Wednesday, July 31, 2013

In Your Face

Every day, I have little reminders that my kids have special needs. Most of the time, the behaviors are so subtle that I forget I'm making accommodations. Maybe I'm just so used to making those accommodations, they have become routine and familiar. I'm able to prevent some behaviors, or at least adjust and prevent any spiraling.

Other times the behaviors are in my face, extreme, and leave no doubt that my kids struggle with an alphabet soup of letters caused by prenatal exposure to alcohol and early childhood trauma. It is in those times that I feel sad, discouraged, and worried. 

Today was one of those days. Ms. D had a minor procedure at the doctor that was no worse than a dental filling. I didn't have much time to prepare her, since there was only about two hours from the moment I emailed the doctor and the procedure was done. I'm thankful for the quick response of our medical system, and the efficiency of being able to send pictures online to the doctor, but it may have been too quick for Ms. D. It was a difficult experience. The doctor used words, like abrasion and injection, that Ms. D wasn't able to understand. As she was about to receive a shot, she almost jumped off the chair. It was so difficult for her to make it through something that an average fifteen year old would have no problem at all. 

I hope Ms. D will get the support she needs in life. 

Friday, July 26, 2013

Moms Forget

Moms tend to forget. I'm not talking about missed appointments and forgetting where they put their car keys. These things happen to all of us, especially when we get busy with life.

What I'm talking about is how moms sometimes forget that their child has a hidden disability, things like autism, fetal alcohol, mental illness. You would almost forgive a stranger for not understanding why our children may have a meltdown. After all, there are some kids who act out because they have really bad parents. Maybe the child needs more discipline, or attention, or better limits. We moms of children with hidden disabilities know otherwise. We know that the noise, a smell, a sore throat, or a hundred other triggers can send our kids into unbelievable states. We know that the response to some behaviors needs to be opposite to what is natural in normal parenting. Our instinct is to punish, or yell, or have a fit ourselves. But we take a deep breath, and try to diffuse the bomb. We understand that some of our kids sometimes "can't" hold it together, even though their behavior screams "won't."

But sometimes we forget.

We have a stretch of calm, when our children are regulated, and all is well with the world. We build routines, take our children to therapy, practice parenting strategies, and lead an almost normal life. We see the gifts that our children bring to the world, their talents, their empathy, their smiles, and their love.  Moms are great at seeing their children as awesome people who are better than average. We forget our children have challenges that are bigger than most adults could handle.

And then everything hits the fan, usually when we least expect it. We are thankful when it happens at home, and are dismayed when it happens in public. Yesterday, we had a public display of dysregulation after nearly a month of calm. The month of calm had lulled me into lowering my guard in some ways, though I was still raw emotionally. I thought that Ms. D was healing. So yesterday's emotional display at In & Out was especially distressing to one of my older daughters and me.  I was shocked, though I shouldn't have been. FASD doesn't just go away.

I love Ms. D so much, so sometimes I forget.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Ways to Handle Stress

I've been too stressed because of teen drama lately, and my body is rebelling. I'm having enough of the weight gain, headaches, asthma, and minor illnesses that beset me when I'm anxious. So to combat it, I'm taking up some knitting and crocheting. The repetitive hand movements help to calm my soul.

I've finished seven cotton washcloths and one baby blanket in the past three weeks, and am over a third of the way done with another baby blanket I started yesterday. As a bonus, I'm creating useful things out of the stash of yarn that has been cluttering up my bedroom. I'm getting a cleaner room, finished projects, and a calmer mind all at the same time!

I have a friend, C, who is battling cancer. She and another friend, L, have started a food challenge. L is giving C a list of healthy ingredients that C should make in a meal. The other day C was challenged to use tomatoes and kale during that day's meal. She then posted her creation on Fcebk. The challenge is helping C to eat, which is what she needs right now, but is also helping her socially and emotionally.

Ms. D is battling her stress by exercising more. She has been walking Brewster and another dog daily. Monday, she got a distressing call from Birth Dad. Instead of taking her frustrations out in destructive ways, she took the dogs for a walk and came back calm.

I am also being helped by being socially connected to people. Friends, family, and therapists really help in tough times. Pride has a way of putting walls between us and others, which isn't helpful at all. My tendency is to hold it all in and not let people know how I'm struggling until the crisis is over. This time, I couldn't hide, at least from those who are close to our family. But instead of judgement, I received support. And that support helped me through the darkest time.

There are so many destructive ways to handle the bumps in life. But there are other things we can do that are helpful and good for us. I just need to remember to take my stress out in ways that will build me up, instead of bottling it in until I become ill. During this time of recovery, I am needing to practice some of the constructive ways of handling difficulties. It will be better for all of us if I do.

Monday, July 22, 2013

The Amazing Race Begins

Microbio Daughter Amazing Race has begun!

She has an interview in Seattle for a job she has been dreaming about for years. Was it a challenge to get there? Yes. Wasn't it expensive to get airline tickets at the last moment? Yes. But it sure is an adventure!

The trip would normally have been a relaxing long weekend with visits to relatives in the Northwest. Instead, it is a day full of travel from San Jose, to San Francisco, to Seattle, and back to San Jose. 

Why the rush? The only other person who could do her current job responsibilities was in Alaska last week, so a Friday interview was out of the question. So they agreed on an interview today, Monday. Then her employer got notice that the power was to be turned off yesterday, and Microbio Daughter had to make sure that all the microbes were safe. She had to work with the electricians Sunday to switch all the refrigerators, freezers, and incubators to generator power and back again. She didn't know how long the process would take, so she made her airline ticket for early this morning. 

We woke up around three in the morning to get Microbio Daughter to the airport. I came home just as the sky began to lighten. Thankfully, her plane arrived early, and she rented a car to go through rush hour traffic. Surprisingly, she made it across Seattle with an hour to spare before her interview.  That city is known for its traffic jams, so this was a small miracle. 

So now, while she is doing her challenge, I am waiting. The Amazing Race has begun.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Mom Have Friends?

According to Mr. I, moms aren't supposed to go out too much with their friends. Too much is seeing the friend three or more times a week, even if it is to drop a sibling off at her home or spending an hour or two doing errands together. 

I told him that he spends a lot more time with his friends. Shouldn't I be able to have friends too?

But according to Mr. I, it's different. Moms can't spend time with friends, they have to take care of the kids. 

Do you think someone wants some attention?

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Brewster the Therapy Dog

Brewster, our guide dog puppy in training, got to play therapist at the clinic today. Ms. D had a group meeting with some other teens. She had told the other teens about her guide dog, and wanted to me to bring him to the waiting room so they could see him as they came out of their class. Fortunately, we can bring Brewster to places other dogs can't go, because he is in training and has his jacket. I didn't know how he'd do, but Brewster did wonderfully! He sat in front of the girls as they touched his soft fur and ears. He didn't jump or become too enthusiastic in greeting the girls. He behaved like a therapy dog should. I watched as one girl became more relaxed as she stroked Brewster and saw the unconditional love in his eyes as she waited for her mom to pick her up. I thought of how he has calmed my own teens the past few weeks. He knows who is hurting and then sits by their side. He has been a blessing to our family and to the teens today. And I'm sure he will continue to be a blessing as he grows, in whatever career he ends up with.

Brewster relaxing after a day's work!
Good job, Brewster!

Monday, July 15, 2013

Competing with Job

I really don't want to compete with Job in the Bible, but it seems like I'm going through a time when I could really give him a run for the money. I thought I have had as much heartache I could handle. I was wrong. I have been given more.

I don't understand why there is so much drama at once. I don't feel like I am handling it very well. I'm distracted, foggy brained, and am having a daily headache. It's difficult to focus on anything, let alone worship or any kind of brain work. Grief is such a messy thing, and I feel like a mess lately.

There is one thing I can hang onto though. None of this would hurt if I did not love my family and friends. If I open my heart to love, I also open my heart to loss. But it would have been a greater loss to have not opened my heart to love.

So I love. I grieve, but I still love. And my life is all the more richer because I love.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Amazed by the Love a Sister Shows

I am amazed and thankful for the love that Microbio Daughter has shown to Ms. D! She has entertained her, counseled her, and took her many places. She has helped Ms. D to feel a part of the family.

Yesterday the sisters and Brewster went to the Guide Dogs for the Blind fun day. Microbio Daughter drove seventy-five miles each way.

Brewster got to meet some of his siblings!

They bought a toy for Brewster!

While there, they saw some dogs in the kennel area play in a kiddie pool. Ms. D wanted one for Brewster. So Microbio daughter went all over San Jose and Morgan Hill last night with Ms. D, trying to find a pool. That shows a lot of love!

All of my bio kids have stepped in and helped with the younger ones. They have shown love to Mr. I and Ms. D, even when it has been difficult. We are blessed to have such awesome sons and daughters.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Teens and Adoption

I thought parenting preschool children with past trauma, attachment issues, and FASD was difficult. The tantrums, lying, hitting, swearing, signs of attachment disorder, and dealing with the foster and adoption system just about broke me.  But the love for my children grew. I had hope that we could break through the attachment disorders and my children could learn to love, and live within a family. We had support from an awesome social worker and therapist. It was the hardest time, yet it was the best time.

I learned so much, and my youngest two settled into a pretty peaceful state in elementary school. Life wasn't perfect, but it manageable. I could see great gains in my children. My son stopped hitting me and learned to control his anger. My daughter, though she struggled with school, was showing her awesome ability to nurture both dogs and babies. Yes, there were little adjustments that had to be done, but I became an expert on seeing the beginnings of problems before they became worse. I really thought we would be the exception in the discouraging stats of fetal alcohol. My children were doing so well!

Then came adolescence. Our therapist warned us that we may have to begin therapy again when my kids hit the teenage years, but I half believed her. Our family was strong, we learned so much, and we could handle any teenager. I was so wrong. Last night at a group therapy session, I realized that I had to teach my daughter again to love and learn to be a part of the family. But this time is harder. It is natural for teenagers to spread their wings and become less attached with the family. My daughter is pushing us away from her, yet her wings are broken. How do I help her to grow, yet not be a danger to herself or others?

I really don't know. I guess that's why we are at therapy again.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Trading Children!

Though I wouldn't want to trade my children for any others for the long term, it really helps to occasionally swap kids for a few hours.

I have a friend who has children with hidden special needs too. When I say hidden special needs, I mean that most people would look at our children and think that they are just being belligerent or undisciplined. The average person would not be able to spot the FASD, MR, RAD, autism, sensory issues, or whatever else that makes it difficult for our kids to navigate well in society and in our families. Our kids are awesome, but they can be a handful. It can also be wearing.

For instance, one day last week Ms. D had a new appointment at 3:30. We also had to take Brewster to an important guide dog meeting and picnic across town at 4:00. We had to bring ice and juice to the picnic, so I waited until a half hour before the appointment to get the ice at the store so it wouldn't melt too much before dinner. The plan was to have Hubby bring the dog to the meeting and I would take Ms. D to the picnic after her appointment. I had about ten minutes to load the car and get the dog ready. The plan was excellent if all went well. But in my family, and in many families with kids with special needs, all does not go as planned. Mr. I came in the house during those ten minutes with hives that swelled half his face. He is extremely sensitive to pain, so he was miserable. I ended up running back and forth between the doctor's and our home, making sure Ms. D got to her appointment and Mr. I wasn't going to go into shock. It was a crazy evening.

My friend and I joke about how we should sign up for a reality show so at least we'd get paid for our drama. We either have to laugh about some of these days, or cry. Laughing is more fun.

So why trade children with other children who have special needs?

Well, our kids tend to behave better with someone that isn't in their family. My daughter will help my friend with her children and do some chores there. Her daughter will help me with things she wouldn't do at home. I remember enjoying chores at friends' houses when I was young too. Even though our kids have some special needs, they are typical in some things like this. It's kind of nice to see that our children can behave well, even if it is more difficult at home.

We understand each other's children. Because of living with mine, I understand that parenting methods are sometimes turned upside down, that "can't" sometimes looks like "won't", and that I need to first look at the environment for triggers. I don't judge my friend if one of her children misbehaves, and she doesn't judge me. We both know it's hard for all of us.

It is good for the kids and the parents to see that other families do some things differently and other things the same. My daughter finds out that she has it pretty good, and that it is not unusual to take some things from her to keep her safe. I get new ideas for parenting, since FASD and autism have some similarities.

And best of all, I learn how wonderful my kids are. Even though I need an occasional break when things get messy, I love them dearly.

Rebuilding Through Family Time

I am so thankful that Hubby has had to take some extra vacation this summer for budget reasons at work. This could not have come at a better time, since our youngest two have had some struggles lately. Actually, it has been a difficult time for the whole family. Because of appointments, we couldn't go camping as planned. But we are blessed to live in the San Francisco Bay area, where there is plenty to do close by.

Last Friday we went to the beach with Grandson, his mommy, and our teens.

Grandson had a great time throwing rocks!

Hubby had a good time relaxing on the rocks.

Mr. I loved climbing the rocks!

After lunch, we played on the sand.

Brewster loved the beach!

I was still mentally exhausted last week, but the family time at the beach was relaxing and family building. I think it helped us to heal.