Healing from Trauma -a Christian Perspective.

I have been thinking a lot lately about trauma informed care and education from a Christian perspective. The secular world discusses trauma with a bent towards the person who experienced trauma as being a victim. The Christian perspective says the person who experienced trauma is a survivor. The survivor  is victorious because Romans 8:28 says, “we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” God is in control. He is sovereign.

These thoughts, of course, come from dealing with our little lady and the secular educational and therapeutic systems in which we are engaged. I live differently than those systems prescribe. I have faith in Jesus. That means I know where my help comes from; it comes from the Lord.

The secular educational and therapeutic systems have some good to offer, certainly. However, their foundations rely on “self” and teaching the child to conform (or give-in) to worldly systems.  At the moment, I am not feeling like the secular systems are respectful of our Christian perspectives on parenting, discipline, and family. We believe that respect is important. We believe in consequences for actions. We believe that it is best to hold tight to boundaries and not give in when a little lady is pushing with all her might. We believe that consistency is important.

We believe it is ok to tell a kid to “knock it off” when they are out of line. In fact, it is kind to do that. It is ok to take a time-out and get ourselves under control. It is just fine to tell a kid that they may not call and adult a nasty name, kick her, or threaten her. If our little darling does do this, she will have a consequence. We have a corner with her name on it.

The secular world says that this outburst is the trauma talking, so we must walk on eggshells around our kiddo. Let her get it out. Let her try to get herself under control.  I say, “YES, it is the trauma talking,” but we must respond to her in a different way. It is OK to say, “Child, you are victorious over all that has happened in your life. You are a survivor. God has a plan and a purpose for you. He is in control, so you don’t have to be.” It is good to acknowledge that what happened was horrible. It is better to follow that up with a charge for her to pick up her mat and follow Jesus.  Her healing comes from Him. Her peace comes from Him. Prayer is a good course of action, too.

The secular system encourages reward charts and prizes. Our kid eats the reward charts. Seriously. We want her to learn to be motivated intrinsically. It is really a heart issue. What does she desire, and why? For a kid with Reactive Attachment Disorder, they desire chaos. They desire to be in control. To spin the world out of control because that feels best to them. This begs the question – how can we encourage her to develop a heart that is chasing after Jesus instead of chaos; a heart that wants to love, and not wound; a heart that wants to listen instead of furiously scream at anyone in range?

I can tell you it isn’t created with external reward. It isn’t created by yelling. It isn’t created by mere consequences. It is grown from a tiny seed through encouragement, love, ridiculous consistency, and adults modeling a walk of faith. We must also hold a hard and fast line on what is right and wrong. She will not learn that without a ton of guidance.  All of this is impossible on my own. I must rely on faith to walk this walk with her. It is just too big and too difficult without God.

Peace and love to you all!

~Deb~

Happy First Birthday, Half Way to Ninety!

What a long, strange trip it’s been! I started this blog last June as a birthday present to myself. I wanted an outlet to express myself and encourage others on their life journey. I hope I can bring some humor to this walk, as well.

Each year on my birthday I spend time reflecting on the last year and setting some goals for the next year. This last year has been EPIC! Todd and I adopted a little girl. I have spent a fair amount of page space describing her antics. I moved my office to the house and went back to solo law practice. Yay for being a #BossBabe. I colored my hair purple for bit. Pretty eventful.

I gained some weight. I haven’t been able to walk very far due to painful plantar fasciitis. I just finished 5 weeks of EPAT treatments. Those treatments are not for the faint of heart! The doc says I will feel better about three months after the last treatment. That was last week, so here’s hoping that they work. I am ready to walk again. You know… they make you pay up front for the treatments. If I didn’t, there is no way I would have come back after the first one! Crafty on their part!  I just wanted to ask the lady doing the treatment what made her such a sadistic B**!@*? But… I held my tongue – very hard for me to do!!

Todd and I have had to hold a hard line and advocate loudly to get our daughter the help she needs. We have room for improvement, but we are learning as we go. I did an interview on NHPR  http://nhpr.org/post/nh-foster-care-system-faces-surge-children-needing-homes-and-dearth-foster-families about the need for foster parents in NH and some of the struggles we faced working with the State in our daughter’s case.

What are the goals for the next year? I want to draft legislation that mandates better, more open and honest, communication between DCYF and foster families. This is in response to the very little, and often incorrect, information we got about our little girl. The party line is often, “That is confidential, so we can’t tell you.” My response to that is… ENOUGH!  Foster families can’t help the kids in their care if they don’t know what has happened to that child. In our case, our daughter never stops talking, so we had a pretty good clue about some things right off the bat. However, because of her trauma history, she had a tough time verbalizing some of what happened. The poor kid has PTSD. Isn’t it important to know what caused it so that we don’t accidentally trigger her? This isn’t rocket science. Our story is long and difficult, hers –  exponentially more so.

I am looking forward to taking my business to new heights with my great office team. Ellie and Mel keep me going. Todd is ever so handy around here, too. I want to help more families get their estate plans in order. I want to help more small businesses get up and running effectively.  That work is incredibly satisfying. Stay tuned for more details!

Todd and I are hoping that our girl further integrates into the family. This is a tall order for a kid with Reactive Attachment Disorder.  That said, at this very moment, she and Sam are outside playing together. This may last for 5 minutes, but I’ll take it. I am so proud of the boys. They keep trying to engage her and have her join in their fun. They are persistent in their efforts to include her. To me, that shows good character. Todd and I know that this experience has been hard on the boys. We take special care to give them plenty of time with us, therapy, friends and plenty of fun where she can’t interrupt. They make their momma proud.

I also want to take this blog to the next level. More communication. More resources for you. More encouragement. Hopefully more humor. Here is to a great next year. Love to all!   Deb

 

Happy Mother’s Day!

Happy Mother’s Day!

Here is a big shout out to all the moms out there. This day can be bittersweet for so many moms. The motherhood journey is one filled with ups and downs, grief and loss, pain, sickness, exhaustion, joy, and so much love. Simply uttering “Happy Mother’s Day” seems so inadequate. I want to truly honor all of you moms out there. You are amazing. You have reached the epic level in the fight to persevere through struggles. I am cheering for all of you.

I know many in my circle of friends who have experienced loss. To you, I can only say that I am praying for you and admire your determination to keep on keeping on. I wish you all the love on this day.

I also know many moms who are working their way through the emotions, struggles and victory of parenting special needs and foster or adopted children. To you (and me), I say remember to breathe – big, slow, deep breaths. Find joy in the micromoments. Celebrate the little victories. Sometimes they are hard to see in the midst of meltdowns and the other things that get in the way of clear sight.

We experienced a few of these little victories this week.  The kids had a normal sibling rivalry moment fussing over what TV show they were going to watch. It was annoying, but it certainly was more a more “normal” fight than what we usually experience. There are little wins here and there. Little Miss only resisted her work a little bit at school, but she was able to pull herself together and go on to do some academics. This is huge. Her last 3 years of school have been spent telling the teachers to “pound sand” when they ask her to do academic work. We aren’t talking pre-calculus! Just ABC’s and 123’s. She used some more colorful language to express herself in the past. Now, she hardly swears. This is a victory, too.

I have been reading a good book lately, and I wanted to pass along the title and link to it (not a paid advertisement). I am finding it helpful in my quest to be the best parent I can be. https://read.amazon.com/kp/embed?asin=B004J4X32U&preview=newtab&linkCode=kpe&ref_=cm_sw_r_kb_dp_LI7fzbPG10KX9

The book is called the Whole-Brain Child by Daniel J. Siegel  (Author), Tina Payne Bryson. The first part of the book gives a basic tour of the brain and how it works. I found it very helpful. The second part of the book is focused on strategies to help kids get calm and manage big emotions. The book is not written with Reactive Attachment Disorder or special needs parenting in mind, but it certainly has given me some tools to use with my kids. The book discusses integration – having both hemispheres of the brain working together. When we have both the emotional and logical parts of our brain functioning together, we see a more rational, thoughtful response to situations that could produce big emotions like when the two sides aren’t working together. I like the strategies in the book and am starting to use them with my oldest son. I am still trying to figure out how to use them with the Little Lady. I will keep you posted on my progress.

In closing, I hope that today you experience a moment or two of peace and calm. Know that you are loved and cared for. Know that you are special and valued by your Creator. He loves you and knows just where you are at this very moment. I thank God for you. I thank God for my family and friends, too. I pray that you experience joy today.

Until next time – Deb

 

Autism Stinks!

Autism Speaks…No, It Stinks!

  Well, I openly and freely admit that I am jealous of parents with neurotypical kids. There, I said it. This special needs parenting gig is not for the faint of heart. We are heading into new territory as my oldest is getting older (10 this week!). I can no longer protect him from some struggles. I want to give him some more freedom, but with that, comes the opportunity to get hurt.

   We recently returned from one of our favorite spots- Great Wolf Lodge.  We stayed for two nights. It was far pricier than I remembered. I broke down and let the kids play in the arcade which increases the spending about 10-fold. Anyway, we were there to celebrate two birthdays.  My oldest son is turning 10, and the little girl just turned 7. Both of them have some significant special needs. He has autism, and she has multiple disabilities. You can see my previous blog posts about her needs.  

   My youngest son, who is only 6, was the salesman that convinced us that a quick getaway to GWL was a great way to celebrate birthdays. He is sweet. He came in to the office and said that I had been working way too hard (true story) and needed to take time off. He reminded me that he and his siblings are more important than work -also true! He then said that a trip to Great Wolf Lodge would be the perfect way to celebrate birthdays. I agreed and made the reservations. We have been there before and know that it can be loud and crowded. We opted for a midweek visit to avoid the crowds as best we could.

  A night or two before we left I had delusions of grandeur. Kids playing happily in the pools, frolicking about in the wave pool. I dreamt that they all chose to be in the same area of the park so that we were able to stay together as a family. I imagined they would all be brave enough to try the climbing wall and would love it. I hoped for a ride on the lazy river where I really could be lazy. I imagined a seamless bedtime experience and everyone waking up without a hitch. My batting average for that picture of things was…well…zero.

  When we arrived, we had the usual 1,000 questions from the little girl. She has been to GWL once before, so this is not all new to her. She was ready to get to the water before we were checked in.  She is our fish. Too much of a fish. More on that later. I noticed families with multiple kids who were paying attention and standing close to their parents. Not my kids. Todd was parking the car, and I was plotting how to chase our girl while keeping an eye on our pile of luggage and my purse. I opted for the wrist hold. She hates it. I must keep ahold of her somehow. Her hands are always so sweaty that it is impossible to hang on to them if she decides something else is more exciting than mom. She is doing much better with the bolting, but when things are so exciting it is hard for her to stay in one place.

  Our first day in the water park was ok. We had to divide and conquer. One of us had to stay with the girly while the other went with the boys. She is unhappy doing anything for more than two minutes at one time. We both tried to get her to stay in one part of the park for more than a couple of minutes to ward off exhaustion from chasing her around. She had a rough time walking, not running. That resulted in a fair number of minutes in time-out.  We endured quite a few embarrassing moments because she has absolutely no spatial awareness. She plowed through people knocking anyone in her way aside. She threw herself into the water, face first, splashing everyone within 5 feet of her. I liked having her in the little kid areas because I could stand or sit in one spot and watch her play for a couple of minutes at a time. The problem is that she rushes off to go down a slide or play in a splash zone without any concern for who she runs into on the way there.

    I was sitting about 5 feet from one mom who was just hanging out watching her kids play. She was relatively dry and seemed pretty happy that way! Until…my girl rushes over to me with her goggles half-full of water, eyes blinking rapidly, arms flailing. She is yelling that she is going down the slide one more time. I tell her that is just fine and to please – really please –  just go slowly. She turns from me and slams herself face first into the water. She soaks the lady sitting nearby who immediately yells at me. I try to explain that my girl has multiple disabilities and just isn’t aware of her surroundings. That explanation fell on deaf ears. She was certain my child was just a poorly behaved monster kid. On occasion, I almost agree.

    I observed the other kids splashing indiscriminately and realized that they were two years old and younger. Jealousy bubbled up in my heart. I saw the other parents relaxing while their kids are playing. They had their feet up, drink in one hand. They smiled at the kids and chatted freely with friends. I was running around like a chicken with my head cut-off and apologizing as I went.  I desperately wanted to put my feet up (my feet are still healing from plantar fasciitis that cropped up when the little lady first moved in with us). I feel like I am always trying to anticipate the next struggle, the next interaction, the next move she is about to make.

    The second day in the park broke my heart. We were all in the lazy river. I had just hopped on a tube and started to feel myself relax. Todd was on the other side of the river, trying to catch-up with the boys. The girl was with me. The boys were ahead of me by about 30 feet. I was passed by a lady and her son who shoved by us and didn’t even say, “excuse me.” I thought she was rude and the kid was obnoxious. It was a snap judgment. I was watching the boys ahead of me. They were talking and smiling. Then, the obnoxious kid got right up to them and started pushing them. My oldest did not know what to do. The mean boy started splashing him in the face while his mom just watched. I got off the tube and started running through the water dragging my daughter along as fast as I could. I could see it all in slow motion, escalating. I felt helpless. I wanted to get in between that boy and my son. I just wanted to protect him. I wasn’t fast enough. I could see things getting ugly. I yelled at the boy. I yelled at the lifeguard. I saw my son trying to push the boy away. The boy was trying to hit him. My big boy punched him in the gut and tried to get away. I finally got to him. I yelled at the mom to get her kid away from mine. My boy’s face was contorted with fear and anger. He was scared and looking for Todd and me.

     My big boy was in full melt down mode. We were standing in the water and all I could do was hold him. He was crying. He was shaking with anger. He wanted to kick that boy’s butt. I didn’t blame him one bit, but that certainly wasn’t a good solution. The lifeguard was apologizing for not intervening fast enough. They had us go to a spot on the side of the park and talk to the manager. He apologized and gave us a coupon for some ice cream. My son, so wise, said that ice cream did not help him feel less angry. The management was not at fault. The boy who was bullying my son was at fault. His mom’s lack of supervision, or whatever, was part of the problem.

   This is where I say Autism stinks. A neurotypical child may have just blown this off, said that the other boy was just a jerk, and continued with their day. Not my little guy. This incident became all-consuming. We stood at the side of the park for a long time. People staring. He cried. He raged. He shook with anger. He could not process why someone would treat him that way. He has such an innocence about him.  In his concrete world, people are supposed to be good to each other and follow the rules. This act of bullying just did not compute. There was no reason for it to have happened. My boy could not understand that someone could be unkind for no apparent reason.  He just couldn’t let it go. He immediately wanted to leave the water park and hunker down in our room. I gently guided him to the snack bar. I spoke in a whisper letting him know that he was safe and loved. We got something to drink and warmed up in a towel for a few minutes. He eventually regained a bit of calm. We resumed our day, but that incident continued to haunt him. He was upset and continued to talk about the boy. I tried to redirect his thoughts to fun things. I tried to get him to think happy thoughts. We just marched through the day the best we could. He was better when we got out of the water.

   I continued to observe parents with their children. I saw several other children with autism. I can easily spot a spectrum kid -the vocalizations, the obsessions, the meltdowns, the stimming, the I-pad. I see myself in their parents’ faces. The love for the child is first, the stress is evident in each line on their faces. I can see the look. The  “please don’t meltdown so hard you hurt yourself” look is painfully familiar. I also recognized the “please don’t think my kid is an undisciplined, out of control jerk” face. I have had that expression so many times I can’t even put a number on it. I don’t want people to think negatively of my children because their disability makes it hard for them to function in everyday life – or a waterpark.

   I want people to see how beautiful and valuable my kids are despite their differences. I want the world to be kind to my kids, to care for them and not hurt them. I want my kids to experience happiness, peace and love. I want them to feel calm in their own skin.

   I want to let go of the jealousy that I have in my heart. I long for parenting to be easy, but it isn’t for any parent, even parents of kids without disabilities. It is my heart issue that needs fixing. I so desperately want my kids to be ok. I want to have some assurance that after I am dead and gone, they will be ok. That is every parent’s dream, isn’t it?

   So, the lesson here? Live every moment as best we can. Enjoy the time that we have. Love fully. Prepare the kids as best we can. Plan to the best of our ability. Have faith in God- knowing that His ways are best.

   In honor of Autism Awareness Day, I just want to say that my spectrum kids are amazing. They have such an amazing capacity to love. Their perspective on life is unusual. It is not the “norm.” They expect people to be at their best. I love that. My hope is that they continue to grow, love and experience the best that life has to offer.

   Have a good night everyone!

 

   

   

 

   

Change is good!

I haven’t always embrace the idea that change is good. However, now that I have experienced change in almost every area of my life in the last few months, I can see the silver lining. Spring is approaching and, with that, a feeling that all things are being made new.

At the end of December 2016, my law partner and I decided to dissolve our business. So, full steam ahead, I decided to open my solo practice once again. This time I decided that I should practice out of a home office to be closer to the kids and save on overhead. All that sounded great until the constructions of the space started.  Plaster and drywall dust are now my mortal enemies!  We (the royal we – which means just Todd) tore out a stair case, moved a wall, removed lots and lots of plaster, drywalled, and the list goes on. We are making an office space that is separate from the living quarters with insulated walls so that it is not quite as easy to hear the kids during work hours.

This office change involved a ton of moving. Moving files, moving furniture, moving technology. Moving forced me to take a critical look at what I have and why I have it. I had to dust off old files and office gear to evaluate whether I still needed the items. So, I have a little less junk now and accomplished a good bit of dusting. My office team and I reevaluated the systems we use, accounting software, practice management software, phone systems, networking for the office and more. I can sum this up with one word – purposeful. We are taking deliberate steps to have a great office that works well for us and our clients.

Change is alive and well for the family, too. As you may know, we adopted Logan in December. She started school in January and is enjoying it, but it is still a change.  We have a different schedule for her than she had before. She is working with a new staff member and new teacher. Change is hard for her, but she is handling it pretty well.

Construction in the house has changed our family life, too. We are getting used to doing without our front living room and spare bedroom (now my office). The boys were a little upset that their living room disappeared. It was their sanctuary to get away from their sister. So, we have new routines around that, too.

Change helps us shake the dust off. We get out of stuck routines and take a closer look at what we do and how we do it. We have changed routines around lunchtime, dinner time, and chores. I have a clear business plan and renewed motivation to get things done and done well. Passion is returning to my law practice. I love what I do. I love being an integral part of the solution for my clients, whatever that solution may be.

Change is good. It gives us a chance to reflect on our mission and vision. It gives us a chance to be purposeful in our response. I could have looked at my partnership dissolution as a hardship, but instead it is a great opportunity to take my business and personal life to new heights. I look forward to sharing more with you soon!

Have a great week!

Deb

Merry Christmas!

    I just wanted to get a quick post up to wish all of you a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.  We are now a family of five. Adoption Day was a success – in spite of a huge number of glitches behind the scenes (fuel for another blog post later on). We have arrived on the doorstep of Christmas in one piece, in a bit of chaos, but we are here.

   The Christmas Season with little ones is a strange mix of joy, anticipation and  zany behavior. The kids are all looking forward to Santa’s treasures. I am looking forward to giving them the gifts. However, Reactive Attachment Disorder creeps in and makes vain attempts to sabotage at every corner. Our little girl is stuck between worlds. She is now in her forever home, but the images and past nightmares from prior places are haunting her. She knows she is here forever in her head, but that is a hard concept for such a small person. So, her learned behaviors kick in. Fortunately, we are learning to read her facial expressions and body language which allows us to intervene before she really goes off the deep end.

   I know many of you are dealing with some other tough issues here at Christmas time. I know several readers are experiencing profound sadness because this is your first Christmas without a loved one here. I am wrestling with that extraordinary grief while trying to hold it together to give my family a nice Christmas. It is a bit surreal. I have a heavy heart and miss my Dad like crazy. It was a jolt to mail out Christmas presents to grandparents yesterday and not have one for him going out, too. I just want to pick up the phone and tell him about current events. I go to dial and realize I can’t.  The little things get me in the gut. I know you know what I mean.

   I don’t want to lose sight of the real reason we are celebrating, gathering together and giving gifts. In our home, we celebrate Jesus’ birthday. God’s precious Son is the most amazing gift we could ever receive. I can imagine Mary and Joseph looking at their newborn baby, bursting with joy and wonder, but, at the same time, having some understanding that this birth was a cataclysmic event. Jesus’ birth was such a miracle. He was born to bring peace to our souls and to the Earth. He is truly the great Comforter, Mighty God, Prince of Peace.  Good to keep in mind as we bustle through Target trying to find just the right wrapping paper. I need the reminder that the event of Christmas in our house is just small potatoes. We have much to be grateful for this season.

  I hope that you have a wonderful Christmas full of love, hugs and joy. Take time to honor the other emotions of the day, too. You are all in my thoughts and prayers as we journey together into the new year.

Thoughts on thankfulness, life goals and a random rant!

     Airports. A hub of humanity where no one wants to look you in the eye. Great people watching, you have to admit. Last weekend, I traveled to Houston for my niece’s 16th birthday masquerade ball. What a fabulous trip. I got to hug my family – my mom, sister, brother, sister-in-law, nieces, aunts, uncle, and cousins. A 72 hour trip consisting of 22 hours of travel, 15 hours of sleep and lots of talking. I am still recovering.

     My favorite people in airports are kids. Many of you are thinking, “those are the noise makers on every flight.” Correct, but they are also the cutest, happiest people in the airport. All of the little ones I smiled at in the airports smiled back at me. They light-up and are eager to interact. The adults, well…not so much. I did have a cordial interaction with an elderly woman in a wheelchair at the gate in Baltimore. She was across the aisle in the gate area and made eye contact with me. I smiled and said, “Hello.” I always say that much. The only other interaction was with a nine-month-old little girl who tried to grab my neck pillow on the jetway. I turned and smiled. She thought that was hilarious. Her parents apologized that she grabbed my pillow. I told them there was nothing to worry about. I expressed my appreciation for the little lady’s sweet smile. They were nervous she wouldn’t sleep on the flight. I assured them that we would get to Houston – whether she sleeps or not. She is likely to give up and rest eventually. The baby did not look like that was possible at 8:00 p.m.. Happy to report, no screaming babies. The little one fell asleep quickly. I was grateful!

    Why am I boring you with all of this? Good question. I want to remind us that life continues on. We survived the election results. No matter who you voted for, you are still an American. You are still sharing the planet with me, so let’s just be thankful for one another. There is no need for division amongst us.  Politics divides us. Mission unites us. We must ask ourselves what we want for our families, our community, our nation and our world. Let’s prioritize.

   I bet we can all agree that we want to feel safe. My main goal as a mom is to keep my kids safe. I want them fed, happy, healthy and engaged in life. I bet you do, too. Safety first, right?! We can differ on how to keep ourselves and our country safe, but we all can agree that achieving safety through peaceful measures is better than hostile measures. Our government’s role here is important. We may not agree on immigration policies, border policies or how to deal with terror, but we all can agree we want to feel safe.

      Ok, next goal? How about eating. I like to eat – maybe too much. I want all of us to have access to healthy, clean food. Since this is Thanksgiving week, I want to ensure that I have food in the house and my neighbor does, too. This is where we can reach out and bring a meal to those less fortunate, to a neighbor, a college student who stayed in town for Thanksgiving, etc.

    Next? How about water? I want to have safe water. Check! How do we achieve these goals? We need to take a good hard look at the impacts of chemicals in our food and water. We need to clean up our food and water supplies. The more organic we eat, the better. Some of my scientist friends are disagreeing right now. Check back with me in 15 years and let’s talk then about the negative effects of the chemicals we are ingesting and breathing.

     There is no dispute that chemicals in our water supply make us sick. We have all seen Erin Brockovich, right?  Look, this isn’t rocket science. Our bodies work hard to shed the chemicals we ingest or absorb. There is no reason that we should make our bodies work harder than necessary. Systems fail and we get sick. We have to be willing to call out the government’s own watchdogs and let the world know they aren’t doing their jobs. We can’t stand idly by and watch our natural resources be demolished by folks watching their bottom line more than the family downstream. Look, the government is imperfect and not doing the job well. Let’s not be afraid to say that.  

    I have probably surprised a fair few of my inner circle by this point. I am unabashedly conservative. Many folks who are not on the conservative side of the political aisle may think that I wouldn’t have any concern for the environment, peaceful worldwide interactions, etc. They’d be wrong.      

    Next goal for me – Live by faith. This is an area ripe with areas of disagreement. That is ok. I believe the way I do. You believe the way you do. Ok. You won’t find me rioting in the streets about it. I don’t hate anyone because of what God (or lack thereof) they choose worship. I believe that Jesus is the Way. I believe He came to Earth, died on the cross and rose again. I believe he is my Savior.  Faith is a deeply personal choice. Let’s respect each other. No hating. No fearmongering. No shoving your beliefs down my throat, and none of that from me to you, either. It is ok to believe differently.

     The real key here is thankfulness. Let’s take time this week to be grateful for what we have. We have life for today. We have hope for a future. We have friends. I am thankful for my husband, my kids, my family, my home, food, water, my community, and my opportunities to help others.  I am thankful that I have the opportunity to be the hands and feet of Jesus to those around me.

    My prayer for all of us is that we embrace gratitude and focus on how we can be positive change in the world. Happy Thanksgiving.

 

 

    

Fall, Dog Training, Thanksgiving and Adoption Day!

     The transition from warm early Fall days to the frosty days in early November is a bit stressful. You know the routine. I am racing all over the house in the morning while the kids are getting ready for school searching for the one child’s lost mitten, Levi’s lost hat and anything warm that fits our girl. Good grief. I keep thinking about another cup of coffee and the luxury of sitting down for three minutes before I race out the door with our oldest child. No luck. No sitting down this time.

    I know the snow is coming and the snow boot and pants search party better get ready. I guess that is me. I always put the snow gear in a really convenient spot in May. Trouble is…I never remember where that spot is or if the gear will fit the biggest kid this winter. On top of this quest, I am not sure where any of my good gloves are hidden.

   Logan and I had a dog training session for her service pup yesterday. It was about 34 degrees up in Gilford. I have cotton gloves on (yes, I know…all my Explorer Post friends are cringing at the word cotton). There were totally ineffective and did nothing to keep my wet hands warm in any way. We are doing some long lead training with Gidget. This involves a super long leash that we let trail on the ground. Gidget is on one end and I am on the other. She is learning to pay attention to her handler.  This means that the leash spends a good amount of time on the cold, wet ground. I spend a lot of time running the length of the leash through my hands to control the pup. Result- cold, wet hands.

   The other result we are aiming for is a great resource for Logan. We are working with Gidget on heeling, locating Logan, staying, emergency stops, and more. I am learning that everything I do has a meaning to the puppy. She is very observant, so I have to watch what foot I start walking with, where my hands and eyes are, and keep my words limited.  Funny, the same works for all our children, too. Our words mean something Our actions mean more. Keeping my eye on them, priceless.

     So many people are asking why in the world we need a service when it is so clear that our little lady can run and jump and play. Sure, she knows how to run, but she doesn’t know when to stop. She can jump, we just have to be sure it is onto solid ground and not another child on the playground. She plays, but not really with other kids. She is loud and very demanding, not exactly welcoming to other kids on a playground. In comes Gidget! She is a great source of comfort. She is the perfect discussion starter on the playground. Gidget gives Logan a topic that is easy to discuss – having cute, fuzzy puppy. During our training session, our trainer noticed that Logan and Gidget are bonding nicely. Logan got a little cut on her finger and immediately turned to Gidget for comfort. She snuggled right into Gidget and told her all about her booboo. That interaction demonstrates how amazing this pup is for Logan.

    The boys are reminding me, even now, that they still need all the same guidance and care. We get so hyper focused on Logan. The boys see it, and they act out. There is a balance here that is elusive. I am sure families with more than one child experience this, too. In some ways, having two six-year-olds in the house should be nice because, theoretically, they could play together. In reality, we have a 9-year-old, 6-year-old and a two-year-old.  Kids just naturally have different needs based on their developmental ages/stages. Kids in foster care are much more likely to present developmentally younger than their chronological age. Our little lady is functioning somewhere between 18 and 24 months with the vocabulary of a truck driver.

   We have started to have Santa discussions in the house. I guess that comes with the colder weather – and stores being ridiculously early with their Christmas décor. The boys have a list already formulated on my Amazon wish list.  Logan has even greater expectations. I think that she has skewed expectations around gifting from her past foster home experiences. She comes from such a tough place that other homes, social workers, school personnel, and even the bus drivers give her little gifts. She is not shy about telling us that she needs this or that right now! She says (yells at the top of her lungs), “I am being good so you have to give me what I want.” No. Just no. I think I have Oppositional Defiant Disorder, too. As soon as I am told I must do something, my reaction is, “Oh, heck no I don’t!” I may use stronger language than that!!

   Back to the Santa talk..the little lady tells us that she is getting an IPad, a Kindle, a play kitchen, lots of apps and shows for the Kindle and IPad, new clothes, 2 dolls, and more. I am just hoping she bought a winning lottery ticket to fund all this stuff!  This will be our first Christmas with her. This is our first opportunity to share with her the true meaning of Christmas. Hopefully, we will make some inroads into her heart and mind about gifts and Christmas time.

   We are, first, looking forward to Thanksgiving. Having friends over, eating a nice meal, and being thankful for the blessings and challenges this last year has brought to us. Soon after Thanksgiving is Adoption Day. We are scheduled for December 1st.  We have been preparing for that day. Talking about what in the world having a family means to us, to her, to the boys. We are counting down the days. Logan and I went dress shopping for her. We picked out a pretty dress for the occasion for her. I am another story altogether. Sam informed me that he needs a tux. He has decided that this is the dressiest occasion ever. So, he is preparing the best he can. Such a cutie pie. Levi has not made any declaration regarding his outfit. I figure if he wears anything other than sports pants, we will be doing great.

     Clothes are the least of my worries for Adoption Day. I worry that the social workers won’t get their paperwork done in time. I worry that the Judge will be delayed for some reason. I worry that the kids all lose their cool in the courthouse lobby and we can’t regain control. This may be close to reality. We are bringing Gidget for support.

   Here’s to a busy month with lots of preparations being made for the adoption. It is a bit like being 8 months pregnant and knowing you have a ton to do, and, at the same time, having zero energy!

   Happy November, everybody!

 

 

Bedtime!

     The bedtime routine makes me want to stress eat! Seriously! Ok…I know a routine can’t make me do anything, but you get the point. This is a stressful time of the day. Our little lady starts the bedtime routine at 7:40 p.m. This is the witching hour for everyone. Our oldest realizes at 8:00 p.m. that he has homework to do. The youngest is asking me to search for Minecraft Mod in the App store. The dogs need to go out, and I still haven’t gotten all the dinner dishes picked up. Good Grief!

    Bedtime must have historically been a really traumatic time of day for our little lady. This is the time of day I get the weird smiles mixed with the oppositional behavior. If I say sit down, she stands up. If I say don’t make that noise again, I get it full bore for five minutes straight. If I ask her to please chew with her mouth shut, I see every particle of food in her mouth.

    Meds are given. I wonder if they are effective at all?!  Brushing teeth is the next hurdle. I try to be patient whilst the girly is brushing the same three teeth the whole time. I demonstrate the right technique. I attempt to stay calm while she tells me she “already did that!” Rinse and spit. That should be next. The problem is aim – or lack of it! The toothpaste mess is now dribbled down her front, the cabinet, the floor and on the mirror.  Clean up on aisle three! One last potty break. I figure I have at least 30 seconds to put the towels by the washer. I don’t. Half a roll of toilet paper is on the floor, and she is grinning at me, “See, I got my own paper.” “Ok,” I say, “just wipe and flush.” That is not hard. Not complicated, but it is. The paper is on the floor. The flush is only half done, and the lid is slammed down hard. The streak is off. She is headed into open territory without a stitch of clothes. I sprint out the door with a fresh towel, not thinking to grab the one by the washer. Toss it on her and scoop her up. The rest of the family never knew how close they were to getting a show they didn’t want. Oh my head.

     Now, on to the jammies. This is our biggest challenge.  Just getting a leg in the jammies is, well, almost impossible. She is dancing around, leaping onto the bed, jumping on the bed, diving under the covers and generally avoiding the jammies. They are comfy. Cute. Who doesn’t like fleece rainbow colored jammies? I want some.  They didn’t have them in my size!  Once I have finally wrangled the bunking bronco into the jams, I am tired. She is showing no signs of slowing down.

     I pick up the room enough to avoid catastrophe if we have to navigate to the light switch in the dark.  Every small plastic toy in the place is scattered on the floor. All headbands are tossed around the room. Every Barbie shoe is separated from its match and is hiding on the rug – waiting for the next barefooted adult to step on it. They are almost as bad as Legos. I have to hang back up every sweatshirt, every dress, every stitch of clothes out of her closet. Her shoes have been hidden in her shelves. I am quickly trying to spot the ones I want her to wear tomorrow. I can find one of everything. I have to remove the stuffies hiding the shoes and finally find at least one pair for tomorrow.   Music is on repeat -classical lullabies. My secret hope that music will soothe her soul. Fan is on for white noise. I convince her it is too late for a story (too late for me, I am done). She agrees and finally says she is sleepy. Goodnight dear child. Door is shut. I am ready to collapse.

   Random interruption –  That Minecraft mod is about to bite me back, too. Sam just showed me that each piece of furniture in the mod costs $2.00. I pointed out that it may not work with Pocket Edition. I hate it when I am right. Now, he is out (I am out) a few dollars, and he has no couch. I have a love/hate relationship with this game.  I love that it is a blank slate to build anything they want, but it creates a ton of frustration when they build together. Little brother can’t navigate as fast as Big Brother. I try to play, but I get motion sick in the first 30 seconds!

    Back to our crazy Reactive Attachment Disorder life- we are talking about adoption a lot lately. Logan keeps telling us that things are going to change. I ask for details. She says that she will start behaving and not being sassy. She said she will do everything right when we adopt her.  We see an uptick in her behaviors. She is really testing us. We are on the brink of stability, and she is trying all her best tricks to sabotage the happy event. We know it. We are not falling for it. I think that is actually worrying her. She has no idea what to do with people who will simply commit to her, no matter what.

     Stability is a given for most of us. For Logan, stability is elusive.  Biological and foster families have come and gone. Sadly, she is sure it is her behavior that has caused people to leave her.  It is tough to handle, but she is still just a little tiny person who is desperately in need of love and stability.

    I will admit that the first few months of our journey with her, the thought crossed my mind – that her behavior was just too much to handle. So many folks asked why we were doing this. “Why do you keep going? It is too hard. You didn’t ask for this, just walk away.”  We surely thought these things, too. However, it almost makes the situation harder to keep thinking that there is an easy way out. Just quit!

    Problem is…I have never been a quitter. I am too stubborn to give up. God knew that this was the right family for this kid. She has finally landed in a place where people just won’t walk away.  Just before she was placed with us, we had heard about her. Our agency said a little girl needed a home. We prayed. We wrestled with this. We knew that this little girl didn’t just need a place to stay for a bit. She was destined to be grafted into our family forever. 

    If we hadn’t heard from God that this was meant to be, we could never have survived the initial shock of her behavior. We have had kids with Reactive Attachment Disorder in our home in the past, but we weren’t really prepared for the challenges we experienced over the last several months.

     I am glad we have had support from our network of friends, family, and community. We are truly blessed to have simply survived this far. It is dawning on me that this walk is closer to a marathon than a hundred-yard dash. We are learning skills. Coping the best we can. Todd and I use humor – a ton of it. Some of it wacky at this point. I am baking more. Shows in my waistline! I did mention stress eating, right?!

    I hope you come back to keep up with this crazy journey! I am hoping to write more about other topics soon, too. For now, RAD is so consuming that it is the focus of the blog for the moment.

   Have a great night!

Faith, Puppy and a Big Decision!

     Things here in Half Way to Ninety Land have been busy! We are in the midst of raising money for our foster daughter’s service dog. We have the puppy, a beautiful Golden Retriever. Logan decided to name her Gidget. The name fits. Spunky, curious and smart as can be.  Our mission now is to continue to raise enough to cover the training.

    Gidget, Logan and I are just beginning the long process of training for Gidget to become a licensed service dog. We had our first session today. I am learning how to work with the puppy and Logan. Today we started to learn to spin in a circle, crawl through a tunnel, do diagonals, and worked on the starting position. This is a bit challenging since Logan doesn’t know her right from left and can’t really stand still for even a few seconds. Let’s just suffice it to say that I am tired tonight and so is Gidget! We had soccer first thing this morning, too.

   The theme for September is learning. The kids all started school (Puppy School, Kindergarten, First Grade and Fourth Grade). So far, so good. This month is such a transition time for all of us. Back to packing lunches, packing backpacks and getting everyone up in time to be ready for school. We have three separate start times in this house. We are becoming Masters of Coordination. I would like to say we are a well-oiled machine at this point, but I think we can safely say we are one step above a chaotic circus in the morning.

     Speaking of chaos, Todd and I ask each other, daily, if things are really improving with our foster daughter. How can we tell?  How much potential does she have? What does her future look like? Will she ever be independent? Will she read? Will she learn? Does it matter?

    This is the intersection of faith and obedience. When we pray about this tough situation, we can hear that still, small voice of God saying that we are right where God wants us to be. She is here with us. This path is exactly where we are supposed to be. We are trying to be the hands and feet of Jesus in this situation. Trouble is…this is hard. Hard to do, hard to keep doing, hard to stay positive, hard to put one foot in front of the other. I am finding it hard to not worry about tomorrow. I am, by nature, a control freak. I like to know what is going to happen and when.

    Fostering a child with Reactive Attachment Disorder is a walk of faith. We know that she can find comfort in Christ. We know she can be healed – it may take a long time. We know that we have to be patient, loving, caring, kind. We hope that our two boys see this. We hope they understand that all of this disruption is worth it. I know they see our good moments and lousy moments. There are plenty of those. I fully admit to feeling worn down at the end of the day. This little girl can zap the energy out of a Tasmanian Devil. I am not saying I am a Tasmanian Devil, perhaps Sid the Sloth nowadays!

     Squirrel moment: A plastic, squeaky toy, hot dog just flew past my head. Really! The boys are tossing around the puppy’s toys.  Now, Sam has put red dye in a cup of water and said it’s blood. Oh my head.

   Back on track…We had a hearing for our foster daughter recently. We let our Judge know that we started down the path with the service dog. She was elated. We were able to express that we believe this pup is the key to giving Logan stability and comfort as she walks through her day. She needs to feel safe. What better way to feel safe than a dedicated service dog!

   We also had another message for the Judge: We are ready to make Logan a permanent part of our family. Adoption Day is tentatively scheduled for December 1st.  This feels a bit like pregnancy, labor and delivery all mixed up together, including the hormonal surges that accompany those things! Good, great, scary as heck. Beautiful. Orchestrated by God.  The journey to this decision was not easy. I absolutely can tell you that we moved through doubt, hope, laughter, tears and lots of just shaking our heads. It is in the quiet moments (although those are few) that we truly can have peace about expanding our family. We can certainly say this is deliberate. Planned…not so sure!

    On that day back in February, when I got the call that a little girl needed a home, I had no idea that our lives would change this drastically. I, naively, thought that one more child to this busy house would be A-ok. How hard could a little girl be? Well, I guess I am glad I didn’t know how hard this journey was going to be – kind of like labor. I am glad I didn’t know my labor with Levi would take from a Tuesday night to a Saturday morning.

    We are going to miss all of those newborn firsts. The first cry, the first smile, the first bath, the first sight of a precious little baby girl. We have different firsts. We have the first meal we shared, the first time I saw her walk up to my door. The first thing she said to me was, “Hi, Mommy.” I have to change my expectation of what firsts I was hoping for. I am working on it. So, now we celebrate the firsts we do have and put one foot in front of the other.

    I hope that all of us can see the uniqueness of our journeys and celebrate in the firsts, however odd they may be. I am staying the course. I will love as best I can. Love the girl and the pup. Here’s to another grand adventure!