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


*this post contains affiliated links

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Weeping Mothers And Wailing Children

   We all have them, days when life feels overwhelming, yesterday was just such a day for me. I briefly entertained running away like my son had done the previous evening, or kicking the wall and screaming like my daughter did when she was angry. However I knew that was not the answer, besides I can't risk further traumatizing my children. 

   Like I told Dean last night, "I get so tired of being the person my children fight against." They lash out at Dean but not with the intensity that they rage at me. I feel like I am the arch enemy in their lives, the one person whose love they must fight against at all costs. The more love I pour into them the harder they must work to make me understand that they will not accept it, the cost is too high. After all, I might abandon them sometime

   I know some of it is PTSD. Memories of another child who nearly succeeded in pushing me over the edge are never far away. When my little one's use the same words and body language he used, I need to remember this is not the same child. The problem is, it is the same battle. The battle of trust and love against fear.

 There were many tears shed at our house yesterday. The children and I were in close competition as to who cried the most. They were hurting, I was weary and so we cried. Some tears are healing, while others are tears of pain and loss. Yesterday's tears were in the latter category. 

  Several small people were in tears at once last night and I had the fleeting thought that if someone were to walk into our house they would have a just reason to think we are all slightly off our rockers. Thankfully a good night's rest, talking over my fears with Dean and encouraging words from a friend helped gave me the courage to try again. 



Monday, October 24, 2016

A Bunny And A Lesson For Kiana

   On Friday evening we went to Green Dragon to buy a bunny for Kiana's birthday. Lia received a bunny for from a friend for her birthday and Kiana wanted one as well. Dean thought Kiana is old enough to be responsible for feeding and watering a pet, so we launched the "Bunny Project." 

Trying to choose a bunny. Dean bought three and Kiana had a difficult time choosing the one she wants.

Kiana was feeling rather grumpy yesterday morning. As I was combing her she said, "I can't wait to get my bunny and hold it close." I asked her how it made her feel when she held her bunny and she said she feels all warm inside. 
"How would you feel if your bunny bit or scratched you when you were cuddling it?" I asked. 
"That would hurt my feelings," Kiana mumbled.
"Did you know that when you are grumpy with me it hurts me? It hurts my heart, just like it hurts you when your bunny scratches you." 
Kiana wasn't very happy with that analogy but it did get her to thinking....for awhile.

Animals are often used to help children work through big feelings. Last night I was trying to help Kiana work through some things that were bothering her but she wasn't in the mood to listen. Dean suggested bringing her bunny in and letting her hold it while we talked and it worked! As she sat stroking her bunny, she calmed down and we could talk reasonably. Dean reminded her that no matter how much she messed up, she can always say she is sorry and start over. Poor girl, there was a battle going on inside, part of her wanted to remain angry at me and block me out while another part of her wanted to give in and let me comfort her. 
The battle raged for a few moments then her shoulders drooped and she whispered, "Will you help me?"
"Of course," I said. Kiana's words were music to me ears, she was asking for help!

Friday, October 21, 2016

Happy Birthday Kiana

Happy 9th Birthday Kiana!!!!

    Yesterday was Kiana's 9th birthday. She said, "I waited sooooo long for this day to come and it is finally here!" Last night as I was giving her a good night hug she said, "My birthday is over already!"


As much as the children anticipate their birthday, the day brings a lot of sadness with it. Naturally they think of their birth parents and wonder if their parents are thinking of them on their birthday. Kiana was hoping against hope that her birth mom would call. Her spirits drooped more and more as the hours passed without a phone call.

As an adoptive parent it is tough to stand by and see your child grieving and feeling unloved because the person who is called to love and nurture them is missing. Dean and I poured love into Kiana yesterday but it wasn't enough, there is only one person who could fill the void. 

Just before Kiana was ready for bed, I received a text from her birth mom. I asked if she would like to talk to Kiana and she jumped at the opportunity. When Kiana realized who I was talking to, her face lit up. Kiana and her birth mom had a good chat and Kiana went to bed with the ache in her heart gone. Of course that wasn't the end of the story as those of you who have children with trauma will understand.

Kiana's smile when she realized her birth mom was on the phone.

Kiana listening to her birth mom sing Happy Birthday to her. 

Being an adoptive parent has placed me in many situations. There was a time when I wouldn't have been able to imagine the joy watching my daughter talking to her birth mom would bring to my heart.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

A Year Of Healing And Pain

A year ago B's ICPC paperwork was approved which meant he could move to his new family. I still remember how I felt when Dean told me, like I was suffocating, drowning, dying... something of the sort. We were expecting to have the paperwork approved at any time but when it actually happened, I discovered I wasn't as prepared as I thought I was.

 There are days I am amazed at how badly it still hurts when I think over the past 8 years, other times I am just as amazed at how much healing has taken place. 

   The memories feel like a bad dream until I feel the physical pain that goes with emotional trauma. Then I know it wasn't a dream at all, it really did happen.

  We are reliving the pain through memories but we don't have the adrenaline rush to cushion the hurt like we did when these things were happening. I think that is at least partly responsible for the exhausted and overwhelmed feeling I get just from living life. 

  So are we in a better place than we were a year ago? Absolutely! Do we have a long way to go? Absolutely!

  Thanks to everyone who remembered us this month. The prayers, gifts and flowers mean more than we can say

These beautiful flowers come from a friend from CA. This friend has her plate more than full, but she took time out of her day to bless us. Lia was disappointed to hear the flowers did not get an airplane ride even though the giver lives in CA.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Help For Families In Crisis - Life With RAD

  What are parents to do when they have children with RAD and they are nearing the breaking point? The other week I wrote a post entitled: Get Help Before You Break - Life With RAD. What I failed to add is where to get the help you need. I had a reader send this question: "What do you do when there is no help and you are at the breaking point?" She wasn't expecting me to reply because she knows as well as I, that there is no one size fits all answer to this problem. I have been tossing this around in my head, trying to come up with a solution because many of the mom's who contact me are in the same situation. Their child is making life unbearable, their health is failing and they are losing their remaining children's hearts. They need help and they need it now. They have gone to therapy, they are trained trauma parents, they have been to psychiatrists they have tried everything and the situation only grows worse. 

   When a mom comes to me and is in that place, it scares me because I know exactly what the family is up against. There is a lot more at stake here than losing their child, their faith is shaken, their trust in fellow humanity is gone, they are nearing the point of being suicidal because they cannot go on and there is no one to help them. When families reach this place they are in crisis and need more than one person can give, they need a whole community to rally around them. They need someone to intervene and take all their responsibilities so they can focus on healing. But that is a huge task and these families already feel as though they are a drain on their church and community. It is hard to continually be the needy family and not be able to give in return.

   As I was pondering this situation I wondered what could be done so families who have children with attachment disorders do not find themselves at this breaking point? I came to the conclusion that they need another couple to help them parent. 

   When B was home we never left him with a babysitter, the price was simply to high. When your child hates you, you are loath to give them more ammunition to use against you. I won't go in to explaining why this is, you can read here about the triangulationmanipulation and control that makes placing a child with RAD at a sitter impossible. That means mom and dad never get time together away from the children. If an older couple would be willing to learn how to care for the child and could give the parents a break that would be so helpful. We once left B with a trained RAD respite provider our therapist told us about. Even though this person was trained, she did not know B's particular methods of control and manipulation, so despite her best efforts he came away feeling triumphant because he succeeded in manipulating her. While he thrived on manipulation it scared him when he was successful because that meant he was smarter than the adults who were supposed to be keeping him safe.

   Having someone being the mediator for the family would be so helpful. These children are masters at pushing their parents beyond what they can handle. Having to explain why they parent as they do and continually having to be on guard wears these parents down. If there was someone to whom they could direct those with questions and concerns it would be such a blessing.

   Perhaps having someone who could give the parents a scheduled break as well as provide a safe buffer between them and the rest of the world would keep families from reaching the crisis point. 

  I don't know if there are any couples out there who would be willing to undertake such an enormous task but I honestly think having someone who has their back would ease the isolation and pain parents feel when caring for a child who is so emotionally damaged that he cannot accept love. Such a couple might provide enough of support that the parents could give their child what he needs without sacrificing their health, family and marriage. 

  Having someone to speak truth into their lives may be what keeps a couple from seriously questioning or even abandoning their faith. When you have a child who is trying their best to hurt you, make you crack, perhaps is even seeking to do away with you, it is really hard to remember that this child is doing this out of fear and pain. If someone who really knows what life is like from day to day would daily pour Gods word into your heart, it would be such a blessing.

  If anyone has tried this I would love to hear about it. How did you make it work? What were some of the pitfalls?


Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Our Weekend

Yesterday was a cookies and candle kind of day. I felt chilly and when I checked the thermostat I understood why, it was 64 degrees in the house.

Lia gets dreadfully bored at home when the others are in school. I dug out this paint set she received for a gift awhile ago. 

Some delicious burgers Dean grilled on Sunday.

On Saturday we went to the Fire Safety Event at PaulB. The children received plastic fire hats. Joseph loves his but he has a hard time reading with it on because he needs to hold his head still so the hat doesn't fall off. He would love to wear it when he is doing his chores but keeping the hat on his head and working doesn't go so well.

Dean made snack sticks with some of the meat from the deer Tristan shot the other week.

Picking up pumpkins to feed the pigs

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Cherish Today

    A long time ago when my children were babies (I know it wasn't that long ago but it seems that way sometimes) I used to yearn for a full nights rest. When Kiana and Joseph were babies Dean and I used to each take a baby for the night. It was funny, I never heard Deans baby cry and he never heard mine but we each heard the one we were responsible for. I usually took the one who awakened most often because Dean had to go to work the next day, which meant Miss Kiana was mine. There were days when I thought this phase of life would never end. When I was up at night giving one child a bottle, another a drink and comforting yet another, an uninterrupted night sounded like one of the best things in the world.

   Now I seldom get awakened at night and if I do, a drink or hug along with words of comfort are usually all that is needed. And you know what? I miss those times. Of course I don't miss the fog brain and bleary eyes I endured the next day, but those nights of holding my little one's and being able to meet all their needs are now something I yearn for. Back then their troubles were small. A bottle, snuggles with mom or dad and warm clothing was all they asked for.

   I guess I am feeling nostalgic because last night was pretty rough around here. Seldom does the whole family feel burdened at the same time but we sure did last night. My dear husband did two major counseling sessions with two children over two different issues while I dealt with the other two little people. I was feeling rather overwhelmed when Dean reminded me that this time of year is always challenging mainly because of one thing, school. Lest you think it is the school or teachers, I want to clarify that it isn't, it is trauma.

   Tristan was feeling like, "What is the use of trying when things don't go right even though you do your best?" And I will admit I was feeling the same way. We try everything we know to do with Kiana and Joseph and it doesn't seem to make a bit of difference. My discouraged self was thinking, why do we even try so hard.

  Before we went to bed Dean and I discussed the evening. We have to be on the same page, or the children will manipulate and triangulate causing more damage. 

  "I told Tristan about something I recently failed at," Dean said, "I told him I would have felt much worse if I would have done a sloppy job. I knew I gave it my best shot and while I wish things would have turned out differently, I know I did my best."

  I needed to hear that. Parenting children with complex trauma and brain injuries can feel useless. You go over and over the same issues. You cry and pray, pleading with God for wisdom and patience only to find your child has slid back to square one for the umpteenth time. It is enough to make you want to throw up your hands in defeat. 

  "Do your best and if you fail, you know you gave it your best shot." I needed that because ultimately we won't be judged on whether we "succeeded" or "failed" at this whole parenting thing. We will be judged on whether we gave it our best. 

   As I was longing for the days when my children were babies and we were able to meet their needs, when we were all they wanted and needed, I had to think, "In ten years will I be looking back to these years and wishing we could go back?" 

  So for today I will cherish these years when things seem overwhelming and give it my best!

I Choose Joy!Friendship Friday

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Get Help Before You Break - Life With RAD

   B's therapist repeatedly told me, "Know your limits, you are not helping anyone if you crash emotionally or physically." That was excellent advice, but she wasn't able to tell me what to do when I had had enough.

  In most abusive situations, the "victim" is not stuck with the abuser. When your child has RAD, you are stuck. Some are physically abusive while other's like B, are emotionally abusive. When you are the parent charged with the responsibility to love and nurture this child it can feel like you are trapped. What makes it  worse is that everyone else views your abuser as a sweet and lovable child. When your child hates you and everyone else exclaims how sweet he is, it can mess with your mind. You begin viewing yourself as an awful person, defective in some way.

  I remember the day when I reached my breaking point with B. Up until that day there had been many times when I threatened to throw in towel, whatever that may have looked like but I knew it wasn't an option. I knew I would try again the next morning no matter how horrible the day may have been. 

   There were certainly times when I tried to think of ways to get out of the situation but I was always able to get my mind back on track. I always had the emotional stamina to try again, even if that stamina was hard to come by. But there came a time that I feared I would do something awful in a weak moment. B would push me to the edge, nudge me a bit further and then step back and smirk. I knew he was trying me out, how far could he push me before I cracked? Eventually I came to the place where I didn't trust myself anymore and let me tell you, that is an awful place to be. When you don't trust yourself and you have a child who is doing his very best to push you over the edge, and you and the child both know he is very nearly succeeding, you are in a dangerous place.

  I told Dean I need help, "Something has to give, it is either me or B, we can't both live here," I said. Over the years there were many times when I cried the same thing but a good nights rest usually gave me the boost I needed. This was different, Dean and I both knew it. "Are you just tired, or are you serious?" Dean asked. 

"This is my cry for help," I said, "I need help, something has to give or I am afraid I will do something awful." That was the conversation that led to placing B at TAP. I felt awful, like I was giving up on my child but I also knew I was circling a dangerous pit, the edge was slippery and at any time I could plunge over the edge.

  B's therapist was very understanding, she repeated the words that had helped us decide that something must be done, "If you crash, you will not be able to help anyone," She reminded me, "Your other children need you, Dean needs you." Those words brought the first layer of healing to my bleeding heart.

  Why do I share this? Because I know there are parents out there, reading this blog who are drawing near the point of no return, the place where something has to change. My cry is, "Don't wait until there is a crisis, get help for you and your child now." There are to many parents who waited, cracked and did things they never would have done before they reached the place where they acted out of pain.

Children with RAD push their parents so hard because they are afraid of love. If they allow themselves to love, they give the parent the opportunity to hurt them by rejecting that love. They were hurt once, they will not be hurt again. These children need our love and support, they are terrified and in a hard place themselves. I wrote this post because there is much information out there on how to love these hurting children but the truth is, there are some times when you have to choose between allowing this child to destroy you and your family and placing them in a treatment program or even finding them a new home.

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Landing In A Strange Country - Life With RAD

    Many adoptive parents have heard the story about the couple who was flying to a certain country when mid flight they learned they would be disembarking in a different country. At first they are so disappointed. They feel as though they have been cheated but as time passes they fall in love with their new destination. The moral of the story for folks who plan to have biological children but in the end adopt, is that while the destination may be different than what we planned, there are new joys awaiting us.

   But what if there isn't any joy? The sunny weather we dreamed of is only a distant memory because here in this new country there are only storms and the threat of storms. The peace and deepening relationship's with your spouse and children never materializes, instead there is screaming, rage, deep emotional pain and grief beyond anything you have ever known. 

  You determine to be cheerful and seek for the good in every day but most days there isn't anything good to be found. You decide you will be thankful for the storms, after all it is the storms in life that make us strong, right? But when the storms hit, they destroy the bond you have with your previously untraumatized children, they cause yet another friend to turn on you and CPS comes knocking once again. Emotional strength is good, but is the cost worth it?

   This is the life parents live when they have a child with RAD. There isn't much to be grateful for, well not other than being grateful no one ended up in the emergency room, no one removed your children because of lies and you are still in one piece at the end of the day. Those are all things to be thankful for but when they are the only good things happening in a day, you long to jump on the airplane and return to the country from whence you came. The country called, Before Adoption, Before RAD

   There is only one problem, there aren't any planes departing from the country in which you live. You are stuck. Your child throws physical, emotional and psychological abuse your way and you have to live with it because there is no way to leave. You sink into a deep depression made worse by the people who are supposed to be your support because they think, Surely there is some good in every place on earth. They advise you to count your blessings and be thankful you aren't living where such and such is, because they really have something to complain about. And you sink still deeper into the pit of despair. 

    Then one day you hear that there is a ship that will take you back to your home country. At first you rejoice, then you fearfully begin counting the cost. Would leaving prove you are a coward? Is it morally right to leave when God has clearly called you to this place? The flip side is emotional and physical health for your children as well as an opportunity to heal physically yourself so you can be the parent your children need. After much prayer you leave the country which you never intended to come to. You leave a part of your heart behind, along with some of your trust in mankind. You bring a broken heart, a bruised spirit and a burden for the people who are still living in the country you have just left.

  We have been back in our "old country" for several months now. While we are thankful to be back, we continue to feel somewhat like strangers. Our stay in another country changed us. We are no longer the same people we were before we climbed on that plane, our hearts filled with joy and anticipation. We came back with a different perspective on life and sometimes I wonder where we would be if we hadn't climbed on that plane.