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.

mince-pies

This week I’m thankful because:

  • Pete finishes work for Christmas tomorrow. This gives us three days of quiet before the children break up. We intend to have our own drama-free Christmas lunch. I think there should be hats.
  • The school carol concert is over, and with it all the routine-disrupting rehearsals. The girls sang enthusiastically, looked in the right direction at least 50 per cent of the time, and amused us by winking and grinning at us throughout.
  • I had a lovely day of self-care on Sunday, while Pete took the girls to the cinema (they saw Ferdinand, which I gather was very funny) and then to their cousin’s birthday party. I slept. Then I listened to podcasts. Then I made mince pies. It was blissful.

  • At the end of last week we met with the heads of adoption and fostering for our LA who told us what had happened at the previous week’s multi-agency meeting. We’re being referred to the Child in Need team in order that they can do whatever assessing they need to do of exactly how difficult things are for us as a family. Then they can tick a box that will allow us to apply for funding for a weekly SEMH boarding school place for Joanna (which has so far been declined by the SEN department who think shuttling her back and forth an hour each way every day is fine). We also talked about respite and what that might look like in practice and we are working together on a plan. AND they wanted info from me on safe holding training and CPV because they are reviewing their policy! No problem. (It’s here if you want a copy.) So there’s still nothing actually tangible right now, but things are moving, I think.
  • I have pretty much finished my Christmas shopping – just a couple of things still to get and I am having a shopping trip with my mum today. Top of Charlotte’s wish list is an Elsa dress, but the only one I’ve found has a button that plays Let It Go. So obviously that little device will need to be removed and the dress sewn back up, because there are limits to my tolerance! I’m thankful to have a mum who is very handy with a needle and thread, so I might delegate that to her if she’s willing.
  • The rest of my Christmas preparations are still in disarray, but I’m fine with that. How about you?

What are you grateful for this week?

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

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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! 😉

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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! 😉 

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WhotChilli is a collection of family card games designed to promote numeracy to children in fun and engaging ways. It consists of six sets of six numbered cards, a 12-sided dice, and instructions in numerous languages. The whole box is the size of a deck of playing cards, so it’s pleasingly portable for travelling or keeping in a bag as an emergency distraction!

WhotChilli card game

I tested out three games with help from Joanna (age 9) and Charlotte (age 7). I was interested to see what level of numeracy was required of them. Joanna is about average for her age in her maths abilities, and has a good memory for her tables. Charlotte, who we think has FASD, really struggles with maths. She is easily overwhelmed and frightened by the idea of having to work out answers. I was going to have to sell this one to her with diplomatic skills of the highest order. I showed her the funny pictures on the cards and hoped for the best. It worked.

Salsa

We started with the game Salsa, in which you each make your own ‘recipe’ using the cards. The object of the game is to work out another player’s choice of cards and what order they have placed them in. You score 5 points for the right card in the right place, and 1 point for the right card in the wrong place. Every round you have to use the score from the previous round to deduce what might be right. You agree before the game how many cards (between 3 and 6) you’ll use.

WhotChilli

This game proved a bit too tricky for us, so we tweaked the rules a bit, pointing out which cards were right. It still worked well as a game of reasoning, but removed the scoring element. Maybe we can add that back in once we’ve got used to the concepts.

Lookin’ Hot

Next we played Lookin’ Hot. Everyone starts with a set of cards up to one number less than the number of players, so for our group of three players we each used cards 1 and 2. The first player rolls the dice, then chooses which card to put face-down in the middle, then the others put their chosen cards down too. If the first player is the only one to choose that number, they can multiply it by the number on the dice. If someone else has picked the same card, they multiply the card number by the dice number, but subtract the result from their score instead.

WhotChilli

Joanna coped OK with the multiplying (she loves her tables), and Charlotte, as predicted, needed help. But the constant adding and subtracting two-digit numbers using mental arithmetic was too much for both of them, so we decided only to add on positive scores and skip the subtraction. We also decided to add in the number three card, because we found playing with two choices was a bit limiting. This made it more likely that we would choose different cards. Once we’d made those adjustments, we were away. We could also have whipped out pens and paper to carry on adding and subtracting according to the instructions, but our version felt more inclusive for Charlotte.

Chilly Chilli

Finally we played Chilly Chilli. In this game all the players get a set of the six different cards, lay them out face down in front of them in the order of their choice, and memorise which is which. You then take it in turns to swap two of your cards for two of anyone else’s. The object is to get rid of your hot chillies and gaining lots of cool ones. This was much more of an even playing field, as Charlotte has a great memory for these sorts of games. We all enjoyed this game the most of the three.

WhotChilli

WhotChilli card games

WhotChilli: the verdict

WhotChilli would make a good gift for a more able young mathematician (or one with slightly more patience as they improve). It says it’s suitable for ages 6+, but that doesn’t apply equally to all the games. I’d recommend it for children 8 and up.

The cards themselves are fun, and if left to their own devices my girls would happily invent a few other games to supplement the ‘official’ ones. The pack costs £9.99 and is available from Amazon.

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In our house, the start of November brings a strange mix of excitement and concern. Will they or won’t they cope with fireworks this year? Will the children put on their own ‘fireworks display’ as a response to all then bangs and flashes outside?

fireworks

Feeling the love for fireworks

I am a big fan of fireworks. So much so that we ended our wedding reception at 6pm so that me and Pete could slope off to a fireworks display 10 miles away for the rest of the evening. It’s something I hoped to share with our children – wrapping up warm to stand in a cold field, eating hotdogs with fried onions, and hoping that each squealing rocket shooting skyward would burst into one of those huge rosettes that changes colour twice before it fizzles out with a crackle. I have great memories of standing on the village rec, cold feet in two pairs of socks inside my wellies, the waiting all worthwhile for those few minutes of pyrotechnics. I loved it. I’ve never celebrated Halloween, so bonfire night is the autumn celebration as far as I’m concerned. I love a firework.

My children, though, have been known to see it a bit differently.

fireworks

Inauspicious beginnings

For their first three Novembers with us, the sound of our neighbours’ fireworks was enough to frighten the life out of them. Coming from a birth family where sudden loud noises meant parents fighting, the bangs made them scream and hide under their duvets at best, and completely freak out and rage when it was really bad. We didn’t even try to go to a display, though we did occasionally manage to coax them into watching through closed windows – we live on a hill with great firework viewing potential for others’ home displays.

Last year

Last year was our first proper outing to a proper display, back in the village where I grew up. With hot dogs. It was just like the old days, with the addition of a couple of fairground rides to keep the children amused until the display started. I had wrapped the children up in plenty of layers, with scarves and gloves and hats and, importantly, earplugs.

It worked.

Yes, Charlotte got a bit cold and tired towards the end, but she mainly coped really well. Joanna, who had been the most scared of fireworks previously, loved it all. She was awestruck in exactly same way I’d hoped for. It was one of those rare parenting moments where you think ‘This is what it is supposed to be like’.

This year

We made sure that they were (a) filled with hot chocolate and biscuits and (b) wearing lots of layers before we headed out. When we arrived, we went straight to the hotdog stall to make sure that box was ticked. I also made sure I had a couple of cups of mulled wine early on to help me cope with proceedings.

Our fireworks display involved half an hour of standing watching a ‘fire dancer’ and some people with glow in the dark hula hoops before proceedings started. Pete and I muttered about the appropriateness of wearing a leotard and fishnets and dancing in a cold field at night, but the girls loved it. It helped that Pete procured some toasted marshmallows at this point. Nice work, husband.

marshmallows

Finally the fireworks started. They were excellent. They were also loud. I wasn’t sure how the girls would cope – last year there was a lot of holding hands over ears – but this year they took it in their stride. Boom.

Shh. I think we’ve cracked it. We’ve done fireworks… without the fireworks. And they loved it. Long may it continue.

The girls’ fireworks pictures from their activity club today:

 

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