Tuesday, February 28, 2017

A Testimony Of Praise After Disruption

Yesterday Dean and I enjoyed lunch with the folks from TAP where B spent nearly 2.5 years beginning in June of 2013. We have been blessed by their wisdom and continued concern for our family since B has moved on. 

A year ago B's move was still very fresh in my mind. The mere mention of his name brought pain and I wondered if I would ever feel whole again, if I would ever get beyond the guilt I felt over disrupting his adoption.

The agency who helped us legally disrupt the adoption asked if I would be willing to serve as a reference to other folks who inquire about their services. I agreed, never realizing what a unique healing opportunity helping others would be.

Sometimes it goes weeks between calls or emails from folks wondering about Second Chance, the agency we used, other times I get several questions in a matter of days. Being able to offer hope to people who are in such turmoil about the decisions they are facing is something that gives me joy. I remember when I called Second Chance, I had a protective wall ready to put up because in my emotional pain and grief, I wasn't sure I could bounce back if I was condemned for wanting to do such a dreadful thing. I had learned the lesson, "Not everyone who is supposed to help you will do so," well, and I was ready to defend myself. Hearing a kind understanding voice on the phone was a blessing. My desire is to help others like the folks at Second Chance helped me and having the opportunity to offer hope is one way I can do that.

All that to say, nearly a year after disrupting the adoption, I feel at peace with the decisions Dean and I made. I know B is healthy, he has opportunities in his new family that we couldn't provide due in part to the other special needs in our family. Does it still hurt? Of course! I think there will always be an ache when I think over what could have been if the years of therapy had been enough to heal B.

When you have to make a decision like we did - the decision to disrupt an adoption in order to save the rest of the family, it brings a host of feelings. A year later I can see the healing that has taken place in our other children now that our lives do not include RAD. I am not saying that children who have a sibling with RAD cannot thrive, not at all. I am saying that for our children, particularly the ones who experienced loss in early child hood, it was for their good. It was also good for B to be in a home where he is not constantly faced with the past, he was able to make a fresh start and for that we praise God!

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Intertwined Fears - Life With FASD

Joseph has a deep set fear of any and all emergency vehicles. One would think that after all these years I would remember this. 

  Yesterday our neighbors had a small trash fire and the local fire company was called to put it out. We didn't arrive home until everything was over, although the trucks were still on the scene. Since we share a drive with these neighbors the vehicles all went past our house on their way out the drive. Joseph had had an excellent day at school but the sight of those trucks rocked his world. I left him watch the trucks leave, thinking that might calm him. Our evening was slightly rocky as both Kiana and Joseph were struggling with fear that the fire would come down and burn our house.

This morning I got everyone up and out the door, never once thinking of the fire. This afternoon, Josephs teacher sent a note home from school describing their day. She told me how she handled each situation that arose and wished us a good evening. Joseph was ornery, obnoxious and over the top emotional. I couldn't figure out what was going on and he of course, couldn't tell me. As I was mulling over what could be going on I remembered the fire. Of course! Poor boy, I hadn't even reassured him before he left for school this morning, no wonder he had been a handful.

I told him I want him to write a story for me which he cheerfully agreed to do, but when I told him I wanted him to write about the fire, he stalled. "I don't want to," He said, "Then I will remember all the scary things that happened and feel scared all over again." I told him that writing down our scary feelings is a good way to make them feel smaller. He looked doubtful but in true Joseph form, he wrote a detailed story about what he saw and felt. I read his story and praised his good work. He finished his paper by drawing a picture to go with the story.

Dean is working late tonight so the children and I ate supper without him. Joseph had several meltdowns during the meal and intentionally provoked his siblings, all things that point to an emotional instability. When he began sobbing I sent him to his room and told him I would talk to him when he finished crying. Sometimes he, like me, just needs a good cry before he can talk.

When I went to his room I asked him what was wrong, "I don't like getting consequences!" He wailed.

"Why do you get consequences?" I asked.

"Because I like to fight!" He exclaimed. 
"If you don't do the naughty, you don't get consequences," I reminded him. He wasn't convinced so I asked if he gets consequences when he is making good choices. He shook his head, then said, "But I don't like consequences!" We went went through the whole thing again and I finally decided it is pointless to pursue that topic as his FASD making it impossible for him to comprehend what I was explaining.

When it was all said and done, he was worried about an upcoming school meeting and the fire. Eating supper without daddy was the straw that broke the camels back. He is now happily playing in his room...until the "big feelings" overwhelm him again, which could happen at any time. One of the symptoms of FASD is something that is referred to as "Swiss cheese brain." The brain is likened to a block of swiss cheese and the holes are where the information gets lost or misplaced. This means that even though we had this discussion and Joseph is now calm and cheerful, in five minutes he may totally forget we ever talked and the fear will be back in force. Then we will have to start at the beginning and work through everything again. This will happen many times over the next few days, until he finds something new to worry about.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

When Doors Close

"When one door closes another opens; but we often look so long and so regretfully upon that closed door that we do not see the one that has opened for us." -Alexander Graham Bell

Door and door after door has slammed in my face in my search for health care for Kiana. The therapist we were so hopeful would work out is no longer taking new clients, neither is the PANS/PANDAS specialist. The nutritionist doesn't have openings until April and the price is a little overwhelming. Besides, do we have until April? The doctor Kiana is currently seeing prescribes one antibiotic after the next and while they take the edge off the more severe symptoms, that is about all they are doing. I find myself saying, "God, we need help here and every door is slammed in my face!"

Do you know what God reminded me of? The many, many times over the years when there wasn't a way out. Each and every time he made a way. So why can't I just sit back and trust him this time? Partly because I know what could happen if we don't get treatment and partly because I am tired of calling doctors only to be told, "Sorry we can't help you." So I began mentally going over the times God has made a way when there was no way.

-When I called TAP to talk about placing B there they initially told me they won't have an opening for 6 weeks. At the time I couldn't fathom waiting another six weeks. The very next day they said they had a room open up suddenly and we could bring him in 3 days!

-When CPS wanted to move Lia, God knocked down walls and opened doors that we didn't even know were there.

-There was the time I took Kiana to the doctor, feeling certain that she had PANS but not knowing if her pediatrician would be willing to discuss this controversial diagnosis. The doctor listened to my story and said did you ever hear of PANDAS? (PANDAS is caused by strep, PANS by stress & infections) 

-When school became to much for Joseph and the school board found a teacher willing to teach him for the remainder of the school term. I was so relieved, as I didn't feel up to homeschooling him which was our other option.

-When Joseph's dermatologist agreed that his eczema was caused by stress and worked with us to get him some relief.

-A long time ago before we knew much about RAD, I called a woman who lives clear across the USA, begging for help. She had experience parenting children with RAD and was able to give me many inside tips. We talked for several hours and when we hung up, I told Dean, "I found someone who believes our story, we aren't crazy after all!" 

"Thus saith the Lord, which maketh a way in the sea, and a path in the mighty waters..." Isaiah 43:16

How can I not trust a God who can make a way through the sea?

Friday, February 17, 2017

Wading Through Trauma & Family Life

The past 24 hours have rocked my boat pretty hard. It started when the highly recommended attachment therapist that we have been waiting nearly a year to see, informed me she is no longer taking new clients. Last April Kiana's behavior deteriorated and she never fully recovered. We tried all the usual route's changing med's, doctors and therapy. The first therapist we tried was a no go. Kiana knows too much therapy lingo for her own good. She knew what the therapist wanted and responded accordingly. Sadly the therapist didn't catch on to the the fact that Kiana was manipulating her. I tried talking with this therapist but it just didn't work out so we quit. At that time I got Kiana on a year long waiting list with an attachment therapist. I knew it was long but prior experience has taught me that a wait list can be a good thing, because others obviously want this therapist as well. Dean and I hung on, thinking, "Only a few more months until we can get in with the therapist, maybe then we will get some answers." To have that yanked out from beneath us, was tough.

Joseph has been coming home from school wound tight and when he gets home, Wham! Kiana has been processing more of her story and she is ever so angry, Wham! When they are both acting out guess what little sister does? Yup, she begins creating chaos as well. Big brother sighs, mumbles and rolls his eyes, and mom feels like doing the same thing. 

Dean has been helping me get some plans in place and I have the number for a therapist who sounds awesome. The only catch? She counsels teens. At 9 Kiana isn't a teenager, although we do wonder sometimes! Better yet, I have the name of a lady who might be able to give me the "inside help" I need to navigate Kiana's PANS. 

I found weighted animals are as therapeutic as weighted blankets. Best of all, they are cheaper, less time consuming and what is better than a big teddy that reminds you of your dog?

Meet Kobi the second

The girls love eating by candle light, so we enjoyed our valentines meal by candle light. I made a Snickers Cheesecake for dessert. It was delicious!

The book and study guide for small group Bible Study. A group of us adoptive mom's get together once a month over the winter...except it hasn't happened yet this winter because of sickness.

I made quite an assortment of beads for an order

The little lady who is so full of rage lately drew this. Including the I love you Dean!

I am doing whatever I can think of to keep our relationship intact, even if it means going to Mac's after a long drama filled afternoon.

The other week Lia and I went to see my newest niece. Lia loved holding the baby and kept telling me, "Mom, we should get a baby too!" She has no idea!

Put a little Mennonite boy in front of a TV and he is lost to the world

Monday, February 13, 2017

A Hard Conversation

Saturday morning was bit rough around here. I blame it on the full moon/eclipse.... you need to blame it on something, right? 

A certain child was blasting me for adopting him.* According to him, if I wouldn't have adopted him he would still be living with his birth mom and life would be great. Yeah, the bio parent fantasy was in high form. Dean and I have had the foster care/caseworker/adoption talk with our children many times over the years but it never seemed to really sink in, or maybe they just don't believe us. 

I walked the child through the process once more adding a bit more information. "When a baby is born with drugs in his system, the doctor reports it to a caseworker who then works with the family," I explained. "When the caseworker realized that your mom wasn't able to care for you, she called people who were able to take care of a baby. Our names were on that list and when the caseworker called, we said yes, we would love to take care of you. I didn't take you from your mom," I clarified, "The caseworker did that."

That was old news to the child and he wasn't persuaded that living with us was a good thing so I showed him video's of babies going through withdrawal. I told him about some of the symptoms he had, the medications he had to take as well as why and how drugs and alcohol affect a baby. I saw the light go on and cheered inside. "YES!" All this talking is getting us somewhere.

For the rest of the day this child was rather subdued. He obeyed willingly rather than telling me what he thought of my requests and was respectful when spoken to. 

Of course the results of our chat didn't last, but at the same time there is a new level of understanding on my child's part. Now he has to come to grips with the fact that his mom hurt him. He looked at Dean with tears in his eye's and said, "Why would my mom hurt me on purpose?" I was glad he asked Dean because I was out of answers. Dean replied, "Think about when mom tells you to do something and you get angry. Do you want to hurt mom?" The child shook his head no so Dean continued, "You don't really want to hurt mom but you are angry so you yell at her anyway, right? That is how it was with your birth mom, she didn't want to hurt you but she did anyway because of her need for drugs." That was the perfect answer, it helped our child feel better but also helped him understand that his mom was caught up in something bigger than she could handle.

Please continue to pray for Dean and I and our children. As they grow and are able to understand more, they are faced with hard decisions that many of us know nothing about. Thanks for all the prayers over the years, there is no doubt that they are behind the healing that has taken place in our family.

*"he" is used to protect the child involved

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Why Trauma Parenting Is So Hard

Is it really true that parenting children with early childhood trauma is harder than "traditional parenting," or are parents just looking for sympathy?

First you have to understand that the building platform is very different for a traumatized child and his/her parent than for a child has never experienced trauma. 

Trauma parenting begins with a deficit. A child comes to you  already mistrusting the world. He has already experienced abuse, neglect and violence. He views you as his enemy, someone he must conquer before you hurt him. 

A child who is welcomed into this world by loving parents and has had his needs met is in a very different place emotionally. If he is removed from his parents, he will still view adults as trustworthy because he has no reason to think other wise.

God created our brains to take in information through our five senses; sight, sound, smell, taste and touch. This information travels along the pathways in our brains and is stored in the correct compartments.  As the part of the brain that responds to love and nurture is used, it grows. The same thing happens when a child is subject to trauma. The part of the brain that registers fear and the fight or flight response is activated. At the same time the child is unable to reach developmental milestones because he/she is spending all their brain power and energy on staying alive. Thus the child slips further and further behind his peers. 

What I described above is an extremely simplified version of what takes place, but it gives you an idea what these children are up against. If you add in the detrimental affects of drugs and alcohol, it is little wonder parents struggle and children rage.

This brain difference is why we must parent our children with early childhood trauma differently than the ones who have not had that experience.

For instance, 9 times out of 10 our children will insist on making choices that are obviously going to hurt them. We explain why doing something will hurt them and walk them through what happens each step of the way only to have them insist on doing things their way. This is a classic lack of trust. They don't trust us, so they do things their way and get hurt, leaving Dean and I to pick up the pieces.

Sometimes we step back and allow them to pick up their own pieces but their brain difference comes into play again. They will deny anything happened, accuse the other party of lying or fly into a rage because they never wanted this to happen. 

When parenting typical children it is wise to let them make their own mistakes from time to time so they can learn how to work through the aftermath of their choice. That doesn't usually work with our children with trauma because they don't learn from their past mistakes. They only think of themselves in the moment. Their fight or flight response is sitting on go and they do not have the mental capacity to think of other people or how blowing the "fix up" will only make the situation worse.

One of our children is having friend troubles. We have told this child time and again that he* will lose his friends if he continues treating them badly. He would cry and rage because he says he wants his friends. We walked him through correct and incorrect responses and he went to school with high ideals. He came home with his head hanging, raging because his classmates aren't kind. We talked, he nodded his head, he realizes he did wrong, no he won't do it again.... guess what? He did it again and again and again.

Another child has a hard time accepting me as mom. In his* mind I am the person standing between him and his mom. If it weren't for me, he could live with his birth mom and everything would be great. We have explained why he cannot be with his mom. I told him if I dropped him off with his mom I would likely go to jail and while he really didn't want that to happen, he made sure I knew it is my fault he has to live here. I have tried all the attachment parenting skills in my bag and none of them make a difference. I fear he is just going to have to learn the hard way that the life out there isn't as glamorous as it looks. When I look on his past decision making skills, I fear for him. Because he has no idea how much being in our home has sheltered him and protected him all he knows is that his problems are all my fault.

This phenomenon is played out daily in our home and I will admit I  become frustrated. "Why don't you learn?" I feel like shouting but I know that will only make the situation worse. The hard part is knowing if the behavior is truly due to brain damage or if the child is just being lazy, sloppy or defiant because it can all look so very much alike.

*he/him is used as a generic term to protect the individual

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Fear - The Root Problem

You cannot run away from your problems. A problem is a problem until you get to the root of the problem.

My days are spent trying to help my children work through their root problem's. Trying to help someone who cannot or will not work through their problems is beyond frustrating! 

Many children who have experienced trauma are experts at developing coping mechanisms so they won't have to address the root issue. Coping mechanisms are great when we find ourselves in dire straights but when we use them to avoid dealing with the something, they can quickly become a problem.

Our children have deep seated issues with abandonment and for good reason. They were "left" by the very people who should have been there for them. The problem is, they are now with people who love them and want to help them but their brains/bodies cannot make that change. This means every issue that comes up is viewed through the lens of, "When mom and dad leave me."

Last night Dean had a meeting to attend. The children did pretty well. I had Joseph in bed before Dean went out the door and Kiana was well on her way through her bedtime routine. Lia typically feeds off the older two, so having them in bed early meant she didn't melt down. Our morning was the polar opposite of last night. Such a stomping, screaming and slamming of doors! Made me extra glad we went around to our nearest neighbors a little over a year ago and explained a little about what we are dealing with. 

I had to go to school for one child today. The child ended up coming home and spending the day with me. Daddy being away last night wasn't the main problem but it certainly played in to it. This child has been checking out school library books about death and animal attacks. These books that aren't wrong in themselves but when a child intentionally fills her mind with drama so she doesn't have to think about her big feelings, it becomes a problem. 

Kiana will do anything to keep her big feelings at bay. She will bury them, deny them, ignore them, be over the top happy, chatter constantly and shovel in food among other things. I feel bad for her because I know we don't deal with her big feelings these coping mechanisms are going to follow her into adulthood. Thankfully we are nearing the end of the year long waiting list for an attachment therapist who comes highly recommended.

Joseph used to do many of these things but he has gotten to the place where life is so confusing for him that he is usually glad for our help in sorting out his feelings. Rather than bury his feelings, he will sooner melt down as is typical for FASD. There are times when he will take us down bunny trails to avoid talking about something, but we have learned that when he does that it is usually because he truly doesn't understand what we are talking about.

Tonight Dean took Tristan to the Sportsmans Show. We are making a conscious effort to fill his love tank and this show is something he has been begging to go to. The only trouble is, daddy is now gone two nights in a row and while the children did okay one evening, they aren't very forgiving about two consecutive nights.  

FaceTime is our favorite tool to use when Dean gets home after the children are in bed and is gone before they wake up the next morning. Being able to see daddy makes a huge difference, however there are times when we just have to deal with the fallout because even seeing daddy doesn't take away the fear. They are certain that what they have always feared has come to pass....daddy left them.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

When Siblings Are Triggered

What do you do when everyone in the family triggers everyone else? Do we all need intensive therapy or do we just need a break from chaos and trauma? 

Trauma, particularly PTSD from RAD takes the typical sibling rivalry to a whole new level. Throw in mental health issues and FASD and is it any wonder we have evenings where tempers flare, tears are shed, voices are raised and mom just wants to hibernate until spring?

Kiana's PANS is flaring again. I think I am just going to have to accept that PANS is going to make her life and ours as her parents, even harder. Stress creates antibodies which attack her brain causing mental health symptoms. These symptoms scare her as well as make her feel incredibly ornery, which creates stress, which makes more antibodies and round we go. Antibiotics helps lessen the symptoms but we are quickly learning it isn't as "simple" as dumping antibiotics into her. Truthfully, I don't want to have to deal with it, I am still accepting that we have another form of mental illness to work through. I have passed the denial stage and now I just feel angry, why her, why us?

Joseph's teacher is away and due to various things, other teachers are being called in and he is not handling the change very well. I thought he was doing fine until a few days ago his eczema popped up and he now has open, oozing scratches. It is a well known fact that children with FASD do not handle change well but somehow I am still surprised at how strongly he is affected by things that wouldn't even faze a typical child.

These issues make Kiana and Joseph less than pleasant most days. Kiana isn't feeling well so her first reaction is to lash out. Mom and dad can handle it most times, big brother not so much. If you respond in anything but a calm tone of voice, her anger level hits the roof and you have an all out rage on your hands. She also tends to take offense when none was intended and attacks the speaker who meant no harm. As any parent knows, that calls for a fight because, "She hit me when I didn't do/say anything to mean to her!"

When Joseph is under stress he acts even less his age, which annoys his siblings to no end. Dean has tried to explain that Joseph doesn't mean to be irritating. He is not able to process information like you and I which is why he makes faces and says things that don't always sound nice or make sense. What makes it hard though is that there are many times Joseph uses these tactics to annoy his siblings, simply because that is one of the only ways he can get a rise out of them.

A lot of the responses we deal with are directly related to the way we learned to live when B was home. Someone with RAD will use everything they can to keep a wall between himself and the rest of the family. B's favorite tools were irritating others, picking fights and twisting situations to get people in trouble for things they didn't do. As a result, we all became much more in tune to the actions and reactions of the people around us. Our children have this honed to a skill, they can interpret each others actions, before the actor is even aware of why he is doing something. The trouble is, they are sometimes wrong and tempers flare. Other times they are right and the person acting out does not appreciate having a sibling say, "You did that because you were mad about xyz!"

All this chaos reminds mom of days when B was here and we were no longer able to control the chaos. It is scary to know you are no longer in control of a child, it is even worse when he knows it. That sense of helplessness is easily triggered and I have to be careful not to let my fear make the situation worse. 

Maybe we all need spring, or is it snow?