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!

Moms' Night Out

Last night was our monthly Moms' Night Out for our homeschool group. Not only do we talk about business things like field trips, but we also have a time when we can share how things are going with each of us and pray for each other. It is an uplifting time, since many of us in our group have at least one child with some kind of special need.

One of the problems of raising kids with special needs is that we often get so tired out and busy, another night out can be overwhelming. So last night, many in our group could not make it. So the three of us who were able to be there turned the meeting into a handcraft evening. I brought something to knit, but one of the women there showed us how to make a crocheted wreath. It was so good to work on the same type of project and chat! And they turned out pretty cute too!

Here is a picture of mine after the puppy got to it this morning. The bow is a little fuzzy and beat up, but you can get the idea.


I still have to put on some little beads, ornaments, or bells.

I won't write the directions out entirely, but they were easy to make. First we cut a ring out of a vinyl place mat to the desired size. Next we tied the yarn to the ring and single crocheted around the ring, picking up the yarn so that the ring is wrapped in yarn. Then, after making a six stitch chain, we basically double crocheted, chained three, double crocheted for the next row. Finally, we turned the wreath around and did the same thing behind the double crocheted row to give the wreath fullness. Weave in the ends, add the bow and decorations, and you can use it as an ornament or decoration, depending on the size.

It didn't take long to make. I'm considering making some for the nursing home we plan to visit with our home school group. We'll see how it goes!

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Redemption, Forgiveness, and Careful Watching

This weekend Hubby was able to talk to Birth Dad about his relationship to God during a visit with Ms. D. Hubby said there were was a time when the conversation was heated, but it ended with Hubby and Birth Dad praying together. Hubby talked to him about redemption and forgiveness, and Birth Dad seemed open to following Jesus.

Hubby was able to bring Birth Dad to a church today. This was a perfect church to go to, since Hubby was the only white guy there and the pastor is an ex-gang banger. The birth dad felt comfortable and seemed to respond to the message.

One interesting thing that happened was when Hubby introduced Birth Dad to a friend who runs one of the SLE group homes we deliver food to. Birth Dad told the friend that Hubby adopted his kids years ago, and the friend told the Birth Dad how he had a hard past and lost his kids too. They really had a connection. Last night at our church, some of the others who knew this friend told Hubby to see if they could get these two guys together sometime, not knowing about the friend's past or that he went to the church Hubby went to this morning. Isn't it just like God to arrange things like that?

We are really encouraged by Birth Dad's response this weekend. It seems like God is working in his life, and that he is beginning to heal. After our experience with Birth Mom I'm a little reluctant that the change is permanent at this point, so I am carefully watching. I did joke with Ms. D today though. I told her, "What will you do if you have two dads who are crazy about Jesus?" She sighed, rolled her eyes, and said, "I don't want to think of that!"

Oh, and I learned something my kids have known for ages but I was clueless until I heard the words from three different people yesterday. Someone said I can't be a very good Mexican because I didn't know what Chola and Cholo were. Ya, probably... Sigh... And it doesn't help I'm really old, according to my teenaged kids. I guess it's a little payback time. But I have one advantage over my mom when I overhear a new word come out of my kids' mouths. I have Google! Bwaahaahaahaaaa!

Friday, November 9, 2012

Food Issues

Today I wrote to a friend who just got a couple of foster kids recently and was frustrated that her kids were eating constantly. It's hard for someone who doesn't have a child from hard places to understand the depth and intensity of problems that these kids have. Sometimes I look back and wonder how we made it through those first few months of foster care.

After writing my response to her, I realized there may be others who are walking the same path and would like to see what I learned when we got our kids. When you read this, realize that my kids are not in the same place now. There has been growth. No, they aren't completely healed, and still have food issues. But it definitely isn't at the same intensity. Also realize that not all kids have the same problems. We are not all the same. The kids are not all the same. But at the same time, there are common themes, common problems, and common feelings. 

So here is what I wrote to my friend:

Yes, it does get better.

You and the kids are feeling totally normal in this situation.

I used to call my kids "my little hobbits." In the Lord of the Rings, if I remember right, the hobbits had breakfast, second breakfast, brunch, elevensies, luncheon...they never stopped eating. My kids, too, had insatiable appetites, though they seemed a bit more picky. Yes, they underweight and needed to catch up by eating a few more calories and good nutrition. But they didn't need as much food as they thought. We would be in our van, five minutes from our home, and one of them would suddenly be hungry and thirsty. They would both then scream to stop immediately for food and soda, even though it was faster to just drive home. They would sneak food into their rooms, stuff food in their mouths when we went places, and be extremely demanding. 

The problem was that they didn't trust that the food would be there the next day, the next hour, the next minute. And without food, they wouldn't survive. They also didn't trust that I would take care of their needs. Why should they? It never happened before! Think of it. If you didn't think you would eat again, if you thought the food in front of you would disappear before you could get to it, if you didn't understand time well because of age, fetal alcohol, or trauma, if you didn't think anyone else in the world would help you to survive, wouldn't you grab and eat anything you saw? They are acting perfectly normal for their situation.

And you are feeling perfectly normal. 

You know there is plenty of food. You want to take care of them, well, in your heart you want to. They are acting completely crazy and making your life crazy. You should not feel bad for feeling the way you do.

The worst of the food issues will get better. It might take a few weeks or months, but after awhile you'll begin to realize that their tantrums and food weirdness will be less intense and farther apart. They might not completely heal, but it will be easier for you to live with.

Just remember, it's not about food. It's about attachment. It's about trust. It's about how awful they feel inside. What they are feeling is not always hunger. Many kids, including my own, get their signals mixed up. They say they are hungry when they are thirsty. They say they are bored when they are really overstimulated. They say they need food, when they really need to go to the bathroom. They say they are hot when they are really cold. They think they are starving when they are really having an anxious feeling in their gut. Their brains are not wired right, and it takes time to rewire. You need to guess what the real problem is, and then help them to learn what would better fill that need. When they want food, but just ate, you might say something like, "You're hungry already? Ok, here's a cracker, but maybe you're feeling sad too. Are you missing your mama?" Before long, you'll be a great detective. I can even tell when my twelve year old is constipated!

So now for the advice, if you want it:

1. Get some respite. You need to recharge.

2. Don't feel bad for feeling the way you do, but don't yell at, hit, or abandon the kids. I know, it's tempting. But any negative response from you will set them back longer.

3. Help them understand time. Use timers. There are sturdy hourglass sand timers for kids. Show them in concrete ways when the next meal is coming. Become very regimented, even if that's not your nature. You can loosen up in a little while, but right now things need to be very scheduled. You can also use the timer to slowly help them to wait. Just like an infant, their waiting time might be a few seconds, but you can slowly lengthen the time they can wait for things. Maybe even five minutes! 

4. Resist the temptation to be a short order cook. I did that, and it wore me out. I also couldn't feed them the same way they wanted anyway. Who knows how Mommy Sophia made their eggs? So you need to cook one thing for the family for each meal. 

5. If they don't want what you are cooking, have available quick and easy alternatives. My kids would only eat raw carrots for vegetables. I wasn't about to eat only carrots every day. So instead of forcing them to eat broccoli, I would tell them that they could eat either broccoli or three mini carrots, their choice. They ate the carrots. I don't know what I would do if they hated all vegetables, but this was a compromise. Eventually, they learned to eat more vegetables, but it took time. When the kids feel they have a choice between two things, they will do more than if they feel they have to fight for everything. 

6. Let them carry around baggies in their pockets with snacks. It might help them to know that they have access to food when they need it. If they stuff that in their mouths too quickly, then you carry the snacks, letting them know the food is there.

7. Always have water and a snack in the car with you. I really regretted forgetting that!

8. Check their rooms for food. I told the kids that it would attract ants. They still hid food until one day the ants came in. Then they believed me. But the no food in the bedrooms is a good rule to strictly enforce. Don't just ask them. Assume they do it, and get it out of there. 

9. Have in your home easy snacks that can be given to them between meals. Carrot sticks, graham crackers, cheese sticks, granola bars, etc., are things that don't take time, but can be easily given. 

10. Have them use their words to ask for food. They need to learn to ask politely for food. Screaming, scavenging, and stealing must not get them what they want. 

11. Feed them on your lap sometimes. Have them look in your eyes when they eat. Food can be a attachment tool, just like when a mama feeds her infant. 

12. Don't take them places yet. They aren't ready. Things need to be simple, calm, and regimented. Birthday parties are anything but that, plus someone else is getting all the attention. We still, after ten years, tone down birthday celebrations. I didn't even take my kids to Sunday school for at least a year, because it was too chaotic for my kids. Then we went together, so that I could pull them out if they got dysregulated. Amusement parks became not a place to have fun, but a great place to have a meltdown. My kids still struggle with parties and crowds. They are happier when things around them are calmer than how they feel inside. 

Ok, I think I'll stop on number twelve. Many of those things I learned the hard way, over time. Some may not work with your kids or family, but they worked for us. But if you do nothing else, take a break for even a couple of hours. Maybe you can have someone take care of the kids while you take your birth son to the party. You need some respite. Do you have anyone that can do that for you? You need to have a couple of hours away at least once a week. That's the one piece of advice that is the hardest, yet the most essential.
I'm praying for you. Let me know how I can help. Really.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Leonard Cohen Concert, Humility, and Honor

Last night Hubby and I went to a Leonard Cohen concert. It was my first time at the Shark Tank, even though I've lived in San Jose over twelve years. I had a great time people watching and enjoying the concert. It was fun to spend time with my man.


I'm usually not the kind of person that enjoys concerts. I can think of a lot of other ways I'd like to spend my time and money. I don't seem to get as much out of them as others. But Hubby loves them.  So when Hubby suggested it a few weeks ago, I thought it would be a good thing for him. It was. But it was good for me too.

We needed a night out. The election results, especially here in California, were a bit depressing. Hubby's aunt was terminally ill and passed away this morning, the kids have been unsettled for awhile, and I was recovering from illness. Hubby and I needed some fun time away from the pressing needs at home. I really need a vacation, but a night out with my favorite guy was good too.


Why did I enjoy this concert more than most?

The music and poetry of Leonard Cohen and his band were absolutely amazing. The band, singers, and even the sound and lighting people were not just good, but were of the highest quality. Though I may not completely agree with what he had to say, he painted word pictures with such beauty, it was a pleasure to hear how he said what was on his heart.

But even more amazing to me was the humility of Mr. Cohen, and the honor he gave to each of the members of the band and crew. Their names were not just mentioned once, but everyone was introduced three times. It wasn't just a passing introduction either. He would give their name and backgrounds in such a poetical way, you felt that they were more important than the headliner. And if someone did a solo, not only would Mr. Cohen say their name afterwards, but he would bow, kneel, or take off his hat in his or her honor. I felt like Mr. Cohen was grateful to be blessed to work with these people.

This humility and honoring of others is something I am encouraged to emulate after seeing it demonstrated in such a beautiful way. So many times I catch myself coming off as a know it all. I hate it when I see it in myself. I don't mean to be proud and uncaring. But in my insecurity, exhaustion, or ignorance, I say things I regret. I don't honor people as much as they deserve, especially when they do things that annoy me. Other times I have good intentions, but like this guy protesting before the concert, I come off as judgemental or just plain weird.


I pray that God will work in me a greater love for people so they feel honored, appreciated, and loved. It's not something I can work up by myself. I don't have the ability to accomplish it in the way people deserve. Humility doesn't come naturally to me. But with God, even that's possible.

Oh, and God, bless the protester guy. Forgive me for being passing judgement on him. Help him to feel your love and be able to better communicate your message. Bless him, Father. Bless the people who went to the concert. Help us all to get to know you better, and be able to show your love to those around us. Amen.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Trauma and PNES

Last night I went to a Help One Child meeting where we looked at a video by TCU's Dr. Karyn Purvis. I can't tell you which video it was, since I arrived a few minutes late because of a certain boy who wanted me to stay home with him. But in the video, Dr. Purvis was describing the influence of trauma on the brain, including the level of all sorts of chemicals and neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin, and also the incidence of psychogenic seizures. And the kids aren't the only ones who show signs of disrupted brain chemicals. The parents raising the kids are affected too, and it can be quantified.

It was a really interesting video and I learned quite a bit. I also learned that I need to learn more about these things, since I have to deal with the effects of past trauma and FASD every single day. It amazed me when she said that about 30% of kids she sees from hard places have signs of some kind of psychologically based seizure. After seeing this film, I realized that I had been seeing these kinds of seizures for years, but didn't recognize them until Ms. D had a full, fall on the ground, shaking one. I also realized that even yesterday, she had some minor ones that I didn't recognize. While helping her with schoolwork, she stared off an on and twitched a bit. It was hard for her to focus. Now I know why!

So what do I do with this information? I need to learn how to better help the kids. This morning I read an article about PNES, or Psychogenic Nonepileptic Seizures. I am realizing that my kids are experiencing a lot more stress than I thought. They have been acting so strangely lately, even before they found out the birth dad was coming up here. The visits have compounded their stress, so we need to take that into account when making decisions. I'm glad that Ms. D is seeing a psychologist and that we have our old social worker to bounce things off of. We really can't do it alone. And finally, I need to learn how I can reduce the stress response in myself better. A stressed out mom isn't able to help stressed out kids as well as one who is happy and peaceful. The toll the stress of the nearly ten years of parenting kids from hard places has taken on my mind and body isn't good. I've gained weight, my emotions are all over the place, and I've had more migraines and asthma. The attempts I've made to help myself are too few and too little.

I don't know how I'll be able to handle the next few years, except for God helping me. And in a way, we all are in the same boat. None of us knows what the future will hold. We see storms in the horizon. But if we fix out eyes on God, and look to him for our help, we will be able to make it.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Decisions, Decisions

Today I went to vote. Not only did I have to make decisions about electing people from the president to the school board, but propositions too. I spent time researching each, trying to make the best decision I could. I might have voted wrong in some people's eyes, but I did my best.

We have decisions with the birth father too. According to Hubby, the visit went well the other day. There were lots of hugs and tears. It was a time for Hubby, the kids, the birth dad, and other family members to get to know each other a little better. The kids were emotional when they came home, and there were some rough patches the past two days, but it wasn't as bad as I feared.

So now we need to make some decisions. How much contact should we allow with the kids during the month he is in our city? Where do we meet? The aunt's house worked well, but do we bring the birth dad in our house?

There are concerns. Birth Dad has a history of domestic and other violence, drug and alcohol abuse, and arrests. He's run from the law, and has taken a couple of his kids out of the state illegally. Has he changed? It's been ten years. This is the first time we've met him in person, so we don't know. He doesn't seem able to admit to his part in losing the kids, and puts the blame on the kids' mom for not telling him what happened. However, we do remember that his lawyer was in contact with the courts before he lost parental rights. Does he not remember? Didn't he understand? Does he realize his part in losing the kids, or does he just not want to admit it in front of them? We don't know. Since some in our home have concerns for their safety, at this point we won't invite him here.

So just like when casting our ballot, we gather as much information as we can. Hubby chatted with an old social worker who understood the case. We let others know where we are visiting and take precautions. We listen and observe the interactions between the kids and birth parents. We make mistakes, and might make decisions that others don't like, but we try to do as best we can.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Anyone Want to Raise a Puppy?

Our guide dog group is wanting more volunteers to raise puppies to be guide dogs.


Today, I could not go because I was feeling ill. But Microbio daughter went. I think they were hoping that she was another future puppy raiser.  But no, she was with us. I'm so glad she went. She got to meet the people.

 And learn some new training ideas.
 And Ms. D got to meet the newest puppy in our group, Hal. Everyone who wanted got a chance to hold the little guy. The new ones always get a lot of attention.
I can't imagine why!

The Big Day

Hubby plans to take the kids to visit their birth dad at a relative's house in a couple of hours. They haven't seen him in about ten years. It's a bit scary for me, on many levels. The kids always have had a hard time after seeing a new birth family member, no matter how well the visit went. I'm still not feeling well, and so I'm wondering if I'll have enough energy to help them through the next week. There are some other things I'm worried about. Mr. I is fussing about having one of the birth brothers there so he doesn't get bored. The birth brother will probably be there anyway, but we feel like it would go better if Mr. I isn't distracted. But the biggest thing that scares me is that the birth dad has a history of violence, arrests, and and taking kids to other states to avoid the law. People change, and it has been quite awhile, but we can't be certain we will all be safe. We haven't had problems yet with the birth family and are taking precautions to protect the kids. We don't really have a choice in how much contact we have with the birth family. That choice was made for us when Ms. D first came in contact a year and a half ago. The kids are older and have a connection with the birth family, so we need to walk a fine line between protection and connection. It's not an easy line to walk on. I hope we do it well.


Saturday, November 3, 2012

Capacity for Nonsense

Some days I have more of a capacity to handle odd behaviors, and other days...

...Are like today. It started pretty well. I knew I was coming down with Ms. D's cold, but I had quite a bit of energy. But as the day went on, I felt worse and worse.

Mr. I slept overnight at a friend's house about twenty miles away. He usually does pretty well, but halfway through the afternoon I got a call from Mr. I, asking me to pick him up. I asked him if that's what he really wanted to do because once I left, he couldn't change his mind. Guess what? When I got there, he told me he wanted to stay! Um...no. He had to come home. I don't know what he was thinking, but I'm not going to wake up from a nap while sick and drive twenty miles each way to look at his cute face and leave without him. He was so angry, and whined the whole way back.  Imagine hearing this for half an hour in a whiny voice and angry scowls while you're trying to drive while not feeling well: "I want to stay!" "Why can't I stay?" "Things changed and so why are you taking me home?" "My friends were going to take me home tomorrow." "I want to stay!"

At first I tried the explanation route. He asked me to come pick him up. I came. I asked him to make a final decision, giving him a half hour to change his mind. I had to drive over forty miles while sick to do what he asked. Those explanations made plenty of sense to me, but you can guess how that went over. Then I tried the ignoring route, which worked better on my end but didn't stop the constant whine. I went to a store halfway home, which paused the monologue for a bit. He didn't want others to hear him. But then he continued where he left off when we got back into the car. Of course, he stopped when we came home. Dad was here. You don't behave that way when Dad is around.

I was a pretty put off by Mr. I's behavior, but didn't have the energy to deal with the weirdness. Instead of being cheerful, I was quiet and sullen. I just wanted to go home to rest. I didn't want to spend a lot of time and energy getting him to a better emotional place. I couldn't even figure out why he was behaving so badly, until he complained about the same symptoms I was feeling and fell asleep. He's the type of kid that never falls asleep in the middle of the day unless he's really sick. Duh! Now it all makes sense! He was feeling exactly how I was feeling, except it came out differently. Now I'm really glad I didn't yell or lose my temper. I must admit that today I didn't yell because I was just too tired, not because of a purposeful parenting style.

Sometimes I wish there was some way for parents to never get sick. I think back to all the times that I have had to work through difficult situations, even though I had a diminished capacity to handle those times due to illness. A mom just can't take a sick day when she needs it. But somehow we all survive.

Friday, November 2, 2012

A Time to Rest and Recharge

Today was the day for me to rest and recharge. Boy, did I need it!

This fall, I started going to a woman in my church who does spiritual direction. Hubby works from home Fridays, so I was able to go without being distracted. The timing was perfect this month, as I was feeling like I was heading on a crash and burn course. I've been battle weary from the past two weeks with the behaviors of the kids, finances, psychologists, agencies, and the frustrations of multiple distractions. And I am facing more battles with the kids and the birth family. On top of that, I feel completely inadequate to do what needs to be done in some of those areas. There isn't much positive feedback in being a stay at home mom, especially when your kids act like mine do. I've listened to the subtle social attitudes here in Silicon Valley that put being a stay at home mom about the level of an undocumented house cleaner. Well, not quite. House cleaners get paid. House cleaners work. Some of the comments I've heard the past couple of weeks have been pretty disheartening. "You understand, you must work." "How do you know what to teach?" "Her scores in social skills are the worst. Don't you think she'd have more practice in the public school?" "Where do you work? Oh." Then the person starts ignoring me in the conversation. I've listened to the voices putting me down, and have overlooked those who have encouraged me. Though I've seen God do things and know He's been here, my heart feels so alone.

When I first sat down at my friend's house, I cried. I cried when the she asked me the question, "How is your soul?" It was a cry of longing, longing for a closeness, acceptance, and a peace I didn't have. She mostly asked questions that encouraged me to think of things in a different way.  It was good to get away from the cares of home and focus not on what I don't have and where I lack, but on how much God cares for me. I have some things to think about the next few weeks. It was good.


 Since the spiritual director lives near the beach, I was able to turn the time into a half day of reflection and a mini retreat. It was a beautiful day, and I was able to enjoy nature, slow down, and think. And cry.

I didn't spend it all alone, but talked to a couple of women and heard their stories. One was a retired police officer who had the cutest little trailer. She let me look at it inside and out. I think I'd like to get one some day, since it's getting harder to sleep in tents as I get older. I need more and more padding each year. It doesn't quite make sense since I have plenty of more padding on my body to compensate! This little trailer has a queen sized bed that can pop up to a table and benches during the day, and has a cute little kitchen. It can be pulled by her six-cylinder SUV. Here's a picture of me sitting in front of it.

I also talked with a woman who was walking a lab who wasn't liking his gentle leader, just like Brewster. I told her about our guide dog puppy and we got to talking about foster care. It was good to talk about kids, dogs, and her work as a special-ed aide at her small town school. Her husband just had a heart transplant and this was their first camping trip since his surgery. He got a heart within days of being on the transplant list. When I told her how blessed she was, she agreed and told me how a Christian changed their flat tire on the way to the beach. I don't know if she is a Christian or not, but I hope she feels loved by God through those experiences. I took a picture of her to remind myself to pray for her. I didn't ask her if I could put it here, so it will stay on my phone. I wish you could see the joy on her face.

As I was walking down the beach, I saw some men fishing for perch in the surf. Hubby and I did that years ago. I'd like to do it again. It's so weird to think that just a few feet from shore in those waves, fish nearly a foot long are swimming around.

When I got back from my mini-retreat the kids gave me hugs! They haven't spontaneously given me a hug in weeks. They've struggled to get out of my hugs. Hubby said they did their schoolwork and even did some dishes while I was gone. So not only did I get a time to rest and recharge, I was able to stay at peace when I returned. That is a real blessing!

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Rough Day But Not All Bad

Today was a bit of a rough one.

I woke up with big plans of catching up on laundry, housecleaning, and buckling down on schoolwork. The headache of last night disappeared. I even thought of taking the kids on a field trip with the homeschool group. We had a hard time with the Tabernacle tour yesterday, but I woke up with such energy, I honestly thought we maybe should go to the backstage tour after all. Of course, this was well before the kids woke up and the distractions started to happen.

Distractions? There are always distractions in the life of a mom! The first one was when the puppy was full of energy and kept getting into trouble. He also didn't want to "do his business" outside because of the rain. He went his normal two times, and a half hour later when I went to feed the chickens, I left the back door open in case he wanted to follow me. He didn't want to get his feet wet and so there was a big pile of "business" on the kitchen floor waiting for me when I came back. This was the first time in a couple of weeks that he had an accident. And he chose this morning to have another.

I then looked at the calendar and realized that it was the first of the month, so there were bills to pay. Also, both the private homeschool PSP and the guide dog puppy group have monthly reporting requirements due today. Because paperwork is pretty stressful for me, I decided to do it right away before the kids woke up, except for the puppy report. I had planned to have Ms. D fill it out as part of the homeschool. That was a pretty good idea except just as the kids got up, their birth father called to tell them he was on his way to San Jose and he wanted to see them tomorrow. They were all excited, making plans without me. It is pretty scary for me to meet with the birth dad anyway, but I was hoping us adults would make the plans before the kids started making promises and requests. It makes things pretty complicated when they have expectations, but those expectations aren't practical. No matter how many times I've tried to drill in their heads to ask us before they make plans, they make plans without us. Then the anger and impatience come when I have to change their plans. We already told the kids we would spend time with the birth dad, but they also wanted their birth brothers to come too. Hubby and I want a little more space between the siblings since the older boys show a lot of signs they are in gangs. We don't say it directly, but we just don't make the effort to contact them anymore. And when we don't make the effort, they stay away. The older boys don't care as much for the kids as the kids care about them, I guess. Mr. I thinks the older boys will come if he wants them to come.  I tried to tell him to not get his hopes up too much, but Mr. I is sure they will. We'll see. This meeting with the birth dad can become a real mess if things don't go as the kids plan. I have to prepare myself for another really rough week in the kids' behaviors.

After the birth dad called, I tried to get the kids to eat, settle down, and start their schoolwork. They ate. Candy. When I told them to eat something else besides candy, they said they did. Chips. They didn't settle down. The phone call and bad food made sure of that. And when it was time for schoolwork, I was the one doing most of the work. Now, it's never a good idea for the teacher to work harder than the kids. I already learned the material years ago. I didn't have to learn it again. I know learning is difficult for Ms. D, but she needs to make some effort. That's not asking too much, right?

Well, I was asking too much. As I was pressuring Ms. D to help me fill out the puppy report, she kept snapping at me, saying she couldn't think. I was getting more and more frustrated and she was getting more and more obstinate. I thought it was because she still hadn't eaten anything good, so I told her to go to the kitchen to get some real food. I continued to fill out the form, and went into the kitchen when I had another question about the puppy form. I saw Ms. D crunched down on the floor with very painful cramps. That's why she was acting so strangely! I felt so badly!

I took her to bed and apologized for getting on her case so much. Of course, I didn't have the right medication for Ms. D. The bottle was in the cabinet, but it was empty, so I had to go to the store. Going to the store wasn't in my plans and took up even more time.  The puppy needed more attention from me today, because Ms. D couldn't do much. I still had to finish paying bills and had a hard time with one of the companies' web sites. And since this is election season and we have a very popular son, our phone was ringing incessantly.

I didn't get as much done on the house as I had planned. I never was able to go to the field trip, and I heard it was a good one. I missed out again. I was still feeling bad about not being able to enjoy the Tabernacle experience because of the kids' behavior yesterday. I was a bit grumpy because it is so hard to spend quiet time with God when there is so much pulling at me. I intentionally asked God a month ago to give me more times of rest in Him, and since then I've had even less.  I'm tired of the kids making fun of people who are "too religious." I feel bad that I haven't been able to help them love God as much as I'd like. I can't even help them to love me. And it hurts. It hurts because I love them so much, even as they push me away!

I've been on the edge of crying most of the day past few weeks. I gained two more pounds because I've been stress eating and have been emotionally drained. I have been asking God for an advocate and for help, even as I've had to be an advocate for my daughter, yet I feel so alone. I feel separated from the presence of God.

Yet even though I don't feel it, I see glimpses that He's right here. This afternoon around lunch time I thought of a man who had asked for prayer about a month ago in a meeting. I quickly prayed for him and then when I told Hubby about it, he said that he found out at lunch time that this man needed prayer. When I felt so overwhelmed with the housework this evening, my energy level drained from today's frustrations, I noticed that Microbio daughter was cleaning the kitchen. Mr. I decided to go to bed early, so I have time this evening to reflect and settle down. Hubby took a walk with me and the puppy, and we had a chance to talk. Hubby and I talked. The puppy just walked.

Yes, I've had a rough day, and have felt abandoned and overwhelmed. But the reality is that I am not abandoned. I am not alone. Things are not all bad. There is good.