Tuesday, May 31, 2016

An Example Of A Trauma Reaction

     I often share examples of how trauma affects my children, but today I want to share a personal experience of mine. Before I go any further, I want to clarify that the people who were with us at the time this trauma occurred had nothing to do with how it affected me. I am giving this example to show how trauma can affect people and the irrational responses it brings about.

  Several months ago when we were at the cabin with family, Dean received a text saying B's ICPC paperwork had gone through. This important piece of paperwork was the last link before B could be moved to his new home. Signing papers and talking of the upcoming move in the attorneys office was nothing short of traumatic for us, the finality of it all was overwhelming. Were we really making the right decision? This was our sons life we were making plans for, plans that could change the whole course of his life! Somehow knowing there was one more piece of paperwork that needed to be approved before he could move was comforting, things still weren't final.

     So when Dean received the text saying the papers were approved and B would be moving, my heart sank to my toes. I can still feel that sick feeling I got in the pit of my stomach, the lightheaded, almost dizzy sensation that made me feel unsteady on my feet. I wanted to go to a quiet place and sob my heart out, but it was suppertime, the children were hungry, the food was prepared and the evening went on, with no time to cry. I felt like I had just received word that my son had died and I didn't know how to handle it. Dean and I couldn't just go into our room to talk and mourn, because we needed to keep an eye on our children who were, as is typical for them, very hyper.

   Later we all sat down to sing together and I couldn't keep the tears back. As we sang songs of heaven, joy and pain, I felt like we were saying our final good bye's to B. He was moving on, we were staying behind and how it hurt, but it was healing at the same time. That will be a memory I will always cherish, singing songs, while in my heart I said, "Good bye, my son, we tried, but somehow we just weren't able to reach you. I pray your new family will be able to help you in ways we couldn't. Good bye, my son."

   Ever since then, whenever the family was going to be getting together, I  melted into a puddle of tears and emotional pain. I should have understood what was happening, but somehow it evaded me. Recently after having the same experience yet again, it finally clicked in my brain, "This is a trauma reaction." So I started thinking, why do I react this way? My mind went back to that time at the cabin and I felt the sinking pain and despair as if it was happening for the first time. I was relieved because now I knew what was happening, this was trauma, not mental instability! Now that I knew what was causing this reaction, I had to figure out how to work through it. I went to my trusty mom group, they have all disrupted an adoption and know first hand the pain, grief and lingering trauma that goes with it. They advised therapy which I knew was a good answer but one person brought up EMDR, which is something I did with B's therapist while working through the trauma he brought about while he was home.

   There is a scientific explanation for it, but simply put EMDR is tapping your way through trauma. To begin with, you mentally envision yourself back in the trauma situation, then rate the intensity on a scale of 1-10 with 1 being no reaction and 10 an unbearable pain. Then you begin tapping, simply pat one hand on your knee and the other hand on the other knee, there is no right or wrong way to do it, just tap and as you tap, mentally walk yourself through the painful experience. When you have reached the end of the memory, rate your trauma reaction again, keep doing this until your reaction reaches a zero. Now I know this can sound like psychobabble but this is what happens: A trauma memory can get "stuck" between your right and left brain and tapping makes both sides of your brain work together, thus freeing the memory. Your brain can then place the memory in the correct "memory box" and it is no longer a trauma memory. This is a very basic explanation and I don't recommend trying it unless you have had extensive therapy experience or are a therapist, because depending upon the memory, you can trigger a huge reaction and things could turn out badly. In my situation, I knew what the trauma was, I knew why I was reacting and what had to happen to release the emotions, plus I had done this often with a therapist, which is why I felt comfortable doing it on my own.

   This experience gave me a new insight into why my children sometimes have intense reactions to things and are unable to tell me what is wrong. I tend to think they should know what is bothering them, "Do you feel sad, mad, scared...?" I ask and they just shrug their shoulders and wail louder. This experience taught me a lesson, if I as an adult with the knowledge of trauma cannot figure out why I react to certain things, how can I expect my children with no knowledge of trauma and hearts full of pain to be able to tell me what is wrong when they are upset?

Titus 2 Tuesday #linkup



Thursday, May 26, 2016

Psychiatrist Appointments And Kittens, Never A Dull Moment!

    This morning Joseph had his intake appointment with the psychiatrist. These appointments always make me a little nervous. For one, I never know what Joseph will say nor how the doctor will take his answers. This morning the psychiatrist, in an attempt to put Joseph at ease and learn to know him better, asked him questions like, "What do you like to do at home, where do you go to school etc. One of the questions was, "What do you want to be when you grow up?" Without hesitation Joseph replied, "A butcher!" His answer made the doctor hesitate for a few seconds before he turned to me and asked some questions about Joseph, his safety and self harm. Thankfully he soon realized that Joseph had no ulterior motives, he was simply answering the doctors question!

Lia and Kobi waiting for Dean to come home from work.

Daddy's home! Dean usually receives a royal welcome

Kiana found  nest of kittens in the woods below the house

Lia wants to bottle feed the kittens so badly but I told her the mama cat is taking good care of her babies and doesn't need our help. This afternoon she came running to me all excited, "Marshmallow (the mama cat) isn't with her baby's, now we have to do something! I have two solutions," she said holding up two fingers, "Pick a solution (finger) mom!" I picked one and she said, "Goody, goody that solution is bottle feeding the kittens!" Nice try, Lia!

Children with FASD often love to pick at things like string, thread, paper, their skin, clothing and bedding, Joseph has ruined many things doing this. A mom shared this idea with me, make a ball with paper and tape, then have your child pick that apart rather than destroy things. I had a cheap roll of tape that I bought for a project but never used so I wrap a Hershey's Kiss inside some paper, tore short pieces of tape and started wrapping, until I used up the whole roll of duct tape. Joseph  spent half an hour peeling off bits of tape and paper before he had a meltdown because he wanted to know what was inside, RIGHT NOW! That is how life has been around here lately, I try to divert one behavior and ending up creating a whole new problem.

We are waiting for a permit for our pool. We bought a used one and I cannot wait until Joseph can swim his frustration away. Joseph loves the pool, other years he spent hours swimming and splashing. Water play meets his sensory needs while working on his motor skills, plus it alleviates his frustration, what more could we want? 

Coffee Shop Conversations

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Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Answering The Question, "How Are You All Doing?"

   "So how are things going?" How many of you find your mind racing through possible answers when asked this question? First let me clarify something, I don't mind these questions I am writing this post to help you better understand how adoptive families function from day to day, particularly those with multiple layers of trauma that have a tendency to melt into one big puddle called complex trauma.

   See, my children like many who have gone through intense pain and loss, seldom have good days. Instead we have bad days, worse days and better days and once in a great long while we have a good day which we thoroughly love and enjoy! 

  Anxiety and trauma are two things (among many others of course) that you cannot stash in a closet and ignore until a more convenient time. They will make their presence known, like it or not. 

  Change is a big one for most adopted children, after all change is what happened when they were taken from their parents, so it must be bad.

   Food is often a source of anxiety. Either the child was deprived so he is unable to know when he is full, or perhaps not eating was the only thing he could control and now he cannot let go of that little bit of control.

  Sleep is scary for many children. You cannot protect yourself when your eyes are closed, however there are also those children who sleep to block out the world.

  Crowds of people are overwhelming, how can you monitor everyone, how can you know where each person is at any given moment? Think of all the places where you see a lot of people, family gatherings, parties, the grocery store, church, school.... many of our children don't feel safe in any of these situations.

  Change in the family structure, even if it is because a sibling is having a sleep over so he is sleeping with his friends rather than in his room. Scary stuff, what if I have to sleep somewhere else?

  Birthday's are big ones around here. One of our children in particular struggles in this area. Meltdowns, lies, manipulation and lashing out at everyone is par for the course. It isn't fair that I don't get a gift, it makes me feel unloved...maybe you are tired of me...what if you stop loving me? 

  Going away for meals is another one that can upset the apple cart...too many people getting their food before the traumatized child...what if there isn't enough?

  Changing seasons is another biggie watching mom pack away out grown clothing or unpacking the next seasons clothing is enough to unsettle my children, even seeing the new clothing doesn't alleviate the fear.

 A new school term, a new teacher...will this teacher keep me safe? Will I be able to manipulate this teacher? Will she believe my big stories thus making me feel both in control and out of control at the same time, because I know she/he isn't strong enough to see through my actions?

  Simple things like a sticker at the grocery checkout are enough to send some of my children into a tailspin simply because it is one more thing to analyze in an already sensory overwhelming situation. For a well adjusted child a sticker doesn't even register on their radar, for a child with trauma it may be enough to bring on a meltdown.

   Vacations, family gatherings, picnics, fun days... they all send my little ones into a frenzy of emotions and nonverbal fears. They react the only way they know how, by acting out their fears.

  When life is what most people would call boring, my children can function fairly well. But every week has a Sunday which sends at least one of them over the edge, every single weekend. Food is a natural part of every day and is a prime opportunity for conflict, summer vacation is a huge change in schedule, I recently packed away the children's winter clothing, Mothers Day was recently celebrated....

   "So how are things going?" How do you answer that question when any number of the above things are going on? Because quite honestly, at least one child is always struggling. It isn't all out raging all the time, it is more like the waves of the ocean there is a crash, a lull and then another crash. 

  I don't say all this so you feel sorry for us, because most days we feel blessed to have the opportunity to call these brave little people our children but I want you to have a bit of an understanding what is behind our children's acting out, as well as why we seldom say, "We are doing wonderful!" 

   The flip side is that I get tired of not being able to give a positive answer so I have already told people we things are going well but then they assume that my children are getting better and I am left trying to decide if I let them believe something that isn't exactly true or if I should give a lengthy explanation. So my answer has evolved into something like this, "We are doing okay, how about you?" 

Titus 2 Tuesday #linkup   


Saturday, May 21, 2016

Cows Don't Have Rules

       We started summer vacation with a bang, by dumping hair solution in the toilet. If you can't express your feelings, try dumping something, it might help.


                 School is over, now to adjust to summer vacation...

                                           fall of 2015

   We had the oft repeated, "I hate rules," discussion with Joseph tonight. A keen dislike of rules is typical for children with FASD, most likely because they have a difficult time understanding rules. I have explained "rules" until I was blue in the face, so to speak and Joseph still thinks we make rules just to make his life hard.

  I should know better than asking Joseph why he did something because he seldom if ever "knows" without either Dean and I helping him to unpack his actions and emotions. A wise person said, "There are no dumb answers, just stupid questions." Meaning if for instance, your child is prone to lying, do not ask them if they did xyz, as that gives them an opportunity to lie. 

    Joseph was trying to think of ways to live without having to obey rules. He thought he could live in a house by himself but as he said, "That wouldn't be very smart, cause I want you (mom) to make me food." Then he said he wishes he was an animal instead of a person. According to him cows have it pretty nice since they don't have to follow any rules. Dean told him that there is an electric fence around our pasture so the animals do have rules, they have to stay away from the fence.

  "Well I don't know why anyone ever made rules," he huffed. When I told him that God made rules and he told us that as parents we need to have rules for our children, he got even grumpier. We ended on good terms, although he still thinks we put rules in place for the sole purpose of making his life hard.



Thursday, May 19, 2016

Sensory Beads, Stethoscopes And Summer Vacation

The 2015-21016 school term is almost history. Tomorrow is the Awards Ceremony and then...summer vacation begins! The children didn't have school today which gives the teachers time to finish grading and doing the year end reports. Summer vacation means Tristan and Dean get a break from home work. I can help Tristan with some of his questions but when it comes to math, I am lost. Thankfully his daddy understands it.

Lia loves all things "doctor." Dean bought a real stethoscope and blood pressure cuff for her to play with. She loves it! The rest of us are growing just a bit weary of her begging, "Please let me listen to your heart!"

Meet Hamburger, the newest member of the family.

Lia loves giving Hamburger his bottle.

Dean also bought three pigs, they don't have names though as no one grows overly attached to them!

Yesterday I went to Ikea and Olive Garden with a group of adoptive moms. We had a wonderful time laughing, sharing stories and encouraging one another. The children had early dismissal, something I forgot about when we were planning this shopping trip so Dean came home early in order to be here when the children get home. Kiana and Joseph were none to happy to find mom wasn't home. Kiana told me she thought this time I really did die. Sigh. She had therapy this week and it is not going well at all. I remind myself of all the therapists we tried before we found one that worked with some of our other children. Do we need to try someone else or is this just how she is going to be until she works through some of her trauma? When I took Kiana for her first appointment, the therapist told me that Kiana has what they call complex trauma, meaning she has experienced several traumatic events in her life which will make it that much more difficult to work through.

This morning Joseph had his weekly OT appointment. His therapist is very pleased with him, in fact she said he is doing well enough that he could discontinue therapy except that children with his disabilities tend to regress if they do not consistently practice the things they have learned. She recommended biweekly appointments and then a re evaluation soon after he begins third grade. I was more than happy with that arrangement.

I made this bead necklace for a friend. If your child has oral sensory needs try a Sensory Bead Necklace. The beads are BPA free silicone and the string is food grade nylon. They feature a non chewable plastic break away clasp so your child cannot strangle. 
10" necklace  $10 & 15" necklace $15 - prices do not include shipping. Choose from the colors shown below.

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A Little R & R

Blueberry Dessert Recipes

Women With Intention

Monday, May 16, 2016

Memories and Memory Reconsolidation

  The other day I was reading over some of my old FB posts and had to chuckle at the things my children said and did. I thought I would share some of their escapades as well as a few pictures from the "good old days." :)

2010  -2 two year old's plus mom on the phone for 5 minutes +  lotion, toilet water and toilet paper all over the bathroom floor and moms new covering dented = two guilty toddlers

2010  -do plastic barettes disintegrate when they hit the septic tank? Kiana and Joseph were floating baretts in the toilet

2010 -B and Kiana got my scissors now Kiana has a bald spot 

2011 -my three 3 year old were playing happily with their kitchen set and eating coffee grounds

2011 -1,000 miles on the explorer this week, think I go away to much?

2011 -Why would you pour sand in your brothers undies? I guess for the same reason you would cut his hair and pen him in the closet

2011  -Kiana was picking on Joseph and he came to me and said, "Mom your daughter is fighting your son!"

2012  -the children are trying to decide who built our house, one of them thought it was probably the Indians

2012  -Our training must be sticking! Kiana was upset with Joseph this morning. She mumbled under her breath then announced, "I am going to my room until I can be happy again!"

Kiana getting a breathing treatment with the nebulizer

Look at those chubby cheeks!

This is what happens when mom is on the phone...shredded styrofoam

Off to first grade!

....We are on the home stretch, only 3 more days of school and then vacation! But those three days could be quite challenging because summer vacation means change, even worse it means leaving second grade. I was always glad to move ahead to the next grade but for Kiana and Joseph moving to a new grade is nothing short of traumatic. When they graduated from Kindergarden they cried because they wouldn't have Mrs. R for their teacher anymore, in first grade it was Miss W they were sad to leave and now they are in tears over leaving their current teachers. I held Kiana last night and reminded her of the fact that while she always missed her former teacher, she grew to love her new one just as much. She told me that was different cause, "I like Mrs. J so much more!" 

If you want some good food for thought regarding trauma and therapy watch this link: Memory Reconsolidation. Most therapy works to desensitize and reduce the trauma of a memory as well as creating new memories alongside the negative one. Memory Reconsolidation, creates a new memory circuit over the "trauma memory" circuit, effectively erasing the negative feelings and behaviors that are a result of the trauma. Intriguing stuff and it has great potential, I can only imagine how it could help children with attachment disorders. The best thing about it is that it doesn't introduce any foreign thoughts, idea's or "matter" into the brain. If any of you have used this form of therapy, please let me know. For now I am researching it and thinking of all the possibilities.....

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Track & Field And A Dentist Appointment

     The K-2 school trip is now history and Joseph had a good time and Kiana didn't get lost! I am not sure why Kiana was so concerned about getting lost but it was a major source of distress for her. I spoke to her teacher about it when I dropped the children off on the morning of the school trip, her teacher assured me she was already planning to have Kiana in her group of children. We feel so blessed to have teachers who do their best to understand trauma and are willing to work with us to make school feel like a safe place for our children. Joseph bought a flashlight at the souvenir shop. He wasn't home more than ten minutes before he dropped it and it came apart. He was devastated but I told him I was pretty sure daddy could fix it. Sure enough, he was able to put it back together but before he handed it back to Joseph he warned him not to take it apart or he might not be able to fix it the next time. 

   Thursday was Track & Field and the school picnic. Two full days in a row were more than my children could handle. Joseph had more meltdowns in the past two days than in the last month. I have begun wrapping him tightly in a blanket and holding him when he melts down. He is soon calm again and ready to work through whatever upset him. 

Lia had the last of her cavities filled on Thursday. I am so glad to have that behind us! I was worried she would decide she has had enough and refuse to cooperate but I needn't have feared, she did great! When Joseph was her age he sat nicely while the dentist drilled out his cavities but refused to let them fill his teeth. We ended up having to take him to the OR as he had quite a few teeth that needed to be worked on. I was afraid we would have to go that route with Lia, so thankful we didn't have to.

One more week of school and then summer vacation! 

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Excitement, Anxiety & Anger

The 4 blessings who call me mom.

               We ate outside on Sunday....our first picnic of the year!

Joseph enjoying his sandwich

The beggar waiting to catch any scraps

Tomorrow Kiana and Joseph are going on their school trip and Joseph is beyond excited. He acted like a hyper active toddler yesterday. He bumped into things, knocked things over and got into trouble. I just figured it was, "One of those days," Dean finally sat him down and asked him what was going on. Turns out he is excited about the school trip, but fear and anxiety always go hand in hand with excitement for Joseph. Dean reminded me that this time of year is hard for Joseph, summer vacation begins in two weeks, Mothers Day is just past and tomorrow is his SCHOOL TRIP!!! :)

Poor Joseph has been struggling with feelings of abandonment lately. I can't say I blame him, how would I feel and react if I were in his situation?  By Joseph's reaction to various things and his anger towards me, I was pretty sure he was hurting because of his past but I wasn't sure it was a good idea for me to ask him if that is what was bothering him because he is very good at going down bunny trails in order to avoid talking about an issue he doesn't want to discuss. Despite Joseph's inability to find words on his own to tell us what is wrong when something is bothering him, he is excellent at making up a legitimate sounding story to get us off the trail of the real problem. For that reason, I hesitated to bring up the subject of his birth mom. What if I just put more ideas in his head? In the end I said, "You have been very angry with mom these past few days, I wonder if you are also angry at your mommy A?" Joseph thought for a moment before slowly nodding his head. "Who are you most angry with, me or your mommy A?" I asked. He didn't need to think about that answer, "I am angry at my mommy A because she didn't take care of me!" What he was really saying was, "She didn't love me enough to take care of me."           We had the same talk we have had numerous times before. The one where I explain why his mommy A couldn't care for him, all the while assuring him it wasn't his fault that she made bad choices. He seemed happier when he climbed into bed, but Sunday was a repeat of Saturday. He was sure I was just doing things to make his life miserable. "If you would stop making rules it would be more fun," was his take on the situation. Knowing he isn't really angry at me takes some of the sting out of the blame he slings my way but it still hurts!

Doesn't take much to make a little girl happy. Lia has been begging for an umbrella but I didn't think it was necessary. This morning I found a cheap one and much to her delight, I bought it. She told me I should have bought one for Kobi cause, "Dogs don't like getting wet, mom!"

Friday, May 6, 2016

Adoption And Mothers Day

    Mothers Day, the time of year when most of us honor our mothers and the time of year when those who have painful memories struggle. This week has had more than it's share of bumpy moments but Dean and I assumed the Spring Program at school was the culprit. Especially since excitement at our house looks like a free for all meltdown.

  All week Kiana has been wrestling with her relationship with me and yesterday Joseph was, "Mad at me," as he said. He often gets upset with me, rages and then comes for a hug and all is well. We never reached the "all is well" stage yesterday, in fact daddy had to intervene on more than one instance. I was puzzled because it is unlike him to maintain his anger towards me for so long. Last night I was reading another adoptive moms blog post about Mothers Day and suddenly all the attitudes, meltdowns, fears and lying of the past week made sense.

Image result for adoptees mother's day

     Mothers Day, the day we hear about moms their love and how special they are, can be a painful day for people who's mothers didn't do those things. My children have nonverbal memories of a mom who didn't feed them, comfort them or protect them. In their eyes their mom didn't love them enough to follow through with the necessary life changes to get them back. Sometimes they need to hear that their parents did love them but they were facing huge challenges in their personal lives that left them unable to care for a baby. Other times they need us to acknowledge that their birth parents really did fail them. It can be so easy to say things like, "Your mom did love you but life was hard for her," but as our children grow we find they also need to be assured that they weren't the problem, their birth parents are the ones who messed up and made bad choices. Of course, this must be said with respect because bashing birth parents won't gain you any favors.

  So if you are sporting extra bruises, your ears are ringing with words describing what an awful mom you are and your muscles are aching from "keeping little people safe," take heart, you aren't the only one! Remember your child is most likely wrestling with feelings and memories he either cannot verbalize, or cannot erase from his memory and you his loving mom have the priceless opportunity to show him you will be there for him when things get tough. When the battle subsides, look up Philippians 4:8 and remember that everything that has been flung at you comes from a place of pain, and dwell on words of truth.


Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Appointments And Pictures

Last evening was PVMS spring program. Joseph didn't participate because he said, "Standing in front of people makes me feel sick." I will admit it was a bit of a relief to have him choose not to help partly because he is totally unpredictable and partly because it takes him several days to recuperate from something over stimulating.

Joseph continues to enjoy school. Having his own teacher has been a huge blessing both for him and his parents! I was reading over my posts from a year ago and I wrote that there are days Lia is ahead mentally and emotionally but other days Joseph is ahead, not any more. I didn't realize how much Lia had pulled ahead of him until I read this post. We knew the day would come when she would pass him but I find myself struggling with it. Yesterday Joseph was hiding from Lia, he his beside the rocking chair and when Lia came out to the family room she said in a long suffering tone of voice, "I see you Joseph, your hands weren't hidden!" Thankfully her sarcasm was lost on him and he cheerfully climbed from his not so concealed hiding place. 

My girls are growing so quickly

We have been at the doctor quite frequently in the past weeks. The doctor said I am there almost as often as she is. Hopefully we have a break until it is time for the next round of med check appointments.

Tuesday is "therapy day" for Kiana. She is finding therapy is more of a challenge than she anticipated. Her therapist decided we will have to back off and slow down. I didn't think we were working on anything deep enough to bring out the intense reactions we were seeing. Kiana must have sensed where the discussions were heading and clammed up. Now we have to back track and try to regain lost ground.

The dentist is another "favorite hangout" of ours lately, judging by the amount of time we have spent there. Lia needed some work done and since she did great when they cleaned her teeth, the dentist was willing to do the work himself rather than send her to a pediatric dentist. I was not at all sure she would cooperate but she did great! Her appointment lasted an hour and towards the end she had a hard time opening her mouth, her little mouth was getting tired. She has another appointment scheduled to do some work on the other side, I keep praying she doesn't decide she isn't going back.

I have been reading this book, trying to understand how to help children with weak executive skills. You can find it here. I have a hard time wrapping my mind around ADHD, especially the inattentive type but since I have been weaning from my medication, I have much more empathy for anyone afflicted with it. I took my ability to organize my days work, remember tasks and have the words to explain myself for granted. Let's just say I am realizing what a blessing those abilities really are!