Sunday, December 16, 2012

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas!

We had Christmas at our house last Saturday!  Yes, I know that's all wrong, but we're due to spend the actual Christmas Day in France with my family, so I decided that we'd be a family of two Christmas Days.

This is the first Christmas Day I have ever experienced as a 'parent'.  Last year, OB was rehabilitated back to his birth mother over Christmas, and NB didn't come until January, so I was free and single for the holidays.

There's a lot of pressure in doing something for the first time, especially when that something is as tradition-laden and significant as Christmas.  I knew that I definitely wanted to begin establishing traditions that will stay with our family, while at the same time making the day appropriately special for two very young children who were unlikely to fully appreciate what was going on!

In the end, we did it quite simply.  The night before I decorated the tree (it's been up for a while but with only our Advent decorations on it, so I added baubles and tinsel) and arranged the presents in piles around it.

Then, on 'Christmas morning', we all sat on my big bed while I read the children the Nativity story out of one of their toddler Bibles.  I explained that it was Jesus's birthday and we sang happy birthday!  Thankfully, OB's recent birthday meant that they at least had a vague idea of what a birthday is.

After that, we went downstairs and attacked the presents!  I was a little torn about how to do the presents, because I really don't want Christmas to be all about that at our house, but at the same time, I vividly remember the thrill of seeing the presents waiting under the tree on Christmas morning and I didn't want to deny that excitement to the boys.

I expected them to be overwhelmed by the presents and take ages to open them, but actually, they attacked them with gusto and soon littered the floor with wrapping paper, boxes and toys!  And, surprisingly, they did completely ignore the boxes and concentrate on playing with the toys, so I was happy with that!

Of course we also filled the day with a variety of unhealthy foodstuffs as well as a visit to friends. In the evening we watched a children's Nativity film with some hot chocolate and sweets.

All in all I think it went pretty well for a first attempt!

Monday, December 10, 2012

Gymnastic Fantastic!

I have recently started taking the boys to gymnastics classes.  Yes, they do have this for 2 year olds!  And frankly, it's hysterical!

Firstly, it's full of earnest, full-on, yummy mummies - the sort of parents who call their little boys "Tollow" (I kid you not!).  These mummies are very keen for their offspring to become the next Louis Smith.  As a result, they spend a lot of time loudly encouraging, cajoling and prompting their toddlers into balancing more perfectly, tipple-toppling more elegantly and generally shining like stars in their respective universes.  A couple of weeks ago one particularly intense mummy had a melt-down because her little darling hadn't been invited to join one of the 'proper classes' next term after several months in Groovy Gibbons.  The coach pointed out that the princess in question was completely incapable of listening to or following instructions, which would be difficult or even dangerous in the proper class when parents aren't helping, but this didn't wash with mummy who not only cancelled next term's subscription, but asked for the remainder of this term's money back as well.  We haven't seen them since.

Secondly, although the coaches are friendly and the sessions are quite well-planned for little ones, I get the impression that the main coach isn't all that comfortable with toddlers.  It's not that she's mean or unpleasant with them, quite the contrary.  It's just that she's rather brusque, expects them to understand what she's said immediately, and seems confident that all the kids will be completely happy to be manhandled by her regularly.  Not so OB, who goes stiff as a board (and wails quite loudly) whenever anyone so much as guides him in a direction he doesn't want to go!  At one point last week, after she had scared him to death by suddenly lifting him up on top of the vault, coach asked me if he was "always like this?" *sigh*

Thirdly, I'm the only person there with more than one child.  As this is a heavily hands-on session for parents, this leaves me at rather a disadvantage.  OB is extremely young for the sessions and basically just wants to run up and down the springboards (he likes slopes) while the other poor kids stand at the end of the runways waiting patiently for him to move so they can do their running jumps!  Also, OB can't really jump.  Neither can NB if I'm honest, but at least he can be persuaded to have a go at some of the activities as they are meant to be done, although no amount of asking, begging or threatening will get him to join the obstacle course at the beginning!  The only part he likes is climbing the sloping bench on his tummy and balancing on the beam!

There are other issues as well, to be honest.  The class is at 2pm which means that both boys, OB especially, are very ready for their naps.  NB can overcome this, but poor OB is really running on empty.  It's quite a long drive to the sports centre and it's all I can do to stop him falling asleep on the way!

But having said all of that, we've paid up to the end of term and I've recently renewed for next term.  Yes it's a bit of a nightmare, and yes, it leaves me exhausted (and a bit patronised!) at the end, but it's so worth it for the confidence that NB is visibly gaining, and the improvement that I hope it will bring about in his balance, co-ordination and muscle strength.  Even for OB, I've seen him join in a little bit more each week.  Our goals are quite basic - to enjoy ourselves, to get used to listening to voices other than mine, and to engage in a little healthy and controlled exercise.  We're well on our way I think!

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Adoption Panel Day!

Well, I'm brimful of excitement today as I went before the adoption/matching panel this morning and they approved me as an adopter and also approved my match with OB!  Hooray!!

I must say I was pretty nonchalant about it beforehand as my adoption social worker had reassured me several times that I had an excellent application and it would really be a formality, but I surprised myself by being pretty emotional when I actually got into it.

At one point they were lamenting that they didn't have a better photograph of us on file and I said, light-heartedly, "Well, I can assure you that he's beautiful!"  And as I said it my tear ducts got away from me and went and did a brimful thing of their own!  Not only that, but OB's social worker went suspiciously pink and started doing some surreptitious dabbing as well!

OB is beautiful, and pretty soon he's going to be my beautiful SON!  I've already downloaded the application form that I have to send off to get our adoption order and after that it's just a case of waiting for the court date to be assigned.

I must say that, as with all my other panel experiences, I found this morning very positive and encouraging.  The panel members were wonderfully forthcoming with compliments, praise and their best wishes for us and hearing all of their comments only made me more thrilled and excited about the whole thing.

OB woke up early from his nap this afternoon, so we sat on my bed for a snuggle and looked out of the window at the hills and the lights and the sunset and I told him that he was no accident and even before he was born he was picked out to be my special son and be loved and wanted always.  I think he understood.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Jesse's Tree Advent - Starting our own traditions

As this is the first Christmas I have spent with OB (he was rehabilitated to his birth mother over Christmas last year) I have decided to initiate several Christmas traditions, some of which I hope will stand the test of time.

We're starting out with a Jesse's Tree Advent tree.  I bought the little wooden decorations and accompanying book from 'Embrace the Middle East' some time ago.  The idea is that you carry out a little advent devotional each day and then hang the appropriate symbol up somewhere.

I didn't really have a 'somewhere' so I have decided to use our Christmas tree.  Once I had tidied up the last of OB's birthday party detritus last night, I unearthed the tree and the lights and brought it downstairs, ready for the ceremonial ornament hanging today.

This is the earliest that I have ever put up my Christmas tree.  When I was teaching I didn't used to bother until the weekend before we broke up for Christmas, and then I'd take it down again the last weekend of the Christmas holidays, so putting it up on December 1st seems quite strange!  But somehow it did seem appropriate to have the end of OB's birthday heralding the beginning of the festive season.

This morning I had the tree ready with the lights twinkling away when the boys came downstairs for breakfast.  Their little faces were well-worth the effort!  "Tree!" and "Lights!" they kept saying.  Then we said a little prayer and hung the first decoration on the tree.  Very sweet and very simple.

Admittedly, the decoration does look at bit like a Halloween scary face!  But it's actually meant to be a representation of the world (as created by God!).

I think this tradition will run and run.

OB is 2!

This week we celebrated a birthday I never thought I'd see, and it was a complete delight!

To commemorate the occasion I thought I'd make a cake in the shape of OB's favourite thing - a guitar.  In preparation, I went on the internet and researched other guitar-shaped cakes, finding out how different bakers had created the shape and what they had used for their decorations.  Lots of methods were shown, including baking one huge cake and cutting out the shape with a knife (!!) as well as baking lots of little cakes and assembling it bit by bit.

I found these tutorials so helpful that I thought I'd write my very own guitar-shaped cake tutorial.  Here's how it goes:

1.  Go to 'Sugar Flair Cakes' in Oldham and hire a guitar-shaped baking tin for £1.50
2.  Bake cake.
3.  Roll out fondant icing and throw it over the cake.
4.  Add bit of decoration and you're basically done!

Hope that was helpful! :)

I used marshmallows for the tuning pegs, and strawberry laces for the strings, held in place with bits of mikado biscuits!  It's not cake-shop quality, but OB was pretty happy with it :)