Gratitude is officially good for your mental health. (Harvard says so, so it must be true.) As a self-care practice, it’s great to record things you’re grateful for – big and small. So here’s Thankful Thursday – my list of things I’m grateful for this week.

This week I’m thankful because:

  • The Playmobil nativity set-as-Advent-calendar is working really well. We are still constructing the stable at the moment and the girls seem to be really enjoying it. No pieces have yet been chewed or lost.
  • Yesterday we celebrated St Nicholas Day. This has been a tradition we’ve enjoyed with the girls for five years now, and we love it. On Monday after school (when they came home a bit a lot dysregulated, because school + December = too much change to the schedule) we watched the VeggieTales DVD about St Nicholas (also part of our tradition). On the night of the fifth, we all leave a shoe outside our bedroom door. ‘St Nicholas’ then fills them with treats overnight This year the girls got a Smiggle pencil sharpener and rubber, some chocolate coins, and a little Lindt Father Christmas and reindeer. We’ve never made any attempt to pretend that St Nicholas is anyone other than us, because that’s how we roll with truth-telling and not wanting to alarm them with the idea of strangers in the house. So the whole St Nicholas thing is done with a nudge and a wink and it is just a simple part of our family’s Christmas experience that I really love. I also enjoyed Charlotte’s idea of putting Paddington’s welly out with her boot, just in case he picked up a bit more chocolate.
  • Reindeer jumperOn Tuesday I had an afternoon away from my desk that didn’t involve going to a meeting! I did a bit of Christmas shopping (including this fabulous jumper for Joanna) and took a bit of time out in Starbucks just to stare into space and zone out in the name of self-care. It was lovely.
  • Last week’s multi-agency meeting happened. No-one has yet told us the outcome – we have to go to yet another meeting to hear that. It’s this afternoon. I am so sick of having meetings when a quick email exchange would be so much easier (and provide a paper trail for their promises). But that’s what’s on offer, and so off we go to find out exactly how much of what we’re asking for is going to be a fight. I’m thankful that at least this is some sort of progress.
  • I have some freelance work on this week, which I love. It helps me feel like I am using the parts of my brain that being mum doesn’t always reach. I feel much more me when I am working. I’m thankful that I get to balance both.

What are you grateful for this week?

Share the Thankful Thursday joy and let me know in the comments – it’s good for you! 😉



Pretty much all the adoptive parents I know talk about Christmas with a mix of dread and weary experience as one of the most challenging times of the year. It is certainly that way for us. At times it has been absolutely horrendous. But on balance Christmas 2016 was the best of our Christmasses with the children so far. I’m revisiting this post from post-Christmas 2016 in order to apply what we learned to our preparations for this year: my Christmas survival plan.

Christmas survival

Spending Christmas Day on our own

Not travelling (other than church – see below) or having guests meant that we were better able to set the pace according to what the girls could manage. We didn’t have to worry about accommodating anyone else’s wishes or expectations. This was a massive improvement on previous years where we’ve tried to please the extended family.

We’re doing this again this year.


Last year’s main Christmas presents to the girls were Kindles and I have no idea how we survived without them.

Being able to give the girls an hour’s Kindle time so we could all have a breather from each other was a massive sanity-saver. They even voluntarily did maths on them! I am a huge fan. (Need convincing? Read my post In Praise of Screen Time.)

This year I think giving them some new apps (as we do for long journeys) will be a huge help for all of us. Another hint to anyone considering buying Kindles for children is that the customer service is fantastic.

We’ve had Charlotte’s replaced for free, within 48 hours, with no hassle, three times.

Limiting presents

On Christmas Day we did stockings and four presents for the children. The stockings happened first thing, which for us is always a manageable 7.30am. They were pretty simple: chocolate, sweets, bath bombs, bracelets with times tables on, chewable bracelets, glue and sellotape, and whoopie cushions. Once opened, the contents were decanted into named ziplock freezer bags to avoid any ownership disputes. The stash lasted them until at least the end of the holidays.

For their main presents, we have previously had issues with them becoming overexcited and overwhelmed. Too many things to open tends to turn the whole thing into a consumerist frenzy where it was just about opening the next thing without appreciating anything along the way. So last year (our third Christmas with the girls) we applied a rule I’ve read about previously but felt was quite draconian: ‘something they want, something they need, something to wear, something to read’.

My rule for reducing my children's Christmas present stress? Simplify. Something they want, something they need, something to wear, something to read. Done. Click To Tweet

Surprise! It worked!

It turns out this is brilliantly liberating and much more manageable for all concerned. No massive gifts: we gave them each a book or two, a doctor’s set, a new school bag each, a scarf for Joanna/dress for Charlotte, and a doll (I hate dolls, but Joanna’s therapist was adamant they should have them, so there we are). And that was it. Of course they have other stuff from friends and family, but we spread those out between Boxing Day and New Year’s Day so it all calmed down a little bit. We could probably improve this further by specifying that they will be opening one or two presents each day after Christmas to stop some of the pestering about the things that are still under the tree.

We’re using the same principle this year. 

Colour-in tablecloth

These colour-in tablecloths have become a bit of a tradition for us – they come out on Christmas Eve and provide a bit of entertainment while they wait for Christmas dinner and any other lulls when they can’t decide which of their presents they want to play with and are ‘SO BORED’. They don’t get completely finished so could probably stay out for the whole holiday, though they do get a bit grotty if they stay on the table for meals for a week.

Pyjama days

On the 27th we all stayed in pyjamas all day. The girls were allowed to substitute lunch for chocolate and sweets from their stockings and have unlimited screen time. I finished reading a book and EVERYTHING. This day felt like we were edging closer to how we want Christmas to be. So we did it again on the 30th.

I’ve already scheduled a pyjama day in again for this year.

Learning from our mistakes

Those were the successes. But we’re learning from some failures too.

The things that follow were the most stressful bits of last Christmas. This year Pete and I have hatched plans to manage them better.


Church is a part of our family’s life and last year we went to the 50-minute service on Christmas morning. The girls struggled with it and didn’t want to join in the singing. Pete struggled with their attitude. I struggled to be all things to all people: backing Pete up, quietly managing Joanna’s strop, and giving Charlotte the sensory input she needs (bouncing/patting/back-scratching) to be able to stay in the zone. This isn’t just a Christmas issue – most Sundays have an element of this. But it does make for a certain amount of tension.

This year, we need to all discuss our feelings, needs, and expectations to make this work better. The plan is to go to our parish church, which isn’t our usual church but is the one attached to the girls’ school. They’re familiar with it, it’s walkable, so no meltdowns in the car, and it’s a quick nip home to cook the Christmas dinner. 

Family visits

In 2016, Boxing Day was our day for the Christmas visit to the in-laws (an hour’s drive away) and was the worst day, both in terms of behaviour and general horrendousness. When Charlotte had screamed at me for half an hour and my mother-in-law was eager to get us all to the table despite seeing very clearly that we were in the middle of an incident, I just walked out, intending just to sit in the car for a bit, away from the screaming. But I could still hear the noise from the driveway, so I drove round the corner and had some time out there instead.

Last year I said we needed to rethink how we arrange our time with them – maybe visiting them before Christmas and asking my mother-in-law to reconsider putting her best crystal glasses and special crockery on the table and then us all stressing about whether they’ll get broken. This year we’ve said that instead of going for a Christmas dinner as usual, we’ll go in the afternoon and stay for tea. That should be a more relaxed, buffet-style arrangement – less stressful for all concerned.

The schedule

We are big fans of using schedules to help us all through school holidays. They are a particularly big deal in the summer, but they’re also helpful at other times of year. With all the upheaval caused by school nativity rehearsals and mufti days, we’ve decided to start the schedule this week so that the girls can write on stuff that’s happening at school too.

If you want to use my downloadable, editable holiday schedule template, you can grab it here.


If you’ve had any revelations of sanity-saving ideas, I’d love to hear those too. Please share them in the comments.

PS If you missed it, you might also like to read Five ways to help an adoptive family at Christmas. It’s a great post for sharing with the people you’ll be seeing over Christmas to help them prepare for adoptive children’s needs.

You can get a handy summary in printable PDF form by clicking below. (It’s free.)



Gratitude is officially good for your mental health. (Harvard says so, so it must be true.) As a self-care practice, it’s great to record things you’re grateful for – big and small. So here’s Thankful Thursday – my list of things I’m grateful for this week.

Advent calendar

This week I’m thankful because:

  • It’s nearly Advent. I put our Advent calendar up yesterday. These bags have become a bit of a family tradition. Some years we put notes in them to indicate a particular treat or activity, such as having a hot chocolate and watching a DVD, or making biscuits. Other years it’s the easier route of emptying a couple of bags of fun-size chocolates into them. This year I bought a Playmobil nativity set and have put a few pieces in each day. AND chocolate. The thing is so heavy I’ve had to add knots to the string at strategic intervals to stop all the bags sliding to the middle. I’m trying not to think about the likelihood of bits being chewed, sneaked to school and given away, broken during meltdowns, etc. I’m hoping we can do this.
  • This week is crazy busy, but we are surviving. On Monday Pete and I visited a potential SEMH school for Joanna. It was good, we liked the headteacher, and they are fully on board with PACE and appropriate therapeutic approaches. They just don’t do boarding, which is what we are pushing for. When I mentioned this, the head was great. He said he’d gladly tell the SEN department they were full if it meant us getting what we wanted from them i.e. the other school.
  • Post-adoption support, CAMHS and SEN are finally meeting today (as we have been asking them to for the best part of a year) to put together a multi-agency response to us. I’ll let you know whether it is anything near the package of support we have been asking for.
  • It’s properly cold, the days are shorter, and I love it. I think I was basically born to hibernate. I am unashamedly typing this from under the duvet. It is lovely.
  • I am of the opinion that once it’s December, it’s mince pie season. I don’t do anywhere near as much baking now as I did pre-children, but this weekend I hope to get those going. I’m thinking that the tree can wait another week though. Am I right? When are you putting your tree up?

What are you grateful for this week? Share the Thankful Thursday joy and let me know in the comments – it’s good for you! 😉 


Gratitude is officially good for your mental health. (Harvard says so, so it must be true.) As a self-care practice, it’s great to record things you’re grateful for – big and small. So here’s Thankful Thursday – my list of things I’m grateful for this week.

New hat

This week I’m thankful because:

  • After a year containing more overseas trips than I can remember, and having just spent four days in Sweden for work, Mr Meadows is home for the rest of the year. He brought me back a rather excellent new hat.

  • Charlotte (7) was able to tell me how terrified she is of maths lessons and how she copies her friend because she has absolutely no idea what the questions mean, let alone what the answers are. Obviously on one level it’s heartbreaking, but if we know, we can help. Her teacher had no idea. Our suspicions were aroused when we were presented with an exercise book full of correct answers at last week’s parents’ evening, because we know how hard she finds maths when we do it at home. One meltdown over homework later, and a few PLACE-esque curious questions, and we had the best conversation about her emotions and how she bottles them up at school that we’ve ever had. Conveniently, I’m writing her EHCP form at the moment, so I filled in her section verbatim.

  • Next week is crazy busy – visiting a potential SEMH school for Joanna, taking both girls for genetic testing, meeting the powers that be at CAMHS, and a multi-agency meeting happening as a result of Pete’s latest email copying in all and sundry including our MP. It’s unclear whether we’re invited to this last one – no-one has actually said anything directly – but the fact that they are finally going to discuss the CPV, the girls’ CAMHS provision, and Joanna’s SEMH school place (and whether this can be a weekly boarding place) is progress.

  • Joanna injured her wrist while managing what was by all accounts an epic save in football yesterday. I got a call from school and took her to the GP, who decided it was almost certainly just a sprain. The on-call doctor saw us within 10 minutes! If I make an appointment online it takes 5 weeks! I then found her a sling (which she LOVES, because attention), took her for a sneaky hot chocolate, and returned her to school. Within seconds of our return the sling attracted all the melodramatic gasps from her friends that she could have hoped for. So I’m thankful (a) that it’s not more serious and (b) that we managed to get it all sorted out quickly. Also I got to be supermum in her eyes for a couple of hours which made a nice change.

What are you grateful for this week? Share the Thankful Thursday joy and let me know in the comments – it’s good for you! 😉 


Gratitude is officially good for your mental health. (Harvard says so, so it must be true.) As a self-care practice, it’s great to record things you’re grateful for – big and small. So here’s Thankful Thursday – my list of things I’m grateful for this week.


This week I’m thankful because:

  • Susan and Kevin are still in Strictly and I love them. Their joy is contagious.

  • Our family had our first actually enjoyable bonfire night (if you missed my blog it, you can read it here: Fireworks… without the ‘fireworks’.
  • I’m still feeling the love for autumn. (Sausage hotpot in the slow cooker for the win.)
  • Pete wrote an excellent measured-and-polite-but-assertive ‘enough of your nonsense’ email to our social worker expressing our disappointment and frustration that various things that are supposed to have been done are still not in place. I married him for many excellent reasons, not least his culinary talents, but my word that man writes excellent emails and this makes me happy.
  • I’m looking forward to the Adoption UK conference and meeting lots of my Twitter-friends this weekend. (I’ll be wearing this – if you spot me please say hello!)


What are you thankful for this week? Are you a fellow fan of all things autumnal? Let me know in the comments – it’s good for you! 😉