Wednesday, 27 February 2013

Routine changes

We were told yesterday that one of Jack-Jack's contact days had now been changed permanently to a different day, and the time and location would also change. A few days earlier we'd been told that the time and location of another of his contact days had changed. He's been here less than two months, and already we've met four different sessional workers, had the days change three times and the times change four times. Our social worker Jane happened to ring me just after the email came through, so I told her what had happened, and she let me have a bit of a moan! We just don't know how we're supposed to keep Jack-Jack in a good sleep schedule when it gets disrupted three times a week, he misses naps, and then he's so unsettled for days afterwards that it takes up to a week for his behaviour, sleep and eating to return to normal. Jane completely agreed and told me that she'd voice her concerns to the relevant people. We're very lucky that she's so supportive of us. She made the point that even aside from the impact on Jack-Jack, we're a family not a residential unit, so we shouldn't be expected to have to keep changing our plans at such short notice. In some respects, it's part and parcel of fostering (Jack-Jack's arrival was very short notice), but these seem to be things that don't need to be this complicated and disruptive.

Aside from the above, Jack-Jack's doing great - spending every day exploring, discovering and honing his new skills. He's been feeding himself at every meal, we very rarely use "baby" food any more. New tastes over the last couple of weeks have been cucumber, apple, satsuma, jelly (very messy but a hit), custard, roasted winter veg, apple pie, mashed potato, raisins, sausages and fizzy pear juice (just a sip - best face ever when the bubbles hit his nose, but he liked it.) His favourite foods so far are marmite toast, yoghurt and sausages, but anything that can be smooshed in his hands and smeared all over the high chair is generally a winner!

Sunday, 24 February 2013

Eating and sleeping

We've had a lovely weekend with Esmeralda's mum. We went to a local farm yesterday and showed Jack-Jack all the lambs, piglets and chicks. He seemed a bit mesmerised, but was looking around taking everything in! Today we went to IKEA for lunch, and bought a new highchair so that Jack-Jack can practise his pincer grip (the one we have doesn't have a tray as it's designed to be used at the dining table, but we tend to feed Jack-Jack in the kitchen at this stage to contain some of the mess!) Jack-Jack shared my meatballs, mashed potato and peas, tried some of Esmeralda's tomato soup, and munched down on some bread roll with gusto, kicking his legs and smooshing mashed potato all over his hands. He seems to be swinging between mealtimes either being an absolute joy or very frustrating and a bit of a battle at the moment (much more from his side than ours, as we're of the philosophy that he gets his calories from his milk and food is just to experience tastes and textures for the next few months at least, so are quite relaxed about the whole thing!)

Although we've mostly cracked naptimes at home, when we're out Jack-Jack rarely naps more than half an hour at a time in the car, buggy or carrier, which can make for some pretty cranky afternoons out. Other than staying home all day apart from quick dashes out between meals and naps, we're not sure how to get round this one quite yet. Perhaps someone should invent a full-size cot on wheels, complete with soundproofing, blackout curtains and cosy home decor for the ultimate in portable baby comfort..?

Friday, 22 February 2013

The mess that could have been

Jack-Jack is still learning new skills every day - yesterday he learned to splash in the bath, and also sat up in his cot for the first time during his morning nap (this completely freaked him out as he didn't know how to lie down again, and it took an hour and a half to calm him down.) He's also on the verge of cruising around furniture - he's not pulling himself up to a stand yet, but he can pull up to kneeling, and if we stand him up next to a piece of furniture he'll move his hands along but hasn't quite got his legs coordinated enough to follow!

Esmeralda's mum is visiting for the weekend, staying in a nearby B&B. She loved seeing us with Jack-Jack today and was asking when we were going to start having our own babies, as she thinks we should have a house full. One baby in the house is quite enough for us at the moment - in the two seconds Esmeralda was fetching out a sleepsuit from the cupboard before Jack-Jack's bath this evening, he managed to poo on the carpet on the landing and then gleefully roll in it. Imagine the havoc that more than one baby could have got up to!

Wednesday, 20 February 2013

Signs of attachment

It looks like we're over the pox, hardly worse for wear except for a few days of feeling generally under the weather and a bit itchy! Contact has been cancelled for the week as we weren't sure whether Jack-Jack would suddenly wake up covered in spots, which is quite a good thing as he's been very clingy the last few days and I wouldn't have liked to send him off for two hours in the car.

He's shown some positive signs of attachment and settling in this week. On Monday we ran into a colleague of Esmeralda's in the supermarket who's never met Jack-Jack before. She leaned down towards the pushchair to say hello, and for the first time since he came to us, he seemed uncertain and looked to me for reassurance! Up until now he's smiled at absolutely everyone, showing no distinction between friend and stranger, so this is huge progress. For a couple of weeks now he's been reaching out to either Esmeralda or me if he's being held and he wants the other person to hold him, but now he's also showing his preference when he's down on the floor, and will crawl over to our feet (at speed, making his happy noises) and wiggle his arms and legs in the air to show that he wants to be picked up, rather than just staying where he was and screaming. The most recent development (just in the last day or two) is that he's been content to lie in his cot chatting and singing to himself before he drops off at naptimes (and bedtime if he hasn't fallen asleep on the bottle) rather than screaming (which was regularly happening whether we were there with him/holding him or not). He's spontaneously snuggling into us for cuddles when being held, and is making a bit more eye contact too, it's so rewarding to see him relax a little more each day. Hopefully the backwards step that has been noticeable after each contact will get less and less as he attaches to us and realises that he's safe and loved here.

Monday, 18 February 2013

Counting spots

Jack-Jack has had about 7 or 8 small new spots appear today, and unfortunately so have I! I had the chicken pox for the first time in June last year - I'm sure it's not pleasant as a child but it was absolutely awful as an adult! I'm hoping if I have picked it up again from the little one then at least it'll be mild as I should have some immunity to it now. We're all about sharing and giving in this house, but I think a line should be drawn where itchy spots are involved...

Esmeralda is completely spot-free, and is a little too gleeful about it, considering that she'll be the one applying the calamine and administering soup and blankets if we get any worse!

Sunday, 17 February 2013

Spaghetti junction

Jack-Jack still hasn't broken out in full blown chicken pox yet and the couple he did have are drying up, we're holding out hope that this may be a very mild case, although people keep telling us about cases they know of where the child suddenly woke up covered head to toe in spots once the parents let their guard down and thought it was all over. Constant vigilance!

Esmeralda was working today, and Jack-Jack and I had a day at home as he's been a bit under the weather despite the lack of spots. I cooked up some spaghetti for my lunch and made extra so that he could play with it - he thought it was the funniest thing ever, it kept him entertained for over half an hour! He kept trying to eat it, but was holding each string of spaghetti in both hands, and when he finally got one end of a string in his mouth he'd accidentally pull it out again with the other hand and would painstakingly go through the whole thing again, I wish I'd videoed it! He's still working on that pincer grip, bless him.

Jack-Jack's case is going to court again this week. We don't know exactly why, and as with any of these things there's always the chance (we've been told it's very slim) that the court will place Jack-Jack back with mum, in which case we presume he'd leave in quite a hurry, possibly the same day. It's a very strange thing to have hanging over your head, but at least he doesn't know what's going on so doesn't need to worry about it. Providing that the above doesn't happen, we do know that contact arrangements will be discussed so hopefully there'll be some positive change for Jack-Jack there to make it a bit easier.

Friday, 15 February 2013

The pox!

No contact again today, due to the lack of sessional workers. It was probably for the best though as this evening when we undressed Jack-Jack for his bath, we noticed his lower back was covered in spots! He's had quite a big one on his face for a couple of days, but we just thought it was a milk spot - apparently not! We had a bit of a dramatic evening after that. Although we weren't worried that it was anything serious, we decided not to take any risks and rang the out of hours GP service - a clinician rang us back about an hour later. After we'd talked through Jack-Jack's symptoms he booked us an appointment 20 minutes later at the out of hours GP in the hospital nearby, who confirmed that it was chicken pox. We had to explain that we were his foster carers and not his parents at every stage (although we were told in our training that if we ever needed to go to the hospital with a foster child, the hospital would call the fostering service in front of us to check our story, which didn't happen!) and then called the out of hours fostering support service when we got home. They took all the details, and will fax both Jack-Jack's social worker and our social worker on Monday. I also emailed both social workers to suggest that contact is cancelled for the next week at least, and to let mum know asap in case there's any chance she's pregnant, as she saw Jack-Jack yesterday and he would have been contagious.

Jack-Jack ate his first fully "grown-up" meal at dinner time - no baby food and no mashing! He had some pitta bread with humous, most of a fishcake, steamed carrots, peas (chewed them one by one and then spat out the skins), steamed apple and a couple of satsuma segments. We were so proud!

Thursday, 14 February 2013

Thursday night fever

Esmeralda has been on night shifts for the past 3 nights, and Jack-Jack has had a runny nose and a cough, which means none of us have had much sleep! We've just bought one of those wedges to put under the cot mattress to try to help him sleep a bit better when he's congested, although we're dubious that it will work as he moves around so much in his sleep, he's likely to be found lying straight across the bottom with his feet wedged between the bars, which considering he sleeps in a grobag is quite a feat of acrobatics!

He had contact this afternoon and (quite unsurprisingly as I wouldn't like to travel 2 hours in the car when I have a cold and haven't slept very well either) has been very unsettled since he returned home. He's been clingy, seemed disorientated and confused, hasn't really wanted to eat, and wailed through the bedtime routine which we cut short as he was exhausted. It's 9.30pm and he's already woken 5 times since going to sleep at 6.30pm which is really unusual these days. We don't know whether contact is going ahead tomorrow or not, and to be honest a bit of me hopes it isn't as I don't want to put him through it again when he's already feeling miserable. Bless him.

We're planning a late Valentine's family treat of brunch out in the morning, so that will be a nice start to the day, whatever happens afterwards!

Tuesday, 12 February 2013

8 months old already

Jack-Jack turns eight months old this week, and we celebrated both that milestone and Pancake Day at tea time today - Jack-Jack had a special pancake in the shape of an 8, courtesy of Esmeralda, which he really enjoyed (sprinkled with lemon juice of course!) It's strange to look back on photos of his first week here, and see how much he has grown and changed already - it's really noticeable in his face. I went through his wardrobe again this evening and took out everything he's grown out of - he has one 6-9 month top and a couple of jumpers left, and everything else is either 9-12 months or 12-18 months! He's worn a few practically skin tight tops recently - he has no patience whatsoever for dressing and undressing, so we can't "try things on" to see if they'll still go over a vest - it's not worth the hassle to take a top off and change it unless it's cutting off circulation - we just make a note to remove it when it's been through the laundry!

Esmeralda is in charge tomorrow morning as I'm working, so she's taking Jack-Jack to soft play with one of our friends and her little ones. Our dog walker is also coming to take Lady out (we thought she deserved a break from the baby) so I'll have some rare time alone - I might even get to drink a cup of coffee while it's still hot!

Monday, 11 February 2013

The mystery of the missing sessional worker

Jack-Jack was due to be picked up for contact at 10.45am this morning, we got him all packed and ready, and at 10.20am we managed to get through to his social worker on the phone (to find out the worker's name as we're supposed to know this before they arrive) who confessed that she had no idea whether anyone was going to pick him up or not. Apparently she'd put in a request for an agency sessional worker on Friday, but neither of the people who book the agency workers were in today so she couldn't find out whether it had been done! She asked us to tell her whether Jack-Jack was collected or not, so that she could let mum know whether contact was happening. No wonder parents lose trust in the "system". It's all been a bit of a shambles so far really, but apparently they've found someone who can do one day a week starting this Thursday, so hopefully that's a bit of continuity for both Jack-Jack and mum.

Jack-Jack has decided that he hates the rain cover on the push chair, and he has very little choice in the matter at the moment seeing as it seems to be raining or snowing every minute of the day and it's far too windy to put him in a carrier and use an umbrella! I think he'd be quite happy to stay in all day and watch "Mike the knight" on CBeebies instead of going out, but sadly we have errands to run so he's been letting us know just how cross he is in a variety of ways - violently kicking his feet so the rain cover pops off the bottom of the pushchair is a favourite, followed by the sort of angry screaming that makes passers-by give us "those" looks.

Roll on springtime, and hurry up to the long, warm (or at least not snowing) days of summer!

Sunday, 10 February 2013

Weather report

Rain, rain and more rain!

Seeing the forecast this morning, we decided to take out a buggy given to us by a friend, (much better rain cover than our normal buggy,) brave the weather and go for a long walk with the dog. We ended up doing a 3 hour round trip via a lovely gastropub for a warming mulled cider, and Jack-Jack managed a good nap on the way. This was our first proper outing with both the dog and the baby (except for normal dog walks), and it went very well - I think Lady was a little calmer than usual with Jack-Jack there.

Jack-Jack sat himself up from lying down for the first time this evening, and no one saw it! I glanced over at him and he was lying down playing, glanced back and he was sat up looking very proud of himself. One of his legs was pointing forwards and the other was bent backwards, but it didn't seem to be bothering him too much - the boy has his own style!

Saturday, 9 February 2013

Swedish shopping and nap time

We all went to IKEA this afternoon, and Jack-Jack slept in the buggy all the way round and then tried his first swedish meatballs for dinner which were a hit. Amongst many other things, (and despite only intending to buy clippits and sandwich bags,) we bought a play tunnel and set it up when we got home. We weren't expecting him to be interested at all yet, but he absolutely loved it and crawled straight in! He experimented with going forwards and backwards and turning round, and then lay down and rocked the tunnel from side to side, all the time making his "ah-ba" happy noises and kicking his legs.

We recently bought the book "No-cry nap solution" by Elizabeth Pantley, and it's completely revolutionised the way we handle Jack-Jack's naps. Jack-Jack didn't have a problem getting to sleep in the day, but he always woke after about 35 minutes, crying and irritable. I haven't even finished reading the whole book yet, but the way she explains how babies' sleep cycles work really made an impact. We realised that Jack-Jack was only sleeping for one sleep cycle at a time (about 35-40 minutes), and if we left him to settle for a few minutes rather than rushing to him at the first sound, he would usually resettle into another sleep cycle! Naps are now generally about 1-1.5 hours, and it's made such a difference, not only to his daytime sleep but also night time, and he's waking happy and chatty rather than out of sorts! In hindsight we were probably waking him when we rushed to get him as babies can make all sorts of sounds and movements between sleep cycles, so no wonder he was grumpy. Hopefully the rest of the book will be as useful, and whilst he's sleeping I'll have time to read it!

Friday, 8 February 2013

Stranger danger

Contact this morning was cancelled at short notice as they couldn't find a sessional worker to pick Jack-Jack up and supervise the session. It was a shame, because the contact yesterday went much better, and his mum wrote in the notebook that she was really pleased with how well he was being cared for, and that she was going to bring some toys/clothes/bits and pieces of his from home for him today. I feel a bit sorry for her as she was obviously looking forward to seeing Jack-Jack. They still hadn't called her by the time I rang and found out that it was cancelled, so she had even less notice than we did.

It feels very odd and wrong to be sending Jack-Jack off with strangers, especially as we're supposed to be doing everything we can to promote his attachment to us. As he left with the sessional worker yesterday (who he's never met before and won't again, as she was just covering, and who didn't take his carseat so he had nothing familiar about the journey at all) he was reaching out his arms for me and his eyes looked worried. How is this helping his trust in me when I'm smiling and waving him off regardless of his feelings? If he was my child there is no way I would ever send him off on his own with a stranger, but his social worker doesn't seem too concerned.

Esmeralda has a rare weekend off work, so we're going to take the opportunity to do lots of family things together - soft play, the park, church, and maybe even the family trip of all family trips - IKEA!

Tuesday, 5 February 2013

Swimming and another call

Jack-Jack loved going swimming! We arrived at the leisure centre with only half an hour left of the public swim, and when we explained that it was the little one's first time, the lady at the desk agreed that 20 minutes would probably be fine, and let us in at reduced rates. Despite it being his usual nap time, Jack-Jack didn't stop smiling the whole time we were in the pool and was still smiling and giggling in the changing room afterwards. I think we'll have to make this a regular thing!

Just as we were about to leave to go out, the phone rang and it was the fostering duty team asking whether we would take a same-day placement of a two year old. I said that Jack-Jack is still very needy, and we wanted to wait a couple of months at least until he's more settled before we think about taking another placement. I had to try not to think about the two year old, as that would have made the decision much harder, and Esmeralda and I had talked about this already and decided that Jack-Jack would be our only focus for a while yet. The duty team member sounded a tiny bit annoyed as technically we do have a spare room set up for fostering. It's a tricky one. Funny though - Panel approved us for "one child (two if siblings)", which should be on all of our paperwork. Our first call was for a sibling group of three, and this one was for a single child not related to our current placement!

Monday, 4 February 2013

Sensory experiences

Thanks to everyone who sent an encouraging text or email after reading my last post, I really appreciate it and it's lovely that so many people are reading this blog. Jack-Jack was much calmer last night and we spent a quiet day at home with lots of sensory play - inside playing with dry pasta and blowing bubbles, and outside in the garden on a rug in the sunshine exploring new textures and feeling the wind on our faces (which he loves - it's so funny, he closes his eyes and smiles as the wind blows his hair around, I got some excellent photos!) I've been looking up ideas for other sensory activities that aren't dependent on babies not putting things in their mouths (which rules out rice/beans, shaving foam, play dough, sand, paint etc.) and it all seems mostly textiles based, like touchy feely books, which just doesn't seem as fun! I've compromised by making Jack-Jack some sensory pots this evening - two with different colours of glitter/shiny stars and water, one with multicoloured feathers, one with beads and pom poms, and one with pasta. I'm looking forward to seeing what he makes of them tomorrow!

My mum is coming over tomorrow whilst Esmeralda is at work, and we're planning to take Jack-Jack swimming. No idea whether he's ever been before, so we're not sure how he'll feel about it - the local pool is a bit bigger than the kitchen sink where he normally takes his baths!

Sunday, 3 February 2013


Sadly, it looks like contact wasn't the positive experience we hoped it would be. We understand why it was initially set up to be so long and so frequent- Jack-Jack is a young baby who had never been separated from his mum. The reality now however is that when he went on Friday he hadn't seen her for almost a month, which is a huge length of time in a baby's life. It must have been very strange for both of them, and we heard some concerning things about mum's interactions with Jack-Jack during the session.

His behaviour has completely changed since he came back from contact on Friday. He returned absolutely starving and completely exhausted, which meant that he was too tired to eat, but also too hungry to fall asleep. He was in a state until he managed to have a nap, and then woke up and ate the biggest dinner he's had with us.

Friday night and Saturday night were both awful for all of us, especially Jack-Jack. He was awake for at least 2.5 hours at a time each night, screaming (not crying) relentlessly, which took such a toll on him, he was so distressed he was almost sick.

In the daytime, he hasn't wanted to be either put down or held, and has had little interest in his toys. His eye contact during milk feeds has diminished to nothing. He's screamed before and during each meal (we're wondering whether it's because of how hungry he was on Friday and he's worried we won't feed him?) and has become extremely panicky the more tired he becomes at each nap time. He's been fighting sleep, and screaming regardless of whether we lay him in his cot or pick him up and cuddle and rock him.

He gradually returned to normal by the end of today - 2.5 days since contact - so we'll see how he is over night.

We have the new contact schedule, which will start this coming week. Our concern is that due to the length of the breaks between sessions, it might become a cycle of this new distressed behaviour punctuated by contact days. Hopefully not - it could be that the more he sees mum, the more they're able to rebuild their relationship and he'll be able to be more settled in between times.

I hope this hasn't sounded too negative, but in starting this blog we wanted to give a realistic view of fostering, both good and bad.

Friday, 1 February 2013

The notebook

We were told on Wednesday that one final contact at the current time of 9am-midday had been arranged for this morning, so we had Jack-Jack ready to be picked up at 8am as usual. We waited for the call at 9.15am to tell us that they were on their way back... but it never came! We realised about 9.40am that mum must have turned up this time, and both Esmeralda and I felt a bit strange about it. I think in all honesty, as we were four weeks into placement without mum having attended a contact session, both of us were thinking that the contact would eventually stop and we would get Jack-Jack into a normal routine. Having spoken about it, we're really pleased that he's had the chance to see his mum, and at least if she's going to attend from now on, then the contact will become part of his new normal.

One huge positive that came out of today was that Jack-Jack's mum asked the sessional worker to write a note back to us in the notebook that we always send with him to contact. We've been writing what sort of a night he's had, what he had for breakfast, anything "wrong" with him (rashes, teething, cough etc.) and always that we hope they have a good time together at the end. Apparently his mum was really pleased with the notebook, and she asked some specific questions about Jack-Jack in her note. Now that I know how she feels, I can write a longer, chattier note next time, answering her questions and giving a bit more detail about Jack-Jack's day.

I feel a huge amount of relief that this first contact has now happened, and that there doesn't seem to be any animosity from mum towards us.

We have another milestone to report - this evening Jack-Jack pulled himself up onto his knees during his bathtime in the kitchen sink! Thankfully the bath seat we ordered for him arrived this morning, so we'll spend the next couple of days getting him used to it, and then he can transition up to the big bath upstairs. Honestly I wouldn't be surprised if this child stood up and took his first steps before he could properly crawl!