Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Christmas, Not What We Expect, But Good

Yesterday Mr. I said that Christmas wasn't what he expected.

Well, when is it what a thirteen year old expects? Many thirteen year old kids are too old for toys, too picky, too self absorbed, and too young to understand the joy of giving and the true meaning of Christmas.

And it is especially difficult for a thirteen year old who has experienced so much disappointment in his life, especially in the past month, a thirteen year old who has a difficult time regulating his emotions, who has trouble with attaching to his adoptive family, and who has been exposed to drug an alcohol before he was born.

I don't know what he expected, but I know what I expected. And I'm glad I didn't get it, for the most part. I expected a pretty rocky Christmas. But even though there has been a bit of over-stimulation, dysregulation, and selfishness, things have really gone well. Oh, we've had our share of bumps, but our family has rolled with the punches.  Some of the older siblings have shown more patience than I have!

Now for the good!

We had a lovely time with the family. The kids and grandson liked getting together. There wasn't the drama that happens in many families. My kids helped each other out and cared for each other. I can't tell you the joy I have because my kids love each other.

We exchanged small or handmade gifts. I love the pictures of my grandson, the Chariots of Fire movie, the butter dish that I wanted, and a cute succulent arrangement that one of my daughters-in-law made.


Oh, and how can I forget the old pictures of my dad and family sent from my sister and other old pictures scanned and put on a zip drive by one of my daughters?

There were other blessings too. One of our taillights burned out, and the police officer that stopped us didn't give me a fix-it-ticket because he had a priority call. We made it home safely in the dark and rain. One of my daughters stepped through a ceiling this evening, yet she didn't hurt herself. She stepped through a part of the ceiling that needed to be repaired anyway. It wasn't bad enough to bother to fix it before, yet it really should have been done. So now we have a good excuse to repair it. We've had other unexpected expenses, yet we've also had unexpected blessings.

This Christmas season, though not what I or my son expected, has really been good.


Monday, December 24, 2012

Santa's Workshop

Christmas Eve is almost over. It was better than I expected. I think it really helped the kids to have had our main Christmas celebration a few days ago. They were able to handle all the holiday excitement better when it was spread over a few days. There still is a little dysregulation, but not as bad as I had anticipated. I'll have to remember this in future years.

Earlier this evening we went to a church a few our our kids go to for their Christmas Eve candlelight (glow stick) service. It was good for the kids to be reminded just why we celebrate Christmas. Well, it was good for me too! We also got to sit next to our daughter-in-law and her parents. It was good to spend a little time together.

Afterwards, we had a quiet evening of watching a cheesy Christmas movie, listening to Christmas music, and making gifts.

 Hubby, Mr. I, and I all worked on the same table.

 Mr. I made a gingerbread house.

Hubby made chocolate. Yum!

 And I made two pairs of pajamas. I didn't wrap them, but gave them straight to the recipients. I would like to make more, but it doesn't all have to be done at once. After all, we are having a Christmas season! Santa's Workshop can be open for at least a couple more weeks, right?

Christmas Past

Microbio Daughter was looking through pictures and found these of my two oldest girls and niece on Christmas, 1993.

Why the glum faces? It won't hurt you to smile for a picture!

OK, that's better!

Cousin Fun!

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Early Christmas!

Now that a few of our kids are adults and getting married, it's getting a bit harder to schedule holidays together. Fortunately, our family is pretty flexible. And what kid would complain about getting Christmas presents a few days ahead of time? It really worked well this year that we had our main Christmas get together Friday.

 Grandson had a fun time trying to do tricks like his Uncle, Mr. I.
After a big meal, we opened some gifts.

Grandson wasn't too sure about the big stuffed elephant at first, but loved it after he had others put it on their laps. If it's safe for Grandpa to hold it, it should be safe for him, right?



We ended the night with a birthday cake for all the December birthday boys, including Jesus!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Poor Brewster

Brewster had a long day today. It was the day of  The Big Operation.

We took him to an awesome spay and neuter clinic in Fremont, called For Paws. It's a nonprofit place that is run by people that absolutely love animals.  The woman in the second picture is one of the workers there. She explained every possible question we would have. She even answered Mr. I's question about why Brewster's eyes were watery. He thought Brewster was crying. But the woman explained that it was a cream that they put on his eyes so that they wouldn't dry out during the surgery. I was so thankful that everyone there was so patient and kind.

The veterinarian was the artist who painted the walls. Aren't they cute?
I loved the waiting room!


Checking to see if Brewster was waiting for us behind the door.  He was!


Resting when we came back home.

Poor Brewster! He has to wear the Cone of Shame when we aren't right next to him. He's feeling better this evening, though, and I'm so thankful. Mr. I and Ms. D were so worried about Brewster today. They regressed a lot. But as the anesthesia wore off, the kids calmed down. I'm glad I realized their behaviors had an underlying cause. It's easier to be patient when you know the trigger.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Shocking Realization in the Middle of the Night

Yesterday I took Ms. D to the doctor to check for a UTI. She didn't have one, but the doctor who saw her spent extra time with Ms. D alone, sent her to talk to a clinical health educator , and then to get some more tests done in the lab. I wasn't worried about pregnancy, since Ms. D has been pretty well supervised, but I couldn't figure out why the Dr. looked so concerned...

...Until just after two this morning when I woke up with a start with the thought, "They are worried about anorexia!" They haven't talked to me at all, yet it all came together in the middle of the night. She has been sleeping a lot, is listless when she is awake, and cold. She is a very picky eater and doesn't eat much, which I told the doctor in the summer during Ms. D's last appointment. The doctor wasn't concerned then, because Ms. D's weight was still in the healthy range. But it really concerned the doctor on call yesterday. Ms. D didn't remember all that the health educator said, but she did say that she was asked about whether she is seeing a therapist. Ms. D has, but she doesn't talk to the current one because she "doesn't like her." It takes awhile for Ms. D to warm up to most people.

So today I need to take Ms. D to get a blood test, since it was too late in the day to get it done yesterday. I've got a long list of things to do, while I was eating my breakfast the dog ate something that made him vomit, and I'm a bit sleep deprived from worrying about my girl in the middle of the night. But I'm still hopeful that today will get better, and that we may finally get to the bottom of Ms. D's lethargy.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Fur Baby Scare

One of my sons and his wife had a scare today. Their kitty was having a hard time breathing and was turning cyanotic, so she rushed Mushu to the veterinarian. My son was stranded at work and needed to go be with his wife, as she was waiting to see if it was terminal congestive heart failure or something not quite as bad. So I had the privilege of helping them out. It isn't often I get to help my adult children, and I love it when I have the chance to do it. Feeding them is right up there too! No matter how old they are, I'll always be their mom.

Oh, and Mushu kitty is doing better this evening and was able to come home. She had some sort of allergic/asthma reaction and has pneumonia too. She should get well, though now they have to do some detective work.  Fortunately, my daughter-in-law is studying respiratory therapy, so of all the kids, she is the most qualified.

There are lessons to learn from this experience. It helps to remember that life is short and precious. We need to let others know we love them. It's good to help each other out and ask when we need help ourselves. Sometimes experiencing crises helps a person to be a better caregiver to someone else, more compassionate, and more aware of what others are going through.

I pray that whatever was meant for harm will be turned to good. God is good at doing that kind of thing.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Thinking on the Good Things

I was getting a bit depressed over the horrible events this past week. It's easy to find evil in this world, but there is also good.

I found a video of a family who adopted special needs kids, and it brings tears of joy to my eyes.
http://vimeo.com/55307071

I saw another video of some kids who live in a garbage dump in Paraguay who make beautiful music out of recycled garbage.

I'm looking at articles about the heroes in the shootings, the people who saved, comforted, and have compassion in such horrible tragedies.

I'm finding beauty in art, music, and nature.

I'm hugging my kids more, appreciating my family, and showing love is more of a priority.
I'm rejoicing that one of my sons had his orientation to nursing school this week, that one of my daughters is getting impatient with finishing school so that she can become a teacher, and that all of my kids are really doing well. Even the little ones have been doing better the last few days, and have become more attached and huggy. I like hugs! I have so much to be thankful for!

I can't let evil cloud my vision. There is a lot of good in this world.

Armchair Diagnoses

After the shootings this past week, many people, even "experts", have come forth with conclusions of why the young men would shoot innocent strangers. We all want answers, and people will have various insights because of their education or experiences. I can understand people suggesting certain reasons be looked into by those closest to investigations. I've done that myself. But what concerns me are the people who jump to conclusions and go on air or on line with misinformation. It will be difficult for investigators to piece together a motive since the shooters aren't there anymore to be examined. Many people will have to be interviewed to see what went horribly wrong. It isn't something that can be done in an hour in time for prime time news. And the experts should know better.

I have had others make those kind of quick diagnoses. It really bothered me when both a psychologist and a neurologist told me in the past year that Ms. D didn't "look FAS." They made that conclusion by what they saw at first glance and missed some obvious signs, at least obvious to me. They didn't spend time looking at pictures from before puberty, when some features of FAS fade, examine her carefully enough to see the features that are still present, take into consideration that FAS looks different in different races, go over her growth history, or a positive admission by the birth family that her mother drank. The psychologist even said that Ms. D didn't have small ears, so she couldn't be FAS. It was obvious to me that the psychologist didn't even look at her ears, because they are small. I then started to tell her some of the features that led the kids' doctor to diagnose Ms. D with FAS. I am pretty confident that the doctor, who cared for many foster children, was correct. To have others ignore me and flippantly say otherwise is foolish. Worse yet, it sometimes might keep Ms. D from getting the correct type of help.

In a way, my experience has helped me to be more careful in the advice I do give. A friend told me a story about her daughter which made me suspect autism. It's pretty common in Silicon Valley, and I know a lot of people with that diagnosis who act in similar ways. I suggested she go to her doctor, tell the same story, and see if they could evaluate the girl. It was autism, but there were other things that it could have been. I could have been wrong. Only a thorough testing procedure could verify my hunch.

Many times, armchair diagnoses are wrong. They can lead people in wrong directions and cause unnecessary grief. The best thing I can do is when people ask, to tell them my opinion. But that it is only an opinion and needs to be thoroughly checked out by someone who really knows what they are doing. And if something doesn't seem right, if someone seems in a rush or doesn't seem to know what they are saying, then get another opinion.

I hope that the investigators figure out why those young men in the news did what they did. But the answers, if they do come, will take time.



Friday, December 14, 2012

Giving My Kids (and Friends) Extra Hugs

My heart breaks for the people in Connecticut today because of the elementary school shooting. I just can't wrap my mind around so many children and helpers of children losing their lives in such a senseless way. I can't even begin to understand the grief their family members are experiencing right now. I pray that God will comfort them and hold them in His arms.

Yet here, across the country, I need to help my kids deal with the news of the tragedy. At first I tried to hide it from them, yet soon realized that it didn't take long for them to figure it out. Kids with traumatic histories, who already have a lot of fear, are pretty observant, and yet have a difficult time dealing with violent news. PTSD is a strange thing, and traumatic events seem to accumulate, at least with my kids. Hubby and I talked a little about what happened, about how they are safe and have people taking care of them. I thought the conversation calmed their fears, until Mr. I pulled out a knife during our daily walk to show Ms. D and me that he'd keep us safe from anyone who would harm us. It looks like we'll have to have some more conversations, doesn't it?

A friend of mine posted an article about how to talk to your children about traumatic events.  It is good advice, and I'm glad to see that I've been able to follow most of this advice so far. Sometimes I wonder whether I'm doing the right thing or not. It's good to be reassured.

This week we've had two mass shootings, one at the mall that my relatives barely missed. So I'm a bit numb myself. Yet I need to stay calm and collected for the kids, and save the tears for later. I gave my teacher friend across the street an extra big hug and will be sure to pray for all the teachers, students, and parents who haven't been affected directly, yet are rocked by the tragedy.

And most of all, I've been giving my kids extra hugs today and thank God they are safe.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Just When I Thought...

Just when I thought Mr. I was regressing more than I could handle and was pushing us away, and just when I thought I was failing as a mother, Mr. I did a major turnaround.

People must have been praying, because his attitude changed 180 degrees while I wasn't even home.

I went with some of my homeschool moms to bless a friend who has cancer. It was actually supposed to be a surprise, but it wasn't. And that was just fine, since I think my friend kind of enjoyed tricking us back. It was good for me to get away from the pressures at home and talk to adults about something other than my kids and how they are doing. I know that if I had, I would have broken down crying, and that wouldn't have been very uplifting for anyone. We told funny stories and I laughed until I cried. Yes, I couldn't avoid the tears, but happy tears are a lot better than sad tears, especially when we all needed some cheering up.

But the real miracle was when I came home. Mr. I asked me how my time went with the other moms. He did his schoolwork that he didn't do earlier in the day. He did cool dances and had us watch. Mr. I was peaceful and didn't ask to go out and buy something. He ate my food, even though it was cheap pizza that I picked up on the way home. Mr. I didn't come home telling us he got into a fight. He looked into my eyes, said he loved me, and asked for a good night prayer.

What was amazing is that this all happened after I left him and his sister alone in the house for a couple of hours. I was only five minutes away and could have hurried home in an emergency, but lately Mr. I has been fearful of me leaving him to walk the dog in the neighborhood. When I left, he was fearful, resistant to schoolwork, and showed signs of anxious attachment. But when I came back, he was attached, enjoyed being with the family, and was fun to be around. This change didn't happen after an afternoon of intensive attachment parenting. It didn't happen because of anything I did. I don't know why he healed so quickly, but it's pretty nice.

How to Respond to Stupid Comments

I am fortunate that I've only received encouraging comments about what I've wrote on this blog from people. Blessed, you have been a blessing to me during some of my darkest times this past year. I sometimes reread your comments when I feel down. Others too, have been an encouragement. I realize that in opening up my heart, and writing thoughts, fears, and actions down, I am also opening myself up to judgement. I am far from perfect, and make bad choices, struggle with my attitudes, and can get discouraged easier than I'd like. I take the chance of exposing myself so that I can process my journey, and maybe help and encourage others who are struggling in theirs. It has been a source of growth in my life, sort of a open book journal.

Yesterday I commented on a news article about a young man who killed two people and badly hurt another in a mall near my relatives' homes in Oregon. The article stated that the man was raised by his aunt and that no one saw it coming. Of course, given my experience of FASD, I asked if someone could research why his aunt raised him, and if there was a possibility of FASD. I didn't say much at all about my kids, other than to say my kids had FASD too. I especially was concerned because of the Fatal Link book I read last summer that linked many school shootings to FASD. I did this in maybe three sentences.

This was one person's reply:
You have negative thoughts about those children and you are the one raising them..
My advise is put the book down and love those children..

 I don't know how to best respond to this comment. Oh, I've already replied to him, telling him he has no idea how much I love my kids and how I've loved them even though living with someone with FASD isn't easy. My heart breaks when I see them struggle every day with the effects of fetal alcohol and past trauma. I'm satisfied with how I responded to his comment.

But what I am struggling with is how I can respond in my heart, to have a thicker skin, to not let such an obvious lie hurt. I don't know how others do it. It's easy for me to take it from my kids, who say hurtful things when they are dysregulated. They may say I'm stupid, fat, and old, that I'm not their mom, and that they don't believe in God. I know that they are acting out in their pain in a way they think will hurt me most, but they don't really mean it. Well most of it, anyway. I know they really love me but are just lashing out. But I don't know how to take it from strangers, or from people I have only met once or twice. I got offended when the psychologist doubted Ms. D had FAS. I wavered when the case worker doubted my ability to homeschool my daughter. I worry more about my ability to parent when we are in public than when I'm with people I know love us no matter how the kids act. I would make an awful politician. I don't know how people like Sarah Palin do it!

I think I need to get to the place where I care more about what God thinks, than what people think. My worth and my work is not best judged by others, especially strangers. How can they possibly understand everything at one glance or after reading few sentences? Advice from those who really know our situation is a lot better than from some unknown person, even an expert. I also need to keep learning how to best parent my children. It's good learn all I can about the primary and secondary conditions of fetal alcohol so that I can be an expert on raising them. Love is not enough, even though it does help. And finally, I need to concentrate on the good things, the encouraging things, the things that bring me peace and joy, especially on days like these when I've been knocked off balance by stupid comments.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Running Off at the Mouth

Yes, that was me today.

I noticed I needed a couple of new tires this afternoon so I left the kids with Blackbelt daughter. I brought a book to read and planned to spend a couple of hours unwinding in the waiting room. A police show was on the TV, and a woman who was waiting with me made some kind of comment about a stupid crook who shot at a police officer. I then made a comment about how I couldn't believe he only had a $50k bail amount when my kids' birth mom had a $500k warrant out for her arrest. From there I told the poor woman in the waiting room just about everything that has happened the past couple of years with the kids and their birth family. I went on, and on, and on. Have you ever had a conversation and in the middle of it you realize you are saying too much to some complete stranger? I had one of those times today. Poor lady!

I think I'll have to find some other outlet to process my feelings than some random woman waiting for her car to be finished.

Choosing Predictability and Routine

Today we were supposed to go to the Monterey Bay Aquarium for their homeschool day activities. We aren't going.

Last week, the kids were disappointed because the birth dad didn't show up when we tried to get him and the kids together. He still hasn't answered their calls since we were arranging for him to say goodbye to the kids last Thursday. The kids have been very dysregulated. They would have been anyway, because of the excitement and changes in schedule that birthdays and holidays bring. Mr. I, especially, has acted oddly the past few weeks and has regressed in his attachment to our family. It isn't fair, but it is understandable, that he has taken his anger, fears, and disappointment out on Hubby and me.

It is really important for us to give our children predictability. I just saw this video from Empowered to Connect this morning as I was making the decision of whether to go on a field trip or not. It confirmed to me that we needed to stay home today. It isn't that we can't ever go on field trips or change schedules. But because of where my children are at right now, the best thing is for us to reestablish our schedule so they feel protected and loved.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

There's Always a Back-story

One of the problems with judging other people's actions and words is that we never truly know the back-story. And there always is a back-story.

Sometimes I cringe at the decisions of other people. I wonder why don't they just do such and such. It would be so simple and save a lot of grief. Later, I find out they are or were in an abusive relationship, they have cancer, they lost a child, they had a bad experience in a similar situation, they suffer from mental illness, they are overwhelmed with job, home, or school pressures. The list goes on.

I have that list in my life. I've had a difficult week, but it has been even more difficult because of my back-story. The decisions Hubby and I are making, and the way we handle things, are affected by influences that others wouldn't know.

All people are affected by their back-story. My kids make bad choices sometimes. Or they aren't using their decision making part of their brain and rage uncontrollably. Others may look at them with judgement, yet not understand that my kids have FASD, RAD, and have traumatic histories. They were not just disappointed that their birth dad left them this week without saying goodbye or keeping a promise to see Mr. I on his birthday. They are having to heal from his abandonment of them when they were preschoolers, and their birth mother's more recent rejection. Oh, and they have the confusion of living with people who are not related by blood, yet consider them family.

I also need to be mindful of the birth dad's back-story when I think about how he let my kids down. I don't know why he did that. But without knowing the birth dad's back-story, I really can't pass judgement on him. What he did was wrong, but it might make sense if I was able to look at the big picture. But I can't hang onto unforgiveness and anger, or think the worst of him. If I do, I will hurt my kids.

And the mom with the eight or nine year old girl who was smearing lipstick at the store? I judged her for not telling the girl to stop or paying for her destruction. But I do not know the back-story. Was the girl autistic or mentally ill? Was the mom in the middle of a divorce and exhausted? Was there something other than really bad parenting involved there? Maybe.

And just maybe there's more to people's story than I see at first glance.


Thursday, December 6, 2012

And I Thought I Was Disappointed

Today was a very difficult day.

We had a homeschool cookie exchange. Mr. I and Ms. D did not want to go, so they made it very difficult for me. Well, especially Mr. I. I understood that he was overexcited about his birthday yesterday. I understood that his birth dad flaked on him and didn't see Mr. I on his birthday. I understood that changing a routine to go to a Christmas party is difficult for people with my kids' background. But understanding the whys of the behaviors don't take the behaviors away. I've been so worn down from weeks of regression and dysregulation. So instead of having a cheerful, relaxing time chatting with other women while the kids played in another room, I had two kids that hung on me. Mr. I was the harder to deal with, since he tried everything he could to get me to leave early. I won't say what he said, because some of it was just too weird to be serious. Fortunately, the women in my homeschool group can handle this kind of behavior from my kids and not judge. I don't think most moms would be as understanding.  I can be a glassy eyed, frazzled woman with whiny, clingy kids and still be loved! There are some quality women in our group!

During the party, Birth Dad called. We had told him the night before that we would be busy from one to three. Guess when he called? Two o'clock! Right in the middle of the time I said we'd be unavailable. I could hardly hear him on the phone, since he talks quietly and the party was fairly loud, so Mr. I talked to him. They arranged for us to meet this evening at 6:30 to say goodbye, since Birth Dad is going home to Arizona on the late bus tonight. For the second night in a row, Birth Dad turned off his phone and we weren't able to get a hold of him all evening. Hubby even took the kids to the place Birth Dad was staying, just in case his phone died but he was still planning on the visit. But Birth Dad was gone.

Guess who is extremely disappointed? Mr. I. Hubby and I aren't surprised by the behavior of the birth dad, but it is pretty upsetting to all of us. Unfortunately, we are caught between trying to help Mr. I deal with this rejection, and sounding like we are against the birth family. Mr. I was angry at everyone and everything and took it out on us. Mr. I wanted chips for his birthday and reminded me that I told him we'd get some today. I told him that yes, I'll keep my promise and get them for him. I was thinking that I don't want him to be let down again, but Mr. I took it as we were trying to take the birth dad's place. He told us that we aren't his family and other hurtful things. I feel there is room for both, but it's hard for a kid to understand that. He just knows he's feeling really bad. He's disappointed and has every right to feel that way. My heart breaks to see the kids go through rejection again and again. They had to deal with it before, when they were in foster care and the birth mom wouldn't show up for visits. On the other hand, they are at an age when they need to see for themselves that there is a reason they were taken from their birth family.

I don't have all wisdom in this matter. I'm so worn out, I don't know that I'll have the energy to even do or say what I think is best. I know I'll make mistakes. But I pray that God will be able to heal my kids' hearts and shower His love on them so they can learn to love and be loved. If you pray, please pray for wisdom for us parents and family, healing for my kids, for forgiveness, and that the kids will not take to heart the rejection.

Scary Haircut

Yesterday I took Mr. I to get a haircut at the barber's. I could have done it myself, but Mr. I is getting pickier and pickier about every single hair on his head. This is kind of silly because he is also obsessed with hats. His friends rarely see him without one. Because Mr. I has been going through so much upheaval lately, I thought is safer to have someone else who knows what he is doing cut Mr. I's hair. Unfortunately, the barber left a quarter inch spot on his head where the hair was a tiny bit thinner than the surrounding area. Mr. I kept asking me if I could see the bald spot. It wasn't bald, just a millimeter thinner. He could not just wait a couple of days for his hair to grow out. No, he had to obsess over that little spot that I could not see unless I was specifically looking at it, in bright light, and without a hat which only comes off for sleep and a shower.

Last night, Mr. I watched a few videos on how to do a side taper, fade haircut or whatever it's called. He had me look at it so I could fix it, but I was distracted by making cookies for the homeschool cookie exchange today and in general try not to cut hair after I start to get sleepy. This morning he got up much too early so that he could have me look at the video again. I had him wait until after I ate breakfast. This sent him into a meltdown, which I tried my best to ignore. Have you ever tried to eat your cereal with strawberries with a raging kid in the background? It didn't help with my digestion. It also didn't help my fear of not being able to cut it any better than the barber. It would be so easy to make a mistake. In the past he's refused to go anywhere until a haircut grew out. I really want to get together with the homeschool group today. We've had to miss homeschool events too many times lately because of meltdowns or bad days. Mr. I was also disappointed yesterday because Birthdad kept calling during the day when Mr. I was busy with friends in the mall, and then made other plans in the evening when Mr. I wanted to visit. Birthdad is leaving this evening, so hopefully we'll be able to connect. It also was Mr. I's birthday and which is near the holidays. All this to say that Mr. I had been in danger of meltdowns anyway, so a tiny mistake in his hair sent him over the edge. And the danger of me making a bigger mistake was daunting.

So this morning, after everyone calmed down, I got the clippers out. I was so scared. It took awhile to get it just right, but I was able to cut his hair the way he wanted it! Whew! Another meltdown avoided!

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

How I Braved the Mall With Five Boys

Mr. I wanted to go to the mall (gulp) to celebrate his thirteenth birthday (bigger gulp) with four of his friends (massive gulp). His original plan was for me to drop him off, despite our rule of no wandering in malls until you are old enough to work in one. Seemed like a good enough rule to me, but Mr. I didn't like it so much. We finally worked out a compromise. I would go with them, but stay far enough away that the boys felt a little freedom.
Do you see the line of five boys in black waaaaaayy down the hall? They are the boys I was trailing like a private eye. I lost them a time or two, but knew the shops they'd most likely be at, so not for long. They actually did pretty well. And after Mr. I understood my plan, he was happy with the arrangement. I was close enough to answer questions like, "I can't find any shoes I like, but can I buy a hat with my money?" I also was able to feed them from the food court when they got hungry, as only teenaged boys can get hungry. I think they were pleased with that.

 The boys didn't get squirrelly until after they ate and circled the mall twice. Fortunately, everyone was done walking around that place. The boys survived, I survived, and Mr. I was happy.

I don't enjoy going to the mall anymore. It just seems all shallow and materialistic. It's hard for me to justify mall prices when I personally know people who have almost nothing. I'm fortunate that the older sisters don't mind taking the kids for their mall fix. I try to avoid it if at all possible, so I rarely go. Each time I do, I'm surprised with something new. The last time I was amazed by lights in the refrigerated section of a store that would automatically turn on as I passed by. This time it was a vending machine with diapers, crayons, and other baby and child supplies near the restrooms.

It seemed so strange to me to see something like that. I've never been to Japan and just have friends there, but it just seems so Japanese to me. Of course, I'm still amazed by automatic faucets and phones that do more than make a call and are connected to the wall with a wire.

Teenager in the House!

We have a tradition in our home to embarrass a child on his or her thirteenth birthday by loudly playing Teenager in the House by Wayne Watson. This song wouldn't be complete without me dancing about the house to the music while the poor teen sinks into the sofa and cringes.

Today was Mr. I's turn! Like it or not, he's a part of our family and we treat him like every other kid. Teehee!

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

The Big Day is Tomorrow

Tomorrow is Mr. I's thirteenth birthday.

If this was a psalm, there'd be a little word, selah, after the last sentence. A translation of selah is to pause and think about it. And when I pause and think about Mr. I's birthday tomorrow, I get a bit anxious. Why?

~Because birthdays, holidays, and changes from the routine are upsetting to children from hard places.  Mr. I's dysregulation has been building the past few days and weeks. We try to keep things low key and simple, but there's a limit to how toned down we can make a special day.

~Because I will have two teenagers from hard places in our home. The teen years are hard enough, yet my kids are emotionally, and in Ms. D's case developmentally behind, yet still have all those wonderful hormones zinging through their bodies. That's enough to scare the most practiced parent!

~Because the birthday emphasizes that I only have a few more years to raise both of the kids. They've been in our home almost ten years and yet there is a lot more work to be done. I'm not assured I can add more time to raise them after they're eighteen. Though at least the kids seem to know that they are stuck with us until then.

I must admit that today a few of us were dysregulated, and not just Mr. I or Ms. D. I started out a bit blue this morning. Well, I was pretty out of it most of the day, though I was able to keep it together when the kids were awake. My lingering pink eye gave me an excuse for how I looked, so I don't think they caught on. I haven't been able to claim victory yet over the disappointments I wrote about yesterday, though I've been trying all sorts of things to bring up my mood. Fortunately feelings come in waves, so the worst moments were fleeting. I still was able to teach, walk dogs, cook, and do a little housework. Oh, and I worked with Mr. I on a friendship bracelet.


This was an interesting experience since Mr. I isn't a very patient person to begin with. And the birthday tomorrow made it even harder for him to work very long without some help. Blackbelt Daughter started the bracelet and taught us how to do it, and Mr. I and I worked on it together. It was the first time either of us made one of these. It's a project that two people can work on at the same time, which helped a little with attachment. Mr. I did fuss about how long it took to finish. But at the end, he liked it and was more connected to me. I'm glad we had time to spend together after all the RAD behaviors of the past few days.

So tomorrow is Mr. I's birthday. My little guy is growing up, whether I want him to or not!

Monday, December 3, 2012

When Disappointments Come

I've been hit with some disappointments the past few days and have been having trouble dealing with some of them in a joyful, peaceful way. I could wait until after the storms to write about how I triumphantly overcame obstacles. But what good would that do for others if they don't see the struggle too? I've done that too often in the past, which gave an impression that I have it all together and am better than most. On the other hand, there is the danger of being a drama queen that sucks life out of people because of bad decisions and trauma after trauma. I want to be transparent, yet not be a drag on others. I want to, in my humanity, to be an encouragement.

So what are the things that have been disappointing me so much lately?

Mr. I has been very dysregulated because of his birthday Wednesday. Birthdays and holidays are typically rough for kids who have been through trauma, and their excitement builds as the day nears. Mr. I is no exception. Unfortunately, his birthday is sandwiched between Thanksgiving, Christmas, and a few other family member's birthdays. Add to that the birth father being around and a cold, and he gets pretty demanding and out of control. The other day at church, we had a time to tell others how the week went. I told the group how Ms. D was just accepted to the regional center and I was happy that she will have support available to her in case she decided to move in with the birth family or we couldn't help her. Mr. I told us then that he planned to move in with the birth family when he's eighteen too, which came as a bit of a shock to us. He doesn't want much to do with the birth family now, so we just weren't prepared for this. I don't know how serious he is, but we are concerned. He's also told me the past few days that he doesn't want to go to college or trade school, he thinks I cook to much like a white person, he likes his friend's moms better, and he's embarrassed to be seen walking the dogs with me. Oh, and when the kids and I were walking the dogs today and having a discussion, one of them asked me if I was afraid to die. I told them no, because I knew I would go to heaven. Ms. D said she was going to hell, and Mr. I said he didn't know where he'd go. Do you see a pattern here? Both kids are trying to push my buttons and get me where I would hurt the most. I see that, and try not to react negatively in front of them to their jabs. But when I'm alone, I cry. I don't know what statements to take as how they really feel, or what is just a way they can get me to feel as bad as they feel inside. I worry about them because I love them and want the best for them.

This evening I had another disappointment. We were supposed to have a time of prayer with some friends, but when we got there, it was cancelled. Too many people couldn't come because of one thing or another. I was really looking forward to this time because I've been so discouraged lately. I was a little afraid I wouldn't have enough energy to pray for others, but was hoping I'd be refreshed enough to be a blessing too. Instead I felt sad that God didn't work it out so I could receive prayer. I was so disappointed and selfish, I didn't even think to pray for our pastor who had a rough day, until after we left.

I'll let you know tomorrow or the next day how I joyfully triumphed over disappointments and worries. But right now I'm in the middle of it. I'm going to spend some time watching a mindless show with the kids and somehow get over the hurts. Tomorrow is a new day.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Puppies in the Christmas Parade

Our guide dog puppy group was in a Christmas parade today. Hubby, Ms. D and Brewster all went while I stayed home with Mr. I. Microbio Daughter braved the parking and the weather and saw the parade.

Despite the occasional rain shower, Ms. D had a great time.
The group posed for pictures before the parade. 

It was a bit odd for these puppies to walk on the road with cars and trucks. We normally keep them off the streets and keep on the sidewalks. But they did really well in the crowds.
Brewster saw a wagon and wanted to ride. Another time he wouldn't walk unless Hubby carried him. Hey, Brewster! You're a big dog now!


This little puppy had a even nicer ride!
After awhile Brewster had to walk! No more ride. No more being carried by Hubby. It's time to work!

But at least he didn't have to wear stupid reindeer antlers like Nelly!

Friday, November 30, 2012

I Couldn't Have Orchestrated it Better

This afternoon I had another meeting at the library with the caseworker from the regional center to sign a few papers that she forgot to bring the other day. Ms. D and Mr. I went with me and waited in another part of the library. Since the woman was late because of rainy day traffic, and talked longer than I expected, the meeting went longer than I had told the kids. But it worked out beautifully.

The woman expressed some things before that were a bit annoying.  She keeps pushing public school for Ms. D, which I don't feel would be a good idea for her. The statistics for teen pregnancy, school problems, drug use, and crime for people with FAS are too scary, and I feel it would be better to err on the side of over-protection rather than giving her freedom to make bad mistakes. I tended to give my older teens a lot of freedom when they were Ms. D's age, but I don't think she has the reasoning ability nor the impulse control that would keep her from harm. To top it off, Ms. D is beautiful, and boys are attracted to her. A public high school would not be a safe place. I'll eventually give her more freedom, but she's not there yet. I also can tailor Ms. D's education in an environment that is free from shame. She doesn't have to be in a special class, and none of her peers needs to know her reading level or math course. And I don't have to deal with tears at the end of most days, like we did when she was in school.

The caseworker also didn't think Ms. D had FAS, even though I told her that the facial features fade after puberty. Someday I might send them a picture of Ms. D when she was six or seven, when the facial features were more pronounced. I also might send them documentation about how the facial features change with age. Ms. D was diagnosed by her medical doctor and the birth mother's alcohol consumption was confirmed. I really get upset when people look at Ms. D now and think I'm mistaken about fetal alcohol exposure.  I wish it wasn't true, but it is, and we live with the effects every day.

Another annoying thing the case worker does is say that Ms. D isn't like her normal clients and doesn't really need the services. She was surprised that the psychologist accepted Ms. D and thinks that she just has a learning disability. But her attitude changed today at the library. Partway through the meeting, Mr. I came up to me and said that he couldn't find Ms. D. He acted really worried. I told him, in front of the case worker, that Ms. D probably just went to the restroom and I asked him to keep looking for her. The case worker asked me if Ms. D could have been outside, but I told her "No, she doesn't like the rain. She probably just went to the restroom like she did at the psychologist's office a couple of weeks ago. We went all over the building trying to look for her." The caseworker asked me about if Ms. D tells us when she needs to go somewhere, and I had to tell her no. She wrote "wandering" on her notes. I didn't tell the caseworker that, like many people with FASD, Ms. D needs to learn rules for each new situation. Ms. D now knows to ask to go to the restroom at the psychologist's office, but I didn't tell her to do that at the library. I'll do that then next time we go. But what was nice about this whole situation, the caseworker stopped making comments about how well functioning Ms. D was and seemed more enthusiastic about her being accepted to the regional center. I know that Ms. D will most likely need some kind of support as an adult, yet she presented too high functioning to the caseworker to get the services she will need. The actions of the kids at the library helped the caseworker to see that I'm not over exaggerating the need. I couldn't have orchestrated it better.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Rainy Day Doldrums

We've had quite a bit of rain lately, and more is on the way. I don't know how I survived Oregon. My mood matches the sky. In addition to the rain, I've had quite a bit of irritations. Fortunately there's been nothing big at our house. But sometimes the drip, drip, drip of little problem after little problem is more tiring than the larger events. We've had a cold go through the house. Drip. The kids have been on edge because of illness and the holidays. Drip. I've had pink eye the past few days. Drip. A cold sore. Drip. A backache. Drip. Discouragement from the regional center woman. Drip. Car problems. Drip. Computer problems. Drip. Drip. Drip....

Haven't we all had a few days like that from time to time? Fortunately, I know that days like this are only for a season. There will be sunshine, if not tomorrow, then next week. This is not the time to make important decisions, start arguments, or dwell on the negatives. This is the time to keep busy, give others grace, and look up silly things on the internet and laugh until you cry. Or watch old slapstick movies. Or dance to some music. Or take a walk in the rain.  Or bake cookies and try the new bag of dark and mint chips. This is the time to do whatever it takes to get through it.

This dreary time will pass.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

My Value, My Compensation, My Calling

Like many stay at home moms, I often question my value.

Today, I felt a bit deflated after a couple of things happened. The first one was when I saw a quote that one of my friends posted about high earners intend to be well compensated because they feel they are worth it. I haven't made minimum wage in the nearly thirty years of raising my children or taking care of others. And that doesn't mean I've made more than minimum wage. For the most part, people in our society get paid according to the value that others in our society give for the work provided. Of course, I don't expect to be paid for raising my own children or cleaning my own house, but there have been a few times lately when I wasn't nearly compensated enough monetarily for the work I did for others. One neighbor balked when I asked a little over four dollars an hour to drop off and pick her daughter up from school, tutor her, and care for her. It hurt when that same neighbor paid nearly three times that amount to my daughter to tutor, even though I was glad she earned what she deserved. Around that time another neighbor asked me to take care of his preschool daughter for about four dollars an  hour, but ended up paying me half that amount. I took the jobs because Hubby had been out of work earlier that year and we really needed the money. Now I wonder if I should have done that, because even after two or three years, I still feel like I'm not worth it to be well compensated.

Today I met with a woman from the regional center to sign Ms. D up and discuss services that are available to her. The woman forgot the sign up sheets, so she spent most of the hour and a half meeting not only talking about services, but talked about how she thinks I'm not able to prepare Ms. D for life if I continue to homeschool her. By the end of the meeting, I was wavering on my decision. It didn't matter that the school district didn't help us before, that budget cuts have affected the schools, that Ms. D learns better in a quiet, one on one setting, or that statistically she is more likely to get pregnant as a teen because of the FASD and needs more protection. The woman talked of all the good things Ms. D could learn, that she's not being exposed to enough different people, and that I couldn't possibly prepare her for a job because we don't have a cash register in our house. The regional center likes to work with kids that have gone through the public school system and they have no idea how to work with someone who hasn't.

Fortunately, when I got home, I asked Ms. D what she would like to do and she said she'd like to continue homeschooling. That kind of brought me to my senses. After all, I am going through a PSP, or private satellite program, that specializes in teaching special needs children and teens. If I don't understand what needs to be taught, then they can help me. And when Ms. D is college age, she can go to a community college program for special needs. She doesn't have to learn how to run a cash register before she's eighteen!

While talking with the regional center woman, I was feeling really inadequate. What did I know about teaching special needs? I don't have a degree. Why do I think Ms. D has FAS? They don't see it. They don't believe me when I tell them the facial features of FAS fade after puberty. What do I know about what Ms. D needs? I'm just a parent, a parent that makes crazy decisions like homeschooling, who shelters her children too much, and who is asking them to do more for Ms. D than they think she needs. The regional center woman didn't seem to value what I've done for Ms. D, so who am I to value my own work?

Another thing I can't do is to base my value on the outcome of my work. Yes, I've more or less successfully raised four children to adulthood. Sometimes I think they are doing better than expected, given the mistakes I've made. Yet, I don't know how the youngest two will turn out. I'm putting a lot more work into raising them, but they don't behave as well as the older ones did at their age. Of course, my youngest two have a more difficult background. But I still look at their actions and feel badly about how well I've raised them.

It's dangerous to base my value on the actions of others. But that is what I do when I feel bad about myself when people pay me so little. That is what I do when I second guess my decisions or feel inadequate because of what a "professional" assumes. It is what I do when I look at the behaviors of my kids and feel I haven't done enough, or have made too many mistakes.

So where do I get my value? My value can't come from what others do for me or say about me. It can't really come from within myself, since I'm broken and don't always see things the way I should. My value can only come from the One who made me, who has called me to be a mother, and who loves me. I am doing what I was made to do, to the best of my ability. And a lack of material compensation, accolades, or results should not lessen my calling or my value. My reward is not here and now, but when I look on His face at the end. And I hope then He will say, "Well done."

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Mr. I Finding Beauty in a Sunset

This evening, as Mr. I and I were going to get groceries, we saw a beautiful sunset. Mr. I said the pink clouds looked like cotton candy. He then snapped a picture.

I was too amazed to take one myself. For the most part, my youngest are happier inside a mall than outside in nature. They usually complain when we drag them to the beach or woods. It's one of the areas that we have a disconnect. Each of my children enjoy different kinds of music, food, and dress differently, but my birth children have some similarities. They even like to go camping, which the youngest two can't stand! Our two adopted children are a part of our family, but there are big differences in their tastes, likes, and dislikes. I don't know how much is inside them and how much comes from their time before they came to our home or since they've been in contact with the birth family. But these areas are there.

I love to see the beautiful colors of a sunset, and often point them out to others around me. It's always been a bit disappointing to me that the youngest kids tend to act unimpressed. But tonight was different.  Mr. I enjoyed a part of nature as much as I did. He saw beauty in what I call "God's painting." We were able to connect while finding beauty in a sunset.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Up On the Rooftop

Today I started to put up a few Christmas lights on our roof.  This might not be a big deal for many people, but for me it was amazing.

Why?

1. I grew up in the Midwest where the land is pretty flat and have always been a bit afraid of heights. I used to get heart palpitations from just driving down a mountain road, thinking the car would surely fall headfirst down the slope. Until recently I'd shake at the top of a ladder. Today I walked across the roof with no fear.

2. I was not wearing good roof climbing clothes. I thought about changing into jeans and running shoes, but I didn't want to take time to change from my skirt and boots. The sun was setting and I wanted to get the highest lights up today while it was dry.  My Honduran friend reminded me that lots of women there wear similar clothes while working hard, but I think my neighbors would think me a bit odd. Well, they probably already do, but I think they like me anyway.

3. I didn't really have to do it. I could have asked two of my kids to help me on the roof instead of me. They were pretty disappointed I didn't wait for them. Mr. I was at a friend's house, which was probably good because he has a cold. I don't think I would have trusted his balance today. It was better that I did it without him. Blackbelt Daughter loves to go on the roof. She used to go up there when the youngest kids were small, since that was the only place they wouldn't follow after her. Poor girl! In order to have peace, she was forced to the roof!  Microbio Daughter did help me after she came home from work.  That was pretty nice because by that time it was getting dark and we got the lights up quicker with her help.

Going on the roof was a lot easier for me this year. Like many fears, the more a person conquers a fear of heights, the easier it gets. I try to remember this when I feel anxious about something. My first response is a powerful fight or flight feeling. But if I can stick to it and make it through the first minute or so, the next time usually goes a little better.

I have to remember this with the kids. Some things are very frightening to them, and for good reason. They have seen and experienced too much and imagine the worst. Today, in our Bible study, we learned about how God told Joshua so many times to be bold and courageous.  I hope I can teach them to overcome some of their fears so that they can be more independent and grow. I hope I can teach others to take chances, try to do awesome things that used to cause them fear, and to make a difference in this world. Sometimes practicing overcoming the little things, like climbing a ladder or going on a roof, helps me to take bigger chances, like fighting to get services for Ms. D. It isn't easy to step out of my comfort zone, but the rewards are awesome!

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Ms. D Talked!

I'm so proud of Ms. D! She went to visit Birth Dad last night and she told him that she didn't like that he let her down last week.  Hubby said she told Birth Dad her feelings in a good way. This is a big step for her. Normally she holds her disappointments, hurts, and fears in and puts up walls around her. It comes out in other ways that are not healthy. When she was little, she acted fearful when we asked her to sit down and talk. She'd scratch her neck and cheek or pull her hair if something bothered her. As she grew, it would take months before she trusted people with even a little information, and even then she'd hold her biggest feelings inside. We feel the pseudo seizures happen because she holds in stress.  All last week she slept too much, ate too little, was grumpy, and didn't give Brewster much attention at all. I knew she was upset, but she wouldn't share her feelings. But this morning, after visiting the birth dad and expressing her thoughts, she woke up hours earlier, played with the dog, ate breakfast, and smiled! I hope she continues to express herself. She's like a different girl!

Friday, November 23, 2012

It's All in How You Look at Things Sometimes

Last night we were invited to one of my son's in-laws for a Thanksgiving feast. I came home from a wonderful time with family with sadness. Instead on focusing on how blessed I was to spend time with family, especially my grandson, I was focusing on how difficult it is to raise my two youngest. During the evening they, of course, acted up. Holidays are always difficult. They ignored people's greetings, sulked in the corner, didn't eat any vegetables, and tried to let me know in so many ways that they were not pleased to come. I was trying to get through the evening without causing too much of a scene, but their behavior seemed to concern one of the members of the family who have have kids that were well behaved. The man finally lectured Mr. I on how to politely get my attention, which was all good advice, but I'm sure it fell on deaf ears. Mr. I interrupted me for a reason. He didn't want to be there. Fortunately, Microbio Daughter took them home early, but not before Ms. D came up to me in front of the "perfect" family and took my water. Without asking. And acted sassy too. And then I realized then that in my nervousness, I had eaten much too quickly, which further embarrassed me. Last night I was comparing my kids to theirs, my manners to theirs, my homeschool to theirs, and falling short. And I didn't just feel bad for a moment, but stewed about it until I was in tears by the time I went to bed. I was focusing on where I fall short of perfection.

This morning I decided that perfection was not a good goal. There is no way I can have perfect hair, perfect skin, perfect weight, perfect children, perfect house, perfect husband, perfect anything. Hey, I'm human after all! Oh, and so is everybody else! So why get all in a bad mood because I can't reach an impossible goal? Why compare my weaknesses with someone else's strengths? Why pass judgement on others and myself?

So today, when I planned to bring down the Christmas decorations from the attic and clean house, I helped one of my sons with a project for church. My house won't be perfect tomorrow when the family gets together, but it will be clean and decorated well enough. When I planned to shop for food, I also picked up Mr. I and his friend from a friend's house the next town over. Because of taking an extra half hour to do this, I had to rush to get the food. I may have forgotten something, but we will have plenty of food for everyone. When Hubby took Ms. D to visit the birth father after he finally called, I stayed home to make some pies and watch a movie with Mr. I. Because I didn't go with, I don't know how it went, but I was able to reconnect with Mr. I.

Instead of focusing on my faults, my problems, and all the negative things in my life, I made an effort to focus on the good. It took work. But I was much happier. I was able to joke around with Ms. D as we drove around. I was able to enjoy my family. I was able to thank the tellers for working on Black Friday when I got groceries. I was able to relax and not be all uptight about having everyone over tomorrow. I was able to rest. I was able to make mistakes and not be perfect, yet enjoy life. I was able to love people, even when they were acting a bit unlovable, because I realized that God does that even better than I. It doesn't really matter if someone doesn't like the way I have done things, I did my best just fine. Relationships are more important than having everything go my way. Isn't that what we've been trying to get into our children's hearts all these years?

I can choose whether to focus on the good or the bad. Most life events have a little of both, don't they? Sometimes how I look at things determines how I respond to different events. Will I respond with anxiety, embarrassment, fear, anger, and judgement, or will I respond with grace, love, peace, courage, and joy? The choice is mine.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Grandma's French Apple Slices

My grandma made the best apple dessert. It was one of the things we ate every Thanksgiving I can remember. Years ago, she gave me the recipe, and each time I make it, I remember her smile, her hugs, and her quick wit.



French Apple Slices

Preheat oven to 375 degrees

Filling:

Mix together:
   4 cans unsweetened apples or fresh equivalent (I don't know how much that really is, so I estimate)
   1 lb. light brown sugar
   1 1/2 tsp. nutmeg
   1 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
   1/2 tsp. salt
   2 heaping Tbsp. flour

Dough:

Sift together:
    4 cups flour
    1 tsp. salt

Cut in as for pie crust:
    3 sticks of margarine (I use butter, but if you use margarine, make sure it doesn't have water)

Mix together:
   4 egg yolks
   14 Tbsp. Water (very cold- I take it out of water with ice)
   2 Tbsp. lemon juice

Add the liquid to the pie crust mixture (Don't over mix)
Divide pie crust mixture in half
Roll out onto cookie sheet with 1/2 inch sides
Put filling in
Roll second half of crust
Put on top and make slits in crust (I made leaf shapes this year)

Bake 1 hour at 375 degrees or until golden brown

Drizzle slices with glaze a little after taken from oven
Glaze:
Powdered sugar, a little vanilla or maple flavoring, and a little hot water

This year, because I made leaf shapes, I sprinkled the top with a little white sugar before baking instead of using the glaze. I didn't want to cover the pretty leaves!

Oh, and the rolls in the picture? I made them this morning while making the apple slices. I didn't use a recipe because I was feeling a bit adventurous. Unfortunately, they were the best rolls I had ever made! I wish I had the recipe!

Holiday Anxiety Vs. Peaceful Enjoyment

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday of the year. It's one of my daughter's favorite holidays too. This is what she wrote today:
Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday of all, even more than Christmas! ♥ Amazing food, fantastic people, lots of family, and all about being thankful and positive! All the best things!
 Of course, not everyone I know enjoys holidays. My friend in Honduras can't get the traditional Thanksgiving foods. One year she got a turkey, but it was the toughest old bird! This year she can't have visitors because of her husband's sickness and is spending the day visiting the doctor for a checkup, not a loved on for a meal. Hubby said that some of the group homes he visits empty out, and the jails fill up, because of the anxiety around the holidays. And of course, my kids have been pretty dysregulated the past few days. Ms. D won't do much of anything but lay around watching movies on the computer. She complains about being tired, or her feet are too tired to walk the dog, or she's too cold, or...  Mr. I keeps begging people to take him shopping for things he doesn't need and wants to get a haircut at a barber today. It's Thanksgiving. He can wait.

Despite the turmoil in my kids' hearts, I am keeping calm. It helps to know that holidays are pretty rough, and this year may be even worse for them because we aren't doing anything with the birth family. The birth dad hasn't called since last Sunday. He knows how to get a hold of us. But he probably is still upset that Hubby told him that Ms. D was disappointed. But he needs to own up to his mistakes, instead of blaming all his problems on others. And we need to protect our children, not only from danger, but from further rejection or flakiness.

So I am choosing to be thankful. I am choosing to be peaceful. No matter how much the kids complain or act up, I am going to enjoy my Thanksgiving weekend. It is, after all, my favorite holiday!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Thankfulness and Happiness

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving!

Our family is actually celebrating Thanksgiving Saturday so my oldest don't have to gorge themselves all in one day at both sets of parents. They can gorge themselves on two days!

Many of my friends are writing things they are thankful for every day this month. I was being a bit contrary and didn't follow their lead, but I thought that was an awesome thing to do. Often when things get tough, I try to think of things that I'm grateful for, since it usually makes me feel better about my situation. Thankfulness is all over the Bible, and it is something that pleases God. But it's also something that even those who don't consider themselves religious can aspire toward. There have been studies done linking gratefulness to the feeling of well-being. http://psychology.ucdavis.edu/Labs/emmons/PWT/index.cfm?Section=4

Sometimes it's hard to be thankful. I can really get wrapped up in negative feelings when people I love become sick or even die, or finances are tight, cars break down, or the kids are driving me up a wall with their behaviors.  But I've found that even when things look really bad, there is always something to be grateful for. And the more I focus on the good things, the smaller the bad things appear. Or, at the very least, the bad things are a little more tolerable. It's not like the bad things disappear, but they aren't so devastating. Making a concerted effort to list things I am grateful for has helped me to be a happier person.

This afternoon I read this in the link above:

Children who practice grateful thinking have more positive attitudes toward school and their families (Froh, Sefick, & Emmons, 2008). 

I realized that though I've modeled being grateful to my youngest kids, I really haven't had them practice thankfulness. Part of it is my aversion to the old thought of orphans should be grateful that someone took them in under their roof. I've read so many stories, especially set in the 1800's, of people who mistreat orphans yet require the children to be thankful for the crumbs that have fallen their way. I didn't ever want my kids to think that they weren't worthy of love or that they were a second class person in our family. Because of that, I haven't encouraged them to express thankfulness as much as would be good for them. They have also had some pretty intense RAD behaviors and materialism that have left them with a feeling of never having enough. Of course getting more things doesn't fill the void they feel in their hearts. Gratefulness is the last thing on their minds. So I'm wondering now if our family should start a tradition of saying one thing a day that we are grateful for. It would model thankfulness and also get the kids, get all of us, to focus not on what we lack, but on the blessings we do have. I want my kids to be happy, and this seems like a pretty good way to do it. Maybe that's why thankfulness was such a big issue in God's eyes.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Accepted!

I got a call from the Regional Center this afternoon.

Ms. D has been accepted!

I can't begin to tell you how much of a load has been lifted off me. It is really hard to get a child with FAS accepted in regional centers in California, even with a low IQ. Why? Because people with FAS seem so normal at first glance, with fairly good verbal abilities. Ms. D, even with a low IQ, is able to function fairly well with support. Fortunately, the psychologist at the regional center realized how much I have been supporting Ms. D and let me retake the functionality test with that in mind. I have been doing so much to be Ms. D's external brain for so long, I had to think about how she would function without my help. She needs reminders, she needs people to come alongside of her when she "freezes" and can't think, and she needs concrete, clear directions in a low stress environment to do most things. She is also pretty naive, impulsive, and has a simple, concrete way of relating to people. She is in danger of being victimized. FASD isn't something people grow out of, and she will always need some kind of support, either from her family, or from outside sources. http://www.nofas.org/living-with-fasd/

I fully plan to support her as long as I can, but I need to make preparations in case she goes back to the birth family or something happens to us. It also might be nice to have extra help in job training, housing, and other things like that. I'll find out in a week or so what is available for Ms. D. I want her to be as successful as possible.

In a way, I'm a bit saddened that Ms. D will need support when she is an adult. I think most parents want their kids to become independent and mature. It bothers me that Ms. D has a handicap that most others can't see, so they expect more than she can deliver. I worry about how she'll end up, whether she'll be safe, or if she'll make really stupid decisions. I sometimes get angry when I think that this all could have been avoided, had her birth mother not been an alcoholic. It's hard to see your child suffer.

On the other hand, I'm so happy that Ms. D will be able to get more help. I'm surprised that the psychologist at the regional center changed her mind. Most parents of kids with FASD that I know in California can't get the help they need for their children. Ms. D is not the usual regional center client, so I'm relieved that Ms. D was accepted.

This was a miracle! Happy Dance!

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Abandonment

One of the things that fostered and adopted children have to come to terms with is a feeling of abandonment. Whether or not the parent loses their parental rights because they left the child or because they didn't do what was necessary to keep the child doesn't really matter. Our kids feel the sting of abandonment.

My kids felt that sting when their birth father left the state and they didn't see him for ten years. They felt that sting when their birth mother wouldn't appear for visits, and when she didn't do what was necessary to get the kids back. They felt the abandonment when occasionally we would get a letter, only for her to disappear for a year, or four years. They felt the joy of seeing the birth mom again, but then when the birth mom stopped calling or visiting, they relived not only this abandonment, but all the times in the past. They saw the birth mom do what was needed to regain custody of a sibling and wondered why she didn't do that for them. And now with the birth dad, they heard him say that if he knew they would be taken away permanently, he would have come back for them. But why did he leave in the first place? I know he was on the run from a felony arrest, but the kids and the birth dad blame the birth mom. They don't want to believe that he had abandoned them.

Yesterday, Hubby made plans to visit a church today with Birth Dad and Ms. D. So we woke Ms. D up this morning, she got ready, and was looking forward to another time with her dad. As they went out the door, Hubby called Birth Dad to tell him they were on the way. Birth Dad told Hubby he changed his mind and was with a friend. He didn't call or text to tell us of the change of plans. He didn't show any reservation when the plans were made. He just changed his mind and didn't tell us. This kind of behavior didn't surprise us. There's a reason he lost two of his kids. But it crushed Ms. D.

Birth Dad got upset when Hubby texted him that Ms. D was disappointed. He made all sorts of excuses and tried to put the shame on Hubby. But Birth Dad needs to know. He needs to know that our kids are extra sensitive to abandonment, no matter how small. We have worked years to show them that they will always have us, they will not be left alone, and will always be loved. Not showing up today is a huge thing. Of course Ms. D doesn't want to talk about it. She internalizes everything. Thankfully she hasn't had a seizure, but she has slept a lot and it's been hard to get her to eat and move. My heart goes out to her.

So how will I respond to this? I'm not entirely sure. I hope Hubby will be able to talk to Birth Dad about giving us warning if his plans change, and being more sensitive to the needs of our kids. We have to be so careful to not promise something we don't intend to keep. And Birth Dad needs to do the same. He needs to learn to follow the words with actions, so that the children learn that parents are trustworthy. I don't know if Birth Dad is capable of following through. We've learned the hard way that Birth Mom isn't. But I hope he will be. I hope that this is a one time relapse and he will do better in the future. I hope for the kids' sake, so they will learn to trust and love. It breaks my heart to see Ms. D suffer through abandonment again and again. How is she to learn of a loving God who is always with her if she doesn't even believe her parents are there for her?

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Give, and it Will be Given to You

My heart is just overwhelmed with gratitude and happiness. Why? Because today I've seen some of my older kids give what little they have of their time and money to be a blessing to others.

Sometimes I am amazed at my kids. Most of the time I don't see their generosity, but I see glimpses from time to time. Today one of my daughters gave to a missionary friend who has dengue hemorrhagic fever. This daughter works hard to earn money for college, yet she still gave. Most young adults her age would spend extra money on concerts and clothes, but she is spending it on helping to save the life of our friend. We wouldn't have found out about it, except that she gave through a nonprofit my husband runs, Progress Tools. Another daughter and a son worked in the rain doing Beautiful Day projects through their church today. And then that daughter took Ms. D to church this evening, despite being so tired.  She does so much to help me with the two youngest children, and often I hardly notice when she quietly helps. I see my sons and daughters in law give of their time, finances, and talents to bless others. I am thrilled that they have caught the vision, that they give of what little they have.  My heart just bursts with pride and love for these awesome young people.

And I pray that as they give, they will receive an even greater blessing. Luke 6:38

Friday, November 16, 2012

Whew!

I was going to say I didn't realize how anxious I was yesterday, but that would be a lie. So many things were piling up both in my life and in the lives of those I love. I would catch myself eating too much chocolate, holding my breath, and not having as much patience with the kids as I would like. Some of the things I have been praying and hoping for have not been resolved, but others are beginning to fall into place.

One of the things was my daughter's car. She couldn't get it to shift into reverse or even park. Fortunately we live in a neighborhood that doesn't have too much crime, because the key was in the ignition overnight. Since that car has almost 300,000 miles on it, I was worried that the cost to fix it would be in the hundreds of dollars. A car like that can easily cost more to fix it than it is worth, and I was afraid we'd have to go car shopping again. I took it in to our neighbor's shop anyway today, and he fixed it for free! There was just too much gunk that accumulated over the years on the shifter. He also found a nail in one of the tires and fixed that too. I hate to think of what would have happened if the car didn't need to be fixed, the tire wasn't fixed, and the nail caused a flat on the highway at night. Here I was, fretting about where I would find a couple hundred dollars, and the repair was so easy he didn't charge us. And not only that, my daughter was protected. What a great neighbor! What a blessing!

How many times do I fuss about some inconvenience, and it turns out that inconvenience prevents a worse problem? How many times do I worry about something, and the thing I worry about isn't as big of a deal as I fear? How much extra stress do I experience because I worry about tomorrow, what could happen, or what could be the worst case scenario?

I'd like to think I will eventually learn how to trust God to take care of my needs. I'd also like to find a way to plan but not worry, pray but let the burden go, and have concern but not get depressed when I see people suffer. Learning these things is not coming easily, but I'm having plenty of practice! There is so much going on. But for now I breath a sigh of relief, and thank God for the blessings he's given me today.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

One of Those Days...

Today was one of those days...

...That the kids were a bit dysregulated and Ms. D woke up with a stiff neck. She didn't have any other symptoms, so I wasn't concerned, but she told me she thought she was going to die. Do I detect a little drama girl behavior? Maybe! Mr. I was alternately clingy and standoffish, jumped on furniture, sassed, and did everything to push my buttons because he "was bored." Bored? Really? He was too overstimulated and emotionally on edge because of the birth dad visit and Ms. D's sore neck. It didn't help that I was out of it too.

...That I didn't have much motivation to get much done today. I was recovering from a migraine. One of my friends found out her stage four cancer has spread and become worse. Another friend has hemorrhagic dengue fever, the worst kind, and he's traveling all day and night to get to a good doctor and clinic in Honduras. And someone close to me is struggling financially, but is pushing me away because I don't understand. That hurts, because I really care for them, yet somehow I don't come across well in their eyes. Add to that unrest in the Middle East, hurting or crazy kid behaviors, and the usual worries and concerns I carry around, and I became a bit down. For most of these things all I can do is pray, which drives me nuts. Of course God can handle these things a lot better than I can, but I still try to carry part of the load.

...That there were interruptions and changes to my schedule. There was the usual interruptions that only a mom of a toddler can understand. My kids just don't outgrow their need to see me pop up and down all day. I really should be losing weight through all this. It must be the chocolate I've been popping into my mouth every time I get all stressed out. There was also a mix up somewhere in the guide dog meeting time, and so I had to bring Ms. D and Brewster instead of Jim. Brewster did well, but we had to drive a ways in rush hour traffic, pick up a Bible for Birth Dad, and get some pizza on the way home, since I wasn't able to cook before Hubby and the kids went to visit Birth Dad. Unfortunately, despite our rushing around, Birth Dad was gone by the time they came. But I heard he was not leaving the state tonight, which I think made the kids feel a bit better. I was planning on getting a few things done at home and relax while they were gone, but Black Belt Daughter called with a car problem. I hope it doesn't cost too much to fix. I ended up waiting for her to finish teaching a taekwando class and got home after Hubby and the kids, which made the kids all the more uneasy.

...That I am learning I can't be all things to all people, I can't take away all hurts, I can't have everything around me perfect, and I can't be as good of parent I'd like to be, yet I am still perfectly loved by God.

...That I am learning to pray and then release people into God's hands. That I can't even carry my own burdens, so I can't expect myself to carry other people's burdens too.

...That  worrying about things doesn't help. I know this in my head, but it's a big jump from the head to the heart.

...That God really is in control, no matter how bad things look.


Wednesday, November 14, 2012

I Met the Birth Dad for the First Time

Today I met Birth Dad for the first time. It almost didn't work out. I had a migraine this afternoon and was afraid I wouldn't act normally. Well I still have one but it's been better after the sun set. Mr. I didn't want to go at first. He was so ambivalent, first he wanted to go, then not. But after Hubby and Ms. D left, he called them on the phone to turn back. I'm glad he went, because this might be the last time he can see his birth dad for awhile. Birth Dad got a call yesterday that he got a job, so he needed to leave early. It was also nice that one of the birth brothers came by too, since Mr. I and Ms. D missed him.

The visit went well. Ms. D didn't talk much and Birth Dad was a bit nervous around her, so there was a little bit of awkward silence at first. But as the night went on, people were more talkative. We got to know each other a little better. I'm glad I got to meet the birth dad.


So tomorrow, Ms. D and Hubby will drop by one last time to give Birth Dad a Bible and say their goodbyes. We'll see how things go, since it will be another loss for my kids. They don't do loss very well. I guess no one really does, but because of all the losses in my kids' lives, it seems to hit them harder. I hope to give the kids enough tools to learn to live with loss, because you just can't avoid it. But it's an important skill for them to learn, so that they can learn to love more. And learning to give and receive love is the best thing I can teach, encourage, and model to my kids.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

None of My Business, Or is it?

I found out through Ms. D yesterday why the birth mom doesn't want anything to do with the kids anymore. Birth Dad told Ms. D that Birth Mom thinks we are too nosy and ask too many questions. It kind of confirms what I thought, that the birth family on the mom's side is up to no good right now. Birth Dad understands that we just want to protect the kids, and told Ms. D that he thinks that we are right to keep her safe. Ms. D seems to understand it too, which is a relief. Ms. D is already having to deal with yet another rejection from her "blood", and I don't want her to resent that we are also trying to keep things safe for her. But she seems more at peace with how things are going. It probably helps that Birth Dad is on our side in this instance.

Now I must admit I am a bit nosy. I grew up in the Midwest where everyone knows everyone else and what they are up to. Neighbors talked to neighbors, and we kids, when we did something wrong, got yelled at by the neighbor ladies and then got it again when we got home. It was really hard to misbehave! We didn't ever lock our houses, since there was always someone looking out to make sure our neighborhood was safe.

It's a little different here in California. I'm one of the few neighbors who knows just about everyone on our street. Since I am home a lot, most of the neighbors nearby ask for us to keep an eye on things when they are gone. But, I must admit I take it a little to far sometimes. The other day, I saw the neighbors talking to someone I had never seen before. This is the conversation Ms. D and I had, looking out the window:

Me: Who's that old guy with the beard talking to the neighbors?
Ms. D: It's business.
Me: What kind of business?
Ms. D: None of yours.

I thought is was so great that Ms. D said it with a smile and laughed. It isn't often that she jokes around. I had to admit it really wasn't my business, since the neighbors were right there. But in a way, I think it was good for Ms. D to see that I'm keeping an eye out for trouble and that others may be too! If it wasn't for the neighbors, I wouldn't have found out as soon as I did when Ms. D first met the birth family and made plans to run away. However, one of them didn't tell me because she thought it wasn't her business. I was so angry! I hope the neighbor ladies in the neighborhood will look after my kids like the ladies did for me when I was growing up. Being a little nosy might be annoying, but it can save a lot of problems.

I just have to learn to do it in a way that isn't so obvious!