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. ๐Ÿ™‚

I love having tools we can all use on a regular basis to keep grounded. ๐Ÿ™‚

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. ๐Ÿ™‚

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. ๐Ÿ™‚ 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!”
UGH
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!

Home…

img_1551She’s home. ๐Ÿ™‚

Reflections

image
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.

“WHY DO YOU LOVE ME?” “WHY DO YOU VISIT ME?”
WHY???

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.”
“YES.”
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!”
NO! NO!
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! ๐Ÿ™‚
Tomorrow is a new day.
A new beginning.
And she will be HOME! Her home. Our daughter. The girl’s sister.
FAMILY.

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! ๐Ÿ™‚

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. ๐Ÿ™‚
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. ๐Ÿ™‚

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. ๐Ÿ™‚
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”. ๐Ÿ™‚ 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.

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?
IT CAN. TRUST ME. IT CAN. TRAUMA REJECTS LOVE. TRAUMA LIES. TRAUMA IS DEVASTATING TO FAMILIES.
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?”
Yikes.

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.
UGH
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.
CONNECTION….
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.”
“WHY!”
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. ๐Ÿ™‚

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.

BUT…….
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!
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. ๐Ÿ™‚

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. ๐Ÿ™‚
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. ๐Ÿ™‚ 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. ๐Ÿ™‚
To say I’m proud of her would be an understatement.

101_0617

A New Furlough

Yesterday was furlough day again. We had so many praying for us, we could feel your prayers. ๐Ÿ™‚
The furlough went wonderfully!
It was 180ยบ 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. ๐Ÿ™‚

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!” ๐Ÿ™‚
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. ๐Ÿ™‚

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.
She said, “I WANT PROBATION!” LOL
This means “I want to go to Public School”.

Probation would require that. She won’t be having probation thank the Lord. ๐Ÿ™‚
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

It is Happening!

Level one. Furloughs. Starting Sunday. Six Hours.

Fine Tuning

Baby_Feet_1809101cSweetie 4 is continuing to do well in detention. We are so pleased. I KNOW that all of us are excited and believe she is going to do well, but we still have 3 months left.

Honestly, I think these are NECESSARY months for her, very much like that of a baby in the womb. They COULD survive at 6 months if they are born early, but it is harder. That last 3 months is a time of fine tuning and putting the finishing touches on very important parts of the body.
In the same way, these last 3 months will be fine tuning for Sweetie 4. The things she has learned, NEED to have those finishing touches in place so that she can live with ease and not struggle.

(this is how I explained it to her during our last visit)

Our “baby” is coming back to us. We don’t want her to come too early. The right time, which will be all in God’s timing will be just perfect. ๐Ÿ™‚

FULL STEAM AHEAD!

images
Sweetie 4 is moving nicely through the JD program. It has been a LONG 10 months. November is the target date for her to come home, but during the next couple of months, we will be participating together with “furloughs”.

It will start with 6 hours, and then back to JD… Then 12 hours and back to JD. Eventually she will work up to being here.

I am so thankful with how they are progressing her, carefully, so she doesn’t go from no privilege to complete freedom all at once; from no officers and supports to
just her family once again.

We ALL need this “slow and steady get me ready” practice.

We are excited about what the future holds and pray that this dark chapter in our lives has come to a complete close, and that on the other side of it, is a fresh clean page to write on. And what will be written there will be words of life, hope and healing!

When the right time comes, I am going to invite her to be a guest blogger. ๐Ÿ™‚ I believe she has a lot to share, that might help others who walk this path, see a bright light of healing.

Stay tuned! ๐Ÿ™‚

Being The Steady…

Somebody asked about disrespect from a teen who said they COULD be verbally abusive and there was nothing the parent could do about it. The question was, what do you say when they say this?

First off, ((((HUGS)))) to you. I know this was not a part of the picture you had in mind when expanding your family, and offering love to a child who desperately needed a home.

I don’t know of ANY parent who wakes up in the morning and says, “Honey, I think we should bring a teenager home so they can cuss us out, scream at us, threaten us and hate us.”

WE ALL want to see the best side of the adoption equation. The one that shows our children doing well, being successful, and having that end result of a happy, healthy, functioning adult who is ready to face the world with gusto and not look back, lovingly coming to family dinners and bringing home wonderful spouses and grand kids for us to love on and enjoy.

I think for most of us, the truthful balance lies somewhere in between the last two paragraphs. ๐Ÿ™‚

We have daughters right now who have given us ZERO problems whatsoever, and are just adorable. We have daughters on the other EXTREME and I do mean EXTREME who have given us grief beyond belief.

So, I will feebly try to answer your question about what to say when your child is IN YOUR FACE screaming obscenities and you say, “You can’t do that” and they say, “YES I CAN” or worse yet, “TRY AND MAKE ME STOP!”

HOLD ON TO YOUR HORSES…. DO NOT CROSS THAT LINE…..

The MOST POWERFUL THING you can do at that moment is to CALMLY…. say, “YOU ARE RIGHT. YOU CAN, because you are.
And then, let them know that YOU need to take a quick breath.
WALK AWAY and CHOOSE TO DIFFUSE…..
What ever you do in your private room…. take a shower so you cannot hear the pounding on the door, or go for a drive, or go for a walk…. write in a journal, take a long lingering bubble bath and cry it out before the Lord asking for wisdom beyond what is wisdom….. whatever it is you do… CENTER YOURSELF. CALM YOURSELF…. give yourself permission to cry, but in your pain, remember that PAIN they transferred to you…. that RAGE they transferred to you is how THEY FEEL inside.

So FEEL it… FEEL the despair and then….. take a breath and try a different way.

A few calming statements for your child:
“Wow, you sound really upset.”
“I bet it is confusing trying to figure out family life” or “how you fit in.”
“That must be really hard”
“I’m so sorry things have been hard for you”

THEN….. When things are calmer (not in the moment)
You can ask some thought provoking questions:

“What power do you gain inside when you curse at me?”
“How do you feel afterwards?”

You might be surprised at the answers you get.

Go back to square one…. “You know, you are right, there is not a lot I can do when you choose to be this way. But I can help you to make some new choices. Maybe you have never known anything different? Maybe this is what is “normal” for you.
(For MANY of our kids it is THEIR normal!”

And then, calmly, reassuringly guide them to a different way.
You can have a cursing book. A BIG FEELINGS book! These are modifications of the “Mom Dad and Me book” for an older kiddo.
Anything you can do to get them to WRITE DOWN how they are feeling or what they are thinking in their head is fantastic and helpful not just for them, but informative for you.
When they start to write in the book, (introduce the concept during a calm family meeting) give praise where praise is due!

If they choose to continue to be verbally abusive, offer more ideas for them to have new coping tools.
You can actually write down a tool list and put it on the wall or door. It can be in their room on the wall by their bed or on the back of the door
that just slammed. ๐Ÿ™‚ There it is… “IDEAS to calm yourself”!
GET a MENTOR if you can; somebody who they can call, that is TRUSTWORTHY and will not cave to their claims of how horrid you are. ๐Ÿ™‚
And somebody who will also offer them the exact same ideas or other ideas for coping with big feelings.

I have to admit, one of the more frustrating things for me personally that I just had to get over, was that our sweetie, in the detention center has been given NOTHING NEW for coping that we had not already offered her. She was however, willing to take that advice from another person that wasn’t us.
As irritating as that was, we are thankful that she is now USING THE TOOLS to help her stay calm and focused.
And that IS OUR GOAL….in the end, OUR GOAL IS RELATIONSHIP!

If you can picture yourself as a light house, stable and calm during a hurricane, that is what our children need. You can shine the light to them, but you also must remain steadfast and steady.
Don’t change things to fit the rage…..( as in, if you don’t let me do what I want, I’ll be abusive and disrupt family life)
Be calm and when the rage calms, you are still there.

Some of the tools offered to our daughter included finding a quiet place to go to outside. She had a favorite area ( we have one acre) To go for a walk, to ride her bike, To take a shower, to read, to write, to listen to music, to spend 30 minutes of the computer,
to take deep breaths WITH ME, to go for a drive and get a coke,
etc.
These are not magical things, but they calm the brain and get us into a different part of the brain when we are stuck in a negative feedback loop.
Get out of the loop!

AND THEN…. your real work is when they are settled and calm.
Do NOT harbor anger.. DO NOT allow yourself to be vindictive.
PRACTICE kind words, loving affirmation, compassion, peacefulness etc.

As your child opens up to you about the past, listen…. help them grieve, and then, help them see the big bright future ahead.

I once told our daughter, if we drive a car looking in the rear view mirror, we will crash and never get down the lovely road to see the beauty that lies ahead.

It has been 5 1/2 years with her, and she is finally starting to see things in a different light.

Have we shed tears of sorrow? Yes. Has it been hard? YES.
Have there been times of felling hopeless? YES.
Do we feel hope now? YES.
Because in all of it, we have to have a future focus.
If your child NEVER gets better….. it won’t be because you didn’t give it your all.
And if we as parents don’t give it our all, how will they learn to trust?

THIS DOES NOT MEAN you tolerate abuse. I’m not saying that.
It means that abuse can happen, and HOW YOU HANDLE that can lead them to a different direction in life, or not.
It may not even happen on your watch. They may not see it until they are in their 20’s or 30’s…. or they will see it now.
But they WILL see eventually.

If you are in a dangerous situation, as we unfortunately were, then as Karyn Purvis recommends, as well as Heather Forbes, you may need extra outside helps, including law enforcement.
I remember being in shock when we had to resort to that, feeling as if we had totally failed. I was wrong.
It has been the best thing for our daughter. You are not allowed to threaten to kill people. You are not allowed to pull a knife.
These things are beyond dangerous.
So, when the behavior crosses the line into criminal activity, then there are civil laws that must be followed too in order to protect the family.
This is NOT GIVING UP….. BE there.. love them through the process. If they wind up in detention as our daughter has, BE THERE to visit, love, accept, guide,
and listen. And be the authority that they need.
Not authoritarian…. overbearing, but that lighthouse…. “Over here! Remember! You cannot go there. It isn’t safe.” NO “I told you so’s needed”. ๐Ÿ™‚

Love Never Fails.

Changing Faulty Thinking

There are so many layers to trauma, neglect, abuse, FAS, PTSD, Borderline, it is amazing how thinking can be so off that you almost can’t figure out how to address it. Almost. ๐Ÿ™‚

The other day we had a GREAT visit with Sweetie 4. She seems to be moving in a direction that has all of us cheering her on. Her counselor, whom she sees several times a week and is on call for her was on vacation, and we went to take our grand daughter back to NM, so there were a few days where none of us were there. She handled it well! She didn’t sabotage when we all came back and we all breathed a deep sigh of relief.

YAY Sweetie 4!

During counseling, she was talking about facing her fears, and one of the things she really wants to do is to watch some of the old horror movies she was exposed to in Russia. She believes by watching them now, it will help her to put them into perspective and not have them haunt her as they do now.
A good example of this, is that for years she has been terrified to go into the attic because “The scary lady might be in there.”
“What scary lady?”
“The one from the movie we watched in the orphanage!”
She believes by watching some of these movies again, as an older teen, with her family, she can conquer that fear.

For those of you who do not know, it is not uncommon for orphanage workers to expose the children to extreme violence and horror to keep them in bed at night.
Their systematic frightening of our children is nothing short of child abuse, and our children suffer LONG after they have left the orphanage system.
Yeah, so take away their family, any hint of a nurturing loving parent, make them fall asleep alone, without comfort and don’t forget to add some HORROR to that; all at the age of 7 and many times YOUNGER. ๐Ÿ™

I am horrified of the thought of her seeing it again, (no pun intended) but maybe it might help. I’m hoping maybe instead, watching how a movie is made and how they use special effects etc. will be enough.

We had the discussion during counseling and all was positive and good.
THEN… it was time for visitation.

During visitation we had a good visit, but then came the twisted thinking.
“If I experience my past abuse, maybe I won’t be afraid of it anymore!”
YIKES!

NO! SWEETIE! NO!

There is a huge difference between a fictitious scary movie and child abuse that is REAL!
To think that she can over come her fear of abuse by being abused again is
gut wrenchingly sad for us as her parents.
We want her to long for nurture and proper affection. NOT ABUSE!
We want her to come to us when she is afraid, and be comforted and made to feel safe.
She STILL has askewed thinking that SHE must conquer all these things on her own; and that she is truly ALONE. She is saying things about trust and learning to depend upon us to help guide her, but I’m not convinced she is there yet in her deep thinking. Instead her thought process tells us that she may STILL yet put herself into dangerous situations. For now, she is in a safe place; a detention center. But when she gets out, she won’t be. She will be back into the free world again, and that is scary for me as her mom.
I DO realize this time is coming and we cannot keep her where she is until she is older. We have limited time. So we know that there is much work to do before that release date comes!

We immediately wrote to her counselor when we got home so she can address the differences between real and fiction and help her know that going through abuse now OR a long time ago would be equally scary because it IS scary and dangerous!

Oh how we yearn for her long term healing and look forward to her having a healthy self image, and a healthy view on what is real and what is fiction.

We have a ways to go, but we WILL get there! ๐Ÿ™‚

An Aha Moment again…..

Over the last several years, we have been learning more and more about what abuse and neglect does to the brain. It changes it.

I have written long ago about chaos being normal and normal seeming like chaos to the newly adopted child, and that IS true.
It is our job as parents to flip that around and help them to see that normal, boring, mundane family life IS the norm and all that horrid chaos of abuse they endured over the years is NOT normal.

But what about when that chaos is so ingrained in them on so many levels? What about when you peel back the layers of the onion of life, the layers never seem to end. You delve deeper and deeper to the core, and at the heart of the onion is not FEAR but true darkness. It is a darkness caused by a parentless void, no direction, no instruction, no love, no grace, no solid foundation; it is nothingness where one did as one pleased or had others do to them as they pleased at the core, the VERY CORE, is emptiness. It is a belief system of emptiness. It is a system that says “You are not lovable. You are worthless. You are bad. You have no hope.”

The FEAR comes, not from the skeletons of the past revealed, but from the changing of the core belief system.
“You ARE lovable!” FEAR…. YOU ARE VALUABLE! FEAR…. YOU ARE GOOD! FEAR….
YOU DO HAVE HOPE!….F..E..A..R!!!!!

When sweetie came to us with the big smile, we had NO IDEA the depths she had been through. We THOUGHT we did. We didn’t and neither did her first or second families.
If I have learned anything through being an adoptive parent, or even an adult in this world, it is that the more I learn, the more I realize I do NOT know.
And the more I learn, the more I cling, RUN, CLEAVE to the Savior, because It.IS. SCARY!

So, a couple of years ago when Sweetie 4 realized that what had been done to her was WRONG, not normal, it rocked her world. She was starting to feel safe, but it was too much to accept. EVERYTHING from her old life had been challenged. And now, the most personal of relationships, she found to be abnormal.

IT was too much. Her eyes were opened to the possibility that she was going to have to see things very differently.
And she fell apart.
Honestly, we have written before about this, but we NEVER have seen somebody unravel to the core so fast as she did. It was almost over night. We were making huge progress and it was like tumbling down the rabbit hole to despair.
And we have been there for a little while.

We have taken the bath in the pool of despair, we have rolled in the mud of humiliation, and we have been to some very dark places. But a light is shining.
There is a huge bright light of hope shining.

As Mike and I are learning to deal with mental illness and trauma, in a new way, we feel more empowered to meet Sweetie 4’s needs. Our journey is different, as all journeys are.
This one has taken us to Mars. ๐Ÿ™‚ But since we are there, it is time to enjoy what Mars brings. It isn’t where we planned to be. But you know what? There is LIFE on Mars. ๐Ÿ™‚

If you are going through your own journey, you will need to pack some very important things in your luggage, and you will also need to lighten your load a bit because Mars is REALLY HARD to navigate.

Things to remove:
Isolationism
Judgmentalism
Preconceived notions
Harshness
Anger
Blame
Guilt
Enablement

Things to ADD:

Love
Friends who understand
Compassion
Understanding
Patience
Boundaries

It is also important to find those who have walked before you, or can walk beside you as you navigate the future.
Our children need us, even when they say they don’t.
They WANT us, even when they say they don’t.
They crave our love and acceptance. They CRAVE that we understand them without words.
Sometimes on Mars there are no words.

I was talking to a counselor recently and told her that the only thing I could compare Sweetie 4’s life to would be if aliens came to Earth and told us that everything we ever believed about life here on Earth was primitive and backwards.
There are galaxies out there with advanced civilizations and all of them are communicating and getting along. It is Earth that is way behind.
It would ROCK.MY.WORLD.

That is what it has been like for Sweetie 4. But she is slowly but surely letting go of her fears… and the lies she has believed.

Yes, there is light…. and at the end of that tunnel?
We will be there.

A Mountain Moving Experience

It has been a while since I wrote an update. So much has happened and oh my goodness!
MOUNTAINS HAVE BEEN MOVED!

What does that mean? “Mountains have been moved?”
It means what seemed IMPOSSIBLE….

Happened. ๐Ÿ™‚

As many of you know, Sweetie 4 has been home 5 years and 4 months and 20 days; not that I am counting. ๐Ÿ™‚
When she was first home, and she discovered where Oklahoma was in relation to Texas, after a geography lesson,
she said, “We need to go and see my brother and sister NOW!” “I will break the door down!”

DOWN GIRL! It doesn’t work that way!
So what can we do? We can pray and ask the one who can MOVE MOUNTAINS!
And when HE MOVES that mountain, it will be in HIS TIME, not ours!
And we prayed. Again and again and again and again.

Year after year went by, and she felt hopeless.
We encouraged her to trust.
And soon, she was reunited with her sister.
That was an awesome time, and we have all maintained an ongoing relationship.
Sweetie was in her sister’s wedding 2 years ago and we have spent time together for holidays
and birthdays.

But there was another sibling that was very important to her.
And he was not in contact.

As she began to fall apart over the last two years, this had been an ongoing theme.
And now, she is in detention.

But this week, a mountain was moved. In God’s perfect timing, in HIS will, because HE DOES
LOVE to do GOOD for HIS children, there was a text message.
“Can we all come down for a visit?”

Now mind you, the visits are 30 minutes. So there would be a 5 hour drive, spend the night, get up at
6:00 a.m., visit behind glass for 30 minutes and then a five hour drive home.

THAT COULD HAVE BEEN IT!
BUT GOD

We wrote to the counselor explaining the situation… and within an hour
arrangements were made for a “FAMILY SESSION” WITH the counselor and then a TWO HOUR
visit, face to face. No glass, no phones… FACE TO FACE!

MOUNTAINS MOVED!

We were delighted to be a part of this. I wish we could have seen her face.
But we were told there were squeals of joy, and a lot of emotion, catching up,
talking about things like “do you remember that house?” etc.

My heart is full of joy. I am so proud of these 3 siblings who have been through the unspeakable.
I have great hope in my heart for Sweetie 4.

God Answers Prayer
And Mountains are MOVED!

BE!

Pacific ocean waves crash the rocky beach coast by the Pigeon Point lighthouse in California by the Cabrillo highway US 1. It is California's most-photographed light house and the tallest one on the Pacific Coast

Pacific ocean waves crash the rocky beach coast by the Pigeon Point lighthouse in California by the Cabrillo highway US 1. It is California’s most-photographed light house and the tallest one on the Pacific Coast

Be a rock today! Be a lighthouse today! Beย immovable in love and compassion towards those who need it most. They are usually the ones who present themselves as being unlovable. But when those waves of fear, control, anger and resentment, come crashing up against you… know that you are the solid rock they need in the moment, and the light you shine, will guide them safely to the shore of peace.
CM

Progress? I Think So. :)

Last night we had a counseling session at the detention center with Sweetie 4.ย  We all knew 1 week in advance what this session was going to be about.ย  Mike and I talked all week about what we might say or what she might say and as we were on our way to go to the session we both looked at each other and said, “It may go well, it might not.ย  There is really no way to know!”

And with that, we walked in.ย  The counselor spoke with us briefly before going in, asking us our thoughts and offering her much needed advice.
We all agreed Sweetie 4 needs to know we love and support her.

And that was the attitude we went in with.
When we entered, I could see right away the wild look in her eyes.
It was a look of panic.ย  It was a look of fear.
I could see a very scared child, once again in a position of loss. Hopeless loss.ย  So she thought.

She was pretty riled up, and fiesty, saying some not so nice things.
“You are only acting this way in front of the counselor so you can make yourselves look good!”
ouch….
Bounced right off.
I had that “I’m rubber mantra… going in my head”
We had to let it bounce off.

And she said, “I know you have lots of questions, “Ask me!”
We did have a few questions, but not the ones she expected.
And then, we affirmed our love for her.
She cried.
She was ashamed.
And then she was MAD!
The counselor asked her, “Why are you mad, things turned out well!”
She answered, “I can’t say.ย  I don’t know.”

I offered….
“I think she expected that we were going to talk, she would tell us things, there would be a blow up, we would get mad, she would cut off the relationship, move in with her sister and all would be happily ever after.”

Sweetie confirmed that was exactly what she was thinking.

Oh no! Sweetie4! You have parents who love you. We are still here!
She was frustrated, but at the same time, the wild look in her eyes
went away, she calmed down and we were then able to rub her back and she accepted our affection for her.

We gave her big hugs when it was over, and went on to visitation.
During visitation she was great. All that wall she had put up was gone.
How did we get here?ย  We have been working on trust for aย  LONG LONG time.ย  She is going to have to take the dive into the trust pool.
And it just has not happened yet.
I looked at some old posts and thought about it taking a year or two years.ย  But five years? And we still aren’t there yet.

The Lord will give us the energy we need to continue.
Even though last night was sad…. it was productive.
It was sad because she still thinks she can’t live in a family.
It was productive because she experienced unconditional love.
Pressing on.

Defeating Shame

Defeating SHAMEย  written in 2011

Another BCLC Moment, brought to you……. ๐Ÿ™‚

Sweetie 2 and 4ย  Skating by the Shoppe ๐Ÿ™‚
If you understand the concepts behind BCLC (Beyond Consequences Logic and Control) you will know that being in a place ofย  FEAR_brings aboutย  shame.ย  A childย  can get angry or sullen or shut down.ย  They may act angry or say something short and stomp off or not accept an apology from a sibling.ย  And then, they are overcome by SHAME, because it is very obvious they FAILED…… and for some children, who are not secure, not safe, and have not practiced using their life tools enough, FAILURE is inevitable and therefore SHAME overpowers them.

We have seen a few stomp offs to the room to pout. (aka shut down)ย  And as we are getting to understand each other better and read body language better, it was obvious that our sweetie was not angry, but she was ashamed of herself.ย  She had not controlled herself like she COULD have, and in turn became defensive and hurt refused to accept an apology…..

The look on her face was Scared, Worried and Ashamed….. I walked into the room and saw a sweet sweet child contemplating her future as she lay on the bed…..There were no tears, because she has had to remain strong throughout her ENTIRE life.
(there is much to say about this later, not now)

A child who is laying on a bed and not crying in sorrow, is typically seen as rebellious, or defiant…..
She was neither.

I asked her if I could lay next to her and actually got a yes….. ๐Ÿ™‚ Horray!
I told her she didn’t have to say anything, but could she just shake her head yes or no? She said Yes, with a head shake…. ๐Ÿ™‚

Are you worried? yes
Are you angry? no
Are you sad? yes
Do you feel sad that you didn’t accept an apology? yes
Do you want to make things better? yes
Are you worried about whether you get to stay? yes
Do you think we might send you away? yes

This is a little girl who was laying there determining her future all by herself, wondering if yet again she would get sent away….. My heart broke for her.

So I talked to her about normal families….. What is a NORMAL family?ย  People are human, just like you! They get bossy, just like you! They get sad, mad, happy, joyful, just like you!
And when they don’t agree, they apologize and forgive! They don’t worry about leaving their family!
They are SAFE!
Safe is an important word around here.ย  Safe means exactly that, SAFE! SAFE to FEEL, SAFE to be HONEST, SAFE to LOVE, SAFE to be angry….BUT….. ALSO: SAFE TO BE VULNERABLE, SAFE TO BE HUMBLE, SAFE TO BE LOVING, SAFE TO BE FORGIVING!ย  You will NOT be REJECTED!

Why am I typing in all Caps! Because I am so HAPPY! I am happy toย  tell you that our little sweetie responded so very well to that. She responded with tears and hugs and as I told her that she was safe and secure and didn’t need to be ashamed, she latched on and said, “I love you mommy”, over and over again.ย  And then came the “I love my sisters, I love daddy, I love ……”ย  ๐Ÿ™‚

And then, she said, “You are bossy too!” I said, yes, “sometimes I am..”..ย  She said, “what is bossy?”ย  I told her it is when you try to tell others what to do in a way that isn’t as polite as you could be!ย  She got this shocked look and said, “Oh, you are not bossy!”ย  LOLย  I said, actually sometimes I am….but I do try not to be.
We both had a good laugh.

She is starting to understand the concept of permanence and real functional family, yet she has just been here a month.ย  I’m sure it will be more real to her in a a year, or two years or 5 years….. right now, it is a new concept. And just like learning a new math concept, for me anyway, it is learn, repeat, repeat, repeat until I get it. I never get it the first time. ๐Ÿ™‚

While we were on the bed, I asked her if she would repeat these words before we got up:
“I am loved! I DESERVE to be loved!ย  The first part was easier than the second part.ย  When she got through the second part, there were little tears. But they were not tears of sorrow, but of relief, peace and joy.
I also made sure she understood that her standing in the family was that she was a vital part of family, just as if she had always been here. I let her know, she is just as important and loved as all 8 of our children.ย  Just because she is the newest, doesn’t mean she isn’t just as valuable as everybody else.
She is, and mommy and daddy will do our VERY best to be FAIR and LOVING!ย  Her ideas and opinion DO matter…. ๐Ÿ™‚

When we were finished with our talk, I suggested that she apologize for hurting another little girlies feelings…. by not forgiving.ย  She got up and went right to task!ย  And we had a wonderful evening last night…. (We actually have had a great week)
I am so proud of my brave girl!ย  I cannot imagine having to relearn everything you thought was true about yourself.
The things she thought about herself were so sad…. and now, when I say, “You are smart, you are sweet, you are lovely, you are beautiful, you are nice, you are loving, you are kind, you are amazing!
Instead of a shrug, she smiles. ๐Ÿ™‚

A Not So BCLC Moment

Originally Written in June 2011

We can turn our personal failures into successes

A NOT so BCLC Moment: courtesy of ME! Turned into a BCLC moment…. in the end.

Today started out as a great day. Everything was going well… Sweetie 4ย  was very excited about her treasures from the Euro Deli and said some really sweet things.

Then….all of a sudden…. there was complaining, there was arguing, there was demanding, and it went on and on and on and on……
There was the story cd in the bedroom she insisted she didn’t want to hear because it distracted her from playing. Her sisters did want to hear the story.ย  When I went into the room to check, she had brought a BOX of dirt into the bedroom to make a “habitat” for her fake frog, onto the white carpet.ย  LOL

I very nicely told her to please take the dirt outside, we cannot have dirt in the house like that. She pointed out that I have plants with dirt in them all over! “So Why Can’t I?”ย  I told her it wouldn’t be fair to the old vacuum cleaner. ย  She then proceeded to pout and pout and argue and argue…. and I was not budging. “Go take your dirt outside. The frog habitat will have to stay outside.”

And then, it was time for chores.ย  She complained about doing her part and how she always has to do more and that it isn’t fun and that she is tired and how everybody leaves everything everywhere on purpose and…. and…. and……

I also had to purchase crutches for Sweetie 2. She is having trouble with her leg and can’t wear a prosthetic right now. Sweetie 4 asked to play with the crutches. I said, yes, but if Sweetie 2 needs them, she must give them to her.
When Sweetie 2 needed them, she said, “She doesn’t really need them….” So , I had to take them away for good while Sweetie 2ย  was needing them.
After several hours….

Mama, blew it.ย  Her voice was getting louder and I got louder…. and I said, STOP!!!! NOW!!!! STOP IT!
AND SHE SAID, “I don’t like it that you raised your voice!”
I said, “I don’t like it that you have been raising your voice all day!”
And she said, “NO! NOT ALL DAY! I played with Sweetie 2 for aboutย  10 minutes and we went to the store! THAT IS NOT ALL DAY!”
And I said, “Since Noon! It is now 4:00!”
She said,
“Well, just because I raised my voice doesn’t mean you should!” Hello!

And then….. I said, “YOU ARE RIGHT…. I SHOULDN’T AND I DID!”
And You are WRONG! You shouldn’t EVER raise your voice to mama!

And so, we went to the rocking chair and started over. WHEW!

So, since she has had so many opinions on my parenting today, I made her the parent and I became her.
I did my best to act like her, sound like her and do all the famous facial movements…..She watched with amusement and when it was her turn to instruct me, she blurted out….. “I have NO IDEA WHAT TO SAY! I’m just a kid! I don’t want to be the mom!” LOL

Yes, she takes her role play seriously. ๐Ÿ™‚

We then had a talk about trust. And I was able to tell her how much I love her.ย  After that we snuggled for a while and we came up with some ideas on how to get out of the bad habits she has formed over all the years.

We talked about how hard it is, because it IS a habit.ย  She responded well to Bananas, but today I didn’t do it.ย  She has responded very well to prayer and breathing… but today, I didn’t do that either.
So when the right time came, I told her that I KNOW she CAN do it! She can do VERY WELL, and I also know it is hard work…. just like it is for me to be a mom.ย  Just like she couldn’t think of one thing to tell me when she was pretending to be me…. sometimes it is just that hard for me to be a mom too.

I want so much to help her see that there are some destructive behaviors that she MUST rule over!
“If you want to control something, control your temper!” LOL

I guess today was a 2 steps back day. ๐Ÿ™‚ย  I know she is feeling anxious about me taking Sweetie 3 and Sweetie 2ย  to camp on Monday, and that will be the first time we have been separated.
Daddy is making plans for a fun filled week for Himself, Sweetie 1 and Sweetie 4.

Somehow, I think everything will be ok, in spite of my personal failure today.
And since about 5:00, she has been a perfect little angel. It is now 9:20! ๐Ÿ™‚

Glad we finished this day off like it started. ๐Ÿ™‚

Sweetie 3 is Blooming

My goodness! Sweetie 3 is about to turn 18. We attended her college scholarship acceptance ceremony on Friday. It was wonderful! ย The folks at Texas Scottish Rite Hospital are just amazing. ย She was paired with a group of ladies who will encourage her throughout her college years and follow her until she graduates. ๐Ÿ™‚
We sat at a table with them at the luncheon and they were just precious, and VERY excited to participate with Sweetie 3.

When we arrived home, she opened her email and had been granted a second scholarship from another source; The college she has been attending for dual credit! They offered her a full scholarship also!
She will have to turn it down, because she already has one.
WOW…. She applied for 2 and expected nothing. Instead she received 2! ย ๐Ÿ™‚

We went to the Dr. today for a regular check up. I was joking with her that this is the last time I can “force” her to the doctor as she will be an adult soon. ย  I’m SO glad we went.
We now have a new Dr. appt on Friday to find out about scoliosis treatment.
Life goes on!

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