Friday, December 30, 2016

Inability To Self Regulate - Life With FASD

Parenting a child with FASD is challenging for many reasons one of which is, every person is affected differently. The level of brain damage is affected by the quantity, timing and frequency in which the developing brain was exposed to alcohol. This means no two people are affected the same way and what works for one will not necessarily work for another.

Since everyone is affected differently, every parent or caregiver must figure out what works best for the person in their care. And that is where my struggle comes in. Joseph's brain damage is in the area of his brain that controls emotional regulation among other things. He is like an infant, he regulates himself off of other people. He needs someone to constantly control his emotional stability and keep him on track otherwise he will regulate himself off the other people around him. His peers will automatically keep their excitement in an acceptable range, Joseph has no such ability to self regulate. His excitement will keep building until he is either out of control or he melts down in tears or rage.

A child without brain damage learns from past mistakes and when he comes upon a situation where there is a high energy level, his brain will say, "Wait, I was in a similar situation and things didn't go well, I will have to do things differently." Joseph's brain doesn't do that, rather it proceeds down the same road and he has the same reaction time and time again. We used to become frustrated wondering, why doesn't this boy learn? Then we heard about FASD and realized, "Joseph isn't being stubborn, he is unable learn from past mistakes like you and I do."

FASD has been a steep learning curve for me, it yanked me out of my comfort zone and demanded I do what I know is best for my child and leave all my people pleasing, hide in a corner and don't raise any conflict tendencies in the dust. Very few people understood the new regulations we imposed upon those relating to Joseph and I had to open my mouth and explain why in a way that made sense when I wasn't even sure of the "Why" myself. All I knew was it worked and Dean was behind me 100%. 

"Doesn't he feel left out," is the question we are often asked in one form or another. The answer to that is, "No," and the reason is complex. Joseph's brain is damaged in such a way that he functions at half his chronological age. He just turned 9 so that means he thinks and behaves much like a child who is 4.5 years old. So while his peers are off playing kickball, he is quite content to play with his truck and blocks because they are "age appropriate." While he enjoys playing with other children, his brain cannot process multiple conversations, block out noise and play in an organized manner all at the same time. Our brain does this effortlessly, while his goes into hyper over drive and it all falls apart time and time again. At the same time, on his good days he can hold it together when he is away from home but woe to us when we are in the safety and familiar surroundings of home! 

Our goal is to provide a setting where he can enjoy life to the fullest with the least amount of over stimulation. This means very few activities, a good deal of down time, going to bed at 7:00 to ensure he gets 12 hours of sleep which is vital to his ability to function and lessen melt downs the next day, providing the sensory stimulation he seeks such as chewy beads and physical exercise as well as parenting him "age appropriately" which may look very odd but is entirely necessary for him to feel safe.

This chart has been exceptionally helpful to us in understanding the why's and wherefore's of FASD such as why Joseph can carry a conversation that sounds so intelligent when in reality he has little idea what he is saying. 

skill/characteristic                               developmental age equivalent
chronological age                                                    eighteen
physical maturity                                                     eighteen
developmental level of functioning                          nine
daily living skills                                                       eight
expressive language                                                 twenty three
receptive language                                                   seven
artistic ability or other strength                               twenty nine
reading decoding                                                     sixteen
reading comprehension                                           six
money and time concepts                                       eight
                                                                            -National Organization For Fetal Alcohol Syndrome

If you want to learn more about FASD check out the link where I found the above information. They have some incredible resources!

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Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Happy Birthday Joseph

Happy Birthday Joseph! 

8.5 years ago we got a phone call from CYS asking us if we would be willing to take two little boys who were 6 & 17 months old .... We said yes and jumped onto the wildest ride of our lives!

Last night Dean and I were talking about the past almost 9 years since we began foster care. As we discussed all the things that have happened, the thought came up, "Would you do it again?" Rather than answer that question publicly on here I will share Deans summary instead, "Being in the will of God is the safest place to be, even if it isn't easy."

Happy 9th Birthday Joseph! I made him a Tiger cake since his stuffed tiger is his most valued possession. I thought I did a decent job considering the fact that I waited until the last minute to decorate it but when I asked Joseph if he knows what it is he looked at the cake and said, "A person?" 

Joseph loves tools but he isn't safe with real ones so Dean bought him a plastic set for Christmas. This is how he spends his days. Without realizing it we bought him a gift that meets some of his sensory needs, ear muffs to block sound, safety glasses to block out some of the world and a hat to provide pressure.

Joseph - 6 months

Don't you just want to squeeze those chubby cheeks? Notice the bruise on his forehead? He was always falling or bumping into things.

Joseph has always loved to eat

7 years old
Last evening I met Dean at work and he took the children home while I went grocery shopping. Before we left Joseph came to me and said, "Mom, is going to dad after work my birthday gift?" I asked if that would be a good gift and he said, "It will be fun but it isn't really a good gift." 

We gave Joseph art supplies for his birthday, he loves drawing something he inherited from his birth mom. When I told him that he gets his love of drawing from her, he gave me a huge grin.

Monday, December 26, 2016

Knowing The Why Behind Negative Behavior Doesn't Lessen The Pain

"Knowing the reason behind the behavior does not lessen the pain of parenting a traumatized child,"

- They are intentionally pushing you away because they are afraid to get close.... 
True, but have you ever been in a situation where someone is "allowed" to dish out abuse 24/7 and you are expected to take it and told to love the person more? Most people who find themselves in such a situation know why their child is treating them so badly and because of that knowledge they can rise above it. Of course there are times when it is just too much and they crash but what they cannot bear is when they are told to love their child more, or "If you would stop expecting them to make bad choices, they would." Or, "He/she is always so sweet, maybe you should get some therapy for yourself," insinuating that perhaps you are the problem. If their is a family in your life who has a severely traumatized child, especially if they have attachment difficulties, give the parent some extra grace. Try believing the parent, give them the benefit of the doubt. When the child realizes you are no longer doubting what his parents say, you may have the opportunity to experience the behaviors that once seemed so preposterous.

Lying. Over the top, ridiculous lying.
   I know why they lie, I know it is a survival skill but when you have a child who always lies it is hard not to become frustrated. Some children lie because they have brain damage, some lie because it is their way of controlling their world while other's use their lie's to bring chaos and pain into the home. I have had children lie about nonissue's and others lied about things that could have had serious repercussions if we would have taken their words at face value. Many children who have attachment issues are so good at lying that they can get you to believe things that you know aren't possible. That kind of lying messes with your mind.

Screaming and raging.
  Control, over stimulation, PTSD .... you name it, it will include screaming and raging. Not the normal yelling of words, but all out screaming that makes ones ears ring. Again, we know why but knowing why does not protect your ears, nor does it make it easier to wake your child in the morning knowing the screaming and raging will commence at the slightest real or imagined provocation.

   This one is tough. When a child intentionally ruins family time, his birthday party or a reward it is hard not to become bitter. B was a master at this and I would swing from pitying him to wanting to tell him, "Fine, if that's the way you want it, so be it." Tristan has a hard time with this one. He said, "Someone throws a fit whenever we try to do something fun, we can't even go away without someone acting out." Sadly, he is right and while we explained why this happens, knowing doesn't lessen the pain.

   Children with trauma often feel undeserving. If you give them a gift it goes against their inner belief that they are bad and unlovable, so they destroy things. Knowing this doesn't make you feel any better when you see they broke another toy, tore another book and smashed another project. One way to counteract this is to give them experiences versus things. Take your child to an event or spend a day with them doing things they enjoy. Although a word of caution, they will probably destroy something else when they get home but the plus side is they haven't destroyed your gift.

  We all have things that we find especially difficult to swallow, manipulation and triangulation are mine. Sadly, your child will know what bugs you the most and hone that behavior to a science. We have a situation right now that we are dealing with and I find it is best to let Dean decide how to handle such issues because I can't do it in a kind and sensible way. My children know our family rules but if they can get someone outside the family to invite them to do something, they will grab at the opportunity. Most times it is such simple things that the other party has no idea that they are being manipulated. 

   Many children who have endured trauma have "sticky fingers." One of our children had to have their hands in their pockets at all times when we were in the grocery store. I also found it wise to check those pockets before we left a friends home. Another child "finds" all kinds of things. If something is missing, we know who to confront. We have talked and given consequences to no avail. We are slowly learning not to let things out where the child can see them but again, understanding why doesn't make it easier.

So if you are one of the many who are wading through the mire of trauma parenting and you are feeling frustrated with yourself for reacting to your child's behavior, show yourself some grace. Knowledge is helpful but living it is another story altogether! Allow yourself to grieve and then pick up the pieces because there is sure to be a battle waiting to be fought.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Christmas Week At Our House

Thank you to everyone who has been praying for us this week. Your prayers are working! We have had a full week and so far the children are doing amazingly well. I know it won't last but we are going to enjoy it while we can.

On Thursday we had a Christmas Party for Lia's Kindergarten class. I made labels saying "Melted Snowman" and pasted them on water bottles.
I made donut snowmen for the party. Why is it that my project never turn out like the Pinterest ideas I am copying?

Wednesday evening we went Christmas Caroling with our church. We NEVER go away during the week because of school and the problems that occur when certain people get to bed late. Getting the children to bed late the week of Christmas when their emotions are already over the top, isn't the smartest thing to do but we decided to go for it. Guess what? The evening went well and the children did okay the next day.

Joseph received a sand art set from his teacher. In true Joseph fashion, he willingly shared with everyone.

I had a lengthy to do list on Friday so I told the children if they clean the basement cheerfully and willingly we will make cut out cookies.... what was I thinking?! They did an excellent job, so I kept up my end of the deal and mixed cookies...forgetting that I didn't have much colored sugar or other cookie decorating supplies. I put white sugar in a bowl and added food coloring and we had colored sugar!

Monday, December 19, 2016

Felt Safety For Parents

Did you know my last post on Felt Safety applies to parents as well as their traumatized children? Yesterday proved that I rely on felt safety just as much as my children do.
   We were getting ready for church, it was 15 minutes before we needed to be out the door and the dam that has been steadily holding back the pain of the past weeks broke. It wasn't pretty, nevertheless I knew I had to go to church because I was scheduled to teach Sunday School. Dean told me to go to bed, assured me I wasn't going crazy and said he will take care of things. There is something about having someone strong and capable to take care of things that is so freeing. Dean decided to stay home as well since he wasn't sure he wanted to have both Lia and Joseph, plus Kiana when they were all worried about mom.

  Of course Kiana panicked because obviously mom wasn't as strong as she thought and maybe it was her fault that mom was sad and maybe I was sick enough to die and ......

Later in the day I sat down with her and we had a little chat. I should have kept track of how many chats we have had in the past years. Anyway, I asked her why she throws fits for mom and not for other people. She immediately had the answer, "Because I know you are strong enough to handle it."

"Well Kiana, mom is kind of the same way, I knew dad was strong enough to take care of you while I rested. If it would have been a school day I would have kept going because I would know I need to take care of you. Just like you sometimes get upset and hold it all in until you are at home."

Kiana nodded and I asked her if she was worried that it was her fault that I wasn't feeling well. She nodded her head, because she knew her behavior has been a bit challenging here of late.

"It wasn't you," I said and went on to explain how my withdrawal makes me feel sick. "That is why mom has been sleeping a lot and why I sometimes feel sad," I concluded.

 I know my withdrawal symptoms trigger my children because in some way or another, my feelings of instability remind them of their life before joining our family. Sometimes it feels as though my children never get a break, their past is always nipping at their heels ready to stir up trouble.

In hindsight, I think we all needed a day at home to recuperate. The children decorated a packaged gingerbread house, Dean played Q's Race To The Top with them, we read and took long naps. Now to conquer Christmas and vacation! Any tips on how to fill the day for children who need routine but cannot handle much stimulation?

Friday, December 16, 2016

Felt Safety -Helping The Child With A Trauma History Feel Safe

Felt safety is trauma lingo for helping a traumatized child feel safe so he can heal. 

When a child feels safe - "Parts of the brain which control higher learning can operate. Children who feel safe are free to heal and become secure, trusting children. Providing an atmosphere of "felt safety" disarms the primitive brain and reduces fear. It is a critical first step toward helping your child heal and grow.

When Fear Is In Control
A fearful child focuses strictly on survival issues like:
- safety
- hunger and thirst
- fatigue
- escaping scary situations
- making hurts stop and go away
A scared child cannot grasp:
- discussions, sermons or lecture
- complex reasoning, logic or stories
- Philosophical discussions or abstract concepts  
- solving puzzles or mathematics
The primitive brains fight, flight or freeze response can make a child....
- run away and hide
- lash out physically or verbally
- get angry or cry
- stonewall and become unresponsive
- try to control the situation
Remember: fear will bully your child into poor behavior
    - taken from disarming the fear response with felt safety

I came across the above information as I was pondering the concept of felt safety. Dean and I tend to neglect this aspect of parenting when things are going well. We forget that felt safety is partly why things were going as good as they were.

Two of our children tend to become ornery when their sense of safety is violated. It seems like such a simple thing but the hard part is figuring out where/when/why they are feeling unsafe.

Birthdays and holidays are biggies for undermining felt safety. Routine's are disrupted and there are extra treats, gifts and attention all things that a child without a trauma history would enjoy, perhaps even thrive on. But for our children they bring fear because their routine, knowing what will happen next, is what helps them feel safe.

School trips, weekends with friends and large family gatherings bring about large doses of anxiety because they don't know what will happen next. Even if we knew exactly how each event would pan out and could tell them so, they wouldn't feel secure because their early childhood experiences proved that mom and dad are not trustworthy.

Here are some ways we promote Felt Safety:
- keeping our schedule's low key when possible
- celebrating birthdays with just our immediate family
- limiting toys that are overstimulating, such as those with lights and sounds
- filling our son's plate so he is not overwhelmed with all the choices and trying to decide how much of each thing to take
- keeping our voices calm and not reacting when they tell us something that horrifies us (this one is a work in progress) 
- a hug or slight squeeze on their shoulder as we pass by them - a reassuring touch can lessen their anxiety
- reminders of how to conduct ones self in a given situation. If you are kind others will usually react accordingly etc. 

The other week I got a call from school. It was Kiana. She had something she had to tell me right away. I was puzzled because what she, "Had to tell me," was a situation she created in her mind to convince the secretary she needed to talk to mom. As Dean and I talked it over later we both felt she called because she was feeling anxious. She needed to talk to me to make sure I was okay which in turn would mean she was okay. I felt bad for her because I knew what triggered the whole thing. The evening before she had been very nasty and  pushed me until she saw my tears, then she panicked. Unfortunately in her panic, she acted worse than ever because she wasn't feeling safe and she ended up having to go to bed early because both Kiana and I were too upset to work through things.

Joseph needs things to be low key all the time as his brain damage is such that he is unable to regulate himself. This results in what looks like a very boring life for him but in reality is about helping him feel safe. He knows that some things are too stimulating and as he doesn't like how he feels inside after participating, he won't even ask to join in. Other times he will ask but when we ask, "How do you think it would make you feel if you did xyz," he no longer wants to do what just moments before looked so enticing. We have found that if he feels safe in knowing you will require him to follow the rules and have the ability to enforce them, he is able to handle things that otherwise are too much for him.

How do you promote felt safety at your house, especially over the holidays?

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Pursuing Peace When You Want To Give Up

This week has been been rough, really rough. There were several things that played into it, I am coming out of several weeks of a nasty withdrawal which always leaves me feeling emotional, Christmas is coming which is hard for Joseph and Kiana finished her amoxicillin which we thought wasn't helping but in hind sight we now see it was knocking the edge off  her symptoms. 

You know, it is easy to say things like:
-"Tomorrow will be better"
-"Everyone has something they have to work through"
-"God will help you"
-"Take one minute at a time"
-"Be glad you don't have XYZ like so and so does, you wouldn't want that either."

But when you honestly don't know if you can make it through another hour, those things aren't very helpful. You need tangible evidence, you need help, you need something to give, you need hope.

When you are beaten down and weary and your child goes into another rage leaving her siblings covering their ears and running for cover, tomorrow doesn't really matter. It is getting through today that is the problem.

When the phone rings several times during the day because your children are melting down at school and you don't know what to do anymore than the teacher but you know you must do something, it is easy to feel discouraged.

When you are desperate for help and the doctor says, "Try therapy," and you know she doesn't know what else to do, it is easy to feel frustrated. You know that while the doctor can tell you there isn't anything more she can do, you are still stuck with trying to find help.

I told Dean that perhaps we should pack up and go somewhere remote until mid January. Hopefully I will be feeling better by then, and Christmas will be past so my children will no longer be over stimulated. He replied, "When do we leave?" 

This morning someone on one of my support groups posted the question, "What do you do when you can't do this anymore?" Someone shared the following poem:


When things go wrong, as they sometimes will,
When the road you are trudging seems all uphill,
When the funds are low, and the debts are high,
And you want to smile, but you have to sigh,
When care is pressing you down a bit -
Rest if you must, but don't you quit.
Life is queer, with it's twists and turns,
As everyone of us sometimes learns,
And many a fellow turns about
When he might have won had he stuck it out.
Don't give up though the pace seems slow,
You may succeed with another blow
Often the goal is nearer than
It seems to a faint and faltering man;
Often the struggler has given up
When he might have captured the winners cup;
And he learned to late when the night came down,
How close he was to the golden crown.
Success is failure turned inside out -
The silver tint in the clouds of doubt,
And you never can tell how close you are,
It might be near when it seems afar;
So stick to the fight when your hardest hit -
It's when things seem worst that you must not quit.

-author unknown

And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not. Galatians 6:9

And Jesus looking upon them saith, With man it is impossible, but not with God: for with God all things are possible. Mark 10:27 

Recently someone encouraged us to pursue peace. As of this morning I am going to stop trying to make thing better. I know that at this point in life, things probably won't get better at least not for a long time. Instead, we will pursue peace. Peace in our home - would that include no rages :) - and peace in our hearts because without that inner peace we truly are without hope.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

In Search Of Answers

By the looks of things we are on the brink of another steep learning curve. When I had Kiana at the doctor nearly three weeks ago and she was diagnosed with PANDAS, the doctor told me to bring her back if the medication doesn't take care of the problem. The first few days we saw her symptoms improve a little each day, then they plateaued and took a nose dive. We aren't back where we started, but almost. So yesterday I took Kiana back to the doctor and was told the medication is the only one for strep B and any remaining symptoms would have to be addressed via therapy. Ugh. From the little bit I have learned, I know therapy is not enough, she needs medical help but that can be hard to find. On Monday I have some phone calls to make thanks to helpful parents who have been walking this road for a long time and have experience.

   I was hoping Kiana's pediatrician would be willing to work with us because PANDAS is not always able to be diagnosed via lab work and the symptoms, severity and onset of the illness vary greatly. It comes down to finding a doctor who is willing to spend time figuring out what works for each patient and sometimes use unconventional treatment.

I despise "interviewing" doctors to find one who is willing to help us. We had to do the same thing with my endometriosis, B's RAD and both boy's FASD, among other things. For each of those issue's Dean and I had to do our own research and then find a doctor who was willing to listen to us uneducated people, who insist there are answers out there.

Quite frankly, I don't feel any more at ease sitting before a medical professional and telling him we need a second opinion because we aren't getting the answers we need, than I did the first time. A second opinion isn't so hard but when it comes to a third, fourth and fifth opinion, you can't help but begin to feel discouraged. The alternative, which is continuing on with your child's health and behavior deteriorating isn't an option, either. So what is there to do but keep searching?

   Calling doctors and insurance companies and alternating between begging for help and "being assertive," is not my cup of tea. But this, grovelling or whatever you call it, comes under the word: ADVOCATE. As parents we are called to advocate for our children so I will bury my dislike of questioning people with degree's and keep pursuing answers and help for my children.

Monday, November 28, 2016


I joined up with EDUCENTS to bring you these special deals for CYBER MONDAY. Take advantage of the great prices to find toys and educational supplies for your home school or therapeutic items for your special needs child.  

Click on this link to access  these awesome deals!!!! 


Saturday, November 26, 2016

Loving Our Children

  When most of us entered the world of foster care and adoption we did so with an understanding of what we thought love looks like. We thought we knew how to love and nurture a child. We thought there was one correct way to parent, which was the way we had been brought up and the way our friends and family were bringing up their children.

  In this world of foster care and adoption however, love may take on a different appearance than we were used to.

 Love means helping our children bond. When a biological child enters the family, we think nothing of passing the child around for people to hold. We even let them give our child a bottle without giving it a second thought. But the children we bring into our homes need to learn who mom is, they need to learn that she is safe, that she will feed them and meet their needs. newborns need this as much as an older child. To do this, only mom or dad holds baby while in a crowd and only mom feeds him. This is a critical stage for a "new child." As foster and adoptive parents, we long to pass our baby around so others can snuggle and admire her. But we also know there is a lot at stake, we know that keeping our child in our arms equals stability and love for them.

 As they grow this same concept may need to be used. Some children attach and bond easily, others struggle for the rest of their life and as parents we need to keep that in mind. Loving them means we take in consideration where they are in the bonding process and parent them accordingly.

 Sometimes "our children" as I will refer to them in the remainder of this post, need to learn the hard way, just as all children do. However, some of our children come from places where they needed to be in control to survive, this can even apply to infants. These children learn best from immediate natural consequences. It can be hard to follow through with a consequence when you are not with in the confines of your home where everyone knows the rules and expects immediate action. Love can mean following through with a pre agreed upon sanction, even though it may make you as the parent look bad. Our children thrive on the knowing that mom and dad are going to do what they say.

Sometimes loving our children means we have to say no to the things we as parents would enjoy doing. Our social life at the moment consists of church, family night and a few other activities because that is what one of our children needs. Love means saying no when we want to say yes with all our hearts.

Love may mean placing our children somewhere where they will receive the help they need. 

Love means advocating for our children even though we tremble in our shoes at the thought of doing so. Especially when speaking up and questioning someone wiser than you was always something you avoided at all costs.

Love means holding your child close and assuring them of your love after they have called you every name in their limited and sometimes not so limited vocabulary.

Sometimes love means putting distance between you and someone who is hurting your family by their words and actions. May be they undermine you in front of your children or they may do it in more subtle ways. We would all like to be strong and say these comments don't affect the way we relate to our children, but we are human. Right now the most important thing is to meet your child's needs, not revamp your parenting so someone approves of you.

Sometimes you have to put distance between your family and a child who is being abusive. This is another form of love, although it might not look like it and it certainly won't feel like it! By not allowing the child to continue to mistreat your family as well as sparing siblings more abuse, you are showing love.

Sometimes loving our child means listening while he pour's out the pain in his heart. Hearing things like, "I wish I could live with my birth mom, cause I grew in her belly." Listening and empathizing when only moments before he was screaming and throwing things at you, is a form of love. 

And then there are times where love means forgiving and showing grace. Our children are familiar with grace. If you ask them what is means they will say something like, "Not getting a consequence even though you deserve one." 

  "Sometimes LOVE looks and feels like anything but LOVE.  However if you search long enough, buried deep beneath what anyone else can see, is... LOVE!

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Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Updates, Memories And An Educents Sale

Three years ago today, my sister and I were leaving to pick B up at TAP for his first home visit. I remember how nervous I was. 

For one, I was making the 3 hour drive myself for the first time, driving on 6 lane highways was a new experience for me! 

Also I was terrified Dean and I would somehow undo the progress B made at TAP. For the first time we were getting a glimpse of the little boy hidden beneath the pain and trauma. That little boy was a lovable little chap, one I could easily bond with and I was so scared we would do something to send him back into hiding.

  I am glad we couldn't see into the future. The few home visits B had that were a success were enough to show us he could heal and that we were not doing anything that was "making him this way." Which as anyone who has parented a child with RAD will tell you, is exactly what we fear...that this child's problems are somehow our fault.

 Joseph had a rough day on Sunday. We have no idea what happened. Things were getting scrambled on their way from his brain to his mouth and hands. Monday I was called into school twice because he was melting down. Thankful for friends who can take Lia on the spur of the moment while I go to school. This same friend served us lunch when I returned from the first meltdown, what a blessing!

  Yesterday I spent the afternoon with 15 energetic 5 and 6 year old's. I signed up to be the class mom for Kindergarten as I naively thought my life would be less hectic when my children were all in school. It was a joy watching their excited faces as we played games. They are so vibrant, enjoying life to the fullest. I took my camera along but it never made it out of my purse! Yet another friend took it upon herself to make supper for us. The food was delicious and it was another reminder that God cares, because yesterday afternoon was anything but peaceful around here so we probably would have had a frozen pizza. 


                  Kiana's class made these cute turkeys at their Thanksgiving party. 

Notice the sparkle in her eye's? It is coming back!!!! We are thanking God for antibiotics! While she still has a long way to go, she is certainly making progress. I no longer cringe when I ask her to do a chore, she plays nicely with Lia again and the screaming has pretty much gone away. Our little girl is coming back again!

Kobi waiting for the school children to come home. every afternoon around 3:15 he climbs up on the stump to wait for them.

I joined up with an educational group called educents. They have toys/learning aids for home schooling as well as special needs children. Check them out, they have some awesome sales going on right now.


*contains affiliate links

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Because Love Is Not Enough

    Before I took Joseph to Geisinger they requested his medical records from the pediatrician. There were copies from his previous evaluations included in the records they received and those records contained information on B because his diagnosis played into what Joseph was facing.

The nurse was clarifying family information and she simply couldn't figure out how B played into this.

"So B is Joseph's brother?"


"Does he live with you?"
"No, he lives with another family?"

"Okay, so you have Tristan, B, Kiana and Lia living with you?"

"No, B doesn't live with us."

"I am confused, it says in Joseph's records that you have a child named B living with you..."

"B is Joseph's bio brother and he used to live with us but due to xyz he was readopted by another family. So Joseph's records are correct but B no longer lives with us."

"Oh, okay."

I know she didn't mean anything by her questions, she was naturally confused but having to explain the how and why kicked my PTSD into full gear.

  Yesterday I had brunch with a lady I met via my blog. She was in the area and took the time to meet with me. Her story is somewhat similar to ours so even though we were virtual strangers, we could have talked much longer than the almost 2 hours we had until I had to pick Lia up at my sister.

I was sharing about B and how when we got into foster care our goal was to lessen some of the pain in this world but when we disrupted B's adoption it felt as though we were adding pain and loss.

  This dear lady said, "You know when a birth mom relinquishes her child because she cannot provide for it, we speak of the great love she has for her child. She put her child's needs before her desires, that takes love. Is it any different than what you did for B? You could have kept him even though you knew finding him a new home was what was best for him. You did what was best for him because love was not enough to bring him healing."

  "You have the unique perspective of being an adoptive mom as well as giving a child up because you couldn't meet his needs."

 I needed to hear that, her words helped create another layer of healing. I know I have said it before, but sometimes I am amazed at how much healing has taken place while other times I wonder if the hurt will ever go away. I have a feeling it won't, there will always be a dull ache when we think of B, the death of our hopes and dreams for him and the pain involved in relinquishing a child.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Joseph's Appointment At Geisinger & Life At Our House

Keep calm and fill out the next form....  a quote regarding the many forms adoptive parents have to fill out.

  After today I realized I would do well to add things like my child's birth date and the name of his psychiatrist to his medical folder. I don't know what the poor folks at Geisinger thought when they asked me supposedly simple question's and I drew blanks time after time. 

  I remember when B was the only child I took to this type of appointment and I had all his information on the tip of my tongue. Now I tend to give information about the wrong child and forget basic facts. The doctor wants to do some genetic testing before we pursue anything further for Joseph. We spent four hours on the road for a 1 hour appointment and I came home feeling weary....it's been a long week!

Joseph didn't complain about another appointment, after all he got to miss school AND we stopped for lunch!

When a friend stops by with iced coffee and GF cookies, you feel blessed!

I need some tips on how to get a child to eat breakfast before school. Lia has always eaten breakfast around mid morning, something I couldn't change. It wasn't a problem but now that she goes to school it is, I hate sending her out the door with an empty stomach. I have begun packing a sandwich which she eats at first break.

The other day while shopping, the lady in line behind us at the check out asked if she could buy Lia a treat. I said that would be fine and she told Lia to choose something off the candy rack. Lia was one happy girl!

Joseph drew this picture for me. His latest passion is drawing and coloring. When the children come home from school they have a snack then go to their room for 20 minutes of quiet time. Having quiet time was Dean's idea when he heard what my afternoon's were like, thankfully it is working! After quiet time Joseph usually gets a piece of paper, a pen and a few crayons and begins drawing.

Keep praying for Kiana and her mom n dad. After we finished eating tonight I quietly told Dean that it almost seems as if Kiana is already responding to the antibiotics. I should have kept quiet, she had an "episode" tonight, PANDA speak for a full on meltdown. I am reminded of the song, "One day at a time sweet Jesus, that's all I am asking of you...." except that I might change it to one moment at a time!

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

A New Diagnosis = Renewed Hope

   Thanks to everyone who has been praying for Kiana these past weeks. Yesterday I took her to the doctor and she thinks Kiana may have something called PANDAS, which is an autoimmune disorder. When a person contacts strep, their body produces antibodies to fight against it. Sometimes these antibodies attack the brain which results in neuropsychiatric behaviors. Kiana is being treated with antibiotics at this point. If she truly does have PANDAS she will develop symptoms every time she is in contact with strep, so it isn't a once and done thing. There can be many complications but we are hopeful that the antibiotics will help her this time around and we leave the future in God's hands. 

   I was praying for answers for Kiana while researching ways to help her/what could be causing her symptoms. In a trauma forum someone mentioned PANDAS and on a whim I looked it up. The symptoms people shared sounded so very familiar and we felt like there might be a way made after all. When I took Kiana to the doctor I wasn't sure how to ask the doctor if strep were a possibility (at this point the PANDAS diagnosis is still very controversial) when I explained what we were seeing in Kiana the doctor said, "Did you ever hear of PANDAS?" I felt God smiling down and reassuring me, "I have this, just trust me." 

   Tomorrow is Joseph's appointment at Geisinger. I was told to expect the appointment to last several hours so today I am taking it easy in preparation. I also spent sometime organizing his file. I have a plastic binder for each of our children and I store their test results, doctor visit reports as well as the papers from their neuropsych evaluations in them so I have everything at my finger tips when I go to these appointments. I have included doctor and pharmacy phone numbers as well as addresses. Keeping things organized is the only way I can keep track of everything. 



Thursday, November 10, 2016

Loving Our Children By Making Them Responsible For Their Actions

I am back! We didn't fall off the face of the earth as some may have supposed, nor did we hightail it for unhinhabited lands as I have have been sorely tempted to do from time to time. Instead, life happened and then the computer crashed, plus I didn't know how to write this post. In hindsight I shouldn't have promised to share the "new parenting techniques" we have recently imposed. I don't mind sharing what we are doing but in order to explain I need to share some stories and I was not quite sure how to do that in a discreet way. 

   It all began in August when one of our children lost a family member, then school started, then October arrived (the month that is full of trauma for our family) things were snowballing. Dean and I realized we need to get some help because we sensed we were losing our children's hearts, something that is awful for any parent but when you have had a child with RAD it brings a whole new level of fear and terror into your heart. We were ready to do whatever it takes to get back on track but nothing helped. One day God brought this book to my attention. I ordered it only half hopeful that it would make a difference but remember I was grasping at straws!

  I read it and quickly realized my mistake was that I was caring to much! Simply put, I was carrying both sides of the relationship while my child orchestrated my every response. She had me over the barrel so to speak and what child won't take advantage of such a situation? She knew I wanted a relationship with her. The level of control she had over me and our relationship made her feel both powerful and fearful. Powerful because she was in control and fearful because deep down she knew if mom wasn't strong enough to make her mind, neither was mom strong enough to handle her big fears and emotions.

  And I was falling for it! I was talking with her when she didn't want to hear what I had to say. I was nurturing her which she didn't accept because she was in control. I was doing all the hard work of maintaining our relationship while she lashed and raged in response, making me work harder.

 I should have known better, but my excuse is that I am human.

So I made her responsible for her actions, by allowing her to bear the brunt of the result of her choices. Plus I required her to carry her half of the relationship.

The other morning she failed to obey and still hadn't done so when the school van arrived. Other mornings she would go out the door still very angry with me and her fellow passengers bore the brunt of her anger and fear. Remember, children will always strive to gain the upper hand but they don't feel safe when they succeed. 

   Of course she was anything but happy with me when I told her she cannot go to school until she does what I told her to. When she realized I was not going to do what I usually do, which is talk and help her understand what she is feeling emotionally and why, she got quiet.

 Then she tried to get me to scold her. If I would have scolded her,  she could have retaliated and perhaps drawn me into a verbal sparring match. Instead I just smiled (not in a cynical or unkind way) and agreed with her.

"I am going to be late for school!"
"Yes you are."
"Take me!"
I wasn't planning to go to school today."
"How am I going to get there?"
"You are smart, I am sure you will figure out a way."

An hour later she came quietly to me and said, "Mom, what shall I do?" She was in control of her emotions. She wasn't angry, best of all she was ready to listen, she wanted mom to help her.

 I told her she has two options, she can do some chores for me to pay me for the time it will take me to take her to school or she can make some phone calls and see if she can find someone who would be able to drive her.

"I am not calling anyone, that is your job!" She exclaimed.

"That's okay if you don't want to call anyone, I don't mind which option you choose," I said and calmly walked away.

   She chose to do chores and life has been much more peaceful ever since. We have been using the same technique for all the children to some extent or another. Of course you have to take into consideration their mental abilities among other things.

 Yesterday Joseph was debating whether or not to obey me when I told him it was time to put his toys away. Kiana looked at him and said, "You better would or mom will make you pay her back with chores!" She wasn't angry, she was stating a fact. 

   I fell into the ditch alongside the road of trauma parenting. I was working so hard to make our relationship work but forgetting that a relationship is two sided. I was working too hard and not requiring anything of my daughter and this was unhealthy for both of us. I was going easy on her because of her past trauma, something that is sometimes necessary but this time she needed to be held accountable for her actions.

  Making her responsible for her actions took the frustration of being solely responsible for our relationship off my shoulders. Nor was I trying to keep her happy to avoid a tantrum, which left me with the energy to be empathetic and loving.

   Is this the answer to all of our parenting struggles? Not by a long shot, but it has certainly helped. Before you implement the idea of making your child responsible for their actions, please read the book because I feel as though I have done a poor job portraying what the author has so eloquently put into words.

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Triggers, Trauma And Life

  Parenting children with trauma creates traumatized parents.

Our children have been struggling with school this year prompting many phone calls and texts from their teachers asking for advice. If you are one of my children's teachers, thanks for calling it is what we want you to do, nevertheless hearing my phone ring is traumatic. The other day Dean went hunting for awhile before going to work. He had his phone lying on the counter and he kept receiving texts. I jumped and my adrenaline started pumping each time it made a sound. Panic set in and I immediately began wondering which child was struggling. Telling myself to calm down because it wasn't even my phone made no difference. 

   The other evening I was listening to a webinar by Deborah Gray on, Practical Tips For Disciplining While Maintaining Attachment. She said something that grabbed my attention. Our mornings have been anything but peaceful and sending my children out the door to school with unresolved issues is partly why I jump so badly when my phone rings.

 "Sometimes a child will act out to create a distance between you and him emotionally because he knows he will soon have to say good bye. When he creates the distance by acting out, he feels more in control." This is a brief paraphrase of what Deborah explained in detail.

   Kiana acts very much like a child with RAD on school mornings. She is nasty, defiant, disobedient and irritable, nothing I do makes a difference. I have tried loving her, ignoring her, kissing her hand so she has a kiss to take to school, putting notes in her lunch, talking to her and holding her among multitudes of other things. Nothing has made a bit of difference. I was certain there was something behind it and she had a list of reasons but none of them seemed to be quite the right answer.

   I am almost certain that Kiana is actively putting up a wall of anger and defiance because she cannot bear the thought of leaving. Leaving has always been a trigger for her, so this makes sense. Now that I know what is going on, I feel better equipped to handle the situation. I need to be kind, gentle and loving besides being proactive in finding ways to alleviate her anxiety. I find having things to try and knowing why my child acts as he does goes a long way in reducing my stress.

I received this book to preview. It is written by an adoptee who gives a glimpse into her world, while affirming adoptive parents and giving constructive criticism.

Lia made this lamb at school. 

My cheerful dish dryer. Joseph's teacher was sick one day this week so I kept him home. He wasn't sure which is harder doing school work or helping mom. :)

Friday, November 4, 2016

DIY Weighted Animal

     Last week there was a video on FB showing how to make a soft dog chew toy into a weighted lap animal for your sensory seeking child. I immediately ordered an animal from my favorite online store. the tutorial said to stuff the toy with small pebbles but I decided to use the beads I used to make weighted blankets for my children. I thought the beads would be a bit more user friendly for my little people since they are prone to throw things when they are upset.

 You can watch the video here: DIY Lap Weight

You take an unstuffed dog chew toy, fill a few small plastic bags with pebbles making sure to duct tape the bags tightly closed before stuffing them inside the animal and tada! You have a cute weighted lap animal.

  As with many things, it isn't quite that simple. For one you will want to make sure you use a very sturdy chew toy, the one I ordered was so thin it already had some seams coming open. I want to try it using a teddy bear or other sturdy stuffed animal such as one from Build A Bear. The suggested toys are fairly small making it difficult to make it heavy enough, however if you use rocks/pebbles like the tutorial suggests it would be easier to reach the desired weight.

  I tried putting the beads in bags like the tutorial suggested but it made the animal feel very bulky. I poured the beads inside and sewed the velcro opening tightly closed.

  Despite those things, it is an awesome idea. When Lia held the finished toy she said, "It feels like it is real!" I know Joseph will enjoy holding it, plus it is much cheaper and easier to make than a weighted blanket. 

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Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Keep Trying And Maybe The Shoe Will Fit

  Our children like most human's, get in a rut from time to time. The rut of using the same ineffective method over and over when trying to conquer a problem.

  Dean and I fall into the rut of either too much structure and not enough nurture or vice versa. We know better but our human weaknesses get in the way.

   One evening Dean was trying to impress upon a certain child that when life is hard, alienating people and lashing out will not solve the problem. A hard lesson for anyone, much less a child.

He gave the child one of his work boots and said, "Put my boot on and see if it fits." The child of course was adamant that it would be too big.

  "Keep putting it on, maybe it will eventually fit," he encouraged.

   The child looked at him and said, "Putting the shoe on will not make it fit! It doesn't matter how often I try!!!!"

   "Don't you think it is the same thing when you hurt people to try to take away the hurt you feel in your heart?" Dean asked.

  The child admitted that getting angry and lashing out wasn't fixing the hurt.

  "How about you try something different," Dean suggested, "You can ask mom and dad to help you, then you wouldn't have to carry this hurt all by yourself."

  This analogy didn't solve the problem but if someone in the family gets stuck making the same poor choice, ourselves included, Dean or I can be counted on to say, "Maybe we should try on one of dad's shoes....." and the guilty party promptly gets the point. The comment doesn't always solve the problem but it does get people thinking.

The picture which prompted this post. 

Monday, October 31, 2016

Adoption HEART Conference

What is the Adoption HEART Conference?
  • A FREE online event created to give adoptive parents (and prospective adoptive parents) the inspiration and tools to effectively parent their adopted children.  Focused on how to better equip parents to help their hurt children heal emotionally from early trauma.
  • Scheduled to take place online November 1-7, 2016.
  • Over 20 conference sessions on a variety of topics important to adoptive parents.
  • FREE online event so no travel or child care required.
This free online conference will do exceptionally well as parents are not required to travel or find child care, and parents can watch the sessions at their convenience.

Sessions will cover a variety of topics unique to adoptive community including: Preparation, Attachment, Pre-Natal Trauma and Exposure, Foster Parenting, Transracial Adoption, Open Adoption, Older Child Adoption, Secondary Trauma, Blended Families, Sibling Relationships, Grief, Behaviors, Discipline, and more.
Who Is the Target Audience?
  • Adoptive/Foster Parents
  • Prospective Foster or Adoptive Parents
  • Social Workers
  • Adoption Advocates
 What is the All Access Conference Pass?
Attendees have the option to purchase an All-Access Conference Pass to have unlimited access to videos and other special digital gifts (including training certificates) after conference ends.  Price points vary from $49 early bird to $99 after conference. Affiliate commission is 30% of purchase price. 
CLICK HERE TO BUY ALL ACCESS PASS: https://gumroad.com/a/175060083

Kickoff – Host Penelope Webster: (3pm Eastern/12pm Pacific) – How the Adoption HEART Conference Changed Me
Bryan Post (5pm Eastern/2pm Pacific) – Replacing Your Child’s Fear with Love: Powerful Strategies to Stop Difficult Behaviors
Rhonda Roorda (7pm Eastern/4pm Pacific) – Growing Up White: An Open Discussion with a Transracial Adoptee
Dawn Davenport – How to Choose Which Adoption Option is Best for Your Family
Ashley Mitchell – What You Might Not Know About Birthmother Grief & Loss
Sharla Kostelyk – What They Don’t Tell You about International Adoption
Lori Holden – How to Have Openness in Adoption (Even in Foster Care & International Adoptions)
Jillian Lauren – From Adoptee to Adoptive Parent: Overcoming Your Past to Parent Traumatized Children
Sherrie Eldridge – What Parents MUST Know About Adoptee Identity, Grief & Loss
Chadwick Sapenter – Seeing Trauma through Your Child’s Eyes: Tips from a Former Foster Kid
Gianna Dahlia – What Really Happens to Kids Who Age Out of Foster Care & What You Can Do About It
Marshall Lyles – How Attachment Has More to Do with YOU than Your Child
Melissa Fredin – How to Recognize Prenatal Exposure & Its Complex Effects on Your Adopted Child
Dr. Rob Melillo – Brain Balance: How Trauma Changes Your Child’s Brain & Behavior
Amy Sugeno – How Compassion Fatigue & Secondary Trauma Can Unknowingly Invade Foster and Adoptive Families
Mike Berry – How to Integrate Two Parenting Styles & Diffuse Conflicts in Your Marriage
Tamara Lackey – How to Integrate Adoption into Your Home, Life & Work to Make a Difference in the World
Debra Jones – How to Help Your Child Overcome Their Past Trauma with a Trust-Based Parenting Intervention
Lindsey Bussey – How to Use Animals & Pets to Help Regulate Your Traumatized Child
Dr. Sue Cornbluth – How to Help Your Foster & Adopted Children Rise Up from the Depths of Trauma & Low Self-Esteem
Stacy Manning – How to Develop an Effective Plan to Intentionally Parent Challenging Behaviors in Adopted Children
Marti Smith – Could Your Child’s Behavior Actually Be Sensory Processing Disorder? How Trauma Affects the Senses & Behavior
John M. Simmons – Tough Decisions when Parenting Reactive Attachment Disorder


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