PTSD, RAD and a Service Dog!

    Not a long post tonight, but it’s an announcement near and dear to my heart.

     I got to meet five puppies last weekend. So adorable. Twenty paws scampering about a big yard sniffing everything in sight and wagging their tails at us. The three kids sat on the ground while the puppies came over and greeted them. The joy on their faces…amazing. I couldn’t help but snuggle a few of them. They are all Goldens and all girls. Two were a bit darker golden color and three very blond babies. So much energy in one place was a blast to watch. We were meeting the puppies to see if one of them would be a good match as a service dog for our foster daughter.

    A few weeks ago we met with Kaarla Weston of Gilford’s Golden Guardians https://www.facebook.com/gilfords1golden1guardiansllc1/  to talk about service dogs and how they can help kids with disabilities. We have a friend who got a service dog for her son, Charlie. We have been blessed to see how her son has responded to his dog (Count Dooku aka “Dookie”). Dookie brings a calming presence in the midst of anxiety and meltdowns. He is able to search for Charlie, if needed, too.

    Our foster daughter has built a great relationship with a friend’s dog, Rose. Our friend noticed that Rose responded to our daughter’s emotional state. When she was getting agitated, Rose would sit right next to her and lean on her. She calmed down and began to pet Rose. That is a completely different reaction than what we normally see when a meltdown approaches. The goal is to prevent the meltdowns and the influx of cortisol that causes a big fight or flight reaction. The less cortisol pumping through her, the better.

   We have been researching service dogs and how they are trained for a bit now. Some programs introduce the child to a fully grown dog, but they require that the child and an adult travel to the training program for a two-week intensive stay. Those programs/animals are expensive and require one parent to be away from home (and the other kids) for two weeks. That sort of program doesn’t have the child and the puppy grow together for an extended period of time. It is certainly a quicker, easier way to go, but it seems to me that there may be a possibility that the animal and the child may not be a great match.

     The program we are going to work with trains the puppy from the very beginning (8 weeks old) until the pup is approximately a year old. We will work the pup for at least an hour and a half a day and go to two sessions a month with Kaarla. These sessions will help our daughter and the pup learn how to work with each other. I am envisioning some amount of chaos. It is hard to keep our kiddo corralled in one place and listening for any more than a minute at a time. I suppose we are all going to learn some coping skills!

   At the end of the training year (maybe a bit earlier if we are quick studies), there will be a test for us and the pup to pass so that she is a licensed, card-carrying, service dog. Between now and then we will be logging lots of hours in the community. We already have a little service dog vest for the pup to wear while we are out and about. The ladies in our local bank said the bank definitely constitutes a “community location” and invited us to spend as much time there as possible. We started reading the training book Kaarla gave us. Everyone in the family is going to learn a great deal about puppies and how to behave around them. I think the benefits will be far-reaching.  We are looking forward to this experience and are praying that Logan is blessed beyond measure with her new service dog. I will keep you all posted about this big adventure.

Here is the link for our GoFundMe page:  https://www.gofundme.com/adogforlogan

  

 

Life is Messy!

Life is Messy!

    Well, here is the latest from the land of messy.  I never really understood my parents’ stress level prior to the start of a new school year…until this year. I remember them celebrating at the start of each new year. I have been seeing lots of funny Facebook pics with parents rejoicing on the first day of classes.  I am considering what sort of pictures we might take.

     We have been readying two boys for school for the last several years. We are not exactly new at this. This year we have three kids getting ready for school this Fall, and I have just about lost my mind.  Getting clothes that fit. Finding school supplies. Who knew erasable pens still existed?!  Worrying about what goes in the lunchboxes. Frankly, I don’t want to hear that my kid was shamed for having a piece of chocolate in his lunch box. The kid eats more veggies in a day than most people I know eat in a week.

    I took last week off of work, and now I really need a vacation. I spent a good amount of time going through clothes and shoes. Trying to convince each of my three kids to try on some of the clothes in their dressers. The whining, screaming and complaining that ensued was deafening. You would think that trying on a few pairs of pants and a couple of shirts was a serious problem.  In fact, for sensory kids, clothes really are a huge problem. Two of the kids have sensory processing issues. This certainly means that clothes need to fit “just so.” Socks shouldn’t have seams. No tags allowed. No jeans. Only stretchy waistbands fit the bill. I remember cutting the seams on my socks when I was small. All I did was create holes in my new socks. Sorry, Mom!!

   After the clothes, we tackled shoes.  None of the kids can tie shoelaces yet. I am not a big fan of Velcro, but this is not a battle I am ready to wage just yet.  We discovered that everyone needed new shoes. That was one fun shopping trip. The same constraints apply to shoes – no weird seams, etc. We finally settled on some fun new shoes that didn’t break the bank.

   The whole time I was sorting, making piles, and creating sell and toss baskets, I was dreaming of those Reality TV shows where someone comes and helps people organize their entire house.  While I am dreaming…I would take a stint on one of those wardrobe redo shows, too.  Now, we have piles to donate and sell. I just have to find the energy to figure out how to sell the kids clothing.

   The real messy part of school starting is working through the anxiety for our oldest son who has autism. He really struggles with going to school. Anxiety is tricky. It’s messy. It is paralyzing. I am welling up with tears as I write this. Todd and I held him the other night as he tried to tell us all of things he fears about this upcoming year of school. He was up until almost midnight telling us his fears.  Some of his anxiety relates to social situations, some to actual school work, and phobias. He would rather not go. He would rather not deal with people at all. He is happy at home with his brother. Part of me wants to homeschool, but the other part of me knows that he can gain so much from relationships with peers. This year is hard for him because his best buddy is moving and will attend a different school. He is crushed. Mopping up tears is part of my job.

   Transition times bring about reflection. I think about when the kids were born. I had them in my mid and later thirties.  I am not as thin, smooth skinned and carefree as I was in my twenties. I have some aches and pains that need some TLC.  I am older and somewhat wiser, half way to ninety, after all. I got my wild oat-sowing out of the way.  Life is zooming by at breakneck speed. I lament the messy house, but cherish the memories made in it. I pray that God moves mightily in me and my house to bring peace to the little hearts living here.  Here’s to an interesting start to the school year!

Love. Choosing to Love!

Love

     Love. An elusive subject. Hard to define. Easy to know when you have it. Love has been on my mind a ton this week. I have been feeling a lot of mommy guilt for so easily loving (fiercely loving, completely loving, eternally loving) my two biological sons while struggling to find love for our foster daughter. It is growing, but it is not at the surface, bubbling over the way I love my boys.  

     Our foster daughter, as I have previously mentioned, has Reactive Attachment Disorder.  It feels to me as though her only mission in life is to make absolutely certain that she is as unlovable as humanly possible. This mother-daughter relationship feels as though I am trying to cuddle a porcupine! Ouch!

     When Todd and I decided to be married we sought out some pre-marital counseling. The only thing I remember from those sessions is our friend Dave saying, “choose your love, and love your choice.”  As a couple, we have said these words to each other through some pretty rough patches. We have weathered the storms of two high-risk pregnancies, cancer, financial struggles, surgeries, real life trials at work, starting a business, ADHD, deaths in the family – you know – life events. Raising two boys has given us plenty of fuel for the fires of disagreements about parenting styles, discipline, etc. Through all of these things, we have managed to love each other and our kids.

    Now we have our foster daughter. She is something else entirely different. I decided in my heart to love her from the very first phone call I received about her.  I decided to love her. Actually doing this, well, that is a different story all together. I pray and ask God to give me His eyes for her. I try to catch little glimpses of her little soul. She occasionally calms down (maybe she’s exhausted from all that adorable screaming she does), and I can make a connection with her.

     I am trying to imagine that she has always been my daughter, but I just didn’t get her at birth. The years that have passed between then and now have harmed her. Scared her. Scarred her. The intervening events have made her who she is. She has been shaped and molded into a scrappy little girl who would just as soon cuss you out as hug you, maybe both at the same time!

    My struggle is manifested in not “feeling” the love in the same way I feel it for the boys. I am transitioning to that love, but it is a slow process. I find myself telling myself that I chose her. I love her and will fight for her. No one has ever fought for her. This is all just so hard when she is pushing my every last button at a decibel level that splits my ear drums. She has pushed buttons I didn’t even know I had. As some therapeutic experts would say, she is forcing me to “deal with my own stuff.” Yep. I know. I just figured I didn’t need to deal with every last thing in order to parent a six-year-old. It isn’t rocket science after all. Or is it?

    Perhaps love is a pretty weighty subject. At the birth of my boys I had the benefit of nine months of bonding with them in-utero and oxytocin once they were born and nursing. That help from mother nature, God made, sure made loving them easy. I don’t for a minute think, when they are really misbehaving, that I don’t have to be their mother. I say this meekly, but I do have those fleeting thoughts when she is destroying her room, trying to break the windows, or spitting in my face. I keep saying to myself, “choose your love, and love your choice.” I keep reminding myself that I can do this and to hang in there. Those words, though, sound really empty in my head.

    I am longing to feel joy when I look at our daughter. It is slowly growing in me. On occasion, I find myself noting that I am proud of her for something. Today, she actually took herself to her room for a calm down session. That is wonderful!  

    This week I met her birth mom. I wasn’t sure what to expect. I can’t tell you much about that meeting for confidentiality reasons. However, I can say that I left that encounter feeling such empathy and sorrow for her. Life is hard for her, too. I will continue to pray for her. The meeting helped me, more than anything has to date, to understand our daughter. She is unique. She has reacted to her circumstances. Sure, there is some biology there, but boy has her life been a roller coaster up to this point.

     I am doing what my momma’s heart tells me best to do – love all my kids. I will find moments of joy. Pray without ceasing. Count to ten when I need to (maybe one-hundred). Breathe deeply. Love fully. I know that love will grow in time. For now, we will laugh when things are funny and keep calm on the blustery days. Have a wonderful week everyone!