Friday, July 29, 2016

A Cancelled Appointment, An Opportunity To Practice Trust

      On Thursday I took Joseph for some lab work and a liver EKG in preparation for some medication his psychiatrist is considering. In May our family doctor referred Joseph to a neurologist as he had some things going on the concerned her. In light of that appointment the psychiatrist said just to be on the safe side, he will wait to see Joseph until after he see's the neurologist. That meant we had to wait until the end of August for his psych appointment as we had a three month wait to see the neurologist. 

    I came home from the lab yesterday to find a message on my answering machine. It was the secretary from the neurologists office saying our insurance company did not renew their contract with them effective August 1, 2016. She recommended we call our insurance company to find a practice that takes our insurance. I can't help but feel that we "wasted" a whole summer. We could have had a follow up with the psychiatrist much sooner and possibly alleviated some of Joseph's anxiety and mood swings which would in turn have made our summer easier. It is when faced with such a situation that I remind myself, "You can feel frustrated or you can say, God is at work, He has a plan, I just need to trust him."

Joseph's smile that says, "I have some really big feelings going on!"

Joseph's expression reminds me of the one he had when he was placed with us 8.5 years ago. His inability to trust makes situations like this one tough. I did my best to assure him that the liver EKG would be painless but of course he didn't believe me. I looked in his eyes, held his hand and every other connected thing I could think of doing but it was obvious I wasn't getting through. When he was finished he looked at me with a surprised look and said, "It didn't even hurt!" 

On a FASD group of which I am a member, someone asked, "People say connected parenting works for all children, does it work for those with FASD?" My answer was, "My son responds to it but the effects are not lasting. Our bond helps him feel loved and connected but his brain damage makes him reject that love at times."

He knows I don't lie to him but when he is in a stressful situation, he cannot access that part of his brain. He forgets that mom loves him, that I will keep him safe, his brain is flashing the danger signal and he panics.

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Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Misdirected Anger And Splinters Of Bitterness

One of Johnny's coping mechanism's is to tell himself lies about me. By telling himself lies, he can feel angry rather than enduring the pain of loss and grief. 

  One day in the midst of a talk that was going no where, I was praying as I talked and God placed the thought in my mind that Johnny is telling himself lies about my love for him.

  "When you and I talk together I wonder if you tell yourself things like, mom is mean, she doesn't love me and she just wants to give me consequences." Johnny looked at me with a dumbfounded, how did you know expression. "Do yo think things like that?" I prompted. Johnny slowly nodded his head and said, "Sometimes."

 "Why do you think you do that?" I asked. he shrugged his shoulders and looked at his feet without saying a word.

 "I think you tell yourself things you know aren't true because that makes it easier to stay mad at mom. I think there are times when you would really like to love me but then you worry how your birth mom would feel so you tell yourself some more lies. Is that right?"

  Johnny looked sullen, "You don't know what it is like!" he burst out. 

"You are right I don't, but I think that is how I would feel if I couldn't live with my birth mom," I answered.

Johnny refused to talk so Dean and I switched places, I helped Lia get ready for bed and he tried to help Johnny. Sometimes talking to the other parent is all it takes to get our children's minds unstuck. 

  When I returned to the family room Dean was explaining that telling lies about mom is like a splinter. "When you get a splinter in your hand it hurts when I have to get it out, right?" Johnny agreed so Dean continued, "If we leave the splinter in, does it hurt more or less the next day?" 

 "It hurts lot's more!" Johnny answered. We have berry bushes in the woods and the children frequently get the briers in their hands and feet. They quickly become infected and are very painful.

 "Right!" Dean agreed, "The lies you tell yourself are like splinters in your heart. When you talk about your big feelings it is like pulling that splinter out, it hurts but if you don't talk about them they hurt more and more."

"When we keep our big feelings to ourselves and believe things we know aren't true, it is like the splinter has caused your heart to become infected with bitterness, that infected stuff has to come out. Right now it is coming out in anger, when your heart is full of infected bitterness it affects all your thoughts and actions."

 Johnny agreed that Dean was right but he wasn't ready to work at removing the splinter. We gave him a good night hug and kiss and sent him to bed feeling rather defeated. 

Five minutes later Johnny came out to the family room and said, "I have a splinter in my foot, can you get it out?" After Johnny was back in bed Dean and I had to smile, God has ways of driving home the lessons we are trying to instill in the children he has blessed us with. 


Monday, July 25, 2016

Of Kittens, Birthmom's & Love

When a child is placed with a foster or adoptive family there is usually great rejoicing on the part of the family receiving the child but what we sometimes forget is that the child is grieving. In order for you to receive this child someone has to experience a loss, the loss of family. 

   One of my children struggles with this to a greater degree than the other two. I will refer to this child as Johnny. When Johnny came to us Dean and I had no idea that the next years would be the most tumultuous of our lives thus far. We joined the thousands of naive people who viewed adoption as only a blessing. We thought the children coming into our home would want to be loved and cared for, we didn't realize that our children's past would have to be worked through and laid to rest before they would be ready to even think of bonding with us.

    Johnny misses his mom, yearns for his biological mom's acceptance and love. My love and nurture as his adoptive mom feels like a counterfeit to him, he wants the real thing. In his mind accepting me as mom will mean he is settling for second best.Second best would perhaps be acceptable if only he could know at a deep heart/brain level that his bio mom loves him. My heart hurts watching Johnny grieve, I wish I could give him what his heart desires but for various reasons I can't. 

   Johnny is having to face things like rejection, abandonment and loss at a very young age. These things are hard for adults to come to grips with but for a child it can feel almost impossible. We have gone over the, "But why didn't my mom love me?" question countless times. For my children I am able to assure them they were loved but the choices their parents made along with the difficulties they faced made it impossible for them to care for a child.

   Last night Johnny and I had another long talk. I say another, because Dean and I have been talking, giving examples and praying that somehow Johnny would be willing to stop unleashing his anger on his family and come to grips with the fact that despite the difficulties his parents faced, they ultimately failed him. Until last night all our efforts were in vain.

   I held Johnny and said, "If you had a kitten (something he loves) and you were doing your best to care for your kitten but it was dying anyway and you know if you gave it to your cousin he could make it better, what would you do?"

 Johnny thought long and hard before he said, "I would give it away."

  "But what if you really wanted the kitten for yourself? Wouldn't it be easier to keep it, even if it would die?"

   Johnny puzzled over that for a bit then said, "I would give it to my cousin because then it could live."

   "Wouldn't that make your heart hurt?" I asked. Johnny admitted that it would, so I asked, "Which would take a bigger love, to keep your kitten, or give it away?" 

   "It would take more love to give it away but I would so it could live," Johnny replied.

   "Right!" I praised. "Did you ever think that your birth mom was kind of like you and your kitten?" She knew she couldn't take care of you and she was so glad that someone was able to give you a home when she couldn't." 

I told Johnny about the good bye visit we had with his parents, how his mom and I cried on one another's shoulders and I promised her I would do my best to love and care for Johnny. "Your mom said, Thank you, Sandra, thank you! When we left," I shared.

   Johnny and I prayed together, I asked God to keep his birth mom safe and prayed that if it was His will that she would get in contact with us again. When we finished Johnny gave me a hug and went to bed with a happy light in his eyes and I went out to Dean and gave a thumbs up. The war is by no means over but we won one battle and for that we will be forever grateful!
Tell it to Me Tuesday

Thursday, July 21, 2016

When The Mountain Is Big, Bigger Is Our God - Thoughts On Dissolution

    Yesterday marked 6 years that Dean and I stood before the judge at a local courthouse and promised to love and care for two little boys as our own flesh and blood. 

 I remember the high hopes we had that day, hopes that one of our sons would be able to bond with us now that he was permanently ours, surely he would feel more secure when he realized he was ours forever? Little did we know that the very act of adoption would only make things worse. I thought perhaps we were the only parents naive enough to think adoption would make our child feel secure enough to bond, but last night I was reading various articles on RAD and FASD when I realized many parents have this same hope. We didn't understand then that the added closeness of adoption was exactly the opposite of what B wanted, it terrified him. Poor boy, we didn't know!


    This year is a year of firsts for us. B's first birthday without us and the first anniversary of finalization are only a few. I was feeling very melancholy yesterday as I tried to sort out the emotions churning in my heart. I am finding as the months pass, I temporarily forget the pain and fear caring for B brought, things I thought I would never forget. Truly time is a great healer, but I know there will always be an ache when we think of B. As I was typing this post, I heard this song playing and while B hasn't
"gone on before," our hearts still grieve a huge loss and this song resonated with me.

 They say tears are a language of the heart,
That when in pain words are only in part.
How could we ever measure our love,
Oh we miss you and we long for your touch.

When the mountain is big, bigger is our God!
He see's the greater picture from the start,
The crisis is a platform where his grace is perfected,
When the mountain is big, bigger is our God!

They say there's nothing that's to big for our God,
 But when in the valley its so hard to see the top.
The tears we cry are bitter sweet but with thanksgiving,
Cause we're still with the dying and your now with the living.

Jesus conquered death and now it's a stepping stone for the Child of God to reach that heavenly home.
When the mountain is big, bigger is our God, 
He see's the greater picture from the start. 

The crisis is a platform where his grace is perfected, 
When the mountain is big, bigger is our God...

                          -Amos Raber

Shared on Faith Filled Friday Link Up

Monday, July 18, 2016

Lights & Sirens and Pre Verbal Memories

     Saturday evening was Dean's work picnic, an event the children love. Tristan enjoys seeing people he doesn't get to see very often, my two 8 year old's love that the children get a gift and Lia couldn't wait to jump in the bounce houses. 

    Needless to say we had three very excited children, add noise, crowds of people, plus food and a certain young man was struggling to function. Such an environment creates the "Perfect Storm" in Joseph's brain and anything is possible. 

When it was announced that an engine from the local fire company would be stopping by, I thought, "Oh no!" Joseph has some deep seated issues with lights and sirens and I expected the worst. However he handled it much better than I dared hope, at least we thought he handled it well.

 Sunday was a tough day for Joseph, he couldn't/wouldn't obey the rules. Sometimes Joseph is mentally unable to follow directions and we need to take that into consideration but yesterday wasn't one of those days, it was more of a, "I have such big feelings and feel so grumpy, I am not going to," reaction. After a meltdown that threatened to turn into one of the top ten, I had an ah ha moment. 

   Many years ago someone shared a game called Best And Worst, where you ask your child about the best and worst things that happened. It is a non confrontational way of getting some information when your child may not be able to say exactly what is bothering them.

     I asked Joseph what the best thing was about the picnic, he said the "Old Time Cars!"

 Next I asked him what was most exciting, to which he replied, "The bounce house shaped like a skid loader."

 What was the worst thing? "Nothing"

What gave you big, heavy feelings? "Nothing!" This was said with a snoot so I knew he had something in mind.

  After much prodding and rewording Joseph finally said, "The fire truck made me feel kind of scared."

   That was what I was looking for! "Why do you think it made you feel that way?" I asked. Joseph shrugged his shoulders, looking frustrated. I knew why he had reacted as he had but I wasn't sure if telling him was going to help the situation or make it worse.

   Dean was sitting nearby and I gave him the look that said, "Stop me if you think I am giving to much info."

    "Well Joseph," I began, "Do you remember how I told you that when you lived with your birth mom, a caseworker (I used that term because it is one he is familiar with) came to your house to make sure you were getting enough to eat and were taken care of?" 

Joseph nodded so I continued, "Well, one day when the caseworker came to your house, she saw she needed to find someone to take care of you and B. Your birth parents didn't want that to happen. They became so upset the police had to come. The police had their lights and sirens on. You were just a little baby so you don't remember this, but the "Little Joseph" inside you remembers, that is why you feel scared inside when you hear sirens and see flashing lights."

    Joseph's eyes cleared, always a good sign that we are on the right track, then he said, "How can I make those big feelings go away?" 

   "By talking to mom and dad, just like you are now," I explained. He smiled and I held my arms out for him to give me a hug. He came over and wrapped his arms around me for a long time, it was obvious his burden had been lifted.

     "I don't like how the lights flash on the trees and buildings, it makes me feel scared," Joseph shared. And some people say a baby doesn't remember?

   What I didn't explain to Joseph was that his brain associates those lights and sirens with being taken away from mom. Knowing how much my own trauma reactions affect my ability to function and feel safe, I cannot imagine how terrifying it must be for a child to have those reactions and not be able to understand where the feeling comes from.

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Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Summer At Our House

This is my view every afternoon. "Everyone has to have their work finished before we can go swimming," is the rule around here, so far it has been an excellent motivator.

Sunday evenings are S'more time. The children love building a fire and roasting marshmallows.

Kobi is not allowed to take food off the picnic table....

Dean bought some sparklers for the children. Excuse Joseph's pj's....it was his bedtime but we left him stay up a little later to join in the fun.

Filling out Summer Reading Program papers. Every summer our local library has a reading program. When you fill the chart you receive a stack of coupons from local businesses.

This past weekend we were at a nearby cabin with our adoption group. Dean smoked pork and potatoes for supper on Saturday evening. We had a wonderful time together, staying up way past bedtime talking about the crazy happenings in our lives, enjoying delicious food and relaxing. 

Our favorite blueberry dessert. It is delicious served warm with vanilla ice cream, best of all it is simple and quick to make. Toss approximately 6 cups blueberries with 1/2 cup of flour, 1/2 cup of sugar and 2 teaspoons of cinnamon. Pour into a greased 9x13 pan and top with bits of butter. For topping: mix 2 cups oatmeal, 1/2 cup brown sugar, 1 cup sliced almonds and 2 teaspoons of cinnamon with 4 tablespoons melted butter. Sprinkle over blueberries and bake at 350 degrees for 45-60 minutes.

We have finally got into a routine of sorts and are enjoying a relaxing summer. The other day we were reminded to enjoy these days while they last when we got the tuition bill for the coming school term. My "baby" will be going to kindergarten and my oldest is going to Jr. High. How did that happen so quickly?  


Wednesday, July 6, 2016

The Silent Epidemic: A Child Psychiatrist's Journey Beyond Death Row - A Book Review

 Awhile ago I promised my Face Book followers that I would write a post on a newly printed book, well, here it is. The book is titled, The Silent Epidemic: A Child Psychiatrist's Journey Beyond Death Row. It is phenomenal! I can't begin to do it justice, you have to read it for yourself. The $44.99 price tag made me pause, did I really want to buy this book, would it be worth spending the money on? It is, if you even suspect your child may be affected by prenatal alcohol, buy the book and read it.

The Silent Epidemic: A Child Psychiatrist's Journey beyond Death Row:Understanding, Treating, and Preventing Neurodevelopmental Disorder Associated with Prenatal Alcohol Exposure

   I am going to share a few of the many statements, facts and figures that stood out to me in this book. Susan gives excellent examples of her findings in her book so if something doesn't make sense, buy the book. 

- Gullibility makes those affected by prenatal exposure easily led and influenced to the point of being duped into such things as "murder for hire" without the cognitive wherewithall to understand the reality of the plan. A false bravado can lead them to perpetrate a crime without fully realizing the consequences of their actions.

- "...Thus the stage is set for individuals undiagnosed with ND-PAE (Neuro developmental affects due to prenatal alcohol exposure)  being misunderstood, unable to be rehabilitated, lacking remorse, having poor judgement and lack of conscience, and needing to be locked up in a cell with the key thrown away..." I believe a paradigm shift in understanding will help stop the march of the penguins off the ice berg into death row.

   - While most epidemics rear their ugly heads with the gore of Leprosy, scourge of the Black Plague, devastation of Tuberculosis or hidden terror of HIV, ND-PAE is neither an obvious nor communicable illness. It is a silent menace in society's underbelly.

- In my experience, many patients with ND-PAE develop into adolescents and adults with increasingly suspicious and paranoid behaviors due to problems with social perception and anxiety.

- Those with an IQ of 70 or lower are more prone to get services.

- The problem is made worse by a plethora of liquor store in low income communities.

-Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder is a misnomer since alcohol impacts the underappreciated embryonic stage, not just the fetal period.

- In the embryonic stage before we even know they exist, our children are laying the groundwork for every organ, system, nerve and process of their future body. The choices we make during those critical stages will determine the fate of how their genetic blueprint plays out.

- Recent research has taught us that developing neurons exposed to alcohol leaves them like a ship in the open ocean, stranded without a compass.

- Alcohol can also affect the myelin sheath around neurons so that neuronal conduction is less efficient and sometimes triggers the firing of neighboring neurons.

- An estimated 1 in 20 American children have ND-PAE

   Besides giving information on how alcohol affects the developing child, Susan Rich also shares on how and why alcohol has such a detrimental affect on society. Some of the information she shares is downright chilling. 

- Ironically, while acting as a libidinal lubricant, alcohol is also a "neuro developmental teratogen"which means it both inhibits our ability to make wise choices and kills the brain cells in early development. 

-As an endocrine disrupter, alcohol effects hormone systems during development and throughout life.

- Alcohol can also increase the propensity for s@xual indiscretions, leaving those affected in this way more prone to get in bad situations. Often these people are unable to reason or think through the ramifications and end up serving time.

A few days ago I wrote a post on The Fatal Link. That book is also a must read. The author explains how and why in this instance, school shootings happen. The book shares some information about how prenatal fetal alcohol affects a growing baby but the book, The Silent Epidemic gives a much more in depth view of what we as a society are up against. This book is amazing!

Saturday, July 2, 2016

When Someone Is Over Friendly To Your Attachment Challenged Child

  How do you relate to someone who is being overly friendly with your attachment challenged child? I took Joseph along grocery shopping the other evening, as it was his turn and he had had a very good day. The three youngest children take turns going shopping with me. It gives me some one on one time with them and I learn lot's of interesting things that I never knew before.

As I said before, Joseph had an excellent day on Tuesday. He was happy, willing to obey and a joy to be around. That is something children with "improvised attachments" struggle with, so the genuine smiles and hearing, "I love you mom," were especially cherished.

Anyway, back to my question, when we arrived at the check out, the cashier looked at Joseph and asked, "How was your day?" Joseph looked at me and I knew he was thinking, "What does this lady know about me?" I smiled at him and he turned to the cashier and said, "It was good."
Cashier: "And what did you do today?"
Joseph: "Rode bike"
Cashier: "Who did you ride bike with?"
Joseph: "By myself"
                     Cashier: "Do you have brothers and sisters, do you like riding bike with them?"

This went on the entire time she was ringing up my purchases. Joseph was becoming more overstimulated and flustered with every question. His face was flushed, he was chattering away and having a very hard time staying in one spot. I am sure the cashier had no idea that her questions were so unsettling for Joseph. She couldn't know that I narrowly averted a meltdown on the way out to the vehicle, nor did she know that the rest of the week would prove to be incredibly challenging for Joseph and I. My question is, how do you handle such situations? It would be easier to just keep Joseph at home, but I know that isn't realistic. I wish I was a tactful person who had an answer for every situation, but since I haven't been blessed with that ability, I brace myself to weather the storm I know will follow.

Children with FASD often have very good verbal skills but their level of comprehension typically doesn't match what comes out of their mouth. This means that while Joseph was giving appropriate answers, his brain was scrambling to keep up. Meanwhile his insecure attachment was also causing problems. See, children are very perceptive, they usually know exactly how mom is feeling in regards to a situation. They may not be consciously aware of this, but when mom is uneasy, their subconscious is screaming, "DANGER! This situation has mom on edge!" 

 In this instance I was on edge because I was not in control of the situation and I had no idea what Joseph would say next. A secret fear of mine is that Joseph will say something that will be misinterpreted. 

   When the child senses mom is on edge, guess what happens? Their little bodies immediately react to that signal and they are back in trauma mode. This my friends is why Dean and I, along with most people who have children with attachment issues carefully monitor and guard our children's interaction with others.

The above scenario doesn't just happen with people outside of our immediate family, it happens to us quite often.
We are constantly analyzing what we say and how Joseph hears what we say because what goes in his ear and then into his brain, may not be anything close to what we said.

So in conclusion, it isn't that we don't trust you. We know how Joseph's brain works and how he reacts to situations that unsettle him. The reason for all this can be summed up in two words, brain damage.