Empowered To Connect

We just spent the day at the “Empowered To Connect” conference.  It is Awesome!!!!!!!
If you have the chance to attend, it is soooo worth it!

September 16th update:
We got home late Saturday night after spending the weekend at the Empowered to Connect conference.  If you have not heard Karyn Purvis speak, you MUST!
Please consider attending a conference, even if it is out of state.  The cost of the conference is minimal, and there are good deals on flights. It would be cheaper than a sign up therapy session…. and most likely, MUCH MORE HELPFUL!

One of the lessons that really stuck out to me was about what their FOCUS is.
She drew a triangle upside down, and one right side up.
She wrote in one:
Connecting Principles

Empowering Principles

Correcting Principles

Draw the triangle….  The wider part of the triangle should be on CONNECTING principles…….NOT Correcting.  If you are going to therapy where the focus is on fixing the child, or focuses on “correcting”…. find somebody else.

The focus should be on CONNECTING in order to change a child’s belief about who they are.
A child who is full of shame, needs to change their belief system.  When you connect with them, the behaviors begin to change.
We have found this to be true in our own family.

Work hard to focus on relationship and connect.



I refuse to call “Disruption” Rehoming.
I have been asked to write a post on this because of the breaking news series from Reuters and NBC that came out this week.  You can see it here.
Before you read this post… Please read and watch the links.

So here goes:

We were introduced to Adoption Dissolution/Disruption in 2004.  Our Sweetie 2 was brought home from Ukraine by a different family in 2003.
Apparently, even when in Ukraine, the potential mother did not want her.
They brought her home anyway.  And I am GLAD they did.

I know that sounds odd.  I am not happy about what happened under their roof.
It was pretty horrific.  But I am so glad they brought her home, because that is how we were introduced into the world of International Adoption, and  Adoption through disruption.

Our Sweetie 1 was begging for a sister and praying for a sister.  We had told her, “If God drops a sister in your lap, you’ll get a sister. But we are NOT sister shopping! 🙂

About 6 months after she started praying, an email showed up about a little girl who needed a home. Our social worker, who handled our first adoption’s name was at the top of that email.
She was from Ukraine, and it mentioned several physical issues our sweetie had.
“Missing leg. Missing fingers”, “Clubbed foot”…. and more.

There were even pictures sent that displayed her disabilities.
I was so saddened by those pictures, because all I saw was a precious, sweet little girl with a BEAUTIFUL smile!
We emailed our social worker and she called us…. “I already had you in mind!”
FIVE days later…. our sweetie 2 was in our home.
Her Original Agency was involved. They spoke with us, and our social worker was involved too. But the adoptive family had to make that final decision.

That decision resulted in us referring to Sweetie 2 and “Our Happy Meal Prize”.
We actually picked her up at a McDonald’s …..Sweetie 1 and 2 actually made friends in the play land and were quite excited to find out they were going to be sisters.
ZERO tears were shed when she came home. That sort of worried me.
3 days later, the family asked to come and visit one more time.
When Sweetie 2 found out they were coming, she broke into huge sobs….
“PLEASE DON’T LET THEM TAKE ME BACK!”  (this was from a 5 year old!)And she peed herself. 🙁
We found out more, over the years, what her life was like in her first home. 🙁
Our sweetie 2 did REALLY well in our home. We have never had a problem with her.
We only had to help her overcome her fears and past abuse and neglect.
But…. BECAUSE she came into our home, she told us about the VERY BEST FRIEND she left in Ukraine.  This resulted in a series of events that caused us to go to Ukraine and get her best friend. 🙂
They are now precious sisters, forever united. 🙂
So Sweeties 1,2 and 3 were together for 5 years….. and then…….

Fast forward to 2 1/2 years ago.

We received a phone call about a little girl who needed a home.  An agency that our social worker did home studies for was looking for a permanent home for a little girl who had been disrupted.  It was more complicated than that though.
She was from Russia and the original family had allowed her to leave with a family that was not approved.
For nearly 5 months the agency tried to get her from that home. It was an awful situation.
We were waiting as they worked through legal channels to rescue her.
The 2nd family, was threatening to leave her or abandon her.  It was AWFUL to read the emails, and we felt helpless.
We figured the situation was hopeless and were even told, it wouldn’t happen.
But our Sweetie 1 had prayed and said she was SURE it would work.

A few months passed and we got a call.  “Remember that little girl we were talking about?”
Yes. (how could I forget)

“Are you still inetersted?”

You need to be in North Carolina TOMORROW!

I froze.  I couldn’t think.  We knew the situation would be hard.
But we also felt it was RIGHT. EVERYBODY was in agreement!
Our homestudy was updated, we went to the doctor, got all the documents needed, back ground checks redone, and I headed to NC on a plane.

I was shaking when I got there, not knowing what to expect.
I rented a car and headed to the attorney’s office.  When I turned on the radio, the song playing was “It Is Well! With my Soul!”
I knew instantly things would be ok.
The attorney and I drove quite a ways to meet this family that was giving our sweetie back.
We asked them to join us for dinner, but they refused.
Sweetie 4 is our “Walmart” girl. 🙁
They chunked her luggage into my car and left her.
I introduced my self to her and told her “I’m here to keep you safe.”
Before they left, the woman said something odd. “Don’t forget to Do you stuff!”

I picked up on the oddity of that statement.

3 days later, Sweetie 4 told me what that meant.
Kick, hit, scream, bite, pinch, and generally act awful.
She said she didn’t want to, because I was nice.  🙁

We had to stay in NC for 2 weeks for proper ICPC paperwork to go through between NC and Texas.
Our adoption petition was filed before we left the state.
3 months later, the adoption was finalized!

Adoption Disruption happens.  Sometimes people are not equipped to take care of a child and thought they could.  Sometimes, the child’s behaviors are extreme and they are not prepared.
I hope and pray that this site helps parents to navigate through the transition phase of adoption to JOYFUL parenting and family life!

I believe that the series that I linked to above was poorly done.   It seemed to focus on a  predator and how easy it is for a child from adoption to become a victim.
It also seemed to use cases that were extreme, calling a child a pig, or saying they had big ears or learning disabilities.
I would say that one of our girls was given away because of her disabilities. 🙁  That hurts so much to say it, but it is TRUE….
The other family however, most likely had good intentions but our daughter was just too much for them and they could not handle her.

Adoption Education is of UTMOST importance to STOP disruptions.  People need to be willing to CHANGE how they see their kids!
They need to learn and educate themselves on HOW HARD it is for kids to come over from foreign countries and learn a new culture, language, and life.
They need to educate themselves on LOSS.
For every adoption, there had to be an abandonment or trauma!

If you are a potential adoptive parent, PLEASE KNOW that ALL children who are adopted, are SPECIAL NEEDS children.  Physical issues can be “fixed” to a degree…..that is what is referred to as “minor correctable issues”……. but the emotional scars from pure NEGLECT and ABUSE exist!  They are there for the MAJORITY of children brought home. PREPARE FOR THEM and if you are not willing to parent a child with special needs, please do not adopt.  Help somebody else adopt!

Adoption Disruption is like the “Wild West” of adoption.  There are no clear rules.
This needs to STOP!
Agencies must REQUIRE that people notify them if they are struggling or even remotely considering disrupting!
They also need to be involved in helping find a proper home for a child who is  sadly, unwanted, or for a family that is just overwhelmed and things are hopelessly broken.

Not all disruptions are the same.  There are reasons.
But Disruption should be a VERY LAST RESORT and ALWAYS in the VERY BEST INTEREST of the CHILD!

I am SO thankful for our beautiful sweeties who came to us in such an unusual way.
We love them both dearly!
And they are PRECIOUS girls. 🙂


The Tool Box

When our first Sweetie came home to us in 2003,  she had many puzzling behaviors.  We had taken several weeks of training that was very good!  We had started to read books  to help us understand how to parent her,  yet, there was much we needed to learn and much she needed to learn.
I always saw the books and training as my “tools” to help me parent her.
One day, as we were having a conversation, it dawned on me that she didn’t have tools herself! She needed tools to help her control her behaviors.

I took her out to our Auto Shoppe and showed her daddy’s tool box.  We looked at all the tools in his tool boxes and talked about what they were for.
She seemed to be really engaged in our conversation and excited to talk about the tools.

We then went into the house and I explained to her that she needed a tool box too!
But HER tool box was going to be “pretend”. She was delighted!
She liked to play pretend, having 2 imaginary friends, “Holly” and “Sister Nuthin'”. 🙂
So it wasn’t too big of a stretch for her to have a pretend tool box.

What we did was pretend that the tool box was in her head.  She would take her hand and unlock her “tool box” and open the fake lid.  Then, we put “tools” into it.

The first one was “The Self Control” tool.
Then we added a “speak softly” tool, and a “tell the truth” tool.
We added them as needed.
NOTICE they are all positive tools.  Not don’ts but do’s.
Instead of “stop lying” or “no lying”, it is “tell the truth”.
It was always a deal to unlock the tool box and put the tool in.

She loved it!

A typical scenario would go like this:
Sweetie would get dysregulated or telling an obvious lie, and I would say, “Let’s unlock our tool box and get our ‘tell the truth’ tool out!”
She’d would stop what she was doing and actually use the tool!  It was amazing! LOL

I had tools she gave me too!  She loved opening my tool box. 🙂

One day, we had had a particularly difficult morning doing school work.  She was just not willing and was playing a lot of games….
I finally told her, “Sweetie, you need to use your tools!”
Her reply was, “I can’t.  It’s locked and I cannot find the key!”

To which I replied….. “Well mine is locked too and somebody better find a key fast!”

We have used the tool box concept with all of our girls and it has graduated with age.
Sweetie 4 likes using the magic moustache where she presses on her upper lip, and deep breathing with mom.
She still responds very well to using tools.
I told one of my friends about the tool box method and she had her son make a real toolbox with real cards with the tools written out to choose from. 🙂
We never did that, but I can see how it could be fun and productive!

The best thing about the tool box is it distracts in a positive way and sort of recalibrates the brain to do something different!
So if you are stuck in a rut, get out the “change the scenery” tool! 🙂

It really works!

Angry Episodes and Impulse Control Issues

This post was written in June/13
One reader asked :

“How do you coach a child through an angry episode?”  And, “How do you deal with impulse control issues.”

For both of those…. “VERY CAREFULLY!”

When a child is angry and has impulse control issues, things can become quite volatile quickly! The best thing you can do is have a tool box ready for you and for your child that has ample tools to choose from!  The tool box has been the best thing we have ever used and we have been using it for nearly 10 years when our first daughter came home.

The key is teaching them to use tools when they are calm to prepare them for when they become dysregulated.

One of Sweetie 4’s  favorites is the “magic mustache”, and “deep breathing with mom”.  With the magic mustache, you press between your upper lip and nose and it has a calming effect on the brain.  Deep breathing can put you in rhythm together and gets extra oxygen to the brain to help a person calm down.

We had a bit of an interesting week over here with the perfect storm happening that I blogged about several days ago.  Things have calmed, but it was not an easy time for any of us.

Children from Trauma backgrounds can get stuck, or in a rut, and sometimes it is hard to help them out of that place.

If we don’t carefully differentiate between focusing on behavior, vs. helping a child through a crisis, it can be nearly impossible to help our children out of dysregulation.  It is easy to forget this. It is also costly. A child as well as a parent can get stuck in what is called, “A negative feedback loop”.  Negativity feeding off of itself will not bring about regulation, ever.

I learned a few things in the last 2 weeks, that I would like to share.

Communication problems become even more complex when a child is dysregulated.  If English is not a first language and communication seems ok when regulated, this will not be the case when they are dysregulated. All complex thinking goes out the window!  Even for children who are native English speakers, dysregulation causes a shut down when using words to communicate.

Last week, Sweetie 4 said,  “All I’m hearing is blah, blah, blah!”

While disrespectful, there was a message in there for me to pay attention to….

And I didn’t.

Instead, I focused on the disrespect, (which DOES need to be dealt with in the right time)  but I focused on it, using more words! Duh

I was focusing on the behavior and not the child.  This is the hardest concept of all, in my opinion to understand.  If we zero in on the behavior, we are looking at a “symptom” and not a “root”.

Our kids know that they have struggles.  They understand that they are out of line.  They really don’t need us to point that out to them.

Many times they are so filled with shame,  having somebody point out an obvious wrong, tips the already full, bucket over.

So the dysregulated child who already told me I was using too many words,  shut down!

It wasn’t until my sweet husband said, “You are talking too much.”  “Keep it simple.” He was right.

I was being kind, I was being gentle, and I was talking too much which was causing her more frustration. I was also focusing on a behavior and not what was behind the behavior.

I love it that my husband  and I can be a team together.  Sometimes he can point out the obvious that I don’t see, being in the moment all the time.

I needed a fresh perspective, and my dear husband was able to provide that for me.


I was reminded of the scene from Amadeus where the core conductor criticizes Mozart’s music saying it had “too many notes”.

For me, instead of “Too Many Notes”, it was “Too many words!” 🙂

Rubbing a person’s back and simply being present, is helpful. Waiting for a child to calm themselves and then just sitting with them can help them be calm faster.

There is always time to talk when you are not “in the moment”.


Our youngest daughter does have impulse control issues when she is dysregulated.  It takes time to work through them. She has been home just 2 years, but has made great strides in this area.

When I see her headed to dysregulation, getting her focused on art work seems to be the most calming for her, or just being present.   But being present does not necessarily mean holding or touching.  Just being in the same room.  I have learned to read her body language pretty well and can tell when she is ready to snuggle and when she isn’t.


I remember in training with Heather Forbes and  Eric Guy, they talked about a situation where a young man was being restrained by about 6 people in a psychiatric Unit.  Eric was there to see him.

He requested that everybody leave the room and allow him to try something different.

He went into a room where a young man was totally out of control, sat down, but didn’t make eye contact.  The young man stopped, came and sat down near him, and when Eric asked a simple question like, “How are you doing?”  The young man broke into tears and calmed down.

His point was, it doesn’t need to  take 5 people to tackle somebody and force them into compliance.

If a situation escalates into restraining or force, we have gotten off of the boat somewhere and are dealing with more than just the other person’s issue.   And this is something I have
had to learn the hard way.

Those words have resonated with me for the last 4 years since I took that training course.  I wish I would have remembered them last week! LOL

There is a lot of talk about “Mandela’s” right now.  I don’t have a clue why they are called “Mandelas”, but saw a picture of one, and found that the art books we have are very similar to those.   They are complicated designs that the girls enjoy coloring.

One book  I have is called “Images: The Ultimate Coloring Experience” by Roger Burrows.  We have several complicated coloring books, not meant for small children.  I really like Burrow’s book though.

I need to get more. 🙂

Just like us, our kids will never stop learning. And I find this to be very encouraging.  Oh how I wish trauma didn’t exist.  But it does, and it is real.  Those of us with children from hard places, live such different lives and realities from typical families.

I have been a mother in both situations, raising 4 boys and now 4 girls.

Trauma doesn’t just go away. It does color a person’s perception of reality.
But that also doesn’t mean it will control them the rest of their lives. They can heal.

Helping them understand ways to cope and move through the stress is a challenge, but so very rewarding when we see them succeed!

Gently, carefully, with great compassion and precision, like a surgeon of the heart, is the kind of parenting  our hurt kids need.

As the children grow and learn, trauma becomes less and less of a trigger, and life skills take over. It is the time in between that can be so hard on parents.

It is important to do our best to take care of ourselves, so we can take care of our children.

I am so thankful for all of the things we have learned through parenting our kids.    I am thankful that our sweetie is back to regulation and love.  She never ceases to amaze me. I have no doubt in my mind that she is going to do wonderful things when she grows up.



Understanding The Fear Factor

Understanding The Fear Factor

I wrote a few days ago about how Sweetie 4 felt safer in the orphanage and frightened in America when she first came home.
There are  valid questions as to why that would be!
How could a seemingly unsafe place without hope and without future seem safer than a loving home WITH a future?

 The village where her orphanage was located was beautiful.  There was a craft room that she loved.

Reactions of fear are all about perspective, the unknown, and change.

Some children transition from one culture to another or  one home to another quite smoothly, and  with minimal bumps.  They have a clear idea of what is “normal”.
Others however have very strong reactions to the change and it terrifies them.  Their “normal” is quite different from what it should be.  Their brains get wired at an early age to cling to chaos.
So when “normal” comes: a.k.a.- Loving parents, good intentioned parents, structure, etc.
The reaction can be quite strong.  There can be a STRONG fight or flight fear reaction that can come out in many different ways.
For some children, they shut down, become robotic, unconnected and lifeless.  For others, they become combative, angry, violent, aggressive, disrespectful, and more.


And yes, a child can long for the chaos left behind, even though they have a seemingly wonderful situation right in front of them. YES! They can be blind to new parents and promising lives, and be TERRIFIED!

As adoptive parents 2 out of 4 of our girls had this very reaction.  Even though we loved them and were loving to them, their first response was rejection and anger.
(Rejection and Anger are FEAR based responses)

This is the part that is hard for all of us as adoptive parents.  We cannot and MUST not take the reactions personally.
Even if a child is screaming “I hate you! or “I want to die!”    With limited English in the case of International Adoption, this might be the strongest language a child has to express their grief!

We must understand that they are reacting to the unknown with great fear . Their new normal is actually CHAOS to them!  And they will do anything and everything to recreate what they are used to.

When I wrote  that sweetie 4 had fond memories of her orphanage, I was serious. She really did. She also has fond, healthy memories of her earliest life with her bio parents.
We have worked HARD for her to talk about both…the good and the bad.
And the truth is, there is no experience that is all good, or all bad!

She has memories that are horrific….but she also has memories where she cooked with her mama, or went to visit a relative.  She has memories of playing under the house, and having a little friend; and memories of following her big brother around and going to the small store in their village.

I want her to cling to those memories and hold them in her heart.  The memories that landed her in an orphanage need to be remembered too, but only so she can forgive and learn what NOT to do!

The same goes for any other home she was in.  There are good and bad memories.
We have encouraged her to keep the good ones and be thankful for them.  Let the bad ones go, forgiving others and forgiving herself.

The trick in taking a child from chaos (fear) to regular life (a place of love and regulation) is in our reactions to their fear.
I say this, and it sounds so simple.  The concept IS simple.  The task of carrying it out is not so simple. 🙂
That is just true.
It can be VERY HARD!
Because it requires us to die to ourselves.  It requires us to put our own feelings aside over, and over and over…..
A perfectly great day can occur and then…. SABOTAGE!    The child forgets their shame for part of the day and then something happens in the brain and they remember…. oh yea…. and they begin to act out.
THAT is the time where we need to be on our guard the most!
We can miss a perfect opportunity for healing, if we over react, or react out of fear ourselves!

I remember one time when we had had a WONDERFUL time and then suddenly one of our girls  began to cry and kick the backs of the seats, throwing a huge fit.  “I hated that time!” “I  hated those people!”  and more….

We had been at a cross roads with this child.  She was beginning to turn from chaos to embrace love.
But this day was just too picture perfect and her shame overcame her.
She didn’t feel she deserved such a good day and tried to recreate the day to fit her view of herself.
“Undeserving”….. “not worthy to be loved”…. “Problem child”!
I would have called her “Much Afraid”.  🙁

Both my husband  and I immediately realized what was happening and quietly responded to her screams.
“You deserved to have fun!”  “You are lovely!”  “You are a great kid!”
As we carried her into the house kicking and screaming, we got her to the rocking chair and I repeated all those things to her, quietly.
She began to go from tantrum to sorrow….
Her screams of anger turned to sobs of sorrow.
She wept properly this time, grief pouring from her little heart and we witnessed another piece of her heart healing.

I shudder at what could have happened had we reacted to her tantrum in anger or frustration!  What if we had said, “Stop that right now!”  “You are being terrible!”  “What a bad girl!”  “You are really going to get it when we get home!” “You are going STRAIGHT TO BED!”  and then, we separated from her…. and licked our wounds of pride after her verbal assault?

I honestly KNOW what would have happened, because we HAD reacted that way before with some of those words!
Bitterness would have set in, and the next time would have been worse. We would have reinforced her very thoughts about herself, and solidified in her mind that she deserved to be treated badly.
And yes, she received it as being treated badly.

NO deep healing can really take place if we are “punishment” oriented. We need to always move in the direction of healthy relationship and healthy instruction!

 It is possible that SOME kids might even respond to that type of reaction externally…. but we are looking for INTERNAL healing that shows itself in EXTERNAL and INTERNAL thoughts and behavior!

I do not desire my children to simply obey at my every command.  I want them to obey out of love and desire!  I want them to be motivated by LOVE and proper respect.
But that kind of obedience takes TIME and a whole lot of hard work!

I love the words to the song below.  It is so true for our children who come from hard places!
It is also true for us, if we are open to being changed!

“I Will Change Your Name”

G       C                    D
I will change your name
G                     C               D
You shall no longer be called
G        C       D   Bm    C               D
Wounded, outcast, lonely or afraid
G       C                    D
I will change your name
G                C                  D
Your new name shall be
G        C         C       Bm
Confidence, joyfulness
C      G            D
Overcoming one
G           C        D            Bm
Faithfulness friend of God
C                D              G
One who seeks My face
G        C         C       Bm
Confidence, joyfulness
C       G           D
Overcoming one
G           C        D            Bm
Faithfulness friend of God
C                D              G

One who seeks My face

The Ukrainian Bathroom Saga

The Ukrainian Bathroom Saga

In a previous post<—- link, I wrote about how God uses even our selfishness to bring about His purposes in our lives.  I mentioned that we used McDonald’s for coffee and sometimes a bathroom, but there was a long story behind that.

Here is that story! 🙂

When we picked Sweetie 3 up from the orphanage, she still had her feet.  She was in braces that she could sort of walk in, but it was hard for her and she was in a lot of pain.  She would more like “slide” her feet in what she called “her bricks”.
These braces attached as high as her upper thigh, just below the buttocks.  They had straps and hinges, so you could let the tops down, but they only went to a 90º angle.

Now, many of you who have been to Ukraine, know that public restrooms can consist of a porcelain hole in the ground.  It would be required that a person “squat”….. a position that I certainly have never been used to. LOL
And Miss Sweetie 3, who is unable to bend, hardly at all, CERTAINLY could not attain a position like that!

Back to the story:

We were in the Internet Cafe’ near Victory Square.  It is upstairs and there was no elevator.  The handicapped are pretty much UNSEEN in this country. They are neatly tucked away in institutions out of the sight, minds and hearts of this nation. 🙁

We carried Sweetie 3 upstairs with us and were enjoying writing to our relatives, when Erika got this look on her face and said, “Toilet”!  I’m really glad “Toilet” is the same in English and Russian! 🙂
But that look on her face convinced me this was urgent.  We asked her if she could wait, and the answer was “NYET!”
So, I took her to the bathroom at the internet cafe’.  It was a hole in the ground.  I struggled to try and help her over that hole but there was no way! And she said, “TOILET!” Even louder!
Ok, Ok!   I’ll get you to a toilet!

So, I got her dressed again, and headed down the stairs with her.  There was a McDonald’s about a Foot Ball field in length away….. I was walking as quickly as possible holding her in my arms.  She was small, but she was a bundle at 45 lbs!
It was so cold, and I was getting out of breath. We had to go up stairs into the McDonalds, and then Down a  flight of stairs to the bathroom…
There was a CODE that had to be typed in at the door, meaning you had to PURCHASE something or you couldn’t use the bathroom, and oh the LINE!
A manager saw me coming back up the stairs and I must have been was terribly out of breath!
I managed to get out…. “TOILET!”
She said it again! “TOILET!”
The manager quickly took us down the stairs and opened the door with the code for us….. Thank YOU Manager!
The door opened to a room FULL OF BEAUTIFUL TALL WOMEN all crowded around the mirror…. there was no room to fit in!
She said, “TOILET!”
It was like the red sea parting…. There was a stall open and we rushed in…..
I quickly got her undressed, coats off, braces pulled down…… and then….. AND THEN…….
There was this, tinkle, tinkle, tinkle….. “Spaciba!”  And a big smile. 🙂
I was thinking, ” for all that effort can’t you produce a little more?”
Nyet! It was just a tiny TINKLE????
So we finished up, and I carried her back up the flight of stairs and we sat on the steps of the McDonald’s so I could catch my breath and not keel over from a heart attack. 🙂
After about 15 minutes, we went back to the Internet Cafe’ and back up the other flight of stairs where Mike was happily typing away to his dad.  LOL
He looked at me and said, “Wow, what took so long!”

Why The Traumatized Child Clings To Chaos

Why The Traumatized Child Clings to Chaos

(see previous post related to Chaos topic)

For the child of trauma, chaos is their normal.  It can be very frightening to find out that your entire life before, was not normal, even if you didn’t like it, or were fearful of it.

Obviously, a child will be relieved in some ways to be away from abusive people in their lives, however,  the imprint on their little hearts and brains is not so easily erased.
Many of them suffer unspeakable nightmares, confused feelings, anger, aggression and more.

As healing begins to take place, it is also outside of their known “comfort zone”.  Having to relate to a parent in a healthy way can be a stress trigger.
Why?  Because it puts them in a place of vulnerability, and they are afraid to trust, ever again.

It is hard work, to switch that world around to where chaos is not comfortable.  The thing is, they don’t necessarily like chaos. It causes obvious pain. 🙁   But it is a place that they are used to.

Imagine if going on vacation was more stressful than an 80 hour work week under a slave boss!
This is what it is like for our kids.  They sometimes feel safer with the trauma.

Working through this over the last several years with our girls has given us an understanding we could never get from a book. 🙂  When we see our girls headed towards chaos, we know that they are overloaded and instead of doing the obvious (to us) speaking kindly, saying “I’m stressed”….. they might act out with old behaviors.  Or, even go back and dwell on the past, which digs up all sorts of trauma memories.
They can cling to their old troubles like a toddler holds a favorite blanket.

We don’t want them to find unhealthy comfort in the past, but  comfort  in the now, and in the future!  Comfort is in having loving parents, a good and decent home, healthy relationships and in forgiveness.
But with forgiveness, just like us, they have to face some things in themselves.  It is hard work!  And they can get tired.

Last night, we experienced a set back with Sweetie 4.  She was full steam ahead going in the wrong direction!  Anniversary time is here.  Memories have been flooding in.  We intercepted her and stayed attuned to her, staying in the present and not falling into fear. She shared her fears with us after a slammed door, refusing to come off of her bed, and some hurtful words and actions,  all in about 15 minutes…. and then we were able to calmly talk, snuggle and reconcile.
Today, she had her toolbox out and was ready to use any tool that would work. 🙂
Tonight, was even better.  She was able to attend youth group with her sisters with no problem!

I am so thankful for our sweet girl.  She is trying HARD to heal and do what is right.  Sometimes she gets stuck….That is ok. 🙂
I look forward to the day, and it will come, when she clings to her Savior and not old habits.  There will be a day when she no longer clings to chaos when she is stressed, but clings to what is right and positive!
That day will come, I am sure of it.
In the process, I am refined.

(For those of you with children who come from hard backgrounds, keeping a blog or journal is so helpful! (you can keep it private!) You can go back and re read what you wrote and be reminded of things that happened at the very same time the year before!  Many of the memories Sweetie 4 has been experiencing, she experienced last year at this very same time.  The year before, she couldn’t really verbalize….. I find the record keeping very helpful and insightful.)

Stability vs. Chaos,

Stability Vs. Chaos

I was just thinking about this today, and thought I would share some of my thoughts with Y’all.

When children have lived with extended trauma and instability in their lives, their brains become wired to think that it is NORMAL.  They live at a heightened sense of emotion, and they continue to live in “survival mode”.  They become hypervigilant and begin to function on the outside in a way that is normal for their circumstances.  Meaning, orphanage life, or chaotic household life.  Feelings are stuffed down, and survival is the name of the game.
Many  kids were “favorites” at their orphanages, because they learned how to get what they needed or craved through external action.  They weren’t given affection because they were loved, but because they may have performed or done something funny, or smiled extra cute.  They had to earn any affection they received.

Transfer this same child into a stable home where love is given freely without the need to earn… food is available, you will sleep in the same bed every night, you will wake up in the same home every morning, you will be hugged, touched, fed and clothed ;  THIS stability creates CHAOS in the mind of the child.

They don’t know what to do with it.  It is foreign and it scares them.  The very thing they crave and want, they are getting, but NOT in the same way they got it before, so they recoil from  it, trying to re create what their familiar life experience used to be.  If that is a verbally abusive parent or caregiver, or physically abusive parent or orphanage worker, they will try to recreate it in the home.
They cannot comprehend being taken care of, since nobody took care of them before.  This is especially true with older children who have been on their own emotionally for a long time.

I remember Sweetie 1’s first year home.  She demanded “WHY DON’T YOU JUST HIT ME?”
It was as if she needed that heightened level of experience to release her brain and rest.
Sounds crazy, but it was true.
We would tell her, “We won’t hit you, because we love you.”  She FINALLY GOT IT and lost the need to create chaos.

What if, all you had ever known, was chaos, and then, you went into stability?  Stability would seem all wrong!  What if you found out the entire way you viewed the world was wrong?  Wouldn’t that scare you?  Wouldn’t that make you want to fight to prove it isn’t true?

It isn’t just knowledge that needs to be changed, but the actual wiring of the brain.  You can convince the child that life is good now, and they may love you attach to you… but  under the surface  is the actual brain response to all the new changes.
The brain will NOT like it.  And it takes TIME, even if a child is attaching to help your child work through all those changes and REWIRE the brain to respond to stimuli differently.

The culture shock, whether changing countries or just families is immense.  Our sweetie asked the other day, “WHY AM I SO AWFUL SOMETIMES?”
She was so sad that she was snotty.  She really DOES NOT understand.   She is not trying to be awful.  She really isn’t.  Helping her learn to recognize patterns is very important, so she can catch herself and train herself!
Today, during one of our mama daughter talks, I told her.. “Sweetie 4″, you have only lived 1/12 of your life in stability.  11/12’s of your life has been CHAOS and EXTREME CHAOS….
You are still learning to tell your brain that you are safe and that you don’t have to do the things you used to do.   It is hard on the ole’ brain.  It wants to re create what you had before, because that is what was familiar.  You HAVE to tell it no! And then allow yourself to enjoy STABILITY.”
She has learned fractions so she understands just how small 1/12 th is.
“And you are NOT AWFUL! Sometimes the things you do can be very wrong… but YOU are not awful!”
We switched our conversation to her upcoming Birthday.
Valentines day will complete our first year cycle of holidays.  YEA!
So as we were talking, we mentioned all the holidays she remembers from last year. Her memories of last year have held on, and I said to her…. after this birthday, you will know what to expect from now on.  I told her about the scavenger hunt for presents (just like her sisters), picking her favorite meal and movie… and helping to bake her own cake.  She has seen these things 3 times for her sisters.
And now, it is HER TURN…. She will be hypervigilant until Thursday rolls around.  And then, next year, she’ll remember, that she was here and she still is here.

We have a lot LESS Chaos than we did at first, and I love these talks with her.  She is really starting to comprehend and understand the hard work ahead. She is a hard worker, so that is good! 🙂
I am thrilled at how much she has accomplished this year. It is nothing short of miraculous.  She has learned to pray and call out to the Lord for help… and this has caused huge changes.

I am also realizing just how miraculous another little life around here is. 🙂  We went through these things before with another daughter. 🙂  She is so amazing now.  Today, she was passing a note in class.  It said, “Mama had to pay taxes today, and she is probably stressed. Let’s all have good attitudes.”   It was titled “A Contract” and there were lines for each girl to sign on… making a contract to have good attitudes all day. LOL
I was so touched by her thoughtfulness. 🙂
Thank you Sweetie 1. 🙂

(I guess I was really complaining about all those taxes) LOL

What’s Behind The Behavior?

What’s Behind the Behavior…?

(I picked this picture because of all these little hopeful faces. This was taken from our missions trip back to Ukraine a few years ago, and was at Sweetie 2 and Sweetie 3’s old orphanage.  The little boy in blue, was so sweet and cute and smiley, talking in Russian.  He was actually saying, “I’m going to take your glasses and break them!”)
Heather Forbes might say, “What’s driving the behavior?”

I was talking with Mike this morning about how support group is going, and things I would love to cover.  One of those things has to do with what is behind a behavior  that isn’t making sense to us.
Putting clues and signs together, may help us come to understand and then be able to address the behavior.  But for many of us, it does not come naturally to think about, “What’s BEHIND the behavior”.

For the child who struggles with shame, low self worth, or past trauma,  being exposed to failure is overwhelming  because it requires self inspection, and when they don’t like themselves, or have a strong sense that others are going to reject them because of their seeming failures, or they are so full of shame they cannot bear it, then it is PARAMOUNT in their minds that they NOT deal with the reality they  are faced with (real or perceived) and do everything to avoid it.  They will fight to keep a semblance of self respect and perceived self worth through diversion.

“I’m NOT going to do that!”
“Why”?  we may ask…..  There will be no real answer.  We will perceive their behavior and tone as DEFIANT…. and if we move to “correct that defiance” ,   the battle that rages will be ALL ABOUT THE WRONG THING…. We will strive to win a battle, yet lose the WAR that is actually being waged on our children’s hearts.
The REAL WAR is against their very being.  The WAR that tells them that they are unlovable, unacceptable, unworthy… the war that has been waged against them from the very first point of trauma in their lives. For many of them, it began at birth, and EACH battle along the way was WON by that war with damning, condemning force.

So here we come in, a new force, and they see us as the enemy. They see that others who have been in our position as a parent have rejected them, hurt them and  betrayed their trust. They are so busy fighting in their own personal war, they don’t realize that the true WAR is actually over.  They no longer have to fight for love, for  validation, for acceptance and we are ON THEIR SIDE!

Unfortunately, many times we act as if we are not.  We get caught up in the remnants of a dead war, and try to win an unwinnable battle, instead of leading our little trooper to a place of peace and rest.

So, back to the “I’m NOT going to do that!”

How can we deal with it?
I remember when Sweetie 4 first came home, I was told she was in the 4th grade, understood English perfectly, and was fantastic in spelling and math.   I pretty much found ZERO of that to be true.
How did I find that out?   Well, it didn’t take long. 🙂  I assigned her to write a paragraph about something we were studying.

And guess what she said, oh so “defiantly”!
Why not?
“I don’t want to!” “School is stupid!” “This place is stupid!”  “You are not a real teacher!”  and I could go on…. but my favorite was, “Why should I have to listen to you? You’re just an old woman from Texas!” 🙂  gee thanks. 🙂
In REALITY, she was trying to avoid the FACT that not only could she not spell, or write, she could BARELY read, AND she had VERY LIMITED understanding of the English Language. And she didn’t trust me. She had no reason to.  I was the old lady from Texas.
Add to that TWO disruptions, past trauma, separation from bio siblings (I could go on and on ) and  I could instantly see that we were not dealing with writing a paragraph.  She was fighting for her very dignity.
After all, what would it look like if the new kid couldn’t even put 3 sentences together?  Would she still be loved? Would she be accepted?  She didn’t believe for a minute that she was even going to stay.  She didn’t stay with anybody else and they all promised her a “forever family”.

So what did we do?  Well, the first thing we did was establish relationship.  We headed for the rocking chair.   “It is ok.  We love you.  We are here for you.  Breathe with me.  Let’s become one in our breathing.  And after about 10 minutes.  I addressed the issue with structured correction and teaching.
“You know, maybe the truth is, that you don’t want me to know that you don’t even know what a paragraph is!”  I got a nod on that one.
“I am so sorry.  I didn’t know, and you know what?  It is OK.  This is NOT your fault!”
“Did you know that your brother didn’t learn to read well until he was almost 12?”  With that I got peaked interest.

In calming her and peaking her interest, I was then able to talk to her about the defiance in her voice and what she said.
“You know, it is never ok to speak harshly to mama.  It is never ok to say “I won’t!” when I have asked you to do something, because I will never ask you to do something wrong. (that is important they know that, because they may NOT know that! never assume)

Now, instead of saying “I won’t!” How could you have said things differently to tell me what was really wrong?
At first I got shrugged shoulders, and then I offered an idea, and then she did, and then I offered some humor and then she did…. and before we knew it, the REAL PROBLEM was revealed and SOLVED for the moment.  (The assignment was too hard for her to do on her own, so it was adjusted to her level)
Was there punishment involved? No.
Because she apologized for her behavior and because her behavior was SHAME masked in defiance. She was trying to protect herself from more rejection and hurt. How do you punish shame? How do you consequence shame?  I can’t.  I can only have compassion and understanding.

That is a small example of many MANY examples I could give over the past 15 months.  But each and every time, a battle was won. Not us against her, but ALL of us against TRAUMA, SHAME, REJECTION and HURT which is the real war.    We were on the same team the whole time. It just took her a while to see that we were her allies and not the enemy. 🙂
(Do we do this perfectly every time. NO. We do not. Sometimes we get caught up in the moment and forget…. but that is ok, we are human, just like she is.  When we see we have gone down a dead end, we simply stop, turn around and head the right direction. :))
Those times of outward defiance are few and far between.  She has learned over the year to express herself properly, understand better and use her tools to keep control.

As she realized each time that we were on her team…we were her ally, the trust which was greatly needed began to be built, not with faulty walls, but a firm foundation.  Each brick cemented in with love, to last a lifetime and to build a new life upon.

For my support groupers:
I would like to ask that you keep track these next two weeks of how many times this week that your child(ren) are masking what is really going on underneath…. try to see what is driving their particular behavior and write down your response to it.  What were the results? 🙂

I would like to encourage my readers who are in the TRENCHES with trauma, that it gets BETTER. You will not stay there…. but you must look beyond the behavior and beyond punishing.  If what you are doing is not working…. it is time to try something new. 🙂
(This does not have to do with natural consequences, that is another post altogether, and natural consequences are not punishments)

When We Need To Change

When We Need To Change

There are so many times in parenting that we have to be on our toes, try to navigate 10 steps ahead, and be ready  to meet any challenge.  That is our job as parents.
When we are dealing with hurt children, who come from backgrounds full of trauma, we need to be ever more vigilant to listen to what they are telling us through direct communication or through behaviors.

Are we eliciting a FEAR reaction from them?  If so, why?   What are WE DOING that  WE can change in order to bring about a different response in our children?
You may say, “But I didn’t do anything different than I have normally done , and everybody else has survived!” “I am a good parent!”  Well, that may be true, but THIS child, needs something different.  He or She needs you to take a closer look at HOW you parent and tweak some things. There is no weakness in tweaking. 🙂  Taking a long hard look at how we parent is a GOOD thing! Seeing where we need to change is a sign of strength, not weakness. It is a sign of success, NOT  failure!
Being brave and seeing the real us, with all our faults and weaknesses, will show our children that it is OK to need to change. It is not the end of the world to be wrong, or to have areas that need tweaking!  We ALL do! And we can learn from ourselves and each other!
Are you a screamer?  Do you lose your patient attitude easily or get frustrated and over react?  Do you go back to old habits that are not acceptable when your child’s challenging behaviors frustrate you?
How is your child supposed to change if you don’t lead in the area of change yourself?

When our children see Us catch ourselves in an old habit, admit that habit, apologize and start again, it gives THEM permission to do the same. They don’t feel singled out, or so very different.
We can lighten up with HUMOR thrown in, and change is actually enjoyable.
“Well, I sure could do that one differently; don’t you think??”  And suddenly you can turn a possible disaster into a teaching moment. 🙂

I remember when Sweetie 4 first came home, how many things I needed to tweak to meet her special needs. She was so fragile that I had to be very careful how I spoke even when I thought I was being gentle. She needed MORE gentle.  She didn’t need me to lose my temper with her, even though hers could be out of control.  There were times when I didn’t show her the self control I was asking for HER to show! And I had to apologize.

One of the best things we can do for our children  is listen to them. Are they telling us that we are causing them fear or that they are needing us to be more tender?  LISTEN, even if you think you are being tender and kind.  You can’t err on the side of listening, compassion and understanding.
Do you want your children to listen to you?  Model it.

Be that Living Tree, Unmovable, planted by refreshing water so that your children will want to come and drink of the unconditional love you have flowing from you.
The change that you want to see in them will happen as they learn to love and trust you more.
Many of the behaviors our children exhibit, are a direct result of past trauma, having to be in control to survive, and a lack of trust.

For the traumatized child, some of their more disturbing behaviors  are not “moral” issues for them. They are survival issues.  We may see their survival behavior as an immoral behavior, when for them, that is NOT how it was intended.
That miscommunication can cause some real fear in parents and serious frustration.

When you  see a child with cookie crumbs all over their mouth, the smell of chocolate chip cookies on their breath, yet hear them  say, “What cookie?” “I didn’t eat a cookie!”  Our fear takes over and says, “My child is a liar with no conscience!”    Two of our children have been accused of having no conscience in other homes they were in.
My observation is that both of these children are very, VERY tender hearted and sensitive.  They were never without conscience. They were trying very hard to protect their tender spirits from being crushed.

Our children will not understand why WE get so bent out of shape over the very behavior they HAD to use in order to survive; because for the child, all that time, it wasn’t an issue of right or wrong, it was an issue  of survival. But THEY don’t understand quite yet that it is no longer needed.

If we come down hard, grounding, yelling or use other forms of punishment, of COURSE they are not going to understand. The defenses will go up, they will have been judged and they will be hurt even more.
However, if we remain calm, getting to the root of the issue, (possibly hunger) and reassure them that there will always be food, and let them know how sorry we were that at one time they didn’t have food…. THEN we can  put them at ease and teach the importance of telling the truth, explaining the there is a moral issue with truth telling vs. lying etc.  and calmly bring them to a new understanding.  THEN we can work with them over time in changing the behavior without shaming them, and  the eventual result, will be a child who tells the truth.

I am so thrilled with Miss Sweetie 4’s ability to look me in the eye and tell me that she is the one who spilled something or she is the one who left the door open.  Or, sometimes she’ll come to me and say, “Mama, I’m sorry, I did this…..(fill in the blank).   A year ago??? No WAY that would have happened on her own.
She was so ashamed of herself and her view of herself was so low that to admit any wrong would have just been too much to handle.  Today, things are MUCH different.  She knows her value is not placed upon what she does right or wrong, but she is valued just because, and she IS TRULY VALUABLE.  I think she is finally beginning to believe this.

Love believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things……

She has been learning to control her tongue.   Sometimes she goes back to old habits, but mostly, she doesn’t.
She wants to be trusted and believed.   We ALL do!  She has had to work really hard, but she is doing well, and I couldn’t be prouder. 🙂
Change is hard…. but oh so rewarding.

Adoption Reality Vs. Adoption Fantasy

Adoption Fantasy Vs. Adoption Reality

 One need look no further than the MIRROR to see that we are ALL flawed Human Beings.

There are many who have answered the call to adoption either through prayer support, for those walking down the adoption path, through financial support, or actually adopting themselves.
We have had the great privilege of walking hand in hand with prayer supporters, financial supporters and then each other as we stepped out in faith to bring our children home.

It is a normal thing to “fantasize” about what your child is going to be like; dreaming of what their personality will be like, but  it becomes DANGEROUS, when you expect your fantasy to be REAL.

You may have fantasized  about a docile child and your child is hyperactive! You may have expected a child with long blonde hair and your child’s head is shaved and her hair is dark brown. You may have expected a girly girl and gotten a tom boy, or a boy who is great in sports, but he prefers the violin! These are VERY SHALLOW thoughts, really, when it comes to bringing a child home, or even giving birth to a child.


There is NO TIME to dwell on the  “what if’s”  when your child comes home with unexpected behaviors, illnesses, syndromes INCLUDING FAS, RAD, PTSD, ADHD, ODD, or any OTHER label your child can be given…. HONESTLY, the ONLY REASON to have these diagnosis, would be to help SECURE your UNDERSTANDING and COMPASSION so that you can PARENT YOUR CHILD, the CHILD GOD HAS GIVEN YOU, in the BEST WAY for THEM to SUCCEED!

Sometimes the path is HARD…. and sometimes NOT.  But there is JOY in the JOURNEY, no matter the path!  GOD FULFILLS HIS PURPOSES in our lives, weaving that Beautiful Tapestry of Life, sometimes with the fabric of tears, and sometimes with the fabric of great joy!
Sometimes that GREAT JOY comes from a child who learns, finally that they are loved, or for a child with learning disabilities, the first time they remember how to spell a word!
Sometimes joy comes when a child hugs you for REALLY REAL for the first time after, being home for years…..or when, like Sweetie 3, they immediately call you, “My Precious Mother”, “My Precious Father”, from the first time they see you.
Sometimes that joy comes when your 2 year old sits up for the very first time, or when he walks without assistance for the first time at 8!  You get joy in just cheering him on!

There is NO TIME to waste in the “what if’s”…… and IT IS A WASTE OF TIME!  It is also a mindset that will allow Bitterness to set into the heart, if we are not careful!

ALL CHILDREN are a blessing, and there are no perfect children!

I would like to strongly appeal to those on the adoption journey;  ALL CHILDREN who come into your family through adoption are Special Needs Children!  And asking for a child with “minor, correctable issues” such as a cleft lip or pallet is only dealing with the physical!
There is NOTHING MINOR, about being abandoned and living in an orphanage.  There is NOTHING MINOR about NEGLECT,  ABUSE and STARVATION, and it cannot be “corrected”!  The emotional scars of REJECTION are NOT MINOR, no matter HOW YOUNG your children come home.  Each little personality is DIFFERENT and they will handle those stresses differently!
Some will regress and be ANGRY. Some will be so fearful they cannot respond. Some will have behaviors that are downright BIZARRE, and some will come out of situations like that seemingly unscathed; but I would say that is the exception, rather than the rule!  It is up to us to LOVE OUR CHILDREN WITHOUT HOLDING BACK!
Don’t WASTE years being angry because you don’t think everything was disclosed to you!
You have the child that GOD HAS GIVEN YOU!  PARENT THEM! LOVE THEM!
TAKE GREAT JOY IN THEIR ACCOMPLISHMENTS! TAKE JOY IN THEIR BABY STEPS TOWARDS WHOLENESS….. REMOVE the PLANK from your eye, so you can see HOW to clearly remove the speck from your child’s eye.
Bitterness has NO place in the life of a parent.  It will only beget Bitterness!  PRESS ON! MOVE FORWARD! DON’T LOOK TO THE RIGHT OR THE LEFT, but KEEP YOUR EYE ON THE GOAL!  Bringing your child towards wholeness and healing!

Fantasy Land is a very dangerous place to live!

How God Uses Even Our Selfishness For His Purposes

How God Uses Even Our Selfishness For His Purposes

I have wanted to share this since 2006 when I started this blog.  On our private blog we included old letters written from when we were in Ukraine.   We had shared this story with Mike’s dad.   He sent an email saying  there was a story to tell;  I am going to tell that story today.

We were sharing this with our Pastor Justin on Sunday and I remembered again, how God is so full of Grace and Mercy towards His children.

Mike,  Sweetie 3 and I were back in Kyiv on the last leg of our trip.  She had passed the American Embassy physical, and had her passport.  We had all of our adoption documents, but we were there a little longer than expected, and had to change our Air  Line Tickets.  We had one day to find the Delta Airlines office in Kyiv, but they had MOVED, and we couldn’t read the door in Ukrainian that gave the new directions.
We called the phone number feverishly, but nobody answered. Instead, we got a disconnect message. Or I think that is what we were getting.

Our translator was gone for  Easter Weekend.  We were quite comfortable when she wasn’t with us, and in fact found it better for her time with us in Kyiv to be limited.  She was young and sweet, but made some errors in judgment that caused everybody struggles.  She kept purchasing gifts for Erika, and at one point had Mike carry all her luggage while she pushed Erika in the wheel chair.  Needless to say, we were a little stressed, and concerned and disappointed that her first Ice Cream cone didn’t come from us, even though we had made a real request that it did.
I know this may sound silly, but we were being very careful with a very attention deprived, sensory deprived child, and we were on red alert trying to get her through without too much stimulation.
I was cooking most meals so we could just eat as a family, though we did meet with another family a few times and took walks.
Sweetie 3 ENJOYED the sun and the sights. 🙂

I remember enjoying that Easter  Sunday morning SO MUCH, listening to the Church Bells going off all over the City, and standing on the balcony of our High Rise Apartment Building to remember the Resurrection of our Dear Lord.

After being pretty exhausted from a full day on Monday, longing for home, anxious to  be back with the girlies, I headed out to get some salsa, and ground pepper.  We were going to have scrambled eggs and toast, and I wanted some spice!  This was my “pre night shade” era where I could have SALSA!

However, Salsa is not a popular item in Ukraine.  IN fact, it was TERRIBLY expensive, so much so, that I could not justify the cost, so I decided to settle for ground pepper.
In the stores, you are not allowed to go behind the counter, you have to point for things, or say the correct word in Russian or Ukrainian.
I waited in line and when I got to the counter I couldn’t remember the word for pepper.  So, I said “salt’ in Russian and then signaled “SALT….shaking  and ?? shaking my other hand hoping they would understand I wanted pepper.”
She did! YEA!  But she gave me pepper corns, not ground.  So I explained with hand motions again…. doing the grinding motion.
She got mad and kicked me out of line!  I was BOOTED!

So I went to the end of the line and tried again.  BOOTED AGAIN!
So I went to the end of the line and tried again!  I felt like I was going to cry, but sucked it up.
After all, I should have KNOWN that word, but I had left my book in the apartment.
The 3rd time, I purchased the peppercorns and figured I’d try to crush them myself.
When I got back, Sweetie 3 was enjoying a luxurious bath and I started dinner.  But I couldn’t get those pepper corns crushed.  It was too hard and they kept shooting out from under the knife.That is when MY window of tolerance shut and I began to cry.  Mike came in to find a hysterical wife saying, “I’M NOT COOKING ONE MORE MEAL!” “I’M NOT!”
I told him, “I want NACHOS and Jalapenos and SALSA!”  We had been SO GOOD not to go to McDonald’s when there was all that wonderful Ukrainian food to be had!
McDonald’s was for coffee only, and the bathroom, but that is ANOTHER LONG STORY!<–Link

We knew there was a TGI FRIDAYS about 4 blocks from our Apartment, so we headed out.  When we arrived, the restaurant was FULL! There was no place to wait, especially with a wheel chair, but we insisted we would wait!

Then, this man’s voice that was DISTINCTLY AMERICAN spoke up and said, “I’m at a table for 4 and I’m by myself, I’ll move!”
We said, “Don’t Move, can we just join you?”  He said, “Sure!”
So we introduced ourselves, and he asked the obvious…. “Why are you in Ukraine!”
We explained to him why we were there, and told him all about the miracles that took place to even get there, and all the adventures we were having.
Sweetie 3 entertained us with her new ability to Sing “Jesus Loves Me”….. every time she heard the word “Cheese”, she’d break into song. LOL   (cheesus loves me) 🙂
We told him about my pepper nightmare and need for spice, and then told him we needed one more miracle.  As we explained to him our predicament about needing to change our Airline Tickets by the very next day, or we’d have to buy new ones, he was intrigued.
“What airline are you with?”

We told him we were with Delta Airlines.   He got this huge smile on his face and said, “Well, it looks like your last miracle has taken place!”
“He then picked up his knapsack…. It said, “Delta Airlines” right on it!  He was the NEW DIRECTOR for Delta, and had been in Ukraine for 6 weeks, originally from Atlanta Georgia!

We couldn’t believe it!  He pointed to a building across the street from the restaurant, and said, that is the new building. Sorry about the phones, nothing happens quickly here. LOL
And then, he said, when you come tomorrow, ask for me, I’ll come out and make sure you are taken care of.
The next day, we did just that.  When he came out, he explained to the two ladies that were there what we needed.  They were so kind, and as they were looking for the best deal on tickets, both had little tears streaming down their faces; happy that Miss Sweetie 3 was headed to her forever home.

I will never forget how God even used my own selfishness of not wanting to cook, to bless us so very much with one more confirmation that HE was in control, even to the point of the mean pepper lady who kept on kicking me out of line! 🙂
And we RESTED in HIM.

And then, about 4 hours into our second flight, my mind was numb staring at that airplane going across the sea…..:)
And I began to struggle with fear thinking, “We have no money! We have to start over after being out of business for the last 5 weeks….we now have 3 children!  Are we crazy??”
And as soon as I thought it, I confessed…..”Lord, you know all things… If you can get us through Ukraine and back, while it is supposed to be closed, arrange for the details of our trip home, and provide all you have provided…..I’m SURE you will not abandon us!

When we finally made it home, it as very late.  We headed straight to bed and sort of went into hibernation.  Our ministry group  had decorated our home, filled it with food, and left all sorts of cards on the counter.
At about 3:00 in the afternoon, I was opening cards and then found an envelope with $$…. a GIFT to us from those who love the Lord.
And another thing was placed in my heart to remember God’s Faithfulness to His Children.

Attachment Is NOT Just Up To Our Kids!

Attachment Is NOT Just Up To Our Kids!

Have you ever thought “They aren’t attached?”  or “They aren’t attaching to me?”  Have you ever thought, “They have no relationship with me?” Do you catch yourself picking out or noticing all of your child’s flaws, and not their strengths?  Do you struggle with even seeing the good things about them?  Are you at a point where you have allowed yourself to think, “I am just here to give them food and shelter and then, they are outta here at 18?”
(dramatic photo courtesy of me) 🙂
It DOESN’T have to be that way!  It really doesn’t!

It is my prayer that this post offers hope and encouragement for the discouraged.

Let’s take a little peer into a work place scenario:

Think about going to a new job. You are nervous and want to do well, but your job has many new concepts to learn and many more responsibilities than you knew about when you took the job.
Now, let’s say your manager is watching all you do.  This makes you rather nervous, because you don’t know how to relate to him or her.  Things are rather “disjointed”, and then, you do something that you have been doing, and she blows her stack! She gets angry, and you don’t understand why!
You are trying, but it is rather hard to know what to do because nobody is really communicating with you. There are all these unwritten rules and expectations! This is HARD! You become more stressed, because you don’t want to make your manager mad, or to disappoint them, yet at the same time, you don’t know what to do, exactly….
Then, the other employees begin to judge you. They speak unkindly to you. “How come you don’t know how to do THAT??” “I can’t believe they hired you!”  “Why don’t you CHANGE?” “WHY DON’T YOU DO BETTER?”  “Things were better before YOU came!”
You begin to feel that every time you try to do something, or even relax, your manager and the other employees are  there to tell you how you did it wrong and they are dissatisfied with you.  You begin to feel ashamed and that something must be wrong with you! In fact, something MUST be wrong with you, because you have had this experience before!  The shame becomes greater, and you give up.
You stop trying because, “Why does it matter?  Nobody cares if I’m trying! I feel like my manager is dissatisfied with me all the time, and that I’ll never measure up to the expectations of those who have been on this job much longer than I have. ”
And you shut down.
Your manager then accuses you of not trying. They accuse you of being lazy and make sure they send you to the HR department for help.  The HR department discusses how you can do your job better, but never discusses how you feel lost and don’t really understand your job description.  They give you a small hint that you need to shape up! But the information is disjointed, and you are told all of the problem is YOU.

(photo courtesy of google)

THIS is what it is like to be a traumatized child coming into a home where they are expected to attach, when RELATIONSHIP is not looked upon as the responsibility of ALL  parties, but for the child to attach to the family; placing huge responsibility on the child to conform.

I STRONGLY believe that RELATIONSHIP’S GREATEST responsibility is upon us, as parents, and then siblings!
When we bring a new child into our home, it is a STRESSFUL yet JOYOUS time.  It is different than bringing home a newborn. Our children have lived lives outside of our home. They have developed habits, had hurts and pain beyond imagination.
How DARE us, be critical of them.  How DARE us, expect them to just fall into line with the children that have always been with us, or been with us a long time! And HOW DARE us, be a bad example to our children already home, causing them to judge also.
OUR example can cause our children to SIN.

(dramatic photo courtesy of Miss Sweetie #4) 🙂

Our children come to us very broken.  Gently putting the pieces of their lives together cannot happen OUTSIDE of true relationship!

Looking back on Sweetie 4’s arrival to our home, I was reminded of this incident in my childhood:

I distinctly remember 2 little girls coming to stay at our home when I was about 11. They were my age and younger, and it was an emergency placement, just for 2 weeks.  I remember the oldest one crying when she was corrected for over pouring her cereal and then wiping the cereal on the floor.
It wasn’t the correction. It was HOW it was done. She was shamed.
I remember feeling two ways.
1. I felt sorry for her.
2. I thought to myself, “Why did she do that? Didn’t she know any better?”
The answer was NO! SHE DIDN’T KNOW ANY BETTER.  I still feel guilt for even thinking that.
Her stress level must have been so much.   She cried at night as we slept in the same bed.  I didn’t know what to do.  I layed there, turned the other way, silent.  I was scared. I didn’t know how to relate. I was totally unprepared as a child to deal with such a thing.
My parents never even talked about it or offered any guidance. NONE! The girls  were there; they were gone.  I felt sad and empty. I didn’t even know they were leaving. When I came home from school, they were gone. I didn’t even say good bye.  I still feel empty from that short 2 week period in my life. I still feel shame that I did not do better to try and relate.

Sweetie 4, was the same age as these girls, and the same age as our girls.   I was determined when she came home to make sure that our girls understood NOT to judge any of her actions, but find compassion for her, and everybody would then help to guide her through our kindness and acceptance of her!
Was it easy? No. It was not.  But OH HOW VALUABLE were the lessons we all learned through her coming into our lives.  We ALL had sin that needed rooted out. 🙂

We learned that we can be judgmental and prideful attitudes and OUR hearts needed some weeding.  We learned that  “A Soft Answer Turns Away Wrath!”  We learned how very much she wanted to be accepted and loved, but was so used to being misunderstood, she was totally shut down.
We learned together, to encourage her to open up just a smidge….. and then, we KNEW the floodgates of love would open.
We learned that our acceptance of her, ALL of her personality, FLAWS AND ALL, was REQUIRED for her to move forward and heal.  She held onto her behaviors like a shield of shame. She slowly began to let that shield down as she felt accepted and loved.
We took our girls out one at a time as needed to encourage them to keep up the good work, to listen to their hearts and offer understanding and direction, and then to pray with them along with us for guidance and direction.

Sweetie 1, 2 and 3  have been  an integral part of 4’s healing.  They LOVED her unconditionally from day one, and LOVE her and each other unconditionally to this day!

If you have other children in your home when you bring a new child home, please help them to see
that they too are responsible to foster a TRUE LOVING relationship with their new sibling!
Prepare them, that this new child will not know how to attach or have a relationship, but it will be up to you as a TEAM to teach and guide them, gently, slowly, steadily, with great Steadfast love…. and that child WILL attach!

Relationship is a two way street.  If we become drawn into our child’s rejection of our attempts to love them, and give up.  The relationship will stagnate and fester and die on the vine.
We are SUPPOSED to be the ones who guide our children into relationship. Don’t let your child’s hurts DICTATE how you respond to them.  ALWAYS respond with RELATIONSHIP in mind!
If it is not happening, reassess how you are relating to your child.
Are they stressed?  If so WHY?
Are you angry? Yelling?  Judging?
You may be thinking, “Well, if my child does xy or z, I have the RIGHT to get upset or even angry! Or of course I’m going to judge them! They are hoarding! “They are not going to sleep at night!”  “They are making mess after mess after mess!”  THESE BEHAVIORS ARE FEAR BASED BEHAVIORS STEEPED IN SHAME!  Punishing a child during this stage will only be a self fulfilling prophecy for them that they deserve to be punished and that they are NOT worthy of your love.
I DO feel your pain. 🙂  We have been through all of those things with EACH of our girls.
But THINK RELATIONSHIP!  How can I help my child through fits of rage, hoarding, stealing, lying, and making huge messes, by getting mad at them?  How does separating them into time out, or grounding them to their room, spanking them, or making them miss a family event,   help them to be honest?  How will that help them to  do the things we  want them to do, and get rid of unwanted behaviors?
WHY?  Because  relationship is NOT there. It is not established yet.
I have heard it said, “Don’t let them take an inch!” “Lay down the Law!”
I disagree.  That does NOT mean to let anybody wreak havoc either.  But get BUSY establishing relationship!  Study your child to see how old they are emotionally and parent them according to emotional age, NOT gestational age!  Get to know them. Try to understand them.
No amount of “punishment” is going to cause a hurt child to suddenly say, “Oh mother dear, or father dear, I am so sorry. I will never do this again! You are  right, and I am  wrong.” “Hugs and kisses!”
No. Not YET anyway! 🙂
Those times DO come!  But not until a real relationship that goes BOTH WAYS is established!

Now, how CAN we help them?

1.By LOVING THEM…. GIVE YOUR WHOLE HEART TO THEM NO MATTER HOW YOU FEEL! Choosing what is best for them at all times, even when you don’t feel like it.
2.By discipling them.
3. By teaching them self discipline.
4. By being  the steady, the ROCK in their life.
5. By gentle, instruction, a little at a time, with great love and hugs and rocking and reassuring…. solving one problem at a time, not dumping everything wrong about their behavior onto them all at once.
6. By opening dialogue.

A little at a time with great reassurance, our children will respond to RELATIONSHIP.  They want it. They CRAVE it.  But they are also AFRAID  of it.  They don’t want to lose it.  Sometimes the fear of losing a potential relationship they cherish, will cause a child to be too afraid to feel and attach, because they don’t trust that relationship to be solid. If they feel disapproval, they may stop trying because they are so very fragile.  That is why it is so important to US to be on top of our OWN emotions and behaviors!

Have we done this perfectly? No. We have not. Nobody does.  But we work HARD at it. VERY HARD… and when we blow it, we APOLOGIZE to our child. A REAL apology, not a “I’m sorry I got mad, but if you handn’t done….”
No, a REAL apology.  “Sweetie, Mama was wrong. I am so very sorry. Will you forgive me?”

That vulnerability opens a door for our children to be vulnerable too, and teaches them to learn how to forgive themselves. 🙂
Our humility, brings about healing in our children! 🙂  And it also helps US to improve our OWN personal skills in dealing with relationships!
Isn’t that awesome!

None of us have “arrived” yet. We are all on the road of life.  I pray that we each continue down that road, trusting the Lord to help us, and treating our children as HE treats us, with GREAT LOVING KINDNESS.
“It’s your KINDNESS that leads us to Repentance”. Romans 2:4
“A soft Answer turns away wrath!” Proverbs 15: 1
“Children Are a Blessing From the Lord”  Psalm 127:3
Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.  James 1:27

Our dependence is upon Him; we cannot walk this walk, alone. cm
“I can do ALL things IN CHRIST who Strengthens me.” Phillipians 4:13

Any Unpacked Bags??

Any Unpacked Bags ?

I wrote this post in 2008 , but wanted to repost it, as this topic was on my mind after a conversation I had yesterday.
There are those in the adoption community that believe only a “professional” knows what to do with a child who has  a trauma background.  I disagree.  While I DO agree that there is a time and a place for counseling….. healing begins at HOME.  And before we can help our kids heal, We MUST deal with our own stuff.  Many times, we don’t even know it is there, or we have learned to keep certain things neatly packed away in the recesses of our mind, and then, we get zinged and we have a PTSD moment of our own.
It is an honor and privilege to parent our children in a way that brings them into a place of safety and healing.
I wrote this post about 3 years ago and a LOT has happened since then. SO, instead of rewriting what I already wrote.  Here is my old post. And then I’ll add some more thoughts.  I apologize this is so long.


                                     Any Unpacked Bags?


As parents, our children come most of the time when we are young and foolish and in no way ready to be parents. That is how God chose to do it! 🙂
It seems that God has made a great effort to want us to be dependent upon HIM for every breath of life that we breathe and every step we take. Our inadequacy glaring at us each day caused us to run for our prayer closet and hang onto our Heavenly Father for the inspiration of the day, for the strength to get to the coffee pot, for the words we spoke and the energy our days required of us.

As our children got older and we were more comfortable with what direction they were taking, we relaxed a bit, as we knew that GOD had ordained their steps and our job was almost done. It was a time of thrilling enjoyment, seeing those flowers unfold into beautiful bloom. (yes,even with boys the analogy works)

Now, there are those crazy types that have decided to do it all over again! LOL You know who you are….

But the difference is: They come potty trained and talking back! They haven’t learned your language, either unspoken OR spoken. They come with loads of baggage that needs to be sorted through and a tangled mess of ideas and hurts that give the feeling of continual untangling of Christmas lights. AHHHHH!!!!! You can throw the Christmas lights away and buy a new set! (don’t tell, but I have actually done this before)
But our Children are not throw away. There is something new we must learn, like…..
timing, patience, kindness, careful untangling of a little life and unpacking of a bag so tattered that if you don’t unzip it carefully it will fall apart.

So, we say to ourselves… this a different sort of kid. This kid didn’t come with instructions.(even though we know very well our others didn’t either)
If we are not careful, we can find ourselves looking through instruction manuals of a different nature that will offer loads of “man’s wisdom”, devoid of Godly wisdom.

Some books are great and we can identify things in our dear children in them, and they can offer help to us BUT without prayer and discernment, they can also be VERY, VERY dangerous. The same goes with counselors, and those who have made businesses dealing with emotional pain and baggage.
While some of the information and techniques used can be utilized in a positive way, some of it is just down right dangerous, and we MUST discern what is best for our children.
This very issue SHOULD bring us to our knees in prayer and to the Word of God for instruction, but slowly, instead, the phone call is made to the counselor, the books are re read and we forget Who our TRUE source of guidance is.
Don’t get me wrong. I am not against reading of books, and I read them A LOT too. But it is a battle to remember to hold them up to the whole counsel of the word of God.
I am not against counseling either, as I think sometimes there are things they can offer for a parent to try, or offer advice to the parent themselves that they may need to work through some of their own issues.

What I AM against is the forcing of a child to face things he or she may not be ready to face. I am 50 years old, and there are STILL things in my life from long ago that I am JUST NOW, starting to comprehend. I don’t think any amount of counseling would have helped me to see it any sooner.

I remember several years ago, after a very traumatic event in my life, a counselor at a church kept calling me. She kept trying to get me to come and and talk to her and she persisted to the point that I totally shut down. I didn’t want to talk to her. I wasn’t ready. I didn’t want her prodding me for how I felt or act like she cared about me. I felt like one of her “projects” she had chosen to fix.
What welled up in me was anger, frustration and self thoughts of inadequacy and pain.

Why does SHE think I need fixing? Why MUST she bother me so?

I finally wrote a letter to her and the church pastor and asked him to please tell her to lay off. I didn’t need her help. I needed to work things out between ME and my LORD. She is not my intermediary! I have no need of one.
She didn’t back off, and I found sanctuary at a new church.

You know what happened? The pastor there was amazing. He was a little younger and the church was HUGE. ( I thought I could hide out for a while) He saw me and 4 little boys watching the worship team practice. I was so used to going to church early for music; but I was no longer fit.

That guy came over and sat down and showed me respect and kindness. He introduced himself and talked to each of the boys who were between 4 and 8. He never asked me where my husband was. He never asked if I was in need of anything. He just respected me as person, and then he went on his merry way. Oh I was never so thankful for a simple kind person to just treat me as normal.

In time, the Lord brought things to my heart and I poured my heart our to HIM. Later he provided me with a friend to share with, but it had to be with HIM first!

Why do I say all that?

Because I think so many times we are on a mission to “fix” our children. We are on the fast track to make them whole, and in the process, we may be missing God’s timing, and our children’s timing.
They may not be ready for things to be discussed. They may just need to chill and be loved just for who they are, with all their quirks and unpacked bags. They may need us to soak that scab in love so it gets soft and doesn’t hurt when it comes off.

(sorry for the gross analogy)

I remember when our first sweetie came to us, she decided she wanted to be a baby. She went through the birth process all on her own, curling up under a blanket and being “born” and then snuggling up and I gave her a bottle of warm milk and swaddled and rocked her. THIS WAS NOT INITIATED BY ME OR ANOTHER PERSON, though I have heard of it being done; this was initiated by HER!
She was 6, and after she finished, she looked me straight in the eye and said, “YOU ARE MY MAMA!” It was like she birthed herself into a new role in the family. She was REALLY part of a family and chose to identify herself in that way.

Well, along came Sweetie 2 and guess what? After about 6 months…. she did the exact same thing. I thought… how interesting. They have both done this and they are the ones who have initiated this. I felt honored.

When Sweetie 3 came, she was a little older (almost 8) She of course loved being rocked and sang to, and because of her physical problems, she could not curl into a ball under a blanket on my lap, but she wanted to. We tried some different things and so we just announced that we had a new baby. I held her in my arms and talked to her just like I talked to the boys when they were newborns. “Oh, look at her Mike, she is just BEAUTIFUL”! Look at her hair. Look at her eyes! She is ours! We prayed for her and we gooed and gahhed at her and she snuggled up, just as the other girls did.
She actually went a little further and she would catch me in the hall and grab me and then pretend to nurse! YIKES…… She was fascinated for a few weeks about if her brothers were nursed etc. I explained to her that not all babies are nursed, so though her brothers were nursed with mother’s milk, Tim wasn’t able to latch on because of being preemie. She was preemie too.

These things happened over time. We had incidents with each girl of disturbing behaviors, but saw those as bags being unpacked. And the longer we loved them, the longer we respected them, the longer we were able to reach them, the more those behaviors disappeared.
As we have been able to instruct them and lead them to Christ…. they have continued to grow and are now learning to ask HIM for help and comfort along with mom and dad.
The words placed in their hearts, the love that has been planted is growing and each of them, are shining in their own ways.
All bags are NOT unpacked. But in God’s timing, it will happen. God’s timing evokes change from the heart. It is welcomed and does not bring resentfulness and anger.
His timing brings about repentance and healing.

If it were up to me…. I’d want everything fixed today. No YESTERDAY! But God is multi-layered. He knows that I need to continue to learn patience and kindness and a big helping of MORE forgiveness.
AND…. as He helps them unpack their bags, He shows me that I still have some bags to unpack too, and so we do it together. 🙂

So,  here we are 3 years later, with another little girl under our roof. We have 2 teenagers and in 2 weeks, we will have 2 12 year olds also. 🙂    I remember so well, when we first started this adventure in life, Sweetie 1 was 5.  I counted the years until she was 13. “Just 8! ” I thought to myself.  We lost her first 5 years, and almost 6 of Sarah’s life and almost 8 of Sweetie 3’s  life, and a full 11 years and one month of Sweetie 4’s life!
According to some books, MANY books, the losses our girls had, the lack of instruction, the lack of nurturing, the abuse, the anger, the rejection again and again, should have led us to believe that they were lost causes…. chaff, forever to be labeled RAD, or some other sort of label.  But according to THE BOOK, it says, “I will make all things NEW!” “I came to heal the broken hearted.”

Instead of disaster,  I am the delighted mother of 4 young ladies who are caring, loving, compassionate, nurturing, sweet TEENAGE and TWEENAGE girls.  I am so GLAD that we did not listen to the books…. or in some cases FOLLOW the books….
Praise the Lord. He is the Lord of new beginnings, of starting over, and of healing our deepest and most personal burdens.  I have come to understand over the years, God’s mercy in my own life, and His wisdom in allowing me to go through so much personal pain.  It was meant for what I do today. It  was meant to prepare me for the life I have now.  I fully believe this to be true.  There are MANY times that I can relate to my girls, because of my own personal past.
Thank you Lord for answering my “Why” prayers. 🙂

So, as we continue down this journey called Life, I am so honored.  I am so in love with my husband and with what the Lord has called Mike and I to do….I  love all of my dear children.
And the more we unpack, the richer our lives become.  I am one LUCKY mama. 🙂

Understanding The Window Of Tolerance

Understanding The Window of Tolerance

You can call it what you want, to get a good picture in your mind.  Heather Forbe’s calls it “The Window of Tolerance”…..
For the child who lives in a constant state of past trauma, Picture a window barely open, and slamming shut very easily.  For the child who has moved in the direction of healing, the window is open much wider, and as time goes on, remains open and there is a lovely breeze blowing.

I would say, that for us, we are in that second category now.  However, there are times, where we take 3 steps back and I have to remember that the window is not open very far at that time.

A child who is living at a Fear Level, has a very VERY small opening for things going wrong for them.  It could be a bad math day, a bad hair day or difficulty making their bed.  It could be ANYTHING….. If that window is barely open, their stress level will be WAY UP very quickly.
This is why some children will be tantruming nearly as soon as they wake up.
If we add stress upon stress, the window never gets open and there is an endless cycle of trauma for both child and parent.
Those stresses may be as simple as getting dressed or not having time for a favorite thing before the school bus arrives.  It doesn’t matter. To the child, it is HUGE, because they are unable to be flexible at that point.
(Notice, I didn’t say unwilling, I said UNABLE.)

However, as ILLOGICAL as it sounds, if we work to understand our children and listen to their many times UNREASONABLE frustration, fears or hurt, (unreasonable to us) showing them empathy, the window gets opened a little further and a little further… And before you know it, it is WIDE open!

Some have wondered if their children will ever respond , especially if they have extreme behaviors.  The answer is YES, a RESOUNDING YES…. but they HAVE to get to a place where they can handle more stresses.
It is important in the early stages of  transition, to help our children all we can by not needlessly stressing them.  If  they are used to foreign foods like borscht or fish, we should be sure to have it in ample supply.
We need to make sure that our yesses are more than our nos.  Don’t automatically say no to everything. And don’t automatically become some sort of “Supreme Boss” or Queen of Control”.  There is plenty of time to introduce rules. Relationship is of utmost importance.
When Sweetie 4 first came home, we found that computer time calmed her in the morning.  Our NORMAL routine would be to get up, get dressed, brush hair, brush teeth and THEN, IF there was time after breakfast, computer time.  This did not work for her. It was too much and her window of tolerance would SLAM shut.
We could have FORCED it, but it wouldn’t have done anything to build a relationship with her. We were total strangers, and she was too traumatized and stressed at that time to have responded in a positive way..
Mike and I talked it over and decided it was best for her to go ahead and have the computer time, because it calmed her.
I believe this is what Heather calls “the dance”.  You work things out based upon the stresses your child can handle.  AND, when your child is CALM, that is the time you correct or give instruction.
After Sweetie’s computer time, I would sit with her in the rocker and say something like, “Tomorrow, before computer I would like for you to get dressed ok?  Don’t forget. ”  And she would be dressed.. We would give lots of praise like, “Wow, you got dressed! That is great!”  Sounds silly, but it was a BIG DEAL for her.

Then, when that became routine, we’d add something else.  It was a balancing act to understand if she was more stressed one day than another.  And we had to be very sensitive to that, and to her unknown anniversaries.  Loads of rocking and talking helped with all of this.

Over time, we added another requirement as we saw that window open a bit.  And today, she is in full compliance, (MOST OF THE TIME) 🙂 for what is required for computer time.
If she sits down and has not brushed her hair, I can simply say, “you forgot to brush your hair, go and do that first”, and she will typically say “Yes Ma’am.”. Usually with an “I’m sorry mama, I forgot.”

We have also implemented the10- 20- 10 plan with the girls especially when they are new.  That 10 in the a.m. can be a valuable assessment of how far their window is open.  And it give us a chance to adjust what we do according to emotional age and according to stress level.
There have been times where we missed it, and then look back and say, “Ugh, If only…..”  but overall, this works really well.
We are now at a place where we are not having to use the 10 20 10 plan every day.  Most of the time, things are very normal around here and we get enough snuggles throughout the day anyway.
(The 10 20 10 plan, is taking 10 minutes in the a.m. to snuggle somebody awake, maybe rubbing their back and whispering sweetness to them as they wake, and for us praying with them. 20 minutes in the afternoon of just snuggle time, or playing a game together, and then 10 minutes before bedtime. )

Parenting is not easy, but it is so full of joy and reward.  Parenting traumatized children is even harder, but the reward is great.  There is great toil when we properly plant into somebody else, the seeds of life.  Waiting for the harvest can cause us to feel anxious and impatient, but joy comes in the morning, when the fresh breeze of an open window blows over us, and we see the fruit of our labor.

Overcoming Food Issues

Many Internationally Adopted children  have issues with food when they come home. They are afraid of the different food textures, tastes and smells.   In some cases it can be more than just fear or dislike of the new tastes….. it can actually be an induced eating disorder CAUSED by actual starvation within the system from where they came.

A sweet friend who suffered from an eating disorder  described our sweetie’s pain exactly!  I remember Sweetie 3 waking at night crying hysterically that she was hungry, and then not being able to really eat more than one bite.

When she came home, she weighed 32 lbs and was nearly 6 years old. She was in a 3T.  The first time we sat down for a meal she said, “I only eat red soup!”  (borscht)

When we went to see the movie “Martian Child”. both Mike and I looked at each other and grinned when the little boy said, “I eat Lucky Charms.” 🙂img_22752

I realized very quickly, based upon what I had been told by her other family that she was going to have feeding issues.  In fact, feeding issues were a huge deal in her previous family.  They felt that she was being rebellious by not eating.  They thought she was throwing up on purpose.  Not only was she NOT, the lack of understanding towards her reinforced the food problems she was having.

I had to become a   a beet expert really fast!  I learned to make red soup!

I cannot tell you the joy she had on her face when she saw that comfort food sitting before her!  She happily ate her bowl of soup.

Why soup though?  Because It was easy on her stomach and she was very used to liquids and very simple foods. Everything else she would claim “hurt her stomach.”   I believed that it did, but I think the pain was something else.

She was suffering the pain of hunger. She had been starved for so long and gone hungry for so long that she couldn’t tell the difference between  hungry and full.  So, when she ate a pea, she’d say, “I’m full.”  She hated the feeling of being FULL. But she would cry because her tummy hurt, especially at night.

We were giving her lots of whole fats and familiar foods, letting her graze all day long to try and not have a setting that would cause her stress.  We found that she would eat a few bites, declare herself full and then 10 minutes later she would be able to come back and eat a little more.

It was a very slow process getting Sweetie to understand and recognize the difference between full and hungry. Before we could address it, she had to fully trust us with one of  her most vulnerable of feelings.


One day, after a couple of years being home, she declared that she was full after just eating a few bites.  I suggested to her, “Sweetie, maybe you are not full, but your tummy just needs to rest a minute and what you are actually feeling is still hunger.”  “Can you try to take 3 more bites and see if it goes away?”

She was very willing, and took those 3 more bites. This is something we could have never done 2 years before!   And, surprisingly to her, the feeling went away.  We worked with her  on  recognizing the difference between the feeling of full and hungry for a long time.

That was the beginning of the learning process which enabled her  to eat more, try more foods and heal.

In the last 4 years, as we have served her the comfort foods she loves and   have introduced slowly more and more foods. Today, I am very happy to say, we have a very healthy eater. She eats all of her food and has begun to ask for SECONDS!

She still eats something right before bedtime and drinks whole milk regularly.  She still grazes in between meals too, and her food intake is at a healthy balanced rate. She loves all sorts of foods and will even eat cookies! 🙂   She is ON the charts! (not that charts are that important)  But she is ON THEM! 🙂

(Since this post was originally written, Sweetie has continued to grow and is now at a normal size for a young lady!)


Beyond Consequences Logic and Control: Parenting According To Emotional Age

Beyond Consequences Logic and Control: Parenting According To Emotional Age

Over several years, I have been asked on and off what BCLC looks like in our home. I have blogged about it, in several posts, but today I wanted to address emotional age, because I think it is PARAMOUNT in understanding BCLC. (Beyond Consequences Logic and Control) Many times I get questions about children who will not obey, are diagnosed RAD or have been diagnosed ODD, PDD, ADHD, PTSD, etc. All those are labels given under an umbrella of behaviors that lead to diagnosis. But none of them really offer underlying CAUSE or deal with what is BENEATH the behavior. BCLC addresses CAUSES NOT symptoms. If you can get to the ROOT of a behavior, you can “weed it out”. If you just keep cutting the top, it will come back again and again. I prefer to deal with ROOTS and though it is HARD, I bet it is what all parents WANT! They want to help their children HEAL.

I decided to address a few broad issues that have happened in our own home and how we have dealt with them. I don't think we have handled them perfectly, or that we are perfect parents, but we ARE parents who want to do our best before the Lord and represent HIM to our children.  So here goes: Hang on for the ride. :) 
 If your child is 10 years old in body, yet 2 years old emotionally... how do you handle things like not staying at the table for dinner, or not cleaning his room?
You may need to have your child sit right by you at dinner and treat him/her much younger.  This is gonna sound weird, but a few times we actually fed one of our girls like a toddler.  If she didn't NEED it, she would have refused it. But she did.  We had one of our girls sit on our laps and fed her when she was about 7.  This seemed to help her stay calm. She had a lot of food issues when she was first home. The issue of not eating really stopped quickly.  Another way that helped during dinner was  giving her comfort foods from her country and allowing her to help prepare meals.
Each of our girls helps in kitchen once a month for a week. This includes all kitchen duties, and the privilege of helping mom cook. :)  
In light of that, when Miss Sweetie came home, she was 11 years old.  However, she was really about 18 months emotionally.
My expectations of her doing kitchen were greatly diminished. I had to teach her how, and guide her attitude so she didn't get overwhelmed.  Singing, playing games, pretending all helped her cope with the ultimate chore. We didn't REMOVE the chore, we just adjusted our expectations.
Here is an example of how things were 10 months ago!
 With our Sweetie, my gentle assistance made her angry.  I assisted her anyway.  I remember an instance in filling the dishwasher where she was slamming dishes and I let her know that it was not ok to take her frustration out on the pretty dishes.  She did it again and again, and as she loaded them in , I took them out until she FINALLY realized, this was not going to end until the dishes were put in the dishwasher with a kind attitude. It took a couple of trips to the rocking chair and a talk or two, some deep breaths, getting our tools out (MINE INCLUDED) and about an HOUR.... and FINALLY, she did it correctly. I felt like I was reliving a Helen Keller scene with BCLC overtones! LOL
BCLC does NOT mean allowing a child to lead everything. 
TODAY.... just 11 months later, Miss  Sweetie 4 handles the kitchen by herself! She does a GOOD JOB, including the floors!  I can trust she knows how to do each thing and she is really proud of herself.
This is another part of BCLC that some may not understand. When you parent a child towards their EMOTIONAL AGE, THIS DOES NOT MEAN THEY WILL REMAIN THERE. The idea is that once you recognize and fill in the holes of emotional neglect, the child is then able to move on.  
To me, it is like helping a child fill in the holes of a bad math education. If they are in Pre-Algebra, but do not yet understand fractions, decimals and times tables.
BEFORE they can master Pre Algebra, they have to go back and master the basics. 
If you keep them struggling through the Pre Alegbra, they will ALWAYS struggle. If you go BACK and master the easy stuff, they will QUICKLY move ahead and MASTER Pre-Algebra! Does that make sense?
 How have we handled hitting, disrespect or hurting our animals?
 We have handled this the same way we would with a baby or toddler. 
"You may not hit" or "We don't hurt the chicken!"...." We do not talk to each other that way!"  We NEVER EVER leave a child alone with an animal or another child unless we know they can be trusted. In the case of Miss Sweetie, we moved all 4 girls into the same room, so our older girls could keep an eye out for her behaviors. We also left our bedroom doors open which were right across from each other for the first 6 months.  That way we were doubly aware and nobody was singled out.
When Sweetie 2 was first home, she had so much underlying anger she would shake. I saw her with the chickens and she would hover over them and shake. If I had left her alone with a chicken, I have no doubt she would have tried to hurt it.  I had to manually teach her how to show the chickens proper affection.  Within a year, she was able to dress the ROOSTER and have him lay on his back in her doll carriage to everybody's disbelief! :)  She became Sweetie the Chicken Whisperer and is still known by that name by our neighbors. :)
I would reassure a child while correcting behaviors, "I love you too much to let you hit."
If this invokes a tantrum, that is ok. Our children need to learn to accept correction and understand they are NOT the only ones who need it.  After waiting for them to get calm, we can  then deal with the issue at hand.  If it takes an hour or four hours, it doesn't matter.  This is something EACH FAMILY has to go through, and because of that, I would get every family member on the same TEAM!
 During a time of calm instruction, always make sure your child knows they are NOT the only ones who have ever been snotty, hit a dog or hit a sibling.  This keeps them from feeling so overwhelmed with being "different", or from being overwhelmed with "shame".  
Preparing them for transitions:
Many of our little ones don't handle transitions well. When our kids are two or three , it is important to prepare them for leaving the park, or going to bed, so they aren't surprised with change. Some of our older children are about that age emotionally, so we have to do much the same thing for a while. :)
If they are 2 or 3 in emotion, they may need very, very simple commands for a chore.  Overwhelm is typically the reason a person will not do something!  Ask my husband; I'm supposed to be doing the data entry so we can complete taxes. LOL
Instead I would prepare them for what they are  supposed to do and make SURE they understand.  "In 15 minutes we are going to make your bed."  "In 5 minutes it will be time to put away your toys."  When the timer goes off, (timers are great because they do not involve you directly)  we are going to come to the table for dinner." 
MOST of the time, this solves transition problems. Many times, they are having trouble transitioning, not necessarily refusing a request.
  Refusing A Request
If a child flat our refuses to do a chore or follow an instruction,  I would never wait to intervene as in, wait for a mood to change. I may wait for a moment and take a deep breath. But waiting on a child's mood to change puts the child in the driver's seat, and that can make them feel very insecure and also reinforce their possible view that they do not need us or that we do not care.
 If cleaning their room, they many need simple instructions one at a time. "I need you to take this bag and fill it with the trash from your bedroom".  "Now, I need you to pick up your clothes and put them in the laundry."  "Can you please put your shoes in the closet?" "Can you help mommy make your bed?"  Simple, short and sweet, gets a job done.  (I need to remember this for my overwhelming office job) :)

 Making things right!
I would instantly intervene in any hitting or snottiness towards another person.  "WE DO NOT HIT!" "It is not ok to speak disrespectfully to another person". This was one of our girl's biggest struggle.  She was a little shocked when it was directly addressed the very first time it happened, and each time after that.  At first it was a tantrum invoking, tree climbing  thing, but she soon realized that life didn't move on until this was dealt with, in gentle kindness.  It is an extreme rarity now. I would say non existent, but the minute I hit the post button, that would be over. LOL

HOWEVER, we didn't deal with just the behavior, but inquired about the underlying cause.  (Usually fear of rejection and insecurity)  "What's going on sweetie? You seem really upset? You are speaking harshly!"  Sitting in the rocking chair, or near the tree, or by the bed, or wherever she would wind up was interesting. On the bed, blankets would be pulled over her head. So we talk through the blanket. After a few minutes, a gentle rub on the back, and then, permission to enter her world.... "May I see you?"  And then, a hand.... and a grip from her that signals, I want you to snuggle.  Then, a tender talk...about the underlying issue...and how to rectify the hurt feelings of another.   And if her feelings were hurt, rectifying that too.  THAT is what I mean by dealing with it.  Not harsh correction or punishment.  But ROOTING out the problem.
There is no punishment you can give for a child feeling hurt or insecure. You deal with the insecurity and the problem disappears.
I think sometimes BCLC can be confusing. Some think that a child's words to you can be snotty and harsh. I know in BCI live, some of those instances happen in the skits.  I do not believe Heather is saying that it is ok for kids to yell at parents because they don't have the right cereal.  
Her message is, the cereal isn't the issue. Obviously! Getting to the root of the issue; a child being scared about a test, or a child who was formerly starved, or past pain, gets the child calm, and THEN you can deal with the actual behaviors.  If all you addressed were the disrespect, that is the mowing over the weed and forgetting the root.  To root out, you need to dig deeper, address the pain first and THEN come up with new ways to express frustration or fear.
 What about Apologies?
This is the tricky part.
I have always insisted on an apology. Usually they come naturally, as we are all apologizers. :) We have had one of our girls say, "Well I'm not sorry!"  I have told her, it doesn't matter. It is the right thing to do. So we worded it, as, "It was wrong to hit you, or be snotty to you,  will you forgive me!"  
That takes the "lie" out of it. LOL  AND we ALWAYS deal with the Spiritual along with correction.  We pray. We talk faith, and what God's laws are and how we NEED a SAVIOR, mama and daddy too. None of us do what is right,all the time,  we ALL sin. We need to pray that God will HELP us to be sorry if we are not.
This usually causes our hypervigilant children to relax as they know they are not the only ones, even if they are the only ones at that moment. :)
 Parenting hurt children is a wild ride!  We parents..... get to go along for the ride; but it is much better if we take the driver's seat and slow the car down, making sure everybody stays safe. :)
Of course all circumstances are not the same.  If a child is significantly older, and you can easily be overpowered, it may be that some tweaking is needed.   A 12 year old may do best calming themselves with you near them, IN their room.   They may need 20 minutes and then you can sit next to each other and attempt to snuggle.  A calming understanding voice makes all the difference in the world.  I have seen my girls hearts melt when my voice gives them the understanding and reassurance they so need.  Just saying, “It’s gonna be ok!” has an amazing effect.
I am a rather tall person, so holding a 12 year old isn’t that hard.
But if you are 5’1″, it may be a lot harder.   If a child NEEDS to be rocked, or snuggled, do what you can to find that comfortable position, so it can happen.
A word about EYE CONTACT:
We do not force it.  Of course, many want to say if a child doesn’t make eye contact they are not attached or are unattached. I don’t think this is true. I think sometimes they are too ashamed.  To force it, is too harsh.  We do encourage eye contact, but not in the height of the moment.  When we are talking many times it is at the END of our conversation that eye contact is established.  And for one of our little girls, (Our Sweetie 2),  she just gets too nervous during a serious talk. Eye contact makes her have nervous laughter.  She HATES it when that happens, so we wait for her to be relaxed.  It works very well.
About Miss Sweetie:
I have truly been amazed how quickly she has grown. Our one year anniversary is coming up fast and she is really looking forward to it. I have much to share that will be reserved for our one year celebration post.  She is a brave, amazing little girl! 🙂 And HEALING TRULY HAPPENS! We are living it! 🙂
Don’t EVER, EVER, EVER, EVER, give up! Never, EVER, EVER! EVER. 🙂

Adopting Older Children

There is much going on in the news about adoption, about older adopted children, about the possibilities of RAD, (Reactive Attachment Disorder) PTSD ,(Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) and FAS. (Fetal Alcohol Syndrome) And if  those children can have successful adoptions.

I would like to explain what I  believe happens to children when they have abuse and neglect or alcohol exposure, and WHY I feel, “traditional” parenting, in these cases many times does not work, or why I believe it could cause delay in attachment and healing, and unnecessary hardship on all.

Because of trauma…. our children can be all over the age spectrum. They may be 11 in their body, but 3 emotionally.  When parenting them, you really have to understand if they are 3, that is where you parent them.  It is one of the hardest concepts to grasp, because you don’t WANT them to be 3. You want to reason with them like an 11 year old…
What we have found, is if you reach them where they are… those gaps will fill in and your child will no longer be fragmented.

In my own children’s cases, they all have vastly different backgrounds and experiences, the one thing that we have found that DOES work, is a consistent, unconditionally loving, stable, environment, where they were allowed to go through the grief process and heal.

Yes, our children grieved.  When they realized that their normal, all those years wasn’t really normal, they finally allowed themselves to grieve.  If we can see the different stages our kids go through clearly, we will recognize grief.

There is NO way to determine how a child will react to a new family. If that could be predicted, there would be a whole lot of “do it this way” books out there.
Instead, our children come home with a very heavy suitcase of emotional baggage…. (think piles of Christmas Lights all wadded up and needing untangling)  and no instruction manual.
I remember Alli saying, “Every family says I am in a forever family.”….. So we dropped that phrase from our vocabulary.

Our children come,  having lived, apart from us in a totally separate life. They have celebrated holidays, or not, in other countries and with different traditions. They have good memories and bad memories.  And we, before we got them, were used to how WE did things….
They cried themselves to sleep more times than not, and quivered with fear at the thought of being harmed in the middle of the night.
Sometimes they were tied down in their beds, and nobody came when they cried. So they stopped crying.
They learned very quickly that nobody will look out for them, and if they want food, they better get all they can, because it is scarce and nobody cares that you are hungry.
They learned that other kids are wanting the same things you do, and if you don’t get it first, you may never get it, because there isn’t any rule about fair.
They learned that it doesn’t matter what you wear, because it isn’t yours anyway.
They learned that there is something called a Mama and a Papa, and everybody wants one, but they don’t really know what they are, really.
They learned that caretakers can be indifferent, sometimes downright mean, and sometimes nice. You never know what your are going to get.
They learned that some children leave with Mama’s and Papa’s and they cry because they miss them.
The caretakers tell them that they are the lucky ones, because the one that left will be killed and sold for body parts, so don’t cry.
This is just a FRACTION of what they know when they come home.

Their world is very different from what most people experience  growing up. They don’t know baseball, football, restaurants, church services, zoos, parks, beaches, and birthday celebrations.
They don’t understand all the food. They don’t get that the bed will be there for them tomorrow too, and they don’t have to fight for a blanket anymore.
They don’t get that mom and dad will love them…. forever.  In fact, many times, they don’t understand what a mom and dad are for.
They get a little freaked out by all the attention and pull away. It is so foreign.  It takes a long time to unravel the world of the orphan.
SLOWLY…. layer by layer, emerges a new understanding, and a new dawning, that is both comforting to them, and painful at the same time.
It is comforting for a fleeting moment when they dare to trust, just a smidge… and painful when they realize just a taste of what they missed their whole life.

They hoard food. ( some call it stealing)  I don’t believe a child can STEAL food…. food is for the needs of the family members and if they need food…. they NEED it, so FEED them.
(Alli has gained 10 lbs and 2 1/2 inches in 7 months and eats non stop. 🙂 She is still very thin)

Sometimes they become collectors of the most interesting things….. when you find it… don’t accuse, take notice, “Oh, I was looking for those nail clippers,  or, the flashlight is best kept in the kitchen drawer so we can remember where it is.  Would you like your own flash light? Simply ask them to put the item away or remind them where it belongs… whatever it is. 🙂  This may be a process that takes awhile to recover from.
They may lash out at a sibling out of a lack of understanding that love is not scarce or limited but flows freely for all. LOVE THEM. And love the child lashed out upon. Encourage them to be part of the team.  We didn’t adopt the girls until the boys were older. With the girls, they are very close in age.  We didn’t adopt in birth order, but close enough. Alli is the youngest by 7 months.

When you need to instruct them, sometimes it won’t be received…. those are rocking chair times. 🙂
(What do you mean I need a bath? I only took one once a week in Russia!)
Sometimes you just have to repeat, repeat, repeat,repeat…. “Yes, we take a bath every night. Remember? We talked about this?”  If they have possible FAE, they won’t remember. We have to be patient until it becomes habit. 🙂 Try reading a story to them while they are in the bath… or sing to them… Make up all sorts of silly songs for all sorts of things including cleaning rooms, making beds, etc.

As they begin to come to an understanding, they start to test the waters abit….. “So you love me? PROVE IT!  Nobody else has ever loved me…”
And the testing begins.
Some see this as the “End of the Honeymoon Period”.

I choose to see it as the beginning of REAL healing.  When a child feels they are finally safe…. that is sometimes when they can really grieve.

This is also the period of time where  a parent can lose control IF they do not  understand what is going on. The child tries to bring the parent into THEIR norm of control and chaos, because THAT is where they are comfortable.  The PARENT MUST RESIST this, and carefully, like a surgeon of the heart, bring the child into the world of peace and a new reality of belonging, of being cherished, of being LOVED.
It is a very humbling experience to be the parent of a child who is so needy, but doesn’t believe they have a need. It is heartbreaking to  truly love a child who has never had the experience of being loved.
It is very challenging to try to guide a child  who thinks they don’t need guidance. 🙂

I think sometimes we try to rush things, or  we think they SHOULD KNOW THIS BY NOW, (whatever it is) and we get impatient just doing life… And when we do, it backfires.  The unconditional love, suddenly has a condition and the child picks up on that like a strong radar signal going off.   And the wall goes up, and that is when the negative cycle can begin…. and some, unfortunately never get out of it.
It turns into a button pushing fest for both parent and child…. and it will require that WE AS PARENTS stop it!   And I mean stop the cycle in a loving wave of acceptance and comfort. When they think they don’t need it, we are there anyway. When they reject us, we are there anyway. When they hurl insults out of deep pain, we  are there anyway…. and we wrap our loving arms around them and keep them safe. And if we have children already in our home, we include them in the process teaching them also, to put themselves aside , and love unconditionally.   You become a team, a wave if you will, of love.

And then….. out of the ashes… a little bud of hope appears.  It starts to grow, and as you tend to that little bud, sometimes it will try to retreat and hide…. the sun is just too bright…. and the new world is just too scary.  One of the reasons it is so scary is because of a fear they just might lose it. They might lose  what they are beginning to love.
And so, when that happens, sometimes they try to make the inevitable (in their minds) happen. They try to make the process of rejection get sped up, because the anticipation hurts too much.
Unfortunately, THIS is the time, when many people throw in the towel.  They have given all they feel they can give.  They do not understand why the things that work on most kids isn’t working on theirs.
They think, if I get a little harder, or punish a little more, that will make them understand…. when in reality, what they are dealing with is fear and  grief.  You cannot punish fear and  grief out of a person. You have to comfort and reassure and slowly guide them out to safety, in the process teaching them right from wrong, respect vs. disrespect, responsibility and how to love.  Loving instruction with unconditional acceptance…. goes a long way.
When you gain your child’s trust….  (trust cannot be forced) and they know they are in their home to stay…. that is when real learning takes place.

Is it a TALL order??  Ummm… Yes it is.  But it is so worth it. EVERY minute of it. Because in the process, not only your child grows, but you grow to in ways you never imagined. 🙂  The Lord leads and guides us along the way, and we find that our prayer life is MUCH improved! 🙂  We come to a deeper understanding of what GOD has done for us, through HIS sacrifice for us.
And we get to see our children turn into healthy, happy, productive kids that are no longer looking back, but looking forward to a newness of life that they never understood they could have.  And when we mess up…. an “I’m sorry can go a really long way!” 🙂

Tonight, Miss Sweetie spent a good amount of time in the shoppe with her dad. She was having so much fun out there she wanted to stay longer. 🙂   She also has kitchen duty this week.  Since she was having such a good time, I decided I’d go ahead and do the dishes.  I had just started when she came in. I was very pleased that she said, “Mom, that’s my job, I’ll take care of it!”….. So I was the helper and we did them  together. 🙂  7 months ago, this would not have happened.

Healing Begins At Home: Being a Therapeutic Home

I remember when I was little, I would feel rage inside, but I wasn’t allowed to express it in any way. It was perceived as rebellion. Much of it was hurt. Was there rebellion? Yes,  and much frustration.
I remember going into my closet one time and saying 3 curse words, 3 x’s each. I laugh about it now, a little, but I still remember that hurt child. I remember the incident, well and I remember not being allowed to “feel”.

So, in that closet, after I was finished with my secret tantrum…. I was consumed by horrible guilt and shame. How could I , a Christian girl at that, dare to do something so awful. And, I repented to my Lord. I was 8.
When I finished praying, I actually felt better, and left my closet to go back into my real world.
But that feeling of being pushed to the brink has stayed with me for my whole life.

Honestly, If the person who hurt me had just said they were sorry, or apologized, or if somebody ELSE had recognized that I needed a voice, I don’t think I would have needed to rage. That is important to remember. I think a listening ear, can be enough. Just to feel understood, can be enough.

God can use the terrible things in our lives to bring about Good! In me, he brought about repentance and dependence upon HIM, and in the long term, he later brought that recollection and understanding of what happened and how I could better understand children in my care.

As we took the parenting classes preparing for the worst with our first sweetie, I could identify so much with the hurt child. I cannot go into details, but I remember moving so much as a child that I stopped making real friends for a while. I figured, “Why bother, we will just move again and I’ll have to start over all over again.”

There were many other things I identified with. I also remember during a couple of years in my life having a dog. I remembered spending time with her and caring for her.
She was where I would go when I was upset, and she could help settle my heart when I was down.

So when the girlies came, one of the first things we did was get animals. Animals have a way of reaching the heart of a child. Even the hardest of hearts can be taught to be loving and compassionate.
When our sweetie came, she was so full of rage that she would put her hands in the air and stiffen her body and shake. Sometimes she did this several times a day for no reason at all. She nearly looked like she was having a seizure, but she wasn’t.
I remember giving her, her very first pet chicken. I watched her like a hawk (no pun intended) to make sure she didn’t hurt the chicken. I would sit and listen to her play, and realized she had no idea what to do with that chicken, just like she had no idea what to do with her first baby doll.
With her doll, she held it by the foot and asked me to baby sit it, because she had to go to “wook”…
I told her no, I couldn’t because mommy’s need to stay with their new babies and love them. She got so mad at me and said, “BUT I HAVE TO GO TO WOOK!” LOL
I said, “your baby is your work!” “She said, “Are you gonna watch my baby or not?”
I said, NO, I am not; to which she picked up a fake phone and called a fake friend to watch her baby! ” LOL

I didn’t intervene at that moment. I just cracked up and figured, we have much work to do!

So, I said,sweeite, how do you hold a baby? She didn’t know. So we wrapped that baby up and placed it in her arms. And she learned her first lesson in nurturing.
I also told her lots of stories in the rocking chair about bringing her brothers home and how we cared for them. We would just talk and converse and she learned during our rocking chair experiences.

With her chicken, she would stand over it and shake at first, but with learning how to care for her baby and speak kindly to it… (this was work too) she learned to talk to her chicken in the same way. She fed it, gave it water and made sure it was cared for.

We added sheep. Oh my goodness, you would not believe how she became Mrs. Boe peep!

One day she couldn’t get them to do what she wanted them to and she cam in all red faced just sobbing, “LET’s KILL THEM! KILL THEM ALL! Let’s just EAT THEM!!!!” LOL
I calmed her down and learned that they were not cooperating with her animal school.
So we washed her face and got herself cooled off, and we sat together in the rocker.

I asked her how she would feel if we got mad at her when she didn’t cooperate? She thought about it. I asked her also, “do you think maybe they don’t understand?” “It is your job to help them understand and teach them.” So we went over ways to help animals trust us. Repeat repeat repeat! And she also learned about animal behavior, what is normal etc.

After that incident, she became known as Sweetie the Animal Whisperer.

She can make those animals do ANYTHING and she is kind and gentle to them. She is always studying some sort of book on animal behavior. LOL

When this sweetie came,
we purchased a Play School Family Doll House for her and her sister for Christmas.

We bought lots of family members so they had enough to play with, and I would watch them interact. You can learn a whole lot about what is in your child’s heart, by watching them pretend “family”. There were some pretty interesting interactions that took place with that doll house. This was our “therapy” house. They just didn’t know it. 🙂

I would observe, and most of the time didn’t need to intervene too quickly. But when somebody would pretend to yell at a child, or get violent, I would intervene….
I’d say, “Oh dear, that is sad.” Do you remember that? The answer might be yes, or “No I was just playing.”
Either way, we would talk about how that kind of thing in real life isn’t ok because it hurts us. I would let them know, of course it is ok to feel hurt if that happened to you, and then I would guide them about what to do with that hurt.

“God does not want us to keep our hurts. He wants us to give our hurts to Him. Do you know that he holds our tears in a bottle? They are so precious to Him, He doesn’t forget even one!” And we would have a simple lesson in giving our hurts to God and forgiving those who hurt us.

These times took place in our home 24/7. There came a time when I didn’t have to worry about how the girlies would play with that doll house because they received what I shared with them readily, and learned new ways to be “mommies”.

I also read them lovely books on wonderful mommies. The Mennonites have wonderful family books that are read a louds. You can find many of their readers online.
The girl’s favorite was Annette and Samuel on the Farm and Kitten in the Well.
Another fabulous book was “Conduct for the Crayon Crowd” by Edna Gerstner.
They are little stories about family life and how it is related to God.

One of the things we have done a lot of is singing songs like “Stop and let me tell you!” and when you say “Stop”, we say something positive. It is a fun game that makes us think on the positive and not concentrate on the negative.

I also came up with our imaginary tool box. We put inside the things we need at the moment. This was a huge help to them. I told our sweetie, 6 years ago, “Daddy has tools to use to work on cars and he keeps them safe in his toolbox. You don’t seem to have any tools to help you”. So we went through the motions of opening our tool box and putting in, “Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Gentleness,Self Control, Faithfulness and many other things…. telling the truth tools, keeping our hands to ourselves tools. Etc.
If she were going to start a rage, I would say, “What tool can you use?” Many times this would stop her in her tracks and she would think about a tool to use, and use it.

The girls also keep journals. We started journaling about 2 years ago. They can write anything they want and it will not be erased or corrected. Many times they have written about their past experiences, and they bring it to me to read. I always ask, “Are you ok?” And I get a smile and a yes mom, I am fine! We have wept together, and laughed together. And of course, we always pray together.

I do not try to give them all the answers, like I understand everything, because I don’t.
Some of my deeper conversations with another sweetie have included us weeping together and me saying, I don’t understand why you had to go through so much. But I DO KNOW, from the bottom of my heart that God intends it for good. And I do believe that, I know that she does too.

We repeated much of the same things with each of our sweeties. When our third sweetie came home, at first  I thought I was going to be glued to the rocking chair for life. LOL It didn’t take too long to get everybody settled.

We have also added painting and art to our lives, and dancing. It is a great outlet.

Third sweetie’s adjustment has been amazing.
But honestly, she is one of the most steady, resilient, content people I have ever met. She is at peace. And it is apart of her natural makeup.

When I mentioned in my last post about our son being incredibly sensitive,
that is the same description I would give this sweetie.

She and our son , shared a lot of the same types of behaviors. So while trauma is a trigger for those, I think how a child heals, is greatly dependent upon what their natural makeup is like.

As someone once spoke about traumatized horses, I’m sure there are some horses that recover easier than others, yet have been through very similar circumstances.

I think the biggest thing I have learned is, “If it isn’t going to matter in 100 years, don’t sweat it now.” Sort of a take on “he won’t be going to college in diapers.” 🙂

We want to focus on healing yes, but we want to focus on future. I knew when my daughters were whole, when they stopped looking at the past and started planning for the future.
Before, there were no plans for a next birthday or a next holiday. That had never happened to them. But now, oh my, they plan way ahead, and we are in that plan!

I think emotional healing is like that onion I have talked about before. There are layers of understanding to it. You heal what you understand, but then, as you gain more knowledge, you may revisit and need to heal some more.

I like to see our home as a beacon of light to show the way out of a very dark place.
I try to make sure my arms are always open for hugs, endless hugs, even though sometimes I am tired. I want to be available in the middle of the night, or anytime, to just be there if they need me. Because that is what mothers do. I want them to remember my smile, to remember me warmly caressing their hair, and to remember that I always always love them, even though I am not perfect.
I also try to model what I want them to do. If I am wrong, I drop what I do and I apologize, sincerely and ask their forgiveness. In doing that, it opens the door for them to do the same.

  1. Healing starts at home.

The wounds this life causes are not to be forgotten totally, lest we repeat history.
They however can be used as a crutch for life, or, can be used as a spring board that can launch us into a wonderful life.


I have been wanting to do this for a very long time.  Welcome to “Parenting That Heals”.  I plan to transfer important posts from my old blog to this site, and continue to offer support and help for parents who have home grown children already, are going to adopt, have already adopted, are struggling in your family, or are sailing along!  There is something here for everybody. 🙂

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