Wednesday, August 31, 2016

The First Day Of School

Happy 5th Birthday Lia!!!!

The girls found a comfy spot to hold their dolls.

The first day of Kindergarten for Miss Lia!

...And all my children are off to school. I will need time to adjust to this new schedule. I printed information for the children's teachers and had the opportunity to speak with them on Monday evening at PTF. We feel blessed to have our children attend a Christian school where they have teachers who know them personally. Despite that comfort, I whispered many prayers this morning. I received a text and my heart sped up, was sure it was a teacher calling to say they had an inconsolable child and I needed to come right away. Thankfully it wasn't and when I picked the children up at 11:30 they were all smiles. 

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Monday, August 29, 2016

Our Final Weeks Of Summer Vacation

The last two weeks of summer vacation have flown by. We kept busy with med checks, pre K doctor appointments, therapy, swimming and all the other things I wanted to accomplish this summer.

Lia enjoying her promised treat at McDonalds after her pre K immunizations.

I took the children to the Barnyard Kingdom the other week. They received free ticket for completing the summer reading program at our local library. Joseph and Lia liked it but the other two were bored as it was a bit below their age level. 

Last night I made soft pretzels, a family favorite.

On Saturday Lia was program attendant in a friends wedding. She did great until the reception at 4:00. It was partly my fault though as I neglected to be sure she ate enough protein, which is a must!

Sunday morning found Lia fast asleep beside our bed. She came over during the night because she had a bad dream. She didn't even stir when the errant smoke alarms began blaring at 6:45. Joseph was another story, he made a wild dash from his room and crashed face first into Dean who was checking the alarms. Because of his fear of alarms, sirens and such, Joseph was nearly out of his mind with fear.

Wednesday is the children's first day of school and the twin emotions, excitement and anxiety are running high. 

Monday, August 22, 2016

Why My Son Doesn't Play With Your Child

    It is tough parenting a child with hidden special needs, especially when those needs involve brain damage to the extent that it prevents the child from thriving in a typical childhood setting. 

   Ever since our problems with CYS, I battle a paranoia that someone will misinterpret our parenting and report us. After you have been reported once, your trust in fellow man has been broken. As the saying goes, "Trust is something that isn't easily fixed."

  Dean told me to view it this way, "If Joseph had diabetes we wouldn't allow people to give him candy because it could make him very sick. Attention from others interferes with the ongoing attachment struggles Joseph has. Candy could make him physically sick if he had diabetes, attention can make him mentally/emotionally sick because he has attachment problems." That example has helped me keep things in perspective more than once. Putting your arm around Joseph or giving him a hug seems like such a small thing, just as a piece of candy can seem like a small things, but the effects can be devastating.

  Joseph cannot handle very much stimulation before he either melts down or gets into trouble. The other day I was trying to think of an example to explain his disability in this area. This is what I came up with; "Emotionally healthy people have a 5 gallon can of antidote for over stimulation. What we don't use one day can be poured into the next days can, thus allowing us to have a day packed full of activities and not overwhelm our senses. Due to his FASD Joseph has only 2 ounces of this antidote and he needs every drop of those 2 ounces just to make it through each day. Playing with his siblings can take 4 ounces of antidote, attending a party requires at least 3 gallons due to his brain damage. As he has only 2 ounces to begin with, his supply is quickly depleted and his sense's begin shutting down or he goes into an all out rage. Even this wouldn't be so bad, but he needs several gallons of antidote to regain his equilibrium after such an episode. Sadly, since he is already running on empty he doesn't have any reserve. 

   So when you see us keeping Joseph by our side, this is part of the reason why. Children with FASD (Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder) usually have good days and bad days meaning, sometimes they can do a certain task and the next day they may not have the mental/physical ability to do the very same thing. Sometimes I can tell Joseph to put his school clothing on and other days I have to lay it out for him, perhaps even dress him because he simply is unable to do so. The more we allow him to become over stimulated, the more bad days he has. Playing on the slide with a group of children may seem like a small matter, but for a child who suffers damage to the part of his brain that regulates his emotions, it may be enough to bring about several "bad days." 

    It is hard to know what is best for Joseph. Do we allow him to participate and have several rough days, or should we keep him calm thus allowing him to enjoy the rest of his week. Thus far the answer has been to do a little of both.

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Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Book Review: Addicted Kids; Our Lost Generation: An Integrated Approach To Understanding And Treating Addictions In Teens

Several weeks ago I was browsing through the books at our local library and came across the book, Addicted Kids; Our Lost Generation: An Integrated Approach To Understanding And Treating Addictions In Teens.

You can buy the book here.

  Since I am among the population addicted to an antidepressant, the book title grabbed my attention. Of course, I am no longer a teen but I do have children who will be teens in the not so distant future. Now that I am aware how dangerous drugs, whether legal or otherwise can be, I feel I would do well to be at least a little informed. I am also constantly looking for ways to help with weaning off the SSRI that was helpful at one point in my life but is now making my life miserable! I checked out the book and was pleased to see it was written in language I could understand.

 Here are some of the bits of information I found intriguing. I encourage you to get the book and read it for yourself.

Neurotransmitters are the brain chemicals that communicate information throughout our brain and body.  They relay signals between nerve cells, called “neurons.”  The brain uses neurotransmitters to tell your heart to beat, your lungs to breathe, and your stomach to digest.  They can also affect mood, sleep, concentration, weight, and can cause adverse symptoms when they are out of balance. Neurotransmitter levels can be depleted many ways.  As a matter of fact, it is estimated that 86% of Americans have suboptimal neurotransmitter levels.  Stress, poor diet, neurotoxins, genetic predisposition, drugs (prescription and recreational), alcohol and caffeine usage can cause these levels to be out of optimal range.

The three major categories of substances that act as 

neurotransmitters are (1) amino acids (primarily glutamic 
acid, GABA, aspartic acid & glycine), (2) peptides (vasopressin, somatostatin, neurotensin, etc.) and (3) monoamines (norepinephrinedopamine & serotonin) plus acetylcholine

The following comments are copied directly from the book. 

The comments in parenthesis are mine

"Although opioids have a high intrinsic activity (the ability of a drug-receptor complex to produce a maximum functional response) they are not what your cells need. So although the GABA receptor will be satisfied by the opioid, the cell really wants GABA."

"Opioids can become so potent they stimulate the receptor to aggressively, when this happens the cell receptor will sometimes mutate or morth into a receptor that "likes" (has a better response to) the opioid better than it's inherent substance, such as GABA. This is an issue with teens who have a long term history of opioid use due to the plasticity of their brain. This is also a problem in babies born to addicted mothers. These (babies) have receptors that were "created" to need a certain drug, and when/if they expose their brain to this drug through recreational use or modern medications, the receptor will "wake up" and crave the drug to which it has been exposed."

"The reason we don't just use GABA is that it is not strong enough to displace the opioid from the receptor. (The drug that is the strongest is the one that clings to the receptor, which in this example is the opioid). In other words, if someone is using morphine or another opioide, the GABA will not be able to displace the opioid, therefore it (the GABA) cannot be used by that cell. If a person is off opioids and in withdrawal it takes tremendous doses of GABA to calm down receptors because it (the receptor) is so used to the highly stimulating effects of the opioid."

"You may take GABA but taking it does not promote the nervous system to  produce it (GABA)."

These comments only give you a brief glimpse into this very informational book.

Note: Opiates are drugs derived from opium. At one time "opioids" referred to syntheticopiates only (drugs created to emulate opium, however different chemically). Now the term Opioid is used for the entire family of opiates including natural, synthetic and semi-synthetic.

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Sunday, August 14, 2016

Happy Adoption Day Lia!

                                The morning after Lia was placed with us


Several days after Lia was placed with us. Notice how her eyes have changed from the top photo?

Three months after that awful day when we learned CYS had concerns about us and was thinking of placing Lia elsewhere. You can read that story here.

August 14, 2014 Adoption Day!


Our Adoption caseworker from COBYS who believed in us and stood between us and CYS when things got tough.

The gift table at Lia's adoption party

Cookies grandma made just for Lia's adoption party

Looking at her gift's

We love you Lia, you have brought much joy and laughter into our home. We thank God for the privilege of calling you our daughter.

We are blessed to have Lia as part of our family. Thanks to everyone who prayed and interceded on our behalf whether it was writing letters to CYS or kneeling before God when we sent out a prayer request. Without you all our story would have been so different!

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Monday, August 8, 2016

Filling My Daughters Love Tank

In a social context, trust has several connotations. Definitions of trust typically refer to a situation characterized by the following aspects: One party (trustor) is willing to rely on the actions of another party (trustee); the situation is directed to the future. In addition, the trustor (voluntarily or forcedly) abandons control over the actions performed by the trustee. As a consequence, the trustor is uncertain about the outcome of the other's actions; they can only develop and evaluate expectations. The uncertainty involves the risk of failure or harm to the trustor if the trustee will not behave as desired. Vladimir Ilych Lenin expressed this idea with the sentence “Trust is good, control is better”. 
Taken from: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trust_(emotion) 

  "Trust is good, control is better"

That describes our children perfectly. Control feels safer to them, when they are in control they can predict the outcome, if they are merely trusting us, the outcome could be something much different than they desire.

The subject of B came up last night. We talk about him from time to time and as happens with grief, the bad times tend to become dimmer as time passes. As the negative memories fade, coupled with the trust issues our children have they naturally have questions. A wise mom who has been through a similar situation strongly advised us to talk about B and not shove the past into a closet. 

   Last night Kiana was struggling with the whole adoption/abandonment/B issue. In her mind those things all get lumped into one "big feeling," that we need to unpack piece by piece over and over again. Her brain has trouble categorizing her memories and emotions into the correct "brain drawers." When she is battling one of the adoption/abandonment/B memories, the other two need to be acknowledged and worked through as well.

   It all started when Tristan found an empty snail shell on a hike and gave it to Lia. Kiana equates love with gifts so when Tristan gave Lia the shell, she knew he didn't like her as much as he likes Lia and the adoption/abandonment/B memory was triggered. She was unable to work through the ensuing emotions so it all came out behaviorally.

  When we got home from our walk, she and I sat down to hash out this by now very familiar set of emotions. She had to think awhile before she was able to figure out what had triggered her but with my help she said she was angry that Tristan gave the shell to Lia and not her.

  I told her that everyone has love tanks, just like our explorer has a gas tank.

 "If I put gas in the explorer will that gas last forever or will I need to put more in it?" I asked.

 "You will need to put more gas in because the tank will get empty."

  "Right, and you have a love tank that is just like the explorers gas tank, we put love into your tank but it gets used up and we need to keep pouring more into it. Your tank gets filled up quickly when we give you gifts because that is the kind of gas your tank likes best but there are other kinds of love such as," and I helped her think of some like, quality time, hugs and talking together. 

"Your tank needs to learn that there are more kinds of love than just gifts. If we gave you all the toys you wanted but didn't spend time with you, do you think you would feel loved?"

 Kiana shook her head, "That wouldn't be nice!"

  "God made our bodies to need lot's of different kinds of love, that is why mom and dad don't always give the gift kind of love, we take you hiking like we did tonight and we sit and talk like we are doing right now."

  "Why did B have to leave?" Was Kiana's next question. 

"He didn't want our love," I explained, "Our love was scary to him because when he was a little baby his mom didn't give him the care he needed. Then when he came to us he began to feel safe but I took him back to see his birth parents when he didn't feel safe with them. He decided that I wasn't going to keep him safe either so he wouldn't take in our love. He needed a fresh start with someone who had never hurt his trust," I explained.

"Why did God make people who don't make good choices?" Kiana asked.

"Umm, that is a good question to ask dad," I said. By now we had been talking for well over 30 minutes and my brain was beginning to feel a little dull.

 Dean explained that everyone has a choice to make, will they follow God or will they take their own way. 

 "Remember how we remind you that you have the option of making good choices are taking the consequences?" Dean asked. (If you are around our family for any length of time you will probably hear the phrase, "Good choices or consequences," when one of the children is contemplating whether or not to obey. This verbal prompt is often all they need to get their brain unstuck)

"Can I make you obey?" I asked Kiana.

She shook her head and with a grin said, "No!"

"Well that is kind of how God works, we each have a choice to make and He won't force us to make a good choice, just like mom and dad can't make you make good choices."

"Oh, well I just wish my birth mom would have taken care of me," Kiana said.

 "I know you do," I assured her, "And that is how it is supposed to be but sometimes it doesn't work out and then children need to move into a home where there is a mom and dad who will keep them safe. Before you came to us, we prayed that God would give us a baby because our family didn't feel complete. When your birth mom couldn't take care of you, God knew we would love to give you what your birth mom couldn't so he allowed you to come to our family."

"I am glad I was adopted into this family," Kiana whispered, burying her head into my shoulder and hugging me fiercely. 

"Me too, Kiana!" and I hugged her back. 

This little miss filled a "Kiana shaped hole" in our hearts!

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Saturday, August 6, 2016

Biking And Bears

We arrived at the cabin on Monday evening around 8:00 and a little over an hour later this guy came nosing around the cabin. 

Not long after that bear left this big guy came through.

Earlier Dean put some ham in the tree. The bear soon found it.

Joseph was in bed asleep by the time the bears paid us a visit. I briefly contemplated waking him. I knew he would like to see the bear but his inability to trust us to keep him safe would probably leave him terrified that the bear would "get him." We chose to let him sleep and the next morning when we told him about it he was happy to see the pictures and didn't say more about it. It is hard to know when we are depriving him of an experience and when keeping him back is actually protecting him. 

Tuesday we woke the children at 6:30 and tried to get them to eat some breakfast before we hit the bike trail. We drove about half an hour from the cabin and biked just short of 23 miles. 

This picture was taken at our first bathroom stop a scant 1.5 miles into the ride. Joseph was ready to head back at this point but we convinced him to keep going. A bit later he officially declared he was finished. No talking, pleading or any other kind of urging made a bit of difference. He was done and proceeded to tell the world his opinion of biking. We packed our lunch including some snacks which I hauled in the bike cart, I dug through it our food and gave him a piece of candy to eat while he peddled. That helped his energy levels and mood for awhile.

Time for a rest and some protein

Lia rode behind Dean on the tag a long. It worked nicely because she was able to help pedal instead of simply riding along in the cart.

Early Wednesday morning Dean and Tristan biked the 23 miles back to up the trail to pick up the truck. Later in the day Tristan went for another bike ride with his uncle, he was quite proud of the 50 plus miles he rode in two days. 

Friday, August 5, 2016

Working Through Big Feelings

    We have had a busy week thus far beginning with Sunday evening when we attended a birthday party for a friend. As usual Joseph stayed with either Dean or I all evening. He wanted to play on the swing set but there were at least 2 dozen children playing on it and Joseph was already overstimulated from all the noise, food and people so Dean told him he doesn't think that would be a good idea. Joseph was not happy with that answer so Dean told him to look at the playground.

 "What do you see?" he asked. 

 "Lot's of people!" Joseph replied.

"And how do you think you would feel if you went and played with them?"

"I would probably have big feelings and make bad choices!" 
For our children big feelings are usually a combination of emotions but they typically include anxiety, fear and excitement. When a child, particularly Joseph, experiences these emotions his behavior deteriorates.

 "Would Daddy be keeping you safe if he left you play when he knows you would have a hard time making good choices?" 

Joseph shook his head and Dean said from then on Joseph was content to stay by his side because he knew Daddy would protect him. 

Sometimes depending upon Joseph's current ability to function, either Dean or I will stay nearby while he plays. This is because he is much like a newborn who cannot regulate his emotions, he needs us to help him. A baby who is crying, will calm down when mom picks him up and cuddles him because he aligns his emotions to his mom's. Mom is calm, that means I am safe. When Joseph is playing and we are nearby we can see when  his emotions are becoming overwhelming and pull him aside to help him calm down.

   We spent the beginning of the week at the cabin with family (I will share picture on another post) and the change of routine sent the children into an emotional tailspin. I knew it was coming but I was still caught off guard by the intensity of it all. Our children feel safest at home, well at least most of them do, because they know the rules and what is expected of them. Going away from their "safe place" is scary stuff. They aren't aware of it but I am certain it stirs up those feelings of fear and uncertainty they had when they were removed from their biological parents. They know that we are spending a few nights away and will return home, but their little bodies remember the terror they felt as helpless infants and they react accordingly.

  Joseph slept very little while we were gone. It always concerns us when he does that because we know how little it can take for his brain function to be affected. Joseph didn't have his own room with an alarm on the door like he does at home which made him feel unsafe. We installed the alarm to prevent him from roaming the house at night but he is certain the alarm is to prevent people from entering his room while he sleeps. Not having the protection of his alarm played a part in his inability to sleep as he thought he had to stay awake to stay safe. Never mind that mom and dad were directly across the hall and the bedroom doors were open. 

 Irregular mealtime's stirred up memories of hunger and the fear of not being fed reared it's head. Plus there were special snacks around that I usually do not buy and like many children who have experienced hunger and neglect, my little one's could not leave the snacks alone and it upset them when we told them had had enough.

Sometimes I wonder why we bother going away as it just stirs things up but then I remind myself of the good times. The extra time I have to read stories to the children, the meltdown that we conquered, the glow of excitement in the children's eyes when we were packing up to leave, not to mention all the memories we made while we were gone and I always arrive at the same conclusion, it is worth it!

  We always take our children's favorite stuffed animals along when we go away overnight as well as their own sleeping bag. What do you do to alleviate the fear of change?

For tips on helping alleviate anxiety check out: Better Help

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