Sunday, 30 November 2008

Advent Sunday.

Oh, Come, Oh, Come Emmanuel

Oh, come, oh, come, Emmanuel,
And ransom captive Israel,
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to you, O Israel!

Oh, come, our Wisdom from on high,
Who ordered all things mightily;
To us the path of knowledge show,
and teach us in her ways to go.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to you, O Israel!

Oh, come, oh, come, our Lord of might,
Who to your tribes on Sinai's height
In ancient times gave holy law,
In cloud and majesty and awe.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to you, O Israel!

Oh, come O Rod of Jesse's stem,
From ev'ry foe deliver them
That trust your mighty pow'r to save;
Bring them in vict'ry through the grave.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to you, O Israel!

Oh, come, O Key of David, come,
And open wide our heav'nly home;
Make safe the way that leads on high,
And close the path to misery.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to you, O Israel!

Oh, come, our Dayspring from on high,
And cheer us by your drawing nigh,
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night,
And death's dark shadows put to flight.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to you, O Israel!

Oh, come, Desire of nations, bind
In one the hearts of all mankind;
Oh, bid our sad divisions cease,
And be yourself our King of Peace.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to you, O Israel!

The day got better. Two happy girls ready for an Advent Sunday Parade Service. Lots of small Rainbows and Brownies marching through the church with flags and banners. Wildly overexcited children now officially within reach of Christmas. Slightly less enthusiastic parents realising the countdown has begun. The first red candle lit and burning brightly.

A good lunch with Grannie and Grandad, and a prowl around a garden centre with the traditional annual purchase of a new decoration for the Christmas tree. Tin bells this year.

And now home, and ready to think about Advent properly. Ready to think about making time to prepare, not just by wrapping presents and chopping vegetables and getting stressed about making postal dates and mince pies, but to prepare for the coming of the Christ - Child and Adult. Ready to think about ensuring He is welcome in my house and in my life.

Our Advent Sunday service is always a family service, always a Parade service (meaning that the Guides and Scouts and all the junior versions of the same come in uniform, bringing parents and reading shy prayers and marching through the church), and always a toy and sweet service - children come bringing gifts which are then distributed via a local children's centre. It's a nice way of encouraging the children to think just for a few minutes about the giving side of Christmas, in amongst the wishlists and wantings. It's a nice way of bringing in families who don't ordinarily come to church (and one day the worship group will understand what we mean when we say "please play something all the children will know, not just those who come every week. But that's a separate issue). And it's a nice way of formally marking the beginning of Advent, pointing out that it isn't about a daily slice of chocolate from the first of December but that it does actually have roots in a far older tradition.

Today Our Vicar chose to illustrate his sermon by sharing invitations with the congregation.

"You are invited to a banquet by the Lord God Most High". Every child (and most adults) caught one and had to decide whether they were coming to the party or not. Little Fish of the literal mind is now convinced the vicar is throwing a party and wants to know when it is and where and whether or not there will be chocolate at it. I took her up to the vicar after the service and asked him to explain. "It's one long party, and it starts now, if you want it to" was his response. Little Fish is very happy about this but still rather confused.

Tomorrow we will start to explore this

and each day, we'll be reading the next chapter in the story.

As each story is read, we will hang it along a streamer and so as we go through the Christmas Story we'll decorate the house. I wonder if I can get away with just that as a decoration and not bother with anything else?. I would have unhooked the first to give a sneaky preview, but this happened

and so I couldn't.

It's been a good day, a busy day, but a nice ordinary mainstream busyness rather than full of matters medical. I'm looking back today as well as forwards - it was a year ago today that we buried my Goldy. Today was the sort of day she'd have enjoyed a lot. Potential to cause mayhem at church followed by a good meal out, lots of fragile ornaments to grab and test for hidden chocolate, people to shout at or ignore, a candle to blow out, and then time to watch a favourite video before bed. I think she'd approve.


Five Frustrating Things Before Coffee

Forget six impossible things before breakfast, that's easy.

1. Feline mayhem - no, not catfights, they have all been apparently quite civilised overnight, each finding their own sleeping point and none of them eating the Super Chunks. But one of them who shall remain nameless vomited on my duvet at 5AM. I was underneath it at the time.

2. When unceremoniously turfed off the bed, said cat did not make his way immediately to the catflap, apologising for the inconvenience, but turned to climb back on the bed again, ensuring that with his second puke he caught the pile of clothing on the floor.

3. We went to the out of hours GP last night as Mog's cough appeared to be getting worse again - he had a listen and declared all well. I'm actually happy with that - sometimes the duty doctors just wave a stethoscope in front of her and magically declare her lungs to be full of grot. So to have one who listened careful and then decided she didn't have an infection was great. That's not the infuriating bit. The infuriating bit is getting back home with one grinning "hah, fooled you" little girl, putting said girl to bed and listening to her immediately start wheezing and obstructing and giving great big chesty coughs, none of which she produced for the doctor.

4. Our carer turned up early. It's a petty annoyance rather than a massive grievance, but those ten minutes before she was due I had earmarked for a shower and hairwash. So now I'm sitting here grumpy and grubby, and she is readying the bathroom for Mog's morning routine.

5. Mog is sleeping sweetly, breathing easily, silently, and without any hint of problems. This is possibly more annoying than any of the others - why? Because this is what I needed her to be doing at 9 o'clock last night. And 10 o'clock, and midnight, and 1, all of which times I got to see in either trying to reposition her in bed or finally giving up and putting her back in her wheelchair instead.

Now I can hear Little Fish making little murmurings from her bed, and as she has so far not annoyed or irritated me this morning, and as I have finished my first cup of coffee, she's probably a good person for me to go and cuddle. I wonder how long it'll take before she winds me up too. Perhaps I need an attitude readjustment. Or possibly just more coffee.


Saturday, 29 November 2008

Feline Fury

So, because my life just wasn't interesting enough, I came back home this afternoon to the sounds of many cats calling.

When I moved into this flat five years ago, I moved in with my cat Henry. Henry liked it here. He liked the flat, he liked the neighbourhood, he liked the neighbours. He liked some of the neighbours so much that he ended up moving in with them. Two years after we moved in, he moved on. Initially it was part-time; he'd disappear for 24 hours and come back ravenous, but as time went on he called in less and less.

Two years ago he came back for a visit after a gap of several months. He'd broken a tooth, so I took him to the vet, who promptly pulled all but one of his teeth out. Henry didn't much care for this, and ran off again. And that was the last I saw of him. It's been 18 months even since I've seen him outside.

I know it's been two years, because Little Fish has never met Henry. Or rather, Little Fish had never met Henry. She can't say that anymore. We came home tonight after a day out with the Guides. And were greeted by an interesting mix of hiss, growl, and meep. Henry is back. Goway and Comeback are not impressed. Henry is not impressed either, how dare I open his house to two more cats?

So now Henry is ensconced under the armchair in the corner of the sitting room. Goway is scratching and pulling at his skin, and occasionally peering under the chair to hiss loudly then run away, shaking. Comeback is sleeping with his head on my feet, worn out from not only shouting at Henry but also from the rather splendid fight he just got into with his own reflection in Mog's mirror.

There must be something about that mirror tonight - Goway is now boxing his reflection in it.

Henry, unpeturbed, continues to wash himself under the chair. He's both fatter and flatter than he was two years ago; scruffy with a tail that drags and a back paw which is either muddy or bloody, he won't let me close enough to work out which.

Little Fish thinks this is either deeply terrifying or possibly terribly funny - I'm working on the humour side for her and busy providing dialogue to accompany the cats' cries. Who knew that "YeeeeEEEEEEEEEEEEaaaaaaaaoooorrrrowghroughrowwwwwWWWWWWWWWWwkkkkssssssssssssssssssss" could actually mean "hello you two beautiful cats who live in this house now will you let me live here too and be your friend?"

Mog is above worrying about such things - Norah Jones is skipping all over the place (there was an unfortunate incident with Lactulose and a CD case) and this is far more distressing.

And me? I want to know what is so utterly dreadful about Supermarket Premium Kitty Chunks in individual foil sachets that all three cats are now refusing to eat them, preferring to extract them from the various bowls and chase them across the kitchen floor.

It's been an odd kind of a day all round really. A man knocked on the door earlier, and when I opened it, he shook me by the hand for raising my autistic son. I'm still trying to work that one out.


Friday, 28 November 2008

Too much?

Triumph. Mog managed a full week in school. The first full week since July. Here is the sweet face of success.Hmmm.

Not even the prospect of showing off these,her most fabulous princess boots, could raise a smile. I think I could even have gotten away with mentioning the fact we introduced some of our friends to the delights of the shoe shop without her finding the energy to frown about it.

I'd say it was a peaceful afternoon.

Well, I'd say it, but it wouldn't be true.

Little Fish, having spent the morning in awed silence following the sight of a clearly terrifying toddler (terrifying to her, he seemed more or less ok to the rest of us), decided to make up for lost time.

She had planned to come home and play some more with this stuff
Which was absolutely fine by me; it keeps her beautifully happy and it dries to a fine dust so I don't need to worry about trying to tidy it up.
But sadly our cleaner decided to bin it. I guess she isn't as relaxed about fine dust as I am for some strange reason.

So instead of sitting quietly in one place sorting fake snow into different containers, she beetled about the house in her chair chattering about how many buses and cars we saw in town, how Jack sat next to her and how she wanted more cheese and little bitta juice pleeeeeese Mummy and story and scissors and cutting and then a quick drawing of breath and oh tubbytubbies, tubbytubbies, until Mog and I got tired of the incessant whitter and decided she needed bed.

It's been a strange old week. I've opted out of much of it, some through choice and some through necessity. The girls have had to cope with having other people care for them - and I've had to cope with letting other people do the caring. I'm realising that there are holes in our system; too much of the girls' care is a case of finely tweaking things on a daily basis. That's fine as long as I'm around to tweak. But when I'm out of touch, things get left, tiny things in themselves, but they've mounted up. Little Fish was extremely uncomfortable yesterday as a result of several days of tiny things not being done. Tonight she's several pounds lighter and comfortable once more, but I hadn't foreseen that being a problem for her. We need a bowel management routine which isn't reliant on my personal judgement several times a day, but which is robust enough to cope with my absence. Sadly the one the doctors favour seems to involve surgery and I'm not convinced that's really the best plan right now.

For Mog it's been a good week. I had to throw school in at the deep end on Monday, having run out of alternative care arrangements whilst in court, and they coped. We were in contact, staff have received additional training, and I think it is safe to say she's reasonably happy about being back again. She even managed swimming this afternoon, which I think probably caused the energy overdraft, but was also a nice reward for her for managing school all week.

And me? I am thinking about dipping my toes back into life again. A lovely morning just sitting with friends watching the world go by and setting bits of it to rights. Carers and sitters and school have rallied around and thankfully I haven't had to do very much at all for the past few days. Now it's the weekend and I'm thinking that just possibly I'll have the energy I need to not just get through but hopefully enjoy it too.

That won't happen though unless I get my sleep. Little Fish is snoozing and her Nippy is puffing gently. Mog's music has just finished and she is snoring and snuffling. Two cats are curled up on different but equal cushions, and the house itself is making little night-time noises - the wind blowing down the chimney causing the boiler to flutter slightly, gentle creaks as the letterbox shifts with the breeze, water clinking through the pipes, and the computer's fan complaining quietly. I should let it, and me (and possibly the comma key), rest.


Thursday, 27 November 2008

Step we gaily on we go

Step we gaily on we go,

Heel for heel and toe for toe,

Arm in arm and row on row

All for Mari's wedding.

Over hillways up and down,

Myrtle green and bracken brown,

Past the sheiling thro' the town,

All for sake of Mari.

Step we gaily on we go,

Heel for heel and toe for toe,

Arm in arm and row on row

All for Mari's wedding.

Red her cheeks as rowans are,

Bright her eye as any star,

Fairest o' them a' by far,

Is our darling Mari.

Step we gaily on we go,

Heel for heel and toe for toe,

Arm in arm and row on row

All for Mari's wedding.

Plenty herring, plenty meal,

Plenty peat to fill her creel,

Plenty bonnie bairns as weel,

That's the toast for Mari.

Skip the herring since he's veggie but let's make that the toast for G and Y too.

And after that, and a mammoth day on Monday, I am feeling like Little Fish

We are all feeling a little fragile here.

Lots of Mummy don't leave me. Mog is making her feelings known too - last night I ended up paying our babysitter not so that I could go out but so that I could have a bath without having to suction, reposition, or otherwise rescue her.

Even Goway has got in on the action by making sure that I can't go away and leave. Or that if I do I can't take Little Fish (it's her seat) or spend any money.

I suspect that means it's bedtime.


Tuesday, 25 November 2008

Remembering Goldie

It has been ridiculously busy here for the past little while. Sick children, celebrations, painful legal bits and pieces and stressed out small child begging "Mummy not go more meetings". Today I sent both girls to school secure in the knowledge that I, and only I, will be here when they get home. This is needed. This afternoon I shall be up to my elbows in puzzle pieces, dealing with bogeys, encouraging a reluctant one to eat. But for now, just for now, I have a two hour window of peace. Time to process the last few days.

And with the time comes thoughts - and now I need to remember Goldie. I need to remember the girl I knew, the child I loved, bring back memories of the years she lived with me, concentrate on the joy not the atrocities of her last few days.

I remember the first time I met her. She was living in a Children's Home, and as I sat in a formal meeting room she was wheeled in to me. I had been caring for much smaller children, so at 11 she looked huge to me. She sat in her wheelchair, grabbed my hand, and asked me to "Sing a Rainbow".

I am remembering
Little Arabella Millar
Found a hairy caterpillar
First it crawled upon her mother,
Then upon her baby brother.
"Oh," said Arabella Millar
"Take away that caterpillar".

And I remember "What day is it today, what day, what day what day?".

And "Bum bum BUMPING"

And being woken in the night by Goldie shouting for me, walking into her bedroom and asking why she needed me, to be told "You put your left leg in, left leg out, in out out out shake it all about, OOOOOhhhhhhhh oh the Hokey Cokey!" and then watch as she rolled over and pulled the duvet back over her head happy to have shared her song.

I remember that she could spot a chocolate button on a brown table at 100 paces, but she couldn't see her face in a photograph.

I remember the feel of her fingers as she grabbed out whenever I walked past her, and walked her hands up my arm to feel my lips.

I remember "she's um pooorly" when she would refuse to get out of bed, and I remember night after night when she was far too happy to go to sleep.

I remember lying in a tent listening to her fizz with excitement as the wind made the canvas flap. And I remember her being totally unmoved by the splendours of some of our holidays, preferring to focus on her musical ball and her Elmo. And I remember the wonder on her face when we went to Disney World, and Pooh and Piglet and Tigger came to say hello as we were eating.

I remember her ability to punt herself up and down the shower bench, and her ability to send tidal waves over the edge of the bathtub. I remember the weight of her when I lifted her into bed, and the feel of her when she bounced on my knees, and the cold wetness of her fingers when she shared her dribble and the loving kindness of her search for contact.

I remember her anarchic ability to tell stories in silent spaces, to shout "come on AMEN" in church and demand to go home. I remember her squeaks and her shrieks and have echoes of her voice playing over in my mind.

Goldie didn't do anything especially amazing with her life. She didn't acheive anything heroic with her death. She just lived a fairly good but ultimately boringly ordinary life and then died in a mundane and unnecessary accident.

But I remember.


Sunday, 23 November 2008

Take the high road.

We are home.

Friday we drove 390 miles in 8 hours, dropped into bed and collapsed. I realise the distance is puny to those of you not based on this tiny island, but it was a long drive for us. I was relegated to the back seat of Mum and Dad's "big" car. This is a Nissan Primera (about half the size of our van, but quieter, more efficient, faster, and more comfortable for anyone not sitting where I was sitting). Take two larger than average children's carseats, strap them into the back seat, then strap children into them, and then try climbing over the top. I developed a system - 40 minutes sitting on one buttock with feet folded under the driver's seat, then shuffle forwards, rotate hips, and shuffle back to spend 40 minutes on the other buttock, one foot still folded under driving seat, the other resting somehow on the central ashtray. Turns out my body is not symmetrical. Add in one child insisting that breathing without drowning may only be performed if a parent has an arm around said child's neck at all times, and another child insisting that if the first child has one of my arms, they must have access to the other arm at all times, and rest assured that it was a very very long drive. We're taking my van next time, even if all the passengers do get stiff necks from the gale slight draught from the dodgy window.

A lovely day on Saturday, lots of relatives, lots of new relatives, lots of friendship and lots of fun. Some slight confusion over accessible lifts leading to me carrying Mog up two flights of stairs whilst various assorted cousins bumped her wheelchair up them - it got us a free drink at the top though so I'm not complaining!

Beautiful, beautiful surroundings. But a dead battery in camera and in telephone so only a very few pictures taken. Camera now charging so you'll have to wait for the sight of my baby brother in a kilt. You'll have to wait even longer for photos of Edinburgh and the surrounding area - my arms were otherwise occupied! We'll get back there one day.

We left Edinburgh at 10 this morning and got home at 7. Same position in the car, same positioning issues (I have a new sympathy for Mog when her wheelchair just isn't right), daytime so even more child entertaining necessary.

Now the house is a tip, I have a mountain of messages to ignore work my way through. and a ridiculously busy and stressful day tomorrow.

Normal service will be resumed as soon as I remember what normal feels like.

Friday, 21 November 2008

My little brother

I can't post about what's actually been happening around here for various reasons, so please be reassured that we are all alive, well, happy to be together, and that Mog actually slept all night in her bed last night, first time for ages. Hurrah.

Instead, I'd like to introduce you to my baby brother.
Graeme was a big disappointment to me. I wanted a sister! He was quite nice as babies went though - a big gurgly laugh if you tickled him in the right spots, and placid enough to put up with his seven year old sister changing his nappies at times. He was always keen to be on the move. When he was two, we moved to California for a year, and he learnt to talk there, coming back with an American accent and calling strangers "you guys". I think that might be where he picked up his sense of style too.
You could always spot Graeme in family photos, he was not afraid to make his presence felt. Unlike the rest of us, Graeme was always very interested in his physical appearance. He is possibly the only preschooler in the family to have been given a pot of hairgel for Christmas, and to have been happy about it! When he was three, Father Christmas left a packet of boxer shorts in his Christmas Stocking. At our church we have a tradition on Christmas morning that children are invited to show off their new presents. We had to sit on Graeme to stop him from flashing the vicar!
Graeme was a confident little oikboy. And knew how to put himself across well.
He was also good at entertaining himselfAnd, as a toddler, craved repetition and security. Now other children may have had a security blanket, a dummy, a small cuddly toy worn thin with loving. Graeme had BugsyA toy rabbit bigger than himself. This Bugs Bunny rabbit needed requent surgery to his tail, as he was forever being pulled about by his powder puff. He also needed "Each Peach, Pear, Plum" to be read aloud each and every single day for approximately one year. Quarter of a century later, those of us who were old enough to read to him at the time can still recite it from memory. He can't!

Time passed, and Graeme grew from little boy to teenager. He decided not to stay at home for his 6th form (age 16-18) years, but followed his big brother's footsteps by applying to the United World Colleges. Deciding that he didn't want to go too far from home, Graeme opted out of being considered for Africa or Singapore. Not having given "wish to stay closer to home" as a reason for opting out, Graeme and the rest of us were somewhat startled to discover he had been selected as one of the first students ever to attend the newest World College - in India!

The second year he was out there we decided to join him for Christmas and do some travelling.
At the end of the course, Graeme did decide to do university slightly closer to home - not by much though - and went off to St Andrew's. He was less than amused to be joined there two years later by Prince William and his entourage. But managed to enjoy himself and get himself a good degree at the same time. He met this young lady, the glamorous Yvonne, at this timebut as she was finishing her course and moving away for a bit, they stayed in touch and he continued to enjoy living the single life.

Fast forwards a few more years, and Graeme moved to Edinburgh to do his PhD. He became engaged to YvonneAnd established himself in the family as "Silly Uncle Graeme" - always good for fun and entertainmentHe's a good sport, and I'm very pleased he's my little brother.

It's been a big week for Graeme. He finished writing up his PhD a few months ago, and yesterday he finally had his Viva. And has passed, subject to minor alterations. Congratulations, Doctor Graeme!

He has also found out this week that he and Yvonne have a flat ready to move into next week, Congratulations grown-up!

And he has been told that his new proper exciting job will be based in Edinburgh and will be everything he wants it to be (well, more or less!). Congratulations again!

And, tomorrow, he and the glamorous Yvonne are getting married.

Big week for a little brother. We love you, Graeme,

Wednesday, 19 November 2008

Code Brown

This is a post about poo. Those of you who live in my world may appreciate it. Those of you reading it who don't dabble in it daily may prefer to skip this post. You have been warned! I'll sling a photo at the bottom (not poo-related) so you know when it is safe to start reading again.

It is amazing how far poo can spread. Before today, Little Fish was the winner in the poo spreading competition. Take one set of loose bowels, and one wheelchair with large bicycle style wheels (plenty of spokes. Sit explosive child in the wheelchair, watch helplessly as diarrhea seeps out of the top of the nappy and drips onto the wheels of the chair. Shout in horror. This will scare the child, who will propel themselves rapidly towards you as poo continues to drip down. Centrifugal force will ensure the poo droplets are scattered freely as the wheels turn - a rare case of the poo actually hitting the fan.

That was then. This is now. Little Fish is a bit of a sheepdog; the easiest way to upset her is to exclude her from a room. The easiest way to keep her in a good mood is to allow her to help me in everything I do. This does get a bit personal at times; how do you gently explain to a child that whilst yes, I do indeed wipe her bottom for her, I don't in fact need help wiping my own? Not me today though but Mog in need of a change.

So, I go to lift Mog onto the changing bench to be greeted by Little Fish's ear shattering squeaks about being left in her wheelchair. I scoop her up and sat her by Mog's feet, feeling my feet slip in something as I d so. Looking down I make the always pleasing discovery of a nice poo puddle in Mog's wheelchair, combined with a pretty sprinkling of droplets across the floor and sides of the bench, and a further poo puddle now sitting pretty on the clean white towel I had not moved out of the way left on the bench to protect Mog from the coldness of the plastic. Marvelous.

I start to strip Mog off, attempting to pivot Little Fish around as I do so, to keep her pink polka dot boots out of the mess. Little Fish struggles and wriggles, creating ripples across the bench, which in turn send a fine tidal wave of poo from the top of Mog's pad up towards her shoulder blades. This is not your average daily poo here, this is the cumulative effect of several days coughing up phlegm from deep inside your lungs and then swallowing it instead of spitting. It is pale brown and vaguely jelly like, with a deeply offensive odour. Just painting the word picture here (aren't you glad I resisted the camera?), trying to share the misery keep things real.

So, ignoring Little Fish and refusing to allow her immediate access to her toothbrush, I concentrate on cleaning Mog. And her wheelchair. And the floor, bench, bathtub under the bench, and my feet. Finally I have a large pile of vile laundry which I wrap in the least offensive item and post into the washing machine. Forget eco friendly washing at 30, this little lot is on a boil wash with double helpings of washing liquid.

Back to the bathroom, and I return Mog to her chair. She is grinning. I am suspicious. One further change of inco pad, and now dressed in her pyjamas (for ease of removal next time) later, she is finally reinstalled in her wheelchair. Where she proceeds to show me just how blue her arms and legs can turn now that she's coming off the Lamotrigine, but that's another post).

Little Fish is now left on the bench in solitary splendour. She objects when I begin to push Mog out of the bathroom, so leaving Mog beside me I now start to change Little Fish. Hand wash then drops in her eye, hand wash again then new dressing on her stoma, hand wash again then finally on to her own nappy. Bearing in mind she has not in fact started the co-amoxiclav at this point in time due to delivery issues, I am somewhat surprised to discover that she too is thickly coated in the brown stuff. As I clean her up she starts to poo again, so I whip her off the bench in an attempt to get to her commode, forgetting that Mog is blocking the way. With hindsight, this was not a good thing to forget. Mog narrowly avoids being pood upon from a great height as I somehow fling Little Fish, bottom end first, towards the toilet. She doesn't hit the toilet, she doesn't hit the commode, big soggy splats of poo instead drip across the floor looking like giant Hersheys kisses. But no contact with Mog or my feet or the cat, so this will count as a bonus.

Back onto the bench and I clean her up, now adding her newest nappy rash cream. It's a prescription cream, and as I open it I discover it needs to be kept in the 'fridge. It's a good job she's not got much feeling! First dose of co-amoxiclav has been administered and I await with slight trepidation the effects this will have. Meanwhile, scrubbing the bathroom floor is always interesting - it has a non-slip flooring which is not unlike fine sandpaper. Good for walking on when it's wet, but have you ever tried cleaning poo out of sandpaper? Or velcro?

And now as I write this Mog has produced further vileness.

Can I resign from motherhood now please?

And for all those of you who were skipping to the bottom, here's a pretty picture to let you know I've stopped.


Tuesday, 18 November 2008


It's a busy week this week, with firm immovable commitments towards the end of the week (including my brother's wedding up in Scotland, lovely, but a long drive).

Mog was off school all last week. She made it back for the grand total of one hour yesterday, and it has been decided that she should stay off for the rest of the week now. Hopefully she'll be more herself by the weekend.

Little Fish has a horrible rash surrounding her stoma again - it has been swabbed, we have co-amoxiclav on the way pending swab results. Hopefully this will help, certainly it will give her spectacularly loose bowels in the meantime. That'll be fun for preschool. And for the journey up to Scotland. She also has conjunctivitis again, but cannot use her backup ventilator mask as she screams until she is sick. Hmmm, conjunctivitis and a decent night's oxygenated sleep, or no conjunctivitis and a child aspirating vomit whilst wearing the mask, or not wearing the mask and simply not breathing for extended intervals throughout the night? We've got chloramphenicol and hopefully the conjunctivitis will go away.

Both girls have horrific nappy rash again and we have a new whizzy super cream wending its way from the pharmacist - antibacterial and antifungal. Oral fungicide too for one girl.

Anyone seeing the girls for the first time with all their different ways of falling apart would seriously consider placing them on the child protection register. I've seen ammonia burns on children who have been left in rancid nappies for hours (days?) on end, and the girls' rear ends look similar. Add in some pressure sores, dribble rash, persistent infections and I start to doubt myself even - it certainly wouldn't look great from the outside.

Mog hasn't slept in her bed for three nights now and won't tonight either - she can't lie down at the moment, even propped up, so is sleeping in her comfy armchair. It is comfortable, it does have pressure relief built into it, and it is better for her to sleep sitting up in a posturally correct position with an open airway than to spend the night drowning in her own dribble. But as a result her bed has a neglected air to it - more evidence for those phantom child protection staff I picture behind my shoulder. It is at times like these that I am so grateful for our carers, who come in six days a week and could, if necessary, confirm that I do in fact look after the girls perhaps not perfectly but certainly in a more than adequate fashion.

Just to make life even more entertaining, my internet connection has decided to start playing up. Thinking it was the ADSL cable, I took the girls on a mission to find a replacement. Whilst I am willing to accept as a hypothesis the theory that all retail staff are incompetent idiots, I suspect that when every single member of staff I meet in every single one of the shops we enter is acting the idiot, well, possibly, the problem is not with the staff but with myself. It is definitely time to stop trying to shop when the slowness of the staff at the checkout makes you incandescent with rage.

Come home with both girls, large quantities of chocolate, and a new line and filter. Picked up the modem to discover all buttons twinkling merrily, internet service has been resumed. Decide that not only all staff in all electrical shops but also all people working on internet provision and in telecommunications generally are evil and working to one purpose, namely to drive me even more insane. Realise, once again, that if the entire world has the problem, it is probably my issue not theirs.

Plug the computer into the modem and the girls into Telletubbies. Read emails. And breathe.

In writing this my connection has dropped at least twice, so there's definitely some problem somewhere - if I disappear then I haven't dropped off the face of the earth, just off the internet. And whilst the thought of dealing with the real world without a virtual one at my fingertips is scary, it's possibly less scary than the prospect of actually dropping off the face of the real world.

I may be back.
I may also be extremely tired, which is probably why much of this makes no sense.

PS And because life is rarely all bad, or all sad, a little Little Fish-ism - Sitting quietly in her chair looking very seriously at her packet of chocolate buttons. "Mumma, this chocolate is not working". It was empty. A girl after my own heart.

Sunday, 16 November 2008

Increasing the feline population

The girls were invited to a birthday party today. The invitations arrived weeks ago, we replied in good time, I noted it in my diary and then promptly lost the invitations. So, yesterday I thought I'd better find out what time it was and check which church hall we needed to find.

And received the always welcome news that it was fancy dress. Ooops.

Take one rather nice remnant of furry fabric. Cut into three strips, one 2 inches wide, one 8 inches wide, and one wide enough to become a tabard. Cut the smallest strip in half, and fold both corners down like this.
Fold the second strip in half and stitch it like this. You can't see it terribly well but there's a nice little curve on the bottom corner.
Take the tabard sized strip, double it over, then fold in half lengthwise. Fold the hood in half and use it to hack out a hole in the middle cut a shallow diamond for the neck.
Sew the hood to the tabard. Find a small square of cream fabric, cut it in half and glue it to the two black triangles. Lose the camera. Fold the triangles so the cream is inside and they stand up. Mutter imprecations for having lost the camera. Pin the ears to the hood in a thin tuck about 2 inches from the front of the hood. Bend pins. Hand sew ears to hood, developing blisters on forefingers from the pressure of pushing the needle through 7 layers of fabric. Tear playroom apart looking for camera.

Stitch both sides of the tabard down, leaving holes for the arms. Find camera. Resist urge to kick the cat.

Find a pair of old tights, and stuff with a pair of leggings which have been sitting in the mending pile for three years. Lay next to tabard to prove outfit is definitely cat and not bat. Dress small child in white tights and white long-sleeved jumper. Pull tabard over head of said small child, and post tail through hand-hold at the back of the wheelchair.
Very cute! Celebrate for two minutes until you realise you don't have a costume for your other child either. Bang head against wall until you see red. The red reminds you that you have a red cord pinafore dress and a red crocheted poncho. Dress child in a pair of white tights and a white long sleeved jumper (spot the theme here?). Rethread neck cord on poncho to give artificial hood. Find toy moses basket belonging to child currently dressed as a cat, and thread it through second child's stiff fingers. Arrange birthday child's present in basket with a scarf in manner intended to suggest cakes and goodies for a sick grandmother.

Pose child carefully. Realise camera has disappeared again. Swear. Find alternative camera, snap perfect photograph, then realise you now have no way of plugging said alternative camera into computer, having lost cable months ago.

Take out mobile phone, attempt to line both children up together, give up in despair. Leave, late, for the party. Receive admiration for costumes and hold disconcerting conversation with woman who turns out to have been your music teacher in the GCSE years. Realise she looks several years younger than you now.

Survive Enjoy party. Watch cat-child dance with 5 spidermen and 3 princesses, as Little Red Riding Hood child coughs quietly in a corner watching the rest of the action. Realise that you are no longer embarrassed by your smallest child's ability to be first to sit down at the table, and last to leave, a good 10 minutes after the other children. Smile sweetly as same child flattens several small children in her rush to grab a party bag as they are brought out. Debate whether bad manners is excused by the fact child is finally anticipating what happens at Birthday parties. Shelve complex thoughts for later.

Get home. Find camera. Discover suspicious odour emanating from smallest child, and disappear to fix it. Bring camera to take photo of larger child, and discover that evening carer has let herself into the house and, in a fit of super-keenness, has lifted said child onto bench and stripped costume off in order to give her a shower.

Place camera on top of computer in order to avoid losing it again. Post small child into bed and prepare armchair for larger child who is currently unable to lie down.

Upload pictures and realise how few decent ones there are. Decide to post them anyway.


Saturday, 15 November 2008

fractal vegetables

This arrived in our veg box this morning.
I don't know whether to cook it or frame it. It is far too pretty to eat.


Friday, 14 November 2008

A Day in my Life

It's the 14th, and so Little Jenny Wren is kindly hosting A Day in my Life again.

November the 14th is an important day for us. In the words of a dear friend, it is "Happy Loveday" On this day six years ago I met Mog for the very first time, and brought her home from hospital. You can find Mog's story here, here, and here. And now we have lived together for six years. It's an odd day - it isn't a birthday, it isn't a legal milestone, it is just the day when we left hospital together. The start of our lives together, a good and beautiful thing. But such sadness in it too. The pain on her parents' faces as they handed her over. Now we share Mog very happily, but there is always loss in today as well as joy.

I could blog the whole of my day, our day, but it wouldn't necessarily be any different from any other day. We got up - Mog was awake and unhappy (lots of seizures) early in the morning so the day started rather too soon for my liking. Despite that, we managed to be late leaving the house, had a nice morning out, came home, had lunch, had a physio session for Little Fish, walked to the post office and back in the dark, had tea, put the girls to bed, came to the computer.

I could blog all that in detail, and pad it out with many photos, but I'd like instead to give you A Morning In My Life and talk about the bit of the day where the camera didn't come out.

Today was a ROSY Day. ROSY (Respite Nursing for Oxfordshire's Sick Youngsters) is an absolutely wonderful organisation. It's a lifeline to parents who do battle day after day in order to keep their child alive. My girls are thankfully healthy enough that we only qualify for occasional nursing respite, after surgery for example. But for some families an overnight nurse is the only way the parents can ever be sure of having a night's sleep. For some families, three hours a week supported by a respite nurse is the only time they can ever leave their child's side. ROSY also has a certain amount of funds to purchase necessary equipment when other services are not able to do so.

Those are the big things ROSY does. It's easy to see how that directly benefits families. But today was one of the smaller ROSY events, today was a ROSY coffee morning. Once a month, members of the committee throw open their homes and welcome ROSY families. There are ROSY members of staff present to care for the children who are not at school - whether too sick to attend or too young, siblings as well as the disabled child. And we parents get to sit down and drink coffee and eat biscuits. It doesn't sound like much. I don't think though that even the committee who organise these events realise quite how important they are to us. I'm sure we are a nuisance, today we were roundly ticked off for not having replied to an email about a Christmas event, ticked off again for talking too much when information was being given out, and ticked off again when the conversation, as it inevitably does, turned to poo. For future reference, do not try to clean poo out of a carpet using a pressure washer unless you like the pebble dash effect all over you wall.

It's difficult to explain. Today three of us sat on a settee, and giggled over song lyrics. And then we sobered ourselves discussing the possibility of waking up in the morning and finding that your child was not every going to wake up again. And we giggled about another friend dealing with a poo river. And we sobered up talking about seizures, and inquests, and funerals. And then we giggled again over the many ways of arranging a decent summer holiday, and then had a quiet moan about a particular form of respite (not ROSY) many of us use. And then we talked about another child dying, and then we burnt our mouths on hot mince pies, and laughed at each other for doing that, and then someone cried about how hard her life is, and we got outraged about the totally avoidable red tape issues which prevent us from doing certain things, and then we got silly again about stickers.

From the committee member's point of view, this must have been frustrating. There were things which needed to be discussed. Equipment the committee could buy, support the committee could offer. And yet, that wasn't what we needed. We needed to be able to talk, to chat, to laugh and to get upset, to sing silly songs and talk through what happens when your child has an early best before date. Someone not living in that world cannot fully grasp that. We are "amazing" for doing what we do, when for many of us, we had no choice but are just doing what needs to be done. We are "morbid" for considering the very real possibility probability that our children will not outlive us. We are "naughty" for not listening to the minutes of the meeting. And we are "heartless" for laughing so loudly in the face of so much distress. And we are asked yet again what can people do to help. The thing is though, the most important thing of all, the single most helpful thing anyone can do, is to provide those opportunities where we can get together and do the laughing and the talking and the rapid blinking of the eyes until you can start laughing again. It is safe to think the unthinkable when you know you aren't the only one thinking it.

I lost a daughter. That sounds as though I left her in Tesco. I'll rephrase. My daughter died. I have two other daughters who will probably die before I do too. That isn't something I can talk about with the majority of the world. Not because people are not supportive or sympathetic, but because it is a reality so far removed from most of us that it is one of those places where the two worlds we live in do not collide.

I'm talking online to other friends about coffins and funeral services for children, services for children who haven't actually died yet. Something which the world sees as morbid. But for the parent watching their child die, for the parent who has been told "oh terribly sorry, we know we said you were just being over fussy but oops, this child actually has a terminal illness and there isn't any treatment", the only thing there is to control over that process is the funeral. You can't control when death will happen, you can delay it and you can prolong it and you can decide the child has had enough and not prolong it any more, but that is not control. Hopefully you can keep the child free from pain as your own heart breaks, but that is not control. Depending on how and where the child dies, you may not be able to hold a funeral service for a while either, you can't control that. But you can control the funeral service itself. It isn't morbid, it is survival. It is taking the big of the process you can control, rather than losing yourself in a whirl of uncontrollables.

And after the big topics, we come back to earth and moan about the mundane. It's safe. It's necessary. It's survival again.

So, I collected the girls, loaded them back in the van, and we came home. Back to reality, back to the mundane, back to our regular normal for us lives for another couple of weeks until we plan to meet again. I don't think the committee will ever fully understand why we find the support group meetings so important, why we say we want a support group but we don't appear to want actual support, why we get such support from just laughing with friends, and how much those cups of coffee and biscuits mean to us.

That's a morning in my life.

Thursday, 13 November 2008


I had plans for today. Big, important, Christmas-and-birthday-and-wedding shopping plans. I like our Thursdays. Little Fish has a full day at preschool and takes a packed lunch - she loves this and falls asleep on Wednesday nights muttering about her "dunt bots" and what we'll put in it. So for one day in the week I have in theory 5 whole hours to myself. Mog scuppered a complete day off by still being full of seizures and needing midazolam in the wee small hours, but a day with Mog, even a poorly Mog, is just calmer somehow than a day with Little Madam Fish. Mog has a very restful presence; I can lose hours watching her sleep. So maybe not a mammoth shopping day, but a quiet day at home listening to the rain and snuggling up together still sounds pretty good to me. Who am I kidding? It sounds much better than the shopping!

Early morning seizures for one child and a longer lie in for another meant that we were running late this morning. At ten past nine I shut the front door ready to make a five minute dash through the rain to drop Little Fish at preschool. Three hours later I walked back through that front door.

No, Little Fish didn't suddenly need me to stay at preschool, no Mog wasn't suddenly acutely unwell. I just left my keys on the hall table, that's all.

Good news! I can break in through the back door
Bad news! Now that we have a new back gate I can't reach the back door without grappling irons keys.
Good news! My parents have a spare set.
Bad news! They work.
Good news! Dad was waiting for the boiler repair man working from home
Bad news! The keys were in Mum's handbag.
Good news! There's a bus we can catch to her place of work.
Bad news! It is persisting it down with rain, there's a long wait for the bus, and Mog is coughing.

The bus eventually came, the bus driver didn't know where we were supposed to be getting off but thankfully other passengers did, and we were reunited with a door key, hurrah. Nice to meet Mum's colleagues and students, even if one of them did ask "are you the blog lady?" - here's a personal hello from the blog lady to you! At least it wasn't "crazy blog lady".

Home and a brief interlude before setting out again to collect Little Fish and head back into town for our 'flu jabs. Mog was not impressed. Nor was I actually. Little Fish has the advantage over us in these situations; the nurses will usually inject into her legs, and since she has no feeling in them she doesn't even notice most of the time. Off to the chemist to drop off new prescriptions - Mog's feed is changing again and Little Fish needs something to supplement her diet of yoghurt and cheese and chocolate. Back through the wet to the key shop; I now have enough spare door keys to share them with various strategically placed neighbours and friends. Additionally considering surgically implanting one in each of us and secreting them in various nooks and crannies in the wheelchairs. To the bookshop to buy a birthday present; Little Fish is adamant that her six year old friend will love a set of Charlie and Lola books; I hope we don't mortally offend him when he opens them. Lovely, lovely people at the bookshop, they gave each of the girls a Charlie and Lola jigsaw puzzle and one for the birthday boy too! It's a lovely place.

Despite Little Fish's mutterings about "dinner shop please Mummy" we came home in time for tea and LF's new fixation, Teletubbies. This is an interest both girls share; it's lovely to be able to put a video on and ignore them both for an hour get on with other things for a bit. Then our evening carer came and Little Fish excelled herself - wheeled herself into the bathroom before we could get Mog there and insisted on the carer giving her a shower before touching Mog. Carer was entertained rather than annoyed, and I certainly wasn't going to argue, so had a slightly less harried evening - LF even let the carer clean her stoma, which is impressive considering she screams and pulls out her hair and slaps me across the face when I try. On the other hand if she can contain herself then hmmm I think we need to be working on not turning Mummy into a punchbag.

Bed time and Little Fish was less impressed with having to use her back up Nippy mask. But her favourite one is eating holes in her face, so she'll have to have the spider's web one for a few nights. She doesn't like this. I don't either actually; it works loose and alarms in the night. Mog meanwhile having been quietly happy most of the evening decided to go for an evening screaming session. She's on new medication for her seizures and now coming off one of her older meds too, but during the handover period that means 4 different anticonvulsants. Each of them work by damping down (or stimulating) different parts of her brain; add in the constant fitting and general electronic discharges and it's not surprising she's in a bit of a meltdown.

And now it is bedtime for me. Two of the children on our special kids in the uk list have died in the past week, both unexpectedly, just fell asleep and didn't wake. Having watched a child suffer horribly I suspect that a peaceful "should I die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take" death is a nicer way to go. But it certainly doesn't ease the shock for the family and for everyone who knew and loved the children involved. And it doesn't do much to make for a restful night - I think we are all watching our children more closely, will my child be the next one to go?

I pray not.

Tuesday, 11 November 2008


Thy name is Little Fish.

What do you do when you can't reach the doorknob?Take one chain and pull gently

Now if Mog would like to improve so we can leave the house and appreciate some more Autumn I'm sure we'd all be happy.

Monday, 10 November 2008

Ooops, sorry folks

Apologies. I had a spam comment, and in rejecting it I accidentally rejected all the comments left overnight. Sorry folks; I wasn't rejecting your comments, I promise!


Sunday, 9 November 2008

It's possible I didn't think it through

Ball washing was definitely a good idea.

Well, almost definitely.

OK so it had a few repercussions I should probably have predicted.
Alas poor Elmo, I knew him. "Elmo can be a monster, a monkey, an aeroplane". He doesn't make a very good submarine though.


Saturday, 8 November 2008

google roundup

how to get marmite on cats paw. Open jar of Marmite. Insert cat's paw. Drive to A&E to have your wounds stitched up. Alternatively, take a small teaspoon, insert into the jar of Marmite, rub it onto the cat's paw.

if a cat eats marmite will it affect the cat. Our cats have not been negatively affected by eating Marmite. To be fair though, I've only laced it with their own prescribed medication. I haven't seen a cat eat an entire jar.
annie's fishin' kids. What? And how did you find us searching for them? I hope they turned up. Or is Annie fishing for children? Goats with angling kit?

keys do bananas. Again, this confuses me. Since several people find me by looking for it, could one of you clarify please? I need my sleep, and this is causing me to lose some of it. Admittedly not much, but even so.

how do saucepans heat up food. Seriously? OK, you put the food into the saucepan. If it is dry food like pasta or rice, you probably want to put water in the saucepan too. If it is a tin of something like baked beans, just open the tin and pour the contents into the saucepan. Then you need to put the saucepan on the hob. And turn the hob on. If it is a electric hob, just turn the dial beside it until the element gets hot. If it's gas, you might need to turn the dial and light a match at the same time. Light the match before you turn the dial unless balls of flame are your idea of a good time. Make sure the ring you have lit is the one underneath the saucepan. Assuming that what you are heating is a can of beans, stir this occasionally with a wooden spoon. You can use a tin spoon but the handle will get hot. We don't like burns here. When there are big bubbles of air coming through the beans the sauce is boiling and your beans are ready to eat. Turn the ring off again and eat the beans from the saucepanpour the beans onto a plate. If it's pasta or rice, just watch to make sure it doesn't boil too hard, if the water comes rushing up the sides of the pan, turn the heat down a little. If the water stops moving altogether, turn it up. Keep going until the food is cooked.

Or, if you want the shorter pithier response, saucepans heat up food by a process called convection; they allow the heat from the flame to pass through their base and it heats the food.
what makes good fostercarer. Good question - I'll answer it in a different post if I may.

something that cover the bed from the ceiling. Oh so many possibilities. Plaster and paint chips when people bounce on the floor above? Cobwebs from an overactive spider? Or the decorative net Mog has, which looks like a superfancy mosquito net?

why does whizz fizz. Because the Buzz Duzz.

her name could be goldie. It could. But in this case, it isn't. I named her Goldie on the blog for various different reasons linked to her physical appearance, her taste in music and literature, and her personality. It suited her well.

girls name short for mog. Short for Mog? Mo? M? Og?

how to clean burnt on food on saucepan? Are you related to the how to use them querant? It's best, if possible, to avoid burning the food on in the first place. This can be prevented or greatly reduced by supervising food when it cooks, by stirring food around as it cooks, ensuring there is a sufficient quantity of liquid in the food, and reducing the heat under the food.

Once you do have burnt on food, cleaning it off will depend on the coating inside the pan. If you have a non-stick pan, then soak it in water with washing up liquid, and gently gently rub at it with a soft but somewhat knobbly scrubber suitable for teflon. It'll take forever. You will get bored. You will be tempted to use a scouring pad. This is why I no longer have non-stick coatings on my pans.

Assuming then that you have nice stainless steel pans like wot we've got, soak them again but you can sling some caustic soda into the soak if you like. Scrape at them with a knife, scrub them with a brillo pad, do whatever you like to them and they'll come back gleaming. Lovely.

If your saucepan is cast-iron, then the burn will add to the flavour. Don't worry about it.

If you have super duper cheap lightweight camping pans, and if the burnt on food is something like rice which has boiled dry, you may wish to consider the ultimate solution - bin them.

So what are you doing this summer? Going on holiday or something? How nice of you to ask. We are off to Tenby for a week in June with the Harriet Davis Trust. We're thinking about possibly starting to plan a Guide Camp at some point too, just need to tie down dates and locations. And then I have a scheduling conflict, and will have to choose between our Special Kids camp and New Wine. Friends we see just once a year, a big camp with lots of families, loads of disabled children, or camping with our church family, fewer disabled children but lots of worship and teaching. I've got until the end of the month to decide. Oh, and rumour has it we'll be up in Northern Scotland at some point too, need to tweak those details. How about you? And, what were you actually looking for when you googled that?

red rash from working in a nursing home. Look into latex allergy.

why mummy? Don't you start, I get enough of that already!


Easy like Saturday Mornings

So what do you do when your sister has a chest infection and isn't up to leaving the house?

Begin an ambitious project to wash all 1500 of the ballpool balls, that's what.
I think it's safe to say she'll be busy for a while.

Thursday, 6 November 2008

School pics

We had a photographer come to the girls' special school . And then, two weeks later, we were sent proofs of about a dozen photos. Some with both girls in, some with each girl separately. About three quarters of them had the flash bouncing off one or other of the girls' glasses. In the rest, Mog had her eyes closed, Little Fish was drooling, Mog was fitting or they were both looking completely gormless.

Just before half term a different photographer came into Little Fish's preschool to take photographs. And today she came home with this:
Which is I think absolutely beautiful. So how come this photographer could get such a wonderful shot whereas the other one managed 20 awful ones? And now, where can I get a decent photo of Mog to match it?


Wednesday, 5 November 2008

Foster Carers and Smoking

mq, cb posted a question on my last page, and I thought I would answer it here. I hope that's ok with you, mq.

mq, cb

Hi, entirely off-topic question about fostering.

It was reported today that Redbridge Council has just announced that from next year it will not accept smokers as foster parents except in "exceptional circumstances".

As Norman Geras points out in his blog here , this means that it's apparently alright for other parents to smoke and expose their children (or indeed someone else's) to second-hand smoke but that foster parents are held to a higher standard.

Do you think that this is right?

We have been debating this on an email list I am a part of - UKfoster-adopt - I think there's a lot of interest.

Firstly my own views as far as smoking in general is concerned. I'm not a smoker, never have been, and I don't come from a smoking family. Cigarette smoke has a bad effect on both my girls and I avoid taking them into situations which will be very smoky. I do have friends who smoke; when they visit they go to the garden to smoke, and they do so in a way which doesn't tell my girls what they are doing - their choice, not mine.

Fostercarers are held to a higher standard than birth parents on so many things - how many birth families are required to have annual health and safety checks, unannounced inspections, and written policies on behaviour management, pocket money, healthy eating, safer caring, fire evacuation procedures? Fostercarers are required to attend mandatory training on child protection, first aid, legislation, and have opportunities to attend training on all sorts of other things. I don't think it necessarily makes a fostercarer better than a birth parent at all, but there are standards to which we are accountable, to an extent a ban on smoking would simply be an extension of this. Fostercarers are for example forbidden absolutely from smacking children in their care, unlike birth parents.

It doesn't seem quite fair that a child in need is denied a refuge because a potential fosterer smokes, nor do I see how smoking would necessarily make someone a bad choice to foster, unless the child had breathing difficulties or a medical condition that would be exacerbated by the smoky air. Is this what is meant by "exceptional circumstances"?

I'm thinking that what Redbridge means by "exceptional circumstances" would be situations whereby the smoking carer is better than the non-smoker - an adult already known to the child for example. Or where a child has exceptionally challenging issues, and the only adults with the skillset necessary to foster this child happen to be smokers.

Nor do I see why a foster parent should be held to a higher standard than any other carer. As I understand it, you, as a foster parent, have parental responsibility for any foster children in your care, in the same way that you do for your own children (whether adopted or biological children). Should you be held to a standard higher than that?

Actually, foster parents do not have parental responsibility for our fostered children. The only way to gain PR is through the courts - Residency Order, Special Guardianship Order, or Adoption. For the majority of Looked After Children, the only people with PR are the birth parents. Only in situations where there is a Care Order does the Local Authority gain joint PR with the birth parents.

The exception to this is in education - a fostercarer is a parent under Education law. It can be difficult persuading the Local Education Authority of that though!

PR aside, are fostercarers supposed to be perfect parents? No, I don't think so - I don't think there's any such thing, actually. I do think fostercarers are supposed to be parenting to a higher standard than some birth parents; if a child is removed from one family then it does make sense that the second family are better equipped to parent the child. But I don't think smoking necessarily affects that.

I should point out that I have never smoked, but that my father did when I was young. As I was an asthmatic as a child, this did not always make my life easy and frankly I should have preferred if he hadn't done it. However, it didn't make him a bad person, or even a bad parent.

Absoloutely agree with you here. Smoking in and of itself, does not make for bad parenting. I do wonder though to what extent your father's smoke contributed to your asthma; there is evidence to suggest a link. I think where Local Authorities are struggling with smoking and fostercaring is in their legal liabilities in the future - if the child of non-smoking birth parents are placed with smoking fostercarers, and then go on to develop a smoking-related illness, could that child then sue the Local Authority? So much of social work is about back-covering, about managing perceived risk without necessarily considering both sides of the picture. So for example a fostered child may be prevented from taking part in an school activity holiday because the perceived risk of the child having an accident (and sueing the LA) is considered to outweigh the risk of not allowing the child to take part (child misses out on chance to see education as more than simply sitting in a classroom, misses out on opportunity to form deeper friendships with schoolmates and see teachers as real people outside of school hours, as well as missing out on the general advantages of learning new skills and having fun.

It's complicated. When a child is in a residential facility, smoking is legally banned, not to protect the children, but because it is a place of work. When that same child moves into fostercare, the fostercarers may smoke. A fostercarer's house is not a workplace (although the fostercarer does work there), it is a family home.

Given that my own personal preference is for people to not smoke around me, I would hope that a fostered child would also have that option available. I certainly don't think that fostercarers who commit to smoking only outside, or smoking socially with friends, or who have one "smoking room" in their house should be banned from fostering. But chainsmoking fostercarers living in houses which are steeped in years of smoke so thick you can cut the atmosphere with a knife? I'm not so sure. That probably won't win me any friends with said carers.

An analogy. It is entirely legal for adults to drink alcohol. Inside, outside, in pubs and restaurants and at home. It is entirely legal, although probably not advisable, to drink onesself into a stupor day after day after day. It is entirely legal to go out and get drunk once in a while, it is entirely legal to begin drinking at breakfast time and continue throughout the day, all day, every day.

Fostercarers are required to keep alcohol out of reach of young children - common sense for everyone but a statutory requirement for fostercarers. I see absolutely nothing wrong with fostercarers enjoying alcoholic drinks - but I wouldn't be happy with an alcoholic being approved as a fostercarer. On the other hand, children are not automatically removed from alcoholic parents purely because the parents are alcoholics. Another instance of higher standards for fostercarers I suppose.

The Fostering Network has a policy on smoking and fostercare.

I'm still not entirely sure where I stand on it. In an ideal world, all children would be living in smoke-free environments. On the other hand, in an ideal world, each child would be born to parents who were willing and able to love and care for the child into adulthood and beyond. And the world doesn't work that way.

We have a national shortage of fostercarers. A blanket ban on smoking isn't going to help increase recruitment. But local authorities do have a duty of care towards the children it supports; where there are two, equally good in all other respects, fostercarers available, it does make sense to me to place the child with the carers who do not smoke. But better a loving placement with carers who happen to smoke than living without love.

I am rambling here; I have a child beside me demanding to be squeezed, and another hinting for music. I need to make tea and start our evening, but these are my inital ponderings. Your thoughts welcomed.


Tuesday, 4 November 2008


The disadvantage of being three is that your mother cuts your hair.
It's an uphill struggle.

Fortunately, the advantage of being three
is that you don't much care what you look like!Just as well really.



Blog Widget by LinkWithin