Friday, July 6, 2012

The Long Haul

Okay, so I think it's become clear that I am a "Quick Start". I am pretty great and energetic at getting big ideas or initiating projects. 

But....

...follow through, not so much.

Case in point, PhotoadayJune! What month is it? Oh yeah, it's JULY! I loved doing the days I did. Hit a rough patch and got a little behind. Then I pulled out my camera, pulled up the list, and had time to catch up. And it just wasn't fun anymore! No idea why. 

But I certainly shouldn't continue when it's not fun. 
Right?!?!

Well, I'm not terminal. I have a Master's degree, so I stuck with it in school. I have been married for 23 years, so I have stuck with that -not always fun for anybody, right? But he is an Implementer, maybe the credit goes to him. 

So I'm looking at my life as a parent. Isn't it supposed to be fun? Or at least enjoyable? Or rewarding? Or tolerable?

But what about when it's not? For long seasons? And you keep trying to inject some fun, or levity, or anything. And your kids have so much pain, fear and rage that they are absolute masters of preventing enjoyment. Or punishing any fun so severely that it just seems not worth it!

How does a quick start stick with that? 

Grace. Grace alone. God's grace is given to us in direct measure according to our need. I will place my hope in that. I have to. 




Saturday, June 2, 2012

I Miss My Girl

My daughter's desk
Empty because it's summer.

Emptier because she is still in therapeutic respite.

And I miss her.

She misses us too. She's very clear on that. But the work is hard and requires courage, honesty, and a willingness to release control. 

Not sure how long she'll be.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

What to Consider When Considering Special Needs Adoption

Recently I was talking (via e-mail) to a woman who is in process of adopting two children newly placed in her home. We began discussing some of the issues involved. Rather than answer the immediate questions directly, I had the strongest urge to say a few things first. 

The following is a compilation of the first three things I think are essential to consider when embarking (or deciding whether to embark) on the journey that is special needs adoption.

I have been told that I have a choppy writing style and I do say things bluntly, so if anything sounds harsher than I mean it to, please don’t take offense!


Questions to ask yourself:


First of all, 
'Why are we doing this?'
-'Do we think it will be fun for our children to be raised in a larger family? More kids to play with… kids who ‘just need to have a forever family and be loved’? '
(If this is the case, I believe there are much happier and safer ways to fulfill this desire.)
Or-
-'Do we have an absolute sense of calling in this endeavor? Do we view it as a mission field that will be very different from parenting our neuro-typical children?' If this is the case, don’t let anyone tell you not to pursue special needs adoption. Because if God is driving it, then you will know that all of the drama, pain, loss (and yes, some joy) is worth it. You will know that all of the sacrifices your birth children make (and they are extreme) through the years are a part of their story in God’s economy. Adopting children whose brains are formed through trauma is absolutely a mission field (and missions are HARD). It is not the same thing as regular parenting.

(Hope you’re still with me, #2 is harder.)

'Can we absolutely commit to keeping our healthy, non-traumatized, neuro-typical children SAFE?' Are you willing to act as if there is danger despite our normal preconceived ideas that little children are innocent? Are you willing to provide 24 hour line-of-sight supervision including door alarms or some other way of supervising when you are asleep? For years maybe, until you really know all of the issues involved. No sharing bedrooms, no unsupervised play with siblings or neighbors.


Honestly, if you have questions about this, I can provide MANY firsthand accounts from our home, friend’s children, etc. of sexualized, acting out children, (sophisticated in manipulation because it was done to them) who are put into homes with innocents and the parents are never warned. For example…

(Caution- hard information follows!)
One young woman was brought into foster care because of her sexual acting out on other kids in preschool. She was moved several times and at least one move was directly related to her sexually acting out on a 3 year old in the foster home. Now she tells us that she was sexually active with children in every foster home she was in. They put her in a home with a much younger, moderately mentally and physically disabled child AND THEY NEVER SAID A WORD when they placed her in the home. Thankfully the family had door alarms since day one; it was a year before they learned all of this. She was just a baby doing what she had been taught.

I know a woman whose three year old seemed the most well-adjusted of her adopted kids. When he was 6 she learned that he had been molesting all of the other children. Another hurt baby, hurting others. 

I am sorry; I know that this is very hard to hear. Really, the most common reaction to this information is to brush it aside, thinking “Wow, that parent is really negative. That’s not a common experience.”


But I am not negative and it is a very common experience. I wish I was able to help newly foster or adoptive parents know how much better it is to be safe now (even if it’s unnecessary), than to be desperately sorry later.

Finally, 
'Are we ready for all of our cherished relationships to be stretched if not changed altogether?' You will most likely find more comfort and acceptance among people who have walked this road than you will even among your closest friends and family members. Many friendships fall by the wayside. New ones are made. MANY, many grandparents just CAN NOT get this and can make your kids sicker when you are doing everything in your power to help them heal. Eventually you may need to set some limits with family and friends who won't support you.  ("All kids do that", "You just have to love him more" "You need to discipline her"......um, not supportive- sorry)

Also, the divorce rate for families with special needs adopted kids is HIGH. Your husband may be on-board, but it is SO common for dads to come home to a sweet, sweet child (who has been cussing you out ALL day). They then wonder, "WHAT has happened to my loving wife, she's so mean to these kids!" Even if he gets it, getting him together with other dads who KNOW, is priceless for him because the demands on him are also going to fall outside the realm of what HIS peers experience.

Anyway, that is my jaunt into unsolicited advice for those considering or just beginning this journey. Kids need homes. Some adjust beautifully, not necessarily the majority. 
We are called to care for children. 
            
Conscientiously considering whether you are
prepared for the issues mentioned IS a way of
caring for children. 
                      
Your birth children and those special needs children who may come into your home deserve it. 

Adoption disruption hurts everyone. 

Consider carefully!

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Your Children Want YOU

I just read this great article on The Power of Moms website. It made me cry. In a good way.

Although motherhood is a bit more complicated in many adoption situations, this article is a great reminder for all of us in this too technical, information overload era.


It is beautiful and a necessary boost to our mom-egos.



Our kids often tell us and show us they don't want us. We know they long for another with much of their hearts. We probably fail more often than other moms. What we're trying to do is so complicated. And, really, how often do we give ourselves grace for our failures?

More often we board the "Bad Mommy" bus and tell ourselves we could be the driver!

...And look what other moms do! (she wailed while looking at Pinterest!)

We (or I) want to not just be a 'good enough mother' but a darned near perfect one. I don't know about you, but the more perfect I try to be, the worse I get!

Anyway, take a look. It's pretty encouraging.






Sunday, May 13, 2012

Infertility, Adoption, and Mother's Day

Mother's Day! Mmhmm.

Once upon a time I looked forward to being included in the celebration.

Then came years of trying to get pregnant without help and with help. Realizing we weren't going to get pregnant without SERIOUS help (if at all). Those were the days I noticed that babies were no longer drawn to me but withdrew when I approached. (Or maybe I just felt sorry for myself!)

In that era, I was not so keen on Mother's Day. Sorry Mom. But it kind of became all about me, and not deserving the rose they gave to mothers as they walked into church or brunch! Hated it, actually. I still feel quite conflicted for those who hurt on this day because they have never become mothers.

Now... we have one adult daughter we consider our own, but who has LOTS of moms who love her and three adopted darlings with varying degrees of birthmom loyalty and conflicted feelings about me. Mother's Day takes on a whole new meaning. Aside from helping them process and grieve in healthy ways, I have one other big responsibility.

It is the day I have to celebrate myself! I am a Mother (whether they want me or not)!

My husband and I have taken to making sure we each get some of what we need on Mother's/Father's day. Which usually adds up to time!

We celebrate our Mom's ON the day, and around it we care for each other and ourselves.

This road is tiring and can be pretty rough sometimes. But as a very wise lady said to me recently, "That can be very redemptive work, if you keep a right heart." So my prayer for all the trauma moms I know is that they keep a right heart. This involves lots of things, mostly from God.  It also requires that we are disciplined in caring for ourselves by taking the time to allow our spirits to be refreshed!

Care for yourself by allowing space for peace and love to flow in from the source! 

Happy Mother's Day!

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Adoption Life Books

I recently decided that if I didn't do a life book for my 7 year old now, I never would. And that's not fair. His brother has had one since he was 3 (before the population increase - no excuse, I know). All those years ago I bought the book , Lifebooks: Creating a Treasure for the Adopted Child. Can't seem to find it anymore so I went searching online for some fresh ideas. You know, there's just not a lot of free life book text out there. So, here's one of ours...

It was written for a 7 year old who is beginning to read chapter books so it's kind of long. Also, I am working really hard to finish things before they're perfect (so things actually get done!) Please take it for what it's worth.

Each section is a page to fit with the photos we have available.
  
 This is D.
His full name is ADM. He is named after a famous Hawaiian surfer, Duke Kahanamoku. D is seven years old, and 48 3/4 inches tall. 

D lives with his Mom and Dad and his brother K. He also has an older sister, and a baby sister who is not adopted yet. They have a horse, a dog, and three barn cats. 

D loves to play Legos. He also likes to see the lights on fire trucks when he’s in the car.   D’s room is green and has a fishing theme. Dressing up in nice clothes is D’s style!

D was born on a Saturday in autumn. His birthday is ------. He was born at ___o’clock.  He was___ inches long and weighed ___. His birth name was A J S.

D grew in his birth mommy’s body. His birth mommy’s name is J. See her beautiful brown skin and eyes! We know why D is so handsome!

D had a birth father, too. We don’t know much about D’s birth father, but maybe we can guess. He might look like this.

D’s birth mommy had three babies. K is one of them. J called her Z. J also had a little boy about brother K’s age. His name is Z.

A sad thing is that D’s birth mommy was not able to take care of herself or her children so the police, social workers and a judge decided they needed to be safely cared for by a foster family. It was not D’s fault; he was just a tiny baby!

Another very sad thing is that D moved a lot as a baby. It was SO confusing. Each time he changed "mommies" Baby D thought he must have done something wrong or bad. But babies can't be bad! First, when he was newborn, D went home from the hospital with one family. We do not know that family’s name. He was moved so that he could be together with his sister K.

The next family D  and K lived with was the N family. They had one son, F, Jr. We don’t know why K and D moved to a new foster family, but we DO know it was not because of D. Remember, he was just a teeny-tiny baby.

There were at least two more families that D and K lived with. Even K has trouble remembering all of their names. Then they moved to Grandmommy’s house. They lived with Grandmommy, J, and J. D went to a babysitter every day when Grandmommy had to go to work. Her name was R and she was very special to him.

Finally, the social workers and the judge decided that D needed a forever family. They were sad that J could not take care of D and K. They decided that all of this changing of families, "mommies", houses, smells, sounds, food and everything was TOO confusing for a little baby. It wasn't his fault. Grandmommy had an idea! She said to herself, “I am too old to raise a baby, I am a grandma! But I really love these kiddos… It would be great to be family with them.” She told D’s Mommy and Daddy that he was going to need a forever family. Mommy and Daddy said, “That’s us!”

Mommy and Daddy moved back to California from Idaho where they were living so they could get ready for D to come live with them. D and K visited Mommy and Daddy’s house in California several times to get used to the smells, sounds and all the different stuff, including a brother, K!  It was still scary and sad when they moved in with Mommy and Daddy, though. D missed Grandmommy and R so much!

The forever family went to the courthouse for the adoption day. D got to sit in the judge’s chair! Then they had a luau party on the driveway and the grandmas came. It was so fun!

Now D lives in P with his forever family. They have an apple orchard and a horse! D helps his dad with the yard work. One exciting family tradition is that the birthday boy picks his desert every year. This year D might pick apple crisp.

When D grows up he wants to be a fire fighter. Even though everything hasn't gone as hoped or easily in his life; God planned D, God made D and loves him. God has a purpose for D. The big adventure will be seeing all that God has in store for D's future!

Wherever D goes and whatever he does he will always be a loved and important part of the M family!

It is basically complete. Can't wait to see how he wants to arrange the pictures! Still, I would appreciate a comment if you see any glaring issues.

Also, if it helps you, let me know!

Monday, May 7, 2012

Simplicity

(Spiritual content alert!)

Written previously:

Lately I have been thinking about simplicity. I am going to a women's retreat with our church and the title is Abundant Simplicity. We are reading (at least) the first chapter of the book by the same name written by Jan Johnson.
So, in the beginning of the first chapter Jan states that simplicity is "not a discipline itself but a way of being." She talks about experiments with simplicity of speech, frugality, spaciousness of time, holy leisure, and simplicity of appearance and technology.

Before I get any more in to the awesome things of note I found in reading this chapter, a little background.

The History: Several years ago, DH and I basically sold our stuff, home, business and all. We traveled and lived in our RV with our one special needs baby at the time (now almost 10). We SIMPLIFIED. We eliminated television in our home years before that. 

Now, we have moved to a home in the country and still live fairly low-budget. Grown ups watch carefully chosen movies in the evenings occasionally (or it used to be only occasionally). Kids infrequently watch movies when it is a family activity. Music is on at specific times and we are watchful for over-stimulation. We have pretty much eliminated all outside busyness activities such as sports teams, clubs, etc. Home school is it, so we don't transport a ton.

The Reality: That said, we have four children with a variety of special needs growing up here. Living, changing, working, playing, and learning or not to love and trust.
So! not so peaceful after all! Way less hectic than it could be, but... simplicity?

Planning to go to this retreat got me contemplating simplifying. For some reason I was thinking in terms of eliminating technology.

The Epiphany: Then I realized that if I simply stopped multitasking it would be huge! Why do I feel the need to get 3-5 things done at any given moment? Am I really being more productive, or just making myself feel indispensable? Could it be that I might actually be more efficient if I did just ONE thing at a time?
  • Why am I having a text conversation woven in and around saying goodnight to my son? Or while I'm rocking the baby to sleep and doing laundry?
  • Why am I blogging while I'm helping with schoolwork? Or while supervising breakfast and cleaning the kitchen?
  • Why am I reading a Nook Book while making dinner? Or while hanging out with my husband for a few precious minutes and texting?
  • Etc, etc, etc... (Please don't judge, I'm judging enough for both of us!)
So, for now my experiment with simplicity is Tasking (one thing at a time), not Multitasking (get it?), as much as is actually possible while raising several kids.


And, of course, the bottom line with that seems to be... technology (for me). 



Oops, I didn't get to the stuff I really liked in the book chapter. Hmm, oh well, there will be more on this... It's good stuff. Challenging.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

In a Funk of Junk

Definitely in a non-writing funk around here.

Baby Sunshine! has been in the hospital for a work-up of why she stops breathing at night. The Good?News is that they didn't find a reason. 

Also, we are in the process of getting my 15 y.o. daughter into therapeutic respite.
I don't have much to spare. Give me a couple days, okay?
But I will attach a portion of the e-mail I sent to the respite mom (and my good friend), who already knows my daughter and my family intimately. She was asking about both my husband's and my own perspective on what's up with my girl.

See if it resonates. Let me know if you have any thoughts I need to hear. 

"..."
Hi there,
I wasn’t very articulate answering you when we talked, ‘and then the neurologist walked in’. (Sounds like a joke, but I may be punchy.)
Anyway,
T’s perspective as he explains it: We adopted these kids, and thus signed up for a fair amount of crazy. It is not fair to pass them around just because we are sick of them (meaning me). He goes on to talk about how can we advise anyone else? And how do we think we can do respite for others? We certainly haven’t figured out how to help kids. And he’s wondering, ‘how long can a person stay at the level of 0 freedom she requires. So he just feeds 'fun food' (in their minds), because it is 'healthier'.  But they take it as a win and play eating games (yes still!). Basically, he's feeling like it’s all kind of useless because they don’t seem to change anyway… 

My perspective:  I am NOT sick of K. I am sick of watching her seem to get sicker and not helping her. I am sick of having all of these kids in the house and not having one that I can send or leave in a room without knowing that it is unhealthy or unsafe. I am sick of feeling like if I could just reach out in the ‘right’ way, I could help her, connect with her heart. I am sick of wondering, “Is she really doing as badly as I think, or is it just ‘15’ I’m intolerant of?” (Maybe both.)
I am grieving the fact that it may be a long time before she lives here again. I will miss her (the tiny part she has granted me!). I am sick of worrying about the fact that she slides by because she is not as ‘in your face’ with her stuff as others…and then watching her get rewarded for “trying” by T. when she has a day or moment when she acts less crazy. To me that reinforces her entrenched giving-to-get mentality. 

So my bottom line and T’s too, is that we will send her to you to squeeze in the hopes that she will give a little and lighten up. But really, fearing that she will be violent, run, or stay stuck and we will have to look at RTC. (And WHERE does she really fit in that? Asperger's unit =too soft, regular unit =  kids too 'hard', sexual misconduct unit = ???)

To me, it is intolerable that she stay home floating along and not addressing her issues in any real, continuous way. I am actually willing to give up on the connection stuff a bit to focus on her historical sexual acting out behaviors. She NEEDS to get that worked out a bit before 18, more than anything it seems to me.

So since we do not agree, we will still send her because, 
1) he is sick of having it come between us and, 
2) it is obvious we need a break as evidenced by the fact that we cannot come to some agreement on the whole thing.

How’s that!

I am thinking of you all, just have to get through this moment and then I'll be back. 

(And please don't worry, because I am confident that all of this is in God's hands and He will prevail - we are just having a bitty crisis of confidence in ourselves.)

Let me know what you think.


Update: Well she's there. All she did was smile as she got her suitcase out of the car and say, "Thank you, Mom!" like three times! So weird. No sadness at all. Reinforces my suspicion that she has been working to get back to respite for a while. Oh well, then it's good for all!

Monday, April 23, 2012

Fun

Okay, today I'm going to admit something.

I am not a "fun mom".

My kids are hard. I have two (or three!) who fall apart after any little (fun) thing. I'm talking very low key. Like we watch The Li*n King as a family after a day of cleaning. (Um, yeah - that D*sney thing. I so didn't remember the main theme of the movie was murder!)

Anyway, that, or an hour of semi-structured free play outside. Any little thing, and we get crazy behavior for days! This is actually after almost six years of intense therapeutic parenting. They have trained me to avoid dread fun.

But really, it's not their fault. Aside from all of the things 'they didn't ask for' (trauma brains, adoption, etc), it's my own weakness I mean.

Lots of people have trouble with providing the structure necessary in therapeutic parenting. I really don't. I am comfortable providing that level of  external control (even if I sometimes get tired). I can do that and be loving and affectionate, even briefly playful.

It's letting loose of the structure I have trouble with. Just fun!

I have a friend who is fantastic at this. I still need to ask her what she does about all the crazies that come after an all out water fight, or whatever.)

Luckily, a very wonderful man lives in my house. (Don't tell my husband!)

A recent example:

One very tired, burnt out evening I picked up a bunch of 'kraut dogs for dinner. (No health police please, but I realized none of my kids had ever had one. That is a crime!)

Anyway, below is what followed when we sat down to dinner.

Grimacing- preparing for the big show.

"Oooh, i can't believe you guys are making me eat this gross thing!

Yeah. What it looks like.


I'm soooo sick!

This from a man who likes basically everything! Ha!

The kids loved it. And as he often reminds me..."It's making a memory."
Lucky me.

How does your family lighten the intensity? 

And how do you gather in the crazies after?

Thursday, April 19, 2012

You're Not Helping Me

I was talking to another special needs adoptive mom the other day. 

Actually, my mom. And her kids are the ones with special needs, not the mom. 

Although....maybe that's not strictly true after decades of raising children with trauma histories. 

Anyway...

We were discussing how downright nasty our kids can get when they are stressed out. For example, her 18 year old has nerves about school. Result: She becomes more than just sulky and stressed. She can be pretty darned verbally abusive. 
My 9 year old is anxious about some testing he has to participate in. Result: He has meltdown after meltdown for days. AND... becomes pretty darned verbally abusive. 

We could think of case after case of similar circumstances. Anything that causes stress, or physical or mental discomfort. 

But then, my mom mentioned that one of her kids...
(a little background, yes I am the birth child of a mom who has adopted my several sisters from foster care. I was about 20 when she really got busy!) 

Anyway, one of my sisters, when she is getting crazy with stress or discomfort, will actually verbalize:
YOU'RE NOT HELPING ME!!!
And when my mom told me this, I got it!

Normal life discomforts (spacers/braces, appointments, deadlines, social pressures, etc) feel so much more unsafe to our kids who's brains have been formed in trauma. Then, when they enter into an 'insecure' situation, they are so much more nervous than most neurotypical kids.

We encourage our kids to attach to us by saying things like (explicit or implied), "I'm here for you", "You're safe now, we will take care of you", etc.

So then as they are becoming somewhat (insecurely) attached to us, trying to trust, life throws normal stressors at them. Life situations come up. And our kids are way back to, "I'm in danger, and you're not saving me / rescuing me / keeping me safe."

Of course these situations can often be used for growth. Positive interpretation after the fact says, "Look, you were so nervous, but you survived, you're fine!" "You did great, and I was here for you."

But I don't think our spin works. Somewhere deep inside they may still be saying, "I was in danger and you didn't rescue me!"

In our house we do a lot of education about overactive midbrains (fight or flight) with lots of activity all the time because of the trauma history. We try to practice having frontal lobes (thinking parts) talk to midbrains (safety parts).

Frontal lobes tell midbrains, "It's okay, it's not an emergency. Thank you for protecting me when I needed you. I am okay right now." "I am safe." (thank you Carla):

And hopefully they believe their own words more than ours!

So what do you do?? Any great tips out there?

How do you help your traumatized children trough the "Life-Stressor Crazies"?

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

I'm a Winner

Okay. This is seriously off-topic.

But look what I won! 
Turns out I can't really take a picture of my own hand!

 I'll start at the beginning. 

I was looking for a little fashion help. 
You know... frugal fashion for the over forty! 
That's pretty specific, but it dawned on me, "There must be a blog for that!" (I'm smart that way.)

So in my search, I came across SheFinds. I Love it! So I signed up for a give-away they were having.

And look what I won! 
Just in time for summer toes!
Can you tell I'm excited? (!!!) 

Seems like a little thing, but it's not just the prize. It's the quality! I expected 5 or 6 sample size bottles.  

Count 'em, 12 full size bottles of O.P.I. polish.
I feel some serious teenage girl bonding sessions coming on! (So cool, too, that the colors that are terrible on me look beautiful on her!)

Just had to celebrate!
SheFinds!

Monday, April 16, 2012

What's Working

Hmmm... Think, think, think (Pooh's voice).

I may have been in a bit of a negative rut lately!

What's working...
(Claudia's idea)
Ok, here goes.
The baby is sleeping...... better........most nights (still too negative?). Try harder.

Um, ok-

Eating right, actually losing weight, winning an O.P.I. nail polish give away at shefinds.com and receiving 12 full size bottles! Seriously!

Not too exciting, but I'm on a roll...
Having my 9 1/2 year old have his first successful independent 'playdate' ever! 

And really, really.... what's working for me (us) right now is that I am finding my true passion in this wonderfully complex mixed bag that is special needs adoption.
I  -L.O.V.E.-  talking to new or hurting adoptive parents who have not yet found a community of people who get it! It just floats my boat! 
Telling someone, "This is common, it's not you, there are resources, you are not alone!" for the first time.... Priceless!
\
Since I started blogging I have been trying to find my voice. 'What am I blogging about?' 'Who am I blogging for?' 'What's my perspective?' etc.

And I've got it! 

It's great! Bursting with passion, joy, and excitement.
Which by the way, makes me a much better wife, mother, and friend!

That's working!

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Karyn Purvis Interview Link


Just wanted to pass this along. Bryan Post did an interview with Karyn
Purvis who wrote 'The Connected Child'.

It is long, about 70 minutes, but jam
packed with good info on attachment-challenged children.

Friday, April 13, 2012

The Shaken Baby Sydrome Defense? Really?

This post may seem off topic. I write it not only as a mother of sons of color. I also write as a mother of a child with 'Shaken Baby Syndrome'.
Polarization
Trayvon Martin
I don't even know where to start. I guess, I just, I'm so confused.
Actually, I'm not confused!  I'm not surprised at all by the polarization occuring in the 'community' of the United States over the whole tragic Trayvon Martin case. Today I heard the following quote on a radio news talk show,
Most African American's think that Trayvon Martin was murdered in cold blood, and many, many caucasions just don't think so
The Media
This case is a perfect platform for the powers that be, the media, attorneys, etc. to gather a lot of  press. To get a lot of play out of making it a race issue.
Which it probably is, but maybe not.
It's kind of a weird thing.

Race Climate
When I read or hear people being shocked and worried for their sons who are boys or young men of color, it amazes me. Because it doesn't surprise me at all. This is a fact of life for African American young men (people) in our culture. I guess I feel like, I knew that already. I know that my children will experience completely different interactions when they walk down the street, or into stores, whatever, than they do when they are with me. Or than I do. Ever. I'll never actually experience what they do. That is the way it is in our country. Regardless of the fact that it shouldn't be. It is.

On that same talk show they were discussing the interesting fact that people have actually begun marching and protesting. Protesting, before the prosecutor had even decided whether there was a case to be filed. And she has a team of investigators to gather a load of information the media general public does not know.

The Defense
However.
I read recently that the new defense attorney for George Zimmerman has a plan. He cites a "Shaken Baby Syndrome" defense.
Which I think is hilarious.
The idea is that Zimmerman's head struck the ground when he was under attack. So... he had a "temporary brain injury". (Conveniently hard to prove after the fact, if it's only "temporary"!)

If I were inclined to think that maybe the media is playing this "Trayvon Martin thing" for all it's worth. Reportedly showing pictures of him from when he was younger. Avoiding recent ones where he looks more 'threatening". If I am inclined to think fairly, to wait and see what the real story is.... It is horrible, but it may or may not be race related...

The fact that the defense team is considering a "Shaken Baby Syndrome" Defense, might sway me to think, "Ok, wait a minute, never mind, that is ridiculous!"
It does not inspire confidence.

All I know is that our Sunshine's brain injury is nothing like temporary! It seems like a convenient use of a hot button issue.

SO....I am on the fence. Refusing to come down on either side without more information.

Your Take
This post is so rambling it's probably impossible to follow,
 but I am wondering.....

Any thoughts?
How does this case affect your life / your children's lives?
Have you talked to your kids about this case? Race in general? And how do you talk about it?

Anyway, please forgive if at any point I sound callous. I am not. This is a tragic situation for all involved. There are limited words available to address it.

 I pray that justice is done!



Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Movie Stars and Reactive Attachment Disorder

Today was another day like yesterday, so no great thoughts.

I did, however, find this...

Katherine Heigl apparently admitted here that she has experienced attachment issues with her daughter from China.

I would love to hear more. I have always wondered about ...you know, Angelina Jolie, Madonna, Sandra Bullock, Meg Ryan, etc. No one ever really admits to any issues.
Maybe if you have a nanny for each child you don't notice it so much.
Not sure how that works for the kids.
I have to admit, I have been curious for a long time!

Anyway, wouldn't it be nice if someone famous stepped up as a spokesperson for Reactive Attachment Disorder and raising traumatized kids!

I'll keep hoping.

Monday, April 9, 2012

I Am Not Really Here

Bummer!

Seriously wanted to get a post out today. But life intervenes...

Yeah, life and
.....a sleepless baby (~2 hours total last night-both of us), F.U.S.S.Y today (also both of us!),
.....at least 2 melty kids at any one moment - loud and silent (scarier?), due to the recent festivities,
.....one tired, cranky, and brain-stalled mom!

Tomorrow.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Ok, So Here's What's Happening

I'm having this pretty intense dialog. Some of it is actually with my man. Most of it is with myself. This whole blogging thing is so interesting.

The Question
I think I am more of a conversational person than a dissertational (probably not a word) person. The only successful journal I've ever had was a prayer journal. Which is actually a conversation, if you think about it. In trying to get used to writing my thoughts and opinions, I find mysef asking, "Who am I?". "What is my platform?"

I'm betting it's pretty typical, but I have realized I have quite a lot to say. (I might be the only one surprised by that.) I just haven't figured out why anyone would want to read what I write!
Not that they do yet. I'm being optimistic.

Research
I've been doing my homework. Reading other blogs like crazy, which I've never really done before. I probably shouldn't admit that. I am not really hip. I am too old to come by the whole Twitter, Pinterest thing naturally, so I'd have to be hip. Which you can tell that I'm not because I am using the word 'hip' instead of, I don't know, 'roxy' or something more, um... hip (sorry).

So the big dialog is actually kind a philosophical one. If any of the bloggers I refer to happen read this, they might take offense, and that is definitely not intended. Oh well, I'm sure I'm pretty safe!

In reading so many blogs, I see a lot of who other people are. And sometimes I think, "I wish I was more like her!" The weird thing is that I've thought this about very different styles! I totally wish I was a gifted spiritual writer like Beth Moore, or even LisaMarie. Someone who could lead other believers into a deeper, more authentic experience of Christ. Someone encouraging.

I'm not.

Then I read Welcome to My Brain, and I wish I was more edgy (yeah, and I'm so not committing to something like that!), up to date, and just downright green! But that doesn't fit either. Can you tell I like this one, though?!

WWJD- really?
The bottom line is a not so original question...What would (blogging) Jesus do? Not when He was alone with his guys, but when he was in the world. At parties. With the average people. He pointed toward God but didn't (at all) align with the 'religious' establishment. He was someone who invited conversation, and not just with people who agreed with Him. That's the line I am trying to find.
Not there yet.

The Point
So last night I said to my other half,

 "You know its often long years between a woman asking, "'Who am I?' What with wife, mother....."

And then I wondered, how is it I have the time to be pondering it at this point in my life... And I realized it's because I gave up certain things (FB, Nook...) for Lent.

A self-imposed clear-space-and-simplify-to-reflect-on-the-sacrifice kind of Lent.


And now all I think about is my new blogging addiction hobby. So you know what? I am going to commit blog suicide (although it's not really risky when you only have 5 readers. I'm lucky that way.)

Even though I have approximately one million things I want to write about, some of them already started....

I'm off. (and don't think I didn't consider typing up a bunch of stuff and then scheduling it to appear while I was gone!)

Even writing this might be cheating. Looking back.

So, aaaaaaaahhhhhh.
I'll see you after Easter (unless I'm a pillar of salt).
..............................................................................

I love this!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Cute Kid Quote!


My 9 1/2 year old noticing the beginning of things to come...

Him:   Mom, I don't think baths work.
Me:     Hmmm, what do you mean?
Him:   Well, I take a bath, then the next time I take my socks off my feet still smell!


 I am so not ready for stinky teenage boy.
And...I guess we'd better start showering every day, huh!

Monday, March 19, 2012

Book Review: Wounded Children Healing Homes


Bird's nest in Snow
I recently wrote a post about setting aside time to spend with healthier (or birth) kids. In it I mentioned my new favorite book on parenting special needs children who have experienced early trauma, Wounded Children Healing Homes: How Traumatized Children Impact Adoptive and Foster Homes,  by Schooler, Smalley, and Callahan.
Forward
The first two paragraphs of the Forward drew me right in and there was no turning back.
This book is a gift to adoptive families and children today. Since I entered the field of adoption in 1963, there has been a 180-degree shift: first, in the needs of the children who require permanency; and second, in how services are thought about and delivered. The children being placed for adoption today arrive with multiple traumas, developmental delays, and challenging behaviors that may stretch their new family, sometimes to the breaking point.
     Addressing the needs of the traumatized child requires hard work for both professionals and for the familes who parent these children. Everyone must dedicate time in their already busy lives to address these needs. The therapists and social workers supporting these families must use many creative tools during the first few years to help them through the rough times, after placement, and after the adoptions are finalized. The parents must adapt rapidly, do all the initial adapting, and commit to a child they don't yet love, and may not even like, for awhile. This is what has become "professional" parenting.                             p.7 (Italics mine)
There is always room for another book educating people on the impact that traumatized children can have on a healthy family.

Healthy Kids
As I alluded to in The 100 LEGO Tower, there is a powerful chapter discussing the effects on birth kids of bringing special needs children into a family. I know several adoptive families with birth children who have much to say. Our family does not include any birth children. We do, however, have a "healthier" one. I have alway tried to attend to his needs regarding the adoption of his brother and sister, and thought I was doing a pretty decent job. This book has opened my eyes to the ways we sometimes discount our children's viewpoint without realizing it. I must say, my Lovebug has blossomed as I attempt to address his needs more fully in light of the information shared by Elizabeth A. Tracy MSW, LICSW, (and birthchild who was raised in a family doing foster care!)  the author of this essential chapter.

Preparing and Equipping Families
Through our years of parenting special needs adopted children I have found that I have a passion for families embarking on the journey. I am deeply concerned for the hopeful adoptive parents and children, as well as for the foster or adopted child(ren) who may be coming into unprepared families.
I know from our own situation, and from what I have observed in the lives of others, that there is a sprinkling a liberal dose of , "We can do it better.", that is compounded by a smidgeon of, "You can't really know 'til you know.", in all of us. Still, I have often wished for a resource that had some hope of bridging that gap. I believe that some of  the anecdotes related in Traumatized Children Healing Homes make it specifically targeted to help as much as any pre-foster / adoption book can. Consider.

During our six months of work in Kyrgzystan in 2008, I met several American families who were there adopting children - infants, a few toddlers, and older children. 
     One afternoon, I sat across from a family and a six year old boy they were adopting. When I looked at him, I took note of his eyes. He is a beautiful boy, but his eyes spoke of immense pain, trauma and loss. He was found underground in the sewer system just a year earlier. He had lived with older children on the streets and then in an orphanage. He had no family history. In our brief time together, the adoptive parents assured me that all this young boy would need was love. I tactfully tried to share the potential impact of his trauma. But I think in the excitement of adding this child to the family, they didn't want to hear me. They basically said, "He will do fine with the love we will give him, thank you very much." I said no more, but grieved at what may be ahead for these unprepared and unrealistic parents. p.15
Tip of the Iceberg

There is so much more in this great resource. I had one more thing I wanted to talk about, but I think I will save it for another day. This is a rich resource for the library of any family raising children affected by early trauma. I will be purchasing several in the near future. I never know when I will meet someone on the cusp, who has no idea of the ride they are in for. Families need as much information as they can absorb in preparation for the journey of a lifetime.

Traumatized kids deserve families that are prepared to meet the challenges!

Am I Parenting Children With Special Needs or Running a Group Home?

So, am I parenting children with special needs or am I running a group home?


Us

We have been parenting children with special needs for over ten years. Like so many others, we have read innumerable books and put in countless hours of research. We have attended long and short trainings given by several of the leading experts in early childhood trauma. We have reframed our entire idea of parenting and family so that it more closely resembles something altogether different. The therapeutic parenting program we run in our home is a personal composite of the most successful theories combined to fit our personalities. It most closely resembles the firmness of a steel box with a velvet lining of love and affection we find in some writings. That, and a whole boatload of sensory motor input and cognitive-behavioral work. If it sounds like a very structured home, it is. Our goal is to point the kids toward healing and connection. As such, we have even had difficulty utilizing respite in our area because our home is more ‘firm’ than 90% of the available settings. That makes respite a vacation for my kids. So not the goal!

Them  (No, this is not an ‘us and them’ mentality, it’s just a catchy way to break up this post.) 
Our children whose behavior has been most affected by trauma have been with us for almost 6 years. Sissy was 9 years old when we brought her home. She has been impacted by genetic factors, prenatal exposure to substances and violence, various trauma, abuse and neglect until she was eight. She is of the clear conviction that her many foster placements were ended by her behavior. The Dukester has very similar genetic and prenatal history compounded by at least six moves prior to 18 months of age (when he came home to us.) He is also diagnosed with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome.

Me
In the spirit of honesty, I have to admit that I have judged worried about families who don’t seem willing or able to provide a pretty significant level of structure, something the most successful theories require for safety and healing.

Them
Both of my beloveds mentioned earlier have made progress. Sometimes it has looked like quite a lot. At other times, like now, it is evident that one or both would rather play control games and make sly efforts to outwit the love they can’t take in. Games that are first level safety testing. “Can I interrupt you?” “Can I make you repeat yourself?” Wierd eating things... Basic stuff. After 5 ½ years!

The Current Crisis
Now I am face to face with one fact. I . am . tired. I want to live like a family! I don’t think I am willing to run a group home indefinitely. No matter how much I love my children. If they are going to require that level of structure forever, they might not get it in our home. The extreme vigilance required to keep everyone safe is enough. My vigilance will not keep them from making goofy sideways choices to make themselves sicker. After almost 6 years of full-program, skilled therapeutic parenting, is it still about safety for them? Still about fear and control? Or is it habit? At least one of them has many skills not being used.
Are we now at risk of becoming one of the families I worry about? Of less than necessary structure?

You
So, what do you think? Is there a time limit on treating a kid like they live in a group home? Is there an expiration date on providing this kind of overwhelming structure? Beyond a certain length of time, in the same environment, do they still benefit? Or do they just come to believe, “This is how these people treat kids!” ???

Just wondering...

 

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Interracial adoption: What Can I Teach My Child About Being Black?


Yes, this title is (partially) stolen. There is a poignant poem of the same name on a blog I read.

This is something I think most white moms of brown children think worry about. How do I teach my child what it means to live in their skin in a culture that is still so affected by skin tone?  I wonder if it goes the other way too, (brown moms of___ kids….)?

At the Attach conference in 2010, I attended a great session on interracial adoption entitled Transracial Families: Nurture Attachment by Attuning to Race taught by Judy Stigger, LCSW (and transracial adoptive mom of two). In this well attended and integrated session we looked at varied ethnic stereotypes. We also discussed ‘white privilege’ and how we can never really experience life in someone else’s skin color, sex, etc. How do we teach our children who spend their childhoods under a 'white umbrella' what to expect from society when they are older and alone or out with friends of color?  An example given was the different experience the have when dining out as a part of a family with white parents. That is their childhood. Does that prepare them for the world they will encounter as older teens or adults on their own? Beyond that, how do I really teach my beautiful, teenage African American daughter what stereotypes she may encounter when socializing more widely (parties!?!)? Especially when she fights me even teaching her how to care for her hair or skin.

Then again, I believe I read a book not too long ago regarding transracial adoption of traumatized kids. The author expressed the opinion that our children need to learn the basics of human relationships and trust and family.  That it is not our primary job in parenting children with trauma histories to teach them how they fit into a larger culture. (I would love to have this reference again if anyone has it.)

I am just one mom among many. I guess I think that both responsibilities are mine. As is the responsibility to be the one who keeps these conversations open in our family.

In the poem I mentioned at the beginning of this post, one verse strikes me deeply. After reflecting on the fact that white moms can teach our children what it means to be human, she ends with the following.
And in the end,
I can release you into your destiny,
And wait for you to come home,
With a fuller understanding of who you are
and what you are to be in your life.
Then I can listen as you teach me,
What it means to be Black.

                                    Dorothy

Beautiful.
---------------------------------------------------------------
Read the whole poem at Urban Servant.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

A Truly Happy St. Patrick's Day


Read it all the way through. Read it out loud.
It is awesome, and so worth the time in our 'quick' culture.

St. Patrick's Breastplate Prayer
I bind unto myself today
The strong name of the Trinity,
By invocation of the same,
The Three in One and One in Three.

I bind this day to me for ever,
By power of faith, Christ's Incarnation;
His baptism in the Jordan River;
His death on cross for my salvation;
His bursting from the spic├Ęd tomb;
His riding up the heavenly way;
His coming at the day of doom;
I bind unto myself today.

I bind unto myself the power
Of the great love of the Cherubim;
The sweet 'Well done' in judgment hour;
The service of the Seraphim,
Confessors' faith, Apostles' word,
The Patriarchs' prayers, the Prophets' scrolls,
All good deeds done unto the Lord,
And purity of virgin souls.

I bind unto myself today
The virtues of the starlit heaven,
The glorious sun's life-giving ray,
The whiteness of the moon at even,
The flashing of the lightning free,
The whirling wind's tempestuous shocks,
The stable earth, the deep salt sea,
Around the old eternal rocks.

I bind unto myself today
The power of God to hold and lead,
His eye to watch, His might to stay,
His ear to hearken to my need.
The wisdom of my God to teach,
His hand to guide, his shield to ward,
The word of God to give me speech,
His heavenly host to be my guard.

Against the demon snares of sin,
The vice that gives temptation force,
The natural lusts that war within,
The hostile men that mar my course;
Or few or many, far or nigh,
In every place and in all hours
Against their fierce hostility,
I bind to me these holy powers.

Against all Satan's spells and wiles,
Against false words of heresy,
Against the knowledge that defiles,
Against the heart's idolatry,
Against the wizard's evil craft,
Against the death-wound and the burning
The choking wave and the poisoned shaft,
Protect me, Christ, till thy returning.

Christ be with me, Christ within me,
Christ behind me, Christ before me,
Christ beside me, Christ to win me,
Christ to comfort and restore me,
Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ in quiet, Christ in danger,
Christ in hearts of all that love me,
Christ in mouth of friend and stranger.

I bind unto myself the name,
The strong name of the Trinity;
By invocation of the same.
The Three in One, and One in Three,
Of whom all nature hath creation,
Eternal Father, Spirit, Word:
Praise to the Lord of my salvation,
salvation is of Christ the Lord.
~~~~~~

St. Patrick's Breastplate Prayer

from: http://www.prayer-and-prayers.info

Friday, March 16, 2012

The One Hundred LEGO Tower

No, it's not some cool, esoteric blog title symbolizing something deep. Last night I really built a 100 LEGO tower.

You see, two of my kids require loads of work, and yet they typically put energy back in to the family. Two of my babies don't need as much help per se, and they can just suck, suck, suck the life right out of the us.

I'm currently reading what may become one of my new favorite books on attachment disorder, (more on that later). It describes some of the sacrifices that birth children often make in families like ours. (I'll sub "healthier" for "birth" in our house.)

And it made. me. think.

So what did I do about it? Last night instead of dishes, FB, blogging, paying bills, or talking on the phone... I put two of my darlins to bed a bit early, and kept two up a bit late. Just Hanging Out.

And we built a 100 LEGO tower together.

Maybe that is deep.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

On Isolation and Connection

Recently I was listening to my secret pleasure radio program, New Life Live. It is a call-in show with multiple counselors who help people with serious psycho-social issues. I love it. On this day they were instructing the caller in the several layers of connectedness we as humans need to maintain or grow in our mental health. To be healthy and heal from trauma they listed something like: church (a larger community), a small group, several good friends who support your growth, and at least one close confidant. I probably didn't get that completely right, but you get the picture. Support.

The same day I heard this information, my husband went out of town. Just a three day men's retreat but it happens so rarely that it gave me some serious food for thought. And that is... HOW do single parents do it? Ever. But especially with special needs kids! I do quite a bit of parenting on my own. Don't tell, but sometimes it even seems easier. But he's always coming home in a while. It's not the same.

My mom was a single parent. She made it look easy when I was young. More recently, she has been raising special needs kids for years. Alone. Last month, her youngest celebrated 18. It was the first time in forty-six years that she didn't have a minor child. I am in awe.

It is so easy to feel, and be, isolated in this atypical lifestyle. We have to work so much harder to stay connected in healthy, nurturing relationships. Harder when our kids drive away (or worse, suck in) our friends and family. Harder when our kids can't play with theirs. We can't stand around at pick up time and fret over the same foibles...


Norma mommy: Can you believe it, yesterday Johnny and Susie
                             asked if they could play doctor!
Raddy mommy: Oh my gosh,  I know, don't you just hate when
                            you catch them having s**!.. ...Um..... Never mind. Norma?

Doesn't make for easy connection. And we probably need it more than most after years of living with their our trauma.

I would love to hear from single parents (or any trauma moms, caregivers, etc.),
  •  How do you make sure you limit the isolation?
  • How do you get a break?
  • What kind of supports actually help?
Because we all should be proactive in taking care of our emotional needs, we pour out and pour out to our kids. What are we doing today to fill back up!

And to the single parents...I'm not saying the words (angel, saint, etc.), but I am saying,
My hat is off, your hands are full.




Tuesday, March 13, 2012

What Makes Us Human

(Disclaimer: This post is not for the faint of heart.)

We have a 'shaken-baby' in our family. Actually, her medical record says 'non-accidental trauma'. (As if the harm to any of my children was accidental. Please!) When we got her, I went and picked her up from the hospital just a few weeks after her injury. Since then, in the year or so that she has been with us she has been in the hospital 9 times, not counting emergency room visits. And by 'she' of course I mean 'we'.

Each of the hospital stays was memorable for one reason or another; a surgery that significantly decreased her pain, a terrible staff member who will never touch my child again, a great nurse, my big breakdown, etc. The most memorable, however, was the very first. The pediatric intensivist who admitted her made a very interesting comment.
Before getting into it,though..... in his defense, every time a new MD looks at her CT / MRI scans, they feel the need to inform me of the extreme nature of her injury.
The damage to her brain is complete.
There is no part of her brain that looks normal.
She has no activity on the right side of her brain.
Blah, blah, blah.....
I understand brain injury. I get it!

But this doctor, I'll call him Dr. 'F', left me speechless. Not an easy thing to do. He introduced himself, performed a brief exam, then excused himself to look at the reports. When he returned to discuss the plan of care, guess what he 'needed' to tell me? Right! She has a really bad brain injury.
But here's the exact quote,
In fact, this baby has basically no cortex left. And cortex is what makes us human.
Did you catch that? Because of child abuse suffered before 5 months of age, 'this baby' can no longer be classified as human.  Um...

What I so wish I'd said is,
 You know Dr. F, there are some with lots of cortex, even medical degrees, who don't have what.makes.us.human!
 Is my voice rising? Sorry.

Anyway, it's a hot topic in our culture in various ways . What makes us human? All I know is, this precious baby smiles, laughs, babbles, scolds me when I put her down, likes music, and movement of any kind, and loves her brother's voice and touch. Her body won't do what she wants, it's true. But in some developmental skills she is just 10 months behind...

And she's not even Human!

Monday, March 12, 2012

Dangerous

What I am about to write feels like a sensitive subject. It may be a raw one for some who have been there and beyond with their kids.

One of my beloveds is at a crisis point. I am writing this at the end of a full seven days of her being in therapeutic respite; she is coming home tonight. We are so worried about the turn she appears to be taking. For a long time it truly looked like she had made super progress. Now she is stuck way back in what I lovingly refer to as her 'old-fashioned' stuff. That is, behaviors she has not needed to engage in for ages. So we've been planning how best to help her. In our discussions we have circled around one concerning idea. 'Old-fashioned' stuff in this kiddo makes her pretty unsafe.

In all that RAD is or can be, all of the peeing, pooping, swearing, sneaking, lying, picking, staring, ignoring, ad infinitum, there is one thing that gives us pause...

How do you help the Dangerous kid? The one that requires 100% line-of-sight supervision just to keep others from getting hurt in any variety of ways. The one who would require a door alarm for safety any time you can't be 'eyes-on' (sleeping, showering, etc.). I think that the visceral reaction of many is to push them away or remove them from the situation in order to keep others safe. (And I am NOT saying that isn't the absolute only solution in some situations. Sometimes it is more damaging to all involved to keep them home.)

But what about when they are still in the home. It is so important that their need for closeness and relationship is met despite seriously alienating 'push-away' behavior (oops, forgot that in the list). In the dailiness of busy lives in families packed with potential victims, how does the really unsafe kid get enough time and proximity to have any hope of some level of healing? Particularly when the only place they and others might be safe is when they are in an alarmed bedroom.

No answers, just questions. Food for thought from our journey. I'm interested in what you think, or do, if your family is at all like mine.

The funny thing is that because we are healthy and love them, these kids see us as weak. Ha! What kind of powerful love have we been given for our children that we can love both potential victim and perpetrator at the same time?!?

Amazing love.