Exploring emotions through Duplo.

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We love Duplo!

It has so many amazing uses. Usually I am the builder and the boys are the architect and demolition team, my architect is very fussy. Usually I am given strict instructions of how he wants his house to be and I love all the little features he wants to add i.e. you have to be able to drive a toy train through the house, this is not easy to achieve with the limited materials I have, I have been known to stay up after they have gone to bed building things and searching eBay for larger (2 x 10) bricks – I lead a sad life!

What we have seen over the last few months is a real desire to build things that are important to him like our house, we have explored adding rooms for other family members and other siblings who are not placed with us (tricky moments). The main thing the boys love is that they can destroy it safely. Safely doesn’t just mean the bricks don’t break (Duplo is indestructible, some of our bits are over 30 years old) but it means that it is ok to pull it apart and start again. To Tom that is a big step. Something he has struggled with is that he has not had much control over his life and he likes control, he likes that fact that it is ok to get things wrong with Duplo, it is ok if his baby brothers pulls it apart to eat bricks, it’s ok if he gets angry and wants to remove rooms for his siblings or grandparents, IT IS OK. The relief you see on his face when he has successfully built something and then successfully pulled it apart is huge.

As time progresses he is now starting to do more building and is feeling more confident in his skills, he built the zoo (above) himself a few weeks ago and the pride was beautiful, he also loved body slamming it as he pulled it apart (it was messy).

The main thing Duplo has taught my boys is IT IS OK … to make a mess, to be proud of what you’ve done, to change your mind etc. For those reasons I will always be in debt to Duplo for helping my boys explore their emotions, James is too young to engage fully but I can see he is starting to enjoy the building and changing process.

P.s. I don’t work for Duplo but that would be a really cool job. I can’t wait for them both to be big enough not to eat Lego!

The story of mummy and daddy.


When I was a little girl my mum used to tell us ‘dream starters’ to help us go off to sleep. These involved us coming up with names / people / locations and she would start the story off, we would then continue it in our heads as we were going off to sleep.

Recently I found myself putting Tom to bed and I had forgotten to bring a book up so I offered him a ‘dream starter’, he wanted a story about mummy and daddy, a real one. Now this was a bit of a shock, I was expecting it to be about him and dinosaurs!

So I told him a ‘real’ dream starter about how we met and came to find him. This is an edited version of the story and some of his, and my, responses in brackets as I feel they add to it. (As a note I used mummy and daddy all the way through as it was easier for him to understand at this time).

“Once upon a time there was a beautiful mummy and a slightly weird daddy (lots of giggling).

Beautiful mummy and weird daddy saw each other across a room and decided they liked each other and wanted to get married. (He was fine with the concept of love & marriage at first sight – we didn’t get married for over 2 years!).

Mummy and daddy loved each other very much, they had a big house but it was very quiet and there were no toys (gasps of shock and disbelief at this house be quiet and there not being any toys).

Mummy and daddy decided they wanted some little boys as they had lots of extra love and extra space in their house (“space for toys mummy?” “Yes and 2 spare rooms” “that’s good”).

Mummy couldn’t be a tummy mummy so they decided to see their friend the social worker Doris (“I know Doris, I know her, I know her” he was excited!).

Doris went looking for 2 really special boys with her friend Mandy (boys SW) and met Jane the foster carer (“that’s my Jane”, getting more excited).

Jane was looking after 2 gorgeous little boys called Tom and James (“it’s me, I’m in the story, it’s me, it’s me”, slightly over excited now & I was starting to think he was going to be too excited to sleep).

Mummy and daddy met with Doris, Mandy and Jane to talk about the boys, mummy and daddy liked the sound of the boys and thought they were the most gorgeous boys in the world (he just nodded his head as if to say “well obviously I’m gorgeous you tell me every day”).

Mummy and daddy decided they wanted Tom and James (“good idea mummy”).

Mummy and daddy then met Tom and James, they liked them and they all decided to live together in their big house with lots of toys, so Tom and James became part of “Team X” (we used our surname and sang the “everything is awesome” song from the Lego movie with added “when you’re part of Team X”).

Then ……… (“What’s happens next mummy” “we’re here now, what happens next is up to you” – long thoughtful look- “you can dream about all the exciting adventures the 4 of us will have together” “I liked that story mummy”).”

Since then he has asked to hear the story several times, he likes the idea that we had a story before the boys came, it has also helped him understand he has a story. He has tried to tell us “the story of Tom”. Obviously “the story of Tom” would be easier if we had his life story book but we are still having that battle with the LA! Tom also enjoyed being able to finish off the rest of the story, knowing he has a say in what happens next in our lives.

I keep thinking it would be nice to do our own life story book of how we came to have the boys, hopefully it will help the boys understand we all come from somewhere different but are together now.

While I write this Tom is smiling and looking gorgeous and happy watching Shrek and James is fast asleep, it reminds me of how much our lives have changed and how exciting our story is. On the other hand they were both screaming nightmares an hour ago and I was thinking how quiet and tidy my house used to be – but I wouldn’t change it for all the headaches in the world.

I don’t love the trampoline too much mummy.

  

Tom (3) loves toast, his trampoline, Toy Story and Frozen, probably in that order.

Sometimes he says he loves mummy, daddy and James but a screaming meltdown usually follows as these emotions have been too much for him.

When I casually asked him if we was having fun on his trampoline yesterday he paused and said “I don’t love the trampoline too much mummy, not like I love you”. He then carried on bouncing with a smile on his face. I stood there trying to smile and trying not to cry, this was a big deal, he seemed to get loving us and loving things were different, he had clearly been giving it some thought.

That afternoon there was no screaming meltdown, there was my happy little boy who seemed more at peace, that little phrase which most people wouldn’t have considered anything was a big change for us. That evening when I put him to bed he hugged me and told me he didn’t want to go anywhere else. Another massive step – most days this week he’s told us he wants to go back to the foster carers.

I love that every day we are seeing him grow into a boy who wants to be part of a family and wants stability, he’s very different from the scared little boy who we brought home 6 months ago.

Introducing church 

So this is my second attempt at writing a real blog post (the first 2 don’t really count!).

I thought I would share our experience of introducing our boys to church, obviously everyone does this slightly differently but this is what we found useful.

Neither of our boys had an experience of church before coming to us and Tom was only 2 last Christmas so it didn’t really register properly for him.

We got our boys towards the end of last year which in some ways made introducing the whole concept of church a lot easier as Christmas was soon after.

Even though Tom is 3 we have tended to buy him very simple “baby” books about Jesus. The basic board book we got him of the Christmas story (5 pages I think) became his favourite, we had to read it every night and regularly since, he loved the idea of a baby being born and there being lots of people and stars around (stars seem to be very exciting in our house for some unknown reason).

When telling Tom about us we talked about our weekly routine and how on a Sunday we went to church, he was interested and excited at the concept of a crèche where he could play with more toys!

We decided to wait about 5/6 weeks after he moved in to take him to church, we took him along before a service while people were setting up, this was an invaluable experience, he had a chance to explore everywhere without any other children and establish his boundaries – he had a great time running round the whole building 8 times (I was exhausted!).

We then explained how the story of baby Jesus was related to church, that baby Jesus grew up and on a Sunday we say thank you to Jesus and we can ask him for things (we had to go simple). We took the boys to the a church service after between Christmas and New Year, probably the quietest service all year, Tom just stood there amazed, every time anyone mentioned Jesus he got excited and said “I know baby Jesus”, he loved the idea that people were talking about his favourite book even if the singing was “a bit weird”.

I should mention James was not yet 1 at this point so just sat on my lap fluttering his eyelashes charming everyone who he could see.

Over the following weeks I went into crèche with them, we decided that I would do every week and my husband would stay in the service, this was to help build a routine and familiarity with the boys (also with daddy working he is in high demand at a weekend). I stayed for in with them for about 6 weeks, then over the next few weeks stayed for a few minutes then left them. They settled amazingly and love going every week.

We spoke to those working in the crèche about triggers for the boys, about giving Tom space when needed and that should they become distressed or upset for any reason they can get us, we wanted to make sure our boys still understood we were there and were their main source of comfort. We have not told people the reasons our boys were adopted, we want that to be their story when they grow up, we tell people what they need to know to ensure our boys are cared for appropriately.

In summary we have had a really positive experience introducing our boys to church, people have been happy to give them space and we keep them close when required.

Tom has loved reading more stories about Jesus and with every Bible story (Old or New Testament) he asks where Jesus is – a great start to understanding theology we think! However when he realised baby Jesus grew up and then died in the Easter story he did get upset.

Happy Easter x

Why don’t dinosaurs have belly buttons?

  

As most adoptive parents will know the simplest of questions can lead to difficult conversations!

Over the Easter holiday we visited a local dinosaur attraction, which lead to the discovery that dinosaurs come from eggs – this was a big deal for a 3 year old!

After careful examination of his new dinosaur we “had” to buy from the gift shop Tom was confused there was no belly button, this lead to the “dinosaurs come from eggs” discussion, which then lead on to discussion about his belly button.

In all the prep we did before the boys came it had never occurred to us we would need to think about something as simple as a belly button!

We gave a very brief explanation of where babies come from and how he has a “tummy mummy” (birth mum) and a “forever mummy” (me). Now to a 3 year old this is confusing, we’ve had similar conversations before but this really struck a cord with him about where he came from and where he was going (he has no concept of permanence). You can’t really dress it up nicely that you have two mummys and you can’t see one of them.

All we can do is reassure him every day that we are his “forever family” and we love him even though he came from a different “egg”. Obviously this is where the Life Story books are great but we still don’t have ours (that’s a different post).

As a side for those of you, like us, who have to screen every film and book you read with your children you may wish to take a look at Dinosaur Train (it’s on Netflix), it’s about a T-Rex whose egg gets left in a Pteranodon nest and the Pteranodons adopt him. When he discovers he’s a T-Rex he chooses to stay with his adoptive family (sorry for the spoiler!). There are very few children’s programmes which take such a positive view of adoption and the importance of a stable family support network.