Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Tough Days

        Last week we had Summer Bible School at church. I had the privilege of teaching 2nd grade. They were a joy, so innocent and full of questions, best of all, they took my scattered teaching methods in stride. 
This is what my classroom table looked like after the children left.

     The Bible School teachers usually give the children a small gift on the last evening of Bible School. I went to a local store and dug through their $1.00 bins, then assembled a gift bag for each child. Lia and Joseph could scarcely contain their excitement when I was putting the items in my cart. They were disappointed when I told them what the gifts were for but they cheered up after I promised them some of the left over goodies. 

               Simple gift bags filled with treats

Kiana spent the night at a friends house last week. She said she missed us and was happy to be home again. Later Dean told me it is nice to know she actually likes us. :) We know she does, but right now the grass is always greener elsewhere.

    Somebody doesn't look tired and it is way past her bedtime.

These past two weeks have been rough. First we had Bible School from Sunday evening through Thursday evening and that meant a lot of going away, something my little people do not handle so well. 

    We had a full weekend planned as well but one of the events was cancelled because of the rain so we stayed home and tried to regain our equilibrium. Tried being the key word here because we didn't succeed. Then at 2:30 Sunday morning Miss Lia decided she has had enough sleep for one night. She fell asleep about an hour before it was time to get up for church.

   By the time Monday morning rolled around, I was hoping things would be going better. They weren't. Joseph was so dysregulated, he bordered on hysteria. He spent the afternoon in his bed (his choice) rather than allow me to help him sort out what was wrong. I wasn't sure myself what was bothering him so I didn't push him to hard. When Dean came home he  tried to figure out what was wrong but Joseph just cried and screamed, he was that upset.

   Joseph did admit that he is sad we are selling our camper. Both Kiana and Joseph have a problem when we sell something. I told him the only way we can buy new things is to sell stuff we no longer use. That helped him understand and calmed him down for the moment. But this morning I had to have the same discussion with Kiana. She too understood why we sell things but she was worried we would sell her doll houses!

  I hate the feeling of helplessness I get when I don't know what is bothering my children and they can't or won't tell me. Last night I was reading over the manuscript for a book I would like to publish someday and the light bulb went on... Joseph was placed with us on June 28th, no wonder he is struggling.

   A child who is placed in foster care/adopted or experienced a traumatic event will often experience emotional turmoil at the time of year the incident took place. They will not be able to tell you what is wrong or why they feel as they do but the pain is real.

    Several weeks ago a friend and I planned to spend this morning together. When Kiana and Joseph woke up in tears, I texted Dean to get his opinion on whether to place them with babysitters as planned or stay home. He reminded me that they usually do okay for babysitters so it is up to me when I feel like dealing with the meltdowns, in the morning or afternoon. So I went and thoroughly enjoyed my morning as well as a delicious lunch at Rachel's Crepery. Thanks to all of my babysitters, my morning felt like a breath of fresh air.

     I came home refreshed and ready to tackle the tough job of being mom. I wouldn't trade my "job" for anything though because as tough as life can be around here sometimes, I still consider myself blessed. 
                Image result for being a mom quotes

Monday, June 29, 2015

Triangulation, RAD Post #2

Triangulation: to pit people against each other

   For a time we had an MT (Mobile Therapist) come out to our home weekly to provide behavior therapy for Braden. 
  One day Miss D the MT, handed Braden a blank sheet of paper and a pen. She then instructed him to draw a picture of his family. I watched intently as Braden drew a large stick figure, which I assumed was Dad. Beside the first person, he drew another figure of similar size and stature. From then on he drew each figure a bit smaller than the previous one. When he got to the edge of his paper he had only drawn 6 figures. I was about to tell him he had forgotten to draw himself when he added another person lying on the floor across the bottom of his paper. 
  When he was finished drawing his family, Miss D told him he should give each person a face. Braden was the picture of concentration as he drew eyes, a mouth and a nose on each stick figure. They were all smiling with the exception of the person lying on the floor, that one had a very angry look on it's face.
  My immediate thought was, "Is that how Braden feels? Like we don't love him?" I felt sick at heart and was ready to give him a hug, when Miss D asked Braden if she could write everyone's name above their head. He nodded so she proceeded, the first was dad as I had assumed but the second person was Braden, not me as I had thought. He gave the children's name in order and the person on the floor was none other than mom!
   Miss D got Braden involved in another activity and deciphered the drawing for me.
   "I have my client's to draw their family because without fail, they will draw it how they perceive it. Braden views himself as equal with dad and his sibling's are beneath him. What is especially troubling is that he depicted you, his mom as someone who is of no consequence and has less value than anyone else in the family.
  To say I was dumbfounded is an understatement. I was also hurt, angry and confused. 
  "Are you and Dean on the same page regarding Braden?" Miss D asked. When I really thought about it, we weren't. Braden reserved his worst behavior for me because I was his primary caregiver.  When Dean came home from work a sort of transformation came over Braden. His behavior still left a lot to be desired but it wasn't anything like what I experienced during the day. I never felt that Dean didn't believe me but I knew it was hard for him to envision exactly what I was talking about
  Miss D told me in no uncertain terms that Dean and I had to be on the same page or Braden would not heal. When I told Dean what all had transpired, he had a talk with Braden. "From now on mom and I are a team, if you give mom a hard time, I will take care of the problem when I get home from work." From that day on, Dean received the treatment Braden had formerly reserved just for me.
   Braden became very angry when he realized Dean and I wouldn't make a decision without first checking in with the other parent. If Braden told me that Dean said he may play in the sand box, I would text Dean and clarify things before giving him permission and vice versa. This greatly hindered Braden's ability to get permission from one parent to do something like ride his bike when the other parent had told him he is not allowed to because he refused to stay within his "biking boundaries" earlier in the day.

All children with RAD are masters at manipulation and triangulation, it is what kept them alive before they were in a safe home. 

Friday, June 26, 2015


    I have been thinking about RAD and wondering how to help people understand what it really looks like in daily life. 
   When I read about something that I have not experienced, I find it easier to understand the concept when I am given an example. In light of that I am going to break down the symptom's of RAD and give you a glimpse of what our life looked like at one time.
     As with any diagnosis, what we experienced may look different than what you are experiencing.
     My goal is to help people who are close to a family who is parenting a child with RAD better understand what this family is going through as well as helping them understand why the parents enforce strict boundaries for their child.

To influence or manage shrewdly or deviously
To tamper with or falsify for personal gain

Perhaps the best example of manipulation in our experience was Braden's anxiety. We began working on a Life Story Book for Braden in his weekly therapy. The therapist, Miss L helped him choose a name for his book and draw picture's on the cover. The next page was about his birth, how much he weighed, where he was born etc. The following page was about Joseph's birth and so on. 
   Miss L said we will follow Braden's cue's, as he will let us know when he needs a break from telling his story.
  We did one page every week and about three to four weeks into it, Braden's behavior changed, he suddenly became very anxious. 
    Miss L told me that anxiety usually plays a large role in children who experienced trauma and she felt we needed to address it. We agreed and Braden's Life Story was put aside while we tackled the anxiety. 
   Braden's anxiety became so severe he couldn't sleep at night. The doctor said there isn't anything on the market that would help a child stay asleep but there are things to help children relax and fall asleep. She gave some suggestions and we increased the dosage until she said there is no way, this child should be able to stay awake. 
    Lia was a baby at the time and she didn't sleep well so when I was up with her at night I would check on Braden. He was always wide awake, his cheeks weren't flushed nor were there "pillow marks"on his face, to suggest he had been sleeping. 
   In the morning he would have big black circle's under his eye's and of course his behavior deteriorated badly.
  Braden worried about everything: is my food safe to eat, will someone come in my window and get me, will I have clothing to wear tomorrow, what if I don't like my snack (there wasn't a food Braden didn't like) what if I fall off the train (His class went on a train ride) and on and on it went. He had no fewer than 100 things to worry about every day. 
  We were concerned because this anxiety popped up out of no where and as far as we knew, nothing had happened to trigger it. Was it simply anxiety or a symptom of another illness?
  Braden's anxiety took over our family life, then one day it stopped. Bang. No more anxiety. Braden and I were driving to an appointment when I asked him about it. 
  "Hey Buddy," I said, "You aren't worrying any more, what happened?" He said, "I decided not to worry anymore, I am tired of it."
  I was speechless for a bit then questioned him further and it turns out he didn't want to work on his Life Story anymore. He also said that he likes to see if he can get people to believe him because it makes him feel big n strong when they believe something that isn't true. He was cheerfully answering my questions when his face suddenly went blank. I asked him what was wrong and he told me he was mad that I knew what he was doing, he wished he hadn't told me. 
  A whole year of worry, sleeplessness and anxiety and both his therapist and his parents fell for it. No wonder he didn't trust us, not if he could fool us that easily. 
    That episode was a stepping stone that helped us realize Braden needed more in depth help than we were providing.
   From that point on Braden had no respect for his therapist because he had proved to us that he was smarter than she was. He knew he could manipulate what he did in therapy so therapy no longer held any value. 

Monday, June 22, 2015

Happy Father's Day


My Three "men" and Kobi, who refused to move.

Our children are too young to realize what a blessing their Daddy is. They love him but they cannot fully appreciate all the hours he put's into building relationships with them and showing them how to live godly lives. I am thankful that God blessed us with a loving, faithful husband and  Daddy who truly cares about us.

Lia giving her "bestest daddy" a kiss.

Joseph made Dean a card for Fathers Day. He wrote all the usual I love you's and then added, I even like every kind of tractor. He said, "That will make dad feel good." 

Dean likes to point out the Case tractor's to Tristan because Tristan is a John Deere fan. Joseph has a difficult time deciding where to place his loyalties, with Dad or his big brother and uncles whom he admires. Joseph tends to side with Tristan on the matter. So when Joseph was trying to think of something to write that would make his daddy feel special, he couldn't think of anything better than, "I even like every kind of tractor!" 

While we celebrated Father's Day my mind went to those families who long to join in the celebration but cannot due to various circumstances. Let's remember to pray for them.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Kobi, Our Therapy Dog In Training

only a puppy would fall asleep in a corner.

As we expected, Father's Day brought on the by now familiar feeling's of abandonment and sadness. It hit Kiana a few days before Father's Day and at that point I didn't know what was wrong so I got her journal and told her to write down what she is feeling. She wasn't in the mood and well, let's just say she left us know how she felt about writing. Kobi was lying on the floor and when Kiana got upset he ran over to her and put his paws on her lap n licked her face, then he jumped down and ran to the opposite side of her chair and did the same thing. He kept it up until she started laughing and petting him. Dean and I were silently cheering, YES!!! This is what we hoped for but we weren't expecting it quite so soon. 
Joseph was outside playing but he soon came inside, obviously needing to write as well. Poor Kobi ran from one wailing 7 year old to the other, he licked their toes n faces until he had them laughing. I was ready to say we had a "therapy dog." But later when Joseph had a real meltdown I called Kobi inside, hoping he would help out. He didn't though, he ran down in the basement instead....not that I blamed him, the noise level was pretty high at that point. 

As much as I was dreading training Kobi I must say he learns very quickly. If he has something he shouldn't and we tell him to "drop it" he will. If he is inside and needs to use the bathroom he stands at the door until someone opens it. If he comes inside and Tristan is in the basement all I have to say is, "Go down in the basement," and down he goes. He picked up on "sit" pretty quickly but getting him to "stay" is a little more difficult.

Tristan and Kobi enjoying a Sunday afternoon nap.

Friday, June 19, 2015

How To Help The Hurting Around Us

Everyone knows of a family who is struggling in one way or another. I wrote this post after hearing of a family who needs someone to support them, someone who can come along side them and help bear their load. Sometimes when we look in on a situation we feel that there isn't anything we can do or maybe you wish you could do something but don't know what. If you are like me, your mind feels blank when you try to think what to do to help a needy family. Below is a list of things people have done for us over the years. Use your imagination and be a blessing
                   What can I do to help?

People have asked me this so often and it can be a tough question for parents to answer, especially when everything has to be carefully weighed and thought out because of how an emotionally unstable child might react. When your brain is already in over load answering such a simple question can be to complicated and I used to say, just pray for us. I in no way want to insinuate that prayer isn't necessary or is of lesser value because we all know that isn't true. I want to share some things that people have done for us when I was unable to communicate our needs. 

Food is always appreciated. You needn't spend the day in the kitchen cooking up a fancy meal. A plate of cookies, kettle of soup or a dessert is sufficient. Tip: remember to check if there are any food allergies.

Letters, poems and cards. Who doesn't enjoy receiving mail? More than once when my children were having a rough day and I had tried everything I knew to get them back on track, all to no avail, I would find a card in the mail. I would lock myself in my bedroom and cry because someone had allowed God to use them to encourage my hurting heart.

Money is something everyone can use, whether they have children with special needs or not. It is amazing how much money you can put into paying for gas, parking meters and the like when you take a child to appointments. 

A simple hug and "I am praying for you," can make all the difference in a discouraged parent's thinking. They suddenly realize that someone does care, they aren't alone after all!

Offering to babysit can be such a blessing. I used to think people probably cringed when my number came up on their caller ID.... she needs a babysitter again! When someone offered to babysit it was so nice, then I didn't feel as if I was being a pest, asking them to keep my children yet again.

Ask if there is anything you can get for the family when you go to the grocery store. Sometimes a busy mom needs something but doesn't have the time or energy to make a trip to the grocery store for only one or two items. Think especially of the single mom's in your midst.

Offer to do her laundry or help her with her cleaning. One friend of mine called Dean and asked if he thinks I would mind if she came and did house work while I was gone. What a blessing to come home to a clean house after a long day away from home! 

Offer to drop your teenage daughter off for several hours to help with whatever needs to be done. Any mom who has several little one's will have plenty to do. Or she can watch the children while the foster mom fills out those monthly reports, which have a way of sneaking up on you.

Offer to sew dresses for the little girls. Send your son over to help with the mulching, gardening and other outdoor work. If you see the family's vehicle needs to be washed, offer to wash it for them. 

And of course, pray. Let them know you are praying. Another friend of mine told me she prays for our family when she is up with her baby at night. I was so blessed by her commitment. I was also challenged to set aside a specific time to pray.   

I think the key lies in one word, OFFERING. When we offer to do something instead of saying, "Let me know if there is anything I can do to help," people's need's will be met much more quickly. After all, who likes to call someone and say, "I need....."

               Image result for bear ye one another's burdens

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

One Of "Those" Weeks

Do you ever have days where you wonder if you will make it till bedtime? That has been the story of our week and it is only Wednesday! 

  Usually I know or at the very least, have an idea what is behind the attitude's but this week I haven't a clue what is wrong. 

  Monday was tough, Dean even checked to see if it was full moon because there had to be something behind the craziness. The children fought all day. "He is staring at me! No, I am not, I am looking past her! She is reading the book I want to read. He isn't helping me pick up toys. Why do I get all the hard jobs? You drank the last of the milk just because you knew I wanted some!" 

    I put them to work but they didn't have the presence of mind to follow directions. Besides, they had to pass one another while going about their work and arms and legs kept flying out of their own accord and hitting passing siblings.

    Usually "doing jobs" sets them straight and they are ready to play nicely again but not today, so I put them all down for early naps. While they slept I rested, read my Bible n prayed since my morning devotions were interrupted with complaints such as, "He got the cereal, I wanted!" Leaving one to think that there must have been only a little cereal remaining instead of 1/2 a box.

   I prayed for wisdom, patience and kindness.... but they crawled out of bed as ornery as when they crawled in and sad to say, I felt just as frustrated.   

         To top it off I found a dead toad when I opened the dryer to remove a load of laundry. I thought it was dog stuff and I was ready to give someone a talking to, when I realized the thing had legs. I yelled for Tristan to take care of it and he busted up laughing that mom was scared of a dead toad. I tried to tell him I wasn't scared of it, I was just disgusted to find it in my dryer of all places but he couldn't hear above his fits of giggles.

  Then we were up until 11:00 working with a child who refused to tell the truth about some missing candy, even after dad found the wrappers stashed in a corner. Another child was very upset because little sister wore a pair of her undies, her favorite ones that she was keeping nice?? Don't ask. Little sister needed them because she got her last pair wet bathing her kitties in the dog's water dish. I fell into bed and told myself that tomorrow would be better....

    Except it wasn't. More fighting, jobs done incorrectly, kittens got bathed in the dog's water dish, again. More untruth's and lot's of journaling rounded out the day. I asked Dean if he has any idea what is causing all this friction and fussing but he couldn't come up with an answer either.

   Miss Lia was up at 4:00 this morning and ready to face the day, her mother on the other hand was not! I told her she needs to sleep some more but she hung on my neck saying she was scared and wanted to sleep beside me, so I tucked her in and tried to ignore the ache in my neck. She wiggled and squirmed, unable to get comfortable. Then she needed a drink but couldn't get one herself. So I hauled my weary self out of bed and got her a drink. I asked her if she needs to use the bathroom but she said she didn't have to. However 20 minutes later she needed to "go." She came running back saying she had a tick on her arm so I got up once more and sure enough, there was a tick. Needless to say, I didn't get much sleep after 4:00, not exactly the way I planned to begin this day. 

   Anyone want to guess how this day is going?  

Monday, June 15, 2015

Loyalty To Birth Parents

Loyalty: faithfulness to a person, county, group or cause.

As adoptive parents we have had to come to grips with the fact that our children will always remain loyal to their birth parents. No matter how much they suffered at their bio parents hands, they remain loyal to them. 

Dean and I hold them when the rage, wipe their tears and walk them through the pain of feeling abandoned. We clean up the messes both literally and figuratively when the rages subside. 

We have the responsibility of portraying our children's birth parents correctly. We want our children to know it is not their fault that they were removed from their bio parents. But neither do we want to portray their birth parents as bad people.

Dean and I need to help our children deal with negative thought patterns, some of which have been passed down through generations, others have became entrenched in their brains when they were to small understand what was happening to them.

We hold them when they are scared, angry, worried or overwhelmed with big feelings. I give them medicine, tissue's and cold drinks when they are sick. 

I take them to therapy and doctors of all kinds to help them with the trauma they experienced at the hands of their birth parents, however unintentional it may have been, it still happened. We reassure them when they are upset about going to these places and buy them hamburgers n french fries when we are unable to help them process the deep things they worked through in therapy.

When they fall and bump their heads, scrape their knee's or pinch a finger they come running to mom for a band aid and a hug and kiss.

We kiss them good night and tuck them in bed, turn on night lights and get "just one more drink." When they wake up crying I am the one who comforts them.

We as their adoptive parents are on the receiving end of the "looks" when our children make a poor choice in public. 

We are the one's who receive the phone call's from school when things escalate and decisions have to be made.

Our names are on their birth certificates and medical records. The bills for their treatment come in our mail box and Dean faithfully pays them. 

I buy them new shoes and more new shoes. I buy them more socks when theirs get holes. I know their favorite kinds of cereal and buy it for a special treat even though it is more expensive, because I love them.

I consider myself their mom in every sense of the word but while they call me mom, they remain loyal to their birth families. At first this really hurt me but now I can honestly say I am okay with it. Yes, it still brings a pang when I spend hours helping a child process what is bothering them and they finally open up and say, "I wish I could live with my birth mom because I grew in her belly, we belong together!" What can I say? It is the truth, they do belong together.
Sometimes it is tempting to feel like I get the short end of the deal. I am the one who bears the brunt of their anger because I am the mom. Their birth mom didn't do what she should have but instead of placing the blame on her and acknowledging who is responsible, they push their pain on me. 

But then I remember the "I love You, Mom" card I found on my pillow, the hugs and tears of remorse when my little girl's anger is spent. The little hands in mine when we walk together. When someone praises one of my children, I am the one who beams with pride. We get to snuggle with them while during story time and we are the one's who heard them falteringly sound out their first words. 

So while we may not have their loyalty it is okay, because we have them and they are worth more than anything to us.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

We Love Summertime

We are adjusting to the summer routine and thoroughly enjoying the laid back schedule. I enrolled the children in our local library's Summer Reading Program and they are all almost finished. All of our children are bookworms, including Lia. She loves when I sit and read to her. Joseph devours chapter books and I am rapidly running out of reading material for him. I like to give him R*d & St*ff books because he tends to read things and misinterpret them. Then we have to try to figure out what he read and what he thought it said. Those books are clean, simple reading that teach the basic lessons he struggles with. We took one book along to the Adoption Retreat this past weekend. I asked him what his story was about and he got a sheepish grin and said the children disobeyed and went barefoot, then they got poison. :) I love when what he reads presses home the same things we are working to instill in him.

Dean found a delicious burger recipe that we tried out the other Sunday evening. We invited our neighbors down to help us enjoy them. They were delicious!

We are also enjoying fresh strawberries. Yesterday I canned 11 quarts of strawberry tapioca. When I tasted it though it was way to salty. I reread my recipe and discovered I was to add 1/4 teaspoon of salt, not 1/4 cup! I did question the amount of salt as I thought 1/4 cup of salt to 8.5 quarts of water sounded like a bit much.... I dumped the it all and we enjoyed our strawberries with waffle's n vanilla ice cream instead.

And we cannot forget Kobi....yesterday I wanted him to do something and said, "Kobi, look at mom....!" I do not consider myself his mom, trust me, although sometimes I think he is as much work as a child. 

I found this poem in my inbox yesterday. Today I sat down with each of my children and asked them the questions, their answers were quite interesting. Tristan made me promise I wouldn't put his answers on my blog.


I am (2 special characteristics)
I wonder ....
I Hear  (something I like to hear)
I see ( something I like to see)
I want (something I actually desire)
I pretend (something I like to pretend)
I feel ....
I like to touch ....
I worry about ....
I cry about ....
I understand .....
I say (something I like to say)
I dream about ....
I like to try  .....
I hope .....

- adapted from poem submitted by Maria Gracia

Our neighbors grandson and Tristan brought their water slide up and set it in our yard. Amazing how boys are willing to exert themselves in play but it is simply to hot to work.


Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Joseph's Diagnosis - Or Lack There Of

   The other week, after sending several emails inquiring about it, we received Joseph's diagnosis from CHOP. When I read it I could have cried. He as diagnosed with ADD but was not diagnosed with FASD as he does not meet the criteria specified in the DSM. However they said they may diagnosis him with FASD in the future if his behaviors continue. What????? 
    At first I was speechless. One mom said her daughter's facial abnormality's (one of Joseph's missing criteria) were more noticeable as she grew older. So perhaps there is something to waiting until the child is older and then testing again.
   I honestly do not think Joseph has ADD. I feel his spaciness is a result of the alcohol damage. We were advised to push for a diagnosis of ARND (Alcohol Related Neurodevelopmental Disorder). We debated forfeiting our search for a diagnosis but Dean brought up a point I hadn't considered. Did you know it is considered child abuse to withhold a child from normal childhood activities? That can cause a very sticky situation, one we experienced first hand with Braden and CYS. If we have a diagnosis and are questioned about Joseph's activities or lack thereof, we will have a diagnosis to use in our favor. I realize that having a diagnosis won't automatically dismiss us if we ever faced such a situation but hopefully it would eliminate some of the possible problems.
   The next step was contacting a doctor on the Jersey Shore who diagnoses FASD. Thankfully I had the opportunity to speak with someone before we submitted all the paper work and got Joseph registered. She said that if Joseph didn't meet the criteria at CHOP, they won't diagnose him either. She spent a long time explaining why not etc.
    FASD is a spectrum disorder so while Joseph may not have the full blown disorder, he does fall within the spectrum. 
   I called the Kennedy Kreiger Institute in Baltimore to see what they had to say and I feel very optimistic. She said they can diagnose anything with in the FASD spectrum. YES!!!! I spent half an hour getting Joseph registered and answering questions. Now we need to get all of the insurance issue's resolved before we can actually schedule an appointment. 
     Joseph is steadily moving down the path of behaviors typical of FASD and we are going to need help sometime in the very near future. With that in mind I am slowly learning to voice my opinion when speaking with doctors in regards to Joseph's disabilities. 
    I am working out another insurance/referral issue with Schreiber and hope to get that resolved soon so Joseph can begin OT. He will be happy to go back to Schreiber as he always enjoyed the activities, even though he was worn out till the end of his appointment.

Monday, June 8, 2015

Packing Tips and Our Weekend Away

 Tristan and I crashed after a week end at the adoption Retreat. (we have our seat belts on in case you are wondering). 
The week end was emotionally draining for me. The topics were on anger, retraining the brain and that sort of thing.  Many of the techniques did not apply to our unique situation and I was wondering if it was worth our time to be there. However God blessed me with a group of women who knew about Braden and they cried with me as I grieved the loss of my little boy's heart. It is amazing how crying together can bring you closer to people than laughing together ever can. Trust me, we did laugh later on and that brought its own form of healing. All in all we had a good week end and I am thankful we went.

We left Kobi with our neighbors while we were gone this week end and the thought of leaving their pet, left Kiana and Joseph in a bad mood. The journals came to the rescue once more and after writing, they were both in a much better frame of mind. This morning Kiana said she thinks she is old enough to stop writing in her journal. Tristan muttered under his breath, "No you aren't, I still have to write in mine sometimes."

This morning I was busy doing mounds of laundry. We pulled weeds in the garden as well, which brought about an interesting conversation. The children were grousing about pulling weeds and I told them there weren't any weeds before Adam and Eve sinned. They didn't say much and were soon pretending they were farmers bringing in food (weeds) for their animals. Joseph suddenly piped up, "Mom, I am glad Adam and Eve did sin, that way we have weeds to pull!"  I smiled to myself and after a few minutes Joseph changed his mind and said, "Now I wish they hadn't sinned cause pulling weeds is hard work!" Oh for the simplistic view of a child! 

 The next topic involved trying to decide which is the worst sin. Kiana thought it was probably killing people. I took the opportunity to explain that all sin is equal in God's eye's and fighting and lying hurts God just as badly as killing people. They had to think about that one for awhile! 

My sister sent flowers....

...just to let me know she was thinking about me.

Friday morning found me with a long list of packing and cleaning that needed to be done before Dean came home from work. I was trying to think of something that would motivate the children and came up with the following plan: everyone sat on their chair at the table and I placed a dish of Skittles in the center. Then I gave each child a job. When the chore was finished they came back to the table, took a candy and waited for their next command. It worked wonderfully, so much so that I incorporated the same technique this morning.

    Over the years I have come up with a few short cuts, things that make packing easier. The most helpful item I have is my "Packing List." I typed up a list of every possible thing we could ever wish to take along when we go away overnight. From medications to lists of clothing, jackets, swimming supplies, hair supplies and a host of small things that I used to forget including finger nail clippers and dental floss. Now I simply print out the list when we are packing and I know I won't forget anything. This simple list takes away a lot of the mental stress involved in packing. If we are going to be staying at different places while on a trip, I bring along a copy of my packing list. That way I can check off the items as I repack and am not as prone to leave things behind.

 Another thing I find helpful for my younger children is to put their outfits together. I hang the boys' pants on a hanger and put their shirt on the hanger over them. Their socks get stuck in one of the pockets. If I am packing for church, I put their Sunday jacket on top of the clothing and close the zipper. That way I can hand them the hanger of clothing and they have everything they need to dress themselves.

Having an extra set of bedding that stays packed is always helpful. I used to keep it all in a tote so packing the bedding was as simple as grabbing the tote when we went out the door. Now that the children are older, they take their sleeping bags which is even easier.

My little ones find it hard to sleep when there is a lot of commotion, such as at a cabin. We looked into buying a noise machine but were to cheap to invest one Instead we take our baby monitor along and turn it up against. This makes a white noise that effectively blocks out any sound so the children can get their naps in without being disturbed. 
Do you have any tips that make packing easier? If so, please share them I would love to hear from you.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Acknowledging The Child Who Has A Sibling With Special Needs

I forgot to add the following poem to my last post.
           The Pashion Vine
Oh, the pashion vine!
Please do come and dine. 
Its juicy fruit
Waters the throat.
Ne'er let the animals
Nor the goat
Eat its bidding
Quenching the throat.
In wise some deeds
Its like planting seeds
In the soil ground.
People might growl
People might scoff
But don't worry, my friends:
The Lord will uphold thee!
Keep bidding those to come and dine
and keep watering that Pashion Vine!

 This poem was written by a young girl who has a sibling with severe RAD. She wrote it in her journal and I was very impressed. So often we look at the child with special needs and forget that they have healthy siblings who need their parents time and attention. These siblings live with the drama but for some reason we as their parents expect them to rise above the circumstances and remain emotionally healthy. I know we are guilty of this very thing far to often. 
     "The squeaky wheel gets the attention," describes life with a special needs child. Whomever has the most immediate need or is throwing the biggest, loudest fit is naturally the one we go to help first. This has the potential to leave the rest of the family feeling less important than their needy family member. It is tough for me to know where to turn first at times, my 11 year old who had a hard day at school and needs mom to sit and listen while he talks, my 7 year old daughter who was slighted by a friend which triggered her feelings of abandonment, my 7 year old son who is on the floor screaming in a rage or the 3 year old that isn't feeling well and wants mom to rock her. No one can process their problems with little brother yelling so I go to him first, leaving the other three to work through their problems alone. Now I know this is a common conundrum for moms everywhere but when you have a child with special needs, one who is constantly needy and you have to deal with him before you can help anyone else time and again, it opens the gate for bitterness, anger and jealousy toward that sibling. 
   I battle the anger myself sometimes. Other times it is guilt, bitterness or a deep pain that I cannot be the mom I would like to be for my healthy children. 
     We try to take the time to hear their hearts on the matter. Sometimes they are doing well and we only need to commend them but other times we need to encourage and guide them because they are feeling frustrated and angry. They also feel guilty because while they may not understand why things are as they are, they do know that something isn't right. We need to be available to encourage them, validate their feelings and confirm our love for them. 
  Our desire is for our children to accept their brother despite his disabilities but those disabilities make it hard for them to do that. As adults it is hard to make sense of what appears to be willful, defiant behavior but for a child, it is much more difficult. Our children view their brothers actions as personal insults. We as parents need to be careful we don't just brush them off and tell them to get over it, they need us to affirm their pain. 
   One mom lamented, "I don't know how long my emotionally healthy children will remain strong with all that goes on at our house." I feel that mom's pain and I will admit we have wondered the same thing already. When I begin to worry that we aren't doing enough, I remember that this battle is not our's alone. We have a Father in heaven who watches over us and guides us through life. We as parents will never be enough but with God's help we will come through victorious!

Monday, June 1, 2015

Using Journals To Guide Children To Stronger Emotional Health

     In my last post I mentioned the journals we have been using. At TAP (The Attachment Place) they write in their journals daily. Everyone chooses a certain thing they want to work on, be it interrupting, losing their temper etc. Sometime during the course of the day, each child rates themselves on a scale of 1-10. Miss Sharon then grades each child as well and they compare grades and discuss what they could do differently in the future. This is a non confrontational way to bring to attention those nagging actions and attitudes.
   There is something about putting your feelings and emotions down on paper that takes away their power to cause pain. It also helps identify "big feelings." When I was working through some issues in my life, I was unable to express what I was feeling so the therapist told me to write them down. I was skeptical about the whole idea. If you don't know what is bothering you, how are you going to write about it? But I did what the therapist advised and took a blank sheet of paper and a pen and started writing whatever thoughts came to my mind, and it worked!
  So with these examples and also because I hope my children can someday deescalate themselves, I bought tablets, labeled them journals and handed them pens. The first few times they were a little lost and needed to be coached along. I made a book mark for Joseph and made facial expressions for mad, sad, happy, scared and worried. He keeps it in his journal and when I tell him to sit down and write about his feelings he is able, with the help of his book mark, to draw the faces that match his feelings. Under each expression, I have him write why he is feeling that way.

Joseph with his journal and book mark

   An entry in their journals may look something like this:
     Why did you tear the picture Tristan drew?
      Because I wanted to
      Why do you think you wanted to do that?
      I was angry 
      I wonder what you were angry about?
     Tristan's paper made me angry
     Why do you think the paper make you angry?
     I wish I could draw like Tristan
     So you felt angry because you wish you could draw as well as Tristan?
  After summarizing what the child wrote I usually have them write down what they could do instead of choosing to be angry, sad etc.
  I finish each entry by writing the date in the corner and clarifying anything that may be confusing when we read back through the book.

   Kiana does very well at writing. Last week when I wasn't feeling well, she was getting into trouble so I sat her down with her journal and told her to write. She wrote, "I am afraid mom will die because she is sick." Poor girl! I told her I wasn't that sick but she wasn't about to believe me. Once I was feeling better and working again she kept checking up on me to make sure I didn't work to hard.

   I forget that "Trauma doesn't tell time," and my children are still living with the trauma of their past. They have a deep set fear that Dean and I are going to abandon them. The only way we can help them is to continually show them that we love them and will never leave them alone. I cannot imagine what it would be like going through life with that huge fear in the back of your mind.