Copyright and Use of Images

Copyright and Use of Images
I am happy for you to use any of the images from my blog that do not include my children. I just ask that you link back here with proper credit. Use of photos containing images of my children is expressly forbidden.


Sunday, 8 November 2015

DIY Minions Initial Art

Just a quick one. I had to show you these Minions prints I made for Korben's room. Like probably most five year old boys he absolutely ADORES minions - thinks they're hilarious!! I have been looking all over for some Minions artwork for his walls for months to no avail.

Well, the other day I thought sod it I'll just make my own! I had bought some frames already for the cheapo price of £1.99 each from Home Bargains. All I needed was some patience and a free vector image downloaded from Google.

Korben is thrilled to bits with his new bedroom artwork and to be honest so am I!

Wednesday, 2 September 2015

Week 3

I am now almost 16 weeks pregnant. This post was written when I had just found out. 

I'm going to have a baby! It's at this moment just a tiny ball of cells that has literally only just made it's way into my uterus, but it's there and it's growing. I have taken a few pregnancy tests and seen that amazing second line pop up. There is nothing like the excitement of finding out you're pregnant! 
Now this will be my third take home baby if I am lucky, but I have had four pregnancies. If you have read my blog for a while you will know that we have two babies who died before being blessed with our two trouble makers. One day I will make a page just for them on this blog, but I need to work up to that. Maybe on their birthday's this year. 

So, because I have two children already I need to be awfully organised with this pregnancy and with my life in general. I'm going to use the time I am pregnant and the inevitable nesting urges I will get to make sure my home is purged of clutter and baby-ready by the time this little addition arrives. I want everything to be ready and all my ducks in a row to make life as stress free as possible. 

My estimated due date is 22nd February, which means I will deliver sometime the previous week by elective c-section. Given our previous losses I am of course cautious, but I'm going to try to enjoy this as much as I can, because this will be the last baby I will ever have. 

No one knows about this yet, which means that these posts about my pregnancy will not be posted to my blog for a while yet. It's kind of nice having this secret to ourselves for a time. 

For those of you who are POAS (pee on a stick) addicts these tests are from 10dpo (days past ovulation). Top is FRER and bottom is Superdrug.... but of course you will have known THAT, right? ;)

Monday, 13 April 2015

So Why Would I Ever Go Back...?

After reading my last two posts you might wonder why we chose to go back to the same hospital to deliver our "take home babies". The truth is that we discussed our options and made a decision based mostly on cold, hard logic. I thought about paying for a private delivery, but it was way outside of our budget. Of course, if you're putting a £15 - 20,000 price tag on a healthy baby there's no question, but paying for private care doesn't guarantee a happy outcome. Nothing does.

Everyone knows you can't buy a healthy baby. We were perfectly aware that just because the universe had shit on us from a great height twice before, that didn't award us any protection from it happening again. The things we survived were statistically unlikely. But they were just as likely to happen to us again. We actually found solace in statistics. After all, if 1 in 4 pregnancies ends in loss then that means 3 in 4 are successful!

With regards to choosing the same hospital, pragmatism won out. The other options were too far to travel and they didn't know our story there. With loosing two babies I had gained the benefit of extraordinarily careful treatment. They were taking no chances! This gave us confidence.

We also had gained confidence in OUR ability to stand up for ourselves - to ask questions and insist on investigations if we felt we needed them. The hospital were great and let us know that we could go down and i'd be put on the monitor whenever I liked, for no reason at all other then reassurance. I was also given additional scans, which we also supplemented with private scans by the wonderful Chris Griffin and his team at MUMS in Solihull .

My last two posts came from a place of bitterness. They were written after the initial intensity of feelings has given way, and after having time to ponder each event over the years. The dust has settled and allowed me to pick apart my experience to be able to view the collection of mistakes with clarity. Back then I was more interested in trying to keep my sanity, struggling to keep myself together and just generally getting from one day to the next.

I spoke of the brushing off very infrequently with my husband, and we certainly never allowed ourselves to become overtly angry. We both agreed that pointing fingers and trying to lay blame was futile and could only lead to more upset and pain at a time when all we wanted was to try to heal.

There were many amazing times during my care with Ada, Lyric and Korben and it would be unfair to read my last two blog posts and understand them as the be all and end of of my care.

The midwives at my routine appointments were incredibly sympathetic during my appointments with Ada. When I went in to see my midwife and she couldn't find Ada's heartbeat, she tried and tried for what felt like an age even though she knew she was making her subsequent appointments run late. The kind, sweet lady even came through to the hospital after her shift and waited to see me when I came round after the anaesthetic to make sure I was okay.

I already mentioned the doctor who delivered Ada without needing to do a vertical incision.

All of the nurses who fed my husband and allowed him to stay when we couldn't bear to be apart.

The ultrasound technicians who took extra time to show me my placenta with Lyric and did every check painfully slowly and carefully so that I could feel reassured. They often gave me more photos than they were probably allowed to and never charged us.

My amazing consultant who looked after me when I was diagnosed as having borderline gestational diabetes. She was a perfect combination of professionalism, empathy and straight down the line honesty and I really appreciated her.

When I had delivered Lyric she was a little bit "grunty" in her breathing, so she was taken to the special care baby unit. As much as it pained me to be separated from her and it reminded me of being there with her brother in so many ways, I really appreciated that they were taking no chances and she was back with me by tea time.

I am sure there were others who I haven't mentioned that helped to make pregnancy after a loss so much easier to bear.

So you see, considering that it started as a decision based more on being "better the devil you know." It ended up being worth it for many other reasons too. Nothing is ever black and white.

Sunday, 5 April 2015

More Frustration, but then Gratitude followed by a Final Brush Off.

After having Zane I wanted to be pregnant again as soon as I could. I researched all I could find about being pregnant after a c-section. I learned that having a horizontal incision was a good thing, because it heals much quicker and I devoured anecdotal accounts of women who had found themselves pregnant soon after having a caesarian.

My life felt like it was on pause. My favourite description of the time was like I was at square minus one. Not only was I right back at the beginning without a baby, but I was also unable to even be pregnant yet. I was living, but only to pass the time, spending my days obsessing about when I could try to conceive again and trying to find evidence to support my desperate need to try again soon.

There is no feeling on this earth like the ache of empty arms following the loss of a baby. Your body has been growing and developing, your life has revolved around the planning and anticipating. There isn't a moment that passes where you aren't daydreaming about, planning for and looking forward to holding your baby. To giving him his name and seeing his face. Proudly showing him off to everyone in your life.

Then when you do have your baby finding that you can't breastfeed him. You can't even pick him up. Instead of making decisions about what to dress him in for his coming home outfit, you're deliberating with your husband about whether to turn off his life support. Instead of gushing over his nose and his little fingers you're talking about how much brain damage it's likely he will have after being starved of oxygen for so long.

I felt confused mainly. They don't like to tell you that your baby is definitely going to die, but by the time the doctors have told you, "he's a very poorly boy." in a certain tone of voice a few times, the realisation kind of kicks in.

My daydreams about holding my baby for the first time mainly consisted of me having been in labour, lots of pushing and lots of pain. I imagined being passed a slimy, wet bundle of newborn to place on my chest straight after birth while my husband looked at us both proudly.

What I hadn't imagined was being completely unable to pick my baby up for the first 36 hours of his life, followed by the agonising, yet obvious decision to withdraw care because his organs were failing. I didn't once imagine that the first time I held my baby boy would be while I was watching him die.

When my husband and I finally had a moment alone to examine our son's fingers and toes he was already going cold. When it came time for the nurse to send my boy to the mortuary I had to tell her to take him from me, because I couldn't bear to give him up.

Then I retired to a hospital room on the maternity ward where I took a pill to stop my milk coming in and listened to the sound of other people's babies crying through the night.

I have heard that some people can't imagine being pregnant again after suffering a loss. I certainly felt that way after loosing our second baby. I sat with her in the mortuary and told my husband that there was no way I could do this again.

But after Zane it was all I could think about.

We were lucky enough to fall pregnant less than six months after loosing our son. It was the month after returning from being married in Las Vegas, so we nicknamed the little fetus our "Vegas"

As much as I was terrified, I was also happy. Being pregnant again just felt so right, and our little baby girl made us feel like we were on the right track again. We decided on her name pretty early on, because Ada simply means "happy" and that was how she made us feel. Our little metaphoric light in the dark.

At 18 weeks I had booked an appointment for my anomaly scan. I went to the hospital only to be told that my name wasn't on the list. They had made a mistake and I wasn't booked in for a scan that day. As I am sure anyone would appreciate, it takes a lot to go in for a scan after a loss. On the one hand it's all you want to do, because you need to make sure your baby is still okay. But on the other hand, it's a scary proposition given that you could find out something is wrong.

I remember talking to the doctor who was there that day. I told him about my fears that I had Vasa Praevia again, and that I was worried about the location of my placenta. He couldn't have been less interested. He told me that the condition was rare and that no scan I could have would be able to tell me whether I had Vasa Praevia at that stage or indeed any stage of pregnancy.

He was cold, uncooperative to the extreme and incredibly lacking in empathy. I left the hospital without a scan and in floods of tears.

Usually I am not one to complain, but I felt that I had to write a letter about the treatment I had received. I wrote to the Head of Midwifery outlining what had happened that day and explaining why I felt it was so important to me that I not only received the scan I was booked in to receive, but also be checked over for Vasa Praevia.

When I finally received a scan we discovered that I had a complete placenta praevia. So my placenta wasn't just low like it was in the beginning with Zane, it was sat in the bottom of my uterus completely covering my cervical opening. Apparently this isn't a huge cause for concern, but of course anything out of the ordinary was cause for concern for me.

After being unable to locate a heartbeat at a routine midwives appointment when I was 25 weeks I discovered that my baby had died inside of me. There was no explanation and a post mortem showed nothing to blame it on. She just slipped away as so many babies do.

It's a very weird and heartbreaking time, knowing that the child you have been growing is dead inside of you. Willing it to move, but knowing that she won't. Hoping against hope that you will feel something nudging you from the inside to prove that there has been some horrible mistake. But all you feel is stillness. Your belly is still round and full, and when you touch it you can feel the outline of a hard bit here, a pointy bit here. But she's no longer the living, moving, embodiment of hope she once was.

My immense gratitude will always be to the wonderful lady who performed my c-section. I wish I knew her name, so that I could write to her and tell her how much she saved me.

Of course, having a complete placenta praevia meant that the baby simply couldn't get out of my uterus without being cut out. The lovely lady doctor came to my bedside and explained how at 25 weeks the baby was too small to be delivered by a usual c-section, and so she would have to be taken out by cutting me vertically.

Now, I had researched c-sections and being pregnant after a c-section and healing after a c-section til I couldn't possibly hold any more information on the topic. I knew as soon as she told me that a vertical incision meant cutting through my abdominal muscles, rather than parting them. It meant a much longer and more painful healing time, a worse scar and no chance at all of being pregnant this side of a year from then. After managing to hold it together quite well until that moment, I completely broke down.

Thankfully she was compassionate. Basically, because Ada had already passed away they didn't have to be quite so gentle with the operation and this wonderful, wonderful lady managed to deliver her by performing a horizontal incision.

There are literally no words to describe how grateful I am to this doctor for the chance she gave me. For the scarring she saved me from, for the additional and more painful recovery I didn't have to endure thanks to her. Her willingness to work outside of what was normal for a delivery at that gestation is more valuable to me that I could possibly say.

Once again I woke to find myself in the Forget Me Not Room. And once again I took pills to stop my milk coming in and tried to sleep in a room on a maternity ward surrounded by the sound of other people's babies crying.

While I was in hospital this time the Head of Midwifery came to see me. She visited me along with the doctor who I had complained about. The man who had left me feeling dismissed and uncared for when I turned up to my wrongly cancelled scan. She explained that they had received my letter of complaint, but that under the circumstances it was probably best if I dropped the matter.

My second baby had just died and I was about as vulnerable as a person could be. I was in no position to be agreeing or disagreeing with anything she said, but I went along with it none the less.

Saturday, 4 April 2015

Well I Guess I'm Bitter. . .

I didn't realise I was that way until tonight. I'd always thought I felt quite sympathetic towards the midwives that saw me on the day I went to the hospital to welcome our first son into the world. I suppose I do feel that way. I am ambivalent. I just didn't realise that my feelings leaned quite  so far towards bitterness as they do.

My friend posted a very innocent status on Facebook about being proud to work with the team she works with. She had noticed a post on another Facebook page which gave only positive and glowing references to the midwifery team she is involved with and was proud to share that with her Facebook friends.

Ordinarily I would have known not to piss on her bonfire - so to speak. I am not normally so overtly negative all over something so positive. But, something inside of me thought, "No, I cannot allow everyone to think that everything they did ended up so well!" It was like my story - my son, who is to so huge and real in my life was being denied.

If that team of midwives have only had shining complements and pretty tales spun of happy endings and humorous labour stories then where was my little man? Why was his story lost? Those happy endings are the normal turn of events, but they are not the whole truth.

So I replied.

                               "I'm sure they're all usually lovely, but they did brush me off and not really listen to me when I told them i'd had a massive bleed when I went in with Zane. When you bleed all over your bed and all in the toilet and bathroom floor its not really a common bloody show. I hope they pay more attention now to what their ladies are telling them  All lovely people that never meant any harm I'm sure, but I wasn't just another neurotic pregnant lady."


                               "Like I said they were all so nice and have been incredible afterwards. They just didn't listen when we told them how bad it was and left me to bleed again."

I probably shouldn't but it made me feel better. Now and again I have to stand up for my son. His life was so brief and he hardly gets a mention now. He would have been 8 years old. Maybe part of it is just taking the chance to talk about him. I felt like I was defending him. Maybe even defending my inability to keep him.

I have a page in my notes on my phone where I jot down ideas for blog posts. There are five ideas on that page and all of them are about my angel babies. Someone asked me if I blog about loss anymore and I told them no. I would have thought that after all this time there wouldn't be so much to write. Then I look at that list and wonder why I haven't made use of my old catharsis.

My bitterness comes from being brushed off and ignored. Midwives are human beings and no doubt they endure night after night of clueless, worried and distraught pregnant ladies pumped full of hormones and sick of waiting for their babies. But I wasn't one of those.

Waking up in the middle of the night I felt a gush. I put my hand under the duvet and in between my legs and when I brought it back out and looked at it in the dim light I saw it was dark with blood. It was my first time. I thought that my waters had broken, but was puzzled as to why it looked so much like a horrific accident. I went into the bathroom and sat on the toilet and a second gush landed in the bowl and on the bathroom floor. There was so much blood.

Despite the blood I was excited. I think Scott phoned the hospital to tell them I was going in, but I don't remember. I sat on a folded towel in the car. There was so much blood I knew a pad wouldn't suffice. The journey was quiet and pensive. It was not how I imagined the journey to the hospital would feel. I wanted to feel excited, but there was the memory of all that red. I was sure I had read somewhere that amniotic fluid was straw like in colour.

By the time we arrived at the maternity unit some 30 minutes later there was no more blood. I later discovered that a newborn baby has only the equivalent blood volume of 1 can of coke in their body. But he was still alive. They hooked me up to the monitor. I later learned that the monitor was running at the wrong speed. The paper should run at something like 2cm per whatever measure of time. My monitor wasn't. Whatever speed it was running at was telling them that our son was okay when he was fighting for his life.

In our debriefing the consultant told us that the monitor was the wrong speed. That since Zane they had taken measures to ensure this didn't happen again. The next time I was pregnant I noted a typed label stuck to the side of the monitor they used on me saying something like, "make sure this machine runs at 2cm per blah blah blah." By the time I was having Korben I couldn't find that label anymore on the machines they used. I just hope it's because they were newer improved ones with safety measures in place.

The midwives I spoke to told me that I had experienced a bloody show. It was common. Did I have a pad to show them the blood? "No." I said, "It was all over my mattress, bathroom and toilet." I knew they didn't take it seriously. I could tell that they thought I was exaggerating, and I was probably one of many overdue ladies that had arrived that night. But I'm not someone who likes to impose. I'm not a pushy sort of person. And after all - they are the experts.

They left me. They kept me in since I was almost 42 weeks pregnant and probably going into labour. I am sure they checked me over and I was monitored with the incorrect monitor speed, but they left me.

Once more I woke up to another bleed. In those hazy moments it took me to come around from being asleep I distinctly remember thinking that I knew if I moved I would make a mess and I didn't want to cause a fuss. I did move though, and I bled all over.

Some things get imprinted on your memory. The vision of the midwife who found me and the doctor who dealt with me after. Their faces are burned into my brain forever.

The midwife saw the blood. Her eyes went wide and she said, "Oh you're in a right mess aren't you?" She made me sit up and as I did I felt another gush. I am not saying gush for dramatic effect.

Later on, after an eternity of trying to find his heartbeat on the doppler and being unable. Of wheeling me into a separate room and finally finding our boy's incredibly slow heartbeat on the monitor. There was the doctor.

Now I know I had Vasa Praevia. Now I know that the last thing anyone should have done in that situation was break my waters. Breaking my waters broke my membranes. My son's blood vessels - his umbilical cord - literally his lifeline - was running through those membranes. He had already bled and tried to recover. Then bled and was trying to recover again. The poor baby had spent the last 24 hours trying his hardest to keep on living.

Then one doctor stuck a hook in me and all hell broke loose. HIS face is the one face that flashes before me when I think of the panic in me. I was laying there after believing my son was dead, then finding out he had a slow heartbeat and was hanging on. I remember my thighs were quivering. Have you ever been so terrified that your legs have shaken uncontrollably? After all this I trusted the man - The Doctor who said they needed to get my son out quick and the only way to do that was to speed up labour by breaking my waters. I distinctly remember how uncomfortable it was having him rummaging around inside of me. And I remember the pop and release of my waters. I watched him look down at the floor and then quickly look at me. I looked straight in his eyes and I saw his instant horror and regret.

Now I know it's classic Vasa Praevia signs. Why would they do that to me? They had the ultrasound machine right there! I had reported a huge bleed. They had SEEN me bleed. All they had to do was turn on the colour doppler and see the blood flow in front of my cervix before plunging ahead and sealing our fate.

So they cut me and got him out. They didn't have the right kind of blood that they needed to hand. The consultant told me that this showed up in their investigations when I was at my debriefing appointment. It might not have mattered, but he needed a transfusion at birth and the delay of getting the right blood may or may not have made a difference.

I woke up in the infamous Forget Me Not Room. Scott and I have since joked about that room in the dark way only survivors of terrible events can. I have said during both my happy ending pregnancies, "If I wake up in that f*^£king Forget Me Not room again....!!!" Basically it's a lovely room, separate to everyone else where they put the parents of babies born in difficulty. I don't know if it's officially called the Forget Me Not Room, but it's what we called it.

Anyway. I woke up to excruciating pain. The nurse explained my pain relief. Because I had a crash c-section I hadn't had a spinal epidural. They had knocked me out. I'd received a suppository, but the bulk of the pain relief was the morphine. I was instructed to press a button when I needed the relief and the morphine would be released. I could press it as much as I wanted, but the dose would only be released every 5 minutes at most.

But the pain was so bad! I was fuzzy from the anaesthetic, but the pain was overwhelming. The caesarian wasn't kind. They needed to get him out quickly, so they cut me practically from hip to hip. When I tried to get the morphine it wasn't helping. I was coming round more and more, but the pain was just getting worse and not better.

I don't know how long I was like that for, but they eventually discovered a pool of fluid on the floor next to my bed where the morphine had been leaking from the unconnected tube. Each time I had pressed the button the drug had been delivered onto the floor instead of into my IV. It hadn't been connected.

The thing is I am a realist. I see things as they are from every side of an argument and I like to think the best of people. I know for a fact that no one wanted my baby to die. No one was intentionally careless and everyone was doing the best they could under the circumstances. Midwives, doctors and nurses are human and as such they make human mistakes.

I forgive them all for it, and when I think of them I think of them with empathy. The midwife who brushed me off will have berated herself for not believing me, I know. The Doctor who broke my waters might have the memory of my frightened face burned into his brain as much as his face is burned into mine. And I know that whoever left me to wake up to the pain I did by not connecting my morphine properly will have felt guilty. I just hope that they learned from it. That's all I want.

My bitterness is undeniable and real. And as much as I see the string of errors for what they were, I have a right to be angry. I have a right to defend the memory of my son, and I have a right to be the voice of the statistic.

On the original Facebook thread that started it all, only the people I know as friends - including the original author, bless her, have acknowledged my outcry. The rest of the replies are made without reference to my outburst. I guess people don't really know what to do with the information. They are the lucky ones... and oh how I envy them.

Saturday, 21 March 2015

Things they don't tell you before having kids #87

Getting children to do even the smallest, most routine things is the hardest work. Every. Day.

Before kids: 

Wake up to your alarm at 7am, snooze, wake up again. Get up, go pee and end up sitting there a few minutes day dreaming, go downstairs, have breakfast and coffee while watching the news. Go upstairs, shower and wash hair taking care to shave and moisturise afterwards, dress, do face and hair, trying out a new style. Pick up your handbag from the hallway on your way out. Jump straight in the car and go.

With kids: 

Wake up to someone saying they have had an accident at 2am. Strip the bed, clean them up and redress them and the bed while trying not to open your eyes too much, make too much noise and keep your patience. Go back to bed, wake up again at 6am to youngest child inches away from your face asking if it's morning yet. Pass the kid your phone to play on. Try to sleep for a while longer while Caillou plays at full volume in the background. Decide to get up at 6.30am.

Child asks if you're going to get in the shower and promptly wails when you say yes. Get in the shower and do a quick wash of the important bits. There's a weeks growth on your legs, but you can wear trousers so it's fine. You judge that you MIGHT be able to have a longer shower tomorrow. You already decided that the kids were too tetchy to allow for hair washing - what's dry shampoo for anyway?! Get out of the shower to dry yourself and on the way past childs room see that they have taken all of their toys out of the toybox and piled them up on the surface of every object in their bedroom. Oh well, they were quiet. Go into other childs room and tell them it's time to get up.

Laugh a little too insanely when they tell you they're "too tired".

Take out both childs clothes for the day and put them next to the stairs to take down with you. Get dressed. Do make up, but only enough to not look like you might have been up at 2am changing piss covered bedding - no time for foundation or anything that requires more thought than the usual eyeshadow colour. Spray on a layer of dry shampoo and scrape hair into a ponytail for the third day running. Go back to children to find the youngest laughing and clothes no where to be seen. Tell child, "I'm not going to get cross, find your clothes!" Child laughs. Immediately get cross. Get out a new set of clothes.

Both children are now at the top of the stairs pushing each other around because they both want to be first to go downstairs. Tell them it doesn't matter. Eldest stamps foot and shouts that it DOES in fact matter as youngest was first yesterday, so it's not his turn. Spend a minute organising a "first down the stairs rota" as the first plan of "going down side by side" was unacceptable to youngest and when you think about it probably dangerous given the current friction.

Go straight into the kitchen and ask children what cereal they want for breakfast. Youngest asks if he can have toast and wails when he's told he can't because he'll be having sandwiches later. Shout for eldest to come and choose. Youngest decides on two different types of cereal in the same bowl. Shout for eldest to come and decide. She's not coming, so go back to find her sat on the stairs doing nothing. Take a few deep breaths. Ask eldest to come and choose. Eldest makes a face. Tell eldest that if they
don't come and choose now they get no breakfast at all. Go back in the kitchen. Find youngest has pulled a stool up to the counter and eaten half his cereal dry. Give both kids their cereal. Make own breakfast and coffee and sit down. Child yells as you've forgotten their drink. Make drinks, go sit back down. Finish breakfast and go back into kitchen to find kids have finished their cereal. There is milk all over the table, the floor and the kids. Feel glad they're not dressed for the day yet.

Take children into the living room and put on kids TV. Go fetch toothbrushing equipment. Eldest sits nicely and brushes her teeth, but you have to finish as she won't brush her tongue and doesn't do the job right herself try as she might. Shout the youngest that it's his turn and hear "Don't wanna!" Threaten with putting down a colour if he doesn't come. Start counting to three. Get to two before he runs over. Brush his teeth for him while he squeaks a protest and refuses to open his mouth at times.

Eldest is getting dressed! Congratulate her on being a big girl - offer assistance with buttons. Youngest is nowhere to be seen. Shout that it's time to get dressed and hear "Don't wanna!" Start counting to three. Youngest runs over and demands a cuddle first. Give cuddle. Start dressing him, prompting each time a limb needs to be somewhere and all the while reminding the child that they do in fact need to be getting dressed rather than trying to play with / reach for / kick something else.

Shout eldest over to have her hair done. Brush hair as carefully as gently as you can while eldest cries, kicks and screams like she is being murdered. Negotiate hair style for the day, settle on a plait as it will be easier to brush tomorrow.

Go into the kitchen to find a water bottle for school. Track down reading books and glasses, place glasses on eldests face, put books in bookbag. Locate PE kit with last week's mucky stuff in there. Take old stuff out, run upstairs to replace with fresh stuff. Find both pairs of shoes and ask children to put them on. Youngest doesn't want to wear THOSE shoes. Find other shoes. Eldest has her shoes on the wrong feet, advise her and marvel at how she gets it wrong 100% of the time. Youngest won't even try to put shoes on his self. Just do it because time is short.

Kids put on their own coats. Where's my coat? Where are my shoes? Not even thought about which shoes match what i'm wearing. Find the black ones, put them on. Put coat on.

Yell for kids to come to the door as we're leaving and we're late. Youngest yells he's having a poo. Sit on stairs for a moment. Go wipe youngest's bum and tell him to wash hands while you get eldest in the car. Put eldest in the car and come back in to find youngest naked. You suspect he's not washed his hands.

I think you get the idea....

Friday, 19 September 2014

Traffic Lights Behaviour System - Great Tool for Managing Behaviour in Young Children

I have been using this system to manage my children's behaviour for a few years now and I wanted to share it with you, because I have found it to be the only thing that worked with them! Now, i'm not claiming to be an expert, far from it. I'm just so pleased to have discovered a method that really does take some of the stress out of parenting for us.

Before using this I was shouting regularly and either struggling to think of suitable threats on the spot when my kids wouldn't do as I asked, or shouting out something completely inappropriate that I couldn't stick to. I have been that fraught mum at a restaurant who threatens her kids by saying "I will take you home if you don't stop doing X, Y or Z!" and then being completely unable to follow through because we've just ordered our food.

Since starting to use this system I no longer have to think of threats (or rewards) off the cuff! I simply threaten to put the kids "down a colour" or tell them they will "go on orange" and usually it works!

My children are currently aged 5 and a half and almost 4. We have been using this system for the last two years.

I started it after posting on an online forum about how I was at my wits end with the kids not doing as I asked, never listening and generally being nightmares. A woman on there - who is a teacher - told me that she used a traffic lights system in class and I thought what the heck - worth a try! I didn't get any further details from her, I figured classrooms will be different to home settings and I wanted to do what felt right to me. Here's what I came up with.

Sadly the only photo I have of my "old" system is when they were both on red. I posted this to my Instagram with the caption, "Today has not been such a good day!" The kids had gone to bed by that point and I was glad for the peace. Ha ha!

So as you can see my old system was just paper plates! I stuck coloured paper in red, orange and green to six paper plates - two of each colour as I have two children. Then I stuck their names on each one so that we could tell who was on what colour.

Korben had three plates - red, orange and green.
Lyric had three plates - red, orange and green.

I just used blu-tak to stick them to the wall.

We used the system this way for a good year or more until I decided to change it a little, make new cards for the colours and add in something new, but I'll tell you more about that later. First I'll explain the principals of the rewards and punishments system.

First, decide what happens on each colour

We thought about what our kids do for a treat that we wouldn't feel bad about withholding from them. We also thought about what the kids feel privileged doing. This lead to us using the following things for our colours, but you might decide to use different things. I'll talk about each kid being on a different colour next.

On Green

Each day begins with them on green. Start on a good note!

When they're on green they are allowed to choose things for themselves - which TV shows to watch, what to have for a snack, where to go today etc. All within reason from choices outlined by us of course.

They are also allowed to drink juice instead of just milk or water and watch netflix, play on the iPad or computer etc.

On Orange

If the kids "go on orange" they are no longer allowed to choose things for themself. Either the child on the "better" colour or I will decide on all the fun things for them. I don't take this to extremes, I just limit choice on TV, snacks, activities etc. More about children on "better" colours next.

So they cannot choose which program they watch on TV, nor are they allowed to watch Netflix (since it's all about choosing) or play on the iPad or computer. They are also only allowed to have water or milk to drink and not juice. We decided that the kids love these things so will miss them, but we don't feel remotely bad about taking them away when they misbehave.

If they fuss about this decision or about not being able to choose I just threaten to put them down to red and that usually stops that.

On Red

Red is very similar to orange, but with the addition that kids still on red at bedtime will go to bed early and without a story.

If both children are on red the TV stays off for the duration as opposed to being on but not being allowed to choose when on orange.

But what if I have more than one child and they are on different colours?

This really helps it to work, I find. Particularly with the choosing thing.

If Lyric is on green and Korben is on orange then Lyric gets to choose the activities, TV programs etc. Korben HATES watching Powerpuff Girls, so he will usually behave if only to avoid being forced to watch that more than once.

It becomes more difficult when they are both on green as they are both entitled to choose. I simply get them to take turns at choosing in this case.

If both are on orange then I just choose everything.

If both are on red I don't let them watch TV at all, never mind choosing anything. This is rare though!

You might have different consequences that you use or different ways of handling children being on different colours. I'd love it if you let me know about them!

Rewarding good behaviour

This system isn't just about threats and punishment, it also enables rewards for good behaviour. I don't like to keep the kids on orange or especially red if I can help it and use the promise of being put "up a colour" to encourage them to behave well, or to help me with tidying up etc.

After a while using this traffic light system for managing their behaviour I realised that if they stayed on green all day there was no where to go after that - no reward for being good. I also needed to be able to give them a reward for their good behaviour if they were already on green.

So I added silver and gold.

There are no additional privileges with being on silver or gold. Everything is pretty much as it is when they are on green. However, if one child is on gold and the other on silver or green, the child on gold is the one who gets to choose. Or if one is on silver and one on green the child on silver gets to choose. You get the drift?

At the end of the day the kids who are on silver or gold get to take a happy coin and put it in their own jar. The coins are saved up in their jars and exchanged for treats - usually a toy in our case. I just use my own judgement as to how many coins equal a toy, but when they're older (and more savvy!) this might have to change!

How I Made The New System

Very simply I used coloured card with their name stuck on - similar to the plates. I just laminated everything to keep it nicer and punched a hole through at the top to hang on a hook, rather than using blu-tak. Now that i'd established the system worked i was happy to invest a little time in making a more durable set of colours to use.

The hooks I used are the Command hooks I LOVE. I've used these things all over the house, because they attach firmly to your wall (or ceiling, cupboard door etc.) and when it's time to take them off, they come off easily and leave no marks! Perfect for someone who changes their mind as often as I do! Here's a link to the Command Brand Website so you can see what other goodies they have. There's an awesome Inspiration Section, so check that out too!

I used the hook on the left in this photo as the little metal hook fits perfectly through a hole punched with a standard paper hole punch.

Then I either store the colours that aren't being used in a little folder next to the happy coin jars, or I simply hang them all behind on the hook itself. I find it works better to take them all off except the one being used and file them, but sometimes i'm lazy, lol!

These are displayed in the kitchen right where everyone can see, so it's a reminder.

Consistency is key

If you're a parent you will know that consistency is key. There have been times when i've not been so "on the ball" with this and honestly, that's when the kids start to behave poorly again. Usually if they're playing up and I stop and think about it, I realise it's because i've not been using this system. When I use it, it WORKS.

Yeah, I still shout sometimes, because lets face it, i'm human and I get grumpy. However, instead of standing in the playground frantically thinking of some random threat to get Korben to come back to me instead of running away... I just shout, "IF YOU DON'T COME BACK HERE I WILL PUT YOU ON ORANGE....! ONE....! TWO....!"

Of course, I am aware that not everyone will agree on this way of doing things. I know that some parents don't like to use threats, but really for me at least - threats and bribes are the best things in my arsenal. I just have to make sure I have the right threat or bribe to hand and this gives me that without having to think about it.

And here's what it looks like right now. Today has been a good day so far, but i'm about to go to the supermarket with Korben - lets hope he is on silver when I get back!! ;o)

Does my explanation make sense? Please feel free to ask any questions in the comments and I will answer you the best I can.

Do you use anything similar in your home? How does yours work? Is it similar or different to mine? Or do you do something completely different? Let me know in the comments below and link me if you blogged about it!

This post has been shared at: Skip The Housework, 3 Little Greenwoods, Lady Behind The Curtain, Be Different, Act Normal, Tatertots & Jello, The Best Blog Recipies, Culinary Flavours, Sincerely, Paula, Bacon Time With The Hungry Hypo

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