Friday, December 31, 2010

A Hot Mess

It's pretty hectic around here. Each visit to the hospital for Ashley takes about 4-5 hours. That's a big chunk out of a busy Mama's day. Yesterday I started laundry and threw one load in the dryer and one in the washer as we headed out the door. When we got home later I found that the dryer had not run. All the clothes were still wet. Rats! So I turned it back on and then started dinner, etc.

While cooking, I kept smelling poop. Wafts here and there. Bleh! I couldn't find it, though. Looked and looked, but the smell seemed to be moving. Then Levi shouted out, it's Seth. He smells like poop! Chris went to check his pants and Seth lost it. Screaming and holding onto his pants. When Chris looked, he didn't even have on any underwear. Big Red Flag. I pulled his obviously poopy-smelling pants off and discovered a poopy smeared rear-end. He's crying hysterically by now, and I am doing my best to comfort him and tell him he is not in trouble. Then I started looking for his underwear. The first place I looked was in the boys bathroom where I found a toilet full of paper, wipes and poo. There was poop on the seat, the lid, the floor, the tp holder, and the side of the bath tub. Thank goodness for Clorox wipes and gloves! I got a bath running and soon had him soaking off the dried mess. Once he calmed down enough, I asked him where his underwear went. He said the laundry room. I looked but couldn't find them.

That's when I noticed that it smelled like warm poop and it hit me. The reason the dryer had stopped? Because a small boy threw his very poopy pants into there to hide them. I reached for the door and held my breath. OMG, it was NASTY! Warm poop all over. Gag! The now-dirty clothes went back into the washer with a hefty dose of disinfectant, and the poopy drawers went into a sealed bag and out to the trash. One small boy got scrubbed down twice and then rinsed well. Mommy cracked open a bottle of wine and served dinner to the fam. Just another day in paradise. Or should I say, Pooperdise!

Thursday, December 30, 2010

The great GPS excursion

I have a love/hate relationship with our GPS. I truly and deeply HATE trying to find my way to a part of Houston that I have never been to before, especially if I have to be there at a certain time for an appointment. Houston, like most big cities, is criss-crossed with large highways, tollways and beltways. There is no direct route to anywhere. Add in the fact that there is a huge amount of traffic at all hours of the day and I get very anxious. Houston also has a strange system of 'feeder' roads. These are roads that run one-way along each side of the highway and provide access to the highway and surface streets. If you get off on the feeder heading south but the place you need to go is north of you, you travel south for a while, then cross over the highway and head back north and then cut off onto the surface streets to get to your destination. It's a lot of going around in circles.
So back to the GPS. Yesterday I had to be on the southwest side of Houston at 9:30 am. It was rush hour and raining. Chris programmed the GPS for me and I set off 90 minutes before the appointment. The sweet female voice on the GPS guided me here and there, over the river and through the woods, past a couple of the seven wonders of the world (if those include gang-infested slums) and eventually to travel completely around my destination, circling in closer and closer like a hyena. I love it when the GPS says 'Turn Now' and there is a building smack dab right there. Do you think the lady on the GPS is offended when I call her a blithering idiot?
I got there right on time, luckily. When I was done several hours later, I hit HOME on the GPS and pulled out of the parking lot. I am guessing the lady of the GPS was indeed offended because she then proceeded to take me on a highway treasure hunt. Her intentions were to get me on as many different highways in Houston as possible and still end up home and not in Canada. This woman? She is good. That's all I can say. Here are the roads I was on in the space of one trip to the city.

Hwy 149/249
Beltway 8
some mid-town tollway I had never heard of
I 59
I 610
Hwy 290
Sam Houston Tollway (which may actually be the same as one of the above, but heck if I know)
and a couple of connections called spurs, etc

And now I get to do it all again every day for 5 days. Ashley has been very sick and this is where they scheduled her treatments for 5 days in a row. I wonder if the GPS woman takes bribes....

Saturday, December 25, 2010

The Miracles of Christmas

Unbelievably, the boys have had several really good days in a row. Wednesday we went to lunch with friends and all their kiddos and they all sat in their seats, played and laughed for 2 hours while us mama's chatted away. Then Thursday we went to lunch at Chris's office party and again they were all happy and well behaved. Yesterday was a very low-key day. We concentrated on traditional Christmas Eve stuff like hanging our stockings and putting out the snack for Santa. We went to the early kid-oriented church service and again, they were perfect. Seth was so cute. He kept looking at the clock and whispering to me that Jesus was almost here. He was so disappointed when I told him Jesus would not be making an appearance. We spent the car ride home talking about the real reason for the season and how Jesus lives inside of our hearts.
After we got home they all changed into their Christmas jammies and we had dinner. We were planning on fixing hot chocolate and driving around looking at lights but it started to storm so we opted to write letters thanking Santa and letting him know how much we love him. Then it was 3 boys tucked into bed and watching a Christmas movie. They all fell asleep pretty easily.
This morning we had to wake up the two little guys to start the festivities. Santa had indeed come during the night. I will have pictures and more details later, for now I am focusing on how well everyone is doing. We are dragging out the presents throughout the entire day. First was Santa, then later stockings, followed by breakfast, then presents from grand parents. Now we are playing with what they have opened so far. The rest of the presents have to wait until Kaytee and Ashley get here from their Dad's house. Miraculously, there has not been any whining and begging to open the rest of the gifts.
After we open gifts we are having a traditional Danish holiday meal then we are going to watch the new movie they got from Grandma and Grandpa J and then off to bed.
Why are my little guys doing so well? I honestly have no idea. I am not doing anything differently than I usually do. We are staying very close to home, keeping things as consistent as possible and trying to head off blow-ups whenever possible. It must be a Christmas miracle, that's all I can say.

And, for a true Christmas miracle, we got an e-mail from the US Government that on their recent trip to Guatemala to work with authorities there to try and complete all grandfathered adoption cases ours was still listed as open for Peri Brynn. We were told that in the fall of 2008our case was closed by PGN, but the other Guat agency that was created to do adoptions, the CNA, is the one that is working to complete all old cases and ours is one of them. I can't even type this without crying. I was in such a good place finally accepting she was not ours and now, do I dare to hope? Can I handle one more small child with serious issues? If, by some miracle, we get to bring her home, we will find a way to handle it and never look back.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

What I think

I am not an expert on attachment issues. In fact, I don't think there are really any true experts out there. Instead, i think there are people who are experts in certain fields, like psychology or neurophysiology, and then there are parents who are experts in their own kids. My own experience is 16 years of parenting one and now three kids with attachment challenges, plus 25 years of scientific research in the medical field, including neurology and pharmacology. That makes me fully qualified to give absolutely NO advice to ANYONE. Hah!

Instead today I am going to talk about what I think, my opinions and my take on things from my perspective. Take it for what it is, just my thoughts. I spend a lot of time thinking about attachment, reading about attachment and trying to really understand attachment. I end up with more questions than answers. I have the feeling a lot of people end up in the same place.

First, I truly do believe that attachment issues fall into a broad spectrum. The inherant personality of the child, the collective experiences of the child, the family(s) the child has lived with, and the level of trauma a child has experienced all affect the attachment outcome. Now, for today's post, I am going to define 'trauma' as more than just leaving one loving family for another. All children in adoption have loss, but not all have experienced neglect, abuse, starvation, abandonment, etc. So I am categorizing loss separately from trauma. Why? because in Ahren's case, and in the case of my friend Deb's little guy Bug, they had wonderful loving foster families that did everything they could to help our kids have a healthy transition to their forever families. Our boys were the lucky ones, and yet they have trouble trusting and being securely attached. That is because of their loss. Very understandable.

Children who experience traumatic experiences on top of loss have much deeper issues, issues that include how they process things at a much deeper neurological level. Abuse and neglect permanently change who a person is, how they deal with the world around them, and how they relate to others. I truly believe that the more trauma a child experiences, and the longer they experience it makes their issues much greater and harder to repair.

I also believe that other issues complicate our children. Genetic predispositions and other organic diseases like ADHD, bipolar disorder, depression, sensory disorders, and many others add a layer of complexity to these kids. I like to relate it to Shrek and his 'onions have layers' analogy. These kids have layers, many many layers that we have to peel away slowly to find the truth in order to help them. Plus, the layers often co-mingle in the way they present to us, so figuring out what behavior comes from an organic cause (ADHD), a trauma cause (PTSD) or is simply the rather normal behavior of a 4-year old boy (ayy yie yie!) is almost impossible!

Now add in the fact that we cannot just love them back to health, that they work incredibly hard to push us away, annoy us, disgust us and push our buttons. They do this because they want to hurt us and push us away before they become attached to us, care too much and risk being hurt again. In my mind I know this, but 'feeling' it and acting on it while a child is screaming that he wants to kill you is something else. Also consider that this goes on 24/7/365 and no human being has the stamina to be at their best all the time. Parents of 'challenging' kids make mistakes, we slip up, we feel guilty, we beat ourselves up all the time. This is no sprint, this is an all-out Iron Man Triathalon of healing where our opponents continually beat us up (physically and emotionally). I guess I shouldn't liken our kids to opponents, what I mean is that their issues are our opponents. Our kids are the true winners and if they win, we all win.

Attachment problems are not adoption specific. Did you know that? A child who is very ill during the first two years of life can also develop attachment issues. That's what happened with my biological daughter Ashley. From her first days of life she struggled with food allergies, intestinal bleeding, life-threatening infections, surgeries, high fevers, etc. I could not comfort her adequately during that time. In her heart I failed her as a parent and she did not trust me. In fact, she spent a lot of energy punishing me in every way imagineable. Unfortunately I had never heard of attachment issues. I parented her from my gut and made many, many mistakes. It's a miracle she is such a great kid now. There have been so many nights I cried myself to sleep knowing in my heart I was failing her and not able to change that.

I have more to share, but need to go parent the kids bouncing off my walls this very moment. LOL!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Love our Pharmacy Tech!

Our pharmacy tech worked for over an hour to figure out why suddenly Medicaid denied Seth's medication. Bless his heart he figured it out and I was able to pick up the meds last night. Of course by then we had had one heck of a day, followed by a terrible bedtime and a horribly ugly morning before the meds kicked in. It's almost like now that the meds help him so much that without them he is ten times worse. Maybe that is just my imagination or maybe I am now used to the good behavior and didn't realize how bad it was.
I tried to go to sleep starting at 10pm, but could doze briefly and then would wake up and struggle to fall back asleep. It felt like my nerves had been rubbed raw by coarse sand paper. Every little sound and every little touch on my skin had me on high alert. I finally fell into a good sleep after 3 am, so I did get a few hours of rest. Today I am sluggish and dim-witted. Not the best scenario when trying to keep up with the kids all day.
I did finally get packages shipped to family and without paying an arm and a leg they should be there on Friday. I also got a box of hats that I knitted for charity finally shipped off to the wonderful lady who runs Sweet Hope, the awesome (candy and more) charity. Elle, I am SOOOO on the road to hell, what with all my good intentions. There are 24 hats winging there way to you as we speak. They are just a small thank you for all that you do!

I have a question for all of you with RAD kids on the lower ends of the spectrum. (I think kids with high levels of trauma need different approaches than those who are on the milder ends of RAD) Do you think that 'immersion therapy' works? As in, if we keep exposing them to normal social situations that eventually they will learn that things turn out OK and they stop freaking out? Can they be de-sensitized to the triggers? It's something I have been wondering about. Of course, each triggering event would have to be paired with lots of talk and re-assurances, lots of therapeutic moments, and lots of careful planning and consideration. But is it possible for the good memories to eventually outweigh the bad ones?????

Monday, December 20, 2010


Can't type for long. Small boys in uber-frenzy. Medicaid denied Seth's med refills so we are without the little magic pills. Still need to mail packages fro Christmas. Going to have to send them by teleporter to get them to arrive on time. Wonder what that's gonna cost. Two boys having a pee/poo fest. Poo on the toilet seat, on the floor, on someone's hands, in the underwear, pee on the floor, in the pants, in the bathtub, and probably quite a few places I haven't found and or smelt yet.


Friday, December 17, 2010

Mega Picture Post

Yesterday we had our annual children's holiday party at our house. Each year we have more kids and each year we do more activities as the kids are getting old enough to participate. I missed our company holiday dinner but since I had this scheduled long ago and it was at my house, I couldn't exactly cancel it. I wouldn't have survived the wrath of many small people.

The day before I got up super early and baked sugar cookies. I made them extra thick so that little hands would be less likely to break them while decorating.

Yesterday, we started off with Christmas Tree decorating. Our nanny Rhonda got these cute little foam-decorating kits for each kiddo. Super easy and non-messy. It was the perfect craft to kick off the party.
Little Miss Holly clapping for herself congratulating herself on her mad tree-decorating skillz.
Our smallest guest, Henry, cleaned up on hugs and kisses.
There was a bit of silliness, started by this boy. He gets that from his father.....
Holly followed suit with the silliness. Sorry Em, Levi taught her several silly things yesterday. She is now a budding class clown.....
Our original Nanny, who is nanny Rhonda's mother. She watches Holly and henry every day while Rhonda is in charge of the Terror Trio here. (Henry getting more snuggles)
Ahren shows off his finished tree. He did it mostly by himself and seems to have quite the artistic talents.
Levi gets his hands on Henry and gives him a squeeze.
Seth doing his best to annoy his sister. He kept leaning over and blowing on her face.
Holly announced she was a Princess and wore the tiara to decorate the gingerbread house. The boys listened to her instructions and did everything she said. That makes her a Magic Princess in my book!
Then we colored reindeer ornaments with washable markers. Again an easy and fun activity with very little mess factor. This is Ahren's ornament. He colored it all by himself and did a great job for a 4-year old.
Seth doesn't have the artistic talents so much, but what he lacks in artsy-ness he makes up for in energetic participation.
There was lots and lots of excitement. Everything occasionally got crazy, even Ahren's hair.
Levi and Kaytee getting in some hugs. These are two peas in a pod in every way.
Holly wanted to hang her ornament on our tree, but we convinced her to take it home for her own tree. (Yes, here eyes are really that shockingly blue)
Nanny couldn't help herself and had to 'touch up' Holly's ornament.
Such a sweet happy boy. Even though he is only 1 year old, he hung with us through the whole 4-hour party, smiling the entire time.
The completed Gingerbread house. We sent it home with Holly so she can nibble-nibble-nibble on it. We already have one for us.
Holly catching some snuggles with Kaytee. That seems to have been the theme of the day. Hugs and kisses!!!
We got pizza and made everyone eat before we started decorating cookies. We knew that there would be a large consumption of sweets during that activity and did our best to get some good food in their tummies first.
Holly really got 'into' her pizza. She won the prize for eating the most, three pieces of a medium pizza!
Next it was time for cookies. We had tons of sprinkles and frosting. It was a sugary free-for-all of the best sort. (Seth's shirt reads 'Santa it wasn't me')
Levi's first cookie is dedicated to Jesus Christ (That says JC on the cookie) Awwww......
Holly put a little frosting on a cookie, then ate a little frosting. Put a little candy on, then ate a little candy. Repeat, repeat, repeat. Nanny tried and tried to keep her hands clean but it was a losing battle. Rhonda and I just laughed at Nanny for even trying!
Ahren showing off his red tongue from licking his red frosting. He learned from Holly!
We gave Henry spoonfuls of white frosting and he ended up 'glazed' like a donut.
And then the silliness hit again. I am Mr. Mustachio and my side-kick Poncho.
And of course Miss Holly followed along. Thank goodness kids wash.
After clean-up it was time for presents. You can't have a party without presents!
Henry got the assist from Rhonda but did a lot of the tearing of paper himself.
And presents were followed by goodie bags. Rhonda helping Seth with his bag.

Overall it was a fantastic party. Seth really struggled and I will write more about that later. He even told me today that he had fun yesterday but that it was really hard for him.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Trying some new things

We have been on a super-organizing kick around here lately. I don't know if it is because we were finally fed up with all the chaos and mess or if we just needed to have control over something while we wait (not-so-patiently) for Ahren's tests and final diagnosis. Whatever the reason, we have grabbed the bull by the horns and tackled some big areas in our home.

First on the agenda was doing something with the entry area around the back door. We built in a little area that we call the mudroom, knowing that this would be our main entrance in and out of the house, to the garage, the barn and eventually the pool. We had a wire storage system in there, but it just didn't really do what we needed it to do. So we took it out and Chris designed and built this storage unit. It has a bench to sit on and take shoes/boots on and off, coat hooks for coats and hats, room underneath for the large plastic muddy shoe tub and the recycling tub, and shelves to hold various dog other stuff. I then bought a big storage container for the dog food (on the right side) and added a trash can. I can't believe the difference.

The other big (really, really big) project we tackled is what we are calling the 'community closet'. We cleaned out the bonus room off of our bedroom and moved the big wire rack storage system from the mudroom into there. Then I added 2 $30 rolling garment racks. Slowly I went through every boy's closet and dresser and packed away summer clothes, gave away small clothes and threw away trashed clothes. Then I got out all the winter clothes, washed them and organized them by size. The summer clothes went into plastic tubs and onto the top of the shelves. I moved a dresser in under the wire rack and filled it with winter pajamas.
I brought in small plastic tubs from the barn and used them to organize socks and underwear by size. Dressy clothes went on the rod up high so little persons could not pull them down and walk all over them. (This was a main reason to re-organize. The little guys were constantly pulling everything down or out of drawers and throwing them all over. I never knew what was clean or dirty and even the clean stuff was a mess) Every-day clothes and school clothes went onto the smaller racks organized by sizes. Next I need a show rack to fit into the spot next to the dresser. I also need to go through all of their toys and get rid of a ton, then put them into their clean closets. That gets a lot of clutter out of their rooms and gives them more space to play, and maybe less mess in the rest of the house.
Here is what the mountain of laundry looked like after I picked up all the clothes off their floors and collected all the winter clothes to wash. I almost turned around and ran away, but I didn't. The last load is now done and put away.
This next picture is for Kaytee. She bought this tiny pair of True religion jeans two years ago at a fraction of the normal price and has been waiting for the day Levi could wear them. Here you go, Kaytee, that is your stylin' Lil Bro heading off to school in his True religions.
You know, when you have so many already, what is one more? Meet Opal. She is a Euro Great Dane and will probably top out at over 150 pounds when full grown. At 8 weeks old she is already almost 30 pounds. She is the sweetest most affectionate little thing and very very smart. Because of her coloring the breeder could not sell her. The other pups in the litter went for $2000.00 each (no, that's not a typo) Opal was free. She is also not ours. She is our nanny's but comes to our house every day. She is too little to leave home by herself for the entire day, plus she needs socialization with kids and other dogs. Our Nanny is a very responsible pet owner and knows socialization is key. So for the time being we have a part-time puppy to go along with our 2 other puppies already in residence.
How can this be comfortable? I find the boys in the craziest sleep positions.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Prescribing the Behavior

Oh these adorable little RADlets. They are so very..........ummm..........funny! There has been one technique that lately has worked wonders. You know how it is, though. What works great today won't work at all next week, so we are riding the wave of 'prescribing the behavior'.

Here is what I think it means, or at least how we do it. When a child is spiraling into a negative behavior, I immediately begin telling him to do exactly what I don't want him to do. I actually ORDER him to act out in whatever way he was slipping into. Whining? You need to whine louder, like THIS (insert loud obnoxious Mama whining, complete with body contortions and funny faces) When Seth was starting to hit himself the other day, I immediately got him and gave him a lesson on how to hit himself correctly. More force, aim for the head, etc.

It works for us. The boys end up laughing or doing the opposite of what I am telling them to do. It takes a lot of focus and imagination on my part. I have to catch them just as they begin falling apart and I have to catch them off guard. But it works. That is the best part. Wahoo!!!!

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Day to Day

This time of year is challenging for all of us, especially those with small children. We try and cram way too many things into the season, trying to create that magic for our children. I am guilty as charged. I remember Christmas time as this looong wait, the anticipation, the cookies and family and fun and presents mysteriously appearing under the tree. My childhood was truly magical and I want that for my kids.
Unfortunately, kids with trauma and attachment issues react very badly to the excitement of the season. Deep down inside of them I don't think they feel they deserve to be happy and have fun. They think of themselves as 'bad' so they act out accordingly. They think they are ultimately going to be hurt and disappointed so they rush to push the issue and make it a reality. In some small way that gives them control over the pain.
Ahren is actually doing quite well this year. There has been some ramping up, some old behaviors coming back to visit, and some drama. He has been peeing in spots 'near' the potty but not quite IN the potty. I am cleaning up pee daily from the bathtub, the floor and the wastebasket. He admits it's him, even shows me, but of course it is all an 'accident'. I am having him help me clean it up. The other day he decided the puppies did not trust him. He spent 30 minutes wailing at the top of his lungs in the back yard because they don't trust him. Thank goodness our closest neighbors are a couple of acres away. Still, I was waiting for CPS to show up. It was that bad.
This is Seth's first Christmas with us and he is really struggling. We are measuring the good in minutes between episodes. He can fluctuate from happy to spitting mad in a nano-second. You never know what will set him off. If I ask him to hand me something, BOOM. Screaming, hitting himself, kicking, saying awful things. I carry him to his bed and set him there. he screams for a minute. Pouts for 5 minutes, then shows up acting as if nothing happened. If I try and talk to him about it, he won't look me in the eye and constantly changes the subject. It's like trying to have a conversation with a Furby. He has been hitting, kicking and biting a lot lately. He is trying to figure out ways to not break the rules and still do it. He will grab Ahren's arm and hit Ahren in the head with his own hand. Technically he did not hit Ahren, and he will fight that point to the death. Too bad I don't play by black and white rules. He only hits Ahren, not Levi. Levi hits back. He's not stupid! Ahren is just an easy target right now. He is slower and weaker and much more laid back. Plus Ahren reacts in a way that gives Seth pleasure. One little tap and Ahren goes into drama queen 'I'm dying' mode. Very satisfying, that reaction.

So we take it day by day, sometimes hour by hour. We stick close to home as much as possible. We stick to schedules. We do things that build memories and traditions, but in small doses and mostly just as a family. This holiday is more about surviving and healing, not so much the magic. Well, actually, the healing part is some pretty awesome magic. I can see so much in Ahren and in another year or two, I hope Seth can be at the same place.

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Checking in at Chaos Central

Every day is a party around here, with three boys and two puppies and a partridge in a pear tree. Both puppies are super good with the kids, and the kids are super good with the puppies!

Buster, especially, has to be right in the middle of everything. He has turned out to be the absolutely perfect dog for us.
Yesterday was our annual subdivision's Storytime with Santa party. Our little friend Mina has gone with us every year, so it's a 'tradition'. (Been trying to teach the kids what that means) We waited patiently for Santa to arrive in true Texas fashion.
He comes on a wailing fire engine! Hey, when you don't have snow you have to improvise.
Once everyone is inside, Santa reads The Night Before Christmas and then Mrs. Claus leads everyone in singing some carols.
Santa and Mrs. Claus had all eyes riveted on them. Even though we knew this was just one of Santa's Helpers, he still did a fantastic job of reading the story.
Mrs. Claus turned the pages while Santa told the story.
Then it was time for the big event. Sitting on Santa's lap! Ladies first, of course. Isn't she adorable!
Then came my crew. Quite the lap-full for Santa! Of course we had to have the matching outfits so everyone could tell they are 'brudders'. Unfortunately it was very hot yesterday and my choice in Christmas wear was a bit warm, but we survived!
There was face-painting and ornament decorating, plus goodie bags from Santa and lots of cookies. By the end of the festivities the boys were getting a little wild-eyed with sugar and excitement.
Still, a great time was had by all. What a treat this is, since it is free to all of us in the subdivision and it is small and very personal.
Oh, and Santa? Thanks a lot for the noisy whistles in the goodie bags. Mommy now has a high-frequency hearing loss after the ride home in the van.
Everyone keeps asking how Ahren is. Well, he is Ahren! Adorable and ornery. He gets tired easily and has stopped riding his bike or climbing up the play fort, but overall he is still the happiest little guy. He is unaware that anything is wrong. Yesterday he had the ladies at the ornament station making them for him! He has a knack for getting people to do whatever he wants. He bats those long lashes and shines a little smile, and they will eat out of his hand.
Our house elf, Jingles, has a shout-out for his cousin Elfy at the Smith house. He says to tell him congratulations on the cushy gig. Those quads are so easy compared to the Terror Trio that jingles has to deal with! He also says he will see you, Elfy, at Aunties house for Christmas dinner. He is looking forward to some Elfin Cake!