was married and expecting LMS at her current age!!). I hope they make the decisions that make them both happy.

Thursday, 4 February 2010

Mr Messy's last few months

Mr Messy caught a bug while we were in Ethiopia, that hit him hard and lasted for about 6-8 weeks! He completely lost his appetite, and had constant diarrhea during this time! He lost over a stone in weight (over 14lbs for my non UK readers) and had no energy whatsoever. It was a few weeks after we had returned to the UK before I persuaded him to visit the GP (you know what men are like a simple cold is Man Flu, but anything remotely serious and they won't go near the doctor!!) who ordered stool tests. The tests came back negative, but the doctor said as he had had the bug for so long and was improving slightly, it was likely it would work itself out and just to make sure he ate and drank regularly and get through it!

Due to feeling so ill for so long, all the night feeds fell to me (Princess Lollipop continued needing feeding during the night for 3 months ish after we came home). And once Mr Messy finally recovered, he seemed to be immune to Princess Lollipop's cries, so I've carried on doing the majority of the night shifts. It also meant that Mr Messy was too tired and ill to aggressively look for a new contract and coupled with the downturn in the economy it has meant it took a long time before he found a one. This lead to huge financial pressures on us, and it has been a hard and stressful time for us all. He did finally secure a new contract and started at the beginning of the year, and even managed to work through the snowy conditions, mostly by working remotely from home.

Once he had sufficiently recovered Mr Messy was able to devote a lot of time to his emerging photography business, although we didn't have the financial resources to really market the business as much as he would like. He and a local chocolatier/bespoke cake maker have formed a successful partnership and promote each other's businesses when they can. Mr Messy did the photography for the chocolatier's Santa's Grotto, and LMS and Drama Teen were roped in to be Santa's Elves!! Earlier in the year Mr Messy exhibited at a couple of Wedding Fair's ably assisted by either Baby Sis or LMS, although there haven't been that many new bookings resulting from the Fairs so I'm not sure if he will be repeating that again this year.

My Christmas present from Mr Messy this year was a frame with four seperate photographs - one of each of the children :-) It looks stunning and I really appreciate it :-)

The Impossibility of Catching Up!!

Its going to be impossible to catch up with the last lotta months when I haven't been blogging! So I'm going to try and post the major events (ie what I can remember lol) of what has happened in each family member's life during my blogging blackout! I've started Mr Messy's post, but it will take a while to write each one so it might take me a few days to get them published! See you all again real soon :-)

Introducing our NEW daughter :-)

I am going to break my no photos rule, this one time and let you all have a glimpse of the perfection that is our new daughter. She is the most perfect addition to our family I could ever have imagined. No I could never have imagined we would be lucky enough to be matched with this little girl, she is beyond my wildest dreams in every single way - she is fantastic, wonderful, smart, beautiful and OURS :-) She is full of life and giggles. She has grown from being at the lowest end of the growth charts to nearing the top. She has learnt to roll over, sit up, crawl and now walk (and she is working on running!!). She has gone from being placed in the arms of weird looking strangers, to recognising we are her family and looking to us for comfort. She can now say "Dada" "Mama" "Brud Brud" (brother) and approximates her sister's names. She can sign "all gone" "cat" and "hat." She likes to play "round and round the garden" "row row row the boat" "clap hands daddy comes" and "wind the bobbin up." She gives hugs and kisses spontaneously and when you ask and tries to blow kisses too. She now has four teeth and two more well on the way. And she is even in age appropriate clothes, when we first met her she was in clothes much smaller than her age. She has firm likes and dislikes in food, and lets you know in no uncertain terms when she is hungry or not hungry! Little Prince says "she is like a real person but mini" LOVE it :-)

When we first received her referral Litle Prince (for reasons known only to himself!!) decided he wanted her name to be Lollipop Obstacle Water!! So I have decided that on the blog she will be PRINCESS LOLLIPOP :-)

Going HOME :-) (Saturday 13th June 2009)

Yeah I know I haven't blogged for AGES!! But I've just been trying to do Little Prince's birth family contact letters and found it really, really difficult - in the past I've just checked back on my blog and had a really good idea of what we've been up to. This time because of my blogging "break" (and a memory like a sieve lol) its been much harder, so I thought I'd better try and get into the blogging habit again! I can't promise I'll blog every day, but I'll try and blog at least once a week!

Before I start again, though, I want to finish writing about our Ethiopian trip. Unfortunately after all this time, and being Mummy to a baby who doesn't really like to sleep, I can't remember that much - but its only one day, so I'll give it a go!!

We spent the morning of our last Saturday in Addis packing, I collected everything together and Mr Messy packed it all in the suitcases. Mr Messy went out with the young manager of the Guest House to buy some music CDs, both traditional Ethiopian music and modern Ethiopian pop music. We had a quick shop in the local mall and supermarket, but didn't buy much as the higher than expected fees for Baby's British Settlement Visa and the much higher charges than expected for Mr Messy and Drama Teen's trip to where Baby came from had more or less cleaned us out!! In the afternoon Mr Messy took photos of Drama Teen, Little Prince and Baby with the Guest House staff, and we thanked them profusely for all the wonderful help and support they had given us during our long stay with them.

Too soon our driver arrived and it was time to leave. It was so hard to say goodbye to the staff and the place we had first become a family of six, there are a LOT of happy memories of the Guest House and we will always remember our stay there. It was quite difficult to fit all our luggage in the small car, but between Mr Messy, the driver and some string it got done. It wasn't a long drive to the airport, only about ten or fifteen minutes and I spent the whole time hugging Baby tightly and soaking up the last sights of Addis, we will be back but it might not be for a few years and I want to remember as much as I can of this vibrant city and its welcoming, friendly people, so that I can tell Baby all about it.

I burst into tears as soon as we parked at the airport, this was it, we were taking Baby from her country, her culture and the comfort of growing up looking like everyone else. For better or worse we were about to change her life completely forever. The driver kept saying "Don't cry madam" but I couldn't help it. We took some last photos of us with the driver and then loaded our luggage onto a trolley and made our way up the hill to the airport building. We were searched on entry to the airport and had to take off our shoes, belts etc and go through a security scanner and have our bags x-rayed, security is tight in the airport. Once through the security check we looked for our check in desk, but despite being told by the airline to arrive at that time the check in desk wasn't open yet. We found a row of seats big enough for us all to sit down and sat and waited for the desk to open. A few seats away a very stylish young Ethiopian man was sat listening to his mp3 player loud enough for us all to hear!

Eventually the check in desk opened and we all made our way to the queue. It was pretty difficult to manouver all our luggage and keep tabs on Little Prince as the queue wound round and round, but we eventually made it to the front. We were very disappointed to find that despite arriving as early as we could, that there were NO bulkhead seats left, so we would be unable to use the in flight sky cot for baby! Once we had checked in all our luggage we made our way to the Departures Lounge, which is HUGE and full of shops. Drama Teen and Little Prince decided they wanted fries, so we traipsed up and down trying to find them some, but couldn't find anywhere serving them. Or was it that the places serving them were full of people smoking so Mr Messy wouldn't eat there - I can't remember!! I found it very surprising that people were allowed to smoke in the airport as that is totally unheard of in all the airports I've been in before lol. I think we eventually did find them some biscuits or something to eat. We used up the last of our Birr buying little souveniers from the various shops, including a couple of traditional Ethiopian dresses and shawls for Baby and some mini painted drums for Little Prince to give to his school friends.

We sat on some benches near to the door to the Departure Gate and waited until the armed security guard said it was time for us to go through. We again had to remove our shoes, belts and jackets to go through a security scanner and our hand luggage was x-rayed again. We then queued to show our tickets and passports to the lady at another desk. There had been some sort of problem with printing our connecting flight tickets or boarding passes, so the lady kept our passports and tickets behind the desk and said she would sort it out. There was much less to do in this part of the airport, only some seats but luckily some space for Little Prince and the other younger children to run round. They were soon running round playing some sort of international game of catch, with lots of giggling and deliberate slidding up the floor lol. Inevitibly Little Prince soon wanted the toilet, so we had to collect our passports again, go back out to the main Departure area and find the toilets, then come back through security and hand our passports back in again!! Not easy but we managed it all in time :-) While we were waiting we got chatting to an American Dad who was there on his own (his wife had stayed home with their other children) adopting a girl of about 5 years and a boy of about 2 years. The girl would not sit anywhere near her new Dad and he was very worried about the flight!! The little boy on the other hand was quite happy to be with his Dad, or with us when he shared our biscuits. We gave the Dad the packet so that he could feed the little boy rather than us, as that would be better for the little boy to realise who was his family.

When the desk called that the flight was boarding everyone pushed to get in the queue and we lost sight of the Dad with the two kids, although we did see him later on actually on the plane with the children, we were glad to see he had made it safely :-) We didn't get chance to chat to him though as we were in a completely different part of the plane, I hope he managed the flight ok and that the little girl wasn't too distressed, poor little mite. When we reached the desk we were given all our paperwork back and our connecting flight paperwork too. When we actually boarded the plane we found that we had been split up and were sat in the middle two seats (in the centre of the plane) in two seperate rows. We talked to the flight attendant about this and she said that she would try to sort it out for us. After about half an hour or so we asked again and she did arrange for us to sit all in one row, but said that she couldn't guarentee that we would be able to stay seated in these seats as more people would be boarding in Khartoum. This was news to us as last time me and Baby Sis hadn't stopped in Khartoum on the way home, and it was pretty disappointing too as it would make the flight slightly longer - I just wanted to get home and see my other baby (LMS who I felt I hadn't seen for much longer than just three weeks!). Mr Messy was sat on the aisle seat, then me with Baby on my knee, then Little Prince and then Drama Teen on the opposite aisle seat. Before take off I took Baby to the toilet to change her into a fresh nappy and put her in a baby grow. I had taken the advice of someone on our UK yahoo group and packed a number of ziplock bags each with a baby grow, vest, nappy and nappy bag which was very helpful for the numerous times I had to go and change Baby! Almost at the moment the seat belt light came on, she decided to leak out of her nappy!! What timing!!!! Luckily I had the now empty ziplock bag from her first change to hand, and was able to sit her on that so she didn't leak everywhere!! It seemed a VERY long wait for the seat belt light to go off again!!!

The flight was pretty routine, the engine noise seemed to soothe Baby and she slept and only seemed to wake up to be fed and changed. Little Prince was a great international flier as usual, he played for a while, ate his meal and then slept. Drama Teen took a lot of persuading and swapping of items to get her to eat much on the plane, but she did eat some before she too fell asleep. Mr Messy, who was still feeling ill slept too. I was the only one awake, as I was too scared of dropping Baby to be able to sleep much. When we were eventually approaching Amsterdam one of the flight crew came to us and said she had been told we had the most beautiful baby on the flight and how good she had been, she presented us with a little pottery Dutch building for Baby :-) I remember when I flew to China with my friends R & J that their newly adopted baby got a similar present. I was really touched and the ornament is now proudly displayed in Baby's bedroom.

I don't remember much about our wait in Amsterdam airport (thankfully it was MUCH shorter than when me and Baby Sis had returned from Ethiopia!) until we were waiting by the Departure Gate and realised that Little Prince had lost his Ninetendo DS!! I found a staff member who gave me the number for Lost Property and said if it was found while cleaning the plane they would be able to let me know. However, me and Mr Messy worked out that Little Prince must have left it in Bole Int Airport in Addis, in the confusion and melee when we were called to board. Usually I do a "Mum look round" and check we haven't left anything behind, but I didn't this time!! Little Prince was very upset and blamed himself, but we reassured him that accidents happen and he wasn't to worry about it. And nothing could take away from the excitement of being almost home :-)

I took Baby and changed her into a set of pretty clothes I'd packed for her "coming home" outfit and she looked so beautiful :-) The flight to our local airport was short and sweet, and soon we were disembarking and queuing up to get through immigration. The airport is so small that there is only one queue (so no dithering about if we go in the UK or non-UK queue lol). We had predicted that Baby's situation would be so unusual at this airport, that they would either wave us right through or detain us for weeks!! Luckily we just had to fill in a non-UK/EU form and show them her Visa giving her indefinite leave to remain in her Ethiopian Passport, and they waved us straight through and wished us all good luck :-) We were back on British soil, and Baby got her first taste of a chilly morning!! I had a bit of a mix up ringing to check our taxi was here, and rang the taxi firm's owner (and got her out of bed early on a Sunday morning to boot!! Whoops - she was NOT happy!!). We found the taxi, got our suitcases and ourselves loaded and set off towards home. In my tired and befuddled state I wasn't able to get the provided car seat fastened in properly, it was more jammed between its seat and the one in front!! Luckily we got home with no mishaps.

And waiting at the door was LMS :-) It was sooooooooo good to see her :-) I'd missed her sooooooooo much. She did say it was odd seeing us get out of the taxi holding a baby, even though she was dying to see her new sister lol. It was fantastic to be home and it brought tears to my eyes to be in my own home with all my children together. Wonderful, absolutely wonderful :-)


25th May 2009 - See New Child again & Court Date

23rd May 2009 - Fly back to Ethiopia

26th March 2009 - Fly to Ethiopia :-)

3rd March 2009 - Dossier Arrived at Orphanage

26th February 2009 - Dossier sent to Ethiopia

22nd December 2008 - Dossier back at DCSF

28th November 2008 - Certificate of Eligibility ISSUED

6th October 2008 - PASSED Approval Panel

7th July 2008 - Homestudy Update Started

28th Feb 2008 - Told LA we wished to change country


Formally withdrew from the China Adoption Programme 17th July 2008

LID (Logged in Date) with CCAA 16th August 2007

Documents to China 10th August 2007

Passed Approval Panel 5th March 2007

Homestudy started 6th June 2006

First Contact with our LA 1st Jan 2006