January Blues (and Reds)

Well Christmas was lovely, and now we are back to school, back to work, back to dealing with Chateau d’Omnishambles and all her leaks and mould and general disaster areas.

January has been an odd month – swinging wildly from huge uplifting moments of happiness to irritable grumpy rage.

Yes, thanks for asking I WILL tell you all about it!

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Communicating with birth families

I thought I would write a blog post on this as it’s quite a big subject and we have had some interesting experiences recently.

So, in the UK, in most adoption cases, direct (in-person) contact with birth parents is usually not allowed once adoption is approved by a judge as a course of action. (Unlike in the US where they have open adoptions – this is usually down to the fact that in the US a lot of women give up their children for adoption at birth voluntarily whereas in the UK most children have been removed from their parents by the state due to neglect or abuse – so the safety and trauma of maintaining contact has to be managed in the best interests of the child).

When a child is first removed from a parent’s care, they continue to have visitation and direct contact visits, supervised via social services in a neutral location until a placement order is made (meaning that child will be put up for adoption). Once this decision has been made by a judge to be in the best interest of the child, a final contact visit with birth parents will be arranged, and the parent (and child if they are old enough) will be told this is the last time they can see each other in person.

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The Christmas Letter 2022

Well I highly enjoyed writing last year’s missive so I thought I would go ahead and do another one!

Let’s see, looking back on 2022, well…

In January we started the year with a glorious sunny walk in the woods, just me and my gorgeous girls on New Year’s Day which was a lovely way to blow away the cobwebs and start fresh and new.

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The Single Tax

Tonight I paid single tax.

That extra money for things that couples just don’t need to pay for.

S’s football training has been moved later in the evening and it’s a total logistical nightmare. Previously it was 6pm to 7pm on a Monday night, and that was hard enough, as I’d have to entertain a very tired 4-year old on the sidelines in the cold, dark, and often very wet side of the pitch. A usually goes to bed at 7pm and she has been especially knackered since starting school so on Mondays we don’t get home from football til 7.30 and then it’s almost 8pm by the time I can get her teeth brushed and into bed. It also doesn’t help that S’s football team is close to her old primary school which is not even remotely local and all the way across town.

Now the practice is from 6.30 – 7.30pm so that they can share the floodlights with another team, and it’s a massive pain in the arse.

I just can’t expect A to stay up that late, standing about in the cold dark drizzle. And I don’t want S to have to give up football either – she’s a very athletic kid who loves sports and has a lot of good friends on her team. Friendships have been tricky at her new school lately and so maintaining friendships outside of school is crucial right now.

So we have tried out a new babysitter, a local 6th former who babysits for my friend.

I put A to bed, waited til she fell asleep and then said teenager popped over and sat in my house watching telly while I drove across town to collect S from football practice.

Couples have a built-in partner who can just stay at home with the kid while you do this sort of thing. They don’t have to pay some random kid £5 a week so your kid can stay on their football team.

I’m especially annoyed about it as I literally never get to go out, and having a night out usually costs a fortune – you’ve paid £30-£40 before you’ve left the house so it’s just too expensive. But here I am paying a babysitter weekly, NOT so I can enjoy myself but to trundle about collecting the children from their activities.

It’s a tax only single parents have to pay. And I’m irrationally annoyed about it.

It ain’t no cruise…

Being a parent, and especially a single parent, means being all things all of the time, whether you want to or not. It’s a huge responsibility to be the person holding everything together even when sometimes you don’t feel like it.

You are the anchor, keeping everything stable.

You are the Captain, in charge and sure of yourself and your decisions at all times.

You are the navigator, charting a course, figuring out where you are going and how you’re going to get there.

You are the ship itself, keeping everyone safe as you roll around in the stormy weather, reeling and rocking, getting pummelled and battered, while keeping them warm and dry.

You are the activities director, planning all the playdates and football matches and swimming lessons and fun stuff.

You are up the mast clinging to the pole trying to spot any icebergs bearing down upon you, working out if you can avoid them or not, or if you will inevitably have to take the hit.

You are the safe harbour when the outside world is too rough and inhospitable.

You are all of these things, and sometimes, you are also an exhausted human who needs their own safe harbour, and anchor and captain to look after you too.

If you’re lucky enough, you have a support system (or harbour) strong enough to hold you sometimes when you need to dock and refuel, to bolster you ready to head back out to sea and do it all over again.

School!

Just like a whirlwind the summer holidays are over and the new term is upon us!

In most atmospheric fashion the glorious sunny weather we’ve been having broke on the first day of term and it has rained ever since. Reminds me of my own childhood when summers seemed to be full of long, hot, golden, sunny days and going back to school meant wet, damp, autumnal weather…

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Seaside Holiday with the Fam

We’ve just got back from a lovely family holiday by the seaside, although it was slightly fraught by the end!

We went to Deal in Kent where my mum’s partner’s family have been going every summer for years. It was a lovely chance to see lots of extended family members and for the kids and cousins to hang out too.

We were all scattered about in different AirBnB houses near each other so constantly popping in and out of each other’s houses, and there was plenty to do.

The kids swam in the sea almost every day, and we went to the park, shopped in charity shops, spent an afternoon in the penny arcade trying to win crap prizes, spent a morning in the leisure pool going down flumes, had brunch on the pier and gin and tonics at the pub, and ate fish and chips on the beach.

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Going OUT-out

Well now, after the last stressful post things vaguely calmed down a bit.

We had a lovely visit with Grandma and Grandad, even though I was so exhausted I didn’t do a whole lot! The girls had fun and we did some fun activities, and I also got to pick up my glorious new armchair for the living room (it doesn’t go at all with the Curtains of Glory but I have stopped caring about trivial things like that – I’m Reverse Marie-Kondo’ing my life – not getting rid of a thing but buying things that spark joy, and my new chair sparks SO MUCH JOY!).

When we came home I had a very rare, proper night OUT-OUT.

I realised I hadn’t been properly out in the evening without my children since my 40th last July, (except once in November maybe?) and before that probably not for a year or so, so it is a very rare occurrence.

It was a nice posh dinner for my friend’s birthday, at a lovely pub outside of Oxford.

Now obviously I should have driven myself there, but when it’s your only night out in a year, and you’ve paid for a babysitter, you want a bloody glass of wine or three!

However the night did get fairly expensive – taxis to and from the pub were not cheap (although a kind friend agreed to come by cab with me and share the cost). The pub was lovely, did really nice food and wine, but again, not a cheap dinner! Plus the cost of the babysitter and it came in at a really expensive evening!

However I really enjoyed myself, and apart from the odd anxious call from daughter 1 about daughter 2 not going to bed, and worring about what a hard time the poor babysitter was probably having, it was WONDERFUL.

I felt really grown up and relaxed and had a marvellous time and I really needed it just for ME.

Will definitely be trying to have a few more nights out here and there if I can, though probably more local with cheaper taxis next time!