Sunday, March 31, 2013

Happy Easter!

Today is Easter!

You wouldn't know it if you saw G**gle's home page, but this is the biggest holiday in the Christian calendar. He is risen indeed! Or as some of our relatives from from Iowa and Minnesota would say, "He is risen!""You betcha!"

You would see that it is Easter by the people getting together at the parks and at the beach. You could see it by the cars lining the streets as families gathered for dinner. And you could see it in the packed churches.

Hubby and I left the kids at home and at their churches, and went to church with some other groups in The Gathering. At lunch there, I sat at a table with a bunch of doctoral students. I kept thinking about how weird it was to have a great conversation with people my kids' ages who were so educated. Did they realize they were talking to a college dropout, stay at home mom? Fortunately, everyone likes to talk about their interests, and these people are passionate about so many awesome things. I had fun listening to their stories.

Afterwards, Hubby and I went down to the beach. I wasn't the only one walking barefoot with my best skirt. I bought the skirt months ago and didn't have a place to wear it, but today was just perfect. I'm glad I didn't get rid of it. I don't have a picture of me, but I do have one of Hubby.

It was fun walking around Santa Cruz, people watching. The surfers were having a great time, people were walking their dogs, and bicyclists shared the pathway with people walking and enjoying the view. There was one young woman who had a tortoise with a big, pink bow around it for Easter. She carried it around in a basket when she wasn't letting him walk next to the pathway. We didn't see the Superman guy with the bike, but we did see the World Peace truck. It was blaring "What the World Needs Now" and sporting pictures of Mother Teresa and posters asking for donations of shoes and clothing for the Navajos. What century are we in? Santa Cruz really is weird. Weird and wonderful!

When we got home I checked for eggs in the nesting box. Our chickens produced some real Easter eggs.

They didn't lay them under the bunny cage like last year, but they are pretty.

I hope all of you had a great Easter! He is risen indeed!

Friday, March 29, 2013

Officer Robert Pays a Visit

Today we had another scare with Ms. D.

Hubby and I walked to the store to pick up a few things. Ms. D needed to walk the dog after she fed him. We thought that we would see her on our walk. We didn't.

Microbio daughter did see Ms. D while she was coming home early from work. Ms. D was next to a car, hugging some guy. The guy drove off when they saw Microbio daughter turn around.

We got home soon after and Hubby called the police. The call was transferred to the non-emergency dispatch after Ms. D told them that she had seen the guy a few times in the neighborhood and liked him. The problem we had was that she didn't know how old he was and he didn't know she was only fourteen. She didn't know his name, if he went to school, worked, or anything else, yet he was a cute guy she let hug her. This kind of thing happens with teens, but even more so with kids with FASD.

Officer Robert came by later and helped a lot. He spent over an hour with her and helped her to see that  she needed to keep safe. He told her how a thirteen year old girl was found at a nearby hotel just this morning, drugged and sold for sex. He told her to not talk to certain people in the neighborhood who cause problems and to call him if she ever was in a bad situation. He talked to her as a police officer and as a dad, and she liked it! She said she normally doesn't like the police, but she said this one was one of a kind. I was worried that Ms. D would be so afraid of the police because of her previous encounter that she wouldn't call for help if she ever needed to do so. So what started as a difficult situation, is turning into a blessing. Officer Robert is amazing!

So tonight, Ms. D feels protected. Ms. D feels loved. Ms. D is connected to our family. What could have been a really bad thing is turned to good. We are blessed.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Egg Coloring With the Grandson

Today we took care of Grandson while his mommy and daddy moved some things in their home. We had the greatest time!

We colored eggs.

I baked the eggs instead of boiling, and it worked out great. I put the eggs in a mini-muffin pan, turned the oven on 325 and baked them for 30 minutes. Then I carefully put them in ice water and they were ready to color. I only broke one egg that had a thinner shell. It peeled easily, even though it was rather fresh. I think I'll bake the eggs from now on, especially when there are a lot to hard boil.

I love the way that the brown and blue-green eggs take a color. I tried to do something fancy with leaves and rubber bands, but I didn't have enough rubber bands to keep the leaves next to the egg. But we had fun anyway. 

Someone's Looking Out for Me (Or Not)

This week, in our Bible study for homeschool, we are going over Psalm 23.

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want...

Even though I walk though the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil, for you are with me...

Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life...

It is a psalm that is familiar to most people, even those who don't read the Bible. It gives comfort to the grieving, and hope to those who are suffering. Its familiarity doesn't lessen the encouragement. It reassures me that God is alive and is my shepherd, leading and providing for me even when I don't see Him. The psalm draws me to its words when I am in my dark times.

Yet my youngest kids don't believe it.

It saddens me.

In our discussions, I've been trying to point out times that God has protected them. It has been more difficult than it seems.  One difficulty is that I see the good, they see the bad. I see the way Ms. D was healed of a bad infection after a cat bite. Mr. I said that if God was really looking out for her, He would have prevented it in the first place. And to top it all off, Ms. D had seizures. Why didn't He keep those from happening? They have had pretty good questions. How many of us ask similar ones. Yet I know that their view is clouded by their traumatic past. Is this world really a good place? Are they safe? Or is disaster waiting around every corner? Will they die if they leave their guard down for even a moment? Are they loved by others and by God?

I am searching for more examples of God's care for them. Some examples of God's care I don't feel would be appropriate, yet to me they are huge! Ms. D won't let me tell of how God sent the police to find her before the men breaking into cars that night she snuck out of the house. It's too embarrassing. I can't tell the kids how they were taken from an abusive and neglectful home, with drug addicted parents who were in gangs and were violent. They can't comprehend that their birth parents would do such things, especially after the birth parents denied doing anything wrong. I can't tell them how the birth family is still struggling with major problems, that we found out the mom has a hearing with drug court next week, that their siblings are involved with crime and gangs, and that God put Ms. D and Mr. I in a place where they have a chance at a better life. I see how they have been protected from all sorts of evil. They only see that they were taken from the people that were "unfairly" accused and deceived that should have been able to keep them. It is so apparent to me that they are especially loved and cared for by the One who made them. Oh, I wish I could say to them some of these obvious ways that God has protected and provided for them.

Instead, I am looking for the little things. I am pointing those out as I think of them. And maybe, just maybe, they will be able to see God's hand on their lives too.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Nice, Safe, and Drama Free Zone

I just read a teaser about a post coming tomorrow from a fellow homeschool mom. It is about "How to be a drama free mama." Because the post hasn't even come out yet, and I haven't had a chance to say I agree or disagree with what she is going to say, I feel free to share what my first thought was after reading the title. What I write here is not a response to her blog post, which will probably be full of awesome advice, but a question that came to me after reading her teaser.

The question is, are we called, as Christians, to live a nice, safe, drama free life?

Think about it. Are we called to live a life in our big suburban homes, shelter ourselves from the world, and live a nice, ordered life with our perfectly behaved children, and be surrounded with plenty and peace because God is a God of order and beauty? Or are we called to give up these things, to get our hands and feet dirty in the trenches, and purposely put ourselves in the midst of the broken, the orphan, the sick, and the poor in order to bring God's love to where they are at.

Are we to avoid drama? Or are we to embrace the drama of others to bring healing to a broken world?

When we brought our two youngest children into our home, we traded our rights to be a nice Christian family in order to love children who shocked the other parents in the Sunday School class. We have had drama in our lives because instead of running from those who cause drama, we are running towards them and loving them where they are. I know people who have traded their nice suburban McMansions and families in order to live in the inner city or in a Third World country. I know a few who have given all they have to help the poor, and others who work long hours to help the homeless, the mentally ill, and the outcasts. There are some who spend their vacations, not on some warm beach resort, but by digging wells in Africa, or doing dental work for people in Central America.

So am I called to create a nice, safe, drama free zone here on earth? Or am I called to something better?

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Thankful for Whatever

Today I went to a beautiful home to celebrate the graduation of a good friend. It was good to honor my friend for her accomplishment. It's not every day that an older student is able to finish her degree. She worked so hard, and still found time to do many other things, like head up the food distribution ministry. She is a talented woman, and I will enjoy seeing what God has for her in the next phase of her life. She will be a blessing wherever she goes.

The party was held at the home of one of her friends. This was the view from the backyard, looking down from the far edge of their lawn.

It was one of those homes that seem big from a distance, and enormous when you are there. I've been to similar places in Oregon, but never thought I'd be able to go to one in California. I can't even imagine how much this property costs, yet I was able to enjoy it today. I love beauty, and there was so much peace and beauty in this place. The contrast was sharp when I came home and our neighbors were blasting hip hop music with a DJ and a large sound system.

It is so tempting to become jealous of what others have, their homes, their degrees, their possessions, their relationships, or their easier lives. Envy sneaks up and grabs joy and thankfulness from our hearts.

I have had plenty, and I have been in want. I have had a new, beautiful home in an upscale neighborhood, and I've lived in a cramped, old home in a crime riddled area. The challenge for me is to be happy in whatever situation I am in. When I concentrate on what I have lost, what I've never had, or on what others have and I don't, I tend to miss the blessings I have been given. But when I am thankful, I can discover blessings that have been overlooked. When I am grateful, I can enjoy life. And when I can rejoice in other's blessings, I can love more deeply.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Crazed Woman

Imagine yourself happily walking three dogs with your two children down a beautiful sidewalk path on a warm, Spring day. You pass a woman collecting her mail about twenty feet away and you hear her yelling, but can't quite make out what she is saying. You ignore her and continue to walk down the pathway, enjoying the warm sun. About a block away, you hear the woman again, sounding a bit closer, and you turn around. She swears at you, walks towards you, and tells you to stop calling her a fat b****.

That's what happened today on our walk. I asked the woman if she was talking to us. I told her we weren't talking to her, and that my daughter just asked me why I was walking so fast. The woman continued to yell and swear at us, Ms. D started to swear back, and Mr. I was panicking. I asked her nicely to stop swearing at the kids. I tried to walk away, but she kept following us and yelling even more. It became clear very quickly that this woman was either mentally ill or on drugs, and I needed to stop her from frightening the kids.  I finally asked the woman if she needed any help, and I would gladly call the police if she wanted. When I pulled out my phone, she quickly ran back to her home. I realized then that drugs were probably more likely at work here, so I made a police report when I got back. I hope someone checks up on her. My kids now don't feel safe in our neighborhood in the middle of the day.

This has been a bit of a lesson for the kids. I hope that they learn to never take drugs. The kids also need to learn to quietly get away from a heated situation, rather than fight back physically or verbally. It may not stick, since the kids need a lot of reinforcement and don't learn as well when they are frightened. That crazed woman was frightening!

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Under the Shadow of His Wings

Yesterday I went to a women's worship night. It was good to get away from the house and worship, even though I couldn't quite focus as well as I would have hoped. But there is blessing in the Christian disciplines, like prayer, meditation, giving, and worship, no matter how a person may feel.

At the end there was a time to receive prayer, and I took part in it, not as an intercessor, but as a receiver. I usually am on the giving side, and am pleasantly surprised to see people blessed, even when I feel so empty myself. But this time it was good to receive. And one thing stuck with me. She said she saw me and my family under the cover of God's wings, even when I didn't see it.

So today I've been meditating about being under the cover of God's wings. There are psalms that talk of it. There are songs written about it. And I can see God's protection over our family.

I've thought about how God protected my kids from the abuse at a church we attended when we first came down to California. I'm still recovering, probably because I've been so busy with the younger children and haven't taken the time to process and heal from the experience. I remember praying that my older kids would not turn against God because of the church. And now I see how well they are doing and see God's protection of their hearts.

Today, I thought about a major life change coming up, and how it would affect the younger kids.  As I'm tempted to worry, I'm remembering that we are under the shadow of God's wings. When I worry about finances, I see how we have been protected through layoffs, illnesses, car breakdowns, and unforeseen college expenses.

Today we learned about David dancing before the ark of the Lord, and how his wife made fun of him. I tried to teach the younger kids about how it's good to worship God with all your heart and to let others worship without ridicule. And when the kids said they never worship God and they think some people do look weird, and the fear for their relationship with God started to creep into me, I told myself we are under the shadow of His wings.

When I worry for the safety of the kids, and their choices in friends, clothing, and their relationship with the birth family, I tell myself, we are under the shadow of His wings. I remind myself that Ms. D couldn't get out of our driveway on a midnight outing with a friend without the police finding her and keeping her safe.

It is easy to see God's protection when things go right, when we miss having an accident by inches, when the tax refund comes back in time, when we quickly get a job, or when a surgery goes well. But God's protection is there even when things don't seem to work out the way we want. His covering was there when we went to the abusive church, when the cars broke down, when I was hungry as a child, and when my kids were in their mother's womb and were affected by drugs and alcohol. I don't know why bad things sometimes happen, but God is here in the good times and in the bad.

He has been with us in the past, so when I'm tempted to fear I should remember:

I am under the shadow of His wings.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Swing High, Swing Low

Today was a day of contrasting moods, and I'm not talking about the kids!

A lot of great things happened today.

We got the tax refund three weeks before we needed it for the property taxes. Hubby said we are just shuffling money between taxing agencies. I'm glad we didn't have to borrow for any tax payments

The kids weren't too bad, though they did whine for awhile about having to take a vacation with the family in a few weeks. It's amazing how worked up they can get over a change of schedule that will happen far ahead of time. I didn't let the whines bother me a bit. Ms. D has to get out of the house sometime, even if she is a homebody!

I cleaned out the linen closet and found some long lost things hidden in the mess. I didn't realize I had so many umbrellas! I put sheet sets together into pillowcases so that they are easier to use. I got rid of some old children's sheets and other things we don't need, including a few of those umbrellas. It was so glad to get that closet organized. I don't think I touched parts of it since we moved here over thirteen years ago. Well, I know I didn't touch it because the box I thought had maps really had shower gifts and an unopened package of flannel sheets. I should have purged some of the things every year, not every decade! It's amazing what chores got pushed aside since we got the kids.

I had a great time watching Mr. I try to do some body building. There is nothing like a pubescent boy who is trying to get muscles like a full grown man! 

Despite all these things, I am a bit weepy tonight. I realized that since I don't have to scrimp and save for the taxes, I can go to my spiritual director. I haven't gone in a few months. I was thinking of all things that have happened and that I'm processing lately so that we could discuss some of them. But just thinking of those things was pretty overwhelming, and I felt so worthless and insignificant. I hope I don't start crying when I'm with her like I was at the end of church Saturday when I asked for prayer. Sometimes I wish I could just get over the past, and not have to go through a long process of healing. But I may be too hard on myself. I don't expect my kids to "just get over it." They need help, time, understanding, and a touch from God. How can I expect myself to be any different?

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Learning as I Go

Blessed wrote a comment in the last post about how she wished she could have learned earlier from people like Dr. Purvis and parented her kids differently.  I wish I could have learned earlier too, for both my bio and my adopted kids! The parenting journey is full of decisions and we make so many mistakes along the way. Sometimes I wish I could go back and have a do-over!

Fortunately, most kids are pretty resilient, and bounce back pretty well, even when we make mistakes. I made so many with my oldest children, yet they turned out great.

I was too strict with my first child when he was younger. I taught him from age two to not ask me for anything at a store. We were on a very strict budget and had no money for extras. We would leave the store if he asked for anything and fussed about it. I was happy with how I trained him until he was about ten and I realized that I had taught him too well. He wouldn't even tell me he wanted a Slinky when I offered to get him a toy at a flea market! I was raising him to be very legalistic. I was afraid that would carry over in his relationship with God, and keep him from praying for his needs. So I had to teach my son that it is good to ask us and God for things.

Now, when I find myself saying no too many times to a child's requests, I make sure I say yes here and there. I did it this weekend. I had been saying no to Ms. D's requests for junk food all weekend. For some reason she wanted comfort food and to her, comfort food is fast food. So this evening I let her pick out some sugar cereal when we were at the store. The nutrition mama within me was cringing, but I made the decision to say yes to something. It may not have been the best decision, but it seemed to help her to see that I care about her.

It is more difficult to raise the two younger ones.  They didn't have their basic needs met when they were young, were bounced from home to home, and were affected by fetal alcohol. Because of that, there is a much smaller window of good parenting. A little mistake can make big differences in their lives. I want to do things perfectly for them, yet I know I can't.

The perfectionist in me doesn't like to admit that I may not be able to do this parenting gig without mistakes. My littlest ones may not end up as nicely as my bio kids in the world's eyes, no matter how well I do my job. And that is changing the way I see myself, God, and others.

I'm learning as I go. I'm learning to parent kids in a completely different way. I'm learning what grace is. I'm learning about unconditional love. I'm learning to let go of perfectionism, legalism, and judgment of myself and others. I'm learning that I can be loved unconditionally, even as I learn to love my children unconditionally. I'm learning that relationship comes before legalism. I'm learning to truly love.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Lying, Stealing, and Mama's Not Reeling

It is interesting what kind of behaviors don't seem to phase me as much with my kids with FASD.

It used to be, with my older kids who don't have their brains damaged by fetal alcohol, that I had pretty high standards for lying and stealing. If a child denied doing something wrong and I found out otherwise, that child would often get double the punishment. They soon learned that telling the truth, admitting their wrongdoing, and confessing before they got caught, resulted in much easier consequences. They learned very quickly not to touch the belongings of others unless they asked. And most of all, they were to treat their siblings and others with respect. And for the most part, they did.

Not so with my two youngest ones.

Even now, when "they should know better," they do things that could send me spinning.

The other day, Ms. D sat on some clothes fresh from the dryer that I had put on the sofa. I told her, "Don't sit on the clothes, please. They will wrinkle." She looked at me, still sitting on the clothes, and said with a straight face, "I'm not!" It sure looked like it to me! Remember, this girl is fourteen years old, not two.

But I have to treat lying like I would a two year old. My kids, especially Ms. D who has more brain damage, lie. It's not because they are bad kids, or because they haven't been taught better. It's not because they want to lie. They just do. Their brains don't work the same as most kids.

I'm pretty good at not asking questions that will lead to a lie. I don't ask who did this and how did that happen. I do my best to find the perpetrator and then just have them make it right. I tell them it doesn't matter who left the food out in their bedroom to rot under their bed. It has to be cleaned and I choose who gets to help. No hard feelings. No emotion. It's just life.

I also don't get emotional over stealing. Ms. D doesn't seem to understand that her sister gets upset when she wears her sister's clothes. We just take them back and tell her not to wear them again without asking. But it happens again and again. Ms. D just can't seem to learn. Today, when we were walking the dogs, Ms. D found a small ball in front of a neighbor's house. She started to bring it back to the car. I told her to put it back. It's not ours, and Brewster can't be around balls. Ms. D was upset that she couldn't have it and yelled, "But it's not theirs!" Really? How does she know? I told her again that she can't take anything that isn't hers without asking.

I don't even get all worked up about the swearing at each other, though I stop it as soon as I can. They swore like sailors when they were three and four, rarely did so later, but are at it again as they have hit the teen years. It is worse when they are upset about something. So instead of just addressing the language, I need to help them to calm down too. An upset mom doesn't calm the environment down a bit.

It is hard for people with FASD to follow through with socially appropriate behavior. They really do want to do what's right. They may know the rules. They may be able to tell you the rules. They may get upset when others don't follow the rules. But because of the impulsivity and lack of cause and effect thinking, they make really bad decisions. And they do the same stupid things over and over, no matter what happens. I have to tell them simply, without using too many words. I need to check to see if they finished a task, and not just ask. I need to not assume that because they shut a gate, did their math, or brush their teeth hundreds of times before, that they will do those things today.

I'm glad I have read that many people with FASD lie and aren't capable of doing what is right sometimes. They need an external brain. They need others around them to keep them out of trouble. They may look capable, but they are operating at a different level than they seem. My kids may be teenagers physically, but emotionally, morally, and mentally be at a much younger age.

So instead of getting all worked up about lying, stealing, and other such things, I need to carefully guide, protect, and help the children with FASD, just like one would do for a young child. It is a hard road to walk, to help the children learn yet modify their environment for success. I will make mistakes. I will get frustrated at times. But I need to remind myself that we are all doing the best we can with what we were given. And these kids were given FASD, and it's not their fault.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Sister Night Out!

Microbio Daughter won a couple of front row tickets to a Maroon 5 concert from Mix 106.5.

Did she sell them for some extra spending money? Did she go out with a friend?

No, she took her little sister!

Owl City was first. People took out their phones and iPods out for the Firefly song.

Then came Neon Trees.

And finally, to the delight of thousands of screaming girls...

Maroon 5!!!

Ms. D taking a picture of Adam Levine.

Yes, they were just a few feet from Adam Levine!

The girls said that Adam was as nice in concert as he is on The Voice.  Ms. D loves to watch that program, so this concert was perfect for her. Microbio Daughter said the musicians were as good or better live than they are recorded.

It was a stretch for Ms. D. She doesn't do well in crowds and almost refused to go, even though she liked all three bands. They went early to adjust to the environment and get to their seats before there were large crowds. Ms. D settled down as soon as the music started and had a great time.

When they came home, Ms. D was excited and happy. It was a good bonding time for the girls. I'm so glad that Microbio Daughter took Ms. D for a sister night out!

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Why Didn't Anyone Tell Me?

I talked to a foster mom this morning who recently finished parenting a couple of kids. Now that they are in another home, this mama is having time to recoup. This was her first time fostering and she was surprised by how difficult it was to care for these kids and to deal with the county foster system. My friend is an awesome mom. She has a bio kid, she took the classes, and she talked to others who have fostered before. She, like all of us, thought she was prepared to take in children who needed a home. But it was harder than she had ever imagined.

She asked, "Why didn't anyone tell me?"

I think we all wonder this. I thought I was prepared. Our preparation included three different series of classes from different agencies, reading, doing respite care, talking to others who have fostered and adopted before, and years of parenting our bio kids. I thought we'd be one of the best prepared people possible, and it was still harder than I could ever imagine!

No one could have possibly told me how difficult fostering could be!

My expectations were far different than reality.

I expected some paperwork and red tape, but I didn't expect so many rules and regulations that we had to follow, even though they made no sense for our situation. It was as if someone at one time had a problem with something, so the state made a law for everyone. You can't restrain a child, but what do you do when your foster child is getting a filling or his blood drawn? You need to teach an older child to do his laundry, yet you have to lock all detergent away so that child can't get to it. You need a doctor's signed release to give your child some Tylenol for a fever. Babysitters needed to be CPR trained, over eighteen, and fingerprinted. And everything, every little incident needed to be written down. If I had written down every time a child hit me or someone else, I would have been writing more than parenting! Even worse, many of the county social workers seemed to have lost their love of children and had become overworked and uncaring bureaucrats. I'm so glad we had a private foster agency that gave me so much support. I couldn't have done it without them!

I expected some behavior problems with my children. I had done respite care for a few families and knew that the kids in the system had a lot of hurts. But what I didn't expect was that many kids with attachment problems behave far better with strangers than with the mom figure. The other moms told me that their kids were harder than it seemed, but I could not have imagined the fury unleashed on me when I was the foster mother. At first I didn't know the effects of alcohol on my children, and our state seemed to be oblivious to alcohol's effects on children too. I also didn't understand how wearing it would be to care for the kids 24/7 for years. It's difficult to parent the children from foster care, and it's even more difficult to do it for long stretches of time.

There were other difficulties that were bigger than I had imagined. There are so many appointments, you spend a lot of time in the car. I had callouses on my hands because I was driving over a hundred miles a day taking the kids to the doctor, Head Start, school, therapy appointments, specialists, dentists, eye doctors, and visits. Even getting sick was a challenge. How do you keep a house clean and the kids fed and taken care of when you and the rest of the family have influenza? How can you tell people what you are going through without others making judgements? How can you bring your three year old to Sunday school if you know that child will teach the other kids some choice language? The isolation that happened in order to protect our family or others was unexpected. And I won't go into the birth family interactions that made things a lot harder for me and the kids. That would take a whole other post!

So why didn't anyone tell me what it would be like? Why didn't I tell my friend? I think I told her some, but it's one of those things that are impossible to tell all. The closest thing to compare it to is labor. How do you tell someone who hasn't experienced labor what it would feel like? Also, everyone experiences labor and fostering differently. What may be the most difficult for me may be a breeze for someone else. Though there may be similarities, no two experiences are the same.

Knowing how difficult it was for me, would I do it again? And would I encourage others to foster a child? What would I tell others who are thinking of going down the same path? Is it worth the difficulties, the exhaustion, the isolation?

As I look at my kids, where they are, and where they could have been, I get my answer. Even though it was the most difficult time of my life, they are worth it!

Monday, March 11, 2013

Basic Needs

I let the kids sleep in this morning. The time changed, and the kids are still recovering from colds, so I spent the time processing some things in my life and listening to some short videos by Dr. Karen Purvis and Michael Monroe. One of the things they mentioned was about every person's needs, whether or not they are adopted.

"Every child needs to know they have a voice.
Every child needs a balance of structure and nurture.
Every child needs a deeply satisfying emotional relationship where they can flourish.

Even her elderly father...
Needs to know he is precious
Has a voice
Needs to have his needs met
Is protected
To know that he mattered"


Please check out the link.
It will affect how you see your children, how you see others, and how you see yourself. It may even change your parenting style or reinforce what you've been trying to do all along.

Friday, March 8, 2013


Ten years.

Ten years ago today we brought two little kids into our home.

Even though they were three and almost five, I could pick both of them up at the same time.
Ms. D wanted to be a police dog when she grew up. Mr. I was always right behind. They were cute, but they were a handful!

We had a bit of a rough start, but we did things to help them attach, to help them become part of a family. We played lots of games, including the bubble game. I would be right there across from them, blowing bubbles, so that they could look in my eyes. They really liked that game!

I'm not reminding the kids today about the significance of this date. They've had a rough week. Maybe they know in their hearts anyway that it is the time of year when they were taken from one home and brought to a stranger's one. It isn't the happiest event in their lives.

But I'm treasuring this anniversary. I'm so glad Ms. D and Mr. I are a part of our family. 

Dirty Hands

I don't know how female mechanics could ever have girly hands.
Today I changed a headlight in the Prius, and my hands look pretty beat up and dirty.

In this picture, you can't see that I scraped my wrists and hands trying to get the bulb changed in such a small space. It was so cramped, I can't see how man hands could possibly get in there. Mine barely fit! You also can't see that I had washed them a couple of times during the process so I could look up how to change the bulb on Youtube. My hands look and feel even worse in real life.

But it was worth it! It cost less than ten dollars to do the job. Fortunately, we had the cheaper lights for our particular car.  Other lights would have cost over $115 each for just the bulb! I am so happy I could do it myself and the light works!

I should celebrate by giving myself a little manicure!

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Would You Still Love Me if I...?

Would you still love me if I...
     hit you in the face?
     steal from you?
     tell you I want to live with my birth family?
     ask you what you would do if I ran away?
     tell you I hate you?
     say I don't believe in God?
     do some really bad stuff, the worst stuff you could think of?

That's the question that most, if not all adopted kids ask, especially those who have been neglected and abused.

That's the question that my kids ask, even after ten years of living in our home. Maybe it doesn't come up as often or as intense, but it's still there waiting under the surface. The question comes up when there are triggers, when they see an intact family, when they taste Mexican food, when they visit friends, when they are feeling a bit sick, when they are crossed, when they...

The question rarely comes out in an articulated and conscious way. It most often comes with negative behaviors, acting out, or pushing away. It comes with odd questions and statements that seem to come out of the blue.

It's a question that is often misunderstood. I don't always recognize the basic question because I get all hung up on the outward manifestations. I have to ask myself, "what did they mean when they said that?" Is there something deeper behind that statement?

Someone looking at my children's behavior from the outside may think my children are sullen, or disobedient, or bad kids. Other people may not understand why I respond to some things in ways that are opposite to what is expected in a typical parent/child relationship. I respond with time-ins instead of time-outs. Repairing relationship comes before behavior correction. Providing support and protection, especially with Ms. D because of her FAS, comes before letting her have freedom.

My kids are asking a question that comes from deep within. It comes from a place of rejection, either real or imagined. And unfortunately, the rejection was mostly real. The rejections came in a time of their lives when they were the most vulnerable.

They ask the question again and again. Would you love me if...?

So yes, Ms. D and Mr. I, I love you!

I love you even if...

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Figuring Things Out

Tonight I'm trying to figure things out.

Mr. I had a rough day.

Earlier, when we were in the car, Mr. I told me he wished I was Mexican. He then asked me how old he'd have to be in order to move back to the birth family. When I told him eighteen, he said, "But by then I will be an adult and can be on my own." "Yes, it's sad that it all worked out the way it did. But we are legally responsible for you until then." I didn't say much, but tried to let him talk. It's so hard not to close him down when he talks about running away, or ask questions like, "What would Dad do if I hit you in the face?" So I hope I answered his questions simply and with understanding.

What I didn't say, but was thinking, was this: "Yes, it's not right that you had to leave your birth family and were placed with a white family. It's not natural for kids to bounce from place to place, only to end up in a stranger's house. The birth family should have done what they could to keep you where you belonged. The state didn't ask for too much. But they are drug addicts that care more about themselves than what's best for you. And they haven't changed as much as I hoped. I hate it when they don't call and then make excuses when you finally get a hold of them. It's never their fault. There is always somebody else to blame. It breaks my heart every time you say you miss them and I know that they don't miss you enough to pick up the phone or follow through with a visit. I understand that you are trying to figure out how to be a Hispanic man. I understand that you wish you could be with the family you were born into, or at least some family that looks like they could be related. But can't you see we love you?  Even though you look different, you are just as much a part of our family as any of the other kids. And when you talk about moving back to the birth family, I get really scared for you and Ms. D. Just about all the other people in that family have ended up in jail, worked in the sex trade, have been in gangs, or have been addicted to drugs. It's a horrible life and I worry that they will get you into that lifestyle. They are really more dangerous than you can imagine. This is your chance to have a better life. I hope you don't throw it away because you don't feel connected."

But I don't say those kind of things. It wouldn't be helpful to say them. So I hold those thoughts inside, pray, and hope that someday they will see that they are loved.

If that was the only thing that concerned me today about Mr. I, it would be enough. But he came home with tears in his eyes after some altercation with a friend. What concerned me is that Mr. I didn't want to talk to us about it. I don't know what was said. It is hard for me to know that something is bothering him, but I am clueless as to what it is. At least he slowly warmed up to us as the evening went on. Thanks to Microbio Daughter getting him and his sister some coffee, he slowly let us touch him and let us pray for him before bed. But I still don't know if it is something I need to worry about, or if it is just a typical kid thing. Whatever it was, it shook him up.

I really need a lot of wisdom to help the kids navigate these teen years.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Moving Mountains

Today we got a truckload of dirt to fill the pond out back. It would take too much money to finish, and we need a little more room in the backyard now that we have Brewster. The dirt was free, and we used our own sweat to move that mountain of dirt piled in our driveway. This home improvement project was cheap. We had about six yards delivered from a construction worker who needed to get rid of the dirt.

This is after about an hour of work.

We found that it worked best if I shoveled the dirt in the wheelbarrow and hubby moved it to the backyard. We had a problem though. The side gate wasn't wide enough for the full wheelbarrow, so we had to go through the house.

And then Hubby dumped the dirt in the big pond hole.

We had another problem. Tomorrow it is supposed to rain. The dirt was already pretty heavy, and if it got wet it would be miserable to move. So we moved all that dirt in one day.

The dirt came at about 3:30 in the afternoon. I got two or three loads moved before Hubby came home a little before 4:00. We stopped for a few minutes to eat dinner, but other than that we worked our little tails off until 9:15. That's over five hours of heavy labor! I can't believe we were able to do it.

It was beautiful out. I got to look at the stars and heard an owl. Microbio Daughter brought out some music. It helped me to make it through the evening. But now that I'm done, I can hardly move. I am finding some new muscles and am walking around like an old lady. But the job is done!!!! We moved a mountain of dirt in one evening!

Sunday, March 3, 2013


Last night's Walmart trip set Ms. D in a tailspin of acting drunk and dysregulated. I was so worried for her.

Microbio daughter took her to church after we ate, and Ms. D quickly calmed down. It was amazing how quickly she switched to acting normal.  She participated in the singing, listened, and took very good care of Brewster in church. She was even able to talk about her experience with Microbio daughter. Ms. D said she forgot how ghetto that particular Walmart was. We hadn't gone there in months, since two new ones opened up recently. They are are cleaner and larger than the old one and are worth the five or ten extra minutes of drive time. The one we went to last night is the closest, but it is also in a bad neighborhood that is also the birth family's neighborhood. Ms. D told Microbio daughter that people were hanging around like it was a mall, and that there were some girls that looked like they were high or drunk. Did some of the sights and sounds trigger some PTSD? Did the thought of seeing her birth brother cause her to overload with emotion? Microbio Daughter said that by the tone of her voice, she could tell that Ms. D was frightened.

It was good for Ms. D to go with Microbio daughter to her church. They go together often, so it is structured and familiar.  I usually think of Mr. I getting dysregulated in unfamiliar situations or places that trigger memories. I am more surprised by Ms. D, though she is just as affected. Mr. I is just usually more demonstrative and I need to focus my efforts to get him regulated in those kinds of situations. Ms. D is normally more reserved and shuts down.

So in order to keep the stress level down, I think I'll have to avoid that Walmart. It's good to slowly push the kids out of their comfort zone, but this was too much for Ms. D to handle.  Microbio Daughter's calmness and a routine activity helped Ms. D get to a regulated state. She did well last night and woke up happy this morning. I am so thankful!

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Was that Birth Brother?

Even though my kids have only talked once to the birth dad and not at all to the birth mom since early December, there is still a bond. I just can't figure it out.

Today, as we were going to the store, Ms. D thought she saw one of her brothers. I turned around, but couldn't get a good look at him. Ms. D's friend said it wasn't him, but Ms. D insisted it was. I had to get back in time for church, so we continued to the store. What came next was confusing to me. Ms. D acted extremely drunk as we went down the aisles. She giggled loudly, couldn't walk in a straight line, and couldn't concentrate. She called her birth mom to see if she really did see her brother, and then acted even more drunk.

I couldn't get out of the store fast enough. Of course, this store didn't have enough employees and it took twice as long as usual for us to get out of there. The man working in the electronics section was covering for another worker and didn't know his way around. One man asked a question about phone cards that the worker couldn't answer quickly and another guy paid for something with coins which took over five minutes to count. Then all but one of the checkers went to lunch, making the Saturday afternoon lines very long. Why is it when you are in the most hurry, people slow down?

But we finally were able to get out of there without causing too many heads to turn. I guess people are used to seeing odd sights at Walmart anyway. A fourteen year old girl acting drunk isn't shocking enough, I guess!

I'll have to do some research to see if stress can cause drunk-like behavior in people with FASD. It's strange, but I can think of no other explanation.

Thankfully, Ms. D calmed down when we finally came home, and was able to take Brewster to church with Microbio Daughter. Hopefully we'll have a peaceful night. I need it!