Monday, August 07, 2017

Go Ape Bracknell

One of the highlights of each school holiday is Jeff and I get to spend time with our God-daughter Orla. We try and see her 3-4 times a year as we believe if you accept the honour of being asked to be Godparents then you do the job properly and develop a relationship with the baby.

Only now she's not a baby she's eight and a half! Where did that go?

We thought about what to do, and for some unknown reason I cannot fathom, I suggested Go Ape! As if that wasn't daft enough I agreed to be the responsible adult to go up with her. I know, I have no idea how any of that happened!

Orla was a bit anxious so I assured her we could stop at any time (well, then found out that wasn't true!) and that she'd have to look after me as I was more nervous than her. Half way round I was like what the hell possessed me?? But you're on a loop so no going back, only going forward. Orla bless her went first and gave me the thumbs up and a giant smile several times. Then came the zip wire. This was the part I was dreading most, I even thought I might have to be pushed off the platform LOL! Well I did it on my own and I loved it! In fact if I could have just gone on the zip wire all the time that would have been fab!

Then came the second loop. I didn't like the look of it but Orla said she was happy to go on it alone. That girl is amazing :) I felt queasy just watching her. When she got off we asked which she would like to do again and she said Loop 2. I was like seriously? And we were so proud of her answer - because 2 was more challenging!

Then to the park and finally Pizza Hut. Definitely one of the best days of the year :)

Sunday, August 06, 2017

Ella and her 12 week review

So many emotions. 12 week review went well but our Ella's going to be in the residential home for a long time. She's happy. She's sad. She's angry. She misses us. She likes her new home. She wants me to move into the home with her. She's waiting for the complete epilepsy workup. She's waiting for the pysch workup. All that is ditto for Jeff and me too.

We went out with her today and she looked amazing. She walked everywhere without using the wheelchair. And she behaved like a little lady. Our hearts were bursting with pride and love.

On a day like today I forget the 8 months of pure hell and I just want to take her home and be with us again. But it's just selfish thoughts, just because my heart wants it, my head knows she's in the right place that's healing her physically and mentally.
Saturday, August 05, 2017

Thames Valley Police Force Open Day 2017 and Bowling

Jeff and I have decided that we are just going to care for the siblings we have at the moment over the summer holidays so that we can go out and enjoy ourselves without having a new child in the mix.

We've had the trip to Windsor the other day. And then a visit to Hollywood Bowl - Oh. My. God. How expensive??

And this time, Thames Valley Police Force Open Day. We had a lovely day, except for the weather! Well, it is August and it is England so we shouldn't be surprised, hey? We had just got to the event and got a drink, looked out and decided we'd stay in the refreshment tent for a bit. Very wise choice! Such a lot of rain.

Once it eased we spent about 3 hours looking at the exhibitions, displays, museum, and generally having a nice time. If the weather had been good we would have stayed longer but I looked at the sky and said to Jeff I wanted to leave. Half way back to the car and we could see the lightening!! It wasn't close initially, but we only just got back to the car in time before the storm hit overhead.

Didn't spoil the day though, would definitely go again next year!

Wednesday, August 02, 2017

Spending time with friends

We have just had one of our friends to visit with her girls. They've had a pretty rough time of it lately, which I am planning on blogging about separately.

So they came down for 5 days and ate and drank and watched the telly and played table tennis in the garden and went out and stayed in and ....... well, you get the picture.

Jeff and me have been friends with Sam since she was 16 - and she's 40 this year! Yes, I said that out loud, but there's a good chance I'll pay the price when she reads it :) So she was determined that she wasn't going to visit without seeing Ella.

First we dropped Sam, the girls and the teen fosterling in Windsor. Then we went to collect Ella from near Windsor. Then drove back to Windsor. Had a lovely few hours in Windsor with us, our adopted daughter, our 2 fosterlings and Sam and the girls - what a crazy mixed bunch! Then had to do the car journeys in reverse. Who would have thought a seven seater wouldn't be big enough! But worth the driving to and fro to have everyone together. Some days are just the best :)

Saturday, July 29, 2017

What about Special Needs Dads?

I really don't need to add any words to this. The photograph says it all. He has had such a wonderful relationship with Ella that he found the way she behaved the past few months quite upsetting. This was the first time we had seen her after our holiday. The visit went well until it was time to take her home, and then she got upset and wanted me to move into the residential home with her #babysteps

Friday, July 28, 2017

Hair loss and how to get it back!

So this one is embarrassing. I know in the big scheme of things it's not major, but I'm really hoping it's fixable.

I have always only had two physical features about myself that I like. My eyes. And my hair. It's always been really thick, is naturally wavy and I can style it however I want. Over probably the last ten years it started coming out during a hair wash but would seem just as thick. However over the last six months I've noticed it's not growing back. Where I would take an extra-large bobble to hold all my hair in a pony tail I now only need a small bobble. And then, a few months ago, I saw a photograph of me and I could see where I am thinning on top. I mean seriously, patches going bald!!


Of course I then Google to find out what the hell is going on. Not the menopause, that's long gone. I don't feel ill so hopefully not that. But I did read something very interesting. Apparently if you lose a lot of weight over a relatively short period your hair follicles go into hibernation! So I'm obviously hoping for the latter!

But I'm not taking any chances.

My hairdresser suggested Plantar 36 so I'm giving that a go. No huge change yet. I mean, come on, I've used it 3 times now, where's my miracle cure???

But I have also met this lady on Instagram, MONAT@modern_nature_hair , whose products look amazing. Great :) Except they don't ship to the UK. Not great. Oh yes, WAIT ....... I have 2 sons living in America so thinking of getting it delivered to them - where there's a will there's a way :)

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Italy on Instagram

I've covered most of our holiday, but I did just pop a few on IG while we were away, so here they are :)

I bought this colouring book for 10pence just before we went on holiday. Well, it is actually a 2017 calendar, hence the price. But, it's still got a dozen pictures and it is from Joanne Basford's Enchanted Forest, so do I care that it's a calendar? ...... I do not.

I found this so relaxing, we did miss Ella a lot, so helped to zone out.
Took me all holiday to complete it, just picking it up now and then :)

If you could see me now you would see a very guilty face. We were always going to get Ella and the 2 fosterlings a little pressie. *Cough* *Cough* Okay, so they're not so little LOL! I started out with my sensible head on, bought all of them something to acknowledge the Italian football team - well, come on, that was a given :) So far so good. But then on the way back from Sorrento we found an Italian McCarthy Glen outlet and even better, a Diesel shop! Jeff had to almost drag me out of the shop, but not before I had bought baby a Diesel tee and a dress; her big brother some Diesel undies; and Ella a stunning black glittery dress. In my defence I thought the dresses could be saved for a family wedding in October. Oh, and the doudou was just because :)

And finally, just a salad. Not very exciting but as I'd managed to lose two and a half stone so far this year I really didn't want to blow it all in two weeks. Still had treats, how can you not have ice-cream in Italy?! But I didn't binge, and it paid off ........ I weighed exactly the same at the end of the holiday as at the start :) Finally beginning to be easy to turn food away - never thought I would ever say that again!

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Italy over for now

Week two, as is always with a holiday went quicker than week one. We had plans to go to Rome for the day, but when we go to the train station there was no parking ........ at 7:15am! So we decided we're going to have a weekend break next March before it's tourist season and gets so hot I get heatstroke again!

We had a phone call from Ella the second Sunday asking us to go see her. Her carers thought we were back, so Ella got very upset, sobbing, when we said we couldn't visit. But her amazing Godmother came to the rescue :) Which helped both Ella and us.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Ella and her Epilepsy

Finally something a little positive.

We adopted Ella when she was three and a half. Within 2 years she was having mild drop fits. She would be doing an activity and fall to the floor, would only be a couple of seconds and then she would continue with her activity. As she got older and was mobile she would have a lot when she was walking so would end up with cuts and bumps.

These continued throughout her childhood. She was seen at John Radcliffe who did a 24 hour EEG but we were advised she didn't need any medication as they didn't think it would have any effect.

When she was 12 she had her first tonic clonic seizure. Arms and legs rigid, non-vocal, a typical big seizure. She was admitted to Royal Berkshire Hospital the first time. Over the next few months she had around half a dozen tonic clonics but once the right dose of Epilum was found the seizures stopped. Again we went to John Radcliffe who confirmed she was now suffering from 2 types of seizures.

She went 5 years without any seizures, big or small.

However October 2016 she started having slight tremors in her hands, most noticeable when she was holding a cup. As parents we thought maybe she needed her dose increasing slightly as it hadn't been changed for the 5 years. The Consultant though felt it was a side effect of the Epilum and over an 8 week period weaned her off of the Epilum onto the Keppra. The rest as they say is history.

Ella has been in a state of anxiety since the reduction and removal of Epilum. She says she feels shaky, sometimes in her head and sometimes all over.Stopping the Epilum seems to have unbalanced her, as I mentioned earlier she went 5 years fit free whilst on it. In hindsight slight tremors may be a small price to pay to have Ella return to a more balanced physical and mental state.

Fast forward to today and the care home had managed to get Ella an appointment at the National Society for Epilepsy, the UK's leading provider of epilepsy specialism. We sent a written record to date as we couldn't be there. The Consultant though phoned us and for the first time in ages we felt a doctor really wanted to help Ella.

Moving forward she is to have:
  • A genetics blood test to find out exactly what her syndrome is. When she was diagnosed with Floating Harbor Syndrome there was no blood test available so it had been a clinical diagnosis but now they can actually ID it. The Doctor was not very happy when I said that she hadn't had a genetic test, when one of medical reports stated she had!
  • An MRI, a current EEG and a CT. She was professionally surprised Ella hadn't had an up to date EEG since the onset of the tremors. And even more surprised Ella has never had an MRI or a CT scan. Hmm.
  • Organising a specialist consultant psychiatrist. 
  • This will all happen in the next 6-8 weeks and Ella will stay overnight. It will feel like a mini break for her! They suggested 5 days, but Jeff and I felt that staying somewhere else so soon for so long could totally unbalance her.
So, in a nutshell, we could not be more impressed with the Epilepsy Society......but can't help wondering whether Ella has been short-changed all these years.
Friday, July 14, 2017

Italy Part 1

We are having a lovely time despite my post last time. Yes, we are missing Ella massively. But we are also resting, relaxing and getting to actually spend some time together - and we're still talking!

I hate to say it, because our children are my world, but we have realised what we are missing. Jeff arrived here without being stressed with 4 kids in the back of the car doing his head in! And we can visit places without "I'm bored!" Still love family holidays, but could get used to this too :)
Thursday, July 06, 2017

Visiting Ella

Ella moved into the residential home on May 8th. For the first few weeks we weren't allowed to visit her at all and she can't come back to our house for at least six months. It sounds harsh - and as a parent to go through it, it really was hard - but there is good reasoning behind it. Ella has to accept that it is where she needs to be. The staff told me of another resident that five years later is still homesick because his mum didn't follow their advice. We did, because as we have said many times, this isn't about us, it's what's best for our baby girl.

We first saw her at the end of May, and a couple of times since. We stay near her home and go for a walk then find somewhere to eat. The only exception was Ricki and Kim's wedding, but she seemed to cope really well with it. We go on a Saturday morning/lunchtime and they've been pretty successful. She asked to come home the first couple of times but not since. And her face is beginning to light up when she gets back. She's starting to feel safe there, getting to know the carers and other residents, something which is very important to her. The last few weeks she has been quite calm. They are still having issues, but in between them the periods of calm are stretching.

We decided to have a holiday, just the two of us, (first in 18 years), to just relax and recharge, we hadn't completely recovered from the sibling placement last year before this all started with Ella. So we decided to visit Ella as it'll be a few weeks before we can see her again.

This time though it was in the evening, after tea and before bed. The carers let her know we were coming, the autism in her doesn't like surprises. She squealed when we arrived, as she always does. Played and then just started crying - I mean real sobs. Neither the carers nor us could work out what triggered it. She asked us to go home :( Of course we did as she asked, but it was awful, seeing her sobbing and not being able to console her.

Talking to her keyworker after we all agreed it was because it was the evening. She has her routine when she gets home from school and couldn't cope with it being varied. So we will ensure we never do that again, she has enough going on in her little head at the moment without us unnecessarily adding to it.

Added to her initial outburst, afterwards she was so worried that we didn't love her anymore it took the carers a lot of time to reassure her. Boy did we screw up big time. I know we weren't to know, but doesn't make us feel any better about hurting her :(

ETA We're one week into our two week holiday. And yes, we are slowly unwinding, recuperating and having fun. BUT we never really realised how big a part of our lives Ella was. The boys are all independent young men (we have 5 young men - where did those years go!) but Ella was with us 24/7 and that doesn't just go away. We have both been missing her absence continually. Maybe coming somewhere where we have so many memories with her wasn't the wisest of choices. Another lesson learned too late.

Love this girl so very much.....

Wednesday, July 05, 2017

Fostering Disruption Meeting

A Disruption Meeting is needed when foster carers give 28 days notice on their placement.

We have only done this twice. The first time was simple. The lad has been stealing from us by going into our bedroom - completely unacceptable, not only from a safeguarding point of view, but because it's the only room in the house foster children aren't allowed in, our own safe place - and looking through our things and taking money from Jeff's tin just crossed so many boundaries. Jeff couldn't move on from that. So there was no need for a Disruption Meeting, the reason was black and white.

The second time was far more complicated. In a nutshell we gave notice last August. When your dad says your husband looks ill and your daughter, with all her needs, wants to move out, well it's time to re-evaluate your placement. I won't go into specifics but suffice it to say that we've had Joe with ADHD and going off the rails. Everything with Ella. And I've been in childcare 30 years. But nothing prepared me for a set of siblings we were asked to care for. Anyhow long story short one of the siblings moved on in September 2016 and the other February 2017. We waited. And waited. Asked and waited some more. Eventually in June I wrote to someone in charge, and suddenly it's organised. Five months after the second child left and nine months after the first.

It was a relaxed meeting, but still with a Chair and someone taking notes. We voiced our unhappiness at the lack of support and it was agreed we were let down. In all honesty I don't know how much of a difference it will make going forward, but we know we wouldn't accept such challenging children again without a robust placement plan. It certainly wasn't a wasted meeting, a couple of good ideas came up that nobody, including us, had thought of at the time. We explained we were exhausted and the impact they had had on not just us but Ella and M, our other foster child. We felt we went from one crisis to another and spent most of our time putting out fires. That other foster carers were in awe that we persevered as long as we did.That even though most people knew we weren't exaggerating nothing changed.

But we're glad we had the meeting. We needed to let social services know how unhappy we were. It needed recording officially. The Chair did say they had learned a lot from our case, but apologised that it was at our expense. And everyone there unanimously said we had done an amazing job, even though we certainly didn't feel it at the time.

So that's a Disruption Meeting. Worth persuing and insisting on.

Monday, July 03, 2017

Short Term Fostering

That's the title for what we do. We have children and young people for up to 2 years while the courts and social services decide what they consider to be the best outcomes. Since the 13th March 2015 we have cared for 18 children for varying lengths of time. The shortest 2 hours - I kid you not! A lot of emergency placements for a weekend. Most tend to be around 6 months. But our longest, M, has been with us 18 months and this week is moving into a Long Term match :) So we did what we always do and said we'd take him out for a meal. He chose Cosmos, an international eat as much as you like buffet. It was the first time he had been there, I don't think it will be his last! We took everyone at home, which included Josh, who's been home for a few weeks, and all 4 fosterlings. I love this photo, all the kids are smiling - you'll have to trust me on that ;) But for me one of the biggest things is that the children get to.experience everyday stuff, and a meal out for a treat is one of them :)

Friday, June 30, 2017

Onwards and Upwards

Saying goodbye to the first half of 2017 and moving positively forward :)

So here's a few photos of June that capture the month.

Go Ape

Ricki and Kim's wedding

Just because it's too cute :)

I've got a new part-time job, 8-2 every day and loving it. So at the start of each week I lay all the clothes baby will need for the week ........ not like I don't trust him to dress her un-cordinated ;)

And finally, something else I kept quiet, in case I failed! But this year I have been keeping my sugar intake to below the RDA. Reading labels it's scary how much sugar is in everything!! Also, a couple of evenings a week I skip a meal and have a bowl of cereal. Not only have I lost weight, but my BP has dropped from an average of 140/90 to 115/75. I'm still technically obese, but I'm getting there :)

Monday, June 26, 2017

June - what else?

So the last few posts were pretty heavy. Why did I post? Partly cathartic, but also because we want people to fully understand why we all felt a residential home was best for Ella - cos you're always going to get those that make the snide comments, people that don't know the whole story, how could you unless you've lived it, but feel they have the moral high ground to pontificate. Although, having said that, there probably will still be some trolls. Oh well, while they're belittling us their leaving others alone.We always knew a home was on the cards when we got older - just thought we had quite a few more years with her before it become necessary.

And the other posts? It was partly to help others realise they're not alone if they're going through something similar. And also about how we don't always know how big a load someone is carrying, so be nice :)

If you're a regular reader you will know in May I commented that June was pretty full on we go!
1 x scrap day - yes, I actually got to go out and scrap for a whole 6 hours :)
2 x LAC (Looked After Children) reviews
1 x Health Visitor
Collecting Josh from the airport, he's home for about 7 weeks :)
18 x contact
2 x dentist
Hairdo - more purple and blue, I am growing old disgracefully!
1 x hospital appointment
2 x doctors appointments
1 evening singing
2 x soft play
4 x trips to the childminders - can't recommend Royal Adventures enough :)
2 x SSW visits
A six week review for Ella at her home
Trip down the river
Jeff and Ben's birthdays
Ricki and Kim's wedding
Joe and Kerrie visiting overnight
Trip to Go Ape
Jeff even managed a night out
I got a job!
We've had 2 weekends where we've taken in emergency placements, so have had 4 fosterlings under our roof!
And a couple of meetings I can't talk about

Is that enough?

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Annus Horribilis - Ella

I truly do not know where to start.

Firstly, if you're a new visitor, have a wander over to this post, gives you a bit of background to our Ella.

Ella has always had an aggressive streak. Two or three times a year she will lose the plot, complete meltdown for a few days. And then everything reverts to normal. She's always incredibly emotional and feels bad afterwards. But at some point will do it again. This was doable, although frustrating and physically and emotionally demanding.

However last October everything changed. She started to get the shakes so we thought she needed a higher dose of Epilum (for her epilepsy) as it had been the same for years. The Consultant disagreed and said it was tremors caused by the Epilum and he recommended changing her medication. Oh how I wish we had never listened to him. But there you go. So we start an 8 week regime of weaning off of the Epilum and onto a new drug called Keppra. Not much changed initially, but once it was solely Keppra in her system it was as if a monster lived inside of Ella. She would have bouts of hysterical laughter during which time absolutely anything that could be thrown would be. Usually at me but sometimes just anywhere. Obviously there were casualties, including the new TV we had bought only 6 weeks earlier. She was waking at around 1am and then staying awake. Sometimes she would play quietly, other times she would throw things. So I got into the habit of as soon as she woke up we went downstairs, found her tablet and put the TV on. That usually helped. When it didn't I would have to just leave her in the front room and take myself to the kitchen. A lot of tea was drunk during the first 5 months of 2017. A lot of computer games were played. And not a lot of sleep for either of us, around 2-3 hours most nights.

After 2 solid weeks of this behaviour I shouted out on facebook to some friends. Three separate people all said "Keppra rage!" One daughter had behaved as Ella, another whose child is non verbal said the anger in her eyes was terrifying. It didn't take much research to find that 10% of people with special needs cannot tolerate Keppra! Oh. My. God. Why were we not warned?

We then started her on a new 8 week regime weaning her off the Keppra and introducing another, Lamictel, which apparently is also used for Bipolar, so we had waited expectantly for the old Ella to rear her head.

During this time I also went to the GP begging for help, remember that disastrous appointment?
We also contacted her transition social worker who started the ball rolling with seeing what support was available. We were offered 3 hours a week during the term and 6 during the holidays. And yes, that's great, but it didn't resolve the fact that night after night after night it was relentless. Sadly we were still waiting for that support to kick in come the end of April. Her name was also put down to see a psychiatrist who specialises in special needs and a behavioural specialist. We were also still waiting for those at the end of April. I don't blame anyone, there's simply not enough money to go round. Didn't help us though.

We had a few weeks at the beginning of February when Ella went quiet. And then bang! It was like the previous behaviour on steroids. And her behaviour wasn't just aimed at me any more, she started attacking her dad as well. For the next few months we would be woken at 1am, and the same groundhog day would happen again and again.

We took her to A & E one morning when we honestly did not know what to do with her. Chocolate and teapot spring to mind. They passed us to a mental health nurse, who admitted she hadn't dealt with anyone with special needs, and really didn't have a clue. We walked away with some sleeping tablets and no follow up. Those sleeping tablets did not even touch her.

She had a major fit at the beginning of May which ended up in an overnight stay in hospital. Given something that completely knocked her out, and yet she still woke up at 5am and went straight for me - in front of all the nurses!

Strangely, she never kicked off in front of the foster children, it was always in the night, when we were alone, or at school. Her behaviour had deteriorated at school, she was spending hours just lying on the floor refusing to move. Not getting off the school bus, not getting back on it to come home. Being silly with her food and drinks. And other stuff.

And then, if it's possible, she got worse. Started soiling herself and refusing to be changed, which we had never had a problem with. Refusing to go to school. And you know, it's one thing dealing with difficult behaviour, but when you are trying to reason with an 18 year old with complex special needs it's so much harder. As for moving her, don't even go there.

Jeff and I were exhausted. Human bodies are not designed to survive month after month on so little sleep, and being attacked by someone you love with all your heart.  No matter how calm you are, eventually something will break permanently, and we really didn't want that to happen. We were also worried that one day she could actually break one of our bones. Not intentionally, she would never mean to, but in her persistent agitated state she might.

Eventually we had a meeting with the school SEN man, her teacher, her HLT that has known her for years, her social worker, someone from the SEN Dept for our LA, and a lady from a care home. We talked about Ella, her needs being so great now that school are asking for extra funding. Her HLT saying that the behaviour Ella is presenting with is similar to how she was in the first years at Manor Green. Her anxieties are through the roof. There was concern about whether she has additional needs, like Schizophrenia or Bipolar. But the overriding agreement was stopping the Epilum had destabilised her to the point she is not in control. I admit to crying through most of this meeting. We have given our heart and soul to this little girl, who is suffering more than we can imagine, but we can't get through to her.

The outcome of the meeting was that Ella would move into a residential care home on Monday, May 8th. We all set about preparing her, saying that all her big brothers moved out when they grew up and now it was her turn. The manager from the care home visited Ella a couple of times, and school and the home started on story books to help her process. We took her shopping and she chose photo frames, some hooks, bunting and a ton of fairy lights to go round the walls (thought it would remind her of our garden). The day was set, she would go to school as normal on her bus, have a chance to say goodbye to the driver and escort. During the day we would go over and decorate her room. And then she would get the new transport home.......

Best laid plans ...........

On the 7th at 1am she woke up as usual, and the onslaught continued until 7am when it stopped as easily as it started. Oh, by now, Ella is in a wheelchair as she has a fear of falling. We had planned a special treat, and combined N's first birthday party with a party for Ella. We invited just those people that had been influential in Ella's lives - Mum, Dad and Sandra; Anna; Joy; Lynn, Don and Amy, and a few others that couldn't make it.Ella's behaviour was very up and down during the day, which was hardly surprising as she knew what was happening the next morning. But when everyone arrived she was in such a happy place and the party went well. At 8pm I put Ella to bed and she said she was going to be good, no sillies tonight...........

At 9pm she called Jeff, and we just knew by the tone in her voice. He went in and she clouted him round the face. As our routine we took her downstairs before she had time to kick off and disturb the offers. She was relentless. Throwing, kicking, maniacal laughing, attacking us again and again. Not loud though, spoke to the 2 older fosterlings in the morning, and they slept through everything!

At 11.45 she had now been awake 23 hours. I phoned the Out of Hours doctor. We had one sleeping tablet left so I wanted to know if I could give it to her. He said no, but if she continued to attack us to phone 999. At about 12.15 I did that. I explained it wasn't an emergency emergency but ......... After about 20 mins a policewoman and a mental health nurse turned up. As an aside, it's a new thing and how cool is that? Instead of 2 police and then having to phone for more support, it arrives straight away. So I went in the kitchen with the police woman, the MH Nurse talked to Ella and Jeff went upstairs as he was beyond stressed. The policewoman though insisted on seeing him to make sure he didn't have any injuries, other than a few scratches and bruises. Ella calmed with the nurse, but the minute he left the room to make a call she went for me. To the point that the policewoman had to sit on Ella and call for back up! Yes, as mentioned earlier, she is flaming strong. When they arrived she was put in handcuffs. My baby with complex needs was handcuffed for ours and her safety. One of the policeman had been out before with a fosterling and said she didn't seem like the same child. She then started saying she wanted to kill us. The police rightly said they didn't want to take her to the cells as it wasn't a normal case of assault and we completely agreed. The MH Nurse disappeared again to take another call. The police took her cuffs off and for someone who wasn't walking, she threw herself across the room at me. MH returned and was like, what the hell, who took her cuffs off? They tried to get her into the home, but they said they couldn't accept her in the middle of the night without the manager's approval. So they tried for an ambulance. Apparently sometimes they won't come out for mental health cases. But Ella had now been awake 26 hours so they were also worried about her physical health. She left here at 3am with one of the policemen for support, she didn't want Jeff or me with her. She finally fell asleep - on a mattress on the floor - in A & E at 6am - 29 hours without sleep! Then woke up at 8.30am.

We arrived at the hospital and could hear her kicking off. She was fine with some nurses, others not so much. We went into a relatives room, we all agreed not seeing her was best. A rep from the care home came, followed by the manager and assistant manager. The rep explained to the doctor that they couldn't force her to come with them and that if that happened then Ella would have to be kept under some Section or other. However when the manager went in and said hello Ella, she was fine and happily agreed to go with them.

We were then advised not to see her for a while as she needed time to adjust to her new surroundings. After the way she left, not seeing her was heartbreaking. Every moment I worried. I still didn't sleep. We would get daily updates from the school and home, which were good some days, appalling others. She broke furniture. Sat in her own poo for up to 5 hours. Cried. Wanted to come home. Heartbreaking. Jeff and I went to our Goddaughters First Holy Communion. We have never attended one of these events without Ella being present. I couldn't bring myself to stay, I was missing her so much. Even writing this makes me cry for my baby.

I have been through so much in my life, but this was absolutely one of the worst - probably second after nearly losing Joseph when he was 5 weeks old. But much as we miss her so, so much, it's not about us, it's about healing Ella so she can go back to being funny and cheeky and very, very occasionally out of order.
Friday, June 16, 2017

Annus Horribilis - Joshua

Joshua has been struggling this year, it's not a secret. That's probably a good thing, that he can share his emotions with family and friends right? How can you support someone if they are hiding it?

I have learned so much about mental health this past year, especially in relation to anxiety and depression. For me it's been about gaining knowledge, for Jeff it has been eye-opening. I think people fall into 2 categories, either you know someone who suffers, have been there yourself, or have a basic understanding of the human brain. Or you honestly don't get it, especially if you've been through crap but come out the other side without depression, the 'pull yourself together, stop making a fuss' brigade.

Jeff has changed his understanding of the brain and chemicals, and that depression and anxiety is a genuine thing, not someone moping. Back in January when Ben was off on a short break Jeff didn't hesitate to get on a plane to go keep him company as we were all worried about how he was going to cope on his own. Sends him positive messages. The transformation is amazing and must surely help Joshua knowing that his dad gets it. But really, it was a given, how could he not go, we would never have forgiven ourselves if something had happened.

Then his operation - second in 9 months on the same injury. Josh has always just wanted to be a footballer. Always. And he has the talent. Hence the reason he's in America on a soccer scholarship. But he's not sure if this operation has fixed him and then what does he do? No football, no scholarship, no chance in hell we can afford his last 2 years in a uni without a scholarship.

And personal stuff. Not going there as that is private. But obviously also impacts on his emotions.

To a lot of people they may look at that and think 'and?' but to someone with a mental health illness it is huge. He doesn't want it to be. He doesn't want to feel sad all the time. Hell, I don't want him to feel sad all the time, his bad days have reduced Jeff and me to tears. The thought that one day may be the one day too much for him worries me almost daily. But he's an adult, all we can do is be there for him, no matter what time day or night.
Monday, June 12, 2017

Annus Horribilis - Starting with Fostering

I swear each year I think next year will be easier. Being a positive person I think maybe next year. Maybe one year I'll stop thinking positively. But that's not this year.

Three areas of our life has been all encompassing this year - Fostering, Joshua and Ella.

 So the next few posts aren't fun and full of happy photographs. They're about how life sometimes sucks. So if you're not in the right place, come back in about a week :)

Fostering is rewarding.
Fostering is fulfulling.
Fostering is funny.
Fostering is frustrating.
Fostering is flaming hard work.

Fostering is rewarding when a kid who has lived off nugget and chips eats a whole bowl of home cooked stew and asks for more.

Fostering is fulfilling when a fosterling develops self-help skills, moves into independent living, and you know they will cope.

Fostering is funny. Like when you find that a teen fosterling is trying to grow a cannabis plant in his bedroom. Or they honestly think they can pull one over on you.

Fostering is frustrating when a childs parent speaks offensively about your delightful special needs daughter and you have to bite your tongue and remain professional.

Fostering is flaming hard work .........
..........when a fosterling makes an allegation against you. This year we have had to defend ourselves again and again against a teenager who seems bent on making life difficult for us. I'm rude (I'm really not!). We always have an excuse why we don't buy him things. We will buy him new uniform but he will save the old uniform and wear that so that school feels we're neglecting him. This culminated in SS doing an unannounced visit to do a clothing inventory. Personally 18 tees, 12 trousers, 6 pairs of shoes, 5 coats, etc. is plenty in my book.
.......... when a teen fosterling reports to a friends parents that we've gone to a wedding all day and locked him out of the house! Of course the parents then phone SS and report it (which, actually, is fair enough, I would to if I had heard that).When actually I'd sent him to the hairdressers while I went out for a couple of hours!
.......... when a fosterling accuses you of something so unacceptable that you seriously question whether fostering is right for you. To know that something has been said, and a week later you find out that the child has been interviewed by the police; the case has been referred to the Local Authority Designated Officer; and you've been the subject of a meeting. All of these things have been going on around you and you're oblivious. Then you get an unannounced visit and it all comes out. They discuss how we could protect ourselves in the future. But we already follow the best safe care, we communicate with SS re any concerns, and I tend to write a tome in the daily diaries. They had to admit we actually couldn't have done anything to protect ourselves further. We were lucky - truth was on our side, and it has been listed as a false statement. But there is always 'what if' ...............
Thursday, June 08, 2017

The June Bride

I love musicals - Blood Brothers, (Oh my gosh, seen it 4 times, cried every time!), Joseph, Les Mis, JCS, Rocky Horror Picture Show, Little Shop of Horrors (although I don't like the theatre ending!) - well you get the picture. But my favourite by a country mile has always been Seven Brides for Seven Brothers :) And as my eldest stepson and his wife got married this month, how could I not at least give a little nod to The June Bride song - linky link to the song if you're feeling a little nostalgic.

So, yeah, Ricki and Kim got married. I didn't go. Long story short it was easier, and less stressful, for everyone if I didn't go. Did I want to? Of course I did, we've been together 27 years and I've know Ricki all that time. But sometimes (in fact the boys say I do it too often!) you need to think about others not yourself. I did though pop in for half an hour so that I could pick Ella up - the whole day would have been to long for her so Jeff just took her to the actual service. And actually, she wasn't invited so couldn't have stayed anyway - and she probably would have enjoyed the food and dancing more than the service LOL!

So here's a few photos of what Jeff says was a perfect wedding :) Shame Josh and Ben couldn't make it, but they were 5,500 miles away preparing for end of year finals.