Let all children dream.

If you follow my instagram account you may have watched my stories last night where I try and explain my sadness at a comment that was made a few weeks ago on one of my photos. I tried to explain why this comment had upset me  ( not sure thats the right sentiment) but feel like I want to explore my feelings a little further, so here we go. 

I had as I said posted a photo of Daniel dressed up in a vet costume a friend had brought for him, the photo as you can see here is of a little boy just loving role play and having fun. The comment posted asked me ‘paraphrased’ “Am I setting Daniel up and giving him unrealistic aspirations as he is never going to be a vet”? 

Well, how, where do I start to reply to this? I think the answer to this question has many layers, my first could simply be “Oh please do one, its mine and my sons life”. But lets be honest thats not me, it also shuts down any conversation that I feel needs to happen regarding this question. 

Secondly my response could be and the one I did actually answer with “ would you make this comment if Daniel was neurotypical, would you feel drawn to tell any other 6 year old that they cannot be what they wish when they are older? “ Maybe I am wrong and the person is a joy robber ( side note here, this is my pet name for my husband, marriage counselling maybe?)  Maybe the question asker would ask this of all children, but if I am honest I don’t think so. I believe the question was asked due to Daniel’s disabilities and what people see as his limitations. 

I will never limit Daniel by a list of his disabilities, our family motto is ‘never say never’ and so far Daniel has exceeded expectations across the board. If one day he does get his bum through veterinary school, then and only then will I let him treat my pets ha ha but until then I will encourage and support in all he wishes to do. I refuse to limit my child and I believe that every child has the right to dream. If they didn’t we wouldn’t see scientists make discoveries, artists paint masterpieces and paralympians win Gold.

These were all children who were allowed to dream.  

When I read the comment on my post, I viewed as you do the grid of the account holder and there on one of the photo’s a child was in a spider-man costume, maybe I am being a little bit of a cow but am I the only one seeing the hypocrisy in that?  I mean who am I to limit a child’s dream, but will that child really be Spider-man one day? 

So for those of you who were worried that this comment had offended me please don’t be, it didn’t one of the few things you will never knock me down for is my belief in my children. Each and every one of them I have told to aim high and to not settle. I don’t mean achieve the best pay checks ( not a bad thing though)  or have a house full of fancy things but to find their passion and to live it. I will always be the biggest advocate and the loudest cheerleader for my children, too loud my girls might say. 

The reason I shared the comment as I usually try not to feed the trolls was because I wanted to open a conversation on the perspectives of people and what they see when they see children with disabilities. I want people to think before they ask a question. Would this question be one I would voice if it was regarding a neurotypical child? Is it really a question with relevance ( I mean I wasn’t challenging her child’s desire to be spider-man)? 

Yet most of all why oh why do you feel the need to stop a child dreaming, imagination is a gift that should be nurtured and encouraged. We should encourage the dreams our children dare to dream. Celebrate when they push the boundaries from what has been, into the domain of what could be. I don’t want to live in a world where all children aspire to be the same, I want individuals, adventurers, artists, musicians. I know I want my girls and Daniel to go for they hearts desire, they may not get it but at least they have tried. 

The crazy thing about all this is that Daniel has no desire (right now) to really be a vet, he is isn’t searching university courses, or reading his biology books. He is just a gorgeous young man who finds it hilarious when Vets takes testicles off and has a strange desire to put his hands up a cows bum. 

So to all the 6 year old astronauts, pirates, super heroes and dragon tamers keep dreaming, let your imagination run free. Create new worlds of adventure and excitement. You are the future generation and I am excited to see the amazing lives you will lead. As for Daniel right now he is dreaming that his arm will grow a little longer as he just couldn’t reach that pesky calf, next time, next time. 

They say never meet your heroes.

It is said that you should never meet your heroes, but Daniel and I have to completely disagree.

Over this lockdown period we have struggled to engage Daniel and keep him occupied. He has never really been interested in television and especially not bothered with programmes aimed at his age group. So imagine our surprise when a chance watching of The Yorkshire Vet led to a new love for him. Daniel loves to listen to the animals and although I have yet to hear a consistent spoken “mom” my cheeky boy now is mooing along with the cows.

Daniel’s joy when the credits start rolling and when he recognises the music is so evident in his face, he sits and listens to the adventures that the vets go on and actually gets cross if anyone talks over the programme. He just loves it, I wonder if its the sounds of the animals or the fact that the programme is narrated and that the vets talk us through when they are doing. To be honest I believe its just a perfect combination for him.

So the Yorkshire Vet has been a blessing to us over this isolation period, we have watched, learned about animals and generally loved watching Daniel get so excited over something. It was this joy that made us decide that after lockdown we would take Daniel on an holiday to visit the places that are in the show, to walk the streets of his favourite vets, a Yorkshire Vet adventure.

Still even in my wildest dreams I could not have imagined how much of an adventure Daniel was to have.

Thanks to the wonderful world of social media the wife of Daniel’s favourite Yorkshire Vet Peter (sorry Julian) reached out, she had seen one of my videos of Daniel chatting to (his) Peter and wondered if we would like to meet him when we came to Yorkshire, would we ever, how exciting.

So last week we headed to Yorkshire in what to be honest we would believed would be a quick meet and greet with Daniels favourite.

Oh my goodness I’m not sure I can find the words to do our visit justice. Peter and Lin came and visited with us at the cottage we were staying in. They were lovely, from the programme Peter comes across as a caring kind gentleman and thats exactly who you meet. No airs or graces just compassion, genuie interest and just so lovely. Peter and Lin won our hearts in seconds, so often people do not know how to treat Daniel, we often face people who just dont acknowledge him or speak to him as if he is stupid. None of this happened, Daniel was reserved at first but after listening to Peter’s voice for five minutes he was completely engaged. Peter and Daniel were just chatting on the floor about Daniel’s desire to put his hand up a cows bum and Peter’s love of testicles (if you watch the programme you will understand this). Daniel adored both Peter and was a little smitten with his beautiful wife Lin. Their visit went beyond anything Alan and I could have imagined. It was so special that when they left we both actually cried with joy, the memories made for Daniel were priceless, yet they wasn’t to end there.

The very next day we met both Peter and Lin at the James Herriot museum, the place where Peter’s career as a vet began and the home and work place of the man whose books Daniel loves James Alfred Wight better known as James Herriot. Daniel was excited to visit the centre, to be honest not because of the history but because I had told them of the interactive cow that he could put his arm up and help birth a cow, the dreams of my child. We wandered around the museum listening to the stories of Lin and Peter of their times there, although the house has been restored to the days of Herriot it was lovely to hear the stories of Peter and Lin and the memories they had of the place. Daniel was super excited (in his own way) to reach the interactive cow and with a little help his arm was up that bum. Unfortuanly we soon realised that vets need longer arms and poor Daniel wasn’t able to reach the calf, but isnt that a perfect reason to visit again. We milked a cow, answered questions with Lin on the characters of the Yorkshire vet and literally just soaked in so many memories. Daniel had some photos with Peter and even sat on his lap, I say ‘even’ as over lockdown Daniels separation anxiety has become awful and he will barely leave my arms but it seems sitting with Peter was ok.

Just writing these memories down fills me with so much joy that the tears are flowing into my keyboard. I have no words to explain how much this meant to us all, Daniel was so happy to hear his Peter and for Alan and I we have magical memories to cherish.

Peter and Lin Wright are such a beautiful couple and we are left just feeling so honoured and blessed to have met them. As we sat there this Tuesday watching the Yorkshire Vet it just feels so special and different to have walked in the places we see, to have met the people we watch. Peter and Lin if you read this I cannot thank you enough for making my boys dream a reality and as for those who say never meet your heroes we completely disagree our hero was incredible.

We need to remember what Livvy taught us.

I worry we are forgetting, not about Olivia herself but all that she taught us.

I can still see her in my mind clear as yesterday. Her blond hair that twirled between my fingers. Her cute mouth and the way it did it’s little Elvis curl.

I can hear her giggle at the silly things or the most incorrect moments.

Her teasing way towards her sisters, her daddy.

I can see it all and I’m so thankful for this but what she taught us is slipping through my fingers, through her Daddies fingers.

To make the moments matter.

This was what Livvy taught us, on the day of her diagnosis we realised that we didn’t have forever so we needed to focus, needed to revalue and we needed to make the moments matter.

We were never going to be wealthy enough for amazing trips but Livvy didn’t care less where she was as long as there was laughter in the air.

Give her a sea shore and splashing waves and she was content.

Give her a battered roe and couple of your chips and she was happy.

Give her your arms to snuggle in and she was in her moment.

Life has become a little forgetful as of late. The normal is invading into our moments a little more than I like. Laughter feels rationed and magical moments are becoming less.

I know we cannot live in a permanent state of magic but we do need a reminder of what Livvy taught us.

Daniel needs us to remember.

Yes money is tight and that always adds the extra weight upon anyone’s shoulders but money does not equate happiness and it doesn’t bring guarantees.

I want to remember the moments we shared.

I want to create new moments for Daniel.

Tropical hurricanes aside I want magical moments again. I want to laugh until I cannot breathe, dance in the rain, drink tea with friends whilst the night sky entertains us with star dances.

I want to throw Daniel into moments the Drs never imagined for him, defy odds and breathe life in deeply.

I want to remember what Livvy taught us and make her proud by being her best student.

I don’t want to forget, we all need not to forget.

Life is for living,

Living like Livvy.

Changing seasons

I’m not sure how I feel about change. I often find myself facing it begrudgingly. It’s as if I’m scared of rocking the boat, effecting the status quo. I’m so scared at times that I delay what needs to be done rather than put things outside of my control. Yet I’m usually the one telling others to reach for the adventure, push the boundaries, embrace the excitement.

Blooming hypocritical me.

November has been a month of major changes for me. My foster son has moved on after nearly eight years with us. I’m so excited for him and the move is so positive for all of us but it’s a change and I’m so lousy at change. It’s ironic saying this because as a foster carer your life can and does change over night. New placements join your family, some move on and it’s an every changing profession. I know this but it’s never easy. Even when the move is positive and families are reunited or forever families are found there is a semblance of loss that tears at your heart.

Yes you can see how you have impacted a child’s life. How you have been security in an insecure time. Your heart can be full and empty simultaneously. I worry if others will love upon them like I do, keep up to date with appointments, remember their favourite foods or the way they like to dress. It’s not that I believe others cannot love like me it’s just it’s hard to trust and hand over these special hearts.

Yet for us all there are seasons in life and as Autumn gives way to Winter I need to embrace the future and our new season. Excitement for the coming holiday and preparation for the next stage of our journey.

I know what is loved is never lost.

Who knows what the future holds for us as a family?

Who new may join our merry tribe?

What I do know is that whilst change is scary for me it is also exciting. A little flame is building in my heart for our next adventure, wherever, whoever that may be.

Not a thing

I know people mean well but sometimes I want to scream “shut the heck up. “

Only the other day I was having a conversation with someone who I have known for a while. I won’t say we are friends but we chat when we bump into each other. In fact sitting here now I cannot actually remember how we met but anyway hey ho I digress. Me digress what a shocker.

Anyhow we were chatting as you do when she turned to me and said “ I don’t know how you do it, I don’t know why you do it” then the clanger “you have to give up so much”.

Now before I seem like a complete bitch I know she meant no harm but the “it” she was talking about was fostering, adoption and ultimately Daniel.

Yet you see adoption isn’t a thing.

It’s a heart, a heart that you are promising to love, care and protect for a lifetime. It’s a web of emotions, a tangle of heartbreaks and brokenness that you have committed to hold in your arms and whisper I love you’s to.

It’s a gift, a blessing and hard work all rolled into one but it’s never about giving up it’s about getting so much more.

I know the questions was aimed at the special needs aspect of our adoption but Daniel isn’t his special needs, he is everything all squashed together into one adorable package.

I’m not going to pretend it isn’t hard at times it is but that’s ok, life was never promised to be a bed of roses.

When I met Daniel I didn’t see a list of conditions, it wasn’t the pages of hospital notes that won my heart, it was the way his tiny hand gripped my finger. Not opening his eyes or turning towards me just holding my finger tight.

My heart just opened and he jumped right inside, right then, right there.

He had my heart.

I knew it wasn’t going to be easy but I truly believe that the best things in life aren’t.

I know my friend didn’t mean harm and I wasn’t offended but this is something we have come across so many times. People telling Alan and I how amazing we are caring for such complex children. How lucky the children are.

Children in foster care aren’t lucky that they have a new home. Their hearts are broken and their souls sore. What they knew is gone and even if it wasn’t the best of experiences as they often aren’t It was what they knew, their normal.

Children who get adopted aren’t lucky, the parents who now get to call them their child are the lucky ones.

My girls, Alan and I, we know we are fortunate , we are wonderfully lucky that we get to love upon children that need it. We get to open our hearts and our home to children who need us. We get to love, care and cherish.

How incredible is this?

As for Daniel I haven’t given up anything to be his mama, I have been incredibly blessed that I get to call this wonderful little boy my son.

My heart, my boy.

To scared to voice my dream

Have you ever wanted something so desperately that you actually cannot voice your desire?

That the fear of hearing the words outloud is so scary that your stomach does flip flops.

That when people tell you to release your hopes into the universe it feels like a gigantic scam to make your world tumble down.

This is exactly how I have felt about the adoption of my new son. That if I actually shared the ins and outs of the situation it would actually explode in my face, my heart.

It hasn’t been helped by social workers who should have the words “hopefully” and the statement “it should” ripped out of their practice handbook. The hedging of their bets or professional distance is nothing but frightening for an adoptive parent. 

We need to hear “of course” or “it will“.

I honestly feel as if I have been walking on eggshells this last year. From the moment we decided we wanted to adopt our then foster son my heart feels as if it has been ripped out of my chest, trampled on then replaced. It’s been hard and the reason I haven’t really shared this journey here is simply because I couldn’t voice my fear. 

I couldn’t allow the inner demon inside my head any space here on this platform. It was doing enough damage inside my head.

“You aren’t good enough”

“Adoptive parent, you, ha really”

“It’s going to fail”.

The adoption process isn’t easy, I guess it shouldn’t be. The assessors actually have the lives of children in their hands. They have to probe, explore, question. 

“How did you feel when this happened?”

“How would you cope with this?”

And the big one

“Why adoption”?

Your answers of course have to be the truth but I have woke night after night with fear that my truth wasn’t enough.

Thankfully, my truth was enough and last week we found out that the judge has signed our adoption order and in a few weeks our boy will be our son.

I cannot tell you how excited I am, how much it matters to call him mine. I am simply on cloud nine. My heart feels full and I’m sure I haven’t stopped smiling since I heard the decision. 

I may not be able to write down our complete adoption story yet. It’s still a little too raw and it’s not actually at the end point yet. I still now wait impatiently for the date of our celebration hearing and my heart will still probably jump at the delivery of the morning post for a while yet.

But I will state this here, our adoption journey has been hard, we have cried many tears, had many sleepless nights and had way too many stress headaches. 

Yet I promise you this, every stinking moment of this chaos and fear has been worth it, my son, he is so completely worth it. 

Inspire or destroy?

Last week I was lucky enough to get to listen to the inspirational Nick Barwick. Nick is a motivational speaker who came to a fostering meeting to share his experiences as a care leaver. His story is incredible, he has faced adversity, pain and suffering throughout his life but still found the strength and courage to achieve his dreams, he defied the odds and he overcame.

Nick is passionate about sharing his story, he wants the success stories of life to be shared. We need our children to have hope, that if they are struggling and finding life a struggle they can remember that where they are right now is not where they need to end. This is doubly important for all children within the looked after system, they especially need the reminder that there is Hope in this world.

I took an awful lot away with me after listening to Nick speak, but what has been twirling around in my head since I left the meeting was the impact of ‘words.’

Let me explain a little, as Nick was sharing his story he spoke about being told by some professional in his life that he would not achieve, academically, financially and emotionally, and how these words for a long time became a self fulfilling prophecy for him.

How the words spoken to him became the words he spoke to himself.

Words have power!

They can inspire but also they can destroy.

words

Hearing Nick’s story just hit home how important our words are,

How as Mother’s, as fathers, as teachers, carers, our words have an impact on hearts.

How as a friend, a wife, a sister I need to use my words wisely.

How often have we let words spoken to us bury deep in our hearts?

How what may have been a passing comment has be able to consume our minds.

Someone else’s opinion become our truth.

I know I can look back in my life and raise my hand numerous times for when words spoken in hate became my reality.

“You won’t pass it.”

“I wouldn’t even bother’

“You are not good enough”

“Who would love you?”

How I let these lines of letters sink deep into my heart like an anchor dropped into the ocean, dropping slowing until they find a place to settle and hold, hold on tight.

How I  have allowed hurtful words to crawl under my skin until I believed them completely, burying under my skin into my blood to pump through my veins, straight to my heart.

Burrowing deep until I owed them as my truth.

Thankfully like Nick I had someone in my life who challenged me to question these words. To remind me that my future was mine to create.

That it was up to me to write my own story. 

story-of-your-life

I’m still a work in progress, my story has many chapters left to write.

I’m still learning to throw away the words that hurt, to erase the words that are wrong and untrue.

To protect myself from words that do not inspire or encourage.

I’m creating my own vocabulary and as I do this I hope to create another for my children.

I want their story to be one of adventure, excitement and hope but what I want most of all is that the biggest chapter that they write will always be one filled with love.

I pray that story is one of knowing, knowing how loved they are. 

Countdown to 40

40

 

I realised last night that in under a month I turn 40. This is a major milestone in my life but one I am so excited for.

Growing up I remember thinking 40 was really old, I mean it seemed that my mom was 32 forever so I was sure I would stay this way. Yet time has moved on and I have been slowly creeping towards this age.

I remember when I turned 30 I was really freaked by it all, I didn’t feel ready to be 30 years old I was uncomfortable and not happy in my own skin. Life wasn’t easy and I had just started to show signs of the illness that changed my life. I look back to those days when I was chasing after 4 children under 10 and teaching dance. I remember just not feeling complete as if I wasn’t living life to the full.

Fast forward the last ten years and my goodness a crazy amount has happened. I have walked through some of the darkest moments of my life. My heart has been broken, tore up into millions of pieces and then trodden on. I never imagined at 30 that I would have to bury a child let alone two. I would have never been able to comprehend surviving the loss of my daughter and my foster son. Never in a million years. Yet somehow I have survived, my heart may never be complete but it is learning to love on, learning to beat strongly again and I am learning to live life to the full again.

I know deep down that 40 isn’t really a special age. I mean I preach often about celebrating every day we have here, but still I am rather excited for the day.

This may sound big headed but I like who I see in the mirror now. I may not be a dance teacher or able to fit my bum into a size 12 but I truly love my body and I’m so grateful to it. It has given me four amazing girls, completely different, independent ,inspirational girls. It allows me to foster two truly awesome boys, each a blessing in their own special way. My body may be a little battle worn but it’s not been beaten and I am so thankful for this.

I look back to the person I was 10 years ago and I know I have been on a journey. I use the term “self discovery” loosely  as is the only way to get close to describing  the transformation I feel I have faced.

I love who I am (yes I may have said that before) but I seriously do. I love my emotional side, no more will I apologise for my random tears or unexpected hugs. I’m empathic and I care and this is something I am proud of now. No more calling myself soppy and pathetic, I actually rock.

I love my courage, I am more willing to put myself out into the danger zone, being vulnerable, feeling scared but still moving forward.

I love my brain, it’s ok that I am a little geeky at times, that sometimes the idea of a good book wins against a movie or a night out. That I appreciate my own company and yes at times I get lost in my own mind.

I love myself and I love my life.

As I head towards this birthday milestone I do so with so much gratitude.

Over the last years I have had people walk into my life that have blessed me in so many ways. Friends that love me for me, deep true friendships that can pick up after a time apart just where we left off. Friends I can laugh with, friends I have cried on. I am so grateful for each and every one of them.

I am so thankful for my family, my daughters and my sons each so unique and so beautiful. Getting to watch them grow and learn and experience life is such a wonder, such a gift. My Dad, my Step Mom, my inlaws, my aunts, uncles, cousins, relantionships that I truly value and people I truly love.

My husband, I am completely in love with this crazy man, after nearly 20 years of marriage I still get that flutter in my heart when he walks into a room. He makes me laugh, he drives me insane, but he truly is my soul mate.

I am so thankful that I miss my Livvy, because missing someone is the recognition of an amazing love, a truly unbroken bond. My girl and I will be together again one day, but until then I am going to try and live as she did, fully and with all my heart.

So the count down to 40 begins and I’m so excited. I’m so ready to celebrate the 40 years I have been here with all my family and friends. An evening full of laughter, music and hopefully a gorgeous outfit.

Yet 40 is only the really the beginning, the start of a new stage in life, one I hope will be full of love and laughter and the people that really make my life truly amazing, my family and friends, because with them and because of them I actually love myself more at 40 then I ever did.

 

40 looking good

Guess what I’m giving up this month.

After the yumminess of Pancake day people are chatting about what they are giving up for Lent. 

Some are giving up alcohol some chocolate and some even social media 😳. 

I was thinking about what to give up but just couldn’t pin something down. Giving up sleep seems to be happening but I’m not ready to give that up completely.

So after thinking about this I’ve decided that what I’m giving up for lent is “expectation. ”

I am going to stop having crazy expectations on myself.

Caring for children with severe special needs is exhausting and the adjustment from one to two has been a big shock. I have found myself falling behind with things like the ironing, the cleaning and university work. 

It’s been hard, especially when running on about two hours sleep.

But that’s ok isn’t it, no one expects a new mom to have a perfect house or manicured nails. 

Well no one but me that’s for sure.

You see I set myself stupidly high expectations and berate myself when I cannot reach them. Whilst I am the most understanding supportive friend to others to myself I am the judgemental bitch that needs shutting up.

So for lent this year I am giving up self expectations. 

I am going to stop expecting to keep my house spotless at all times. I am going to enjoy having a new ironing woman who already has become my saviour and throw away the guilt of not pressing the clothes myself. I’m not going to care that cakes are shop bought and not home made.

I’m not going to expect myself to remember everything. I will try hard to remember birthdays, anniversaries but I won’t beat myself up it I forget one now and again.

I will not expect to be writing full time or dedicating hours and hours to this blog or my social media sites. 

I just can’t do it all and that’s ok. 

So here’s a goodbye to expectations for the next 40 days and hopefully a lot longer. 

Here’s to enjoying my new little one without the evil nagging voice in my head telling me I’m failing. 

Here’s to knowing that life isn’t about housework or deadlines.

 It’s about smiles and cuddles.  

Hold on

different then

 

Every day brings changes and sometimes I want to run and hide from them.

I want to return to the time when life made sense and my heart wasn’t broken.

Yet I know I cannot, I am not now who I was then.

In fact I barely recognise the old me at times. It’s not the hair colour or the extra pounds it’s the scars on my heart that make me different.

Life changes you everyday and sometimes the changes are good and sometimes they aren’t but for everyone change is an opportunity to grow.

Becoming a mom was one of the greatest things I will ever achieve but I never expected how having children would change the way I view life.

Having a disabled child was something I would have never foreseen, but getting to be Livvy’s mom created something inside me I am so very proud of.

I guess what I’m trying to say is this…..

Sometimes life will throw you in a direction you didn’t have planned, send you down a pathway you didn’t want to go. It may be hard, it maybe heartbreaking but don’t give up.

Know deep in your heart that every journey comes with  its own unique scenery. Places too see  so breathtaking you would have missed if you had taken the journey you had planned.  Places that will bless you heart, soothe your soul.

You may meet people you would have never have met if circumstances hadn’t of changed.

Worlds apart colliding to produce incredible friendships.

I  know I have met some of the greatest people since I became a parent to a disabled child.  Parents with passion and determination. Parents  with compassion and loyalty. So many have really blessed my life and I am so proud I get to call some of this crazy bunch my friends.

I never imagined as a child I would be a Foster carer but here now I know how incredible my job is. How amazing it is that I get to love on children in need.

Yet  even beyond fostering I would have never foreseen in a million years I would be a university student, working towards a degree that will allow me to help children who have faced neglect and trauma.

AND….

Even here in this little piece of the virtual world,  I never would have considered that this place where I share my heart, my thoughts would bring me so many experiences and create so many connections.

 

No matter how life seems right now, trust in yourselves.

Trust that tomorrow is a new day.

Keep fighting and hold on tight.

We cannot go back to yesterday

and today may be hard

but tomorrow may just be amazing.