Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Tabernacle and the Terrible Twos

What? My youngest kids aren't two? They are nearly thirteen and fourteen? Really? You could have fooled me by the way they acted!


Today I took them to a Tabernacle replica. Yes, it wasn't our normal routine. Yes, it is Halloween and Mr. I had plans to go to a friend's right after school and he was afraid he'd be late. Yes, neither of the kids have ever done well at a museum, ship, or a field trip of any kind. But I was hoping that they would pay attention, since our Bible lessons lately have been about Moses, the Israelites wandering in the desert, and the Tabernacle. It seemed like perfect timing to me when I found out about the traveling exhibit at a local church.


The timing might have worked with our school schedule, but my kids acted worse than the preschoolers that were there at the same time we came. They fidgeted, refused to look at the volunteers in the eye, talked when they were supposed to be reverent and quiet, tore the linen scraps in little pieces that blew in the wind, splashed water at the other, gagged and coughed at the scent of the incense, and turned off the audio tour halfway through the tour, thinking I'd leave because they were finished. When they were done, they started arguing with each other using non church like language as I quickly ushered them away from the other people. I'm glad I didn't go with anyone in our homeschool group. I had a chance, but I had a feeling my kids would distract. They did, but I hope I was the only one distracted. I doubt it though. This video was taken when they were behaving themselves better near the start of the tour.


Surprisingly, Mr. I got something out of the time. He was able to talk a little about it as I drove them home. I am amazed that he learned something. So even though it was difficult, I'm glad I took them. But I won't go to the homeschool field trip with them tomorrow, going on a backstage tour. I can't handle two straight days of the terrible twos teens.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Made it Through One Challenge

 Today was the meeting with the regional center to discuss why they were denying Ms. D services with their agency. I fretted about it but still prepared for the meeting by reading up and refreshing my memory about FASD. I still worried that I would either start crying or back down too much. Neither would have been helpful.

Thankfully, the people at the regional center started the meeting off well. I didn't feel like it was a confrontation, but more like they'd love to help us, but they had to follow the rules. At this point, Ms. D is still denied services, because the test I filled out of her adaptive skills was higher than what her IQ test would suggest.  They had assumed correctly that I filled it out with the idea of how much Ms. D can do with supports around her, not on her own. I didn't see the part of the directions that said to do it that way. So they let me redo the adaptive skills test with that in mind. If she still scores too high, she will be denied, but we can still reapply when we get more information before she turns eighteen.

The psychologist there didn't seem to understand FASD as well as I would have liked. She didn't think Ms. D showed the facial characteristics. But I was able to rattle off what characteristics she did have and that at puberty, many of the characteristics fade. She also didn't see the need for me to be a bit overprotective of Ms. D. About half of the people with FASD have run ins with the law or teen pregnancy, and coupled with some of the bad decisions and lack of judgement Ms. D has shown, I just can't take a chance. She also had no idea about homeschooling, thinking that I wouldn't know what to teach, and that Ms. D's social difficulties stemmed from not having enough practice. I tried to tell her that the social difficulties began well before Ms. D was homeschooled. People with FASD tend to have the most problems in that area, and Ms. D is no exception. But after talking to the head of Ms. D's private school a few weeks ago, I had a lot more confidence in my ability to homeschool. It is difficult, but I just can't see how the public school can give her the one on one attention that she needs to function, yet preserve her self esteem. I was momentarily tempted to give up, but after coming home I have more confidence that this is the right decision for our family.

I made it through the meeting without becoming a puddle of tears, though I did get close from time to time. I was so nervous of saying the wrong thing, knowing they took everything I said in.  I sweat so badly, I stunk when I got out of there. I hope they didn't notice! Even though I didn't think I could advocate well for my daughter, there was enough mama bear in me to do fairly well at the meeting. Now it's in God's hands and I'll just wait until I hear from the regional center if they will reconsider their decision. I have more mountains before me. The next one should be the birth father meeting later this week. I'm a bit emotionally worn out from the meeting today, but I'm happy to have made it through one challenge. It gives me hope for the next.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Preparation or Anxious Anticipation?

As Sandy was bearing down on the East Coast, people for hundreds of miles had to prepare for the coming storm. I'm sure some were preparing in a calm, deliberate way, some were fearful and yet prepared, still others were paralyzed by their fear and didn't prepare at all, and some didn't prepare because they did not heed the warnings. Some who didn't prepare enough may not have understood what was needed to get ready for the storm, or thought the worst would pass them by. Thankfully, the storm did not take the meteorologists by surprise, and there was a warning and a call for people to go to a place of safety. Just about everyone had a chance.

Tomorrow is my meeting with the regional center, to discuss why they turned down our request for services for Ms. D.  I am pretty anxious about the meeting. Because I don't know why they would reject our request, but can only guess, it is hard to prepare. It seemed so cut and dry. Ms. D has FAS and a test that showed an IQ under 70. If they felt they needed more testing, they should have provided it. I feel so anxious about tomorrow. I don't know if I can effectively communicate Ms. D's needs or have the ability to navigate an appeal process. I don't like paperwork. Slogging through red tape and confronting authority brings back so many difficult memories of when we first got the kids and later when we tried to get the school to help her more. It's more than tomorrow's meeting. It's years of feeling like people are fighting against us and making things harder, the same people who should be helping us and making things easier. I'm angry and I'm scared. But I'm thankful that there is an appeal process and that I have a number for an advocate if I need it after tomorrow. I have a chance to get what Ms. D needs.

Later this week, the birth father is coming to our town. He asked to meet with Hubby and the kids. I'm so afraid of how it will go. It could go well. Birthdad called Hubby on the phone and asked him to meet. He didn't go behind our backs, which is a good sign. I don't know how much the birth dad has changed. The last he saw the kids nearly ten years ago, he had a felony warrant out for his arrest and was violent to their mom and at least one of the older kids, giving him an concussion. I don't know exactly how the meeting will go, how long he is expecting to stay up here, or what his expectations are. But I do know that his coming will bring out a lot of dysregulation in the kids. There is a coming storm, and I can prepare a little, but I don't fully know how much it will impact our family. I don't know if I have the emotional capacity to handle the kids when they rage or reject me again. But I'm thankful that we've walked this road before and times like this have brought us closer together. We have a chance to help the kids to sort through their identity, and show them they are loved by both families.

Today was Ms. D's appointment with the psychologist. When we came in and asked how things were going, I gestured that I wasn't doing well but couldn't talk in front of Ms. D. So Ms. D went to the hallway waiting area and I was able to tell the psychologist about what was going on lately. I didn't tell her all because I could feel the tears rising. There is so much that needs to be done in Ms. D's life. I have so many fears of what she will do when she turns eighteen. Will she throw all we have given her away? Will she make good choices in her life? She can be so impulsive. Even today she left the waiting area and wandered around the building because she was tired of waiting. She can be so gullible and people can take advantage of her. I love her so much, I don't want her to suffer. And because of her limitations, I feel even more protective of her than my birth children at her age. I felt more confident in how much to let my teens explore their world and become adults when I was raising my older kids. I wasn't perfect, but they made it without major difficulties. I don't know how to find a balance between protecting and releasing with the younger two. The effect of alcohol on their brains keeps them from making good decisions. The statistics of FASD and the incidences of teen pregnancy and trouble with the law are frightening. I'm scared. I don't know how to prepare myself or them for the rest of their teen years. But I'm thankful for Ms. D's psychologist. She was able to encourage me today. I'm thankful for all the people who have walked this road before and those who are walking a similar path now. My kids might reject what we have given them, but they have a chance to live a better life.

Sandy, the storm, has already affected people on many fronts. There was a storm surge, rain, wind, and snow. The storm in our house has many fronts too, even more than I've mentioned on this post. It's hard enough to prepare for one thing, so when many things are happening at once it is so easy to be overwhelmed. I don't know if I have prepared enough for the coming weeks. I don't know if I'll be paralyzed with fear or whether I will make big mistakes. But I have been forewarned. I have the support of people who love me. And I also have God, who can help me navigate what seems impossible now. I have a chance to turn difficult times into real growth in my life and in the lives of my children.

This time can be hard, but good.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

A Fun Time With Some of the Family

Tonight I went to Drumming Son's house with most of the family to watch the last game of the World Series. The Giants won!!!

I really needed a bit of a break, at least that's what people have been telling me. I guess I've not been able to hide my weariness lately as well as I had hoped. I don't think the tears during worship at church, the irritation with little things, or the lack of cheerfulness helped. There's just been a lot going on with the kids behaviorally and physically, and the coming meeting with the regional center is affecting my mood. I don't have a good track record when it comes to confronting schools, social workers, doctors, and the sort. I tend to back off and just handle things myself when the "authorities" drop the ball. That's a big reason why I'm homeschooling. Sometimes it's easier to do things myself than to force people to do what they should do in the first place. Sometimes I think that "navigating the system" is more challenging than raising special needs kids. I am just a mom who didn't finish college in the midst of a bunch of people with degrees and the power to help us or to push us aside. I need to advocate for my child, but I feel so inadequate. I think that feeling of inadequacy is what is pulling me down the most. I'll need more strength than I currently have to fight for Ms. D.

Today's game was a good excuse to get away and do something fun. It wasn't a complete rest, since Mr. I came with us and he needed a bit of extra attention. But still, it was a change of pace. I had a great time watching the game, and an even greater time watching Grandson play.
Grandson Playing Catch With Mr. I Before the Game
Drumming
Playing with Aunt and Uncle
I was so happy to spend time with the family tonight. It was good for me to focus on how blessed I am, instead of how poorly I am doing my job as a mother. And tonight, as I prayed with a friend in another country over the internet, I was reminded that God is big, and can handle all things. God can handle the regional center. God can handle Ms. D when she is an adult. God can be our advocate.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Mommy Nurse Skills!

I got to use some of my mommy nurse skills today. Ms. D came down with a sore throat and sniffles last night, and her illness worsened as today went on. This evening I felt her forehead and thought she had a low grade fever. I couldn't find a thermometer. In our house they disappear almost as quickly as flashlights and hair brushes. So Hubby and I went to Walmart to get a thermometer and a few things for my little sickie to feel more comfortable. When I got home I took her temperature and it was 100.2, a low grade fever just as I thought! How's that for nursing skills? I went to nursing school for three years, but it is the nearly twenty-nine years of being a parent to six children that has taught me the most.

I'll keep an eye on Ms. D the next few days to make sure she doesn't have strep throat or other complications. She did have a bit of a pseudo seizure this evening, but we don't make a big deal about them anymore. I'm really glad I didn't go to the retreat now. Even though Ms. D also has older sisters and a dad to take care of her, there's nothing like a mommy to bring comfort.

Wouldn't You Rather Spend Time With the Family?

This weekend, a few friends of mine are putting together an awesome retreat. I was really tempted to go, since the focus is going to be connecting with God, and I feel pretty unconnected this week. A few friends also told me that I needed to take some time off in order to recharge. A retreat would be pretty nice. But after the car repair and dentist bills the past month or so, I just couldn't swing the $200+ price of the retreat, especially with the property tax bill looming in the future. We were able to pay for everything so far with out borrowing, thanks to the generous gift from our friends, but I need to be careful with the budget.

Mr. I caught me looking at a site about the retreat and asked me if I was going. I told him no. His response was so sweet. He said with a cute smile and batting his eyelashes, "But wouldn't you rather spend time with the family?" How can I possibly resist that adorable plea, especially after the attachment problems we had earlier in the week? I just had to give him a hug.

God will just have to connect with me in some other way.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Nothing Like a Grandson to Chase the Blues Away

I've been pretty down since finding out about the denial of services for my daughter by email. I not only worried about how she would do as an adult, but was feeling overwhelmed and inadequate as a parent also. It didn't help that the news came on a difficult week when I was already at my limit. Mr. I was able to see it on my face, despite my efforts to hide my sadness, and asked me a few times today what was wrong. I just wasn't my "overly cheerful" self, as one of my daughters described me the other day.

It really helped that my grandson came over just when I was at my lowest point today. There's something about human interaction that cheers me up, especially when that human is such an adorable little guy.
Looking at Pictures of His Mommy and Daddy With Microbio Daughter

Playing With Mr. I

Daring to Touch the Dog

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Denial

Today I received and email saying that our local regional center denied Ms. D services. 

Our regional center is notorious for denying people the help they need. Just having FAS or autism isn't enough. I guess having an IQ test of 50-70 isn't enough either if she doesn't "look retarded." I see the difficulties Ms. D has processing information because I teach her every day. But for the average person seeing her for less than an hour, she seems perfectly normal. It is a blessing and a curse.

I don't know whether to fight this or not. I have enough on my plate dealing with the kids themselves without having to fight a bureaucratic agency. California is not a good state to have a child with special needs, especially with FASD.

I want Ms. D to have all the resources that she will need in the future. Now, she is protected and nurtured in our home. But when she is an adult, we won't be able to protect her in the same way. The statistics don't look good. I will need all the wisdom God can give me. I pray that God will give Ms. D all she needs to live a good life.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

A Blind Man, A Puppy Parade, Babies, and a Meltdown

We brought Brewster last night to church with us. The people hosting the gathering were dog friendly and had a really mellow golden retriever, so we asked to take our puppy along. It worked out pretty well, except for a neighbor's dog who wouldn't stop barking at Brewster when Ms. D had him in the back yard. A blind man who occasionally comes to our church came. He was actually the inspiration for Hubby to raise a dog for the blind when our friend was denied another guide dog last spring. Mr. R loved Brewster and our friend's dog. I was really worried about how Mr. R would respond to our puppy, knowing that he wanted a dog so badly, but can't at this time. But he loved Brewster! Look at his smile!


This morning Hubby, Ms. D, and her friend went to Pacific Grove for a guide dog meeting and a walk by the beach, lunch, and a time to socialize.

It was a puppy parade!


The weather was beautiful!







Puppies were passed around and people got to walk other dogs. The leaders from Guide Dogs for the Blind were able to check out all the puppies, see how they were progressing, and answer questions. I wish I could have gone, but Ms. D had asked if her friend could go with and we had already sent in a head count for lunch.

It worked out fine though. I got to spend some time with my grandson and his little cousin.


I also ate too much! Sweet Tomatoes is a dangerous place for someone who loves salads!

This evening, Mr. I and Ms D were tired and grumpy. Mr. I came home from a weekend at a friend's house, and Ms. D was hungry and exhausted from such a busy day. She had also gone to the end of a three year old neighbor's birthday party. Ms. D was spacing off and ignoring simple requests, like put the leash on the dog. She would look at me like she had no idea what I was saying and would just stare. Of course, she was out of sorts from sleeping over at her friend's house,  and earlier in the day she refused to eat anything but chips and drank too much soda. Hubby was waiting her out, so that she would eventually eat good food. Instead, she and her friend tricked her friend's mom into getting them Taco Bell. Hubby went over to the friend's house to straighten things out, and Mr. I flipped. He was completely dysregulated. It wasn't pretty. I didn't yell. Yeah! But guess which two kids went to bed at 8:00?

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Harvard in Our Living Room

Yes, we have a Harvard class in our living room. Here is a picture of Microbio Daughter taking a biostatistics in epidemiology class to prove it.


And best of all, it's free!
How?
A few universities, including Stanford and Harvard, have some free classes online. I think it's an awesome way for people to learn certain subjects. There is some push back, though. Minnesota just made classes like this illegal. I think some in the traditional education establishment might be a bit afraid.

Our family learns quite a bit online. Hubby is learning Adobe Premiere on lynda.com to use on his nonprofit website.

Photography Son listens to pod casts and Ted Talks to learn about art, business, and whatever else strikes his fancy. We often look things up online for our homeschool. I learn many home improvement and repair techniques on youtube.com. I learn about adoption, FASD, autism, and other subjects online too. I don't even use a paper phone book anymore, since I can even get reviews using yelp.com. There is a wealth of information at our fingertips.

I remember having to go to the library to do the most basic research, spending hours in the library's file system. Now, information is available in seconds. Like Kip in Napoleon Dynamite, I can sing "I Love Technology!" Of course not all things online are good or true, and we need to be even more discerning, but I feel the good outweighs the bad.

We aren't completely tied to our computers, though. Some of us still read books. A lot of our curriculum is the old fashioned textbooks and workbooks. And this afternoon, Blackbelt Daughter is tutoring the neighbor girl using worksheets and books.


There is a place for books and paper. I still love having books lining my shelves. They are like old friends. But more and more, technology is opening up a world of information and learning. How else would we be able to have Harvard in our living room?

Friday, October 19, 2012

Big Boy Crate

Brewster, the guide dog puppy is growing so quickly! I felt a bit sorry having him squeeze into his little puppy crate, so I looked online for a bigger used one. Now that he isn't having many accidents, he could use one that had a little extra room.  I found a crate for half price not to far from our home. When I took it home and tried to assemble it yesterday, I found out why it was never used. The plastic connectors were too large for the openings. I just couldn't figure out how they would possibly fit. So I went to the hardware store this afternoon to get some nuts and bolts. So now Brewster has a big boy crate that he can grow into.

Brewster was a bit uneasy about going in it at first, but Mr. I went in with him to show Brewster that it was OK. I thought it was so good that Mr. I thought of a way to introduce the puppy to a new experience.  Brewster went in when he saw Mr. I there. Most of us have a difficult time in new situations. But isn't it easier when there is someone will go with us, who knows that it will be fine because they have gone through similar circumstances? Isn't it comforting when we go through difficulties, that we know we are not alone? Sometimes we feel we can't make it through trials, but we are encouraged when someone is there with us, cheering us on. I am glad to know that I will never be abandoned, that God is always here, cheering me on and paving the way.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Blessings, My Friend, On Your New Adventure!

I am so excited for you, my friend! You are about to bring into your home two boys, one that is two and another that is three. You are not just adding children to your family, but in following God's call, you will embark on a crazy journey that will forever change you. You will understand grace, love, and dependence on God in ways you never thought possible.

As I was praying for you this morning, I thought of a few things I wish I had done or known about before we brought our own two fost/adopt kids into our home. I'd like to share these things with you. The things I say here may not be right for your family. Each person, each child, each family, each situation is different, so you can take any advice or leave it. The only advice I do encourage you to take is to depend on God every step of the way, asking him to lead and guide you.

There are a few other things I learned in our family's journey that you may want to consider as you prepare for the two new little guys:
  1. Take time away from the children at least once every week or two. If someone offers respite care, use it. If no one does, ask people. Ask me. It will be a lot more difficult for you than you thought it would be. The needs of the two little ones will be so all encompassing, there is a real danger in neglecting your health, your marriage, your other child, and anything else you need to do. 
  2. Do all you can to work on attachment issues. Assume they will have attachment issues. I know a good therapist in our area, but there are books, trainings, and the advice of others who have walked this road before. Some of the things I wished I had done sooner were to play more face to face games, feed them with bottles or sippy cups looking into their eyes, use a carrier to keep them close, sing to them, and have "time ins" instead of "time outs." I would also severely limit the toys. It is too easy for unattached children to put material things before relationships.
  3. Put relationships before material things yourself. If something is really dear to you, like grandma's china, lock it up. The kids will know just what to break in order to get under your skin. Kids with RAD also tend to be accident prone. We had to replace many towel and toilet paper holders the first year they came to us. We also had to replace some screens that we worked so hard to put in before the kids came to us. Why? The kids kept trying to escape and pushed through them.
  4. It may be good to get little alarms that beep when a door or window is opened. It may save you a screen. The alarms may also save you from having to run after a naked child running into traffic.
  5. Know that you, the mother, will be the target of their rages and anger. Even your husband may not understand what you have to deal with when it's just you and the kids. The boys may act like perfect angels around strangers, but when they feel they are beginning to love you, they will probably try to push you away. The way they push you away may look different, depending on the type of attachment disorder, so be aware. It may be easy to spot the RAD in a child who kicks, hits, and swears at you, but the other child who likes to quietly play in his room may be even more unattached.
  6. Have a good support system. Accept help from people. There is no shame in asking for meals or a housecleaning. I tried to clean the house myself, but utterly failed when the whole family, except for the two kids, came down with the flu. That's when we had an investigation because of false abuse charges. It was a really difficult time. I wish I would have asked for help, but I didn't want to bother people. Go ahead bother us! If you are overwhelmed, ask for help. Really! Ask me!
  7. The people who offer to help before you get the kids may be different than the people who actually do it. Some people wait until asked, and don't understand that sometimes you are just to tired to even pick up the phone. They want to help, but they don't know how, or they don't want to help in ways you don't like or someone else is already giving. An online care calender is a good way to let your needs be known. Others shy away when they see how much help you really need or think you've bit off more than you can chew. They avoid pain. Still others have things that come up in their own lives, and can't help as much as they'd like.
  8.  Go to meetings and talk with other foster and adoptive parents where you will learn you are not alone. They may just have the perfect advice for you, and almost all of them understand that you can take their advice or leave it. We all know that there isn't a typical foster child and one size does not fit all. I know of a group in our area that meets once a month that has been a real help to me.
  9. You will spend a lot of time taking your new kids to visits, doctors, dentists, therapists, social worker visits, and specialists. You will also spend a lot of time doing paperwork for the county that will take time from your kids. Some of the rules, appointments, and requirements were almost more of a burden than taking care of the kids. But they have to be done. One social worker told me to document every time one of my kids hit or kicked me when he first came to our house. I told her I couldn't because it happened many times an hour and I'd be writing more than parenting. I understand the county's need for documentation to avoid lawsuits, but it was such a burden. I dread paperwork to this day.
  10. Learn the signs of FASD. Many doctors and social workers around here don't know how to recognize it themselves and minimize its effect on children. My daughter's first doctor didn't see it, the county social workers didn't see it, but she has full FAS. Unfortunately, our state is one of the worst in diagnosis and treatment of FASD, but at least you can change your parenting style and do what you can to prevent secondary problems. I've had social workers admit that most of the children in the foster care system have been exposed to drugs and alcohol, but they don't think it causes many long term problems. It does.
  11. Understand that when your children come into your home, they are coming into a new culture, even if they come from the same city and are the same race. There are new foods, music, ways of handling conflict, social expectations, routines, and smells. This is a lot for anyone to handle, and even more so for kids who come from hard places. Just like anyone moving into a new culture, there may be a period of time where there is a honeymoon phase. But then the culture shock happens and all hell breaks loose. It's usually around the time RAD sets in. But know that when the kids regress, they are actually closer to becoming a part of your family.
  12. You will feel the loss that your kids suffer and for yourself. Give yourself room to grieve. You will learn the forgiveness of God as you learn to forgive the birth family and others. You will learn to forgive yourself. Take time away to let God work in your heart and to let your guard down. When you are with the kids, you need to be cheerful, playful, firm, and kind. You will also be too busy to work through your own relationship with God. I wish I had spent more time alone with God, instead of stuffing the hard emotions. A good therapist or spiritual director would have helped also. But because I didn't take the time then, I have to take the time now, when it's a lot more difficult. My health also suffered. I gained twenty pounds at one point, and developed migraines, backaches, and more asthma.
This journey you are about to embark will be the most difficult, yet the most fulfilling part of your life. No job, no ministry, that is worth it is easy, and this is no exception. I pray that God will give you wisdom, energy, and greater love than you've ever felt before. I pray that He will bless you and your family.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Uncle Visit and Overstimulation

My kids adore Uncle P!

He lives in another state, but comes to our area occasionally. If he has time, he calls and we get together for pizza and some fun activity. It is always a happy surprise to see him.

Last night, Uncle P called to let us know he was here and would like to spend some time with the kids today. They were excited. Too excited.

Mr. I talked faster and faster, and more and more, as the day went on. It got to the point we couldn't understand him, he was mumbling so fast. I knew then that we were headed toward a meltdown. Kids with past trauma, RAD, and FASD thrive on routine, quiet, and low stimulation. A time of pizza and miniature golf with a favorite uncle is not routine, quiet, or low stimulation at all! Mr. I's speed talk was a sign that he was overstimulated and headed for a crash. I needed to figure out ways to slow him down, because he was past the point of self calming.

Sometimes preparing the kids ahead of time heads off the meltdowns. Usually a week before the event is a good amount of time, but we only had one day to prepare the kids. A quiet time before an event usually helps too. This time Ms. D had a friend over and they were running around the house. It wasn't very quiet. Also, making things as routine as possible helps the kids to handle exciting times. It helped that we ate at the same pizza place that we always go to when Uncle P comes. We also played miniature golf, which the kids did with Uncle P the last time he visited. Uncle P may think the kids get bored doing the same thing each time, but the kids really do better when we have traditions. I wasn't able to do all I could ahead of time to avoid a meltdown, so I was pretty worried the night wouldn't end very well.


Actually, Ms. D and Mr. I held it together fairly well until near the end of the evening, except for the time in the middle when my fourteen year old daughter announced loud enough for the whole place to hear that she had to pee, "Right now!". Near the end, Ms. D started sulking because we were going to play only one round of golf. The last time they played two. She couldn't handle the change, even though it was getting late. One round was plenty for me!


Mr. I had an even harder time. He started fussing because I wouldn't buy him something to drink. He had already had too much soda at the restaurant.  Mr. I really only had to wait fifteen to twenty minutes until we got home, since we were on the last hole of the course.  But asking a kid with his background to wait a few minutes to get a drink, or use a water fountain, is like asking him to die of thirst. That's how he was acting. Usually the kids can control themselves pretty well until they come home. This time they just couldn't. I felt bad for Uncle P, since Mr. I was pretty upset when we were saying our goodbyes. I hope Uncle P understood that the kids really did love getting together with him. They had fun, but were just too excited to hold it together any longer.


We are all so happy we had a visit with Uncle P today despite the near meltdowns of the kids. The next time they do something out of the ordinary, or with someone as exciting as Uncle P, I'll help them calm themselves better beforehand. Sometimes I assume that a teenager should be able to handle things like a teenager, not a preschooler. But that's assuming too much. I have to remember to divide their age in half to get to their emotional age. When I do that, things work a lot better. I don't get as frustrated and the kids get the help they need.


I am so thankful that we have family and friends that understand my children and will still do things with them after days like this. My kids are polite and fun to be with most of the time. But I'm thankful for all those who aren't thrown off or offended when the kids occasionally melt down or say something annoying or odd. I am surrounded by people who not only understand, but are supportive. For this I am grateful.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Manna Mobile

This afternoon and early evening, Hubby and I went out for a two and a half hour drive to deliver food in the Manna Mobile. I almost didn't go because I was tired and had things to do here at home. But it was rush hour, and we could use the carpool lanes if there were two in the car. I was glad we had a chance to do it together. We were able to talk, and then listen to the start of the presidential debate between stops. When I'm not feeling well, I tend to withdraw. Though we didn't get into any really deep discussions, it was a good time for Hubby and I to reconnect. These little times of getting away together go a long way to drawing us closer together in our marriage. So even though we were blessing others with good food, we were feeding our marriage. The Manna Mobile run was helping a lot of families today, including ours!

Monday, October 15, 2012

Reluctant Student of Psychology

In college, while taking the required psychology 101, I told myself that though learning how our minds worked seemed interesting, I would never like to deal with people with psychological problems every day. I never had the dream of being a psychologist or a therapist. It could have been because I grew up in the Midwest, where there seems to be a stigma against going to a psychologist or therapist, instead of California where there is more acceptance and encouragement. Or it could have been because my dad was pretty depressed after he lost his sight, or other relatives with psychological problems that overwhelmed me. Instead of having compassion, I avoided them and others that were having trouble in that area. It was almost like how I tend to draw away from blind people, even though I know how to help. It takes a lot of effort on my part to push through the initial avoidance of the blind and of people who show signs of mental illness or psychological problems. It isn't a good thing to be that way. I needed to change.

I think God knew what he was doing when he called us to foster and adopt our two youngest kids. I fell in love with them before I knew all the little letters that would be strung after their name... Letters like MR, FAS, PTSD, RAD, ADHD...

I thought I was prepared for the RAD. Our foster care classes taught us about it, but we needed to learn more once our children came to our home and we were living with the reality of kids that were not attached. Within a month of placement our social worker referred us to an awesome therapist who helped us with attachment issues. And that's when I really started becoming a student of psychology. Of course, it wasn't in the formal sense. I'll probably never get a degree. But I found that the more I learned, the better I was able to raise my children. I learned to ask for help from our social worker and therapist, which is a big thing with my Midwestern, I can do it myself attitude. I learned more about fetal alcohol than most doctors by reading and studying. While learning about attachment, I learned about different personality disorders, and how that affected some of my interactions with people. In helping my son overcome his PTSD using techniques I learned in therapy and in reading, I learned to overcome my own fear of tornadoes. Because my daughter's academic ability was affected by fetal alcohol, I am learning new ways to teach her. I learned about autism spectrum after first spotting a book on our therapist's shelf, and then doing further research and reading. I learned how that was affecting our family, and my friends' families, and have become rather good at spotting it in others. I don't diagnose anyone, but I have suggested friends get their children tested to see if the problems were because of autism. It's pretty common here in Silicon Valley.

Through all of this, I have learned some pretty important things:
  1.  I can't do it alone. Psychologists and therapists are there to help us and there is no shame in going to someone for help.
  2. There really are good therapists around who have a world view that is similar to mine.
  3.  Learn all I can about how the mind works and what will help my children, family, and friends.
  4. There is no way I can keep avoiding people with mental illness or other psychological issues.
  5. God knew what he was doing when he gave us our children. They are a gift. All people are a gift.
I was thinking today, when I took Ms. D to her psychologist appointment, how my attitude of psychologists has changed the past ten years. I see Dr. C as more of a partner in helping my daughter. I take her suggestions, mix it with what I know about my daughter and with what I know from what I've already learned, and then I do them, especially when confirmed by other sources. After all, when the psychologist tells me to start doing something one day, and our dentist says the same thing the next, and then a social worker who knows the case confirms it, it might be something God wants for us to do.

So even though I am a reluctant student of psychology, I am learning more than I had ever thought possible. And in the learning, and the doing, I am becoming better at helping not only my own children, but those around me. I am not as overwhelmed when encountering others who have psychological troubles. And best of all, I have a greater compassion and patience for others who are struggling.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Crock Pot Apple Sauce and Lazy Sunday

Today was a restful day. Yesterday's migraine is still hanging on, and since Hubby isn't feeling well I have a suspicion that the migraine might not be the only thing weighing me down. One of the nice things about having church on Saturday evenings is that Sundays are great for talking to neighbors, going to guide dog meetings, and doing just about nothing if we feel like it. Today was one of those do not much of anything days. And I was thankful for a good excuse for laying around with sunglasses on.

While lying on the couch (and yes, I had to look up whether it's lying or laying), I read just about all of Pioneer Woman's book, Black Heels to Tractor Wheels. I might even finish it tonight, if I get off the computer. It's a fun book to read and makes me wish she was my next door neighbor. After reading her book and blog, I feel like I know her already!

I also waited to hear from the grocery store in case I was mistaken and the teller did give me cash back yesterday. But there were no calls! I was happy to remember that the teller was a woman and most of our interaction. Maybe my brain isn't as muddled as I thought. I am so glad that I had done this at my neighborhood store, even though everyone I've talked to thinks I'd be embarrassed. I don't think a larger store manager would have believed me. I almost didn't believe me. When the migraines come, my brain takes a vacation. I wonder if it's on a nice beach where there is warm water and coconut palms. It's certainly not here.

I felt a little guilty doing nothing today. I also had apples that had been sitting on my counter a little too long. Nobody wants to eat them in that state, and I've been making and eating too many sweets lately to justify making a pie. So I decided to make some applesauce. Of course, with my mind being so spacey right now, I couldn't trust myself with slow cooking apples on the stove. The hot cereal I made this morning was risky enough. But I was sure I'd forget about the apples and start a fire or at least scorch them to death. I had just made stew yesterday, and the crock pot was still on the counter. So I cut up the apples and stuck them in the crock pot with a tiny bit of water. They cooked most of the afternoon. I did forget about them until Mr. I walked in the door and asked what the weird smell was. Oh! The apples were done!

After cooking the apples until mushy, I put them through a strainer, and then added a little brown sugar and cinnamon to taste. I didn't think to take pictures until after I was done, but it was really easy to make. The applesauce was so good warm. We ate it for dessert after a dinner of leftovers. It would have been even better with vanilla ice cream. But with the lack of exercise today, it was good we didn't have the ice cream. My waistline is big enough right now.

Making crock pot apple sauce wouldn't be good for large batches to can, but for a quart or two it was perfect. I didn't have to fuss over it, or worry about scorching. I think I'll make more applesauce in the crock pot.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Migraine Day

Today was one big migraine day, though I didn't realize it until this evening during church.
Actually it started last night when I couldn't remember the name of something, I can't remember what it was, which should have been my first clue a headache was on its way. I've trained my family and some of my friends to tell me I'm having a migraine, since I can't figure it out for myself. I've taught them to remind me when I not only forget names of people, but when I forget names of objects like dishwashers, lighters, and washing machines. If I catch it early, I can do things to ward it off, but many times I don't catch it until much later when it's harder to take care of. The problem is that I get so thick headed, I don't even realize I have a headache.

I didn't even realize I had a headache this morning when I went to the store for some milk. I used my debit card and wanted some cash back. The teller was distracted by a coworker who walked by, and I was so out of it I forgot, and I left without the $40.00 in cash for Hubby's car pool next week. A few hours later, when Hubby came home from delivering food, I couldn't find the money in my purse. I couldn't remember getting the money, so I went back to the store. The manager was really nice about it and gave it to me even though they couldn't prove anything until tomorrow when they did their books. My mind was so muddled I couldn't be 100% sure about it though, so I gave him my name and number in case I was wrong and stuck the money in some weird place. When my mind is like that, I can't be sure of anything!

This afternoon I felt sluggish, and didn't have any motivation to do much of anything. I had chalked it up to being so busy the day before and just being tired. I tried to take a nap, but I couldn't sleep. The sun bothered my eyes, and it was hard to focus, but I thought they felt irritated because of allergies. I still didn't realize I had a headache.

But this evening at church, it finally dawned on me. I was having a migraine! I had many of my typical symptoms, but I didn't feel pain until we were at our friends' house. Of course, if I was thinking right, I would have stayed home. But instead, I came but didn't participate, and just sat there shielding my eyes from the light. The people there were nice enough to pray for me, and the pain did subside a bit. But I felt so useless and stupid, especially when I accidentally set the car alarm off when I took my keys from my purse. And then I left the keys on the bench when I put on my boots. I was a real ding bat.

It will be interesting to see tomorrow what I am writing here tonight in my state of mind. Even though I can't think clearly, and am feeling pretty stupid and down about myself now, I know that I will feel better again. And even if I don't feel better, my worth is not in what I can do, or how confident I feel, or how intelligent, talented, beautiful, or healthy I am. My worth is in being God's child. And He likes me, whether I can think clearly or not. This is something I'm learning from raising Ms. D, who has FASD and is MR. If I can love her unconditionally most of the time, how much more can God love us?  And even though I don't feel loveable enough and see so many imperfections in myself, He sees me in his perfect love. God's love is amazing.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Prioritizing or Procrastinating?

Sometimes I can only handle one thing at a time. If I work on too many projects and tasks at once, nothing gets done and I get all flustered. I like to prioritize tasks, doing the most important or most urgent first and then go on down the list.  I can complete more things if I do them according to plan, and don't start too many projects at once. Sometimes I have good intentions of working with a plan, but the kids may need attention, laundry needs to be done, a friend calls, the dog makes a mess, a car breaks down, or a number of other interruptions fill my day. And also because there is so much to do, I often wait until the last minute to begin projects that really should have been started sooner.

Other times I wait until the last minute because I'm just procrastinating unpleasant tasks. Paperwork is one of the jobs that I dislike to do, and often I'll wait until at the last minute to do it. Some housework is on a similar level for me too. There often is something I feel I'd rather do than clean the refrigerator and sort socks. I like to clean a toilet or wash the car more than those chores. I can find so many ways to justify my procrastination when faced with things I don't like to do.

Sometimes it's easy for me to decide whether I'm procrastinating or prioritizing. Other times I just don't know. Today was one of those busy days that made it hard to decide.

This morning was filled with cleaning, laundry, banking, and taking care of the animals, even before the kids woke up. I also tried a different way of teaching Ms. D and Mr. I today. I had them work together on an open book quiz for history. Ms. D is really lagging in her ability to keep up with Mr. I academically, which makes for an interesting dynamic. I'm planning on having more group projects, since this is an important skill for them to learn. They don't work very well together at this point. This took a bit more work on my part to homeschool today.

In the afternoon, Grandson came over so his mama could go to a retreat. Since his daddy was coming here after work to pick Grandson up and have dinner, I made some soup and homemade bread. The bread was so good, but it did take a bit more time to make dinner than normal.

Now all of this would have been enough for one day, but tomorrow one of my daughters is going to Ren Fair. She had asked me weeks ago to make her a chemise. She cut it out, but it had been sitting around waiting for me to sew it. Since I knew it would only take a couple of hours to finish, and things have been busy around here, I waited until today. I don't know what I was thinking, since I didn't leave any room for setbacks. I was so intent on getting it done, I didn't even notice that Microbio Daughter took a picture.

I don't know if I was prioritizing or procrastinating with this project. But I got it done in time.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Do Unto Others...

Yesterday I was able to do one of my favorite things, to love on my little grandson! We had a great time, playing, making music, snuggling, and going outside to look at the pond and the planes. I was able to pretend I was one of those homeschool moms who have a dozen kids of all ages. That was a pretty difficult thing to do because I kept getting distracted by Grandson's cute little antics. It was one of those times when the teacher was more distracted than the students. But we got work done and we all had a great time.
We were watching Grandson because his mommy, Green Mama, was with a friend who had a new baby. I remember how anxious I was the first week that Hubby went to work after we had our first baby. And I remember how overwhelmed I was when I had baby number four and the other kids started passing around chicken pox the day I came home from a c-section. Then I caught bronchitis the day after Hubby went back to work, when the baby was only two weeks old. Being a new parent is scary enough, but the first few days alone are the worst, even if it's only for a few hours, and even if things are going well. I am sure Green Mama felt the same way when she had Grandson. I don't know any mom who feels confident and self sufficient after having a new baby, whether it's the first or after many. I'm glad Green Mama was able to empathize with the new mom and help her at such a critical time.

One of the best feelings in the world is to bless others, either the way we have been blessed, or we wish we could have been blessed. Many times, after I'm disappointed, I ask myself how I could bless someone else someday. I ask, "What could I do for others so they can be blessed going through a similar trial." I try to use those times to think about what I could do for others. It's so much better than to sulk, fuss, and get bitter.

One example was when I had a baby shower.  Baby showers in my church at the time tended to be fairly well attended. Because my baby and the shower were so close to Christmas, only three people were able to come. I understood that money was tight that time of year, but I was hoping more would come to welcome my baby, even if they had no gift. I did have a little pity party for myself after that night. But then I made the decision that I would not miss another baby shower. If I was invited, or if there was a general invitation and I could put a name with a face, I would do what I could to be there. I am so glad I did, because few years later a missionary had her baby while back in the States. Not many people knew her personally, so I ended up being the only non-family member to make it to her shower. If I hadn't resolved to make it to every shower possible after having a low turnout in one of mine, her experience would have been worse.

There are other times that I have not been disappointed, but I can see a need by living through a difficult circumstance. I never realized how stressful it was to have a child or a husband in the hospital until my own children and husband were there. Some day I'd like to bring snacks and small toys for families in waiting rooms. It isn't something I've done yet, but it's something I'd like to do some day. I know how having a child with a hidden disability can wear on a person, and so I can think of ways to help others in similar circumstances.  I always thought being a single parent would be difficult, but I didn't understand how difficult it really was, until the time Hubby moved to California three months before us. If I hadn't lived through some trials in my life, I wouldn't have really understood what they were going through and what would help.

There are other examples of times when I have been blessed and so I pass the blessing on, knowing how good it feels. Receiving meals after a baby, getting help with babysitting, someone mowing my lawn when my lawnmower was broken, a friend listening and praying for me, and more, are ways I have been blessed. Those times have taught me how good it feels to be blessed by others. And it feels even better to pass the blessings on.

I don't always pass the blessings on right away. I save ideas for another day, like the hospital waiting room snacks. I let some opportunities pass by because I get lazy and selfish. Other times I'm overwhelmed with my own trials. I can't do everything. But I think if more of us do what we can to pass blessings along, and to do unto others as we would have others do unto us, this world will be a better place. And if we look to find ways to be a blessing, and bless others in the places where we have been hurt, we will be blessed ourselves.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

A Cheerio Kind of Day

Last night I had a great meeting with other homeschool moms. I really needed to get together with other women. And of the women in our group who came, all have at least one special needs child that they teach at home. So these women understand when I tell them that Mr. I had a difficult time before picture day and that Ms. D fantasizes about running off to the birth family. The women in my group may or may not deal with similar issues, but they understand how God can work through imperfect moms to help imperfect children. Not that any child is perfect, but in some circles a mom has to put on a false front lest she and her children be shunned. I've belonged to that kind of group before and was able to somewhat fit in, at least well enough to be tolerated. I certainly wouldn't fit today.

But last night's meeting was especially encouraging to just about everyone there. Women shared their experiences and supported one another. It is so easy to have expectations when we teach our children, and if those same children have physical, psychological, or learning problems, those expectations can be so burdensome. For instance, a couple of years ago I had the expectation that Ms. D would be able to take Algebra I her first year of high school. When we hit a wall last year, I became more and more frustrated, and so did she. It wasn't until this year when I found out why she'd hit the wall that I realized that teaching Algebra to her using a certain curriculum was too difficult. I had to make some adjustments to my expectations and to the way I was teaching her. I also realized that Ms. D was actually doing very well, considering her abilities. So instead of feeling discouraged, I was encouraged.

Sometimes the unrealistic expectations come from outside. I know of husbands who are not completely on board with their wives homeschooling, relatives and friends who worry about what is best for the child, and school officials, doctors, and psychologists who think the only way a special needs child can be educated is through the public schools. Sometimes we homeschool moms feel those pressures and either push our children harder than we should, or we get discouraged and want to give up.

Other times the pressures come from within us. Most mothers want the best for our children. We see our children's strengths, passions, and potential and want them to live a happy, fulfilled life. I have adjusted over the years what a good life for my children would be. I want them to do well, know and love God, and have good relationships with others. And sometimes my goal for my children is downgraded, and I just hope for them to stay out of jail and not have a teen pregnancy. But I still want the best for them. I love them!

But I, like many parents, have a lot of self doubt. We have bad days when we are ill, the children fight or have problems, and life's circumstances overwhelm us. Last night at our homeschool meeting a woman shared with us about a Cheerio Kind of Day. I won't tell the story, since I haven't asked her permission and she is so much better at telling it than I am. I'll just say it has something to do with a toddler who was discovering his environment, a large box of Cheerios, an overwhelmed mother with a new baby, and a neighbor friend who broke into her house for a welfare check. For those of you who wonder about breaking into a neighbor's house to make sure everything is fine, this incident happened in the Midwest. I've lived in the Midwest and now on the West Coast. If anything happened here in California, the neighbors probably wouldn't notice unless fire is involved. It isn't rare to not see or talk to your neighbor for months. But in the Midwest, at least while I had lived there, everyone knows his neighbor's business. If something is wrong, the neighbors know almost before you do. Fortunately for my friend, her neighbor helped her on the Cheerio Day. And from then on, when one of them is going through a trial, the other sends her a picture of Cheerios. And in remembering the first Cheerio Kind of Day, my friend realizes that things have been worse, things will get better, and she is not alone.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Doing it Differently

Guide dog puppy raising and raising children with FASD, RAD, and past trauma have a lot of similarities. You basically have to toss a lot of what you know about raising dogs and children out the window. There are specific ways to respond to situations that are counter intuitive, and things that work for your average dog or child may create a lot of problems.

We had to go to classes and read up on how to raise both the puppy and our foster/adopted children.  I am thankful for the training and support we received. It has prevented a lot of mistakes, though we still don't do things perfectly. There is ongoing learning we still do in order to keep up our skills and help us along the way. Even though after we adopted I am not required to attend classes and trainings for the kids, I still do a lot of reading and research on how to best raise and teach my children. We go to puppy training classes every other week for Brewster and read the manual just about daily as a part of our homeschool. We went to another puppy class yesterday.

Guide Dog Puppy Class

Brewster

Brewster Getting Fitted With a Gentle Leader
Another similarity is that in raising both the kids from hard places and with the puppy, there needs to be very a very positive style of dealing with different situations. We had a friend over who saw Brewster grab a sock. She suggested that we say no, take away the sock, and give him an old one to play with. That would work with most dogs, but we are to save "No!" for only the worst of situations, like running into the street. Picking up a sock needs a different kind of correction. We also can't let him play with any clothing, since this could lead to him being dropped from the program if he plays with anything other than his own toys.  We need to praise him a lot, but there are only certain situations where he gets a food reward. And the reward is just kibble from his regular rations. No dog biscuits for Brewster!

With both, we need to praise more than correct. Now that is pretty easy with most kids, but when your child is raging or destroying things almost constantly, it's pretty hard to find things to praise and be positive about! I remember making a "Say it Nice" chart when we first got the kids. I'd put a sticker on it if they basically didn't swear or yell for things they wanted, but asked and talked with nice words. The whole sticker chart wasn't very successful for the kids, since in their RAD state they really didn't care about stickers, rewards, or pleasing me. But it was good for me as a parent since I needed to listen for improvements and not get hung up on the f-bombs. And you know what? Within just a few months my kids forgot the swear words. I was so happy one day when my three year old called me a dumb ab! They quickly learned more socially acceptable ways of expressing their frustrations, since I would ignore the swearing and respond positively to when they did things right.

There are other things that are similar with the guide dogs and the kids. With both, they need to be by us pretty much 24/7.  My daughter and the rest of the family need to be always aware of the puppy and train him in some way throughout the day. We need to make small adjustments to his behavior. Some of the things we've needed to do almost from the start is to have him relieve himself at a certain place in the back yard on command. He can't get into the habit of having accidents while out on walks. We have to be very careful of what toys he can have. He can't learn to play fetch or play with balls because that would be dangerous when he is a guide dog. But pull toys are great! He has to be next to us to play with those. We have to be very careful to not give into the tiniest negative behavior. He can't play with other dogs or relieve himself while he has his jacket on. He can't even bark! Brewster needs to be in tune to us, and we need to be in tune with him.

Raising kids with RAD, FASD, and past trauma is similar. I have to be in tune with the kids, even after all these years. I've learned the subtle cues that tell me they are beginning to get dysregulated. If I catch the small indicators that they are escalating, I can often prevent larger problems. I need to anticipate what will be a difficult situation for them and be ready to make changes. I am more protective of them, and try to keep them from dangerous situations. My normal way of parenting is to give my teens a lot of freedom. It just won't work with the youngest two. They have needed to be held closer to our family. We don't have time outs, where they go alone to their rooms. We have time ins, where they follow me wherever I go. Well, they follow me almost everywhere. They don't go into the bathroom with me. That is my refuge!

I think the biggest similarity between raising a guide dog puppy and raising kids adopted from the foster care system is the focus on building a close relationship. A guide dog puppy needs to learn to be interdependent, and so do people. Yes, there are certain behaviors that need to happen in order for both to socialize and grow up to be a working adult. But those take second place to the love connection. And with adopted kids with RAD, FASD, and past trauma, that is one place where the similarities to guide dogs fall apart. The love connection is much harder to develop in the children who have been hurt so deeply, but is needed even more. I pray that they will be able to learn to love and be loved in a healthy way. And I will do all I can to help them.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Friendship

There are some friends that I reconnect with easily, even though I haven't seen them in awhile. They are the kinds of friends that we can pick up where we left off months and years before, and feel like we were together just yesterday. These kind of friendships take a long time to develop, but once the connection is there, distance, time, and the busyness of life can't separate us.

I had lunch with one of those friends today. Though we live relatively close, the challenges of our busy lives have kept us from getting together.  The demands of family, jobs or ministries, and travel have prevented our calendars from being in sync. Although we haven't seen each other in over a year, we were able to enjoy being with each other this afternoon, sharing our lives, and praying for one another. It was good to see my dear friend. The distance of time was not enough to come between us, though we both don't want another year and a half to pass before we see each other again. But what's interesting to me is that there was no shame in letting too much time pass. We were not feeling guilty for not calling one another sooner, but just happiness that we could connect today.

I have other friends that live far away from me now. They live out of state and even out of the country. Thankfully, we are able to keep up with each other through the blessings of technology. Two of them have had major life challenges this week, yet we were able to pray for each other and support one another. Sometimes our prayers are instant messages, other times we can talk on the phone. It may not be by face to face contact, yet we are able to connect as if we are together.

There are other women that I've never met, though there is a connection somehow. They are women who have written things that have touched me, encouraged me, and have challenged me. Some of them are women who are walking a similar path. Others are on paths so different from mine, yet there still is a connection.

I also have friends I see more often. Some are also very close. Others not quite so. Some have children, some do not. Some are married, others single. There is such a diversity. Even though they may or may not develop into close friendships, they are still important. They fulfill a big need in my life and help me through life's trials. And I hope I can encourage them along the way too. They are amazing in their courage, their faith, their passions, and their uniqueness. They are amazing women!

I am so thankful for my friendships with other women. They are a gift.



Rest in the Midst of a Busy Day

Running here and running there.

Doing this and doing that.

Pray, shower and get ready for the day, puppy, talk to sister and father-in-law about mother-in-law who was in surgery, puppy, pay bills, puppy, talk on the phone with a friend concerning her special needs daughter, puppy, make breakfast for hubby, puppy, and out the door by 9:00 am...

...To drive over the mountains, toward the ocean, to a friends house...A friend that is a spiritual director...

...And slow down...turn off my phone...

...And breathe...

...And listen to God invite me to rest...

...And not only recognize His hand in providing, leading, and guiding...

...But to quiet myself long enough to enjoy Him...

And after that, I went to the beach...And rested...
 And watched a man teach his sons to surf...
 And enjoyed the beautiful day...In peace...

So when I came back home later in the day, and needed to take care of kids, walk the dogs, repair my relationship with Ms. D by joking and laughing, and taking the puppy to socialize with another guide dog puppy, go to the library, get some pizza for dinner because I didn't have time to cook, clean the house because church will be at our house tomorrow, sort through papers, read the mail, talk to another friend on the phone with a special needs kid, mow the lawn (it's very small but it still takes a few minutes), take care of the animals, watch a singing competition online with Ms. D, do laundry, talk to a neighbor who stopped by...I did all those things and more...

Yet I could do it all in peace... And have more energy... And a better attitude...Not because things were any less busy...Not because I am not concerned about my mother-in-law in the hospital, or my friend who is out of work, or the spiritual and emotional state of the kids...

Not because everything is perfect...

But because of taking some time out to slow down and listen...

I can enjoy life, enjoy God,  enjoy my family, and enjoy others.

I am not as overwhelmed.

I am busy on the outside, but at peace on the inside.

And can sense God's presence better.

Because I was given the gift of a couple of hours of rest.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

People in Pain

Lately, many people I love have been going through difficult situations in their lives.

I have two friends who are walking through a process of finding out why their children are struggling socially and developmentally. Is it a degree of autism? They don't know yet. But the possibility is frightening. They are going through a time of grief. They feel so alone.

I have another friend who recently lost a father, who was an anchor in her and her family's lives. And another which is remembering her baby on what would have been his second birthday.

My mother-in-law had shoulder surgery yesterday and is in a lot of pain.  She is in another state, and I wish I could have been there to help take her back to the emergency room last night. And an uncle's dog, who is so dear to him, is going through cancer treatment. A couple of friends, no three, are battling cancer.

Some of my friends are going through marriage difficulties. Others are making difficult choices in their lives concerning their relationships with extended family members.

A neighbor lost his job two days before his wife had a baby last week. And a couple of other neighbors are struggling with unemployment also, which is pretty difficult in a place where everything is so expensive.

And though my heart is going out to all of these people, I am struggling with my own family's difficulties. I really want to support those around me, but it's hard to do when I'm already feeling overwhelmed. But I can pray for them. I can give them an encouraging word. I can be sensitive to help, when I can and how I can. But I can't do as much as I'd like.

My tendency as a mother is to keep people, especially my family, from pain. I want people to be happy. I want to keep them from difficulty. I want my kids to live a life that is perfect, pleasant, and nice. But is that right? If I look at my own life, the most difficult times produced the most growth. Pain and suffering drew me to God in a way that ease and plenty did not. Of course, I like good times more, and they certainly point me to the goodness of God. But there's something about struggle that orders the priorities in my life. When I've lost someone I loved, I've understood the value of life and the importance of working on relationships while I can. When I've struggled financially, I've learned that there are more important things than a fat bank account, and that God will supply all my needs. When my children have difficult times emotionally, I've learned grace and unconditional love. When I feel alone, I reach out to the only One who is always there with me.

I can't do all I want to do to help my family and friends. I can't take away all suffering in this world. I'll do what I can to be there for people, but I need to learn that the rest is God's responsibility. He knows what is best because he knows the beginning and the end. He knows us better than we know ourselves. And I need to trust that He will show me what is my responsibility, what is others', and what is His. I'm still learning. But He's a pretty good teacher, even if I don't always appreciate being taught in the School of Hard Knocks.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Stressed? Me? Hah!

It's scary when even the dentist is able to see that I'm too stressed out by just looking at my teeth.

This morning I had a dentist appointment, but I also had to do some beginning of the month things that were really due yesterday, but with the kids' appointments, schoolwork, and picking up grandson from the airport (whoohoo!), I just didn't have the time. Well, I started the guide dog puppy monthly report with Ms. D, but I couldn't get the printer turned on. So I didn't get it mailed out until today.

This morning I finished the puppy report and got it ready to mail, but then I realized I needed to fill out a homeschool affidavit for our state, and also an attendance report for Ms. D's school. So I had to fill out an online form for the state and print it out. Unfortunately, the printer ran out of ink and I couldn't make the hard copy. Before I knew it, Mr. I reminded me of my dentist appointment.

So I rushed to the dentist for my cleaning. When the dentist was examining my teeth, she noticed I clench them. I don't think I do it at night, but I have noticed it during the day when I get all stressed out. I clench my teeth and hold my breath. What's interesting is that she also noticed Ms. D's attitude towards me yesterday and said almost the same thing the psychologist told me. They both said I need to tell Ms. D the truth about the birth family, with proof, and let her know we don't want her to throw her life away, and we do things for her because we love her. After wiping away a tear or two, I joked with the dentist that she should have a side job as a psychologist since she said the same thing just about word for word! I'm not even paraphrasing it as well, and I heard the psychologist!

After the dentist, I went back home and spent the rest of the afternoon filling out forms, homeschooling, and shopping. We got printer cartridges and of course there's a discount clothing store next to the office supply place. Mr. I just wanted to look, but we each got something. I got a cute pair of boots that were so comfortable, though it did seem weird buying boots when it was in the upper 90's today. But it's the kind of store that gets picked over quickly, and the right sized boots may not be there next week.

I haven't been stress free after the dentist. How can I possibly keep calm inside when everything I tried to do on the computer today had problems? Browsers kept crashing, the printer had problems, and I have a hard time learning new ways of doing things when the old ways just didn't work. Oh, and the kids had their moments today too. But I am trying not to clench my teeth. God's going to have to give me peace, since I'm really bad at calming myself down. I hope the dentist won't see the effects of stress on my teeth and gums the next time I go in for a cleaning!

Monday, October 1, 2012

Is it Worth it?

Last week was pretty rough. The weekend had its moments too. I got my flu shot Saturday morning with Microbio Daughter. I never used to get the flu shot until after the first year we got the kids. The flu went through the entire house and I learned that I needed to do whatever I could to not get sick. The kids still have a hard time with me getting sick, though thankfully not to the same degree. So each year since, I have put up with the day or so of feeling a bit off in order to hopefully prevent a week or so of really being sick later in the year. So Saturday evening at church I could hardly stay awake and the kids used my tiredness to do as they wanted. They did all they could to not participate, like running ahead to ask the hosts if they could go to the park after I had told them I wanted them to stay near us, or Ms. D going to the bathroom with her friend and laughing loudly during prayer time. I was too sluggish to keep up with them and couldn't figure out why. I had burned myself earlier that day on the other arm and so the immunization pain was masked. It just didn't occur to me, until after I rolled on the arm with the shot when I went to bed, that my grumpiness, slowness, and fatigue were related to the flu shot! But during the evening I was feeling so inadequate as a mom and was really wondering if all the effort I was putting into the kids was worth it.

Yesterday I read a blog, O Blessed Day, by a mom who supports adoption, yet can't adopt herself right now. I'm going to have to reread it when I have some time to process it. I was crying before I even got to the place where she said she would pray for me. I'll let you read it yourself, since any paraphrasing I do wouldn't do it justice. But knowing that someone was praying for our family really touched my heart.

Yesterday was also Microbio Daughter's birthday, so I was pretty fearful of the kids doing what they could to sabotage the day. Fortunately, Microbio Daughter understands that birthdays need to be fairly low key. We did go to our neighborhood Chinese food place with seven of us. Mr. I went with some friends to the beach, and didn't participate in the birthday dinner and went to bed while we were having cake. But at least he didn't make it hard on anyone.

Today was a double whammy. First, we had another psychologist appointment with Ms. D. I found out more what her birth dad said to her last week. He told her that if he knew she was going to be adopted, he would have come for her and that she really belongs with her blood family. So no wonder she has been pushing me away all week! Of course, he knew full well he was losing parental rights years ago, Hubby was at the hearing, but Birth Dad had a felony warrant on him and so he didn't want to set foot in California. He still doesn't. But it's easier for him to blame Birthmom for dropping the ball. Of course, Ms. D is still planning to leave us when she is eighteen to go to "where she belongs" and take care of her mom. This is all a fantasy, of course. As if a teenaged girl with a low IQ and FAS could actually take care of a drug addicted mother. I'd be happy if she could take care of herself! Ms. D is blocking out all the bad things that happened and are happening in the birth family and is having a hard time being loved by both families. The birth family, other than the birth dad who calls occasionally, hasn't tried to make contact in months. Well, a birth brother called last month when he wanted Ms. D to give him money so he could go back to San Jose. But Birth Mother hasn't made a move, and we haven't either when her excuses and empty promises were making it obvious to us last May that she didn't want to be near the kids. She knows how to get a hold of us. But she hasn't. So the psychologist talked to Ms. D about how we do things for her because we love her. She also wants me to dribble what we know about the birth family to Ms. D over time, with as much proof as possible, or ask questions to get her to get to the truth. Right now, Ms. D can't face the truth, that her birth family has a lot of problems and there were reasons why she was taken from them. When the truth conflicts with her fantasy, she checks out by seizing or sleeping. I guess I should be glad she hasn't tried to check out on drugs yet.

Right after the psychologist, the kids had a dentist appointment. I could tell Mr. I was stressed because he kept asking me to buy him things before and during the appointment and wanted me to come in with him. He also refused to do something, but a call to Hubby got him to comply. It makes me want to wait with the braces, since he can't even handle a cleaning. Of course he makes it sound, when he talks to the dentist, that he would gladly get braces if I wasn't such a lazy, cheap mom.

Through all this, I am asking myself if it is worth it to have brought these two into our lives. Is it worth the behaviors? Is it worth the expense? Is it worth sacrificing having a career and financial stability? Is it worth the stress? Is it worth pouring my life into kids that would much rather live with a birth family that has abused them? Would I do it again, knowing what I know about FASD, RAD, and kids who have experienced trauma in their lives?

And I would have to say yes. I love Ms. D and Mr. I. They are a joy, well, most of the time. They were chosen by God to be a part of our family. And though they have problems that I remember checking off that I wouldn't accept when filling out some paperwork at one time, they are not those problems. Would I do some things differently? Of course! I'm learning as I go and have made plenty of mistakes. Raising them has not been easy. But I would do it again. And someday they might be able to fully receive my love. But even if they can't, I'll still love them. I guess I'm getting a glimpse of what God feels about us, who aren't nearly able to love Him back the way He love us.