Sunday, January 31, 2010

Follow in the footsteps of greatness

There was a saying I once heard that really hit a note with me. It said something to the effect of 'Don't try and create your own greatness by yourself. Instead, stand on the shoulders of the great who went before you and see the horizon.' I want to be the best mom I can be for all my kids and so I seek out those who have ben there/done that. In my quest, I have found a few people who have resonated deep into my soul. People who think the way I think. Who feel the way I feel. Who want what I want. Today I will introduce you to a few of them. And so, in no particular order, I bring you this: (Sorry, I never figured out how to imbed a link in blogger)
This is Christine, mom to traumatized children and keeper of all patience and wisdom. She posted a couple of videos in dealing with traumatized children. I watched them carefully and sure enough, what she was teaching came into play very soon. She talked about traumatized kids pretending they can't do something in a bid for attention and reassurance. This morning Little S, at the age of 4 years, suddenly forgot how to drink out of a cup. I caught myself reacting exactly like she described. (Seriously, you can't drink from a cup?) And I responded differently. I started praising him for doing something else well and sure enough, he magically remembered how to drink from his cup. Whew! This woman is saving my butt daily. This is Blaine and Diana. When they went to adopt from Ukraine they got way more than they bargained for. They got RAD and Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome and lots of other things that come with nice little initials. Their blog is full of realism, love and strength. Their words hit a chord with me. Their struggles are monumental and yet they deal with them with grace and wisdom and the strength of our lord God. I love it that they do not sugar-coat their family. I am sure we do not see the entirety of what they deal with, but I also respect that they know the general population would never understand these kids. It's hard enough to battle to heal the kids daily but add to it the battles they have had with school and church to understand and not add to the problems, they are saints. Seriously! This is Essie, The Accidental Mommy. She has one bio daughter and one adopted from a disruption. She handles the challenges with humor and spirit. Even the worst aspects of dealing with small children (ie: pee, poo and vomit) are told in funny stories with poignant moments. She has a way with words that touches me, makes me laugh and makes me want to hug her all at the same time. Our children seem to channel each other at times, simultaneously decorating the walls with cherry chapstick.

There are more and I don't mean to hurt any feelings by not listing someone. These are just my current faves and go-to sites. To these three ladies, THANKS!!!!

Friday, January 29, 2010

Little S Update

Little S had the best day today! He is such a happy little guy most of the time. He is processing some big emotions but doing a fantastic job of it. Today I got a million hugs and kisses, lots of good eye contact and conversation and about a million smiles. He is my constant shadow, right by my side. He wants to help with everything I do. He wants my constant attention and always wants to know if I think he is doing good.

Our conversations have been quite deep lately. We talk a lot about good and bad, and being mad and angry. I tell him over and over it is OK for him to be mad, that he is entitled to that emotion and to let it out. He has every right to be angry and that keeping it inside is a bad thing at this point. I could almost see him relax knowing that. I keep telling him that there are good ways to let it out and I will help him. He is accepting my help which is huge.

He is eating and sleeping extremely well. He loves to play outside, take baths and sit in my lap. He is bonding well with his brothers and playing really well with other kids. It is so sweet, he and Holly play baby. Little S is the baby and Holly is the mommy and takes care of him. It is so cute!!! He is loving school and doing fantastic! He has a hunger to learn and it really excites him to go to school. His teacher, my friend, just loves him to pieces!

So although we are working hard and there are times I want to pull my hair out, things are really, really good. I would not be able to do this, though, without the help and wisdom of some very wonderful ladies. Next time I am going to post all about the women who have gone before me and paved the way. Strong, loving, resilient Mama's who have really had a rough road. They are my inspiration!!!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Random Quickies

Bullseye, the deer with an arrow in her face, is still with us. The arrow is lodged into her sinus cavity, the tip caught under the bone, so little chance it is going to fall out on it's own. She still seems healthy and alert, not skinny so she is getting enough to eat. The animal rehab people still show up about once a week to try and get her with the tranquilizer gun but she is a crafty devil. Personally I think she is enjoying all the attention!

Levi got in trouble at school and had to drop his color to yellow. This is highly unusual. he NEVER gets in trouble at school. As his punishment he had to walk around the perimeter of the playground at recess with his arms crossed on his chest. Boy, when he got home, he was adamant he would NEVER get in trouble again. What did he do? He was being silly. Yeah, I know, the apple didn't fall from his parental trees!

Little S has been testing some limits. We have random outbursts of trash talk. The funny thing is that at 4 years old the extent of trash talk is along the lines of 'poopy, diaper baby' etc. Now that Little S is testing, Ahren is ramping it up too. Oh boy, RADish behavior in stereo. Luckily they have not thought of anything that I have not seen before, and nothing that comes even remotely close to upsetting me. They end up upsetting each other most of the time while they try and out-do each other.

So life is full and busy and good and amazing. The house is LOUD with three small boys, but mostly filled with happy sounds. The weather has been good so they spend many hours a day outside burning off energy. That makes for some really stinky, tired boys, just the way I like them!

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Therapeutic Parenting Skills

Therapeutic parenting is a style of parenting that is designed to help children heal from past traumas. Some kids have huge and ugly past histories, others have minor issues that trip them up in many subtle ways. In some children it is just obvious that their past is going to make their lives hard and with others you may not know or realize something that traumatized them.
Ashley had trouble bonding. Even though she is my biological child, born of my body and loved from conception, she had trauma. Hers came from being really ill her first two years of life. Her little world was filled with pain and I could not make it go away. I failed her, did not protect her and she didn't trust me. Now I get that. At the time I had no clue. Not one single tiny clue. She and I laugh now how she used to torture me, the antics she pulled and our battle to survive it all and find our love for hearts other.
When it became clear that Ahren would not be coming home as the infant we were promised, I began to study. He was in a fantastic foster home and was very loved. He never had to be moved around. I still knew that as well as they prepared him to join our family, it was not going to be easy on him at the age of almost-three to lose everything and everyone he knew and be dropped into a new life. I spent many hours holding him. Mine was the last face he saw at night and the first when he woke up. We didn't go anywhere or see many people. I sat on the floor and stayed eye level with him as much as possible. I fed him, rocked him, loved him. I learned toddler spanish so I could communicate with him. He has a few issues, ones we deal with, but overall he is doing great. (Ask me on the days his behavior is off the charts and I might not be so glowing. Hah!) At this point we have way more good days than bad, and even the bad ones are much better than before.
Lil S is going to have issues. This is the fourth home he has lived in, whether he remembers them or not. That is a lot of loss for a little guy. He isn't old enough to be able to verbalize his feelings and the really big scary feelings will come out in negative behaviors. The types of things we are taught as parents often backfire on traumatized kids. It is a whole new set of rules and none of it is intuitive. One thing I learned is that if they see you get angry, they win. They get something positive out of that and I don't mean that in a good way. It reinforces their idea that they are not loved and they have just proved it. Don't try telling them that they are cutting off their nose to spite their face, they just won!
So today we were outside riding bikes and the sky got dark and stormy. I made the boys come in but Lil S was not happy about it. He proceeded to sulk and hide behind a dining room chair. I let him sit there for a minute, then I sat down on the floor and started to talk quietly to him. I told him it was ok to be upset. He wanted to ride and we couldn't and he could be sad and mad about it. Then I talked about how sometimes I am sad or mad when things don't work out, even if it's not anyone's fault. Then I carefully asked what else he was mad about, like maybe having to switch homes again. And it started to come out. He was able to tell me a few things that he was really hurting about. When I listened and then repeated it back to him, showing him I understood and it was OK, he finally lifted his eyes to mine and then climbed into my lap to hold me tight. And then we played Wii! Baby steps. Baby steps. That is therapeutic parenting.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Bringing the week to a close

Ahren has a double ear infection and bronchitis, Levi is still down with the nasty fever from the virus and Lil S is coughing but feeling pretty good.

Here is Lil S with his hair spiked up for school today. Even though Ahren couldn't go, Lil S still wanted to go and had a wonderful time. I didn't stay today but he did great.

I felt so rotten yesterday that I caved and got McFast food for the boys for dinner. You would have thought they had won a trip to Disney they were so happy.
The cheesy grin. Little goofball.
This is from the first day of school. Bag packed, new school clothes and raring to go. He goes three mornings a week and is in the same class as Ahren, which is taught by a good friend of mine. They didn't have room for him, but the day I called, thirty minutes later another parent called and withdrew their child. The hand of God is all over this!
I tried to get a good pic of Ahren for this post, and this is what I got. At least Mina looks adorable.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

And the sickness sets in....

Gosh, we were doing so well. Settling in, getting a routine in place, all of that. And then....Lil S spiked a big fever two nights ago. It was a long rough night. The next day I took him to the doctor and he has an ear infection and a cold. It's amazing how fast antibiotics work. He felt much better this morning. He even got to go to school for the very first time. (I stayed the whole 3 hours just to reassure him, but he really didn't need me.) He had a blast. Tonight he ate his dinner and Ahren's too!

This evening both Ahren and Levi are coughing and have fevers and I am feeling pretty awful. Oh great, just when I need all the energy I can muster I am knocked low by a stinkin virus. Then we got an e-mail from Levi's school that a stomach bug is going around. Oh man, not that!!! Anything but that!!!

Otherwise, we are doing great. Lots of bonding work going on, lots of snuggling and talking (both Ahren and Lil S) and lots of reassurances all around. Did you know that for every bad thing a child hears or thinks it takes at least 50 good things to undo the damage to their self-esteem? That is why you have to repeat everything over and over and over until your mind is numbed and you are about to explode. It's the same way with simple everyday activities. Do you know how many times a day I say 'put on your shoes' and yet we NEVER leave the house without shoes. Aw, the primitive brain.

Levi and Lil S have really bonded. Levi is so sweet, helping him, hugging him, and they play so well together. They are a lot alike, those two. Ahren, well, he is a jealous mess, as expected. He is getting lots of positive attention and guidance. It's weird, because he is younger than Lil S but so much bigger. He also acts quite a bit younger. Lil S is quite self-sufficient where Ahren NEEDS help with everything. He is my little Princess!!!

Oh, and Lil S? He has the best manners ever. So polite! What a cutie!!!!

Monday, January 18, 2010

Another day, another son

I cannot even begin to explain how my head and heart are spinning. It took over three years to bring Ahren home. From day one we loved him and watched him grow, but could not be with him. Now suddenly, it was as if this child came into our lives in mere days. How does this happen? Why? Who? What? Where?

I know you all have a million questions. I can answer some, others are not for me to explain. Little S cam to us through the grace of God. We were not seeking another cild. We were not wishing for another child. We did not forsee another child. And yet, he dropped squarely and completely into our family. Poof!

When our adoption of Peri Brynn fell apart, part of me died. She needed us so much. She was so fragile and tiny and injured by her past. We wanted to bring her to us to heal and love her more than life itself. Trying to understand why that did not happen has been a constant thought in my head. Why, God, why? We wanted her, she needed us, why did you block her from coming to us? I spent a lot of time being very angry with God. A good and giving God would surely not let this tiny tot suffer so? My wishes were not being answered, and I held God accountable.

Then my sister said something to me, something I had heard before, but this time. This time is rang true. God has a plan and we do not know it. We just need to trust that the plan is proceeding and we will eventually see the wisdom. I cannot explain how hard that was for me.

And then, I was able to let go. I still loved Peri Brynn with all my heart, but I knew our role in her life was to be different than my plan. I accepted it. I finally made peace with it. We were OK.

And then, in a gigantic twist of fate, God brought Little S into our vision. We resisted at first. Both of us thought, oh no, we can't do this. We are full. We cannot do more. But he touched us, deeply and profoundly. His family touched us. The sincerity and honesty that they offered up were amazing. God led the way. He held our hands and showed us a new path. And we are so very grateful.

To little S, please know that we are so very blessed to have you. To know your precious little spirit. To be able to mold, guide and heal you. We have a lot of work ahead of us and at times it will NOT be pleasant. But it will always be filled with love, compassion, laughter and genuine caring. Again, so very blessed.

Oh, and Little S? This is a thirty pound, 4 year old, eating machine. This child is devouring everything in his sight. Forget about a college fund, this one needs a food fund!!!!! Hee!

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Quick Update

The first 24 hours with Lil S have flown by. He has been outgoing and very social. he wants for us to see what he is doing at all times and follows me from room to room. I am keeping him very close to me. He fell asleep snuggled in his Daddy's arms last night (his request).

There have been moments of jealousy popping up today. Mostly from Ahren and Lil S over me. That is totally to be expected so I have made a huge effort to give them both extra one-on-one attention all day long. Plus lots of reassurances. It's a little like trying to fill a swimming pool with a thimble. Little by little, and it will take a long time.

Today was very, very busy. We talked this morning about turning one of the extra bedrooms into a room for Lil S and Ahren. Then I got a wild hair to do it today. (Quit snickering, it sounded perfectly logical in my mind) That involved a trip to Tar-Get and the purchase of some build-it-yourself furniture. Poor Chris got to spend the day on the floor wrestling dresser parts.

Well, the house is a disaster but the room is all ready! We are exhausted and happy.

Happy, amazed, thankful and very blessed. God is great!!!

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Surprise, it's a boy.

Family and friends, please forgive me for keeping this huge secret. An opportunity recently was presented to us to privately adopt a little boy. He is two months older than Ahren. Today, he came to live with us. Meet little S. He is a teeny, tiny little peanut. Ahren outweighs him by almost 20 pounds.
Of course Ahren had to introduce him to the joys of the Wii. Little S picked it up right away.
The three Amigos. Ahren and Levi are so excited to have a new brother. They have taken turns holding his hand and sharing their toys with him.
Brothers Wii being cheered on by the Pirate Levi.
More info later. And to our dear families, sorry this is breaking news to you. We really wanted to share things with you but it all developed rather suddenly. Just trust us that we know what we are doing and are extremely happy!!!!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

One of those days

Today has been challenging. Not in any huge and ugly way, but in a small, annoying, irritating, grating on the nerves ways. It began when I woke up at 3:30am and could not go back to sleep. My brain was in hyper-drive and I could not quiet it. So I got up and watched shows on the DVR until the sun came up. (For the record, the first two shows of American Idol crack. Me. UP!)

Then when Ahren woke up and I went to change his bandages, somehow he had torn something loose and the wound was bleeding. That made him freak out. FREAK OUT. Poor baby. I really thought it would look so much better by now.

Today was rainy and cold (YUCK!) and when I went to drop Levi off at school they had decided to work on the ditches by the school, blocking all the traffic. Poor Levi was late and so were many, many other kids today. I guess the drainage is just that important they could not wait 30 minutes to block the road. They waited to block it until everyone was all lined up on a street with no escape. Then they brought out the orange cones and the flagger dude. I am surprised that some commando Mom didn't run his puny arse over. (Yeah, I thought about it...but he might have left a dent.....)

I finally made it into work tired and grumpy. In the early afternoon I got pulled out of a therapy session because our nanny was calling. It seems she loaded up the 4 kiddos (ages 4, 4, 2, and 4 months) to go pick up Levi at school but she got there early. She turned the van off but left the heat, the lights and the radio running. For 25 minutes. Any guesses why she was calling? Anyone? Anyone? Beuhler???? Yeah, the battery was dead. I ran out, headed to the school, snatched poor Levi who was the LAST child waiting (oh how sad he looked) and went to jump the van.

Now here is where the story actually gets better. I got the hoods open on both vehicles, my jumper cables out, and was ready to do the deed! Miraculously a very handsome young policeman came to my rescue. He even helped me get the grease off my hands. I would have hugged him if he wasn't packing! We got the van started, Nanny on her way home and me back to work.

Tonight I am serving leftovers and apologies. Isn't that the way of the American Mom. Hey, it could be worse. I could be serving up peanut butter sandwiches and an attitude. You know what? Today was not really so bad.

Monday, January 11, 2010


Things around these here parts are much much better. Ahren is still moving very slowly (can't complain about that!) but he is much improved. He actually slept really well last night, for the first time since the surgery. He is also being a total hoot. He is milking this for all it's worth. He sits on the couch all day long and calls for everyone to do his bidding. Bring me juice, change the channel, etc. When I tell him to get something himself, he whines pitifully and claims his legs are broken. It is so stinkin funny! When he thinks no one is looking he gets up and dances around and has a blast. When I call him on it, he just grins the most adorable grin and I give him a million kisses. This boy, he is a total drama queen!!!

Kaytee applied for colleges a few months ago and we had already gotten two acceptances. They weren't for her top choices but still nice to know someone wanted her. Then today, she got a BIG one. Baylor. She made it into BAYLOR!!!! I am doing a huge happy dance and she can't stop smiling. The campus is halfway between my house and her dad's house. It has all the medical classes she is interested in, and it is a fantastic school. I am so excited! (Then I start to think about her leaving for school and the excitement is just sucked right out of me. Letting go is so hard. .......)

Work has been getting busier and busier. Every week I have a new therapy patient. Today, I was working with a little boy who has really struggled. At his first progress check he had not made hardly any progress and was very disappointed (his mother and I were also very sad). Now, just a few sessions later, something has clicked. Today he absolutely BLEW ME AWAY! He was doing things that were absolutely incredible. Things he has never been able to do before. His Mom and I both double checked him, thinking he might be faking it. Nope, he was on fire. I had goose bumps and started to tear up. He was so excited! You could see he realized what he was doing and what he could suddenly see. He literally went from reading the chart with one eye at 3 feet to reading it at twenty feet. Boom! That eye and it's connection to the brain just figured out how to work. Sometimes it is like that, like a light bulb turning on. Other times it is gradual.

And so goes life in Chez Chaos. Kids and chores and kisses and tantrums. It's all good. Life is to be savored, one chaotic day at a time. All too soon the house will be quiet and my time will be my own. I want to breathe in every second of this time in our lives!!!!

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Wake me when it's over

I love sleep. I always have. I need 8 solid hours a night to be at my best. Last night was not about sleeping. Not at all. But that's okay. I'll let you know why later.

We had a really hard time managing Ahren's pain. I didn't tell y'all what he had done, since it was kind of a private thing, but the info will help you to understand. Apparently in the past he has had some nasty infections in his wee member. His toot. His little man. The foreskin was fused to the head and there was lots of scar tissue. We tried for a year to gently ease it loose, but it was really stuck. He began to have pain when he 'ahem' rose to attention. There was only one solution and it was surgical. So there you have it, he has a re-constructed toot. And it is very painful.

We got behind in pain management and the pain ran away with him. The surgeon had injected it with a long-lasting med that was supposed to keep it numb for 24 hours, but it wore off in just a few hours. We finally got better control and he fell asleep around 9pm. Then at 10 pm he woke up and the next 6 hours were HORRIBLE! He screamed, he cried, he was in a medication daze but still not able to sleep. He would start to drift off then begin kicking, hitting, etc. He kicked me over and over again, by turning sideways and ramming both feet into me as hard as he could. He slapped me in the face, pulled my hair, kicked me, yanked my nose, etc. When he would wake up a little and realize he was hurting me he always said he was sorry and he was sincere. He just needed to lash out at the pain.

He fell asleep at 4 am and slept until 9 am. When he woke up he got snuggled in on the couch and seemed more comfortable. Later I sat him in a lukewarm tub and soaked most of the bandages off. he was so scared but he trusted me. Afterwards he said it didn't hurt. Just scared him.

Later he asked to get up so I got a loose bandage on him, some loose underwear and soft pants. He didn't eat well but he drank a lot and by late afternoon was playing happily. I am so proud of that little guy.

Happy Birthday to Ahren (turned 4) and Ashley (turned 15). I love you both!!!!!

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Oh Ahren!

So this morning Ahren had a small surgical procedure that was necessary. He is left with a bunch of stitches and a LOT of pain. The doctor injected him with an analgesic that was supposed to leave him numb for 24 hours but it didn't work.

He had a horrible time coming out of the anesthesia. It took a long time even though it was light anesthesia. Then, as he awoke, he was very violent and scratched, punched and kicked me as I held him. I shrugged it off. As he tried again and again to punch me in the face, the nurse held his hand and began apologizing to me. I just held him and loved him. Once he got through that bad phase, he wanted his Mommy to hold him....all day. Yes, my boy does need me, he does trust me, he counts on me!!!!

The pain meds he had were not working and he fell asleep only to wake up crying and screaming in pain an hour later. The doctor called in stronger meds and he is now resting pretty comfortably.

For the next few days I will not leave his side. He wants me next to him, and that is a miracle. This surgery was minor, but the impact may be major! If he feels he can count on me, then that is huge. My poor sweet boy. I love him so so so much.

Saturday, January 02, 2010

Ahren and Progress

I did a lot of reading before Ahren came home. I hoped I wouldn't need most of what I read but I also wanted to be prepared. For anything. To be able to be the best parent to him I could be.

And then he just melted into our family and acted as though he had always been there. I kept waiting for the honeymoon period to end, but it didn't. At least not for a very long time. Oh, he had some issues. He was almost 3 years old and still on a bottle every four hours. He couldn't do anything for himself. His muscle tone was extremely low. He was in orthotic boots and couldn't walk well. But, he ate like a champ, slept all night long, and learned english amazingly fast. He was a miracle angel boy.

Then little by little I began to see odd, unusual behaviors pop up. He began spitting when he got mad. He bit. He screamed. He regressed at stressful times. All of this seemed pretty normal for a child his age. Then the constant chatter and questions started. I have experienced normal questioning by kids. The why's, the wonder at what they see, the curiosity. This was different. he would ask the exact same question 30, 40, fifty times in a row. He would ask nonsense questions. He would chatter non-sense non-stop for hours. And he demanded a response to everything. He began to obsess over his shoes. As soon as he woke up he began demanding I put his shoes and socks on him. I would explain and explain that he needed to get his pants on first, be actually putting his pants on him, but his anxiety level just kept rising until he had his shoes on. He would end up in a complete rage, out of control and crying so hard he choked and vomited if he didn't get his shoes on fast enough. Okay, not normal.

After he was potty trained he would go through periods of wetting and soiling himself on purpose, then wanting to stay in the dirty clothes. He would lie and say he wasn't messy and avoid being discovered. Not because he would be in trouble (we never punished him or scolded him) but because he wanted to stay in control of it. It was HIS mess.

Then the nasty talk started. I still don't know where he heard these words. I hate you. I don't love you. You are not my mommy. He never said these things to anyone else. It was all directed at me. (Telling, huh? That is exactly how Ashley was. It was always me who was her target)

So this past couple of weeks, as his behavior escalated and he began to fall apart, I tried a few things. And much to my surprise, they are working. The last three days have been really good.

Here is what I tried:

1) I began sleeping with him. I moved Levi to our bed and I sleep with Ahren in their bed. I don't get a lot of sleep, but he is much calmer.

2) He has been getting an enforced nap every 2 to 3 days. He gave up naps a long time ago, but he needs this extra sleep right now.

3) Many times a day, I kneel down on the floor and look him in the eye and tell him I love him, he is my son, and I am so happy to be his mommy.

4) No outside activities. Nothing special. Nothing unexpected. Even if it is wonderfully fantastic, we do not do it. It's boring routine around here.

Next week we are all back to work and school and things should calm for a bit. Then, unfortunately, Ahren has to have a surgical procedure to correct a minor issue. It might be minor but I expect major fallout. This time we are prepared as best we can be. We will batten down the hatches, prepare for the rough seas, and arrive on the other side of this storm. I know we will.

Friday, January 01, 2010

Yarn Therapy

I love to knit. I am not very good at it, I don't like fancy-smancy patterns or learning new complicated techniques but I do love to knit. I knit for the pure enjoyment of knitting and to calm myself. There is something so therapeutic about taking a ball of yarn and creating something one stitch at a time.

A friend (Hey Connie!) gave me this pattern a year ago. I have been wanting to try it, but wimped out until now. I started it last night and finished it today. It is the first time I did 'colorwork' where you carry more than one yarn over the back of the piece. Turns out the pattern was super easy even though it said it was an intermediate level.

It's worked on circular needles on 96 stitches, starting with a standard 2x2 rib. There are 3 pattern repeats for this size hat (infant). I am thinking I might increase the pattern repeats and see if I can make my boys some skull and crossbones hats. This particular one is destined for baby Henry's head. He will be quite the lil skallywag!