Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Can You Tell My Children are Dysregulated Today?

It's easy to tell when Mr. I is dysregulated. He avoids eye contact, becomes needy, gets hurt a lot, talks incessantly, has a short fuse, and can't stand even the slightest touch. Oh, and he just burned a grilled cheese sandwich after insisting that he could do it himself.  Do you think someone is having a hard day?

Ms. D is much quieter for the most part. It's easy to miss the way she picks on her brother like touching him when she knows he is hypersensitive. It's easy to not think much of her inability to recall even the most basic of things, like today when I had to reread the same two sentences four times before she could come up with an answer. Yes, it was about an abstract concept, "What is good fruit in someone's life?" But all she had to do was repeat two words, good deeds. She also is making a lot of odd noises, which isn't too typical. But I think the greatest indicator today was when Ms. D, a thirteen year old, washed her hands in the refrigerator water dispenser. Um...Where does she think the water goes?

Sleep Deprivation and Stressful Days

The past couple of days have been pretty stressful.  Putting on a Thanksgiving dinner for family and the birth family, misunderstandings, sick household, daughter getting an immunization that I normally wouldn't give but felt she needed it because of fear of FASD behaviors, a sick son who was extra needy and wanted 100% attention, a friend in need, kids that get dysregulated during holidays, daughter with hives, household and homeschool work waiting...all this plus sleep deprivation and a mild sickness that wasn't as bad as the rest of the family brought me over the edge.

Every time I tried to get a nap yesterday something would happen, a phone call, a boy asking for food, a boy wanting to know if he could watch a movie, a delivery, a knock on the door, a boy wanting to know if I'm awake. Fortunately, after Hubby came home from work, most of the family cooperated and let me rest a bit.  I still had a difficult phone conversation, but the kids took the food from the pan to the table, set the table, and in general helped or at least left me alone the rest of the night. I think they knew I had enough, too much, to function any longer and needed to sleep.  So I went to bed before 8:00! I hadn't done that in a long time! But it was good! I did get up after an hour to pray for the kids, and woke up a little during the night once or twice, but I was able to sleep until 5:30! I felt so much better!

I no longer had that fuzzy, odd, achy feeling. My stomach felt better. I realized that I wasn't just tired the day before, but I was pretty sick too! A migraine? The virus that was going on? I don't know. But I was too tired to notice how sick I was the day before. Aren't I odd?  I do that sometimes, though. I've been known to have a backache or a headache but not realize it until someone asks me. I have one friend in particular, who moved away this year, that could spot a migraine in me in time for me to take care of it before it got too bad. I guess I'll have to train some family members. I already have Hubby trained to notice when I have a backache.

But I learned something from all this. No, a couple of things. One, I need to take care of myself and get enough rest. Having kids with FASD is like having a baby sometimes. If I'm too worn out there is just no way I can help them through the day. I don't know what is worse, the underlaying stress of raising special needs kids or a lack of sleep, but I need to do what I can to take care of myself. I need to rest. I need to get good sleep, whatever it takes. And I need to do things that I can control to relieve the stress, like exercise, eat right, pray, talk to real live adults, and make things. And most of all, when I am at the edge and know that I can't talk to people in a civil manner, I need to not get sucked into working things out immediately. I know the earlier that things are resolved the better, but when a person is too tired or ill, things really can wait another day.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Monday, November 28, 2011

Starlings and Citrus Trees

I'm letting the kids sleep in this morning. Yesterday completely tired them out and with Hubby being home sick, I want the kids' immune systems to be strengthened.

As I was quilting in the quiet living room, I noticed that birds were making a lot of noise outside. So peaking out the front door to find the source, I saw that our citrus trees are pretty full of fruit this year!

We have mandarin oranges and tangerines on the left, and Meyer lemons on the right.  Hopefully the weight of the fruit won't break the trees, though it's happened before and the plant bounced right back.  Now don't look too close at the mess! I haven't had much time the past couple of weeks to do much yard work, other than to mow our little patch of lawn. Fortunately, even though things grow year round in California, they do slow down a bit.

Oh, and the source of all the noise? A HUGE flock of starlings!

Back to Routine...As Much as Possible

Holidays can be pretty disruptive for kids who are on the edge already. Of course when you add the birth family with all the memories, fears, etc., it can be even more rocky. So now that we are in the holiday/birthday season, I'm having to calm myself and try to make a calm environment for the kids. Last night, after coming home from the birth mom's house to drop her off, Mr. I was really out of it. He wouldn't let anyone touch him or make eye contact. So I had him sit next to me on the sofa until he could give me a hug and look into my eyes. We sat for quite a long time, not talking, while Hubby was playing some 15th century music softly in the background. Mr. I asked a couple of times to get up (away from us), but I told him that he could only get up if he was ready and giving me a hug was how I knew he would be ready. I didn't look at the clock, so I don't know how long we sat, but he slowly inched his way closer to me and finally gave me a little hug. Yes!

Mr. I's birthday is in a week, followed by my grandson's and my two other boys' birthdays. Then comes Christmas and New Years. Because of this, it will probably be difficult for the kids to stay regulated. Of course, they are healthier now than in the past and have learned ways to cope, but it's a lot of hard work for everyone involved. It's a good thing I've learned to be flexible with the holidays and not fret if something isn't the way I'd like it or if I can't get something done. Having kids, and especially kids with hidden special needs, is working perfectionism out of me whether I like it or not! Also making Christmas presents this year is becoming pretty good therapy for me. There's nothing like the repetitive motions of hand quilting, knitting, and crocheting to calm my racing mind.

I wish I could show what I've made so far, but that will have to wait until later. I don't want to spoil the surprise!

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Thanksgiving with the Birth Family

Today we had Thanksgiving Round II with the birth family. It worked out really well. I was worried before they came how the kids would handle it. Mr. I was a bit dysregulated. He didn't do anything wrong, but he was clumsy and a bit out of it this morning. Ms. D took ALL morning to get her hair, clothes, and makeup just right. Of course, I had to work pretty hard to get everything clean and cooked. I had a lot of help from the kids and Hubby, but there was still a lot to do. When Mr. I asked to go outside with his friends, I told him to ask Hubby first so that we can be on the same page. I was praying that Hubby would say yes, and he did! Later when I told him how much I wanted Mr. I out of my hair because what help Mr. I was giving me was actually making things harder for me, Hubby joked about how I wanted the kids away from me. I told him, yes, right now, I really needed Mr. I to get away from me. It's not that I don't love him, but I had too much work to deal with accidents or odd behaviors, like wanting to iron his jeans, and then after ironing, wanting me to wash his jeans. He just wasn't making sense!

The kids' birth mom, brother, and one of their cousins came. We also had all my kids and family and Black Belt daughter's boyfriend. I timed it wrong with the grandson's nap and the time the birth family was able to make it, but it actually worked out better because it was calmer for all and some of our guests who came later weren't feeling well. So now I don't have to worry about exposing my little grandson to the flu. We had lots of yummy food that I had cooked all morning.  The kids brought desserts. Pumpkin pie, apple cranberry pie, some kind of meringue cookies, pumpkin bread, brownies.  Oh, it was good! I don't think I'll have to worry about eating for a while!

After dinner, the kids and the birth mom went to the park to play or watch football with the neighborhood kids. It was good for Mr. I to show his family what he does for fun and it was good for their little boy cousin to play with some boys. I am a bit worried about the way Ms. D hangs all over her brother, but she tends to hang on people when she gets over excited. I'm also a bit concerned because their brother was wearing a lot of red gang clothes. I need wisdom.

I'm really glad that the kids are able to call both sets of parent mom and dad. In fact a couple of days ago, Ms. D was talking to her birth dad when Hubby asked to talk to him. So Ms. D said, "Dad, here's my dad." I'm glad that they have processed pretty well their place in both families. I joke with their birth mom that the kids don't have a chance, with both sets of parents holding them accountable! Of course, legally and practically Hubby and I have the responsibility to parent the kids, but their birth family will always be in the kids' hearts.

So now things are very quiet. Everyone's gone except Micro Bio Daughter. Hubby and the little kids are taking their birth mom home. I'm resting a bit before I do more dishes.  The dishwasher is still not working. However the oven worked fine, for which I am so grateful.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Thanksgiving! Yes! Black Friday! Yikes!!!

Black Friday is pushing its way into Thanksgiving, which, well I shouldn't write what I think of that!

This year, other than going to the bank to cash a check for the kids, and maybe the grocery store to get some milk, I'm staying home!  Micro Bio daughter is taking the little ones to the mall, Yikes! She's such a brave soul! Of course, this is the first Black Friday in years she hasn't had to work retail. She is so happy to be on the other side of the counter. Of course, we'll see what she thinks when she gets back!

I was really happy to see that the flannel on sale at a fabric store was available online. Yes!!! And so I'll just stay nice and warm and cozy and get ready for Thanksgiving Round II on Sunday.

Thanksgiving was awesome! We went to Photography Son's in-laws. The kids had fun playing on the Kinect. Well, I did too. I won in bowling, even though my skirt or something messed up the last few frames. We had a great time as a family, and, of course, the food was awesome! I love Thanksgiving food! I only had to make the pies, which we had to finish in their oven because mine was  I should fix the oven or do something soon, because I love to bake in the winter and we have a crowd coming over Sunday.

Here are a couple of pictures of one of the tables. My son's mom-in-law made the little turkeys out of Oreos, candy corn, little Reeses Pieces, and frosting!  She is so creative!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Thanksgiving and Tough Times

IHappy Thanksgiving!!!

Here's our little turkey friend from the feed store again! Don't worry, this guy isn't on someone's table today.  He's got the good life of being a breeder!  Oh yes!

I love Thanksgiving! I love getting together with family and friends. I love the food, especially yams, turkey, cranberry sauce, pumpkin pie....Oh, I love the whole feast, as Mr. I would say! I love getting a reminder to be thankful for all God has provided.

I do realize though, that it can be a tough time for those who are far away from home, who don't have family, and for those who are in hospitals, jails, or in the service. When I talked to the woman doing my mammogram this week, I asked her if she was going to do anything special. She was Persian and most of her family isn't in the US.  She also doesn't like to cook much. No one invited her and her family to a Thanksgiving meal this year, so they might just do some traveling. She seemed a bit disappointed.

I have good friend who is a missionary in Honduras.  She was feeling a bit sad about not being able to eat a Thanksgiving meal with her family, eat turkey and all the fixings, and watch some American football. I kind of pushed her to invite people in her community for a Thanksgiving meal in Honduras.  So she's been REALLY busy the past few days figuring out substitutions, cooking, planning, and inviting. Of course, in Honduras, she can't get turkey, yams, cranberries, pumpkin, and a bunch of other things we'd consider traditional Thanksgiving food. But she is still preparing a feast! I think she said she expects 30 to 40 people today!  I hope she still likes me after this!!!

A couple of days ago one of my old schoolmates asked a question on a Facebook wall.  It was, "Does anyone remember being bullied in high school like the kids are today?" I won't get into it right now, but the question brought up the years from 6th to 8th grade when my dad became blind, my sister was hit by a truck and almost died, and when, instead of being loved and supported, I was bullied by both students and even a teacher. It bothered me yesterday that I felt some of the same emotions now that I felt then. I had thought I put all that stuff behind me, forgiving, and letting go. But obviously, the hurt was still there. It was so sweet, though, how a couple of people responded to my post. And then I thought of how if I hadn't gone through that terrible time, and even have been bullied, I probably wouldn't have such a heart for kids and for the poor. I wouldn't be able to spot the ones who are hungry, but are hiding it. I might not have fostered and adopted my kids. I probably wouldn't have studied as hard in school. One of the women, Tina, wrote, "The stone that is tumbled the most is the smoothest and most beautiful of all." It was so encouraging! It reminded me to look at some of these tough times as a way to make me better. Better, not bitter!

This year I have been so blessed in so many ways! There is much to be thankful to God for! But I must remember to be thankful for the way God changes me into a better person through the tough times. Because even if something might seem bad, there is always something good that can come through it.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Dead Ends, Detours, and Roundabouts

Yesterday I was thinking about life being full of dead ends, detours, and roundabouts.  We all have expectations for our lives.  We dream of what our family will look like, what career we have, what kind of house we live in, when we expect to retire, and so many other things. How many of us, when we were children or young adults, had a dream along with a time table, and an expectation of how the dream will be played out? My kids have wanted to be firemen, pilots, veterinarians, skating pros, business lawyers, car designers, and a host of other things. The problem is that much of the time the dreams are thwarted, altered, or delayed.

I think the dead ends are the most difficult.  I have friends who's dreams have died, sometimes because of things out of their control.  I'm thinking of some people I know who had a dream of a certain career, but just couldn't pass one of the required classes no matter how much they studied.  Or a neighbor who planned to travel with her husband when they retired, only for him to die of a heart attack before they could fulfill that dream. Or one friend who planned to live with his spouse for the rest of his life, but she ran off with someone else. Or some I know who had planned to retire comfortably, but the combination of the housing bust and job loss is making that dream seem impossible. Or a few friends who want a large biological family, yet their bodies just aren't cooperating.  These things can be dead ends, and grief is a normal response.

The detours in life are a mixed bag. I know people struggling with infertility who have adopted. Others have changed careers when the first one didn't work out. People move. People form new relationships. People adjust and change their dreams. There is grieving that needs to be done for the old dream, but eventually we need to accept the changes and find joy and peace in the "new life."  I used to be quite comfortable when we lived in Oregon. We had a good church, nice house, and good schools for the kids. I had family and friends nearby. When we were called to California, I had to give up a lot of the things I most enjoyed.  I needed to grieve for those losses, but eventually needed find joy, peace, and purpose in my life here. Before we adopted our two kids, I had some dreams and expectations of how that life would be. Many of those dreams have changed because of the realities of parenting kids with FASD and trauma backgrounds.

Roundabouts are those crazy intersections which help cars smoothly get from one place to the other in a circle.  However, those things are confusing to me. Sometimes I have entered a roundabout only to be stuck in the wrong lane and have had to go around the circle a couple of times before I could get to the place I needed to be. I was moving, yet I wasn't getting anywhere.  Life is full of these kind of experiences.  Sometimes you get to where you want to go quickly, and other times you have to wait, even while keeping busy with other things. That's actually where I feel I'm at right now. I have some dreams for my life that don't seem to be coming to fruition very quickly. I'm keeping busy. I'm fruitful in some other parts of my life. But the problem, as far as I can figure out, is that I don't feel like I'm in the right lane and so I keep going round and round hoping the traffic will spit me out! I don't really know how to get from point A to point B. I don't know what specific steps I need to take now to get to where God wants me to be tomorrow. I'm kind of feel like the Israelites wandering around in the desert just a stones throw from the Promised Land. I'm waiting.

Dreams and high expectations are good, and drive us to excel. Some of those dreams are God given. Some fit so well with the way we are made, it would be a shame to not aim high. What if some of our greatest artists, musicians, scientists, and humanitarians gave up because the way to their goal was difficult or long?  I want to be as fruitful with the gifts God has given me as possible. I don't want to waste my life. But on the other hand, sometimes the detours aren't really detours, but the real path. And many times the delays and waiting times are the times we are best developed and changed to do the thing we were made to do.  Realizing our dreams to quickly or easily can be even more hindering and even downright dangerous. I'm thinking of so many of our entertainers whose lives fell apart because riches and fame came too quickly. So I need to get through my head that waiting isn't all bad.

I guess the best thing for me to do is to stick close to God, checking in with him for a vision for my life and for each step along the way. I need to be patient (a very hard thing for me), and flexible. I need to do what I know I should do and obey God in the things that I do know. But most of all, I need to enjoy the ride.  Because, like our pastor said recently, "Following God can be a lot of fun!"

Saturday, November 19, 2011

15th Century Music, Homeschool, and Modern Kids

Last night we drug our two younger kids to a concert and talk by the group Asteria, a couple who sing, play, and research 15th century medieval music at Stanford University. The kids, who have been dysregulated the past couple of weeks anyway, were not looking forward to it by any means! But because we happened to be exactly at this era in our homeschool world history, I made them go. What a mean mom!

Ms. D brought a friend, and I was really worried, especially when Ms. D started doing her crazy laugh as we were walking to the auditorium in the rain.  But the kids did wonderfully.  They were quiet.  Mr. I brought a sketch book, in which he was decorating letters, which was just like the pictures that were shown and a copy of a songbook displayed that Stanford recently bought.  I didn't suggest for him to do that, but it was good to see him expressing himself artistically in the same way people did hundreds of years ago. Here is a picture of the song book copy that we saw.  It is small, each heart about the size of one's hands.  It was amazing to see the detail of the pictures and the small writing.

The kids held themselves together through the concert and talk of the history, music, and culture that influenced the music. Ms. D did almost laugh in an inappropriate time because her brother almost dropped his sketchbook, but she stifled the laugh and immediately fell asleep.  I was so proud of her for keeping the laughing in check.  Normally, it is uncontrollable.  I don't know how much Ms. D got out of it, but it seemed her friend and Mr. I liked it more than they anticipated.  Eric Redlinger and Sylvia Rhyne were awesome musicians, and were also able to communicate their passion for late Medieval music.  They showed pictures of places they went to sing and research, they talked about the similarities and differences between our culture and the culture of the 15th century in a way that the kids could understand.  Court life was a bit like high school.  There was gossip and slander. People sang about loving someone that they couldn't marry.  People are people. They even had two types of music back then, one spoken, one sung.  I asked the kids on the way home if they could think of music today that is poetry spoken, not sung.  They all said, "Rap!" I tried to picture a troubadour in 15th century clothing rapping, but it might not have been as strange as I think.

At the end, Mr. I asked if he could someday get a lute like the one the man played. I told him that we should go down and ask since we all were invited to speak to the musicians.  He chickened out, but I drug the kids down to the front anyway.  Eric talked about how his lute was specially made and couldn't be bought at a store, and let Mr. I hold it.  Mr. I said it was very light.  I didn't get a picture of him holding it because I wasn't fast enough with my phone, but I'm sure he'll remember it for a long time.
The light wasn't the best for good pictures, but here is a video of Asteria performing in a lady's bedroom of a duke's 15th century castle in France, probably in one of the rooms that the music was originally played.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Helping the People of Central America

Hubby started a nonprofit to help the people in Central America.

Most of our family has visited Nicaragua and/or Honduras the past few years, bringing educational and medical supplies, computers, and Gods love. It is amazing how just a little bit of supplies and help will make such a big difference.  The people there have become like family.

In June, Black Belt Daughter went to Honduras to visit some missionary friends of ours.  She taught some self defense classes (of course), delivered food, and had a great time.

And in August, Hubby went to Nicaragua.  He, a man from Managua, and the missionary friend from Honduras went all over the country, visiting people, delivering supplies, praying. Hubby even taught a computer class at a university and talked on a radio program.  It was an awesome trip and God took care of him, even when he was in a dugout dory with a small motor, on the Caribbean, during hurricane season, and without cell phone or any other communication!

The reason I'm telling about you about this now is that Hubby just finished condensing his three week trip onto a 10 minute video!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Friends from Long Ago

Today Hubby, the two younger kids, and I met with a friend and her husband while they were visiting California from Illinois.  We found each other on Facebook recently but haven't seen each other since High School.  And she is just as kind, artistic, and interesting as I had remembered.  I mean how many people, when they are celebrating their 50th birthday, choose to go hang gliding?  Especially someone who lives in the Midwest!  I used to be afraid of riding my bike or driving down a hill when I first moved out West.  I don't think I'd have the courage to jump off a cliff!

We met at a restaurant in a mall that I had never been to before.  It was a Vietnamese mall in San Jose which was a real cultural experience. They had a store with Buddha and Mary statues.  Another had pots.  Another store had orchids.  And the tailor had Vietnamese traditional clothes in the front window. Now in San Jose I'm pretty used to a diversity in cultures and races, but this was extreme.  There was no one else that wasn't asian.  Of course the food at the restaurant was absolutely awesome!  Even the kids liked it which, considering their food issues lately, was really good.

Our friend is an artist and raises alpacas and rides horses.  He is a pilot.  They are Christians and have three kids which range in age between teens and young adults. We had a great time catching up on what we've been up to the past 30 years.  Isn't it interesting that with some people, you can be away from them for years, but then feel like you are better friends now than when you were younger?  I wish I had more time to spend with them.  They are awesome people!

Just Outside the Restaurant

An Alpaca Ornament My Friend Made Out of  Fiber From Her Own Alpacas

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Kiddo Update

It's been over a week since the kids heard about their friends' death and injuries.  One girl is still in the hospital but the other girl is out and doing better.  I also found out that the two injured girls did live in our neighborhood, and that's why my kids knew them better than the one who died. The families want to keep things quiet for the girls and don't want a bunch of strangers or kids visiting, so we've just heard about their status from the neighborhood kid grapevine. I don't know what is really happening, and it's been difficult for our kids to hear from other kids what is going on, rather than from us.  I hope things don't get overblown or altered too much, like the game of telephone.

For our family it's been a pretty rough road, and, of course, I'm still seeing signs of stress and regression in my kids.  They've been play fighting and laughing in an odd way lately.  Ms. D hasn't been eating much, and when she did eat a full meal yesterday, it was too much for her stomach and she threw some of it up. Mr. I changes his mind about what to eat and what to do.  Like this afternoon, during our walk, Mr. I asked me what we were having for dinner.  When I told him, he didn't like what I was going to make because he said he wanted something that we hadn't had in awhile.  When I mentioned other things, they didn't sound good to him either.  I asked him if he had any ideas but he couldn't think of any.  You see, it's not about the food.  It's about the weirdness he feels inside and can't express.  He doesn't want to talk about why he's feeling so odd, which makes it harder to heal.  Hubby got the security system installed last night and Mr. I seems happy to have it.  I hope it will help him to feel safer.  I kind of wish we had put it in years ago when we first got the kids.  It would have been nice to know when they were trying to sneak out the door!

As for helping the kids through this time, I've been trying to talk to them as things come up and as they feel ready. I gave Ms. D the option of going to the funeral the other day.  I'm glad she didn't want to go though, because her brother would have been so frightened. But it was good for her to know that I would have taken her if she had wanted to go.  I'm also trying to keep things fairly calm and routine here despite the increase in their stress levels.  It's been difficult to remain peaceful when the kids are spinning out of control.  I've not been perfect, and need a lot more grace to do it, but most of the time I can keep the stress level down in my heart and in our home.  I've slowed down the activity level and the driving around. We won't visit to a nursing home Thursday with the homeschool group because there's just too much new sensory stuff for them to deal with right now. It's a good thing I have a lot of Christmas gifts to make, because otherwise I'd go bonkers with the combination of odd behaving kids and having to stay home as much as possible!

Talking about making gifts, I wish I could show you what I'm up to right now, but you'll have to wait until Christmas! :-)

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

High Tech Praying

Last night, I was messaging online with a friend in Honduras and my daughter in our city.  With both, I ended up writing my prayers while messaging on the computer instead of saying them.  I'm doing this type of thing more and more.  It's pretty amazing to think that we can communicate across the world with people that would be pretty isolated a few years back.  Its even more amazing that we can communicate with God and He is keeping up with technology!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Butterscotch Chip Oatmeal Cookies

Now for something totally unhealthy!

This evening I made Butterscotch Chip Oatmeal Cookies.

Ok, I did sneak in some whole wheat to a basic oatmeal cookie recipe.  Actually, I didn't really use a recipe.  I just took a cup of butter and creamed it together with 2/3 cup each of white and brown sugar, added two eggs and poured a bit of vanilla (about 2 tsp. or so), then I added a cup of white flour, a cup of whole wheat flour, and a cup of oatmeal with about a tsp. each of baking powder, baking soda, and salt.  It was a bit moist, so I added some more flour until it was the right consistency and finally added some butterscotch chips.

I'm really bad at following recipes.  I usually change them around, estimate, and substitute.  And I mean usually.  I'm surprised things turn out as good as they do most of the time.  I guess you can say I'm a creative cook.

These turned out really good.  I had some cookies like these at our house church a couple of weeks ago and started to crave them again.  But now I'm going to take a night walk with Hubby to work them off!!!!

Weekend Walks

Just about every weekend, I take a walk before most of the family pries themselves from their beds.  I walk during the week with the kids while they do their dog walking job, but weekends are for grownups!  My walking buddy is our neighborhood school's lunch lady.  Now, when I was a kid, lunch ladies seemed big, round, and grumpy.  Now I know it's kind of stereotypical, but that's how I remember them.  Well, this lunch lady isn't any of those things.
Lunch Lady Walking Buddy

We have fun walking and talking, and walking and talking!  It is especially nice because she has a son that is high functioning autistic and she *understands* what it is like to raise a child who has a hidden disability.  It is so important for me to talk to people who get it.  So our walks are good for our bodies and good for our souls.  We can process what has gone on during the week without interruptions, without little ears, without judgement.  Ahhhhh!!

Of course, the paseo, or walkway for those of you who aren't Californians, by our house is beautiful too.  The designers of our neighborhood made most of the streets end in cul-de-sacs and made pathways so that kids could walk to school without crossing a street.  We can even walk to the grocery store without crossing also.  And our nice California weather encourages more walking.  I sure can use that!

One of the paseos in our neighborhood.

Also on weekend mornings, many neighbors take their dogs to the back of the school for an impromptu doggie park date.  I always thought it would be cool to paint a picture of people with their dogs at the park.  Some day, when I have time, I might do that.  Here's one of the pictures I took for inspiration.  When I'll paint it, I'll have to change the composition around, but you can get an idea of what I see every weekend morning.

Informal Dog Park

I've learned that for my mental health that these walks are very important.  It's so easy, as a mom with kids who have special needs, to neglect my own health and sanity.  But I've learned that I can't be my best for the kids unless I take care of myself too.  I have to be in this for the long haul and can't get burned out or sick. The walks get me out in nature, give me exercise, and provide a time when I can socialize with peers. It's become a priority for me.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Differing Ways of Mourning

This week has been tough for the kids because of the murder of their friend.  Of course both of them are mourning in different ways.  Ms. D is sad, laying in bed a lot, looking at news reports, and talking to our family and her friends about it.  Mr. I seems more fearful and doesn't want to talk at all.  Of course, Ms. D can identify with the girl and Mr. I had more signs of PTSD when he came to us.  Ms. D tends to disassociate when things get stressful, forgetting major parts of events.  Mr. I remembers everything and acts out when things remind him of a violent past.

Yesterday, Microbio Daughter took Ms. D and a friend to a spaghetti feed fundraiser for Tara's family.  Mr. I stayed home with me. It was good for Ms. D to talk to other friends.  The church was packed with hundreds of people. Ms. D was a bit spacey for the first half hour, but then she settled down and talked.  When she got back, I could tell she really got a lot out of this time.  It is good for her to process things over and over.  I am so glad that my daughters could go together.

Today, while we were out shopping, I asked Ms. D if she would like to go past the place where Tara was killed.  She said yes, so we went to pay our respects.  It seemed to help Ms. D, but Mr. I was fearful and wanted to leave as soon as possible, as if the shooters would get out of jail and start shooting him at two in the afternoon. We could see the bullet holes in the fence in addition to flowers, notes, balloons, candles, and other things in the memorial.  We stayed there a few minutes until Mr. I couldn't stand it anymore.  I hope it was long enough for Ms. D. Each has a different way of mourning. It is so hard to balance the needs of the two children.  I guess it has always been this way.

As we were leaving, and right after I prayed for the families and children affected by this, I found myself making the sign of the cross instinctively.  I wonder why?  Could it be my Catholic background, or the Catholic rosaries and candles at the memorial?  Or is it something the families would want people to do to show their respects?  Whatever it was, it seemed right.

Memorial on street

Memorial for Tara

Looking at Tara's hat and a rosary


Today we had to get some more chicken feed, so we went to the feed store.  The place we go, Farmer's Feed, has a bunch of different animals that they raise and breed on site, so there are adult birds to look at while we get the supplies we need.  The kids love to go there. Today, the star attractions for my kids were the bunnies and the turkeys.  So after skirting the geese, which run loose and can be fairly aggressive, we went to look at these big toms.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Grief, Fear, and Protecting the Kids

Last Friday, a horrible thing happened in a nearby town known for being family friendly.  It's the town that  our local school district is in.  It's the town we go to see fireworks, parades,  and where I do most of my shopping.  It's a town that seems so far removed from our city where there are gangs and crime.  Last Friday a group young teenage kids were waiting for their parents outside an apartment after a birthday party.  A group of Sureno gang members drove by and shot these kids, killing a 14 year old girl and sending three more to the hospital.

I tried to keep this from my kids for a number of reasons.  One is that it is so important to keep children that have FASD and past trauma in a safe, stable, non-violent environment.  Studies have shown, and in our own experience we've seen, that the calmer, the safer and the least violent atmosphere helps my kids to cope with life.  Another reason is that they have experienced or seen violence in their past.  So some PTSD behaviors start showing when they are reminded of that time in their lives.  And another reason I tried to keep the shooting from them is that they know that one or more of their brothers are either in gangs or are gang sympathizers.  The brothers wear colors, their cousin has a gang tattoo, and they sign their cell phone messages with gang symbols.  My kids know the dangers of gangs, but we've tried to reassure them that if they stay out of gangs, they will be safer.  We haven't told them why their oldest brother is in jail. I don't want them to see their birth family as evil. And finally, I never know how my kids will react when they hear news.  Little things can bring so much fear.  Like one time I joked with my daughter that she had more money in the bank than I did at the time.  But she took that to mean we were going to lose our house and no amount of reassuring her helped her to calm down for a few days until I was able to show her that we had more money than her once my husband got his paycheck.  Last week my husband ordered a security system for our house.  My son was worried that it would almost attract bad guys to our house instead of being a deterrent.  We never know what will cause fear to rise in their precious hearts.

Because of these things, keeping them from the news of the shooting seemed like a good idea.  That is, until yesterday when they were playing outside with friends.  I had no idea they knew three of the girls who were shot, including the one who died.  The kids heard from friends and relatives of one of the hurt girls about the shooting, not from us.  It was such a shock to them. The whole thing is so sad.  So tragic.  So senseless.

So my kids are grieving.  They are scared.  They are regressing.  When my kids first came to our house they used to play Getting Arrested.  Until this morning, they haven't played it for years.  My son is stringing up our house with "booby traps".  He is showing signs of distress, making lots of noise, spilling things, singing "It's a Hard Knock Life" from Annie.  Poor kid.  My daughter is lying down a lot, and going into her own little world, looking at news about the shooting.  He tends to show things externally and she tends to hold things in.  Both are grieving.

May God show me how to help them through their grief.  May He help them in their sadness.  And also, that He will comfort the families involved and heal the children that are hurt.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Another Diaper Cover Made

This morning I made another diaper cover in between teaching the kids and cleaning.  Now that I've made a few, they are coming together quicker and I don't have to rip out mistakes as much!  ;-)

So the steps are: First cut out the pattern.  This last one I actually bought a pattern.  Before, I just looked at a commercially made one and made my own, but I was never sure if I got it right.  Turns out, I was pretty close, though it is nice to have a pattern that is a known size.  I still added gussets to the legs, which the pattern didn't have, because I think they keep them from leaking.

Then I tape the loop tape to the front edge and the gussets in the right places.  Taping works better than pinning because I don't want to put holes in the waterproof material.  The tape holds well enough until I sew things in place.
Putting the loop on the front

Sewing the loop on the front

Taping the curved part of the gusset on the wrong side of the PUL

Sewing on the Fold Over Elastic
When sewing with the fold over elastic, I pull when things need to be gathered and don't when things need to be flat.  I use a zig-zag stitch and slowly go around the edge, adding the gussets and holding things together as I go.
Adding the loop and hook like a tab so that it can close the cover on the loops at the front

Adding a loop to the inside so that the tab can be shut for easy laundering
The finished products!

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Handmade Diaper Cover and Vultures

I got a call from Oldest Son last night.  Grandson is growing out of his diaper covers and they needed me to make some larger ones.  I already had one cut out but just needed to go to the fabric store to pick up some Velcro to finish sewing it up.  Now that's a dangerous thing!  When I go into a fabric store, I get  inspired to make more things and buy more material than I have time to complete projects.  I already have a bunch of PUL and fold over elastic, but while I was at the fabric store, I got some really cute PUL to make some fun covers.  I'll make them tomorrow, hopefully, and show it to you then.  But anyway, I finished the cover I started, so the next time we get together the little guy will have something else to wear.  I'll have to work on making some more diapers, and some clothes for him too.  Babies sure grow quickly!

Black PUL Diaper Cover
Did you notice the gussets in the legs?  They are easy to add and make a big difference in preventing leaks.  I sure wish I had materials like PUL and the choices in cloth diapers that my children have compared to the cheap prefolds, pins, vinyl covers I had when my kids were babies!  It is amazing what is out there now.  I'm having fun making them.  Maybe I can make extra to sell to moms so that they stay away from disposables.  Disposables are fine in moderation, like on vacation, or when mom is sick, but for the most part cloth is so much better for the planet and the pocketbook.

On another note, as I was taking my walk today, I noticed that we had a lot more vultures in our neighborhood now that the cooler weather has come to CA.  We have vultures year round, but in the winter more come down from the hills to join those who stay in town.  I've counted over fifty of them roosting on trees, roofs, and light poles in the winter. They are interesting birds, though they can be messy.  We sometimes have to run past the trees over the path in order to dodge their bombs as they wake up and relieve themselves of yesterday's road kill. I took a picture of a few of them on a neighbor's roof this morning.

A Few of the Vultures in Our Neighborhood

Friday, November 4, 2011

A Snickerdoodle Kind of Day

Today is a snickerdoodle kind of day.

Yesterday did not start pretty.  It wasn't all bad.  I got to spend time with my grandson and his daddy and mommy.  It cheered me up to see them.

But the day didn't start out well.  I don't know if it was the change of weather, the post Halloween sugar crash, or just a bad response to all the excitement.  But Mr. I and Ms. D were getting more disobedient, sulky, disrespectful, and in general, nastier each day for a week.  Getting them to do schoolwork was like pushing a boulder uphill. I tried to be patient, knowing that holidays and excitement are just too much for their systems.  But yesterday I had enough.  I yelled at them.  I had a meltdown. Not good.  Not good at all.  I got the opportunity to ask their forgiveness and say that I was wrong.  Of course I don't like to model humility and weakness, but I needed to do it.  It's good for them.  It's good for me.

Mr. I immediately reconnected with me.  It was so good.  Unfortunately, Ms. D had a harder time.  She shunned me the rest of the day and into this morning.  I was afraid she was saying all sorts of nasty things to the birth family.  This scares me because they had made a false report against us years ago in an attempt to get their kids back.  Of course, I was the one with the bruises, not the kids, but the whole experience, I think, caused me to get a little PTSD!  So this morning I was thinking of taking Ms. D's ipod that she had earned away or at least changing some passwords so she couldn't text the family.  But I thought I'd talk to her before I'd do that.  At first she couldn't look at me and tears ran down her face.  But after telling her I loved her, apologized again, and admitting some of my fears, she broke down and our relationship was restored.  She almost fell asleep in my lap, but my legs were falling asleep on the floor and Mr. I was needing attention.  The typical pattern in her dysregulation cycle is stressor > buildup > overexcitement > crash > sleep > resolution.  So now our relationship is restored.  Whew!

So anyway, after she got back to her normal self, she told me she was cold.  This is actually the first cold day of the year.  For all of you in the rest of the country, Californians think a 57 degree high is cold.  Yes, we are sissies!  And I said, "I should bake some cookies." Then we both said, "Snickerdoodles!"at the same time.  Now this is pretty odd since I rarely make snickerdoodles.  My backup cookies are chocolate chip, which I've made so many times I have the recipe memorized.

So tonight, as Hubby is taking the kids to see a movie, I am baking snickerdoodles.  It is, after all, a snickerdoodle kind of day.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Crappy Parenting or Something Else?

This morning I was listening to the radio news and heard about this story,  9 Year Old Girl Faces Felony Charges Following School Bus Attack.

The person on the radio commented that this girl's parents must have done a crappy job at parenting.

My first thought was different.  Though there can be bad parenting involved here, I wonder if there is more to the story.  Was this girl fostered or adopted?  Does she have past trauma, reactive attachment disorder, autism or other mental health issues?  Is she prenatally affected by alcohol?

I know a lot of good parents that have kids who rage.  I feel that, though I'm not a perfect parent, I'm a good one who successfully raised four kids so far into adulthood.  And I have children who rage sometimes.  I have children who for many reasons, including RAD, FASD, and PTSD, say odd things, do odd things, and sometimes act in ways that I'm sure cause people to wonder if I'm a crappy parent too.  Most of the time the kids are wonderful, helpful, and polite.   But other times, when they are fearful, overstimulated, hungry, tired, thirsty, too hot, have a sore toe, in a situation that reminds them of past trauma, constipated, excited, or anything else that is mildly uncomfortable, they have a difficult time and can fall either into a rage or go into a trancelike state.  Sometimes they honestly don't even remember much of what they did when they were in that state.  That's one of the reasons I homeschool.  They need more structure and a more peaceful atmosphere than the normal school bus or school yard can provide.  We have to recognize the symptoms of a beginning state of dysregulation and try to head off rages before they get to the point of no return.  I know my kids well enough now to see those signs. I can see the rise in excitement, the certain look in their eyes, and by the way they respond to me, that they need to sit in a quiet room next to me for a bit to calm down. I worry sometimes what will happen when they are adults, in a situation that causes fear, or even out playing with friends and they don't have someone to remind them to take a break.  I pray a lot about how they will do in life. Of course, Mr. I has been learning to come in after having a hard time with friends and get away from the situation until he calms down.  But it's taken years of a lot of hard work to get to this point.  I hope that by the time they leave the house, they will be able to self regulate.  But until then, they need help.

I wonder how many people in jails and prisons are there, not because they purposely broke a law, but because they couldn't self regulate, or are impulsive.  Or have FASD.  Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders and the Criminal Justice System

Is throwing people in jail the best way we can come up with in a society to solve the problem of FASD?

Before getting the two younger kids, I would have been one of those who blame the parent if I heard of a kid who raged on a school bus.  But now I've learned that there might be a lot more to the story than what the news people say.