When Trauma Invades

When Trauma Invades written August 30, 2011
My fellow bloggy world friend Annie posted on this topic last week. I wanted to share more of our own experiences regarding how Trauma invades in interpretation of events.

Part of this comes from my own life experiences, and the rest from what we have observed with the girls.

When I was a kid, we lived in some very bad areas in Southern California. Southern California evokes all sorts of “Pictures” in the minds of those who have never lived where I lived. While I lived in California, and not far from the beach, it was a crime ridden, gang infested, congested, unhappy kind of a place. We had to be VERY careful. I learned early on that I could not trust the people who walked down the street. You didn’t make eye contact out of fear. You locked your house, your car, made sure every window was locked, and still, things were stolen.
Our home was broken into 2 x’s that I can remember as a small child.
One night, I remember the shadow of a man by my window. I put my legs down hoping the shape would go away and the shadow was just me….. it didn’t go away and I covered my head with my pillow and prayed the scary image would go away. It did. And then the image tried to climb into the kitchen window instead. Apparently my window was locked.
One time my mother was at the grocery store when I returned home from school. She had left the back door unlocked for me to get in. A man from across the street saw me try the front door which was locked, and then go in the back door.
He must have known I was alone. Who knows how long he had been watching me.
The next thing I knew was he was knocking on the front door and offered me a quarter if I’d open the door. I refused.
Then I saw him see the back door was open. I ran to the back door and tried so hard to get it locked. It was terrifying. He was walking to the back door and we had those stupid old skeleton keys. It was so hard to get it locked but I did it just in time. He left very angry.
I never told my mother.
My parents thought I was too old to be afraid of the dark. I remained PARALYZINGLY afraid of the dark well into my adulthood.
My mother in law used to joke that she is the only mother in law who every babysat her daughter in law. My husband worked the night shift. πŸ™‚

I also had some very scary experiences I cannot write about here. But needless to say, they were traumatic and it effected how I viewed things.
When Annie wrote about the serene setting and how one person interprets things very differently…. I am that person too!
I think when Mike and I first married, I drove him crazy locking everything. He would walk out of the house and I’d lock the door. I locked car doors, I locked the garage and I locked every window. I am a very good locker. LOL

Mike’s upbringing was WORLDS apart from my own. He grew up spending his days on the Lake of Pawtuckaway in the Summers, and Nashua NH during the school years. He ran the streets and played and never felt a sense of danger. He has fond memories of his childhood.

To THIS DAY….. when I walk out of a store, I have my keys in my hand set for self defense just in case. Logically, I know I am in a pretty safe place. But my experience tells me otherwise.
When I see somebody walk down the street in our country area, I am immediately suspicious.
Mike sees a guy walking down the street. I see a criminal.
Isn’t that AWFUL!!!!!
I don’t like to view things like this. I FIGHT IT….. and I have done pretty well overcoming much of it. I even leave the door unlocked during the daytime now. πŸ™‚

The experiences I had as a child, have helped me to understand where my girls are coming from sometimes. While they are different, there are some common themes.

So, when Annie showed the picture on her blog….. I looked at it and thought about what I would have been like several years ago. I would have seen a bad person lurking in the bushes, or could have seen it wasn’t safe because nobody was around. Today, I am not that person…. Today I can look at a picture like this:
and actually enjoy it!

The other day, Sweetie 4 and Sweetie 2 went for a bike ride. Sweetie 2, is no longer afraid like she used to be. 5 years ago, we had to stay in the bathroom with her, even in the day time. Today, she can ride her bike freely and enjoy everything.
Sweetie 4, is still afraid. Sweetie 4 is afraid of a car running her down. She is afraid somebody will kidnap her. She is afraid when Sweetie 2 goes ahead on her bike, it is because Sweetie 2 is trying to win in a race that doesn’t really exist. Sweetie 4 gets her feelings hurt because she sees that Sweetie 2 wants to be first. Sweetie 2 gets confused because as she says, “I’m just riding my bike.”

Sweetie 4 is still interpreting her present experience by her past. They are not the same. They cannot be measured by the same standard. Sweetie 4 is hypervigilant about relationships right now because she has never experienced so much love. Not because others didn’t love her, but because she couldn’t receive it.
Now that she can, she is cherishing it, and trying her hardest to hang onto it. She is far from this serene picture. She is learning that she doesn’t have to try so hard. We love her period. She is learning that Sarah loves her too. She isn’t competing. Nobody has to be first or win. We are all winners. πŸ™‚

Because of our new notebook experience, that I wrote about here, both Sweetie 4 and Sweetie 2 were able to write about the bike riding experience of yesterday. We would have never known! LOL
And we were able to explain to each of them separately what the other is possibly thinking and how they can try to understand each other.

It really REALLY did help!

This a.m. Sweetie 2 and I looked at some peaceful pictures and talked about fear and what a fearful person might see. Sweetie 2 suddenly said, “I used to be like that!” πŸ™‚ I was so happy to see her understanding CLICK, and she was given renewed energy to love on her little sister who so desperately craves her acceptance. πŸ™‚


This has been on my heart for several days and I have a little time before bedtime to share……

Imagine if you were 10, or 12, or 15 or 16, and you were in an orphanage in America. You didn’t really understand what a “family” was, but you had heard ALL about it. You wanted one. Everybody wants a mom and dad and a home to call their own.
And imagine, you were hosted in China…. and you had a wonderful time for 2 weeks or the summer, and a bunch of kids went with host families, and everybody was excited because they knew they were going to be picked to be adopted.

And then, imagine that wonderful day when your parents came to get you. You dressed in Chinese style clothing and had learned a few phrases in Chinese. And you were SO READY to go!
You said your goodbyes, and got on a plane, and went to your new home, excited, full of hope…. ready for a NEW LIFE.

And then…. there were so many things to learn. So many new foods that you weren’t too fond of. And the sounds…. IF YOU HAD TO HEAR CHINESE for ONE MORE MINUTE, your head would explode!

Oh how you longed to hear your native English. Oh how you longed for Coco puffs… Oh how you longed for a taco!
Instead, it is squid, and rice and fish and seaweed FOR A SNACK! WHO EATS SEA WEED FOR A SNACK!

You are REALLY TRYING, but you can’t help but feel a little resentful that nobody seems to understand how you feel.
How do you tell them HOW YOU FEEL when you cannot communicate with them???
They think you are mad at them, YOU THINK, you aren’t even sure, and you really can’t tell them you are sad and you are longing for what was familiar, NOT because you don’t like your new family, but because you miss your old life.
It isn’t that you don’t like where you are, but you miss where you were.
Everything is SO HARD….. Every time you have to talk, it is HARD WORK to think of the right words, and the chance that you will be totally misunderstood!

And everybody just seems on edge. You question if you have ruined the family. You question if the family still wants you. You have been So.Much.Work!
Sooooo, in order to give them an out, and not cause any more damage, you say

“I want to go back! I want to hear my language, eat my food, see my friends!”

And they get mad. So if you stay they are mad. If you leave they are mad. They are just mad…. and there is no end in sight.


Imagine, if your parents, instead, recognized just how hard it was going to be for everybody and they worked hard to surround you with comfort foods.
One morning when you were expecting fish, they gave you coco puffs.
One day when you were trying to get the right words out, they sat and smiled at you warmly and gave you a hug, letting you know it was ok. Not to worry….

They worked hard to warmly smile at you daily…. They offered kind touch, and used gestures of acceptance and love.
Imagine if they took you to an English speaking Church, and then out for English food!!!!!
They brought over people who spoke your language and learned it themselves!!!

They laughed with you when you butchered Chinese and you were able to laugh at them when they butchered English!

Imagine they gave you space to grieve and knew when you were crying to go back home, they offered a warm hug and told you they understood…..

How different things could be……

The experiences we have had bringing girls over from other countries brought this to mind. I remember the days when communicating was so hard for them and the JOY on their faces when they learned we cooked Borscht!
We found a local Euro Deli that sold many of the comfort foods they loved from the orphanage, and they could hear their native language spoken to them.
It has been a wonderful experience going to the deli 4x’s a year and letting the girls ooh and aahh at all the food and bringing home things they never thought they’d see again!

I remember when Sweetie 3 was learning English how hard she was trying and it was YEARS before she mastered…… In fact, she is 19 and still has not MASTERED…. and she has been home since she was 8.
Second language MASTERY takes a LONG LONG TIME.
And English is JUST HARD.

Our facial expressions and body language is SOOOO IMPORTANT because our children READ us in that way.
LOVE YOUR CHILDREN… HAVE COMPASSION for them. Be understanding and kind. ALWAYS KIND, even when they aren’t…..
They are learning.
Not only are they learning about culture and language, they are learning about family and love and commitment and it is a STIFF cliff to climb.
Through Grace upon grace, and mercy upon mercy….. we will all make it.


Being Connected Being a Team

What does CONNECTED parenting looks like, when SAFETY is a HUGE problem.
First, we need to make sure that WE are not escalating situations by having expectations that are not realistic, (straight A’s, participating in things that overwhelm, expecting gratefulness, keeping rooms perfectly clean, etc)
and not shaming or consequencing our children to death with burdens too much for them to bear.
Keeping that in mind…..
When you are a connected parent, respond instead of react, have exhausted all, ALL measures of grace and you have a child who is bent on destruction both of themselves and family….
Let me ask, “Is it loving and connected to allow this to continue?”
I spoke to a sweet mama who’s son is about to turn 18. He has been allowed to rule the home for YEARS.
This poor mama has been abused by him for years. He is now unwilling to work or contribute in any way. He lays all day on the couch using drugs, playing games and taking….
Her heart is broken, thinking that if she lets him continue, someday it will stop.
It was NEVER EVER her desire to see this happen and she now has the opinion that “all the kids are like this now”…..
So we talked a lot about connection last night, and the difference between connection and door mat.
There is NO connection in being a doormat. It only prepares for a path to further abuse, not only now, but in the future with other relationships.
Have you ever heard that how a man treats his mama is a good indication of how he will treat his wife? It is true…..
(of course there are givens… but it is pretty accurate)
So this post is NOT about the Newly adopted teen…Nor is it about the struggling teen who WANTS to do well.
This post is about that 10% teen that Dr. Purvis talks about.
Sometimes wounds can be so deep, or there are other types of damage so deep that basic connected parenting cannot reach them. THIS DOES NOT MEAN connected parenting is a fail! It just means that our parenting needs some extra scaffolding!

PLEASE PLEASE! If you read anything in this post…. read this!
Instead, FORM a TEAM! Include your medical doctor, your school counselor, adoption social worker… LOOK HER UP IF YOU MUST, Your Pastor, Elder, family member friend and law enforcement, and any other person in your child’s life that contributes to their well being…
Write to them every couple of weeks and give them updates of what you are doing with your child and how they are responding or not responding.
These must be TRUSTED people! Not gossips, not prone to judge….. But this circle of people is a must for your own sanity.

Computer generated image – Search For Solution

If you have connectedly exhausted all means over the years to help your child and violence begins to evolve in your home. Put a STOP TO IT….
A child who pushes the fences will continue to push the fence until it is too late. Do NOT wait until 18 years old to start to help your child, realizing at that point they are an adult and subject to adult laws.
It is OUR JOB to teach our children about acceptable behavior within society. These are basic general rules that govern all, whether they be mentally ill, traumatized, foster, bio, adopted, handicapped, it doesn’t matter! You MUST be able to live in society.
IF YOU CAN’T…. or WON’T…. society won’t tolerate your behaviors.
So, since family is a microcosm of society at large, helping our children understand this on a small scale will help them succeed later.
If your child is violent and having mental health issues which many of our children do, contact the non emergency police number and ask to speak with an officer regarding your child.
Send them a profile of your child as a SN child. Give them cues on how to deal with your child should they ever come into contact with them in order to keep things de escalated.
The police will APPRECIATE THIS.
And then, IF your child threatens your safety… CALL THEM.
CALL the police.
Let your child know CLEARLY that boundary cannot and may NEVER be crossed.
It is much better for your child to deal with a juvenile system than the adult system later.
It is complicated and very very scary to be involved in a world you never thought you would know, but it is truly for the best.
I am not suggesting if your child is flippant with you to call the police. I hope I have been clear about that. This is for the extreme child who does not respond…..
STAY connected, show empathy, compassion, (do not bail out of jail) VISIT.
Let them take the responsibility for their actions.
Let them OWN them.
THIS IS NOT A CONSEQUENCE YOU have placed upon them but one they have placed upon themselves.
So if an arrest is made you can use your visitation time to set clear, concise boundaries. I will visit, but I will not be verbally abused. If verbal abuse occurs, walk out.
I will be kind and send letters and visit all I can.
And then, use those times, even if it is just a few weeks to truly work to communicate and establish with them what boundaries must never be crossed.
This just MIGHT save your child’s life. I know for a fact that it saved our sweetie…..
She remains connected with us to this day, though not living at home.
IF you do anything in your time with your child, make it known to them that they are deeply LOVED and cherished.
She has said she knows this very well.
After years of violence, her violence has ceased. There are no threats, no incidents, nothing. And I am truly thankful to the team of people we surrounded ourselves with to help us dig out of a very VERY deep and sad hole.
Sweetie has a long ways to go as far as many would “judge”…. but I can see the incredible progress she has made and I ‘m so proud of her.
I’m glad we didn’t wait until she was 18.


I cannot believe how quickly time has gone since my last update. But I wanted to let you know where we are today in this journey.

We officially have another adult in the house! Sweetie 2 turned 18 recently, graduated from high school, received a scholarship for college and took a trip with me and several friends to Galveston Island! That was SOOOOO FUN! I’m still peeling from my not so great tan. :/

Sweetie 1 is still living in NV near her birth mother. We are in contact on a fairly regular basis. She loves her job and has a boy friend.

Sweetie 3 is moving…… MOVING into an apartment near the University. She has been home for the summer and we have thoroughly enjoyed the time off! She is working and has 1 more class before she finishes the associates part of her degree. Not bad for a young lady who just graduated from high school last year!

Sweetie 4 is living near the same University in an apartment with 3 other roommates and is working. She loves her new job and is learning to navigate the bus system. She is in contact on a regular basis and we are so thankful for that.
She too has a boy friend. She is not 18 yet, but is doing well.
Sweetie 4’s situation is one that I’d like to address a little more in depth. She was not able to function in a family setting, yet she loves her family. This is an “outside of the box” of a typical parent child relationship to say the least, and if you have read my blog for any period of time, you will get that! But we are in a good place with each other. We meet for lunch or text and sometimes talk on the phone. Sometimes she calls and just sits on the phone to be near us. Sometimes she doesn’t want to be near us at all.
So we LOVE her, as we do her sisters, but in a different way of expression.

There is a movie called “Contact” with Jodie Foster that has a scene that best describes when a child cannot navigate family life in a typical way. In the movie, Jodie Foster has been placed in a time travel space capsule and the well intentioned scientists added a safety seat to protect her from harm. She sits in the safety seat and it causes SEVERE turbulence. But when it finally breaks and she is free of the seat, there is peace and no more turbulence. She is at peace.
Letting Sweetie 4 go, NOT REJECTING HER, but working WITH her fears and special needs has given us the ability to remain a family. So while she has a safe cocoon of family to love her, we are not living together and the turbulence is gone. We have stopped trying to figure out how to fit a square peg in to a round hole!
I cannot pretend to fully understand because honestly I don’t. It makes me want to check my deodorant on some days, or to say, “Why can she not just love us?” And I have to remind myself, it has never been an issue of love. She DOES love us. But the damage done was so severe, she is too afraid to be in a vulerable family setting. So I guess there is a part of me that understands, but in all honesty a part, that if I look at “self” that gets wounded to think about it. So I try not to and just lovingly accept what is.

Sweetie 4 has great value and is precious to us, but she is more like trying to raise a “feral cat”. She obviously is not a cat, but if you have ever been around a feral cat you will understand what I mean. They want to come close. They want you to notice them, but then when you do, they run…. they come back, they run. They get more comfortable and come closer, and if you reach out or talk sweetly to them, they run.
They are more comfortable observing and enjoying from a distance.

We have a very large orange cat right now who is doing this. He sleeps very close to us while we are working and is fine as long as we don’t try to interact. πŸ™‚

Because Sweetie is 17 1/2 and we live in TX, she is able to live where she chooses as long as we know where she is. She has done WELL, holding a job and finding living arrangements. The life choices she is making are not easy, but she is happy. She KNOWS we love her as does Sweetie 1.
If we have accomplished anything, it that they KNOW that they are loved.

And because LOVE does NOT fail, we KNOW that in the future, they will in turn be able to share that love with others.

Soooo, that is my update! I am a mom to ALMOST 8 adult children! Yaya to 12 grandchildren and counting and wife to one awesome husband. πŸ™‚
I leave you with Sweetie 2’s Graduation Video.

“Your a a super Genius”. πŸ™‚

Grocery Store Bonding

This morning I headed out to do the weekly shopping. I had been doing it on a different day for quite some time, but as last weeks events took place I was unable to go on the day I typically had been going.
When the girls were younger, every Friday was filled with activity including soccer, library, lunch and grocery day. As they got older and schedules changed and circumstances changed, my shopping day changed too.
But today I needed to catch up AND Sweetie 2 was home, so I invited her to come along!


And our conversation made me realize JUST HOW IMPORTANT those mundane day to day tasks we moms do on a weekly basis are, and how they can create a sense of safety, security and wonderful childhood memories.

As Sweetie 2 began to share on the way there:
β€œRemember when we used to go to this place?”
β€œI was SO excited the first time you let me go on an aisle and get something for you; I felt so grown up!”
β€œRemember when you let us push the basket?”
β€œI remember finding a piece of chocolate on the floor and I ate it. I really felt guilty about that.”
And the memories flowed like a beautiful song through our entire shopping trip.

We decided to go to Central Market Place which we fondly refer to as β€œFood Land”….
You start in fruit land and vegetable land, then go on to fish and meat land, and then wine land, and grocery staples land, then on to bulk foods land, candy and coffee land, and dairy land, then bread land and then lunch meat and cheese land, and finally olive land… Oh MY!

As we walked through, I offered for her to get her favorite yogurt or bread or cheese and finally she said, β€œMama, I feel so spoiled!”
I replied, β€œDude, you are the last person home, you win!”
When the girls were younger they each got to pick 1 favorite thing…. but now that it is just her, and her choices are always healthy, I could enjoy saying YES! πŸ™‚

As we continued our conversation back into the car, we talked about how important it is to MAKE memories out of simple things like grocery shopping. I remember using our grocery time to teach many things including following directions, (before we got out of the car, instructions were given for a fun shopping trip. β€œAlways stay with mama!” ) self control,( If mama said you can pick one special thing, it is one. Not two… Remember to be happy that everybody gets to pick.) being polite,(when somebody says, β€œHello! Say Hello back!” or if they compliment you, say β€œThank you!” β€œDo not get in the way of other shoppers, always be aware of where you are and watch for others, putting them first.”) learning math in the produce department: β€œIf bananas are 48cents per pound and we are buying 2 1/2 lbs… how much will the bananas cost?”
Or on the cereal aisle: β€œIf this box of cereal costs 23 cents per ounce and there are 15 oz. how much will the cereal cost?” Or reverse it…. β€œIf the cost of the cereal is 3.50 cents and there are 15 oz of cereal, how much is it per oz.”
They could race to do it in their heads and it was fun!
When the boys were home, and would be ready to spend their money on a book at the book store, I would tell them, β€œI’ll pay for the book if you have the total figured out with tax applied before they tell me the price.” And they would!

Making happy, healthy family memories does not need to be costly. It doesn’t have to be a Disneyland Vacation. It can be a simple habitual family ritual that takes place every week, that we make an effort to make pleasant and memorable!
IT IS WORK to do this. It DOES require that we be patient and take more time. But it is so worth the effort!

If you have a child who easily becomes dysregulated in crowds, try adjusting your time for later at night or early in the a.m. Make sure younger children are well napped and well fed before you leave the house. Make sure older children (teens and tweens) are also rested and fed.
Before you leave the car, make everything very clear about what you are going to do so there are no surprises for your child.
ALSO… for older children, if you let them plan a meal once a week with you and write down the ingredients for that meal, they can have great joy and satisfaction in picking out the ingredients and then cooking their meal with you.
But be prepared to go to a few different kinds of stores depending upon what country your child is from. In our area I have seen stores from the Middle East, Europe, Africa, Asia, and South America . It is amazing what you can find within an area if you look online. Even in some of the larger grocery stores or World Market there are International foods.

The opportunities to connect, create, teach, and show our children LOVE are endless.
The memories made are priceless!

Washed in the Love of Christ

Rejection hurts.
But you know what? Isn’t that how our kids feel? Isn’t that how they got to be with us in the first place?
For an adoption to take place, there has to be a rejection, right?

For some kids, they are able to heal, and we have experienced and been a part of that process for many years. For other kids, it never ends. Their hurt is too much, and while they take baby steps for a while, sink back, take more baby steps and even giant leaps, they still sink back, and as parents, we have to understand that this child will not heal easily. They will be grown and yet not ready to face life.
And you know what? That is where they are, and we have to accept where they are, even if it means they reject our love.
Their stories are not over and 18 is not the magic age of everything being fine, so now you are on your own.

They have a life time of relationships and growing to do, just like everybody does. There will be people who come alongside and speak life into them, just as we have. They may be in the form of a friend, pastor, significant other, spouse or child….but it will happen.

As I sit here and type, I realize more and more that life is so short, and the time we have with our children is so short. We MUST make the most of it, even when it is difficult.

Love, even when they scream they don’t want it.
Accept, even when they don’t want our acceptance.
Reach out, even if they don’t take your hand.
Be kind, even if they don’t return your kindness.
Reach out, even if they don’t respond.
Be available! So when they are ready, they can reach out.
Leave the door open…. they may try at some point to walk through it.
Pray! Oh Pray! Prayer is powerful!


Christ loves us. We are washed in His love daily. It is palpable for me right now.
The Lord comforts those who mourn. He is near to the broken hearted.
He is the lifter of my head.

And I will walk in faith and TRUST the one who is worthy of my trust!

Dorm Life

Sweetie 3 has been in the dorms for a month now. Oh how I miss her! The GOOD news is, she is just 30 minutes away. How convenient!

Sweetie 2 and I are having lunch with her tomorrow at her dorm apartment. We did last week too, and I think I feel a tradition coming on! πŸ™‚

We text back and forth every day and sometimes send photos, “This is me, saying I love you!”

She is adjusting quite well to college life and taking advantage to the fullest of some of the neat communities on campus, including her Focus group. It is a Christian group that meets together.

I cannot believe she is all grown up! We are so proud of her!

I don’t know what I did. But I did it.

I tried to change my background and it cut out comments. I could not figure out how to get them back, and I tried everything! So we are back to normal. I’ll try something new more carefully next time! LOL

In the process I found a few cool things to add to my side bar. πŸ™‚

There is a lot to share, and I am passionate about caring for and navigating life with children from very hard places. Please join my community! Let’s dialogue!

What Does Connection Look Like?

What does connection look like after your children have not left well?
In today’s society it is so much easier than it would have been a long time ago.
Remaining connected to our children who are outside of our home is vital.

Obviously, there must be a connected relationship already established. I am so thankful that
over the years, our girls have shared that connection with us. There has been love and there has been relationship. Most certainly it has been marred by trauma and the results of FAS, but the seeds of healthy relationship remain.

Have you ever planted something in the ground and then nothing happened? You thought that the seed didn’t germinate and would not produce, and then, suddenly, a little bud comes up and starts to grow.

I believe the simple connection that is being communicated even if it is a yes, or a no, is a little bud of hope.
Love does not fail. But daring to love, can be painful.
Are we willing to accept the pain? Or do we shrink back and give up?

I do not believe that it is best for Sweetie 4 to be home right now. She, for what ever reason has in her heart to leave and be an adult. The counselor said last week, “I think this will actually be better for your relationship if she goes.” Those words made me angry at first, because of the rejection.
But Sweetie 4 is in her own way, trying to prevent any more pain. She doesn’t know why she doesn’t want to be at home. She doesn’t know why she doesn’t want parents. She really doesn’t.
She just knows she will be angry and hurtful if she is here.

So, we are thankful for the safe place she is in. We are thankful that she reaches out.
We try not to talk to her too much, or too little…. It is a new world…. and eventually,
I am confident that those seeds that we have planted in Sweetie 1 and 4, will blossom,
because HE who began a good work, will be faithful to complete it.

A New Phase

We were doing really well. WERE.
FAS wreaks havoc on families. It is a demon that sometimes cannot be controlled… For some children it effects their bodies, or facial images, for others it has permanent lasting impact on the reasoning in their brain. We have that impact.

Sweetie 4 had decided at 17, her birthday, she would run away from home. She said, “It isn’t you. You are good people. I just don’t want parents.”
She had planned on a very BAD plan. A man… OLDER…. a assistant manager that had been hired to HELP her…. and much more than can be mentioned here.
BUT… THANKS to LOVING brothers and sisters in law, she was able to “run away” to a safe place. πŸ™‚
I am forever greatful to them for helping in a dire time of need.
Her biological brother and sister tried to talk to her, but to no avial.
She is now out of our home. πŸ™
We have loved her completely.
She KNOWS it. She has told us she has felt safe with us, and knows we love her.
Her path is going to follow to the beat of a different drummer.
She has a new job, a new location and she still texts “I love yous.”

This has been quite the experience and not one I could have ever expected or comprehended.

Sweetie 2 is home with us, and thriving.
Sweetie 3 is at the dorms but comes home on weekends.

We are blessed…..

IF… all we have accomplished in the lives of Sweetie 1 and Sweetie 4 is that they know we have loved them… That will be enough.
But I can’t help but tell you, I am truly sad.
Because our unconditional love for them, wasn’t enough.
And there is not one thing we can do about it. πŸ™

They Know….

How many times do we go to bed saddened by the events of the day, feeling as though we have not connected?
I remember reading a very old book on parenting written in the late 1800’s.
One of the things that I picked up from this book (which was not written for traumatized children) was that this man understood that children are little people and they should have a voice.

As I read it, one thing struck me more than anything. We all get tired at night. Kids fall apart, parents fall apart, and yet, it is one of the most important parts of the day, because when your child goes to bed, they have all night to think about what JUST happened.
So, when your children go to bed, leave them with love, tender voices, kisses goodnight (if they will accept them) and encouragement.

I was thinking about this last night, as we came home rather late from a girls night out to see La La Land. (which was great btw)

My girls are older, but it doesn’t prevent me from saying “Good night darling…. I love you..Sleep tight…”

I can say this even if they don’t receive it. I can say it anyway.
Something I learned last year from our extreme experiences with Sweetie 4, was that she was listening and paying attention all those times when our love seemingly fell flat at her door.
She was HEARING our words!
How do I know this?
Because when she was in JD, during group sessions over the year, it would come out. “My parents always said they loved me.”
“My parents kissed me goodnight”……
And the memories were there when she was regulated, and placed in proper perspective.
Don’t ever think, even for the most difficult child, that your efforts are for naught. They have a much greater effect than you might think!

If they ask for one more drink of water. Get it for them. Even if you think it is a massive manipulation. Do it.
If they decide that is the time to talk, set a reasonable 10 minute limit, and talk to them.
You cannot err on the side of love, voice, acceptance, compassion or patience.
LOVE NEVER FAILS…. never ever.

Sweetie 2

She just breaks out into dance….. I love it!

Blending Back Into Normal Life with some tweaks….

When Sweetie got her job at the pizza place we told her that she might have a hard time
with impatient customers, mistakes made and a boss who yells. Her bosses culture is different
from us, and yelling is a first resort. :/

She has done well working since before she got out; while on furlough.
But last week, there was a perfect storm.

An out of control customer used the worst of language, and yelled in her face. The Freezer broke down right before closing and the manager didn’t come in until after closing.

After her working super hard, and being 45 minutes late getting off, leaving us in the car waiting….
she was a bit out of sorts.
Her dad had tried to call in to see what was happening but she hung up the phone.
When he knocked on the door, she got angry and stormed into the car.
He wasn’t angry, just confused why she wasn’t coming out.

The manager apologized to him and then showed him what a wonderful job she did rescuing the food from the freezer before the manager had arrived.

When we got home, Sweetie 4 thought that we were mad at her, and in her distortions, she began to shut down and melt down.

I sat with her and asked what happened. As she poured out her heart and hurts, I was able to rub her back and affirm that that was a really hard night.

I pointed to her distortions page and gave her MY distortion…. I made an assumption.
I thought it was possible she was taking longer than necessary. And it was wrong of me to assume.

She looked at her page and said she was being secretive, (hanging up the phone and not communicating)
and then melting down/shutting down)

We went to Dad and he had the same one I had, “assuming”.
We all apologized and the tension was just GONE!

Accepting that we all have perceptions and distortions in thinking that can be wrong makes it so we don’t expect perfection out of everybody, AND helps us remember we need to communicate.

We talked about ways what happened can be avoided in the future, and we all moved on. πŸ™‚

I love having tools we can all use on a regular basis to keep grounded. πŸ™‚

2 Weeks

It has been two full weeks since Sweetie 4 came home. Two wonderful weeks! She is doing so well. We are so proud of her!
And we are proud of us too. πŸ™‚

We have had many talks, shopping trips, a “Girls out to get Starbucks” on Thanksgiving night, where we all sat outside because they
were closed and laughed until we cried.
It was SO FUN.

Sweetie 4 is adjusting well.

Praise Be to the Lord!

It’s A Marathon NOT a Sprint

I tell myself this all the time, and yet on Monday, I was sprinting. For the last couple of days, contemplating Monday has been on my heart. Why did I get so upset?
Why did it bother me SOOO MUCH?
I actually expected a lot of what happened and I was shocked with myself on how deeply I was personally hurting.

I must confess, that if we lose focus on and put our hopes into somebody other than God, we can be crushingly hurt. But if we remember that I have been forgiven much and
I still fail my Lord. He is faithful and just to forgive me.
My hope and trust MUST be in Christ. To love purposefully is a spiritual action. Love does not expect anything in return. We knew going into our lifestyle that we MIGHT have reciprocal love, but we may never see it, and we knew it would be ok, because the life we are living, we believe is what we are SUPPOSED to be doing.

So if my focus is on Christ, then what everybody else does doesn’t really matter. I must DO what I’m called to do! Love.
I think on Monday, I was in “Sprint” mode. I was thinking, “Ok, we have worked hard, you are out, let’s get life going again.”
That was wrong.
She is having to process the loss of the last year just like we have had to.
She spent this last year working on herself and focusing on herself, but NOW she has to process the LOSS of last year. She wasn’t here for Thanksgiving.
A year ago she was on suicide watch.
She wasn’t here for Christmas, her birthday, Valentines Day, Easter, 4th of July, for anybody’s birthday or graduation, youth functions, a trip to Albuquerque,
Ruby’s 1st birthday and more. That is a LOT of loss!
But it wasn’t a complete loss, because she has gained GREATLY. She has gained the ability to ENJOY those things that she couldn’t enjoy before because she couldn’t see past
her pain.

I also didn’t help by telling her that what I want for Christmas is a happy family when she asked what I wanted. While it is true that is what I would want, and gifts aren’t important. For HER, they are. This is how she was trying to express her love, and I rejected it. I didn’t intend to, but I think that is how she took it.
After thinking about it, I apologized to her and gave her a couple of ideas she could think about for me and she was thrilled.
I have always told my kids “I want a happy family” and they say, “Yeah we know that… BUT…”
But for me to say that to Sweetie 4 I think it had a different feel for her. It wasn’t intentional, but it came to me very clearly last night as I was pondering Monday.
She needs to be able to give something tangible. That is how she needs to show her affection.
So I may get a really cool kitchen apron!:)

So we are back to Marathon Mode. πŸ™‚ My focus is back to where it should be. And we are also enjoying the benefits of a young lady who WANTS to be home and loves her family.

Settling In….

101_0915Sweetie 4 has been home since Friday. The weekend was like another Furlough. She knew what to expect as we continued doing the same things and she had the same schedule.
Then came Monday. It was all new to her. She has been away over a year and the dynamics of family life have changed now that 2 of the girls are in college, one no longer lives at home and their schedules are completely different than ours.
I think this came as a shock to her. When she left to the detention center, everybody was a minor and Sweetie 1 was taking classes at the college for dual credit. Nobody was driving, and nobody was an adult.

Now that she is home, we have 2 adults, 1 driver, one learning to drive, everybody in college, and one not living at home. I think that was a lot to come home to even though we told her during all those visits what was happening in family life.
She came home to different dishes, a room painted blue, the bathroom wall paper removed and painted a different color, and lots of little things we probably do not notice because we are here all the time and the changes seem more subtle.

And then, Monday started. We were back to teaching at home and there was nobody to force her to get up in the a.m; she is expected to do that on her own, with an alarm. We had a computer glitch and during that glitch I asked her to go ahead and read the lesson so we didn’t waste time.
I was met with a force of NO. Then, “nothing has changed, it is all the same, I knew you wouldn’t change!” I was confused.
“What are you talking about?”
More words …. and then bombs…. “I’m DONE with this family!”

It was over the top and OUT OF NOWHERE!

I could see it in her eyes. It was fear. She started the morning with not getting up for family time. My first wake up call was gentle… “Sweetie, it is time to get up.”
My second wake up call was “Sweetie, you missed family time”….
My THIRD wakeup call was, “If you were at the detention center, would you still be in bed?”
She got up.
But in her mind, she was a complete failure and that set her up for the entire day…. failing, in her mind.
She tends to beat herself up like that, and then gives up.

We started with geometry and she did great.
Then, the glitch happened and she couldn’t handle the change.

So, from around 9:30 till 4:00, she was over the top going between weeping and anger, speaking harshly, accusing, and then saying, “I’d rather be in jail!”
I couldn’t hold back my sorrow, nor could I hold back my own fear. I was seemingly put right back into the scenario of a year and a half ago. I began to question, “Are we going to make it?” “Are we REALLY going to make it?”

She would verbally attack and then say she was sorry, then attack and then say she was sorry, and then say I love you over and over and over again, inbetween attacking and
then getting upset because I was hurt or had a sad look on my face. But I’m human. I do well rising above most of the time. Yesterday, tears flowed.
It was like a huge build up of tension, and then an explosion over and over, but expecting us to just “take it”.
Oh that felt so familiar.
And it didn’t help that I wept, because then she thought I was disappointed in her. I was frustrated with her behavior, hoping we had moved further down the road than we had, but it never changes my love for her. I’m so proud of how hard we have all worked to make this happen!

I wanted to connect, but I also needed to be honest with her.
I told her, “I am not going to go through this again. You need to make up your mind what you want.”
“You SAID you wanted us, you wanted family, that you wanted to come home.” “So what do you want?”
That was probably not the best way to handle it.
By now, I was not thinking about connectedness as much as I just needed a raw, real answer.
She was angry I was hurt.
I was hurt and felt betrayed.
So I gave her a mental picture, the best I could, trying to regain connection and correct at the same time.

An abuser hits somebody in the face and says, “I’m sorry.”
They are forgiven and then they turn and hit the person in the face again.
They say, “I’m sorry” and it happens again and again and again….The abuser buys gifts to make up and then
the one they are abusing has a bloody, bruised face, is hurt and in pain and responds to that pain.
The abuser then says, “What’s the matter? Why are you sad?? I SAID I WAS SORRY!
Why are you still sad… they study your face and every.single.action. maybe if you didn’t respond quickly
enough when they reached for your hand, And then they get angry
and accuse the person of not loving them, or worse.

THAT is what you have been doing ALL DAY LONG.

Her response was interesting. “You told me you wanted to know how I felt.”
But she has no filter. I forgot that. She needs these things explained.
We can have many thoughts or feelings go through our minds, some that need to be spoken and
others that we can say, “Why did I think that?” or “That isn’t valid”, or “That is ridiculous!”
And we discard them.
She just says everything that comes into her mind.
We need to remember that she needs to learn that filter.
She mixes up “feelings” with “thoughts”.
We need to remember she has an FAS brain. Sweetie is very smart, but she struggles GREATLY with understanding
emotion and body language.

So as you can read, she was all over the place.

So last night, I was able to get my bearings and start to gain some strength. Mike is a huge help in helping me focus and
stay the course.
I decided maybe getting her busy as a distraction would be a good thing. We put on Christmas music and started to decorate for Christmas,
a week early! LOL

She totally got into it, and we enjoyed the rest of our evening. She worked really hard to help with everything and needed that continuous
praise and affection.
She went to bed a happy camper.

This a.m. she woke at the right time, and has been a joy all day long.

I’m sure we will have some glitches along the way and I need to remind myself that she still has a long way to go.
I am thankful for a counselor who is willing to work with us and discuss ways to help her.
This is still very much a team effort. It is a marathon and not a sprint.

I am proud of her for pulling herself out of a state of fear and into a place of peace.
Folks this is hard stuff. But it is real. The lessons learned through these experiences will stay with us the rest of our lives. We cannot err in loving. We will not err in following the Lord. And we are confident, that HE who began a good work in her and in us, will be faithful to complete it!


img_1551She’s home. πŸ™‚


Tomorrow, just one more day, and Sweetie 4 will walk out the doors of the detention center into a new life.
But it won’t be a new life with a different family. It will a different life with THIS family. HER family.
I cannot express how closely we felt the despair of the possibility that she would not return home. There was the possibility that she would NOT be able to function within the guidelines of a family and her rejection of us as her family was palpable for a long time.

All of the teaching and training on fear started to fade away as we couldn’t see her behaviors were fear driven anymore. She was angry. VERY angry. She wasn’t angry at us in particular. She was angry at the life she had been given, and she was angry with God. She was angry with her past families and she was angry that we were still there to love her. Logically we know that anger is because of fear. But it sure didn’t look like fear.


She did everything she could to sabotage a good visit after the fact. She did everything she could to hide and not face herself, her behaviors, her pain, her past. Had she not been in the facility she was in where she couldn’t leave, I do not think we would be where we are today.

As a family, we have had every semblance of normalcy removed, every stone turned over, every pain exposed, every thought, every word…. everything.
It was like dumping out a drawer onto the floor and then picking up the pieces and reorganizing it, throwing out the trash, finding great treasures you didn’t know were there and then putting it all back together again.
Things are different, but one thing has never changed. LOVE NEVER FAILS. Seeking the wisdom of God and throwing ourselves at the feet of our Savior for strength and comfort has been vital.
HE has walked us through and has been ever faithful when we were full of doubt and despair.
In my prayers: “Was THIS your PLAN??”
“Yes my daughter.”
It takes me to one of my favorite books, “Hinds Feet on High Places”. Much Afraid wants to go to the High Places to be with the great shepherd. He takes her to the path and gives her two friends, Sorrow and Suffering. And she is like, “Really?”
Yes, sorrow and suffering can be our friend. They cause us to cleave to the one who can make all things right. And the allegory works for all of us. We were ALL afraid.

I have written long ago about adoption dissolution and stated clearly that it is not a thought we should have. We have adopted 2 of our sweeties because of disruption, Sweetie 4 being disrupted twice, so we are her THIRD set of adoptive parents.
While we believe she is RIGHT WHERE SHE BELONGS, without question, it does not mean the process of her getting here was ok.
The pain that has come out in the last couple of years due to rejection has been intense. Was she an easy kid? NO. Most definitely NOT and honestly I can see why disruption occurred. Things were HARD.

There were times when we felt she was not going to be safe to return home. We had other Sweetie’s to think about as well as grand children and adult children who need us to stick around a little longer.
So we were scrambling with ideas trying to figure out what to do.
And in figuring that out, the best thing to do was what was BEST for her!
We had to allow the thought that if she didn’t want to return home, we would not force it.
We would let her go, not in a disruption sense, but in a not returning home sense.
We would stay in contact, and do our best to be her parents.
It was such a scary thought.
She seemed SURE in her views that we were not her family and she didn’t want us.
It was fear. It was fear all the way, and she was trying her best to reject us before we rejected her.
And it became quite obvious when we gave her that option. “If you do not want to come home. We cannot make you. You are free to decide.” But if you DO come home, we cannot have dangerous behaviors. You decide.” All of this pain. All of the turmoil and anger were because trauma, abuse, neglect and rejection are acutely PAINFUL.
It took Sweetie 4 years to trust that we were not going to be next in the line of families that says, REJECT. “You are too hard!” “You are too broken!”
We want you! We have always wanted you! We want you to be happy and healthy. But we cannot force it.
Putting the decision onto her with GUIDED counseling and intense therapy, made her have to face herself and her future.
We are here. You have a loving family. We are the crazy people with these faces that will love you till the day we die. And that is it.

She HAS been hard. She HAS been broken. Those words cannot even describe. BUT God….
In HIS great mercy and grace….. delves into a HUGE dumped mess and straightens it out. He begins to root out the sin, the self doubt, the hurt, the pain, the blindness, and He doesn’t just root it out, he REPLACES it with the truth. He opens our eyes with the truth of the gospel. And as we lay our hearts bare before Him, we are without words. HIS plan, though it seems as it couldn’t possibly be right, is perfect in the end. We haven’t even seen the end, but we know that He who began a good work will be faithful to complete it, both in her and in all of us.

I would never want to relive this past year and a half. But I would not trade the lessons learned though they are of great value.

Thank you so MUCH all of you who have held our family in your thoughts and prayers, visited us, cared for us, asked us how we were doing. It was vital.
Keep praying! πŸ™‚
Tomorrow is a new day.
A new beginning.
And she will be HOME! Her home. Our daughter. The girl’s sister.

Our Last Session

Tonight was our last official counseling session at the detention center. We sat and talked in a relaxed fashion and Sweetie 4
presented her safety plan, including things that make her feel safe and things that make her feel insecure.
She presented safe people she can call, and ideas for coping skills.
She also talked with us and her counselor about her year at the center.
It felt like family sitting around chatting.

Her counselor made our last visit so special. She said that in the 10 years she has been at the center, she has never seen such a dramatic
change. She was so excited for Sweetie 4 and for us.

Sweetie HAS made huge strides and we can truly see that it is not surface, just trying to get out. It is genuine. She is growing up and we are SO
proud of her!
We have been given invitation to come and talk to those who come after us to give them encouragement.

THREE more days! πŸ™‚

Last Furlough

This is our very last furlough. Tomorrow she goes back at 6:30. And then, Tuesday we have our last session in the detention center. On Friday she walks out a free girl!
We are almost at the finish line. And then, A new Beginning!

The Other Sweeties

I have written so much about Sweetie 4 and neglected to write about the others. πŸ™‚
Sweetie 1 is living with her birth gramma now. She seems to be happy there, and we stay in contact.
She will be 18 this month. πŸ™‚

Sweetie 2 is 17 and is attending college as well as co op and then home schooling also. She is one of the most giving, forgiving, loving children a person could ever have. She is a bright joy to us.
She is funny and smart and serious and thoughtful, a mighty ball of energy and spunk. πŸ™‚
I love how much she loves on her sisters and has welcomed Sweetie 4 back home with a full heart of love and acceptance.

Sweetie 3 is 18 and thoroughly enjoying her “adulthood”. πŸ™‚ She is driving everywhere, working the elections, going to college and throughly enjoying life. She too is a huge bright spot in our lives and brings us great joy every single day. She has been forgiving and kind to her sister as she has furloughed home and I could not be more proud.

I love having daughters this age. Watching them blossom into Godly young women is a huge joy to me.

“They Just Need Love”

I was sitting in the psychiatrist’s office with Sweetie 4 for an appointment last year. I traveled from home and she was brought by the juvenile detention center. The transport officer was a very nice lady who was very well meaning. She spoke about how she is the “jail mama” and all the kids call her that.
She mentioned it several times and I was cringing inside. Even though I know kids make up families where ever they go, it is natural, for the officer to say it, and speak openly about it to me, was hard. It wasn’t because I was jealous, it was because Sweetie 4 has had enough confusion over family and what it means. She has already had 4 mamas. She doesn’t need another one.
But I didn’t mention it and let it go, because it was what it was.

However, on the 3rd appointment with this same officer, she continued to push the subject and also intervened in the middle of a “private” appointment with me, my daughter and the psychiatrist. It was starting to drive me a little crazy.
The psychiatrist was not very appreciative of her interruptions, but she had to be there because Sweetie was shackled hands and feet.

And that is when she said it.

“These kids are all fine. They just need love.”

Oh how those words stung. REALLY? “They just need love?”

Gee I wonder what we have been doing for the last FIVE years?
And NO. They are not all “fine”.
It seems to help keep folks in order when you have trained officers and locked cells.

It was at that point that I requested through the counselor that we get a different officer. I explained what was going on and they were so accommodating! The next officer sat quietly and was friendly, but did not interrupt, nor did she call herself “mama”.
She didn’t try to rub sweetie’s back like the other officer did.
She respected that that was MY job; her mama.

Ever since that happened a year ago, those words have danced around in my head. What exactly IS LOVE?
What is it that our kids need? What did this officer see as “Love”?
She spoke enough to let me get an idea. Giving the kids special treats, joking with them, telling them she was their mama, not being harsh with them. For her, that was loving them. But she went home at the end of the day, and her commitment to them is between 3 and 12 months.

Scripture in 1st Corinthians 13:4-8 says Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant 5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful;[b] 6 it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. 7 Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
8 Love never ends.

So yes, it is a true statement that our kids need Love, it is not correct to assume that if they are in trouble or have troubles, that they have not been loved! And it is NOT correct to assume that special favors or joking with them and calling yourself mama is LOVE.

I would like to add that LOVE is doing what is BEST for the other person, no matter how hard it is on your family, whether it is embarrassing, whether it makes you feel weak, whether it makes you feel vulnerable… LOVE seeks a way. And it is different for each and every child!

Each of our girls came at separate times and had VERY DIFFERENT special needs. Each needed to be “LOVED” differently, but the same. Differently in methodology, but the same in purpose.
That is true for ALL kids, because kids don’t come with instructions or return labels.

Loving a traumatized child tho wholeness is probably one of the hardest and most rewarding jobs ever.
Being rejected and hated over and over and over and over again, having them throw birthday presents away after you carefully helped them pick out their favorite thing, just to make sure they would like it, watching the heartbreaking self sabotage over and over, and having them threaten to run away, accuse, scream, break, verbally abuse, is traumatizing in itself. Love MUST rise above it. It does NOT mean it doesn’t hurt. It does.
When I went to pick up Sweetie from school, as I did EVERY.SINGLE.DAY. at the same time, and she was missing, so everybody was looking for her, and she was found, she came angrily to the office screaming a the top of her lungs, “I’m not going home with the Mother F…ing SOB… I’m going to smash her face in!”
The principal offered to call the police because he was worried for my safety.

We waited 10 minutes and she collapsed in a pile of tears. I was safe for a few minutes to get her home.

I have come to know many families who live this kind of existence every day. Some are too afraid to get help, some are resigned that it is what it is and nothing will ever help. Some give up, and that is the saddest. I get it. I really do. How much can a family take? When we had to have a family safety plan that took our peaceful, happy home and turned it into a bunker for safety, I was devastated. When we had to put cameras up everywhere to protect ourselves and use recoding devices to protect ourselves it was devastating.
How can a loving family’s good intentions not be received? How can LOVE be rejected?
But most especially TRAUMA ROBS our children of their childhoods, and their future.

DO NOT BE AFRAID to address it, even if that means you need extra help from the legal system.

We realized we had a limited amount of time before Sweetie would be an adult. As an adult, if she committed a crime, that would be it. It would go on her record. As a juvenile, because none of the things we were trying were working, including counseling, art therapy etc. we decided the best thing was to teach her that her actions have responsibility and accountability in society in general. Some things are just not allowed as a civilized society! And, if it went on her record, it could be erased because she was still a juvenile. This is a really good thing in our society.

We explained it to her, but she wasn’t listening. And that is when the call was made. That entered us into a world we never knew existed with both wonderfully committed people to see us through to the other side, and people we wish would have picked another profession!

It is a crying shame that programs like what Sweetie has been in do not exist outside of the legal system. She NEEDED a year! A YEAR to turn herself around and change her faulty thinking.
I do not know of another program that anybody outside of an independently wealthy person could participate in, with the same intensity and structure as well as genuine caring, that this program has given her and us.
And that is really sad. Because there are a LOT of kids who need something as structured.
It was not punitive, except for the jail part. They were dealing with some very dangerous kids, so they have to have that part in place. But they also have the nurturing part in place too. The part that says, “You are valuable, you can make it!”

And now, in just 2 more weeks, Sweetie 4 is going to come home. She has responded well to the program and we are going to continue with Alanon. I mentioned it before, and had I known about it before I would have had her in it a long time ago!

She has requested that she apologize to her old therapist for all the lies she told. Folks, this is good stuff! She is holding herself accountable!

I know I’m rambling abit in this post… I know many people who are hurt by well meaning statements like “They just need love”. We don’t have enough words in the English language to define what Love truly is. If a person means, “Strong commitment to see somebody through to the other side and doing what is absolutely best for the other person?” Then yes.
But it doesn’t guarantee an outcome. Not every ending is a happy one.
But at least you will live without regrets like “I could have, I should have, I wish I had…..”

Staying Connected Staying Safe

dont give up
When parents adopt a child, they responsibly contemplate all sorts of scenarios and difficulties, and prepare to help their new child adjust to family life. There are classes to prepare, all sorts of seminars and books to read. Some parents may already have experience with other adoptions both domestic and international as we did. In fact, we had adopted domesetically through the foster care system, through private adoption due to a failed international adoption, and an international adoption where we went overseas to Ukraine to adopt. All of our children were 5 years old and older.
And things were great. Really really great. All of our children had experienced extreme trauma, and I strongly believe that the training we had prepared with, truly helped us navigate difficult waters.

However, nothing could have prepared us for our next adventure in adopting our last daughter. We knew she was from Russia. We knew there were 2 dissolved adoptions. We knew she had trauma upon trauma and we knew that the Lord had called us to her, and her to our family. We prayed that if this was NOT His will, that He would slam the door to adoption shut! Instead, it opened widely.
“Can you be in North Carolina TOMORROW?”

The little girl that I met, with the attorney and her last family, was sitting there with a huge smile, and piercing eyes, her hair neatly braided. Here we were in a Walmart Parking Lot and instead of buying a gallon of Milk, I was there to transfer a CHILD. A HUMAN BEING from one vehicle to another.
It all seemed so surreal and sad.
We had all the paperwork, the attorney was there, and everybody knew what was going on legally in both states, but really WALMART? We could have at least met at a nice restaurant and had dinner or a Chuck E Cheese or SOMETHING….
I invited the people to dinner, but instead they said, “no.” Actually he said, “I don’t rightly think so”….. and with that, her luggage was tossed into the back of the attorney’s vehicle.
I bent down and looked into her eyes, smiled and said, “Hi, I’m Mrs. M and I’m here to keep you safe!”
I sat in the back seat with our little one who was 11 years old and totally CALM. I felt her heart beat and it was that of a scared rabbit. I asked her, “Do you like to swim?”
“We are going to be here for a little while while all the paperwork goes through so everybody knows you are safe.” My emphasis to her was her absolute safety, as there was NO WAY I was going to say something like, “Hi I’m your new mom, you are now in your ‘forever’ family!” Ummm. no.

During our two week stay in NC, she was so polite and sweet. She cried a little bit, and even snuggled up for hugs and talks. Her English was good, but her comprehension was poor. She was a child without a depth of language needed to express herself.
I knew we were not seeing the real girl, as we were all really in shock, but especially her. SHE was in shock. She was in the throws of survival. I still tear up when I think about how absolutely difficult her predicament was, AND how she was now safe, and HOME… She just didn’t know it yet.

Over a year she began to settle in, and while things were rocky they were good. She was not only adjusting to a new family once again, she was also adjusting to culture, mourning losses most of us could never fathom, and stuffing deep emotions for things she could not express, explain or talk about.

She laughed and snuggled and learned to love, and did great, and I thought to myself, “Wow! We are doing AMAZING!”
And we were.
And guess what?? That meant she felt safe. SAFE! Remember that safety I told her about???
She was NOW SAFE ENOUGH to let it all out! ALL OF IT! But in her trauma brain, her thinking was very confused. “Why would they love me?” “I’m not worth loving?” “Maybe they really want to hurt me!”
“I don’t think I can fully trust anybody!” “I can take care of myself!”
And then, those stuffed memories started to flood her mind. The abuses in Russia, the abuse in America, the LOSS, the DEEP LOSS! The fond memories of Russia, making pickles, drying fish, going to the Black sea, and the dark memories of abuse that is unmentionable, horrid abuse, for which she bears not just the physical scars, but the emotional scars.
Yes, she was doing AMAZING. But it all flooded to the front at once. And she was overcome with RAGE and AGGRESSION and HATE, and a heart so wounded, so battered, so scarred that she didn’t EVER want anybody to have access again. So she closed the door to her heart. And she refused to let us in.

And THAT is when we went from “connected” to being in “danger”.
I never dreamed in a million years that I could have had a child harm me physically, not after being in our home and seeing how safe and loved she was.
We practiced how we spoke, how to connect, how to correct through connection, how to stay in the moment with her, trying to help he learn the skills she needed to overcome…. but it was all for naught at that point. She was having NONE of it. NONE… and all her rage, was “safely” taken out on the ones who truly loved her.
Being in a situation like this is so surreal. It happens to others, but not to us! NOT US! We’re just normal folks! We all love each other and everyday is happy and we sing and dance together and have Friday night at the movies! What the heck?????

As we read more, and studied more and talked in more detail to our counselor, we realized that we were going to need more help.
She went from self sabotage, stealing, lying, self harm, threatening suicide, cursing, screaming, slamming doors, to real destruction. Punching holes in walls, picking up furniture and slamming it so hard, that it broke our tile floors, dangerous behaviors that I cannot mention. And then, she turned her rage on us personally. Bruises ensued, bites, words I cannot get out of my head….
By now, we had placed her in public school so she could have more accountability. We had called police when she crossed the line from troubled teen to criminal behavior. And it was the most CONNECTED thing we could do. She was refusing counseling, and literally turning our home into a place of danger and despair. It was taking its toll on ALL of us.
That fateful night, when she was arrested, my mama heart was crushed. “How could I call the police on my own child? How is THAT connected? I teach connection. I teach connected correction and how to have safe boundaries. We have a support group! What is going on???

I’ll tell you how it is connected.

It is NEVER ok, no matter what your issues are, to indulge in criminal behavior. There are societal rules that must be followed for any civilization to survive and for any family to survive. It would have been wrong for us to allow this to continue and not seek out the extra help we needed even if that means law enforcement. Even Heather Forbes and Dr. Karyn Purvis agree with this. It shouldn’t be our first line of action, but if all else fails and a person is in DANGER… it seems that it is the best thing to do to protect the child from further damage to themselves and their reputation.
Waiting until they are older could be the worst thing we could do. Juveniles records do not follow them to adulthood, but once a child is older than 16, they do.
Just because you have to seek outside help, it does not mean you are not connected. STAY connected! Do all you can! Visit! Send letters! We were able to get loads of people to send cards and letters for Sweetie’s birthday, for Christmas and more.
She was blessed to have those connections and we were able to get art supplies to her. Her letters were filled with encouragement, and also with discussion questions. “What do you think about this?” or “It really hurt when this happened?” Letters to promote thinking and empathy were important for her to receive. Bringing in toothpaste or personal hygiene products, we were required to write her name on them; so we wrote her name and put little hearts and wrote things like, “To Sweetie, Love Mama”.
Those are small little connections that sent her the message, “We are in your life to stay.”

Praise the Lord, that in our little area in Texas, the Juvenile Justice System is advanced and truly GETS TRAUMA!

After a couple of short stays, visits to a psychiatrist, 2 neuropsychiatric reports, CPS involvement and art therapy, she wound up in the LONG term program. 12 months. ONE YEAR, behind the walls of the justice system, in kid jail…. but WITH THERAPY; individual, group, family.
It is TERRIBLY sad, that she had to commit a crime to be able to get the help she needed.
We were doing the right things, actually not much different than the therapy she has been getting. But she wouldn’t receive it from us.
She wouldn’t receive it from them either for almost EIGHT MONTHS! But something happened at the 8 month mark.
YES. We had been staying connected with her all those months. Every week, visits, sometimes she would refuse to see us. Many times she was awful. Sometimes she would cry.
On days she was awful, I’d make an extra visit because I knew she’d feel badly, and I was typically correct. Then she’d go back to trying to reject us.
“Why do you visit?”
“We love you.”
And conversations would always be that we wanted her to do well and heal.

When we started therapy together with the counselor several months ago, we weren’t sure if she was going to make it home. It was depressing and sad. Her thinking was so entrenched in the past. Why couldn’t she see the bright future she had? Why weren’t WE good enough for her?

As the counselor began to try to put all the pieces together, she addressed her FEAR and through the 12 step program they were doing inside, then SWEETIE began to address her fear. And it was like a switch flipped.
And she started to understand that we were NOT going to abandon her. We were going to love her and see her through, but SHE had to work too. She had to want to be home. We were willing to let her go if she didn’t want us, if family was too much for her. We were at a point, and I believe I wrote it on this blog where I wasn’t sure if she would be able to survive in a family successfully. We would try something different, but we would NOT abandon her.
Her sisters had been through a LOT and she knew it. Some of the words she spoke to them, like me, they couldn’t forget them. But those amazing girls CHOSE to forgive! I love them so. They have been willing to open their hearts once again, and LOVE their sister. Watching them together is like watching a beautiful dance. I’m so thankful that they did not become bitter themselves. That is another blog post. πŸ™‚

Since that time, when we gave her permission to make that decision. It was like she made a strong turn towards family.
And it has been that way ever since. She is looking forward to being home. She is the same girl, spunky and funny and fearful and awkward, but it appears that she has been able to FINALLY work through her deepest fears and traumas. We now know about all those horrid things that happened to her. And we still love her. And she KNOWS that she KNOWS she is worthy of love. She is cherished, just because. She doesn’t have to EARN our love. She just has it. That’s it.

Love is patient, love is kind, love doesn’t seek its own. Love does what is best for the other person. And love NEVER fails. NEVER EVER EVER.
We have spoken these words to her over and over and over again over the last 5 years 8 months and 2 days.
I do believe, she has finally accepted them.
And we are connected.

48 Hour Furloughs AND The Countdown Begins

Seventeen days from today, Sweetie 4 will be home. HOME…. and WHOLE.
Any of you who are regular readers know that the past year and a half has been very hard.
Sweetie 4 spun out of control and eventually crossed an uncrossable line.
This brought the legal system into our lives, and for a little over a year she has been
in Juvenile Detention.

The JUVENILE Detention in our area, OUR particular area, is not just detention or punitive..
It was exactly what she needed. It is a therapeutic rehab program. She has been getting INTENSIVE
group and individual counseling. And she is doing WONDERFULLY.
She was unable to cope and we were not able to do what we needed to do on our own.
We NEEDED help!
BECAUSE of the county we live in, and I do believe it was a divine appointment for her,
we were able to get the help we needed.
It has been a journey. A LONG journey.
It has been painful, and rewarding and I do believe we are going to move ahead and she will
go on to be successful. She is going to make it!
I’m SO PROUD of her.

I have kept things honest, and I know this has been an ongoing process evolving to this very day.
She has completed 2 48 hour furloughs where she spent TWO nights. She has 2 more to go and then HOME.

For those of you with kiddos who are victims of alcohol abuse or even family violence, I strongly recommend
ALANON. When she is home, we are attending the ALANON meetings and they have been very valuable for her and for me.
She didn’t need to go to AA that was recommended, so they approved ALANON at my request. The fit is perfect.

Dr. Bessell VanDerKulk, author of “The Body Keeps Score” says that support groups work wonders for people with PTSD.
He is so right!
I have seen her relate and share at levels she never would before.

I’m so excited!

We are a family…. a work in progress….. together…. intact….

We love Sweetie 4, and she is FINALLY accepting us as her family. πŸ™‚

Thank you Lord!

The Twenty-Four Hour Furlough

Sweetie 4 has made it to her first over night furlough. It has been nearly a year since she spent the night in her own bed. She was so excited to be able to come home.
A typical furlough is quite busy. Just to give you an idea of what it is like; she has to have objectives to achieve and those are worked through during regular family life.
On Saturday evening, we picked her up at 6:30.
She went to her first AA meeting, required by the center. She then went to a job interview and got HIRED! (she can work on furloughs)
We came home, had a snack and by then it was about 10:30. We headed to bed.
In the middle of the night, there she was standing by the bed… “Mom, I can’t sleep.”
I was thinking, REALLY? You have the best mattress in the house! But she was just not used to sleeping in her bed and had a lot of thoughts racing through her head.
Up at 7:45, we readied ourselves for services, and she, Dad and Sweetie 2 headed to get donuts while Sweetie 3 and I prepared for a pot luck.
We all met at church. After church services, Sweetie met her future mentor for Texas Challenge and had lunch with her. She helped clean up and then we headed back home. Those were two objectives that she completed at church. πŸ™‚
Her next objective was family time. We played a game of Apples to Apples and she also went out to the chicken coop to look at more ideas for working on it.
After that, it was almost 5:30 and time to head back.

She did WELL except for a few bumps. She is not used to using her healthy tools for healthy relationship. She didn’t like talking about future schedules, or the idea of some chores (also required elements from the center) so she started to fall back on some old familiar behaviors.
We were able to turn things around, but not without some serious deep breathing.
She was angry with herself for saying something she shouldn’t have said and couldn’t move on. She began saying things like, “Just take me back now!”
We said, “No Sweetie. We need to work this out and learn to use our tools. In the not too distant future there will be nowhere to go back to!”
She calmed and we wound up having a very good talk.
She has some unusable tools that she needs to toss from her tool box so she can use the healthy, useful tools we have all given her, that really DO work! But she reverts to old habits that MUST be broken! She needs to continue to work on establishing new habits, so she can be successful in the community, outside of a detention center.

This is hard work for all of us.
For her, she falls back on old habits. For us, we experience her behavior and for me, I feel panicky inside, like, “oh no…….here we go again!”

So, we have another chance this coming up weekend to do it again and do better.:)

The TWELVE HOUR Furlough

We had 12 hours together yesterday! Oh my heart! It went so well. We picked her up before church services and
she bravely went with us. πŸ™‚ She saw all sorts of familiar faces who welcomed her with open arms. I’m so thankful for that!

We went out to lunch with friends and then headed home to work in her room, go through old clothes and new ones, and spend time together.
She beat dad at Backgammon! And we all played a good game of clue. It was really enjoyable The sisters had a good time also, and
spent some quality time with her.
They left to go study for college and we spent the rest of our time scrap booking and going over the courses I ordered for her to use while she is here.
She has been steady and moving in the right direction now for several weeks and I couldn’t be more thrilled!

She is using the tools she has been given, staying out of drama, which is HUGE for her, and focusing on what she needs to do. πŸ™‚
To say I’m proud of her would be an understatement.


A New Furlough

Yesterday was furlough day again. We had so many praying for us, we could feel your prayers. πŸ™‚
The furlough went wonderfully!
It was 180ΒΊ from the last one! And we pray the cycle in the right direction continues!

She was pleasant, and met most of her requirements. She forgot about taking pictures of some of her required objectives, but did really well!

We stopped at the grocery store to buy ingredients, and then made pizza together for lunch, played backgammon, she got to meet the cat, we sorted through old clothes to see what fits and what doesn’t, she took a bubble bath and washed hair, and went out to meet the baby chickens.
Then, she went to two places for job applications.

That was a LOT to do in just 6 hours time, especially when it is almost an hours drive there and back!

More good news!
She has an appt. with a recruiter to see a presentation for the school we plan for her to go to in January. Hopefully she’ll make it through the interview process and be able to attend Texas Challenge Academy.

The biggest change we saw this week was that a few things had her worried and instead of pouting or becoming non verbal, she actually shared her fear and we talked through it.

We are so encouraged. πŸ™‚

Borderline Personality Disorder

I just added a link to a good website on BPD.
It can be found on my educational page, but I’ll also put a link here:
Borderline Personality Disorder

A New Day-A New Chapter

I have to say the last few days have been soul searching, as we were writing back and forth with Sweetie’s counselor, and discussing future ideas with our social worker, and then visiting Sweetie at the center. We could feel the prayers of the Saints who pray for us daily and we are so thankful.

I visited Sweetie 4 on Monday night and she was all over the place. Apparently, that visit helped her to settle, pause and think. She spoke with her counselor on Tuesday and by Wednesday was back on board for more furloughs.

Her counselor is great. She told her, “I have clients as young as three. Once a person turns 5, ‘I don’t knows’ are no longer accepted!” πŸ™‚
Sweetie 4 squirmed…. And then shared her thoughts.

She was concerned that if she had shared what was in her head, we would think she had returned to her “old ways”. This makes me think she doesn’t really remember her
old ways very well!

What happened at the restaurant is what triggered her, and that tells me she is very vulnerable right now.
At the restaurant, a young man who was making tortillas right by our table noticed all the Sweeties and started to flirt. It was rather obnoxious how much he was flirting
and he even came to our table a few times. The girls were sweet and smiled but nobody was really out of line, except him, but even then, he was playful.
Sweetie 4 is not used to that. She was also quite insecure because she wasn’t hiding behind a mask of makeup or any of her favorite clothes. So she was caught off guard that somebody would find her pretty.
And then, she was upset that she “liked” the attention. This is NORMAL teenage stuff and she doesn’t understand that.
So she was worried that we would think it was wrong, and she shut down.
There were a few other things that were going on in her mind. She is very black and white in her thinking, but we live in a GRAY world! Things don’t go exactly as planned out in our heads. We all know that!
She thought it was going to be just mom, dad and her, but it was the entire family that visited.

So, she is going to work on accepting when things aren’t perfect in her plan. She is going to work on saying what she is thinking and talking without saying “I don’t know”.
Those are some starters. πŸ™‚

The counselor reassured us that many times when kids start to furlough the reaction is similar.

We clearly addressed our concerns with Sweetie 4 and she responded well.
That is until the issue of schooling came up. Mind you, it is only a few weeks, and then there will be a different plan.
We told her we have a math teacher on line, and how we would work with her, as far as self study and that she can have a place to study in the office while
I work too.
This means “I want to go to Public School”.

Probation would require that. She won’t be having probation thank the Lord. πŸ™‚
EVERY counselor, including the one at the school, her psychiatrist, and Dr’s all agree that PS is off the table for her. She cannot navigate it
emotionally. There are many other options, just not 3 weeks before the semester ends.

We have work to do! This Sunday, she will be coming home for 6 hours. We will be cooking a meal together, sorting clothing, playing a family game, and filling out a
job application.

I will also be checking into Life Path for her, which is formerly DARS.

It has been a productive week!

His Mercies are New Every Morning!

Self Sabotage

Well, we had our first furlough. I think honestly that it was too long. She did great for about an hour and then it started to slide downwards. It must be surreal being out after being in detention for 10 months. I get that.
We did all we could to make sure she was comfortable and accepted.
To say we are heartbroken, would be a bit of an understatement. Sometimes I wonder, why? What good is it to continue? It is like a continual, eternal game that never ends.
One step forward, two steps back. 10 steps forward 12 steps back. 12 steps forward, almost to the top of the hill and then a rabbit hole. You go tumbling down the rabbit hole and you are in an entirely new game; there is no finish line.

That is how it feels right now.

But God…

To be continued

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